The Town of Natick depends on the active participation of its citizens in governance of the Town. Natick voters on Tuesday, March 29, 2022 will cast their ballots for candidates running for Select Board, a contested race.
There are three candidates running for two open 3-year seats on the Select Board, which serves as the chief executive board of the Town and, as such, is vested with all the municipal authority not specifically retained by the Town’s legislative body, Town Meeting.
The Select Board candidates in ballot order are Kathryn Coughlin, Bruce Evans, and Cody Jacobs.
Natick Report invited the candidates to answer a few questions about their qualifications and priorities for the Town of Natick. Below is Cody Jacobs’ Q&A.
Natick Report: Please introduce yourself to Natick Report‘s readers.
Cody Jacobs: My name is Cody Jacobs and my pronouns are he/him. I live in West Natick with my wife Kristen and our two kids–Evann and Ailey. Evann is a first grader at Brown Elementary School, and Ailey is four years old. I’m a lecturer at BU Law School, where I teach Lawyering Skills to first-year law students.
I’m a progressive activist who gets things done. Prior to entering academia, I worked as an attorney for the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence (now part of Giffords), where I helped state and local governments pass strong gun safety laws. That work involved engaging with stakeholders both inside and outside of government to reach agreement on these difficult policy questions. My career as an attorney also included representing immigrants in detention and low-income veterans facing eviction.
Here in Natick, I’m a Town Meeting Member, a member of the Transportation Advisory Committee, and a member of the Brown School Council. In those roles, I’ve advocated for things like raising the minimum wage for town employees, lower speed limits, and equitable education. I’m running for Select Board because I want Natick to be a progressive leader on the most important issues of our time.
NR: If elected, what do you hope to accomplish in your 3-year tenure as a Select Board member?
Cody Jacobs: My three priorities are affordability, equity, and climate action.
Starting with affordability, I support shifting the tax burden from working families to commercial landlords with a split tax rate. Natick is an outlier among similar communities in that it still charges the same tax rate for residential and commercial landowners. This regressive system means that working families must pay the same tax rate as McDonalds, Home Depot, and the Natick Mall.
Most other similar communities have long ago recognized this is inequitable and have switched to a split tax rate that charges a higher rate for commercial property and a lower rate for residential property (the municipality still brings in the same total amount of money). This will provide critical tax relief at a time when Natick is on the verge of putting an operational override on the ballot. Supporters of the current system say that a split tax rate will hurt business growth, but the data does not support that assumption, and you can read more about it here.
Other affordability measures I support:
- Adopting a means-tested property tax exemption for seniors.
- Increasing low-income and mixed-income housing stock, including through the adoption of the Community Preservation Act in Natick.
- Increasing housing supply through denser development and mixed-use development in areas near transit to encourage walkability and stimulate business growth.
On equity, I support continuing to implement the recommendations of Natick’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion task force, including creating a permanent DEI committee and hiring a chief diversity officer. I will also advocate for:
- Adopting a sanctuary policy for Natick to codify existing Natick Police Department practices that protect our immigrant communities.
- Filing a home rule petition to extend voting rights in local elections to non-citizen residents.
- Removing racist symbolism from our government.
Finally, on climate, I support increasing the percentage of renewable energy in our residential municipal energy aggregation as quickly as possible to reach 100% renewable as the default option for all residents. I also support moving towards 100% renewable energy for the town’s own electrical contract.
NR: Natick through the Town Governance Study Committee is taking a look at how the town is governed. What changes in town government do you think would benefit Natick?
Cody Jacobs: I strongly support the Select Board’s decision to create this study committee–we are long overdue for a fresh look at our government structure. As a member of the Select Board, I would hear the results of the committee’s work with an open mind. That said, here is my current perspective on it:
I think we must center equity in the conversation around government reform. Our current government structure strongly favors those who have the privilege to volunteer hours and hours of their time for positions like Town Meeting. Although it is an elected position on paper, Town Meeting is functionally a volunteer position because so few people run and the elections are rarely contested. With this system of government, it is very difficult for a typical voter to use their vote to hold the government accountable and express their policy preferences.
At the same time, I also think our current structure puts Natick at a disadvantage in trying to be competitive with other municipalities in attracting business development to our town. When a business coming here is contingent on an adjustment to a by-law that may or may not get through Town Meeting (which may not be happening for months), Natick is at risk of losing out to other communities with more nimble systems.
The upshot of all this could be that Natick should move to a mayor/council system of government, but there is a continuum of less drastic changes we could adopt that would still be helpful including reducing the size of Town Meeting or moving to a Town Manager system. As I said, I’ll be open to hearing what that committee recommends, but I definitely don’t think the status quo is working.
NR: Is there anything else you’d like to say that the above questions did not cover?
Cody Jacobs: I have knocked on over 900 doors since I launched this campaign. I’ve learned a lot from those conversations, but most of all that this is a wonderful caring community. I’ve had conversations with seniors who have no kids in our system but still want to make sure we support our schools; with families living in large beautiful homes whose first concern is that we don’t have enough low-income housing; and with business owners who understand that paying their fair share in taxes helps everyone prosper.
I want our government to reflect these values and, if I’m elected, I’ll fight to make sure it does.
NR: How should voters reach you if they want more information?