Why NewtonForum.org and Why You Should Vote Today

By Christopher B. Pitts

Real democracy depends on everyone participating. That means making the effort to be informed, to question conventional wisdom and the messaging from those with political or financial power, and to take part in the larger conversation about how we want our world to be. It also means taking action to make the world a better place, whether that action is volunteering at the local level for Newton Serves (coming up on May 1) or raising money for global causes like halting climate change.

Today, and every Primary or Election Day, it means taking the time to vote. Newton is one of the best-educated and well-informed communities in the country, and yet our voter turnout is very disappointing. There are reasons for that. One is that everyone here seems to be hyper-busy. Another, at least in the case of local elections – like the one this past November – is that there are few contested races and, many people tell me they feel the ruling political establishment is too deeply entrenched, and whatever the outcome, “the City” will do whatever it wants to do, regardless of residents’ expressed preferences to the contrary. The only way to change that situation is for everyone of voting age to vote, and for more people to run – as I did this past November, and will do again. It’s up to us. Today’s voting is mostly about the people running for president, but there are also ultra-local Democratic or Republican ward committee seats on the ballot. Let’s hope for a strong turnout today.

Informed voting is greatly advanced by transparency in government, an unbiased press with frequent and serious investigative reporting, and a vigorous, civil discourse about the issues of the day. All of these things are in need of improvement in our Garden City. In fact, a number of people in Newton have been talking, for a while, about how Newton really needs an online forum where residents and local business owners could exchange news and opinions in a respectful,  polite way, and without hiding behind screen names. Some other online blogs for Newton are under-resourced, little known, or foster personal attacks and rumors as often as useful discussion. Newton deserves, and is capable of, better. For all those who have wanted a blog for a civil conversation about all manner of topics of interest to Newton citizens, this blog is for you.

Welcome to NewtonForum.org. The focus is all things Newton. The rules are simple: everyone must use his or her real name; no one may behave badly. That means no personal attacks or name-calling; no taking quotes out of context to distort the writer’s true meaning; no accusations or innuendo implying that others are racists, “haters”, “NIMBYs” or have any other supposed moral failings simply because one happens to disagree with them. Please cite facts, whenever possible. Please don’t spread rumors. Quite a few terrific writers, representing a wide range of views, have agreed to write for NewtonForum.org. But anyone who follows the rules may comment and participate in the discussion here. To get things started, there are a couple of questions below. And please don’t forget to VOTE today.

What do you most love about Newton? What bothers you the most about Newton?

Chris Pitts is an award-winning producer, and founder of a pioneer eLearning multimedia company. Dedicated to principles of knowledge-sharing, stewardship of environmental and historic assets, and strengthening communities, Chris has served on the boards of arts organizations, community groups, and the ACLU. He and his family moved to Newton in 2000, where his children enrolled in the Newton Public Schools. Living in the village of Waban, Chris played a lead role in the successful effort to save the Waban Branch Library for community use, help found and run Waban Village Day, and is Vice President of the Waban Improvement Society. Chris is currently an elected councilor and Vice President on the Waban Area Council, where he directs the Future Planning Project, a resident-led process to plan the Waban village residents would like to see in the years ahead.

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Kathleen Kouril GrieserJulia MalakieLynne LeBlancJerry ReillyElaine Rush Arruda Recent comment authors
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Elaine Rush Arruda

Thank you for starting this blog, Chris. As someone who has been wrongfully attacked on another blog, I am happy to participate in this one, which will prove to be a much more productive and positive approach to Newton issues.
What do I love about Newton? The parks, libraries, sense of village community, relatively easy parking (for now), great restaurants, and proximity to Boston. What bothers me about Newton? Lack of safe and accessible bicycle paths/trails.

Jerry Reilly
Jerry Reilly

Great idea and nice looking design. I love that you’re expanding the forums to discuss all things Newton. Thanks

Lynne LeBlanc

Democracy is hard work. @Chris, you’ve nicely laid out the work ethics all voters need and your call to action mirrors the gravitas of the task at hand. I’m looking forward to hearing the many voices in Newton eager to contribute and be heard.

Julia Malakie

Chris, thank you for this very eloquent first post, and how appropriate to be doing this on Primary Day. (And thank you for being a candidate — we both know how challenging that is!)
I don’t know what the turnout percentage was in Newton, though I presume it was higher than normal for a presidential primary; that was certainly the case up in Chelmsford where I was covering for the Lowell Sun. They had more voters by 5:30 than they did four years ago all day. And the close results on the Democratic side show the importance of showing up.
But it’s always amazed me that percentage turnout seems to correlate with how “big” the election is, with higher turnout for presidential elections, or governor, or when there’s a U.S. Senate seat at stake, than when it’s “just” a congressional and state legislative seats. And in our recent local election without a mayoral race, turnout was only 20 percent. It seems backwards to me not to vote in the races with the lowest number of potential voters, because that’s where your one vote can make the most difference. I still remember how Amy Sangiolo won her first race for Alderman-at-Large in a recount, after Eric MacLeish was a handful of votes ahead on Election Day.
BTW, where’s the “Preview” button?

Kathleen Kouril Grieser

Thank you, Chris Pitts, for starting NewtonForum.org. A lot of people in Newton have been looking for an online venue for civilized discourse on policy issues in our Garden City, and you have given us one. Bravo, Chris! Thank you, as well, for inviting me to be a contributing writer. I could not participate in any blog that facilitates cyberbullying and harassment, so it is really nice to be able to be part of the discussion here. Your commitment to real democracy at the local level is inspiring.