LWVN Newsletter, Vol 26 Issue 3
Table of Contents
- President’s letter
- What’s Happening on the Board…
- Voter Service/Elections
- Citizen Education – The League Presents
- Citizen Education – Topic Meetings
- CONGRATULATIONS, BONNIE!!!!
- Zoning Redesign
- Mayoral Commendation for David Olson and the Newton Election Staff
Dear LWVN Members,
Here I sit on a dreary rainy day in January and think it is hard to believe that almost one year ago, we began on the pandemic journey. I do not think that any of us expected, at this point in time in 2020, to still be on this insufferable and sometimes chaotic journey in 2021. But here we are, and I have to say my work with the LWVN Board of Directors has really kept me going. I hope that you have enjoyed the events and the information on our website and Facebook page that we enjoy bringing to you.
Voter Service directly serves the major aim of the League of Women Voters to promote political responsibility through informed and active participation in government. We provided information on How to Vote by Mail, Planning Your Vote, and Emergency Absentee Ballots. During the sometimes-contentious vote counting process, we took a very public position that every eligible voter should have their voice heard and their vote counted. When we take the time to count and verify every ballot, it is a sign that our democracy is working. Democracy is worth waiting for!
After the November general election, we partnered with other Leagues from Congressional District 4 to have a virtual meet and greet with Congressman-elect Jake Auchincloss. We hope to continue our dialogue with Jake by offering additional opportunities to meet with Congressman Auchincloss to express our issues and priorities and to hear his.
As part of our ongoing advocacy for affordable housing and the environment, we joined….
The Newton Free Library and Families Organizing for Racial Justice (FORJ) presented a virtual session with Richard Rothstein, author of The Color of Law, A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America. This session is part of our ongoing effort to explore issues of racial inequality and racial justice. More information about this session can be found below under our topic meetings update.
We joined with other civic organizations to sign on to Transitisessential.org, which is urging the MBTA to make the following commitments:
- Make no permanent or long-term decisions regarding service, especially potential cuts, before the legislature concludes its current session.
- Advance affordability for all transit riders.
- Ensure critical transformative capital investments, climate justice, and air quality improvements move forward in 2020 and 2021.
- Sustainably fund transit in the short-term and long-term.
Lastly, but no less importantly:
- In November, following the leads of LWVUS and LWVMA, the LWVN Board updated and adopted a new Diversity Policy.
- On December 13, 2020, the LWV of Massachusetts celebrated its 100th birthday with a gala attended by over 250 people. At that celebration, LWVMA honored the “formidable women” from local leagues. LWVN’s very own Bonnie Carter was recognized as one such “formidable woman” for her over 50 years of work with the League.
- On a special note, I want to highlight the letter from LWVUS Board President Deborah Ann Turner on impeachment and removal of President Trump.
What to look forward to …
- Scholarship applications (see our update on the scholarship program below) due March 1st
- An incredibly special and interesting Topic Meeting on March 9: Representing the 4th: A Conversation with Barney Frank, Joe Kennedy III, and Jake Auchincloss.
- Candidate forums for the Ward 1 and Ward 2 Councilor at-Large positions, and special election voter information
- A special League Presents with retiring City Clerk, David Olson
LWVN Scholarship Program
by the Scholarship Committee Team: Nikki Dawes, Theresa Fitzpatrick, Ellen Grody, Andrea Kozinetz, and Josephine McNeil
The Scholarship Committee is very excited to announce the launch of the inaugural LWVN scholarship program. The LWVN will be awarding two scholarships of $1000 to graduating seniors who have plans to continue their education after graduation (college, vocational education, etc.). Criteria, being considered, are as follows:
- The student lives in/goes to school in Newton. This would include public and private school students, METCO students, and students who are home-schooled
- In his/her life and school work, holds core values that are in alignment with those of the League
- The student has been actively involved in Newton’s civic life.
The application process opened on January 1, 2021. The timeline, as currently planned is:
- Applications are due on March 1, 2021
- During March and April, evaluation teams will review applications and make a final decision
- Awards will be made on May 1, 2021.
The program is being publicized through the high schools, PTO Council, NTA, and other recommended community groups.
LWVN Board Policies
by the Policy Committee Team: Frieda Dweck, Judy Jaffe, Marcia Johnson, and Andrea Kozinetz
A Non-Partisan Policy was previously approved by the Board at its September 9, 2020 board meeting.
The development and adoption of these policies follows the work that the LWVN completed last year with the revision to its bylaws. In the course of discussing the bylaws, it was determined that certain operational policies that did not belong in the bylaws nevertheless needed to be flushed out and deliberated, so that the Board had a clear set of standards with which to guide certain of its actions and decisions.
A policy subcommittee was established to review any existing policies of the LWVN and to discuss any additional policies we believed should be adopted. Over the course of approximately three months, the subcommittee reviewed existing policies of the LWVN, policies adopted by the LWVUS and LWVMA, and asked for input from other Massachusetts leagues. The subcommittee is especially grateful to the Amherst LWV and the Needham LWV for sharing their thoughts and work on policies used by them.
The subcommittee presented its recommendations to the Board at a special meeting of the Board held on October 29, 2020, and followed up with a subsequent discussion at its regular meeting on November 11. A robust discussion was held on each of the proposed policies, and suggestions of the board members were incorporated into the text of the policies, as needed.
The Board unanimously adopted the policies listed at its November 11 board meeting.
The Board is committed to periodically evaluating its policies to ensure that it is acting in the best interests of its members and is adhering to the standards set forth by the national LWV.
The LWVN has had a long history of having Observers of Newton City Government. We are always in need of observers for all aspects of the City’s activities. Please contact us if you are interested in becoming a part of our Observer Corps
Currently, we have regular Observers at Newton’s Community Preservation Committee (CPC). This year our CPC committee is being led by Linda Morrison, and includes members Judy Jaffe, Jack Lovett, and alternate member Marcia Johnson. Though we continue to observe the CPC meetings, we have taken no positions during this period. As the City Council begins its deliberations on the establishment of a Housing Trust Fund, there will be much for the League to learn and consider during 2021.
We sent a letter to State Representative John Lawn, Chair of the Joint Committee on Election Laws, in support of Governor Baker’s request (House Bill H511), on the City’s behalf, to allow Newton to use mail-in and early in-person voting for Newton’s upcoming special election on March 16, 2021 to fill the empty seats for Wards 1 and 2 City Councilors-at-Large.
by the Voters Service Team: Jen Abbott, Bonnie Carter, Theresa Fitzpatrick, Marcia Johnson, Karen Manning, and Sharyn Roberts
We have reason to celebrate this past November 3, 2020’s election with the following stats:
- 50,571 Newton voters cast ballots representing 80% of Newton’s registered voters, which is a 10% increase from 2016;
- of those 50,000 approximately 35,000 were vote-by-mail and 10,000 ballots were cast by early in-person voting at the library, and the rest of the ballots were cast in-person on Election Day;
- despite the large number of ballots cast with the majority being vote-by-mail, Newton was able to report results in a timely way.
Newton successfully managed three major voting streams: early voting, vote-by-mail and in-person voting. All this happened in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. This could not have happened without the many dedicated Newton poll workers who labored tirelessly in the months leading up to November 3rd. We thank Newton’s poll workers for their professionalism and dedication and stepping up to help when they were most needed.
Since we could not thank the poll workers in person at our usual thank you supper at City Hall, we partnered with City Counselors Alicia Bowman, Deb Crossley, Andreae Downs, Andrea Kelley, and Alison Leary and created a Letter of Commendation for Newton Poll Workers, which was read out loud at a full session of the Newton City Council on Monday, December 7, 2020, with the blessing of City Council President Susan Albright.
We also partnered with Mayor Ruthanne Fuller’s office assisting in creating a proclamation from the Mayor’s Office thanking David Olson, our City Clerk, and his election staff for their outstanding work in overcoming all kinds of obstacles to give us a fair and free election. This was presented to David by the Mayor and read out to his whole staff on Wednesday, December 16, 2020. This date was important to the League because we wanted it to be close to the time when the Electoral College would certify the national vote on December 14th.
A big thank you to the LWVN Marketing Committee of Jen Abbott, Frieda Dweck, Theresa Fitzpatrick, and Karen Manning who have created a second LWV mask fundraiser before the Special Election on Tuesday, March 16, 2021. The design of this mask really “pops” and was the hands-down favorite from the other options created. Purchase your mask now! The ordering deadline is Friday, February 19th.
And speaking of the Special Election on March 16th, Newton must hold this election to fill two Councilor-at-Large vacancies; from Ward 1, left open by the sudden death of Allan (Jay) Ciccone, Jr; and from Ward 2 with the resignation of Jake Auchincloss, who is now our Congressman from District Four. The League is working with NewTV to present two candidates forums, held remotely, that will be recorded and broadcast frequently on the NewTV Government Channel until March 16th. We are confirming candidate forum dates as this newsletter “goes to press.”
Our President, Marcia Johnson, sent a letter to Representative John Lawn, in his capacity as the Chairman of the Joint Committee on Election Laws, to support House Bill H5111 that would extend the mail-in and early in-person voting for our Special Election. This would ensure that Newton voters would feel safe voting in this upcoming election and possibly increase our voter turnout.
We have been asked by several of our city councilors to endorse City Council docket item #494-20 which requests a Home Rule petition providing legal voting rights in municipal elections to 16 and 17 year old residents under the EMPOWER Bill HD1132/SD1949. Our Board is discussing whether to support this action.
Despite COVID-19 restrictions, we have been able to work with LWVN member, Maureen Reilly Meagher, and New TV to produce five League Presents shows on topics important to Newton residents:
- Vote 16 Newton, a discussion with Newton North High School junior Olivia Pozen and Newton North High School senior Coral Lin, co-chairs of Vote16 Newton, a non-partisan, student run campaign dedicated to lowering the voting age in Newton to 16 years.
- Fun and Entertainment During the Pandemic, with Newton’s “Instigator of Fun”, Jerry Reilly
- Voting in Newton During the Pandemic – a conversation with David Olson, Newton’s City Clerk
- A Conversation with City Council President, Susan Albright
- Ranked Choice Voting, with Susan Millinger, LWVMA Board Member
We also continue to provide information interesting to our members on our website and Facebook.
Despite the difficulties of our current pandemic lives, the LWVN has continued to provide exciting, albeit virtual, topic meetings for our members. We have held 4 topic meetings to date, with two more exciting topic meetings coming up:
|February 22 at 7:00pm||March 9 at 7:00pm|
We hope to see you there!
Here is a brief description of the topic meetings we have held so far, and where to get more information on those topics.
Voting is Voice: Women’s Suffrage and Beyond
October 20, 2020 (Tuesday, 7:00-8:30pm). Together with Project Citizenship, The Philanthropy Connection, The Wellesley Centers for Women, and League of Women Voters of Massachusetts (LWVMA), LWVN co-sponsored this virtual forum. A panel of accomplished women reflected on why elections, voting and civic engagement matter so much, considering both the success and shortcomings of the suffrage movement; the empowerment of new voters today; and what future work remains to ensure all citizens can and do exercise their voting rights.
The Color of Law, A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America
November 17, 2020 (Tuesday, 6:30-8:00pm). LWVN joined with the Newton Free Library and Families Organizing for Racial Justice (FORJ) for a presentation by author Richard Rothstein who argued with exacting precision and fascinating insight how segregation in America is the byproduct of explicit government policies at the local, state and federal levels, and offered several concrete suggestions for how to address the housing and economic inequities caused by these policies.
Attendees also heard a conversation between library director, Ellen Meyers, and community activist, Richard Evans, who told his family’s story of encountering discrimination in the 1960’s during the state’s eminent domain taking of land for the construction of the Mass Pike bypass through Newton.
To wrap up the session, Newton City Councilor Deb Crossley introduced attendees to the efforts being made by the City Council to address housing inequities in Newton by engaging in a comprehensive review of Newton’s zoning codes.
View the recording of the session.
Newton’s Zoning Reform
November 19, 2020 (Thursday, 7:30-9:00pm). Newton resident and experienced local architect, Jay Walter, delivered an informed and comprehensive presentation on how the City Council is proposing to change Newton’s Zoning Ordinance, how those changes differ from current zoning, and what effect those changes will have on our community.
View the recording of the presentation.
Community Book Group Discussion of the book Factfulness
January 10, 2021 (Sunday, 3:00-4:30pm). An intimate group of LWVN members and members of the community participated in an interesting and lively discussion of the book Factfulness. Factfulness explains how our worldview has been distorted with the rise of new media, how ten common human instincts can prevent us from seeing the world factfully, and how we can learn to overcome these innate biases to help separate fact from fiction when forming our opinions and to see the world more positively.
If you are interested in the topic, here are some additional resources to explore.
Welcome, new members!
We welcome new members to the LWV!
- Kara Brewton
- Nora Lester Murad
On December 13, 2020, the LWV of Massachusetts celebrated its 100th birthday with a birthday gala attended by over 250 people.
At that celebration, LWVMA honored the “formidable women” from local leagues. LWVN’s very own Bonnie Carter was recognized as one such “formidable woman” for her over 50 years of work with the League.
We are so proud of you, Bonnie!!
by Linda Morrison and Marcia Johnson
As part of its 2020-2021 program planning, LWVN members identified Newton’s Zoning Redesign project as a critical issue for us to follow. Zoning ordinance (laws) govern the size and shape of buildings, additions and renovations, and the types of activities that can take place in which buildings. The City of Newton has been engaged in the redesign/reform of the Zoning Ordinances for several years, and that process has been escalating more recently.
The League has not taken a position on any of the changes being discussed by the City Council. However, the primary goals of the redesign project – creating a zoning code that is more responsive to a demand for housing that serves a range of incomes, promoting environmentally sustainable development patterns, and preserving and protecting community and neighborhoods – are considered important enough by the LWVN to provide educational opportunities for our members and the community at large.
Zoning redesign/reform is an ongoing effort going back to the early 2010s and has had multiple phases.
- Phase I – was the establishment of the Zoning Reform Group (ZRG) which produced its final report in 2012. This phase also included the re-draft of Chapter 30 Zoning Ordinances to make the document easier to read and comprehend.
- Phase II – involves the effort to comprehensively rewrite the Zoning Ordinance and revise the Zoning Map to address the themes within the ZRG report and to better implement the Comprehensive Plan. To stay in touch with the work being done, you can use this community engagement link.
- Phase III – will require the review the new Zoning Ordinance after one year to consider how well it has worked and make coordinated adjustments leading to an ongoing process of regularly scheduled zoning maintenance.
To learn the basics about the city’s zoning redesign project, we suggest you review the following materials available on the LWVN website:
- Read our issue statement on Newton’s Zoning Redesign project
- Watch The League Presents, a conversation with City Council Deb Crossley, on the Zoning Redesign Project
- Watch Newton resident and experienced architect, Jay Walter, presenting a Newton Zoning Redesign Primer at our November topic meeting and read the Questions & Answers resulting from that presentation.
City of Newton Election Staff
In recognition of and with deep gratitude for Newton City Clerk David Olson and the City of Newton Election Staff for your innovative, tireless and effective efforts in creating and implementing new processes in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic for accessible, safe and secure voting during the September 2020 State Primary election and the November 2020 General Election.
All of you reinvented the way our elections were held with your associated workload increasing dramatically. On Election Day in November 2016, 63% of Newton voters voted in person. Fast forward to four years later in November 2020, 66% of Newton voted by mail. An additional 20% voted early and 14% voted on Election Day. A staggering 33, 571 voters chose to utilize mail-in ballots, some to stay healthy and others with a keen eye on ballot security and ensuring their vote would be counted.
The Newton City Clerk and Election staff spent thousands of hours fulfilling the requests for mail-in ballots, answered countless questions about the process by phone and in person, assured ballot security, reassured voters, and tracked down potentially missing ballots. David Olson and Newton’s Election staff were calm and responsive, even when voter temperatures ran high.
Moreover, with COVID-19 exposure concerns impacting every human interaction, David Olson and the Election staff ensured the health and safety of City staff, workers and voters at the polls with vigilant physical distancing, mask wearing, barriers and other mitigating protocols.
For their grit, creativity and excellence in preserving the American ideal of one person, one vote and for providing safe, secure access to all Newton voters, it is only fitting and proper that I, Mayor Ruthanne Fuller, on behalf of the residents of Newton, express my deep gratitude to and respect for City Clerk David Olson and the Election staff of the City of Newton for their dedication and professionalism in providing fair and free elections.
December 15, 2020