Mike Zwirko Lays Out Issues In Campaign Kickoff

Alderman At-Large Mike Zwirko officially launched his campaign to become the next Mayor of Melrose on Tuesday.

Melrose Patch
By Mike Carraggi, Patch Staff
Jun 7, 2019 5:35 pm ET

The following was submitted by Mike Zwirko for Mayor:

Alderman At-Large Mike Zwirko officially launched his campaign to become the next Mayor of Melrose on Tuesday, June 4th. Over 100 supporters filled the Great Room at Jack Flats Apartments to celebrate the kickoff. Zwirko delivered a rousing speech that emphasized the opportunity that the upcoming mayoral election provides for the city.

"We don't have to settle for the way it has always been and hope that things change," said Zwirko. "Instead, lets drive that change on our terms and demand it. More of the same is not a path towards prosperity, it is stagnant and our future can't afford it."

Zwirko laid out a future for Melrose centered around policy initiatives for economic development, sustainability, and education. "As Mayor, one of my first actions will be to hire an Economic Development Director (EDD) to work in our Office of Planning and Community Development," promised Zwirko. "The role of an EDD can work to bring in new businesses and even help support our Chamber of Commerce with new community events."

Zwirko also emphasized the importance on fighting climate change on a local level. "My administration will partner with the Melrose Energy Commission so we create a formal green plan intended to achieve carbon neutrality before 2050." The expiration of the trash contract in two years provides an opportunity to introduce sustainability into garbage collection. In order to do so, Zwirko said, "We will bring composting to the curbside, focus on reduction of waste and expand our recycling efforts."

Zwirko concluded by addressing what he views as the most important issue in the election: education. Noting that the mayor sits on the school committee, Zwirko called for updating school curriculum to emphasize interdisciplinary learning in order to prepare students for adult life. He also proposed hiring of an Inclusion and Diversity Director that covers all levels of Melrose Public Schools to ensure that this city remains true to its motto, "One Community Open to All."

Zwirko offered other policy proposals, but concluded on what establishes him apart from other candidates in the race. "My vision for Melrose goes beyond statements. I am putting forth real proposals that I intend to employ. That is what you should demand from your next Mayor: someone with a vision beyond the term itself."

Zwirko offered many other proposals that laid out his vision for Melrose, but the event was not entirely about policy itself - it kicked off with a heartfelt introduction by Zwirko's former Melrose Alliance Against Violence mentee, Adam Liebermann, who said, "Mike helped make Melrose better for me and that's why I'm confident he can make Melrose better for all of us as well."

If you are interested in learning more about mayoral candidate Mike Zwirko or want to get in touch with the campaign, visit www.zwirko.com.

Mike Zwirko
Letter to MassHousing on the Swains Pond 40B Development Proposal

April 30, 2019

Mr. Gregory Watson
Manager, Comprehensive Permit Programs
Attention: MH ID No. 1015
One Beacon Street
Boston, MA 02108

Mr. Watson,

We, Scott Forbes and Michael Zwirko, are elected Aldermen in the City of Melrose, MA. One of us serves as a City-wide Alderman and the other for Ward 7, which is the section of the City where the MassHousing ID No. 1015 is being proposed. We are submitting this letter as a formal comment response to the Site Approval Application Notification the City of Melrose received on March 18, 2019. The applicants have named this proposed project the “Swains Pond Development” and I will refer to it as such in this comment response letter. As outlined in this letter, the Swains Pond Development (“SPD”) is unsuitable as proposed for its density, public health, environmental and safety concerns and should be rejected for eligibility by MassHousing.

As detailed in the materials attached with SPD’s application, and stated in the “Evidence of Prior Contact with the City of Melrose” section of the Development Summary, one of the developers, Mr. Sean Szekely, outlined the historical timeline of discussions with the City of Melrose regarding the SPD. However, discussions with the City of Melrose had occurred much earlier than detailed by Mr. Szekely. In fact, when he purchased the land from the New Hampshire entity that acquired the land in auction a number of years ago, City officials were upfront and clear about the issues with development on that parcel of land. Although the Planning Board approved a 9-unit subdivision plan in the late 1990s, the subdivision was never constructed due to the difficulties related to the land, primarily wetlands and the topography, and the resulting financial implications. 

Mr. Szekley has experience with the requirements of the City of Melrose when he took over the development of the 8 unit subdivision off of Dexter Road. He was aware of these requirements when he purchased the property off of Swains Pond Avenue and the conversations had with City of Melrose officials regarding the expectations for development of the subdivision. The property is simply too difficult and thus too costly to develop, and Mr. Szekely knows these facts. 

When Mr. Szekely purchased the Dexter Road property in 2016, he was fully aware of slope protections and environmental concerns the City had raised. These same concerns are paramount with the proposed SPD. The City of Melrose Office of Planning and Community Development stated at the time that the “Planning Staff supports this 8-lot subdivision...At eight lots, the length of the road is reduced substantially and many of the more significant areas of sloped terrain are left untouched.” The new plan reduced blasting by approximately 90 percent and the amount of the proposed disturbance to sloped areas was decreased from 21,740 square feet to approximately 1,630 square feet. 

As you can read from the above, the slope disturbances and blasting reductions are precisely why the City went to Land Court in the first place. The proposed SPD is on property directly abutting the Dexter Road development and Mr. Szekely knows the environmental, slope protection and topographical issues in developing this tract of land. The slope and blasting concerns will be compounded with the proposed SPD. Since 2016, Mr. Szekely has been acutely aware of the City’s concerns and he has continually not acted in good faith with City officials or the residents of this neighborhood. It is clear that his intention has always been to maximize development in this section of Melrose with wanton disregard for the residents and the environment. His proposal for a 40B development is simply to procure a profit in expediency rather than look for alternatives that could be mutually beneficial.

In addition to the many development impact issues of this parcel of land, to say that this plan is akin to “smart growth” policies and practices is laughable. Over the past decade, the City of Melrose has created new enhanced zoning areas ripe for Smart Growth developments and has seen many successful projects. The SPD is much further from any true public transportation locations in Melrose. Citing one bus line stop and further stating the the MBTA Orange Line is nearly two miles away cannot declare this project to be “Smart.” In no way is it explained or detailed how the SPD will reduce dependence on private automobiles. The truth is, given the location of this site in a remote and rural area of Melrose, it will create a large automobile demand.

The environmental impacts alone are so large that it should be grounds for its rejection. The SPD application states that there is a wetland on the site. In addition to that wetland, there are numerous wildlife that will be severely impacted and their habitats forever destroyed. Within 800 feet of this development are three areas that are either designated as conservation land or parkland. The applicant counters these environmental impacts by stating the site will be professionally landscaped. Landscaping is not natural nor does it allow for animal habitats. Further, the applicant addresses the wetland issues by stating they will “protect wetlands by adhering to DEP stormwater management standards.” In Mr. Szekely’s development and construction of the Dexter Road property, he has already had to appear in front of the Melrose Conservation Commission to address issues with discharges into wetlands. For him to claim he will be able to adhere to DEP stormwater management standards requires more significant inquiry from MassHousing. 

In conclusion, we urge MassHousing to reject this application so it will allow for the City of Melrose and Mr. Szekely to continue discussions on this parcel of land, as there are many items to address. MassHousing’s goals - as outlined on your “missions & values” section of your website - state to “confront the housing challenges facing the Commonwealth to improve the lives of its people” and, offer “innovation and agility in the delivery of responsible lending products, housing opportunities and services.” Your values are stated as “Integrity, Excellence, Collaboration, Respect, Accountability, Service.” In being true to your missions & values, we ask that the SPD be rejected to allow Melrose the autonomy to improve the lives of our people, be responsible with housing opportunities and further collaborate. The impacts to the environment, the collateral damage from blasting, the strain on existing infrastructure in this location all should give MassHousing pause. Melrose has been a leader in creating ways to develop in thoughtful ways. We are not opposed to growth. We are so in this location as it strains credulity as to why this is seen as “Smart” and even appropriate. As Mr. Szekely’s timeline in his application details, it is clear that this project development has been in haste. A project of this magnitude, with all of its impacts, requires more conversation. Allow the City to have these conversations so that costly litigation, time, resources and energy can be spared.

With sincere regards, 

Michael Zwirko
Alderman-at-Large, City of Melrose
100 Derby Road
Melrose, MA 02176
(781) 662-1966

Scott Forbes
Ward 7 Alderman, City of Melrose
41 Mystic Avenue
Melrose, MA 02176
(978) 873-0916 

Sent via email and USPS Mail

Mike Zwirko
Zwirko Announces Melrose Mayoral Run

Alderman-at-Large Michael Zwirko announced his intention to run for Mayor on Tuesday, April 16. Below is his statement:

“After talking to many of my friends and neighbors here in Melrose, I have decided to pull papers on May 1st and run for the opportunity to be your next Mayor. Earlier this month, we saw our community take giant steps forward when it successfully passed the override. Serving on the Board of Aldermen for the last several years has taught me an awful lot about where Melrose wants to go and about the aspirations of our residents. Melrose will require a Mayor that embraces the leap of faith taken by the voters who made a financial commitment to address our fiscal challenges. I will be a Mayor who respects that trust and will not squander the opportunity this override has given us. The voters have huge expectations here, and that means we need a Mayor with the courage to be disruptive to existing paradigms and prioritize investment in the areas that sustainably improve the quality of our life.

For the first time in 18 years, the people of Melrose will be choosing a completely new candidate for Mayor. Because the list of needs are many, the old way of doing things just won’t work anymore. The next Mayor must be a hands-on Mayor. Where policy and practice meet. The next Mayor must have a determined work ethic, be dynamic, energetic, and agile. Have the ability to offer contemporary solutions by disrupting the old mind-set and the willingness to approach government differently. More of the same is not going to be a pathway to prosperity.

In a small community like Melrose, communication is essential to its success. Enhancing how our government interacts with its residents will be a key component of my campaign. Communication cannot be a one-way street, and it cannot always be top-down. There are a lot of caring people in Melrose who have insight and skills to offer. Let’s tap that potential. As Mayor, I will support initiatives that encourage ideas and promote conversations. I know that strong leadership, vision, and direction, combined with the energy of all of Melrose is what is required to put our future back in focus. Results are what I’m after; conversations often lead to better results.

Our school enrollment continues to grow and that will be a challenge over the next Mayoral term. Being able to address this while offering quality education and stimulating learning environments will not be easy, but it must be adaptive. The override helps in this regard as it supports restoring positions and eventually new space. Still, existing spaces will need to be repurposed and shifting of administrators may be considered in the future. But this is the next stage, and that will only be successful with input from stakeholders: Parents, students, administrators, elected officials and residents. We must open up these discussions and be inclusive in order to find the best path.

Education is a mainstay. But this isn’t just an opportunity to maintain good schools - it’s an opportunity to make them better. The next Mayor will confront a list of many needs. Let’s ask new questions when we consider those needs: How many people does it benefit? Is this something that makes Melrose more desirable? Does it create new opportunities for economic development? Is there a better way to do this? These questions must be asked and accountability established. We can become a more attractive place for growing families to live and still become economically viable - it will require a Mayor with creativity and sustained initiative to ensure that these goals are not mutually exclusive.

I look forward to continuing conversations with my neighbors in Melrose over the next five months. This will be a campaign of we, not me. I want to hear from you and build our vision for our community together. In fact, why not start today? Email me: Mike@Zwirko.com, visit my website at www.zwirko.com or call me: 781-662-1966, and let’s talk about how we can build a stronger city, because tomorrow matters for Melrose.”

Mike Zwirko