Medford City Councilor Rick Caraviello is running against incumbent Mayor Breanna Lungo-Koehn in the city’s municipal election on Tuesday. Both candidates plan to give Tufts students more recreational and dining opportunities and revitalize the city as a whole.
A lifelong Medford resident, Caraviello volunteered for the city for more than 30 years before running for public office. He is a member and former president of the Medford Chamber of Commerce and a co-chair of the Medford Public Library Foundation. During his 12 years on the city council, he served three year-long terms as president.
Lungo-Koehn has served two terms as mayor, having begun her first term only three months before COVID-19 hit. Before she was elected mayor, Lungo-Koehn served as a Medford city councilor for 18 years — she set a record as the city’s youngest-ever councilor when she was first elected at age 21. As mayor, Lungo-Koehn has reorganized the mayoral office to promote accountability by hiring new department heads to supervise the work the city is doing.
“We hired highly qualified individuals to fill the roles here in the city,” Lungo-Koehn told the Daily. “That comes with a lot of hard work and a lot of culture changes within the city, so I’m very proud of the almost 15 new department heads we put in place.”
She also combined the Office of Community Development with the Office of Energy and Environment to create an Office of Planning, Development and Sustainability.
“That office is very exciting … because now everything we do development-wise has that sustainability [focus],” Lungo-Koehn said. “Our eyes are on sustainability.”
If re-elected, Lungo-Koehn will continue emphasizing sustainability into her next term. She has already laid out a Climate Action and Adaptation Plan and a Housing Production Plan, and she hopes to spend her next term implementing them.
“Between all those planning documents, we’ve already gotten to work, but there’s still so much more to do,” Lungo-Koehn said.
Along with these plans, she hopes to build a new high school in Medford. Her office has applied for a $200 million grant that would fund half of the new school’s estimated cost.
“We did a really strong, high-quality application to the [Massachusetts School Building Authority] for a new high school. … Our students and faculty deserve a state-of-the-art flagship high school,” Lungo-Koehn said.
Lungo-Koehn also aims to bring more Tufts students closer to Medford through new commercial ventures.
“We have a number of projects breaking ground,” Lungo-Koehn said. “We have the Great American Beer Hall on Mystic Ave that has already broken ground. … It’s going to be a great destination for Tufts students.”
Caraviello emphasized that revitalizing Medford’s recreational scene will require creating more dining opportunities.
“We’ve got more vacant storefronts now than we’ve ever had,” Caraviello said. “It’s not good. People keep looking for more eateries. … We only have a couple of places where you can actually sit down and have lunch. … I’d like to see more family-style restaurants, dining restaurants. That’s one of my goals.”
To promote this development, Caraviello hopes to hire an economic development director, who will help drive business to Medford and put the city on the radar for more companies around Boston.
“We’re five miles from Boston and we’re not being marketed,” Caraviello said. “Big companies don’t know we’re here. … You need someone that has connections, that has the ability to go and start selling us.”
According to Caraviello, launching more businesses in Medford will attract developers to the city.
“If you build it, they’ll come,” he said. “They want to see foot traffic. … We have squares that can take some improvement. You can build another floor, you could put housing in some of our squares that put foot traffic on them [and] drive businesses to the community. There’s a reason why Somerville has hundreds of restaurants: because they’re dense and there’s people.”
For Tufts students looking to become more involved in Medford politics, Lungo-Koehn recommends subscribing to the city’s monthly newsletter and enrolling in text or email alerts from the city.
“I think it’s really important for Tufts students to subscribe to one or two of those things … so you know when community meetings are [and] when our events [are],” she said.
Sophomore Seona Maskara, co-director of resources for JumboVote, explained that voting is also a key way for students to make a difference in the Medford community. She stressed that Tufts students who are registered locally can raise the percentage of young voters in Medford.
“People over the age of 65 vote twice as often as people between the ages of 18 and 34, so they up having a much larger influence [than the younger population],” Maskara noted. “We want to vote on policies that are going to benefit ourselves and what we stand for, which is why it’s important that you get out there and you vote because mayoral races can have impacts on rent in the area, on housing … on transportation [and] all issues that affect our day-to-day life a lot.”