Town Council President Mark Sideris is running for re-election in the Nov. 3 Election.
Watertown News sent the candidates a set of questions to those running for Council President:
1) As Town Council President, how will you balance the needs and wants of the Town Administration with those of Watertown residents?
The needs in wants of the residents is always first and foremost in my mind. Those tax dollars are providing the services we provide. I will continue to work with the administration to work towards the goals we put forward as councilors which reflect the concerns we hear about and care about the most. I have, and will continue to have, monthly meetings with the Town Manager and the two assistant town managers to work on all of the issues facing the town.
2) The Council President also sits on the School Committee. What will be your main focus for the Watertown Public Schools if you are elected?
I will continue to work with the school committee and the superintendent to make sure we provide what is needed to meet the challenges facing the district. We all want to provide a great educational experience for our children and will use my dual role to make sure we are all working towards that goal.
3) Despite having information on the website, and email blasts available from Notify Me, residents complain about not being informed about what’s going on in Watertown. How can the town connect more with residents and get out information about key projects, votes and more?
The Town’s website is a good tool but I feel the it needs a complete redesign to make it more user friendly and easier to navigate giving the residents more information. I will be asking the administration to have all departments do a better job of inputting the pertinent information that falls under their area at least once a week, if not more frequently. We should also be looking at expanding the abutter notices that go out with zoning and planning cases to a larger area around the proposed project. I will also be looking at all forms of social media outreach but will be very careful due to open meeting law restrictions.
4) Would you support a tax override or debt exclusion to raise taxes beyond the Prop. 2 1/2 limit? If so, what projects or areas would you want the override or exclusion to fund?
I would not support an operating budget override. We need to continue to be fiscally responsible and live within our means. I would support a debt exclusion override for a large capital project, such as we did in 1995 for the schools. The town would have the opportunity to vote on these types of projects.
5) What would you do to help seniors and others struggling to afford to live in Watertown?
One way is by what we did and asked the state legislature for a home rule petition which would allow us to go up to 30 percent for our residential exemption.We also need to try to find other ways to minimize the tax increases across the board as seniors living on fixed incomes are not able to stay in the homes they have lived in for a long time. We also should be looking to increase our affordable housing stock whenever possible.
6) The Residential Design Guideline process to change the zoning for Watertown’s residential neighborhoods recently began. What kinds of rules would you like to see include and which would you not want to see in the guidelines?
I would like to see rules out in place to try to maintain the existing character of our current housing stock. I would not want to see restrictions put in place that take away property owners rights with overreaching rules.
7) What do you think will be the next big issue that is not yet on the town’s front burners?
A new or renovated high school and all the challenges that go with it. Significant discussion will need to occur over the benefits, advantages, disadvantages, leave at it’s current location, find another site and many others. I supported the statement of interest to the Mass School Building Authority. If Watertown is chosen to participate, we would be able to get up to 48 percent of the costs reimbursed, which is a great value to the Town.
8) Tell us about yourself, your family, your life and what qualities would make you a good Town Councilor.
I am the owner of an auto body shop in Waltham that employs five people. I am married to my wife Marybeth for 28 years. We are the proud parents of three children who all attended Watertown public schools and did very well. I have worked very hard all my life to provide my family a good home, a good quality if life and the chance for them to succeed in their lives. I will continue to bring those qualities to the table in my role as a Town Councilor.