My First Year on the Town Council
A little over a year ago, I was fortunate enough to be selected to fill a vacancy on the Winthrop Town Council as the Councilor representing Precinct Two. I am taking this opportunity to recap my first year as a Town Councilor and my hopes for the years ahead.
I started with a desire to do good for Winthrop but with a limited understanding of how things actually get done. In my first Town Council meeting I suggested that we have regular updates about the redevelopment of the middle school and also tackle the rampant non-compliance of AirBnBs with the transient lodging ordinance. But 14 months later, not much has happened on either issue. Part of the problem is that there is so much already going on that it never gets placed on the agenda, and even when things are placed on the agenda, the issues often have multiple layers of discussion before being voted upon, codified, and then enforced. Simply put, the pace of local government is considerably slower than what I am used to in the business world.
Nonetheless a lot has been accomplished, often by simply casting our votes. While I have been part of many votes over the last 27 meetings, I am especially proud of voting to hire Anthony Marino as our new Town Manager, whose leadership and experience has already had a big positive impact. As a group, the town council has all supported more accountability and transparency; voting to adopt automated body cameras for our police force, implement a new FOB system at the Department of Public Works gas pump, and install a new water meter to track and bill water usage to the gym and hockey rink. I am also proud to vote for an increased Cola Base for our current retirees and continued support for Community Against Substance Abuse.
After a few meetings, I quickly realized that there is almost always a hot topic to discuss at each meeting, with folks upset on both sides of the issue, sometimes with no resolution in sight. Some of the hard-hitting topics included a water audit indicating an annual loss of $1 million; an incensed LGBTQ community after no flag was flown for Pride month nor a flag policy that would allow for it; no activities held on Juneteenth; the debate whether to take down a tree; the countless discussions over the proposed changes to the charter by the Ordinance Review Committee; frustration over the future bike lanes on Revere Streetâ€¦just to name a few. But despite the seemingly non-stop flow of frustration, somewhere along the way I realized this ebb and flow of heated debate was healthy and productive, like a family arguing but eventually working through the issue. So, I was happy to have a seat at the table, trying to always remain pragmatic while compassionate. And for most of these topics, some have been resolved and some we are still working through as a community.
And then sometime during the summer, the pace of the hot topics died down, but the workload of deliberating over the minutia grew. As a member of the Rules and Ordinance Committee, we were assigned the task of reviewing parking and traffic flow on Cottage Hill, then the same for the Center Business District, and the rules for each municipal parking lot. At first, I thought it was a bit tedious, but it quickly dawned on me that parking was one of Winthropâ€™s greatest resources, and regulating parking ultimately had a big impact on the standard of living here. So, I came to embrace this aspect of my job, and we (Steve Ruggiero, Rob DeMarco and I), took whatever time it needed, meeting with the Transportation Safety Advisory Committee (TSAC) as well as with residents and businesses. This subcommittee also went over the details of the upcoming Solid Waste Ordinance and the Tree Committee Ordinance, both of which will have a lasting positive impact on Winthrop.
Another exciting development I have had is with my other subcommittee, the Capital Assets and Economic Development Committee. I serve as the Chairman, but really lean on the wisdom and experience of Councilor Joe Aiello and the Town Manager. Together with Councilor Rich Fucillo, we developed the first capital assets management plan for Winthrop, to help ensure the Town makes the most of our buildings, parks, roads and infrastructure with no surprise expenses.
In addition to the Town Council meetings, and the detailed role on subcommittees, I have really enjoyed helping individual residents in my precinct. Last year, I spoke and met with many constituents including a group of residents along Morton Street to see for myself some of their damaged sidewalks, and subsequently advocate for them. This among several other opportunities to help individuals has given a lot of fulfillment as a Town Councilor. I have and plan to continue hosting a quarterly â€œConversations with the Councilorsâ€ meeting that has provided a place for healthy and informal discussions.
In all sincerity, it has been a pleasure working with my fellow Councilors and an honor to serve Winthrop as a Town Councilor. I love Winthrop and intend to work hard in the years ahead to keep it a wonderful place to live, raise a family, and own a business. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me with your comments, questions, or concerns.
Winthrop Town Councilor, Precinct Two