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jakeThis fall’s upcoming battle for the two at-large Aldermen/City Council seats from Ward 2, is more than a contest for two board seats. Instead, it’s shaping up to be a battle between the smart-growth and no-growth factions that has come to divide Newton politically.

On one side, we have incumbents Susan Albright and Marcia Johnson, both of whom have been supportive of the Austin Street project and have drawn heat from opponents who’ve criticized them for ignoring concerns about traffic, school crowding and parking.

On the other, are the three challengers – Jake Auchincloss, Lynne LeBlanc and Jess Barton – all of whom have said they oppose the Austin Street proposal.

Auchincloss and LeBlanc were even endorsed by Kathleen Kouril Grieser, the most visible and outspoken leader of the anti-development movement in Newton and active with the secretive no-growth group Newton Villages Alliance.

But I’ve been wondering if Auchincloss (who uses a photo of himself in front of two MBTA cars on his campaign website but also this “danger” construction photo on his campaign site) is really as anti-development as Grieser, the NVA and other no-growth advocates hope he is or as Johnson and Alright supporters and smart-growth advocates fear.

Auchincloss told me today that he opposes Austin Street because he doesn’t like the terms of the agreement, not because he thinks the Austin Street parking lot should remain a parking lot. “I don’t have traffic concerns. I don’t have school crowding concerns. Those are straw man (arguments)” he said.

Auchincloss went on talk about how he’s suggested to the Warren Administration a way to restructure the Austin Street deal and how he thinks his suggestion was taken seriously.

And he talked a lot about taking a “nuanced view” of development and the need for more vibrancy to our village centers, which are not words we hear much from the folks who celebrated his decision to challenge Johnson and Albright.
Which leads me to wonder, is Jake Auchincloss being wrongly pigeonholed by both supporters and his opponents?


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