Somerbridge Smackdown?

After two weeks of bickering and hair-pulling, the reps from sister cities Somerville and Cambridge sat down with WGBH’s Emily Rooney to work through their issues. The fight, which started when Cambridge City Councilor Ken Reeves charged that Somerville was less interesting than Cambridge, has grown into a heated debate online after Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone dashed off a nasty retort and offered to set up an interesting city challenge. But both Curtatone and Reeves were conciliatory on the line with Rooney, and the proposed “smackdown” went more like a pas de deux.

“Every place evolves and changes,” said Reeves in response to Curtatone’s charge that once-quirky Harvard Square has turned into one large mall. “We have it going on all over the Square,” he said, pointing out that a handful of chains actually started in Cambridge, and that 78 percent of the businesses are locally owned.

After throwing a few barbs at Reeves, Curtatone pointed out that they speak 52 languages in Somerville and that there are more artists per capita than anywhere other than Manhattan. “We know how far we’ve come as a community from the days of Slummerville,” he said. But then he admitted that there are “interesting, dynamic, creative, freaky, funky people in both cities.” Meh.

Katherine Powers, editor of Wicked Local sites for Cambridge and Somerville, then joined them on the line, saying that Somerville has the online edge when it came to witty rejoinders. Reeves hardly seemed to mind. “The smackdown notion isn’t really Canterbridgian at all,” Reeves said, arguing that the hardworking academics who cluster around Cambridge are too busy to tweet. “What’s going on on Tweeter [sic] is a different dimension,” he said.

In all, the back and forth was hardly confrontational, and both reps took the opportunity to extend an invitation to cross borders and explore their respective offerings. Then they blew kisses, exchanged friendship bracelets, and went back to braiding each others hair. The “smackdown” had effectively been called before any really great punches were thrown. Which is a shame.

I’m all for a little competitive rabble-rousing, as it fosters community involvement, encourages creativity, and forces people to engage in their neighborhoods. And few things get people more riled up than having to defend the place where they choose in inhabit. I’m still hoping that the proposed “interesting city challenge” actually happens, as I’d love to see a tug of war across Elm Street, a karaoke contest in Kendall Square, or a battle of wits between Harvard and Tufts. (Somebody give Marc Summers a call, I’m sure he could arrange for a physical challenge or two.) Plan a series of events and you’re sure to get local sponsors, and more importantly, leave the defense of the city not only to their representatives, but the citizens themselves.

Who do you think came out on top in the battle between Cambridge and Somerville? Take our poll below!

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