2023 Candidate for Councilor at Large, Ward 5
Campaign Website: https://www.debcrossley.orgBiographical statement
Mother, residential architect, environmental activist, involved citizen, LWV former president. Came to Newton in 1985. Raised accomplished, NPS educated daughter and son, Grandmother, 14 years on City Council, Chair, Zoning & Planning committee, former Chair Public Facilities committee.
Questions and Answers
Question 1: Was your motivation to run for office prompted by an issue which impacts the community that is not being adequately addressed?
I first ran to help improve deteriorated city infrastructure and tackle how to address serious housing, economic, and environmental needs. No comprehensive capital improvement or long-range strategic plans existed then. Available housing versus who could afford it was growing alarmingly. Since then I’ve led efforts to bring energy efficiency programs and grants, adopt plans to rehabilitate aging water systems, and contributed to rebuilding schools, roads, etc. I now chair the Zoning & Planning committee, working to build consensus on new rules to allow moderate, flexible and controlled growth, to keep Newton strong, vital and welcoming.
Question 2: Housing affordability and its role in increasing racial diversity in Newton has been a stated goal. What measures would you take and support in order to meet this goal?
Housing first. Satisfying the huge need for more smaller housing, affordable to a wide range of income earners, is fundamental to achieving economic diversity. Council is reaching consensus on a “Village Center Overlay District”, which offers property owners alternative rules: 3.5-4.5 stories, housing over retail and multifamily (3+ units) by-right within our village centers and adjacent streets. Such development options were eliminated in 1987. Newton’s delightful village pattern supports walkable communities with a bit more density. Adopting the VCOD is essential to a truly inclusive future community.
Question 3: Small businesses are the heart of our economy and they are struggling. How can you help the city support these businesses?
Allow more growth in villages to bring customers who can walk to shops; simplify permitting to make it easier for small businesses to establish. Multi-family housing within easy walking distance of local business centers provides a ready customer base. Today our rules require new uses and expansions (eg. >50 seat restaurants) to first obtain parking waivers by special permit. This takes between 3-6 months (though routinely waived), because like all New England towns, we expect customers to use shared parking. The VCOD requires active uses on ground floors in the heart of village districts but with no on-site parking required.
Question 4: Buildings are the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Newton. Residential and commercial buildings need to be weatherized and electrified. Relying on voluntary action produces extremely slow progress. What incentives or mandates would you put in place to motivate home owners to weatherize their houses?
The important climate action the City Council is working toward right now is to allow more sustainable community growth by allowing more compact development near existing transit and infrastructure. Building energy standards are controlled by state codes; I support Newton as a Stretch code community adhering to the highest performance standards for new construction. For existing buildings, I support the Building Energy Reporting & Reduction Ordinance. Existing one&two family homes are far more challenging, but I support full access to energy use data so that consumers can compare real data, to inspire energy efficiency actions.