I believe we all want Newton to be an inclusive community with great schools, thriving village centers, well-maintained parks, facilities and streets, and excellent senior and other public services. I also know there is considerable room for improvement. I am running to represent residents, so that your vision – of how Newton should be – will be represented on our City Council.
1. An Inclusive Newton
I support housing affordability and availability, and I support development that helps Newton residents, but for me this is mostly about democracy and transparency. The proposed rezoning would allow for a transformation of Newton into a much more densely built-up urban place with a population increase to match. I believe Newton residents should be fully informed and thoroughly involved in making a decision as important as this one. Do you agree you should be able to vote on this decision? Recently nine City Councilors sent a letter to the Administration and to their colleagues on the City Council, urging them to pause on any upzoning in excess of the 8330 units required by the State. I support the approach outlined in their letter.
2. Inclusive Advocacy and Civic Participation for a Healthier Environment
In recent years there seems to have been increasing controversy about the state of Newton’s public property and infrastructure, and how these public assets should be used, maintained or changed. Examples include the accessibility project at Levingston Cove, efforts to dispose of the Newton Center Library building, replacing the Senior Center, the Administration’s (defeated) proposal to clear cut the Laundry Brook Forest, excessive use of the Newton Highlands Playground, inadequate capacity and maintenance of playing fields, artificial turf use and Library parking lot flooding.
Representatives of resident groups and non-profits that support these public assets report that the Administration’s management of these assets is increasingly top-down in style, with little consultation with the residents most committed to these assets and most affected by City Hall’s approach. They report some city councilors are unwilling to advocate for residents’ preferences. Newton residents deserve excellent public facilities and infrastructure, and to have their ideas and opinions incorporated into policies for the management of all public assets. It’s irrational to ignore the expertise, dedication, volunteerism and willingness to fundraise to pay for improvements of these “Friends of” non-profits and informal groups of neighbors. These neighbors know these public properties and what they need far better than the consultants hired by over-stressed City departments. The consultants are incentivized to propose the most expensive “solutions” and end up costing millions of dollars in taxpayer money every year. It’s no wonder NewtonServes Day participation has declined so much.
If we want to do the best for the environment and protect our green spaces, parks, playing fields and historic assets, we need City Councilors who encourage resident participation in the management of our shared spaces.
I will be that kind of City Councilor.
3. Excellent Schools in Newton
Restoring confidence in our schools is a major priority. Our school population has been declining, in part due to demographics. However, 21% of our K-12 students attend private schools, largely due to the steady erosion in parents’ confidence that our public schools can provide a quality education for students and a fulfilling teaching environment for our teachers.
Our new Superintendent has the experience and vision to restore confidence, but we also need City Councilors who will support her in every way we can. While we now have a plan to enhance the financial resources allocated to the Newton Public Schools, a similar and fiscally sound plan to help the schools presented to the City Council last year was, oddly, rejected.
4. Better Leadership, Fiscal Management & Services for Seniors, and Residents of All Ages
It’s logical to understand that most Newton residents live in Newton because they like our garden city and want to keep it a wonderful place to live. Therefore, I couldn’t help but see the failure of the operating override as a rejection of the fiscal and management policies of the Administration and those members of the City Council who are closely aligned with it. Everyone I’ve ever talked to in Newton wants strong public schools, and excellent facilities and services for seniors, those in need and residents of all ages.
As I talk to voters on the campaign trail, I hear comments like “Where did all our ARPA money go?” and “How could they say we needed an operating override and then somehow ‘find’ tens of millions of dollars after the override failed?.” I ask the same questions myself. I’m running because we deserve better leadership, fiscal management and better facilities and services for seniors and residents of all ages.