Debbie DeMaria is one of four candidates for City Councillor-at-Large. All voters in Malden will get to vote for up to three candidates.
These are her answers to a questionnaire that Malden Votes sent to every candidate. They have not been edited or abridged, only formatted for readability. With the exception of the last question (see note below), the PDF version of these questions is here.
Reps. Ultrino, Donato and Brodeur State Senator Jason Lewis Greater Boston Labor Council Verizon
What is your vision for Malden?
First and foremost I want Malden to be a safe community for all residents; black, brown, white, Latino, Asian, and LGBTQ. In my role as Councillor-At-Large, I work daily to contribute to the vision of less development. But does that mean we build a wall? Not at all. Through planning review, mitigation, negotiation and community input, we re-define what the future of Malden will be. We must mandate affordable housing requirements. I support a plan to build on our educational needs; i.e. more qualified diverse teachers that reflect our student population as well as a plan to address our enrollment growth. I believe in moving Malden forward with new business opportunities and commerce while balancing the preservation of our historic City. Is this an easy task? Not at all. I believe we need leadership that shares the common good of our residents, both vested and newly arrived. We can all learn from one another. Malden’s growth could possibly be viewed as an intricate game of monopoly and moving all the pieces take a village. We all win, if we do it mindfully.
What aspects of your time in office are you most proud of? What goals have you accomplished?
My first term was quite confrontational. The composition of the Council was divisive and overbearing. So if I could hang my hat on that, I feel not only did I survive, but I aced “Politics 101”. Through it all, I managed to contribute to the new City Hall proposal and Build as well as the new Police Station Build. Moving forward, I was very instrumental researching the Community Preservation Act and tenaciously bring it forward; helping to draft the Ordinance, filling the seats of membership, and educating the community and Council on the 2% tax benefit.
In my Council President Inauguration Speech, I vowed to support the idea of cannabis dispensaries. I formed a specific committee to identify zoning and they are presently vetting new business opportunities for Malden. I helped create a Parking Department to identify our needs in a city with two MBTA Orange Line stops and overcrowded traffic! This had failed horribly with two attempts, but has taken flight and hopefully will soon take a positive outcome.
I believe in guidelines so I rolled up my sleeves and drafted new Council Rules. I continuously pushed for the opportunity of Public Comment at Council Meetings and won. I am so proud to be the force that brought Habitat for Humanity to Malden. Presently I have been working on creating a new logo for the City, commissioning a resident graphic designer/artist. The process will enable all residents to vote on their favorite logo; and, it is my hope this will be the new face of Malden for many years to come. Most importantly, I believe I encouraged collaboration. As we become more diverse, our needs are greater. We are no longer that sleepy wonderful All-American town of the ’70s. We are the new, vibrant welcoming community of 2020!
Have your positions on any issues evolved since your election?
Every vote I agonize over. I am proud of each of my votes.
Which social issues do you care about, and why? How would you advocate for those issues?
EQUALITY. I strongly believe that we are all created equal. I truly do not look at a person’s skin color, nor the language they speak, nor their religion, nor the sexuality. I actually find diversity so very interesting. I was brought up in Falmouth Massachusetts. A few years ago, I went back for my high school reunion (I won’t tell you what year it was.) But, as I walked the Main Street where their library sits, a few churches, many retail stores and restaurants, I couldn’t see anyone of color. It confirmed my love for Malden.
What concrete steps can Malden make to address our environmental challenges, whether global or local?
The first issue that pops up in my mind is our environment. Being a product of the ’70s, we were quite active in climate change. This year I chose fighting side by side with the students of MVRCS and Beebe School as we passed an Ordinance to eliminate plastic bags. On January 1, 2020 Malden will no longer offer plastic bags in our retail stores. To some, this was a light lift. But in years to come, we will look back with pride.
Malden is a diverse city with many marginalized communities. What initiatives would you implement to support these communities?
We must continue to listen to the needs of our community and continue to be a welcoming City. The open doors at City Hall is an approach I am grateful for with the present administration. As a city, we have just launched a new website. Being that everyone is online these days, this tool is our new “welcoming center”. The site offers multiple language opportunities, which is great. I do believe we are doing a good job.
How will you address Malden’s affordable housing crisis?
Three years ago, I co-sponsored a paper supporting Affordable Housing and Inclusionary Zoning. It made it to a joint Planning Board/Ordinance Committee, but never took flight. I believe members of both Boards needed more education. I continue to support this and will move forward with additional education and a new proposal. Also, with the controversial purchase of the Masonic Building late 2015, I was the only person at the table pushing for affordability possibilities. It was quite disappointing.
What are your long term plans for expanding tax revenue?
It’s a continuous plan. We now have revenues coming in from our newly formed Parking Department. We have expected revenues from our new Malden business dispensaries…possibly five (5) and of course we have our Encore Casino contracted revenue. With that all being said, we must continue to air on the conservative side as we pass annual budgets.
Would you implement any changes around our city’s parking systems?
As part of the Parking Committee, meters were installed in the Center and that seems to be going great. The cost is minimal, cars are not parked there all day, and best of all, there are spots to park because of the two-hour limit. We also have a city-wide plan that has been shared at five community public meetings this summer. It is anticipated a final plan will be voted on and go into effect this January. This plan will add additional revenue as we encourage people pay their excise tax in Malden. And, there is NO cost for resident parking planned.
Some infrastructure challenges that face our city are degraded roads, lead pipes, and gas leaks. What initiatives would you implement to address these issues?
I would aggressively tackle our DEP mandate and earmark additional revenue to accelerate the process. It’s all about a plan and continued review of the plan. I believe we are finally getting there.
What do you think should be done with the Malden hospital site?
I will continue to move forward with a collaborative plan for all!!! And that is what I have been saying for eight years! As you are all aware, we do not own the land and there lies the largest obstacle. An 18-acre parcel of land is certainly big enough to offer many opportunities. The historic value of Malden Hospital and Fellsmere Park and Pond is the starting point to which we build our ideas. I believe any residency should be limited to a small development. Size will effect our traffic, public services and schools; so we must be mindful. I believe there should be a 55+ component. I’d also opt for some sort of medical facility there. Malden is in such need for a health care facility. But through the years I have served as a public servant, what screams to me is that we MUST WORK TOGETHER.
Now that Massachusetts has legalized recreational marijuana, would you encourage dispensaries in Malden? What would you do with the revenue?
YES. A percentage should go for drug addiction education first and foremost.
What is your vision for promoting civic engagement and increasing voter turnout in our city?
I supported the VOTE16 Ordinance on the floor. I believe the earlier we engage our young adults, the better and smarter our future will be.
How can we increase citizen engagement in city council meetings?
Every Council meeting has a docket spot for Guests. I continuously invite our community groups to speak about their projects on the Council floor. I am so very proud of our community. I am also Chair of the Citizen’s Engagement Committee.
Everyone grows up holding personal biases. Please share an anecdote about a time that your own biases were confronted, and how you responded.
My personal bias is bullying. I CANNOT stand a bully. Whether the bully is a child or an adult, it moves me to great anger. I see this as young as 5 years old with my grandchildren. I have taught them to speak up and say…”THAT’S ENOUGH”!