Back on Dec. 14, moments after the new city council members had just voted in caucus to elect Marc Laredo to become the new council president, Ward 3 Councilor Jim Cote stood up to express his alarm that the city’s power base was about to fall into the hands of politicians who all lived on Newton’s south side.
Both Laredo and then mayor-elect Ruthanne Fuller were from Ward 7. And the two declared contestants for vice president (Ward 8 Councilor Rick Lipof and Ward 6 Councilor Vicki Danberg) were also southsiders. So after delivering some lengthy remarks about how southsiders don’t understand the parking, density and other concerns of residents on Newton’s north side, Cote nominated his fellow Ward 3 colleague Barbara Brousal-Glaser to be VP.
To keep a long story short (but you can read about it here), Brousal-Glaser declined the nomination, Lipof and Danberg were deadlocked and ultimately, Ward 8 Councilor David Kalis was elected by his colleagues as VP (with Ward 7 Councilor Lise Baker elected president emeritus).
The end result is exactly what Cote was concerned about. Newton’s top three political leaders (Fuller, Laredo and Kalis) who took office on Monday, all live on Newton’s south side. In contrast over the past eight years two north siders (Mayor Setti Warren, a Ward 2 resident, and Council President Scott Lennon from Ward 1) and one southsider (VP Cheryl Lappin from Ward 8.) were at the helm.
Add in School Committee Chair Ruth Goldman (Ward 6) and Vice Chair Steve Siegal (Ward 5) and all of our current city leaders live on the city’ south side.
Are Cote’s concerns legitimate? We just went through a year of debating whether or not ward representation mattered. How about north side/south side representation?
Does where our political leaders own homes matter?