Issues


Affordable housing

Housing is a human right. We need to make Northampton more affordable by increasing the housing stock, lobbying for the ability to change our property tax structure and encouraging or requiring affordable units in new developments.

I support these initiatives:

  • Live 155, the Lumber Yard and the Sergeant House SRO rehabilitation
  • Habitat for Humanity Pioneer Valley
  • Inclusionary zoning. In new multi-unit construction, requiring a percentage of units be forever affordable if financially feasible, or requiring developers to pay into an affordable housing fund.
  • Supporting a non-profit regional Community Land Trust initiative to preserve housing units as affordable, which still giving ownership of the units to the residents
  • Tenant legal support and education about their rights
  • Landlord outreach and support with education on the laws and best practices
  • Education around cooperative housing opportunities, such as families buying multi-family dwellings together, with options to convert the arrangement to a legal cooperative or condo. association.
  • Increasing the housing stock at all market levels, partly by allowing denser development.

Fourteen years ago I bought a two family house in Florence center with my partner at the time and another couple. Recently we were talking and shared that we thought this was one of the best decisions of our lives. Sharing expenses was the only way I could afford to live here, but the benefits of sharing a home went much further: we built more social connections and shared the work of home ownership.

In the past 20 years, Northampton has gone from a place where people who grew up here and held working class jobs could afford to stay, to that being increasingly difficult. In order to live here now, you either need to have bought a house when the prices were cheaper or have a lot of money. If you rent, you face uncertainty about whether you'll be able to continue to afford to live here.

Let's change the conversation about "market rate". Charging rents at a rapidly rising market rate when you don't have to financially enriches property owners but has a negative effect socially. Landlords can make a huge difference in the lives of their tenants and in the diversity of our community right now by not pricing them out of Northampton.

More ideas at my "Affordability of living in Northampton" blog post.


Business

I support strong local businesses and workers' rights. I believe these two go together. Workers who are respected will be dedicated to the success of their workplace.

  • Keep the vibrancy of our downtowns. Support the Florence Civic and Business Association, the Northampton Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown Northampton Association, and work to counter the challenges posed by online retailers and big box stores.
  • One thing I love about downtown Florence is that we can meet so many of our needs right here - groceries, pizza and pie, hardware, copies, health care and more. I am concerned about rising rents driving these businesses out. We should consider community investment co-ops for community control of commercial properties.
  • Encourage the growth of cooperatives, both consumer (such as River Valley Co-op) and worker (such as Collective Copies and soon Downtown Sounds). Support business owners who are retiring to sell their business to their workers, which is what Downtown Sounds is doing. We have a wealth of resources right here in Northampton, with the Valley Alliance of Worker Cooperatives, the Cooperative Fund of New England, and the ICA Group all having offices here. Many cities are actively creating worker co-ops to deal with issues of income and wealth inequality, exploitative working conditions and displacement.
  • Support unions and workers' right to organize.
  • Support immigrants and low-wage workers. Collaborate with the Pioneer Valley Workers Center.

Climate change

We're facing unprecedented change over the next fifty years and we need to take radical and immediate steps to minimize and mitigate the worst of those effects.

As a city, we need to commit to a transition to 100% clean energy. It's great that we've committed to being carbon neutral by 2050. How can we achieve that even sooner?

  • Continue our work to invest in energy efficiency. Take a long view in pricing these investments and issue bonds if necessary to finance it.
  • Setting new standards for energy use in municipal buildings and vehicles.
  • Requiring that new municipal construction meet zero net-energy standards.
  • Plant more trees and reduce net forest loss. Northampton is now planting hundreds of street trees per year, reversing the trend of tree loss. In addition to absorbing carbon, street trees protect sidewalks, reduce crashes[1], absorb stormwater[2] and improve public health[3]. Continue to expand conservation area holdings to reduce development on the city's outskirts. Support timber use that results in a net forest and carbon gain.

Doing these things may seem expensive, but investing in this now will save the city and future generations considerable costs later.

We must be prepared for the change that we already see happening. I support the continuing work towards climate resiliency in our infrastructure.

Much of the work that needs to be done has to happen on a bigger level. I will work with our state legislators to support climate justice and carbon pricing that doesn't harm working people.


Development & zoning

I believe in encouraging denser development in downtown and village areas, and reducing it at the outskirts of the city. Why?

  • It saves the city money. Tax revenue from dense development is a net gain for the city, while suburban development often costs the city more money than it recoups in new taxes.
  • It creates a walkable environment, which improves our health, increases economic development, is safer for people who walk, bike, drive and take public transit, and builds connectivity and stronger community.
  • It reduces carbon emissions. People living closer to each other and to businesses are less likely to use a car to get where they need to go.

How?

  • Form based codes that encourage mixed-use development (often retail on lower levels, residential above).
  • Shared parking with commercial use during the day and residential at night.
  • Investment in walking, biking and public transportation to reduce parking needs.

Neighborhoods need to be involved at every step of the process in changing zoning and considering new development. Trees and green space that are readily accessible is vital.

Reducing development in the outskirts of the city will preserve contiguous tracts of land for wildlife, timber, and preserve rural character.


Inclusion

I want to make sure that all voices are heard in city government. People who show up at city meetings, write or speak with their representatives tend to be disproportionately white, middle class and able-bodied. I will listen to these voices, and I will also do an assessment of who is not in the room, and come up with strategies to make sure everyone is heard.

Not everyone is able to come to city meetings. Many believe their voice will not be listened to if they do. I will reach out and travel to people and work to change this.


Schools

I believe in strong local public schools. We must get adequate state funding to pay fair salaries and provide the needed additional positions and resources.

  • I support allocating more city funds to the school budget so that the school committee can raise Northampton's teacher salaries to be on par with other communities.
  • I support innovation in schools, but charter schools are draining money from our public schools and are not democratically accountable. We must push state legislators to fix the funding problems and get proper reimbursement for students who go to charter schools.
  • Schools have a historical legacy of molding students into their class roles and teaching them to not speak out against injustice. Our schools are already becoming places of empowerment for the fight for equality and are actively moving against oppression, and I will support them to keep moving forward.

Sharing

The resources we have as a community are astounding. I feel very lucky to live here and am grateful every day for the people, the roads and paths, the trees and fields, the animals, the air and the water, and the buildings that are available to me. This sense of gratitude makes me want to give and share.

Sharing reduces our expenses, builds connections and teaches us how to resolve conflict well. It also saves valuable resources. I support initiatives:

  • Homesharing. Many people have extra bedrooms in their homes, and are lonely or in need of assistance, such as seniors or people whose children have left home. Others are in need of affordable housing and have energy to help out. Let's connect these groups with programs that interview and screen candidates for the best match.
  • Car sharing. Most people only use their car a small percentage of the time, and the rest of the time it sits. Connecting people by neighborhood and partnering with companies or organizations that handle the details will save money and reduce parking needs.
  • Ride sharing. Services such as Uber and Lyft, while very convenient, tend to increase total vehicle travel. Most car trips have one or two people in the car. Every time two people who would be traveling alone travel together that's half the emissions, and double the connection. Let's encourage neighborhood connection and invite companies and organizations that will actually reduce total vehicle travel.

I gave a talk at the Forbes Library in 2016 on sharing, busyness and creating non-traditional family.


Social justice

Everyone should have the right to be safe and accepted. I will work to end discrimination and inequality in our city.

  • Racism. In 2010 in the United States, the net worth of the average black family was $4,900, compared to $97,000 for whites. Institutional racism exists and we need to actively work to counteract it. Most white people do not intend to be racist, but have learned unconscious attitudes that take work to unlearn. I will work to make our city's policies actively anti-racist.
  • Support immigrants and undocumented people. Everyone should be treated with dignity and respect and be able to meet their needs, regardless of citizenship status.
  • LGBTQIA+ rights. Continue and build upon Northampton's strong legacy.
  • Disability rights. Improve building and transportation access.
  • I will make sure the voices of our youth, older people, houseless people, veterans, women and other people who face discrimination are heard.

Transportation

Whatever way we choose to travel, I want that way to be safe and efficient. For most of the past 70 years, transportation policy has focused on getting cars as quickly as possible to their destination, which has impacted development policy and quality of life in all other areas.

Transportation policies I support:

  • Traffic calming. Motorists take cues from the size of the road to set their speed. Wide lanes and rounded curbs encourage speeding and decrease safety for everyone.
  • Walking. We need sidewalks in good repair, and a better system for clearing them in the winter.
  • Biking. Continue expanding our amazing multi-use trail and bike share networks, and increase the safety of on-road cycling.
  • Public transit. As funding becomes available, increase service frequency on the lines that will attract the most riders, while keeping lifeline services for people who depend on them.
  • Road repair. Keep existing roads in good repair. Enforce speed and weight limits to reduce road damage and excessive potholes.
  • Development. Transportation policy and development policy go hand-in-hand. When people can live closer to places they work, shop or hang out, that saves the city money on providing essential services, keeps people healthier and creates more community.

Wealth inequality & classism

Wealth inequality is a worldwide problem. It's also a local one. In Northampton, it is especially apparent in housing and wages. Two families that work equally hard can have vastly different earnings. Those inequalities compound through generations, putting low-income people without family money in very difficult and precarious circumstances.

We need to have conversations about what we can do on a local level. I support lobbying for the ability to change our tax structure to lessen the costs for low-income, low-asset families.

Every choice we make about raising taxes or fees needs to not impact people who can't afford it. I support the Fair Share Amendment on a state level, and we need to consider lobbying for the ability to charge higher property taxes for second homes, very expensive single-family properties, and vacant commercial properties.


Footnotes

1. Eric Dumbaugh and J. L. Gattis, "Safe Streets, Livable Streets," Journal of the American Planning Association, vol 72 (2005), 285-90.

2. See "Rainfall Interception of Trees," in "Benefits of Trees in Urban Areas", coloradotrees.org. Also see Dan Burden, "Urban Street Trees: 22 Benefits, Specific Applications".

3. Rob McDonald et al., "Funding Trees for Health," Nature Conservancy (2017).