Paz brings a wealth of experience as an advocate on the Beacon Hill for immigrant rights,
labor rights, and funding our school systems.
Q: What is your vision for Ward 9?
A: My vision for Waltham is a government that puts the community first- plain and simple. Working families in Waltham should be able to raise their children in an affordable community that promotes sustainable and high-tech growth. Our seniors should have access to affordable and safe housing. Our disabled community should have access to ADA-compliant sidewalks and a modern transit system. Our youth should look forward to a state-of-the-art high school.
For any of this to be possible, we need new leaders. We need a generation of leaders with evolving ideas and integrity, especially who do not allow private interests to cloud their priorities. That means we do not have politicians in office for decades at a time or who shamelessly take money from outside developers.
Big picture: our city can and should lead. Our schools can be a beacon of educational excellence and equity. Our transit system can be modern and intelligent. Waltham must lead the way in fighting climate change.It’s our future, our Waltham.
Q: How would you describe Ward 9?
A: As someone who grew up in Ward 9, I am proud our part of the city forms the economic and multicultural bedrock of Waltham. As part of the Downtown District, we have unique access to local businesses, public transportation and beautiful playgrounds. We are uniquely vibrant and blooming – a home to working families, seniors, young professionals, and a growing Latinx community.
However, due to rising housing costs, I see ever more families struggling to stay in Ward 9. Massive, new luxury developments jeopardize our diversity and mobility. I would work to ensure families are not displaced, and our schools do not fall behind. Ward 9 needs a champion for our working class, youth and seniors. We need a leader who understands the nuances of affordability and balanced growth. We need a leader who understands education is always the best investment. I am the leader who puts our community first – today, tomorrow, and always.
Q: What is the biggest challenge for Ward 9 residents right now?
A: Ward 9 residents keep telling me that our city’s growth is unbalanced and not transparent. Most residents simply feel like they don’t know what the city’s priorities are anymore. They feel disconnected from the developments built in their backyards which interrupt their daily lives. Growing traffic, rising rent prices, inaccessible sidewalks, and deteriorating streets are symptoms of this larger issue. We are not growing in a way that prioritizes our working families, our seniors and our youth.
For example, Waltham recently had the largest fire in its history: it happened in Ward 9. Five luxury apartment towers on Cooper and Elm Streets were expeditiously developed without the input of area residents. After an arsonist set the development ablaze, the community gathered to ask questions. Councilor Logan not only skipped the meeting, but also refused to meet with constituents. So did the developers. Logan has taken several donations from these very developers.
That’s why my campaign’s motto is “Community First.” Waltham deserves to have leaders representing them, not developers. Ward 9 deserves a leader who will not put their health and safety on the line for a quick buck. We need a leader who will honor diversity and economic inclusion.
Q: What unique skills do you bring to the office you’re running for?
A: I will bring new voices and deliver the dynamic ideas our city council needs.
I have a background in macroeconomics, business development and contract negotiations. At the University of Pennsylvania, I studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) and carried out economic development projects in countries like Peru, Brazil, India and Bolivia. Whether it was identifying new revenue streams, promoting entrepreneurship for women, or training young people with vocational skills, I have broad and deep experience in sustainable economic development.
At SEIU Local 888, I work in contract negotiations and compliance for working class people. Every day, I defend public sector workers from wrongful accusations. From DPW to food service workers, I represent the people our cities and towns rely on to thrive. Through negotiations, I also ensure they receive better wages and best in class benefits. I am intimately aware of how other cities and towns adjust and grow their budgets, infrastructure and workforce. I have represented folks across the Commonwealth, including Waltham, Belmont, Watertown, Boston, Lawrence and Randolph.
As a proven organizer and advocate, I can uplift unheard voices and bring people together to solve shared challenges – large or small. I have used these skills to push progressive policies through our city and State House.
Lastly, I am proudly trilingual – fluent in Spanish, Portuguese and English. I am excited to provide an energetic and multicultural perspective needed in our City Council.
Q: How would you assess how the city has managed and maintained open space? What plans do you have in mind to improve this work?
A: My assessment of our situation is informed by both the current quality of life of Waltham residents and impending climate change.
With regards to the former, surveys by the Planning Department indicate that half of respondents a) do not believe there is enough outdoor recreational space and b) do not believe there is enough green space in the city. With demand for recreational facilities evolving, it is clear that, at a minimum, we need to preserve all existing open spaces. I am encouraged by the results of the Community Development Block Grant Survey. In 2017, most respondents found “improvements to existing parks and neighborhood facilities” a high priority funding area amongst 12 other categories. Ward 9 is a shining example of this desire and need; Gilmore Playground has become the epicenter of family life.
In order to improve this work, I look forward to working with the Community Preservation Committee to ensure outdoor recreation spaces are preserved and maintained. Also, I hope to expand awareness of the Planning Department’s online community portal. Community input is pivotal to the longevity of this work. Lastly, I hope to expand collaboration across Local, State and Federal Agencies. In the long-term, we need to hire a Sustainability Director for the city. In order to have green and renewable developments and improvements, we need a local expert that can coordinate, advise, propose innovative ideas, and evaluate the environmental impact of the city. This includes applying for federal grants and ensuring we reach our Green Communities targets.
Q: Should Waltham Land Trust’s position on development (available at walthamlandtrust.org) guide the management of city-owned property?
A: Development is a complex issue, especially in a hyper-development economy that has permeated Boston. I appreciate the Waltham Land’s Trust position that real estate developers are “attack[ing]” the city and open space is “under siege.” In this climate, all open space remaining in Waltham is an achievement. Unfortunately, there are fewer reasons to celebrate each year.
There is an unnecessary tension between our need to grow as a city and our need to accommodate all working families. The Stigmatines site is a perfect example of that. In that situation, the tension was between the priorities of our city against the priorities of outside developers. Court findings showed that Avalon wanted to develop luxury apartments in the Stigmatine fields. The city wanted to prioritize that land for education and for shared prosperity. This tension does not have to exist if we have the right elected leaders in office.
Our campaign is for growth that puts our community first.
Q: As the City of Waltham negotiates with UMass to take control of the Waltham Field Station and Lawrence Meadows on Beaver Street, what do you envision as the future for these parcels? What uses would you allow and encourage?
A: Not only will I protect the site, but I will work to strengthen and expand the great work carried out by the Waltham Field Station (WFS). This includes developing a yearlong partnership between our public schools and WFS. While acquiring and maintaining the Waltham Field Station will be a great first step, it is not enough. I will support local, food production programs that will give us the opportunity to alleviate food insecurity for low-income households. Without a doubt, local food production is the way of the future.
Q: Over the past decades, Waltham Field Station (WFS) tenants and their community members have been the primary stewards of the site and the primary stakeholders in working to protect and preserve its unique and remarkable history. Assuming the City of Waltham purchases the WFS, will you pledge to protect the site for long- term agricultural use and as a center for sustainable non-profit organizations to operate?
A: Absolutely. I am running precisely because I believe we need to have a more responsive local government. The future sustainability of our city depends on the proper use of our arable land. Luxury real-estate developments represent the opposite of what we want and merely serve the interests of the landlords on the city council (recall that half of our current councilors hold such a title).
Not only will I protect the site, but I will work to strengthen and expand the great work carried out by the WFCF. This includes developing a yearlong partnership between our public schools and WFS. While acquiring and maintaining the Waltham Field Station will be a great first step, it is not enough. I will support local production programs that will give us the opportunity to alleviate food insecurity for low-income households. Without a doubt, local food production is the way of the future.
Q: Will you advocate for a multi-year lease for Community Farms Outreach, Inc. (d/b/a/ Waltham Fields Community Farm), so that the organization and its current agricultural, educational and food justice programs are provided with a secure future?
A: Yes. We need both a multi-year lease and a long-term vision for what food justice in Waltham can look like. I speak with voters every day about providing locally produced food to our public schools. Further, our youth should have the opportunity to have a hands-on agricultural education. We should expand, not limit, programs that provide hands-on farming, cooking and science-based programs. Given how uncertainty over the future of WFS has harmed community members who are deeply invested in it, we need to work to support WFCF. Locally grown food is necessary for a future that is sustainable, equitable, and inclusive.
Q: Assuming the City of Waltham ownership, do you support a financial investment to improve the facility? Recognizing the long-overdue need to address repairs, renovations, and remediation issues at the WFS, how would you support a planning process and management model that involves current stakeholders to inform the efforts to improve the site over time?
A: Yes, and absolutely. The improvements made to the WFS will be a collective effort. However, we must take the initial steps. Besides purchasing the land, we need to host community town halls to garner support from the community. A community participation model will ensure that we have the best planning process. For example, the Waltham Partnership for Youth (WPY) has a coalition of leaders and local stakeholders that support and complement their efforts in education and youth employment. This is a model we can follow. By creating a WFS Advisory Board to the City Council, we can create a channel that will include those most invested in leadership spaces and hold our elected officials accountable.
In the long-term, we need to hire a Sustainability Director for the city. In order to have green and renewable development and improvements, we need a local expert that can coordinate, advise, propose innovative ideas, and evaluate the environmental impact of the city. The work of the WFS can then expand and be integrated with other sectors in Waltham. Skills such as gardening, cooking and homesteading should become part of the everyday life of Waltham residents – one harvest at a time.
An Economy for All
Our city is booming. We need to grow in a way that prioritizes and affordable homes. Permitting luxury apartments has raised the cost of living for working families. Our city is at its best when we protect the social and economic diversity that makes us unique. That’s why we need to promote greater access to affordable housing and transit, while supporting our entrepreneurs.
Healthy Youth, Healthy City
The youth are the future of the city. Currently in our school district, 1 in 3 of our students is economically disadvantaged. We must promote local food production and combat hunger. We need to expand community access to childcare expanding on outstanding work done at the Chill Zone, Boys & Girls Club and the Waltham Partnership For Youth.
Some of our most enduring problems need Green, long term solutions. To cut traffic and carbon emission levels, we need to provide more public transportation options. By hiring a sustainability manager, we can proactively address issues leading to parking shortages and never-ending potholes. Our city needs affordable green energy – now.