Councilor At-Large Candidate Q&A: Patryce Georgopoulos

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Councilor At-Large candidate Patryce Georgopoulos.

Councilor At-Large candidate Patryce Georgopoulos.

Patryce Georgopoulos is running for Town Councilor At-Large in the Nov. 3 election. 

Watertown News asked candidates a series of questions.

1) If elected, what will you make your top priority for the first six months of your term?

Given the many ways in which we can do so much better on so many issues, I’m not going to confine myself to a single priority. We have a lot of issues that Watertown is facing and are deserving of being top priorities.

One area to which I shall devote my immediate attention is the chronic issue of traffic and congestion. As our town evolves into an even more desirable place to live, work, and establish a business, traffic volume, traffic control, and transportation issues become more acute. I support a multi-faceted approach in which the safety of our citizens is paramount. We need to work together to achieve the following:

1. Insist on the prompt repair of roads and pedestrian ways;

2. Work with experts to improve the flow of traffic through habitually congested areas;

3. Take advantage of the new resolve on the part of the Commonwealth to improve

4. Lobby developers and employ zoning to enhance the availability of off-street

5. Work with employers to promote carpooling;

6. Where feasible, allow for bicycle lanes while never overlooking the safety of cyclists;

7. Be in constant touch with our residents to identify and resolve problems associated

8. Entertain the idea of hiring a traffic/transportation planner to assist with the current public transportation to guarantee the increase the frequency and reliability of the services of the MBTA; parking; with traffic congestion and safety; and congestion.

I would also devote my time to addressing the current opiate abuse health crisis that our town is facing. According to the police and fire department statistics, Watertown has seen 9 drug-connected deaths since January, 2015 and 40 non-fatal over doses. Among measures taken thus far are the establishment of a Task Force and committee whose purpose is to help combat this abuse; 20 drug drop-off boxes have been placed throughout the town, the Police Station and other public buildings; and most recently Watertown Erase the Stigma week was observed
which included events for residents, assemblies at the public schools, meetings and rallies. Our red ribbons showed support for the efforts of our town to repel this scourge. I have made a personal commitment to ending opiate abuse by participating in numerous Task Force meetings, and intend to continue my work in collaboration with committee members, service agencies and public safety officials to learn how best to remedy opioid abuse. The necessary steps include:

1. Helping the victims and their families with recovery;

2. Drawing upon the expertise of care givers, teachers, public safety officials, specialists in addiction who embrace creative and effective solutions in order to enact appropriate measures;

3. Promoting early intervention through carefully screening middle and high school-aged children and improving the curriculum at these schools to educate the students in the dangers of abuse;

4. Identifying and disrupting those locations where drug trafficking occurs; and

5. Working with the various agencies of the Commonwealth to assure coordination of efforts and availability of resources to assist us in combating drug abuse.

2) 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?

A large measure of the responsibility for keeping our citizens informed rests with those of us elected to serve them. We have a civic obligation to address the community’s challenges and that is key to promoting understanding and making clear that town government is responsive to community’s needs. The town’s website needs to be updated and kept current, we need to develop methods to increase participation among residents. We need to provide services for the blind and the physically impaired. We can regularly put notices in the local newspaper and on the local cable channel. Both of these media could have, for example, an “ask your Town Councilor” feature in which we would respond to citizens’ concerns. We can implement a 511 program allowing citizens to contact our public safety officials in non-emergency situations. We can organize and promote group meetings on a regular basis – either by districts or town wide. I intend to always be available to citizens by phone, email and social media at all times. Everyone’s voice deserves to be heard. In my legal experience and by working at my father’s
restaurant, I know the value of conversation and of good listening and I would take the time to listen and I will advocate for you.

3) 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?

At this juncture, with our expanding revenue stream from property taxes generally, I would not support an override because there is no urgent necessity for one. In the future, provided there were matching funds from the state and federal government, I would lean toward an override directed toward funding our schools. We are confronted by the necessity of adding classrooms to overcrowded schools and we need to explore the financial and education costs of doing so. Good schools mean qualified citizens, which attracts residents to our town, and keeps families with school-aged children here. We all have a share in those goals. In the event that a significant movement developed among our citizens for a vote on an over-ride to address a specific vital funding need, I would not oppose it, but, at this moment, I cannot imagine such a thing.

4) What would you do to help seniors and others struggling to afford to live in Watertown?

To begin with, I want to hear directly from our senior citizens, their service providers, families, and caretakers as to their needs and hopes. Like many of us, I was raised in a tradition emphasizing profound respect for our elders. Expanding the base of elderly housing by means of strictly enforcing mandated “set asides” and working to shorten those waiting lists for housing will always be important to me. We need to explore the possibilities of utilizing the vacant buildings in the town to determine if they can facilitate additional elderly or middle class housing. We need to expand affordable housing so that middle class families can afford to live here. We need to work with lenders and partner with agencies to avoid foreclosures of properties and we need to work with developers to override zoning laws.

5) 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?

These guidelines are both inspirational and aspirational. We need to keep Watertown a vibrant place to live and work. As such, they demand careful study and considered implementation on a case by case basis. We need to take into account that each neighborhood is unique and distinctive and we need to preserve the character of each neighborhood. We need to establish common frames of reference and clarify the expectations of developers. As I review their specific applications, I shall be adhering to the following principles:

1. Listening to the neighbors;

2. Insisting that new construction be energy efficient and preservative of green spaces and open areas;

3. Being aware of the historic character of our town with an eye to architecture appropriate for its surroundings;

4. Gaging the impact of construction on the traffic pattern;

5. Sustaining a concern for how the guidelines promote diversity and integrate residents and workers into the fabric of our community; and

6) Coordinating cohesive planning to welcome and implement the Design Guidelines as they affect the residential neighborhoods of Watertown.

6) What Do You Think Will Be The Next Big Issue That Is Not Yet On The Town’s Front Burners?

An upcoming issue is the expiring contracts for town public safety employees. I am a firm believer in fair government and I support the collective bargaining process and I support fair government, good-faith bargaining, and the respectful treatment of our unions. This process is governed by MGL Chapter 150. We need to honor contracts and make sure they are enforced. With so many friends serving in the public sector, we need to respect the integrity of the collective bargaining process and compensate the workers at a level which they deserve. The result will be the attraction and retention of skilled employees, and we all benefit from that outcome.

7) Tell Us About Yourself, Your Family, Your Life And What Qualities Would Make You A Good Town Councilor.

I am a life-long resident of Watertown. My parents, my son, and I are products of its school system. Four generations of my family for four decades had a successful business as owners of the New Yorker Diner. I love and I know this town and I know what the people of this town want. I have a personal vested interest in this town. I have over 22 years of experience as a paralegal. This experience has given me broad familiarity with various parts of our legal system and with helping people in need of legal assistance. I have learned how to listen carefully and how to solve complex problems as a result. I am a solutions based person and I will get the job done. As a soccer coach for Watertown High School Girls‘ Junior Varsity team and as an athlete, I know the true value of team work, collaboration and of getting a diverse group of people to strive for a common goal and how to achieve those goals. As a volunteer with the Ladies Philanthropic Society of the Church of the Archangels, which ministers to the poor and the ill, my involvement has reinforced the lessons taught to me by parents and grandparents alike to value and respect every person. For years, I’ve been hearing that Watertown is changing fast and that we can do better to meet the challenges of change. I have decided to run as an at large member of town council because I want to play an important part in “doing better” and “managing change” for all our citizens. I will advocate for you and I am committed to making a difference. It will be my honor to represent and serve this great community. We proved how strong we are in the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombing, the town council needs to prove how strong it will be as it faces all of the present and future challenges in our town. Watertown deserves nothing less than excellence!

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