It has been almost 4 years since I was first elected to the city council. These four years have been both immensely challenging as well as immensely rewarding. I have worked hard to be an advocate for both Ward 1 and the City as a whole, to be available and accessible to constituents, and to make decisions based on good data and a thorough vetting among all stakeholders.
A Newton native with two children in the Schools, I have been deeply involved in my community for the last 12 years, including serving as a board member and vice president of the Newton Conservators, and on the Board of the League of Women Voters -Newton. I co-chaired the Environmental Committee for the Newton LWV for several years.
Some of my accomplishments include;
Improved pedestrian safety and accessibility, especially along walk to school routes. This includes adding 4 way stop signs, increasing spot police patrols along walk to school routes, advocating for street redesign that prioritizes safety for all users and working with the Commission on Disability to ensure that curb cuts meet accessibility codes. I also voted to lower the default speed limit city wide to 25 MPH.
Worked with city staff and local activists to advocate for improving pedestrian safety and access at Newton Corner. The $750,000 project is ongoing and scheduled to be completed later this year.
Environmental Protection and Sustainability
Docketed the Solid Waste and Recycling budget resolution which unanimously passed the full city council in last May. Developed a list of action items that moves the City forward on a holistic, cost effective path for managing trash and recycling, including reducing consumption, improving recycling rates, and encouraging re-use and re-purposing of materials and products.
Recognized as the “2015 Environmentalist of the Year” by the Newton Conservators for work as a dedicated educator and advocate for environmental issues.
Honored by Green Newton for my efforts to phase out thin, single-use plastic bags and encourage reusable bag use.
Co-sponsored an item on municipal aggregation designed both to save rate payers money on electricity rates and encourage the purchase electricity from renewable sources.
When new toll rates were announced by Mass DOT Newton was the only toll location that showed an increase. In fact, the new electronic toll gantries would have resulted in a fifty percent toll increase (from $1.00 to $1.50) to travel between Newton Corner and Downtown Boston. I testified and sent comments to Mass DOT asking them to reconsider, and the rate was reduced to $1.35.
I advocate for and support our public Schools, and this included voicing my opposition to Question 2 regarding Charter Schools.
Public Health -TCE (trichloroethylene) Contamination in Nonantum
Organized three community meetings to date to keep residents updated and informed on the TCE contamination of groundwater in parts of Nonantum. I filed a Public Involvement Plan (PIP) with DEP which requires that the responsible party provide information about the nature and extent of contamination, respond to questions from the community and explain how response actions will be implemented. This issue is ongoing.
Housing and Development;
As a member of the Zoning & Planning Committee I helped craft and voted for the Accessory Apartment ordinance which allows homeowners more flexibility to make changes as needed to stay in their homes.
Going forward my priorities include;
Schools & Public Places
Work closely with the School Committee in support of our excellent schools. Improve and maintain our schools and city buildings, parks and open space, sidewalks and roads, and water, sewer and stormwater utilities.
Zoning, Development & Land Use:
Encourage policies and programs that reduces the dependence on local property taxes and evaluate locations of the city that lend themselves to appropriate commercial and mixed use development.
Encourage diverse housing types that appeal to persons and households from a wide range of economic levels, cultures and age groups.
Optimize land use in village centers with a lively mix of uses, including housing, businesses and shops, civic and open spaces that invite walking, biking and reduce the reliance on auto use.
Foster a strong sense of place: Consider the history, micro-environment and character of communities when planning new development.
Include strategies for maximizing green infrastructure that mimic natural systems in our zoning code. This includes increasing tree and vegetative cover, green roofs, permeable surfaces and utilizing cool pavements. This not only reduces the urban heat island effect, but also reduces storm water runoff and provides public health and economic benefits.
Sustainability, Transportation & Green Infrastructure
Promote regional land use planning and transportation options. Regionalize the responsibilities of growth by coordinating and communicating with neighboring communities.
Connect and expand walk- bike corridors (research has demonstrated that increasing a neighborhood’s “walkability by just 5% is correlated with driving 6.4 % fewer miles per capita). A study by the Urban Land Institute in Cambridge projected that “maximum deployment” strategies to increase walking and biking could reduce CO2 emissions by millions of tons by 2050.
Engage in long and short term transportation planning strategies that prioritize public transit and designs roads for all users. Work with all stakeholders to leverage funding for significant infrastructure improvements that improve access and reliability.
Review and expand current solid waste and Recycling goals annually. Set a goal of a 50% diversion rate curbside by 2022.
PILOTS; payments in lieu of taxes & Tax Policy
The amount of the PILOT should reflect the cost of providing services to a non-profit. Especially the cost of core public services like police and fire protection, snow removal and street cleaning. I would pursue a more formal PILOT agreement similar to what the City of Boston has done, which is to call for voluntary payments based on an institutions tax exempt property value.
Like many communities in Massachusetts we are facing an opioid crisis. We had a 140% increase in opioid fatalities – from 7 opioid deaths in 2015 to 17 opioid deaths in 2016. We need to continue to build on the work of the PATH Program (Prevention, Awareness, Treatment and Hope), including prevention programs, outreach and education and addiction recovery services. We moved in the right direction by requiring that all first responders, including the Fire Department and school nurses carry Narcan. Our efforts must be ongoing.
I look forward to serving another term on the city council and I ask for your vote on November 7th.