Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Alex Selvig Responds to the Crowdsourced A-B City Council Candidate Questionnaire

Allston-Brighton District 9 City Council Candidate Alex Selvig responds to the crowdsourced questionnaire at the Brighton Centered Blog:
  1. What could the city do about noisy parties, illegal parking (both on front lawns and streets), and tenant occupancy code issues, either by enforcing existing ordinances, increasing or changing penalties, or passing new ones?

    Response: To keep our neighborhoods livable, we need a carrot-and-stick approach, and the involvement of both the government and residents.

    THE CARROT: Let’s lead by example and show each other how to be good neighbors!
    • Intensive and spirited public education campaign directed at residents and landlords about existing city laws and regulations.
      Encourage outreach to neighbors, and provide support to community block parties, picnics in the park, etc.
    • Support community initiatives like the bed bug prevention program.

    THE STICK: We need meaningful enforcement of existing laws and regulations.
    • Ensure that the Inspectional Services Department (ISD) has adequate resources to respond to complaints in a timely way.
    • Work with the Boston police and the colleges and universities to ensure that complaints about noise and parties receive a quick response. Boston College’s recent plan looks good on paper, but the community must let BC know what’s working, what’s not, and what needs improvement.
    • Determined enforcement: notices, fines and ultimately revocation of occupancy permits.

  2. What will be your first three steps as the new A-B City Councilor to improve the infrastructure of Allston/Brighton?

    • Make bike transportation a priority. Cycling makes sense for health, the environment, and traffic! I will work with the Mayor, other members of Council and City staff to create a cycling plan for Boston that will include bike lanes and bike “networks” to link cyclists with neighborhoods and destinations across Boston; bike parking; and safety, education and promotion.
    • Conduct a safety audit of Allston-Brighton public spaces. The goal of a safety audit is to identify and, if possible, improve streets, sidewalks and public spaces for all users, including women, children, seniors, and disabled people. Small improvements, such as improved lighting, increased crossing times (for streets), fixing broken sidewalks, creating curb cuts or trimming bushes can have a big impact on reducing crime and improving everyone’s personal safety. The first step is partnering with community and neighborhood groups and their direct experience to identify what they believe needs to be changed, and then work on making the necessary improvements.
    • Clear snow and ice. Although property owners are required to clear sidewalks within 4 hours after a snowfall (or by 9 a.m. if the snow stops after 9 p.m.), this regulation is not vigilantly enforced. It will be! Clean sidewalks are safe sidewalks, and are especially important for seniors, people with strollers and small children, and disabled people. To assist senior and people with disabilities, I will propose a program whereby they can apply to have the City clear sidewalks.

  3. What are the specific steps you will take in order to implement the needs of the community related to institutional expansion (Harvard, BC)?

    Response: Boston needs a planning process that is transparent, accountable and responsive. Boston needs a city plan that takes into account the city’s needs for community planning, urban design, transportation and the environment. Boston residents should have a role in the planning process with greater and more meaningful participation. Right now, the Boston Redevelopment Authority does not meet those goals, and I will work tirelessly to bring planning back to the people of this City.

    In the meantime, we need a way to ensure that our community’s voices are heard NOW with respect to Harvard’s and Boston College’s plans.
    • Work intensively with the Harvard and BC task forces to ensure that they have planning, architectural, engineering and research expertise to respond meaningfully to proposals.
    • We are one community, and what happens in one area affects us all. Increase publicity and encourage Allston residents to attend BC task force meetings, and Brighton residents to attend Harvard task force meetings. There is strength in numbers and we need to leverage that.
    • Assist the community to organize to ensure that our voices are heard. Coordinated letter-writing campaigns, phone banks, e-mail blitzes, and press releases will make all elected politicians at all levels of government know what Allston-Brighton residents think.
    • Organize voters (whether I win or lose!). Allston-Brighton residents must vote. We need to show City Council (and all levels of government) that if they don’t listen to us, we have political clout. And we will use it.

  4. Do you support the goal that BC build dormitories for their juniors on the main campus and therefore eliminate undergraduate student rentals on neighborhood streets? If so, what steps would you take to accomplish this?

    Response: Boston College should make their best efforts to house all of their undergraduate students on their main campus. While this will not eliminate the “bad tenant” problem, it would go a long way. It is vital that we put pressure on Boston College NOW, while the institutional master planning process is still underway. A strong and unified neighborhood, and a courageous and outspoken City Councilor are needed to do that.

  5. What measures do you propose for improving the appearance of Allston-Brighton, particularly related to trash, street-cleaning, and graffiti?

    Response: Beautiful and clean streets not only support local business and shoppers, but also attract visitors. My plan for Allston-Brighton includes:
    • Ensure that all streets in Allston and Brighton receive regular street cleaning.
    • Enhance litter collection and public recycling: Increase the number of trash cans and add public recycling. There should be no reason not to dispose of trash and recyclables properly! Moreover, receptacles do not have to be an eyesore. Engage in a design competition to create attractive, unobtrusive and urbane garbage and recycling containers, and permit private companies to advertise on them in an appropriate way. Cities around the world do this, and so can we!
    • Create an private-public tree partnership. Trees are good for the environment and good for business! On average, an acre of trees can store 2.6 tons of carbon (pollution) annually and generate enough oxygen daily for 18 people. Trees provide visual relief by improving a streetscape. They are natural habitats for birds, insects and other wildlife and protect from soil erosion. Create a program whereby property owners may apply to the City of Boston to have a seedling planted on their property, free of charge. It would then be up to the owner to maintain the tree. Imagine how different our City will be in 10 years if every household planted one tree?

  6. While City Councilor, do you intend to work a second job, run a business, stand for another office, or leave for another job before your term expires?

    Response: Absolutely not. Being a City Councilor is a full-time job and you will have my full-time commitment for the entire term. Moreover, I will not run for as a state or Congressional representative. I will not use City Hall as a launch pad to another political office. I want to represent Allston-Brighton at City Hall. Period.

  7. What are your plans to improve the Allston-Brighton school system without overhauling the whole Boston school system?

    • Work with local schools to engage community groups, businesses and local seniors in Allston-Brighton schools. Citizens of Allston-Brighton are rich in experience. By sharing their skills and time, they can assist our teachers and parents. There are volunteers who can be athletic coaches, music instructors, reading and math helpers, story-readers, and playground and after school supervisors. Businesses can donate goods, services and can help children learn about entrepreneurship and trades. Let’s make our schools real community schools.
    • Support and expand school gardens. The Thomas Gardner School’s outdoor classroom program has already been recognized for its excellence in environmental education. Replacing concrete and asphalt with grass, plantings, and trees not only makes a school more beautiful and welcoming, but also can be used as a teaching tool about nature and the environment, food and art!
    • Walking school buses to Allston-Brighton schools. Studies show that fewer children are walking and biking to school, and more children are at risk of becoming overweight. Parents may be reluctant to have children walk along busy streets alone. A walking school bus can be part of the solution. A walking school bus is a group of children walking to school with one or more adults. It can involve only a few children or many, and can include all neighborhoods and all schools. Walking to school is good for our children’s health, the environment, and fosters a sense of community.

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