LWVN Board Votes to Support New Austin Street Plan

At our May meeting, the LWVN Board voted in favor of supporting the new plan for the Austin Street parking lot.  This plan keeps all current parking spaces, reduces the height of the proposed building, and reduces the number of residential units.  The plan also creates a mixed-use development with one-level living near public transportation and shops.

LWVN will be making public statements at the upcoming Austin Street development hearings on June 2 and June 9 at 7 pm in the Aldermanic Chambers in City Hall.  We encourage you to join us at these meetings to show your support as well as to send emails and letters to your Aldermen.

Charter Petition Sundays Coming Up–Pitch In to Help!

Help us finish this important campaign!  We are nearing the completing of our signature drive to put the question of a charter commission on the ballot in November, but we still need to collect one more round of signatures.  Volunteers will be working in pairs on Sundays at Newton supermarkets on May 17 and 31 and June 7 and 14.  If you can help, please contact info@lwvnewton.org.

LWVN Comments on Proposed Water / Sewer / Stormwater Rates

NOTE:  The comments below were based on the originally proposed fees, not the rates proposed over the weekend before the hearing.  LWVN did not have the opportunity to review those fees in time for public comment.

The proposed rates for water, sewer and stormwater are the result of tremendous efforts by city staff and aldermen, particularly Aldermen Deborah Crossley and Ruthanne Fuller. The goal of these changes is to create a fair means by which to pay for the upkeep of the  infrastructure that provides us with safe water and prevents flooding.

LWVN supports full-cost pricing for water systems as a best practice for  covering the costs of providing water and sewer services.  We hope this will also provide an incentive to conserve this vital resource.

Despite the City’s efforts over the last few years to repair our water pipes, Newton still pays the MWRA for a large amount of water, which does not make its way to customers. Finding and repairing the leak(s) in order to reduce Newton’s percentage of unaccounted water (in line with other MWRA communities’), will be a critical investment and provide future savings. Thus, we support the new water & sewer block rates, which encourage water conservation while minimizing the burden on small users.

We also understand that the proposed stormwater rate increase is necessary to pay the estimated expenses in that system for FY2015-16. Newton needs to prevent nutrient and other pollutants from entering our water bodies, including Crystal Lake and the Charles River. This is important work, and includes repairing broken drainage lines to prevent future flooding.

The Weston & Sampson report before you identifies a scope of work that is critical to operations now and over the next 20 years but we still need a rational way to share the burden. About half of all impervious surfaces in this City are owned by all of us—our City buildings, our streets, tennis courts, parking lots, etc.   All of us need a working stormwater system.

The jump in residential stormwater fees from $25-$75/year is substantial, but avoiding water pipe repairs, delaying measures to prevent flooding where we can, and mismanaging runoff before it carries pollutants to our water bodies can have much higher ultimate costs to Newton and its residents.

The commercial stormwater rates unfortunately perpetuate an unfair pricing structure that bills all businesses the same (regardless of its contribution to the problem). While this fee increase is needed in the short-term, we urge the city to continue moving with deliberate speed toward a fee system in which the tiers are adjusted according to the amount of impermeable surface on a property. We urge the administration to set the upper tiers of such a system high enough to be fair on a per-square-yard basis, and to create an incentive to implement stormwater mitigation measures that benefit everyone.

We support the proposed rates and we look forward to reviewing new proposals that use impervious surfaces as the basis for stormwater fees by the next fiscal year


So many League things to do this week!

Monday, April 20th:  Join volunteers from the Charter Review Committee to collect signatures along the marathon route at 11 am at the War Memorial, City Hall (weather permitting.)  Please contact info@lwnewton.org to volunteer!

Thursday, April 23rd:  Learn about new ideas for a seemingly intractable problem–parking!  The LWVN forum at the Newton Free Library (Druker Auditorium) will explain some of the cutting-edge ideas used in cities across America to unlock the potential of public, on-street parking by using the marketplace to set pricing (called “dynamic pricing”), ensuring optimal space vacancy rates while returning funds to the business district. This event will begin at 7 p.m., and features Jessica Robertson of the MAPC and Sean Roche, editor of Newton’s Parking Management Plan.  No need to RSVP–just join us!

Sunday, April 26th:  Learn about the issue of voting rights–past and present!  Judge Gordon Martin will talk about his involvement in a voting rights case when he was a lawyer for the U.S. Department of Justice in 1961, and will bring us up-to-date on the state of voting rights today.  This is an LWVN fundraiser with refreshments (champagne and chocolate!) at the All Newton Music School, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.   Tickets are $50 each, and get a special gift if you come in your Newton Serves t-shirt.  RSVP at info@lwvnewton.org or through our website (LWVNewton.org).

Coming up on the LWV calendar:

April 28th:  Day on the Hill lobbying day, starting in the Gardner Auditorium at 10 am, continuing through lunch with our state delegation

May 3rd:  LWVMA’s 95th birthday party with Massachusetts Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack, 2-4 p.m., register at LWVMA.org



Help Collect Charter Signatures on Marathon Monday!

We are close to collecting all the signatures we need, but we still need your help!  The marathon is on Monday, April 20th.  Weather permitting, LWVN volunteers will meet at City Hall at the War Memorial at 11 am and divide into teams.  We need a few more volunteers…please email info@lwvnewton.org if you can help out. 

Working in teams is fun and easy, and a strong effort that day could put us over the tipping point.

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