Watertown News reached out to candidates running for Councilor At-Large in the Watertown Election on Nov. 7, 2017 and asked them the same six questions. Here are the responses for Tony Palomba:
1) Tell us about yourself, and why you are running for Councilor At-Large.
I have lived in Watertown for nearly 25 years with my partner Ann. We raised two children, Nathaniel and Joanna, who attended Watertown public schools. I will soon complete my fourth term as a Councilor at-Large. I have served on the Committees on Public Works, Human Services, and Rules and Ordinances, as well as on the Ad Hoc Committee on Transportation and the Ad Hoc Committee on Victory Field Phase 2. I am on the Steering Committee of the Watertown Youth Coalition, Watertown Citizens for Peace, Justice, and the Environment, Watertown Public Transit Task Force, and Progressive Watertown, as well as an active member of the substance use disorder task force, Watertown Access Treatment, Education, and Resources.
2) A common thing to hear around Watertown is that it is getting more expensive, and more difficult for people who already live here to stay in town. What would you do to try to help people remain in Watertown?
This is a difficult questions given the housing market in the greater Boston area. There are no easy answers and it will take public and private efforts to address the problem. Some steps include:
a) raising the residential exemption for owner-occupied owners
b) allocating Town funds for the purchase of single-family homes that are in turn rented to qualified Watertown residents via a lottery at a reduced rate or sold at below market rate with the restriction that the house reverts to the Town when the family moves or vacates.
c) subsidize the purchase of new homes by qualified residents
d) using Community Preservation Act funds work with a non-profit community development corporation and the Watertown Housing Authority to build additional rental housing.
e) partner with private real estate developers to have a portion of their rental housing priced at below market rate.
3) Development has been a big issue the past few years. How would you like to see the Town handle new proposals for major building projects?
Depending on whether it is a residential or commercial development, there are five ways the Town affects new development proposals through existing ordinances and conditions on permits. We may consider strengthening these requirements. They are:
a) that 15% of the rental units or condominiums are affordable
b) a required a design review and adherence to the design standards
c) an increase in the amount of open space and requiring that buildings be LEED silver and produce a percentage of their energy needs from solar
d) adherence to the Transportation Demand Management ordinance with the goal of reducing single occupancy vehicle trips.
e) an increase in the mitigation required of developers to address infrastructure needs as well as community-wide impacts.
4) As a Councilor, how would you communicate with residents to find out their needs and concerns?
I communicate with residents via email and telephone and offer to meet with residents at their convenience. I attend many community meetings whether sponsored by Town departments or community-based organizations, as well as Town Council committee meetings and the meetings of our many boards and commissions to listen and learn what residents are concerned about. I maintain a web site and Facebook page and encourage residents to post questions and comments. Periodically I write a Town Council Update that reviews major developments in Town and lists upcoming Town and community meetings. I regularly receive responses to the Update that often lead to a further discussion with residents.
5) Do you support making changes to the Town Home Rule Charter that spells out how Watertown’s government operates? If so what changes would you make?
The Charter will be reviewed in 2020 by a committee composed of the members of the Town Council and residents and chaired by the Town Council President. I would like to see a change in the length of the term for the position of at-large councilor from two years to four years. One option might be staggering the election of the four at-large councilors similar to what the School Committee does. I would also like to consider requiring the Town Manager to submit more than one nominee for each position on the Planning Board, the Zoning Board of Appeal,
and the Traffic Commission. Presently the Town Manager submits the name of one person for review by a Town Council committee that in turns makes a favorable or unfavorable recommendations to the full Council for a final vote. I would also like to consider increasing the size of the Traffic Commission to include two more community residents.
6) What will be the next big issue in Watertown that is not yet on the front burner?
One big issue that the Town will need to address, possibly as early as July 2018, are the new federal regulations regarding storm water emissions into the Charles River. For Watertown, this may mean significantly reducing the amount of phosphorus entering the Charles from our storm water. A second big issue will be the implementation of the Community Preservation Act and the review and recommendations of projects for funding by the Community Preservation
Committee. An aggressive timeline, including selection and training of the Committee members, could see project proposal submitted in late 2018 early 2019 and approvals before the end of Fiscal Year 2000. Finally, a third issue will be the approval and implementation of the nine projects proposed through the I-Cubed program, which includes the Town, Athena Health and Mass. Department of Conservation and Recreation. These projects must be completed in three-years. They will have major impact on congestions and traffic delays in Watertown.