Editor’s note: The following letter was sent to Tufts University President Anthony Monaco and Medford Mayor Stephanie Burke on Thursday, May 16, from Medford City Councilor Breanna Lungo-Koehn.
Dear President Monaco and Mayor Burke,
As you continue to negotiate a fair and appropriate PILOT agreement between Tufts and the City of Medford, I wanted to offer these suggestions that residents of our city have shared with me. As I am sure you are aware, the lack of engagement and public process in finalizing the PILOT agreement is frustrating for the residents of our city. Many have shared ideas with me as their City Council representative about what’s important to them.
Each year, our community welcomes students from around the world in our local businesses, in area apartments, in our public parks and infrastructure, and within your campus where many of our residents work. We benefit from your presence and you benefit from our rich history, welcoming neighbors and city services. In addition to a fair financial contribution to offset the costs of services, there are synergies between Tufts and our local institutions that could be mutually beneficial. Here are suggestions for you to consider:
1) Commit to placing at least two graduate interns from the School of Environmental Policy and Planning within Medford City Hall’s planning office on a continuous basis. Medford is experiencing extraordinary development pressures, some of which are encouraging and some of which threaten the character and vibrancy of our communities. The arrival of the Green Line is among the most pressing drivers of such change and if not planned properly, will not realize its full potential. City government can be a great place for young planners to learn and the vibrancy, history and business diversity in our squares offer unique experiences within a stone’s throw of campus.
2) Make a bold commitment for the Tufts Department of Education to partner with our lower performing schools and leverage your resources to make positive change. Among Medford’s 4,232 enrolled students, just 40 percent of 3-8 graders meet or exceed MCAS expectations for math. Tufts resources and our mutual goals of furthering education and advancing opportunities create a significant opportunity to improve educational attainment. We could benefit from your ideas and your talent.
3) Share a plan for housing Tufts’ student population with both Medford and Somerville. The plan should include, i) the percentages of students currently able to be housed in Tufts housing in each year of the pilot, ii) targets for additional housing, iii) combined with anticipated enrollment growth and additional housing, projected percentage of students housed on campus or in Tufts housing if plans to grow housing are executed successfully, and iv) and provide biannual updates to the cities of Medford and Somerville regarding action being taken to increase appropriately sited and designed housing for Tufts students.
4) Offer free tuition to students of South Medford a nearby Somerville neighborhoods who are accepted to Tufts. Clark University has a fantastic program that includes free tuition for residents of the Main South neighborhood in Worcester with the qualifications to gain admission. This model could be a great example that shows residents of the local neighborhood that if they excel in school and are accepted, financial burdens will not limit their opportunity.
5) Make your fields and indoor recreation facilities more regularly available to our community groups, including youth sports. We have a shortage of quality facilities in Medford that are open to our Little League, softball, soccer, basketball and other youth sports programs. This could be a critical gap to fill that brightens your campus experience with the smiling faces of children, especially in underutilized facilities.
6) Agree to not take additional buildings off the tax rolls should you acquire new assets in the coming year unless they increase student housing. We need to plan for future needs through a stable tax base. Should you grow, this growth should not undercut sound financial planning. At the same time, we have a serious shortage of housing for students and would support your efforts to add to that stock in appropriate locations with careful design.
7) Host quarterly community meetings with academic leaders, the mayor, city counselors and most importantly neighborhood and business representatives about how Tufts and Medford can help one another. Be engaged beyond your talented Community Affairs group.
Thank you for considering these suggestions. I am sure you have received many more and appreciate your review and careful consideration. I hope these ideas are helpful and that we can reach a swift conclusion that is mutually beneficial.
Breanna Lungo-Koehn, City Councilor, City of Medford.