Before we head into July 4 weekend and what feels like a very much needed summer break—some late-breaking news to get you through the summer season.
Weigh in by July 9
Responsive & Ready
Weigh in by July 9 on grant spending!
Don’t miss your opportunity to weigh in with the mayor on where the federal COVID recovery funding might be spent.
In my meeting with Mayor Fuller, I advocated for funding a Pedestrian/Bike/Accessibility plan for all our roads—so when any road or intersection is repaved, the DPW will be able to implement needed safety fixes, rather than returning roads to the old, unsafe conditions. This would also save money, time and the effort to install these independently of road construction.
I also reminded the mayor that the Washington Street Pilot was put on hold during COVID. Many of us believe that making Washington Street safer and more livable will unlock the economic potential of the north side of town.
And I asked if Newton could invest in a Park Maintenance Plan that would include climate adaption—such as planting trees that will thrive in warmer and wetter conditions predicted for the next 30-50 years, planting for habitat in our open spaces and verges to keep native animals alive, and locations for splash parks for days like the last few.
Road to Recovery?
Speaking of roads, Chestnut Street from Rt. 9 to Beacon was given its first smooth surface—this is just the first pass and a few more coats go down before it’s done, but the improvements are palpable (particularly on a bike saddle!). Dedham Street is also getting a refresh, and you have probably seen the crews on Walnut and Watertown.
Chestnut was delayed for needed underground work—the 1875-era cast iron water main needed to be reinforced and the sewer main relined—and two stretches of sewer had partially collapsed! Many other repairs, including new sidewalks and tighter curb radii at two corners, will help with access and safety.
I want to thank DPW for listening to neighborhood safety concerns and implementing some traffic calming along this stretch of Chestnut.
Our excellent state representatives are a big help in my advocacy for better roads, trails and parks. Rep. Ruth Balser has joined me in fighting for improvements to the riverside park and parkway that runs between Route 9 and Washington Street. This week she alerted me that the Department of Conservation & Recreation (the state park agency that owns the land and road) has published its preferred design for a multi-use path, safer roadway, and refreshed park. That’s here. Additional background here.
Neighbors who live along Quinobequin were buttonholing me earlier this month to ask about how the road might be made safer for them and their kids. Let me know what you think.
School Bus Fees
I have never been a big fan of charging for the bus. I do think that the city and School Committee need to find a way to make buses more equitable, available and convenient. But I know it isn'not something that Newton can do overnight.
I sit on the School Transportation Working Group, which has been working to make the school bus better since I was appointed—making it possible to sign up online, pay in installments, assign seats (important during the pandemic) and more. One of the big remaining challenges is to find parking for our contractor’s current fleet of diesel buses.
Ideally, we could find a public and central spot for electric buses to park overnight and recharge (their batteries could provide emergency back up power). Ideally, we would also have enough buses to meet demand (middle school is close to capacity, high school less so). But until we do, that single hurdle will prevent Newton from being able to handle the anticipated increased demand for a no-fee bus ride (and then there’s the challenge of finding enough drivers).
Responsive and ready
As your councilor, I attend meetings and knock on doors to get constituent feedback and know what matters to you. My pipeline of information, like so much else, was severely constrained by the pandemic. So, going in to the spring, I joined a number of colleagues in asking Newton voters what issues mattered to them.
It turns out that you and I share a concern for quality public schools, Covid relief for businesses, and good repair of our public assets. Now that I’m fully vaccinated, I will continue to check in via the usual methods—phone, email, knocking on doors and meeting people around the city on our usual business—as we move into the fall.
I am eager to continue working on the above issues and more in a third term. It again looks like I face a contested race. Campaigns are fun, but I will need your help walking your neighborhood, hosting house parties (virtual is also an option), and signs. Please pitch in here.
I think we all need a rest from regular business for July. But am always interested in hearing from you so don’t hesitate to pick up the phone or shoot me an email.
In August, I thought we might walk a village or two and talk about history and zoning redesign with a Visioning Kit. Where would you like to tour and when will you be in town? Wondering what this is all about? Here’s the Zoning Newsletter.
Newton is starting to gather again in person, albeit cautiously! It was great to see and say hello to dozens under a tent outside for Chief John Carmichael’s swearing-in on Monday.
Other new opportunities to see people in 3-D include:
Every budget tells a story--I started describing that story last month with police and schools. The last weeks have been filled with additional budget discussions. You can find the mayor's proposed operating budget here, and the capital priorities are here.
Almost every month I write constituents about a topic before the city