City Weekly News in brief

Firefighter cuts, fee hikes proposed

March 29, 2009
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If Town Meeting approves the proposed budget in May, Brookline will have four fewer firefighters, meaning that stations may sometimes close during the summer. The Fire Inspection Division, which among other things checks on smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, will also lose two of its four positions. But although these cuts, approved by selectmen last week, are "less than ideal," said Chief Peter Skerry, "we are painfully aware it could be worse." The Efficiency Initiative Committee looked at reducing the minimum number of firefighters per truck from four to three, which would have translated to savings of at least $1.4 million. Brookline is also looking to raise fees for everything from a declaration of intention to marry (up $5 to $40) to a variety of fire safety fees, hiking such revenue by roughly $150,000 in fiscal 2010, which starts in July.

Here's to public health
Besides showers, April brings National Public Health Week. Brookline will take part April 6-10 with free events, from talks on running in Brookline (including routes, injury prevention, and individual shoe recommendations) to getting a good night's sleep. Kids can join in an open swim, soccer drills, golf clinics, nature walks, and more on April 10 (a no-school day because of Good Friday). There are even discounts on gyms. All the details at

Fluff, the mayor of Monmouth Street
Being a town, Brookline doesn't have a mayor, but Fluff the cat and his human companion, B.D. Colen, aim to change all that. With an exhibition April 15 through May 22 at the Brookline Arts Center, Colen, a former reporter and columnist for The Washington Post and Newsday, makes his debut as a black-and-white photographer. Fluff, he said, is his muse as "he interacts with people in the park, with children taking classes at the Arts Center, with local dogs." The arts center's director, Susan Navarre, said the exhibit celebrates "the spirit of the neighborhood." For details, call 617-566-5715 or visit

Andreae Downs wrote the Brookline news. She can be reached at

School chief search down to three finalists
The search for a new school superintendent is in its final stages. The School Committee announced Tuesday that it has compiled a short list of three candidates: Newton Public Schools Superintendent Jeffrey Young, Cambridge's current interim superintendent Carolyn Turk, and Boston Public Schools Academic Superintendent Mary Nash. Residents can meet all three candidates at a town hall forum tomorrow. On Tuesday, the School Committee will hold a televised meeting to continue the interview process. Both meetings begin at 6 p.m. in the Cambridge Rindge and Latin School cafeteria.

1994, and a vote that shook the Republic
For those who chafe at how much they fork over in rent every month, it might be more agonizing than edifying to think back to the 1994 statewide referendum to end rent control in Cambridge, Boston, and Brookline. But the hot-button issue will be documented in detail in a collection acquired earlier this month by the Cambridge Historical Society. Gavin Kleespies, executive director of the society, said the effects of that vote still reverberate in the city today. "The repeal of rent control in the mid-1990s really radically changed lots of things about Cambridge," Kleespies said. "Some were good, and some were bad." Adding that the rising price of rent affected many, Kleespies said, "There was definitely a seismic shift of who lived in Cambridge, and . . . the city is still not done working this issue out." The historical society will catalog the collection before making it available to researchers.

Celebrating 10 years of local opera
Think of it as "High School Musical 3" for adults, or "Rusalka" for kids, or both. The North Cambridge Family Opera is celebrating its 10th-anniversary season with performances this weekend and next of "The Weaver's Wedding," an opera initially commissioned by the W11 Opera for Young People in London in 2006. Founded by resident David Bass, the Cambridge opera company boasts 120 members between the ages of 6 and 82 and seeks to encourage family-based connections to the arts. The group will also host British poet William Radice, who adapted the tale of the weaver's wedding for the opera stage, at a fund-raising event at Haveli Restaurant in Inman Square, Thursday. Details and tickets are available at

Victoria Leenders-Cheng wrote the Cambridge news. She can be reached at

As American as apple pie and salgadinhos
The Somerville Chamber of Commerce is spearheading an effort to win the National Civic League's "All-America City" competition. Ten cities win the title each year. Somerville made the grade in 1972 and got just edged out in 2008. Like the Red Sox in March 2004, the chamber hopes the near-miss will lead straight to a win. According to a memo from the chamber, "the national marketing value, the local boost to community spirit, and the tangible economic byproducts far exceed the estimated $30,000 in expenses" required to compete. The chamber is holding an April 16 fund-raiser and looking for business sponsors. Winners will be named in June.

Arts, present, future, and way future
Having won permission from the zoning board of appeals to hold daytime events, Arts at the Armory officially dedicates its hulking, rehabbed Somerville Armory building on April 3 at 5 p.m. Down the road apiece, in November, Ibbetson Street Press plans to give a lifetime achievement award to poet Frank Bidart. Artist Tim Devin takes an even longer view: He invites residents to describe, in words or images, what their lives in Somerville will look like over this century. See Shedding light considerably less far into the future, the city is choosing finalists to design a beacon for the old firehouse in Union Square (now the Somerville Community Access Television building), wrote Rachel Strutt of the Somerville Arts Council in an e-mail.

Impossible but true: Teens talk
And you thought all they did was IM and Facebook. Somerville teens have posted memoirs and video experiments on the Somerville Voices website, setting stories to a Ken Burns-style sequence of images. One student contributor defends the arts, noting that while times are financially hard now, "the careers that will come up with this course . . . can help a lot in stabilizing the economy." (Though that student, "aakash," does also think that "grading creativity is insulting a person's way of being creative.") The memoirs range from accounts of getting caught up in a chilling knife fight, to struggling to pay for college as an undocumented immigrant, to dealing with school cliques. See them at

Danielle Dreilinger wrote the Somerville news. She can be reached at

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