In times of fiscal uncertainty and scarcity, we need to talk about budgeting in different terms.
Instead of arguing over pieces of a budgetary pie, we need to find ways to make our money work for everyone.
A dollar spent in one department should demonstrate benefits for the others.
Schools, Public Works, Police, Fire, the Senior Center, Recreation, etc.
To start these conversations, we need as much budgetary transparency as possible up front.
Preserve our community spirit by supporting businesses that are not just located in, but are rooted in our community.
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.
We can make small sacrifices now that will have large impacts on our environment later on –and they’ll save us money.
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.
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 will work tirelessly to preserve what community we still have and promote policies to include newer residents within it. I am thrilled at the emergence of the Belmont-Watertown Local First organization and I believe that our historic fight to keep Walmart out of Watertown should be viewed not as the end of a movement, but, rather, as the beginning.
On the topic of redevelopment of our older industrial sites, I believe that our zoning should seek to create more mixed-use zones and to limit high-density quick-fixes. Such land-use mosaics can be used to 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.
I will also be supportive of any existing or new initiatives to reach out to those in our society that need a helping hand. Our senior center is an excellent example of a vibrant community space that brings people together and it is becoming an important part of my own parents’ life. English language training and new-citizen education programs that exist in Watertown are things that my extended family has also benefited from. The social services that the town has historically-offered, have been supportive of my family in times of need and I am happy about the recent approval of the social services coordinator position. In future years, I would like to assess the effectiveness of the position and would potentially support efforts to bring these services back into our town's administrative portfolio.
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 will work to bring the dog park idea to fruition -either at Filippello, or elsewhere 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. See the 'Sustainable Watertown' section below to read my positive feelings on community gardens.
As a councilor, I will also push to bring the two library branch buildings back into use. The North Branch Library building is located in what was once a more active commercial strip nearby a fire station and Victory Field. The busy Orchard Park Grill and Miss Maria Dance studio have now left that area and the shops and small businesses there are in need of a boost. The East Branch Library building is near what is called 'Lois Mastrangelo Square' which boasts an active Armenian cultural center and church as well as a small commercial zone with a law practice and social work office. It is on the 71 bus line from Harvard Square.
One idea I'd like to discuss with the community would be to use these buildings to support and incubate local innovators, or researchers. Co-working spaces are a more affordable idea for new entrepreneurs and can add revenue to the town and an element of activity to the neighborhoods where they exist. Here are some great examples...
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 need 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.
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.
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 top 5 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.
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 new ordinances 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.
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.
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. In our right-of-way street-side planters we see some of the best opportunities to soak up stormwater runoff while also creating a cooling effect in hotter months with a mature tree canopy. Trees and verdant street right-of-ways also beautify our neighborhoods and capture the same biomass carbon that causes climate change when released into the air. These are only some of their benefits and I would support any strengthening of our urban forestry program to include establishment of a nursery and even an eventual tree inventory.
Lastly, 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 vigorously to support wherever possible.