Select Board candidate Tina Burgos speaks with a North Hill resident following a candidate forum./ Credit: Needham Observer
Select Board candidate Kevin Keane speaks with a North Hill resident following a candidate forum./ Credit: Needham Observer
Select Board candidate Josh Levy speaks with a North Hill resident following a candidate forum./ Credit: Needham Observer

With days to go before the town election on Tuesday, April 9, the three candidates for the two open seats on the Needham Select Board shared the issues that motivate them and the personal experiences that distinguish them.

What are the three issues that are drawing you to run for office?

TINA BURGOS:

Housing

We really need to have a broad conversation about what affordable housing means, because it doesn’t just include young families who are looking for starter homes. It doesn’t just include seniors who are downsizing. I think we often overlook the sort of invisible middle class: moderate income families. And we need to have a broader conversation about deeply affordable subsidized housing. The biggest challenge will be to make sure that we don’t provide a benefit for one group of folks at the expense of somebody else.

Economic development

I think it’s really, really important that we focus on the business sector. They provide a tax base, which will give us some revenue for some of our capital improvement projects, but also small businesses provide amenities to all of our residents. When a small business decides to invest their time and more significantly money into a community, that says something about the community.

Climate change

So often when we talk about climate change, it’s very nebulous. People don’t understand it because it doesn’t necessarily affect people directly. But I think now we’re seeing, particularly with these storm events, that it’s much more tangible to people. And we have to take a multifaceted approach to climate change, but also try to make sure that we’re fiscally responsible with the programs and the implementation we put into place to try to combat all of this.

KEVIN KEANE:

Storm water and the bylaw working group

It’s necessary right now, we want to look at the building code and make fixes that try to control it. And that’s pressing.

Great Plain redesign

Downtown doesn’t work. It’s based on a car-centric, 1950s model and downtown, look around, it needs help. And it will be so much fun. It will be great to sort of reimagine Needham as a much more pedestrian-friendly, charming, safe, village-feel.

Trees 

It’s driving me bananas this year, developers just clear-cut trees and whole neighborhoods are now devoid of trees. And they’re not getting replaced. And then everyone says, ‘I can’t believe our basements are flooding.’ For instance Dawson Road basically looks like Scotland, whole sections are just bald of trees. And down the hill from them the Broadmeadow neighbors are saying, ‘Why is the Broadmeadow neighborhood completely flooding?’ It’s because everyone is cutting down the trees and not replacing them.

JOSH LEVY:

Housing

We’ve been focusing on MBTA communities housing, but housing needs really extend beyond just MBTA communities. I really want to look and see if we can incentivize developers to build starter homes. That would be looking at lot area minimums in some cases, looking outside the half-mile radius at other places in town where we can create more housing. 

Walkability

So that involves street safety, sidewalks, crosswalks, bike lanes, making it easier for people to get around. That dovetails with the housing. As we bring more people into town we want to make it easier for people to get around without using a car and so we have to provide other ways of doing that.

Schools

We were already on track to do Mitchell and Pollard. We need to make sure that we fund it and figure out exactly how we’re going to fund it. They’re both really big dollar amounts but we need to make sure that we are able to afford and able to spend that money, it’s such a high priority and it’s going to impact people in town. People in the schools are going to benefit from it greatly and everyone else in town needs to be able to buy into it and make sure that they’re on board with it.

A political race is a competition. Why should people choose you, especially, among the three candidates?

TB:

First of all, with regards to economic development, I have that small business background. You know, even though running a small business is not the same as running a town government, I understand what it means to be fiscally responsible with the cash. I have the ability to make decisions not only on an immediate need, but also take a look at the long-term picture and make sure that everything is working together. Then I have the DEI background. I’m so immersed in the DEI community, being chair of the Human Rights committee. And through that I’ve been able to build a lot of really strong relationships with a lot of stakeholders in town. So now I have this unbelievable network and I’m not afraid to rely on it [laughs]. And I think that it gives me a really strong background and resources to move things forward in a thoughtful and considerate way.

KK:

I think in working with community stuff around town it’s been about civil discourse, transparency, openness and being level-headed. And I think that’s what works in town government. You play it straight and I think that makes you a valuable contributor to the town. I ran on that the first time and it seems like I was right. It really does matter. Tell the truth, be open, be civil, and just listen to people. I learned that’s the coin of the realm, I learned that as I worked on all these committees, and I see that’s important on the Select Board, too. And the other thing is obviously experience. I can only speak for myself, I’m not judging anyone else, but I think ultimately I’m the most optimistic, forward thinking. I think I’m bullish on Needham and I’m optimistic, I see the joy in government. So that’s what I like, and that’s how I do it. 

JL:

I think personal experience. So I’ve been a Town Meeting member for 13 years, a Finance Committee member for six years. So I understand the operations of the town, how the money is spent and how we prioritize the projects over one another. Sometimes it’s about the cost, sometimes it’s about the benefit, sometimes it’s about the timeline, it’s not always a clear path. And then the other things that make me unique as a candidate, there are so many young families in town and I think that I’m able to represent that, having a young child myself. Young families in town want places to bring their kids, more parks that are open during the day. Ideally on the business side being able to have stores and shops that cater to young kids and their parents. The thing that I love most about the idea of being on the Select Board is being able to answer people’s questions, desires and concerns. I love hearing from and talking to people.

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