Candidate for Ward Councilor, Ward 4
Campaign Website: https://www.rb4newton.com/Biographical statement
Randy Block has lived in Newton since 1990. He was active in the Williams School PTO and taught religious education at his Unitarian church. He chaired the neighborhood Riverside committee in 2018 and helped negotiate the compromise plan that the city council approved unanimously in Oct. 2020.
Questions and Answers
Question 1: Was your motivation to run for office prompted by an issue which impacts the community that is not being adequately addressed?
Many factors went in to my decision to run for office. One factor was my experience listening to residents of Lower Falls and Auburndale and representing their interests in negotiations over Riverside. Many people do not feel listened to. For example, community outreach initiatives repeatedly show that most residents want to limit the size of buildings to three stories. I plan to listen more carefully to my constituents. A second factor was the current divisiveness of Newton’s politics which I hope to help calm down. Third, I am concerned that the village center zoning proposal is far more ambitious and complicated than it needs to be.
Question 2: Housing affordability and its role in increasing racial diversity in Newton has been a stated goal. What measures would you take and support in order to meet this goal?
The need for more affordable housing comes up often in my discussion with Ward 4 residents. When most people refer to “affordable housing” they mean subsidized housing for low income families and individuals. I point to the Armory project which will preserve a historic building and create 43 units for people earning 60% or less than the area median income. This project was made possible because it is a state-city partnership. The state sold the land and building to Newton for $1 provided we used it exclusively for affordable housing. I support this project 100%. We need to create many more projects through state-city partnerships.
Question 3: Small businesses are the heart of our economy and they are struggling. How can you help the city support these businesses?
I have spoken to many small business owners in Ward 4. They are very concerned that the village center zoning proposal will lead to new buildings with more expensive rents than they are currently paying. This will cause them to relocate and probably not return. This is what happened with Newtonville Camera which is currently located in Waltham. We must listen to small business owners and then follow through on what they recommend.
Question 4: Buildings are the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Newton. Residential and commercial buildings need to be weatherized and electrified. Relying on voluntary action produces extremely slow progress. What incentives or mandates would you put in place to motivate home owners to weatherize their houses?
Newton can be proud of the leadership we have shown reducing greenhouse gases in our municipal buildings. We have added solar panels and carports to 18 of our municipal buildings, schools and parking lots, generating nearly half our municipal electricity. Thanks to the Newton Power Choice program, Newton residents and small businesses are powered by more clean energy than any other community in Massachusetts. And soon, our building electrification ordinance will take effect, requiring that all new construction and major renovations will be heated and cooled with electricity rather than fossil fuels e.g. oil or gas boilers.