Campaign Week-in-Review - 8/23/19: How You Can Help Before Sept 10; Quinobequin Natural Gas Update

by Irina Costache, Campaign Organizer | Subscribe by Email

What we’re hearing on the doors


Since last Friday, Bill and our group of volunteers knocked 445 doors! As of yesterday, Bill has officially finished knocking 3 out of 4 of the Ward 5 precincts for the third time since beginning his campaign! Here are a couple of updates of issues that voters have brought up to him in the past couple of weeks:

  • Many voters continued to bring up their concerns with the possibility that the proposed new senior center, NewCAL, might be built on green space in Newton. As mentioned in last week’s newsletter, the current city proposal is to build NewCAL at Albemarle Field on the “hardscape” of the pool, fieldhouse, tennis courts, and basketball court (all of which would be replaced with new facilities as part of the project). Bill still remains concerned about public transportation to the site and the city’s overall process for selecting the site but is waiting to see more specific details on the proposal at this point. 

  • A number of voters have been reporting unsafe streets and sidewalks to Bill, pointing out broken sidewalks, bad street intersections, and chronically speeding cars. As Ward councilor, keeping Newton’s streets and sidewalks safe for residents through design changes and consistent repairs would be a priority for Bill.

  • Some other top concerns have been about the environment and developments in Newton. (One voter brought up pressuring the National Grid to replace the gas lines in Newton.) As an environmental and affordable housing activist, Bill follows both of these issues very closely.

  • One voter brought up to Bill the need to elect younger officials to local government! As a young, lifelong resident of Newton, Bill will bring that perspective to the City Council.

We're continuing to distribute lawn signs as we go door-to-door. Please email Bill to request one.

Pre-election reminders: How you can help

The September preliminary vote is now less than three weeks away! As mentioned last week, we have ways you can get involved.

Dear Friend Cards: If you would like to get involved before the September vote by sending out postcards to Ward 5 voters you know or doing some reminder phone calls to supporters, please sign up here. You'll need to let us know sooner rather than later, however, so that we can order enough cards.

Polling Place Visibility: If you are interested in showing you support for Bill on election day by holding up a sign at one of the three polling locations in Ward 5, please fill out this form and we’ll get in touch.

Absentee Voting: Although the deadline to register to vote has passed, there is still time to request an absentee ballot, if you need one! The form to do so can be found here. The application for an absentee ballot may be sent by email (elections@newtonma.gov), mail, fax, or delivered in person to the City Clerk’s office in City Hall. There’s no deadline but they should be requested as soon as possible to make sure the ballot can be returned in time.

Natural gas update from Nathan Phillips

As discussed in depth in our newsletter last week, one of the gas companies issued a statement announcing plans to vent natural gas into the air near Quinobequin Road in Ward 5 as part of emergency maintenance work across the river in Wellesley and Needham. The first release occurred this past Sunday, and the final release was set to be next Saturday, August 31. 

Here is an update on the natural gas situation from from Newton resident and Boston University environmental scientist Dr. Nathan Phillips, who went out with an air monitor during the first release:

"The plume [from the first release] reached much of Quinobequin Rd & several streets up the hill from there, as well as Newton-Wellesley Hospital, with gas readings of 5-7x normal background. The plume was intermittent depending on wind. People probably didn’t smell it because Enbridge said they deodorized the gas. The concern is air quality impacts on sensitive populations & climate damage. There are over 100 VOCs [volatile organic compounds] in uncombusted gas, some of which are known carcinogens & neurotoxins with no determined lower safe limit."

The 2nd release has not yet been scheduled but is likely to be sometime next weekend, broadly around August 31st. Bill is still being looped in on discussions with city officials to be able to provide updates to residents in Ward 5.

8/16/19: Quinobequin Natural Gas Alert, Needham St Road Work, 5000 Doors, 3.5 Weeks to Go

by Irina Costache, Campaign Organizer | Subscribe by Email

Quinobequin Rd Area Natural Gas Situation

City officials received notice this week that one of the gas companies plans to vent a significant amount of natural gas into the air in Ward 5 starting this weekend. The company’s statement initially was fairly vague:

“To support its ongoing efforts to address various anomalies on its pipeline in Needham and Wellesley, Algonquin Gas will be releasing odorized natural gas and performing maintenance work at its valve site near Walnut Street in Wellesley and Quinobequin Road in Newton.  The releases are scheduled to occur between Sunday, August 18th and Saturday, August 31st. The same protocol followed earlier this year, including notifications to local landowners, will be followed. If you have any questions during these activities, please do not hesitate to call the Westwood operations office at 781-329-3750 or the Spectra Energy Gas Control 24 hour call line at 1-800-726-8383.”

City Officials including Mayor Fuller and the Fire Chief had a conference call with the company this week to discuss safety and details. A map of a radius of potential effect area and notification on Quinobequin and East Quinobequin was provided.

Today the planned release was clarified to city officials as follows:

“The first gas release from the Quinobequin valve is currently slated to begin at 11AM on Sunday, Aug. 18th and last for 6-7 hours. The final release will be during line refilling when maintenance work is completed sometime before Saturday, August 31. Algonquin will notify the City when that second date is chosen.”

Bill spoke to Newton resident and Boston University environmental scientist Dr. Nathan Phillips about the situation to find out what residents should be aware of:

“Algonquin Pipeline LLC (aka Spectra, aka Enbridge) had two unexpected pipeline failures in the last week (Thursday and Saturday) on the high pressure transmission Algonquin line that goes along I-95 through Needham, Newton, and Weston. The company sent out ‘critical’ notices on these events and declared a Force Majeure, which is an ‘unforeseeable circumstance’. No further information about what happened last week or in other of the “various anomalies”. Enbridge had a similar transmission pipeline explode three weeks ago in Kentucky, killing one person with a 30-acre blast zone. Enbridge/Spectra has a troubling safety record on its oil and gas pipelines.”

Although it is now clearer that they are planning two lengthy releases, but not a week of continuous releases, it still poses a risk to neighbors. While the risk of explosion should be low and will be monitored by the Fire Department, there remains a serious air pollution and public health risk (since natural gas as a fuel contains many other toxins besides the primary gas). Nearby Ward 5 residents, particularly with pulmonary health issues, should take that into consideration when deciding whether to remain in place.

Needham St Road Work

The Newton-Needham Chamber of Commerce sent out a note today about the next phase of construction around Oak St/Needham St/Christina St:

“The intersection improvements at Needham, Oak and Christina Streets is moving into the home stretch, with the project scheduled to be completed by Sept. 13.

  • Next week, crews will be performing reconstruction and paving on Needham Street. This work is scheduled for night shift (8 p.m. to 5 a.m.)

  • Expect police details and daily sidewalk closures along Needham St. between Oak Street and the Needham town line.

  • Between Aug. 18-24 work will be performed at both day and night shifts to perform full depth reconstruction of Needham St. This work will include reclaiming the roadway to a gravel base. This work has been scheduled as a continuous operation to limit the duration of roadway impacts.”

Less Than Four Weeks To Go: How You Can Help Out

This week, we entered the final four weeks of campaigning until the September 10 preliminary! Please keep this date in mind and remember to turnout to vote! In a race as small as ours, every vote is important!

You can check your voter registration status here. For those not registered to vote, the deadline is next Wednesday, August 21. You may register to vote online here, by mail here, or in person at the City Clerk’s office in City Hall. 

For those who wish to vote by absentee ballot, the form can be found here. The application for an absentee ballot may be sent by email (elections@newtonma.gov), mail, fax, or delivered in person to the City Clerk’s office in City Hall. There’s no deadline but they should be requested as soon as possible to make sure the ballot can be returned in time.

If you are interested in showing you support for Bill on election day by holding up a sign at one of the three polling locations in Ward 5, please fill out this form and we’ll get in touch.

If you would like to get involved before the September vote by sending out postcards to Ward 5 voters you know or doing some reminder phone calls to supporters, please sign up here.

Finally, you can watch the League of Women Voters / NewTV Ward 5 Councilor debateon Village 14 starting today.

Door Knocking Update

This week, Bill, myself, and other volunteers knocked over 400 doors in Ward 5! We’re now halfway done with our third pass. Bill also hit the milestone of personally knocking 5000 doors since he began door knocking around the Ward this past February!

Lawn signs

Once again, here’s a reminder about lawn signs! The September preliminary election is quickly approaching, so we would like to put up as many signs as soon as possible!

If you decide that you would like a sign to put up in your front yard, please email me so that we can coordinate on getting one dropped off to you! We are trying to get signs onto as many Ward 5 lawns as we can, whether or not they are in a high-visibility spot, because every vote counts in such a small race!
 

Upper Falls Area Council

On Thursday night, Bill was at the Upper Falls Area Council meeting. On the agenda were some discussions about Village Day, a memorial plaque, and other upcoming forums.

There is an upcoming Ward 5 Councilor candidate forum ahead of the preliminary, to be hosted by the area councils, which will take place on Thursday, September 5 at 7:30 p.m. at the Emerson Community Center (in place of the Newton Highlands Area Council meeting).

Friends of Cold Spring Park / NewCAL discussion

On Wednesday night, Bill attended the Friends of Cold Spring Park monthly meeting. There is an upcoming Cold Spring Park service day, drawing in primarily volunteers from Newton-Wellesley Hospital doctors and their families, scheduled for September 21 (rain date tbd). 

There was also a discussion of the city’s proposal to build the NewCAL (new senior/community center) at Albemarle Field. The proposal would be to put the new site on the pool, tennis courts, basketball courts, and Field House as a way of avoiding taking up green space. The group is still evaluating the new plan and waiting to hear about design details, but Bill still remains concerned about the lack of public transportation to the site and about the overall process used to reach this site selection. 

Campaign Week-in-Review - 8/9/19: One month until the September preliminary!

by Irina Costache, Campaign Organizer | Subscribe by Email

Lawn Sign Requests 

This week’s newsletter is starting off with another reminder about lawn signs! We have about one month left until the September 10 preliminary election! As ours is the only race in the city to have one before the November general election, we want to start spreading the word now! 

If you decide that you would like a sign to put up in your front yard, please email me so that we can coordinate on getting one dropped off to you! We are trying to get signs onto as many Ward 5 lawns as we can, whether or not they are in a high-visibility spot, because every vote counts in such a small race!

Door knocking update

This week, Bill, along with myself and some of his friends, were able to knock 535 doors (with Bill knocking over 400 of them himself, including 94 in one day alone) in Upper Falls, Newton Highlands, and Waban.

We were able to speak to nearly 150 Ward 5 voters! This week at the doors, many voters brought up the issue of affordable housing in Newton. One senior voter was concerned about affordable downsizing options for seniors and told Bill that increasing home prices are pricing her out of Newton. There were also many people who asked Bill for more information about the proposed Northland development, specifically about their concerns about traffic and parking.

 

Hemlock Gorge Memorial Event

On Tuesday, Bill attended the Friends of Hemlock Gorge’s dedication of a granite memorial bench honoring the late former Ward 5 Councilor-at-Large and Friends of Hemlock Gorge founder Brian Yates.

Land Use Committee Continues Northland Debate 

Late on Tuesday, Bill attended the Land Use Committee session between Councilors and City Planning Staff where they were discussing the issue of traffic mitigation from the proposed Northland development on Needham Street. 

The planners were attempting to forecast the amount of traffic on Needham St by 2025 in three different scenarios - with no project, with a partial or smaller project without traffic demand management, and with the Northland project as proposed (including the shuttles). The bottom line conclusion of the examination was that a smaller project or a project without the residential complex at all, both of which would not have a shuttle, would both generate more traffic than the current proposed plan.

At the meeting, there was also a discussion about how to best apply sanctions for failure to meet traffic demand management objectives. The city staff was primarily recommending a requirement to increase spending on TDM (Transportation Demand Management) and the shuttle system substantially in order to reach the desired number of reductions in car trips if the initial plan does not achieve the target numbers.

 

NewTV/League of Women Voters candidate debate 

On Wednesday afternoon, Bill participated in the pre-recording of NewTV and League of Women Voters candidate debate for the Ward 5 Councilor race. The taping of the debate will be available online soon, and we will be linking it in a future newsletter, once it comes out!

A second debate taping is also planned for mid-September after the preliminary election. There are also additional candidate forums scheduled to be held by the various Area Councils and by the Ward 5 Democrats on September 5 and September 8 respectively, as well as some forums in October. 

 

Livable Newton

Later on Wednesday night, Bill was able to drop in on the end of the monthly Livable Newton meeting to hear updates on possible housing at the former National Guard Armory. Unfortunately, due to the earlier debate’s scheduling, he missed most of this month’s meeting, so we do not have our usual detailed notes.
 

Sunrise Movement

Also this week, at the request of the Boston area chapter of the Sunrise Movement, Bill signed their pledges to support a federal and local Green New Deal (for a socially just economic transformation to halt climate change) and to refuse to accept campaign contributions from executives, lobbyists, or PACs in the oil and gas industry.

Sunrise Movement is the national youth organization working to mobilize the United States to take emergency action on climate change over the next decade. Bill hopes to push for Newton to set hard targets to cut its carbon emissions by 45% from 2010 levels by 2030, in line with the Paris Agreement/IPCC projections required to contain global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Campaign Week-in-Review - 8/2/19: Updates from City Department Heads and Police and Fire Chief

by Irina Costache, Campaign Organizer | Subscribe by Email

On Thursday this week, Bill kicked off his third pass knocking doors around Ward 5 and received a lot of policy and community updates from city staff!

 

Lawn Signs requests

As mentioned in last week’s newsletter, a September 10 preliminary election has been scheduled for the Ward 5 race, so Bill has begun to distribute lawn signs to voters around Newton! As ours is the only race in the city to have one before the November general election, we want to start spreading the word now! 

If you decide that you would like a sign to put up in your front yard, please email me so that we can coordinate on getting one dropped off to you! We are trying to get signs onto as many Ward 5 lawns as we can, whether or not they are in a high-visibility spot, because every vote counts in such a small race! 

 

All-department city staff briefing to candidates

On Tuesday, Bill got to meet with nine Newton city department heads to ask questions and learn about each department’s needs. This briefing was open to all municipal candidates and incumbents but had been put together following Bill’s request early in the campaign. Here are some of the important things he learned from some of these departments, from his notes:

  • Fire Department

    • I finally had the opportunity to speak to Newton Fire Chief Gino Luchetti about my platform favoring the de-privatization of ambulance services in Newton, bringing it back in-house via the Fire Department, which I knew was something the Fire Department has been advocating for some time now, too. He went over his eight-year transition plan to municipalize the ambulance services. Initially, there would be a public-private partnership, and there would have to be a continued private contract for backup services and Mutual Aid situations, and some billing services would still be outsourced, but primarily ambulance services would be provided by the Department directly ultimately in most cases. The city’s current contract is with Cataldo, and the Fire Department has repeatedly expressed concerns about their handling and fulfillment of the contract, and the company grosses $3.5 million per year. The chief noted that the Fire Department and by extension the City of Newton would generate net revenue by providing ambulance services in-house, rather than it being a burdensome cost, and the upfront cost of the transition would only be $1.5 million. He believes that services would be less expensive to residents and a higher level of quality would be offered if the profit component were eliminated by municipalization (and with a willingness to pay paramedics and EMTs more than the private sector, which has famously low wages and high turnover). Additionally, Newton’s HR Director was sitting next to us and overheard the conversation, and she mentioned that she used to work for the town of Norwood which has in-house ambulance services and it was working great there, and she noted that she believed Newton was an ideal community for in-house ambulance services as well, particularly because we do not have a high rate of uninsured residents.

    • I also discussed with Chief Luchetti various chemical and environmental hazards facing firefighters on the job, which is something that the Massachusetts Sierra Club and other environmental groups have worked on with Massachusetts firefighters at the state level.

  • Department of Public Works

    • Many residents have asked me for clarification on the new formula for deciding which streets get prioritized for repairs, and I stressed to the Department of Public Works the need to communicate that more clearly to residents, so that they are not left in the dark. The department staffers went over the new formula for me and explained that they rated all of the city’s roads 0-100 for their current condition and combined that with a rating for level of traffic so that high-traffic roads and very terrible quality roads regardless of traffic level both get prioritized. They therefore plan to pave roads that are rated under 25 on the Paving Condition Index within 2 years, while they plan to pave roads that are rated under 35 within 3 years. So, if you live on a minor dead-end street that is in terrible shape, you should still see repairs very soon – not 15 years from now as some residents had worried.

    • On stormwater management, the department says that it has redefined fees to charge more for impervious services. They also said that wetlands and ponds need dredging as part of flood control, and that the channelized brooks and culverts need repairs.

    • Speaking about waste management, the department noted that recycling fees have climbed a lot, but that there is still product demand, contrary to some of the more alarmist media reports

    • I also spoke to the department about the private way streets issue that many residents have brought up to me, but they stressed that City Council would have to change the ordinances before there were any policy changes on that.

  • Health & Human Services

    • The department is currently working on a food security program providing breakfasts and lunches to hundreds of Newton families over the summer, underscoring the ongoing inequality in our community that is largely hidden. We discussed how 11% of Newton schoolchildren live in poverty and one in eight households lives on $25,000 or less, despite the city’s reputation for wealth.

    • On the issue of vaping, they said that purchasing a vape is restricted to those over the age of 21, and that there will be spot checks of compliance. There is also a flavor ban on all tobacco products except at the 21+ stores (with a continued exception for menthol). All vape products could soon be banned from convenience stores. There will be an opportunity for public input on this proposal.

    • The department also reported that the known fatal overdose rate is in decline, and that the Diversion staffer has been able to offer more resources to get people help instead of sending them to jail.

    • There is also currently a rats problem that they are dealing with.

  • Parks & Recreation Department

    • The Parks & Rec Department talked to me about funding needs, saying that the Mayor did give them more funding for field maintenance. 

    • I also asked about the public input and approval process for various parks and recreation projects, given a contentious meeting several months ago at the Waban Area Council where this became a major point of confusion. Non-school playgrounds always have public hearings at the Recreation Commission, except in the unusual case of the play structure in question, which was proposed for a traffic island and therefore requires a different process (through the City Council’s Public Facilities Committee).

    • I also asked for an update on playground ADA accessibility efforts. They are currently working on planning upgrades for 11 of about 19 sites in need of accessibility improvements. A core part of their strategy now is making sure that the playgrounds or recreational fields are accessible from the edge of the properties or parking lots so that children or parents in wheelchairs can get to the play structures or bleachers without getting stuck at the perimeter. A separate ongoing challenge on playgrounds themselves is that some of the requirements for fall safety for all children unintentionally conflict with the requirements for wheelchair access because wheelchairs require more rigid surfaces and fall safety requires more bouncy surfaces; the department is attempting to solve this problem by creating designated wheelchair pathways across the areas while the rest of the surfaces are still flexible enough to prevent dangerous falls.

  • Information Technology Department

    • I spoke to the IT Department about the city government’s fiber internet service and the possibility of exploring extending that service to residents and businesses across Newton as a reliable, high-speed, net-neutral public option, which is something that other councilors have floated and which has been part of my platform as a possible idea from day one.

    • Currently, a combination of RCN and Comcast provide fiber internet and wifi for city buildings and the public pools/lakes. It is theoretically possible to extend this public, high-speed wifi network across the entire city, although the city would still need a major carrier to provide the underlying service to offer a public option, essentially like the low-cost mobile phone carriers that pay for time on overall national networks but provide cheaper plans to consumers.

    • The department also updated me on their security testing and efforts to train staff and officials to avoid phishing scams.

  • Senior Services

    • The NewMo Senior Rides program: Some seniors had expressed concern to me that they could not order rides in the evening to go to programs at the Newton Free Library or to attend public meetings at City Hall, and I passed these questions along. The department is currently reviewing ridership levels and interest to gauge the possibilities for extending service hours and expanding the destination options, because initially costs were a barrier to providing full service. The program has applied for grants from the state and federal Departments of Transportation to be able to extend service and expand the coverage areas. The program had to scale back some services compared to the previous rides program based on usage for the new program, but they want to bring it back to full levels, if possible. However, the city pays for the vehicles by their hours on the road, and this makes it harder to extend hours into the evening, when there is lower demand. I noted that if a lack of service disenfranchises some residents from being able to attend public meetings, then we do have an obligation to provide service, even if it costs more money.

  • Assessors

    • The Assessors Department oversees the senior property tax deferral program, which is available to seniors over 65 with annual incomes of not more than $86,000 per year who own and occupy their homes. (It is hard to defer if a mortgage is outstanding, but most eligible people have paid off their house already.) The income cap was raised this year, and the department actively made efforts to contact people who had previously been denied but would now be eligible. They expect more people to take advantage of the program next year.

    • Newton is the biggest deferral community in the state – more than 10% of all deferrals statewide – in part thanks to efforts to educate residents on its availability. 

    • One of their biggest challenges is making sure low-income seniors understand that this program is a net benefit to them and not a “burden” to their children as many people worry, according to the assessors. The total amount of tax payments being deferred (even with a small penalty for deferral) over time is always a very small amount relative to the value of the property when the property is ultimately sold later. (Or, if the heirs do not plan to sell and will be taking over owner-occupancy of the home, a very small mortgage generally easily covers the outstanding tax.)

    • Senior residents have been asking me whether the income eligibility level for the property tax deferral program could be raised, or perhaps even eliminated so any senior would be eligible. I passed along this question and the answer was that removing an income cap would be unsustainable for the city because it would be turned into a profitable tax shelter for the very wealthy. Residents would likely defer the taxes for a small interest fee later and in the meantime invest the money elsewhere at a rate of return greatly exceeding the deferral penalty, while the city would have to borrow money to cover the interim revenue loss at an interest rate also exceeding the deferral penalty.

  • Inspectional Services

    • Following up on some questions from voters who have been struggling with contractors or developers on abutting or nearby properties who are not following rules or being disruptive to the neighborhood, I asked what the Inspectional Services Department can do to help residents trouble-shoot these issues. Unfortunately, the department remains stretched very thin. They said that they do try to send people out to check on complaints with a 3 strike rule that can lead to a stop-work order, but private property disputes are beyond their jurisdiction. Overall, it sounds like they could use more resources to hire more people to be able to do more.

 

Bill also spoke to the Planning Department, but there was no new information relative to previous meetings and hearings on planning, development, and zoning issues over the past year.

 

Newton Highlands Area Council

On Thursday night, Bill attended the Newton Highlands Area Council meeting. On the agenda was a discussion with Newton Police Chief MacDonald, shuttle bus congestion, Cold Spring Park, exploding manhole covers, and other community updates. Here are some notes from the night’s meeting:

  • As of June, a number of streets in Newton Highlands have a new parking regime to reserve spaces for residents of the area and local business employees, while also making space for customers. Relevant residents and businesses should have been notified by mail but can also find more info on the city website.

  • City Councilor Lappin announced to the audience that Traffic Calming measures are now under the Department of Public Works’ jurisdiction, not the Traffic Council.

  • Police Chief Discussion:

    • Most of the discussion was about traffic safety enforcement issues.

    • One point during the discussion was about illegal swimming in Crystal Lake. Unexpectedly, there were not very many complaints reported this summer, despite the intense heat. 

    • Residents asked the present police officials about the buildup of long term business shuttles and temporary MBTA night shuttles in the village center of Newton Highlands. (Not a lot can be done on short term shuttles, but the longer term ones will need a bigger conversation.)

    • The Police Chief said that “Traditional Crime” (things like break-ins or muggings) is down in the region, while internet scams and in-person con artistry continue. For example, recently, there was a man falsely posing as a pest control guy and going door to door in Newton Highlands. The Chief also said that Involuntary Committal rates are currently going up.

    • Due to the high number of violations of leash and off leash rules, such as cleanup, the city’s two animal control officers have been given more overtime this summer to be able to better enforce dog regulations in Newton parks. Many of the violations are by non residents coming from neighboring communities.

  • The meeting then shifted to a more detailed community discussion about the shuttle infrastructure in Newton Highlands. 

    • The Area Council was considering writing a letter to the City Council advising for clearer regulations on shuttle stops and parking ahead of special permits.

    • Later, they approved the letter, calling for a comprehensive plan on all shuttle services ahead of the special permit votes on specific projects with shuttles like the Northland development.

  • Because of public pressure, Cold Spring Park is no longer on the list of proposed areas for the new Senior/Community Center. The short list of possible land, however, is still not ideal - it’s all playgrounds, athletic fields for kids, or dog parks. Most people in the room wanted to keep pushing against any parklands or recreational spaces being considered. 

    • Councilor Lappin clarified that this short list is just city properties that will now be tested for potential viability. The city is still looking out for private properties as options, although this doesn’t sound too likely at the moment due to the acquisition costs.

    • Alan Nogee, leader of Friends of Cold Spring Park, voiced concern that the list of potential sites got narrowed to only parks, given that there had been some non-park locations on the previous longer list.

  • A couple of weeks ago, there was a big explosion at the intersection of Walnut St and Center St where a manhole cover shot into the air. The City has endorsed a state bill to push the companies to fix the leaks everywhere. At the moment, the gas company remains largely unresponsive whenever leaks are called in. But you should always continue reporting them if you can.

  • The MBTA track work project is continuing. Remaining work in Newton Highlands is scheduled to take place for two weekends in December. In the meantime, the work is now further inbound around Newton Center. Some separate station accessibility work will also be happening in Newton Highlands in late August.

Campaign Week-in-Review 7/26/19 - Get Your Lawn Sign for the Sept 10 Preliminary in Ward 5

by Irina Costache, Campaign Organizer | Subscribe by Email

Hi all! I’m back from my vacation and excited to get back on the campaign trail! Big thanks to Izzy for covering the newsletters while I was away!

 

Some important news to start off this week! After a long wait, a preliminary election has been officially confirmed and scheduled to take place in Ward 5 on Tuesday September 10, 2019! There are no other preliminary elections being held in Newton that day, so don’t forget. Bill is now one of three candidates running for the open Ward 5 City Council seat, so please be sure to show up to your usual polling station this September 10 if you would like to see him on the general election ballot. The general election, where voters will choose between the two remaining candidates, will take place on November 5 along with the rest of the city elections. 

Lawn sign requests

Now that the preliminary vote has been scheduled, we are set to begin distributing lawn signs around Ward 5 starting next week! Please consider requesting a lawn sign to display your support for Bill’s campaign and help us spread the word around your neighborhood about the September vote! 

If you decide that you would like a sign to put up in your front yard, please email me so that we can coordinate on getting one dropped off to you!

Top Voter Issues, Continued

As we noted in last week’s newsletter, last week Bill was able to finish his second pass of knocking doors in Ward 5! Bill began this second pass in May after the end of the first pass from February through April. The top three issues that voters brought up this time around were: 1. Road/Sidewalk Repair, 2. Development & Zoning, and 3. Environment & Clean Energy. These are the same top issues that were brought up during the first pass, but this time Affordable Housing caught up and tied for 3rd with environmental issues!

We’ll be back out on the doors next week to continue talking to you about the issues.

Also, stay tuned for the NewTV / League of Women Voters Ward 5 candidate debate. The candidates will be recording it on Wednesday, August 7th and it will be available on New TV and online not long after.

 

Commuter rail meeting 

On Thursday night, Bill attended a meeting at the Newton Free Library with some representatives of the MBTA Commuter Rail about the longstanding lack of disability access at the three commuter rail stations in Newton and the MBTA’s proposed improvements. Although the commuter rail doesn’t run through Ward 5, some Ward 5 residents take it instead of the Green Line to get into Boston. These stations are currently virtually inaccessible for people in wheelchairs or elderly people who are not comfortable with long staircases, and they are low-level platforms which require a further step up onto the train cars. New stations would not only have platforms with accessibility down from the street level (via ramps and/or elevators depending on the station or level of possible proposal) but would also have high-level platforms level with the train car doors for boarding.

Though they presented various options for increasing disability access, the MBTA representatives said that they are planning to move forward with the most modest, single-platform version of their proposal (while preserving the possibility to expand later to two platforms). This modest concept would be done in 5 years (2024). City Staff present noted that one reason for supporting this smaller-scale improvement is because they believe the austerity regime of the Fiscal Control Board won’t approve a larger-scale option. 

Currently, the MBTA is seeking funding from the city in addition to the state. City Councilors present were concerned as to why Newton is being asked by the MBTA to put in funding when other peer communities with similar station upgrade projects were not asked to pitch in funds. 

Several community members who were in the audience asked that at least one station have the full upgrade (not the MBTA’s planned partial upgrade) so that there is accessible reverse commute service in at least one Newton station. Another resident said that the city should require the Washington St corridor developers to put money into a fund for Newton’s contribution to MBTA Commuter service upgrades.

Newton’s Commission on Disability notes that this project for ADA accessibility compliance at these stations is now 30 years overdue. They said that, though they are supposed to be consulted on this matter, they haven’t been yet. And, a previous project to make Auburndale alone accessible was shelved a few years ago. (It was not stated at the meeting but Bill has been briefed that the reason it was shelved had to do with the fact that if only Auburndale was overhauled without West Newton also being overhauled, the track layout and scheduling would have required trains to cross over during operations in a way that wasn’t really realistic. All three stations need to be overhauled together for smooth daily operations.)

At some point the slideshow with the various proposals will be available online, but we do not have them at this time to include a link here.

 

Community alerts:

This week through July 31, Winchester St at Boylston St (Ward 5, Precinct 2) will be undergoing overnight National Grid utility work from 7pm to 3am. Per an alert from the Newton Highlands Area Council, “Equipment that will be used includes backhoe, dump truck, jackhammers, and demo saws.”

Campaign Week-in-Review 7/19/19 - Mass Nurses Endorsement, 2nd Round of Door-Knocking Done, Chestnut St Paving and Safety

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Thanks to Izzy for covering the past few weeks of newsletters. Irina should be back next week. Here is a campaign update from me directly this week:

Support from the Massachusetts Nurses Association

I am so honored to have the endorsement of the Massachusetts Nurses Association, the statewide union representing both nurses at Newton-Wellesley Hospital in Ward 5 and public employee nurses working for the City of Newton. This is my mother’s union and I've picketed with them at various hospitals during labor disputes.

Second Round of Door-Knocking Complete

This past Saturday, Ward 5 resident Lois Levin, of Bike Newton and various environmental and transportation groups, came out knocking doors with me and it was a huge success because she knows so many of the residents in her immediate neighborhood.

On Tuesday, I finished my second complete pass of door knocking through Ward 5 since the beginning of February! Effectively I have knocked 4,366 doors myself and people helping me have knocked another 200. I've now spoken to more than 1,300 voters at least once -- and to many of them twice. We hope to have a summary of the most frequently mentioned issues from our second pass in next week's newsletter like we did after the first round. In the meantime, I need to go buy some new sneakers because my current pair has worn out already this year!

I hope to be back out on the doors again by the end of next week.

Chestnut St Paving and Safety

On Thursday night, I attended a community forum at the Waban Library Center with city officials on repaving and possible safety changes on Chestnut St between Beacon St and Commonwealth Ave. (Last summer Bill attended the meeting on paving & safety improvements for the section of Chestnut St from Beacon St to Route 9, but those overhauls have been delayed to 2020 because of water main issues and other underground factors.)

Here are some bullet points from the discussion:

  • This section is slated for overhaul in 2021 in theory. There are only 5 key intersections between the end points of this section but a few other cross streets.

  • There are no crosswalks across Chestnut in this whole section. It's very dangerous to cross almost anywhere in there but many people (including me) need to do so.

  • Another safety issue is delivery trucks parking on the blind curve on Chestnut St blocking traffic.

  • Oakvale and Chestnut intersection is blind for both drivers and pedestrians. There was a very bad single vehicle crash by there this past weekend after a speeding driver lost control.

  • Someone suggested a digital speed readout sign in the blind curve on Chestnut. The city staff said they might put the temporary one from the police department out soon.

  • I brought up comments from residents I talked to on the doors on Oakvale who complained about the increase in cut through traffic on their private way due to map apps, which degrades the road quality faster. But the public is allowed to drive on private streets, so the city staff say they can't do much. (In a recent newsletter, we noted many voters on various private streets across Ward 5 bringing up this issue.)

  • Many Chestnut residents noted that people are very aggressive toward drivers following the speed limit and sometimes pull around them across the yellow line. (I have also seen this happen.)

  • There were lots of safety design concerns about Short St and how drivers incorrectly treat it as a ramp bypass, which it wasn't originally created for.

  • A resident at the corner of Roslyn asked for a crosswalk and various slowing measures to allow kids to cross safely to get to the playground on the other side or to things in Waban Square. People also turn too fast onto Roslyn from Chestnut.

  • The city continues to struggle with figuring out how to safely take (or re-assert control over) enough land for complete sidewalks along the east side of Chestnut St.

  • There is not enough lateral space (through the little ravine Chestnut Street was cut through) to add bike lanes to Chestnut St, so that's not really an option. If prevailing speed were actually 20 mph it might be safe for bikes to ride in the street with cars there but it's not happening so far. So, bike detour routes to provide other pathways of getting safely from A to B are the current priority for this area instead of bike lanes.

  • Some residents are pushing for temporary speed fixes like plastic/rubber "speed cushions" that allow fire trucks through quickly but force cars to slow down.

  • Crosswalk priorities across Chestnut are at Fuller St and Caroline Park. But these also first require sharp curtailment of speeding, since we don’t want people crossing thinking it is safe and then being struck by a vehicle ignoring the crosswalk.

Other recent community news

Last Friday evening, Bill attended the City Hall protest with Mayor Fuller, Congressman Kennedy, the Newton Democrats, and our state legislators against the federal immigrant concentration camps, which Kennedy toured a few weeks ago. It was a packed demonstration with many outraged Newton residents. Our state representatives from Newton cited the US policy of turning away ships of Jewish refugees from Germany in the run up to the Holocaust as a reason we must not collaborate with the national policy on refugees and migrants at the border. Congressman Kennedy compared many of the detained immigrants to his Irish ancestors fleeing the deprivations of the Irish potato famine.

Earlier this week, there was a big water main break on Needham St. It took several days of work and traffic disruptions to shut down and repair and to repair the street, but as of this afternoon, Newton DPW says all the work has been completed and all lanes are re-opened. Let’s give a big hand to the DPW crews and first responders who braved the heavy rains and thunderstorms earlier in the week to stop the water main rupture. 

Campaign Week-in-Review: 7/12/19 - Inclusionary Zoning Expansion, Cold Spring Park Update, Vigil Today at 4

by Izzy Klein, Interim Campaign Organizer | Subscribe by Email

Happy Friday! I hope everyone had a nice week despite the humidity! Even in the heat, Bill was able to knock over 250 more doors in Ward 5, and was able to meet many of you and talk about what is important to us as residents of Ward 5 in this upcoming election cycle. 

There were also a number of community meetings and events this week around the city. This past Tuesday, Bill went to the seasonal opening of the Newton Farmers Market in Cold Spring Park. 

Affordable Housing & Sustainable Housing

After the farmers market and door-knocking on Tuesday, Bill attended the monthly Livable Newton meeting, held this time on Adams St at the Studio for High Performance Design and Construction's “passive house” building. The biggest news this week was the City Council's unanimous vote after months of review to expand the city's Inclusionary Zoning ordinance to raise the required percentage of affordable housing in multi-unit housing developments. Newton now leads the state on IZ requirements, continuing with 15% of units priced at a mix of lower income tiers (already required), plus now an additional 2.5% of middle-income units on projects with at least 21 units, for a total of 17.5%. Middle-income in this context means in the 81-110% of Area Median Income (AMI) for the Boston region. According to the Mayor's newsletter, "In Newton, a household of four at 80% of the AMI could earn up to $89,000, and at 110%, could earn up to $124,630." Affordable units are then priced (for monthly rents or mortgage payments) to be capped at 30% of the person's income at the relevant income tier. In 2021, the Inclusionary Zoning requirement will rise again for projects of 100 units or more, with a middle-income requirement of 5% of units instead of just 2.5%.

The Passive House style building where the Livable Newton meeting was held is a retrofit of an existing building in Nonantum and demonstrates the high-performance design style of Passive House that is much more efficient at heating and cooling. It also includes much healthier fresh air circulation systems than many modern buildings include. 

As noted in our March 29th 2019 newsletter, Passive House is a construction design concept (originating in New England several decades ago and refined in Germany in the 1990s) based on building homes or larger buildings to keep in the heat and make effective use of natural sunlight, high-performance doors and windows, and ventilation system technologies. Green Newton, a member organization of the Livable Newton coalition, has adopted a requirement for Passive House construction as one of the four design principles for sustainability that they are pushing developers and the city to adopt in Newton. For each climate zone in the US, there are different passive house building standards.

Cold Spring Park / Senior Center Update

On Thursday evening, Bill attended the beginning of the Newton Highlands Area Council meeting to hear an update from the Friends of Cold Spring Park on the continuing controversy over the possible construction of a new senior center (NewCAL) in Cold Spring Park, which many voters have brought up on the doors in the past 3 weeks. Many residents of Ward 5 told Bill they are against a senior center being built in Cold Spring Park and felt this was a decisive issue for their vote this year. As we stated in our June 29th 2019 newsletter, Bill is committed to opposing the use of city parklands, especially sensitive wetlands like Cold Spring Park, for new construction including that use. Our wetlands are necessary not just for the ecosystem but also to control neighborhood flooding. And our parks are meant to be parks, not just land reserved for future building. Bill is confident we can find a different, more appropriate location for a new senior center. Bill also has serious concerns about how the site location selection process has unfolded from the beginning. The Newton Highlands Area Council is drafting a letter expressing opposition to Cold Spring Park as the location.

Infrastructure Updates

Road repairs continue rapidly across the city and Ward 5 this week, including re-grading of intersections along Woodward Street at the Newton Highlands end, one of which seeks to fix a semi-permanent puddle of water that neighbors have complained about for years now. 

There are some upcoming road closures in Newton Highlands not related to construction but rather to additional filming of the production previously being filmed in and around Cold Spring Park. The city earlier received a substantial amount of money from the production studio that will be applied toward much-needed recreational trail repairs in the Park. 

Finally, the MBTA track & signal project has progressed eastward toward Brookline out of Ward 5 after a few months of overnight and weekend work.

Immigration Vigil at City Hall 4 PM Today

On Thursday night Bill also attended the monthly meeting of the Executive Committee of the Newton Democrats, who worked quickly with the Mayor's office and Congressman Kennedy's office to plan a 4 PM vigil for this afternoon (Friday 7/12) in support of immigrants held in border detention camps in terrible conditions. Rep. Kennedy visited the camps recently with other members of Congress. Bill will be in attendance like other Newton residents who are concerned with the treatment of immigrants at the border. 

Campaign Week-in-Review: 7/5/19 - Voters want safe streets, less congestion

by Izzy Klein, Interim Campaign Organizer | Subscribe by Email

Happy Independence Day week! I hope everyone had a restful day off! Although many Ward 5 residents are out of town, we were able to meet many of you out in the community earlier this week. Despite the heat, Bill knocked over 240 doors in Waban, Newton Upper Falls, and the small piece of West Newton that is in our ward. As of this week, our campaign has knocked over 4,000 doors as we approach the end of our second pass through Ward 5. 

Last Friday, Bill had the pleasure of knocking some of these doors with Ward 5 environmental activist Helen Rittenberg. Bill and Helen were able to talk to our neighbors about the issues they are passionate about, including the environment and the ways we can protect various natural spaces in Newton. 

Bill also attended the annual Fourth of July celebration at Albemarle Field.

Traffic and Street Safety

While on the doors this week, Bill was able to talk to constituents about issues that matter to them. One of the most frequently mentioned issues was traffic and congestion, especially on busier streets like Needham St. Bill seeks policy solutions for traffic congestion in Newton, not only for its own sake but also to reduce our city’s carbon footprint. It’s one of the harder problems to crack in Newton, but there are steps we can take. One key will, of course, be to make it easier and safer for people to bike, walk, and use public transit in the city of Newton. While we’re not expecting everyone to make the switch from cars, enabling more people to do so would ease some of the traffic congestion in our streets. Many of you have told us that you would prefer to use these alternatives when possible if they were more available and safer.

In fact, a number of Ward 5 residents this week specifically asked about making streets (including sidewalks) safe for pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers alike. Bill supports the substantial expansion of protected bike lanes and bike paths so that any resident can go anywhere in Newton safely by bicycle (which will also improve safety for drivers when bikes are on the road near them). Sidewalk safety has been a big concern for voters of all ages, from young parents with strollers and small kids going to the park to elderly residents and people with wheelchairs. Bill generally walks from home to his door-knocking areas, whenever possible, so he is keenly aware of the rough shape some of our sidewalks are in (or the streets where they do not exist at all).

Improving our existing transportation modes and expanding options will be critical to our city’s goals on traffic, the environment, economic development, and so much more. As ward councilor, Bill would:  

  • Support reforms to parking requirements to aid local businesses in our village centers, and increase safe walkability in those centers

  • Push to decrease car dependency and make transportation alternatives, such as bikes and public transportation viable for those who want those options

  • Promote cooperation with the state and surrounding municipalities such as Needham and Wellesley to better regionally integrate public transit options for short-distance trips

Campaign Week-in-Review: 6/28/19 - 3,800 doors, senior issues, private streets

by Izzy Klein, Interim Campaign Organizer | Subscribe by Email

Hello fellow Ward 5 residents! My name is Izzy Klein, and I am signing on as the interim campaign organizer for the next few weeks, while Irina is on vacation. I am a rising senior at Newton South, and I am passionate about politics and community organizing. Last year, I had the privilege of working in both the field and campaign offices as a fellow for Jay Gonzalez and Elizabeth Warren, and I am continuing my political pursuits by helping Bill this summer and doing other local organizing. I look forward to meeting some of you out in the community before the elections this fall.

What you have told us this week on the doors

The summer has begun, school is out, many hearings and local government happenings have slowed down. So, Ward 5 may seem quieter than it has been in some of our recent newsletters. But that doesn’t mean that we’ve stopped building momentum! Bill and our team (i.e. Irina, plus Bill’s friends volunteering) knocked over 400 doors this week. Thus far, as we progress through our second full pass of Ward 5, we’ve knocked over 3,800 doors, about 95% of which Bill has knocked himself.

While we were getting to know more neighbors on the doors this week, many Waban and Upper Falls residents shared concerns affecting their neighborhoods in Ward 5. Affordable housing remains one of the top five topics for Ward 5 voters and was especially popular this week with the voters we spoke to. 

Many voters this past weekend also brought up the issue of the city policies toward "private way" streets. Residents are responsible for the maintenance of these streets, but this is increasingly expensive as various navigation apps encourage more outside people to drive over them to avoid traffic, whether or not that is an appropriate route. The added wear and tear requires more frequent fixes. This is particularly burdensome for private way streets where many residents are lower-income renters, not affluent homeowners, and assembling the neighborhood funds for repairs is a challenge. Residents on these streets, both in Upper Falls and Waban, who have spoken to Bill since the beginning of February have complained about the mounting costs, the city's current policies on these streets, and what they feel is a lack of tax relief despite the added maintenance cost burdens. It may be time for the city to re-examine its policies on these private way streets comprehensively.

Residents in Upper Falls also continue to have questions regarding the details of the proposed Northland development on Needham St, and Bill and the rest of our team heard a wide array of opinions on what should be done or changed. 

Another increasingly frequent topic is the recently released and controversial list of some potential sites for the new senior center. Bill is committed to opposing the use of city parklands, especially sensitive wetlands like Cold Spring Park, for new construction including that use. Bill is confident we can find a different, more appropriate location for a new senior center.

Senior issues on the whole are a key part of Bill’s campaign and we had a lot of conversations about senior life in Newton this week, especially with the recent launch of the new senior rides program. About one-fifth of Newton’s residents are part of our senior population, and this share is only projected to increase in the coming years. Their active presence and engagement in Newton is vital to sustaining our local civil society, and they are critical to building a multi-generational community where everyone is welcome. As Ward Councilor, Bill would:

  • Explore how city government can assist seniors with critical repairs of their homes that they may not be able to do for reasons of financial hardship or physical disability.

  • Continue working toward creating and maintaining senior public spaces, affordable and diverse housing and transit options suited to the challenges of aging, and community activities for our senior population.

  • Champion the expansion of programs that maintain and increase intergenerational engagement.

We’re grateful to have the enthusiastic support of so many senior residents of Ward 5 in this campaign, in addition to the support from many younger residents.

Community Announcements/Notes: 

  • Road work is continuing this week in various points in Ward 5, but especially in Upper Falls at Oak St and Christina St (for the ongoing intersection alignment project) and at Chestnut St and Ellis St. Sidewalks and driveways are affected, in addition to the streets themselves.

  • The Mayor's office reminds everyone this week that some residents' Senior Free Parking Stickers expire this Sunday, June 30. Two-year stickers are available at the Newton Senior Center. Bring a driver's license and car registration info as well as $6 to obtain a new sticker.

  • The Annual Newton 4th of July Celebration is happening this Thursday. According to the city, festivities will start at 1:00 pm, with amusement rides, local business vendor booths, a handmade craft fair and food trucks. At 6:00 pm, the fun will move over to the main stage, with music, dancing, and entertainment from 6-9 pm. The fireworks will start at 9:00 pm. 

Campaign Week-in-Review: 6/21/19 - New Endorsement, Candidate Forum, Northland Revisions

by Irina Costache, Campaign Organizer | Subscribe by Email

This week we have a new endorsement from Ward 1 City Councilor Maria Greenberg! We are thrilled to have her support in this race!

Door knocking continued, with our campaign knocking 232 doors this week (including 48 that I got to knock myself)! A lot of people in two different areas of door knocking who had reported bad streets during Bill’s first pass were now very happy to tell him that their streets had since been repaved.

Northland hearing

On Tuesday, Bill attended the Land Use Committee’s latest public hearing regarding the proposed Northland development. Here are some notes from the night:

  • The first item was a presentation from the petitioners announcing some of the key shifts made in their proposal since the last hearing. These changes include:

    • Significant revisions to the shuttle plan.

      • The new shuttle plan aims to create more frequent service between the Northland site and the Newton Highlands Green Line station. The shuttles would operate every 10 minutes, 16 hours a day, 7 days a week.

      • The proposed shuttles would be an all electric fleet, and their route wouldn’t include any stops on Needham St except for the mobility hub on the Northland site, to avoid adding traffic or runt-time by stopping and starting.

      • Riding the shuttles would be free and open to everyone, including people not on or going to the site. (One question arising is whether this would create park-and-ride issues for the neighborhood, but otherwise this is a good change to the proposal.)

    • More passive house energy designs for some but not all of the buildings

      • Natural gas would still be used to heat the hot water in the buildings among other uses. As noted in last week’s newsletter, this remains unacceptable in our view because the development is supposed to last at least 30-50 years. Approving a development dependent on fossil fuels in 2019 is essentially a form of climate denial. If we want to have any hope of getting to the zero-emission target we have set as a city (and dictated by the scientific community globally), we cannot afford to approve of any new construction from this point forward that includes fossil fuels.

    • Swapping the previously proposed vague community building that was not garnering much support or interest for a $1 million splash park/ice rink open to the public.

    • Refining their plans to underground 1.5 miles of utilities on existing streets around the project (not just inside it).

      • The streets included for this are Oak St, Needham St (although due to existing underground infrastructure they would have to reroute around it), Tower Rd, and Christina St.

    • Committing to make 2.5% of the 800 residential units in the 80-100% AMI affordability range beyond the 15% required at 50-80%.

      • 44 of the 800 units would be fully accessible to people with disabilities, and half of those are anticipated to be among the affordable units.

  • The next item on the agenda was a slideshow presented by an opposition group.

    • They primarily criticized the scaled-back shuttle plan as walking back on ambitious promises. In previous presentations, however, they had criticized the shuttle plan for being too ambitious.

  • There was a speech by former Alderman Marcia Johnson in support of the project on behalf of Livable Newton.

  • Green Newton also gave a speech that addressed the environmental aspect of the project. The group stated that progress is being made but negotiations are still not done, and that they intend to push for passive house, renewables, and lower embodied carbon in construction materials. However, they are prepared to concede on the natural gas usage issue (which Bill is not willing to do).

  • The hearing was then opened up to the audience, letting the public comment for about 30 minutes.

Upper Falls Area Council meeting & candidate forum

On Thursday night, Bill participated in the first candidate forum for the Ward 5 City Council race! The forum was a sequential Q&A period, rather than a debate. Only two candidates participated. Bill spoke about his experience growing up in Ward 5, his familiarity with Newton Upper Falls and its history, his conversations with voters from going door to door, and his top two issues of environmental action and affordable housing. Almost all of the questions raised by voters at the event were about the Northland project, which Bill has been following very closely.

After the forum, the meeting shifted to a presentation by a voter that Bill met while door knocking. Per Bill’s suggestion and coordination with the Area Council, he was able to get onto the agenda to speak about signage needs for the Greenway because he lives by a path linking to it.

There was also a recap of the Northland proposal changes and some community issues discussed, such as pedestrian safety issues on Ellis St (the short street that goes from Quinobequin up hill to Chestnut St under Echo Bridge) and a dispute with the neighboring town about the highway interchange at the office park by the Route 9 and 128 and Chestnut Street intersections and clovers.

Greenway art exhibit kickoff

Bill also attended last Friday’s 2019 Upper Falls Greenway art exhibition kickoff! It was a great day for a walk along the path to see all of the art! And there was plenty of ice cream for all. Check it out any day from now to September.

Community updates

There will not be July meetings of the Waban and Upper Falls Area Councils. The Newton Highlands Area Council will either meet on a different day (to avoid July 4) or will not meet in July, but this is not decided yet.

Campaign Week-in-Review: 6/14/19 - Updates on N.H. Village Day, Door-Knocking, Northland, Greenway Art

by Irina Costache, Campaign Organizer | Subscribe by Email

Newton Highlands Village Day

On Sunday, Bill and I had a campaign booth set up at Newton Highlands Village Day! It was a beautiful day with great live music and big turnout. We had a great opportunity to introduce ourselves to new voters and hear about their top city concerns. Many were meeting Bill for the first time and were excited to hear about the campaign!

Canvassing

This week, Bill headed out and knocked doors in Ward 5 nearly every day of the week. He was able to knock 243 doors, now having reached 40% of the Ward for the second pass! In one of the neighborhoods we knocked, many voters voiced concerns about a property that had been torn down some time ago and now the lot stood empty, possibly as the developer waited for re-zoning. Zoning reform has been an issue that Bill has been closely following, and he was able to provide voters information on how they could give their input to the city, as well as gave them information on the status of the zoning reform process that has been pushed to the next term.

Engine 6/Livable Newton meeting

Bill attended Wednesday’s monthly meeting of the affordable housing groups Engine 6/Livable Newton, held at the Boys & Girls Club on Watertown St. The club, which provides affordable after-school activities for students, is grappling with shifting financial demographics in the city and the challenge of how to transport kids from their schools to the club in the afternoons.

Waban Area Council

On Thursday, Bill attended the monthly Waban Area Council meeting. The night’s agenda primarily featured a presentation by (and public questions toward) Union Twist, the developer of a proposed Beacon Street retail marijuana dispensary. The content of this presentation did not differ notably from the presentation at the Newton Highlands Area Council in May, although the petitioners said that there are actually also other companies seeking retail marijuana store approval in the same commercial district who have chosen not to do public presentations. There are no regular Waban Area Council meetings scheduled for July or August, but there might be a special meeting in July to get public input on upcoming Chestnut St overhauls, as there was last summer.

Community Updates

- Northland project revisions:

  • Village 14 today released an article detailing some revisions made this week to the proposed Northland development. More details on the revisions can be found in this letter sent to Land Use Committee Chair Greg Schwartz from the Northland developer.

  • One big and important change is that the shuttle system to and from the Newton Highlands T station will be free. Another positive change is the increase in middle-income housing units, with rents capped to 30% of income falling within the 80-100% AMI (Boston Area Median Income) range. This is above and beyond the legally-mandated share of lower-income affordable apartments set aside for people in the 50-100% AMI range.

  • However, the project still remains dependent on fossil fuels, regardless of promises for partially using renewables and passive-house standards on some buildings. For a development that is supposed to last at least 30-50 years minimum, this is a form of climate denial and is very worrying. 2050 is 30 years from next year. No new construction from this point forward should be approved with the inclusion of fossil fuels, if we are to have any hope of getting to zero-emissions targets we have set.

  • Another issue that still stands is the Oak street entrance/exit.

  • On Tuesday, June 18, there will be a hearing on the development in front of the City’s Land Use Committee. The meeting will be held in the City Council Chamber at 7 p.m.

- Senior Rides App Launch:

  • This Monday, June 17, Newton’s new senior transportation system, “NewMo” (Newton in Motion), will finally be launching. The transportation app will give seniors access to vetted driver that will walk seniors to their doors and reliable get them around Newton.

  • More information on the new system and how to sign up can be found here.

- Greenway Arts 2019 Summer Art Exhibition

  • The exhibit is now open with a launch event this afternoon (June 14) from 4-6 p.m. Titled “Reverberations”, this year’s exhibit is again curated by Studios Without walls and will “feature up to 20 sculptures and conceptual art located along the one-mile rail trail, which runs parallel to Needham Street in Newton," according to the Upper Falls News email list.

Campaign Week-in-Review: 6/7/19 - Porchfest, Pride, Parks, Parking

by Irina Costache, Campaign Organizer

Bill continued his second pass around Ward 5 this week, with me joining him for the first time this campaign season! It was great to get to meet with so many voters face to face and hear about their concerns. Multiple people brought up issues with senior life and housing, as well as others asking questions about the city’s environmental action plan. Over one quarter of the second pass is now complete!

Porchfest

Before knocking doors on Saturday, Bill stopped by two Waban locations of 2019 Porchfest to hear live music from members of our Ward 5 community, including the newly opened permanent home of the Suzuki School of Newton.

Friends of Cold Spring Park

On Monday, Bill participated in the well-attended kickoff of the Friends of Cold Spring Park at Zervas Elementary! Sam Jaffe, who grew up in Newton studying wildlife in Cold Spring Park and has since founded The Caterpillar Lab, spoke at the event and brought caterpillars, moths, acorn ants, parasitic wasps, and much more for attendees to view!

This park is a critical habitat (for hundreds of species), wetland, and recreational area in Wards 5 & 6 and the group is raising private funds for urgently needed trail repairs and other upgrades.

The LGBTQ Flag Raising

Tuesday night, Bill was in attendance at City Hall’s annual Pride Flag-raising event! This year's featured speaker was the first Newton Public Schools Teacher to come out publicly to students.

Newton Highlands Area Council

After some more door knocking on Thursday, Bill stopped by the Newton Highlands Area Council for their brief agenda. One item was a presentation on a proposed new tenant at a Lincoln St. business. The new tenant, a boutique fitness club, will be asking the City Council to be granted a parking waiver. Without a waiver, the tenant would need far more parking spots than the actual number of patrons and employees on site at any given time. Moreover, their anticipated peak usage would be before rush hour in the morning, when nearby parking wouldn’t be an issue anyway, so they are requested parking relief from the City Council. The business is also near the Green Line station and MBTA bus stops, so the legally mandated level of parking probably isn’t necessary. There was a discussion at the Area Council about the general problem of excessive and outdated parking minimums in the village centers of Newton and their impact on businesses, a reform that Bill has supported in his campaign platform. The Area Council will be writing a letter to City Hall urging this specific request be put through in a timely manner. (Three of the City Councilors were present at the meeting as well.)

Newton Highlands Village Day is this weekend!

Join us this Sunday, June 9, for Newton Highlands Village Day! Located along Lincoln St in the village center and running from 11 a.m to 4 p.m., the event will feature vendors, food, live music, kids' activities, and more. Just like Waban Village Day, our campaign will have a booth set up where voters can meet Bill and ask him questions!

Campaign Week-in-Review: 5/31/19 - Get Involved in Ward 5

by Irina Costache, Campaign Organizer | Subscribe by Email

This week was a brief review, and so we've included a list of upcoming June community events as well this week as we close out May.

Door knocking

Bill’s second pass around Ward 5 continued this week, with Bill getting to knock on 85 doors, despite the rain. Most of the concerns that voters brought up focused on affordable housing for young families and downsizing seniors. Bill also heard a lot about taking climate action, especially from younger voters. Addressing both of these issues is a major part of Bill’s campaign platform, so he was glad to hear that many voters shared these concerns!

One voter said he plans to vote for Bill because no candidate for elected office had ever knocked on his door before.

Mayor's Community Breakfast

This morning, Bill attended the 45th Mayor’s Annual Community Breakfast. The community breakfast works with the Foundation for Racial, Ethnic and Religious Harmony (Harmony Foundation), a local nonprofit towards “the promotion of racial and religious harmony within the City of Newton, Massachusetts and elsewhere.” This year, the Harmony Foundation’s award was given to Katy Haywood, and posthumously to Rev. Howard Haywood, who championed the issue of affordable housing and endorsed Bill’s city council campaign earlier this year before his passing.

Memorial Day Parade

On Sunday, Bill got to join in on Newton’s annual Memorial Day Weekend parade by decorating his bike and helping Bike Newton safely guide young kids along the parade route in the hot summer weather!

June Ward 5 Event Reminders

There will be a number of community events and opportunities to get involved in Ward 5 with local governance coming up in June! Here is some information about each of them:

1. Friends of Cold Spring Park kickoff

June 3 is the official kickoff event for the Friends of Cold Spring Park! The event will take place at 7:30 pm at the Zervas Elementary School and will provide free refreshments. Sam Jaffe, a Naturalist and founder of The Caterpillar Lab will be the keynote speaker, sharing information about “the park’s many diverse habitats and inhabitants...threats to the park’s ecosystem and how you can help preserve it..[and the group’s] plans to rehabilitate the trail.”

2. Newton Highlands Area Council

The monthly Newton Highlands Area Council meeting will take place on June 6 at 7:30 p.m. at the Brigham Community House.

3. Newton Highlands Village Day

Join us on June 9 for Newton Highlands Village Day! Located at 1169 Walnut St and running from 11 a.m to 4 p.m., the event will feature “vendor sales, delicious food, two stages of live music, beer garden, kid activities, and more.” Just like Waban Village Day, our campaign will have a booth set up where voters can meet Bill and ask him questions!

4. Waban Area Council

The Waban Area Council will meet on June 13 at the Waban Library Center at 7:30 p.m.

5. Upper Falls Area Council

The Upper Falls Area Council meeting will take place on June 20 at 7:00 p.m. at the Emerson Community Center.

Campaign Reminders

Donations: If you would like to make a donation to help support our campaign to make Newton a community for everyone, you can click here. Or, If you prefer to make a donation by mail, please make out a check to The Humphrey Committee and send it to: The Humphrey Committee, PO Box 78, Waban MA 02468. Any donation amount is always appreciated!

Events: If you would like to host a meet & greet event for Bill to meet your neighbors, please let me (Irina) know and we'll set one up.

Campaign Week-in-Review: 5/24/19 - Rainy Village Day, Budget, Housing Policy, Community Updates

by Irina Costache, Campaign Organizer

Bill kept up his second pass of door-knocking around Ward 5 this week. On top of getting the chance to meet residents who weren’t home the first time around, Bill was able to check in with the voters who he heard from during the first pass. One voter who had brought up some constituent service questions back in February now said that Bill’s help in directing him to the specific people who work on the issue ended up solving the issue!

Bill also heard from voters during Waban Village Day on Sunday, where our campaign had a booth set up. Unfortunately, it began to rain about 45 minutes into the event, decreasing some turnout. Our campaign was one of the last to pack up after a couple hours of pouring rain, however, allowing Bill to meet a number of new voters and hand out some campaign literature.

Budget Resolutions

On Monday night, Bill was at City Hall to watch the City Council Committee of the Whole go over the City budget. The most notable parts of the meeting touched on improving public access to council meetings with better monitors and the proposed Office of Climate Assistance services. Here are some of the night’s notes:

  • Resolution 4 requested funding to create an Office of Climate Assistance in the City government.

    • One councilor complained that this proposal was a distraction from the backlog of other staff needs.

    • Councilor Albright said that our failure to get started on climate action yesterday is jeopardizing our future.

    • Councilor Schwartz stated that it was important to fund this position now so that the Office could provide guidance to citizens & business on climate mitigations renovations. Failing to do so would be wasting time we can’t afford to waste.

    • The Resolution was approved with two abstentions

  • Resolution 2 asked for funding to upgrade the City Council Chamber technology by installing permanent large monitors around the chamber so that councilors and members of the public could see everything.

    • One councilor expressed concern that screens would not look good in the historic chamber.

    • Most councilors, however, showed support of screens because members of the public who have complained that they couldn’t see what was going on.

Housing Policy & History

On Thursday night, Bill attended an event titled “Housing, Race, and Equity in Newton.” The event, sponsored by the Temple Israel Boston and the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization, focused on historical factors and current stats today about the issues. Here are some important things to note from the event:

  • In Newton, the median sale price of single-family homes in $1.1 million, requiring an annual income of over $202k and a downpayment of $220,000. Between 2000-2013, Newton gained 4,200 households in that strata or above, while losing 4,700 households that earned $125,000 or less.

  • Approximately 5,000 low- and moderate-income households are “cost burdened”, according to the 2016 Newton Housing Strategy Report (“cost burdened” refers to households paying more than 30% of their income on housing costs). The report specifically indicates that we need 4,244 affordable units for households making less than $42,350 to address existing needs.

  • The local median income for Newton households is $133,853, while the Area Median Income (AMI) is $107,800. AMI, not local median, is used to determine affordable housing eligibility and subsidies.

    • 50-80% of the AMI is considered Low Income.

    • 30-50% is Very Low Income.

    • Less than 30% is Extremely Low Income.

  • The event played a segment from Adam Ruins Everything that spoke on federal home loan redlining in Black neighborhoods and Levittown racial bans. (The Boston area was heavily affected by redlining decisions).

  • Shelby Robinson of Myrtle Baptist Church gave a presentation about how the Mass Pike was built through Newton’s Black neighborhood in the 60s. Its construction through the pre-civil war community took homes and businesses by eminent domain with artificially low prices over a period of 4 months.

    • Many Black families were displaced from their community by the project and could not find homes elsewhere in Newton because of racist realtors, sellers, and lenders.

    • As a result of the project, numerous members of the Myrtle Baptist Church, including the late Rev. Haywood and Robinson's mother (eventually a Newton Alderman), became affordable housing activists.

    • Robinson also pointed out that, although Newton has now become culturally very welcoming to Jewish residents, back in the 60s they were treated with about the same level of discrimination (officially or unofficially) as Black residents in the community.

  • Dana LeWinter of the Citizens Housing and Planning Association (CHAPA) went over a number of the approved and proposed affordable housing units in Newton right now and discussed how politically challenging it has been to win the approval of the City Council. Former Alderman Marcia Johnson also presented on this.

    • LeWinter further noted that it is necessary to address people’s concerns while also making a clear case for affordable housing and pushing back against misconceptions.

Community Updates

On May 6, the MBTA released updates on changes to bus routes, which Bill attended a meeting about earlier this year. The new route changes will be phased in over two quarters beginning in the fall and winter of 2019. Some of these changes will affect routes in Ward 5, or routes right outside of Ward 5:

  • Route 59

    • The original proposal doubled bus frequency on Needham St but at the expense of service on Elliot St.

    • The revised and approved proposal will preserve some limited service to Elliot St.

  • Route 52

    • Service will be discontinued along Wells Avenue, Winchester Street, and Nahanton Street. Mayor Fuller said she is “deeply disappointed that the MBTA didn’t listen to our concerns.”

    • The discontinuation of these stops will harm disabled and elderly riders along the affected streets, who otherwise have no easy transit access.

    • The city is looking into a shuttle service from the Newton Highlands T stop down Winchester Street to Wells Office Park for a fee.

According to Mayor Fuller’s Newsletter, the City Council voted earlier this month (18-2) to grant a special permit for a second adult retail marijuana store in Newton. Bill has been to a lot of community meetings in Upper Falls and Newton highlands in regards to this site. The approved store, owned by Cypress Tree Management, will be located at 24-26 Elliot St and has already been granted approval for a registered medical marijuana dispensary at this location. Cypress Tree will not open a store immediately, however, as it is currently in the process of obtaining a state license and needs to renovate the buildings. Once it does so, it will open as both a retail medical marijuana sales and recreational sales.

Campaign Reminders

  • Donations: If you would like to make a donation to help support our campaign to make Newton a community for everyone, you can click here. Or, If you prefer to make a donation by mail, please make out a check to The Humphrey Committee and send it to: The Humphrey Committee, PO Box 78, Waban MA 02468. Any donation amount is always appreciated!

  • Events: If you would like to host a meet & greet event for Bill to meet your neighbors, please let me (Irina) know and we'll set one up.

Campaign Week-in-Review: 5/17/19 - 7 Endorsements, Northland Sustainability Hearing, Upper Falls Updates

by Irina Costache, Campaign Organizer

Bill continued his second pass through Ward 5 knocking doors this week. Voters who were previously undecided keep moving into our camp, and voters who were previously in support on the first pass reiterated their intention to vote for Bill in September and November. Bill also spoke to many voters who were not home the first time and continued to gather feedback on the most important city issues on voters’ minds in 2019.

Also this week, City Councilors-at-Large Susan Albright (Ward 2) and Andrea Kelley (Ward 3) announced their endorsements of Bill Humphrey for the Ward 5 councilor seat. It’s an honor to have their support in 2019 as we make the case for affordable housing, local environmental action, and stronger transportation. This builds on last week’s support from Mass Alliance.

They’re also joining the five Ward 5 community activists quoted below in support of Bill’s candidacy:

"Bill Humphrey is the candidate in this race who has knocked doors on every street in Ward 5, and he is always present at all the community meetings, listening to our concerns."– Jo-Louise Allen, Newton Upper Falls

"By speaking up, Bill has been fighting for other people's rights for as long as I've known him. Bill's strong character and devotion to Newton have been apparent to me and other Ward 5 parents since our children started in Newton Public Schools almost 25 years ago." – Julie Sall, Newton Highlands

"Bill is the only candidate in this race who has consistently championed affordable housing instead of fighting against it." – Fran Godine, Waban

"Bill understands the environmental stakes in city government from gas leaks to energy conservation and clean water." – Marcia Cooper, Waban

"Bill is a hard worker who shares our values and has proven that he can be counted on to keep Ward 5 constituents informed and get their city questions addressed promptly." – Nancy Zollers, Waban

Land Use Committee Hearing

On Tuesday night, Bill attended the Land Use Committee hearing on the proposed Northland development. The night’s hearing was specifically focused on the development’s architectural/site design and the environmental sustainability of the project. Here is the information to note from the hearing:

  • The petitioner argued that the project would, on net, be an environmental gain due to the redevelopment of the industrial grayfield, stormwater and waterway fixes, open green space expansion, tree plantings, and density of housing.

  • Out of the over 22 acres on site, 10.4 would be open or semi-open space, such as parks, plazas, and pedestrian walkways.

  • There are big improvements planned for stormwater and runoff management, in addition to plans to restore the brook (partially aboveground). The paving on-site would be porous and permeable, rather than the impervious paving site-wide that’s there now.

  • The rooftops for buildings are planned to have a combination of outdoor deck amenities, green roofing, and capacity for solar panels. A number of people expressed concern that “capacity” for solar was not the same as an intent to install panels from the start. (The historic mill building’s roof would also be an exception, being white roofed to reduce heat island effect.)

  • The mill building would have heat pumps, but it was noticeable that the petitioner did not mention any other details on heating for other buildings, which is typically a major source of fossil fuel usage in any project. It is also perhaps concerning that the largest, central buildings will feature significant glass and steel exteriors that could be fairly energy inefficient, depending on how they are constructed. (See below on passive-house construction standards.)

  • In terms of the overall design of the site, the city’s peer reviewer on this aspect is a consultant from Newton Highlands and presented a response.

    • The reviewer recommended that the petitioner investigate other sustainable & energy efficiency certifications/ratings, incorporating solar and renewable energy for the buildings, and the feasibility of installing a District Energy system.

    • He also recommended that the developers submit a list of all of the sustainability measures they plan to incorporate (or are considering incorporating) into the project and identify the approximate impact of each.

    • The city believes that there is enough water and sewer capacity for the project in the area, but wants a plan for demand reduction as much as possible. The peer reviewer voiced some concern about the petitioner’s runoff recycling plan during drought conditions. (In light of the 2016 summer drought and global warming, it is key to be planning ahead for this more and more.)

  • Newton’s Urban Design Commission presented about their four meetings with the Northland team

  • Also presenting was Green Newton, who gave their official presentation during the public comment period. They cited a need to cut emissions to levels 45% of the levels in 2010 by 2030. The chair stated that if this project is done right, it would help climate mitigation. If done wrong (including construction materials and methods), it would worsen climate emissions.

  • Newton’s citizen Energy Commission also gave an official public comment highlighting the Newton Climate Action Plan on phasing out fossil fuels in Newton by 2050 and proposing that all new buildings use zero fossil fuels.

  • Both Green Newton and the Energy Commission said that passive house construction standards from Europe are necessary for this project (which doesn’t yet include the standard). The petitioner design team did make a visit to a passive house certified residential building in South Boston, but they aren’t committing yet. You can read more about that concept in our recent newsletter focused on the topic.

  • After opening the discussion up to general public comments, one ongoing point of dispute from the audience was whether or not this large of a project counted as part of the nominal 13 Newton villages (i.e. Upper Falls) – or something separate. Many newer residents might be unaware of this, but the number of villages has gone up and down over the years of Newton’s history, due in large part to changes in real estate developments. For example, there used to be a “Woodland” neighborhood, but that is not considered one of the 13 current villages and has faded into the neighboring village areas, apart from the Green Line stop named for it. Others have come and gone as well. So it is certainly conceivable that the Northland development and Needham St (which technically forms the border of Upper Falls and Newton Highlands, nominally) might in future be considered a different village.

  • Members of the Council on Aging also made a good point about requiring various outdoor and ground level interior disability and elder friendly provisions into the development plan, specifically citing restroom access and better benches. The Council on Aging speakers also noted that isolation, housing, and transportation are the top senior concerns, according to their listening tour of Newton seniors.

  • Many of the night’s comments emphasized the urgency of this Climate Emergency and the role of housing density and transportation as tools to control this emergency.

  • Concerns over potentially high embodied carbon in the materials in the currently proposed architecture were also highlighted. (This refers to the amount of emissions required to manufacture or produce the materials such as concrete, as well as to transport them to the site.) One audience member spoke on the need to ensure that emissions to build the site over the next 5-7 years do not outweigh decades of energy savings from other aspects of the project.

  • Chairman Schwartz stated that it was imperative under the newton Climate Action Plan that any new major buildings under the development be off fossil fuels and as efficient as possible.

Upper Falls Area Council

Bill was at the Upper Falls Area Council meeting on Thursday night. Here are some key points from the night:

  • The longest scheduled item on the night’s agenda was a presentation on the project at the end of Chestnut St next to the Greenway.

    • In late 2017, the block of buildings at the end of Chestnut St were acquired by Mauruuru Properties. The buildings are being renovated to bring them up to code, and they are seeking a change towards 100% office space. The site historically had a mill and factory for a national alarm system manufacturing company. The design is also being unified across the various buildings.

    • Currently, the underground parking garage is closed for extensive safety renovations.

    • The owners say that they are attempting to revitalize this block in the village center, but not change it substantially. The Upper Falls Historical Commission is pleased with the owners’ cooperation on repairing and improving the old buildings.

    • Construction will continue into 2020, possible affecting the location of the Upper Falls Village Day in September of this year.

  • The Council also discussed the Greenway Plaque proposal from last month’s meeting.

  • Next on the agenda was the Art Selection Process for this year’s Art on the Greenway. The City Parks Department already approved it, so the presentation was by the curator of the project.

    • Last year, there was a public objection to an abstract piece selected that related the historical mills of the area to the slave labor cotton production of the South and the legacy of contributions by African-American descendants of slaves to American society and culture.

    • This year, many of the pieces will be based up in tree branches as a way of discouraging vandalism, which was an issue last year.

    • One of the proposed pieces this year includes an abstract reference to Parkland with broken toy guns. The representative at the meeting from the city said that the piece had to be taken out or modified to exclude the toy gun fragments.

  • Also discussed at the meeting was that the four area councils are organizing forums in early October for the city council and school committee races. No date or location has yet been set.

  • The meeting also discussed a memorial plaque in the village center for Brian Yates (a separate initiative from the Friends of Hemlock Gorge Memorial bench), and there was a recap or Tuesday’s Northland hearing.

  • One announcement made was that the Elliot Street marijuana host agreement and City Council approval have been obtained, so that project is moving forward.

  • The Area Council changed the Upper Falls Village Day, which had been originally been set for a Saturday in September; it has now been changed to Sunday, Sep 15, 11-2pm due to pushback to change it to a Sunday date.

  • There was also some discussion of ongoing pedestrian safety issues along Elliot Street and Greenway access and endpoints.

This Weekend

  • DPW Fair: The Newton Department of Public Works Fair is this Saturday (5/18) from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Newton City Hall War Memorial. As road repair was the top issue brought up by voters in Ward 5 during Bill's first round of door-knocking, this may be a great opportunity for residents to ask questions directly of the department employees and better understand how the department operates.

  • Waban Village Day: This Sunday (5/19) is Waban Village Day! It starts at 11 and goes to the mid-afternoon. Our campaign will have a booth set up so that voters can come out to meet Bill and ask him questions. We hope to see you there!

Campaign Reminders

  • Donations: If you would like to make a donation to help support our campaign to make Newton a community for everyone, you can click here. Or, If you prefer to make a donation by mail, please make out a check to The Humphrey Committee and send it to: The Humphrey Committee, PO Box 78, Waban MA 02468. Any donation amount is always appreciated!

  • Events: If you would like to host a meet & greet event for Bill to meet your neighbors, please let me (Irina) know and we'll set one up.

Campaign Week-in-Review: 5/10/19 - Support from Mass Alliance & Community Updates

by Irina Costache, Campaign Organizer

This week, we have an exciting announcement! Bill was named by Mass Alliance to its Rising Stars Program 2019! Mass Alliance is a coalition of 27 political/advocacy organization and unions that are working together to stand up for civil rights, economic justice, education, environmental protection, healthcare, reproductive rights, workers’ right, and more progressive issues around Massachusetts. Bill is honored to have their support and recognition this year.

On Sunday, Bill held a successful and well-attended Meet & Greet in the home of Ward 5 environmental activist Marcia Cooper and co-hosted by another Ward 5 environmental activist, Helen Rittenberg. Both are very highly regarded in Newton politics, so we are glad to have their support! Voters were able to ask questions about the urgency of climate action in Newton, green energy, and building strong public transportation at the municipal level, as well as any other issues that concerned them about the city.

After having completed knocking doors in Ward 5 last week, Bill kicked off his second pass through on Thursday of this week! Bill was able to knock over 60 doors this week, hearing from voters who hadn’t been home his first time around and getting signatures for his nomination papers.

Friends of Hemlock Gorge

On Tuesday, Bill attended the Friends of Hemlock Gorge monthly meeting at the Emerson Community Center in Upper Falls. The group is currently working with the Department of Conservation and Recreation to install a granite memorial bench for Alderman Yates, the late founder of the organization. Announced at the meeting was that State Rep. Ruth Balser has added a $50,000 amendment to the House budget to go towards urgent repairs to the 19th Century Stone Building in Hemlock Gorge (which is actually on the Wellesley side). The roof is currently leaking, the floor doesn’t drain, and the second floor beams are rotting. Rep. Balser has also introduced a budget amendment for $50,000 for nearby Quinobequin parkland trail improvements. The amendments would need to make it into the Senate budget (which is supported by Senator Cream), into the combined budget, and then through the Governor’s item vetoes.

Waban Area Council

Also this week, Bill attended Thursday night’s Waban Area Council meeting, where the biggest agenda item was a presentation by the developer of the Kinmonth Rd project (the former nursing home in Ward 5). Bill attended a briefing on the project a couple of months ago when it was initially announced. Here are some notes from this week’s public presentation:

  • Kinmonth Rd project

    • One of the presenters of the project was a former Newton Alderman and former Land Use Chair elected in the 1970s. He spoke on the need to reform the parking minimums ordinance in Newton, among other things.

    • The current building will be knocked down, as it is in poor shape and not historic, but will be rebuilt as condos with the same footprint, only a story taller (about 10 feet higher). Impermeable asphalt surfaces will also be reduced in favor of landscaping.

    • The plan is for 24 condo units on 3 levels and 24 underground parking spots (none above ground). The project is relatively dense and right near the Waban T stop.

    • The price estimate for condo sale would be about $8 per sq ft (eg. $800k-1M for a 2BR). 15% of the units would be legally mandated affordable by deed restriction per the ordinance requirements. At the moment, that wouldn’t include any of the 3BR units.

    • The new underground garage entrance would be on Kinmonth Rd itself, rather than the rear parking that used to be there. A neighbor across the street asked for some clarification, and the presenters said that there would be trees planted along the ramp/driveway to the underground garage, to shield neighbors.

    • A pedestrian entrance would also be available on the Kinmonth Rd side approximately where it is now. The developer is planning to bring Kinmonth Rd up to code for conversion to public status and with underground utilities

    • The developer believes that the proposal is consistent with the Comprehensive Plan for Newton and the new density objectives for our village centers.

    • The presenters intended via this and other meetings to get public feedback on the details of their proposal before going through special permit hearings of the City Council. Generally, there were only a couple of comments from the audience that criticized the project as a whole.

    • One concern raised by an audience member was whether there would be enough parking spots for health aides and other helpers for elderly or disabled residents (especially because the projected is targeted toward older residents who are downsizing). The developer said they are planning to lease some parking space from adjacent businesses.

    • Several residents voiced their concern about the visual aesthetic of the project, but other residents voiced their support, and there was no consensus on the point.

    • There was a question about the materials being used and the sustainability of construction. The developer is planning to use cement board, cedar sliding, and some stone facing accents. There will also be lots of big windows on the various building faces.

    • One interesting question from the audience was about short term rental restrictions or non-occupancy by owners for investment property.

    • The projected timeline is to get a special permit by this summer (2019), but since the council schedule slows down over the summer, this may not happen until September. It will likely take two Land Use hearings, and approval by 2/3rds of the full council would be needed. Weather permitting, construction would take 15 months.

    • Traffic is projected to be a fraction of what it was like for the former nursing home on the site.

  • Alban & Waban island play structure

    • This proposed island play structure was brought up last month and there is still some uncertainty over who is the authority that can ultimately approve or reject the island proposal ultimately. Councilor Rice stated that it will come down to whichever city department has land jurisdiction.

    • Rice also said that, regardless of which department the jurisdiction ends up falling under, it is likely that the city council Public Facilities committee will have a public hearing for Change In Use.

  • Community issues

    • More sound is now traveling across the river from the highway to Quinobequin Rd following the add-a-lane project. Addressing this would require state funding from our delegation.

    • Another sound issue brought up is the lack of enforcement of Newton’s leaf blower sound ordinance.

  • Paving

    • Chestnut Street is scheduled for repaving from Beacon Street to Commonwealth Avenue in 2020 (utility problems and sinkholes were some obstacles of the plan to repave Chestnut Street south from Beacon Street to Route 9 this year, if you’re wondering what happened to the plan for that section)

    • The Waban Area Council has been asked to solicit community input on necessary street design changes from the section of Chestnut Street north of Beacon Street.

  • Also at the meeting, Bill gave a brief update as a community member on the presentation from last week in Newton Highlands about the Four Corners retail marijuana proposal.

Looking Ahead:

  • Northland Project

    • This Tuesday (5/14), there will be a hearing on the Northland project concerning design, sustainability, and other related topics. The hearing will be held in the City Council Chambers at 7pm. Audience members should aim to get there early in order to find seating.

  • Waban Village Day

    • Next Sunday (5/19) is Waban Village Day! Our campaign will have a booth set up so that voters can come out to meet Bill and ask him questions. We hope to see you there!

  • DPW Fair

    • The Newton Department of Public Works Fair is next Saturday (5/18) from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Newton City Hall War Memorial. As road repair was the top issue brought up by voters in Ward 5 during Bill's first round of door-knocking, this may be a great opportunity for residents to ask questions directly of the department employees and better understand how the department operates.

Campaign reminders

  • Donations: If you would like to make a donation to help support our campaign to make Newton a community for everyone, you can click here. Or, If you prefer to make a donation by mail, please make out a check to The Humphrey Committee and send it to: The Humphrey Committee, PO Box 78, Waban MA 02468. Any donation amount is always appreciated!

  • Events: If you would like to host a meet & greet event for Bill to meet your neighbors, please let me (Irina) know and we'll set one up.

Campaign Week-in-Review 5/3/19: Listening Tour Completed

Door-Knocking Listening Tour Completed

On Tuesday, April 30, I completed my first pass through all of Ward 5, which I began in the first week of February, knocking on 2,183 doors and speaking to 700 voters. The conversations during this listening tour were overwhelmingly positive.

The top three issues were: 1) Road/Sidewalk Repair, 2) Development & Zoning (many voters just asking questions about the processes, but not taking a pro or con position), and 3) Environment, Climate Change, & Clean Energy. Generally, voters volunteered the issues they brought up, without prompting from me.

I’m looking forward to starting door-knocking over from the beginning again next week and continuing to make my case for a Ward 5 councilor who will fight for Newton to be a community for everyone.

On Wednesday May 1, I pulled my nomination papers to appear on the ballot. If you are a Ward 5 registered voter and wish to sign them, please let me know when you are available. I just need 50 to qualify.

Campaign Meet & Greet on Sunday!

Please join me for a neighborhood meet & greet this Sunday, May 5, at 4 PM at 170 Evelyn Rd in Waban, hosted by Ward 5 environmental activists Marcia Cooper and Helen Rittenberg. We’ll be talking about the urgency of climate action, green energy, and strong public transportation at the municipal level, as well as any other local issues on your mind. No donation necessary to attend, but contributions of any amount are always welcome. Email irina@billhumphrey.net to RSVP.

Hemlock Gorge Cleanup & NewtonSERVES recap

Saturday morning last weekend was the annual Friends of Hemlock Gorge cleanup day – the first without the late City Councilor Brian Yates, founder of the yearly event. A big Hemlock tree had fallen and I was one of the people assigned to pick up logs and branches and throw them into the gorge.

Sunday was also a busy morning doing NewtonSERVES projects at Richardson Field and Waban Common. I was assigned to rake mulch into place in both projects, and I had a chance to talk to a lot of the folks I was working alongside and hear about the issues they've been facing on their streets lately. Quite a few mentioned having met me or received literature from me during my door-knocking rounds over the past 3 months.


The Regional Housing & Transportation Crisis

In my listening tour, affordable housing and transportation were the 5th and 10th most frequently mentioned issues from voters. This week, I attended a Livable Newton meeting Wednesday and a Newton-Needham Chamber Spring Business Breakfast this morning (Friday), each focusing on how both of these issues together are creating a crisis in our community. According to the Chamber, 89% of workers in Newton commute from outside Newton. Lack of housing here and lack of better transportation options is a problem for workers that has gotten so dire it's affecting the businesses too. (Learn more.) Some workers in Ward 5 now spend 4 hours each day in round-trip commuting to work in Newton from a more affordable community. Moreover, among residents who already live here, some 5,000 households of low to moderate incomes are already spending more than 30% of their incomes on housing costs, according to the 2016 Newton Housing Strategy Report. We are short several thousand affordable units.

On the combined issue of housing and transportation, Mayor Fuller noted this morning that our climate emissions will grow if our Boston-area commuter population keeps spreading deeper in number and wider in geographical area, rather than being able by diverse housing supply and transit access to live close to the inner-ring and downtown jobs without long single-occupancy car commutes.

Ultimately, the housing issue is going to play a key dividing line in this race. As Ward 5 affordable housing activist Fran Godine puts it, “Bill is the only candidate in this race who has consistently championed affordable housing instead of fighting against it.”

This also ties in closely with the development and zoning issues voters mentioned so frequently on the doors. Earlier this week a conservative voter on Chatham Rd in Newton Highlands told me, consistent with national polling I’ve seen on the issue, that he is willing to accept larger and higher density housing development projects in Newton as long as they include a significant percentage of affordable units. He brought up that observation without any prompting from me, and I think that view is a majority view in Ward 5.

Newton Highlands Area Council meeting

On Thursday night, as usual I attended the monthly meeting of the Newton Highlands Area Council. The main agenda item was a presentation by the petitioners for a small retail marijuana store at Four Corners in Newton Highlands at the former Jaylin Cleaners location. Traffic remained a concern for nearby residents and business owners, as with any project in Four Corners.

For me, the concern after hearing the presentation was slightly different. Most of the partners and two of the consultants were former public officials in Boston, and three of them were former law enforcement officials who not only opposed legalization (or medicinalization), but at least two also indicated that they continued to believe it was a mistake. While some audience members seemed impressed by this “law & order” approach, I found it to be troubling, particularly as the tone of the presentation came off as very cynical. I realize that this is a lucrative business where someone is going to make a lot of money off of it, but the presenters seemed fairly open about the fact that they did not support marijuana – and had previously used their power to try to stop legalization and to “destroy lives” as one of them put it – but wanted to cash in now. I was also extremely unsettled to hear during the presentation that the security consultant on the project previously consulted for the police in Ferguson, Missouri on public relations and riot control against their own citizens in 2014 during the civilian protests against the unjust murder of Mike Brown and failure to indict his killer. I asked a follow-up question during the presentation to make sure that I was understanding this background correctly.

Rather than getting a sense of whether or not this was a good site for a retail marijuana location, I came away from this meeting wondering whether these petitioners were a good fit to be in the industry at all.

Let me know what you think or if you have additional questions. Detailed notes of the presentation will be available soon from the Newton Highlands Area Council.

Campaign Week-in-Review: 4/26/19 - Volunteer Opportunities in Ward 5 & Upcoming Campaign Event

by Irina Costache, Campaign Organizer

Despite the more rainy weather this week, door knocking continued, with Bill knocking over 180 more doors in Ward 5! He has now personally knocked over 85% of Ward 5. This week on the doors, many voters voiced their concerns about environmental action and housing to Bill. Both of these issues are fundamental to creating a community for everyone in Newton, and have been big parts of Bill’s campaign platform.

On Thursday evening, Bill attended a public forum at the Women’s Workshop on the residential “teardowns” issue organized by the Ward 6 Democratic Committee. Some of the speakers included City Council Zoning & Planning Committee Chair Susan Albright, Land Use Committee Chair Greg Schwartz, and Newton’s citizen Energy Commission Chair Halina Brown. Panelists went over many of the statistics on Newton’s current housing stock and demolitions, causes and consequences of the teardowns wave, and some of the long-term environmental impacts of new and larger construction. Another key point was about the effects on local affordability when modest older homes are replaced with large single-family homes (or sometimes pricey duplexes).

Upcoming Events in Ward 5

  • Hemlock Gorge Cleanup (info via John Mordes, interim leader of Friends of Hemlock Gorge): Saturday, April 27 is the annual cleanup day hosted by the Friends of Hemlock Gorge (rain or shine)! Clean-up materials will be supplied! Those volunteering should meet at Hamilton Place off Elliot Street between 9:30 and 10 a.m. Parking will be available at Hamilton Place, the Mills Falls parking lot, and at the Hemlock Gorge parking lot at the intersection of Ellis St. and Rte. 9. Lunch will also be provided after the cleanup at noon at the Stone Building.

  • NewtonSERVES: The day of community service will be held this Sunday, April 28 between 9am-4pm (rain or shine)! According to the organizers, “NewtonSERVES is a Day of Community Service that brings together over 1,000 volunteers of all ages to complete more than 50 community projects for the benefit of numerous non-profit organizations and City of Newton departments. Volunteers work in teams on morning, afternoon or all day projects throughout the city, such as cleaning up parks, planting gardens, building and painting school bookshelves, spring cleaning at non-profit organizations and helping senior citizens.” Bill will be at the Richardson Field Cleanup! (Online sign-up for volunteering is now closed, but you can register at City Hall at 8:30 AM.)

Campaign reminders

  • Environmental Themed Meet & Greet: Please join us and environmentalists Marcia Cooper and Helen Rittenberg on May 5 at 170 Evelyn Rd in Waban to meet Bill and have a conversation about the urgency of climate action in Newton, green energy, and strong public transportation at the municipal level.

  • Donations: We are ordering our next round of printed literature now. If you would like to make a donation to help support our campaign to make Newton a community for everyone, you can click here. Or, If you prefer to make a donation by mail, please make out a check to The Humphrey Committee and send it to: The Humphrey Committee, PO Box 78, Waban MA 02468. Any donation amount is always appreciated!

Campaign Week-in-Review: 4/19/19 - Support for Unions and Conversations with Constituents

by Irina Costache, Campaign Organizer

On Saturday, Bill had a successful meet & greet event, hosted by community member Susan Forrow. Voters from around the neighborhood had the opportunity to meet Bill and voice their concerns about city issues. Some of the top points that were brought up at the event had to do with creating a plan for environmental action in Ward 5, road repair, and constituent services!
 

Door-knocking continues as well. Bill has now reached a milestone of personally knocking over 75% of the Ward! This week, Bill spoke to voters at about half of all the homes he stopped by. Starting in May, we’ll be going back to the beginning and trying to talk to people who were not home the first time.

Labor Unions

Bill joined a Stop Stop & Shop strike picket on Monday in Watertown, supporting the workers who are protesting the company’s proposed contract that would hurt wages, pensions, and health insurance, as well as cut staff. As mentioned in last week’s newsletter, we urge shoppers to respect the picket line (and avoid shopping at the new Needham St location of Stop & Shop, despite its unusual contract status and lack of a visible picket, along with other locations), as the union bargains for a better contract.

Also this week, the Newton TAB published Bill’s letter to the editor in support of the Newton Teachers Association in their contract talks. The letter can be found in print, but here is the full letter as well: “As a graduate of the Newton public school system, I saw every day how hard our teachers work and how highly they value providing a quality education for every student. That’s why I fully support the Newton teachers and other union faculty in the Newton Public Schools in their current contract negotiations. Giving educational aides, including one-on-one special education aides, more hours would allow them more time for the coordination with teachers and professional development that will help them better serve the needs of students with special learning requirements. Moreover, the modest changes to the parental leave policy requested would better reflect modern families and will help teachers return to work rested, re-charged, and ready to teach after spending time with new family. We pride ourselves on our strong public schools and Newton, and the Newton Teachers Association is negotiating to make them stronger.”

Budget Season

On Tuesday, Bill attended Mayor Fuller’s FY2020 Budget Address, which touched on funding for a number of different areas in Newton for the upcoming fiscal years. Here are just a few key points Bill wanted to highlight from the speech:

  • Education

    • The proposed education budget would increase for the Newton Public Schools by $8.8 million, including coverage of full day kindergarten to start in September and the expansion of daycare facilities.

  • Making Newton All Age Friendly

    • She announced further details for “NewMo” (Newton in Motion), the new senior rides program. It will allow seniors to request on demand or pre-reserved rides through an app or through calling or emailing.

    • More seniors in Newton are taking advantage of the Senior Tax Deferral Program, now that eligibility has expanded.

  • Improving Streets, Sidewalks, and Buildings, while Promoting Vibrant, Wakable and Financially Robust Village Centers and Commercial Corridors

    • The accelerated pavement program is set to enter its third year in FY2020 with a $9.5 million investment to improve roads.

    • The average index rating of street conditions rose from 62.5 to 68 (where 100 = new road in top condition) this past fiscal year.

    • Upgrading to kiosks and replacing parking meters is a priority for the upcoming fiscal year, considering that right now 35% of Newton parking meters are broken

    • There is also a proposal that would add funding to the Planning Department in order to help them evaluate major special permits and the zoning redesign all currently coming down the pipeline.

  • Housing

    • Fuller announced that there are plans to explore the preservation of the National Guard Armory building on Washington Street and repurpose it to 100% affordable housing.

    • The state is willing to sell the building to the City of Newton for $1 on the condition that it will be used exclusively for public affordable housing.

  • Sustainability

    • The Mayor proposed electrifying all non-emergency city vehicles over the next two years and pilot projects on composting at public facilities like school cafeterias.

  • Public Health

    • Focusing and increasing support for mental health and addiction was on the list of priorities.

    • “With funds from our one medical marijuana facility host community agreement, we will add a clinical counselor in our high schools to support substance abuse prevention and mental health,” said Fuller.

  • City Services

    • Crosswalk painting is set to be in-sourced to save money and provide better service. (Bill has been campaigning on the issue of de-privatizing city services for exactly that reason. The Mayor’s team told Bill that this specific in-sourcing decision will “pay for itself” almost immediately.)

  • Assuring the City’s Financial Health and Spending Wisely

    • Fuller emphasized the importance of honoring our commitments to public employees for their retirements.

    • Mayor Fuller said that, while her budget is “disciplined”, it has not yet set aside sufficient funds for pensions, infrastructure, maintenance, climate mitigation, snow removal, and other city services. She urges that “ambitious” goals not outstrip our ability to pay for these services.

  • During the speech, Fuller also announced that her Executive Aide, Noah Rivkin, will be leaving Newton for the US Marines. Noah has been a hugely important resource to us in referring questions from constituents to the relevant city departments during this campaign, as he has been a resource for everyone in Newton, and he will be missed.

Upper Falls Area Council

Bill attended the monthly Upper Falls Area Council on Thursday evening, where a proposed Greenway plaque, Oak St entrance/exit, and the Upper Falls Historical Archive were among the issues on the agenda.

  • On the subject of the Greenway, a local resident spoke during the meeting to request a plaque honoring the local community members who put in hard work to get the Greenway built a few years ago. She hoped that the Area Council would decide what the plaque should say and who, if anyone, should be named on it.

  • The discussion of Oak Street followed up on the peer review presented at last week’s Land Use committee hearing, which contended that traffic wouldn’t be affected either way by having or not having an exit or entrance there. There was a great deal of skepticism at the Area Council about this contention. Jack Neville said that decades ago the community blocked an attempt to make a Tower Rd bypass from Needham St to Oak St based on concerns similar to those with this plan.

  • The discussion on the Upper Falls Historical Archives consisted of what should be done to collect current news stories about Upper Falls for future archives. At the recent soup social, a number of old clippings were posted as a temporary display, and the council wants to ensure that this continues. It is possible that there will be a memorabilia room at the local community center in Upper Falls at some undetermined point in the future.

  • Other reminders brought up at the meeting:

    • Upper Falls Village Day has been tentatively scheduled for Saturday, September 14. In past years it has been held on a Sunday.

    • Newton SERVES will be on Sunday, April 28. (Bill will be at the Richardson Field cleanup, but there are also projects in Upper Falls to help out with.) Don’t forget to sign up for volunteer opportunities!

Reminders:

  • May 5 Meet & Greet

    • Please join us at 4pm on Sunday, May 5 at 170 Evelyn Road in Waban for a conversation with Bill on the urgency of climate action, green energy, and strong public transportation at the municipal level. No donations are required to attend the event! Please email me (irina@billhumphrey.net) to RSVP!

  • D-Line Project

    • As mentioned in recent newsletters, the track replacement and signal upgrade project on the D Line is ongoing. There will be noise from construction between 8:30 p.m. and 5 a.m. As replacement for the D Branch train services, shuttle buses between Riverside and Newton Highlands will be operating on Mondays to Fridays after 8:30 p.m. through July 3. More info is available on the project website at mbta.com/GreenLineD. You can also call a 24/7 noise hotline at: 508-676-3550. And you can email the project team at DBranchInfo@MBTA.com

  • Hemlock Gorge: The Friends of Hemlock Gorge annual cleanup day is on Saturday April 27!

Week-in-Review 4/12/19 - Meet & Greet Tomorrow, Northland Updates, Labor Union Actions, Road Closures

by Irina Costache, Campaign Organizer

Candidate Meet & Greet tomorrow

This weekend, we have an opportunity for voters to meet and speak to Bill about the city issues they care about! Join us tomorrow, April 13, at 3pm for a wide-ranging discussion and Q&A on important Ward issues. The event is hosted by Susan Forrow at 86 Varick Rd. No donations are required to attend the event. Please email me (irina@billhumphrey.net) to RSVP. We hope to see you there!

Having finished knocking doors in precincts one and four this week, Bill began knocking doors in precinct 3, including the one Ward 5 turf located in West Newton. Once again, the top voiced concern was road repairs, but Bill also heard from multiple voters about parking, affordable housing, environmental action, and the importance of having young elected officials. He has now had over 500 conversations at the doors!

Northland Update from Land Use

There was another Northland hearing before the Land Use committee this past Tuesday night, this time focusing again on traffic and parking. Bill attended, sitting in the balcony, staying all the way through the public comments ending at 10:30 PM. It was a fairly chaotic session with audience members screaming things at random points, usually while someone was talking, sometimes at least partly in frustration about the sound system not reaching the balcony.

But here are a few new notes from the 3.5 hour session, which included a commentary by the Planning Department, then presentations by the developer team, an opposition group, and a proponent group, as well as finally members of the audience as a whole:

  • The Planning Department thinks ride share app trips (and therefore traffic) will increase if parking is reduced because people will order one car to get there and one car to leave.

  • The city’s peer reviewer has now studied Oak St exit options, because of neighborhood objections. These options were: 1) No exit or entry, 2) exit only, 3) entrance only, 4) left turn exit only (i.e. toward Needham St). They contend that there would be no change to Oak St traffic volume in either direction with or without an exit or entrance, and so the Planning Department recommends no change to that part of the plan but possibly a city council "look-back" provision on the point. Bill remains unconvinced that it is needed or that it would really have no adverse effect on Upper Falls.

  • Most of the scenarios show increases in traffic wait times of around 30 to 60 seconds, which is not too long, but some community members worry that will be enough to push a great deal more traffic onto diversionary streets when using GPS apps to choose the fastest route. That also speaks to a more systemic issue we need to deal with apart from this project specifically.

  • The Planning Department says they do not believe the petitioner projections for the shuttle usage are reasonable, citing long headway times and competition with MBTA service (59 bus) & ride share apps. The Planning Dept advises that the shuttle plan should be refocused to solve last/first mile access to existing T rail service rather than the grand plan currently proposed. It also should supplement 59 bus, not be redundant to it. The Planning Dept also wants to continue encouraging people to work for home (eliminating commute) based on ACS data showing this effect already at work in Newton among a sizable number of people working from home. The Planning Dept is also proposing an extensive set of compliance-in-perpetuity requirements for transit demand management to the site.

  • The Planning Dept also advises city should require one large upfront payment into an offsite transportation mitigation fund and a onetime payment for a city study on the issue. The Planners also have a huge laundry list of offsite capital improvements they hope to get as part of the deal which would also mitigate problems around it. They acknowledged that the full list costs $5-6 million.

  • The development team contends that their proposed project would generate 800+ fewer peak car trips than the by-right commercial development currently zoned on the space if they built that instead of the mixed use proposal they have offered.

  • If one actually accepts the idealized maximized shuttle usage Northland aspires to (which seems overly ambitious), there would be only 119 net new trips on weekday AM and PM peaks, and 209 net new trips on Saturdays, as measured from the driveway points of the project. These “net new” trip figures compare against the mostly vacant space now. Net new trips metric excludes the existing trips to the non vacant operations on the site now. Including those would be about double or so, per the peer review.

  • The 128 Business Council nonprofit shuttle team says they were happy to take on this project and stake their reputation to it because they were part of the project design process, rather than being brought in after the fact to try to fix a disaster already built. The shuttle would become operational at the beginning of the project not after it's finished to encourage prospective residents to decide to live there based on the shuttle. They acknowledge there is no other system they feel they can compare it to nationwide.

  • They have opted not to serve Newton Center with the shuttle, as floated sometimes before, in order to focus on Highlands and Newtonville service. The Boston Express service plan has been scaled back on weekdays but increased on weekends. The Cambridge route would serve Kendall Sq and Central Sq. It does not pass through Watertown. Needham service ideas seem to have been scaled back in the latest draft.

  • Shuttles would end service earlier in the evening than the Green Line service by a couple hours, which seems concerning, and would resume at 6 AM.

  • Under the latest concept, Newton Highlands would now have 31 round trip runs on weekdays. 10 to Newtonville. Newton Local would run 30 trips on weekends.

  • Fare proposals: $2.50 trip fare for Newton trips or $7 fare for Boston and Cambridge routes. Remains an open question how many people would really pay $7 to go to either destination, whether for the weekend or for regular commuting, particularly compared to other potential options.

Newton Teachers

On Wednesday morning, Bill joined the Newton Teachers Association at Newton North High School for a 7 AM standout demonstration in support of the union’s bargaining efforts on their new contract. They are seeking cost-of-living adjustments that keep up with rising regional housing expenses, modernized parental leave arrangements reflective of a variety of family structures, and more hours for educational aides to undertake professional development and coordination with classroom teachers to better assist their students with special learning requirements. All of these requests will strengthen the learning environment and experience of Newton public schools students.

Bill had a great chance to re-connect at the demonstration with a teacher who used to be one of the advisers to the student government at Newton South High School when Bill was part of it.

Waban Area Council

Bill attended the monthly WAC meeting as usual this Thursday. Unfortunately, the developers of a possible retail marijuana store in Four Corners canceled their presentation last-minute; so, there are no updates on that front. There was a community discussion among abutters to the traffic island at Waban Ave, Alban Rd, and the southern part of Varick Rd about a proposal by one neighbor for a small play structure for nearby families to walk to. This would need to be approved by Parks & Rec (which had a representative present) but would be privately funded. It would require some small changes to the island, including improved drainage, some small safety fencing, and some slight traffic pattern adjustments around the island. Some neighbors spoke in support and some neighbors spoke against. Currently the island has a park bench and is used by dirt-biker kids for practice. As there was some uncertainty about the approval process, since it is not technically a public project despite being on public land, Bill suggested sending out straw poll ballots by mail to abutters (who had received notification by mail about the meeting this week) with an explanation of the project and arguments for and against, which audience members on both sides (and the Parks rep) seemed to think was a reasonable idea, but the Area Council ultimately did not adopt this suggestion. It is unclear what will happen now.

Temporary Road Closures

  • Boston Marathon closure information from the Mayor: The road closures and parking restrictions along the route begin at 8:00 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. on Monday morning: Washington Street at the Wellesley line to Beacon Street will close at 8:30 a.m. Washington Street at Beacon Street to Commonwealth Avenue will close at 8:00 a.m. Commonwealth Avenue to the Boston line will close at 8:00 a.m. Parking restrictions will also be in place along Commonwealth Avenue and the carriage lanes, and along sections of the streets that feed into the Marathon route along Commonwealth Avenue. Roads are expected to re-open at approximately 6:00 p.m.

  • TV filming is nearly done for the project in Cold Spring Park. A previously scheduled temporary road closure of Plymouth Road between Cochituate Rd and Kingston Rd may still happen on Tuesday (April 16) from 7 AM to 8 PM, but we are not sure if that is still happening or not. According to Mayor Fuller, the City of Newton received $20,000 for trails improvement in the park from the production studio as a fee for using the area for filming, which is great news for Ward 5.

Reminders: Store strike, D Line work, Volunteer opportunities

  • Stop & Shop workers across New England walked off the job on Thursday to strike against the company’s proposed contract (the old one expired in February), which would severely affect wages, pensions, and health insurance, while cutting human staff in favor of automation (but not sharing any profit gains from automation in the form of worker compensation). Stop & Shop is based in Massachusetts but owned by a Dutch company that has experienced huge recent profits, benefited from U.S. tax breaks, and last week gave shareholders a big increase in dividend payouts at the expense of workers. We talked to the union to find out more. There is one brand-new Stop & Shop location in Ward 5, on Needham St, which the union contends is part of the same contract as older locations, but which the corporate side contends is under a different contract for a subsidiary, thereby blocking a strike there for the moment. Nevertheless, we urge everyone to respect the union and workers by not shopping at Stop & Shop during the strike, even if you don’t see picketers at that location in Ward 5.

  • D Line track replacement project under way: The track replacement and signal upgrade project on the D Line resumed this week at Waban Station. Noisy work will be conducted overnight most weeks Monday through Friday between 8:30 PM (later on Red Sox game nights) and 5 AM. Replacement shuttles run during night construction (during normal operating hours), but in daytime hours most days, light rail service will continue normally. More info is available on the project website at mbta.com/GreenLineD. You can also call a 24/7 noise hotline at: 508-676-3550. And you can email the project team at DBranchInfo@MBTA.com

  • Friends of Hemlock Gorge annual cleanup day is April 27: http://www.hemlockgorge.org/ & Don’t forget to sign up for Newton Serves Day projects (April 28): http://www.newtoncommunitypride.org/NewtonSERVES.html