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Somerville mayor cites Assembly Square, calls for jobs legislation

Posted by Matt Byrne  November 6, 2011 12:05 PM

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Deriding congress -- and Senator Scott Brown -- for holding up President Barack Obama's jobs legislation, Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone pointed to Assembly Square as an example of government money at work.

"What we're doing in Assemby Square is what we should be doing across the country," Curtatone said. "This is the kind of thing we send representatives to Washington to do."

The 10 a.m. briefing was announced by the state Democratic party, and called on Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown to vote for the American Jobs Act.

Curtatone said he has communicated with Brown's staff to invite him to visit Assembly Square.

Hours later, both parties' jobs legislation was defeated in the senate.

Since Obama introduced the nation to the bill during a televised speech before a joint session of Congress in September, he has met nearly universal Republican opposition to it in the Senate, including from Brown, who joined fellow GOPers in blocking the bill.

Although the jobs legislation has no direct impact on the Assembly Square project -- which has been in the works for the better part of a decade -- a political spokesman for Curtatone said the infrastructure improvements at the waterfront site are similar to those called for in Obama's bill.

The speaking opportunity, to be staged at the vacant site, came out of a recent visit by Curtatone to Washington, where he met with state party leaders, said Michael Meehan, former city spokesman who is now working for Curtatone's political committee.

The infrastructure improvements at Assembly Square will go forward with $25 million in bonding approved by the city this summer and was part of the terms of an agreement between city planners and the site's developer to kick-start the project.

Meehan had no firm estimate on the number of temporary jobs the city's investment will create. "Thousands," he said. "We know it's a whole lot."

The bond issuance helped secure approval and funding from state transportation officials soon after for the construction of the first new MBTA stop built in decades. The orange line Assembly Square station is expected to open in 2014.

Not counting the forthcoming station or the infrastructure improvement efforts, Meehan said Assembly Square will produce 10,000 temporary construction jobs and 10,000 permanent positions once the mixed-use complex is complete.

If anything, the press conference was a savvy mating of a hot-button national issue with a local project that, unlike others in the region of its scope and caliber, managed to survive the economic downturn that began in 2007, when credit and investment capital began to dry up.  

In addition to state Democrats, national and state-level groups have echoed calls for Brown to vote to pass the jobs bill. The legislation's proponents say it could activate important infrastructure upgrades in Massachusetts and add tens of thousands of new jobs.

Despite the fervent cries by the Obama for Congress to "pass this bill," the legislation has been cut and sectioned after a preliminary vote in the Senate failed last month. The procedural move to cease debate on the measure taken Oct. 11 and known as cloture, failed, 57-43, and fell sharply along partisan lines.

Since then, Brown has said repeatedly that only a bipartisan jobs bill has a chance in the divided Congress, and attributed gridlock to political theater.

"This vote is a charade," Brown said in an Oct. 11 statement following his vote that helped block the bill, and called for passage of agreeable sections of it, including a payroll tax cut and incentives to put veterans back to work.

Nevada Senator and Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid made similar criticism of the divided vote in a statement following the initial vote, attributing the obstruction to the GOP's "narrow political interests."

"Republicans will have to explain to the American people why they oppose common-sense, bipartisan solutions for putting Americans back to work," Reid said.

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