Talking Points

Talking Points

Newton vote to change charter could reshape city

A charter change that goes before voters next week would cut the number of city councilors in half.
Leslie Anderson for the Boston Globe
A charter change that goes before voters next week would cut the number of city councilors in half.

Charter changes can be sleepy affairs in most communities. Not in Newton, where a charter question has become the source of spirited debate.

At 24 members, there’s widespread agreement that the city council is too large. The charter change that goes before voters next week would cut that number in half. Supporters say the existing council is too unwieldy, with meetings that can run past midnight.

But there’s a twist that worries opponents: All 12 councilors, including one from each of the city’s eight wards and four at-large candidates, would need to run city-wide races. (Currently, eight of the 24 run in ward-only races.)

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Significant developments typically need the support of at least two-thirds of the council, so this question could have major ramifications for land-use decisions. Projects could be easier to steer through a smaller council, particularly one without councilors who rely solely on their neighborhoods to get reelected.

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Donations to the pro-change campaign, which became public on Monday, include a number of real estate types. Robert Korff, who is trying to redesign a key stretch of Washington Street, gave $1,000. Scott Oran, a developer behind a Newtonville apartment project, contributed $500. The biggest donation, though, came from the private equity world: Dan Fireman of Fireman Capital Partners gave $10,000, or nearly one-sixth of the total collected through Oct. 20.

Yes, there’s a mayor’s race this fall, too. Scott Lennon and Ruthanne Fuller — both charter change supporters, by the way — are competing to replace Setti Warren.

But it’s the charter question that could have a much bigger impact on the Garden City’s future.

Jon Chesto can be reached at jon.chesto@globe.com and on Twitter @jonchesto.