My #1 priority is that we work together and that all voices are heard to improve our great city and meet the challenges of the future. I pledge as we address these city issues I will:
- Listen carefully
- Employ strategic thinking
- Be transparent
- Work with all my colleagues in a collaborative fashion
Just last week, the MBTA rezoning law was further updated by the Commonwealth, “the most consequential housing law adopted in the state in more than 50 years.” I do not support the Village Center Overlay Design (VCOD) as currently written and I support the August 11 memo signed by Newton City Councilors Lisle Baker, Lenny Gentile, Marc Laredo, Tarik Lucas, Julia Malakie, Chris Markiewicz, Emily Norton, John Oliver and Pam Wright.
Re-Zoning and Development
The city council is in the midst of making vast changes in Newton from deciding where the MBTA zoning will go (which streets are in and which are out) to the Village Center Overlay Districts (VCOD) which will result in zoning changes to our village center business areas and the surrounding residential streets.
The MBTA rezoning is mandated by the state and requires that Newton zone for 8,330 additional housing units for a 25% increase over our current units. It must be passed by the end of 2023. The VCOD is a discretionary effort being led by the city’s Planning Department, which, by current count, could add more than an additional 10,000 units over and above what the MBTA zoning requires across three designations, VC3, VC2 and MRT (previously VC1). VC3 would allow by-right (no city council oversight) development of up to 4.5 stories, with an opportunity for additional stories, on all streets in the heart of the Newton Centre and Newton Highlands business area. It would eliminate any parking requirements and make all of the development allowed by-right removing city council oversight for projects up to 30,000 square feet.
Newton has an impending deadline for the MBTA Communities compliance, but no such deadline exists for the VCOD.
I believe any vote on VCOD should be delayed until 2024 to allow the city council more time to truly engage the community, solicit, and consider substantive feedback.
I would like to see the council do a better job listening to the residents of Newton. Much of the critical work being done on these two significant up-zoning overhauls — potentially bringing over 20,000 new units of housing — is being done over the summer and in such a way that most impacted residents are not aware. There has also been little substantive discussion of how Newton could provide the infrastructure, school, parks, fields and services that would be required of a potential 50% increase in households.
Transparent and Responsive Government
Newton needs an independent councilor who can both lead and cooperate with others. I am someone who prioritizes representation and always strives to do the right thing. I am an excellent, non-judgmental listener, hard worker, and kind to others. I have worked with a lot of people from different backgrounds: helping seniors in a local nursing home while in high school; running an international organization fighting racism and promoting civil rights; and my current job as the executive director of a food pantry where we help one of the most vulnerable populations in Massachusetts. Through these varied experiences, I have learned how to build consensus among those with very different viewpoints. I don’t just talk about my values – I go out and take action. Lastly, I try to be kind and believe that everyone deserves dignity and respect. That is how I will approach my work as your next Ward 6 Councilor.
Navigating Newton should not be a frustrating experience. We need well-maintained streets, sidewalks, open spaces, athletic fields, and playgrounds. For example, Ward 6 is home to Crystal Lake, one of the gems of Newton. This is a great public resource that has not received the care and attention that it deserves. We need to rebuild the bathhouse and the public swimming area and expand the hours of operation as well as address the Cronin’s Cove public area and boat launch, and the parking near the public swim area. We can do a better job at increasing the ability for people to go swimming all year around and access the water.
Our schools are what makes Newton a community. I am a proud supporter of our school system–a system that furnished both me and my children with a world-class education. Without families to hold us together we lose our foundation. Part of what keeps our schools outstanding is the education in arts and the rigorous curriculum. A strong curriculum includes not only the fundamental academic subjects but art, music, and electives. We need to ensure that we fight to keep our music lessons and orchestras and that we strive to fund our schools to keep them competitive and our children educated. We also must address the social and emotional needs of our students that have arisen in our schools during the pandemic.
I support Newton’s Climate Action Plan and Newton’s Safe Routes to schools. We must integrate and support organizations that seek to enhance our community. Only by city government, community groups, individuals, and all members of our community will we achieve the goals set out in Newton’s Climate Action Plan.
Let’s work together to increase our walking, biking, and car-pooling. Additionally, our transportation system in Newton desperately needs to connect our villages. Finding paths through our village system to connect all of us should be a resource readily available to our community.
Many Ward 6 homes experienced flooding or sewer issues during our most recent storm. We must plan ahead for the changes that are heading our way and plan for the future. New construction should have more green space.
Aging in Place and Needs of Seniors
For those that love their homes in Newton, aging in place should be an option. Newton is working toward helping to make this a reality, but we are not there yet. Navigating the complicated world of reverse mortgages, deferring real estate taxes, and getting tax reductions is complex. I will:
- Strive to ensure that those that would like to age in place know all the city options available to them.
- Ensure that the city is doing the best they can to help facilitate this by looking at the different options and trying to make sure the policies that are currently in place are not prohibiting people from taking full advantage of them.
- Advocate for those that wish to downsize, to build housing suitable for seniors.
Long-term fiscal stability is a priority in Newton. Currently, Newton City spending is far outpacing Newton resident’s household income. We consistently plan incorrectly and never have money for basic City improvements. Just as any business owner would do I will:
- Identify our most needed expenditures
- Seek solutions for ongoing fiscal challenges
- Analyze our budget for cost-saving solutions
- Stop spending on needless consultant studies and listen to outcomes when we do
- Strive to set our City up for long-term fiscal success to ensure our children and future generations are not still paying for the mistakes of our past.
Conservation & Open Space
Preservation of Newton’s green space is a priority. We must protect our natural environment. As development in our Garden City increases, so should green spaces and parks both small and large in order to offset the impact. We should highlight and protect our scenic spots and ensure they are properly maintained. Bullough’s Pond, Crystal Lake, Echo Bridge, the Lower Falls trail, the Christina Street Bridge, and many others, are local scenic spots that enhance our community. I will advocate for increasing open spaces for active and passive recreation throughout the city.
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A Collaborative Voice for All Newton Residents