Here are Lisa's answers to some key questions that did not get asked at the forum on 9/2/2015:
1. Last summer the Council was presented a petition for a moratorium on new large construction. The moratorium would have allowed the town planning and zoning offices to complete vision, guidelines, and zoning changes before granting new permits. The motivation behind the moratorium was to prevent Arsenal Street from becoming like Pleasant Street. How would you vote on such a moratorium today if you were elected/re-elected, and why?
Development in Watertown has not only accelerated but is fundamentally different than development of the past. The new developments are large and will impact the quality of life for residents bringing new traffic, increased pressure on police, fire and other services. They will also change the landscape for the public. As such, the existing ordinances, planning processes, zoning and permitting are inadequate to protect the interests of existing residents and businesses.
Three of nine councilors voted in favor of the moratorium, though not the incumbent district B councilor. A well crafted moratorium was an emergency measure needed at that time, so if I had been the councilor when this happened, I would have worked with other councilors and residents to create a moratorium - a temporary pause - on really large projects along the commercial corridors, while trying to avoid potential negative effects of a moratorium. There was misinformation about the effects of a temporary moratorium, and I researched and brought to light what was allowed under State law. I strongly believe the town would be in a much better position today if we had paused to bring in Gamble Associates and a transportation planner and create the design guidelines and other forward looking planning initiatives before asking the planning and zoning boards to judge individual projects.
The incumbent district B councilor was not engaged with the residents throughout the planning process; she fully supported the 202-204Arsenal/58 Irving (Cresset-Hanover) project, and did not explain her votes. I spearheaded the call for coordinated and cohesive planning for the Arsenal Corridor before the CressetHanover project was brought before the Planning Board. Because concerns for enhanced planning and updated zoning went unheeded, project proposals proceeded, and the petition for a temporary moratorium was generated. I realized that since we only had the support of three Town Councilors (Dushku, Palomba, Falkoff), we needed to petition again for planning resources to focus on Arsenal, which could then be used as a model for other targeted areas in Watertown. As President of Concerned Citizens Group (CCG), I convened a design advisory group to give concerted and thoughtful recommendations to new design guidelines and zoning amendments. I want to see amazing places developed for the amazing people I know and continue to meet in Watertown. This advisory group also advocated for residential guidelines and zoning changes during this process. At the time, it was determined to limit Gamble Associates effort to commercial properties, thus a volunteer committee including me, Councilor Palomba, Susan Steele, Maria Saiz, Tia Tilson, Yasmin Daikh, and others formed to address residents’ concerns about protecting neighborhoods; Gamble Associates have begun working with the Department of Community Development and Planning (DCDP), residents and the Town Council subcommittee on Economic Development and Planning to expand the effort.
As your Town Councilor, I would research and weigh the true impact of any petition for a moratorium, communicate with and fully appreciate the concerns of the petitioners, and vote accordingly to represent the majority of voters in District B as well as what is in the best interests of the town.
2. Describe what approach you would take as a councilor to voting on a labor union contract. What factors would you consider and in what order of priority? How would you weigh one town union's contract with another?
Town labor contracts have to balance the financial means of the town’s tax payers with the need to provide first class services and reward the hard and vital work of teachers, first responders and other town employees.
Contracts with individual bargaining units have to be seen in context. We need to take into account the compensation paid by neighboring and comparable municipalities, the town’s ability to recruit and retain the best employees, the contract and pay history of Watertown’s employees, and the experience of what effect any single contract will have on the other contracts.
The final vote is not where the council gets to be creative; at the final vote it is too late to influence what comes before the Town Council as a contract proposal. I would seek a collaborative approach early on, beginning with discussions with the Town Manager about goals and limitations. Recognize that the Manager is the town’s negotiator, and work with him or her to reach equitable solutions.
3. We share ownership of many roads with the DCR. For instance, the DCR has a plan in place to allow parking all along one side of Charles River Rd. and N. Beacon St. for people to park and ride their bike to Boston, without any consultation with the town. How would you work with them on managing use of our roads?
DCR should have worked closely with Watertown in establishing the Park&Pedal Program. The State announced the program without community input. While the State touts the benefits to Boston and Cambridge of having a reduced number of commuters in vehicles, they seem fine with amassing commuters’ cars into large parking lots in Watertown. I’m against any plan that makes our neighborhoods bear the burden of a regional problem or that hurts the character of precious parkland.
State officials must not act unilaterally, must respect town residents in both the process and the outcome, and must protect the irreplaceable and historic parkland in their control.
Watertown is a community largely committed to a cleaner environment. We are working to reduce air pollutants and storm water runoff. I have led community meetings to learn about stormwater management and other issues, and this has helped support the vision development statement for my neighborhood. This vision development statement came out of a series of discussions I led as President of CCG, which enabled constructive dialog with the citizens and the DCPD.
The decision to allow commuters to park in Watertown is part of a larger problem – that of the funneling of vehicles from Belmont, Waltham and Newton through Watertown to avoid paying higher tolls on the Massachusetts Turnpike or avoiding narrower streets in other communities. We hope that the State will address this problem, possibly even by altering the Mass Pike fee structure that encourages drivers to get off the Pike and cut through Watertown.
Watertown is striving to become a walkable, bikable, transit-friendly town, but parking and transit issues can’t be handled in a piecemeal way – the town must get more transportation planning expertise (traffic, transit, parking), get out in front instead of being reactive, and create a multi-pronged approach to these issues that makes sense for the people who live and work here.