Electricity Choice for Watertown Launches in September

July 10, 2019, Town of Watertown, MA – The Town of Watertown announced that it has entered into a contract to buy electricity for the Watertown Electricity Choice program, which will launch in September 2019.

Watertown Electricity Choice is a municipal electricity aggregation, which is a group buy program for electricity supply. Massachusetts State law allows cities and towns to aggregate electricity customers within their borders and select an electricity supplier on behalf of those customers, rather than having Eversource buy their electricity. Municipal aggregations are heavily regulated by the State and offer many consumer protections not available with private for-profit programs.

See PDF for Complete details, or go online to www.WatertownChoice.com

New Community Preservation Committee kicks off in February 2019!

Swearing in of the new Community Preservation Committee is Thursday 2/21 at 7PM  at Town Hall in the Richard E. Mastrangelo Council Chamber on the 2nd floor. Come celebrate their first meeting kickoff, since Watertown voters adopted the Community Preservation Act. Stayed tuned for future meetings. Our Watertown CPC is comprised of nine members, with renewable terms possible.

Susan Steele, Historical Commission member & designee (2 yrs to Feb. 1, 2021); 

Maria Rose, Conservation Commission member & designee (2 yrs to Feb. 1, 2021); 

Jason Cohen, Planning Board member & designee (1 yr to Feb. 1, 2020); 

Allen Gallagher, Housing Authority member & designee (3 yrs to Feb. 1, 2022); 

Bob Dirico, like-Parks Commissioner appointment, DPW Parks Supervisor and resident (3 yrs to Feb. 1, 2022);

   And four resident at-large member appointments:

Jonathan Bockian (3 yrs), Dennis Duff (1 yr), Mark Kraczkiewicz (1 yr), Elodia Thomas (2 yrs).

Community Preservation Act for Watertown

Published November 4, 2016 in Watertown Tab and Press:

I understand it can be difficult to keep an open mind throughout a campaign, especially once folks become invested on one side of an issue. Emotions can run deep and opinions become cemented before understanding all of the facts. I am also concerned about underestimating the impacts of Watertown’s rapid transformation.

When approached by the citizen-led Invest in Watertown Committee, I initially expressed concerns about adopting the Community Preservation Act (CPA) this November, given our school building needs and the timing of even a small surcharge on taxpayers, knowing it can be a tough sell any time you seek additional funds. I have attended most of the school-related meetings and community forums this year. In addition to speaking with Watertown constituents, I have researched and spoken with citizens and officials in CPA-adopted communities. My questions included: is this something that could benefit our schools as well as our whole community? The answers kept coming back: yes, yes and yes.

There are many reasons why I am voting “yes” on Question 5, more than can be fully explained in one letter. But here are just a few good reasons to consider it: Vote “yes” on 5 if for no other reason than to return our contributions toward the state CPA trust fund and claim our share of state matching funds. Monies generated from real estate development and income tax currently support the CPA trust fund. But they are supporting all the exciting things that other communities are doing, instead of Watertown. We have paid more than $2 million into this trust fund, and we will effectively continue to subsidize other cities and towns if we do not adopt the CPA on Nov. 8.

What I find so exciting about the Community Preservation Act is how it stimulates creative and innovative proposals to meet the needs of a town, while improving public life and programs for all. Just one of hundreds of examples: Arlington leveraged its CPA funds in support of replacement windows at Drake Village senior complex, to also receive a state HILAPP program match; put another way, $200K of their CPA funds provided the seed to attract the remaining 70 percent needed for this $1.8 million project! The surcharge that Watertown taxpayers would contribute (about $10/month) goes a longer way than one might expect at first glance. I also find it worrisome that we would lose out on about $500,000 from the state match in the first year alone, if we vote “no” on 5.

The CPA works so well that not only has no community advocated its repeal, its adoption has stimulated public participation in defining and reclaiming the local community vision. It empowers citizens and is progressive in its funding with exemptions for low-income households and moderate-low-income seniors. CPA project recommendation and approval process is specifically designed to be participatory - Watertown residents and Town Council get to decide what, how and when the funds are used. Arlington has decided to renovate Robbins Farm Park Field with enhanced ADA compliance, but this is just one of five projects recently approved. Waltham and Newton have created home buyer and rental assistance programs. Year after year our surrounding neighbors are finding ways to enhance and preserve what is special, unique and meaningful while reducing competition for capital funds.

And CPA allows regional collaborations, which means cities and towns can pool their funds for mutual benefit even if the location of “the project” lies fully in one community, including recreational fields. Imagine the possibilities for collaboration if we decide to team up with Waltham, Belmont, Newton, Cambridge – all of whom have already adopted CPA.

CPA funds are used for open space and recreation, community housing, and historic preservation – which includes archives, artifacts, archaeology; we have many needs in order to claim our historical heritage, including preserving maps and documents, whether they are in the Assessor’s office, the Commander’s Mansion or the Police Department, etc. You can see there is much to ponder.

I ask for your willingness to consider the many facts and benefits about the Community Preservation Act before voting. I welcome your questions. Learn more from the public database at CommunityPreservation.org or InvestInWatertown.wordpress.com or even YesBetterBoston.com websites. I hope you will join me in voting “yes” on 5.

Lisa Feltner, District B Town Councillor

Source: http://watertown.wickedlocal.com/news/2016...

Watertown Citizens for Peace, Justice and the Environment Q & A

Watertown Citizens for Peace, Justice and the Environment recently published candidate responses to questions they had posed to Town Council candidates a few weeks ago. See Lisa's responses to selected questions below. 

 

1) Enhancing municipal commitments to green practices in such areas as energy efficiency, recycling and renewable energy.

I support Smart Growth policies, and think Watertown should seize the opportunity to actively promote sustainable projects and embrace progressive and net-zero energy goals. We could accelerate our commitment to take climate action in buildings, transportation and waste; our progress on reduced emissions and adaptation to climate change should be measured and reported consistently. We should investigate collaboration with neighboring cities.

As a resident who loves to garden, I understand the vital importance of good soil, vibrant plant life, and sustainable water usage. In other communities, there have been successful citizen-led initiatives that have become town-wide programs with the support of local legislators and partners such as school departments, the library, MassDEP, haulers.  I am intrigued by large-scale state efforts, such as Vermont’s Universal Recycling Law, as well as municipal efforts by our Cambridge neighbors’ recent successful completion of a compost curbside pilot.

Locally-based composting can be on different scales and there are a range of models and activities that could work for Watertown: community drop-offs, training and demo sites, collection and composting services, to even smaller scale projects such as school community gardens. I would like to see curbside pickup for compostables and community compost site(s).

2) Affordable Housing and Income Inequality

Smart growth policies not only integrate transportation and land use decisions; they empower us to design communities with a strong sense of place.  These policies also create a range of housing opportunities and choices, with community and stakeholder collaboration. The need for affordable housing affects many cities and towns, so it is instructive to look at progress made by Metro West Collaborative Development and the Housing Corporation of Arlington. Although we have raised the threshold from 10% to 12.5% for affordable housing units in new large developments, there are more goals outlined in the Watertown Housing Production plan that should be considered. It would also be beneficial to consider creating incentives to renovate and maintain the older housing stock that already exists in Watertown.

There are different approaches to reaching these goals. They can be citizen-led or Town-led, but what is significant is that they involve effective collaboration between all stakeholders. As a town councilor, I would support various collaboration methods (e.g. as chair of a working group, or in support of a task force led by citizen advocates) in the ongoing effort to improve issues of concern for public life in Watertown.

Responses from all the candidates can be found at WatertownMANews.

Preliminary Election Results for District B

Here are the certified election results from the September 17th election:

The results show that Lisa Feltner received 43% of the vote overall (343 out of 791 votes cast).

Lenk received 29%, MacDonald 25%, and Van Dinter 3%.

The General Election on November 3 determines the next councilor for District B.  Both Feltner and Lenk, as the top two vote recipients in the preliminary, move onto the General Election ballot.

More information can be found at Watertownmanews.com.  

Newest Q&A from Candidate forum - follow up questions

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.