The candidate pool in the Newton mayoral race is about to get a whole lot smaller. On Tuesday, Newtonites will head to the polls to narrow the race down from the current list of seven. Four Democrats, two nonpartisan candidates, and one Republican are vying for the mere two spots on November’s ballot. After current mayor Setti Warren, BC ’93, announced he would not be seeking reelection last fall and instead focus on the governor’s office, many decided to throw their hats into the ring. Here are the seven candidates for the mayoral race, and their platforms, as detailed by The Heights: Amy Mah Sangiolo, Eli Katzoff, Ruthanne Fuller, Scott Lennon, Geoffrey Woodward, Richard Saunders, and Al Cecchinelli all hope to be selected by the people of Newton to fill his shoes.
Amy Mah Sangiolo
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The 20-year Newton City Councilor is one of the four Democrats who hope to take the mantle from Warren. She is the longest serving councilor in the mayoral race, and the Ward 4 City Councilor-at-Large, and with this experience she hopes to take Newton to “the next level of success.” Mah Sangiolo wants to build upon the work that the Newton City Council has accomplished during her tenure, which includes fighting for affordable housing and addressing zoning problems within Newton. In addition to being the longest serving Asian American elected official in Massachusetts, her philosophy of “listening to people, respecting diverse views, making decisions based on data and what is best for Newton as a whole, and holding herself and others accountable” has won her much support throughout the community. Here is her plan:
- Making Newton green by developing a Zero Waste plan for the city, encouraging the use and accessibility of solar energy, and making sure that all city departments develop and adhere to environmental policies.
- Launching an attack on opioid abuse by increasing education and making NARCAN available in municipal buildings.
- Improving Newton’s schools by creating a later start-time for high schoolers and a full-day kindergarten program, promoting diversity within teaching staff, and eliminating costs that might discourage students from participating in extracurricular activities.
- Ensuring that Ward Representation continues.
The current Ward 7 Councilor at-large was one of the first to announce her candidacy after Mayor Warren said he would not run again. Fuller, a Democrat who has served four terms on the City Council, believes her work in both the private and public sector will make her a good guide for the people of Newton.
Here is her plan:
- Refurbishing the Newton education system by ensuring that the best teachers and administrators are selected, investigation pilot programs that would increase student passion, focusing on class sizes and student support services, and renovation school programs
- Focusing on infrastructure and transportation within Newton by fixing structural deficiencies, ensuring that the city has the appropriate technology to function in the modern world, implementing a “Complete Streets” program where trees are planted when roads are reconstructed, and improving public transportation to reduce traffic and carbon emissions
- Revamping village centers and ensuring that Newton maintains a range of housing opportunities and prices amidst rising housing prices
The candidate announced his candidacy almost immediately after Warren decided he would not be running again. The Ward 1 Councilor at-large and City Council president stresses that his skills in collaboration will be an asset to him as mayor. Lennon wants to look at the big picture, and here is his plan:
- Ensuring the continued strength of Newton’s school system with attention to equal education opportunities
- Maintaining effective financial management and encouraging community engagement
- Finessing city services and infrastructure by developing strategic plans to reinvigorate open spaces, adhering to the “Complete Streets” initiative, improving arts and senior services
- Continually supporting housing initiatives to maintain affordable housing, implementing strategies to better commercial spaces and businesses, improving public transportation
- Focusing on the environment by ensuring that buildings use 100 percent renewable energy, making city vehicles hybrids and increasing charging stations, protection Webster Woods, leading Newton to a zero waste city
- Encouraging and streamlining communication between community members and city government
- Thinking creatively about issues that Newton’s seniors face and about ways to improve their lives within the community
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Although he has never help public office, Katzoff is a Newton native who says that his time working at Warner Brothers in California and interacting with people in Hollywood helped solidify his own morals (perhaps it also served as the inspiration for his musical campaign video). He wants to reunite Newtonians following the discontent characterizing the national politics of today. Katzoff says that many of the issues that Newton faces can be traced back to the lack of “connectedness.” Here is how he’s going to do it:
- Addressing the lack of affordable housing with programs like co-housing and other forms of cooperative housing
- Making Newton greener by emphasizing green housing, biking, composting, lawn farms, and sharing resources
- Improving Newton’s public schools and education with community-supported day care, full-day kindergarten, and reinvigorating youth social programs
- Ensuring that businesses in Newton flourish by solidifying a mix of housing, expanding public transportation, preferring local businesses and services, strengthen ties within the community
- Making cost of living and transportation lower for seniors
- Expanding community gardens and strengthening programming in community centers
- Using technology to connect the community
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One of two nonpartisan candidates, bills himself as the only centrist in the race.Though he has lived many places, Woodward can trace his Newton roots back over three centuries and has worked professionally with the federal government in the health field. He believes his Newton roots, combined with his worldly experience, has prepared him to be mayor. Here is his plan:
- Advocating for science and coding literacy in the Newton education system
The self-described “long shot candidate” in the race. He wants to work toward making Newton more affordable so that people who grew up in Newton can return and settle down. He has no allegiance to a particular political party, and aims to take the government back to considering the greater good of all people.
- Focusing on affordable housing
- Supporting education initiatives
- Creating a smaller City Council that the mayor can have a closer relationship with
- Managing the budget without property tax increases
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The only Republican in the race, brings a distinctly conservative perspective to the race. He has never held public office, but grew up within Newton. Here is his plan:
- Rescinding the Welcoming City ordinance that all the members of the city council in the race voted to pass just last spring
- Overhauling the way healthcare is provided to members of the community by opening city health centers that will provide healthcare to employees and those making under a certain income level
- Creating more low-income housing within Newton
This race focus on the needs of Newton not only as a city, but as a group of collected communities. Many of the candidates hope to address issues surrounding education, infrastructure, housing, and transportation. While some are divided by party or stance, they demonstrated their ability to come together in the wake of the events in Charlottesville in August. The candidates released a unity video that denounced intolerance and hate in response to the gathering of white supremacists and the following protests that resulted in the death of the Heather Hayer.
After this seven-way race narrows down to two candidates, the people of Newton will have a much clearer choice between a set of potentially similar candidates who all believe they have the best interests of Newton in mind. While many of the candidates can claim to have won citywide elections, Mayor Warren won as an outsider in 2009, beating state Rep. Ruth Basler (who had formerly served as a City Councilor), exhibiting that citywide popularity doesn’t guarantee victory. Warren said back in November that while he was hesitant to offer advice to the candidates, he hoped that whoever wins would bring the community of Newton together in a dialogue.