Kit Collins for Medford City Council
Kit Collins for Medford City Council
What I’m fighting for – and what I've accomplished
Housing affordability and supporting renters
As a region, greater Boston is enduring a surge in housing costs, and Medford is no exception: over a fifth of all Medford households are burdened by the cost of housing. Whether you're an owner-occupier, a renter, someone aspiring to rent or own for the first time, or someone looking to downsize while staying in the community, everyone is feeling the effects of rising housing costs. To contend with gentrification and displacement, and expand affordable housing, we need to use every tool at our disposal.
I'm proud that in my first term, I was able to deliver on several housing-related goals. In 2021, as I was campaigning to be the only renter on Council representing the 40% of Medford households that rent their homes, I promised to establish an annual program to distribute information on renters' rights and resources to every renter-occupied property in the City. In March 2023, the Council passed Medford's first Housing Stability Notification Ordinance, which I sponsored – creating a new requirement for this information to be sent to all tenants at the beginning and end of every lease – as well as to homeowners, in the event of foreclosure. As this ordinance takes effect, more residents in Medford will know the rights to which they're entitled, and where they can turn for support – before they need it.
When I was running for office, the City Council was just beginning to contemplate an Affordable Housing Trust, a measure that many other cities in Massachusetts are already using with impactful results. Municipal AHTs are an incredibly important tool for cities, allowing us to collect and protect funding and assets for the purpose of affordable housing-related projects and programs. I was grateful for the opportunity to advocate for our AHT Ordinance during my first term, and see it finally pass in March of 2023. Now that an Affordable Housing Trust is on the books, the real work begins. I will advocate for appropriating funding from multiple sources into our AHT, to allow it to actually operate; transferring in underused City-owned assets so that they may be developed; and advocating at the state level for legislation that would allow us to use transfer fees to create a new, stable source of funding from for-profit development.
As a candidate, I looked forward to being a yes vote and advocate for the City's Housing Production Plan; as of September 2022, the Council has passed this important document. The official passage of our HPP will make it easier for the City to recruit and work with housing developers and affordable housing developers to create the right type of new housing for our specific needs.
I will continue to advocate for progress towards an operating budget that can support an Office of Housing Stability. The work of keeping Medford residents in Medford must be brought in-house – instead of our City continuing to outsource housing issues to overburdened regional nonprofits. And as the Council's zoning re-codification ramps up in 2023–2024, I will be laser-focused on modernizing our zoning rules so as to make it easier to meet our existing need for denser and more affordable housing – while maintaining the things we love about our neighborhoods, and improving walkability, bike-ability and safety for pedestrians of all types.
Sustainability and climate resiliency
For the sake of current and future generations of Medford residents, we must act urgently to make our city more sustainable. We can’t wait any longer to ensure that Medford is prepared for the adverse effects of climate change – from intense storms, to stormwater flooding, to dangerously high temperatures during summertime months. To protect our population, we must invest in modeling and planning for how our community will be affected by changing weather patterns in both the short-term and long-term futures, and develop concrete safety and resiliency plans for all Medford neighborhoods.
I support taking bold action to mitigate Medford’s contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. I will be an advocate at the state level for legislation that allows cities to impose a net-zero or carbon-neutral requirement for new developments. Through the Council's zoning re-codification work, I will focus on rules that to incentivize developers to build as energy-efficiently as possible; and to create a net-zero requirement for all municipal buildings. I successfully negotiated for additions to the FY23 budget that, among other things, guaranteed funding for the Council to have legal and subject-matter experts during our long-awaited zoning re-codification.
As a candidate, I was deeply concerned with Medford's track record on recycling. I joined the City's Solid Waste Task Force to help prepare recommendations for the City's next waste-hauling contract – so as to make sure this next contract would raise the bar on waste reduction and environmental sustainability, through measures like expanding recycling to more residents and businesses citywide, and offering composting to more households. Together with the Office of Planning, Development and Sustainability, I spearheaded a comprehensive update to the City's waste and recycling ordinance. This update allowed us to strengthen the mandate that all waste haulers in Medford actually provide recycling to their customers. Making sure that everyone is able to recycle (more buildings are left out than one might think!) means more progress towards our waste-reduction goals, and mitigating this source of greenhouse gas emissions.
Our public schools are non-negotiable
Fully funding our public schools is non-negotiable. I graduated from a public high school that was in the midst of a budget crisis; my classmates and I saw firsthand how quickly extracurriculars and whole areas of study can disappear when there isn’t enough funding to go around.
Setting up every teacher, school worker, student, and family up for success requires passing a city budget that materially supports that goal. Funding all necessary educational services is the baseline. In the face of an unacceptable FY22 budget that required service cuts across multiple departments, I helped negotiate for last-minute additional funding including $90K for Medford's public library and $300K in ARPA funding for Medford Public Schools.
On top of that, I’ll advocate for a charting a path towards an operating budget that supports fee-free arts programming, sports, and other extracurriculars; expanding mental health and supportive programming for students; and other measures to ensure that school is a safe, affirming and enriching experience for every student.
Public safety and community wellness
I have always felt safe and secure here in Medford. We must make sure that the same holds true for every single person in Medford, regardless of their circumstances or background.
As a candidate, I supported efforts to ban the public use of surveillance technology until a community review process was established. In my first term, together with Vice President Bears I sponsored Medford's Community Control Over Public Surveillance ordinance, which passed in March 2023 thanks to years of advocacy by Medford People Power and the ACLU of Massachusetts. I am proud to be a part of this first step towards greater transparency and community involvement in issues of public safety, especially since surveillance technology has so many complicated implications for personal privacy and civil liberties – particularly for marginalized communities.
I support establishing alternative crisis response and mental health crisis response teams, so as to more appropriately and effectively support people in times of urgent need; and calls to create a civilian oversight board over MPD policies and practices. In addition, I endorse the existing non-cooperation policy between MPD and the U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE).
No conversation on community safety is complete without talking about roads, sidewalks, and infrastructure. I support the implementation of a Vision Zero plan for Medford. I support expanding our network of bike lanes citywide with as much speed and urgency as possible, and protected bike lanes should always be the goal. I have worked with our Traffic and Transportation department to support citywide safety and accessibility initiatives, and to help bring about solutions to individual problem areas that residents have identified on our roads, crosswalks and intersections.
We must make it a priority that every resident’s fundamental needs are met. We will not truly know safety and wellness until we have rooted out food and housing insecurity in every neighborhood, and ensured that every Medford worker has a living wage and just working conditions.
Investing in infrastructure
To everyone's detriment, for far too long, we have been under-investing in our roads, sidewalks and public buildings. As a city, we must hold our city services and built environment to a higher standard. As your Councilor, I’ll push for a city budget that truly funds our values. Residents deserve safe and well-maintained roads; sidewalks that are accessible for all pedestrians, whether they walk or roll; citywide protected bike lanes and proper bike parking.
So many of our goals for Medford come down to the funding available. And since we’re not there yet, we need to do the hard work of negotiating a path towards a more robust future, and figure out exactly how we’re going to expand the pie. Creating a more business-friendly environment in Medford’s squares, exploring a Prop 2.5 override, improving our grant-seeking capacity, and renegotiating our Payment in Lieu of Tax (PILOT) agreements with our large nonprofit neighbors are just some of the options on the table. With so many urgent needs going unmet and directly impacting residents' quality of life – from dangerous roads to school buildings overdue for repair– we can’t afford to just go with the status quo.
Transparent, accessible city government
Nobody – regardless of age, background, language spoken at home, political leaning, or documentation status – should feel intimidated to participate in city business, to serve on a committee, or to show up to a meeting to speak their mind. City Hall must be a space where every resident can trust that they will be welcomed, listened to, and respected. If elected, I will work to establish and shore up norms and policies to make sure everyone is included in our city government. We should embrace any measure that increases public participation in city business. I support maintaining Zoom as a way for residents to participate in City Council and School Committee meetings, even after the pandemic.
To be a truly representative and inclusive city government, we must remove all barriers to access and participation. That’s why I want to see all city meetings, mailings, and online resources communicated in every major language spoken in Medford. We must secure funding for translation services at every public meeting, a full translation of the city website, a full-time translator at City Hall; and work towards the creation of an Office of Immigrant Outreach. I will advocate for the establishment of a regular citywide language survey, to ensure that additional language needs are addressed promptly.
Finally, I will hold myself accountable to being a listening ear, a resource, and advocate for Medford residents. If elected, I will hold regular office hours both on Zoom and in public settings, be accessible by phone and email, and offer mentorship to other Medford residents who are interested in seeking public office.