The electorate, at large, supports or is neutral about redevelopment. Neighbors of big projects, though, push back hard.
Twelve candidates were endorsed by Voters for a Vibrant Newton (V). Vibrant Newton favors redevelopment and multi-modal transportation policy. Vibrant Newton won 10 of its 12 races. A Vibrant Newton challenger, Alicia Bowman, unseated a Newton Democracy incumbent, Greg Schwartz. (That race is under recount because the margin was only 30 votes.)
Ten candidates were endorsed by Newton Democracy (N), which opposes the redevelopment City Hall is debating. Newton Democracy won 3 of its 10 races. Newton Democracy did not unseat a Vibrant Newton incumbent.
City-wide, then, candidates who tend to support redevelopment did better. In the precincts next to big projects, though – Northland, Riverside, Washington Place – the opposition candidates outperformed. And Newton Democracy’s three victories were significant:
- Julia Malakie (N) defeated Carolina Ventura (V). This was the ‘cleanest race track’ in the competition between Vibrant Newton and Newton Democracy: the only head-to-head between two oppositely-endorsed candidates, neither an incumbent. Newton Democracy won.
- Emily Norton (N) held off Bryan Barash (V). Barash ran the best organized city council campaign I’ve ever seen.
- Pam Wright (N), a first-time candidate, won city-wide.
The claims of anti-Semitism in the Newton curriculum do not resonate with the electorate.
Three candidates for school committee tried to energize voters concerned by allegations of anti-Semitism in Newton pedagogy. They were each defeated by about 40 points. The more noteworthy school result was Julia Gaebler’s. She seems to have gotten 900+ votes in a four day, write-in campaign fueled by outrage over facility shortcomings at the new Horace Mann. More on that in the prediction section, below.
On the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage, the Newton City Council is now majority women for the first time.
Assuming that Alicia Bowman’s victory over Greg Schwartz holds up in the recount, 14 of 24 city councilors will be women next term. This includes Holly Ryan, Newton’s first openly transgender person elected to office. Statewide, less than 30% of city council seats are held by women.
Finally, one prediction:
Education will succeed development as the new paradigm of Newton politics. Since at least 2015, development has been cresting as a point of contention. It will now recede. Education will become the frame of debate. Here’s why:
First, redevelopment will become less salient. Northland, Riverside, and Washington Street re-zoning are each, by themselves, a big issue. All happening at once (in an election year,) they became a city-wide flash-point. The planning and development pipeline will not be as full in coming years.
Education, meanwhile, is becoming more salient. The public schools are the beating heart of Newton, and several issues are raising our collective blood pressure:
- The mayor will soon propose a Prop 2 1/2 override (I predict) to fund reconstruction of three schools. Higher taxes will always spark debate.
- The teachers don’t have a contract. And they’re even talking about a strike.
- Housing questions lead, naturally, to schools questions. As the city digests new housing development, parents will increasingly want assurance about class sizes. The city’s demographer asserts that aging in place countervails new construction. Parents may be skeptical, and they are a political force.