Constituent services is the number one job of a ward councilor in Newton. I already know many of you from my time in Ward 5 over the years, including many of you who were parents of my classmates from kindergarten through senior year of high school. I love keeping in touch with everyone in our neighborhoods, and I have knocked on many of your doors in past campaigns for myself or other candidates and issues. I'll continue to be available to help fix your everyday challenges.
But the other part of the job of ward councilor is voting on the big and small policy decisions the City Council makes on behalf of Newton residents each week. If elected, I will be one of 24 votes on these issues and the only councilor representing solely Ward 5. Here is an overview where I stand on some of the biggest issues we face today.
Environment & Transportation
My number one policy issue will be making sure that we have a safe, clean, healthy, and vibrant environment for all our residents in Newton. That goes hand in hand with transportation, which is not only becoming a more pressing concern for residents by the day in the form of congestion but is also Newton’s biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions. I'm committed to preserving and expanding our green spaces, cracking down on pollution like our gas leak epidemic, making sure we have a safe infrastructure for cyclists, and eliminating our city's carbon footprint on a rapid timetable based on the scientific realities of global warming.
The Greater Boston area is in a housing crisis right now, and I've worked hard to bring attention to how that crisis is affecting Newton. My family was fortunate enough to be able to move here generations ago, but we probably would not be able to do so today. We need to address the crisis in a responsible and sustainable manner that adapts to change and welcomes everyone while preserving what makes Newton special. We need housing solutions that work for young people and seniors alike, and we need to explore new models of providing that housing.
Expanding Public Services and Resources
In Newton, we have finally begun the process of walking back many of the ill-advised and costly outsourcings of public services and sales of public assets (land, buildings, and more) made in previous decades. Now we need to finish bringing the public sphere back into public hands, and we need to expand our public offerings. We should be exploring how we can ensure Newton remains a first-class city of our size through our public services.
Disabilities Access and Integration
Many of Newton’s public buildings remain out of compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, originally passed in 1990, nearly three decades ago. Newton's playgrounds also require ADA-compliant upgrades, which can be expensive (as all playground upgrades today are), and we need to commit to funding them without passing the buck. ADA compliance is the absolute bare minimum of disability access and we need to finish the job of making Newton a community for everyone, including people with disabilities.
I grew up in Waban with my great-aunt and grandmother, who were both very elderly when I was a small child. They were a huge part of making me who I am today. Today, more than one-fifth of Newton’s residents are part of our senior population and this share is projected to grow at a much faster rate than overall growth in Newton. Most of these people hope to remain Newton residents. Their active presence and engagement in our city is vital to our local civil society and is a critical piece of the puzzle in building a truly multi-generational community where everyone is welcome. Overwhelmingly, these older residents have lived here for 25 years or more and represent key institutional knowledge and memory in our community. From housing challenges to continuing to expand public spaces for seniors, there is a lot more we need to be doing to strengthen our senior community and make Newton affordable for them to live.
Welcoming Young People
Newton's prohibitively expensive barriers to entry – especially for housing – have continued to make Newton largely unwelcoming to potential young residents and we can change that.
We need to make our community a place where our graduates can (and want to) return home after college – like I did and like generations of my family have done before me. There is a large population of Newton natives living in other parts of the country, and there is no reason we should not be working to get them back here.
Many of our low- and fixed-income residents struggle with paying local taxes and fees in Newton, which can make our community unwelcome. But we cannot afford to reduce revenues needed for vital services that make this community work. I will support identifying and adopting any viable strategies to shift revenue collection from those who can least afford it over to those who can afford to pay a fairer share.
As a proud graduate of Angier Elementary, Brown Middle School, and Newton South High School, I'm committed to making sure we continue to have strong public schools in Newton. They are a big part of what makes Newton what it is today. In Newton, education policy is primarily controlled by the School Committee, but the City Council plays a key supporting role in many areas. Maintaining strong public schools means well-funded programs, staff, facilities, and more. We need to continue renovations and replacements of school buildings that have suffered from years of deferred maintenance, and the City Council has a big say in these improvements. Here in Ward 5, we're fortunate to have two brand new school buildings, but there will be many more major building projects across the city in the future, and everyone on the City Council will have a vote on those decisions.