League of Women Voters' Stand on Public Issues


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The League's stand (or Program) is adopted at three levels: national; state; and local. Program is determined by the members and consists of those government issues chosen for concerted study and action, and action to protect the right to vote of all citizens.

League of Women Voters Stand on National Issues/ 1999 Program in Brief

GOVERNMENT - Promote an open governmental system that is representative, accountable and responsive; that has a fair and adequate fiscal basis; that protects individual liberties established by the Constitution; that assures opportunities for citizen participation in government decision making; that provides sound agricultural policy; and that preserves public health and safety through gun control measures.

Agricultural Policy - Promote adequate supplies of food and fiber at reasonable prices to consumers and support economically viable farms, environmentally sound farm practices and increased reliance on the free market.

Citizen Rights - Citizen Right to Know/Citizen Participation. Protect the citizen's right to know and facilitate citizen participation in government decision making. Individual liberties - Oppose major threats to basic constitutional rights. Public Policy on Reproductive Choices - Protect the constitutional right of privacy of the individual to make reproductive choices.

Congress and the Presidency - Congress. Support responsive legislative processes characterized by accountability, representativeness, decision-making capability and effective performance. The Presidency. Promote a dynamic balance of power between the executive and legislative branches within the framework set by the Constitution.

DC Self-Government and Full Voting - Representation. Secure for the citizens of the District of Columbia the rights of self-government and representation in both houses of Congress.

Election Process - Apportionment. Support apportionment of congressional districts and elected legislative bodies at all levels of government based substantially on population. Campaign Finance. Improve methods of financing political campaigns in order to ensure the public's right to know, combat corruption and undue influence, enable candidates to compete more equitably for public office and promote citizen participation in the political process. Election of the President. Promote the election of the President and Vice President by direct popular vote and work to abolish the electoral college; support uniform national voting qualifications and procedures for presidential elections.

Fiscal Policy - Support adequate and flexible funding of federal government programs through an equitable tax system that is progressive overall and that relies primarily on a broad-based income tax; promote responsible deficit policies; support a federal role in providing mandatory, universal, old-age, survivors, disability and health insurance.

Gun Control - Protect the health and safety of citizens through limiting the accessibility and regulating the ownership of handguns and semi-automatic weapons.

Voting Rights - Protect the right of all citizens to vote; encourage all citizens to vote.

INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS - Promote peace in an interdependent world by cooperation with other nations, strengthening international organizations, fostering long-term development, negotiating arms control measures and encouraging the successful resolution of conflicts through nonmilitary means.

Arms Control - Reduce the risk of war through support of arms control measures.

Military Policy and Defense Spending - Work to limit reliance on military force; examine defense spending in the context of total national needs.

Trade - Support systemic reduction of tariff and non tariff trade barriers and support broad long-rage presidential authority to negotiate trade agreements.

United Nations - Support measures to strengthen the United Nations, in recognition of the need for cooperation among nations in an interdependent world.

U.S. Relations with Developing Countries - Promote U.S. policies that meet long-term social and economic needs of developing countries.

NATURAL RESOURCES - Promote an environment beneficial to life through the protection and wise management of natural resources in the public interest by recognizing the interrelationship of air quality, energy, land use, waste management and water resources.

Resource Management - Promote resource conservation, stewardship and long-range planning with the responsibility for managing natural resources shared by all levels of government.

Environmental Protection and Pollution Control - Preserve the physical, chemical and biological integrity of the ecosystem, with the maximum protection of the public health and environment.

Public Participation - Promote public understanding and participation in decision making as essential elements of responsible and responsive management of our natural resources.

SOCIAL POLICY - Promote social and economic justice, secure equal rights for all, achieve universal health care coverage at reasonable cost, promote the well being of children, and combat discrimination, poverty and violence.

Child Care - Support programs, services and policies at all levels of government to expand the supply of affordable, quality child care for all who need it.

Early Intervention for Children at Risk - Support policies and programs that promote the well being, development and safety of all children.

Equality of Opportunity - Support equal access to education, employment and housing. Support ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment and efforts to bring laws into compliance with the goals of the ERA.

Health Care - Promote a health care system for the United States that provides access to a basic level of care for all U.S. residents and controls health care costs.

Meeting Basic Human Needs - Support programs and policies to prevent or reduce poverty and to promote self-sufficiency for individuals and families.

Urban Policy - Promote the economic health of cities and improve the quality of urban life.

Violence Prevention - Support violence prevention programs in all communities.

Whatever the issue, the League believes that government policy, programs and performance must meet these criteria:

  • competent personnel with clear responsibilities;
  • coordination among agencies and levels of government;
  • adequate financing;
  • effective enforcement;
  • well defined channels for citizen input and review.

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League of Women Voters Massachusetts Stand on State Issues/1999 Program in Brief


County government and regional planning - An effective state government. An intermediate level of government to solve regional problems (either through a revised county structure or an emerging regionalism). Regional planning on a statewide basis. High visibility for county and/or regional government. Home rule for counties.

Courts - A judicial system that provides equal justice for all through effective, modern administration, qualified judicial personnel, a strengthened probation service, and procedures and practices that ensure due process of law.

Executive branch - An effective state government. A strong executive branch with lines of authority and responsibility clearly defined.

Fiscal policy - Support of a state and local tax structure that will have an equitable impact on tax payers and adequately support state services with consideration of the effect on the state's economy. Distribution of state aid in a manner that will equalize municipal resources. A comprehensive state budget system that will provide a basis for the evaluation of the cost and effectiveness of current state programs and long-range capital expenditures. Up-to-date, uniform and accurate property valuations. Efficient management of the revenue collection systems.

Home rule - An effective state government. Home rule for Massachusetts cities and towns local matters.

Legislature - An effective state government. A strong and highly visible legislative branch that is districted on the basis of population into contiguous, compact, single-member districts by an appointed, bipartisan commission, and that maintains its traditional role as a democratic forum.

Public Personnel - A public personnel system based upon merit principles and enlightened practices.


Child abuse prevention and treatment - The prevention of child abuse and neglect. The protection and care of children experiencing abuse and neglect.

Corrections - A sound corrections system for the rehabilitation of the adult and juvenile offender.

Day Care - A coordinated state policy for quality day care for the children of Massachusetts with adequate funding for implementation by the responsible state agencies.

Education - Support for statewide standards; fiscal autonomy for the Department of Education and school committees; policy-setting authority granted to school committees; measures to strengthen the state-supported institutions of higher education; a sound program of state-supported two-year colleges.

Handgun Control - Elimination of the private possession of handguns and assault weapons.

Health Care - An affordable health care system that provides equal access to quality health care for all.

Legalized casino gambling - Opposition to the establishment of legalized casino gambling in Massachusetts.

Reproductive choices - Freedom of individuals to make informed reproductive decisions.

Transportation - A statewide public transportation service, accessible to all, that provides access to jobs, housing and services while creating minimum disruption of the environment. Public monies allocated flexibly to meet public transportation needs.

Study and Action Item: Gender Equity.

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League of Women Voters Newton Stand on Local Issues/1999 Program


Charter - Support of an adequately paid mayor who shall, by Charter provision, devote full time to his office.

Support of a four-year term for Mayor.

Support the practice of allowing the Mayor's appointment of department heads and members of multiple member bodies to become effective unless rejected by the Board of Aldermen.

Support the present practice of allowing the Mayor to dismiss department heads without the approval of the Board of Aldermen.

Support of four-year staggered terms for School Committee.

Support the formal creation of the position of Citizen Assistance Officer.

Support of a special election to fill a vacancy in the office of Mayor unless the vacancy occurs within the last nine months of his term.

Support of a nine-member School Committee, with eight members elected at large, one to reside in each ward, with the Mayor serving ex-officio.

Support of special elections to fill vacancies in the Board of Aldermen and School Committee unless the vacancy occurs in the last nine months of the term, in which case it should be left vacant.

Support the adoption of a Comprehensive Plan by resolution of the Board of Aldermen.

Support the adoption of a Capital Improvement Program by resolution of the Board of Aldermen.

Support the provision in Newton's governmental structure for free petition and initiative and referendum procedures.

Support the reduction of the size of the Board of Aldermen to not less than 16 members while maintaining a balance between ward aldermen and aldermen at large.


Support of equitable assessment procedures and practices.

Support of minimum standards for the qualification of Newton assessors, with emphasis on experience and professional training.

Support of flexible methods of taxation between different classes of real estate property in Newton.

Support of periodic revaluation of real estate property in Newton at the discretion of the Board of Assessors, but at least once every 5 to 10 years.

Support of coordination of financial affairs within the government of the City of Newton.

Support of budgetary practices that would allow for an analysis of cost effectiveness of governmental programs and their possible alternatives.

Revenue sharing: Newton should use its general revenue sharing money to meet some of the special needs of the community rather than to reduce the tax rate. Existing worthwhile programs which have lost funding should have priority over new programs.


Equality of Opportunity - Support of policies, programs and practices to provide equality of opportunity for all people in Newton with emphasis on agencies that foster sound community relations.

Housing - Support measures to provide adequate housing for people of low income.

Support a local housing agency which reflects a diversity of backgrounds and the concerns of the tenants.

Support of the following measures to increase the supply of housing for families of low and moderate income:

  • Housing for low and moderate income families should be scattered throughout the city.
  • New housing development should be planned to accommodate a mixed socioeconomic group.
  • Newton should continue to expand its leased housing program.
  • Private non-profit, cooperative, or limited dividend corporations should construct new housing for low and moderate income families.
  • The density of the housing should be as low as economically feasible.
  • The City of Newton should make available city-owned sites suitable for the construction of low/moderate income housing; recommendations of the Planning Department should be considered in determining what sites are suitable for housing.
  • The Board of Aldermen should continue to implement its policy requiring that developers of new multiple-unit housing lease a certain percentage thereof for low-income tenants.
  • Non-profit organizations, banking and real estate organizations should work together to promote opportunities for low and moderate income families to buy their own homes.


Support of adequate evaluation of new school programs in Newton and the encouragement of implementation of approved changes on a system-wide basis.

Support of the policy of limited autonomy of school principals while recognizing the need for improved coordination among principals and central staff in regard to curriculum.

Support of long-range educational planning by the School Committee and the use of the City Planning Department as a prime planning resource in regard to school building needs.

Support prompt and effective implementation of school building programs through improved coordination among the Mayor, the School Committee and the Board of Aldermen.

Support of a long-range planning process emphasizing high quality educational standards and a balancing of educational resources throughout the city as a basis for school closure and school acquisition or reopening decisions.

Support of a class size policy as a necessary component of quality education at the elementary and secondary levels.

Support of school consolidation as a means of dealing with declining enrollment.

Support of the following criteria for deciding which school or schools should be closed:

  • minimum disruption of children;
  • effect on recipient schools;
  • financial savings, including need of capital improvements;
  • age and condition of building;
  • maintaining a neighborhood concept, but with expanded neighborhoods;
  • size of school population as it relates to educational options and flexibility.

Support for acquisition of additional space to accommodate increasing enrollment.

Support for the following criteria when considering the acquisition of new space or the reopening of schools:

  • equity in services delivered city-wide;
  • system-wide flexibility to accommodate needed educational, community and family support services;
  • system-wide stability to avoid frequent disruption of children;
  • age, condition and location of building or site;
  • maintenance of lower recommended class size policy.

Support for an increase in school funding to reflect increasing enrollment and subsequent educational needs.

See also under "Land Use"


Support for child care services which are accessible, affordable and meet the various needs of children. Support for funding to ensure access to quality child care services for all families, including:

  • a mix of funding from government, tuition and private sector sources;
  • city-wide funding for school-age child care;
  • in-kind contributions by city and school departments;
  • a child care coordinator funded by the city.

Support the use of school buildings for after-school childcare, understanding that the primary use of such buildings is for educational programs. To maintain and promote quality school-age child care (SACC) in Newton the League supports:

  • adequate dedicated space and access to facilities in all elementary schools for SACC, with the belief that on-site, school based, after school child care better meets the needs of children.
  • independently run SACC programs, with planning and operation coordinated with the individual schools;
  • space and access to facilities within the school for SACC should have consideration in long-range planning by the School Department;
  • increase in enrollment capacity to allow space for all children;
  • professionalization of staff.

Support long-range planning by the School Department, School Committee and Planning Department to include resources needed by SACC.

Public Health

Support of measures to improve public health in Newton for all age groups which include:

  • measures to improve mental health programs;
  • fluoridation of the Newton water supply at the approved level;
  • measures to improve public health education in Newton;
  • measures to implement programs and facilities approved by the qualified public health official;
  • optional in-school inoculation plan;
  • a system-wide anti-smoking program to begin before the junior high level;
  • measures to strengthen the enforcement of the Standards of Fitness for Human Habitation.

Community Residences

Support of a wide range of locally-based facilities, including community residences for people with special needs.

Support of the following measures to facilitate their integration into the community:

  • All community residence in Newton must conform to appropriate licensing requirements and codes.
  • The process for considering requests for site plan approval should include a public hearing, periodic review and a procedure for ongoing neighborhood input.
  • Dispersal of community residences is preferable to concentration in a particular neighborhood.
  • There should be preference for Newton residents in regard to admission to community residences in Newton to the extent that funding sources and program characteristics are not jeopardized.

Alternative Housing for Adolescents

Support for alternative housing programs for troubled adolescents in Newton.

Support for education to promote acceptance in the community of programs to aid troubled adolescents.

Support for community participation in the establishment and maintenance of community residences for adolescents.

Support for funding by the City of Newton to assist in alternative housing programs for adolescents.


Support for improved library services designed to meet the diverse needs of the community with priority to be given to the acquisition of books and delivery of book related services.

Support for the branch library system with consideration for closing some branches or relocation into other public buildings if significant savings can be achieved.

Support cooperation between the School Department and the Public Library.

Recreation and Open Space

Support of improved recreational facilities in Newton.

Support of the opening of schools for recreational purposes.

Support the following goals for recreation and open space in Newton:

  • retention of appropriate portions of the recreation parks as natural areas, with adequate maintenance and improved access;
  • gradual provision of new recreational facilities to serve the entire city as need is established;
  • improvement of neighborhood playground-playfield system;
  • development of linear open spaces with provision for maintenance.

Support consideration of the plans and needs of the Recreation Commission and the Conservation Commission before city-owned land is made available to nonmunicipal interests.

Support improved cooperation and coordination among the appropriate city departments and agencies in planning, effecting and maintaining recreational facilities and improvement.



Support of zoning practices consistent with long-range professional planning.

Support of flood-plain and watershed protection districts in the zoning ordinance of Newton.

Opposition to building upon certain lands for ecological reasons.

Support of the following zoning techniques: a density bonus, cluster development and planned unit development -- conditional upon safeguards for the open space that would result.

Support of the adoption of density and open space standards for the community.

Support of more intensive use of business districts subject to the provision of adequate off-street parking and the absence of traffic increases detrimental to the surrounding area.

Support modification of zoning ordinances:

  • A) Support more flexible use of existing housing through zoning ordinances that allow the maximum number of accessory apartments while maintaining adequate density standards and concern for traffic. For equity, large lot districts should have a larger proportion of accessory apartments. The following restrictions should apply:
    1. all buildings/units containing accessory apartments must be owner-occupied;
    2. adequate off-street parking must be provided.
  • B) Support modification of zoning ordinances to legalize existing accessory apartments, with restrictions
    1. all buildings/units containing accessory apartments must be owner-occupied;
    2. adequate off-street parking must be provided.
  • C) Support strict enforcement of the Zoning Code.

Planning in the Community

Support of a Comprehensive Plan for the City of Newton which contains within it:

  • a) a statement of goals for the future development of Newton;
  • b) a Land Use Plan
  • c) a Transportation Plan;
  • d) a Community Facilities and Service Plan;
  • e) neighborhood development proposals;
  • f) a Capital Improvements Program to project public facilities into an orderly schedule of expenditures.

Support the following goals for the future development of Newton:

  • a) an excellent school system;
  • b) a well-distributed system of open spaces within the city.

Redevelopment, Rehabilitation and Conservation

Support for community participation in the planning process to ensure that redevelopment benefits the original residents of the area as well as the community at large.

Opposition to financial loss being suffered by any person or business as a result of redevelopment.

Displacement of a resident or a local business should take place only when prior planning and reasonable efforts to provide relocation in the area have failed.

Support of historic districts in Newton.

Closed School Facilities

Support of a procedure which sets priorities for the use or disposition of closed school facilities. Such a procedure should insure citizen participation in planning and give consideration to alternative community needs and uses.

See also under "Public Education"



Support for recycling of solid waste in Newton by municipal collection and, as a first step or last resort, by voluntary effort. The following criteria should be applied: an established re-use for the recycled material, an educational program to promote citizen cooperation, and, in case of voluntary recycling, adequate supervision of collection depots.

Sidewalk Snow Removal

Support of an ordinance(s) requiring all owners and/or occupants to clear snow from the sidewalks abutting their properties.

Support of an ordinance requiring owners or occupants in business districts to clear snow from the sidewalks abutting their properties.

Support City plowing of sidewalks on school routes and main streets.

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Copyright 1999, League of Women Voters, Newton
Last updated: 12-Nov-01