Voter's Guide to the Newton Preliminary Election


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Tuesday, September 16, 2003
Polls open from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

About the Election

The Newton Municipal Preliminary Election is Tuesday, September 16, 2003. The polls will be open from 7:00 a.m.until 8:00 p.m. The two positions on this ballot will be for Ward 3 Alderman-at-large, (where you can vote for two candidates, and 4 of the 5 will move on to the general election in November), and Ward 6 School Committee, (where you may vote for one candidate and the top two will move on to the general election in November).

If you are unable to get to the polls on Sept. 16th, you may vote absentee. Call the election commission at 617-796-1359 or visit the website at (click on city departments, the Election Commission). Newton municipal elections are nonpartisan in the sense that candidates are not designated as members of political parties.

About this Voters' Guide

The League's Voter Service Chairman Susan Rosenbaum prepared this guide with the assistance of Vice President Bonnie Carter and Membership Chairman Pat Acton. It is the compilation of responses to a questionnaire sent to all candidates whose names will appear on the municipal ballot on September 16th.

Responses were limited to 50 words for biographical information and 75 words for each question. The responses were not edited, or subject to spell check by the League, so you are reading the candidates' own words. If the answer exceeded the permissible number of words, it was cut off at exactly the number of words allowed.

About the Board of Aldermen

The legislative branch of Newton's government is a 24-member Board of Aldermen. There are 16 at-large aldermen and 8 ward aldermen elected every two years. In addition to deliberating legislation, the Board of aldermen conducts land use proceedings. It also appoints the City Clerk/Clerk of the Board and Comptroller of Accounts and confirms various appointments made by the mayor. The board acts on the budget proposed by the mayor. The aldermen cannot increase the budget, but they can reduce it or they can request that the mayor increase the budget.

All meetings of the Board of aldermen are open to the public and begin at 7:45 p.m. at City Hall. They are held on the first and third Mondays of each month, except in July and August when meetings are held on the second Monday of each month. Committees of the Board meet at various times, primarily in the evening during the week.

Members of the Board of Aldermen receive a salary set at 10 percent of the Mayor's salary. They are eligible for dental, medical, and life insurance as city employees. Elected employees are also entitled to participate in the city's retirement program that is vested at 10 years of service.

Questions for the Board of Aldermen candidates

Biographical information (including why you chose to seek this office) 50 words maximum

Question 1:

Given the diversity of the population in Ward 3 and the variety of viewpoints, how do you plan to advocate for all of your constituents?
75 words maximum

Question 2:

What do you feel are the top three issues facing the city of Newton and how would you address one of these issues?
75 words maximum

Candidates for Ward 3 Alderman at-Large

Jack N. Porter

Biographical Information:

The reason I am running is because I'm fed up with the aldermen. They have, with a few important exceptions like my colleague Lenny Gentile, lost touch with the citizens of Newton. There has been a disconnect. They seem more interested in their own private agendas and egos than in

Question 1:

I would introduce "ward meetings" in churches, senior citizen centers, and other public places for people to get to know each other. To break down the barriers among us-racially, gender-wise, and age-wise. I'd also have more social gatherings where we could meet and get to know each other. We need more places and spaces for the diversity of the town to meet each other.

Question 2:

Number #1: Taxes,taxes,taxes. I promise never to vote for another tax override and my first job will be to introduce a bill to help alleviate taxes for our senior citizens and others who may have hardship cases in order that they not be forced to sell their homes. I will never support a tax override. My opponent Ted Hess-Mahan led forces that spent over $100,000 that brought us an override which deeply divided the city.

Leonard J. Gentile

Biographical Info

Married father of four, small business owner West Newton, School Committee 1981-89, Chairman 1984-86, Alderman 1990-present. I seek re-election because on a daily basis decisions made at the local level of government affect us the most. It is important to participate in how those decisions are made.

Question 1:

On each issue, I intend to do my homework in order to have the knowledge and background to make an informed decision. It is important not to make a decision too early in the process. I will make myself accessible to people on both sides of an issue, listening carefully to their viewpoints as well as those of my colleagues, thereby arriving at a decision I feel is in the best long-term interest of Newton.

Question 2:

  1. Future of Newton North
  2. Land use development vs. need to protect quality of life in our neighborhoods
  3. How to fairly and efficiently allocate city revenue across all departments, maintaining high quality services. Based on information to date, a new state of the art high school is in the best long-term interest of the City and the best use of taxpayer dollars. The amount of state reimbursement will be a major factor in final decision-making.

Ted Hess-Mahan

Biographical Info.

I'm a lawyer, husband, and father of three children in the Newton Public Schools. Newton faces issues and challenges requiring leaders with vision, commitment and ability-qualities I believe I've contributed serving my community as an activist and advocate for quality schools, housing affordability, social justice, diversity and human rights.

Question 1:

Aldermen-at-Large are elected citywide and must represent our entire community, with all its diverse interests, perspectives and needs. As your Alderman, I'll listen carefully to everyone's views and consider all sides of every issue so that I can effectively understand and promote the community's interests. I promise to use independent judgment, guided by principles of fairness and equity, to protect the long-term best interests of the community as a whole and the vital interests of

Question 2:

Newton's greatest challenges include Newton North, critical lack of affordable housing, and development threatening the unique character and diversity of our villages and neighborhoods. I'd work closely with the Mayor and School Committee on planning for North, and address both housing affordability and problematic development by promoting a long-term Comprehensive Plan for Newton and taking advantage of Community Preservation funds and public-private partnerships to create more affordable housing, conserve open spaces and preserve historical places.

Paul D. Snyder

Biographical Information

  • Married with three children;
  • 31 year Newton resident;
  • BA Notre Dame 1966
  • JD Boston University 1971
  • HUD Associate Regional Counsel 1986
  • FAA Enforcement Attorney 1988
  • FDIC Senior Attorney 2003
  • Elected twice to Newton Board of Aldermen 1987, 1988
  • Former columnist Newton Graphic and TAB
  • Chief Steward - National Treasury Employees Union.

Question 1:

Well, we run at large so our constituents reside in all eight wards of the city. Increasingly our economic diversity is shrinking as older citizens are forced to move because they cannot afford Newton's taxes, and young people cannot afford to move in because of the high cost of housing and taxes. We are becoming a city of affluent lawyers, physicians, financial services executives, and successful entrepreneurs. Advocacy for my constituents - Control our budget.

Question 2:

  1. Maintain the quality of Newton schools.
  2. Corral our out-of-control budget
  3. Advocate for state assistance for Newton North.

Expand the jurisdiction of the Aldermanic Post Audit and Oversight Committee to review each city department and school function to see what we actually received for the money that was allocated. Knowing what we got for what we spent in the past budget will help us review the next budget.

David M. Donahue

Biographical Information:

Lifelong Newton resident, Newton North Class of 1980, Married, wife Gloria, 4 Children: Keleigh, Kayla, Aleah and Bobby. Past and present coach NWLL, NAA football. Board Member: Robert Donahue Schlorship, Lucky Star Group, NAA football. Employment: Tody's Service Inc.

Question 1:

The best way to serve the people of Newton is to provide each citizen with as much information as possible. Over the past several years, much of the peoples' business has been conducted behind closed doors, which I find unacceptable. As your Alderman, I will ask tough questions, demand answers from all our city officials and expect our Government to work for all its citizens. Trust that I will accomplish my goals.

Question 2:

  1. Newton North High School- This depends on the 60% reimbursement from the state. Without state money, we're back to square one. No Override.
  2. Responsible developement, preserving neighborhoods. Teddy Bear Club should not be allowed in a residential neighborhood. Impact of Avolon Bay on Needham St.
  3. Housing- We must not forget our seniors and middle class on fixed income. Last years override has forced many to leave Newton, this is unacceptable.

About the School Committee

The Newton School committee oversees the Newton Public Schools. It is made up of one representative from each of the city's eight wards. Voters from the entire city elect the entire committee every two years. The mayor is a member of the School Committee ex officio.

The School Committee meets on the second and fourth Mondays of the month from September through June. It is responsible for recommending the school budget to the mayor, hiring the superintendent, approving system-wide policies and establishing the overall philosophy of the system.

There are term limits to service on the School Committee. Each member may serve only four consecutive terms of two years. He or she may, however, run for election again after waiting a two-year period. Due to recent redistricting, two incumbents are running against each other in Ward 6.

Members of the School Committee receive a salary set at the rate of 5 percent of the Mayor's salary. They are eligible for medical, dental, and, and life insurance as city employees. Elected officials are also entitled to participate in the city's retirement program, which is vested at 10 years of service. The superintendent of schools directs the educational activities of the fifteen elementary schools, four middle schools, and two senior high schools and carries out the policies and philosophies of the School Committee.

Questions for the School Committee candidates

Biographical Information

(including why you are seeking this office).
50 words maximum

Question 1.

Given the ever-present financial constraints, please prioritize the programs/services you feel are most valuable to the education of our students.
75 words maximum

Question 2.

The school Committee members are elected from each ward but the entire city votes for each candidate. Why should someone who does not have children in the schools vote for you and how do you plan to be considerate of the entire city population?
75 words maximum

Candidates for School Committee, Ward 6

Leslie Schneider

Biographical information:

Incumbent school-committee member, Ward 6 Ph.D. in Education, Stanford University Adjunct Professor, College of Computer Sciences, Northeastern University Involved parent with two children in Newton schools I am running for reelection to help the Newton Schools achieve sustainable funding, preserve educational excellence, and increase public engagement.

Question 1:

  1. Core academic subjects (including the arts and athletics) and state-mandated programs (such as special education and literacy).
  2. Developmentally appropriate aspects of the classroom experience (small class sizes in elementary schools, middle-school teams, and appropriate breadth of programs in the high schools).
  3. Building renovation and maintenance to ensure a safe and healthy physical plant.
  4. The network of guidance counselors, nurses, and others who support the social and emotional needs of our children.

Question 2:

Every Newton resident-whether as parent, home owner, or taxpayer-has an interest in a public school system that combines educational excellence and fiscal responsibility. My qualifications allow me to balance judiciously and effectively these often competing goals. As a parent, I understand the impact of school-committee decisions. As a Ph.D. in education, I have a broad perspective on the issues. As an incumbent, I know how to work with others to find constructive solutions.

Donna S. Cohen

Biographical information:

I've lived in Newton for seven years and have two elementary aged children. I've worked for 23 years as a physical therapist with a specialty in pediatric neurodevelopment. I've taught college students and done research with HIV infected children. I work at a local elementary school with special needs children.

Question 1:

I feel that the literacy program is the highest priority for our students and however small class size improves the process, they should be maintained. In addition, I support full inclusion for special needs children and advocate front-loading their related services in order to optimize their potential gains and ultimately save the system resources. Given the state mandate and the vast educational opportunities that it affords, I support funding access to technology at all levels.

Question 2:

Our community and property values are judged, in part, by the quality of our schools. It is the responsibility of the school committee to represent the community by controlling costs and demanding educational excellence. To assist in that end, I have proposed an oversight board, which would recruit volunteers from within the community to help both the school committee and the administration address school based issues, problems and concerns from the city at large.

Patricia Kellogg

Biographical Information:

As a member of the School Committee, I'm a Newton childcare Commissioner, former member Newton North Taskforce, and am on several sub-committees. I'm on Newton Highlands Area Council, and on boards of Brigham House and local Women's Club. I'm Executive Director of Hyde Community Center and married mother of three.

Question 1:

I will work to maintain lower class sizes, and investigate smaller learning communities within the high schools. I'll continue to seek academic excellence through the literacy initiative and alignment of standards-based curriculum. I'm dedicated to helping guide the Newton North High School process forward. I will pursue up-to-date technology, healthy school facilities, and balance a welcoming environment with a secure environment-including safety training for all staff. I will strive to preserve all core services.

Question 2:

I care deeply about, and am involved at many levels with, the entire Newton Community. I believe in my responsibility to every resident here. I endorse recent tax relief efforts for fixed-income elderly. Great Newton schools mean well-educated future leaders, strong real estate values, and a more vibrant community. I'm responsive to calls from people all across Newton (617-823-5577). I want all voices to be heard, and hope every Newton voter votes on September 16.

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Last updated: 09-Sep-2003