I oppose the proposed Newton city charter for a number of reasons. The elimination of ward councilors chosen only by voters who live in each of our eight wards is a great loss, and one which will force me to vote NO, although other provisions may be an improvement over what we have now.
Diversity on the council is important to me and many other people who live here -- diversity of ethnic, religion, race, sex, income level and national origin and people who live in all wards of the city. We have currently no person of African-American descent on the council and only one of Asian descent. There is a diversity of religions and European origins. However, most are Caucasian. Historically there have been few Asians and one African-American serving on the Board of Alderman, now called the council.
What has occurred in other cities like Worcester and Lowell that have switched to all at-large councilors or aldermen and reduced the size of the council is that the majority of the council are Caucasian, are from one high-income area of the city and are well off economically.
Newton deserves better than this. If you value diversity, please vote NO in November on the proposed city charter.
Priscilla M. Leith
See this comprehensive and compelling overview of the Charter decision from Newtonville resident Fred Arnstein:
Democracy is up for a vote
Newton’s has a city Charter, which is the equivalent of the United States’ constitution. Our Charter is the framework for how the city is governed. We’ve had our Charter since 1972. Now a city commission has proposed a revised city charter, to be voted on by Newton Citizens in November. It will be an up-or-down vote, yes or no. The revised charter would remove all local (ward) representation. That is why we are opposed to it. There are other points in the proposed charter that can be debated, but when it comes to eliminating ward-elected councilors, the answer is clear: NO. This is so fundamental an issue that it becomes imperative to reject the new proposed Charter.
David Spier's May 24th Letter to Newton Tab:
I reach different conclusions to the Charter Commission’s recommendations regarding the City Council than those Judy Jacobson expressed in her letter published on May 17.
IN THE FALL of 1957, a Lowell city councilor placed an advertisement in the local newspaper backing a referendum that would create at-large elections, with every councilor subject to a citywide vote. The system, he wrote, would promote “majority rule” and limit “minority rule” by ethnic groups like the French, Greeks, Irish, and Lithuanians.
Voters approved the measure by a wide margin and, ever since, Lowell city government has been dominated by “majority rule.” Today, that means an all-white city council and school committee, even though nonwhites — mostly Latinos and Asian-Americans — make up 49 percent of the Mill City’s population.
Read more in the Boston Globe.
See coverage of this issue in Boston Globe.
Boston, Mass. (May 18, 2017) – A diverse coalition of Asian-American and Hispanic/Latino residents of Lowell today filed a federal voting rights lawsuit alleging that the city’s municipal election system discriminates against minorities.
According to the lawsuit, the use of citywide at-large elections for all seats on the Lowell City Council and Lowell School Committee dilutes the voting power of minority voters in Lowell, violating the federal Voting Rights Act, as well as the United States Constitution.
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.
Newton Citizens for Local Representation representatives Jack Prior and Duney Roberts discuss issues with the charter commission proposal with former Alderman at Large Ken Parker on this week's episode of Common Ground on newTV.
[From 5/3/17 Newton Tab]
While I thank the members of the Charter Commission for all their hard work, I am very disappointed in their decision to eliminate the position of “ward councilor” as part of the new composition of the city council. I lived in Ward 6 for 20 years, and I have lived now in Ward 5 for another 20 years. I have always viewed my ward alderman as my “go to” person for any city related issues. They have provided me with their quick, focused, thoughtful and persistent attention on any issue until it was addressed and/or resolved.
Last week former Alderman Verne Vance stated that Newton residents have voted more than once to reduce the size of the board and that he supported it then and still supports it now.
But Mr. Vance left out an important part of the story.