The winners of the big race in the 2019 Watertown Election, the Council At-Large seats, can now look forward to what they would like to do over their next two years on the Council.
The four winners, Anthony Donato, Tony Palomba, Caroline Bays and John Gannon, each talked about issues they would like to make a priority.
Tony Palomba got the second most votes in the election, and returns for a sixth term on the Council. He said that his level of community engagement and his work to help those most in need appealed to voters.
Palomba said he would like to “Continue to move the needle on creating affordable housing in Watertown.” He sees the funds raised through the CPA (Community Preservation Act) as a possible source of funds for that, along with for historic preservation and open space acquisition.
Palomba would like to see the Council push for adding two new positions to Watertown’s Town government — a Communications Director (full time) and a Community Engagement Officer (part-time).
Completing revisions to the town’s Noise Ordinance is another priority, as is using the community’s suggestions to changing the Watertown Town Charter.
For Bays, the key to being reelected to a second term was listening to constituents.
“I took the opportunity the campaign afforded me to talk to residents all over town and ask what questions, issues, or concerns they had,” Bays said. “I will take what I learned from my conversations with Watertown residents and use their issues to form the foundation of my policy initiatives.”
Some of people’s top concerns Bays heard are: “affordable housing, the increase in traffic, the climate crisis, and, of course, schools.”
Two areas she would like to focus on are affordable housing and composting.
“We already have proposals in the works such as establishing a municipal bus program and aiding renters with the prohibitively expensive upfront costs when moving,” Bays said. “But I would like to see more, such as working on a policy that would increase composting in Watertown, and establishing a municipal housing trust which will allow us to use our Community Preservation funds more effectively.”
Donato and Gannon discussed their reelection on election night. See more below.
Gannon also talked about one of his main priorities: communicating with residents.
“I pledged to be open and transparent, just as I pledged to make Watertown more open and transparent,” Gannon said. “I want people to call me: contact me through my website, I want communication to be as low tech as flier-ing a neighborhood about a proposed development there. I want Watertown’s website to be more welcoming and to welcome engagement from people.”
He would like to see Watertown emulate a step that the City of Somerville took when he was the city’s attorney. They held meetings in all seven of Somerville’s wards to discuss “key problems with key city officials to help folks solve them.”
“I’d like to see that happen in Watertown,” Gannon said.
Donato said there was one issue he regretted not finishing during his first term.
“I think we had a lot of success over past two years. In my mind the biggest failure is the TMA (Transportation Management Association) shuttle isn’t up and running,” Donato said.
A shuttle system could help address some of the biggest concerns he heard about from voters.
“I hear complaints about development. I hope find way to get back something to people affected by that, and one way I think is a robust shuttle system would be to take cars off the road, and make life a little easier,” Donato said. “And, hopefully residents be rewarded and enjoy some of the benefits of the shuttle.”
Donato would also like to find a way for the Town to obtain land and use as open space or recreational land, “because it seems to me pretty soon there is not going to be any more developable land, and I think we have to act now to make sure there is enough open space in town for future generations,” he said.