Jonathan's Issues & Priorities
The state of our town generally is strong. Throughout this prolonged pandemic, we have maintained a balanced and fiscally responsible budget, and we continue to provide high-quality educational, public health, and public safety services. Most significantly, we have seen our community come together in good times and bad. Yet there is so much more we must do to move Wakefield forward. As your Town Councilor, I'm focused on achieving progress in the following areas:
1. Making Wakefield More Livable for All Residents
Our community has undergone tremendous change during the last several years, and further growth and development in our town is inevitable. As your Town Councilor, one of my priorities is to assure that Wakefield remains a vibrant, accessible, and affordable community for all residents.
A key part of achieving a livable community is building and maintaining thriving business districts, both downtown and in Greenwood. As your Town Councilor, I was a major proponent of hiring a Community and Economic Development Director for the Town. Part of this individual’s role is to recruit businesses and cultural organizations that can round out the great businesses we already have, including “pop up” businesses that will give residents and visitors new reasons to shop and dine in Wakefield.
Moreover, promoting quality of life in Wakefield requires investment in legacy projects that benefit our entire community. It's our collective responsibility to protect Lake Quannapowitt, our town's treasured centerpiece, and to maximize the opportunities for all of our residents to enjoy the Lake's beauty. That's why I supported the efforts by the Boys and Girls Club of Stoneham and Wakefield and Wakefield Main Streets to bring community boating to Lake Quannapowitt. That's also why I am working to make enhancements to the pedestrian path around the Lake, including a shoreline path along the west side of the Lake.
Promoting livability also means focusing on affordability. As home values continue to climb in Wakefield, we must redouble our efforts to assure that our most vulnerable residents can remain in their homes, and that young people have the opportunity to put down roots here. I worked with our legislative delegation to secure approval for our local senior property tax credit, and I will lead the effort to further ease the tax burden on Wakefield's seniors. As your Town Councilor, I will promote the Town’s existing tax abatement programs and other benefits for veterans and individuals with disabilities. Finally, I'm committed to finding new opportunities to help our residents facing financial challenges stay in their homes, including partnering with the Wakefield Municipal Gas and Light Department to identify energy savings programs for seniors and other vulnerable residents.
The hiring of a Community and Economic Development Director has helped promote affordability in Wakefield. Our community has over two million square feet in commercial real estate available for lease. My vision is that the Community and Economic Development Director will work with property owners to identify long-term commercial tenants for these properties, which would reduce the Town’s reliance on residential property taxes. The Community and Economic Development Director also will allow the Town to take a proactive approach in promoting diverse housing development projects, including market-rate housing for working families and senior housing.
2. Promoting Openness and Good Government
Town government is the purest form of democracy — through Town Meeting, all citizens can participate in making the decisions that will shape Wakefield’s future. But too often, it’s difficult for residents to find information about the key issues facing our town. Town government should strive to always operate in an open and professional manner. As your Town Councilor, I'm focusing on improving resident communication, assuring that we follow recognized best practices in every aspect of town operations, and giving residents a voice in town government.
As your Town Councilor, I led Wakefield's Vision 2030 effort, an initiative to develop a community-wide vision statement. Through the participation of hundreds of Wakefield residents and business owners, we identified a series of "common ground" goals that can help guide future policy, budget, and development decisions. To assure that we continue working towards the goals identified in the vision statement, we must refresh Wakefield's master plan and housing production plan. We also must assure that the goals identified through the Vision 2030 effort cascade to all Town departments. As your Town Councilor, I'm continuing to work with Town departments to explore creating a performance management system for key appointed officials, assuring that there is a process of setting performance goals and a mechanism to conduct regular performance reviews.
I believe that the Town Council has a critical role in promoting better communication from our government. As your Town Councilor, I publish summaries of all of our Town Council meetings, and I have held office hours every month since I was first elected. I have advocated for improvements to the Town’s website and Facebook page so that information is posted in a more timely and complete way, and that content is clearly indexed and easily searchable. I also have advocated for other avenues for communicating with residents, such as the inclusion of information in utility bills and the use of the reverse 911 system to notify residents of key town events and meetings. Finally, I have promoted the development of a standardized and consistent process for soliciting citizen volunteers for Town boards and committees so that we can recruit a broader and more diverse group of participants.
The Town must adhere to a professional hiring process for all significant vacancies in town government. As a parent, I served on the interview committee that selected a new Walton School principal in 2017. That process included an opportunity for parents and teachers to share their feedback about what they wanted to see in a new principal, a defined recruitment committee and formal interview process, and a public job posting that allowed us to attract highly qualified candidates from inside and outside the district. Town government must follow the lead of the School Department in using a similar process to fill critical jobs.
3. Investing in Wakefield's Future
Improving the quality of life in Wakefield requires that the Town effectively maintain and enhance its public infrastructure. As your Town Councilor, I'm working to assure that Wakefield takes its first steps to develop a much-needed long term plan to continually invest in our community resources so that we can effectively serve the needs of Wakefield’s residents now and in the future.
One of the most pressing issues facing our community is the condition of Wakefield Memorial High School. The building has structural and safety issues that will cost more than $70 million to address and is set up in a way that is wholly inadequate for a 21st century education. As the father of four young children, I believe that a new or renovated high school is critical to give Wakefield’s students a safe environment that is conducive to learning. Wakefield has been accepted into the feasibility phase of the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA)'s process, and we are working to complete a feasibility study for a new or renovated building. As the Town Council's appointee to the building committee, I'm committed that we develop a plan that meets the long-term needs of our community in the most cost effective way possible.
Underinvestment has played a part in the deterioration of Wakefield’s roads and sidewalks. I supported increasing funding for road maintenance and resurfacing for the last three years, including the creation of Wakefield's strategic road repair program that is targeting $10 million of funds to improve the conditions of Wakefield's roads. Going forward, we must do a better job of developing a long-term plan for road maintenance and communicating repair priorities with residents. Finally, we must do more to improve Wakefield's sidewalk network, by repairing broken sidewalks, making accessibility upgrades, and expanding sidewalks to streets that currently lack them.