by Bella Ishanyan, News Editor
photo courtesy of Wikipedia
City-wide municipal elections will be held for Mayoral, City Councilor, Councilor-at-Large and School Committee positions on Nov. 2.
Although all seats are up for election, few races are contested, with many candidates running unopposed. Ward Two City Councilor-at-Large incumbent Tarik Lucas said that running unopposed is a pleasant change after the chaotic special elections last winter.
“I am grateful for the support that I received in the last election, and I’m still out there trying to earn the votes of the many residents of Newton,” he said.
During his campaign so far, Ward Six School Committee candidate Paul Levy said that he has met with families in the Newton Public School system, which has helped him determine clear communication as one of his priorities.
“I’ve talked to 400 or 500 families since I announced I was running, and [these] parents in all levels — elementary, middle and high school — [have] been expressing great frustration on issues to me,” he said. “The School Committee should communicate well with [families] and also be responsive and respectful and hear what they have to say.”
Outside of the School Committee, many candidates, including Meryl Kessler, who is running for Ward Three Councilor-at-Large, have said that the lack of communication between governing bodies and residents is a consistent problem in Newton.
“I believe strongly in governmental transparency, governmental accountability and governmental responsiveness,” Kessler said. “We need more councilors on the Council who are accessible and who communicate frequently with all of their constituents, not just a select group [nor] just the people they feel [will] support them on one issue or the other. [They need to] really reach out to all the people they represent.”
Former Ward Two Councilor-at-Large and second-time mayoral candidate Amy Mah Sangiolo said that if elected, she would bring transparency and diversity to the mayor’s office, which she believes don’t exist currently.
“I want the government to be much more responsive than it has been, [and] I want it to be much more inclusive,” she said. “One of the things I’d really like to have high priority is a diversity, equity and inclusion person in my executive office so that when we say we want to be a diverse community, we actually mean it.”
Regarding transparency, Mayor Ruthanne Fuller said that she feels she has been successful communicating with the community since she was elected in 2017.
“I provide frequent good information, I’m a public servant leader, I listen carefully, I’m accessible, I’ve had open office hours every week or two my entire time in office, I’m in touch with people and I depend on that input to make good decisions,” she said.
As for within Newton’s government, Parliamentarian of the Newton Republican City Committee and second-time mayoral candidate Albert Cecchinelli said that there is a lack of diversity of thought.
“Diversity of ideas doesn’t seem to matter. It just seems to be about diversity of backgrounds, ethnicities, races and things like that,” he said. “There are two voices on the City Council, liberal Democrats and ultra-liberal Democrats, and we need to work on getting a voice in the city of centrist, which I consider myself [to be].”
The primary election for the mayoral race will be on Sept. 14, and the top two candidates with the will proceed in the race and appear on the municipal election ballot.
Fuller said that she predicts her experience as Mayor of Newton will give her the upper hand in the upcoming election.
“I would say having four years under my belt as a mayor turns out to be a huge advantage in a number of different ways,” she said. “I’ve been through the crisis of a pandemic, an economic meltdown and a racial reckoning, [and] people know who I am and see how seriously … I delved into police reform, gathering Newtonians together to help me think through what we needed to do.”
Cecchinelli said that campaigning against an incumbent mayor is more difficult than in 2017, when seven candidates competed for an open seat.
“It’s an uphill battle when you have a mayor that’s in office right now who can use the office to make it look like she’s doing things for the community, which would be things that any of us that were in office would be doing,” he said.
As the mayoral candidates prepare for the primary, Fuller said that she is hoping for a clean and productive race.
“I’m expecting that we’ll talk about a lot of the important issues facing Newton and our region [and that] we’ll have good dialogue,” she said. “I’m hopeful that all of us will be like that as candidates.”