Stephanie Muccini Burke

General Questions

What are the greatest achievements of your administration? What challenges have you faced?

Under my leadership, the City of Medford is in the best financial state it has ever been in with a bond rating at AA+. This ensures that the City’s interest rate when borrowing money is extremely competitive and allows us to keep our debt service lower.

In an effort to keep taxes affordable for our seniors, I have reinstituted the “Senior Work Off” program. Senior citizens are allowed to receive up to a $1500 real estate tax abatement in exchange for volunteer hours worked for the city. Over 115 senior citizens have participated in this program.

 

New Infrastructure/Economic Development:

The construction of a new state-of-the-art Medford Police headquarters is underway, with an anticipated completion date of October 2020. Likewise, plans for the new library are in the works with the old library expected to be demolished this fall and construction beginning shortly thereafter.

With public safety a top priority, I submitted an appropriation request to allow for architectural plans and siting for a new Medford Fire headquarters. The appropriation of $1.5 Million was unanimously approved by city council in June of 2019.

I am working diligently to repave the streets and sidewalks in the community with a focus on main thoroughfares using the Complete Street methodology. As of today, we have finished 6 Complete Streets projects on main thoroughfares such as Medford Sq., Forest St., High St. and Boston Ave.

 

Environmental Advancements:

The City has been fully updated with over 4500 new LED streetlights. Much of this project was funded through state and utility company grants. Any funds borrowed for the project will be repaid with energy cost savings to the city. This saves the taxpayers approximately $240,000 annually.

As Mayor, I published Medford’s first “Climate Vulnerability” assessment. This helps Medford make planning decisions responsibly AND I have committed to the City being carbon neutral by the year 2050.

Both the new public library and the new police headquarter buildings will be fossil fuel free and carbon neutral when completed as part of the City’s sustainability goals.

I authorized the installation of the first building solar system on the DPW roof offsetting 100% of the building’s electricity use.

have testified and supported the Environmental Bond Bill which provides funding for investments for environmental programs including authorizations for municipal infrastructure improvements to adapt and mitigate the effects of climate change.

We also installed 2 electric automotive charging stations at City Hall and Medford High School with more to come.

 

Arts/Culture:

My Administration formed a Public Private partnership with Bill Blumenreich, Presents, a professional management company, to revitalize the beloved Chevalier Auditorium. The new management company has brought exciting shows for all ages and new life to Chevalier Theatre and Medford Square. There have been over 100 shows and almost 200,000 tickets sold, with $1 per ticket going to the City for improvements to the theatre. The result has been increased foot traffic and business throughout Medford, with a noticeable uptick in our local restaurants, boosting the meal tax by 40%.

The theater is currently being equipped with Air Conditioning to allow for year-round performances. With performances extended through summer months we will see further enhancements in local business revenues.

I recognize how important the Arts are to our community – – this is why I doubled the Medford Arts Council’s Budget from $30,000 to $60,000.

Presently, I am actively supporting a feasibility study for an arts center at the former Hegner Center. This will give the Medford arts community a place to gather, create and support one another.

We also launched a lunchtime and evening concert series at the newly renovated Riverside Plaza. The renovated plaza has given new life to Medford Square, bringing local artists and the community together, again promoting our restaurants and businesses.

 

Creating a Recreation Department and Medford Recreation Center

As Mayor, I created an exploratory committee to determine the feasibility of developing a much-needed Recreation Department. The department was formed and funded through an appropriation I offered in my first budget. The department has grown to incorporate 85 programs year-round, servicing over all residents, including youth, adults, and seniors. The department now operates the Medford Recreation Center out of 30 Forest Street, home of the Gene Mack Gym.

Have your positions on any issues evolved since your election?

At first glance, I believed that the City did not need to outsource a zoning consultant, rather the job could be done internally between the Council and the Administration. After careful consideration, I proposed funding a zoning consultant to specifically work with the Medford City Council to examine our zoning code in a comprehensive, transparent fashion.

Additionally, my views on “renovation versus new build” of the Medford Public Library and other city buildings has evolved. I initially believed a renovation was more cost effective, however, after informed community input, feasibility studies and input from architects and environmental experts, my view has evolved to understand the value of new buildings and the importance of funding maintenance for these buildings. In the most recent budget, I appropriated funds for a Facilities Manager who will be responsible for overseeing and maintaining the quality of all city buildings.


Social Issues

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

Substance Use Disorder – the City of Medford like many other communities has been affected by Substance Use Disorder. As Mayor, I hired the City’s first full time recovery coach and grew the City’s Outreach and Prevention Department, including training for first responders. I also testified and supported House Bill 4363, “An Act Establishing the Permanent Commission on Behavioral Health Promotion and Upstream Prevention” aimed at supporting additional services for Substance Use Disorder.

Senior Isolation – Medford has a rich senior population that offers many social services, however, for those who are housebound or have limited access, isolation can lead to further medical and emotional issues. I have advocated for this issue and made it a focus for the Council on Aging programming, our Senior Work Off program and our newly formed Recreation Department.

Food and Security – It is documented that Medford has a food and security issue. As Mayor, I have collaborated with the Greater Boston Food Bank, the YMCA, our summer Recreational Programming to expand opportunities for those in need. We have held pop-up markets and little food pantries throughout the City. For all of these social issues, over the past 2 years I have convened the Mayor’s Big Table, a collaboration of social service agencies in the community, City and School Departments to create an interconnected network for our community.

Also, we started Hub Table in September of 2018. The Hub Table works with families and individuals that are facing difficult challenges and may need services from more than one community agency. Our goal is to work together to ensure families and individuals are safe, healthy and have the opportunity to thrive.

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?

In addition to H 4363 and the Environmental Bond bill mentioned above, I have supported the Raise the Way Act which increased minimum wage to $15 by 2025 and have lobbied for a greater Community Preservation Act match from the state which would match the funds provided by our taxpayers.
I have also testified many times on various Education Funding bills, including the “Promise Act”, which would level the playing field for all children and school districts.

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

There are currently multiple steps being taken to address environmental challenges. Under my Administration, a solar array has been installed at the Department of Public Work’s building. The roof at the Andrew’s Middle School will be replaced and a solar array will be installed there as well with a backup battery. Together with the Medford City Council, we authorized municipal aggregation to get volume discounts on energy delivery while also purchasing green energy. The City has installed over 4500 LED Streetlights under my administration. Medford continues to be a “Green Community” with access to grant funding annually for a litany of special projects.

Additionally, my Administration proposed and executed a contract with Lime Bikes to encourage alternative means of transportation throughout the City.

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

The Mayor’s Big Table, Medford Health Matters, and partnerships with local faith groups demonstrate my active support of these communities.

In 2019 the City actively worked to increase the diversity of its public safety officers through direct outreach to our city’s rich diverse citizenry. We hosted an information forum about pursuing a career with the Medford Police and other future hiring opportunities. Additionally, at no cost to participants, the City hired an exam preparation specialist to provide test preparation help and test taking tips to any interested applicant. Through our outreach efforts approximately 40% of persons who participated in our forum and test preparation class had the diverse background we were looking for. The city has encouraged all to take the civil service police exam for an opportunity to become a Medford Police Officer.

Medford has a growing immigrant population. How can our city keep them welcome and safe?

As Mayor, I have worked collaboratively with Safe Medford and the ACLU to ensure all residents, including immigrants, feel safe in our community. Together, we collaborated on a policy, implemented by the Medford Police Department which ensures the rights of all are protected.

 


Economic Issues

How would you help to balance economic growth and development with the needs of small businesses and affordable housing?

Since becoming Mayor, my Administration has placed a focus on enhancing the economic vitality of our downtown. This began with bringing in a professional management company to promote our historic gem, the Chevalier Theatre. This has increased meal tax revenue by over 40%. We recently renovated the Riverside Plaza which allows for lunch and dinner concert series to promote local businesses.

Previously, Medford had a 10% affordability requirement for all new housing construction projects. However, during 2018 I offered an Inclusionary Zoning ordinance which was adopted by city council which now requires 15% affordable units.

In addition, I worked with the Tufts University administration to relocate off-campus students back on campus, which frees up more residential opportunity for Medford residents.

What are your long term plans for expanding tax revenue?

As Mayor, I have been committed to operating the city within the confines of Proposition 2 ½. Expanding our commercial base can allow for tax growth without burdening residential taxpayers. The City has recently permitted a second hotel at Station Landing which will increase building permit fees, real estate taxes, and occupancy taxes. An additional commercial building is rising at River’s Edge which will be home to Agero. We also recently welcomed Amazon to Wellington Circle. I also look forward to working with the City Council and our new zoning consultant to amend the zoning for the Mystic Ave corridor for mixed-use development, similar to Station Landing.

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

The contract for the City’s parking management company is in its 5th year of a 7-year contract. We will be looking at additional options for on street parking in our business districts as we get closer to the end of the term. While parking meters have produced turnover of parking spaces on streets, greater citizen convenience is important. We have attempted workarounds by allowing for Senior Parking Permits for commercial districts, business add-on program, and meter-free parking in the commercial areas during the holiday season. We have also hired a Traffic Engineer who will explore other options relative to parking.

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 Mayor, I have been steadfast that our main arteries are a priority in resurfacing. As part of any road project, all the utilities are notified and are required to take corrective actions pertaining to gas leaks, and/or water, sewer, and drainage pipes. We continue to advocate for complete streets funding and pursue any and all grant opportunities for these areas. More recently we received a $200,000 grant from the MWRA for lead pipe replacements for homeowners.

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

The Friends of the Fellsmere Heights, comprised of Medford and Malden residents have been quite active in advocating for open space and a lower density use. While the property straddles both cities, the majority of the hospital itself is in Malden. The City of Medford has been active in meetings with Malden and will continue to be so.

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

Because the City of Medford voters overwhelmingly supported the ballot question, the City of Medford is mandated to allow for a minimum of 3 dispensaries based on the population. I would propose that the revenue be distributed to support our efforts in combating Substance Use Disorder, public safety initiatives and educating and counselling our students on the adverse effects of substance use.


Civic Issues

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

Public meetings have been a hallmark of my administration. Whether it be open space plan, vulnerability assessment plan, park projects, Mystic Ave corridor sessions, Medford Square plans, Medford Police monthly community sessions, or my frequent visits to the Council on Aging. We have used multiple platforms to communicate actively with the public. For example: Facebook, Twitter, Press Releases, Reverse 911 calls, and leaflets in our City tax bills. We will be reminding residents of election dates. Keep in mind, you can register to vote in the November election until Wednesday, October 16th at 8:00p.m.

How will you help ensure that all Medford residents are counted in the 2020 census?

Neil Osborne, Director of Diversity and Inclusion is leading the Medford Counts for the 2020 Census. He has put together a team. Medford’s Complete Count Committee is comprised of a diverse group of key community leaders. We are all taking and passing on the responsibility to people in our network of friends, co-workers, neighbors, colleagues, fellow students and acquaintances the importance of a full and accurate census count. Our local efforts complement the State and National media campaigns. When the Census message is delivered by a known locally trusted person it will help ensure a full count in Medford.

Do you have a plan for working with the city council and the school committee?

Again, my campaign platform has been – we are “Partners in Progress”. I plan to continue with that theme in my next term. As chair of the Medford School Committee, I have worked collaboratively on a host of issues relating to our schools and have a dedicated liaison to the City Council who monitors council meetings and interacts with the council members on a regular basis. My office has worked closely on a broad range of issues with all Council Presidents during my tenure and my Administration has met in Committee of the Whole meetings with the council whenever requested.

What is your stance on city charter review?

I support a Charter Review and offered a Home Rule Petition to expedite the process. However, a 4-3 City Council vote did not generate the support necessary for the legislature to take action on this matter.

In particular, I also support Ward representation.


Bonus Question

Everyone grows up holding personal biases. Please share an anecdote about a time that your own biases were confronted, and how you responded.

I was fortunate to grow up in Medford, which has always been culturally and ethnically diverse. Being raised in a blue-collar household of Italian immigrants, I have felt biases towards me and my family, but from that learned empathy and compassion.