Newton voters will be asked to decide two citywide races for City Council in a special election March 16, filling two vacant seats through the end of the year.
The 24-member council has had two vacant at-large positions since the death of Ward 1 Councilor-at-large Allan L. “Jay” Ciccone Jr. in November and the departure of Jake Auchincloss, who represented Ward 2 before he was elected as a US representative in November.
Whoever wins in March could play a role in a decisive vote on the future of a mixed-use development at the MBTA’s Riverside station. The council already had approved the project, but developers are seeking to make changes, including replacing a hotel with a life sciences building.
The City Council also is considering replacing the city’s decades-old zoning code with a new ordinance. Debate on the issue has increasingly focused on whether to encourage more multi-family housing in the city.
Newton’s City Council has 16 at-large members elected by citywide vote — two from each of the eight wards. The remaining eight members each represent one of the city’s wards, and are elected solely by ward residents.
Candidates who win on March 16 will serve the remainder of the current City Council term, which runs through the end of 2021. Residents can vote at the polls on election day, by mail, or through in-person absentee ballot at City Hall. Information on voting options is available at newtonma.gov/government/elections.
Candidates will have to be reelected in the November 2021 municipal election in order to serve the upcoming two-year council term, which begins Jan. 1, 2022.
In Ward 1, Ranalli, 20, a Harvard University undergraduate who grew up in Newton, said she is running on urgent issues such as racial justice, climate change, and the economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ranalli said she supports the creation of a municipal housing trust, and the addition of multi-family and affordable housing options as part of the city’s zoning reform.
To broaden opportunities for people to move to Newton, Ranalli said the city should ease a local preference for affordable housing that prioritizes applicants who meet conditions such as already living or working in the city. She also supports increasing housing near transit stops and village centers.
“We’re blessed with a lot of social capital, financial resources, that put us into a really great position to help and lead on these big issues, to set examples,” Ranalli said. “That is a really big opportunity for us to be generous, to share our good fortune.”
Oliver, 52, a business management consultant, said the city must find a way to preserve its strengths while also resolving problems like housing affordability.
Oliver said Newton must broaden its range of housing options, and balance large projects with smaller ones. It should also expand existing measures to create housing, such as the city’s accessory apartment ordinance. The city needs to take a serious look at its comprehensive plan and how future growth will impact city services, he said.
The city should curtail teardowns, which replace homes with more expensive housing, and create a developer-funded housing trust for affordable housing, he said.
“I want to navigate to the Newton that we want, without sacrificing the Newton that we’ve already got,” Oliver said.
In Ward 2, Lucas, 38, a royalty specialist at Harvard University Press, said the city’s zoning efforts should encourage more affordable housing and open space, and discourage teardowns.
He said Newton should expand the number of affordable units required as part of multi-family developments. He also said developers should create more opportunities for home ownership, not just rental housing. He supports making it easier for homeowners to create accessory apartments.
Lucas, who is Black, said he wants to be a role model for other people of color running for political office. He is the only candidate of color on the March ballot.
“I’m just trying to make sure Newton remains affordable and accessible to people of all incomes and backgrounds,” Lucas said. “I want to be the voice for social and racial justice in Newton.”
Barash, 37, the general counsel for Democratic state Senator Harriette Chandler of Worcester, said Newton needs to make it easier for nonprofits to develop affordable housing.
The city must find ways to create housing for a range of households, and find ways to incentivize construction of smaller starter homes and condominiums to promote homeownership in Newton, he said.
Zoning reform must include provisions for affordable housing in village centers and discourage teardowns, he said. He backs a local affordable housing trust.
Barash, who identifies as bisexual and serves as a board member of the Bay State Stonewall Democrats, said the city’s inclusivity efforts must also engage the LGBTQ community, which can be overlooked.
“For me, these aren’t just words on a website,” Barash said. “I have a track record on where I stand, and where I lead.”
Micley, 33, director of sales for a local cryptocurrency startup, said that the city should allow more by-right multi-unit development to help with housing affordability.
The city should work to create a range of housing options for residents at different stages of their lives. These efforts are needed for current residents, and to attract new ones to Newton.
The multi-generational experience was formative as Micley grew up in Newton: As a child, his grandmother lived nearby. And now, while Micley raises his own children in Newton, his parents are still in the city and close to their grandchildren.
“I’m trying to bring that perspective to the conversation,” he said.
John Hilliard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.