Understandably, there’s a lot of focus these days (including on this blog) on several large pending development projects that — love em or loath them — will dramatically alter our city.

Equally understandably, there’s a lot of focus on this November’s city council elections, given that Newton’s City Council controls the special permit process.

But –as I was reminded this morning when reading Amy Sangiolo’s excellent weekly Community and Government update newsletter — we’ll collectively be making a mistake if we make our ballot choices simply on how our councilors will vote on large developments.

Tonight’s council agenda, as noted by Sangiolo, offers a great example of the variety and types of issues councilors must consider:

  • Potential shortening of the duration of the overnight parking ban. Yes – the City Council will be voting on this at their full council meeting TONIGHT – with the suggested dates of December 15th (instead of November 15) to April 1st (instead of April 15th). See Reports Docket
  • Banks at Washington Place? Yes – that is scheduled to be voted on TONIGHT – despite a condition to prohibit banks at the site when the original special permit was granted. See Reports Docket and Land Use Committee Report.
  • Zoning Amendment to change the Inclusionary Zoning requirements is scheduled to be voted on TONIGHT. See Reports Docket and the Zoning and Planning Committee Report.
  • New Ordinance regarding Short-Term Rentals is scheduled to be voted on TONIGHT. See Reports Docket and the Zoning and Planning Report.
  • Not sure what will happen with the Sidewalk Clearing Ordinance amendments with Finance failing to carry an approval vote yet two other committees- Public Facilities and the Public Safety and Transportation Committee voting in favor. See Reports Docket and the Finance Committee Report.
  • Newton Early Childhood Program (NECP) to move to 687 Watertown Street – Former Horace Mann Elementary School – as City Council will vote on the 5-58 and Site Plan Approval TONIGHT. See Reports Docket and the Public Facilities Committee Report.
  • Plastic Bag Ban Ordinance Amendments are scheduled to be voted on TONIGHT. The amendments include a new definition for “reusable bag” as well as a $0.10 fee on paper bags. See Reports Docket and Finance Committee Report

…and that’s not all.  Before the council meeting at 7 p.m. the Committee of the Whole will meet to discuss and vote on the following items:

  • Public Hearing on Request to amend the lease for the Brown Middle School Solar Project to replace the front canopy at the site with two canopies in the rear parking area
  • Request for an Extension of Time to Act until September 17, 2019 on a petition to install a small cell wireless facility on an existing utility pole located in the right-of-way in the vicinity of 262 Beacon Street. (Installation includes: antenna, radio equipment, an electric meter, and cabling for fiber and power)
  • Recommendation on the use of $700,000 for off-site improvements provided for in the Washington Place Special Permit as amended by Special Permit #216-18

With two weeks to go before nomination papers are due, it already looks like we’re going to have many contested at-large and ward council races.  That’s great news. (And there’s still time to decide to run!)  Then it will be up to all of us to ask all the candidates where they stand on an entire constellation of issues (and that won’t be easy given our current understaffed media landscape) and listen carefully to their answers.

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