Hope your New Year is going well so far! Here is the news from Newtonville and beyond.
 
Walnut Street Enhancements Meeting January 30
The City of Newton is embarking on a project to construct roadway, sidewalk and streetscape improvements for Walnut Street in Newtonville’s village center starting in 2018. You are invited to attend a Brainstorm Meeting on Monday, Jan 30th, at 6:30pm at the Senior Center, 345 Walnut St. Visit this page for more details.  
Washington Place Project meeting Thursday, January 26
The Land Use Committee takes up the Washington Place project at 7PM at Newton City Hall. The Committee is expected to vote on both the zoning change request and the special permit request on Tuesday, January 31 at 7PM at City Hall.
AAA Bond Rating
Kudos to Mayor Warren and Newton CFO Maureen Lemieux – Two bond rating agencies have assigned Newton a AAA rating, which means lower interest rates as we issue bonds for upcoming school and fire station projects.  However Newton still has a $1 billion unfunded liability related to pensions and retiree healthcare benefits, and that will be increasingly difficult to fund in coming years. The Moody's Report listed one of the risk factors for a credit downgrading to be “Failure to improve the funding status for long-term liabilities over the medium term.” We are currently setting aside ~$23M to address our pension shortfall, and to fully fund the pension shortfall alone, that would need to grow to over $70M by 2029. As Moody’s put it, “the funding will be a challenge given that it requires a 9.6% annual increase in retirement contributions.” Recall our revenues only increase by slightly more than 2.5% a year, due to Prop 2½. So for this large budget allocation to increase so dramatically year after year, that means other budget pie slices will need to decrease.
Leaf Blower Restrictions Imposed
After two years of discussion and debate the City Council finally voted to limit leaf blower use in the City. All gas blowers must be manufacturer-labeled with a 65 decibel limit or lower, and only electric or battery blowers may be used between Memorial Day and Labor Day. There are also additional restrictions on hours. Here is the Newton Tab coverage.
Sanctuary City Status
As I mentioned last month, I am supporting an effort to have Newton become a sanctuary city. Public comment was heard on this topic last week and suffice to say there are strong emotions on both sides. The item will be taken up again on Wed. Feb. 8 at Newton City Hall, it is in two committees: Programs and Services and Public Safety.  At this time I don’t know if it will be heard in a joint meeting but each Committee meeting starts at 7PM.
Accessory Apartments
The Zoning and Planning Committee voted earlier this week to ease restrictions on the construction of accessory apartments, a change I strongly support. For a homeowner, an accessory apartment can mean additional revenue if rented out, and/or a way to provide housing for a family member. For the renter it can mean affordable housing, thus increasing the supply of affordable housing in Newton. The biggest barrier removed is that in most cases it will no longer be necessary to apply for a special permit in order to construct an accessory apartment. Applying for a special permit can cost thousands of dollars, on top of other costs such as design and construction. For more details click here.
Renewable Energy in Newton
An op-ed by Newton Energy Commission chair Eric Olson and myself ran in last week’s Newton Tab. It describes an opportunity for Newton to implement “green municipal aggregation” which sounds complicated but is really just entering into an electricity contract on behalf of the City, the residents and the businesses. It gives us the option to add more renewable energy to the mix  -- thus greening up our grid. Melrose, Dedham and seven other communities – so far – are taking this route. It is a perfect example of how especially in this political environment, leadership on climate change is coming from cities. This proposal has strong support from Mayor Warren, and I look forward to working with my City Council colleagues to win approval for Newton to move forward.
25 MPH as default speed limit
Thanks to a recent change in state law, Newton was given the authority to make the default speed limit in the City 25 MPH rather than 30 MPH. This was voted out of the Public Safety Committee and will soon be taken up for a full vote by the City Council. (This does not affect streets that have posted signage currently, only areas without signage.)
Office Hours
My next office hours are this Friday, January 27, 9-10AM at the Newton Senior Center, 345 Walnut Street in Newtonville. See you there!

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Contact Emily

Email: emily@emilynorton.org

Phone:  617-795-0362
Cell:  508-397-6839

www.emilynorton.org

Councilor Emily Norton
58 Prescott Street
Newton, Massachusetts 02460

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Contact Emily

Email: emily@emilynorton.org

Phone:  617-795-0362
Cell:  508-397-6839

www.emilynorton.org

Councilor Emily Norton
58 Prescott Street
Newton, Massachusetts 02460

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