Why I'm with Mayor McCarthy...

Last week I wrote about issues regarding Waltham's school system, the school committee candidates and how we need to stand as #onewaltham. I see these issues as being almost inseparable from the mayoral race here in Waltham. There are two candidates running for mayor. Two Waltham natives. Two people who by all appearances have dedicated their lives to serving the people of Waltham. I am going to share why Jeannette McCarthy, the current mayor, is the candidate I choose to support.

By all accounts Jeannette McCarthy has not run a slick campaign. She has virtually no internet presence. She has a Facebook page, and a website that tells you her history of service to Waltham, which is extensive:

PUBLIC SERVICE Mayor, 2004 - present Waltham City Council at Large, 2002 - 2004 Waltham School Committee, 1986 - 1991 Waltham Cable Access Corporation, 1986 - 1991 Waltham Historical Commission, 1990 - 1993 EDUCATION Northeastern University, M.S. Criminal Justice Suffolk University Law School, J.D., Cum Laude Boston College, B.S. Biology, Magna Cum Laude Waltham High School, Class of 1971 PRIOR WORK EXPERIENCE Attorney, private practice City Solicitor, Asst. Solicitor, Staff Attorney City of Waltham Law Department, 1992-2000

Over the last month or so, the Mayor released information in the form of flyers, which were printed on bold colored paper, looking more like a high school newsletter than a political campaign piece. Not like the many political campaign pieces sent out by her opponent, which were in color, on card stock. But while those slick brochures showed nice pictures of her opponent shaking hands with voters, they were light on actual information.

In contrast, each of the three mailings sent out by the Mayor's campaign were packed full of information. Information regarding what she has done for Waltham in her time in office, what she sees as misinformation coming from her opponent, addressing very specific issues for Waltham, and what she sees as the future for Waltham. You can find each of them here.

In my opinion there are several key issues for Waltham hanging in the balance with this election.

The Waltham school system: The mayor, whomever it is, sits as an ex officio member of the school committee. The position serves as chairperson of the committee, and only votes to break a tie. In this position, Mayor McCarthy has been instrumental in the forward momentum that our schools have experienced. When we needed new elementary schools to accommodate the population growth, the state initially declined to provide any state funding to build those 6 new buildings. The Mayor led the charge to sue the state to get the funding, so the the tax payers of Waltham would not completely bear the burden of financing the buildings. She has been a critical player in getting Waltham into the funding process again for either a new high school or a renovated high school. People try to make a big deal out the fact our high school would not receive accreditation again if we don't do something. We have known that for 10 years. For much of that time the district has attempted to be invited into the MSBA process to get funding for the project. It has been denied or thwarted a few times. Some of it was timing (we were not close enough to re-accreditation.) Or Minute Man high school leap frogged over us and the state was questioning why Waltham might need a comprehensive high school and the mayor and then superintendent Nicholson were able to defend the need for the students of our city. With the Mayor's experience and persistence, we have finally jumped that hurdle and the planning has begun. We are not at risk of losing accreditation. We are in the process, there is a plan. That is what The New England Assoc. of Schools and Colleges looks for. If that were NOT in place, we MIGHT be at risk for being put on warning. That is not an issue.

The Mayor's opponent has indicated that he would remove the mayor from sitting on the school committee. It is being spun as empowering the school committee to do its job. If the choice is a school committee with him sitting on it as chair, or a school committee without him on it, I guess the lesser of two evils is one without him. I have not seen any evidence that he has experience in the educational field, any experience helping to advise or collaborating with school administrators, or legal expertise in dealing with the convoluted process of accreditation. The Mayor has this experience and then some. Dr. Echelson, superintendent of Waltham schools, has referred to her in a public meeting as "brilliant." I am VERY confident of the future of Waltham's school system with Dr. Echelson, Mayor McCarthy and the SC (and what I hope has at least one new member, Liz Al Jammal), at the helm. I do not feel that same level of confidence without Mayor McCarthy involved.

Fernald property: This piece of property was purchased by the city a year ago. Mayor McCarthy has indicated her preference that aside from some work that needs to be done to open up previously buried streams which have been causing major flooding problems for citizens who live on Shirley Rd and Waverly Oaks, it is her intention that the people of Waltham have a say in what happens with this property. Hopefully much of it would be preserved as green space or used as recreational space for the city. She has been clear that it is not her intention to seek development into anything commercial, be it shopping or residential/apartment/condo buildings. She was careful to purchase the land in part with conservation funding, so that the use of this land would be limited and protected from development. Her opponent regularly accuses her of having no plan for the space. However, he sits on a Fernald use committee. He has suggested we don't know how much it will cost to do even the basic clean up needed to deal with the flooding. The Mayor clearly said we had received one estimate so far, of $1 million. I feel her opponent is being slightly disingenuous with his accusations. But that is politics.

I fear that if he were to be mayor, we would see that property sold to developers so fast it would create a sonic boom. He has been, as a city councilor, one of the drivers of all the development of the high end apartment complexes going up around town. High COST apartments. You can rent a similar space for the same amount of money on the waterfront in downtown Boston. These are not affordable homes to many people who already live in or would like to live in Waltham. I believe that it would be his intention, and he has not suggested otherwise, not indicated any plan at all for what could be done with Fernald, to sell the property to the highest bidder. Developing that property would destroy one of the only existing green spaces of any size in the city, create MORE congestion and traffic issues in a city that is already struggling (which is destined to increase if those apartments are successfully rented) and put more stress on our already at capacity school system. I want to see that space preserved as open, green space with recreational purpose.

Influx and Infiltration: This whole issue was a mystery to me. I ended up reading a lot about it, and gathering information in order to understand it. I bring this up not because it is something that can be changed, it is a done deal, but because it is an example of what the Mayor's opponent stands for. The short version is the state told the city we had to fix our aging and decaying sewer system. We have issues when there is heavy rainfall with flooding, and the system cannot handle it. So a system was created that would charge all homeowners a basic fee that would go toward this work, and all businesses that tie into the sewer system would also bear the burden. New construction or development in particular had to upgrade their systems or pay into a fund to have the work done. As a member of city council the Mayor's opponent has effectively gotten legislation passed that provides exemptions from this tax for developers. All of the burden, tens of millions of dollars, is now going to pass to the tax payers.

Campaign finance: Just yesterday Discover Waltham posted an article on the financing of this election. The short version: As of the filing deadline, Mayor McCarthy has spent 26,242 in campaign expenses. Her opponent has spent $150,099 and almost $85K of that was raised in 2015. Now that could be perceived as great fund raising. However I am interested in a few things about the source of the financing. He has received support from many unions. I am not anti union by any means. I have been a member of one. They serve a good purpose in most cases. However, these are not just Waltham based unions. There are unions from Boston, Newton, Watertown, and Braintree to name a few. There are developers on this list as well. This is totally 100% legal. I am not suggesting otherwise. What makes me uncomfortable about it is support often equates to expectations. Expectations of favors. Business. You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours. In contrast, Mayor McCarthy's list is almost exclusively Waltham residents. Individuals, supporting her campaign. There are a handful of "Committee to elect so and so" contributions, and a few businesses. But 90% of her contributions are being made by the citizens of Waltham.

I admit I hate campaigns, I hate politics. It is a painful process full of half truths, spin and not enough of being for the people, by the people. I'd like to think that people get into politics because they want to make a difference. They want to improve the lives of the people they serve. That is not the reality though for many.

Without hesitation I believe Jeannette McCarthy is committed to working to improve the lives of the citizens of Waltham. I believe she wants the best for everyone from babies to senior citizens, from homeowners to renters, from customers to business owners. I believe she works day and night to be the best mayor she can be. And Waltham has prospered because of her work. I want to live in a Waltham and have my child go to school in a Waltham that has her at the helm. I trust her to do her job. To be the ears, eyes, voice and heart of this city. She has accomplished so much, and there is more work to be done. I want her in office to see that work through.


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