Voter's Guide to the Newton Municipal Election: Ward Alderman Candidates


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Tuesday, November 4, 2003
Polls open from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

You can vote for ONE candidate in your ward only.

Questions for the Board of Aldermen candidates

Biographical information (including why you chose to seek this office) 50 words maximum

Question 1

What are your ideas to increase city revenues and decrease city expenses? (75 words maximum)

Question 2

How should the city's experience with Avalon Bay development on Needham Street inform the planning and development process? (75 words maximum)

Ward Alderman/ Ward One

Scott F. Lennon

Biographical Information:

Lifelong resident of Ward One. Graduate, Newton Public Schools and Merrimack College. Employed as a Government Auditor. Seeking re-election to the Board to continue serving the City and give something back to the community. Subcommittees on the Board: Public Safety and Transportation, Zoning and Planning, Source Reduction Advisory Committee.

1.There is more of a lack of expenditure oversight than a revenue-generating problem. Must find ways for responsible new growth that helps expand our tax base. Couple that with respecting our village environments and residential neighborhoods. Explore opportunities in investments of tax dollars. Not convinced implementing and increasing existing fees is a necessary tool for generating revenue. Expenditure-wise, every department should look for economies and efficiencies without jeopardizing needed customer service.

2. Aldermen must be proactive addressing development issues within their Wards and throughout Newton. We must explore every housing opportunity because we desperately need housing for lower income families, city workers and people who have lived here all their lives who can't afford to stay. Projects need to fit within the character of neighborhoods. Citizens lose faith in process when mammoth projects that don't address these points are developed and decimate a neighborhood setting.

Ward Alderman/Ward 2

Robert Antonellis

Biographical Information:

I've devoted my life to public service: a United States Marine, a Newton Police Officer, and a Ward 2 Alderman. I have also had the privilege of living in this Ward for my entire life. I believe these unique qualifications will serve me in representing the interests of Ward 2.

1. I believe the size of the Board of Alderman is too large. It is difficult to distinguish the contributions of the Board's members with a legislative body of it's size. I would be willing to guess that very few of Newton's residents can name all 24 members. Cutting the board down to 16 members will save the city $80,000 annually and still give each Ward more than enough representation in City government.

2. The experience with Avalon Bay, is one that forces us to view the needs of the city through a critical lense. We should be asking, how will a decision impact our schools; our budget; what impact will it have on first responders; and overall traffic? These are questions that must be answered. The city's shortsightedness in this instance will hopefully serve us to make better, more informed decisions in future endeavors.

Stephen M. Linsky

Biographical Information:

Raised in Oak Hill Park. Attended Memorial elementary school. Son and daughter attend Newton schools. Founding member of the Washington Park Neighborhood Association and The New Law Center, LLC, a collaborative law and dispute resolution firm located in Newtonville. Seek opportunity to build on achievements in first term.

1.Good question. Requires more than 75 maximum word response. Without any suggestion that the following represents my position, I would add to what typically revolves around variations of taxing more and spending less the notion that the city could consider a different role in respect to future development projects. The city could, if prudent, assume risk bidding for entirety of projects such as Kesseler Woods, and selling back portions to cover open space acquisition costs.

2. Good question. Barely requires 75 words. As long as we are under 10% affordability in our housing stock we are subject to chapter 40B developments like Avalon Bay. We should use our resources, including and especially our new inclusionary zoning ordinance to encourage more affordable units and move us further along toward meeting 10% affordability requirements. Or proactively seek out and approve by special permit or otherwise other development.

Ward Alderman/Ward 3

Anthony J. Salvucci

Biographical Information:

Married 6 children livelong resident of Newton. Worked in Construction 30 years and as a State Auditor for 11. Retired Veteran of Korean War. I have been an Alderman for 16 years currently serving on the Public Facilities Committee and the Land Use Committee. I believe my experience in Construction

1. It is important that the Mayor and the Board of Aldermen work together to control spending. Every year during my tenure on the Board of Aldermen we have had to raise taxes along with other revenues that come into the city to balance the Mayors budget. It is incumbent upon the Mayor and the Department Heads to review spending policies and keep in mind that it is the tax payer that is footing the bill.

2. Avalon Bay Development was built under chapter 40b of Mass Law. The Board of Aldermen had no control of the process. We have to work harder to resolve problems of this nature. It is up to the Board of Aldermen and developers to determine the best use of a tract of land, which would have an impact on the community.

Ward Alderman/Ward 4

Virginia (Ginny) Gardner

Biographical Information:

Born and raised in Newton. As a neighborhood activist, I was successful in the revitalization of the Rumford Ave Incinerator property and Landfill. CO founder of Lucky Star Senior Charity. Sponsor Senior Volunterism program, Senior tax relief program. Citizen advisor for the Newton North High School task force.

1. The city leaders must treat the city budget as they would their own. I will oppose another override. The city needs to merge city departments, such as the proposal to merge the Planning Department with Inspectional service department. The City should consider merging duplicitous departments of the city with the schools such as the printing departments. I propose we reduce the City's fleet of automobiles and treat all passenger vehicles as pool cars.

2. A firm and clear zoning policy must be developed to avoid ambiguity. Information furnished to the developer should be consistent and be provided by one expert source. Emphasis towards preserving the character of our neighborhoods. Each neighborhood must be involved in the development process. If a task force or study committee is assembled to analyze the feasibility of the project, the recommendations must be examined, scrutinized and implemented in a timely fashion.

John (Jay) Harney

Biographical Information:

I'm concerned about Newton North, the impact of tax increases on seniors, and the effects of development and traffic on our neighborhoods. I'm committed to bringing people together to find practical solutions to these challenges. My education, financial skills and experience in government have prepared me well to be Alderman.

1.Following the 2002 override, increasing revenues through increased taxes is not an option at this time. Ward 4 was particularly affected by the bus fees, because driving to Brown or NSHS isn't feasible. New construction will help the tax base, but we must balance the increased revenue from development projects against the effect on quality of life of the neighbors. Expenditures could be decreased through wise long-term investments, better use of technology and departmental mergers.

2. The city should learn from the expensive and drawn-out Stop and Shop/Avalon Bay issue that long-term planning with ongoing involvement of residents is crucial to smart development. Ward 4 has recently seen several large scale development projects, and may face new proposals at Newton-Wellesley Hospital, Riverside and Woodland. As Alderman, I will keep neighbors informed and invite their involvement in assessing the impact of proposed development on quality of life, traffic, parking and our schools.

Ward Alderman/Ward 5

Paul Green

Biographical Information:

Married father of two children in Newton Schools. Television Sound Engineer 18 Years. Emmy Award Winner. I am seeking public office because our city needs new energy, ideas, and motivation to move us forward. Ward 5 is underserved. I intend to provide our citizens with service they expect and deserve.

1. Newton has been proactive in its approach to solar energy. This should continue. Solar energy would enable an opportunity to provide a clean safe energy source while reducing city expenses. In addition, our city could provide consistent, safe, uniform street surfaces if we designed our own roads. There is the potential to save 10 - 15 % on road expenses.

2. Newton is sixteen hundred units short of the 10% minimum of affordable housing. Until we reach that threshold, we are vulnerable to Chapter 40B projects like Avalon Bay. 80% of our city is developed. We need to revisit the issue of amnesty for illegal in-law apartments. Regulating them and insuring they are rerented affordably, we could reach our affordable housing ceiling sooner. This approach coupled with current housing initiatives and thoughtful planning would help.

Christine Snow Samuelson

Biographical Information:

Born in Newton Highlands, two children through the Newton Schools. I have been involved in Community Service over 20 years. I ran for Alderman to further my community involvement. I helped found the Newton Food Pantry and Brigham Community House, chair of PS&T and co-chair STS, on Land Use.

1. To provide the service that Newton is known for will require some tough choices. Residents have to increase recycling curb side to save money. City needs to Precycle - source reduction, expand regional purchasing. We need to bring our fees and fines in line with surrounding communities. Need home business tax. Protect our credit rating to get good loan rates for infrastructure improvement and energy efficiency.

2. Avalon Bay furthers many of our comprehensive planning goals; provides affordable housing and mixes housing with commercial uses. Highest and best use for this 8 acre site, least traffic generator, highest tax generation. City needs to consolidate curb cuts and promote pedestrian friendly Needham street and enhance Public transportation possibilities. Protect our retail areas and commercial tax base. We need more local control over 40B.

Ward Alderman/Ward 6

George Mansfield

Biographical Information:

10-term Alderman, 6-term Vice President, 33-year Newton resident, Planning Director, Town of Carlisle, former Newton schools parent, Board of Directors, Newton Highlands CDC. I am honored to be among the three out of 32 officeholders not facing a challenger this year, and will try to continue to earn your confidence.

1. The Mayor, not the Board, has the authority and tools to seek new revenues. However, I would support initiatives to tax more heavily those trends that increase municipal costs and lower quality of life, e.g., "monster" homes, proliferation of vehicle registrations, burgeoning trash disposal. Aldermen do have the responsibility to control costs, and citizens must support the Board more consistently when we try to say "no," even if the expense might be desirable to some.

2. Avalon Bay should teach two lessons: Newton is attractive for affordable housing (40B) development, bypassing the zoning control of the Aldermen, and if you want neighborhood support for large developments, propose something really controversial first. Stop & Shop, despite its planned Needham Street improvements and conditions, was widely opposed. 300-unit Avalon Bay was generally welcomed. Now, many are complaining about its size and wonder how its traffic will be handled on an unimproved Needham Street.

Ward Alderman/ Ward 7

R. Lisle Baker

Biographical Information:

Age 61, running for 11th term as Ward Alderman for Ward Seven; Professor of Law, Suffolk University Law School; married to Sally Baker; educated at Williams College and Harvard Law School; received 2001 Directors' Award from Newton Conservators; Aldermanic Committees on Zoning and Planning (Vice-Chair), Public Safety, and Community Preservation.

1. Approximately eighty per cent of City revenues comes from property taxes and user fees which have already increased, while state aid is being cut, so new revenues will be scarce. Reductions in expenses requires creativity. We should explore reorganizing across departments, as recently proposed for Planning and Inspectional Services, as well as using new technologies, employee attrition and task reorganization within departments, all to enable employees to be as productive as possible at lower cost.

2. Avalon Bay is being built through a state law, Chapter 40B, that bypasses local zoning laws if the developer includes affordable housing. Avalon is proposing another 40B project for 236 units on congested Route Nine near Hammond Pond Parkway. It is important to work with Newton's Planning Department to seek conditions on the comprehensive permits for such projects from Newton's Zoning Board of Appeals (an appointed body) to help mitigate traffic and other impacts.

Eric S. Spunt

Biographical Information:

BA, Tufts University, MBA, Babson College, JD, Suffolk University Law School Born and raised in Brookline, MA. Moved to Newton in 1991. Married with 3 1/2 year old daughter. Employment background includes 13 years of experience in real estate finance prior to commencing career in law. Own and operate Newton..

1. It is unclear that both an increase in city revenues and a decrease in expenses are necessary. A reduction in spending may be sufficient. A first step would be to scrutinize, and possibly, reallocate city budgets.

2. The Avalon Bay project on Needham Street raises the question of balancing overall city needs versus the needs and wants of a small group living within the city. While I believe the original plan to develop a Stop & Shop at this location would have benefited a larger number of Newton residents, such issues must be addressed on a case-by-case basis.

Ward Alderman/Ward 8

Cheryl Lipof Lappin

Biographical Information:

I am a longtime Newton resident, Boston University graduate, Marketing Consultant and married with two children in the Newton Schools. As Alderman, I have worked to resolve constituent issues, increase traffic safety, enhance fiscal responsibility, fight possible radio station expansion and advocated for open space, affordable housing and against over-development.

1. Raising revenues would require an override and/or excessive fee increases, neither of which I could support at this time. One way to decrease city expenses would be to take a hard look at the efficiency of city departments and create economies of scale by identifying those departments that replicate services. By eliminating redundancy, we can decrease expenses.

2. Approximately 100 units at Avalon Bay are occupied. The agreed upon pedestrian crosswalk signal isn't there yet and probably won't be until after the first of next year. In the comprehensive permit process, where the only controls are through conditions set by the Zoning Board of Appeals, there needs to be more attention to timing. Conditions should dictate what needs to be done, and when it should be done in relation to the project phases.

Thomas Sheff

Biographical Information:

Born and raised in Newton, I have a BA degree from Clark University. I attended law school in Michigan. I have experience in the legal, real estate and non-profit fields. I hope to have the chance to give back to the community that has given so much to me.

1. I believe the emphasis needs to be put on expenses. We need to streamline government, and be sure that all the funds are used for what they have been allotted for. We need to work together as a community to fight the deficit, on all fronts.

2. The Avalon Bay Development is a residential complex situated in a commercial environment. This is not only unsafe for the residents who wish to go out into their neighborhood, including children; it is a burden on the local traffic. The planning and development process should consider all the ramifications, not only on the development, but on the existing community as well.

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Last updated: 21-Oct-2003