Why City Council?
Tuesday Sept. 17th
I grew up in a Mid-west town where people had a deep sense of respect and responsibility to those around them. I still carry that with me and I know I see it in the people of Ward 2! Waltham has faced many challenges over the years, and through hard work, resilience, and respect for one another, Waltham has continued to thrive. Local issues and government have always been important to me because the decisions made by our City Council affect each one of us on a daily basis. I would be honored to represent you when those decisions are being made.
I promise to work hard for the people and families of Ward 2, to make sure that your voices and concerns are heard by the city and its leaders. Our city’s story is certainly in a time of change; we are welcoming new families of all kinds, including immigrants from all over the world, while always continuing to value our neighbors who have lived here their entire lives. This wonderful mix of old and new is exciting but, as with any time of change, brings with it challenges that call for a renewed commitment to listen and work together to keep Waltham thriving.
I believe we must value every individual and every family in our city. To do that we need progressive leaders who listen to their communities. Leaders who insist on well informed decisions that benefit the city and people of Waltham.
Challenges We Are Facing: The Issues.
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Education and Education Infrastructure
It is an incredibly exciting time in Waltham education! The City is looking forward into new technologies, new education plans, new building materials and processes to give our children the best education possible for generations to come.
It is easy to get distracted by the fear of doing something "new". However, setting the standard, being the FIRST, not the 20th, to do something new in education/education infrastructure, could easily be one of the things that sets Waltham apart from other communities and continues to draw new families to our neighborhoods. I believe that in addressing the building of Waltham's new High School, we have to look forward and let our progressive values guide us. Here are some things we know:
Under Waltham's current leadership the process for building the High School at the Stigmatine site is moving forward, The School Committee, and School Building Committee have been working, researching, asking questions and looking for answers for several years now. I trust them when they say that this site is the right place to build our new high school. The land has been acquired and the plans are in development. It is my understanding that there are some ongoing negotiations to be worked through with the Stigmatine Brothers, but that all parties expect those issues to be concluded promptly. The Stigmatinges have vacated the site, and have wished us "Peace" on our journey forward.
It's strange to think, at this point, that the New High School is just beginning to get going - but that is the truth. As a candidate for city council in Ward 2, where the school will be built, I have been following the work of the School Building Committee closely, and have attended several SBC meetings including "Neighborhood" meetings concerning the project. I have been extremely impressed with the knowledge, integrity, and creativity of the SMMA design firm. I am confident that both SMMA and the City have and will continue to do, their due diligence in keeping Waltham citizens informed of the project through to its completion. At the last Neighborhood meeting it was suggested that Ward 2 have a Community Liaison, from the Construction Company to whom we can go with concerns. This is a wonderful idea and as a candidate who has studied human communication her entire adult life, and, whose husband has owned his own construction business for over 15 years, I believe I have the knowledge and skills to create a strong relationship with the Liason, the School Building Committee and the Mayor.
2. Waltham's chapter of Mothers Out Front, and WECAN have provided us with an amazing roadmap to build a Net Zero School. Given the imminent danger that climate change poses to all of us, this is not just an amazing opportunity that should be capitalized on but I feel it's also a moral imperative. As a Progressive, climate change, renewable energy and sustainability are priorities for me. As one member of Mother's Out Front put it in the Jan. 25th Edition of The Patch, "One of the school system’s highest costs is energy. Reducing energy bills allows more money to be invested in programs for at-risk students, technology, and innovative curricula. A zero net energy high school would be a huge win for students.”
3. Currently both the educational plan and the design for the New High School are inclusive of "Chapter 74" approved Vocational Technological Cooperative programming. I believe this is key to giving ALL of our students the education they need. We know that college loan debt is one of the fastest growing burdens for young professionals, it affects 44 million individuals across the country. This debt burden has a huge impact on our economy, it stops people from being able to invest in homes, start businesses, put down roots in the community etc... We also know that we are in the midst of a shortage of skilled labor across the United States. Exposing Waltham students to both traditional and vocational education at the high school level gives our students the skills they need to make smart decisions about their futures.
4. You can't have cutting edge education and infrastructure without paying for it. The presence of large corporate entities in our city have kept taxes low for the most part - but now is the time to prioritize the funding our children's education. This does NOT automatically mean huge tax increases, but it DOES mean exploring new revenue streams for the city, and being strategic and smart about our finances going forward.
Waltham's students need their leaders to put our Progressive values into action and make the new high school not only a reality, but an amazing reality for generations to come.
Living in the greater Boston area is expensive. It seems that one by one we are watching our cities and towns, further and further out, turn into area's that most of us cannot afford to live in anymore. At a recent Affordable Housing panel discussion I learned that 2 in 5 households in Waltham are facing a housing cost burden - and they have no affordable alternatives. To me, as both a Progressive and a human, that is unacceptable.
I believe housing is a human right, and that we have a responsibility to our friends, neighbors and loved ones, to make sure they are not wrongfully displaced from their homes in the name of "development" that gives no thought to impact. This is one reason I strongly believe that we need a proper Planning Commission in Waltham. A group that has the expertise, knowledge and authority to look at, "The Whole Picture", of our city and assess the impact of any new developments, whether business or residential.
Additionally, we do have a proposal from WATCH aimed to help alleviate our affordable housing crisis. The, "Deed Restriction Buy-Down" program is a landlord incentive program that uses CPC funds to pay landlords a lump sum to rent their units affordably for a period of 10 years. I support this program as it would benefit both Waltham renters, as well as homeowners/landlords. There are of course questions that remain about the logistics of the plan, but so far everything I have learned about it points to a good solid proposal that will provide some much needed relief to Waltham families.
There are many other possible solutions being discussed, inclusive zoning, real estate transfer taxes to name a couple and as Ward 2's city councilor, my priority would be making sure those solutions prevent displacement of both new and generational Waltham families. I would ensure that they take into account both housing and transportation, and that developers wanting to build more luxury units are NOT the ones driving Waltham's housing decisions.
The truth is that Waltham can look around at other cities and see the mistakes that have been made, and the impacts (Hello Somerville!) we can and should learn from these mistakes so we can make informed, compassionate, smart housing decisions that benefit our communities.
While I know many of the challenges and issues we face in Ward 2, I certainly can't pretend to know them all! I want to hear from you, the people of Ward 2! What are your concerns? What challenges do you see Ward 2, or Waltham as a whole, facing today or in the near future? What are your ideas or hopes for progressive change here in Watch City?
Supporting Small Business
Opening your own business is a daunting task. I know this first hand from watching my husband, and many friends and family open, and sometimes close, businesses that they poured their hearts into over the years. While a small business is often a labor of love, it's also one of permits, licenses, finances and ordinances.... oh my.
I have listened to many small business owners and entrepreneurs in Waltham talk about the difficulties they have had in securing permits to establish a brick and mortar business in Waltham. In a local online community group someone asked if they should try to open their new business in Waltham or Watertown. The resounding chorus was heartbreaking. "Don't Do It In Waltham!!!" from multiple zoning and permit hearings, to what one person described as, "the city council cold shoulder" it did not sound like Waltham was doing all it could to encourage the growth of local business. This is BAD for a myriad of reasons.
Small businesses, especially those that are locally owned or franchised, contribute more to local economies in more ways than any large corporation ever could. Local business owners are just that - LOCAL! They take the money they make from their local business and they put most of it right back into the local economy. They buy or rent vacant buildings or spaces that are an eyesore to the city, and turn them into vibrant and exciting opportunities for growth. They create jobs for our neighbors, and they become gathering places for our communities. We NEED them.
As a City Councilor, one of my first priorities it to take a wholesale look at the permitting and zoning processes for small business in Waltham and start creating some smart, well researched and vetted solutions!
We cannot expect to have a vibrant city, with a sustainable downtown area, and shops that draw people in from all over, if we put obstacle, after obstacle, after obstacle, in front of those trying to bring their dreams of owning their own business in Waltham to life. As I saw on that community group - they WILL go somewhere else - and Waltham will lose. I promise to make sure that Waltham is a friendly city to small business and entrepreneurs of all kinds.
“There is no planet B”. The first time I heard this statement I realized that many times our beliefs and our actions on issues of sustainability are sometimes in direct opposition to one another. I knew I needed to make some sweeping changes in the way I lived if I wanted to be a part of the solution!
Just as I came to that realization, cities like Waltham need to come to this realization too.
Here in Waltham we've been blessed with several local organizations that are providing leadership in the fight against Climate Change. Organizations like, The Waltham Land Trust, and Waltham Fields Community Farm, have dedicated years to community level organizing and advocacy around the conservation of our open spaces, and the sustainability of our community. They know what they are talking about, and as a Waltham city councilor I would encourage the city to seek out and listen to their expertise.
To quote from the Waltham Mothers Out Front website: “Energy efficiency is the healthiest and most abundant renewable resource available for us as we reduce our use of fossil fuels. In Massachusetts, 75% of our electricity is generated from burning natural gas, more and more of which is coming from the fracking fields of Pennsylvania. This is why energy efficiency is an integral part of protecting our children's future from climate change in our swift and just transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy. Our state leads the nation in energy efficiency, but we're far behind where we need to be to get a real impact in reducing our fossil fuel use so each of us can do more by reducing our own use of electricity and heating energy.”
Why is this important to us in Waltham? It's important for 2 reasons: 1) Energy Efficiency allows us to seek out and use new technology to create systems, buildings, and houses that reduce the amount of energy we use even when we do need to turn on the lights, wash clothes, or cook dinner! 2) Our use of Natural Gas hurts both the citizens of Waltham AND of Pennsylvania! In summer of 2016 Pennsylvania experienced its first Fracking (the term used to describe how Natural Gas is released from the earth) related earthquake. These earthquakes have and will continue to happen. Natural Gas is not a solution to our energy crisis.
Here in Waltham we need to take steps to make sure that our city is prioritizing energy efficiency wherever and whenever possible.
Last year the City Council voted to approve a new position in Waltham - A Sustainability Director. While this position has been created, it has yet to be filled. If we want this position to become a reality - the Waltham City Council will need to PUSH this forward. This is the perfect time for the council to truly serve the needs of the people of Waltham now, and in the future. As your City Councilor, I will make sure that this gets done in the Spring of 2020!
Finding solutions and implementing them takes time, commitment and money. Our city has many wonderful organizations actively working on climate change solutions. I would work collaboratively as a City Councilor with Waltham groups dedicated to this mission who are ready, willing, and able to help Waltham research and facilitate well reserached, well designed, well implemented solutions to our energy needs.