Citizenship and Governance in a Changing City

Citizenship and Governance in a Changing City: Somerville, MA

Susan A. Ostrander
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Temple University Press
Pages: 184
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  • Book Info
    Citizenship and Governance in a Changing City
    Book Description:

    Overcoming a past of deteriorating homes, empty storefronts, and corrupt city administrations, Somerville, Massachusetts, just outside of Boston, today proudly defines itself as a longtime immigrant city, a historically blue collar town, and a hip new urban center with a progressive city government.InCitizenship and Governance in a Changing City, Susan Ostrander shows how beneath current high levels of engagement by Somerville residents lies a struggle about who should be the city's elected leaders and how they should conduct the city's affairs. It is a struggle waged between diverse residents--relatively new immigrants and a new middle class-trying to gain a foothold in democratic participation, and the city's political "old guard."Citizenship and Governance in a Changing Cityinforms current debates about the place of immigrants in civic and political life, and the role of voluntary associations in local politics and government. In the process, Ostrander provides useful lessons for many midsize urban communities.

    eISBN: 978-1-4399-1014-6
    Subjects: Sociology, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-18)

    Based on a multiyear qualitative study from 2004 to 2009 of a mid-size city adjacent to Boston, this book explores local influences that facilitate or pose barriers to civic and political engagement in the public life of an urban community. The book shows how civic and political engagement play out in Somerville, where residents are divided by class, race-ethnicity, and immigrant diversity and where local government is in the eyes of many an entrenched political structure.

    This book informs current debates about the place of immigrants in civic and political life and the role of voluntary associations in local politics...

  5. 2 Overview of History, Demographics, and Politics
    (pp. 19-35)

    Somerville was settled originally in 1630 as part of Boston’s Charlestown. The Massachusetts state legislature set Somerville aside as a separate town in 1842, and it formally incorporated as its own city in 1872 (Haskell n.d.; Ueda 1987).¹ Somerville reportedly had to thwart annexation by its neighbors to claim its own charter (Haskell n.d.), and locals today like to claim this history as seeding the tenacious fighting spirit still present in the city’s character (Agarwal 2004). More than one person I talked with described local politics with pride and humor as “a blood sport.”

    Somerville, then, traces its history back...

  6. 3 Major Redevelopment, Community Involvement, and Shared Governance
    (pp. 36-59)

    Ted Nolan, who once ran for political office, spoke similarly: “There is a lot of activism [in the city] around public transportation, affordable housing, open space, building a stronger tax base. [And] there is increasing activism on the part of some of the [newer] ethnic communities about being more involved in the community.”

    This chapter explores how collective civic engagement most often takes place in Somerville through the vehicle of key voluntary associations. This engagement occurs within a larger framework of two kinds of struggles. One is about what I call social citizenship, that is, about which city residents are...

  7. 4 Old and New Immigrant Experiences, Today and Yesterday
    (pp. 60-80)

    A collaboration in the fall and winter of 2007 between a Somerville immigrant advocacy organization and Tufts University produced an exhibit called Immigrant City, Then and Now, which was mounted at the local museum. The exhibit and the programs that took place around it sought to provide a space for Somerville’s older white ethnic residents and its newer immigrants to acquire a deeper understanding of similarities and differences in their immigrant experiences and to ease some of the tensions between them. A Somerville immigrant advocacy organization called the Welcome project initiated the exhibit, the same organization whose youth provided language...

  8. 5 Immigrant Civic and Political Engagement
    (pp. 81-105)

    This chapter examines three key events in Somerville in recent years that called out organized civic and political engagement by immigrant residents and their advocates and allies. All three events threatened immigrant safety and security. To the extent that engagement is limited to this kind of occasion, I argue that the city’s immigrants are restricted in their participation in public affairs. I base this argument in the view that, when people have access to the benefits of social citizenship, they are “able to act . . . for the common good, rather than out of [their own] . . ....

  9. 6 Gentrification, Resident Displacement, and a Common Vision for the City’s Future
    (pp. 106-124)

    Against a background of debates about immigrant incorporation, economic development, gentrification, and resident displacement, this chapter gives evidence of a shared vision for Somerville’s future reaching across the city’s three main social divides.¹ This commonality was also evident in the community visions for the city, discussed in Chapter 3, where the main priorities in both a vision emerging from a process led by a grassroots community-based coalition and one led by the city administration were resident diversity, affordable housing, and economic development aimed at enhancing the city’s tax base.

    Somerville is at a critical turning point, where city government and...

  10. 7 Extending Social Citizenship, Remaking City Governance
    (pp. 125-148)

    The passage from the mayor of Somerville’s January 2004 inaugural speech, which also opens this book, is an eloquent expression of the social divisions in the city. They are the same divisions that this book has explored and that I have characterized as separating those who enjoy full community membership (social citizenship) from those who do not. Those groups with a greater measure of social citizenship in Somerville (and likely in other cities and towns around the United States) belong to the first groups in the mayor’s paired list: lifelong “born and raised” city residents versus those who have come...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 149-158)
  12. References
    (pp. 159-172)
  13. Index
    (pp. 173-178)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 179-179)