Nicole Morell

General Questions

What experiences have prepared you to serve on the city council?

I have always been an engaged citizen and active community volunteer. I’m passionate about issues affecting the city of Medford and I will thoroughly research these issues to understand them from many angles.

Since 2017, I have served on Medford’s Energy and Environment Committee where I have been an advocate for protection and expansion of our tree canopy, solar on new large developments, and municipal aggregation.

I am currently working with a diverse group of women to establish a commission for the equitable advancement of Medford’s women and gender minorities. Professionally, I work in digital marketing strategy at MIT’s Alumni Association. I talk with students, parents, alumni, and faculty every day about their unique experiences and points of view in order to share their stories with a larger community. I often need to become an expert on challenging research and ideas. I would use these skills to understand and vote on the complex issues brought before the council.

Over the past four years, what actions of the city council did you most support or oppose, and why?

I support the vote to expand the area of notified neighbors for development projects seeking special permits.

I also agreed with many of the council votes on CPA funds, particularly those focused on Medford Community Housing and those supporting historical preservation through the historical society and Medford-Brooks Estate Land Trust

I was pleased with the vote in favor of municipal aggregation for the city, which will give citizens a competitive choice over pricing and the opportunity to have their electricity come from renewable energy sources at the percentage of their choice.

Social Issues

Which social issues do you care about, and why? How would you advocate for those issues?

I am passionate about gender equity, and am involved with the process of establishing a Commission for the Equitable Advancement of Women and Gender Minorities within the city. I believe it is important to focus on this issue as women and gender minorities face higher instances of sexual violence, sexual harassment, gender discrimination, and pay inequality.  As a councilor I will support an ordinance establishing this commission so Medford can begin to address these issues through education, programming, events, legislation, and other recommendations.

I care deeply about socio-economic diversity in our community. I plan to address skyrocketing housing costs and increase our revenue from balanced commercial development because I believe that Medford can stay a community that people of all income levels can call home.

What concrete steps can Medford make to address our environmental challenges, whether global or local?

The recently released Medford Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment gave a research-based view for the challenges the city could be facing, including increased instances of days of over 90-degree heat, more frequent flooding, and increased cases of vector-borne disease. While we as a city cannot combat the effects of climate change on our own, we can take actions to mitigate the impact at the city level.

I fully support adding to our tree canopy to increase carbon capture and limit heat islands throughout the city. I will support investing in the recommendations in Medford’s open space plan which seeks to use our parks to design systems for both storm water and flooding management through changes and updates. I also support zoning changes for new large developments to require public open green space be added to offset any impervious surfaces that are added.

Climate change can increase the damage done by invasive species that effects many of our city’s parks and open spaces. Taking the steps to remove these plants and replace them with native plants that provide ecological benefits is something I will focus on.

Medford is a diverse city with many marginalized communities. What initiatives would you implement to support these communities?

Too often initiatives are designed to engage marginalized communities without working with those communities. They were never part of the discussion, the planning, or the ideation, so the resulting initiative doesn’t address the issues or needs they actually have.

Whenever the city’s leadership seeks to engage and support these marginalized communities, it must work with them from step one. We must ask the people we seek to work with, what kind of support they are actually in need of, how they would like to engage and, what systems would work best for them. Seeking out their voices from the very beginning is essential to more equitable representation and discussion within Medford.

Economic Issues

How will you address Medford’s affordable housing crisis?

Medford’s recently passed inclusionary zoning requires new developments of 10 units or more to have at least 10% affordable units (as defined as affordable for a household making up to 80% of the area median income) and developments of over 50 units to have 15% be affordable. I am in favor of increasing that percentage to 15% for units of 10 or more and 20% for 50 or more units. I would also explore setting aside some of these units or additional units for households making up to 60% of AMI to ensure that those in substantial need have an opportunity for this housing.

What are your long term plans for expanding tax revenue?

As developers seek out Medford, there is a real opportunity to increase the amount of commercial development in the city, and in turn increase our tax revenue through that higher commercial rate. A review of zoning along with changes to the zoning ordinances can push for a ratio of commercial to residential that is most beneficial to the city’s tax base while also addressing any concerns of neighbors or residents.

Would you implement any changes around our city’s parking systems?

The parking kiosks can be difficult to use. They are not intuitive or user friendly and often force you to start over for little things like not inserting your card right. I want to explore a different vendor for the program with more user-friendly kiosks and a better rate of return for the city when the contract is next up.

We also need to take a comprehensive approach to permit parking in the city. Right now, the street by street basis simply pushes people without a permit to the next street over. As the Green Line Extension nears completion, we need to address this to ensure commuters from outside Medford are not taking spots away from our neighbors.

Some infrastructure challenges that face our city are degraded roads, lead pipes, and gas leaks. What initiatives would you implement to address these issues?

As of 2018 there were nearly 300 unrepaired gas leaks in the city.

The challenges with the gas leaks are a statewide problem. I was happy to see the introduction of new regulation at the state level to identify and fix level three gas leaks, but the work still needs to be done.

The city council has also led on this issue, passing an ordinance mandating that utility companies share plans for aging or leaking natural gas infrastructure each quarter. However, the utilities have not been complying.

This is clearly a bigger issue, and I will work with our state legislators to ensure we are addressing this issue in a timely manner for the safety and health of our citizens.

What do you think should be done with the Malden hospital site?

I am in favor of owner-occupied single family homes with room set aside for public open space. Much of the development that has happened in the city recently has been rental apartments, so this is a nice opportunity for single family homes for would-be buyers. I was also in favor of the idea of an assisted living community for seniors, as Medford is in need of this. It would be great to see a plan that combines both.

Any plans for the site should have heavy involvement from the community and neighbors. I believe it is important to maintain the existing aesthetic of the neighborhood.

Now that Massachusetts has legalized recreational marijuana, would you encourage dispensaries in Medford? What would you do with the revenue?

I respect the will of the voters, and by law, marijuana dispensaries are allowed in Medford. I look forward to the city affirming the mandate from the state to prioritize disenfranchised groups when deciding which businesses to enter into the host agreement with the city.

I think revenues should go to our most in need projects, starting with schools and then moving to infrastructure.

Civic Issues

What is your vision for promoting civic engagement and increasing voter turnout in our city?

Early voting has proven to be a very popular way to drive voter turnout. I am in favor of exploring the cost of extending this practice for municipal elections in Medford.

Additionally, I will promote prominently posted signs encouraging people to vote by reminding them of upcoming elections

How can we increase citizen engagement in city council meetings?

It is essential to leverage communication tools to increase engagement. It would be great to use existing channels, like water bills, real estate tax bills, and excise tax to include notices of upcoming dates for council meetings, so citizens know when and where they can engage. A simple explanation of the issues decided on by the council in these notices could prove helpful in driving engagement.

What is your stance on city charter review?

I am in favor. Medford has transformed so much since the city’s last charter review decades ago, it is time to assess what is and isn’t working in the city.