Medford Mayor Breanna Lungo-Koehn delivered her 2023 State of the City Address at City Hall on Jan. 25, updating Medford residents on the city’s efforts to increase affordable housing, revitalize the downtown area, and enforce Diversity Equity and Inclusion training for government officials. She was joined by City Council President Nicole Morell, School Committee Vice Chair Jenny Graham and Medford’s first-ever poet laureate, Terry Carter, who opened the event with a poem.
“In this new season, it’s where we start, to aim at progress, both sane and smart … that pulls together and not apart,” Carter shared in the opening poem. “Where social justice resonates, and folks engage in healthy debates, and good food fills each family’s plates, as neighbors walk through open gates … now’s the time for all to hear … a message of unity loud and clear.”
In her opening remarks, Lungo-Koehn echoed Carter’s call for progress.
“A community that does not grow does not thrive,” Lungo-Koehn said. “Here in Medford, because we have done the planning the last three years, we now are about to see growth mode. We’ve been able to make this transition and kickstart our economic engine because of a key goal: tapping into the unrealized potential of our squares, green spaces and city-owned properties.”
In particular, Mayor Lungo-Koehn discussed plans to develop the 28 acres of land at Wellington Station. Additionally, the city is reviewing proposals to bring new housing opportunities and green spaces to the area. The Medford waterfront will also experience an upgrade, with plans for more recreation spaces and community art installations in the works. Also, Lungo-Koehn added that the city is looking into developing underused lots in Medford Square, hoping to see progress on this project in the coming year.
“We must engage and work with our seniors in the neighborhood, our local small businesses, Chevalier Theatre and residents to assess their needs and implement a strategy that recognizes their importance to building a more vibrant and thriving downtown area,” Lungo-Koehn said.
The mayor also stressed the importance of expanding affordable housing options in Medford.
“It’s no secret that there’s a housing crunch in the region,” she said. “Cities across the commonwealth are feeling the pressure to create lasting solutions to this problem, and Medford is no different. Our city, however, is finding solutions that will bring more housing, especially affordable housing, to Medford.”
These solutions include designating 25% of the units at a new building on Mystic Valley Parkway to affordable housing and allocating Inflation Reduction Act funds to support and renovate existing affordable housing projects.
Another key topic of the evening was sustainability. According to the mayor, to progress towards Medford’s goal of a 50% reduction in emissions by the end of the decade, the city has unveiled two new electric charging stations at Hormel Stadium and Carr Park, with two more to be opened at Missituk School and Tufts Park. The city has also received a $230,000 grant from the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act to assist with the purchase of an electric street sweeper, which will replace Medford’s current diesel engine vehicle.
Mayor Lungo-Koehn concluded her speech by discussing the city’s work towards diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging, noting that the city will continue expanding its DEI training for all city, fire and police staff, including training on implicit bias and cultural competency.
“There are things I will not tolerate, and no one will discourage me from doing the hard work,” Lungo-Koehn said. “We can do hard things. We can transform the city and rid ourselves of the antiquated, outdated and inefficient policies. But it takes time, it takes focus and it takes trust … I am committed to a transparent, ethical administration for the city, and thus will not tolerate city employees who do not share that same work ethic.”
City Council President Nicole Morell also spoke at the event, sharing highlights from the nearly 100 meetings the council has held since January 2022. These highlights include revising the city’s zoning code and passing a polystyrene ban, an idea first proposed by students from the Center for Citizenship and Social Responsibility.
“We still have much work to accomplish, and I’m confident that we can work together as one in City Hall to move forward with zoning updates, move forward with a more sustainable and resilient Medford and move forward with a review of our city charter to ensure it reflects the city that we are today,” Morell said.
School Committee Vice Chair Jenny Graham also delivered remarks. The past few months have been tense for the Medford School Committee, which is grappling with the aftermath of a stabbing in the Medford High School bathroom that led students and parents to raise concerns about school safety. In response, Medford High School rolled out a 10-point safety plan, which requires staff to monitor bathrooms throughout the day and the school to administer a culture and climate survey.
“I think it’s safe to say that no school building has felt more challenged than Medford High School,” Graham said. “We took steps these past few months to ensure that our high school is safe and conducive to learning for all students.”
Graham spoke about the city’s plans to eventually move Medford High School to a new and improved building.
“Our high school students also deserve a building that can support modern, cutting-edge education and has ample space for our vocational students,” she said.
Graham also stressed that the school committee is working to bolster health curricula across Medford schools, ensuring that health classes help prevent violence and bullying amongst students.
“Creating a climate and culture [in Medford High School] that is deserving of Medford’s pride is certainly a work in progress, and it’s one that we’re all committed to,” Graham said. “My heart and my work go out to the families that have felt the pain that is our history, and it’s because of those voices, and because it’s the right thing to do, that we’re taking a deep hard look at what’s going right and more importantly what needs to change.”