Candidate for Councilor at Large, Ward 2
Campaign Website: https://www.jenniferbentley.org/
I am a 20-year resident of Newton, and mother to two daughters in the NPS system. I have volunteered for the past 8 years on both the Peirce and Day PTOs and am on the Newton Historical Commission. My husband and I moved to Newton for the great schools, safe neighborhoods, and tight-knit community.
Questions and Answers
Question 1: Discuss an experience where you made a decision that you now regret.
A few years ago, I took a job that wasn’t the best fit for me for the money. While I had reservations upon accepting the position, it was impossible to resist the lure of a 20% pay increase, especially as we were buying our current house in Newton. I was miserable and stressed out the entire 3 years I worked there, and it all could have been avoided had I made the smart choice. The biggest lesson I learned was to listen to my intuition and, when a situation doesn’t feel right, stand up and make the unpopular choice.
Question 2: Do you support the proposal to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions in Newton by 2050? Why or why not?
I support the initiative to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions in Newton by 2050. But there is only so much we can do as a City; we need to influence surrounding Cities and Towns, as well as the State and Country, to do their part. As a City, we should educate our residents on what small habits they can change today, and help them see what they can do to reach the bigger goals in the future. I don’t want to leave it all up to our children to fix; we need to be part of the change today.
Question 3: What is your opinion of the current development proposals such as the Northland and Riverside projects?
While both projects offer an opportunity to create more affordable housing, they are too big and dense, and should scaled down so that they are more closely aligned with what the neighbors want and City can handle. We should not be developing these areas independently; the City needs to first develop an updated, holistic plan that will deal with the impacts these mega-developments will have on the city in terms of our overcrowded schools, increase in traffic, and inability of our infrastructure to keep up with the demand these developments are going to place on the system.
Question 4: There are a number of expenses that the City needs to grapple with: union contracts still being negotiated, tight school budgets, NewCAL (a new Senior Center), the acquisition of Webster Woods, possible rehabilitation of the Armory, etc. What are your priorities and why?
The City’s first priority should be to settle all of the outstanding union contracts; we need to make sure our contracts are competitive and fair to all City employees. Our next priority should be to pay down our $ 1B unfunded pension and OPEB liability in a more aggressive manner. We should acquire the Armory only if we can purchase it for $1 for affordable housing, with the knowledge that it will take a lot of money to renovate for this purpose. We need to be fiscally responsible so that we do not have to face a Proposition 2 ½ tax override or drastic cuts in spending in the near future.