Should Newton reduce its council size?
See Pro and Con arguments in Boston Globe Article.
By Andy Levin
A couple weeks ago, the Charter Commission took heavy criticism in some circles for its straw vote recommending a City Council of 13 at-large members and the elimination of ward councilors.
Your TAB editor, who disagreed with the Charter Commission’s plan, met with disapproval from many who support it ...and was also on the receiving end of some unexpected words of praise.
I should have predicted the charter review debate was going to, at least in part, tie in with the citywide conversation about housing development. The signs were there this summer, but I am not nearly shrewd enough to have connected the dots at the time.
While it’s always unwise to paint with too broad a brush, there does seem to be a correlation between support for a much smaller, entirely at-large City Council and affordable housing development. Likewise, many Newton Villages Alliance members and their fellow travelers opposed to multi-unit housing expansion in the city oppose the Charter Commission’s vision. Weirdly, I found myself concurring with the latter group, after 18 months of fervently rebutting their anti-development stance.
Read more of Andy Levin's commentary here.
I have no problem with the Charter Commission reviewing the size of the City Council, but its unanimous decision early on in this important matter bodes ill for trusting any recommendations it might make.
There is little factual analysis as to why 13 citywide councilors would be better; there are reasons why it would be worse — e.g. more work for fewer councilors, the threat of electing citywide slates creating less diversity of opinions and, most importantly, less representation in the wards for our residents.
The Charter Commission has started out with a unanimous and narrow-minded agenda — exactly what a Charter Commission should not have. — Dick Blazar, ward councilor in Ward 6
At the April 13 meeting the Charter Commission voted to reduce the size of the City Council from the present 24 to 13.
The merits of this reduction were discussed (briefly) in the context of several suggestions that were listed in the meeting notice. One of the items that stood out to me asked: “Would a smaller Council be more effective or efficient?”
There was no definition of the word “efficient” even though I raised the question in the public comment period at the beginning of the meeting. Our governments are established to be democratic, not necessarily efficient. If you want efficiency in government there are plenty of models for that and I daresay you wouldn’t like to live under any of them. — Ernest Loewenstein, Newton Highlands