Composition and Utility of Newton’s Commissions

Individually, there is only so much that we can accomplish. Together, however, there are but few limitations upon us. Although a simple premise, the truth is that with strong leadership, the right teams are able to come together to identify problems, create effective solutions, and successfully implement meaningful change.

According to the City website, Newton residents participate in local government as members of more than eighty Boards, Commissions, Committees and Advisory Councils. It is also stated that such broad citizen involvement helps our government remain open and responsive to the people of Newton, and that residents play a critical role in the work required to address a wide variety of needs in the City.

Given that commissions are an important part of our city government and thus impact how much we can accomplish by way of results, the composition and utility of them is vital. As such, two questions come to mind: 1) Does the composition of our commissions properly reflect the diversity of our community, and 2) are our commissions maximizing their utility?

Finally, if you do not believe that current leadership is doing a good enough job in this regard, what would you like to see changed or improved?

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Tom DavisJeffrey PontiffSallee Lipshutz Recent comment authors
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Sallee Lipshutz

Good question, Tom. The Charter Review Commission has been investigating the functioning of the many boards and commissions. They have spoken of the need for periodic review to remove the ones that are no longer working…either because they have too few appointees or because they have outlived their usefulness! I’d like to see a complete list with openings available and purpose or mission for each.

Jeffrey Pontiff
Jeffrey Pontiff

I’ll comment on 1) diversity. Clearly, our local government does not represent the diversity of our community. That being said, I don’t see a solution. Some countries have tried to force diversity with regulation, which I think that is a mistake. Where do we lack diversity? Let’s talk about race and gender first. I don’t know everyone’s race, but I can guess. When it comes to African Americans, I think the proportion of elected officials mirrors the community. This year we have 34 elected officials. I count 3 African Americans I think the number of women in elected office is pretty close to the community–19 out of 34. On the other hand, Asians (both far-east Asians and near-east Asians) are well represented in our community and virtually unrepresented in our elected officials. I count (maybe) one Asian in elected office. When it comes to national political affiliation, 46% of Newtonian are Democrats, but 34 of the 35 elected officials are Democrats. So, party affiliation is way out of whack. How do the elected officials compare economically? I don’t really know, I but perceive that they are better off than the average person. How do things compare professionally? Newton has a lot of physicians and professors. I count none in local government. Lawyers, on the other hand, are over represented. Newton has a ton of immigrants. Again, I count none in local government. Wards tend to be less diverse than the overall city. As such, the Charter Commission’s proposal to eliminate… Read more »

The url for the various boards for citizen involvment: http://www.newtonma.gov/gov/featured/Boards_openings.asp
Many of these require appointment by the Mayor so….