GROW, BUT GROW WITH A VISION.
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. The way a building is shaped matters towards how it blends with surrounding neighborhoods and how the human community inside it congeals and grows. 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 resource specialist 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. Furthermore, I will continue to work with my fellow councilors, the town manager and the public employee unions to support fair collective bargaining agreements that are a good deal for the taxpayers of Watertown but that also seek to compromise when the time and conditions are right to do so.
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!