2019 Progressive Waltham City Council Questionnaire
2019 Progressive Waltham City Council Questionnaire
- Please share with us one or two reasons why you decided to run for the City Council?
Serving our community to help others when help is most needed is why I dedicated my career to working in public service. It is important for the city to support and care for all residents regardless of their age, gender, ethnicity, or financial status.
Waltham benefits from having a City Council diversified in gender, age, culture, length of residency and experience. My long history of community involvement, education and experience in state and local government adds an important dynamic to the Council when making tough decisions for the betterment of all.
- What new legislation will you work on/introduce to the City Council that will address the affordable housing crisis?
The nation is facing a critical affordable housing crisis. There are far too many individuals, families, seniors, veterans and people with disabilities who lack access to clean and safe affordable housing. I worked with my colleagues on the council and WATCH Inc. to pass a new ordinance increasing affordable housing requirements for private housing developments from 10% to 15%. During the next two years I will work with colleagues to better understand the viability of increasing the requirement to 20%.
To do this, I will ask the Council President to establish an ad-hoc committee on affordable housing to provide the Council with factual information on ramifications of a possible further increase.
- How do you feel the Waltham immigrant community can best be served, and how would you go about empowering them?
In past years, our city embraced newcomers from places like Italy, Ireland, England, Scotland and Canada. In recent years, we have welcomed Latin Americans, South Asians, Ugandans and Haitians, among others. We are a better city for their presence and contributions.
The actions of the Trump Administration sets a damaging tone and misrepresents what our country stands for: religious freedom and embracing people from far and wide. They send the wrong message to those who wish to come here, and communities at home that now fear for the safety of themselves and their loved ones.
We all want to be safe from people who instill fear, hatred, and violence. But the President’s Executive Orders effecting refugees and immigration make America less safe. Policies banning Muslims and directing law enforcement to ramp up the deportation of families have the effect of motivating white nationalist who wish to harm us.
I co-sponsored state legislation (Safe Communities Act) and support city policies which empower immigrants by prohibiting religious registries and the use of state and local resources for mass deportations or deportation raids. Every resident deserves to feel safe and unafraid to engage the police when victimized by criminals or domestic and sexual assault.
We cannot allow fear to divide us.
- How have you been involved with the Waltham community?
Community Involvement, Past & Present:
Waltham Boys & Girls Club, Waltham Youth Basketball Association, Basketball Plus Program, Central Middle School Basketball, Little Nippers Baseball, Warrendale Little League, Waltham Youth Soccer, Waltham Police Athletic League, CCD Teacher, St. Jude Church, Waltham Lions Club, Waltham Rotary Club, Reagle Players Board of Directors, Warrendale Little League Board of Directors, Waltham Partnership for Youth Board of Directors, Waltham Day Center (Homeless) Advisors Board, Waltham Family School Advisory Board, regular guest & advocate of the Waltham Creative Head Start Program, Waltham Safe & Healthy Schools YRBS Steering Committee, Reach Beyond Domestic Violence Advisory Board, Waltham Public Library Planning Committee, Waltham Sons of Italy, Middlesex Area Enough Abuse Campaign, elected Waltham City Councillor & MA state representative.
Recognition of Community Involvement:
- Work, Community, Independence – Human Service Advocate of the Year
- COFAR – award recipient for support of people with mental disabilities
- MassBay Community College Distinguished Alumni Award
- WATCH CDC – Housing Advocate Award
- Minuteman Senior Services – Certificate of Appreciation
- Boston Bar Assoc., Greater Boston Legal Services and MetroWest Legal Services – Pillar of Justice Award
- Shining Star Award (Edinburg Center)
- Community Health Center Leader Award (The Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers)
- What ideas do you have for reducing carbon emissions in Waltham and other ways of sustaining the environment?
After years of tireless advocacy, the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources finally designated Waltham as a Green Community in 2018. The City is now able to apply for grants through both the state’s Green Communities Program and Energy Resilience Program.
As Councilor, I will push for the city to apply for these grants that will help supplement efforts in reducing energy consumption in schools and public buildings, erecting solar arrays, and implementing the latest building codes.
This past year, I made the successful motion supported by WECAN members to increase the default percentage of renewable energy homeowners will soon receive to help power their homes. As the city finalizes conditions I will ensure this provision remains.
As Councilor, I will encourage the development of long-range sustainability and resiliency planning with an actionable implementation plan. I will also push for the new Sustainability Manager to host an annual Waltham Sustainability Summit to engage residents and promote a more sustainable city.
Recognizing that climate change is an international issue, 14 metro-Boston area mayors have teamed up and created a task force seeking to address the region’s efforts to fight climate change. This task force will make policy recommendations and set regional priorities for climate preparedness.
As Councilor, I will push for Waltham to join the Metro-Boston area mayor’s task force on climate change, and work in partnership with other municipalities who have implemented smart sustainability plans, such as Somerville, Boston, Cambridge and the Merrimack Valley.
- What is your long-term vision for Waltham?
My vision for Waltham is to get all residents engaged in the governing process. Waltham is full of hard working and talented residents who care and have so much to offer. It is a failure of local government to not fully engage the residents of Waltham in a serious way for new ideas on how to improve our city and better serve the community. I will make community engagement a priority, and treat public input as a responsibility of our local government. I will work with the mayor, City Council, residents, senior’s, parents, immigrant and minority groups, and every organization in Waltham to ensure that each and every stakeholder group is heard, valued and that their perspective is considered during the governing process. I will respect the time, commitment and input of all residents who call Waltham home.
Citizens become more engaged when they have a better understanding of what is happening in their city. It’s the responsibility of City Hall to make information readily available to all residents and in a way that is easily understood. A city that is known as the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution should do a better job of embracing technology in local government, and I will do just that to make sure our residents feel better-informed and invited to engage in ways they feel comfortable, including through the internet, social media, smart phone apps, and in more traditional ways such as community meetings, by telephone or in writing.
I will work to improve the transparency of city government by making more information available online in a clear and concise way, and by providing more ways for citizens to offer feedback and suggestions. Waltham will be a stronger community when more people feel informed and engaged.
- How will you work to increase voter turnout in Waltham?
As elected officials we can change the laws to make voting as easy as possible. As a state representative I have supported automatic registration, same day registration and early voting.
Automatic registration is a reality and as a co-sponsor of legislation to allow same day registration I see progress being made this session.
Early voting was successfully piloted during the last Presidential election. I am strongly advocating in both my rolls to make early voting an option in every election.
If elected, I will push for Waltham to make available election ballots in Spanish and other languages to remove the language obstacle for some Waltham residents.
However, perhaps the most successful effort is by organizations like Progressive Waltham who reach out to voters at the grass-roots level to encourage their participation.
- How can Waltham support people experiencing homelessness in our city?
Every elected official does not support WATCH, the Waltham Day Center or increasing access to affordable housing to the same degree. Supporting candidates for public office who have demonstrated their support and commitment to ending homelessness is a good way to ensure decisions are made that make the most progress toward ending homelessness.
At the state level my bill which prevents fraud and abuse in the housing lending industry was recently signed by Gov. Baker. I will continue to be a strong supporter of the Community Preservation Act which funds affordable housing preservation as well as the following housing programs for Rental Voucher’s, Alternative Housing, Public Housing Authorities, Public Housing Reform, Housing Consumer Education Centers and Residential Assistance for Families in Transition. As well as homelessness programs such as the Emergency Assistance Family Shelters, Homeless Individual Assistance, Home & Healthy for Good, Unoccupied Homeless Youth and HomeBASE.
At the local level I support creating a permanent homeless facility at the former city dog pound. Recently, I worked with WATCH to increase private housing affordability unit requirements from 10% to 15%. If re-elected I will work toward increasing this requirement. I will continue to serve on the Waltham (Homeless) Community Day Center Advisory Board, support the continuance of the CPA housing voucher program and support the use of federal CDBG funding for this nonprofit.
Finally, I will continue to be a leader on the City Council advocating for the city to adopt the Fernald Working Groups approach to reusing the Fernald property. This will result in additional affordable housing in our city.
- How will you go about supporting alternative and public transportation in the city?
Waltham’s high congestion is one of the most pressing issues facing the city. Sitting in traffic wastes residents’ time, fuel, and money, in addition to needlessly harming the environment. The City must absolutely push for more alternative and public transportation options to get folks out of their cars. I have long been a proponent of encouraging safe and accessible transportation for all travel modes (including walking and biking).
At the state-level, I supported legislation in 2016 that codified the Commonwealth’s Complete Streets program into law which incentivizes cities and towns to pass Complete Streets policies by funding local projects. I will encourage the City of apply for Complete Streets grants to help implement a network of roads that accommodate walkers and cyclists just as much as motor vehicles.
I’ll also continue to support projects like the proposed pedestrian and bicycle flyover-bridge over I-95 and the Wayside Rail Trail that repurpose existing infrastructure and provide residents with an alternative means of traveling around the City.
I will continue to advocate for multi-modal infrastructure improvements which reduce traffic gridlock and protect neighborhoods. These improvements include the reconstruction of the Piety Corner, the Rt. 117 Bridge, the Green Street Connector, and reconstruction of the Totten Pond Road, Third Avenue and Winter Street intersection as well as a new train station on the Weston-Waltham town line in the future.
- How can Waltham support the disenfranchised elderly in our city?
Waltham and our state have a proud history of supporting our growing senior population. In both of my positions supporting seniors is a priority of mine. Whether it is funding the William F. Stanley Senior Center named after my father, its parking lot, or the many programs provided through the Council on Aging, which runs the building, it is critical that state and local government provide the necessary resources to support our older citizens in our community.
Adjacent to the Senior Center is the Leland Home for Seniors. Rep. Lawn and I successfully obtained state funding to provide for critical capital needs. In addition, as a City Councillor I supported the use of CPA money to fund the rent at Leland for seniors in need.
I am working with the Leland Home to explore the creation of a senior zone where property owners would be incentivized to create safe and accessible senior housing and the city would provide a safe walking environment with infrastructure and utility improvements.
- Not including the construction of the new Waltham High School, what is the most important line item in the school budget?
Instead of choosing one line item I believe the line items addressing immigrant student needs is crucial to the success of Waltham Public Schools.
Education is another critical component to empower the immigrant community in Waltham. WPS has made great strides these past few years with developing programs that are sensitive to immigrant student’s culture and education levels. The Newcomer Academy provides newly arrived SIFE and SLIFE immigrant and refugee students with a caring and supportive environment to rapidly acquire the English language, develop native language skills, and orient themselves to American culture. The Dual Immersion Program provides academic content in two languages, Spanish and English, to Hispanic elementary students to help them become proficient in both languages. As a city councilor, I will continue to support these efforts as well as the Waltham Family School which has been instrumental in connecting immigrant parents with their children’s education.
- How will you work to promote greater transparency in the decision making process within the City?
Citizens become more engaged when they have a better understanding of what is happening in their city. It is difficult for taxpayers to understand city affairs because the website is antiquated and the information lacks an explanation of the big picture. I will advocate for the city to publish an annual report that discusses the goals of the city, plans for achieving our goals, and how our city expenditures align with those priorities. I will ask for the publishing of an organizational chart for City Hall, so residents understand who their public employees are and the employees feel a strong sense of accountability to those taxpayers. In addition, the city should annually publish a detailed fiscal analysis outlining the health of city finances with benchmarks and a clear, understandable budget document that shows budgeted and actual spending by category. I will utilize the City of Boston’s Budget Office webpage (http://www.cityofboston.gov/budget) as a model for the City of Waltham and our city will be a stronger community when more people feel informed and engaged.
- During your two year term, what will be your two biggest priorities?
The UMASS Field Station on Beaver Street is home to Waltham Fields Community Farm, Green Rows of Waltham Community Gardens, Waltham Land Trust, Massachusetts Federation of Farmers Markets, Boston Area Gleaners and 4-H among other agriculture and land use groups. Transferring ownership from the state to Waltham will preserve the working farm and continue to provide space for these important non-profits. Furthermore, local ownership will allow for the possibility of a cutting-edge Sustainability Center to benefit our regional economy by providing resources and training in the areas of sustainable farming, ecological land-use, and best practices of adaptive and green technologies to meet the ecological challenges ahead. The historic 58-acre UMass Waltham Field Station is uniquely suited for this exciting project as it has served a similar function for decades as a well-respected regional agronomic field station.
Waltham residents deserve an inclusive and transparent process for planning the future use of the Fernald. The future of this 189.7 acre campus, a National Historic Landmark, is vitally important to Waltham and deserves a professionally developed and competently managed comprehensive master plan to achieve the best possible outcome for the City.
I worked with advocates and led the state effort to prevent development of the Fernald and transfer ownership to the city. On the City Council, I made the motions and gained Council support for the Fernald Working Group’s recommendation to hire an outside professional planning consultant to manage the reuse process of the Fernald property. In addition, I made the motion and gained council approval to fund the process. During our next session I will encourage our mayor to embrace the Fernald Working Group’s vision of a community driven and professionally assisted re-use process.
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