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