over ,. aggregartHere's a link to my brief statement on where I stand on some issues.
ACCESS TO PUBLIC TRANSIT: I am committed to collaboration, cooperation and patience to improve the public transit services we have in Newton: commuter rail, subway, buses and accessibility. Newton has been talking with Mass. DOT and other agencies around the need to improve transit availability in Newton, and I will participate in these important conversations. We will continue to coordinate with our state legislators to push for improved service on all three aspects of public transit: bus routes and stops, commuter rail scheduling and stops, and Green Line T subway service. Keeping both commuter rail tracks, in-bound and out-bound, running simultaneously will help with the availability of stops throughout the day and week. Physical accessibility is an ongoing goal. I have and will continue to collaborate with Newton Commission on Disability and the Mass. Office on Disability, along with State Representative Kay Khan, Mass. DOT, and others to keep pushing forward to make the stations and vehicles fully accessible.
AGGREGATION AND RENEWABLE ENERGY: Thanks to Green Newton, 350.org, Mothers Out Front and State Rep. Kay Khan for helping me in my learning curve on this topic. Aggregation for purchasing clean electricity is a solution to explore. I believe the City can set a standard by choosing aggregation for municipal electricity, while giving residents the choice to opt in or out. While a few dollars a month toward clean energy is a worthwhile choice for many people, it’s unfeasible for some who struggle to balance a household budget, especially with high housing and utility costs. While I applaud this initiative, 100% compliance is unlikely in the short term. Over time we will hopefully see more and more residents choosing to participate as well. Check out the Municipal Aggregation plans.
CITY CHARTER CHANGES: I support the proposed changes to the City Charter and will vote YES. This is not a City Council issue per se, rather each of us gets one vote on this. I trust the will of the people and will work with whatever the outcome. This did not pass in the November election, but as continued proposals are presented, stay tuned.
As an observer of the City Council for over 30 years, I believe that a smaller council would be far more effective. At the current size of 24, our City Council is the largest in Massachusetts (the average size is 10 for other cities in MA). This is unwieldy, leading to delays and unnecessary work, some of which can well be done by other bodies, including city department staff and existing boards or commissions.
CLIMATE CHANGE: Environmental issues and climate change are urgent matters. The City Council has a role in showing leadership and behavior-modeling, through a range of policies that can show how a municipality can take a pro-active and multi-pronged approach. The wide range of climate change related issues that can be highlighted through policy-making and citizen outreach include: reducing greenhouse gases in public facilities and vehicles, installing ground and roof-top solar panels, exploring how Newton may host wind generation on selected sites, reducing waste at the source, maintaining our street tree canopy, and how compact, smart-growth near public transportation can benefit the environment are but a handful of the arenas the Council can show leadership on.
COMMERCIAL DEVELOPMENT: Increasing commercial and retail development in Newton is desirable for a number of reasons: to gain taxes from these uses that help offset our overly-heavy reliance on residential property taxes, to enliven the streetscape with a variety of uses to attract residents, to offer employment opportunities.
Improving transportation access and a supply of workforce housing is interconnected to expanding Newton's commercial, retail and cultural vitality. These co-dependent issues are a roadblock to hiring and keeping workers, which lead to the lack of transit and housing close to employment, according responses of Newton Needham Chamber members- from small “mom and pop” merchants and retailers, to larger technology and life sciences companies.
ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY: I’m committed to Newton’s environmental health and sustainability. The Sierra Club endorses me for my commitment to protecting the environment. I'm honored to be the only candidate they endorse from Ward 3. From street trees to pocket parks, sustainable development, high performance buildings, solid waste and recycling, source reduction, renewables, stretch energy codes, identifying and fixing gas leaks and aggregating municipal electrical energy: we need a multi-pronged approach to energy and the environment.
GAS PIPELINE LEAKS: Thanks to coalition building amongst several environmentally oriented groups including Green Newton, and with a particular shout-out to the awareness and advocacy being done by Newton’s Mothers Out Front (MOF), we have a collection of volunteer groups and organizations focusing on this issue. MOF helps identify gas leaks, and gets National Grid to repair them as soon as possible. Newton does not have the money in its budget to do all these repairs, nor should it be solely responsible. Working with the DPW and National Grid, private groups and individuals makes for more progress than leaving it to any one entity.
Education for residents around choices for heating, cooking, clothes drying etc. is in the works and should be expanded.
GREEN SPACE: As a practicing landscape designer trained in landscape architecture, and the City’s first Open Space Coordinator, I am fully committed to enhancing Newton’s green space. We have active, passive and conservation areas all to be maintained, improved, and expanded whenever possible, for instance at Webster Woods. There are sidewalk berms, pocket parks, full-sized parks and playgrounds, wildlife corridors, walking and biking paths, train-rail–trail adjacencies, street trees and municipal grounds as parts of our overall green space.
I will support and participate in city-wide open space master planning, including the connectivity of various open spaces. We can look at how Complete Streets combines storm water runoff and retention, planted areas, sidewalks, benches, lighting, separation of bike/pedestrian/vehicular users, safe accessibility and increase to the urban tree canopy together. Better suited and various species of street trees, set in locations more likely to ensure long term success than a 2’ wide sidewalk strip squeezed between asphalt and concrete, are now being used vs. the monocultures planted 30-50 years ago. The Parks and Recreation Dept. and Conservation Commission have my support.
HOUSING: I am a longtime advocate for creating diverse housing options to meet the needs of all incomes and ages. As one of the original members of Newton’s Housing Partnership and Chair of the Newton League of Women Voters Housing and Land Use Committees, I have helped run public forums to educate residents about the need for more diverse and fair housing options, advocated on behalf of numerous proposals before the City, hosted conversations on this topic, worked with and for CAN-DO and Newton Community Development Foundation (NCDF), and done pro bono landscape design and fundraising work for those organizations.
I will continue with all of these educational and advocacy efforts, as well as hope to work on zoning review within the City Council to help make changes that will expand the housing options for all incomes. One of my priorities is to facilitate and encourage coalition-building among various groups with different missions towards the common goal of sustainable development and the creation of diverse housing: ownership and rental, to meet the range of needs for families, seniors, millennials, employees, city workers. We need to work on these efforts to stop squeezing out Newton’s middle class.
INFRASTRUCTURE: roads, streets, sidewalks, water, sewer Improving and maintaining these networks is paramount. Continuing the improvements is a top priority for me. Coordinating pedestrian, bicycle, vehicular movement, in conjunction with water, sewer and storm drain improvements, synchronizing with city and other public utilities, is crucial. Simultaneously we must maintain our urban canopy of street trees and accessibility for all users. Housing and transportation are intertwined with infrastructure, and all need to be considered as interwoven systems and needs.
MENTAL HEALTH AND ADDICTION: There are unseen, invisible needs that many Newton families have while dealing with mental health and addiction issues. The stigma is so strong that silence and isolation prevail. How many of us do not have a family member or friend that struggles with anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, a learning disability, alcoholism, or addiction?
Newton’s opioid crisis is as critical as the nation’s, with our own opioid fatality rate up to over 140% over the past two years. This is unacceptable. It happens here too. We can and must do more to educate and support families to help them learn more about these issues and their role in recovery. Join me in the effort to stop the stigma. Education and support for family members has shown greater progress for both those members and outcomes for the loved one. Newton can do better.
MIXED USE DEVELOPMENT: I applaud the City Council’s creation of a MU4 district, and recognize there are limited sites for which it is appropriate. Criteria set out to encourage compact, pedestrian-oriented village life should include, and that I agree with are:
A variety of transportation options are available
Services and amenities exist to meet needs of residents
The proposal transitions well into existing, surrounding area
Active street front enhances local businesses and pedestrian activity
Single floor living, accessible to people of all abilities
Additional public open space is created
Sufficient set back from existing uses
Housing for a mix of incomes and ages
Creates a beneficial environment for residents and does not adversely impact traffic
Each proposal needs to be considered on its own merits, how well it fits with the MU4 zoning criteria, and that overall benefits to the city outweigh disadvantages. Creating more public open space should always be required, and is one of the advantages of compact, “smart development”.
MUNICIPAL REDUCTION OF GREENHOUSE GASES: I support the installation of solar panels on roofs of municipal buildings, which is currently being done. We should look at that for every existing and all new construction of public buildings. Ground-mounted solar panels also can have a significant role; despite being a relatively built-out city, there are locations where this is appropriate. Residential homes and private businesses also have a role. Newton has a home/private sector program that is relatively successful but could use a boost of more outreach and citizen education. As solar technologies improve we will see more ways to include both roof-top and ground installations.
The City-owned vehicle fleet is slowly being replaced by vehicles that reduce emissions and are more efficient, ultimately aiming to go all-electric but due to budget constraints that timeline is not showing conversion within the next few years. There are very few appropriate sites for wind generation in Newton. Eliminating the use of incineration and importantly lowering the need for it by reducing waste is paramount and I support both these efforts.
OFF-LEASH DOG PARKS: Newton has a gem of an off-leash dog walking program that is working well. I support continuing it and expanding designated areas for dog walking to other appropriate locations, distributed throughout various sites in Newton. These designated dog parks best serve the needs of dogs, their owners and walkers, and other residents who want fresh air and exercise with or without canines present.
PLANNING AND ZONING: Newton need to become more forward thinking and pro-active in its planning. Rather than respond to proposals in a re-active way, we should determine and put to paper what we want Newton to be. Overall master plans for the city should encompass smaller master plans for specific neighborhoods and villages, as each has its own character. The Pattern Book details existing characteristics worth protecting that set the contextual foundation for future changes. It is past time to complete a zoning ordinance review and redesign. Improved guidance for homeowners and developers, to simplify the permitting and review process, is in the works. Concerns about tear-downs and inappropriate development may be solved through context-based zoning, keeping the scale and character of individual neighborhoods. Newton’s Comprehensive Plan lays out a vision that we should continue to implement.
SENIORS/AGING IN PLACE: With a projected population growth that will bring Newton to over 1/3 of its residents being age 60+ within the next decade, we must work to promote the goals of enabling those who choose to live here the ability to do so. Newton is a designated Livable and Age Friendly Community. Let’s continue to meet the broad spectrum of needs. This includes advocating for seniors and their families, following the strategic planning done by Newton’s Department of Senior Services and the Newton Council on Aging. Housing, services, programming, safety, walkability and access to amenities collectively are needed. The physical building of the Senior Center is not able to house the terrific and expanding services and activities for seniors. I support continuing and expanding these resources for seniors.
WASTE MANAGEMENT AND ZERO WASTE: We are far from achieving the Zero Waste goal, but that strategy is the path to stay on. Reducing waste at the source of consumption is the best way to attain zero waste. In the meantime we work towards improving our recycling, and how to dispose of the waste generated. Eliminating incineration was a good step forward. Reduction at the source is so important, and that goal is an ongoing initiative.
Simultaneously, we’ve got recycling (trash, yard waste, solid waste, etc.) and household hazardous waste to deal with. Sorting these categories is a first step, having the resources to deal with each “destination” is another. Newton continues to work on its offerings, but some areas can use improvement. We are lucky to have a very effective Dept. Head of Public Works, Jim McGonagle, at the helm. Within that department is an Office of Environmental Affairs, so there are human resources to connect with. We have several current City Councilors committed to net zero and associated environmental goals that I will work with, to learn more about ways to improve what we have already. There is a city-wide goal of reducing Solid Waste that I support and will coordinate more with.
ZONING REDESIGN: I strongly believe that through the next stage of zoning review, we can find the tools to address and balance needs that oftentimes appear in conflict, such as historic preservation, open space, housing and commercial development. Context-based zoning, and using a Pattern Book which clearly takes the existing surrounding as a guide to appropriate development, can help direct us. Net Zero is one of the criteria that should be embedded into our zoning regulations and development requirements.
WHY VOTE FOR ME?: As a community leader for over 30 years, my credibility and reach is strong in Newton. Being an elected official as a City Councilor will give me an even greater ability to affect positive change; I will be able to VOTE on matters that come before the City. I believe in the critical value of community participation, listening, and collaboration, combined with facts and doing my homework. I will bring a voice of civil discourse to often contentious and challenging issues.