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.
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.”
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) to RSVP!
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!