We will vote NO to the charter commission’s proposal for one significant reason: the election of ward councilors is fully at large rather than by ward/neighborhood. We are disappointed that the League of Women Voters has not provided a balanced pro and con analysis as it does for statewide ballot initiatives. While the commission did hold public hearings, the entire campaign sounds like a “fait accompli” rather than a full debate on the issues.
The November 4 proposal for a council of twelve with all members elected at large eliminates a major check against domination by well-organized city-wide constituencies. Newton’s direct representation from its villages with different needs and priorities has proven every effective and should not be eliminated.
The proposed council will concentrate power in people representing city-wide constituencies with only secondary advocacy for their village’s interests. The new council requires only seven councilors to constitute a majority vote. Seven or more candidates representing specific interests, for example developers, could easily be recruited and supported across different wards. Conceivably, five members could be elected from one ward.
The proposed council of twelve elected city-wide will NOT create a “more effective and responsive government” given the risk of domination of city-wide constituencies at the expense of specific village needs. Given human nature, it is almost certain that more positive changes will take place in the best represented villages while more negative changes will take place in the underrepresented villages.
The charter commission has made a case for some change in Newton’s governing structure. But the combination of reduced size and city-wide voting creates undue risk to the tradition of village governance in Newton.
Charles and Katharine Stover
72 Saint Mary’s Street
Newton Lower Falls