Watertown’s current Town Council President and immediate-past Council President shared their views on communications, providing services and preserving the character of Watertown during the League of Women Voters Candidate Forum on Sunday.
Mark Sideris has been Council president for the past six years, and succeeded Clyde Younger, who is running this year.
This issue of communications with residents and others has been a frequent topic of discussion at candidate forums.
Sideris said right now the town relies heavily on the Town of Watertown website, but he wants that to change.
“I would like try communicating on social media and other areas so we will be more engaged with the public,” Sideris said. “There are difficulties in doing that with the Open Meetings law, but I am working on that.”
Younger said he believes many people in Watertown do not have access to the internet or use it sparingly.
“We need to do like when I was at the Office of Equal Employment opportunity and have outreach,” Younger said.
When asked about how they would make sure they could provide town services, Younger said he worries about the business climate in town.
“I would not rely as heavily on development (to fund town services),” Younger said. “When I talk to business people, they feel Watertown is anti-business. I would rely on small businesses, who employ more than 50 percent of people nationally.”
Sideris said, as Town Council President he must balance various departments, including the largest department budget – the schools.
“It is a delicate balance. As Town Council President I also am a member of the School Committee. I will seek to continue to provide top quality education,” Sideris said. “At some point we will not be able to develop any more because everything will be developed. We will have to manage the cost of providing the service.”
The candidates were asked how they would preserve the character of Watertown.
Sideris said each neighborhood has its own unique character. Work has started on creating the residential design guidelines, and Sideris said there must be some balance.
“Some people are saying you can’t take away property owner rights,” Sideris said. “We have to deal with development pressure, but we also have to look at people maintaining their property and want to do small additions.”
Younger said he worries that small properties have more hoops to jump through to make changes than the large projects coming to town.
“I support having a moratorium on large box developments in town,” Younger said.
The election will be held Nov. 3. Absentee ballots are now available at the Town Clerk’s office in the basement of Watertown Town Hall.