Let there be no doubt. There is a real, significant choice for ward councilor in Ward 6. Not a believer? Watch the spirited 90-minute debate between incumbent Dick Blazar and challenger Brenda Noel. Heck, watch the first 10 minutes.
Dick established himself as the guy you want if you don’t want change. Over and over, at times getting quite testy, he made clear that he thinks that that neighbors and not developers should determine what gets built in a neighborhood. While he gave early lip service to listening to all and balancing competing interests, it was clear that he thinks his job is to side with neighbors to block or, at least constrain developers. He was dismissive of Smart Growth … because traffic. And, while he expressed great outrage at the allegation that he doesn’t support affordable or senior housing, he offered no plan, just critiques of 40B and of larger scale development as a mechanism to create more affordable housing. He’s supportive of the kind of affordable housing built in the 70s and 80s with state and federal funds, funds that are unlikely to become available in significant amounts in our lifetime.
When asked, Dick offered no explicit plan for Newton Centre. But, he really does have a plan. As he noted, the Newton Centre Task Force of a decade ago, split along no change, moderate change, more intensive change. (Full disclosure: I joined the Task Force on the more intensive change side.) And, because there was no consensus, Dick said, there was no progress. But, that’s a little disingenuous. Deadlock on the task force meant no change, which was — and continues to be — a victory for the no-change proponents.
For her part, Brenda established very quickly that she is up for a battle and she’s running for a reason. She was confident in her advocacy for Smart Growth, for affordable housing, and for modest density in village centers (though, when asked, she did not articulate specific places where density would be appropriate in Newton Centre). She clearly believes that change is coming to Newton, we need to accept that reality, and we need to be prepared to shape that change. Brenda repeatedly advocated for adopting best practices from elsewhere, although she added a cringeworthy need to “take a leap of faith” with a few. Brenda was far more optimistic about new development providing affordable housing opportunities.
Not surprisingly, the two took opposite sides on the charter. Not surprisingly, Dick’s a No. Brenda’s a Yes. Neither went beyond the now familiar arguments for either position.
Again, if you’re undecided (and live in Ward 6), you ought to watch the video. Greg has some links to highlights.