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Healey's warning to Newton (and other communities)

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Healey's warning to Newton (and other communities)

Watertown just released the schedule for the big Nov. 28-30 design charrette, when residents, future residents, business owners and anyone else who works, shops, dines or travels though Watertown is invited to provide input into the future of Watertown Square.

Also: Today is the last day to participate in a fun, interactive survey where you can share ideas, hopes, likes and dislikes about Watertown Square.

´╗┐Really, give it a go.

Seven Newton councilors go low when the stakes get high 

I’ve been watching Newton City Council meetings for years. Decades actually.
But there was a moment at Wednesday's meeting that sunk lower than any I recall.
That’s when seven city councilors (Oliver, Gentile, Lucas, Malakie, Markiewicz, Wright and Baker) tried to prevent the city’s law and planning departments from answering questions about the city’s hotly-controversial, but also highly-technical, proposal to comply with the MBTA Communities Upzoning Law.
As I've said before, good people can disagree about the upzoning plan itself.

But voting to exclude the subject matter experts who could explain the complexity of the law; explain the current and proposed zoning; explain the implications of the many amendments that had been filed (in most cases by the same gang of seven), was unfathomable.
Not only that, without staff, there would be no one to run the laptop to show the public, or their fellow councilors, the lots and maps that have been the focus of so much consternation and scheduled amendments.

Where exactly do these seven city councilors think they work, the U.S. Congress?

For about 20 uncomfortable minutes, the Newton Beacon explains, it looked like the obstructionists had prevailed because it was believed the motion to let staff "inside the rail" required a 2/3rds majority to pass.
“I am terribly sorry staff,” a stunned Council President Susan Albright said to the city employees as they left the council chambers.
Ultimately the city clerk ruled that, after consulting the city charter, the motion actually only required a simple majority, so the staff were allowed to do their job.
Good thing too since many, many, questions followed over the next three-and-a-half hours. And that laptop got a good workout.

The ongoing deliberations resume on Monday.

The Healey Administration sends warning to Newton 

On the same day that the full city council began debating zoning, the Healey-Driscoll Administration delivered a warning to Newton.

Failure to abide by the MBTA Communities Law could lead to the loss of millions in state grants, Housing Secretary Ed Augustus reminded Mayor Ruthanne Filler in a letter.

Augustus added that communities that allowed for housing beyond what's required under the law would receive preference when the administration chooses where to make "transportation investments."

Augustus' warning, of course, applies to any community developing its upzoning plan and competing for state funding. (Some communities, including BrooklineArlington, and Lexington, have gone further than required. Others like Braintree) remain a mystery.

But it's especially relevant in Newton which has spent decades seeking funds to rebuild its three woefully inadequate commuter rail stations in Newtonville, West Newton, and Auburndale.

But while Newtonville and West Newton are part of the city's MBTA-compliant zoning plan, Auburndale is one of the villages some councilors want to remove from the plan.

Meanwhile, the three-station project has never been closer. The MBTA is investing millions to design three new, fully accessible, two-sided stations. And Fuller, the State House delegation, and Congressman Jake Auchincloss are collaborating to secure an estimated $200 million in state and federal dollars to fund construction.

Auchincloss told councilors in a letter that “more housing could help” generate the needed federal funds.

Reps. Kay Khan, and John Lawn and Mayor Ruthanne Fuller made the same plea.

“If Auburndale is not included in our updated zoning, we will run a high risk of not getting the funding support we need from the Healey-Driscoll Administration to rebuild the stations,” wrote Fuller.

What happens next

The good news that in a nonbinding, straw vote on Wednesday, 18 of 24 Newton City Councilors signaled Wednesday that they would support an MBTA Communities complaint version of the zoning for five of Newton's villages.

But some councilors are calling to remove other Newton villages, including Auburndale, from the Village Center Overlay District plan.

Recommended reading 

Wellesley to launch DEI effort 

The Town of Wellesley has contracted with Racial Equity Group to conduct a broad equity audit for the Town and further Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion work throughout the community.

The management consulting firm has worked with a number of cities and towns across the Commonwealth and previously partnered with Wellesley’s DEI Task Force.

The firm’s work will begin immediately with a kick-off event planned for early December. 

Friday grab bag 

  • Nonprofits can find an updated its list of available grants specific to Massachusetts, compiled by Mass Nonprofit News.

  • Chocolate business ChocAllure is readying a move to Wellesley Square (Swellesley Report)

  • Beginning next Friday (Nov. 24) through Jan. 1 parking meters in Needham will be free for up to two hours to encourage and accommodate holiday shopping. Needham also offers free two-hour parking year-round in the municipal downtown lots on Chapel St., Chestnut St., Lincoln St., and Dedham Ave.

  • The Thanksgiving Holiday Market will be held on Tues. Nov. 21 from noon to 4 p.m. at the Allen Center in West Newton. The market features fourteen local businesses.

  • The Mosesian Arts’ Holiday Makers Market will feature crafters, creatives, artists, and artisans from Watertown and around New England, on Nov. 25 and 26.

Support a great cause – and local businesses 

Once again this holiday season, the chamber’s Young Professionals Group has teamed up with chamber member retailers Just Next Door in Auburndale and Henry Bear’s Park in Newtonville to support the Village Bank and City of Newton’s annual holiday gift drive.

Donations collected via this online portal and at the YPG’s After Hours Networking event on Dec. 5 will be used to purchase toys and gifts from these local chamber member merchants.

You can also visit both shops to pick out gifts directly (for ages newborn to 10) and drop in the collection boxes there or at any Village Bank location.

To make sure all age groups and interests served, the YPG group spends all donated funds at local retailers. No amount is too big or too small to support local families while shopping locally!

More Zoomers, not as many Boomers 

Finally today, Gen Z is poised to overtake Baby Boomers in the full-time workforce by early 2024, according to a new 
report by Glassdoor.
Boomers dominated the full-time workforce from the late 1970s until late 2011. Gen X had a brief period of generational workforce dominance from 2012 to 2018 before Millennials overtook them.

Millennials and Gen X still outnumber Gen Z, and Millennials are poised to dominate the workforce until sometime in the early 2040s.

But employers shouldn't ignore Gen Z workers who tend to "care deeply about community connections, about having their voices heard in the workplace, about transparent and responsive leadership, and about diversity and inclusion," the report says.

Glassdoor’s report also found companies are increasingly pushing employees to return to the office. That offers an opportunity for small and mid-sized companies that are more flexible on remote work policies to attract talent.
Glassdoor also predicted wages and salaries are likely to continue increasing in 2024, but non-cash benefits could erode.

That’s what you need to know for todayon  unless you have yet to see those mindboggling images from the new James Webb Space Telescope.

Have a good weekend!

Greg Reibman (he, him)
President & CEO

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