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.