From 2013-2014, Watertown had the fastest-growing population in Massachusetts and we’re still growing. This means more residents to service and more demands on our infrastructure. BUT, the increased revenue from development also brings opportunities for new or restored programming in our town. In these times Watertown needs careful planning and a clear vision for what we will become.
We need fresh ideas. We need creativity.
We need to find ways to make our money work for everyone and we all need to work together to address the problems of today.
Schools, Public Works, Police, Fire, Planning, Recreation, etc.
BUT, as the saying goes, “If we do things the way we’ve always done them, we’re going to get the same thing we always got.”
Embrace the uniqueness of us and cultivate community.
Support iconic businesses that are not just located in, but are rooted in Watertown.
Grow, but grow with a vision.
Our schools should strive for nothing less than academic excellence. Every one of us has a role to play in setting and meeting this expectation.
Collaborate across our governing bodies and private sector towards this end.
We can make small sacrifices now that will have large impacts on our environment later on –and they’ll save us money.
Alleviate congestion and contamination by building a transportation infrastructure that is truly multi-modal.
All over the country, communities like ours are fighting a battle against the anonymity of its residents. In this way, it is not uncommon to now see Watertown residents commuting to outside work locations, shopping at big-box retailers and eating at corporate food chains. These same residents may never learn the names of their neighbors or patronize the businesses within walking distance of their own homes. It is no wonder that we are seeing more and more sociopathic behavior in our society. After all, inhumane acts are easier to perpetrate against nameless and faceless victims. Put simply, people need each other and without a village mentality, it is very easy for folks to fall through the cracks unnoticed. As your leader, I work tirelessly to preserve what community we still have and promote policies to include newer residents within it. I am thrilled at the successes of our Design Guidelines process and the corresponding Zoning Ordinance Amendments. The quality of developments here is improving and it is not by coincidence. We are beginning to reap the benefits of some thoughtful examination of what we want to see in our neighborhoods. I am proud of the work that I’ve done towards this subject because careful planning of our community has an effect on the quality of life here and our daily interactions. Throughout the work we've done on these new policies, I have been especially vocal on the issues of energy efficiency and environmental sustainability, transportation and parking reform and building size and 'porosity'.
On the topic of development, I believe that our zoning should seek to create more mixed-use mosaics that stitch the inhabitants of new buildings into the fabric or our neighborhoods. I’ve become more comfortable with height and density as long as it does not create walls and excessive congestion. Planning for such ‘mosaics’ can create more vibrant spaces where people can live, work and play within walkable neighborhoods. ‘Mono-culture’ land-use zones can easily erode the character of our neighborhoods as much as their aesthetics. My record on the council in 2 years shows my commitment to these ideals.
I will also be supportive of any existing or new initiatives to reach out to those in our society that need a helping hand. English language training and new-citizen education programs that exist in Watertown are things that my extended family has benefited from. The social services that the town has historically-offered have been supportive of my family in times of need and I have been supportive of the continued funding of the social services coordinator position. I am also deeply concerned about the effects of the recent opioids epidemic and am working actively with the police and health departments to develop action plans and policies to help those residents who are suffering from the effects of this.
I believe that everyone doing business in Watertown should have an interest in improving the quality of life here. If you own a business here and you also live here then that’s an easy sell because you make the decisions and not your stockholders. Creating opportunities for locally-owned businesses to start up and succeed is an often overlooked responsibility of municipal leadership. I maintain active communication lines with Belmont Watertown Local First and while my earliest days on the council saw a failed initiative to formalize some of their core principals, I am proud to be a voice and sounding-board for them on policy matters. I have also worked to create new opportunities for small restaurant entrepreneurs to succeed in Watertown through the introduction of the proposed Bring Your Own Bottle (BYOB) ordinance. This will also stimulate culinary innovation, increase the density of restaurants and promote Watertown as a destination for a great dining experience. All the while, it will still allow holders of traditional licenses to reap the benefits of their alcohol sales. I have also worked with the town assessor to introduce the concept of the lower-rate, small commercial tax classification and some scenarios were presented to the town council in May 2015. This will be considered as an option by the council and the business community for the 2017 tax classification.
Dog parks, gardens and community spaces
In October of 2012, in response to a first call for ideas in the Watertown TAB, I called upon our Rec Department to create a dog park and community gardens at the Grove Street entrance to Filippello Park. As a councilor, I have worked to bring the dog park idea to fruition in Watertown. Walking our pets in our community is another thing that brings people together and I support a clean and well-managed dog park like those seen in many neighboring communities. I am working with residents to improve the conditions at How Park, to institute better policies for dogs on public lands here and to install another dog park on the east side of town.
I am also concerned with the preservation of Victory Field as a community park while still yielding the benefits of being an athletic facility for our youth. I think it can be done. I have advocated with the Superintendent of Schools to enhance the school garden programs while also working where possible to support Watertown Community Gardens to brainstorm new sites. I have insisted that the Recreation Department begin the planning for riverside aquatic activities with the possible use of the Ryan Skating Rink site as a base. While on the council, I contributed with detailed comments and suggestions for improvements to the town’s Open Space plan which include many of these ideas and more. I have also maintained a careful watch over development on discussions on Pleasant Street to avoid any access constraints to the Charles River. Speaking of the Charles, I still coordinate a team of First Parish Watertown members and friends in the annual riverside cleanup at Squibnocket Park on Earth Day. Join us next year!
Every one of us has a role to play in setting and meeting this expectation.
My 3 siblings and I all came through Watertown public schools and 2 of my 3 children are in them now. My wife and I have made a commitment to the schools and have entrusted them fully with the cultivation of our childrens’ intellectual curiosity. We both hold full-time jobs and have few other options than public schools.
This area is internationally-acclaimed for its elite educational and artistic institutions. Our youth should be taught that they are a part of this culture of excellence and not outside bystanders. Our town should take a measure of pride in its school system and in the academic achievement of its pupils. I believe that we are in the midst of a cultural transformation in this direction. I also believe that every single citizen and municipal employee should be made to see their role in this new culture.
Private institutions, town committees and departments alike should all play a part in the education of our youth. Internships should be created and academic achievement awards presented at the expense of these departments or institutions. Companies that make their home in Watertown have an interest in making this town an attractive place for their employees to live. Public-private partnerships should be arranged to capitalize on this interest and strengthen our schools. I have worked closely with the Watertown Education Foundation towards these goals. Working as a promoter of the event and as a dancer, their Dancing with the Stars event saw unprecedented attendance and funds raised in 2015. We are also working together towards the creation of a corporate consortium that will emerge as a key benefactor for public education here.
As examples of how other town departments can contribute, community policing, civil engineering projects, urban forestry, the historical society, the senior center and the library all hold educational opportunities for our youth. All of these fall outside of the school department budget and should be leveraged as part of this vital work. I have successfully advocated for the creation of a school resource officer at the middle school and more community policing activities at the WPD. I am also in full support of the Public Works Department’s summer youth work program as a start towards these ideas.
Lastly, in the two town budgets that I have voted on, the School Department funding has increased at unprecedented rates. In 2015, while including a slew of 1-time expenditures, the increase was just under 10%. In fiscal year 2016, the School Department asked for 6.87% and the town council gave them just that. I recognize that the advocacy for increased funding for education here has been a team-effort and that these gains are thanks to a lot of people. However, my voice on the council has been loud and clear on the issue and I have worked very hard in public and in behind-the-scenes discussions for these advances.
Professionally, I have worked in the field of environmental sustainability and conservation for my entire career. Though my parents set down roots here in Watertown, my grandparents are from America’s West and they planted in me seeds of appreciation for the wilderness and scenic beauty of our nation. I am committed to environmental stewardship in everything I do. In my time living in Watertown as an adult, my voice has been heard more and more frequently in discussing and remediating our town’s unique environmental issues.
Inherent in almost every decision we make as a community are our environmental impacts. For our 30,000+ people to live sustainably on this small piece of land we need to be better stewards of our natural resources. For municipal buildings, every effort should be made to maximize energy efficiency while also tapping into the current boom in low-cost solar photovoltaic technology. Massachusetts is currently one of the most favorable states for residential solar projects due to excellent state incentives programs. This is one of many pieces of low-impact development (LID) standards that we need to continuously encourage in our community. I am proud to say that I have pushed for the application of photovoltaic energy on almost every new development and public building renovation to be proposed in Watertown since I was elected. Thanks, in-part, to my advocacy, recent amendments to the town zoning ordinance require new buildings of a certain size to undergo site evaluations for such technologies. These amendments (the ‘Design Standards’) also include new provisions for stormwater retention which will impact the health of our river dramatically.
The Charles River, from where our city derives its name, is a federally-identified ‘impaired’ waterway. It is listed as such due to pollutants caused from stormwater runoff from our communities. No longer can we point the finger at the commonly-depicted dirty factories dumping sludge into the water. We have made strides to develop a new ordinance for stormwater cleanup and control but we need to go further and education is imperative if we are to see any water quality improvement in the river. Additionally, state environmental requirements for water quality improvement are being set for the Charles River which when not met, will result in fines or cuts in state financial assistance to municipalities. I was an advocate for the filling of the town engineer and director of administration positions at the DPW and they have both made great strides towards this end which include key revisions to the draft stormwater ordinance and successful grant-writing for demonstration projects.
Wetlands play a key role in stormwater remediation as well as wild animal habitat. I will continue to pay careful attention to the Army Corps of Engineers’ wetland reconstruction project at the GSA site on Greenough Blvd. I will also support the Conservation Commission in their continued efforts to clean up, beautify and eventually provide public access to Watertown’s other neglected ponds and wetland complexes: Sawin’s, Williams and Walker’s Ponds. I would like to someday see the town make a land acquisition in one of these areas in order to restore these important ecosystems and preserve their hydrologic functions.
Our roadways have been an area of concern to citizens for a long time. We need to continue to explore ways to alleviate traffic concerns as well as reduction of tailpipe emissions through safe and practical bicycle routes. Public transit is still inadequate here and this is not just a matter of convenience or environmental sustainability, but also of social equity. In my first meeting as a councilor in 2014, I made a motion to form a town committee on public transit which was voted down. Instead, I joined a group of residents as a founding member of the citizen-based Watertown Public Transit Task Force (WPTTF). As a member of the WPTTF steering committee I was part of a 3-person subcommittee that planned and implemented the very-successful forum on Transportation Management Associations (TMA). With the WPTTF, I have also worked to advocate for transportation studies that will impact Watertown. The state has begun the process to improve transportation along the Arsenal Corridor all the way to Waltham as well as the Fresh Pond Parkway/Mt. Auburn Street intersection in Cambridge. We have also brought the MBTA's general manager before the Town Council twice and I have advocated for several statements by the council demanding better service. This work is still in progress but we are making great strides. Combined with my work to fund the design and construction of the multi-use paths, the landscape of transportation in Watertown will be changing fast in the next few years. My work in the council's budget priority guidelines process for the town manager helped to appropriate funding for a transportation planner in FY2015/16 who will be working on a number of related initiatives. My passion for reforming parking rules in Watertown is motivated by the increased road congestion and desire to see less new cars on the road. I have worked with developers such as athenahealth and Greystar to design visionary parking solutions for their projects that will pay dividends in this area down the line.
Food. Through cultivation of our open spaces with edible landscapes, we not only improve the diets of our residents but we take ever larger bites out of an external food industry that makes disastrous environmental impacts on a global scale. Not to mention, creating more local industry and social activity around bustling community gardens has an excellent effect on the community spirit and togetherness that makes us strong. It allows opportunities for our immigrant populations and retirees to interact productively in our society and it is something that as a Town Councillor I will work to support these efforts wherever possible.