A More Sustainable Community
Promoting sustainability is a win-win for the City of Waltham. We can save money for taxpayers while also making the city a nicer, cleaner, more affordable place to live for future generations. Everything we do in local government should be considered through the lens of sustainability, from the operation and maintenance of public buildings and public spaces, to land use planning and zoning, to procurement of vehicles and equipment, to transportation planning and traffic management, and the list goes on. As mayor of Waltham, I will make sustainable policies that cut across all departments, programs and operations.
The Missed Opportunities
Waltham is a home to some of the world’s most sustainable companies, yet the city does not participate in a robust public-private partnership to support local sustainability efforts. The wealth of corporate knowledge, experience and resources in our own backyard could be leveraged with greater leadership in our city.
40% of the state’s communities have joined the Green Communities Program because it provides valuable resources to help municipalities with sustainability planning and programs such as energy efficiently, renewable energy, and clean transportation. Below is a snapshot of the designated Green Communities (shown in green) and Waltham is the white patch in the middle.
Source: Executive Office of Energy & Environmental Affairs, Green Communities Program website
This state program has made $28 million in grant awards to 110 cities and towns to reduce energy consumption in schools and public buildings, erect solar arrays and implement the latest building codes. Waltham has not been eligible for any of those grants. Similarly, the state’s Energy Resilience Program made $40 million in grant awards to help cities and towns to use clean energy technology solutions to help prevent service interruptions due to the effects of climate change. Waltham did not receive a grant from that program either; another missed opportunity.
Climate change is an international issue that cannot be addressed by any one city. In Metro-Boston, 14 area mayors have teamed up and created a task force to address this issue on a regional basis. The task force, announced earlier this year, will work together to address the region’s readiness for the inevitability of climate change, and will make policy recommendations and set regional priorities for climate preparedness. Waltham is not represented around that table; this must change.
Currently, Waltham recycles less than 20% of its waste, which is low by regional standards. Combined with the fact that Waltham pays among the highest rates per ton for trash incineration, our low recycling rate winds up costing taxpayers millions of extra dollars in disposal costs.
Sitting in traffic in congested areas of Waltham wastes time, fuel, and money, while needlessly harming the environment. This is another area where a thoughtful sustainability approach, led by the mayor can make a difference. We can improve signalizations at intersections, make the city much more bike and pedestrian friendly, and press state officials for improved public transportation access.
Being a sustainable community also means preparing to meet the needs of all residents across all income spectrums and there is no greater missed opportunity in Waltham than the Banks School property. The city has wasted years and taxpayer dollars on the failed rehabilitation of the former Bank School into affordable housing units. This property could have been a vital resource to the residents of Waltham and instead has been a financial drain on our city.
My Sustainability Agenda
Cities all over the world are recognizing that sustainability is a key issue for the future that requires commitment and forward thinking at the local level. In July 2015, mayors from all over the world met and adopted the United Nations sustainability development to “end extreme poverty and hunger by 2030, ensure health care, education, access to water, sustainable energy and growth for all — and take urgent action to combat climate change and protect the Earth.” I will adopt those same goals when I am elected Mayor of Waltham, and below are some examples of how my administration will promote sustainability.
Energy & Our Environment
Under my leadership, Waltham will adopt the Green Communities Program to make Waltham eligible for important state grants and resources to supplement the local sustainability efforts. I will reconfigure and empower the city’s Energy Action Committee to leverage the talent and expertise of our citizens by establishing real goals and objectives for the Committee to support long range sustainability and resiliency planning with an actionable implementation plan.
My administration will host an annual Waltham Sustainability Summit to engage residents and promote a more sustainable Waltham. The event will outline our efforts, report on our results, and encourage residents and local businesses to bring new ideas to the city. I will also establish public-private partnerships with cutting edge local companies to introduce energy efficiency and sustainability initiatives. Under my leadership, residents and businesses will recognize that sustainability is a priority for the city and will feel welcome and encouraged to participate in the discussion.
I will join the Metro-Boston area mayor’s task force on climate change, and work in partnership with other municipal leaders who have implemented smart sustainability plans, such as Somerville, Boston, Cambridge and the Merrimack Valley. This collaboration will provide a higher level of regional collaboration and high impact sustainability planning at no expense to the taxpayer.
Public Buildings and Spaces
I will work with local and state officials to identify and remediate brownfields sites in Waltham, and we will prioritize that effort based on redevelopment potential and the severity of contamination. The first priority will be to access state or federal brownfields funding to enable the city to repurpose the former town landfill, which was evaluated more than a decade ago and remains unused today. Utilizing the lessons learned by many other municipalities in Massachusetts who have done this successfully, Waltham will work to make city-owned land available to residents for public purposes, including open space and recreation facilities.
My administration will always seek to maximize efficiencies in local government. One immediate way to do so is to assess the energy efficiency of all public buildings and implement new technologies to reduce local energy consumption and thereby reduce the cost and carbon footprint of our public facilities.
There is a tremendous need for safe, affordable housing options for low and moderate-income residents of Waltham, as well as our seniors and veterans. Unfortunately, the city spent millions of taxpayer dollars to transform the Banks School property into affordable housing but failed to do so after $5 million in renovation costs and an untold amount in utility costs and municipal employee wages. Ten years later, the current administration finally accepted my recommendation to put this project out to bid so that the private sector can finish the project and the city can again reap tax revenue from that property. However, the Mayor is continuing to act irresponsibly by presenting an unrealistic bid to potential buyers. I will conduct an audit of the Banks School project to ensure that all of the appropriate procedures were followed and all of the affordable housing resources were repaid to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund. It is important to restore resident confidence that these resources were repaid, and that affordable housing resources will be used appropriately in the future. Residents can be assured that my administration will not undertake any projects that we do not have the professional capacity or resources to complete in the best interests of taxpayers.
What This Means to You
As mayor, I will provide vision and leadership for the sustainability of Waltham generations to come. Working with stakeholders both inside and outside of Waltham, we will reduce the energy costs of operating public buildings, implement better protections for our environment, promote greater utilization of renewable energy technologies, and support the creation of more affordable housing options for our most vulnerable residents. Waltham will be an active partner in promoting global sustainability, by joining state and world leaders on efforts to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, and provide enhanced access to renewable technologies and public spaces. Under my leadership, Waltham will join the ranks of other leading cities across the state, country and world by working to make our city a nicer, cleaner, more affordable place to live for future generations.