Ken Woodland seeks re-election for District D Town Councilor on Nov. 3.
Watertown News asked the District Council candidates a series of questions.
1) What is the biggest issue for your district, and how would you seek to address it?
The west end’s biggest issue over the past 2 years has been Pleasant St. We had buildings too high, too close to the curbs, too dense, and lacking commercial amenities for the neighborhood. Just a few months ago, the Council voted to rezone Pleasant St and put into place zoning changes that will more align to what the town and neighborhood wanted in this area. So, the biggest issue will be to make sure that this rezoned vision of Pleasant St is realized in any future development. This will include working with residents, developers, and holding community meetings to come to common ground. Additionally, traffic in this area will be at the front of my agenda. This will include looking into the implementation of a TMA, increasing MBTA services, shuttle services, and Hubway.
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?
I think that there is always more we can do on both a town and personal level to increase transparency. Many on the campaign trail have indicated their desire to have someone in Town Hall be responsible and completely dedicated to publicity and marketing of major projects, votes, and events. I am definitely open to starting that dialogue and working to define what that position might look like and what their objectives would be in reaching out to residents. Additionally, something many Councilors and I have done is send out monthly emails to concerned residents that highlight important issues in town. This is a quick, once-a-month viewing of all major decisions and initiatives. If anyone would like to be included in the west end monthly update, please feel free to send your email address to email@example.com. I think that increasing this more personalized approach to accessing information about town issues is extremely important to transparency in local government.
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?
I do not see any time in the future where Watertown will need a Prop. 2 ½ override. The Town’s strong financial policies and principles have allowed us to make significant progress under the confines of Prop. 2 1/2. This is highlighted by our debt stabilization funds, aggressive payment of long-term liabilities, and AAA bond rating. I have confidence that the Town will be able to provide substantial infrastructure improvements in the future without an override.
4) What would you do to help seniors and others struggling to afford to live in Watertown?
First, I believe it is important to increase and maintain affordable housing units in Watertown. Recently, I voted to increase the requirement of affordable units in new developments from 10 percent to 12.5 percent. Not only is this important in maintaining an economically diverse community but also puts Watertown in a stronger place to approach the 10 percent affordable housing threshold that prevents a Chapter 40B option for future developments. Additionally, to maintain quality, I believe it is important to maintain local control for housing units. As such, I have actively worked in opposition to a state initiative that would consolidate housing programs into significantly larger district operations. This initiative would have reduced the overall quality of life for housing residents and I will continue to advocate for local governance. Second, I supported a motion that would raise the residential tax exemption from 20 percent to 30 percent. It is getting more and more expensive to live in homes in Watertown and this step will reduce taxes for those who live in the homes they own in town.
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?
At this stage, I think it is important to listen to all parties involved and work to develop guidelines that both maintain neighborhood character and allow smart growth. We are only in the information-gathering phase and I am still reflecting on all the ideas being presented to find this balance.
6) What do you think will be the next big issue that is not yet on the town’s front burners?
The School Committee has already started the beginnings of the process of working with the State to build new schools in Watertown. I think that over the next few years the School Committee, Council, and State will be actively working to identify building needs in the Watertown Schools and develop plans to build or renovate for 21st century learning.
7) Tell us about yourself, your family, your life and what qualities would make you a good Town Councilor.
I am a third generation, lifelong Watertown resident who went to Watertown’s elementary, middle, and high school, graduating in 2007. I then received my bachelor degree in political science with minors in public administration and community service from Providence College, graduating in 2011. Next, I received my Juris Doctor from New England Law in May of 2015. I have 3 siblings that also went through Watertown schools and both of my parents live and work in Watertown. I have lived my entire life in Watertown and its people, schools, and overall atmosphere has had a profound effect on who I am today. I want to give back to the community that has already given me so much. The best way I can do this is by taking my education and training and putting them to use for the people of Watertown. I consider it an honor to be at your service.