|Greetings! I hope you get some time off with friends and family this holiday season. There are many needs within our community year-round but particularly at this time of year the needs are great. Here are some ideas of how you can help:
Mayor Warren’s 2nd Annual City Wide Food Drive is underway until December 30. All are invited to help sort and package donated items on December 31st at 10am at Newton City Hall. For details visit here.
The Newton Police are collecting gift wrap for residents of the Second Step shelter. Wrapping paper, bows, tape and scissors can be dropped off at the Police Annex at 25 Chestnut Street in West Newton.
For one more day (until Dec. 15) donations of gift certificates and new, unwrapped gifts for children ages newborn to 10 (toys, books, CDs, DVDs, clothing, games and sporting goods) can be dropped off at Village Bank Newton branches in Auburndale, Newtonville, Nonantum, Newton Highlands, Waban and West Newton for the Village Bank & Newton Department of Health and Human Services annual Holiday Gift Drive, to help brighten the holidays for deserving Newton children.
Second Water Meters
I reported in my October update that the Board would be voting soon on whether to allow residents to install second water meters for lawn irrigation, swimming pools, and other uses that do not use the sewer system. This proposal has passed two committees and will be voted on by the Full Board on Monday, Dec. 15th. More details here.
Medical Marijuana Dispensary ATM
When the Board of Aldermen voted to approve a special permit for Garden Remedies to site a medical marijuana dispensary in Newtonville, there was concern raised about it being a cash-only business; due to marijuana still being illegal at the federal level, patients may not purchase even the medical variety with a check or credit card. At that time Garden Remedies believed the State Dept. of Public Health (DPH) would not allow them to install an ATM on site. I put in some calls and emails to DPH and am pleased to report that DPH has granted Garden Remedies permission to install an ATM on the premises and that Garden Remedies has received approval from their bank to do so. I believe this will greatly minimize the risk of harm to patients and neighbors alike, as patients will no longer have to carry cash on their persons in order to purchase this medical product.
You may recall a couple months back I proposed updating the title of "Alderman" to allow female members of the Board to be addressed as “Alderwomen,” thereby ending the practice of addressing women as men. (Women were granted the right to vote in 1920, and the first woman alderman was elected in 1953, so arguably this change is long overdue.)
In speaking with my colleagues and constituents it became apparent there was even more support for eliminating all reference to gender. So I amended the proposal to change our title to “city councilor” rather than aldermen. Newton had a “Common Council” from 1874-1897 and so the title “City Councilor” carries some historical precedence; see this link for a fascinating history of our city’s governance structure.
The proposal to change from “Aldermen” to “City Councilor” passed the Programs & Services Committee 6-1, and heads to the full Board for a vote on January 5. This would entail a change to the city charter, so if it passes the Board it goes to the Mayor for his signature, and then to the State Legislature for their approval. I am pleased to report that this change has the support of State Reps. Kay Khan and Ruth Balser, as well as State Treasurer Steve Grossman. It was also endorsed by the Newton Democratic City Committee.
Ward 2 resident and former Myrtle Baptist pastor Rev. Howard Haywood sent an email on Thurs. December 4, asking people to join him on “a silent protest march over the lack of indictments for the killing of black boys and men.” Three days later over five hundred people of all ages and races walked in silence in the bitter cold from Myrtle Baptist Church to the First Unitarian Society in West Newton to express solidarity with those sentiments. I was there with my sons, and I was proud to hear that Newton Police Chief Howard Mintz was also there, because expressing outrage over the killings of unarmed Americans by police is not anti-police; it’s pro-justice. This was also a topic of discussion on Ken Parker’s NewTV show Common Ground on which I appeared last Thursday (it will replay throughout the month). I have heard many difficult stories in recent days confirming what is old news to African-Americans – that our criminal justice system is anything but race-blind. That needs to change, and the change cannot happen soon enough.
Usually my office hours are the last Friday of the month, but since that falls during a holiday week this month, I am holding them a week early, this coming Friday Dec. 19, 9-10am at the Senior Center, 345 Walnut Street in Newtonville. Hope to see you there!
I wish you a joyful holiday season and a very Happy New Year.