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Town Election Candidate Questionnaire

Sustainable Milton is inviting candidates for Select Board and Planning Board in the 2023 Annual Town Election to share their views on sustainability and environmental issues by participating in a short survey. To improve the transparency of town elections and to give candidates for elected office an opportunity to share their views with constituents, we are posting all responses on this page without alteration in the order they were received.

We wish all the candidates best of luck in their campaigns, and we thank them for volunteering their time and energy in service of our town!

Cheryl Tougias, Planning Board candidate for re-election

What do you see as the most important sustainability issues facing Milton today, and if elected what would your role be to address them?

The Planning Board is charged with land use regulations, regulations that have significant environmental implications. Housing policy is climate policy. Transportation policy is climate policy. Milton needs better zoning to enable walkable neighborhoods where housing is linked by a network of bike lanes, sidewalks and public transportation to parks, schools, library, shops, restaurants, workplaces and gathering places, reducing vehicle trips and greenhouse gas emissions. 

I will work to amend zoning so that businesses and neighborhood retail are allowed in strategic locations, multifamily housing is allowed near transportation and amenities, and parking requirements are tailored to neighborhoods and transportation options. These changes will facilitate a more sustainable, healthy and inclusive community. I will urge the Select Board to adopt the Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan and take next steps towards implementation.

The town’s rules and regulations for roadways, parking areas, and stormwater management need updating, as our infrastructure is increasingly challenged, with flooding and water pollution impacts. I will work to revise these regulations to reduce impervious areas and to manage stormwater where it falls, reducing flows to sewer systems and waterways. Additionally, policy revisions are needed to preserve tree canopy for carbon sequestration and street trees to reduce heat island effects. 


What role do you see for Milton’s town government in responding to climate change?


The Select Board is forming a Climate Action Planning Committee. This committee must act with urgency to develop a comprehensive roadmap outlining the specific actions Milton will take to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the effects of climate change. The Town should appoint a chief sustainability officer to lead and coordinate the implementation effort.

For the state to meet its Net Zero by 2050 goal, towns must act. Building energy efficiency and electrification are key to meeting the net zero emissions goal. The regulatory tool for this is the specialized stretch code, an opt-in energy code that must be adopted by Town Meeting. 

I am committed to collaborating with other boards, committees and town departments that have overlapping and shared responsibility for addressing climate change challenges.

Cheryl Tougias

Cindy L. Christiansen, Select Board candidate

What do you see as the most important sustainability issues facing Milton today, and if elected what would your role be to address them?

Thank you for this opportunity.


The most important sustainability issue for Milton is that we need better decision-making. We have three types of pollution problems: 1) excessive aviation noise pollution on the east side of town, 2) excessive pollution from vehicular traffic and aircraft, and 3) material pollution that also adds to flooding issues because of impervious land coverings.


Excessive aviation noise pollution: The current Select Board is wasting town resources to sue the FAA to stop a small number of planes from being shifted from the overused (160/day on average) approach path over East Milton to the west (which gets only 18/day on average). Select Board members claim that they want flight path dispersion – this shows that they do not. The lawsuit is frivolous and a very poor decision. I continue my volunteer work on Milton’s aviation issues via the national group that I co-founded, Aviation-Impacted Communities Alliance (AICA). AICA works with federal Congressional members and staff to affect changes, transparency, and inclusion of community voices in FAA laws, regulations, and practices. Our latest project is a 67 Community Group (from across the country) request to Senate and House Transportation Committees to include 14 filed bills and another 14 amendments in the upcoming 2023 FAA Reauthorization. We will fix Milton’s untenable East Milton aviation noise pollution problem with legislation, not expensive lawsuits. The country’s best aviation attorneys know this.


Excessive pollution from vehicular traffic and aircraft: We need to help more children walk to school or take the bus (preferably electric). This problem is complex because it includes traffic problems, safety, convenience, and scheduling. I participated in an air pollution study with the Town and Tufts researchers. Tufts took air pollution measurements around Fontbonne (directly under the heavily-used aircraft arrival path). No surprise that they found increased pollution during school pick-up/drop-off and rush-hour times. Milton recently received some Purple Air Monitors from the state. I encouraged them to place at least one by a school (they did, Tucker). As a Select Board member, I will analyze the Purple Air data from Milton with the hope that the use of truth-telling data, more residents are motivated to reduce their local carbon footprint.


Material pollution: The decision to cover town-owned ground with artificial turf is one that will come back to bite Milton in multiple ways. The EPA recently announced plans to increase its regulations of some PFAS and the state is leaning towards similar actions. I think that the state will someday assess towns for clean-up fees for PFAS runoff, much like the town now does for water runoff from impervious surfaces, in part because of state requirements. Just because Milton doesn't use the run-off water for drinking, doesn't mean that some communities (and wildlife) don't. I expect that there will soon be laws that force polluters to do and pay for PFAS clean-up. That is why the Kaplan/Kirsh/Rockwell Law Firm's assessment that "This [EPA] rule may be just the tip of the iceberg" should be important to town decision-makers. And, more importantly, the town should not be exposing its children to PFAS contamination. To me, it is a no-brainer that artificial turf is a bad decision. 


What role do you see for Milton’s town government in responding to climate change?


I think that town government needs to demonstrate by actions, not just words, its dedication to responding in substantial ways to slow, hopefully stop, climate change. I am running a no-waste campaign to provide an example of how I will approach my responsibilities as Select Board member. I will not advertise my candidacy with lawn signs that end up in landfills. Instead, I ask that residents donate to a local charity, like Sustainable Milton. If I am your Select Board member, I will not waste tax-dollars either.

Residents will not receive political advertisement mailings from me. This is also a waste of resources and time. Most mailings go directly into recycle bins. I believe in doing. I speak up and demand accountability and transparency of town government and as a Select Board member, residents can and should expect the same from me.

Instead of wining and dining at meet and greet events, I ask that residents spend some time cleaning out cupboards and making donations to the food pantry and animal shelter. I am not a politician and never will be. I am a researcher, a scientist, a teacher, a community advocate, a mother, a friend, and a grandmother.

I think that Milton needs to move away from its tendency to elect the most-advertised candidates and instead elect residents who practice what they preach. When elected, I will bring my conservation, tax-dollar efficiency, and sustainability principles and ethics with me to my role on the Select Board.

Cindy Christiansen
Jim Davis

Jim P. Davis, Planning Board candidate

What do you see as the most important sustainability issues facing Milton today, and if elected what would your role be to address them?

Lowering consumption to reduce carbon/emissions.


What role do you see for Milton’s town government in responding to climate change?

Emphasize the stretch code, expand the use of solar while also promoting storage of generated electricity

Phil Johennig, Select Board candidate

What do you see as the most important sustainability issues facing Milton today, and if elected what would your role be to address them?

There are three issues that I consider to be paramount in our Town and they are:


1)  Airplane Noise and Pollution - I have worked through Boston Fair Skies since it was formed in 2013 to advocate for less impact on our community from traffic to and from Logan Airport.  What I have found is that this issue is not one where a quick fix can be found and implemented.  It takes determination and persistence.  I am in this issue for the long-term whether or not I am elected to the Select Board.  However, having a seat would give my voice more power and influence working with other Board members, Representative Lynch, Representative Pressley. Senator Warren and Senator Markey.

2)  Affordability - There are residents in Milton who do not concern themselves with whether or not taxes increase in our Town.  Any spending may seem like good spending.  Then there are the more numerous others.  I am 68 years old and not yet retired.  I do think about when I do eventually retire and I think about current retirees who are long time community members.  I worry about families with young children who struggle to give their children every advantage now and in the future and families with lower or fixed incomes.  I speak for you.  I do not, in general, support overrides.  I never supported the tax surcharge for the Community Preservation Act.  I objected to the Storm Water Runoff Fee.  I understand living within my means and I am a voice for fiscal restraint in our Town.  I would bring that voice to our five member Select Board.  I have been a Chief Financial Officer in Divisions of large public companies and in small privately held companies.  I understand the need to run an operation efficiently and competitively.

3)  Environmentally Friendly Community - This may seem off the wall but I wonder if we could use some of the money raised by the sale of the Poor Farm and some money from the CPA tax surcharge (now that we have it) to create a revolving fund of money that can be lent to homeowners for the purpose of installing solar panels, upgrading insulation, upgrading heating and cooling equipment, replacing windows and doors using any of a group of Town approved vendors.  Loans would be at below market rates but the exact rate would depend on household income.  The duration of the loan would also be determined by household income.  Priority would be given to those families with the lowest household incomes in order to make their dwelling more comfortable, affordable and environmentally friendly.


What role do you see for Milton’s town government in responding to climate change?

The Town does not have the reach or the resources of the Federal government or the Commonwealth but every decision that the Town makes should consider climate impact.  The Town should promote more open, green space in development decisions.  Town facilities should be carbon neutral over time.  Traffic decisions should always strive to minimize stopped vehicles particularly in congested neighborhoods.  Better timing of traffic lights could encourage continuous flow at slower speeds.  I don't know where the schools are regarding lower emission busses but the Town should move forward with low emission vehicles as the fleet is replaced.  The schools should provide transportation at no cost to encourage parents to use school busses rather than shuttling children to schools in private vehicles.  Finally, for any Town owned sports field, I support natural grass.  That medium appears to work well at Cunningham Park.  Natural grass just has to receive proper maintenance.


Thanks for this opportunity.  I would appreciate your vote.

Benjamin Zoll, Select Board candidate

What do you see as the most important sustainability issues facing Milton today, and if elected what would your role be to address them?

The most important sustainability issue facing Milton today, like the rest of the world, is climate change. Our town should be focused on building resiliency against climate change while also mitigating our own emissions. Educational campaigns for residents on reputable solar power companies along with options to source green energy will help residents save money as well as have access to a more sustainable and resilient source of electricity. Encouraging municipal composting for residents (there is already some great work being piloted here by Tucker and Glover schools) will help reduce our waste costs, methane emissions, and could potentially help provide materials for town landscaping services. Finally, through smart planning, we can ensure Milton's future growth happens in a way that capitalizes on green building technologies, public transit options, and walkable/bikeable commercial zoning - all of which will reduce our emissions while also encouraging a healthy and community-focused lifestyle.


What role do you see for Milton’s town government in responding to climate change?

I've outlined some ideas above about how Milton can reduce emissions and increase our resiliency through educational means and planning. Additional efforts should be made in the transportation space to encourage mass transit usage, including advocating with the MBTA for better access and maintenance of the high-speed rail and bus services, better bike lane connectivity around town and to regional bike networks, and efforts to preserve green space from future residential projects should be prioritized. 

Phil Johennig
Benjamin Zoll

Richard Wells, Select Board re-election candidate

What do you see as the most important sustainability issues facing Milton today, and if elected what would your role be to address them?

Since I am in my sixth year on the Milton Selectboard, I think I might begin with some of our gains as well as challenges. My work in Milton on this issue dates to my time as Police Chief which began in 2007 and ended in August of 2016. During this time, with the help of Consolidated Facilities Director Bill Ritchie, we secured many dollars in grants to reduce the heating demands of Police Headquarters and
improve our electrical dependence. This effort involved upgrading all windows, adding new insulation into the building, while also engaging Mass Save to advance all electrical lighting. Also, in 2011 I began the historical effort to replace all large 8-cylinder administrative vehicles with 4-cylinder compact vehicles. Today, the Town is fortunate that the next generation of administrative fleet vehicles has transitioned to hybrid and electrical vehicles.


In my time on the Selectboard, I strongly advocated that the Town Administrator undertake the purchase and installation of electric charging stations for Milton. While the Town has had success, this endeavor must expand to the entire Town, (East Milton Business district), our Schools, and other Town Buildings. In addition, in 2019, the Town began to move to an administrative EV Fleet, an initiative that I
strongly encourage moving forward. In addition to vehicles, Milton is currently in the process of building (3) new Fire Stations. As the Liaison to the FS Building Committee, I have advocated that these new buildings be as” green as possible.” I am not alone in this mindset. The Committee Chair, Chief and all members support this. The same is true of our Animal shelter Committee. The new shelter will be all electric with solar.


Milton must also work hard to reduce the thousands of cars that commute daily through our streets.  Our Town also must protect our natural resources from the impacts of climate change, (Blue Hills, Neponset River, our parks and open spaces). Finally, our early financial success of community recycling has diminished greatly. We must collaborate with our regional neighbors to find methods which make community recycling more sustainable and less costly. These are just a few of the successes and challenges for Milton.

What role do you see for Milton’s town government in responding to climate change?

If re-elected, there is a lot of work to do. Everything from lowering the towns dependency on gas vehicles, as well as creating incentives for new construction of green homes and solar power.  Another important endeavor involves a strong commitment by residents to annually replace fallen trees as well as aggressively planting new trees. Personally, I am proud to be a member of a local Foundation that donated $50,000 to this initiative for Milton 360 last year. For many in Town, they don’t realize how important this work is to the overall quality of life and health of Milton, specifically how this work affects the negative pressures from climate change. 

While I could probably fill many pages on this topic, I will elaborate on one very important undertaking for Milton. Our town is lucky to be graced by the beautiful Neponset River. From the Saltwater estuary and marshes that transverse the river from the opening from Boston Harbor in Port Norfolk and Quincy, all the way to the Baker Dam in Milton Lower Mills. Upstream of the Baker Chocolate Dam, the freshwater side of the Neponset quietly and serenely cuts a path along the Central Ave corridor along Eliot St, into the Columbines under the Parkway all the way to Dedham.  Decades of pollution from dye factories and transformer factories have filled this beautiful natural gem with toxins threatening our community, wildlife and more. Recently the Federal EPA has designated the freshwater side from the Baker Dam to Dedham as a multimillion-dollar superfund cleanup project. Since 2017 I have chaired the Milton Selectboard Neponset River/Milton Landing Committee. The three-mile Saltwater side of this river is beyond majestic. The river today in Milton is home to recreational boating, kayaking, canoeing, competitive and recreational crew, fishing, biking, walking and birdwatching. Along the banks, you will find, ducks, geese, hawks, osprey and Milton’s newest inhabitants the great American Bald Eagle.   This area of the Neponset has been identified as the largest native spawning location for the Atlantic Smelt. The annual migration of these protected fish is one of the reasons it is so rich with wildlife.  This 2.5-mile area of Milton with Boston bordering the north side of the river, is a critically important and endangered environmental worry for our community. 

In 2021 given the alarming news of the pollution on the freshwater side of the Neponset, combined with a recent marine study from Save the Harbor Inc on sea level rise, we engaged our neighbors in Boston and Quincy to study this issue. Our work secured a $50,000 grant to test for potential hazards including pollution and sea level rise from climate change.  The bad news is that the toxins that have washed into this ACEC (Area of Critical Environmental Concern) are significant. Enough to potentially threaten the life and existence of this beautiful gem of nature. In addition, our group is working closely with Save the Harbor who are spearheading the threat of sea level rise for Boston Harbor and all its rivers and bays. The reality, if ignored, is substantial. If left unaddressed, the area of Milton known as Milton Village, Lower Mills and the entire ACEC including the borders neighboring the Neponset could face a serious future threat. We are working diligently on this important environmental problem and will not stop until it is resolved. 

In my nearly four decades of service to Milton, the one description that I have always used when looking at the overall makeup of our Town is “special.” While Milton faces many challenges to the qualities that make our home special, the pressures of pollution, climate change, and the overall health of Milton sit right up there with our annual budgetary pressures, town services and education. The job of protecting this special Town belongs to all of us.  I hope to be fortunate enough to continue fighting for Milton, its natural beauty and wonderful quality of life its citizens expect.  

Thank you,
Richard G. Wells Jr. 
Secretary, Milton Selectboard 

Richard Wells

George Ashur, Select Board candidate

What do you see as the most important sustainability issues facing Milton today, and if elected what would your role be to address them?

There are several ways to enhance conservation and encourage sustainability at the local level. First and foremost, we can promote the conservation of existing water and woodland resources. Open space and the maintenance of a natural environment are critical to supporting wildlife and limiting the effects of pollutants. Future development in town must be done intelligently and should center sustainability to minimize traffic and reduce congestion, prevent the loss of green space, encourage energy efficiency, and promote walking and cycling.  


Over the years, we have lost many mature trees and plantings throughout our town. This should be discouraged because the destruction of mature root systems increases storm water runoff and the flow of pollution. On the Select Board, I will advocate for the work of the Shade Tree Advisory Committee and will strongly support the restoration of Milton’s green canopy. I will also encourage the creation of rainwater gardens to limit run off and will support efforts to limit water utility overuse. The public should be encouraged to plant native trees and shrubs and to limit non-organic fertilizers whenever possible in gardening and lawn maintenance. As a member of the Select Board, I will always be sensitive to environmental concerns and sustainability.


What role do you see for Milton’s town government in responding to climate change?

As previously mentioned, I will always be sensitive to environmental concerns and believe there are many ways to mitigate the effects of climate change here in Milton. Planting trees throughout town can help lower temperatures and reduce the effects of pollution. Additionally, the town should prioritize the acquisition of electric vehicles to the municipal fleet, ensure that town properties are energy efficient, mitigate the risks of floods in our coastal areas, encourage walking and biking, and promote the establishment of electric charging stations throughout Milton. Through community input, I look forward to crafting solutions to the complex climate-related challenges Milton is facing. 


(SM note: we Mr. Ashur's answer to the second question on April 18th, but did not see and post it until April 22nd.  We apologize for the error.)

George Ashur
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