What is your vision for Medford?
My vision is to have a united Mayor, City Council and School Committee that work together for the betterment of our residents, employees and business owners. I envision untapping Medford’s full potential by getting people involved and excited about our community and its future. I envision leading with transparency and integrity. I envision a change in atmosphere in City Hall to one that is fully transparent, open and inclusive.
I look forward to working with the City Council on many issues, including but not limited to rezoning parts of our City, with analysis of an independent consultant and input from neighborhoods to push forward what is best for our neighborhoods, Medford Square and Mystic Avenue.
I envision a safe, environmentally friendly, and welcoming City to people who have just moved here and to those that have lived here for years. I look forward to creating a comprehensive plan to address years of deferred maintenance in our city buildings, streets and parks.
More than anything, I envision a Medford where residents put their ideas forward and with City leadership excited to embrace the best possible opportunities shared from all corners of our amazing and diverse community.
Over the past term, what initiatives of the mayor did you most support or oppose?
The Mayor submitted a re-zoning proposal for a one mile stretch of Mystic Ave to the Medford City Council on June 25, 2019. The re-zoning included language that drastically changed allowable uses of real estate and the height allowed without any guidance for the balance of newly allowed uses, including stables, kennels, apartment buildings, hotels and commercial.
When this happened, I immediately advocated to slow this process down so that the City Council could review the proposal with their soon-to-be hired zoning consultant and with public involvement so that it would be done right.
I publicly shared my thoughts to let residents know what this means for Medford and to propose a solution to ensure the proposal was vetted properly. At a July City Council meeting, I continued to advocate to share the thoughts and ideas I’ve heard in our neighborhoods from business owners and residents.
In the last 4 years, the City Council on multiple occasions has requested the ability to hire a zoning consultant with little to no response from the Mayors office until April 2019 when we finally were given the funds to start the process.
The crux of the opposition is concern with a poor process, lack of transparency and no clear vision created with the input of an engaged Medford community. This is the most recent example of where these consistent challenges keep us from fulfilling Medford’s amazing potential
Which social issues do you care about, and why? How would you advocate for those issues?
I care deeply about social issues, which is part of why I was called to public service from an early age. As a Girl Scout I vividly remember volunteering at St. Paul’s church to feed the hungry. Its a part of service that I have taken my girls to do now that they are the same age I was. I also spent time volunteering for Habitat for Humanity and served as a big sister for the Big Brother Big Sister organization.
Recently, I started a chapter of Girls on the Run and coach the team at the Roberts Elementary school. I also coach basketball at St. Francis. Both experiences are meaningful in that they bring together children from a variety of backgrounds and teach them life-skills and a sense of empowerment regardless of circumstance. These are the types of social engagements that create a sense of belonging for children from different backgrounds. They foster the respect for others and confidence in oneself regardless of circumstance, which I believe are key to social equity and unity.
I care deeply about the opioid epidemic. This is a crisis that has touched everyone and requires constant focus, empathy and action. I have consistently advocated for the Dare program in our schools and believe that the long-term solutions have to include a strong focus on reaching young people early. We need to continue to support and work harder to educate our youth about the dangers of tobacco, alcohol and substance use disorders. We need to help those suffering from an opioid use disorder and support families comprehensively through prevention and support after the crisis has touched them and their loved ones.
The environment is another extremely important issue to me. The City Council has taken a number of steps to do what we can to protect our natural resources. For example, we recently banned plastic bags and are encouraging people to use reusable bags. As a city and as individuals, we need to create a culture where we strive to do a little more each day.
School safety and gun violence prevention are also important issues that I care deeply about. Because of my consistent advocacy on a host of social issues, I’ve earned the trust from residents, parents and teachers who trust me as someone they could talk to about their concerns. After the bomb scare at Medford High School in 2017, I wrote an opinion piece for the local papers about my concerns. Many changes resulted from that advocacy. Safety and security measures were enhanced at all of our schools such as the door monitors being hired full time. That same year, I received many complaints about former administration officials at the McGlynn Middle School. I brought these concerns to our Superintendent in June of 2017 and I was told they were “aware of the issues and were taking care of it” but action wasn’t taken. In February of 2018 a number of brave people came to me with news about a loaded magazine being found and thrown away by that same Principal. The news was deeply disturbing and I knew I had to act. I immediately contacted the Chief of Police that evening and continued to stay closely involved in ensuring a proper investigation occurred. Understanding that safe schools are the key to access to opportunity for children of all backgrounds, I pushed to for accountability for those in power who made significant and repeated errors in judgment and for change within our school system. Sometimes advocacy for social issues requires a passionate response and in this case, my actions in support of safe schools for all Medford children led to change that I am proud of. When I think about social issues, its important that all children and anyone from disadvantaged circumstances feels like they have a voice to support them. I think this is a strong example of my willingness to stand up for what’s right. It also shows that people feel empowered to speak up and demand change when their leaders care about them and believe in the power to create social and systemic change.
The Massachusetts state legislature is considering a number of important bills which would affect Medford residents. Are there any bills that you especially support or oppose, and why?
One of the many important bills is H.2836, An Act re-powering Massachusetts with 100 percent renewable energy.
What concrete steps can Medford make to address our environmental challenges, whether global or local?
The Medford City Council has taken many steps to address our challenges, such as by banning plastic bags and encouraging residents to use reusable bags while shopping. I recently proposed an ordinance that would require a solar energy system assessment and installation of solar for projects requiring a site plan review and/or 10 or more residential units. As a community we need to continue to work together on initiatives that will address the issues and then implement those changes.
Medford is a diverse city with many marginalized communities. What initiatives would you implement to support these communities?
As a community, we need to be inclusive and proactive in doing so. We must be intolerant of intolerance. Regardless of background or circumstance, community members should be treated with respect and dignity. As leaders, we need to set that tone in each interaction we have.
Medford has a growing immigrant population. How can our city keep them welcome and safe?
The Medford City Council along with the Mayor approved a statement declaring that Medford is safe for all.
How would you help to balance economic growth and development with the needs of small businesses and affordable housing?
The Medford City Council approved an Inclusionary Housing ordinance that I helped lead that expands access to housing opportunities for modest income families and senior. We increased the required percentage of affordable units from of 10% to 15%. We need to work to do more. I look forward to increasing the focus on affordable homeownership. I also worry about pushing forward housing policies that allow seniors aging in place to afford the costs of staying in their neighborhoods. Medford housing has great ideas that should be taken into consideration and the new ideas they are discussing are exciting.
In terms of economic growth, we need to require a percentage of commercial on mixed use developments. Overbuilding high-end luxury housing pushes out opportunities for other businesses to grow and prosper. We need to ensure our City permitting is transparent, predictable and easy to navigate for small businesses.
What are your long term plans for expanding tax revenue?
Our commercial tax base has dropped from over 20% down to 10.6% in FY 19. I would work to increase our commercial tax base, which starts by listening to Medford’s business owners and crafting the policies they need to grow. This administration is advocating for luxury apartment developments with no requirement for commercial space. We are allowing mixed use developments with minimal space being designated for commercial. As an example, the Mayors plan for Medford Square that was proposed in March/April 2019 is looking to put minimal commercial space. One of the two buildings proposed is providing just 1,000 sq. feet of commercial. The Burke Administration doesn’t support the right balance between residential and commercial development. Luxury apartments don’t build a sustainable commercial tax base and are over-reliant on City services compared to other potential growth.
Would you implement any changes around our city’s parking systems?
I have put forward two resolutions just this year to implement permit parking for South Medford and the Hillside because the Green line is coming and we need to be proactive in our efforts to protect our neighborhoods from the changes they will bring in 2021.
A consultant that was hired in 2017 for $20,000.00 and held three public meetings on the subject of district wide permit parking. It is time we use that data and move forward instead of wasting resources on consultants without action. Far too often, an idea comes from the community and is studied with no action or follow up. The Mayors office has to take an idea like this from committee and implement the changes needed to protect our neighborhoods.
Permit parking passes need to be enforced as they are being abused.
I also think it is important to take a look at the parking enforcement the city currently has. I would form a committee made up of residents and business owners to figure out what the issues are and how we can fix them. Parking enforcement and the kiosks we use are a serious concern. I will need to negotiate changes to fix this while we are in the contract. After the contract expires, we need to implement a different solution that works for our city.
Some infrastructure challenges that face our city are degraded roads, lead pipes, and gas leaks. What initiatives would you implement to address these issues?
I put forward an ordinance responding to gas leak reporting that was initiated by the community, discussed within the city council committees and approved by the council. That ordinance held National grid accountable for letting us know where the gas leaks are on a regular basis. We need to stay on top of National grid to fix the leaks we have.
On December 2, 2018 residents of South Medford and I began contacting Mr. Cameron from National Grid to request that the gas leaks on Harvard Street be fixed before the Broadway Bridge was closed and thousands of more cars were re-routed down Harvard Street. Thanks to the persistence of the residents the gas leaks are currently being fixed.
Many of our pipes, roads and sidewalks are in poor condition and we need to create a comprehensive plan to fix our infrastructure including our parks and playgrounds.
What do you think should be done with the Malden hospital site?
I currently sit on the ad hoc Malden Hospital subcommittee through the Medford City Council and we have met with our residents, the friends of the Fellsmere heights as well as the Malden City Council to push for a development that works for our city. We need to make sure that we maintain green space and allow a development that is not going to increase density to the point that it detrimentally impacts our traffic, road and neighborhoods. This location is not a transit oriented development and needs to be handled as such. I will do my best to work with all parties involved so that this land is not a burden but a welcome addition to Medford.
Now that Massachusetts has legalized recreational marijuana, would you encourage dispensaries in Medford? What would you do with the revenue?
By state law approved by the voters via referendum, the City has to enact legislation with regards to where these dispensaries will be located. The Medford City Council is working with the City Solicitor to draft the ordinance that is needed.
In terms of the revenue, I think its best to look at siting controversial facilities through the lens of whats best for the community and not let the revenue drive the discussion to a poor result for neighborhoods.
What is your vision for promoting civic engagement and increasing voter turnout in our city?
I feel the Mayors office as well as each department head has a duty to publicize and inform residents on a host of things, including opportunities for civic engagement, service and leading positively to get people excited about voting. Divisive politics we too often result in voters checking out from engaging altogether. My hope is to create a culture of transparency and integrity in our government and politics that inspires people to want to vote and to be proud of the work their local government accomplishes. I will have a representative from the Mayors office whose job it will be to oversee that our residents are informed through our website, social media, media outlets, ect.
How will you help ensure that all Medford residents are counted in the 2020 census?
I feel that the Mayors office has a duty to publicize and inform residents on a the importance of engaging in this critical process, such as filling out their forms to be counted in the census. If our residents know our count dictates funding for our City and state, it helps people want to participate by understanding the impact of an accurate count.
Do you have a plan for working with the city council and the school committee?
I plan to work with the school committee as well as the City Council.
I plan on taking a very different approach than the current Mayor when it comes to keeping the City Council informed and up to date on all that is taking place in our community. I will meet with the City Council on a monthly or bi-monthly basis or as often as necessary to allow for us to work together to move Medford forward together.
What is your stance on city charter review?
I am one of the four City Councillors that voted for charter review three years ago. Although the motion for charter review passed 4-3 it did not make it favorably out of the state house and the question was not able to be placed on the ballot.
I believe our charter needs to be reviewed and I will request that the City Council vote to start the process by sending it back to our state delegation to get the question on the ballot. I also support adding the idea of limiting mayoral term limits as part of the process.