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If you haven’t already, please go watch the Ward 3 candidates forum between Julia Malackie and Carolina Ventura, competing to fill the seat vacated by Barbara Brousal-Glaser. This is another of the nearly always informative forums hosted by the Newton League of Women Voters and produced by NewTV Government

Here are some takeaways, in no particular order. (If you have to choose between watching the video or reading this analysis, definitely watch the video.)

1. If this year’s elections are not first, second, and last about development in Newton, somebody needs to tell these candidates. Yes, there are other issues that the council will face: marijuana, traffic, something else, something else. But, the candidates started with development and ended with development.

2. Candidate Malackie had a refreshingly honest response for balancing ward interests v. city-wide interests. She’d prioritize the ward’s interests, but be well aware of what’s going on in the rest of the city, because often other wards concerns are similar. Candidate Malackie’s answer to this one replace Kathy Winters’ as the benchmark.

3. The candidates were asked how Newton can become carbon neutral by 2050 and neither gave more than a glancing blow to transportation. Both talked about electrifying the city fleet, which is already largely underway. Not talking about transportation more broadly is an appalling omission. Transportation is either the first or second highest source of carbon in Newton. There is so much that the city council can do to reduce carbon emissions from driving, starting with land-use decisions. This is, again, where a knowledgeable moderator with a real grasp of the issues could push back and make the candidates squarely address an important issue. 

It’s easy to pick on the development-skeptical, like Candidate Malackie. They simply ignore the clear connection between density and carbon emissions. But, it’s also an important question for the development-friendly. What are they going to do with the tools they have to drive down vehicle-miles travelled (VMT)? We need something more than advocate-for handwaving. Yes, every candidate will advocate for the state to provide platforms on the commuter rail. But, what will the city council do to make sure that platforms actually happen? (Hint: promise a debt-exclusion override to provide the balance after we’ve wrung what we can get out of the state and feds.) There are concrete steps that the council can take to reduce car trips to village centers, to schools, &c.

4. Best line(s) of the forum, from Candidate Ventura: 

There’s a misconception that if we just push back against growth, if we just push back against that it’s not going to happen. That’s not the case. Change is going to come to Newton whether we want it to or not. The only difference is that we’ll get the change that we don’t want. The responsible thing to do is to take the wheel of the city and to steer it towards a vision that’s consistent with what we want as a community and in order to do that it’s not sufficient to just always say no. No is not a policy.

5. Second best line of the forum, from Candidate Malackie:

Running for office, any office, is an act of hope.

She cribbed it (with full attribution!), but it doesn’t matter. It’s a lovely sentiment.

6. Honorable mention, from Candidate Malackie:

But, the zoning and the development issue is the thing that, if we get it wrong, we’re stuck with the consequences.

True, but it cuts both ways.

7. The candidates’ display of preparation and analysis brings into sharp relief the lack of preparation by Lisa Gordon in her debate with Brenda Noel. Running for office is serious business.

8. There’s a theme running through the language of the development-skeptical, that it’s a priority to keep residents informed about and involved in the zoning update process. Candidate Malackie made similar comments, without talking about the substance of the proposed zoning. Not sure what to make of this. There have been an unprecedented number of community meetings, well run and well attended. Obviously, zoning is critically important, but do the skeptics have a legitimate concern that zoning is going to happen in the dark?

9. I wish Candidate Malackie and I were aligned on growth and development, because she is a city treasure.

10. Candidate Ventura had a nice multi-pronged answer on senior needs, highlighted by recognizing the importance of making spaces walkable. Making seniors dependent on cars is a death sentence. Seniors who walk and bike are healthier and less isolated. 

11. I’ll have more on this in a future post, but the development skeptical have to come to terms with why rents at Austin St. are so high and the cause and effect that’s at work. Yes, gentrification is a tricky topic, but the dynamics that are allowing developers to get Austin-St.-high rents in new development are pushing up rents in existing properties. If we added not a single new unit of housing, current renters would face the same rent increases they are facing now. How are the development-skeptical going to address the rent increases that can’t be attributed to developer greed?

12. Eight and eight would have won as a charter revision.

Index*:

Introduction — 1:26
Opening statements — 2:36
First priority — 5:16
How many units at Northland — 7:48
Consensus building — 10:45
Balancing ward needs v. city — 13:28
Council size and composition — 16:15
Becoming carbon neutral by 2050 — 18:35
Improved senior services — 22:00
Webster Woods — 25:20
Power Choice — 27:15
Closings — 30:25

*May not be 100% exact, but you’ll land in the right spot.