Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Grading the candidates

What are the candidates' positions on pedestrian and bicycling issues? The League of Women Voters ask the candidates, the TAB publishes the answers, and NS&S grades the answers.

Before we dive in. Candidates and public officials, please take note. The League asked three questions: Budget, draft Comprehensive Plan, and bike/ped issues. Those aren't bad priorities.

In this post, grades for the contested races, ward-by-ward. Unopposed incumbents graded in a separate post. Maybe a summary of the top issues across all candidates.

But first a note on a resident snow-clearing ordinance because it comes up in numerous answers (itself a great sign). The official NS&S position is that it should be the city's responsibility to keep sidewalks clear and the city's effort in this regard should match its street-clearing effort, at least on routes to schools, transit, and village centers. But, ain't gonna happen, so a resident requirement is a decent second choice.

Ward 1 at-large candidates

Al Cecchinelli—F
Blames bikers and pedestrians for safety issues.

Allan J. Ciccone—C
Vague. Identifies an important issue: sidewalk clearing, but offers no solution. (There are only two: more money or a resident-clearing requirement.)

Carleton Merrill—B
Clear crosswalks and striped bicycle accommodations are important.

Janet Sterman—C+
Education and marketing are important. But physical infrastructure is more important.

Ward 3 at-large candidates

Leslie Burg—A F
Tough to imagine a better answer: Safe Routes to School, bike lanes, crosswalks, traffic calming, resident clearing, support the Bicycle/Pedestrian Task Force.

But, her actions don't match her words. This week she voted for the PMBD stripped of smart-growth provisions, like a requirement that the developer provide pedestrian and bicycle accommodations, despite the BPTF's endorsement of the provision. As far as I know, in her term, she has never attended a BPTF meeting or solicited its advice.

Ted Hess-Mahan—A+
Gets the top grade because he says bike/ped accommodations should be part of law. Articulates a complete streets policy without calling it that: bike accommodations as part of roadway improvement projects. Wants to put ped/bike access into zoning documents. Needs to make that happen with the PMBD. Points for resident snow clearing and bike racks. Vagueness on funding might have cost him if the rest of the answer weren't so strong.

Greer Tan Swiston—BA
Nails the importance of sidewalks. Resident sidewalk clearing. Would listen to the BPTF.
Grade updated to reflect new answer (in the comments).
New answer adds very clearly that we need to shift priorities from cars to walkers and bikers. Explicit about reducing driving. Bike racks.

Ward 7 at-large candidates

Verne Vance—A
Excellent on a crucial point: you want to slow traffic, you have to change the roadway. Good point about sidewalk quality. Bike lanes. A little squishy on resident snow clearing.

Sydra Schnipper—B+
Another proponent of bike/ped accommodations during roadway construction. (But, do we have to wait until a road is improved? Could be years.) Resident snow clearing.

Jeff Seideman—C-
Leads with vague call for better snow plowing. Where? Roadways? They're pretty well cleared. Sidewalks? Paid for by whom? Volunteers? Resident clearing requirement? Says safety is up to kids and parents. Nothing to do with traffic speed or volume? Sidewalk conditions? Crosswalk compliance?

Ward 8 at-large candidates

Mitchell L. Fischman—B+
Touches important topics—sidewalk conditions, sidewalk clearing, shoulders for bikes— but too vague. Saved by strong support of bikes over parking on Walnut Street.

John Freedman—C B
Strong on city plowing sidewalks near schools. Why not elsewhere? Wants sidewalk repair, but not clear on how. Mis-classifies Beacon and Commonwealth as "bike-friendly." Should be "potentially bike friendly." Deduction for suggestion that bikes shouldn't be on all roads. Decent on accommodations as roads are repaired.

Updated: I'm upgrading Mr. Freedman to a B based on his expanded explanation, which puts his comments into the context of budgetary concerns. And, he should have more credit for adding stripes and signs as streets are repaved.

Tom Scheff—C- A+
Leads with education/promotion, but doesn't address whether streets and sidewalks are fit for the biking and walking he'd encourage. Interesting, but underdeveloped idea about public transportation. Wants sidewalks shoveled, but doesn't say how.
New grade for adopting George Mansfield's answer and "adding public transportation." Alderman Mansfield's answer is a good one to steal adopt.

Myra Tattenbaum—C+
Describes the desired conditions—good sidewalks, cleared sidewalks, and bike lanes— without describing how we'd get there. Points for declaring that bike lanes should be as safe as car lanes.

Ward 3 ward alderman candidates

Anthony J. Salvucci—B+
Cadillac Sal (as we like to call him here on NS&S) surprises. Combines call for street improvements and education, though unnecessary focus on bike/ped compliance with the law. What's the bigger problem? Jay-walking or cars failing to stop in crosswalks. Gets all the points for sidewalk snow clearing, making it the city's responsibility and specifying the solution: more machines. Innovative on residential snow-clearing, wants to give incentives.

Anatol Zuckerman—A
Clear, correct positions. Build sidewalks. Bikes lanes instead of parking. City responsibility for sidewalk clearing. Public garages in centers is off-topic, but he's right.

Ward 5 ward alderman candidates

Christine Snow Samuelson—B+
Good answers: complete street road design and sidewalk snow clearing. Touts filing resident snow clearing, now it's time to get it considered and passed. Hoped for more from top traffic alderman.

Bill Brandel—A
Two great points: enforce crosswalk laws and connect neighborhoods. (Think he'd allow widening Boylston Street?) Touches on other issues, but vaguely: maintain streets and sidewalks, promote community shoveling, city clearing sidewalks abutting city properties, street striping, lights.

Great stuff!

1 comment:

Sean Roche said...

Greer Swiston e-mailed the following updated answer:

I support the reinstatement of some variation of the sidewalk snow removal ordinance; give more attention and credence to the recommendations from the Newton Bicycle and Pedestrian Task Force; more priority to bicycle and pedestrian access, such as bike lanes, sidewalks, crosswalks and more practical curb cuts whenever development is considered; More bicycle racks in major common areas; support efforts to encourage accommodations for bicycles on public transportation. Greater walk ability will enable reduced driving.