Published November 1, 2019
MELROSE — On Tuesday, voters will decide what future course they want Melrose to take during the 2019 city election.
There will be a new mayor and new City Councilors chosen at the polls, which are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
With much at stake, we asked those running in contested races what, in their opinion, is the most pressing issue facing the city. In the case of ward candidates for City Council, we wanted to know what the most important issue residents of the individual wards face.
We also asked how each hopeful would deal that issue if elected.
The good news is that Melrose is in good shape overall. We continue to receive accolades including being named the fourth best small city in the nation by WalletHub just this week. As an elected official in Melrose for nearly 14 years, as a City Councilor and former School Committee member, I have worked hard to improve the atmosphere and the quality of life here in Melrose. I have also seen some areas that need improvement.
Through my role as a City Councilor-at-Large, and as I have been out speaking with many voters throughout this months-long campaign, I find the problem underlying most issues is a need for more openness, better communication and the need for those who are to be involved in the outcome of a decision be involved in its process.
I am frustrated when I hear African American people tell me how “cold” City Hall is, or when I hear from single parents who tell me that they feel they, and their children, are treated differently by our school system. Feeling shut out, or being unable to get answers or find information can cause residents to distrust all of our government, whether it is warranted or not. At worst, a lack of communication can make people completely feel helpless as it was for some of the residents of Brazil Street after they experienced this summer’s horrific sewage backup.
I want to change the way we do business at City Hall to open the doors to a friendlier, more inclusive, more forward thinking and fiscally responsible Melrose. To me, an open government is one that is welcoming, one that remembers that the resident is our customer, one that communicates freely and is open to criticism, and one that listens deeply and hears its resident’s concerns.
Improving Access to City Services
Our job is customer service. One of the first orders of business will be to review staffing levels to ensure resident’s needs are being met. In the short term, perhaps the simplest thing we can do to make City Hall more customer friendly is to return the position of “Greeter,” first instituted by Mayor Guerriero. The Greeter would welcome those who entered and direct them to the appropriate office. This position could be filled by a volunteer, someone in the Senior Tax Work Off program or an intern.
My administration would also seek to offer increased online options – for forms, payments and processing – to make accessing city services more convenient and accessible. By making better use of technology, we can streamline our city’s government to be more efficient.
As mayor, I will create a “Civic Engagement Committee” to explore ways we can improve access to services and information, and to ensure all populations are treated fairly and equally.
As a former ward alderman (now known as Ward Councilor), I believe taking a neighborhood approach to government by involving stakeholders in the decision making process yields the best results. I want to see us be a leader in Community Engagement by opening up city government to make it accessible to all, not just the politically connected.
More than half the battle about getting people engaged is about meeting them where they are. This is not a one size fits all world and not everyone reads the paper. To better outreach on important issues, I will regularly host community or neighborhood meetings to involve more residents and gather more input from our stakeholders.
Budget Transparency and Accountability
If elected mayor, I will begin Day One to build a five-year strategic financial plan for Melrose and use it as the basis to build our annual budgets. I am committed to ensuring this is presented in a clear budget format that is detailed, easy to find, and understandable. I want Melrose to be a leader in this area.
The Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) annually gives out Distinguished Budget Presentation Awards to entities whose budgets meet these goals. My goal for Melrose would be that we receive one of these awards within my first term as mayor.
Respecting your tax dollars with every decision is a central to my platform. Implementing the use of “Open Checkbook” would help do this by providing the public with a clear and searchable way to view all of our expenditures.
As a City Councilor, I have been a fierce advocate for accountability and transparency, consistently calling for a more open government. As your mayor, I would be able to put this into action. At the heart of what I hope to provide is a budget that is grounded in sound fiscal management and that is clear, transparent and easy to understand. My administration would provide our taxpayers with clear financial detail of how their money is being spent and open the doors to let more voices be heard.
The most important issue facing the city is ensuring that everyone is heard through increased community engagement. Increasing participation in the governing of our shared community will mean raising up new ideas and will result in a better, more efficient, collaborative and effective city that serves all residents.
As mayor, if elected, I will immediately work on several initiatives to increase community engagement. Here are a few examples: I will fill the seats on the Disability Commission, update our city’s website, continue my office hours for residents to discuss issues, and actively seek input across our community. But our efforts should not and will not end there. I will also work to engage our students, our arts community, our businesses, our seniors, and others so that we can move Melrose forward together.
One of the great things about Melrose is that people truly care about each other and the community. No matter your neighborhood or your career or your age or your politics, I know that Melrose matters to you and to everyone who calls this city home. And as your mayor, your thoughts, opinions and ideas matter to me. I believe that a difference of opinion does not divide us. In fact, I believe that actively listening to understand each other and bringing every idea to the table will make Melrose stronger. I will bring those practices to City Hall.
It has been a great honor to serve my hometown and our shared community on the Board of Alderman (now the City Council) and as your State Representative. Each of these positions have allowed me to work with you, for our city and for our future. I am ready to bring that experience and that passion to City Hall as your mayor. Together, we can continue the great progress in our schools, improve our infrastructure, and a create dynamic business environment. I ask for your vote for mayor on November 5 so that I can continue work with you toward a shared vision for the future of Melrose.
CITY COUNCILOR AT-LARGE
Melrose has a great history of working to improve our community, and there is nothing more important than having all voices represented when big decisions are made. I am running for City Councilor-at-Large to represent the voices that are rarely heard at City Hall, including the elderly, our students, our neighbors with disabilities, renters, and members of minority groups.
As the Chair of the Human Rights Commission and as Intensive Case Manager at Eliot Community Services, I have learned about the struggles that many face trying to access city services and resources while waiting for public transportation or trying to find the services they need. I will make sure that services are equally provided to all residents regardless of age, physical ability, socioeconomic level, race, gender identity, sexual orientation, or cultural background.
I will make a priority the hiring of a community social worker to help direct people to our city resources that are often hidden or difficult to navigate. I will work with City Hall to help install benches and shelters at bus stops and to make sure sidewalks are repaired. I want our city government to be transparent and held accountable to use taxpayers’ money wisely, meeting all Melrosians’ needs while adhering to a balanced budget and keeping Melrose affordable.
I will make sure that all voices are heard and that everyone’s priorities are considered. I want to represent your voice at the table. Only in that way will we make progress.
Over the past few months I have knocked on over 3,000 doors and I always lead with asking if the person has any concerns in the city. Oftentimes they will gesture out their door and say something along the lines of “my road.” If it is not the potholes on their road it is generally something infrastructure related. Be it the public safety buildings, the library, water sewer infrastructure, or the existing infrastructure we have to ensure people can safely walk and bike around town. I think in the next few years we are going to take the energy of the new council members and the new mayor and start having conversations about improving our infrastructure.
We have been talking about what to do with the public safety buildings since I was born. I think we need to empower the industry experts on the Public Safety Building Committee to come up with a solution that works for everyone by involving all stakeholders. I would like to see us do more to reduce our inflow and infiltration in the sewer infrastructure, I/I is a rate payer issue and a sustainability issue. In the next few years if our grant is approved we can renovate the library which is a service that all our residents use from ages 2 to 82.
Newer infrastructure is something to be proud of as a community, however there are also operational advantages to having it. We can redesign these services for the 21st century and ensure the buildings are built with sustainability in mind to help us move toward our net zero goals and continue to lead as a community on sustainability. Ultimately the solutions to these problems will update our city services for the 21st century, do right by our city first responders, and make our community more sustainable. Updating our infrastructure is the next big challenge facing our community and I would like to be a voice on the Council advocating for it.
I believe the education of the future leaders of our city, state and country is and must always be, in my opinion, the top priority of any community striving to preserve and improve upon the quality of life of all citizens. I believe strongly that we have some of the most dedicated public servants and first responders in the Commonwealth. I also believe that those individuals are forced to operate and provide services with antiquated equipment and buildings and for that reason I believe that our public safety buildings are in desperate need of attention. I also know that, while not visible, much of our city infrastructure is similarly antiquated and while efforts have been made to improve the same over the past 20 years, I believe that it is important to continue to try to do more.
Melrose is a beautiful city, full of historic charm — it’s one of the things I love most about living here. However, we can no longer ignore the challenges of our aging infrastructure. As a daughter of a civil engineer, I’ve been taught that a healthy infrastructure is the backbone of our community. Whether it’s our municipal buildings, roadways, sidewalks, or pipes, we need to look beyond short-term fixes and plan for long-term infrastructure needs. I will work with the new mayor and city departments to ensure that the Complete Streets projects, improvements to water and sewer lines, the Melrose Public Library, and our public safety buildings are prioritized and adequately funded.
The single most pressing issue facing Melrose is ensuring the city provides residents with high-quality, timely service and enough information to participate in their governance. In my first term, I’ve responded to all constituent phone calls and emails to discuss Council votes, existing ordinances, and service requests; offered frequent updates via social media and an email newsletter; and created and filled the role of Liaison to the School Committee to ensure the two legislative bodies talk to each other.
If reelected, I’ll build on these first-term efforts to strengthen communication across city government while pressing to improve the quality of information available to residents. For example, personally visiting more than 4,000 homes (to date) during my reelection campaign, I’ve heard numerous concerns about our streets and infrastructure. The city can do a better job of proactively providing data – e.g., a map coding the sewer system, a ticketing system that identifies when you can expect to have your service request addressed, etc. I also will press the mayor to publicize when vacancies arise on boards and commissions; I’d like to see greater opportunity for civic engagement among all interested residents.
Meaningful resident participation is a must for developing a long-needed plan for our public safety buildings and for use of the Beebe. Additionally, I will continue to review the mayor’s spending proposals thoroughly and broadcast them publicly to ensure our budget reflects resident priorities.
ALANNA L. NELSON
As I go door to door in Ward 1, asking my neighbors in Melrose what is important to them, I realize that better communication would address our issues, solidify support for action and strengthen our community fabric.
Our neighbors deserve to know what decisions are being made and how money will be spent. That’s why a key component to my platform is holding 20 listening sessions in 2020 and sending regular email updates to interested citizens.
To succeed and become healthy, active citizens, our kids need a solid background in inquiry, critical thinking and connecting the facts. The override passed specifically to meet these goals. As our superintendent and school committee explain how these funds are spent, I will work to ensure accountability and transparency.
Communication is key to solving congestion. What can we do to keep our streets safe for pedestrians, cyclists and cars alike? What prevents us from walking, biking or taking public transit? Understanding these barriers help identify actions. My neighbors identify more cross walks as one strategy. I’ll advocate for funding on the Complete Streets priority list, grants from Massachusetts Department of Transportation, and the city budget. Providing adequate staffing in the Police Department can improve enforcement and reduce overtime costs.
Finally, my involvement in the Energy Commission highlights the importance of communication as we adapt to new technologies that save energy and money. As the Commission identifies its next priorities, education about the possibilities is a key component. The knowledge and the means exist to meet the city’s goal of a carbon neutral 2050, but does everyone know that? Awareness is the first step to action.
Communication and accessibility motivated me to run for Ward 1 City Councilor. A vote for Alanna Nelson is a vote for a representative who will listen, connect and represent.
JOHN N. TRAMONTOZZI
As the Ward 1 Councilor I am always available to speak with any resident of Ward 1 with issues and concerns.
One of the most important issues I hear from residents is traffic congestion and the safety of students walking to school.
Ward 1 is the home to the Roosevelt, Middle and High Schools. The ECC borders Ward 1.
We need to increase the number of crossing guards to cover dangerous areas such as Franklin, Vinton, Woodland, Warrick, and the Fells Way.
We need to increase the salary of the crossing guards to encourage applicants. I would explore placing the crossing guards under the jurisdiction of the Police Department, instead of the School Department, with greater public safety authority. I would encourage the new Mayor to work with DCR to provide more protection for students crossing the Fellsway, especially at Melrose and Main Streets, by adding additional crossing guards and signage.
I would authorize funds to place flashing radar speed signs at heavily travelled roadways. These signs have proven successful in reducing speeds to 25mph or less.
I would also authorize funds for greater traffic/speed enforcement, especially at Greenwood, Woodland, and other Ward 1 Streets that are being used as cut through from neighboring towns.
JAMES T. BENNETT
While it looms now for most residents as a dark, abstract cloud on the distant horizon, the fate of the once and future Beebe School will shortly become the most pressing and potentially contentious issue facing Ward Three. How the school will be reused may change the daily routines of hundreds of schoolchildren and their families, and in doing so will affect everyone who lives on and travels through the streets of Ward Three.
I attended the old Beebe School from kindergarten through fifth grade. The school and its wonderful teachers gave me the foundation on which all of my future education was built, and I am profoundly thankful for that gift. Yet from the start of this campaign I have been reticent to commit to the Beebe as a neighborhood school, as there are so many unknown variables at this early stage.
Over the past few weeks, as I have spoken to residents at their doors, I have discovered that I am not alone in my caution. Parents are united in their commitment to sending their children to schools that will make them well-informed, well-adjusted young adults with the knowledge base and critical thinking skills needed for future education, the workforce, and participation in our democracy. They are open-minded on how the Beebe School may fit into that plan, but they need a number of questions answered first. They include: How much would bringing the Beebe up to code cost? What would be the timeline for reopening? Would it be worth it to transfer their child from an existing school? How might the Beebe impact the system’s current classroom shortage? Does future student demography dictate the need for another neighborhood school? And so forth.
Clearly, what we need right now is for the city to commission a study to answer those questions as fully as possible. Once those answers are in hand, it will be time to enter the planning process—and here is where I would like to be of help. Too often our residents have felt excluded from the planning processes in the city, discovering only later that decisions have been made on their behalf without their fully informed consent. If elected, I would ensure that this will not be the case with the Beebe School. In concert with the School Committee and the school administration, I would organize listening sessions and focus groups with parents, prospective parents, abutters, and other neighbors in Ward Three to present the facts on prospective reuses of the Beebe, and in turn hear ideas, concerns, and opinions from residents. I believe that if we conduct this process in an open way that is respectful of the knowledge and passion that the residents of the ward will bring to the conversation, then a consensus will emerge which will not only give us the best possible reuse for the site, but will strengthen our community as a result.
An open process that respects the knowledge and passion of the residents of Ward Three and makes us stronger as a result: this not only describes my approach to the Beebe School, but is also a summary of my philosophy of governance. If you share those values, I would appreciate your vote next Tuesday.
ROBERT E. STEWART
In the past four months, I have spoken to over 1000 citizens in Ward 3 and have heard a series of important issues facing the residents. Some of the questions raised by the community include safe streets and sidewalks, affordability of Melrose, economic development and stability downtown, and use of the override funding. However, the most important issue that will impact Ward 3 is the re-opening of the Beebe School.
The Beebe School is currently being leased by the SEEM Collaborative and the contract is scheduled to end in 2021. The City administration is considering how to incorporate the school back into the Melrose Public School system. The process to determine specifics of use is in its infancy and there are currently meetings with the School Committee and the school administration to discuss options. Alternative options include placing specific grades (for example K-1 students), creating a second Early Child Center, or having a full elementary school.
With these options, concerns need to be addressed that have been raised by Ward 3 residents. Safety has been questioned, including traffic flow and parking during rush hour, as well as children walking to schools. A plan for redistricting children that are in other schools will be needed, taking into consideration the impact of transferring students currently enrolled in other schools. The cost of renovations and hiring staff could be significant and a new or amended PTO model will need to be established.
If elected, I will work with the School Committee, school administration, and the mayor’s office to promote awareness of questions and concerns, communicate current status of the Beebe School progress, and facilitate neighborhood discussions regarding the ongoing process. While campaigning, I have already gathered input from dozens of parents who’ve expressed their opinions and concerns, including individual feedback during my door-to-door discussions as well as in group settings at block parties and house meet-and-greet events. I have also met with School Committee members to understand the current state of on-going activities, as well as potential options that are being explored for the Beebe School. I plan to continue to be a vocal representative for the interests of the community and work to open the school that will best serve the neighborhood.
ROBERT A. BOISSELLE
The candidate did not respond.
MARK D. GARIPAY
There are a number of different issues that are facing the residents of Ward 4, but the most important one in my eyes is development and the quality of life concerns that come with it. Hallmark Health is an integral part of our community as the city’s largest employer and a critical provider of quality health care. In order to continue to provide top quality services and stay competitive, there may need to be some redevelopment of their infrastructure. In recent years, there has also been smart growth development along the rail corridor and surrounding neighborhood in Ward 4.
If I am elected, I will be your proactive, visible and responsive advocate and ensure that your concerns are heard. I will be at the table and in the room with you and for you so that neighbors’ concerns are addressed. I have built relationships with members of the planning board, hospital officials and leaders of the Chamber of Commerce that will allow for open dialogue. Infrastructure, parking and speeding are a few of the quality of life issues that need to be part of all development conversations. I look forward to hopefully representing all the residents of Ward 4 and would really appreciate your vote on November 5.
ROBERT E. AUFIERO
The candidate did not respond.
The most important issue facing our neighborhood is ensuring that our infrastructure is ready to meet the needs of Ward 6 residents. A few months ago, there was a fire on First Street. In the immediate aftermath, Melrose Engine 3 literally did not start. This delayed the emergency response. After that, funds were allocated for repairs. We have critical needs within our municipal buildings, our public library, our police department, and our fire stations. We need to repair sidewalks and roads. And we need to do all of this in a sustainable way that meets the needs of all users, from seniors to children, from cyclists to pedestrians, from commuters to small business owners.
In order to meet our infrastructure needs, we must effectively and efficiently manage our budget. In my current professional role, I oversee an annual budget of approximately $47 million in state and federal funds. I take my responsibility as a fiduciary steward of public dollars seriously, and I will approach the stewardship of our community’s tax dollars openly and collaboratively. Whether it is critical infrastructure investments or any number of other issues, I see my role as ward councilor as a liaison for ward 6: effectively advocating for the quality of life issues that impact us on a daily basis, listening to the residents and businesses of the ward, and bringing back information from city hall. If I am fortunate enough to be elected, I look forward to working with everyone.
I believe proper allocation of tax payers money is the most pressing issue facing Ward 7, and Melrose. The City Council’s responsibility is to the people of Melrose to ensure there is transparency in how tax dollars are being spent.
A long-term spending plan needs to be put into place so we can address capital improvements and allocate funds to our greatest areas of need in an effective way. If our taxes are being properly managed and spent, our entire community can thrive. Areas of need such as our schools, our roads and sidewalks, and our public safety buildings, can all be addressed.
Combine that with continued smart growth and embracing building along our railroad corridor, Main Street, and other areas with direct access to public transportation will strengthen and enhance our tax base.
I look forward to using my 15 plus years of commercial and residential real estate experience to help our local government determine which projects are good fits for the Melrose community. I also look forward to using my experience of operating under strict spending requirements in state service to help ensure we are properly funding and budgeting for programs and areas of need.
It would be an honor to serve Melrose as Ward 7 City Councilor and I hope to earn your vote on Tuesday, November 5 at the Hoover School.
I’ve spoken with hundreds of my neighbors in the run-up to the November 5 election. I’ve heard dozens of ideas and concerns, but the one issue that stands out is that we need more visibility and collaboration from city government, starting with better communication to constituents and more action to bring value to our schools and our neighborhoods. We’re all paying higher taxes next year, and whether you voted yes or no on the override, we all deserve to see that value returned to us in some way, and to be kept informed and engaged around how the funds are helping to meet our goals.
For some that might mean smaller classroom sizes, better upkeep of school buildings, safe walking routes to school, and better engagement with school administration. For others that might mean keeping our budget balanced to avoid endless overrides while still funding repairs and replacements for our deteriorating infrastructure throughout the city: neighborhood streets and sidewalks, fire/EMS, and police vehicles and buildings, and other municipal buildings like the library and Memorial Hall. That’s not to mention the need to modernize our record-keeping systems and make public data easily accessible and transparent to department leaders and residents alike.
As City Councilor, I’ll keep doing what Ive been doing as a community advocate in Melrose for the last several years. I’ll use my background in journalism to dig deep for the facts and report on the state of our ward with the depth and context necessary to prioritize and take action on the opportunities we have now, and focus on long term, sustainable solutions and not just patches or quick fixes. I’ll also bring my experience raising millions of dollars for nonprofits including ones that serve seniors, veterans, and families in need to challenge the establishment and ensure we’re being responsible stewards of our taxpayer funds and that we are working towards meaningful goals that reflect everyone’s values, and not just the priorities of the loudest or most well-connected voices.