District A Town Councilor Angeline Kounelis is running for re-election on Nov. 3.
The district covers East Watertown. Watertown News asked all Council Candidates a set of questions.
1) What is the biggest issue for your district, and how would you seek to address it?
Balance between development, traffic, congestion and quality-of-life for residents is the paramount task. Development and traffic congestion must be viewed on a contiguous basis and not piecemeal; just as was undertaken for the 65 Grove Street development. The Cresset Group and the Atrium School worked to create a vehicular circulation plan that worked for the neighborhood. I was part of the process. I will continue to offer guidance and work collaboratively with my constituents and developers to seek stable neighborhood environs.
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?
The East End residents were fortunate that neighborhood meetings were always requested for proposed developments. Now, the East End initiative is stipulated as a town-wide requirement. Many strides have been taken towards transparency and accountability. The electronic age does not meet the needs of everyone. The spoken word and personal interactions are still a mainstay. I am available to my constituents to address their comments and concern.
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?
Watertown, through good financial practices has been able to weather the economic storms on solid footing. All avenues must be pursued for state and federal monies, even if it means waiting in the queue for a particular initiative. I would not burden the taxpayers of Watertown with a tax override or debt exclusion without their input and support. Tax increases should be a measure of last resort.
4) What would you do to help seniors and others struggling to afford to live in Watertown?
For several years I have lobbied to increase the owner occupied real estate tax exemption from 20 percent to 25 percent. Boston and Cambridge are at a 30 percent exemption. A Home Rule Petition has been filed with the Mass. General Court. If approved, a vote of the Town Council could be taken in 2016. I recently supported the initiative to increase the affordable housing requirement for residential development over five units requiring a special permit from 10 percent to 12.5 percent. The formula for on-site requirements or monetary contributions to the Affordable Housing Fund is outlined in the Watertown Zoning Ordinance, section 5.07. It is incumbent on all property owners to do their fair share to promote affordable housing
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?
The community wants and deserves high quality developments that will be sensitive and respectful of the neighborhood and its residents. Residential developments should not infringe on abutters; cause nuisance; obstruct sightlines or cast shadows. Residential developments should blend with the existing neighborhood. The vetting process must fully explore the fine line between property owner rights and government oversight.
6) What do you think will be the next big issue that is not yet on the town’s front burners?
The possible need for a new high school building has been looming on the sidelines. The questions are many: renovation or expansion of the existing buildings; new construction within the Town’s 4.17 sq. mi. area; shifting of students within existing buildings; increasing/decreasing student population trends, just a few of the considerations. The financial impact on taxpayers of Watertown is a major concern to be pondered.
7) Tell us about yourself, your family, your life and what qualities would make you a good Town Councilor.
I have been a resident in the East End, District A, since my family moved into the community in 1964. Since 1989, I have been a self-employed Administrative Consultant, assisting small business owners with their office management and accounting needs. Prior to, I was a contract person for the Town of Watertown in the Planning Office. I oversaw the administration of state and federal monies associated with the Public Works Economic Development (PWED) program for improvements to Watertown Sq.; the Low Income Housing Improvement Program and the construction of Arsenal and Filippello Parks.
I have been blessed to have at my side my 97 year young mother, Evangelia, who always offers wisdom and guidance. A little bit of whimsy comes into my life from my two pet Budgies, Halvah and Pita.