It’s election season here in Newton, and residents have had lots of people knocking on their doors to ask for their votes in the 2019 Newton City Council elections.
Before I share my recommendations, I would like to share a short tale about elections in Newton.
I learned a lesson some years ago after voting for a local mayoral candidate who had a great ground game and engaging style. While his opponent assumed victory would be easy, this candidate actually pounded the pavement, knocked on doors in every one of Newton’s 13 villages, and talked with thousands of potential voters. He was earnest, and knew how to say encouraging things about issues that mattered.
I trusted him, and gave him my vote, as did more than 10,000 other voters.
However, as soon as he was elected, he went out of his way to accommodate developers like Mark Development in their bids to get special treatment and outsized profits from the parcels they had purchased or leased, mostly on the northside of the city (Wards 1 through 4, as well as Northland in Ward 5).
Case in point: the 28 Austin Street project, leased to a developer for the equivalent of just over $10,000 per year. The cost to rent a 1 bedroom apartment there: between $2800 and $3700 per month:
I learned my lesson. I did not vote for him when he was up for re-election, and I’m far more careful now when it comes to selecting candidates for mayor or city councillors. For the candidates who knock on my door, I will ask hard questions about local issues that matter to me, especially around development:
- How do they vote on nuts-and-bolts issues that directly impact residents, from road maintenance to Newton’s leaf blower ordinance?
- Where do they stand on the Riverside development? Do they agree that the developers — Mark Development and B.H. Normandy — should be allowed to rip up a signed agreement negotiated with residents and the city to build about 300 new units, and instead build a vastly oversized luxury compound on a small, two-way street connecting Auburndale and Newton Lower Falls?
- Where do they stand on Northland, another oversized development planned for the chronically gridlocked Needham Street in Newton Upper Falls?
- Are they acting on residents’ concerns about rezoning Washington Street? Do they support the current mayor’s plan for high density, 5-10 story buildings running from West Newton Square all the way down to the Lake, even though a Newtonville Area Council survey found that more than 90% of city residents do not want this?
- Do they use the term “NIMBY”? This patronizing acronym is intended to steamroll all arguments against massive development. Paradoxically, “Newton NIMBY” lumps in people who are concerned about a lack of affordable housing in proposed “market rate” developments with zealots who don’t want ANY affordable housing in Newton. Any candidate, elected official, or activist who casually uses this insult to describe any resident who dare to voice objections to high-density luxury developments and teardowns of modest single family homes to build McMansions don’t deserve support, in my opinion.
Of course, not every candidate for Newton City Council knocks on my door, or even makes their proposed platforms publicly available. Some outright refuse to state where they stand on Riverside, at least in part because of questionable advice from a lawyer who reports to Mayor Ruthanne Fuller at Newton City Hall.
Fortunately, there are several local organizations that are vetting candidates, and this list of recommended city council candidates, from NewtonVotes.org is the one I will use as a starting point (links to candidates’ websites can be found on that page).
- Ward 1 – Allan Ciccone Sr
- Ward 2 – Emily Norton
- Ward 2 – At Large – Tarik Lucas
- Ward 2 – At Large – Jennifer Bentley
- Ward 3 – Julia Malakie
- Ward 3 – At Large – Pamela Wright
- Ward 5 – Rena Getz
- Ward 5 – At Large – Paul Coletti
- Ward 6 – Lisa Gordon
- Ward 6 – At Large – Greg Schwartz
NewtonVotes.org, incidentally, has a statement on its front page that I totally agree with:
“We are residents who think the City Council should work on behalf of voters, rather than for large, for-profit developers. We support village-scale development, affordable housing rather than luxury units, and small, local businesses, not national chains.”
For the full list of candidates in the 2019 Newton City Council elections, and to see sample ballots, visit the city’s official election website.