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.
First off, I oppose the changes to the Council as currently constituted. Second, unlike Judy I was not drawn to Newton because it is “progressive" and “welcoming.” I moved here because of location, (past) diversity and school quality.
Judy asserts that 24 councilors is too large a body. I agree. I also agree that residency for ward representatives is critical. A key aspect of the diversity I value is the varying character that comes with each of Newton’s 13 villages. Beyond diversity, this structure also brings to life Newton’s long history and evolution; it is living history.
However electing ward representatives by voting city-wide actually rejects the entire premise. As a practical matter of simple math, successful candidates need to address the wants of the entire city, thus undoing the local wants and needs of each ward. The approach defies logic. It is the Council in its entirety that represents the City.
Further, forcing all councilors to be elected city-wide makes each election a more expensive and time-consuming, promoting two big problems: professional politicians and money politics. Campaigns will, by necessity, be larger, more expensive and more subject to out-of-town and monied interests. It is a formula for corruption and conflicts of interest.
I believe that the more local the political representation, the better for voters. I advocate that ward councilors reside in, and be elected solely by the voters from, their own ward. I can support 8 ward councilors plus 4 at-large, city-wide elected councilors. Many councilors seem concerned about the ability to conduct all committee work with 12 councilors, so alternatively I would suggest 16 ward councilors, 2 for each ward (no city-wide councilors).
It seems to me that the approach adopted in the proposed charter promotes two completely negative and regressive things: the dominant, anti-diversity influence of Democratic campaign funds, and an even more uniform, anti-diversity, liberal-controlled governance approach. In this respect, I find it difficult to praise the work of the commission.