West

Newton voters sound off about their city

Residents offer their views on the mayoral race and a charter proposal to restructure the City Council

photos by John Hilliard for the Boston Globe
“I’m really most concerned about making Newton a bike and pedestrian-friendly city” said Eli Beckerman of Newton Centre.
Debbie Knapp of Newtonville

Debbie Knapp, 65, small business owner

Village: Newtonville

Pick for mayor: Undecided

Issue that concerns you the most: Charter proposal. “I am really not happy to lose my local representation… I only wish I could help people understand what the impact will be.”

Advertisement

One problem you want the next mayor to fix? Roadways. “Making them more walkable and more bikable. There’s a huge opportunity in the villages to make them be more people-centered.”

LaVergne Randolph of Thompsonville

LaVergne Randolph, 67, works in affordable housing development

Get Today's Headlines in your inbox:
The day's top stories delivered every morning
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

Village: Thompsonville

Pick for mayor: Undecided

Issue that concerns you the most: Housing affordability. “I’m more concerned that the community doesn’t accept more affordable housing. In the mayor’s race, both candidates have said they are in favor of more affordable housing, but that’s going to mean an increase in density since land cost is one of the biggest costs in developing housing. But there’s a cohort that’s really against that, and it allows the 40B developers to come in and build monstrous places that nobody really wants. [The city and residents should cooperate] to come up with better solutions… I think it will be done because we can’t be so insular in this community that we feel we can’t have a diversity of incomes.”

One problem you want the next mayor to fix? “Fix the streets. The streets ruin your car, because so many of the streets haven’t been fixed.”

Beverly Droz of Auburndale

Beverly Droz, 69, nonprofit executive director

Advertisement

Village: Auburndale

Pick for mayor: Undecided

Issue that concerns you the most: Environment. “We’re looking at little specific things, like keeping Webster Woods, the only forest in Newton, and not letting Boston College develop it, more recycling... there is so much facing us for the future generations, that we want Newton to be an environmental leader across the state.”

One problem you want the next mayor to fix: “I think I’d like to see businesses recycle… when you walk into businesses, like a liquor store, and you see all the cartons go into the trash, and here at home, you’re working hard [to recycle], it’s one issue, but if you take it citywide, it can have a big impact. Get them as involved as the homeowners are.”

Eli Beckerman of Newton Centre

Eli Beckerman, 40, communications

Village: Newton Centre

Advertisement

Pick for mayor: Undecided

Issue that concerns you the most: “I’m really most concerned about making Newton a bike and pedestrian-friendly city, and stepping up to the plate when it comes to climate change… Newton could be leading the way, and we’re not. Everything here is geared toward convenience and driving around in cars, and it’s not safe. We have the resources here to do a lot better. And frankly, none of the mayoral candidates have inspired me. I’m not enthusiastic about the race.”

One problem you want the next mayor to fix? Roadways. “There’s an organization based in Cambridge called the LivableStreets Alliance, and it’s [about] designing our cities as if people lived in them and making things work at the human level. There’s a lot of good stuff in Newton that works at that level, but it seems to be going the other direction from that, and it’s a shame.”

Geoff Wong of West Newton

Geoff Wong, 42, clinical researcher

Village: West Newton

Pick for mayor: Undecided

Issue that concerns you the most: Housing affordability: “They have been pouring most of the tax money into the school system, and that’s what we don’t need. There are a lot of older folks who can’t afford to live here anymore, and a lot of people are moving out.”

One problem you want the next mayor to fix? Roads. “They’re just terrible. Other surrounding towns, they do a much better job... roads are the number one thing.”

Tom Stair of Newton Highlands

Tom Stair, 67, retired

Village: Newton Highlands

Pick for mayor: Ruthanne Fuller

Issue that concerns you the most: “There is one big, special issue right now, which is the new charter. We’ve gone through a process over a year, with the Charter Commission deciding what it is, they’ve been reporting back to everyone. And what makes it exciting is at the last minute, there’s a new proposal on the table that’s confusing everyone.”

One problem that you think should be fixed? “I just want to go with the recommendations of the Charter Commission... and get it decided Nov. 7.”

Kate Idlebrook of Upper Falls

Kate Idlebrook, 38, teacher

Village: Newton Upper Falls

Pick for mayor: Undecided

Issue that concerns you the most: Diversity. “We, like so many people, are concerned about our neighborhood being warm and welcoming to diverse communities.”

One problem you want the next mayor to fix? “I would like to see our mayor continue to fight for this to be an inclusive community for everyone.”

Angelo Paolini of Nonantum

Angelo Paolini, 85, construction

Village: Nonantum

Pick for mayor: Scott Lennon

Issue that concerns you the most: Infrastructure. “All your drinking water, all your roads, your sidewalks — the entire city is a disaster. I’m in construction... I do this for a living, and there is no other city as horrible as the city of Newton right now.”

One problem you want the next mayor to fix: Spending. “I think we are top-heavy with help… every time they have an extra dollar, they create a job for that money. That’s wrong.”

David Marcus of Newton Corner

David Marcus, 68, venture capital

Village: Newton Corner

Pick for mayor: Ruthanne Fuller

Issue that concerns you the most: Schools. “I think they’re doing well, the schools are well cared for. But I want to make sure that remains a top priority.”

One problem you want the next mayor to fix: “I think we could take a run at trying to get Newton Centre more up to the 21st century… you have a parking lot here that could be a better-utilized space. I think we should be thinking about more retail that would bring in more tax dollars, more revenue.”

Mark Shuster of Oak Hill

Mark Shuster, 60, marketing consultant

Village: Oak Hill

Pick for mayor: Undecided

Issue that concerns you the most: Governance. “The city just runs very well. The services are quite good… for our taxpayer dollar, we get quite a good value.”

One problem you want the next mayor to fix? “Roads, infrastructure, potholes… are things I’d like to see improved.”

Timothy Springer of Chestnut Hill

Timothy Springer, 69, professor

Village: Chestnut Hill

Pick for mayor: Ruthanne Fuller

Issue that concerns you the most: “I think that side of town [near the Massachusetts Turnpike] needs more development...This part of Newton is really well developed. Maybe somebody on the other side of the Turnpike in Newton could focus on development in that area.”

One problem that should be fixed: The city’s charter. “I’ve seen the danger of people just representing their own wards… I think we do need to focus more on Newton as a whole, rather than our own little neighborhoods.”

Leonard Sherman of Waban

Leonard Sherman, 76, retired

Village: Waban

Pick for mayor: Undecided

Issue that concerns you the most: Development. “Mostly some of the issues we’ve seen — the fire house [proposal] to become a homeless center, the overdevelopment of the Peck house, where they wanted to put a massive structure... I’m not anti-development really, I just want it to fit in the neighborhood.”

One problem you want the next mayor to fix: Finances. “Keep the taxes down, start building schools. That’s really it. Fiscal integrity is very important and very needed.”

Kevin Collins of Newton Lower Falls

Kevin Collins, 59, painting and carpentry

Village: Newton Lower Falls

Pick for mayor: Undecided

Issue that concerns you the most: “You don’t know your neighbors now... The neighborhood has changed quite a bit. Before, you came here to raise a family. Now people don’t stay. You come in, fix [a home] up, and get out.”

One problem you want the next mayor to fix: Roads. “Do you want to go on roads with patches? And potholes? These were good roads.”

Christine Young of Auburndale

Christine Young, 65, genealogist

Village: Auburndale

Pick for mayor: Scott Lennon

Issue that concerns you the most: Charter proposal. “If this passes, this will be the last time that any ward votes for its own councilor… you can end up with five councilors from one ward… Each ward needs to have its own input, and not have it determined by the rest of the city.”

One problem you want the next mayor to fix? Senior center. “The facility itself diminishes the [senior service] program… I think most seniors want to feel part of the senior community while there.”

Jack Agnew of Newtonville

Jack Agnew, 82, retired

Village: Newtonville

Pick for mayor: Undecided

Issue that concerns you the most: Affordable housing, particularly projects for Washington Place and Austin Street. “There are some NIMBY people fighting [them]. And I’m not saying the proposals are perfect, but I think they should go forward.”

One problem you want the next mayor to fix? “We’re on the cusp of becoming an elitist town. Not in people’s attitudes, but in the cost of houses here… if we want to keep ourselves a diversified community, we need affordable housing.”

Heidi Vernon of Newton Centre

Heidi Vernon, 79, retired professor

Village: Newton Centre

Pick for mayor: Ruthanne Fuller

Issue that concerns you the most: “The mayoral election is all tied up with the reduction of the council, and both candidates are for the reduction of the council… the more I read about it, the more I talked to people, the more I was concerned that the reduction was going to reduce the amount of individual ward responsiveness.”

One problem you want the next mayor to fix? Senior housing. “I bought my house in 1969, and raised my children in it. For what I could sell it for now, I could move into a very nice condo. And there is no where I could stay in my own neighborhood. There is nowhere in Newton Centre I could move into a comparable space… How do you deal with an aging population, and where do they go?”

Peter Kastner of Auburndale

Peter Kastner, 72, reproduces antique maps

Village: Auburndale

Pick for mayor: Undecided

Issue that concerns you the most: Design of new development. “The main issue for me is quality of design… It’s not just a question of building development. What goes up should be attractive.”

One problem you want the next mayor to fix? “Senior services in this city are terrible. If you go into the senior center, the programs are nice, the staff is very good, but the physical facility is terrible… it’s really an insult to people who have to use it.”

Mary Dexter of Newton Centre

Mary Dexter, 69, retired from financial services

Village: Newton Centre

Pick for mayor: Undecided

Issue that concerns you the most: “I think they need to work on the roads a little. And I know that’s a priority for both [candidates]. But priorities during the campaign sometimes don’t match what you actually see after they’re in. So let’s hope.”

One problem you want the next mayor to fix? “Taxes are pretty high, so work on that. Although I don’t think that seems to be the trend, but lower taxes would be good.”

Matthew Fransen

Matthew Fransen, 27, manager of Terry O’Reilly’s Irish Pub

Village: Newton Centre

Pick for mayor: Ruthanne Fuller

Issue that concerns you the most: Maintaining Newton Centre. “I like that I can come around here, there’s corner stores, there’s bars, there’s Walgreen’s, there are a bunch of restaurants. Newton Centre especially is very nice for being eclectic in [meeting] needs for people.”

One problem you want the next mayor to fix? “Honestly, no. I think Setti [Warren, the current mayor] did a really good job.”

Ruth Haivanis of West Newton

Ruth Haivanis, 65, retired

Village: West Newton

Pick for mayor: Undecided

Issue that concerns you the most: Infrastructure. “Improving the roads in this city. They’re atrocious.”

What is one problem you want the next mayor to fix? “The roads. Really, it’s horrendous.”

John Hilliard can be reached at john.hilliard@globe.com.