Newton students Logan Cooper live blogged election results on Tuesday night. After things quieted down we asked them what they thought of the charter proposal. A 9 minute debate ensured (video should auto-start at 2:06).
Subscribe to Logan's Youtube channel. He's got a bright future.
Please join us THIS Wednesday for a fundraiser for local representation! You will be in great company with a fabulous list of guest speakers.
Only 57 days until Election Day, we need to make our efforts count! Please share this invite to your friends!
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EVENT DETAILSWHERE: Boston Marriott-Newton, Riverbend Bar and Grille
2345 Commonwealth Avenue, Newton, MA 02466
WHEN: Wednesday, September 13, 7:00 – 8:30pmSuggested Donation: $50
RSVP NOW!Sincerely, your host committee,
Jack Prior, Campaign Treasurer
P.S. Want a "No on Charter Change" lawn sign? Fill out this short form and we'll make sure to deliver one straight to your lawn!
P.P.S. The photo above our our new lawn sign was not a placement violation. Sean Spicer was holding it for us...
If you are not already aware of the Charter Commission’s proposal to reduce the size of our governing board, you should pay attention.
There are many contentious issues facing Newton citizens in all villages, especially in the areas of development, housing and zoning.
Reducing the board from 24 to 12 councillors puts the power of decision making into the hands of very few. This proposal removes the one locally-voted ward councillor from each ward and therefore eliminating accountability. This proposal is flawed.
Consider projects that adversely affect or have affected your neighborhood. Under this proposal, you will only have citywide elected officials and only 12 of them to state your case.
Our system has worked since its inception. Keep our 24-councillor board intact. It gives every citizen a chance to be heard by locally-voted government representatives. Smaller ward sizes ensure neighborhood input and participation.
I urge you to vote against this badly conceived proposal.
Cyrus Whittier, Winchester Street, Newton (link)
By Bob Jampol
Friends: Having thought about it for a while, I have decided to oppose
the efforts to shrink the City Council from 24 to 12 members. The
Council as currently constituted has three representatives for each of
the eight wards of the city. One of the three runs strictly within the
ward, and the other two, who must live in that ward, run at-large
(city-wide). The arrangement guarantees local representation and at
least one councilor approved exclusively by those who live in the ward.
In contrast the Charter Commission recommends 12 councilors, all of whom
run at-large. Eight of the twelve would reside in a specific ward, but the
remaining four can live in any ward. In theory, then, five of the 12
councilors might come from but one ward of the city. That seems a very
bad idea to me because it undermines the notion of a legislative body
that represents each neighborhood of Newton equally.
The reformers claim that the current arrangement is too large and
unwieldy, and that a smaller council would run more efficiently. I
attend many City Council and committee meetings in my role as advocate
for tennis and activist for many causes, from leaf blowers to housing.
Quite often I find myself in the minority on issues. Nonetheless, I
admire the members of the current council, all of whom serve on several
committees and spend countless hours for little pay ($10,000?). The
large size of the council is an advantage, in my view- there is much
work to do.
I fear that a smaller council, all of whose members must run city-wide,
would fall even further under the sway of the big money interests,
particularly those behind the tear-downs and the mega-projects sprouting
all over Newton. To run at-large costs a candidate lots more than merely
to compete in a district. As it is, the corporate forces already mostly
get their way in city government. If the Charter Commission's efforts
succeed, the balance of power will shift further that way.
In brief, I recommend that you vote against the the Charter Commission's
I urge you all to vote “NO” on the Newton Charter Commission Recommendation. A No vote preserves your neighborhood voice. Don’t let the laudable goal of reducing the numbers of the Council obscure the proposal’s major impact: reducing the power of neighborhoods to influence city policy.
My faimliy has lived in West Newton since 1972, two daughters thrived in the Newton schools, and we enjoyed the many benefits of the city. Our neighborhood is diverse economically, culturally, generationally and ethnically. Each section of the city has its own mix. We all will lose the unique mix of our many neighborhoods if we vote to go to a council that is elected city-wide.
Don’t let the “city-wide constituency-ward residence” option fool you. An election based on an all city-wide contest, compared to a ward-only contest, requires more money and more visibility, and frankly less local appeal, to get enough votes for election. City-wide voting, even with a residency requirement, dilutes the power of neighborhoods, and weakens each councilor’s accountability for her or his actions. We all need councilors who respond to our unique neighborhood concerns. Consider the many issues that Newton will deal with in the future. Do you think that your neighborhood might just have a different perspective than other villages? In a city-wide council, the councilor who lives in your ward will still need electoral support from all over the city. With that in mind, can you be certain that that councilor will put your interests first?
Do we want the future driven by city-wide fiscal and development plans without any need to accommodate local concerns? We are one city, but each village is unique, and deserves its own voice. That voice will be quieter if we elect all our councilors city-wide, even with a residency requirement.
37 South Gate Park
West Newton, MA 02465
While the current council of 24 members appears large to the average citizen, most of its activity involves work on eight committees that a smaller council might struggle to complete. Ward 7 councilor and Council President Emeritus Lisle Baker has produced a number of videos (Councilors at Work) that outline the activities of the council including that of the City Council Meeting along with the Program and Services, Finance, Public Safety and Transportation, Real Property Reuse, Public Facilities, Land Use, and Zoning and Planning committees. Most of these committees are unfamiliar to the average voter particularly BECAUSE they function well.
There is no supportable logic behind the notion that eliminating local representation at the level of the Newton City Council is a boon to democracy. Newton is a city of diverse villages and neighborhoods; we ought to ensure the broadest possible representation of the different parts of our city. While it is true that our City Council is too large, the obvious solution is to eliminate the least-representative seats—which are the at-large seats.
If the City Charter changes, rest assured that the City Council will endure as a homogenous group of people much like the current elected representatives who support the change. It will be a defeat for broad democratic representation in our city. One cannot help but wonder whether the support of these current “leaders” is precisely for that reason.
Scott M. Cooper, Bowdoin Street, Newton Highlands Newton Tab 8/22/17
By Lisle Baker,
I urge you to join me in voting No on a proposed new Charter for Newton in November because it will weaken the representation you now have on the City Council.
As required by state law, and at Newton taxpayer expense, you will soon receive a lengthy report from the Newton Charter Commission advocating a proposed change to our City Charter. You will also receive mail, phone calls, and visits urging you to support the change.
But, as the saying goes, if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. After more than three decades on our City Council (formerly Board of Aldermen) I have seen Newton’s Council work well for the entire city, as well as for residents of our eight Wards.
Under our current Charter, we have both at-large Councilors responsive to the city as a whole and Ward Councilors who live in and look out for individual neighborhoods, each with its own unique character. Just as Nonantum is not the same as Auburndale, the current system respects and bridges our differences. Newton enjoys the best of both worlds.
Our current Charter also means we can address the land use, zoning, public works, public services, public safety, and financial work through Council Committees with one member from each Ward. It avoids concentrating power in a handful of leaders, as occurs elsewhere in government, assures diversity of opinion, and keeps Councilors responsive to you and your neighborhood.
Most important, our current Charter assures that residents in each Ward have someone accountable and responsive solely to them when problems arise, be they as small as a broken street light or as large as proposed over-development nearby. For example, this Ward focus allowed me to help preserve the Waban Hill Reservoir and the Newton Commonwealth Golf Course, save historic buildings like the Durant-Kenrick Homestead, and gain neighborhood support for affordable housing like Covenant Residences on Commonwealth Avenue. My Ward colleagues have all done similar work for their constituents.
The Charter Commission, however, proposes to replace the eight Ward Councilors with four Councilors living anywhere in the city beginning in 2019. The proposal also eliminates one of the two at-large Councilors from your Ward, further weakening your voice in local decisions. The result would be a 12-member City Council lacking the diversity of opinion and local input of our current system.
In this case, less is less. Instead of having a Ward Councilor aware of and responsive to your concerns, you would have four Councilors, all of whom might reside in other Wards and not be as involved in, or as knowledgeable about, local issues that matter to you.
This change shifts the balance of local and at-large representation to one City-wide body, an outcome not good for our 13 villages or our city. It is better to update the Charter though Home Rule legislation, as we have done over the years, such as the recent change of name from Board of Aldermen to City Council.
If you agree, I respectfully ask that you vote No on the Charter change in November and urge your friends to do the same. In the meantime, if you have any questions, please call me at home at 617-566-3848. You can also go to http://newtondemocracy.org for more information and to learn how you can help. Again, please vote No on November 7.
Lisle Baker is the Ward Councilor for Ward Seven in Newton and former President of the Newton City Council.
From 7/26/2017 Newton Tab
I found the July 5 letter submitted by Susan Flicop on behalf of the League of Women Voters of Newton deeply troubling. She listed the reasons for LWVN’s support of the proposed changes to the City Charter, which would, among other things, reduce the number of city councilors and eliminate ward representation.
Ms. Flicop states, “Just because a councilor lives in the same ward doesn’t mean that they (sic) represent the same views as their neighbors.” This is an absurd statement. It is basic to our system of democracy at both federal and state levels to have geographical representation. The assumption is that elected officials represent the geographical interests of their constituents. If not, they can be voted out. It should be obvious that a councilor who lives in Newtonville and elected by people living in Newtonville will be more motivated to be concerned about the issues of Newtonville than a councilor residing in Waban.
She continues, “what happens in one part of Newton affects everyone...” What is the basis for such a statement?
Further, in communities that changed to at-large councils, two effects have been noted. First, elected city councilors reside in the more affluent sections of the city; and second, with respect to Lowell in particular with its 40 percent minority population, there is no minority representation in its city council or school committee.
Finally, she states, “minorities...are spread throughout Newton, and this new voting structure would give them more power to elect a person who represents their views.” Her assumption that “minorities” in Newton all have the same views is offensive.
If this letter represents the views of the League of Women Voters, it makes me ashamed to be a woman voter.
Newton Tab, July 2017
See the latest NewTV Common Ground episode where Councilor at Large and Mayoral Candidate Amy Mah Sangiolo discusses the importance of retaining Ward-elected City Councilors in the Newton City Council at 40:30
[The League of Women Voters in Everett, WA knows what democracy is. ]
After considerable study and discussion, the League of Women Voters of Snohomish County adopted a position in support of bringing more representative government to the city of Everett. We believe that democracy is best served by having a City Council that represents all areas of the city. What better way to bring this about than to divide the city into geographic districts. Then the citizens of that district would elect a representative who knows them, and knows their needs and concerns.
Because of our belief that City Council representation will be increased by going to a districting system of electing council members, the league has joined with other like-minded citizens and groups to form a grass-roots coalition called Everett Districts Now. The League of Women Voters of Snohomish County fully supports the initiative drive of this group to divide the city into five geographic districts while maintaining two at-large positions. We believe that this mixed-representation model has the potential for bringing to Everett’s government the diversity that it now lacks while keeping the needs of the city as a whole in focus.
The deadline for getting the needed signatures to put this districting initiative on the November ballot is approaching. If you haven’t already signed the petition that will let the people decide this important issue, you can sign it at Zippy’s, at the corner of 15th Street and Rucker Avenue in northwest Everett, or look for an Everett Districts Now table as you enter the Everett Farmers Market on Sundays and sign it there.
Do your part to bring more representative government to our city.
The Charter Commission and their Ballot Committee claim in their promotional materials that “the new city charter preserves ward representation and geographic diversity on the council.” They also imply that ward councilors are being retained.
In today’s parlance, these are what are known as “alternative facts.”
The charter on the ballot in November eliminates ward councilors, i.e. those elected at the village-level by ward residents, and eliminates geographic balance in the council composition.
Instead, all 12 councilors would be elected citywide; eight of the “councilors at large” would have a ward residency requirement, while four would not.
So not only would you lose your village-level representative, there is nothing to prevent five of the 12 councilors from coming from the same neighborhood.
Citywide elections tend to favor the wealthy and well-connected, so we could see geographic imbalance where five councilors all come from a wealthy or politically active ward.
For more details please visit http://newtondemocracy.org.
Emily Norton, ward councilor, Ward 2
By GABRIELLE EMANUEL
Lowell’s City Council is preparing to take a controversial vote on the future of the city’s dilapidated high school. Should they renovate, or build an entirely new building in a different neighborhood?
This comes as a lawsuit is challenging the legitimacy of the council itself.
Several Latino and Asian-American residents filed the suit, arguing that an at-large – rather than a ward-based – election system keeps minority groups out of power.
Right now, the entirely white City Council and School Committee make decisions for a city that's roughly half non-white.
Less than a mile from City Hall, a sign reads: Cambodia Town. This area is home to one of the largest Cambodian communities in the country.
At the heart of the community, there’s a park. But for a long time, there was a problem: unlike most other parks in Lowell, there were no lights at night.
“We talked to the city year after year. We talk to the city and elected officials,” said Vesna Nuon. “Nothing happened.”
Read the full story and listen to the audio on the WGBH site.
I have lived in Newton since 1950. Unfortunately, over recent years, I see mistakes of the past repeated because those in charge today have forgotten or never understood earlier decisions.
Like many, I received a phone call to “sound out” my opinions on changes the Charter Commission was considering. I explained why I thought the commission was embarking in the wrong direction and why, in the past, some things were done the way they were. After 90 minutes of questioning, the pollster told me I had provided information possessing considerable merit which she had not heard from others. However, I don't see the proposed charter as reflecting this council.
The development of “village cores” encouraged by Mayor Warren has diminished “ambiance” and detracted from what makes many appreciate the City. The latest proposal to eliminate the Ward Alderman (Councilor) so all elections will be city-wide guarantees the unique nature of our “many villages” will disappear and then Newton will become just another homogenized urban community.
Having both “At Large” and “Ward” Aldermen ensures the interests of individual villages survive and are not lost. This longstanding system provides balanced representation just as the U.S. House and Senate insure smaller states retain footing with California, New York, etc.
Shrinking the size of the Board has merit. However, changing how the members of the council are elected will place “at risk” the very attributes which makes residing in Newton desirable.
The Charter Commission needs to reconsider this recommendation to ensure what makes the City of Newton different and attractive can continue. Newton’s individual villages and its characterization as the “Garden City” must not be lost.
I am embarrassed by the work of the Charter Commission. Their work reflects an unfortunate but honored tradition in American government: pursing predetermined conclusions and building fake consensus. Voters in Newton must reject their proposal decisively.
The issues become clearer when considering the 100% reduction in representation for local wards. Fewer voices means fewer ideas. This is made worse by the at-large design recommended by the commission, a design deliberately chosen and not at all necessary. Among many other issues is the commission’s reliance on consultants, whose jobs depend on cozy relationships with—and the continued tenure of—the officials they serve.
City councilors will be elected at-large and represent no one, much like US Senators. When is the last time you spoke to or influenced Markey or Warren? The requirement to run city-wide will force candidates to prioritize fundraising and avoid taking sides on any issue that may threaten their reelection.
From conversations I’ve had, citizens are far less concerned about the absolute number of councilors than their access to and power over councilors. Residents want the noticeable improvement of their daily lives to be the sole priority of councilors and government, free of outside influence and personal aggrandizement. These possibilities were not investigated because they are inconvenient to predetermined conclusions.
The proposed changes don’t come close to the committee’s stated objectives, especially its commitment to “provide for a more effective and responsive government.” This was demonstrated in its penultimate meeting, where the committee wasted no time dismissing questions and instead focused on gilding its Final Report to appeal to readers and voters.
The commission has hijacked consensus that yearns for democracy to concentrate power for councilors. Voters must vote ‘NO’ in November and reject the changes recommended by the Charter Commission.
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.