New Year's Resolutions
Police Task Force
Green Gateway to the Garden City Wishing you and your family health, warmth and increasing sunlight as the season moves from the shortest day toward 2021, the inauguration, spring, widespread vaccinations, and so much more to look forward to once the pandemic is under control!
New year’s resolutions: I have been reading Nature’s Best Hope by Douglas Tallamy, which is about how every one of us with a yard can save, not only butterflies, but life in this corner of the earth. If you were looking for a good read (and beautiful pictures) before planning your spring seed orders, this is it.
Shop Local: I am thankful that Mayor Ruthanne Fuller has made it easier for restaurants and shops to provide curbside pickup. If you own a business that needs a 15-minute parking spot in front--the request form is here. Questions? Contact Newton’s Economic Development Director Devra Bailin who is the City’s coordinator for this program at email@example.com or 617-796-1122 (office) and 617-831-0103 (cell).
If you still have holiday shopping--check out the local options! Local businesses sustain our economy, our tax base and our non-profits. The Newton-Needham Chamber has a handy directory.
Police task force: If you are interested in the progress of the Newton Police Reform Task Force, there’s a Town Hall Tuesday, Dec. 22, 5:30-7:30 pm (remote) to develop a framework to guide their recommendations. Share your ideas and hopes for the NPD and the community. Register here. To join the email list for Task Force updates, click here.
Meanwhile, the city’s search for the next police chief continues.
Weigh in on Zoning, too: To get a sense of your questions and thoughts on zoning, the Planning Department has generated a presentation (because zoning is complicated) and a survey. Deadline to participate is January 10th, so make this an early resolution. If the survey isn’t enough for you, send questions and ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Green gateway to the Garden City? As part of the bridge work for the Commonwealth Ave/Route 95 area, Newton has the opportunity to have MassDOT rebuild the Auburn St./Comm Ave intersection, which is between the boathouse and the Marriott. Right now the only crosswalk in that section is at Ash St. to the east; westbound traffic is not stopped by the current stoplight at Auburn St. and is fast moving as it approaches the highway entrance ramps so there are no safe crossings for people on foot.
MassDOT has proposed a roundabout, which would improve pedestrian safety, including for those with limited vision, connect the trails coming north from Riverside with the riverside trails coming south from Waltham via Lyons Field, and knit together the Carriageway east-west protected bike boulevard (which eventually will extend west to Natick and east through Boston).
At its presentation to Public Facilities recently, MassDOT representatives indicated that they would build this roundabout, which greatly increases the green space here, or return the intersection to its current, unsafe, design.
Read more about roundabouts and safety for all users (driver, pedestrian, cyclist) at the Federal Highway Administration website which includes a helpful 10 minute educational overview video.
If you are interested in better safety and more greenspace at our western gateway, please plan to attend the meeting on January 14, 7-8:30 pm
Meeting ID: 867 1865 9714
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Please stay safe through the holidays, so we can gather in person again in 2021!
Just after my November update went out, Newton lost a valued public servant. Ward 1 Councilor Allan J. Ciccone, Jr., known to us as Jay, passed away suddenly at 55, leaving his father, siblings, children and grandchildren. I join my colleagues and the city in mourning a good, kind man who loved Newton and worked to make life better here for all.
David Olson, our trusted city clerk, announced this month that he will retire in February. David has just shepherded us through two difficult elections in the midst of the pandemic. As with everything he does, David pulled through with equanimity and professionalism. I know Council will miss his presence at our meetings and his competence in office, and wish him well in retirement.
It is of course not a loss for Representative-elect (and former Ward 2 City Councilor) Jake Auchincloss, but in terms of City Council, his presence and his perspective will be sorely missed. His resignation, effective Nov. 10th, means that I am now the chair of the Public Safety & Transportation committee. Personally, I will miss having his advice and collaboration on many important topics of very local import--while welcoming his strong voice on transportation and climate in Washington.
All this means two vacancies, and a special city-wide election, coming soon.
Zoning & Planning
A new Planning Department hire, Nevena Pilipović-Wengler, is coordinating a series of listening sessions on Zoning Redesign. You can tune in remotely (only) Dec. 2, 7-9 pm and Dec. 3 12-2 pm. You need to RSVP to attend. The presentation will be posted Dec. 4 on the Zoning Redesign website along with a survey for those who can’t comment during these sessions.
If you want to read the original documents yourself, as well as all the memos from councilors, architects and planners, you are in luck. Thanks to volunteer Richard Rasala zoning documents organized by subject (as well as date) are on his website here, where they are easily found and cross-referenced.
This month I collaborated with colleagues to weigh in on proposed service cuts to the MBTA, which, if effected as planned, would make regional economic recovery difficult, increase traffic congestion and work against state goals on climate mitigation, equity and air quality. Our letter is here. More detail is available here. Add your own comments here.
Newton’s own Ashish Jha has been weighing in on the necessary steps to contain the pandemic--in case you missed this Boston Globe article.
What we can all do: wear a mask; don’t gather inside.
Worsening numbers also mean that travel is now even more restricted without a 2-week quarantine (this may change, so check the state’s travel order). It’s another loss, but there’s hope that by this time next year we will be able to gather with our families and friends again.
Just as in April, it is important to get outside, particularly as it gets dark and we are more likely to hibernate, for our mental and physical health. It’s good to see each other, even at a distance, and we still have open walking trails, sidewalks, and the Carriage Lane. Send me your best ideas, and I’ll post them on my website!!
One idea just appeared in Cold Spring Park thanks to Newton 9th graders (Zoe Hong, Ellie Gish, Naomi Weitzman, Elliot Heywood, Edward Macklin, Sylvia Jacobs, Seth Korn, Josh Wolf)--a purely visual scavenger hunt. Use this document to find the clues & surprises.
In this time of giving, and giving thanks, I am going to give YOU Jerry Reilly’s ideas (and post) for creative ways to help others now (link here). There’s also the three Newton food banks (Newton, Centre Street and Arabic). And so much more.
I am thankful for you, so stay healthy, stay warm, mask up!
Almost every month I write constituents about a topic before the city