Anxiety Over Dawn of Trump Administration Felt At Somerville State-of-the-City Proceedings

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SOMERVILLE — Mayor Joe Curtatone on Monday night delivered his annual state-of-the-city address although this year’s edition was a little different as it comes on the heels of a Donald Trump presidential victory and a GOP-led Congress that appears ready to pull federal funding out of America’s so-called “sanctuary cities.”

For decades Somerville has barred its police from questioning the immigration status of arrestees and others cited during day-to-day police work.

On Monday Curtatone told attendees at Somerville City Hall, where a Black Lives Matter banner has hung since this past summer, that residents “must stand up for the people that need us most” and vowed to maintain Somerville’s status as a sanctuary city.

“That’s why Somerville will remain a sanctuary city no matter what happens in Washington,” Curtatone said, drawing applause from the crowd.

But Curtatone’s address was far less politically charged than the remarks delivered by William A. White, president of the Board of Aldermen, who used a series of Star Wars analogies to describe the incoming Trump administration in addition to Governor Charlie Baker’s handling of the MBTA’s troubled Green Line extension

White said the board in 2016 experienced “two severe disturbances in The Force.”

“The first was the decision of our evil galactic Governor Baker, who proposed a $50 million payment from the city of Somerville in order for the Green Line to move forward,” White said. “Then, we saw not only the election of Donald Trump as president, but the Republican Party taking control of the House and Senate.”

White’s reference to the Green Line stems from the city’s efforts at convincing the state to fund an MBTA rail extension from Cambridge’s Lechmere stop and out to Somerville’s Union Square, with another branch heading north through the east side of the city and eventually stopping at Tufts University in Medford. Last spring the cost of the extension was project to cost upwards of $3 billion, far more than initial estimates. White’s reference to Baker is puzzling as various news reports indicated that the $50 million contribution from the city was Curtatone’s proposal. 

As for the shakeup in Washington, White said the board “has no idea what to expect from the White House and from Congress and how they may affect our city.”

White added that “there’s already talk” in Washington about limiting the issuance of Community Development Block Grants that cities like Somerville receive from the federal government.

“We have a number of proposed cabinet secretaries who believe in dismantling federal programs in the very departments that have been in place since before the birth of the majority of people who live in our city,” White continued. “A Republican in Congress has already proposed a bill that will prevent communities like Somerville from implementing environmental ordinances such as our plastic bag ban.”

White said the bills proposed by the unnamed congressman “is seeing substantial support” from his colleagues.

“And this is just the start,” White warned.