We can make small sacrifices now that will have large impacts on our environment later on –and they’ll save us money.
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 achieving LEED-certifiable standards and for stormwater retention techniques that will positively impact the health of our river.
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 transportation planning consulting services in FY2015/16 that 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.