by Ella Hurwitz, Alex Zakuta News Reporters & Bella Ishanyan News Editor
graphic by Adrienne Lirio
On Nov. 2, incumbent Mayor Ruthanne Fuller was re-elected for a second term, gaining 1,508 more votes than her opponent Amy Sangiolo. Opinions on her re-election are split within the Newton student community.
Fuller was the Ward 7 Councilor-At-Large from 2010 until 2018, until she was elected as the first female mayor of Newton. During this past term, Fuller focused on various issues, most notably regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, zoning and housing, environment and climate change, aid for older residents, economic development and schools.
Junior Wasan Rafat said that she didn’t know much about Newton politics until it was introduced to her by a school club, where she developed an opinion about Fuller and determined her support for Sangiolo. However, like many students at South, she said that she remains relatively indifferent to politics in Newton.
Self-described politically active eighth grader at Brown Middle School Shira Argov said that she sympathizes with Fuller’s challenges during the pandemic, and believes Fuller has served Newton well.
“She’s a very good mayor. During COVID-19, it was really hard to manage everything, and she was definitely very busy,” she said. “There are other towns that did better, especially with schools, but she did the best that she could.”
However, senior Andrew Kupovich, who worked on Sangiolo’s campaign, said that Fuller’s handling of schools during the pandemic was a deterrent for him.
“COVID-19 was difficult, obviously it wasn’t going to be an amazing year, but [most] of our surrounding communities managed to have actual, real hybrid programs in place,” he said. “In the fall, we were basically the only comparable community that didn’t. There was a lot of mishandling.”
Now that schools have returned to full in-person learning, moderately viewed sophomore Stephanie Morin said that Fuller should continue to prioritize COVID-19 prevention policies in schools to ensure the safety of students and families.
Along with school reforms, the topic of housing development is hotly debated. Rafat said that there should be more living accommodations built in Newton.
“Something [Fuller] could do is make more apartment complexes like the one on Needham Street,” she said. “If we open it up to more people, we can increase the economic diversity within Newton and make it a place [where] everyone can feel like they belong and everyone has the opportunity to be a part of [the community].”
In Upper Falls, a construction project that would build a large apartment complex was approved after a city-wide vote. However, freshman Grace Dempsey, who lives in Upper Falls, said that she was upset that Fuller extended the vote to those outside of the Upper Falls community.
“The entire city shouldn’t have even been able to vote on it because it’s only our neighborhood that has to actually live with it,” she said. “Now people who live in Upper Falls have this huge apartment complex that’s going to make Needham Street traffic, which is already awful, a lot worse, and it’s not practical because schools are already filled to the maximum.”
Kupovich said that more mayoral outreach should be done regarding zoning and housing.
“With zoning redesign, the mayor’s administration has done an attempt at outreach to communities, but I’m worried that it isn’t enough,” he said. “Most citizens aren’t out there completing village vision kits that take an hour to do because no one knows or really cares enough.”
Despite the qualms many had with her these past four years, Fuller has also amassed support among the student body.
“I have met Mayor Fuller, and I know that she is a very kind person who wants to take action,” Argov said. “Whether or not she’s completely done that yet, she definitely seems to have good intentions, and I’d like to say now that she has more time, she will hopefully actually do something more.”
Kupovich said that Fuller’s administration has been strong but insufficient on varying issues, and with this new term he hopes there will be a shift.
“Mayor Fuller has done an admirable job on some issues,” he said. “There have been a lot of little and not-so-little screw ups … it’s up to the mayor and the mayor’s administration to make sure that that doesn’t keep happening.”