Gary Christenson

Biography & Background Experience

  • EducationSuffolk University Law School in 2003; Masters in Public Administration (Suffolk University – Sawyer School of Management) in 2003; Bachelor of Science in Political Science, Business Management (Suffolk University) in 1992 (LinkedIn).
  • Current Employment: Mayor of Malden since January 2012. City Councillor for 8 years before that (LinkedIn).
  • Prior Service: Ward 1 Councillor from 2004-11; before that, “[Mayor] Howard appointed Christenson to his first post in the city, nominating him in 1999 to serve on the school committee. Christenson was later apart a of the first group elected to the new ward-based school committee before moving on to the council” He also “worked at the State House for the Committee on Ways & Means serving as a budget analyst, revenue director and finally as special assistant to the committee” (MEN 11/3/10).
  • Endorsed by Greater Boston Labor Council, Malden Education Association (MEA)
  • Volunteer Work: Served as President of the Bread of Life prior to becoming Mayor. (BG 12/20/10).

Basics

  • Biggest issues: Replacing lead pipes, fixing roads, revitalizing downtown, and creating a community of caring neighbors.
  • Campaign Committee: “The job of Mayor is demanding and it simply wasn’t an option to divert attention away from the day-to-day needs of the city. My campaign is led by the Campaign Institute, a local firm that has worked on many Malden campaigns. More importantly, they are supported by dozens of energetic community members, who have helped us enthusiastically connect with thousands of voters personally over the past several months” (Quality 2019).
  • Leadership Philosophy: “It starts with being in touch with the voters every day, being so involved in the community, that as a public official you have a great feel for the will of the people … However, there are times when a public official has to do what’s in the best interest of the long-term future of the city and that may be at odds with the will of the current voter. Good leaders know the difference” (Quality 2019).
  • Motivation for running: “I have always wanted to give back to the community that has given so much to me. From my first job as a paperboy to my present position as a city councillor, Malden has helped me be the person I am. As Mayor, I want to help Malden do the same for our future leaders” (BG 12/20/10).

Business Development

  • Business increase: “There’s been a 20% increase in business establishments. 230 establishments have been added to Malden. There’s been nearly a 3% increase in the employment base, and 5.4% increase in the average annual wage increase for workers” (Debate 10/24/19).
  • Commercial Business: You see the revitalization of the Square. We also just opened two new office buildings – one at Medford in Canal and we’re in the midst of doing one at Charles and Middlesex. That’ll be 110,000 square feet of office and lab space. This is on top of the complete renovation of the Bank of America building at 320,000 square feet. We’re also a Mass bio-ready community. We brought in two financial service companies [and] two breweries, two drone companies, that have moved in. The gaming niche Boda Borg, 8D Room Escape, the restaurant scene – I always say, “taste the world in five square miles” – and finally, we’re working on a commercial incentive overlay zoning district that we’re getting ready to send to the Council (Forum 9/25/19).
  • Employees for Local Businesses: My vision of qualified laborers is just create the environment, create the vibe, you know, clean streets,  responsive departments, checking in with them, trying to come up with a balance across the community, you know, to make people want to be here and I think it’s happening. I forget our unemployment rate but it’s very, very low I believe it’s lower than the statewide average so again that’s a tribute to Mr. Duffy and, you know, all the good work that the Chamber [of Commerce] is doing” (Forum 9/25/19).

Civic engagement

  • Citizen Engagement: “One initiative that I know we will continue is our Facebook Live forums where we field questions of City officials and departments in real time. We also plan to expand and improve our new website … we will also be transitioning our City Ordinances to a web-based service. This will allow ordinances to be easily navigated, searched and referenced as well as reveal historical information showing how a particular ordinance evolved over time” (Quality 2019).
  • Diverse Leadership: “[Diversity in hiring] has always been a priority of ours and will remain so if I’m re-elected. And I have some statistics … on the city side, as of today, we’ve gone from 5% back in 2011 to 12% today people of color working for us. In boards and commissions, we were at 5% and we’re now at 15% today. So those are – we need to do more but that’s a step in the right direction” (Forum 9/25/19).
  • Governmental Transparency: “I have made it a priority to ensure that each conference room [in the new City Hall] is wired and setup to be live streamed and stored online for future viewing. I believe this increases transparency in government by enabling a greater percentage of the public to be able to find out what is taking place in real time while also preserving the meetings so that they may be reviewed at a later date” (Quality 2019).
  • Translation: “We have, over the past 8 years, funded Bay State Interpreters, which provides on-demand interpretation for the City …. so our departments have the option of contacting them for printed material translations, interpretation over the phone, or live in-person interpretation. And we also now are offering translation services on-demand for any of our content on the website. Residents can click on a link and submit their question in their language and they will get a response via email” (Debate 10/24/19).

Infrastructure

  • Addiction: Mayor Christenson is proud that Malden Overcoming Addiction is bringing the Bridge Recovery Center to Malden. “Let me be clear that there is no medical facility component being considered nor has it ever been discussed. In fact, the sole purpose of a recovery center would be to provide daily peer-to-peer recovery services and support to those fighting the disease of addiction. Services would include in part resume building, GED preparation, and health and wellness. No medicines or medical treatments of any kind would be administered. We are actually providing these types of recovery services currently in the community” (9/18/19).
  • Affordable Housing: “Several communities have adopted inclusionary zoning to leverage the private sector housing market to create affordable units for low-income residents … We recently committed to conducting a financial feasibility analysis to help us better understand the impacts and make sure we are designing a policy and proposing percentages that will fit the specific needs of our community and the realities of our housing market” (Quality 2019).
  • Budget Priorities: “Our financial team has also worked hard to increase budget transparency: by putting the budget online, doing meetings across the district, and being open and honest about the challenges, needs, and opportunities contained in each budget” (MEA 9/17/19).:
  • Encore: It’s roughly $19 million over 15 years … It will go into the General Fund and it will be appropriated through a transparent budget process. Right off the top, we have pledged to dedicate $100,000 of the million to go toward nonprofits so I’m not … I think we need to see at the time what state assessments are, what health insurance costs, are what pension funding schedules look like, and work collaboratively with the City Council to determine what makes the most sense” (Forum 9/25/19).
  • Entertainment Dollars: Mr. Matheson announced that Boda Borg will be expanding and added “I think we’re this close to becoming known as a gaming district here in the downtown so in addition to Boda Borg we have 8D Room Escape on Exchange Street, we have [Wanyoo Cyber Cafe]  that’s opening to the right of Boda Borg and then just up the street, one of my favorites is going to be the Bit Bar, which is the old-style video game … I think this is starting to come together, the restaurants, the gaming, and then if we can ever figure out the National Grid site which, you know, the plan that we’re looking at is to have retail, restaurant, hotel, youth sports, and open space” (Forum 9/25/19).
  • Environment:”Mayor Gary Christenson said that the idea had been discussed for several years prior to the decision but it was not “until a group of students approached [him] in 2018 that [it was] introduced [in] a formal proposal to the City Council.” Christenson also believes that the plastic ban will have many positive impacts in that it will “encourage customers to not use plastic which has tremendous environmental as well as other health benefits” (BG 1/9/19).
  • Future Housing Demands: “Projecting future housing demands and assigning numbers to it, in the middle of an unprecedented building boom, is a recipe for trouble. I believe that we as a City need to do what makes sense for us, based upon community input, collaboration with the City Council, and detailed information that helps inform us as to the impact of those decisions … We should not be setting targets at any one point in time” (Quality 2019).
  • Gas pipes: “As a result of that testimony and the advocacy of Mayor Gary Christenson, we have been able to convince National Grid to replace over 1 mile of gas mains on Main Street and adjacent side streets in Ward 4. Hundreds of gas connections to individual homes and businesses will also be completely replaced as part of this effort” — Ryan O’Malley (FB 3/24/19).
  • Lead pipes: “There are 12,000 service lines in the city and over the last 10 years, the city has replaced 2,500 of them, 1,500 more than is required by the order” (WL 3/2/16). “In 2017, there was a significant change in how the City of Malden handled the replacement of lead pipes throughout the city. In the end, 173 lead pipes were removed, which exceeded the required number of 150. Much of this work was done in house by the DPW under the direction of Bob Knox and City Engineer Yem Lip. I would like to thank Mayor Christenson and the countless city staff who has kicked the lead pipe replacement program into high gear” — Ryan O’Malley (FB 1/16/18). The city website has a map of lead pipelines and information about the Removal of Lead Pipes Ordinance.
  • Waste & Recycling: As Ward 1 Councillor, Mr. Christenson voted against the blue bags for several reasons; including that he wanted a program that included “rebates to residents for the amount of recycling they did”. As candidate, he promised to look into ways to provide single-stream recycling as well as “disposing of a 33-gallon barrel of trash per week “free” (with trash over the 33-gallon limited requiring a blue bag)”  (FB 112/11).
  • Waste & Recycling (pt 2): Mr. Christenson’s current plan would provide each qualifying residential unit a 65 Gallon Tote for trash & a 32-Gallon Barrel for single-stream recycling. Trash would still have to be in a bag, but not a PAYT bag. Overflow trash would require a sticker except on “trash holidays”. A cost of $10/month would be added per qualifying residential unit to replace PAYT revenue and cover an increase in expenses (Page 15)The Mayor is frequently seen walking in Malden, picking up trash (Reddit).

Public Spaces

  • Community Gardens“[We are] in the midst of opening two more which will give us four total and Councillor Murphy and I are already on to the next , you know, round of community gardens … together with the Malden Redevelopment Authority” (Forum 9/25/19).
  • Malden Hospital: “Ultimately, the solution that is right for the site is one that the property owner, community and City can come together and agree on. That may be no residential units. The only way we will find that out is with a more collaborative approach, led by the new Ward Councilor for Ward 3, than that which has taken place over the past eight years under the current Councilor. It has proven to be easy, and will continue to be so, to stop any proposed redevelopment of the site” (Quality 2019).
  • Malden River: “I would support amending our zoning to create a Malden Riverfront Overlay. [which] would include increased setbacks from the current riverbank; inclusion of connective public pathways to and along the River; and requirements for landscaping, benches, signage and lighting” (Quality 2019).
  • Moratorium on Residential Development: “I do not favor moratoriums. I never have because I trust the community to determine what makes the most sense for them. We’ve had a project at Middlesex and Charles that was proposed. The community did not like it, they voted it down. We had an expansion at Granada Highlands that the community rallied and voted it down. But there are some that they voted for, so I think we always leave the option open and make the determination (Forum 9/25/19).
  • National Grid Site: “[There is a group] that is trying to bring open space (soccer, rugby, lacrosse, etc) along with retail, restaurants, and hotels … thanks to our business Development Officer, Kevin Duffy, I think we’re getting close, you know, just outside these doors with having the downtown that everybody wanted back in 2011 when I first campaigned. I think we’re just missing that one other thing and that could be it across the street” (Forum 9/25/19).
  • Public Parks: The Mayor and the Malden Redevelopment Authority and the Community Preservation Committee have worked on getting improvements at Trafton Park and FitzGerald Park. “This grant is a major win for our city, and is the result of an intensive team effort and great community partnerships … This grant will help us make Trafton Park a more welcoming and accessible park for residents of all ages and abilities, and help us continue to move Malden forward for everyone” (MRA 9/26/19 and MRA 9/24/19).
  • Roosevelt Park: “I believe our students at the Salemwood School as well as all of our different youth sports deserve a better outdoor recreation space than is there today. The current surface is unusable after even a light rain and the conditions are so bad that there truly is no option to improve it with natural grass that will hold up over time … I support the turf option because it has the greatest benefit to the largest number of people. However, thanks to public input we will be bidding the package, pending City Council approval, with an organic infill” (MNN 5/29/19).
  • Trees: “I am committed to making sure we set aside funding for tree plantings so that we can continue to plant over 150 new trees each year. The removal of any tree is a drastic measure and we will work to improve the process we developed to preserve our existing stock and make informed decisions. In addition to community input, each tree is now reviewed by an arborist, is re-evaluated once the sidewalk is removed and roots exposed, and, is then re-assessed to consider alternative options for ADA compliance” (Quality 2019).

Schools

  • Budget Priorities: “We must continue to push hard to close the school funding gap, which would provide necessary resources to address many current unmet needs. Additionally, we will continue to seek methods for increasing local receipts, including exploring options around Cannabis taxes, casino funding, and other sources” (MEA 9/17/19). “To be clear, Mayor Christenson will NEVER cut education to fund unrealistic campaign promises” (FB 10/3/19).
  • Charter Schools: “Every student deserves a chance to succeed, and not every school can meet the needs of every student. … there is a strong need for reforms around accountability and funding mechanisms in the operation of charter schools, and pushes for more equity in policy and procedures for them as well” (MEA 9/18/19).
  • Diverse Staffing“We had zero principles of color; we now have three. We had three administrators of color; we now have nine. In the teaching force that just came in this summer, 23% of the new hires are people of color” (Forum 9/25/19).
  • Equality vs Equity: “Malden is an incredibly diverse community and school district, with individual students and their support networks entering the system with vastly different needs. That means we need to work on building both “equality” and “equity” in our schools. Equality is making sure every student regardless of their background or specific needs is treated the same and provided a safe, respectful, inclusive and welcoming learning environment. Equity is leveling the playing field and making sure that every student regardless of their specific needs or abilities has the tools and opportunities they need to learn, thrive and be successful” (MEA 9/16/19).
  • Labor Unions: “I have always advocated for a facilitative leadership model, connecting the right people together to take action and solve problems. I also plan to continue to promote a high level of communication and engagement, making sure to stay on top of issues before they become a problem. Keeping a close eye on grievances will help keep people engaged, while also addressing issues head on by putting decision makers in the room to solve problems. I will also continue to be publicly supportive of local labor action, including our recent support of both the local National Grid and Stop & Shop workers” (MEA 9/18/19).
  • Safety: “Mayor Christenson explained that ‘our best defense is information and what the students need to do is let us know. It’s always better to be safe than sorry. We do not do support arming teachers nor do most of the teachers agree with it. [He is] not sure where fighting guns with guns will get us’. He also explained that the city subscribes to the ALICE theory [which] stands for; Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate” (BG 3/15/18).
  • Staff Retention: “I am committed to working with the Superintendent and School Committee in our shared desire to have a school administration, faculty and staff that is representative of our community and student body” Mr. Christenson would like to 1. Broaden the hiring pool to include more diverse recruitment streams; 2. Expand programs with grants or scholarships that encourage students to teach in their own community;. 3. Partner with local community groups;  4. Pressure stakeholders to make progress on diversifying administrators; 5. Build the commitment to diversity into the budget process; and 6. Retain our educators by providing support, mentorships and on-going professional learning opportunities (MEA 9/16/19).
  • Testing: “I do feel like we spend too much time out of our school year administering that testing. I agree with former President Obama that the “testing shouldn’t crowd out teaching and learning, and should just be one of the many tools to measure how students and schools are performing.” He had proposed that testing be limited to 2% of a school year (roughly 4 days) and I support that type of reduction to benefit our students and teachers” (MEA 9/17/19).
  • Teen Center: “The Malden Teen Center is a safe environment created primarily for Malden teens in grades 9-12 to spend time after school, however it is also open to teens from other cities. It first opened four years ago during a time of increased violence in Malden. The community felt that it was crucial for Malden to have place with a calm environment to keep Malden teens out of trouble and help them improve socially and academically. After extensive work and help from Mayor Gary Christenson, the Malden Teen Center opened in December 2012 across the street from Malden High school” (BG 5/3/16).

State Laws

  • Fair Share: “I believe the Amendment will help provide needed revenue to improve our public schools, make public higher education affordable and address our road and infrastructure” (MEA 9/18/19).
  • Metro Mayors Coalition: Mayor Christenson is one of 15 mayors in the Boston metro area to sign on “to add 235,000 net new jobs from 2015 to 2030. Combined with the imminent retirement of the region’s Baby Boomers, this robust economic growth will attract hundreds of thousands of new workers to fill those available jobs … we estimate that the Metro Mayors Coalition will need to add 185,000 housing units from 2015 – 2030 in order to meet demand and reduce – or at least stabilize — housing costs” (MMC).
  • PROMISE: “I strongly support the Promise Act [which] includes funding improvements that support education for low-income students, students with disabilities and English learners. It also provides relief for districts that lose c.70 aid to Charter Schools. The other two bills fail on all these levels” (MEA 9/13/19).
  • ROE Act: Mayor Christenson is one of 16 Mayors to endorse the ROE Act (NBP 10/1/19).
  • Sanctuary Act: “Although Malden is technically not a sanctuary city, mayor of Malden Gary Christenson told Wicked Local that Malden is “a community that’s open and welcome to everyone regardless of race, creed, sexual orientation and status'” (BG 2/14/17).
  • Student Opportunity Act: “We think this will open doors to reducing class size, providing mid-level support, wrap-around services (which our students have told us are sorely needed) … before and after school programming” (Debate 10/24/19).

Transit Issues

  • Pre-election promise: “You can see what a difference there is to a neighborhood when streets are fixed and trees are planted … When the city takes care of those issues, residents respond by keeping up their properties, painting their fences and doing things like that. Combined, those things push up property values and help create safer neighborhoods” (MEN 11/3/10).
  • ADA Compliance: Exchange Street renovations will include “ADA complaint sidewalks, ramps, and crosswalks” and curb extensions. “Thanks to the efforts of our state delegation and [Ward 4] City Councillor Ryan O’Malley, this $1.8 million project will be funded by the state” (SotC 2019).
  • Buses: In 2012, Mayor Christenson wrote an open letter to MBTA Acting General Manager Jonathan Davis [who is now Malden’s Treasurer] objecting to proposed cuts to 12 bus routes, specifically 106, 108, 411, and 430. “With only four different bus routes providing service to the entire east side of our city, via the Salem Street corridor, there are many senior citizens as well as high school students who will be left with very few transportation options under the proposed cuts” (Patch 1/18/12).
  • Roads: “We want to make sure that we take care of every pothole that’s out there” (FB 2/19/11). “We’ve paved over 30 miles of roads, which equates to roughly 250 streets in the past eight years. It’s roughly, you know, 28 to 30 streets. [We just started] a new five-year plan that will address, you know, 27 to 30 streets so, I mean, it’s just millions and millions and millions of dollars of infrastructure repairs out there. The only thing I can guarantee you is that we will not stop until we’re able to do as much as we can to meet the community’s expectations” (Forum 9/25/19).
  • Traffic Congestion: “I have supported alternative transportation modes during my time as mayor and will continue to do so … Our primary goal is to allow for safe and easy travel for motorists as well as pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit riders of all ages and abilities” (Quality 2019).
  • Transportation: “In working with Councillor Winslow, we are in the midst of hiring a transportation planner, which is going to help with multi-modal ways of getting around and looking at all of our intersections to see if we can do a better job of syncing up the lights” (Forum 9/25/19).
  • Walkability: One of the things that we did in 2012 was establish an advisory committee on walkability, which I’m happy to say has roughly 9 to 12 members now and they’ve recommended improvements which we have implemented on crosswalks, making intersections safer, they’ve even chipped in on helping us redo our snow removal ordinance … And then Councillor Winslow [suggested] that we start using Community Development Block Grants to start upgrading some of our intersections throughout the city” (Forum 9/25/19).

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