If you are a voter in Ward 5 and haven’t read the candidate web sites, please stop what you’re doing and go read them. Kathy Winters‘. Rena Getz‘s. Bill Humphrey‘s. It won’t take long. Then come back and share your thoughts.

I have read all three sites. A few times. Some takeaways.

The issues pages are really consistent with the candidates forum appearances and answers to written questions. Bill Humphrey articulates a very detailed, very specific set of progressive policy positions. Rena Getz is highly focused on minimizing development and stresses community engagement. And, Kathy Winters is, well, vaguer than either of the other candidates.

If you have well-developed positions on the hot-button issues that face the city, you’ll probably find alignment with either Candidate Getz or Humphrey. Candidate Winters has taken a more balancing approach in her forum appearances and written answers, though her web site doesn’t tell much of a story one way or another.

Housing

Housing is the issue on which, arguably, there is the greatest difference among the three. While Candidate Winters notes the Newton is under “a great deal of development pressure,” Candidate Humphrey clearly states that Newton has an obligation to “reduce regional sprawl.”* Candidate Winters balances the recognition of development pressure with a need to “guide development that works for Newton,” which is very ambiguous and open to a variety of interpretations. 

Candidate Getz does not have a specific housing section on her issue page. She does, however, stress the potential impact of zoning changes and explicitly states that Newton residents are “are the most important and affected stakeholders of a new zoning code.” This is a clear distinction with Candidate Humphrey’s recognition of the need to address regional issues.

Zoning

Zoning goes hand-in-hand with housing. As noted, Candidate Getz is clear that zoning is critical — “establishing the trajectory of Newton’s built environment for decades to come” — and that incumbents are the key stakeholders. Candidate Winters (correctly) identifies the opportunity to add clarity that zoning reform represents. She promises process, to “to keeping residents informed and gathering feedback about how the new rules will apply in our neighborhoods,” without taking any position on the content of the zoning.

Candidate Humphrey does not have a separate zoning section, but the changes he proposes across other sections cannot be accomplished without changes to zoning, like “the responsible and sustainable expansion of a diverse array of housing options.” 

Transportation

On transportation, Candidate Humphrey wants to lower our carbon emissions by “making it easier and safer to bike, walk, and use public transit.” For the most part, it’s all carrot, the goal is to reduce “car dependency” not explicitly to reduce driving. Candidate Humphrey also notes the need for parking reform as a lever to reduce car dependency. Candidate Getz focuses her transportation section on improving transit options. She is a little more explicit that the goal is to shift “from single-occupancy vehicular use to Mass Transit.”

Candidate Winters offers a very confusing statement: ” I believe in promoting alternative modes of transportation (including making walking and biking safer) while also working to improve the experience of driving in Newton.” What’s the point of promoting alternative modes if you also want to make driving more attractive, which promotes driving? 

It would be nice for candidates to flat out say that we have too much driving — per household — in Newton and that we need to reduce trips — to schools, to shopping, to work — with both carrots and sticks. At least none of the candidates advocates for electric vehicles as a way to reduce greenhouse emissions in the short term, though Candidate Humphrey gives a nod to the city’s electric fleet.

Environment

The environment is front-and-center for all three candidates. As is the pattern, Candidate Humphrey has a list of specific policies that he champions, from reducing consumption in public facilities to storm water management to curbing plastic use. Candidate Getz highlights green building and adaptive re-use. Candidate Winters pledges to combat climate change and defers to the Climate Action Plan for policy specifics.

Open Space

All three candidates list preserving, maintaining, and improving open space as a priority. To the extent that there’s any difference, Candidate Getz lists the need for “improving accessibility for all to enjoy.” Candidate Humphrey promises to “[a]dvocate for expanded public ownership of green and open spaces in Newton.”

Education

All three mention education among their priorities. Candidate Winters would “pursue the hard work of closing the achievement gap in our schools.” Among other things, Candidate Humphrey pledges “to continue renovations and replacements of school buildings that have suffered from years of deferred maintenance.” Candidate Getz has a single line about “continued excellence in the Newton Public Schools.”‘

Expanding Public Services and Resources

Candidate Humphrey has a section on his issues pages that truly distinct from the other two candidates in both substance and tone. He makes a no-apologies case for a progressive agenda: opposing public outsourcing to non-union firms, bringing services like ambulance in-house, “studying whether a municipal bank would be right for Newton.”

What were your takeaways from the candidates’ issues pages?

* Candidate Winters elsewhere has said that we need to do our fair share regionally. I’m going to, mostly, limit the analysis here to what’s on the web pages.







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