What is your Newton City Hall experience?

Last night (6/7), I was at City Hall to listen to the developer of the Orr Block Project  present his vision to the Land Use Committee. The presentation, via the developer’s legal and design team, lasted about an hour. After this, City Councilors asked questions, then the Planning Department’s Chief Planner spoke, and then the Planning and Development Board asked questions. All in all, this took almost two hours.

Finally, at the end of the night, residents were allowed to speak. One group, Neighbors for a Better Newtonville (NBN), came hoping for the same considerations as the petitioner: time for an organized presentation. NBN coordinators had been told the group could present.  After two hours of developer presentations, Councilor comments, Planning perspective, and Planning and Development comments, however, it was clear the Chair of Land Use (Councilor Laredo) was tired and reluctant to give time for a sustained and organized citizen presentation.

My question is this:  Is it right that a person or group that stands to make deep profits from Board votes gets to present in an organized manner yet residents cannot? Shouldn’t residents be afforded the same consideration? Is there a better way for residents to publicly present concerns to the Board of City Councilors?

 

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10 Comments on "What is your Newton City Hall experience?"

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I’m going to wear two hats for this one. As a media producer, I think it is overdue the chamber be outfitted with updated presentation platforms including two or three large screens and/or monitors for councilors and citizens to view presentations. The city has fine new projectors – I have used them quite often – and they should be installed with larger screens in several locations in the chambers.

As a citizen, I take offense how these meetings are organized. They are purposely geared to wear down citizens organized to oppose developer projects and blatantly subvert democracy.

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Elaine Rush Arruda

This practice has always frustrated and angered me. There should be a policy that representatives of the affected neighborhood be offered the same amount of time as the developer to give a formal presentation. I have seen it happen on occasion, but it should be a policy, not a choice made by the chair of the committee.

Colleen Minaker

The Land Use hearing will be continued on July 12th. People should prepare to speak about the petition then. What bothered me most about last night’s event was the complete acquiescence of the Planning Dept. to the waiver requests of the petitioner. This project does not enhance the village. It basically destroys the historical essence of Newtonville. How does this add to the public good? Our planning dept. is not working on behalf of residents and is not following the rules regarding new development requirements. This is unprecedented and it appears someone is dictating rules never adhered to in the past. With a newly hired planning director ready to take over soon this fundamental shift in power does not bode well for the future of any Newton villages.

Julia Malakie

Don’t get me started on the Orr proposal — it’s too late at night. But your question about my experience at City Hall reminded me that a couple of days ago, I went to the Engineering department to ask for some plans, and as the person at the counter was looking for them and not finding them he asked me “are you just a resident?” Not in a disparaging way, more like curiosity. But still it seemed to indicate a distinction is made between residents and people with a commercial interest.

Mark Marderosian
This is a subject that has stuck in my craw and bothered me deeply for decades. I have much experience with this, especially in 2002. One example out of many: a group of us attended a hearing in room 202 on a matter of importance to us that was ON THE AGENDA. Seeing us in the room, the chair could have very easily put our item first. We were NOT asking for special consideration in front of other people. There were NO others. But the body saw us there and deliberately took up smaller items like raising fee for parking meters, caulking compound use in bathtubs, and more. It was a deliberate attempt to punish us for wanting to help our fellow citizens, and wear us down and make us leave. Which we did not. But there was NO reason to make us wait for two hours. This has happened again and again. I continue to be distressed that developers and their highly paid teams get abundant time to present and debate for hours on end and the “rabble” are lucky to get five minutes. They do it on PURPOSE so people who work have to go home and then they can claim there was little opposition. The developers know this and blab on and on. Does the unfairness have to be so obvious? These folks in city government tout the “process’ and “being fair”. Really though? In practice? Never seen it. I’m not so naive as to not be… Read more »
Greg Reibman

Mark: I’ve been frustrated by the same thing. However (and someone would need to confirm this but) I’m not sure they are allowed to take a posted agenda out of order. Also, imagine how upset you’d be if you had planned to attend a meeting for a specific item, saw that it was No. 4 on the agenda so knew you could show up 30 minutes late, only to arrive and see that they took up your item first.

Mark Marderosian

Hello Greg,
I hear what you’re saying. But again, in the specific instance I was referring to we weren’t asking for special treatment. The Chair knew in advance we were coming, we were at the top of the list and they suddenly opened up the meeting by saying “We see here that that representatives are here for the senior credit issue, but let’s take up these other items first.”
I accept the price but I can’t accept the punishing unfairness borne out of a hypocrisy that always speaks of “fairness”.

Mark Marderosian

PS I didn’t mean to sidetrack the discussion. For me the larger issue is allotment of time. I understand that given the large amounts of individual people that wish to speak, a time limit is a good idea. But when individuals have banded together to form a group and have formally requested time for a presentation, (while I understand some discretion by the Chair is advised), why do they get 10 minutes and someone else gets 120?