It has come to my attention that a reporter has reached out to City Councilors for information and, more specifically, to inquire whether you support or oppose the Riverside and Northland development projects.
While you may share biographical information about yourselves, I caution against responding to questions seeking your opinion on the Riverside and Northland projects as they are the subject of special permits pending before you for approval.
As you all know, City Councilors serve broadly in a legislative/political role but also act in a quasi-judicial manner when deciding special permit/site plan approval petitions. When acting as the special permit granting authority and reviewing proposed projects, the City Council is acting in a judicial role and not voting on behalf of their constituents. The quasi-judicial process must be conducted in a manner which is fundamentally fair to all parties involved and the resulting decisions must be based upon evidence presented during the public process and not on political opinion. Councilors should avoid prejudging a potential petition prior to the conclusion of the Council’s review. Councilors should also not commit themselves to vote one way or another on any land use petition until all interested parties have had an opportunity to present information about the petition to the Council. Moreover, Councilors should only share and exchange comments during public hearings and meetings so as to preserve the fairness of the process.
For these reasons, it would be inappropriate for you to express your political position on development projects which are currently before the Council, such as Riverside and Northland.
I can appreciate the complexity in managing both your legislative and quasi-judicial roles, but it is important to keep those functions separate as much as possible to uphold the integrity of the process and the important roles of the Council.
Thank you and please feel free to contact me if you have questions.
Alissa Ocasio Giuliani
City Solicitor, Law Department
City of Newton, MA
1000 Commonwealth Avenue
Newton, MA 02459