Jonathan's Issues & Priorities
The state of our town generally is strong. Our finances are stable, the Wakefield Public Schools and other town departments provide needed services, and 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 working for progress in the following areas:
1. Making Wakefield More Livable for All Residents
Our community has undergone a great deal of change over 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 promoting a livable community is building thriving business districts downtown and in Greenwood. As your Town Councilor, I fought for funding to hire 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.
I’m also working to improve access to the downtown district by assuring that we do a better job of collecting data so that we can make evidence-based policies on parking. As a former member of the Finance Committee, I understand the importance of using facts to inform policy, and I believe that having access to more complete information will help us make effective decisions when it comes to parking availability, enforcement, and signage. In addition, as the Envision Wakefield project moves forward, I'm pushing for a continued focus on walkability and accessibility, particularly for residents with disabilities. Downtown only will succeed if people feel safe walking through the area.
Promoting livability also means focusing on affordability. As home values increase in Wakefield, we must redouble our efforts to assure that our most vulnerable residents are able to stay 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 push to expand this credit as individual tax burdens change. As your Town Councilor, I will do more to actively 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 targeted to seniors and other vulnerable residents.
Hiring an Community and Economic Development Director will help 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 find long-term commercial tenants for these properties, which would help 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 development projects that will bring a diversity of housing options to our community, including affordable housing 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, and too often, town government does not operate in as open and professional a manner as it should. As a Town Councilor, I'm focusing on improving how the Town communicates with residents, assuring that we follow recognized best practices in every aspect of town operations, and giving residents a voice in town government.
I believe that the Town Council has a critical role in promoting better communication from our government. As your Town Councilor, 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.
As the executive branch of town government, the Town Council must assure that our government functions effectively and efficiently. 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 also am focused on making sure that the Town to collect data on key performance metrics so that we can continually work to improve the service we provide to residents. Please click here to learn more about my ideas for creating an effective performance management process for our Town government.
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 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 will be working over the next 12-18 months 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. I supported increasing funding for road maintenance and resurfacing for the last two years, but more money isn’t sufficient by itself. We need to offer better customer service to residents, by utilizing and promoting telephone and electronic options that allow residents to easily report poor road conditions and analyzing the data around reported problems to better identify repair needs. In addition, we must do a better job of developing a long-term plan for road maintenance and communicating repair priorities with residents.