To the Editor:
Currently Newton’s City Council has a mix of ward-elected and at-large elected councilors. For each of our eight wards we have one councilor who lives in a given ward elected by residents of that ward, and two councilors residing in that ward elected at-large, or by the whole city, for a total of 24 councilors.
I have been disturbed by a plan devised by the Charter Commission to eliminate all ward councilors—those elected by residents of their own wards. The Commission proposes there be eight councilors, each residing in one of the eight wards but elected by the entire city, and four councilors voted on city-wide with no ward residency requirements, for a total of twelve. On November 7, 2017, Newton citizens will vote on the proposed new charter in an up or down vote. There is no chance to object to just one part of it. Voting Yes means we are voting for an undemocratic form of City Council into the foreseeable future.
The new charter would take away the direct and local accountability of councilors. The current ward councilors are responsive to residents in their own areas as well as to the good of the entire city of Newton. Having all councilors elected city-wide means their campaigns will be much more expensive, with well-funded, name-recognized candidates having advantages over independent voices and newcomers.
If it’s necessary to decrease the size of the City Council for efficiency’s sake (which is not a given), why not do what many other cities do? Elect one ward councilor by each ward, and elect one councilor from each ward at-large, for a total of sixteen. We will not be given that option on November 7, though. So I will be voting NO on the proposed charter.