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Newton

Winter's first big snow costs Newton $800,000

Posted December 22, 2008 04:06 PM

It was a costly weekend nor'easter in Newton.

Three days of round-the-clock plowing and salting cost the city around $800,000, said David Turocy, Newton's deputy commissioner of public works.

It was one of the more expensive storms in recent years, he said, a massive effort requiring 160 street plows, eight sidewalk plows, and 5,000 tons of road salt to clear Newton's 310 miles of roadway of the 12-plus inches the series of snowstorms dumped on the city.

"We appreciate a weekend storm, because it's usually easier to deal with, but not when it lasts all weekend," he said.

The city's snow removal costs were about $3 million last year, with an above-average number of storms requiring plowing.

Turocy said officials hope fervently to spend less this year, though this storm did not get the season off to a cheap start.

"This was a tough one because it never let up and so many people were on the roads'' shopping, he said. "We were reluctant to tow people because of the season, but cars on the streets did make it harder and we had to work around them."

The city used up almost all of its salt supplies over the weekend, but new shipments were arriving today, he said.

-- Erica Noonan


Newton man pleads not guilty in Maynard bribery case

Posted December 22, 2008 03:28 PM

By Globe Staff

The superintendent of public works in Maynard pleaded not guilty today to a charge that he accepted cash payments from a developer in exchange for smoothing the approval process for a construction project.

Paul Camilli, 38, of Newton was arraigned in Concord District Court on one count of a public employee accepting or receiving a bribe. Judge Steven Ostrach set bail at $1,000 cash and ordered Camilli to stay away from the victim and witnesses in the case, the Middlesex district attorney’s office said.

Prosecutors said the developer began a project earlier this year. Camilli had frequent contacts with the developer and, at one point, Camilli allegedly made known to the developer that he was looking for cash.

After the two agreed on a number in the thousands, the developer paid the money in multiple installments in multiple locations. During this time, prosecutors said, Camilli began relaxing standards for the project.

Camilli was arrested Saturday. The investigation being conducted by Maynard and State Police included undercover and video surveillance. Camilli’s attorney, Kenneth Reisman, didn’t immediately return a message seeking comment.

Two new online exhibits from the Newton History Museum

Posted December 22, 2008 08:16 AM

The Newton History Museum has launched two new online exhibits-- Hyphenated origins: Going Beyond the Labels and Seeking Freedom in 19th Century America-- available for your viewing pleasure. They can both be found at www.newtonhistorymuseum.org. Here are brief descriptions of the two:

Hyphenated-Origins: Going Beyond the Labels:

This exhibit, which was mounted at the Newton History Museum from February
2006 and through May 2008, was curated by seven high school students from
Newton whose families recently moved to the community. The exhibit explores
the past, present, and future of an ever-growing number of Newton residents
who have emigrated here. Between 1990 and 2000, the foreign-born population
of Newton increased by more than 40 percent, and as of 2000, more than
15,000 foreign-born people now call Newton home.

The exhibition’s curators were themselves the exhibition's subjects --
seven students from Newton's high schools, whose families have immigrated
to the United States. The young men and women who created this exhibit are
the future of our city and our nation. Through their stories they ask us
all to answer the question, "What makes us American?" They encourage us to
see beyond what they look like and hear beyond what they sound like. They
urge us to go beyond labels and to see people. The students planned,
designed, and created a full-scale exhibit that focused on their personal
life experiences. Their work interpreted the meaning of coming to another
country and forming an American identity while balancing a life between
cultures.

In the Web version of the exhibition, many of the student's captions for
their photos and annotations that they added to their display cases appear
in pop-up windows.

Seeking Freedom in 19th Century America:

Many people visit the Newton History Museum because they know the 1809
Jackson Homestead is a documented stop on the Underground Railroad. But the
story of the abolitionist Jackson family is only one of many compelling
accounts of freedom-seeking in nineteenth-century America.
This exhibition, an online version of the Seeking Freedom in Nineteenth-
Century America exhibit presented at the Newton History Museum in 2004-
2005, explores American slavery and anti-slavery activity through four
stories of individuals who sought their own freedom or assisted other in
gaining freedom.

Maynard town official arrested on bribery charge

Posted December 21, 2008 01:17 PM

A Newton man who is the Maynard Superintendent of Public Works has been arrested on charges of soliciting bribes from a private developer, Middlesex District Attorney Gerry Leone announced Sunday.

A release from Leone's office said that Paul Camilli, 38, of Newton, was arrested Saturday afternoon by Maynard Police and Massachusetts State Police assigned to the Middlesex District Attorney’s PACT Unit. He is charged with corruptly receiving money and gifts, the release said.

“We allege that this town official abused his position of authority, soliciting cash kickbacks from a private developer in exchange for relaxing the inspection process,” District Attorney Leone said in the press release. “Inspection standards are put in place for a reason, and by relaxing those standards in order to line his own pockets, he undermined public safety and violated the public’s trust placed in him.”

According to the press release, "a private developer began a construction project in Maynard earlier this year. Camilli had frequent interaction with the developer because the construction project required permits and code inspections from the Town of Maynard in order for it to be completed. ''

The release from Leone's office follows:

"Camilli would frequently remind the developer that deadlines were coming up and that Camilli had control over how or if those deadlines would be met. Camilli also had many verbal arguments with the developer and made numerous technical demands to be met before he would sign off on specific portions of the project.

"At one point, with a deadline looming, the developer asked Camilli what it would take to get a particular project done, and it is alleged that Camilli made known to the developer that he was looking for cash money in order to see to it that the project moved along easier.

"It is further alleged that the developer later asked Camilli how much cash it would take and that they agreed on a number in the thousands. The developer paid that money in multiple installments in multiple locations.

"It is also alleged that during this time, Camilli began relaxing necessary standards for the construction project, including important environmental protection safeguards.

"The investigation into these alleged crimes included undercover and video surveillance.

"These charges are allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.''

For more information and news from Newton, go to boston.com/newton.

Firefighter Friday: A Column by Jessica Locke

Posted December 19, 2008 07:30 AM

In honor of the season, I’d like to bring up some of the wonderful things
the Newton Firefighters do for their community.

Last week they made their annual holiday stop-over at the Newton Wellesley Hospital Pediatric Unit. They entertained the children by dressing-up as beloved characters: Elmo, Cookie Monster, Pooh, the Grinch, Santa Claus, and of course, as firefighters in full gear. The volunteers of this day-long effort bestowed gifts to the children and took photos with the staff, then proceeded to visit other ill and disabled children throughout the community.

They also visited Ray McNamara, a retired fire lieutenant who suffered serious injuries during an explosion at the 1993 Stark Fire.

Through a generous donation from Best Buy, the firefighters held a raffle and were able to raise over $1,000 for their annual Toys for Tots drive. To donate, stop in at any firehouse with an unwrapped toy.

This week, the Newton firefighters wanted this column to remind residents about the dangers of thin ice:

"Every winter, somewhere, a child or adult drowns going out on the thin ice of a river or lake. Please ask all parents to warn their children about the dangers of thin ice." They also warned that if a dog or other animal has fallen through ice, never attempt a rescue; call 911 instead.

Here are the facts regarding the Newton Fire Department’s ability to perform such a rescue. The department owns just one boat, constructed of aluminum. It is so heavy, six men must carry it. Whenever 911 is alerted to a possible drowning, the boat is transported and deployed to the location, but due to the time it takes to transport the boat, it may just be too late to manifest a rescue. In most of the surrounding communities, fire departments use air-inflated boats. They are lightweight, reliable and – most importantly – quickly and easily transported.

Should we wait until someone drowns before the Newton Fire Department gets the proper equipment to do the job of saving lives?

A few safety tips from the firefighters: Water your tree, unplug your lights when leaving the house, check those smoke detector batteries, make sure your chimney is clean, and install carbon monoxide detectors for the safety of all. Happy Holidays!

(Jessica Locke is Executive Director of the Firefighters Fund (www.firefightersfund.org) and author of Rescue at Engine 32, a memoir about her work with New York City firefighters after 9/11.)

School is out early in Newton Friday

Posted December 18, 2008 05:09 PM

Newton's public schools will start on time, but end early Friday because of the snow storm, and several private schools are also cutting their hours.

According to this notice on the school website, high schools will be dismissed at 11:30 am, middle schools dismissed at noon and elementary schools dismissed at 12:30.

Trinity Catholic High School is closed Friday, according to its website.

Solomon Schechter Day School will be closed Friday, according to its website.


"Acceptable" Helmets

Posted December 18, 2008 02:26 PM

By Ben Terris

I went down to a Newton fire station today to see just how different Busa's helmet really was.

I found a group of fighters on their lunch break, and all of them had substantial decorations on their helmets (one, even with a large American flag sticker). Unlike Busa, none of these firefighters have been asked to alter their helmets. Here are some photos:

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Newton firefighter leaves his patriotic helmet behind

Posted December 18, 2008 10:07 AM

By Ben Terris

A Newton firefighter has decided to stop wearing his red, white and blue helmet, after Fire Chief Joseph LaCroix deemed it inappropriate to the uniform.

Firefighter Richard Busa, an Iraq war veteran, had been wearing the spray-painted, red, white and blue helmet for nearly three years, when LaCroix objected.

Facing a possible suspension, Busa decided it would be best to don another helmet lest he jeopardize his career.

"I have been part of the fire department for over three years and I have never disobeyed an order, never been reprimanded for anything, and now was not a good time to start," Busa said in an interview. "I have a family, I am getting married, and I am going to buy a house, and the money I get from this job is the only money that is allowing me to survive."

Meanwhile, Newton Mayor David Cohen issued a statement Thursday backing LaCroix and the chief's reasoning. Cohen said the issue was not one of patriotism or freedom of speech.

"If Chief LaCroix allows Firefighter Busa's display on his helmet, then he is allowing every firefighter in the Department to decorate theirs as well. It is the duty of Chief LaCroix's to maintain a level of professionalism within his department. If we had 160 different decorations on each firefighter helmet, that would be compromised,'' Cohen said in the statement.

Busa said he was disappointed with the decision, but had no regrets.

"Just because I am going to be putting on a black helmet, doesn't mean this issue was a waste," he said. "It's opened the door for the public to see that the fire department isn't all that it says it is. Now that the public is talking about the fire department, maybe the conversation will start to turn to the real problems we are facing, like the lack of good equipment we are provided."

Not willing to pay the $225 dollars for a new helmet, Busa will be borrowing Union President Tom Lopez's old one.

The episode generated controversy, with dozens of readers posting comments on boston.com.

"Save your individuality and free expression for when you're out of uniform,'' one reader said.

"The chief let it go for 3 years without a warning. Sounds like precedent has been set,'' said another.

For more news and information about Newton, go to Boston.com/newton.

Newton South counselor comments on SAT story

Posted December 18, 2008 08:53 AM

Someone just forwarded me your article (‘‘Running up the Score,’’ Globe West, Dec. 14). As nice as it is to see our school mentioned, I was sorry that you are leaving people with the impression that not only does a student HAVE to prep but that they also have to have an outside counselor. Our counseling department (including me) does a wonderful job of ushering these kids through the process irregardless of family income. Since the counselors here follow their students for four years they are in a much better position to make recommendations and offer assistance. I feel like you’re telling our families that do not have the means to pay for services that they are somehow at a disadvantage. Don’t believe that a private college counselor is the reason that a kid gets into his first or second choice school even though that is what they’d like you to believe. It is the student who gets himself/herself in. This is a hard time of year for seniors. Our job is to try to help them do everything they can to get into a college that is the right match. Your article may leave them feeling like they haven’t been successful.
Barbara Brown
College/Career Counselor
Newton South High School
NEWTON

The details of the Nonantum Road fatality

Posted December 17, 2008 07:53 AM

By Christina Pazzanese, Globe Correspondent

It was a routine Saturday morning, except for the black ice on the road.

Gianfranco Esposito said he was driving his girlfriend, Patricia Sciacca, from Malden to Newton-Wellesley Hospital, where she works as a medical assistant, and they took their usual shortcut along Nonantum Road.

Noticing icy road conditions en route, Esposito had just remarked to Sciacca how dangerous the ice could be for drivers when he spotted something out of the corner of his eye: a sport utility vehicle that had flipped over and was partially submerged in the Charles River.

Esposito slowed down his Dodge pickup truck, and then turned around to get a better look.

‘‘He said, ‘Oh my God, there’s a car in the water,’’’ said Sciacca, 23, who hadn’t noticed anything.

‘‘She didn’t believe me,’’ said Esposito, 24.

Esposito and Sciacca remained deeply shaken this week as they recalled stumbling on the scene of a one-car crash in Newton on Saturday that killed Lauren Tsai, a 26-year-old graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who lived in Waltham. It was at least the third fatal accident since 2006 along the narrow four-lane parkway that stretches from Galen Street near Watertown Square to Soldiers Field Road in Brighton.

State Police said Tsai was driving her 2002 Nissan Pathfinder westbound when she lost control of the vehicle, which struck the curb and skidded down the embankment into the river. Tsai was pronounced dead of her injuries at the scene.

State Police believe the crash occurred several hours before she was found, said spokesman David Procopio, and the cause remained under investigation.

Tsai had been at a Celtics game with her brothers and father earlier that evening and had dropped off her younger brother at MIT before heading back home to Waltham, said Timothy Condon, whose fiancee was a close friend of Tsai.

Tsai earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from MIT in 2004 and worked at Raytheon, according to an obituary posted Tuesday on the school’s website. She also played on the women’s basketball and field hockey teams. A brother, Michael Tsai, graduated from MIT in 2002 while another brother, Geoffrey Tsai is a senior there now, the site said.

A memorial service for Tsai is scheduled for Saturday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Rand Wilson Funeral Home in Hanover, N.H. A funeral is to be held in the Rollins Chapel at Dartmouth College on Sunday at 10 a.m., the website said.

Esposito said that at the scene of the crash Saturday, he tossed his cellphone to Sciacca, told her to call 911, and then scrambled down the steep river bank. ‘‘I said, ‘Is anybody in there?’ I didn’t know if it just happened or if it had been there all night.’’

With the driver’s side door under water, Esposito waded into the river to try to open the passenger door. That’s when he peered into the car, darkened by the cold water, and saw Tsai’s body.

‘‘There’s someone in here!’’ he called out to Sciacca, who was by then, almost in tears. ‘‘It was just too much,’’ she said. ‘‘I didn’t want to see it.’’

Stunned and not sure what to do next, Esposito said he ran back up the embankment just as a state trooper pulled up to the scene. The men raced down to the car, uncertain how many people might be trapped inside. Though it appeared she had been driving, Esposito said Tsai was not strapped in by a seat belt. ‘‘We just reached in and pulled her right out,’’ he said.

The two men struggled to climb up the steep embankment made slippery by wet leaves and twigs. Once there, a jogger who happened upon the scene offered his assistance just as a second state trooper arrived and began performing CPR on Tsai. But Esposito said it seemed clear that it was too late.

Sciacca said the sight of the woman really hit home. ‘‘I knew it was someone our age,’’ she said. ‘‘I was really upset.’’

State Police said police and fire departments from Watertown and Newton, as well as Mass. Highway, assisted troopers at the scene. The road was closed for about an hour.
Nonantum Road has long been known as a treacherous, and often deadly, riverside speedway.

In February 2006, a Waltham couple were killed when their minivan spun off the road and hit a pole by Water Street.

In June that same year, a Waltham man was killed after his motorcycle struck a van at the intersection of Nonantum Road and Galen Street.

Patriotic helmet needs to go, Newton Fire Chief says

Posted December 16, 2008 07:11 PM

By Ben Terris, Globe Correspondent

A veteran of the Iraq War, Richard Busa is used to fighting for the American flag. But never quite like this.

After more than three years of rushing into fires with his signature red, white and blue helmet, the Newton firefighter has been told to paint it black. Newton Fire Chief Joseph LaCroix wants the patriotic decoration gone, saying it does not conform to the department's rules.

LaCroix, himself a veteran of the Vietnam War, said that his decision has nothing to do with the flag, but with how he wants his department to conduct business.

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John Bohn/Globe Staff

"We run a quasi-military operation here," LaCroix said in an interview yesterday. "You think people in the Marine Corps wake up for drills and say, 'I think I'm going to wear this shirt today even though everyone else is wearing that one'? Of course not."

Busa, 32, who has been in the department for seven years, decorated the helmet with heat resistant paint, the same type used on automobiles and grills, and it has refused to fade after numerous fires. He said he checked departmental rules before painting it, and found no prohibition against decorating the helmet.

"Firefighters are people of tradition and I wanted to alter one in a positive way," Busa said of his decision to give his helmet a patriotic flavor. "I wanted to show my patriotism and show that the flag and what it stood for was tough enough to come with me in burning buildings."

The controversy surfaced in a column by Tom Mountain, who frequently writes for the Newton Tab. "Who would have the audacity, the indecency, to ask any fireman to remove the flag from his helmet? Where in America is such a place? Newton, Massachusetts,'' Mountain wrote in the column, which was posted online earlier this week.

LaCroix said that the department allows small decorations on helmets like shamrock stickers but that painting the entire helmet goes over the line.

"Where does it stop if we allow this?" LaCroix said. "What if someone wants to paint an Italian flag, or cartoon characters? We just can't give up our appearance of professionalism."

For more news and information on all things Newton, check out www.boston.com/Newton

About Town: JCC celebrates 25th anniversary

Posted December 16, 2008 10:47 AM

To celebrate its 25th anniversary the Leventhal-Sidman Jewish Community Center recently held the Greater Boston's Lights and Spice Ball. In addition to raising $650,000 dollars to help support programs and services such as camping scholarships, early learning centers, hot lunches, and special needs programs for all ages for JCCs around Boston, the gala also gave local residents the chance to dress up. Let's check out the proverbial red carpet:

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Paula Sidman (event co-chair) of Newton with Don and Devra Lasden of Brookline.

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Michael & Linda Frieze with Richard Cohen all of Waban.

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David Geller (Needham), Jeff Savit (Needham) and Jeff Glassman (Sharon).

Another Needham Street retailer in trouble

Posted December 16, 2008 08:39 AM

There was another shivering man holding another brightly colored sign trumpeting bargains on Needham Street over the weekend.

This time the sign is touting deep discounts at KB Toys, which filed for bankruptcy last week and plans to close its stores. An employee at the Needham Street outlet said they would close Jan. 31.

KB Toys joins Tweeter and Linens N Things in the roster of closing retailers with a Needham Street store.

As the Globe's Steven Syre wrote, "You know the economy stinks when a toy store goes bankrupt during the Christmas season.''


Newton approves new fields for Newton South High

Posted December 16, 2008 08:05 AM

By Rachana Rathi, Globe Staff

Newton South High School athletes and parents erupted in cheers Monday night after the Board of Aldermen approved a $4.8 million proposal to install four new athletic fields -- two made of natural grass and two of synthetic turf.

The aldermen's chamber at City Hall overflowed with parents and athletes who have long been frustrated with drainage problems at the existing fields that have forced teams to practice indoors and late into the night, and play games away from the school.

Aldermen approved using $1.6 million from the city's capital stabilization fund and borrowing the remaining $3.2 million for the fields by a vote of 20-4, with Aldermen Ted Hess-Mahan, Anthony Salvucci, Amy Sangiolo, and Greer Tan Swiston opposing. The board approved setting aside $500,000 from the capital stabilizaton fund for maintaining the fields by a 23-1 vote, with Sangiolo in opposition.

The proposal to install synthetic turf fields at the high school was first brought before aldermen about three years ago, and went through numerous changes because aldermen and residents raised concerns about potential environmental and health and safety impacts of the synthetic turf. The issues surround possible lead content in the fields, as well as the environmental impact and cost of disposal at the end of their 10- to 15-year lifespan.

"We're very excited," said Newton South lacrosse coach David McCullum, who coached on synthetic fields at Acton-Boxborough. "It's a great advantage to have for your program. They're just fantastically useful."

Several aldermen said their concerns about lead abated after a study by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission was released in July. In a memo to the board, Mayor David Cohen said the study's evaluation "concludes that there is no risk from exposure to lead in new synthetic turf fields."

But others were not persuaded.

Hess-Mahan said he would have supported the proposal if the product being used as fill in the fields was not made of crumb rubber.

"I support having these fields," Hess-Mahan said. "I don't support installing a product that involves known carcinogenics."

Hess-Mahan said there are natural alternatives that would be more expensive, but could be used if the city installed one fewer synthetic turf field. Several aldermen said they would also have preferred having a single synthetic turf field, but supported the proposal because they felt the issue had dragged on long enough and the high school is in dire need of new fields.

"While I would have preferred a one-field solution using the best material possible," said Alderman Stephen Linsky, "it is time to move on."

Proponents, such as alderwoman Sydra Shnipper, called the approval "long overdue," and said the board has done its "due diligence and come up with the best combination of plans. The standard right now is to consider turf."

Some members of the Newton South track team said they didn't care whether the fields and track were artificial or natural, just that they were usable.

"It's just appalling they that they let it go this long," said John Beck, a 17-year-old senior who runs on the track team. "As long as it gets fixed and the fields are usable, any solution is okay."

Boston College donates $100K in lieu of Newton taxes

Posted December 15, 2008 05:04 PM

By Rachana Rathi, Globe Staff

Boston College officials presented the university's annual $100,000 payment in lieu of property taxes to Mayor David Cohen at a press conference Monday.

The university, which occupies 223 acres in Newton and Brighton, also contributed $2,860 apiece to seven local nonprofit organizations.

Boston College is the largest tax-exempt institution in Newton, and the payment in lieu of taxes, or PILOT, agreement reimburses the city for the expense of services Newton provides BC and replaces some of the revenue the city would otherwise collect on the university's properties.

The city has one other PILOT agreement, with the Stone Institute nursing home, which paid $34,460 last year, city comptroller David Wilkinson has said. In June, city spokesman Jeremy Solomon said Cohen intended to act on a recommendation from the Blue Ribbon Commission, a city taskforce, to ask the university to renegotiate the agreement and pay more.

Today, Cohen said Boston College has been "very generous" with the money and in-kind support it gives the city. He added that he would not "comment on specific discussions" with the university but intends to look "at all the recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Commission."


Pages from Newton's History

Posted December 15, 2008 06:44 AM

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From the Newton History Museum at The Jackson Homestead:

The City of Newton is defined by the Charles. It has the river on its borders in the south, west, and north, and it was on the river's banks that the city got its start -- not as one unified town, but at first as a string of villages that grew up along the watercourse that provided abundant power for mills and manufacturing effots. Improved transportation -- first roads, then rail -- gave those factories better access to markets. It also tied together the villages of Newton and brought the 18 square miles of farms and woods bounded by the Charles into a closer relationship with the metropolis at its doorstep, Boston.

Through the nineteenth century, Newtonites enjoyed their life in the country as they turned farm lanes into residential streets and rode the trains and trolleys to work in town. And as the mill economy waned at the end of the 1800s, the Charles took on a new role. The trains and trolleys began to bring Bostonians out to the river in large numbers -- not to work, but to play. They came with picnic baskets to wander the parks and preserves newly created by the Metropolitan Parks Commission. They marveled at the menagerie at Norumbega Park. They rented canoes, or kept their own, at the many boathouses on the river. On summer Saturdays and Sundays the Charles near Riverside could become a sort of bank-to-bank party room, crowded with canoes full of young people out for a good time on the river.

All this leisure time and recreational opportunity was a new thing, and the populace created a record of it in a new way. They bought and sent picture postcards -- millions of them. Postcards printed with colored views were an innovation of the 1890s, a happy conjunction of the technologies of photography and printing with railroads, which had steadily lowered the cost of transporting freight -- including mail. Penny postcards captured the public imagination as no other fad had before them.

The popularity of postcards in the decades between the 1890s and World War I is indicated by the numbers that still survive a century later. If you want a newspaper or a phonograph cylinder from the era before the first World War you will have to look high and low, but any Boston-area flea market worthy of the name will offer a score of views of local weekend destinations postmarked anywhere from 1905 into the 1920s -- the brightly lit dance halls of Revere Beach, the leafy promenades of Salem Willows, and of course the sun-splashed boathouses of the Charles River.

The picnickers and canoeists left Newton carrying huge quantities of postcards that pictured the Charles and its landmarks -- Upper Falls, Lower Falls, Echo Bridge, Hemlock Gorge, Riverside, Norumbega Park, the mills, the bridges, the dams, and the canoeists. Millions went into the mail, and millions more went into albums that became family heirlooms. Some of these were eventually donated to the Newton History Museum at the Jackson Homestead, and that's where the collection of postcards you see on this site began.

The postcard craze wasn't confined to the Charles, by any means. All the important landmarks in Newton (and many puzzlingly unimportant ones) appear in the postcard documentation of Newton's life. But no subject appeared on nearly as many postcards as the Charles.

The hard-working river

The Charles today is slow and civilized, tamed by dams that have turned it into a series of elongated, picturesque lakes that make the river a marvelous resource for recreation and natural beauty. The original purpose of those dams was almost the opposite. They made the Charles a very hard-working river.

Water power made Newton Upper Falls a manufacturing center as early as the late 1600s. In 1688 the first dam was built to power a sawmill, and soon the banks of the Charles in the area of Newton Upper Falls were spotted with mills that used water power to saw lumber, grind flour, and to "full" woolen cloth -- to pound the fabric with fuller's earth -- and more. By 1790 the Industrial Revolution was in full swing. Simon Elliot owned four mills in the growing village devoted to grinding tobacco into snuff, under the supervision of a master snuff maker recruited from Germany. After 1800 the Newton Iron Works used water power to manufacture thousands of tons of nails and other hardware each year. By the 1840s Otis Pettee's Elliot Mills, where 252 looms were installed in a single room, were producing 60,000 yards of cotton calico cloth a week. Later, in the 1880s, the Upper Falls mill complex was sold and converted to a silk factory, and the new owner operated it into the 1950s. The mills begun in 1840 are still in use -- restaurants, offices and shops now fill the space.

Industry followed the river over time. Just downstream, Newton Lower Falls got a slightly later start: in 1704 a dam was built to supply power for an ironworks. Other businesses soon followed: a nail factory, a tannery, a snuff mill. But it was papermaking that put Lower Falls on the map, literally. A second dam was constructed slightly downstream in 1788. In 1790 one John Ware built a paper mill at the upper dam. By 1816 there were three paper mills at the lower dam and four at the upper dam, and legal battles erupted over the rights to the power the Charles provided.

The paper industry that flourished in the village through the first half of the Nineteenth Century was doubly dependent on the Charles -- for water, and for power. Paper was made from cotton and rags, softened in water and beaten into a pulp by water-powered machinery. Other machines separated the pulp from the water in a continuous process that made long rolls of paper. Demand was so great that rags were imported Europe and the Near East. A search for other materials resulted in the 1850s in technology that used wood pulp, and the mills at Lower Falls suffered from the competition of newer paper mills built closer to the abundant sources of wood in Western Massachusetts and elsewhere. The Civil War boosted paper prices temporarily, but by the 1870s the mills were either converted to other uses or demolished. By 1900 only one paper mill was still operating.

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Waltham woman killed on Nonantum Road in Newton

Posted December 13, 2008 07:10 PM

Weather may have been a factor in a fatal crash in Newton Saturday morning, according to State Police.

At 7:15 a.m., Lauren Tsai, 26, of Waltham, died when her 2002 Nissan Pathfinder drove off Nonantum Road and crashed into the Charles River. Tsai was pronounced dead at the scene. The crash remains under investigation, said Trooper Timothy Finn, a spokesman for the Massachusetts State Police.

The dangers of Nonantum Road -- which runs east from Galen Street near Watertown Square to Soldiers Field Road in Brighton -- are no secret to local residents. They have been complaining for years that the lanes are too narrow and the speed limit too high.

Two people were killed on Nonantum Road in 2006, according to this Boston Globe story.

Earlier this year, officials announced a new design plan for the road.

For more news and information about Newton, go to Boston.com/newton.


Topping Off at Newton North

Posted December 12, 2008 12:53 PM

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The final steel beam was placed in the Newton North construction site Friday morning. The "Topping Off Ceremony" marks the completion of the first phase of construction.

About 100 people in hard hats stood on gravel covered mud, amid intermittent light rain and the smell of construction vehicles, to listen to speeches and sign the last beam before watching it be hoisted up to fill the final gap of the infrastructure.

One of the speakers, Mayor David Cohen, thanked the members of the Local Seven Ironworkers for putting up more than 4,000 tons of steel and paid homage to the work they have done.

"I walked up to the third floor the other day, and when I came down I thought I was going to die," Cohen said. "I just want to thank the workers who spent all their days walking on these beams of steel and risking their lives to make this building."

Cohen also thanked the crew for helping keep the project "on time and under budget," and said "the kids and citizens are worth this building."

Superintendent Jeffery Young said, "Newton North is already a great school, just not a great building," and said that the new facility will "enhance rather than impede" the learning of the students.

After the beam was placed, attendants of the ceremony filed into the new Newton North to eat barbecue as the first meal in the still unfinished cafeteria.

The SAT race is on . . .

Posted December 12, 2008 07:30 AM

By Lisa Kocian, Globe Staff
While Diane Alten’s son, a high school senior, is in the throes of applying to college, the Newton mother is already worrying about her ninth-grade daughter.

Her son took SAT-preparation classes, but Alten wants to get even more help for her daughter before she enters the suburban arms race of college admissions.

‘‘I think it’s good to start with a coach early who can encourage her to join clubs and that sort of thing,’’ said Alten. ‘‘I absolutely think I better call now.’’

Despite the flagging economy, the test prep and college counseling industry seems to be going strong.

Besides teaching students how to take standardized tests, seen as a key ingredient to getting into a top college, many companies offer packages covering the entire admissions process — from deciding where to apply to picking essay topics and preparing for interviews, even deciding which school to attend.

Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions is seeing growth of nearly 200 percent this year in its admissions consulting services in Greater Boston, after hiring a full-time director to respond to the rising demand, a company official said.

‘‘This kind of investment is the last thing to go,’’ said Anthony Manley, Kaplan’s general manager for precollege programs. ‘‘In this environment, boosting test scores has become even more important, since higher scores can mean the difference in the amount of merit-based scholarships and financial aid awarded to the student.’’

But as applicants try to gain an edge, the pressure just gets higher. Students who attend competitive high schools are vying with their classmates to take advantage of the increasing array of admissions services. As students purchase more and more help, classmates must buy the same services just to keep the playing field level.

‘‘There’s certainly the keeping-up-with-the-Joneses aspect of it all,’’ said Joann Kenney, director of guidance for the Dover-Sherborn school district. And the business world is responding to the demand: ‘‘You can see that in the number of cottage industries that have cropped up,’’ she said.

Chyten Educational Services started off providing test-preparation courses but has expanded into college counseling, said Neil Chyten, the company’s founder and chief executive. This is the first year, he said, that application assistance has been offered at all of Chyten’s franchise centers, which are scattered across eight states.

The company’s history says a lot about where the demand is for test prep and other college help. The first center was in Newton, followed by Wellesley, Lexington, and Concord, some of the most affluent towns in the state — with some of the best schools.

Business is increasing despite the poor economy, Chyten said, and he thinks it’s because with money tight, parents are more concerned than ever about making sure their child finds the right college fit on the first try. One year of college counseling, with unlimited hours but not including test-preparation courses, costs $4,900 at Chyten.

‘‘In comparison to what they’re about to spend on college, it’s minuscule,’’ said Chyten, who tries to distinguish his company by requiring instructors to have master’s or doctoral degrees.
But there are signs that parents are starting to think harder before plunking down their cash or credit card on an expensive test-prep program or college counseling.

Michael London is president and chief executive of College Coach, a company founded in Newton that uses former college admissions officers to guide students through the application process. Comprehensive assistance, including unlimited access to a counselor via phone, e-mail, and in-person meetings, costs $3,699 for a high school senior and $4,199 for a junior.

He said his business has had more new customers this year, but they signed up a little later than usual. ‘‘To equate it to a retailer, they bought all their toys right before Christmas,’’ said London.

Alten, whose son is a senior at Newton South High School, said she thinks the preparation courses give wealthier students an unfair advantage on the SATs. But in her community, there’s little choice for students applying to colleges in the Northeast. ‘‘They only want a certain number of students from Newton,’’ she said. ‘‘It’s tough because there are so many kids applying to those schools.’’

Gil J. Villanueva, dean of admissions at Brandeis University in Waltham, said he’s keenly aware of the ‘‘Type A’’ behavior that goes into the admissions competition. ‘‘If the neighbor is working with a private counselor and we’re not and we attend the same high school, then we have to go ahead and participate in the arms race,’’ he said.

Brandeis doesn’t only want students from affluent suburbs, he said; in its effort to have a diverse student body, the college actively recruits low-income students and children of immigrants.
When looking at SAT scores, Villanueva said, Brandeis takes into consideration that low-income students probably don’t have access to high-priced prep services.

‘‘Students in resource-poor areas tend not to score as well as those in resource-rich areas,’’ said Villanueva. ‘‘We have to be sensitive to that.’’

But it’s not just suburban teens who feel the pressures to perform on standardized tests.

Muhan Zhang is a junior at Boston Latin, which as the country’s oldest public school requires a highly competitive exam to gain admittance. He signed up for an SAT course at the Newton office of Princeton Review, thinking it was best to start studying early for the test, typically taken in the fall of senior year. At his school, Zhang said, many kids can ace the SAT without really studying. ‘‘I do take this course because it helps me keep on par.’’

Lisa Kocian can be reached at 508-820-4231 or lkocian@ globe.com.

Firefighter Friday: A New Column by Jessica Locke

Posted December 12, 2008 07:12 AM

Welcome to Firefighter Friday, a periodic weekly column that will focus on the Newton fire department, and issues that affect the safety of Newton’s firefighters and the citizens they protect.

My connection to the Newton firefighters came about as a result of volunteering after 9/11 at a NYC firehouse. What I witnessed there changed my life forever. The job of a firefighter is based on the premise to do good. No amount of money can convince a man or woman to do "the right thing"; to lay their lives on the line for any stranger in need. Their willingness to do so requires an extraordinary level of commitment, intelligence, awareness, and selflessness most of us rarely see in our everyday lives.

A group of such dedicated and extraordinary people come together to protect Newton. Yet, unbelievably, the Mayor and the Fire Chief have undermined their department, routinely risking the safety of their members, and ultimately that of the public as well. Since coming onto the Newton scene in late 2006, I have been repeatedly stunned that city employees could be treated with such disrespect and disregard for their well-being.

In the weeks ahead, I will report on the issues and conditions which affect the Newton firefighters’ ability to successfully serve their community. Hopefully, this forum will allow the residents of Newton to come together to seek the solutions that will make their fire department better – and safer - for everyone.

(Jessica Locke is Executive Director of the Firefighters Fund (www.firefightersfund.org) and author of "Rescue at Engine 32". Questions or comments: jessica@firefightersfund.org)

SAT scores: which schools did the best?

Posted December 11, 2008 09:18 AM

Newton South and North did well on SAT scores for the 06-07 school year, according to numbers released by the state Dept of Education.

South finished eighth statewide, while North finished 12th in statewide rankings. The rankings are based on the total of all three scores in Reading, Writing, and Math. Each category has a max score of 800, with a perfect score in all three is 2400. South had an average score of 1810, while North had 1770.

The numbers are also in today's Globe West edition.

Weston (1841; 5th in the state) and Wellesley (1822; 6th) also did well.

Part of ceiling collapses at Atrium Mall parking garage

Posted December 10, 2008 02:22 PM

(Video by George Rizer, Produced by Mark Micheli)

By Brian Ballou and Rachana Rathi, Globe Staff, and Anne Baker, Globe Correspondent

Part of the suspended ceiling abruptly gave way this morning in the parking garage under the upscale Atrium Mall in Chestnut Hill, sending debris crashing down onto cars, but no injuries were reported, officials said.

The incident happened at about 11:07 a.m. and eight cars were covered by debris when the 25-by-100-foot area collapsed, officials said. There was no word on the extent of damage to the cars.

A tangle of wiring and drywall hung from the ceiling in a section of the garage that appeared to be under the Bertucci's restaurant. Piles of drywall were also on the ground, apparently where the material had been stacked by firefighters. Cars could be seen covered with drywall and dust, but they didn’t appear to have sustained major damage.

Mall manager Bob Wodogaza said in a statement that the cause of the incident on the first level of the parking deck had not been determined and a structural engineer would be on the site shortly to evaluate the situation. No cars are allowed to enter the garage, but people are being allowed to leave by Florence Street.

FULL ENTRY

Schools, police dominate Newton's top 100 salary list

Posted December 10, 2008 02:02 PM

By Brian Benson
Globe Correspondent

School administrators and police officers dominated the list of Newton's top 100 most highly compensated employees last year, according to a Globe analysis of city records.

The highest-paid city employee was the school district's superintendent, Jeffrey Young, who earned $239,486, and who is widely known as being near the top of the pay range for his colleagues across the region. But others among the top 100 earners in Newton may be a bit more surprising: 20 principals, two teachers, and five deputy or assistant school superintendents.

In all, 44 of the 100 worked for the school district, based on figures for the 2007 calendar year, the most recent available from the city.

The Police Department had the next largest number, with 40 names on the list. Most received overtime and detail pay that pushed them into the highest earners among the city's roughly 3,500 full- and part-time employees.

Mayor David Cohen did not make the list, after being paid $97,500 last year, according to the records provided to the Globe. He had sought a $27,500 raise in May, but abandoned the effort after a political outcry. All of the top 100 earners made more than $100,000, based on salary, overtime, detail pay, and other compensation.

The head of the teachers union, which will begin negotiations on a new contract next year, said the school district employees' salaries were in line with other professions.

"I'm glad to know that people in education are earning a full professional salary that compares with some other industries," said Cheryl Turgel, president of the Newton Teachers Association. "People in education, as far as I'm concerned, are doing the most important work in this country."

Turgel said she would like to see more teachers in the top 100. But she noted that principals and superintendents earn their salaries because of the high levels of stress and responsibility they face every day.

"I don't think there's a principal across the state that shouldn't make more than $100,000," she said.

Turgel said she is "not upset" by Young's salary, noting it needs to be that high to be competitive with other states and districts.

"Do we want to have a superintendent that's constantly leaving to better his financial status by going to another state, or do we want to have someone who's dedicated to our city and students?" she said.

For more information, go to boston.com/newton.

Wellesley wants a new high school, too

Posted December 10, 2008 09:31 AM

Wellesley voters Tuesday overwhelmingly approved an $86.6 million debt exclusion to fund a $130 million new high school, the largest capital project in the town's history.

The tally was 5,026 to 2,869, according to unofficial returns available from the town clerk Tuesday night. Selectman Owen Dugan, in announcing the results, called the vote a "resounding mandate."

Supporters of a new high school had argued that the existing building - which includes a 1938 main building, a 1956 wing, and several later additions - does not meet current enrollment or educational needs and could jeopardize the school's accreditation. But opponents had urged voters to renovate and add to the existing building.

Read more here.

Lumiere goes Green

Posted December 10, 2008 09:30 AM

The Globe's recent article on environmentally friendly restaurants singled out Lumiere, the West Newton bistro. Here is the full article and read below what Devra First had to say:

LUMIERE

The menu here is environmentally friendly. Literally - it's printed on paper high in post-consumer content. Chef Michael Leviton has always showcased local, sustainable ingredients at his West Newton bistro. "During the height of the growing season, we're almost entirely local," he says. Fish doesn't come from any farther than Chesapeake Bay, meat comes from North-east Family Farms (below), and chickens come from southern Quebec.

Lumiere also uses recycled paper towels and environmentally friendly to-go containers (above). Fryer oil is picked up by a company called Green Grease Monkey, which converts vehicles to run on waste vegetable oil. And the restaurant composts. "We compost and recycle everything, so our trash footprint is pretty small," Leviton says.

As for lighting, it's fluorescent, but not in the dining room. At a restaurant called Lumiere, some green measures just won't fly.

Salzer pulls out of Lynn candidacy, still looking for new job

Posted December 9, 2008 02:15 PM

Brian Benson, Globe Correspondent

Newton South principal Brian Salzer said Tuesday afternoon that he has pulled out of the race for superintendent in Lynn because the position’s start date would not leave enough time for Newton South to find and train a new principal.

“That position begins on January 1st and given the timeline there would be no time to transition here,” Salzer said in an interview with the Globe.

Salzer, who said in a letter to parents last week that he was seeking several other superintendent and assistant superintendent jobs, would not elaborate on those positions except to say he had not pulled out.

“I’d rather let those districts release the names when they’re comfortable doing that,” he said.

Given the large number of superintendent vacancies in Massachusetts, Salzer said he felt now was an ideal time to look at advancement. With no openings within Newton, he looked outside of the district, he said.

“I’d like to look and see if the superintendency is right for me in this time of my life and the only way to do that is to go through the process and see if a district is right for me and it’s the right time for a move,” he said. “I can’t discover that if I can’t investigate it.”

Salzer also said he is only applying for superintendent and assistant superintendent positions.

He is not looking to become principal of another high school. "Newton South is the last high school I will be principal of," he said.

Salzer said he will begin contract negotiations with Newton in January, while searching for another position. He said the search would not impede his ability to do his job. And he has received "overwhelming support" from students and parents, who are at the school this week for parent-teacher conferences.

Salzer, who became principal at Newton South in 2006, said if he does accept another job, he will look fondly upon his time in Newton.

“It’s always hard [to leave] because you develop relationships with the teachers and families of the schools,” he said. “It’s nice to cultivate and develop relationships over time.”

The remaining Lynn candidates, including four Lynn educators, would replace current Superintendent Nicholas P. Kostan, who is retiring on Dec. 31 after a 38-year career in Lynn schools. The School Committee will interview the candidates during three public sessions scheduled for Dec. 11, 17 and 18.

Newton school enrollment leveling off

Posted December 9, 2008 08:10 AM

"Newton Public School enrollment has grown for four years in a row, and is projected to level
off for the next two years before growing again,'' a Newton school report says.

Read it all here.

"Net growth of 288 students in total over the past three years was followed by a smaller increase of 14 students this year. The current 2008-09 enrollment of 11,570 students includes continued growth at the elementary schools, the start of growth at the middle schools, and continued declining enrollment at the high schools. Looking ahead for the next five years, the total school population is expected to increase by a total of 221 students,'' the executive summary says.

Want to know how many students those big housing complexes have brought to the schools?

Arborpoint at Woodland station: 33 students

Avalon at Chestnut Hill: 40 students

Avalon at Newton Highlands: 63 students.

The report also refers to several developments that are in the planning stages.

Here's one interesting tidbit (on page 12): the number of elementary students has increased by 523 students over the past five years.

Newton's share of community funds drops 30 percent

Posted December 9, 2008 07:51 AM

By Brian Benson
An important source of state aid to Newton and other communities for open space acquisition, affordable housing construction, historical preservation, and recreation is dropping dramatically this year.

On average, communities in the western suburbs received 23.8 percent less in state funds under the Community Preservation Act this fiscal year than in fiscal year 2008.

Newton's total dropped 30 percent, to $1.4-million. Hopkinton suffered the biggest loss in the region, at 33.2 percent, while Upton was the only community to receive more state funds, gaining 9.6 percent. Statewide, communities collected approximately 19.8 percent less than last year, according to data released by the state Department of Revenue.

For the first time in the Community Preservation Act’s history, Massachusetts is not providing dollar-for-dollar matching funds.

Communities previously received a 100 percent match from the state of whatever money they raised. But, that dropped to 67.6 percent this year and could go to 35 percent next year, said Robert Bliss, spokesman for the state Department of Revenue.

The decrease is attributable to declining revenue collected by the Registry of Deeds, which funds the state matches, and an increase in the number of communities participating in the CPA, said Doug Pizzi, a spokesman for the Community Preservation Coalition.

Fees collected by the Registry of Deeds have declined from $53.8 million in fiscal year 2003 to $27 million in fiscal year 2008, according to state figures. Meanwhile, the number of communities which have adopted the act has grown from 34 in the 2002 fiscal year to 133 for fiscal year 2009 with seven cqmore approving it this fall.

“We feel that at [approximately] 65 percent it’s still a great deal because there aren’t too many government programs that do that,” Pizzi said.

Another note about Newton North construction funds

Posted December 8, 2008 02:38 PM

By Ben Terris

At his weekly press conference Monday, Mayor David Cohen said the Massachusetts School Building Authority would begin reimbursing the city for $46.6 million for the building of the new Newton North starting in January.

He said that the money was guaranteed in 2004 so "was never in doubt" and that the "financing o the project would have continued regardless of the timeframe of the MSBA funds."

Still, despite the "substantial cash reserves" that could have been used to "meet any cash flow challenges," Cohen said it was "very good news that we are nearing a project funding agreement with the MSBA, and these important funds will be released soon."

Newton Human Rights Commission Honors Lawyers

Posted December 8, 2008 02:33 PM

In honor of December being Human Rights month, the Newton Human Rights Commission presented their yearly award to Ellen Lubell and Doris Tennant last Thursday.

Lubell and Tennant, two Newton lawyers have spent nearly two years representing Abdul Aziz Naji, an Algerian Muslim incarcerated at Guantanamo Bay.

At the Mayor’s press conference, Marianne Ferguson, the Chairperson of the Commission praised the lawyer’s internationally renowned work, but also called for the community to “think locally, paying attention to your own neighborhoods and schools.”

Mayor David Cohen agreed saying, “They say if human rights are denied anywhere they are denied everywhere. The opposite is also true, if they are upheld anywhere they are helped everywhere.”

The Boston Globe ran a profile on the two lawyers last year and can be seen by clicking here.

The Myrtle Baptist Neighborhood: A Truly Historic Place

Posted December 8, 2008 09:45 AM

church%20and%20street.JPG

By Ben Terris
In 1875, nine African-American Baptists whose families had lived in Newton since it was a stronghold on the Underground Railroad built a church. Now, 133 years later, the Myrtle Baptist Church and the surrounding neighborhood has been nominated to the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP).

The city first identified the neighborhood as a candidate for the NHRP eight years ago when students from a Boston University preservation studies program found that this historically African-American neighborhood—which runs along Curve Street in Auburndale and consists of 28 houses, many of which have been inhabited by the same family for nearly a century—has had a storied history within the community.

“Between the vibrant community and the church, both of which has been there for years, there is no doubt that the place is historic,” said Katy Holmes, the preservation planner for Newton. “It’s time the neighborhood be recognized on a national level, and I think it looks really good that in the next couple of months it will be.”

Holmes said that if it is put on the NHRP the neighborhood would be safeguarded from outside development. The construction of the Mass Pike demolished nearly half of the original community in the 1960s.

The NHRP will not place any new restrictions on renovations local residents can do on their homes, said Holmes.

“Any change to any house more than 50 years old needs to be approved by the city anyway,” she said. “The only limitations will be on federally funded projects that might have a negative impact on the area.”

Many of the buildings in the neighborhood have maintained the same basic structure since they were built in the late 19th and early 20th century. The houses on the block range in size and style from single-family Colonial Revivals to two three story Second Empire.

The church itself, the second manifestation of the building after sparks from the abutting railroad tracks burnt the first down, showcases a three-story front-gabled steeple and two large stained glass windows from the late 1800’s. Many congregants mistake the stained glass window behind the pulpit as being a black Jesus. It is really meant to depict Philip Baptizing the Ethiopian Eunuch.

Reverend Howard Haywood —who has been a lifelong member of the church, and it’s reverend at the church since 1985— believes the recognition is much deserved.

“Imagine nine people who worked so hard to get this church built, and that it’s lasted through depressions, through war times, the turnpike, and it’s still here and still going strong,” Haywood said. “It’s living history.”

Haywood said, however, that there’s much more to the area than just an old church and some old houses.

“When cities or towns make historic districts it’s usually more about the age, or architecture, or one famous person used to live there,” he said. “Here’s it’s really about the people. It’s about the tenacity of a small minority of people who maintained good lifestyles under not the best conditions. There’s more to Newton than the fact that we had houses in 1870, more than celebrating structure, it’s time to celebrate community.”

Some families have been a part of this Curve Street neighborhood for decades.

Members of William Turner’s family have lived at 25 Curve St. since 1938, and the home even played host to regular dinners with Martin Luther King, Jr. when he was in Divinity school in the 1950s.

“I think it’s great that the area is being recognized,” Turner, 69, said. “We have managed to have a community built on love and peace, and it will be nice to be recognized and protected from outside development that might try to disrupt what we have had for 130 good years.”

When the locals here speak of disruption, they speak from experience. Some members of the community, like Leslie Lewis, were around in 1962 when the Mass Pike redefined the confines of the neighborhood.

“Before the pike came, us young folks could walk anywhere,” said Lewis who was 13 at the time. “We used to walk to school down the road there, past a little broom factory that used to be owned by the minister and all these houses that were owned by neighbors we all knew. Then the pike came and really did a number on the neighborhood. But I’ll tell you what, the community bent, but it did not break with the building of the road. It might have separated us, but the spirit remained. People returned to come to church, and we stayed like a family.”

Haywood agreed that the community was able to rebound even after the initial shock and impact of the highway.

“I’ll never forget the move,” he said. “I came back from work on the Monday after we moved, and every home and house on the street was gone including mine. There were 25 homes and 34 families that were disrupted when the turnpike came through. We thought the church had lost them, but they came back every Sunday from wherever they moved and even brought new people with them.”

Haywood said that the Curve Street neighborhood’s resilience echoes an American story, not just and African-American story.

“I think this community is a microcosm of achieving the American dream,” he said. “This community shows that any community, whether it be African-American, Jewish, Irish, et cetera can be viable. This is the story of Newton as a whole, of the country as a whole, for the community could only exist with the help of what surrounded it.”

Newton high schools not on top 100 list

Posted December 7, 2008 07:00 AM

Two Massachusetts high schools -- but neither of Newton's -- made the US News & World Report's list of top 100 high schools for 2008.

The lone Massachusetts schools on the 2008 list were Belmont and Boston Latin.

No. 1 in the US was Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Va., for the second year in a row. Said the magazine: "The school, which focuses heavily on math and science education, bested more than 21,000 other public high schools in 48 states for the honor.''

You can see what School Matters, the outfit that US News used to crunch the data, has to say about Newton's schools here and use the tool to compare it with other towns and cities. MCAS scores can be found here.

Several Massachusetts schools, including Wellesley High, were on the 2007 US News list. A separate list, courtesy of Newsweek, can be found here.

The rankings are often controversial, as the New York Times noted last year. "The ranking is a centerpiece of what we might call the Anxiety Industry, the same booming market that includes test-prep classes and private college-admissions consultants. Nobody should feel exactly sanguine about that reality,'' the Times wrote.

Check out the US News methodology here.

The hairdresser next door

Posted December 5, 2008 07:05 AM

You may soon may have a hairdresser, real estate broker, or repairman working out of the house next door.

Newton aldermen are considering a proposal to expand the city’s home-business ordinance to include more businesses. It’s a delicate balance between encouraging home businesses, and protecting neighbors’ quality of life.

‘‘We wanted to stop giving preference to some businesses, like doctors and dentists, but not others,’’ said Alderman Stephen Linsky, a lawyer who works from home. ‘‘We recognize that now a whole range of people are using home offices. It’s not going to be about the nature of the business as much as what impact it has.’’

The planning and zoning committee will take up the proposal again Monday before it heads to the full board for a vote.

The ordinance — which currently prohibits businesses such as barber and repair shops, as well as animal hospitals, music groups, restaurants, and clothing rental operations, from being based out of a residence — would be changed to include allow ‘‘any occupation, profession or activity that is conducted for gain.’’

Those businesses would have a number of restrictions, however. They would be unable to store or display inventory or materials outside, and could only post a single sign smaller than 1 square foot in size. And they could not result in a ‘‘noise, vibration, glare, fumes, odors, smoke, dust ... heat, humidity or electrical interference in excess of that otherwise common in the neighborhood,’’ or ‘‘disrupt the peace, tranquility or safety.’’

A special permit from the Newton city’s Planning and Development Board would be needed for businesses that require more than four people or two employees who are not residents on the premises at any time, or more than two parking spots on the street. All home businesses would still have to file with the city clerk’s office.

Special permits would also be required for businesses that generate more than 16 daily vehicle trips (a patient coming to and leaving a doctor’s office is considered two trips). Businesses would be exempt from this rule four times a year.

The ordinance would also give special permit-granting authority for home businesses to the Planning and Development Board. Currently, the Board of Aldermen is responsible for granting grants special permits for home businesses.

‘‘To put home businesses that are used for things like piano lessons through our extensive special permit process is ... a little bit onerous, and it’s expensive and time-consuming,’’ said Alderwoman Marcia Johnson. ‘‘We thought this would simplify it.’’

-- Rachana Rathi

New Art Center show closes Dec. 14

Posted December 5, 2008 07:05 AM

You have until Dec. 14 to check out the New Art Center's 15th annual Icons + Altars exhibition. The show features altars made by more than 100 local artists who use an eclectic range of materials to make statements about their background or the world around them. This one, for instance, is Heidi Dauphin's "Making a Point." There's a closing reception on the 14th that includes the chance to bid on the works. 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday, 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Reception on Dec. 14 from 3 to 5:30 p.m. Free. New Art Center, 61 Washington Park, Newton, 617-964-3424. www.newartcenter.org

Newton South principal applies for out of town jobs

Posted December 4, 2008 08:41 AM

Brian Salzer, the principal of Newton South High for 2 1/2 years, has notified parents that he has applied for jobs outside the school district.

Confirming a story broken by boston.com/newton, Salzer sent a note to parents Thursday morning that he is seeking a new job, but has made no firm decisions about leaving.

"I want you to know that I am currently interviewing for positions as Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent in a few districts. Though I enjoy the role of principal at South and find this school exceptional in many ways, I am interested in investigating opportunities to increase my leadership role in a school district,'' Salzer wrote. "The prospect of leadership in challenging times intrigues me to want to look at how I can make a difference in the lives of students and educators in a role of greater responsibility. I want you to know that I have made no firm decisions about my future here or the development of my career elsewhere.''

Salzer became Newton South's principal in July 2006, and sparked a controversy when it was learned he installed five security cameras at the school.

Afternoon update: Superintendent Jeff Young responded to our request for comment.

“I admire Brian’s interest in extending his leadership work,” Young said. “He’s done a lot of very nice things in Newton and I would wish him very well in this particular pursuit. I think he’s really helped to make the high school even more student-centered. He’s very involved with the kids and builds effective relationships with them."

Young said that it is a fairly common career path for a high school principal to advance to a superintendent or assistant superintendent position.

He said the letter Salzer wrote to Newton South parents Thursday morning was “very sincere.”

“I think you heard his real voice and he expressed his affection for the school community as well as his desire to take on new challenges,” Young said.

School officials in Lynn told the Boston Globe this week that Salzer is among eight candidates to fill the superintendent's opening in that north shore community.

The Lynn candidates, including four Lynn educators, would replace School Superintendent Nicholas P. Kostan. Kostan, the superintendent for seven years, is retiring on Dec. 31 after a 38-year career in Lynn schools.

The School Committee will interview the candidates, during three public sessions, scheduled for Dec. 11, 17 and 18. The job was advertised with a salary range of $130,000 to $150,000.

The other candidates are Jaye Warry and Catherine Latham, the current deputy superintendents; Claire Crane, principal of the Robert L. Ford School, and Warren White, principal of Classical High School. Besides Salzer, applicants from outside Lynn are Lore Nielsen, a past superintendent in Ayer; Art Stella, superintendent in Taunton; and Stephen Mills, deputy superintendent in Worcester.

Read a past Globe article about Salzer here. For more news and information about Newton, go to boston.com/newton.

-- Kathy McCabe and Brian Benson

Average Newton property tax bill to rise $226

Posted December 4, 2008 07:09 AM

It's tax-rate-setting season, and property taxes are going up in Newton -- and almost every city and town in the state. The difference is that Newton has emerged as a community in which assessed property values for single-family homes -- used to calculate the tax rate, along with the total amount of money to be raised -- did not drop from the last fiscal year to this one.

The new residential property tax rate in Newton is $9.96 per $1,000 of assessed value, up from $9.70 in fiscal year 2008. The assessed value for a median single-family home rose slightly from FY08 to FY09, from $690,800 to $695,400, according to the city's assessing department. The annual tax bill for that median home this year will be $6,926, an increase of $226, before adding in the additional 1 percent ($69) for the Community Preservation Act, which sets aside money for affordable housing, historic preservation, open space, and recreation land.

"Things are pretty stable in Newton," said Elizabeth Dromey, head of Newton's Department of Assessment Administration, of year-to-year home values in the city and nearby communities. "In some of the suburbs close to Boston, you'll see there was either no change or it had either a minor decrease or a minor increase in value."

Property assessments for a fiscal year -- which runs July 1 to June 30 -- are designed to reflect market values on the previous Jan. 1. That means FY09 assessments reflect Jan. 1, 2008 values and are primarily calculated using sales figures from the 2007 calendar year.

-- Eric Moskowitz

Four generations of buying and fixing cars in Newton

Posted December 4, 2008 07:02 AM

Few people can attribute their successful career to a job they had in middle school, but for Sam Hurwitz, that’s precisely the case.

Hurwitz, co-owner of the Old Time Garage, located in Newton and Needham, began repairing cars when he was 14. He started in the space where his Newton Lower Falls garage is now. Nearly three decades later, he also runs a thriving business buying and selling used automobiles. He and his brothers Billy and Kenny are the fourth generation to make a living in the auto business.

Hurwitz, age 44 and himself the father of four, credits his late grandfather Charles for many of his accomplishments. The two traveled remarkably parallel paths, which Hurwitz said he didn’t fully realize until after his grandfather’s death eight years ago, when he discovered an audio diary in his grandfather’s dresser drawer.

The 32 minutes of tape is a biographical timeline that follows his grandfather from high school through his days at the Brighton auto-repair shop and car dealership that he owned for decades.

‘‘Here I am now — traveling to Florida and Connecticut to buy cars for a better value during these poor economic times — and this is just what my grandfather did right after the Depression,’’ said Hurwitz. ‘‘Who would have ever thought that we’d see days like that again?’’

The family’s first generation in auto repair and sales began in the late 1900s with William Hurwitz, Sam’s great-grandfather. He was a horse dealer and stable owner, and did carriage repair. When automobiles gained popularity, he changed his business plan to accommodate mechanical horsepower.

Charles worked with his father for a few years, then started a wholesale used car business during the Depression. He called it Highland Motors, for the Highland telephone exchange in Roxbury Crossing, where it was located. In the mid-1950s, his son Matthew opened Mat’s Good Gulf, a small gas station and repair shop in Newton Corner. Mat wound up leaving to earn a degree in mechanical engineering from MIT. His sons, however, preferred to work with their hands.

FULL ENTRY

City will wait another month for Newton North money

Posted December 3, 2008 01:11 PM

It could be another month before the state releases a $46.6 million grant for the $195.2 million Newton North High School building project.

At a meeting Wednesday between officials from the Massachusetts School Building Authority and the city, state officials said Newton must revise its cash flow document and submit more paperwork before they will sign a funding agreement to release the grant.

"We seem to be moving along at a good pace right now," authority spokeswoman Carrie Sullivan said after the meeting. "We're optimistic that this could happen before the end of the year."

The grant will be paid out in increments as money is spent on the project, meaning the state will review invoices submitted by Newton before making payments. There is a 15-day turn around time for payments, Sullivan said.

-- Rachana Rathi

Newton loses out to . . . Shrewsbury?

Posted December 3, 2008 07:13 AM

In a state that sees itself as a high tech hub, North Reading and Shrewsbury stand out as the two most tech-friendly communities in Massachusetts, according to a ranking released by the Massachusetts High Technology Council.

Newton ranked 318 out of 351 towns and cities statewide, according to the ranking at www.masstrack.org. Other low ranking nearby communities were Framingham and Sudbury.

The Tech council, a Waltham-based nonprofit lobbying group, evaluated all 351 cities and towns on 12 factors including commercial tax rate, business incentives, number of college graduates within a 30-minute drive, and MCAS scores, to come up with its annual ranking.

The adoption of “expedited permitting,” a state initiative that allows communities to fast track certain stages of building permitting to attract development, was a key factor in the rankings, according to Chris Anderson, president of the Massachusetts High Technology Council.

“We compete with a number of states that are doing a very effective job of welcoming the innovation economy,” said Anderson. “Unlike many other states, Massachusetts has strong local rule or home rule history. It’s more difficult for some of the statewide policy initiatives to take root because you have to overturn the historic role of the cities and towns in determining what goes on in each city and town.”

North Reading topped the list thanks to its low tax rate ($11.50 per $1000), its large number of college grads in the area (552,446), as well as its adoption of expedited permitting.

Shrewsbury ranked second because of its low tax rate ($9.14), adoption of expedited permitting, and use of the Tax Increment Financing Program. The latter factor helped attract Charles River Laboratories, which is the town’s biggest taxpayer, according to Town Manager Dan Morgado.

-- Lisa Kocian


A different zip code, a different type of school

Posted December 3, 2008 06:48 AM

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While Newton residents debate the merits of the $197 million construction of Newton North High School, or the millions the city can allocate to public schools this year, William Ellery Channing Elementary School in Hyde Park is still without a gym. At Channing, physical education class is often bowling in the hallways.

Reverend Cheryl Lloyd of the First Unitarian Society of Newton is working to lessen this equity gap. As the coordinator of the William Ellery Channing Elementary School Project, Lloyd is in charge of 24 volunteers (six of which are Newton residents) who do everything from tutoring math to teaching writing skills. And, with a budget of $26,000 (part from fundraising and part from a Unitarian Universalist social responsibility grant), Lloyd can also afford to bring in people to teach extracurricular programs like Hip Hop dancing and drama classes.

Living in Newton, Lloyd is only a fifteen-minute drive away from the Channing school, and the disparate nature of the two neighborhoods has not been lost on her.

“When I was in Divinity School in Roxbury I used to come home to Newton and not know where I was.” Lloyd said. “There was such a disconnect between where I lived and where I worked. My son would tell me he needed a third tennis racket because everyone else on the team had three, and I would have just come back from an area where the schools don’t even have gyms to play tennis in.”

This Unitarian-sponsored but nondenominational program began in 2007. Struggling to keep up with the high academic demands of Massachusetts, Channing, a school of 325 students and 60 faculty members, needed some outside help. Since the school is named after one of the most prominent Unitarian preachers of the 18th century, they wrote to the Unitarian Universalist Association, and a partnership was soon born.

“The volunteers are simply invaluable,” said Dr. Deborah D. Dancy, the school’s principal and only administrator. “The economy is suffering and resources are becoming less available. But at the same time, demand is getting much higher. Massachusetts has one of the highest standards for education, yet we are not where we need to be. There’s no administration, and some students can’t even get their hands on pencil and paper. How are we supposed to keep up? Well, the only way we can come close is with the help of volunteers.”

For Catherine Senghas, a ministerial intern at the First Unitarian Society of Newton, tutoring at the school is one of the highlights of her week.

“It’s much easier to get up on Tuesdays, because I know I’m excited about going in and helping the kids out with math,” she said. “I love it for two reasons. First, I really enjoy seeing that ‘aha’ moment that kids have when they first understand a problem. And, just as important, when you start volunteering on a regular basis like this, you realize its not charity work, its social justice kind of work. You are making a difference systemically, not just case by case.”

Dancy said that for her, many of the problems with Channing stem from a lack of equality in the public school system.

“The lack of equity is unbelievable,” she said. “On one side of the street a school might have art, music phys ed, and on the other side of the school there is nothing other than the required subject areas.”

With the help of the program, Channing is hoping to do more for students than just teach them what’s going to be on the next MCAS.

“We’re trying to teach the whole child, from the right side of the brain to the left.” Dancy said. “We want to encourage creativity in addition to math skills, and we wouldn’t have the resources to do that without volunteers. They don’t just save us tens of thousands of dollars, but they save us hundreds of thousands of dollars in teaching costs. Now the children can learn from lawyers and doctors and writers and can really see what’s out there for them in the future.”

-- Ben Terris

Dan Payne speaks on how Obama won and McCain lost the election

Posted December 3, 2008 06:34 AM

Dan Payne, a political commentator for the Boston Globe and WBUR radio, spoke Tuesday night at a Democrats of Newton event about the epic presidential campaign. Payne discussed both how Barack Obama won the election, and also how John McCain let it slip away.

Payne began the evening by discussing how the candidates won their primaries. He said that for Obama it was about successfully setting himself up as the anti-war candidate and focusing on caucuses

“When Hillary voted yes for Bush to go to war, it opened the doors for an anti-war candidate,” Payne said indicating that Obama filled that role. “[And Obama’s campaign] realized that caucuses counted. Caucuses were like field goals. You might only get a few points, but it could be enough to win.”

On the other hand, Payne said McCain won the primary by just outlasting his opponents.

“McCain won by attrition,” he said. “He was the last Indian standing. Romney changed his mind so many times, and became the least liked candidate. Giuliani had no clue how to run a campaign. Thompson didn’t want to work before noon or after 3 pm. He wanted to sit on his porch and have his sippin’ whiskey. And Huckabee was too new, and was pigeon-holed as the evangelical candidate.”

Payne said that Obama’s biggest advantage over McCain in the general election was that he did not have to alter his message.

“Change became the mantra of the Obama campaign,” Payne said. “I’ve worked in lots of campaigns and tried to use change as a device. It’s hard to make it stick. The fact that Obama was able to stick with it and freshen it up is tribute to candidate himself.”

While Obama managed to keep his message and look presidential throughout the campaign, Payne said that McCain made three crucial mistakes: sticking to the federal public financing limit, nominating Sarah Palin as his vice president, and suspending his campaign during the economic crisis.

Payne said that by accepting public financing McCain put himself at an almost insurmountable financial disadvantage, that by nominating Palin he appeared reckless, and that by going to Washington to try and “fix” the crisis he appeared foolish.

In the end, Payne said that Obama really won more than McCain lost the election.

“Obama won because he was Obama,” Payne said. “People believed in him. They believed he was going to take charge of a system that was really out of control.”

-- Ben Terris

Tax and fees, back on the agenda

Posted December 2, 2008 09:30 AM

Members of an advisory committee Monday answered questions from members of the Newton Board of Aldermen and School Committee about their recommendations for saving money and increasing revenue in the city.

The Citizen Advisory Committee, a 14-member body established by Mayor David Cohen to identify revenue streams and cost savings for the city, released a report last month identifying up to $10 million in potential revenues and savings from measures such as asking for higher payments from universities and other non-profits and increasing fees for garbage, parking and recreation. But it warned that these measures could only close the city's growing budget gap for one to two years.

Committee Chairman Malcolm Salter said the city needs to set priorities and know that “there are reversible choices, and there are irreversible choices.”

Aldermen asked questions about issues ranging including merging departments between the municipal government and school department; how much money to put into maintenance; hiring a federal grant writer on retainer; and charter reform.

The committee clarified some confusion, and also said it has yet to discuss or analyze in detail some of the issues aldermen raised, including charter reform and the details of maintenance.

And their answers were frank. For instance, when the issue of transparency in governance was raised, vice-chairman Ruthanne Fuller said, “The lack of transparency really helps elected officials. It gives you guys wiggle room to say yes to the person who wants that and yes to the person who wants that when you can’t afford to fund both."

Aldermen also wanted to know the committee’s thoughts on changing the way the city government is set up, including the powers given to the board and the size of the board. “The governance structure is archaic and prevents us from moving forward,” said Alderwoman Sydra Schnipper.

Salter said the committee has yet to discuss government structure. The group expects to release a more comprehensive and detailed report in late January.

-- Rachana Rathi

Police search committee named

Posted December 2, 2008 08:55 AM

Newton Aldermen Monday night approved a police chief search committee to replace John O'Brien, who is retiring in January after three decades with Newton's police force.

The committee will present its findings to Mayor David Cohen, giving him a list of six or seven candidates. Cohen has said he wants to appoint a new chief by Jan. 1.

For the committee, Cohen recommended resident Jane O'Hern, who would act as chairwoman, businessman Tim Braceland, attorney Gail Glick, Needham Police Chief Tom Leary, resident Tabetha McCartney, retired judge Peter Kilborn, Officer Jay Babcock of the Newton Police Association, and Lieutenant Gerry Mahoney of the Newton Police Superior Officers Association, who would serve in an advisory capacity. Board President Lisle Baker recommended alderman Stephen Linsky and resident Gayle Smalley, a former assistant city solicitor in Newton.

All of the appointments were approved by voice vote. There were three dissentions for Mahoney and Leary, who is not a Newton resident. Some aldermen disagreed about whether the city's rules, amended in 1992 to make the police chief's job a managerial position with a five- to seven-year contract, allow a non-resident to serve on the search committee.

Mahoney represents an association that didn't exist when the rules were amended. Cohen recommended appointing him in an advisory role -- he wouldn't get a vote -- and amending the rules to add a representative from the association to the committee. The mayor's request to amend the rules is still before the aldermen's public safety committee.

Also, some aldermen had expressed frustration at their last meeting about the committee holding meetings without first being approved by the board, and even narrowing down about nine internal candidates for the position. The committee held off on meeting pending approval once its members spoke to aldermen, Alderman Verne Vance informed his colleagues yesterday.

-- Rachana Rathi

Newton's JCC still thriving, marks 25 years

Posted December 2, 2008 07:00 AM

The waiting list for membership was long when the Jewish Community Center opened in Newton 25 years ago.

Families who once played, shopped and lived together in places like Dorchester and Roxbury were now living disparate lives in the western suburbs, and searching for a way to maintain their identity.

"We were excited because it was really the begining of an institution that would bring us together in the western suburbs," said Rick Mann, the son of the late Theodore Mann, who was the mayor of Newton when the community center opened. Rick Mann, a newly married attorney at the time, thought it was imperative for his family to be part of the center.

"We had become victims of our own affluence," Mann said, describing how the Jewish community became more dispersed as it moved west. "The places that held us together -- the corner store, the grocery store, the deli, the singular place where people went to meet -- was no longer available. The JCC became the place where we could congregate and recreate. It brought us out of isolation and back to being a tight community."

Twenty-five years later, the Leventhal-Sidman Jewish Community Center remains a place where the Jewish community -- and its extended network -- gathers to play basketball or swim, send the kids to preschool and make new friends.

The facility was the product of a push by leaders of the Jewish community, such as Norman Leventhal and Ed and Paula Sidman, for whom the center is named, said marketing director Larry Keller. They allayed the fears of some Jewish leaders, who wondered whether the center would take away the role of the synagogue, and worked with Mayor Theodore Mann to acquire the building, a former Catholic monastery and orphanage. The center opened in October 1983, with broadcaster Ted Koppel at the opening ceremony. Since then, several Israeli prime ministers and presidents, a poet laureate and other leaders have visited the facility, Keller said.

About 80 percent of the center's budget comes from membership fees, while the other 20 percent is from gifts and donations, said Mark Sokoll, the president of Jewish Community Centers of Greater Boston, which includes several overnight and day camps, a handful of preschools, and a small community center in Framingham.

The single largest fundraising event the center hosts will be held on Saturday, and serve as the cornerstone of the facility's 25th anniversary. Called the "Lights and Spice Gala," the proceeds will go toward scholarships for membership and other activities. The facility expects to raise about $600,000, Sokoll said.

The center provides activities for members ranging from preschoolers to senior citizens -- and even brings the two groups together regularly.

-- Rachana Rathi

"Everything Must Go,'' is Needham Street's refrain

Posted November 28, 2008 07:00 AM

Bundled against the cold, the human billboards are out on the weekends at both ends of Needham Street in Newton, their bold-colored, bold-lettered signs — STORE CLOSING! EVERYTHING MUST GO! — pronouncing the end of Tweeter and Linens ’n Things, where an acre of combined shopping space is being liquidated of merchandise.

In between the bookends of this shopping corridor, other chains have already closed: Fabric Place and Mattress Discounters, where a doormat at the locked entrance still beckons, ‘‘Have a Good Night’s Sleep on Us.’’

Pockets of empty stores are appearing in Boston’s suburbs, the result of a string of bankruptcy filings or store-closure announcements by regional and national chains, including Tweeter, Linens ’n Things, Circuit City, even Starbucks. The closings, scattered for now, have retailers, landlords, employees, local officials, and shoppers — as they hold tighter to their wallets and scout for going-out-of-business sales — worrying as the holiday shopping season begins. This area may fare better than the rest of the nation, but the worst is yet to come everywhere, retail and commercial real estate analysts say.

‘‘Things are so unpredictable right now, and it’s very frightening to think what the future brings for the retail business,’’ said Judy Post, a Needham resident who was shopping for furniture recently.

‘‘Every furniture store I went into, I was the only one in the store, and all the sales people were sitting and waiting around for somebody to come in,’’ said Post, 65, a retired clinical nurse specialist, as she paused before entering the Newton Linens ’n Things. ‘‘It was a very eerie feeling.’’

The human billboards are out in Natick and Framingham, too, and yet some places along that route remain crowded. ‘‘I was at the Natick mall last weekend, and it’s still pretty full. We’re definitely in an economic crisis, but people are still spending,’’ said Ilana Schwartz, 34, of West Newton, as she prepared to peruse discounts at the housewares store, where even the shopping carts were for sale.

Over the last decade, big-box stores and chains flourished. Now, commentators in some parts of the country are pronouncing the demise of an era in suburban shopping — with people in big SUVs going to big stores to buy stuff for big houses — and warning of a landscape littered with empty big-box stores and scarred shopping plazas.

Around Boston, analysts predict a slowdown, not devastation. The current and looming closures reflect economic troubles as well as the realization that the retail scene is oversaturated, with many stores selling the same products.

Until recently, Newton offered a stark example of an ‘‘overstored’’ market: two Starbucks stores within a couple blocks of each other in Newton Centre. One has closed.

‘‘You can have a Starbucks on every corner in a good economy, but in a bad economy you have to have one every few miles,’’ said Linda Grignolo, 58, a Wellesley homemaker who nonetheless voiced cautious optimism about the retail outlook.

Jonathan D. Miller, a New York-based analyst and author of an annual industry outlook, ‘‘Emerging Trends in Real Estate,’’ said the weakest malls and ‘‘power centers’’ — meaning plazas with multiple big-box retailers that have sprouted near regional malls — could become empty in the coming years.

‘‘Over time, with an improved economy, Americans will buy again, and malls will thrive again. It’s just not going to be in the next two or three years,’’ said Miller.

At the Newton Tweeter, Tom de la Cruz, 27, said he will soon be looking for work for the first time since 2001.

Without the store, consumers will lose the personal service and expertise from the retailer that once promoted ‘‘a boatload of know-how,’’ he said, but they can still buy flat-screen TVs from ‘‘Wal-Mart, Target, Best Buy, and Circuit City — until they go under.’’ That is, if people are still shopping for flat-screen TVs.

‘‘Everything we have is a luxury item,’’ de la Cruz said. ‘‘No one needs a 52-inch TV.’’
Nearby, a middle-aged man who gave his name only as Yuri browsed the final-sale items but left without buying — yet.

‘‘They’re not giving it away,’’ the man said, outside the store.

‘‘The end of the world is not coming,’’ he added, climbing into a Volvo. ‘‘But things will be tight for a while.’’

-- Eric Moskowitz

What is Newton Reading?

Posted November 28, 2008 07:00 AM

"Vicki Myron is passionate about libraries, about Iowa, about the town of Spencer, and especially about Dewey, the cat who ran the Spencer Public Library.,'' begins a review on the Newton Reads blog of Dewey, the Small Town Library Cat who Touched The World.

The Newtonville Books Blog reports that a movie is in the works: "Meryl Streep is set to play a librarian in the upcoming cat movie adaptation of Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World. We get the following scoop this morning thanks to the good people over at Variety:

Meryl Streep is purring over “Dewey,” a fact-based film about a stray cat’s impact on the town of Spencer, Iowa. The project has landed at New Line Cinema. Streep is attached to star in the adaptation of the Vicki Myron book Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World. Pamela Gray will pen the script.''

Other selections recommended by the bloggers at the Newton Free Library are: Twisted Head, What the World Eats, and The 10-year Nap.

The Globe's Off the Shelf blog lists area paperback fiction bestsellers at area stores, including Newtonville and New England Mobile Book Fair.

Newton man pleads guilty in T exposure incidents

Posted November 26, 2008 06:08 PM

A Newton man on Wednesday admitted to groping a teenage girl and exposing himself on the T in a number of incidents in 2006 and 2007, Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel F. Conley said.

Jeffrey N. Berman, 61, pleaded guilty to open and gross lewdness, assault and battery, and two counts of indecent exposure, Conley said in a statement released Wednesday.

Berman could face up to two years in prison if he does not abide by strict probation conditions until 2011, the DA said.

Boston Municipal Court Judge Paul K. Leary sentenced Berman to two years in prison, but suspended his term for three years, during which he must stay away from MBTA stations, subways, buses, and commuter rails, Boston public schools, and all victims in the case.

Berman also has to undergo sex offender treatment and serve 25 hours of community service within the next four months, Conley said.

Berman was charged with touching a teenage girl inappropriately on an inbound Green Line train in Nov. 2006. He also allegedly exposed himself at least three times between Mar. and Sept. 2007.

The teenage victim – a student at a Boston high school – approached school officials last Dec. 2007 with a photo she took of the man who allegedly assaulted her on the Green Line.

School officials contacted Transit Police, who learned the man had also exposed his genitals to two other teenage girls on the T. Each of the victims identified the man in the photo.

When Transit Police released the photo to the public on Dec. 6, 2007 several people identified the man in the picture as Berman. The next day, Berman contacted authorities and was taken into custody.

Berman’s attorney, Roger Witkin, did not return a message seeking comment.

For more coverage of Newton, go to Boston.com/Newton.

Football Thursday: a Thanksgiving feast

Posted November 25, 2008 11:15 PM

Newton South plays Lincoln Sudbury at L-S Thursday at 10 a.m. and North plays Brookline at 10 am at Brookline. Area schedules here.

“The game has been going on for more than 100 years and it’s when all the grandparents, aunts and uncles come to watch,” Newton North coach Peter Capodilupo told the Newtonite for this story. “It’s a timeless event.''

Read Eli Davidow's set up of the North game in the Newtonite here.

Who will win Thursday's games around the area? Go to boston.com, and check Chris Forsberg's online game of pick 'em right here.

Other area games include:

Natick at Framingham, 10 a.m. (Bowditch Field)
The 102nd meeting will be a dandy. The host Flyers (8-2) already have a Division 1A playoff game lined up with Atlantic Coast champ Marshfield next Tuesday. Natick (9-1) suffered its only loss to Bay State Herget champ Walpole. The matchup features two of the area's best quarterbacks, Framingham senior Dan Guadagnoli (22 touchdown passes, 15 rushing touchdowns) and Natick junior Scott McCummings (14 TDs rushing, four passing).

Shrewsbury at Milford, 10:15 a.m.
Shrewsbury (7-3, 4-1 Division 1 East) can clinch a playoff berth with a victory. But Milford, 6-4, 3-2), featuring an unorthodox defensive scheme anchored by linebackers Brendon Casey, Manny Lopez and Evan Burns, has registered three shutouts. Shrewsbury senior Paul Tizzano will be used in a multitude of roles. Running back Hunter Beckmann has missed the last four games with turf toe, but could be available.

Franklin at King Philip, 10 a.m.
The last time both teams were this good, Lofa Tatupu was under center for King Philip. Junior Brendon Howard (16 touchdown passes) pilots an explosive offense for KP (8-2), while the Panthers (7-3) will try to establish the run behind junior running backs Matt Carini (14 TDs) and Nick Colson (7 TDs).

One woman's quest to heal the Newton fire department's many woes

Posted November 25, 2008 09:29 PM

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After September 11th Jessica Locke was so mad she wanted to kill a terrorist. Instead she traveled to New York to heal fire fighters.

This is fortunate, for Locke—now the founder of the Newton-based Jessica Locke Fire Fighter’s Fund— was a lot more qualified in healing than killing. Locke is trained in the Alexander Technique, a method of body and movement reeducation that brings you in accordance with what she calls “your primary movement.” It’s a holistic method that combines aspects of massage, psychology, and physical therapy to alleviate all kinds of pain. In some ways it’s very intuitive—like how the way you walk affects how your back feels—and in other ways it seems nonsensical—like how having had braces on your teeth could affect how your back feels.

“The first time I experience the technique it was like having my spine unwound and uncoiled,” Locke said. “You spend your entire life building up small pains and aches in your body, and you can’t imagine living without them. Then someone can make it all go away with just a touch. It was like how Jesus could put his hands on people and heal them.”

When Locke realized that she could do more good by applying this technique to the weary and worn fire fighters of New York than by seeking vigilante justice, she knocked on the door of Engine 32.

“I was very nervous when I got to the station,” Locke said. “But when the first fire fighter let me in, I knew I had to prove myself. I put my hands on him, and I felt his energy and realized he didn’t want the work, but was going to sit there for my sake. I felt so bad because I was not down here to take but to give. So now it was a contest to see whether I could give more to him than he gave to me. I won.”

Locke said that with that first body session, she was able to remove the fire fighter’s shoulder pain, something he said no physical therapy had ever been able to accomplish.

“In that moment I finally felt like I had gotten back at Bin Laden,” she said. “And for everything I did for my country’s heroes, they gave it back with respect. It became a symbiotic relationship, and it was the best relationship I had had with any men for as long as I can remember.”

This experience put Locke on a completely different life path. Until this point Locke had been a struggling composer with a masters from the New England Conservatory of music and a desire to be the next John Williams. Now, she dedicates her life to serving the fire fighters who serve the public.

New York may have been the catalyst for her involvement, but it is the Newton fire fighters that Locke spends most of her time with now. After seeing an article in the Newton Tab a few years back about conditions in the local fire stations, Locke realized that work needed to be done closer to her home in Watertown.

“When I learned that the buildings were crumbling, heat was failing, windows didn’t have screens, toilets backed up, sewage leaking from ceiling, there were no smoke or carbon monoxide detectors, and that engines were 23 years old and shouldn’t be on the road, I knew I needed to do something,” she said.

Now, in addition to having her own Alexander Technique practice in West Newton Locke has become a one-woman advocate group for the Newton fire fighters. Whether giving free bodywork to 15 firemen, raising awareness about working conditions, or standing outside of City Hall at least once a week for a year to protest Mayor Cohen’s assertion that the department used too many sick days, Locke certainly devotes much of her time to the cause.

For this reason, Locke officially founded her own nonprofit—The Fire Fighter’s Fund—and wrote a book about her post-9/11 experiences in 2005. The organization is just Locke and two other volunteers in New York, but members of the fire department say her presence has been invaluable.

The firefighters know her, that's for sure. On Tuesday evening, we visited Firehouse One and talked to a group of firefighters. Their dinner conversations ranged from how hot Punky Brewster had become, the sexual deviancy of female chimps, and how great Cinnamon Toast Crunch was.

But they also talked a little about Locke.

“She’s really lit a bunch of fires under people and helped get us the equipment we needed,” Lt. Mike Murphy said without a sense of irony “There should be a statue outside that says, ‘This is the station that Jessica built.’”

And, for a bunch of hardboiled firefighters these were some true believers in the Alexander Technique. Chris Lessard is such a fan of the technique that he has even brought in his wife and young child to have it done.

“All the other treatments I had were like getting a Band Aid for a bullet wound,” Lessard said between bites of ziti and meatballs. “But [Locke] understood what was going on better than anyone else and has really helped with the pain. She’d touch my shoulder and say, ‘you feel that in your toe?’ At first I’d have no idea what she was talking about, and then… I felt a tingling in my toe.”

Newton firefighter charged with driving under the influence

Posted November 25, 2008 03:22 PM

A Newton fire lieutenant was charged with driving under the influence of drugs and other offenses after police say he allegedly fled the scene of an accident and led them on a foot chase through a Newton neighborhood Saturday, court papers show.

Daniel Doherty, 41, of Newton, was arraigned Monday in Newton District Court on charges of operating under the influence, drugs, third offense; leaving the scene of property damage; and disorderly conduct. He entered a plea of not guilty and was committed to Bridgewater State Hospital for 30 days of observation, said Cathy Coughlin, assistant clerk magistrate.

Police were called to the scene of a traffic accident at about 10:50 a.m. on Saturday at the intersection of Washington and Walnut streets, where Doherty’s Ford F150 had hit a tree, the police report states.

Several people attempted to stop Doherty when he began walking away from the scene, and he ran north on Walnut Street after a police officer asked him to stop, according to the report. Doherty ran onto Foster Street and jumped into the backyards of several houses before he was arrested in the backyard of a home on Page Street, the report says.

‘‘He was unable to walk by himself. He was unable to get up off the ground by himself and had to be lifted by several officers. There was a very strong smell of burnt marijuana on his person. His eyes were very watery and bloodshot,’’ according to an account by one of the arresting officers in the police report.

Doherty’s next hearing is scheduled for Dec. 23. The court also revoked bail on a case pending against him in Dedham.

Doherty was charged with assault and battery of a police officer, malicious damage to a motor vehicle, and disorderly conduct in connection with an Oct. 13 incident involving a Dedham police officer, said David Traub, spokesman for the Norfolk district attorney’s office. Doherty was arraigned and released on $2,000 bail, and a pretrial hearing is scheduled for Dec. 19.

The fire lieutenant was placed on 30 days unpaid medical leave this week in response to his arrest Saturday, city spokesman Jeremy Solomon said. He said the city was already in the process of negotiating a disciplinary hearing date with the firefighters’ union following Doherty’s arrest in Dedham.

‘‘We were also trying to see if we could get him some help,’’ Solomon said.

Assistant Fire Chief Bruce Proia said that ‘‘the department has no comment at this time.’’

For more coverage of Newton, go to Boston.com/Newton

-- Rachana Rathi


Gov. Patrick, talking gas tax and business in Newton

Posted November 25, 2008 11:01 AM

This morning the Newton-Needham Chamber of Commerce held its 93rd annual Achievement Breakfast and award ceremony with special guest speakers Governor Deval Patrick and TripAdvisor President and CEO Stephen Kaufer.

In an event that combined politics with business, Patrick signaled a willingness to consider a gas tax increase, saying he was not hostile to it as part of a reform of the state's transportation system.

Timothy Braceland, the Chairman of the chamber's board, began the breakfast by talking about the importance of overlapping entrepreneurial and political relationships.

“For far too long there has been a divide between businesses and the political system,” Braceland said. “There is a sense by the politicians that businesses only care about making money with no regard to the community. And on the other side many business people think that politicians only want to tax us and burden us with regulation...The future is too important not to come together and get this mission done correctly.”

Governor Patrick represented the political side of the event and talked about what was on the mind of many Newton residents: the debate between a gas tax and a Mass Pike toll increase.

“We have an opportunity for real reforms,” he said. “There’s nothing like limited resources to lead to that. Transport has suffered from chronic neglect for more than decade.“

He has backed a toll increase, but he also indicated a willingness to debate a gas tax increase, saying he wasn't hostile to the idea.

"The toll proposal comes up in a context. A context of chronic neglect of our transportation infrastructure. A strategy that is not very coherent of dealing with the Big Dig debt. In comes up in context of trying to deal with long term strategy,'' the governor said.

"Others prefer a gas tax. And by the way, that's not a bad idea. I'm not hostile to it. But I think if we're going to go there, whether it's in the context of a toll increase or a gas tax, let's have a discussion that is complete. It needs to address at least three principles. Is it enough, is it dedicated, is it comprehensive set of reforms.''

Although Patrick did not lay out a specific plan, he discussed the importance of creating a serious discussion about what to do next.

“I am asking for a mature debate,” he said. “A lot of people have spent a lot of time thinking about gas tax over the years, and have figured out their soundbites. This is equally true for toll increases. But the solution doesn’t lend itself to soundbites, it lends itself to people who have open minds and have mature conversation. It’s time to leave aside who is to blame for the situation.”

After Patrick spoke, Kaufer gave the keynote address about the history of his company, TripAdvisor. Kaufer spoke of the importance of being quick with your innovation and noted that it wasn’t until his company was backed into a corner financially that they broke through.

“Necessity is the mother of invention,” he said.

The list of the awards given is as follows:

Volunteer of the year: Mike Ciolino owner of the Web design company Verve Creative for his help with the Chamber of Commerce Website.

Non-Profit of the Year: West Suburban YMCA for its continued support for the community and its expansion in facilities and membership.

Leading Business Award: Roche Brothers Supermarkets for its constant support of the community and its dedication to going green.

Leading Communities Award: To Needham Field of Dreams, for the new turf field in Needham.

Robert L. Tenant Award: Cabot’s Ice Cream.

Chairman’s Award: To Mt. Ida College.

Crafts fairs cut prices

Posted November 25, 2008 07:30 AM

Retailers are not the only ones cutting holiday shopping prices this year. Many artists and organizers of holiday craft fairs are getting creative about pricing, too.

Some artists are bargaining down the cost of supplies to keep their prices low. Others, like Newton jeweler Lauren Berman, who is showing at the Celebrate Newton! Holiday Arts & Crafts Festival on Dec. 7, are switching to more affordable raw materials.

‘‘I’ve been creating more jewelry using lower-cost but interesting stones and staying away from the high-end stones,’’ said Berman, who said she is more likely to use chalcedony instead of blue topaz. ‘‘This means that I have to be a bit more creative in my designs, which has been pushing me from an artistic standpoint. So, this is a good thing — necessity being the mother of invention and all.’’

Newton quilters Karen Mondell and Diana Galson-Kooy are downsizing in the literal sense. ‘‘We decided to make some smaller items. We have regular quilted wall hangings and are now making ‘mini landscapes’ that cost significantly less,’’ said Mondell, who also is showing at Celebrate Newton!’s event at Newton South High School.

Here are some craft fair highlights:

Celebrate Newton! Arts & Crafts

This annual Newton PTO fund-raiser offers more than a wealth of juried fine arts and crafts. The holiday festival also boasts live music, a café, craft activities for youngsters , and many unusual gifts. Highlights this year include hand-dyed table linens, funky rubber stamps, Lynda Goldberg’s dream-like miniature monotypes, and Jean Lindsay-Dwyer’s huggable hand-knitted teddy bears. Details: Dec. 7, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Newton South High School, 140 Brandeis Road. Admission: $2, or $5 per family. 617-558-3695, www.perugi.com/newton.

Newton Art & Craft Sale

Thirty-five New England artists and one inventive chocolatier will gather for this juried show. This show with ‘‘a thousand gifts’’ includes crafts ranging from tiny earrings to hefty furniture. Notable items include potter Mark Bentz’s African violet planters. Chocolate Paradise will also tempt with the likes of chewy cherry chocolate-chip cookies and white and dark chocolate caramel corn. Proceeds support city arts programming. Details: Dec. 13, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Dec. 14, 11 a.m.-4 p.m., at the Newton Cultural Center, 225 Nevada St., Newtonville. Admission $3; $8 per family. 617-796-1540, www.ci.newton.ma.us, click on Cultural Affairs under the Departments link.

Toll hike equals more Route 9 traffic

Posted November 25, 2008 07:19 AM

As the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority pressed its plan to raise tolls, city and town officials along the highway’s corridor this week said they feared an increase would drive motorists to already congested secondary roads such as routes 9, 20, and 30.

Officials in Watertown, Natick, Wayland, and Newton expressed concerns about the effect a toll increase would have on pedestrian safety, emergency vehicle access, and quality of life for residents.

Newton’s City Hall spokesman, Jeremy Solomon, said the toll increase could affect many local roads, including Washington Street, Beacon Street, Commonwealth Avenue (Route 30), and Route 9.

‘‘We’re watching these proposals very closely,’’ Solomon said. ‘‘We are concerned it would lead to a fairly dramatic rise in traffic on our local roads and we just want to be sure that state leaders are considering that impact when deciding toll policy.’’

Echoing statements of other community officials, Solomon said he does not think additional traffic would provide a boon to businesses along the thoroughfares.

‘‘In general, my sense is when people are commuting to work they are not dallying in the communities through which they are passing,’’ he said.

At this month’s board meeting, the authority gave preliminary approval to raise tolls by 75 cents at the Weston and Allston/Brighton plazas and by $3.50 at the airport tunnels for drivers without Fast Lane transponders.

However, 36 state legislators signed on to a bill last week that would strip the Turnpike Authority of its power to set toll rates until Dec. 31, 2009, or ‘‘comprehensive transportation reform legislation’’ is approved.

The Turnpike Authority has scheduled a public hearing on the toll increases from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Dec. 17 in Framingham’s Memorial Building, 150 Concord St. Other hearings were slated in Worcester, Boston, and Lynn.

-- Brian Benson

A Student's Perspective: Jordan Sawyers on Obama's election

Posted November 25, 2008 07:10 AM

I was in fourth grade and my teacher asked everyone to write down their goals and share them with the class. I remember the boy next to me, who was Hispanic, got up to share his. He talked about how he would either want to be a doctor or be president. Most of the class laughed, and one girl, who was also Hispanic, said, "But you don't look like you could be president!"

At the time, I thought she meant the boy was short or funny looking. Now I realize she meant that he wasn't white.

Seven years later, I'm standing in line to vote for the first time, and for a biracial candidate. Barack Obama not only represents change for our country, but hope for people of color— hope that anything is possible, hope that things might be getting better. For many, like the boy in my fourth grade class, it means no longer being told that you cannot achieve certain goals.

Obama has not only influenced the minority community. He has inspired a generation that four years ago did not care about politics. Now, people my age and younger have been finding any way to get involved. Walking through the halls at my high school, I can hear the excitement about Obama's win.

Obama is more than just a President. He represents change in our country. Hopefully I'll see the boy from my class in office one day.

Governor Patrick to speak at Newton "Breakfast of Champions"

Posted November 24, 2008 12:25 PM

Tomorrow morning the Newton-Needham Chamber of Commerce will hold its 93rd annual Achievement Breakfast and Awards ceremony and will feature a speech by Governor Deval Patrick.

Being held from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m at the Newton Marriott Hotel, the breakfast celebrates local businesses, and is always one of the largest events hosted by the Chamber of Commerce.

In addition to having Governor Patrick as a special guest speaker, this year's event will feature keynote speaker will be Stephen Kaufer, the President and CEO of the Newton-based company TripAdvisor. Since 2000, TripAdvisor has become one of te internets' leading travel companies.

Tickets are $50 are chamber member and $70 general admission. To register call 617-244-5300.

Newton: The fourth safest city in America

Posted November 24, 2008 06:37 AM

CQ Press came out with the annual rankings of safest cities in America today, and Newton climbed up four spots on the list to number four in the country. For the complete list click here.

Newton was the "safest city" for two years (2004 and 2005) in a row in the list, then put out by Morgan Quitno Press, an independent research and publishing company based in Kansas. The city slipped to fourth on the list in the 2006 rankings, which are compiled using FBI crime data. In 2007 the city dropped another four spots to eighth in the rankings.

On the heels of the swastika incidents and the news that hate crimes have doubled in the city in the past year, it's an interesting fact to see Newton move back up into the top five of America's safest cities.

(Read more about those incidents and other news from Newton at Boston.com/newton.)

This year Newton falls behind Ramapo, NY; Mission Viejo, CA; and O'Fallon, MO.

Cambridge comes in at number 80 and Boston at 286.

CQ press acquired Morgan Quitno in 2007. SAGE, an academic publisher, then acquired CQ Press earlier this year.

Where does your trash go?

Posted November 24, 2008 06:11 AM

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Ever thought about where all your garbage goes after it's pick up off the street? It goes here.

Garbage has become a hot topic in Newton. With the town abuzz about what to do with all of its waste, few people actually think about where it all goes. It just so happens that I visited the refuse incineration plant that all of Newton's garbage goes to. Here is that story:

I pulled off Route 20 into the unmarked driveway that belonged to Wheelabrator Technologies' Millbury facility-a plant that disposes of refuse from around the area, including what we ship from Newton. Trash you throw out onto your curb ends up in this facility. The only reason I knew that I was heading to the garbage-to-energy plant was because I was following a big, blue Allied Waste Services truck. The truck-outfitted with a yellow and black sign that read "caution" and nine blinking red, orange and yellow lights-cruised easily over a speed bump. My 1997 Toyota Camry had more trouble, its undercarriage scraping against the ridge of yellow pavement. Clearly this road was designed with trucks, not midsized sedans, in mind.

The Waste Services vehicle stopped on an in-ground scale for its initial weight measurement. (It would return after dumping its garbage to be weighed again and charged for the difference.) Not planning on dumping any of my own garbage here, I drove around and pulled up to a large, gray building, steam and smoke mixing into the already crepuscular air. The facility was made up of three multi-storied cubes, a series of four one-story cylindrical cooling towers and a 300-foot tall smoke stack. In the shadows of the building, the dump trucks that rumbled by looked as though they were made by Tonka.

The waiting room in the administrative building held clues to the principles of the company. A trophy case greeted visitors with nearly 30 artifacts: two keys to the city of Millbury for public service (1993, 1995), plaques for supporting various community sports teams, a thank-you note from the fire department, a statue of a cardinal from the Massachusetts Audubon Society, a plaque from the Millbury Council on Aging, numerous tablets and certificates from the Lion's Club and a 2002 Environmental Merit award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

An array of magazines and newspapers lay strewn atop the coffee table-Construction Equipment Guide, Power Engineering, Waste News, Earth Preservers and Business and Industry-demonstrating a confluence of environmental and business concerns.

Ronaldo Peña, a soft-spoken man with a dirty white hard hat (think Manny Ramirez's tar-covered batting helmet) and a neon yellow vest entered the room and greeted the group as our shift supervisor. Peña, seemingly unenthused about giving a tour, took us up through the facility with the impatience of a father trying to guide his family out of an airport. Our first stop in the waste incinerator-cum-power plant was the dumping pit-a room with the capacity to hold 6,000 tons of garbage.

"We can hold enough garbage in the pit to tide us over for weekends and holidays," Peña said. "Even when trucks stop delivering, we are burning garbage. We've got refuse burning 24/7."

Five stories above the piles of trash, a man sat in the most badass chair I have ever seen. Located inside a glass-encased deck that overlooked the pit, the chair connected to a metal track that slid forward and back like a rowing machine, allowing the occupant to move about and see every section of the room. A joystick controlling a 5,000-pound crane that plunged into the heap, each time lifting six tons of the garbage in two arms. The crane, which when open resembles a giant metallic spider, mixes the trash around before picking it up and dropping it all onto an incinerator-bound conveyer belt.

"You must be pretty damn good at winning stuffed animals," a touring student from Clark University said.

"Not yet," the operator said, swaying back and forth in the seat, his twisting wrists causing the crane to swing five feet from the glass directly in front of us and drop thousands of pounds of municipal waste. "I just started a couple of weeks ago."

We turned out of the room and walked down two flights of stairs. We soon discovered that the only smell more putrid than 1,500 tons of garbage was 1,500 tons of burning garbage. The aroma in the dimly lit hallway that surrounded the two gas-powered burners caused some members of the tour to put earplugs into their nostrils. Peña took us to a small window that looked into the belly of the incinerator. Through the thick glass I saw an expansive inferno of flaming refuse burning at 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

This fire, fueled partially by Newton's' own trash, is used to boil water, turning it into steam, which travels into a turbine generator. The pressure of the steam is converted to electricity, producing 46,000 kilowatts of energy a day, 5,000 of which go to powering the entire plant while the other 41,000 are sold to the New England Power Company. It sells enough energy to power 41,000 homes. Metals in the garbage are sorted out by a magnet and recycled, and ash from the fire is brought to a landfill that Wheelabrator owns down the road. In the end, this process reduces the volume of incoming garbage by more than 90 percent.

As I retraced my steps through the building en route to the exit, I noticed a sign. "71 days without an accident," it read. Going a fifth of a year without an accident didn't seem so bad. Then I remembered the 5,000-pound crane and the 2,000-degree heat. I was glad to only be visiting.

"Newton at its best,'' rabbi tells crowd at Temple Shalom

Posted November 23, 2008 05:35 PM

In response to the discovery of swastikas spray painted outside two places of worship last week, about 200 people gathered outside Temple Shalom in Newton Sunday afternoon to condemn the incidents and spread a message of hope and tolerance to the congregations and the local community.

A swastika was found on a sign outside the temple last Saturday as members of Temple Shalom’s congregation were arriving for a bar mitzvah and a bat mitzvah. Another swastika was found on Wednesday on a curb outside of Eliot Church.

“We’re incredibly touched, honored and feel embraced by the outpouring of support from the community,” said Rabbi Eric Gurvis as he began Sunday's event at 12:15 pm. “This is Newton at its best.”

Rabbi Gurvis thanked the Newton Police Department, local residents, and community leaders for their support in the wake of the vandalism.

“I know that out of something very bad, we’re going to make something good,” said Newton Mayor David Cohen. Addressing residents’ potential safety concerns from the podium, Cohen urged the crowd not to be afraid and “to be whoever you are.”

“We have to reaffirm our commitment to diversity,” Cohen told the crowd.

Reverend Richard Malmberg of the Second Church in Newton and former chairman of the Newton Interfaith Clergy Association highlighted his church’s more than 50-year relationship with Temple Shalom and denounced the incident at the Temple as a “cowardly and vulgar act of vandalism.”

“This is the real Newton, the city I love. This is a place where intolerance is not tolerated,” Malmberg said.

Telling the crowd to turn “outrage into blessing,” Rabbi Gurvis stressed a need to promote understanding in the community and find constructive ways to deal with disagreements.

“Acts such as the one perpetrated last week are no way to disagree,” Gurvis said.

“Sometimes you don’t think these things happen, but it does,” said Richard Carroll, a member of the First Baptist Church in Newton who said he attended the event after his pastor spoke about the gathering during a service. “It was amazing today to see how many groups came.”

Derrek Shulman, New England Regional Director for the Anti-Defamation League, said after the event yesterday that the civil rights organization is working closely with Temple Shalom, law enforcement officials, and educators “to give a voice to the outrage and make something positive out of it.”

The Anti-Defamation League and the Second Church in Newton are offering a $4,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest of those responsible for the swastikas, Shulman said.

The incidents are under investigation and no arrests have been made, said Lieutenant Bruce Apotheker, spokesman for the Newton Police Department, after the event. There is no evidence linking the two swastikas, Apotheker said.

Elizabeth Connolly, a member of Temple Shalom’s congregation for 10 years, said after the event, “The message was that we have to come together as a community and respect one another and respect one another’s differences. Doing that will defeat the forces of hate.”

-- John S. Forrester

Newton gathers Sunday to condemn swastika incidents

Posted November 22, 2008 04:39 PM

After swastikas were discovered outside two separate places of worship over the course of the same week, Newton community and religious leaders plan to gather Sunday to condemn an apparent outbreak of hate crimes.

Last Saturday, congregants assembling for weekly services at Temple Shalom discovered a large swastika spray painted onto an outdoor sign. Rabbi Eric Gurvis condemned the graffiti from the pulpit and called the incident a hate crime.

On Wednesday night, a police officer discovered a swastika scrawled onto the curb outside of Eliot Church. Though the drawing was just four inches in diameter and appeared to be faded, Lieutenant Bruce Apotheker, a spokesman for the Newton Police Department, said police were thoroughly investigating the apparent hate crime.

“We'll give 110 percent, the same as we would something that was 100 feet tall,” he said.

Police said the incidents at Temple Shalom and Eliot Church do not appear to be connected.

Hate crimes in Newton have more than doubled this year, Apotheker said earlier. The graffiti outside Eliot Church was the 16th case reported this year; compared to six cases that were reported in 2007.

A congregant of the Second Church in Newton and the New England Anti-Defamation League are offering a $4,000 reward for anyone who provides information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the graffiti discovered at Temple Shalom last Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath.

City and religious leaders, including Mayor David B. Cohen, Derrek Shulman, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League of New England, Newton police and local religious leaders, are expected to gatherer outside Temple Shalom, at 175 Temple St., Sunday at 12:15 p.m. to speak out against hate crimes.

“It’s been a really nice interfaith outpouring of condemnation of this act,” said Jennifer Smith, the associate regional director for the Anti-Defamation League of New England. “The thing important is that [when] these things happen, they have to be taken seriously.”

Reverend Anthony Kill, who has been pastor of Eliot Church for the past 14 years, said yesterday he would not be able to attend today's interfaith gathering. Instead, he said he will address what he sees as societal changes in the wake of the election of the nation’s first black president at his church’s annual Thanksgiving Sunday service.

“I think the very fact there has been an increase [in hate crimes] says it is a last ditch effort,” he said at his home Saturday. “Obviously the nation isn’t buying this anymore.”

-- Matt Collette

Jewish Genealogical lecture Sunday

Posted November 21, 2008 05:12 PM

The Jewish Genealogy Blog reports that Brown University Professor Omer Bartov will speak on "Erased: Vanishing Traces of Jewish Galicia," at the Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Boston's 2nd Annual Genealogy Lecture co-sponsored by Hebrew College.

The Lecture, jointly sponsored by JGSGB and Hebrew College, will take place at Hebrew College, 160 Herrick Road, Newton Center on Sunday, November 23, 2008, at 3 pm in Berenson Hall.

Admission is free and advance reservation is required due to limited capacity. Register at www.hebrewcollege.edu or at 617-559-8733.

Omer Bartov, an international authority on genocide, traces the destruction of the region’s Jewish communities under Nazi and Soviet rule, and explores the contemporary politics of memory in Ukraine. He is the Birkelund Distinguished Professor of European History at Brown University. His lecture draws on his most recent book, Erased: Vanishing Traces of Jewish Galicia in Present-Day Ukraine (Princeton, 2007).

See more here at the Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Boston and Tracing the Tribe - The Jewish GenealogyBlog.

What's Newton reading?

Posted November 21, 2008 01:01 PM

The folks over at the Newton Free Library are talking up The German Bride. "The characters and Western landscape are beautifully described, and the dust, heat, and sense of isolation Eva feels are palpable.''

Newton South student Nathan Yeo, writing in the Denebola, reviews Nixonland, by Rick Perlstein.

Meantime, for younger readers Newtonville Books is touting The Lightning Thief.

Says Newtonville's blog: "The Percy Jackson series, an enormous hit with middle school readers, is scheduled to end next May. On his blog, Riordan talked about what comes next: “My plan is for another five-book story arc, featuring a new set of demigods, but with several of the original cast from Percy jackson making appearances.” And what about the big question: Does Percy Jackson live? “Well, I should probably be secretive about that,” he wrote, “but as a general rule I do not believe in killing off main characters, especially when I’m using a first-person narrator.” Next up: The Demigod Files, due out February 10, followed by The Last Olympian in May.''


Weekend Events: Newton Open Studios Art Show

Posted November 21, 2008 08:30 AM

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Thirty-five of the area's best artists will be showcasing their work at Newton Open Studios' first ever juried show this weekend. The exhibition will be open November 22nd and 23rd from 11 am to 5 pm at the Newton Cultural Center (225 Nevada Street).

The show will feature artistically diverse works from oil paintings of landscapes to abstract sculpture, and at least one of the pieces consists of food products. Coming to town to judge this eclectic work is DeCordova Museum Curatorial Fellow Nina Bozicnik.

So, if you are looking for art but don't want to deal with the Green Line to get to the MFA, then mosey on over to the Cultural Center and see the best that your neighborhoods have to offer.

Check out the Newton Open Studios site here and look for more news and information about Newton at boston.com/newton.

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Talkin' Trash at the Library

Posted November 20, 2008 09:43 PM

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Harry Sanders as "Trash Man" and Jeff Seideman at the "Cash in the Trash" forum.


If you live in Newton and you throw things away, you might notice a few changes in the coming months. After 20 years of the same trash removal service, the contract is up and Newton is looking at doing some things a little differently.

With options such as automated pickup (a truck that uses a robotic arm to pick up barrels), single-stream recycling (meaning you don’t have to separate your various recyclables from each other), and pay-as-you-throw (or a set fee per barrel or bag of trash you put out on the curb) on the table there is much to be discussed. So the Newton Free Library decided to hold a discussion.

The League of Women Voters organized a public forum Thursday night to try and make sense of this watershed moment in Newton’s refuse services, and figure out how to lower the town’s $5 million spent on trash removal.

Brooke Nash, of the Environmental Protection Agency, discussed the next steps the town could take environmentally and fiscally, saying that technology has come a long way in the past decades.

“In 1971 Newton was a real leader in state and nation in beginning curbside recycling,” she said. “Some of you will remember we had to separate glass by color, and maybe you could recycle number one and two plastic, but three, forget it.”

After Nash discussed how other Massachusetts towns have adopted innovative recycling plans to much success, Tom Daly, the Commissioner of Public Works, talked about Newton-specific numbers.

He said the Department of Public Works spends 35% of its $18.7 million on the removal of solid waste. Noting that the city spends $152 per ton of trash, Daly said the obvious goal was to lower the amount of refuse produced.

“If just 200 communities reduced our waste by 20% it would be the equivalent of getting 2.8 million cars off the road,” he said.

With the pilot programs of automated pickup and single-stream recycling underway, Newton will soon have an idea if these innovations can help reduce its trash output.

Newton game show makes it easy to win

Posted November 20, 2008 01:41 PM

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Newton resident Eric Friedberg is hoping that his latest creation — a
live Internet game show — does better than some of his other endeavors.

He would rather not have a repeat of the $180,000 dollars he lost with
his 1992-prototype of fantasy football or the $35,000 that vanished
seven years later in the making of the world's thinnest and most
indestructible wallet.

"I have so many ideas I can't remember half of them," Friedberg said. To
prove his point he shouted up the stairs to his wife, who is the Vanna
White of his game show: "Hey Veronica, complete this sentence I say all
the time, 'Honey, I have an…'"

"Idea," she called back.

With these various entrepreneurial attempts under his belt, Friedberg, 40, has learned from his mistakes and has moved on to a new venture.

Now a successful businessman as a partner in the marketing firm
Cohen-Friedberg Associates, Friedberg spends a portion of his 14-hour
workdays in the basement of a Newton company that restores furniture after
floods and fires. He uses a rented room in the basement to stage his game
show that runs three evenings a week on ItsEasytoWin.com.

The web site offers a variety of on-line games but the game show is the
most innovative. The game is open to the first 5,000 people to log into a chat room at least 20 minutes before the start. Contestants are randomly selected by computer from the people logged on. There is no studio audience.

The game show always involves picking among 40 metal briefcases from
shelves in the basement room. In a game called "State Your Case'' a
contestant must properly guess which license plate is in a case in order to
win a prize between $50 to $1,000. Occasionally a contestant can
win even if he doesn't guess the license plate but picks a case with a
prize in it.

Friedberg says that since he launched the site on October 11 he
has spent $150,000 to make this game show happen. He figures his audience
is at least 8,000 and says he has given away about $5,000 in
prizes.

Standing in front of the 40 cases, Friedberg really seems like your
typical game show host. His face is creased by 22 years of smiling during
sales pitches, and he speaks like he's trying to sell you something. A
self-described fitness nut, who even invented a specially designed leg
workout platform he called "Diamond Cut Calves", Friedberg maintains a
strong slender build at 5'7'. His curly hair is slicked up.

"Everything I do to keep the show interesting and looking good is off the
cuff," he said. "This is a learning experience for me too. The other day a
lady told me that my suit looked too big, and she was right. So I brought
it to the tailor and thanked her the next day. The show, like me, is
constant work in progress."

What sets Friedberg apart from other game show hosts is his impossibly
difficult task of interacting with his guests who are not present in the
room. Friedberg spends a good portion of the 20-minute program rocking back and forth on his heels and waiting for his viewers to type their responses to him. Then Veronica opens the case to see if they have a winner.

There are some awkward silences and some glitches, like when Friedberg had
to answer a wrong number in to the middle of the show, and when he forgot
to put a license plate into briefcase 24 and had to give away $250 for his
mistake. But Friedberg says he manages to get 200 new users a day, a fact
that his advertisers Jolly Time Popcorn and Modell's Sporting Goods have taken note of. He attributes this initial success to the devotion he has to his clientele.

"I had a show on Sunday at 11 o'clock," he said. "Well, I got a message
from a lady in the heartland who said to me, 'I notice that your name is
Friedberg and maybe are not going to that holy place every Sunday, but some
of us are.' Well, she was totally right. So I went to the studio after
football, gave her and five friends their own game.

"I run this business by treating every customer like they are the only
customers,'' said Friedberg. " It is new technology, but it's old-school
values."

-- Ben Terris

Newton's choice: higher fees or fewer services

Posted November 19, 2008 07:51 PM

An advisory group recommended Wednesday that Newton increase fees for garbage, parking, and recreation, and also pursue higher payments from universities and other nonprofits in the city in order to raise money.

But even those steps would fall short of a large budget gap created by the city’s demands for high quality services and a tax base that cannot keep up.

The draft report by the Citizen Advisory Group stops short of calling for a property tax increase but suggests that ‘‘it is inevitable that tax overrides and debt exclusions will remain important options in Newton’s financial future.’’

Mayor David Cohen appointed the committee of 14 citizens in May to identify how the city can cut costs and generate more nontax revenue. At a meeting Wednesday night to present the report, members of the panel emphasized that their job is not to decide what tradeoffs Newton should make, but to articulate the choices.

The first of three reports expected by the group focuses on how the city can increase revenue by between $2 million and $10 million, or 1 percent and 4 percent of the city’s general fund budget.

The suggestions also include raising building permit fees, increasing user fees for community education and cultural programs, augmenting cell tower rentals on municipal properties, enhancing grants and other donations, and selling or leasing underutilized municipal properties.

But even if the city implements all of the recommendations immediately, the report says, the additional revenue would only fill the budget gap for one to two years.

‘‘Even if the full potential of these recommended operating efficiencies and the revenue enhancements presented in this report is achieved, it appears that Newton will still not be able to fully fund the scope and quality of public services that Newton has historically provided,’’ the report states.

Since by law cities and towns must have a balanced budget, the report states, ‘‘the ‘big choices’ currently facing Newton’s residents and their elected leaders are more profound than simply increasing revenues or reducing costs. Rather, we must consider reductions in the historic scope and scale of municipal and educational services.’’

Deciding when and under what conditions tax overrides and debt exclusions should be considered ‘‘is a political judgment beyond the scope of this committee’s work,’’ the report adds.

Several of the conclusions are consistent with a blue ribbon commission’s report on the budget in February 2007 that concluded Newton faced a significant structural deficit, the advisory group said.

Panel members stressed Wednesday night that Newton's residents and leaders need to engage in a conversation about the city's priorities.

"We've been making choices that are covert and not explicit," said Malcolm Salter, the group's chairman, pointing to examples such as deferred maintenance of roads and sidewalks. "We need to have explicit conversations around the city to get a sense of what's really core and essential."

Philip Herr, a resident who attended the meeting, said that many of the report's recommendations would generate revenue by imposing additional fees.

"It's not taking the burden off of Newton residents," he said in an interview. "It's just shifting it."

-- Rachana Rathi

Newton firefighter hurt after falling through floor

Posted November 19, 2008 09:39 AM

By David Abel, Globe Staff

NEWTON -- A firefighter suffered minor burns and injured his shoulder when he fell through the floor of a million-dollar home engulfed in a two-alarm blaze, a fire official said.

The firefighter, who also had elevated carbon monoxide levels, was held overnight at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and is expected to recover, said Assistant Chief Bruce Proia of the Newton Fire Department. Firefighters responded to the blaze on Nobscot Road at 11:08 p.m. and found the white, clapboard home in flames.

The five-bedroom home was under renovation and unoccupied last night. The fire appears to have been caused by an electric meter in the basement and is not considered suspicious, Proia said. A second firefighter twisted his ankle while fighting the blaze. He was treated at the scene.

FULL ENTRY

Fire Update

Posted November 19, 2008 09:07 AM

Newton Fire Chief Joseph LaCroix said that the firefighter who fell through the floor while battling the two-alarm blaze on Nobscot Road last night, John Schroeder, should be released from the hospital sometime today.

"They kept him overnight because he had high CO levels and a burn on his hand," LaCroix said. "He fell right down there where the fire was, but he should be OK and they'll be letting him go home soon."

As for the cause of the fire, LaCroix said all indications point to an electrical origin, most likely a short of a service panel.

A Student's Perspective: Rebecca Goldstein on crunch time

Posted November 19, 2008 07:31 AM

For Newton South students, and for high school students around the country, right now is crunch time.

With college admissions more competitive than ever before, we lucky seniors are avidly focused on our grades, SAT I and II scores, and list of extracurricular activities. I know of seven South seniors applying early to Brown, about that many applying early action to Yale, a handful to Cornell…you get the idea. And with the financial crisis, scoring a scholarship has become more and more of a priority. I have come to regard five hours of sleep as adequate, six hours of sleep as comfortable, and seven hours as positively luxurious.

All this has made us less and less focused on our classes and more and more focused on our grades. The two are inextricably linked, of course, but they have less in common than you might think.

For example, getting the “easy teacher” as opposed to the “hard teacher” in a particular course has become crucial. No admissions committee is going to know if you took the class with the teacher who cancels class once a week or the teacher who gives two hours of homework a night. All they know is that the kid in the former class got an A and the kid in the latter class got a B-.

Furthermore, participation has dropped off significantly. A friend of mine taking AP Literature put it best: Let’s stay you have a calculus test tomorrow, applications due on the weekend, and sports practice before you go home. Are you really going to read and mark up a sonnet for discussion in tomorrow’s Lit class when it doesn’t count for a grade and you can just sit out the discussion? Of course not.

It is in this spirit that we’ve developed a complex system of triaging the work we have to do. It looks something like this:

Starbucks fix > common app essay > SAT studying > supplemental essays > homework for APs > sleeping > eating > homework for regular-level classes.

Our parents are worried about our well-being, and with good reason. The sole comfort is that the end of first semester awaits us. I’ve never been happier about the weather turning cold.

--Rebecca Goldstein '09

Homegrown talent: violinist Peter Zazofsky

Posted November 19, 2008 07:30 AM

When it comes to violinist and Newton native Peter Zazofsky, conductor Ronald Knudsen has every right to say ‘‘I knew him when.’’

After Knudsen joined the Boston Symphony Orchestra 44 years ago, assistant concertmaster George Zazofsky was quick to befriend him and gain his awe. Soon Knudsen would meet George’s son, Peter, and his respect for the young violinist’s talent would grow, too.

‘‘At a young age, you don’t quite know which way a person will go, but Peter was surrounded by classical music and he seemed very talented,’’ said Knudsen. ‘‘And in the end, he did stay with it and has done extremely well.’’

It’s true. Zazofsky went on to solo with many of the world’s top orchestras, to perform in the best halls, and win numerous honors, prizes, including in the grand prize at the Montreal International Competition, which no other American has done. won. Currently, he performs with the Muir Quartet and teaches at Boston University.

On Saturday and Sunday, he’ll join his old family friend in his hometown for a Scottish-themed classics concert, ‘‘Scotch Plaid,’’ with Knudsen’s current ensemble, the New Philharmonia Orchestra, in Newton.

‘‘I’ve wanted him to perform with us for years,’’ said Knudsen. ‘‘He’s very expressive both physically and musically. He obviously loves what he does, which engages an audience as well as produces very good music.’’

The program features Zazofsky performing Bruch’s tuneful, rhythmic, and seldom-heard ‘‘Scottish Fantasy,’’ as well as Mendelssohn’s ‘‘Scottish’’ Symphony (No. 3 in A minor).

The New Philharmonia Orchestra performs ‘‘Scotch Plaid’’ at 8 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday at First Baptist Church, 848 Beacon St., Newton Centre. Tickets $25; seniors $22; students $8; families $60. 617-527-9717. Website: www.newphil.org.

-- Denise Taylor

Firefighter injured in Newton fire

Posted November 18, 2008 11:52 PM

A firefighter has been injured battling a two-alarm fire burning in a two-and-a-half story wood frame building on Nobscot Road in Newton Tuesday night.

According to Jeremy Solomon, a spokesman for the city, fire crews struck a second alarm shortly after 11 p.m..

The injured firefighter reportedly fell through a floor that gave way. The extent of his injuries are unknown, and his name has not yet been released.

According to Solomon, there were no reports of civilian injuries.


-- John M. Guilfoil and Jeannie M. Nuss

Hate crimes increased in Newton this year

Posted November 18, 2008 03:19 PM

The number of hate crimes in Newton this year have more than doubled over the previous two years, police said Tuesday.

The spray-painted swastika discovered Saturday at the entrance of the Temple Shalom in West Newton was the city's 15th hate crime this year, said Lt. Bruce Apotheker, Newton's civil rights officer and police spokesman. Newton police classify acts of vandalism and assault as hate crimes, while incidents involving verbal slurs are called hate incidents.

Between 2001 and 2005, the city reported a string of racial and homophobic vandalism incidents. A mural at Bowen Elementary School was spray-painted with "KKK" and "white power" in 2004, which some suspected was aimed at the school's black principal. The same year, racist and homophobic literature was left on the lawns of homes in West Newton. The vandalism and graffiti continued into 2005, when there were 31 hate crimes, primarily in Newton Centre and at the city's schools, Apotheker said.

But over the last two years, the hate crimes and incidents were down. There were six hate crimes in 2007 and seven in 2006. In addition, there was one hate incident this year, two in 2007 and six in 2006. Nine of the incidents this year were anti-semitic in nature, five of them were aimed at African Americans and two were homophobic, police said.

Apotheker said he couldn't point to any specific reason for the increase, but said police aren't calling it a spike.

"We don't see something that hasn't existed in the past," he said. Apotheker said police work with different partners, including the human rights commission, anti-defamation league, and the civil rights division of the attorney general's office to address hate crimes.

"When violations like these are allowed to fester they can grow like a cancer, bringing about fear on an unprecedented scale," Apotheker said. "Based upon this premise, the department uses all available tools allowed by law to investigate these violations."

Mayor David Cohen invited the city's residents to show their support at a community event at the Temple Shalom on Sunday at 12:30 p.m.

"Our community is uniting with a loud and clear message that acts of hate and divisiveness such as this one will be and are condemned by all of the people of goodwill in Newton," Cohen said during a press conference on Monday.

-- Rachana Rathi


Local kosher establishments react to nation-wide meat shortage

Posted November 18, 2008 12:19 PM

Kosher businesses in the greater Boston area are bracing for price hikes from a potential meat shortage after the country’s largest glatt kosher meat slaughterhouse stopped production.

Agriprocessors, an Iowa-based slaughterhouse, ceased meet production while battling criminal and labor violation charges stemming from an immigration raid that temporarily closed its main plant in May, according to Associated Press reports.

“Prices keep going up and up,” said Walter Gelerman, owner of The Butcherie, a kosher supermarket in Brookline. “We certainly hope things will stabilize but I don’t see that happening soon.”

Gelerman said prices rise approximately 20 cents/pound every two weeks on poultry and meat. He said prices started increasing a year ago because of high fuel prices and a livestock feed shortage.

“When Agriprocessors started having their problems that aggravated the situation to the point that it seems to be spiraling right now,” he said.

At Gordon & Alperin butchery in Newton, owner Ricardo Bosich said although he does not buy meat from Agriprocessors, he is feeling the residual effects of the shortage.

“My belief is they have to raise the prices,” Bosich said. “You have people working overtime to try and make up the demand.”

In Stoughton, NRM Catering owner Neil Morris has been forced to increase prices by 10-15 percent. He said he is trying to spare customers as much of the hike as possible, even if it means cutting into his profits.

“It’s certainly a lot more difficult to get the product or get it when you want it,” Morris said. “The direct impact is having to order quite a bit in advance and, thus, having to order more than is necessary to make sure you are covered.”

The situation is similar at Levine’s Kosher Meat Market and Deli in Peabody where owner Todd Levine said he has been able to fill all his customers’ orders although it is getting more difficult to obtain meats.

“We’re trying to keep the price down and so far, my clientele has understood a lot of it is beyond my control,” said Levine, who expects the situation to get worse before it improves.
Levine said the weak economy has hurt business more than the meat shortage so far.

“[Customers] watch what they buy and try to get the most for their buck,” he said. “When you get the economy the way it is and a little shortage of kosher meat, it’s like a double hit.”

For more coverage of Newton news and information, go to Boston.com/Newton.

- Brian Benson, Globe Correspondent

A Student's Perspective: A senior on Newton South Parking

Posted November 18, 2008 09:20 AM

Getting your driver’s license is one of those “rites of passage” that most teenagers look forward to for the first 16 years of their lives. Like a Bar Mitzvah, Confirmation, or Quinceañera, it acts not only as a milestone in an individual’s life, but also as a prime opportunity to exert independence and maturity.

Driving to school is an inherent part of that “milestone” experience. For almost 50 years, since Newton South’s initial construction, students with cars have abandoned the school bus and parental transportation for the far more gratifying experience of driving themselves to school.

Over the years, however, the parking situation for Newton South students has become increasingly difficult. In the 1960s, no distinction was made between “student” and “faculty” parking spaces. This changed with time and even more so with the most recent renovation, leaving students with an incredibly limited choice of “good” spots. Furthermore, students must pay for the “privilege” to park in these limited spaces – $180 per semester, totaling $360 for the year – while faculty and staff can park – at no charge – in more convenient, “better” spaces.

This problem escalates, however, when faculty and staff – although given free parking on a majority of the campus – instead choose to take up one of the few, highly coveted student spaces closer to the school.

For those unfamiliar with the consequences for quite the opposite offense (a student parked in faculty parking), an orange sticker is affixed to the student’s car with a strong adhesive, a written warning is sent to the student in his homeroom, and a letter is sent to the student’s parents from his housemaster. Towing is threatened as a consequence for subsequent offenses.

Teachers parked in student spaces, however, are not treated nearly as much like criminals as students are. Although teachers are technically supposed to receive that same orange sticker warning and threats of being towed, rarely, if ever, is a teacher cited for his offenses. In lieu of these warnings, he receives a polite email, and consequences for subsequent offenses are never implemented.

While teachers should not necessarily receive those infamous orange stickers on their vehicles, they should, however, be treated equally to the students who are actually paying for the right to park at Newton South. If the administration believes that the orange warnings are effective, then both students and staff should be subject to their use; if not, then a new system – applying to everyone in the school community – should be put in use. Our school is, of course, dedicated to “equality and opportunity for all,” as so clearly stated in the mission statement.

Newton North is all lit up

Posted November 18, 2008 08:50 AM

Newton%20North%20Lights%20resized.jpg

If you drive down Walnut Street at night, then you've noticed the Newton North construction site looking a lot like Rockefeller Center. If you're curious why the city is spending money on keeping the area lit up all day and night, it's not just for the holiday season.

"During working hours, the lights are there for the safety of the workers," Jeremy Solomon, the mayor's spokesman, wrote in an email. "After hours, they are on to (1) deter trespassers, and (2) to protect the safety of trespassers. Clearly, an unlit, partially constructed four-story structure presents a significant public safety hazard."

For more news and information about Newton, go to Boston.com/newton.

Mayor Cohen speaks out against vandalism

Posted November 17, 2008 04:11 PM

Mayor David Cohen ended his weekly press conference Monday by condemning the vandalism at Temple Shalom.

Two days after a swastika was spray painted on the Temple's entrance sign, Cohen said:

"While our police department continues its investigation into the incident, our community is uniting with a loud and clear message that messages of hate and divisiveness do not resonate with our people."

Cohen said he was proud of the police department who arrived on the scene "within five minutes of it being called in."

The mayor also announced that on Sunday, November 23rd at 12:30 p.m. there will be a community event at Temple Shalom regarding this incident.

To find more Newton news and information, go to Boston.com/Newton

Get those cars off of the street

Posted November 17, 2008 12:04 PM

The fast approaching winter season to Newton brings with it at least two slightly bothersome things, people saying, "Cold enough for ya?" and overnight parking restrictions. The rhetorical question should come into effect in a couple of weeks, but overnight parking restrictions began this past weekend (does the fact that it happened two weeks later than normal prove the existence of global warming?). The restrictions make it illegal to be parked in the street between the hours of 2:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. For other exciting news, like "Hints for coping with winter storms" check out this city website.

Temple Shalom responds to swastika incident

Posted November 15, 2008 07:06 PM

temple.jpg
(Photo by Randy H. Goodman)

Officials conferred at the scene this morning.

Saturday was supposed to be a day of prayer and celebration at Temple Shalom in West Newton, but a swastika spray-painted on the sign at the entrance to the temple marred the celebration.

Rabbi Eric S. Gurvis told the congregation about the vandalism from the pulpit Saturday, addressing both a bar and bat mitzvah as well as a prayer service at the temple.

"We're preaching for openness, understanding, peace, justice and tolerance, and here is this act of injustice," he said in an interview. "Even if it was a prank, it's not funny. It's a hate crime."

Newton police did not respond to phone calls about the incident. But the offensive graffiti appeared less than a week after the 70th anniversary of Kritallnacht, a two-day anti-Semitic rampage in Nazi Germany that is considered to be the beginning of the Holocaust. Gurvis said the Reform temple had never faced a similar problem in the 10 years he has been rabbi there.

Newton saw a string of racial and homophobic vandalism between 2001 and 2004. The Bowen elementary school, one of the city's most diverse schools, was once spray painted with the words "KKK" and "White Power" were spray-painted on a school mural. Some suspected that the graffiti was aimed at the Bowen School's black principal Patricia A. Kelly.

The same year, several residents found racist and homophobic literature left on their lawns in West Newton. The National Alliance, which is based in West Virginia, claimed responsibility for the literature.

In response to those incidents, Gurvis told the Globe in 2004: "When threats are made, it needs to be responded to. The community needs to stand up as one and say that this has no place in this community, or in any community."

On Saturday, others stood with him. Newton mayor David Cohen said he went to the temple shortly after he learned about the vandalism from police. He said he stayed for the shabbat prayer service led by Gurvis.

"The Temple Shalom community has been wounded by this event," he said, "and it's important that we all stand together."

Richard Malmberg, pastor of the Second Church of Newton, also joined the prayer services in a show of solidarity with the congregation. Gurvis, who was leaving for Israel Saturday afternoon, said he will formulate a plan for how to handle the vandalism that will coincide with the Thanksgiving holiday.

-- Meg Woolhouse

Swastika spray-painted at Newton temple

Posted November 15, 2008 04:58 PM

Someone spray-painted a swastika on the sign at a Newton temple Friday night or early this morning.

Rabbi Eric Gurvis of Temple Shalom said a number of teenagers and their parents attending a ceremony today noticed it, prompting him to scrap his planned comments and condemn it from the pupit. He also talked about the incident with members of a prayer group of about 40 people.

"There is a collective sense at a troubled time that we need to be optimistic and try to make things better," he said, paraphrasing his remarks. "Something like this reminds you how much more there is to do, and on how many fronts."

Gurvis, in his 10th year as rabbi at the temple, which is on Temple Street in the West Newton area, said there had been no similar problems during his tenure.

Newton Mayor David Cohen came to the temple and sat through services to show his support, Gurvis said, as did Richard Malmberg, pastor of the Second Church of Newton.

Gurvis said grounds crews from the temple were able to remove the swatika from the sign. Gurvis said he decided it should be removed quickly because hundreds of young students would be arriving for Hebrew school on Sunday.

"I don't know that they need to see that," he said. "Even if it was a prank, it's not funny. It's a hate crime."


-- Megan Woolhouse

Foodies: Phoenix reviews Hotel Indigo

Posted November 14, 2008 02:16 PM

The restaurant at Hotel Indigo, the boutique hotel in an old Holiday Inn along Route 128, gets a decent review in the recent Boston Phoenix.

The place is called Bokx 109. Reviewer Robert Nadeau liked the calamari and the crab cakes, and gave the place two stars, out of four. He also gets off a few good lines about the suburban location and the gutsiness of running a restaurant in this economy.

"The description of the salmon also lists “Karma jitters.” That’s not the condition of a boutique hotel investor in October 2008, but a tangy barbecue sauce based on Karma-brand coffee.,'' Nadeau writes in this review.

The Tablecritic also reviewed the restaurant recently.

See previous Globe coverage here and here.

Newton to meet with state on high school funding

Posted November 10, 2008 06:20 PM

Newton officials are scheduled to meet with the Massachusetts School Building Authority on Dec. 2 to move forward with the release of construction funds to the city.

In September, the authority requested more information about the scope and budget of the $195.2 million Newton North High School project as a condition of releasing the $46.6 million grant promised to Newton for the new high school.

The December meeting is a precondition to signing the project funding agreement, which details a timetable for release of funds to the city. Newton officials are expected to provide a few more details to the state before the meeting, said Carrie Sullivan, spokeswoman for the state authority.

The city currently has $11 million available in its project fund, said city Comptroller David Wilkinson. It spends about $5 million to $6 million a month on the project, he said.

"With the October and November bills, I'm practically certain we'll burn through it all by the end of this month," Wilkinson said.

But Mayor David Cohen said at a press conference Monday that the city doesn't "anticipate any cash flow problems."

Wilkinson said if the city needs money before the project funding agreement is signed, it would come from general cash, which would otherwise be invested. The city does not intend to borrow any more money until next spring.

"But the project's not going to stop. The real consequences from all this is the amount of investment income that the city earns to support the budget would be less," Wilkinson said. He said the city would lose about $2,000 for every $1 million that would otherwise be invested.

-- Rachana Rathi

Newton's Young Pundits

Posted November 6, 2008 10:34 AM

While other high school students may have been watching election coverage well into Tuesday night, Becca Goldstein—along with two other Newton South High School students—was creating coverage of her own, often times breaking news on her blog before CNN or MSNBC. Culling material from local newspaper websites, Goldstein posted gubernatorial and ballot initiative results while her friends covered congressional, senatorial and presidential news.

The site, Starboardbroadside, whose name is a maritime allusion to an attack on the right side (in this case referring to politics), netted nearly 150 unique visitors during the night of live blogging.

Goldstein’s began writing for the blog—a brainchild of fellow Newton South students Nate Yeo and Bill Humphrey—after years of high school debate.

“During my freshman year my coach said one of the things you are going to learn doing speech is that the talking heads on TV have no idea what they are talking about,” Goldstein said. “He said that everyone on the debate team could analyze just as well as they do. For a long time I didn’t believe that, but eventually I learned that information empowers you so much. Really, anyone can be an expert on nearly anything.“

Not only did her debating earn her the national extemporary speech title last year (topic: Does America’s interventionist policy put the country more at risk? Short answer: yes), but it catalyzed her to articulate herself beyond verbal competitions.

“Debate forced me to keep up with the news, to stay in touch with what is going on, and the blog gives me the opportunity to take all of this information and to express myself to a larger audience,” she said. “Internet journalism is the true democratization of news. A lot of people have good things to say but are not talking heads on TV, now their voices can be heard on blogs like ours.”

For Goldstein and her friends the inspiration to keep this blog going comes naturally.
“There really never is any struggle to keep up with the blogging,” Goldsetin said. “ All of our posts are just the online and public versions of the notes we would be passing in journalism class.”

High court rejects Newton's use of tax money for parks

Posted October 24, 2008 07:52 PM

In a case stemming from Newton, the state's highest court ruled has ruled that a property tax surcharge collected by communities under the Community Preservation Act cannot be used to improve existing parks, a decision that will likely impact park and recreation area improvement projects across the state.

More than 130 communities participate in the Community Preservation Act, a law that pools a surcharge from participating communities to pay for the acquisition of new park land, affordable housing, and historic renovation. Since its inception in 2000, the Community Preservation Act has funded more than 3,000 open space and preservation projects, from the purchase of 27.5 acres of open space in Weston to the construction of artificial turf fields at Lincoln-Sudbury and Acton high schools.

"I'm sure every community in the Commonwealth is watching this decision," said David Luberoff , executive director of the Rappaport Institute at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.

The Supreme Judicial Court's decision Friday upheld a lower court ruling in a lawsuit brought by 10 taxpayers in Newton two years ago. The group challenged the city's appropriation of $765,825 in Community Preservation funds for improvement projects at Stearns Park and Pellegrini Park, including a new basketball court, tot lot, and baseball diamond.

Many of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit are current or former members of the Newton Taxpayer's Association, a tax watchdog group that has advocated for lower taxes. Their lawyer and cohort, Guive Mirfendereski, called the ruling "very, very good."

The CPA was enacted in 2000 and allows communities to vote on whether to adopt a 1 to 3 percent real estate tax surcharge. Money collected locally is matched by the state from a trust fund subsidized through $10 and $20 transaction fees imposed statewide at the Registry of Deeds. Communities may use the funding for income-linked housing, open space, historic preservation and recreation projects.

Mirfendereski said many Newton residents spoke out against the city's passage of CPA because it increased the city's tax rate. But Mirfendereski said he and the plaintiffs were later outraged to see the city spend CPA money on questionable projects. For example, the city proposed spending $2.9 million in CPA funds to install an artificial turf field at Newton South High School. And the city did spend $180,000 in CPA funds to fix windows at the local YMCA.

"The YMCA charges fees, why can't they go to their members for this?" Mirfendereski said of the funding. City officials "were dipping into this honey pot and there were all sorts of misappropriations."

-- Megan Woolhouse and Brian Benson

State, Newton work to end impasse over high school money

Posted October 8, 2008 08:19 AM

With less than three months remaining before cash designated for the Newton North High School construction project is expected to run out, Newton officials say they are working to resolve an impasse with the Massachusetts School Building Authority over its release of a $46.6 million grant to build the new school.

Newton still hasn't received the grant because it has not submitted an itemized budget and project scope to the satisfaction of the school building authority. Without the state grant, existing funds will run out by November or December, said City Comptroller David Wilkinson, and Newton would have to either take out another bond amid a difficult credit market, use money that would otherwise be invested, or stop construction.

However, City Spokesman Jeremy Solomon says halting construction is highly unlikely and he's optimistic an agreement can be worked out before those measures would become necessary.

“We are working with the MSBA closely to provide them with the information in as much detail as they need in order to move forward,” Solomon said. “The city stands ready, willing, and able to do what is necessary on our end to get the [project funding agreement] signed.”

Carrie Sullivan, spokeswoman for the school building authority, said the budget information that Newton supplied to the state did not “provide sufficient detail.”

“Once Newton has submitted this info to our satisfaction, then we can set up a meeting to discuss the next steps,” Sullivan said.

Newton North is one of 428 projects statewide that the school building authority inherited from the Department of Education when the authority was created in 2004. Of those projects, 300 have received their grants and the rest are in various stages of completion, Sullivan said.

In August, Newton officials provided the authority with a one-page document containing budget and scheduling information for the $197.2 million project. Last month, the authority sent an e-mail to the city solicitor's office saying it needed more information, something Solomon told the Globe in September would be submitted “in a matter of days.”

Solomon said Tuesday that Mayor David Cohen is speaking directly with the school building authority’s executive director, Katherine Craven, although Sullivan would not confirm that. She did say that the city of Newton has been in contact with the authority since the authority requested more detail.

Wilkinson, the city comptroller, said Newton has $11 million in cash to pay for the construction of Newton North, after having recently paid a $5 million construction bill. Those funds came from a $23 million bond sale last June.

Given the tumultuous credit market, the city would be unlikely to want to take out an additional bond before the next scheduled one in March, Wilkinson said, noting doing so could result in higher interest rates and restraints on accessing the credit markets. The city would also have to pay for the preparation of documents related to a bond sale and obtaining a credit rating.

“There’s a whole series of costs that go with a bond sale,” Wilkinson said. “You don’t want to have more of them than you plan on unless you absolutely have to.”

Wilkinson said the city could continue construction by tapping its general fund. However, using that money for Newton North would mean less of it could be invested, generating less revenue from interest. That interest revenue is already figured into the city’s operating budget, he said.

“Today, it’s not a major problem,” Solomon said. “If it drags on into the next year, then it would become a problem and raise our expenses. We would certainly like to get the [agreement] sooner rather than later but we respect the MSBA’s desire to examine the project thoroughly.”

Despite the struggle to obtain the state funds, Solomon said construction has been running on schedule.

“We have an aggressive project construction schedule and we’ve been meeting it everyday,” he said. “The structure’s steel [frame] is nearing completion and you can visualize the building when you drive by the site.”

The new high school is expected to open in September 2010.

Earlier, Newton officials cautioned that the city needs to go slow on other spending projects due to the financial crisis.

As for school building, the building authority has gone ahead with other projects in recent days, including the Wellesley High building, despite the stock market collapse.

-- Brian Benson

Springsteen visits BC, Newton

Posted September 30, 2008 08:12 AM

Rocker Bruce Springsteen and his wife, Patti Scialfa, watched BC blow out URI Saturday from the comfort of the president's box at Alumni Stadium, the Globe's Names column reports. (It was parents weekend at the Heights and the couple's son Evan is a freshman.)

At halftime, the Globe's Mark Blaudschun, who grew up in New Jersey, briefly talked to the Boss about their shared history. "At some point, Patti said to me, 'You have beautiful blue eyes,' " Blaudschun told us. "I put my hand on Bruce's shoulder and said, 'That's why I love Jersey girls.' " Springsteen laughed.

(Broadcaster Bob Costas, whose daughter Taylor is a BC freshman, was also in the box.) We're told Springsteen and Scialfa attended the Pops on the Heights concert the night before the game.

Meantime, there are reports that Springsteen and Scialfa stopped by a grocery store in Newtonville on Sunday.

It was announced this week that Springsteen and the E Street Band will play at the 2009 Super Bowl halftime show in Tampa.

Execs break ground on green friendly Star Market in Chestnut Hill

Posted September 24, 2008 06:16 PM

Heavy-duty shovels wielded by heavy-duty Star Market and Shaws executives and their guests hit dirt Wednesday afternoon at the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Star Market on Route 9 in Chestnut Hill.

Eco-friendliness was the watchword at the swanky launch party next to Hammond Pond, a parking lot away from the crumbling demolition site of the old Star Market.

The new store will boast the latest in environmentally-conscious technologies, including a natural gas fuel cell, energy-saving light-emitting diodes that last about 10 years, and advanced heating and refrigeration systems. If the technologies work, Supervalu, the parent company of Shaw's and Star Market, could adopt them in other stores, as well.

Even Mayor Cohen of Newton was in a green mood for the event. He posed a rhetorical question to the crowd on the advantages of LED lighting, and then answered it himself: "I have no idea, but they're good."

Those involved in the project spoke enthusiastically of what they described as an innovative plan.

"This is unique for a supermarket design," glowed Walter Yarosh, a lead architect for the project.

Yarosh cited an open layout, ease of accessibility, an outdoor marketplace aesthetic, and the use of natural light as elements that will improve the consumer experience at the future supermarket, which is also slated to feature increased parking and a particularly wide selection of prepared and ready-to-cook foods.

"We think that people will come back and say [the wait] was very much worth it," predicted Bill Nasshan, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Merchandise for Star Market and Shaws.

However, Newton and Brookline residents inconvenienced by the closing will not know whether or not the wait was worthwhile until at least the summer of 2009. That's when the store is set to open.

-- Sol Israel
sol.israel@gmail.com

Newton butcher suspends kosher supervision

Posted September 16, 2008 09:16 AM

Newton's kosher butcher is kosher no more.

Ricardo Bosich, the owner of the Center Market and Grill, a Newton kosher butchery formerly known as Gordon & Alperin, decided last month to suspend his kosher supervision.

“I can’t afford the kosher supervision,” said Bosich, who is actively looking for a new supervisor that is less expensive. “It’s a hard time for everyone right now since the economy is so bad.”

A message from his former supervisor, Rabbi Aaron Hamaoui of the Sephardic Community of Greater Boston, published on Kosher Blog, explains that this “was not due to a violation, but a business decision made by the proprietor.”

In 2007, Bosich expanded his Commonwealth Avenue business, opening a grocery store, a catering operation, and a restaurant called the Avenue Deli, according to a 2007 Globe West story.

However, a decline in business after losing his supervision has forced Bosich to sell the bakery and he is considering selling the deli too, he said.

Despite losing his supervision, Bosich said nothing has changed in how his food is cooked or prepared.

“The customers that know me for so many years, they are still shopping with me because I still do kosher,” he said.

Bosich said if he is unable to find a supervisor by Rosh Hashanah, which will be observed from sunset Sept. 29 to sunset Oct. 1, he may be forced to stop selling kosher.

“I do business just shaking hands,” he said. “I hope to keep my business kosher but business is business and I have to support my family.”

Traditionally, kosher restaurants and bakeries have earned kosher certification by hiring rabbis who oversee food products that are sold in the facility. Rabbis inspect all canned and pre-packaged goods to make sure they have kosher labels, and also check the origins of meat to confirm that it was sold by a kosher meat processor. Kosher supervisors are also vigilant in making sure that dairy and meat are not mixed together.

-- Brian Benson


State estimates up to $7.2-m savings on police detail plan

Posted September 13, 2008 09:00 AM

Following up on Globe West's story on local police detail costs, we found a Patrick administration report that estimates millions in savings if flag men replaced police details at some construction sites.

The estimate: between $5.7-million and $7.2-million a year for the state. Details on state projects cost between $20-million and $25-million, the report said. Globe West reported local towns and cities are spending millions as well.

The report also found wide spread usage of police details by municipalities and disparity in the way the details are assigned.

"Under the draft road flagger and police detail regulations and the revised traffic management plans, the Commonwealth will realize cost savings through lower hourly rates for road flaggers, efficient use of road flaggers and police details on public works projects, and through greater control over the administration of the traffic management plan,'' says the report by the Executive Office of Transportation and Public Works.

The report was released last week in preparation for Monday's hearing on Gov. Deval Patrick's proposal to limit usage of police details. The transportation agency has posted several documents on the plan here.

Details, details ...

Posted September 11, 2008 09:15 AM

detail%20photo.jpg

NEWTON/REGION

Governor Deval Patrick has finally cracked the monopoly that police officers on paid road and construction details. Or has he?

Today's Globe West examines the issue of details and explores how it's not just local police officers, but also the cities and towns that they work for, who have powerful incentives to say "Thanks, but no thanks" to Patrick's bid to introduce flagmen on some road construction projects.

We also take a look at the amounts that some officers are getting paid for details, which they regard as legitimate pay for legitimate work but which critics decry as wasteful. As an added feature, we've also included a link to the complete list of detail pay for the Newton Police Department for the 2008 fiscal year.

Sorry, Grandpa: Marijuana in Newton fire chief's car belonged to grandson, police say

Posted August 26, 2008 02:23 PM

The marijuana discovered last week by firefighters in Newton Fire Chief John LaCroix's city-issued car belonged to his grandson and was mistakenly put in the vehicle by his wife, Marlborough police said today.

Sean LaCroix, 19, who lives with his grandparents in Marlborough, admitted to police that he owned the drugs, Marlborough police captain Paul Valianti said. Police will determine whether to file charges this week.

"It's extremely clear as to whose marijuana it was," said Valianti, adding that it was an "extremely small amount" of marijuana.

The drugs fell out of Sean LaCroix's pocket on Wednesday night inside the LaCroix home, Valianti said.

LaCroix's wife found the drugs, and they decided to put the drugs in her car with the intention of taking it to the police station the following day, Valianti said. LaCroix's wife mistakenly placed the marijuana in the the fire chief's car without his knowledge, he said.

Firefighters doing a "routine" cleaning of the chief's car on Thursday discovered the drugs under the driver's seat and alerted LaCroix, who then went to city hall and informed officials there, city spokesman Jeremy Solomon has said.

After hearing LaCroix's explanation, officials from the city's human resources, legal and executive department advised the chief to go to his hometown police station.

In a written statement on Friday, LaCroix said, "The discovery came as a shock to me...I have never imperiled the safety of Newton firefighters or the general public by using or possessing illegal drugs."

Solomon said today that the 62-year-old LaCroix voluntarily took a drug test at a hospital nearby to "eliminate any question about his fitness for duty." The drug test, however, was "not at the city's behest or recommendation," Solomon said.

-- Rachana Rathi

Newton firefighters to receive $6.1 million in retro pay and benefits

Posted August 26, 2008 01:14 PM

Newton firefighters are expected to receive $6.1 million in retroactive salary and benefits pay from the city thanks to a binding collective bargaining award from a state labor panel, according to a memo to the city's Board of Aldermen from Mayor David B. Cohen.

The Aug. 6 ruling settled a five-year dispute between the firefighter's union and city. Cohen filed a request today asking the Board of Aldermen to appropriate the money.

"As is typical in an arbitrator's decision, there are no absolute winners and losers," Cohen wrote in a memo to the board today. "Both sides in this dispute gained some of what we wanted and both sides failed to gain some of what we wanted ... it is now time for us to move forward."

Along with five years of retroactive raises, the contract determination by the Joint Labor-Management Committee gave firefighters money for education, set aside a request for random drug testing on firefighters and eliminated a controversial clause requiring firefighters to present a doctor's note confirming each time they or family members are ill.

The award rejected requests by the firefighters for an additional training stipend and an additional union pay step, however.

The contract is only valid until June 2009, and both sides will sit down again in January to begin the collective bargaining process on a new contract.

Tom Lopez, spokesman for the firefighter's union, has declined to comment until the board appropriates the money. The board is expected to take up the matter at its Sept. 2 meeting.

-- Rachana Rathi

Newton aldermen fail in bid to reopen branch libraries

Posted August 12, 2008 10:59 AM

Aldermen Amy Sangiolo and Lenny Gentile got the majority of their colleagues to support a measure challenging Mayor David Cohen's decision not to reopen the city's four branch libraries, but it wasn't enough.

The aldermen needed support from 16 of their 24 colleagues to use a relativel obscure state law to override the mayor's decision and appropriate $259,000 for the branch libraries. According to Newton's city charter, the mayor is the only one with the authority to appropriate money within the budget, but Chapter 44, Section 33 of state law allows city councils to add funds for specific expenditures if supporters can muster a two-thirds majority.

The aldermen voted 13-10, with one person absent, in favor of the measure at their meeting on Monday.

The board's programs and services committee will now take up several additional docket items, ranging from calling on the library trustees and the library director to explain their financial accounting to exploring public-private partnerships to keep the branches open. The branch libraries, which were shut down after a $12 million property tax override failed in May.

-- Rachana Rathi

Newton North High project price fixed at $195 million

Posted August 11, 2008 05:22 PM

Newton Mayor David Cohen announced today that the state's most expensive school building project, the new Newton North High School, will cost $195.2 million, said mayoral spokesman Jeremy Solomon.

After six and a half weeks of negotiation, the mayor signed a contract with construction manager Dimeo Construction Co. at a press conference today. The city hired Dimeo Construction under a relatively new law that allows municipalities bypass competitive bidding and hire a "construction manager at risk."

As such, Dimeo must bring the project in at a "guaranteed maximum price" (GMP) or pay the difference out of its own pocket.

"The signing of the GMP signifies the end of the cost increases we have endured during the life of this project," Cohen said at the press conference. "With construction well underway, and with the project ceiling solidified, the Newton North project is on track."

According to Cohen, the final GMP for Dimeo's part of the project will be $162.8 million. The city is also spending about $33 million for design work and other costs associated with the new high school.

In recent weeks, the city was able to negotiate the price down by about $2.2 million, Cohen said in a letter sent to the Board of Aldermen earlier in the day.

"In negotiating the [guaranteed maximum price] with our Construction Manager, Dimeo Construction, our project team scrutinized every assumption in every line item in the project," Cohen wrote. "Working together with Dimeo, we were able to bring down cost assumptions based on the project’s progress and on the bids that we received earlier this summer."

"We remain on track for a September 2010 opening, with our pace of construction proceeding as expected," Cohen wrote. "Now that we know the maximum price of this facility with certainty, it is my hope that our community can collectively look forward to this project for what it is: an investment in Newton’s future schoolchildren."

The high cost of the project prompted state officials -- who will pay reimburse the city for roughly a quarter of the project's cost -- to launch an unprecedented crackdown on local school construction spending.

-- Rachana Rathi and Ralph Ranalli

Newton firefighters awarded retro pay and benefits

Posted August 7, 2008 02:25 PM

A month after entering their sixth year without a contract, Newton firefighters got word Wednesday of a ruling by state arbitrators that awards union members with retroactive compensation and benefits.

The binding Joint Labor Management Committee decision covers "salary and other compensation adjustments, health insurance benefits, and other aspects of working conditions within the Fire Department," and describes the types of retroactive compensations that are due, according to city spokesman Jeremy Solomon.

Solomon and Tom Lopez, spokesman for the firefighter union, said they would not comment until they had an opportunity to review the decision thoroughly. Solomon said the ruling is not a public document until aldermen approve funding for the award. The city administration has 30 days to docket a funding request with the board. The city is in the process of calculating a dollar amount.

Newton firefighters have been without a contract since June 30, 2003.

--Rachana Rathi

Historic train depots to get new tenants

Posted July 24, 2008 09:50 AM

Two historic train depots that were designed by renowned architect H.H. Richardson will be getting new tenants soon.

Both the Newton Highlands and Newton Center depots, which are located along the Riverside Branch of the MBTA's Green Line trolley system, were built in the 1880s by the Boston and Albany Railroad. They were designed by Richardson, who is also responsible for other local landmarks including the Masonic Temple in Newtonville, in collaboration with Frederick Law Olmsted, who designed Boston's "Emerald Necklace" park system and is widely acknowledged as the father of American landscape architecture.

About a year ago, the MBTA sold the old Newton Highlands depot, which housed an auto parts store for years, to Leonard Strauss, a Newton periodontist. Strauss said he hopes to relocate his practice from Washington St. to the new space, which he is renovating now, around Jan. 1. Strauss said he also plans to lease the other half of the depot to another professional service.

The former depot at Newton Centre currently houses a Starbucks coffee shop that is slated for closure, one of seven in Massachusetts that are part of a national 600-store closure plan by the Seattle-based company.

The MBTA owns that building but has a long-term lease with American Companies Inc., a division of Boston Development Group. David Zussman, the chairman and CEO of BDG, said he doesn’t yet know who the replacement tenant will be.

-- Lisa Kocian

Newton "Best Places to Live" ranking not exactly on the (CNN)Money

Posted July 16, 2008 12:29 PM

Newtonites can be justifiably proud of their city's recent lofty rankings in CNNMoney.com's 2008 "Best Places to Live" survey, but they may need to take the honors with a grain of salt.

According to the annual survey, Newton is the most desirable place to live in Massachusetts and the 49th best place to live in the entire US. But how much could CNNMoney know about Newton if the editors think that the Newton Police Department is headquartered in a church in Newton Corner?

In the Newton page for the online version of the survey, CNNMoney ran this photo with the caption "The Police Station of Newton." The photo credit reads: "Courtesy: City of Newton"

wrongpic.jpg
(CNNMoney online image)

Whoops. Actually, that's an old picture of the Newton Corner Worship Center, an innovative religious space that offers worship and office space to fledgling religious communities until they can afford a church, synagogue, temple, or mosque of their own. (For more information, see Globe West Bureau Chief Erica Noonan's excellent story on the worship center.)

This is a picture of the building taken yesterday.

Worship%20Center.jpg
(Globe staff photo by Ralph Ranalli)

This is Newton Police Headquarters in West Newton.

Newton%20police%20HQ.jpg
(Globe staff photo by Ralph Ranalli)

The rest of CNN/Money's Garden City sales pitch wasn't all that convincing either. While the editors included a cautionary note about high housing prices, there was no mention of the fact that Newton consistently ranks as one of the safest cities of its size in the US. As amenities, the piece mentioned a couple of city-run seasonal concert series, but omitted the fact that Newton is home to not one but two (count 'em) critically acclaimed symphony orchestras.

In fairness, they did get the city's village character right, however, noting that: "Instead of one main downtown, Newton has six to seven downtown areas, making shopping and eating out easy for everyone."

Jeremy Solomon, the spokesman for Mayor David B. Cohen and the person who usually handles such things, said today that he didn't know where CNNMoney got the photo. But, he added, it's the thought that counts.

"We appreciate the appropriate recognition of the city as one of the best places to live in the country," he said.

-- Ralph Ranalli

Cohen: Newton North High builder's proposed price will keep project under the city's $197.5 million cap

Posted July 2, 2008 08:35 AM

The construction management firm for the Newton North High School project has proposed a guaranteed maximum price for the project that will keep the total cost under the $197.5 million pledge made by Mayor David B. Cohen, the city announced today.

north%20high3.JPGNewton North is now under budget! Well, sort of ... (City of Newton image)
In a letter addressed to the city's aldermen, the School Committee, and the design review committee for the project, Cohen revealed that Dimeo Construction has proposed a guaranteed maximum construction price of $164,900,132. Other costs for the project are expected to total about $30 million.

"Given the $164,900,132 figure we can now be assured that the final price tag will meet the $197.5 million target we set several months ago," Cohen wrote.

The guaranteed maximum price, or the maximum amount the city will have to pay for the project, is expected be finalized between the city and Dimeo during the next two to four weeks, Cohen's spokesman, Jeremy Solomon, said this week.

The city is building the project using a relatively new state statute that allows it to hire a "construction manager at risk."

The statute allowed the city to hire and negotiate with Dimeo Construction without a competitive bidding process, but once the negotiation is complete, Dimeo will have to pay any costs over the negotiated amount.

-- Ralph Ranalli and Rachana Rathi

Powerful storms knock down trees, cause flooding

Posted June 28, 2008 08:50 AM

tree.jpg
Mark Parsons returned to his home in Newton and found that a tree had been uprooted by yesterday's violent storm. NStar customers lost power - mostly in Newton, Watertown, and Waltham - largely because of trees or limbs falling on power lines.
(Globe staff photo by Essdras M Suarez)

REGION

A violent thunderstorm tore through Greater Boston yesterday afternoon, causing flash floods, pelting pedestrians with pea-size hail, knocking out power, and uprooting trees with wind gusts exceeding 55 miles per hour.

About 20,000 NStar customers lost power - mostly in Newton, Watertown, and Waltham - largely because of trees or limbs falling on power lines, said Kate Leonard, a company spokeswoman. Power was restored for most customers by the evening.

Lightning strikes set off fires in the penthouse of a seven-story Beacon Street building in the Back Bay and a three-family house on Pearl Street in Cambridge. Flash floods caused the eastbound lanes of Storrow Drive, near Kenmore Square, to be shut down, and a sink hole on Route 9 in Brookline forced a closure there.

Two-thirds of an inch of rain fell at Logan International Airport in roughly 30 minutes, said Bill Simpson, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in Taunton. He said the low number can be misleading in characterizing the storm's ferocity. Wind gusts at Harvard Bridge topped out at 57 miles per hour.

"It's not how much rain falls," he said, "it's the intensity of the storm."

Complaint to AG : Newton branch library closings hurt disabled

Posted June 20, 2008 03:46 PM

A local advocacy group has filed a complaint with the state Attorney General under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, claiming people with disabilities will lose ready access to library services when the city of Newton shuts down its branch libraries July 1.

"You have to take three buses to get to the main library, and it can take hours," said Maryan Amaral, author of the complaint and founder of Friends of Newton Corner Branch Library and Chaffin Park. "People depend on the branches, particularly in Newton Corner."

Amaral said the branch is across the street from an assisted living facility for people with disabilities, where book clubs with the branch librarian are conducted. She said the complaint asked for either the branches to be kept open or for the city to provide transportation for people with disabilities to the main library.

The complaint was filed Friday, according to Amaral.

The attorney general's office is "aware of the situation," said Amie Breton, a spokeswoman for the attorney general. Breton would not comment further.

The city's four remaining branch libraries were marked for closure after voters rejected a $12 million property tax override in May.

The closings were written into the city budget prepared by the amdinistration of Mayor David Cohen. During deliberations on the budget, aldermen approved a resolution to keep the branches open, but a last-minute maneuver by four aldermen on Tuesday placed the mayor's budget, complete with the branch closings, into effect.

"This is not a cut anyone wanted to make, but it is one of the ramifications a failed override has meant for our community," said city spokeman Jeremy Solomon. "We will wait to hear from the Attorney General's office and comply with their ruling."

The branches are open for limited hours during the month of June and are expected to close by the beginning of the fiscal year on July 1.

-- Rachana Rathi

Aldermen to mayor: Close libraries if you must, but leave the books

Posted June 12, 2008 12:14 PM

The Board of Aldermen approved a resolution Wednesday night asking Mayor David B. Cohen to leave books from Newton's four neighborhood libraries where they are when the branches close.

The satellite libraries are scheduled to close at the end of the month due to budget cuts in the wake of last month's failed $12 million property tax override.

Dozens of people attended a public meeting with the board Wednesday, most of them asking aldermen to keep the branches open. Advocates called the branches an integral part of their local communities and said they are more accessible than the main library in Newton Centre for people who have disabilities or who are lacking transportation.

The aldermen are scheduled to discuss other resolutions, including ones that address the possibility of keeping the branches open, as their budget discussions continue tonight and Monday.

Board of Aldermen meetings are covered live by the Red Channel of the NewTV cable access network.

-- Rachana Rathi

Globe West Video: A father waits

Posted May 28, 2008 11:53 PM

GLOBE WEST VIDEO

Terry Jones went to three different hospitals yesterday looking for his daughter, 24-year-old MBTA Green Line trolley driver Terrese Edmunds. Waiting for news at Newton-Wellesley Hospital, he shared his fears and frustrations with Globe West web producer Ralph Ranalli.

Read the full story of the crash on Boston.com.

MBTA trolley driver dies of injuries suffered in crash

Posted May 28, 2008 11:42 PM

The operator of one of the trolleys involved in today's MBTA crash in Newton has died, her father said.

One trolley car on the D branch of the Green Line in Newton smashed into another car from behind this afternoon. The operate, Terrese Edmonds of South Boston, was trapped and died, said her father, Terry Jones.

Edmonds, 24, had been on the job for about six months, he said.

"My daughter died. I'm sorry I have to go," he said in a brief telephone interview.

The collision occurred at about 6 p.m. on the way into the Woodland station. The trolley that was rear-ended was just emerging from a scheduled stop-light when it was hit from behind, MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo said.

Six people were taken to local hospitals with non-life-threatening injuries, one was Medflighted to Boston Medical Center, and five were treated and released at the scene, said Pesaturo.

-- Ralph Ranalli and Jamie Vaznis

Yes and No campaigns pulling out all the stops

Posted May 20, 2008 06:30 PM

As what many people say feels more and more like a big-turnout, low-margin-of-error election goes down to the wire, both the pro-override and anti-override campaigns are making last-ditch attempts yesterday afternoon to squeeze out every possible vote.

Rob Gifford, one of the leaders of the pro-override group Move Newton Forward, said that about 250 volunteers from the group were spread across the city, some holding signs and some working as "poll checkers" monitoring polling stations. The poll checkers, he said, were observing lists of which voters had shown up to the polls and which had not, then relaying that information back to phone bank workers who were calling and reminding likely "yes" voters to cast their ballots.

On the anti-override site, Jeff Seideman of the group Newton For Fiscal Responsibility said that sign-carrying volunteers were manning about three-quarters of the city's polling stations and that phone bank volunteers were calling likely "no" voters as a reminder. The group did not have poll checkers, he said.

By and large, Seideman said the voters he encountered were well-versed on the issues surrounding the override -- the spiraling cost of the Newton North High School project, the city's structural operating deficit, and the mayor's recent pay-raise snafu -- and were bringing firm convictions into the polling stations with them.

"I don't think I swayed a single person with our literature today," he said. "No one seems to be undecided."

Both sides also said they believe that voter turnout will end up being heavy, a trend city officials confirmed.

-- Ralph Ranalli

Voices of the override: Newton North High School

Posted May 20, 2008 03:28 PM

Newton North High School is many things: an educational institution, a community resource, a construction zone, a $197.5 million political flash point, and a symbol of either (pick one) municipal excess or a commitment to educational excellence.

And once or twice a year, it is also a polling place, one of the liveliest in the city in fact. And given how hotly contested the $12 million override vote has been, it's not a surprise that voters there expressed a variety of opinions. Here's two:

Maria.jpg

Voter: Maria Fulwiler, 18 (first time voter)
Occupation: Student, Tufts University
Vote: YES

Her take: "I had a great time in the Newton Public Schools. To have all the opportinutes that you get there is very invaluable, and I think it's very important that that continue. I was more busy at North than I am at college. I worked hard."

victor.jpg
Voter: Victor Freeman, 73
Occupation: retired
Vote: NO

His take: I guess I'm mostly angry at City Hall. Mostly about the $200 million high school. I think it could have been handled better, starting with the mayor and working down.

-- Ralph Ranalli

Put State Representative Ruth Balser down for a "Yes" and a "Definite Maybe"

Posted May 20, 2008 12:39 PM

State Representative Ruth Balser voted in favor of the override this morning and said she is "seriously considering" a run for mayor.

Balser.JPG Ruth Balser (Globe file photo)

"A lot of people have asked me to consider it and I am seriously considering it," she said after casting her vote at the Memorial-Spaulding Elementary School in Newton Centre. "I love the city of Newton."

Balser has now represented the city of Newton for 10 years in the state legislature and before that served on the Board of Aldermen for eight years.

Others who have expressed interest in running for mayor include Alderman Ken Parker and Setti Warren, a top aide to US Senator John Kerry.

-- Ralph Ranalli

Turnout also "moderate" at Mayor's home precinct

Posted May 20, 2008 11:25 AM

11:15 AM

Turnout at Mayor David B. Cohen's home precinct, Ward Eight, Precinct Two in Newton Centre, was moderate at mid-morning, precinct clerk Gloria Learner reported.

By 11:15 a.m., some 220 votes had been cast, including Cohen's own ballot, Learner said. The mayor did not stay at the polling place long, she said.

"We were a little disappointed when a lot of the mothers dropping off their children didn't come in to vote," she said. "But we're expecting a lot of people at suppertime. From five to eight (p.m.) is really our big time."

-- Ralph Ranalli

Put former mayor Concannon down for a "No" and a "Maybe"

Posted May 20, 2008 08:45 AM

7:45 AM

Former Mayor Tom Concannon said he voted "no" on the override this morning, saying that the city's government has numerous structural problems that should be taking priority.

concannon.JPGCould Tom Concannon be striking this pose in the mayor's office again soon? (Globe file photo)

Concannon was less definite on whether his place for the future include another run for the office he held from 1994 to 1998. Mayor David. B. Cohen announced last week that he would not seek a fourth term, sparking a wave of speculation about possible candidates to be his replacement.

Concannon said he believes that the city's financial troubles can be traced in large part to structural problems with the way Newton is governed. The city's charter should be changed, he said, to reduce the size of the Board of Aldermen and to place term limits on both the mayor and the aldermen.

But would he also want to be the first mayor to test those term limits?

"I'm thinking about it," he said.

-- Ralph Ranalli

Newtonville precinct warden: Turnout moderate

Posted May 20, 2008 07:45 AM

7:32 AM

Early voter turnout for the Newton override election appears moderate, according to Merrill Prejeant, the voting warden for Ward 2, Precinct 1 in Newtonville.

Prejeant said that early walk-in voter traffic to the polling place at the Horace Mann Elementary School was light, but that she had received a fat stack of approximately 50 absentee ballots.

"The absentee ballots are a sign that people care," she said.

Hot-button financial issues like the Newton North High School project and the day's good weather were likely to bring people out to the polls in significant numbers, she said.

"I think it will be a big election, since it's one that hits people in the pocket," she said. "There's certainly no reason not to vote."

-- Ralph Ranalli

Newton override blog-a-thon

Posted May 20, 2008 06:44 AM

Newton voters will go to the polls today to decide a $12 million override, but most believe that there are larger issues lurking between the lines on the ballot.

cohen5.jpgWill Mayor David B. Cohen's decision not to run for reelection save the override? (Globe staff photo)
For opponents, the override is a referendum on the city's troubled finances and on an administration that ignores the wishes of its taxpayers even while it spends too much of their money. While Mayor David B. Cohen's recent decision not to run for a fourth term has diminished his status as a political lightning rod for the city's voters, his controversial $197.5 million project to build a Newton North High School will be on the minds of many who enter the polling booth.

For supporters, the override is about a fundamental choice: Will Newton voters do what is necessary to maintain the city's reputation for educational excellence? More than 70 percent of the override money will go to the school budget, which has been hit hard by rising costs for energy, health care, and pensions.

When the polls open this morning a little more than 15 minutes from now, the Globe West Updates news blog will be there. We will also be providing online updates throughout the day, including up to approximately 9 p.m. when the results are finally tallied at Newton City Hall.

So watch this space, stay tuned, and even participate in the discussion by using Globe West Updates' comments feature.

-- Ralph Ranalli

Signature drive for Newton North funding referendum fails

Posted May 13, 2008 11:00 AM

NEWTON

A group of Newton residents seeking to repeal $56 million in funding for the Newton North High school project has failed to gather the required amount of signatures to put their petition to a ballot.

In a press release issued this morning, the group behind the signature drive said it had collected more than 1,500 signatures and had delivered them to City Hall as a "protest" of the Board of Aldermen's decision to approve the latest funding for the $197.5 million project, which will be the most expensive high school in state history.

The group needed to gather 2,600 signatures by 5 p.m. yesterday in order to place the funding repeal on a citywide ballot.

"Ultimately, in ten calendar days, with only five full time volunteers and countless committed city residents, we justified this protest, obtaining over 1,500 signatures," the press release stated. "In the past 10 days, it has become increasingly clear that the public shares our concern about the status of NNHS, its increased price, and the process used to fund it."

Jeremy Solomon, the city's spokesman, confirmed that the group had collected 1,550 signatures. He said city officials were happy not to have another distraction as they work to complete the project by 2010.

"We are relieve that this referendum won't go forward," Solomon said. "Now we can be assured that Newton North will be built and that this train has, once and for all, left the station."

Meanwhile, the press release, issued by the group's leader, Newton Corner resident Janet Sterman, also urged a change in the city charter to allow citizen's groups more time to collect ballot initiative signatures.

Under the current ordinance, citizens who want to put a challenge to a decision by the Board of Aldermen before the city's voters have 20 days to gather the signatures of 5 percent of the city's registered voters.

-- Ralph Ranalli

Would-be successors line up for Newton mayoral race

Posted May 12, 2008 08:28 AM

With Mayor David Cohen's nose-diving popularity culminating in last week's announcement that he will not seek reelection, at least three people are seriously considering running for the city's top job.

Among them is Democratic state Representative Ruth Balser, a longtime friend and supporter of Cohen, who said she can be a force for healing in Newton.

Balser.JPG Ruth Balser (Globe file photo)
"I like to think that I'm someone who can work with lots of different people," Balser said in a phone interview yesterday. "Hopefully I could help lead a consensus."

Consensus in Newton is a rarity these days, as the city undertakes construction of the most expensive high school in the state and faces a $12 million override. City officials have been criticized for the construction of the $197 million high school by parents, state officials, and a fiscal watchdog group that said it has made Newton a "poster child" for suburban excess. The override vote, set for May 20, remains another contentious issue that has pitted a faction that wants improved funding for city services against residents who say local taxes are already too high.

Cohen, an override supporter, has been a polarizing figure on both fronts. On Friday, under pressure from some of his most trusted political allies, he announced he will not seek reelection. The news came after an ill-timed disclosure by Cohen that he planned to seek a 28 percent pay raise. Some residents said he should have stepped down sooner.

Jockeying among Cohen's would-be successors has begun.

warren.JPG Setti Warren (Globe file photo)
Setti Warren, an aide to Senator John F. Kerry, has indicated he plans to enter the race. Warren is on active duty in the Navy on a yearlong tour in Iraq. His supporters have filed the required paperwork with the city to create an exploratory committee and begin raising funds. They have also launched a website, "Newton for Setti Warren." He is due back from overseas duty in October.

Ward 6 Alderman Ken Parker, a longtime critic of the mayor and his management of the new high school's design financing, has also formed an exploratory committee and a website. He said he supports the override.

Parker.jpg
Ken Parker (parker2009.org)
"I'm not going there," he said, when asked if the mayor should resign.

"There's been a lot of division recently," he added. "We need to come back together."

Read more about the fight to be Newton's next mayor in the online edition of the City & Region section.

-- Meg Woolhouse

Newton group trying to repeal $56 million in high school spending

Posted May 10, 2008 04:48 PM

Even as Mayor David Cohen of Newton announced yesterday morning that he will not run for reelection, a new challenge surfaced threatening the $197.5 million high school that many see -- for better or for worse -- as his legacy.

A group of residents has organized a ballot effort to repeal $56 million in funding for the new school, staff writer Megan Woolhouse reports in today's City & Region section. They're trying to collect enough signatures to put the question on a ballot in September.

NNHS%20concept2.jpgWill this vision of a new Newton North High School ever come to fruition? Not if a new group of angry Newton taxpayers has their way. (City of Newton image)

News of the weekend referendum surfaced on the same day Cohen announced that he will not seek reelection, calling the city's May 20 override vote "more important than my political career."

Cohen was under pressure by former political supporters to announce that he would not seek reelection after disclosure that he budgeted a 28 percent pay raise for himself, despite the prospect of teacher and police job cuts in the city.

"The hard-working proponents for the override publicly expressed their concern that if I stood for reelection it may have an adverse effect on the override," his statement said. "The outcome of this is far more important than my political career."

However, the proposed ballot initiative signaled that controversy in Newton over the school, the override, and Cohen may not subside, despite the mayor's announcement.

Janet Sterman, organizer of the ballot drive, said yesterday that the soaring cost of the high school sparked the ballot initiative. The Board of Alderman approved $56 million of the total earlier this year.

"I can't believe they [the Board of Aldermen] allowed the project to get close to $200 million without asking anybody if they wanted to pay for it," she said by phone. "For the price to go up 39 percent in one year is just outrageous. I think it's embarrassing."

City spokesman Jeremy Solomon said that if the effort were to succeed, it would set the project back and add more costs to the project. The new high school is scheduled to open in September 2010.

Read the complete story of the latest challenge to the Newton North High School project in the online edition of today's Globe.

-- Megan Woolhouse

Newton Mayor David B. Cohen won't seek new term

Posted May 9, 2008 11:11 AM

NEWTON

Newton Mayor David B. Cohen announced this morning that he will not run for reelection, saying that he doesn't not want his current status as the city's political lightning rod to undermine the $12 million override vote scheduled for May 20.

In an unprecedented break with the liberal power base that had given him unwavering support during his 11 years in office, Cohen's former campaign manager and the city's main pro-override group this week called on him to step down at the end of his current term.

cohen5.jpg(Globe staff photo)
"Mayor David Cohen cannot win reelection. He's already decided not to run. He should announce it now," Gerry Chervinsky, Cohen's former campaign manager, said Wednesday.

The pro-override group, Move Newton Forward, said Cohen's decision to insert a $27,000 pay raise for himself in the city budget even as Newton is facing a fiscal crisis threatened to undercut the override campaign. This morning, Cohen said he would heed the group's call for him to step down.

"The hard working proponents for the override publicly expressed their concern that if I stood for re-election it may have an adverse effect on the override," Cohen said in a statement released by his press spokesman, Jeremy Solomon.

"The outcome of this override is far more important to me than my political career," the statement reads. "It is for this reason that I have decided that my third term as mayor will be my last."

A former state legislator who developed a reputation as a savvy political operator, even some of Cohen's supporters said this week that he seemed to have developed a tin ear when it came to listening to the mood of the city's electorate.

For most of the planning phase of the Newton North project, for example, Cohen flatly refused to compromise on the design and blasted critics who called the plan too expensive. He relented earlier this year, but only under pressure from state officials and after it was too late to make significant changes in the design. At $197.5 million, the project is the most expensive high school ever built in Massachusetts and has become a statewide symbol of municipal excess.

Earlier this year, Cohen floated a $24 million override proposal, but was forced to withdraw it when it became clear that he had no support from the city's Board of Aldermen. Even his scaled-back $12 million proposal, anti-override critics point out, includes money for items of debatable necessity, such as tree restoration.

But the pay raise issue was the last straw, even to some of Cohen's strongest longtime supporters. Calling the move "perplexing," Move Newton Forward called on the mayor to step down Wednesday in a statement signed by co-chairs Sarah Ecker, Rob Gifford, and Chris Hill.

"There is a growing consensus that the Mayor will not be able to attract support for another run in 2009," the group said in its statement. "In the interest of clarifying the critical decision that Newton voters will be asked to make on May 20th, we urge the Mayor to announce that he will not run for re-election in 2009."

-- Ralph Ranalli

Newton Mayor Cohen to step down after term ends: Full text of his statement

Posted May 9, 2008 10:37 AM

Mayor David B. Cohen of Newton -- who has come under political fire for the $197 million price tag for the Newton North High School project and for briefly considering taking a pay raise even as he asked city voters for a $12 million override -- announced this morning that he will not seek a fourth term in office.

This is the full text of his statement:

It has been my privilege to serve as Mayor of the City of Newton for the past 11 years. I take great pride in the many accomplishments we have achieved as a community throughout that time, keeping ours a City without equal in our commitment to educational excellence, cutting edge environmental initiatives, an exceptional record of public safety and for providing a wide range of outstanding programs and services to citizens of all ages.

Our ability to continue providing these programs at the level we have all grown accustomed to is in jeopardy on May 20th. The outcome of this override vote will determine whether we build on the progress we’ve made together, or whether we will be forced to make deep and painful cuts that will have a significant impact on students and residents from every village and in every neighborhood in Newton.

My support for this override is unequivocal, and it is rooted in a deeply held belief that the citizens of Newton deserve the same quality of life that I enjoyed growing up and attending public schools here. The hard working proponents for the override publicly expressed their concern that if I stood for re-election it may have an adverse effect on the override. The outcome of this override is far more important to me than my political career. It is for this reason that I have decided that my third term as mayor will be my last.

Over the next 19 months you can be sure that I will work as hard as ever to see that the people’s business continues to get done. The important work to construct Newton North, the improvements to the Newton South fields, the acquisition of property at Crystal Lake, the many projects underway to conserve energy and improve efficiencies all will continue.

We will not stop our efforts to provide Newton schoolchildren with the highest quality educational experience, to provide important and meaningful programs and activities to our senior citizens, and to continue promoting and hosting events that unite the citizens of Newton. The people of Newton can be assured that its mayor and employees will continue our efforts to provide the safest and highest quality of life in our community.

I want to thank the people of Newton for their continued support, and I would urge each of them to move Newton forward by voting Yes on May 20th.

Newton Mayor will step down after current term ends

Posted May 9, 2008 10:32 AM

NEWTON

Newton Mayor David B. Cohen has announced that he will not seek re-election in 2009, bringing to a close his tenure as mayor after three terms.

More details to come soon...

Transcript of the 911 call in cheerleading accident

Posted April 29, 2008 08:12 AM

The following is a transcript of a 911 call from the DCU Center in Worcester where cheerleader and Newton North High School graduate Lauren Chang was injured during a routine on April 13. She was treated at the scene by a emergency medical technician who was working the event, but died the next day of complications from collapsed lungs. Officials have said it took approximately five minutes for an ambulance to arrive on the scene, and at least one lawmaker is now pressing for standby ambulances to be present at all cheerleading competitions.

You can also listen to the call.

Note: When the participants are talking about a "traych," they are referring to an emergency tracheotomy, a medical procedure where a tube is placed directly into the windpipe through the lower neck to allow air into the lungs. The reference to "one of the privates" refers to a local private ambulance company.

DISPATCHER: 911 this line's recorded. What's your emergency?
CALLER NO.1: I'm at the DCU Center in Worcester. There's a girl passed out on the stage. She's having an allergic reaction.
D: Where is she ma'am?
C1: She just passed out after (inaudible). She's, like, in the DCU Center.
D: All right whereabouts inside, inside ...
C1: In, in one of the exhibition halls.
D: OK. Do you know which one?
C1: What exhibition hall is this? (Yells to someone at the scene)
UNKNOWN VOICE: (inaudible)
C1: What exhibition hall is this?
UNK: (garbled)
C1: Yeah, but which hall?
UNK: (garbled)
C1: Hall A.
UNK: Yep.
D: Hall A?
C1: Yep.
D: OK. Do you know how old she is?
C1: Um, no. But I'm going to give this phone to somebody who can ...
D: All right. Can I transfer you over to the ambulance ma'am?
C1: Yep.
D: Hold on please.
C1: (To Caller No. 2) It's 911 do you want to talk to them?
CALLER 2: Hello?
D: All right, hold on one second OK?
C2: Sure.
PARAMEDIC: Paramedics, what's the address of your emergency?
C2: I'm in Worcester. Um, and we need an ambulance immediately. We have a cheerleader ...
P: What's the address of your emergency?
C2: Do you know the address is here? (talking to someone else at the scene) It's, it's the DCU Center. It's this huge convention center in Worcester. I actually don't know the physical address.
P: OK. Slow down sir. I can't understand you. You're at the DCU Center?
C2: I'm sorry.
P: Where in the DCU Center are you?
C2: We're in the main arena.
P: The main arena.
C2: In the DCU Center.
P: What section are you in?
C2: Um, right now I'm standing next to E7.
P: Section E7.
C2: Yeah there's a big power station at E7.
D: All right, what's going on?
C2: We had a cheerleader -- it's a cheerleading competition.
P: Yep.
C2: And she got ki -- And it looks like she got kicked or um hit in the throat. Her face is all swollen. They're trying to get her air.
FEMALE VOICE IN BACKGROUND: They're trying to traych her.
C2: Um, they're trying to traych her.
P: They're trying to traych her right now?
C2: Yeah, that's what it looks like, yeah.
P: So she's unconscious and not breathing right now?
C2: She ... is she conscious? She is conscious. And they have her tubed.
P: O-kaaay. We're gonna send the amb ... is there an ambulance on scene there, sir?
C2: There, there could be I don't know. Let me ask one of the people who works here. Excuse me, sir (talking to someone at the scene) is there an ambulance here or no?
VOICE IN BACKGROUND: On the way.
C2: On the way. They say that there's one on the way but there isn't one here right now.
P: All right.
DISPATCHER: Sir.
P: You can hang up, sir.
D: Sir, is this in the main...is this in, in one of the exhibition...?
P: Paramedic four with...
C2: Yeah it's in the exhibition hall.
D: OK. And it's, um A, right?
C2: Um, I'm actually not sure of the number. I'm standing next to a post that says E7.
D: OK. All right. Stay on the line with the EMS, OK?
P: ...cheerleader unresponsive. Reportedly tubed at this time. By who I don't know. Downtown, you still on?
C2: Yes sir.
P: Sir, you can hang up.
C2: OK, thank you.
D: It's Exhibition Hall A.
P: Exhibition Hall A?
D: Yes.
P: All right, I got an ambulance going. There should a detail working over there from one of the privates but I'm sending a truck anyway.
D: Yes.
P: All right, thanks. Bye.
D: B-bye.

Details of fatal injury lead some to question medical precautions

Posted April 29, 2008 07:36 AM

When Lauren Chang crumpled to the floor at the Minuteman Cheerleading Championships, the medic assigned to the competition was away from the action, restocking her supplies after treating three earlier injuries, according to the private ambulance company she worked for.

As she gathered more icepacks nearby, coaches and spectators rushed the mat, where Chang's team had just finished performing a 2 1/2-minute routine.

Amid the chaos of questioning voices and blaring music at Worcester's DCU Center, two registered nurses, both of them mothers attending the event, and several others checked Chang's pulse, listened to her heartbeat, and forced air into her lungs using a breathing bag that one of the rescuers found in a bag of medical supplies nearby. The panicked cheerleader fought her rescuers as she struggled to breath and at one point vomited blood, the nurses said.

A spokesman for American Medical Response, the private ambulance company contracted by the DCU Center, said its medic responded quickly to help treat Chang. But 20-year-old Lauren Chang died a day later. An autopsy showed her lungs had collapsed.

There would be still one more cheerleading injury that evening, during a competition that spectators later would say was filled with a freakish spate of accidents.

The death of Chang, a Newton North High School graduate, has parents and others scouring their memories of April 13, questioning the safety of the event and whether the medic on hand had been overtaxed.

By the time Chang went down at 7:20 p.m., the EMT already had already dealt with an asthma attack or fainting on stage, and a neck or back injury suffered in a fall during a stunt performed in the warm-up area, according to several witnesses.

Read more about the medical response to Lauren Chang's tragic injury in the online edition of today's City & Region section.

-- Erin Ailworth

Oak Hill bus crash memorial scheduled for Sunday

Posted April 24, 2008 12:33 PM

elainealpert.JPG
Elaine Alpert (left) lost her son Steve Glidden in the crash and later established a charitable foundation bearing his name.
(Globe staff photo by Wendy Maeda)

NEWTON

A remembrance ceremony for Newton's four Oak Hill Middle School students killed in a 2001 bus crash in Canada is planned for this Sunday at 6 p.m. in front of the school.

Everyone is welcome, said Elaine Alpert, who lost her 12-year-old son, Steve Glidden, in the crash.

As in previous years, the ceremony at Oak Hill's permanent memorial to the children is a somewhat open format, but will probably involve music, sharing happy memories of the young victims, and a moment of silence, she said.

"People talk about the community and the kids. It's a gathering point to reflect on how precious loved ones are, Alpert said.

Steve, along with his classmates Kayla Ann Rosenberg and Greg Wai Chan, both 13, and Melissa Leung, 14, were killed when a bus carrying 42 children to a music festival overturned on an exit ramp in Sussex, New Brunswick.

After the tragedy, Alpert established The Steve Glidden Foundation, which over the past five years has raised more than $500,000 to benefit programs aimed at low-income children.

The foundation's annual fundraising event for 2008 -- a huge community yard sale -- is scheduled for June 6 to 8 at the Brigham Community House in Newton Highlands, Alpert said.

Anyone interested in more information can visit the Steve Glidden Foundation online.

-- Erica Noonan

Aldermen approve $56 million more for Newton North

Posted April 23, 2008 11:19 AM

The city's Board of Aldermen agreed last night to spend an extra $56.3 million on the controversial Newton North High School project, bringing to $197.5 million the total authorized for the most expensive school project in state history.

The board voted 17-to-5 in favor of the appropriation, with Amy Sangiolo and Jay Harney absent.

Aldermen approved an initial sum of $141 million for the school in January 2007.

Mayor David Cohen, who requested last night's appropriation, has promised that he will not come back to board for more money in the future, even if it means making changes to the building plans.

-- Rachana Rathi

A moment of silence held for Lauren Chang

Posted April 19, 2008 07:32 PM

laurenchang.JPG
A tribute to Lauren Chang has been posted on the Energized Athletics web site.

NEWTON/WATERTOWN

Less than a week after cheerleader and Newton North High School graduate Lauren Chang died, hundreds of cheerleaders and their parents and friends gathered at the Jamfest event in Springfield Saturday.

Jamfest attendants held a moment of silence for Chang the afternoon of the competition. The music was shut off and parents hushed laughing and shouting children in the packed hall of the Mass Mutual Center. Afterwards, an announcer called for a round of applause and the hall exploded with sounds of clapping. Chang's teammates, who were overseen throughout the competition by an entourage of protective parents, huddled together.

Team members wore buttons with a picture of Chang taken from her MySpace web page.

"It's definitely been rough for them," said Kim England, the owner of Energized Athletics, the Watertown gym where Chang trained. "You've got to understand. They all turned around and saw what was happening. They saw her on the floor."

England said the two Energy Cheer teams turned their grief into fuel for the Jamfest competition.

"I am amazed, really," she said. "I don't think they did it for themselves. They did it for her."

Dannie Halloran, of Boston, was weeping as he left the convention hall. He did not perform on Sunday with Chang because he was suffering from a herniated disc, he said.

"She was the most important person on the team," he said. "She was definitely the face of our gym."

England said gym members and their parents have been supportive of her. No one has pulled out of the gym or expressed fears about safety. Rather, she said, they've shown solidarity.

"Everyone's pulled together. It's just amazing," England said. "We've gotten so much support today. Remember, we are competing against each other."

The event drew 2,000 spectators and 2,000 competitors over the course of two days, organizers said.

Two Extreme Cheer Teams made up of younger kids from the Energized Atheltics gym in Watertown, all under the age of 13, performed Saturday afternoon at Jamfest at the Mass Mutual Center in Springfield. Wearing black, purple and gold uniforms, the eight girls and one boy performed various gymnastic cheerleading moves to a cheering crowd, some of whom were wearing t-shirts depicting Lauren Chang's face.

Chang's squad, referred to as the "open team" and comprised of older more experienced cheerleaders, did not perform, parents said.

"The open team is here to support the two teams we have," said a parent who declined to give her name.

Casey O'Connell, 17, of Watertown, who was wearing a memorial t-shirt but who did not perform that day, said Chang was one of her best friends. She knew Chang for four years, she said.

"She was truly an amazing person," O'Connell said. "She was always happy. She touched everyone who walked into that gym."

O'Connell said Chang was empathetic and a role model for younger cheerleaders in the group.

"If someone was crying and sad with something, and needed help, she would [help]," O'Connell said. "If someone had trouble with their tumbling, she would help."

Many parents were relunctant to talk about the incident. They said the younger children in the squad were having difficulty dealing with Chang's death.

"Some of them are holding up well, some of them are breaking down in tears," said Angela, a parent who declined to give her last name.

Some of the reluctance stemmed from the fact that Chang's friends and teammates still don't know exactly how the injury she suffered during a routine led to her death.

"We really don't know what happened yet," O'Connell said, "so we're not going to give out any kind of false info."

-- John Dyer

Newton North grad dies in cheerleading accident

Posted April 17, 2008 04:06 PM

The cheerleading stunt just went wrong. It's not clear how. But when the jumble of bodies on the mat Sunday at the Minuteman Cheerleading Championships in Worcester sorted itself out, competitor Lauren Chang was down.

She died a day later.

The accident occured at the DCU Center Sunday, where the 20-year-old Newton North High School graduate performed with her team, Energy Cheer, along with more than 60 other teams. Few would talk about the incident, though rumors and speculation were rampant throughout the cheer community following her death.

Chang's co-ed team -- which trains at Energized Athletics in Watertown -- had been scheduled to take the mat at 7:10 p.m. The accident occurred about 10 minutes later, near the end of their routine.

A Wednesday autopsy ruled Chang's death an accident, according to Terrel Harris, a spokesman for the state Executive Office of Public Safety. He said Chang died of "complications" after air leaked into Chang's lungs and collapsed them "following a kick to the chest."

Worcester police had little to add.

"Apparently, she was accidentally kicked in the chest by a tumbler . . . during this cheerleading event," said spokesman Sergeant Kerry Hazelhurst. A report of the incident, he said, states that Chang was taken to St. Vincent's hospital and later transfered to UMass Memorial Medical Center. She died there at 1:05 p.m. on Monday.

Mike Pare, president of the Florida-based Spirit Cheer event and cheerleading camp company that organized the event, said he was on the side of the performance area and didn't see much of the accident.

"I think we're really in shock and just sad about the whole incident," he said when contacted by phone Wednesday. "We just feel very sorry for the family."

-- Erin Ailworth

Aldermen approve scaled-down purchase of Crystal Lake property

Posted April 9, 2008 03:13 PM

230lake.jpg
(City of Newton image)

NEWTON

The city's Aldermen have approved spending up to $950,000 of Community Preservation Act funds to purchase about 8,000 square feet of a waterfront property at 230 Lake Avenue in Newton Centre.

The land will be used to expand public access to the city's swimming area at Crystal Lake. Under law, Community Preservation Act funds can be used to help communities preserve open space areas and historic sites, and to create affordable housing and recreational facilities.

The city's plan to buy the property has undergone numerous changes since it was first introduced six months ago. In the version approved Monday, a third party buyer would purchase the property from its current owner for $1.9 million. The city will pay the buyer for a portion of the lot, an easement for pedestrian traffic, a conservation restriction along the waterfront, and a preservation restriction for the house's front facade.

Aldermen said there are already three potential third-party buyers interested in purchasing the property.

-- Rachana Rathi

Pro-override group wants watchdog to guard Newton finances

Posted April 8, 2008 02:00 PM

A group supporting the upcoming Proposition 2 1/2 override in Newton is calling for the formation of a fiscal watchdog group to monitor the city's troubled finances.

The group Move Newton Forward issued a press statement yesterday, calling for the formation of a permanent group similar to the Blue Ribbon Commission that issued a sobering report about the city's financial future early last year. Move Newton Forward co-chairwoman Sarah Ecker was a member of the commission.

"Newton needs to pass this override in the worst way, but just as important is the need to figure out a way where voters won't be confronted with budget problems year after year," Ecker said in the release.

According to the Move Newton Forward's proposal, one key job of the watchdog group would be to examine creative ways to balance the city's budget, including:

* Having city workers join the state's insurance plans to save on premiums;
* Installing energy-efficiency measures in city buildings;
* Forming partnerships with other cities to share the cost of providing some services, and;
* Exploring ways to increase the city's tax base.

The release appears to be a sign that, before the polls open on May 17, override proponents want to shore up shaky voter confidence in the city's ability to spend money wisely. While Newton voters have generally favored overrides in the past, proponents of the current $12 million proposal are facing an electorate concerned about the effect of the Newton North High School project's $197.5 million price tag on the long-term health of the city's finances and nervous about the economy in general.

Overrides have been going down to defeat all over the state -- 3 out of every 4 have been defeated -- and the city's aldermen have already cut the proposal in half from Cohen's original $23.9 million proposal.

-- Ralph Ranalli

Taj Mahal in Newton? Is it time to rebrand?

Posted April 5, 2008 08:50 AM

tajmahal2.JPG
Sure it's beautiful, but you should have seen the override it took to build it ...
(Globe archive image)

NEWTON

Some wags have dubbed the $197.5-million Newton North High School the "Taj Mahal" of Newton.

Not so fast, says a letter writer in Saturday's Globe.

Read on:

AS A member of the Indo-Iranian community, I take strong exception to the characterization of the plan for a new Newton North High School as a Taj Mahal (Op-ed, March 22). As one who lived near Agra, India, and visited the place many times, I can attest that in all of its grandeur, the Taj Mahal is an enduring monument to simplicity, a testament to the love of Shah Jahan for his Persian bride, and a great public works project that united people from all corners of the East in a singular effort. I find it offensive that the name of this hallowed place is used to deride the architecture of a building that is exorbitant, pompous, environmentally unsustainable, and a travesty as far as urban planning is concerned.

Next time the fiscally minded in Newton wish to find a symbolic reference to way-out architecture, I suggest they pick on St. Peter's Basilica. But please, leave the Taj Mahal alone.

GUIVE MIRFENDERESKI
Newton

'The Office' Remembers a Newton Teen

Posted April 4, 2008 02:46 PM

A tribute to a Newton high school student who died in March of rare complications from the flu was featured on NBC's hit television show "The Office" on Thursday night.

A freshman at Newton North High School, Nathan Alden Robinson, 15, was known as a excellent student and talented musician. A brief video clip of Robinson playing the piano was played during the closing credits of the television show, with the words "In Memoriam Nathan Robinson."

John Krasinski, who plays sales representative Jim Halpert on the show, is a Newton South graduate, as is B.J. Novak, who portrays intern Ryan Howard.

A scholarship fund in Robinson's name has been established. Checks can be made payable to "City of Newton, Nathan Alden Robinson Scholarship Fund" and sent to Toni Duncan Brown, 18 Dana Rd, West Newton, MA 02465. Check out the YouTube clip of Robinson's piano playing on "The Office'' and read his obituary in the Globe here.

-- Rachana Rathi

Newton man charged in Maine in alleged drivers license scheme

Posted April 1, 2008 07:33 AM

A Newton man accused of bringing an illegal immigrant to Maine to obtain a driver's license has been jailed pending a bail hearing Thursday in U.S. District Court in Portland.

Guilherme Malaquias, 23, of Newton, allegedly drove fellow Brazilian Marison Celante, 19, to Biddeford, Maine, where they were arrested March 20 at the U.S. Post Office, the Portland Press-Herald newspaper is reporting.

Unlike most states, Maine requires neither proof of citizenship or proof of residency from license applicants. The Legislature is considering a rule change to require proof of residency.

Malaquias' case is similar to that of a Brazilian from New Jersey who was arrested a month earlier at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles in Augusta after he allegedly brought two women to Maine to get driver's licenses. According to court records, Anderson Dos Santos, 30, told officials that Maine is known among Brazilians for having lax rules for issuing licenses.

A federal immigration agent claims that Malaquias, whose tourist visa expired nearly two years ago, has allegedly transported other illegal immigrants on day trips from Massachusetts to Maine to get licenses.

Read more about the alleged drivers license scheme in the online edition of today's Globe.

-- AP

Aldermen looking forward to a quiet summer

Posted March 24, 2008 08:31 AM

In an effort to ward off an annual barrage of noise complaints, the city's Board of Aldermen is considering an ordinance that would ban the use of portable gas and electric leaf blowers between April 15 and Oct. 15.

The board's programs and services committee this week recommended the ordinance, which would also prohibit leaf blowers from being used in close proximity to doors and windows, or to spray onto a public way or neighboring lots.

Violaters would receive a warning for their first offense, be fined $75 for the second offense, $150 for the third offense and $300 for all offenses after that. The proposed ordinance will come before the full board on April 7.

-- Rachana Rathi

Newton voters will be asked to approve a $12 million override in May

Posted March 18, 2008 04:53 PM

Newton voters will be asked to approve a $12 million property tax override of Proposition 2 1/2 on May 20.

The final override figure is significantly smaller than the $23.9 million proposed override put forward (and later withdrawn) by Mayor David B. Cohen and smaller than a subsequent $14.9 million figure suggested by board members Ted Hess-Mahan and Susan Albright.

Both earlier figures were criticized by various aldermen as being too high for the city's voters to stomach. The board approved the $12 million amount after several hours of debate Monday night.

The override measure will be the only question on the ballot. The board voted down a bid by members William Brandel and Amy Sangiolo to ask voters to pay for the $197.5 million Newton North High School project through a debt exclusion override.

-- Rachana Rathi

Cohen: New Newton North cost is $197.5 million, firm. Honest.

Posted March 16, 2008 10:42 AM

NNHS%20concept.jpg
An artist's conception of Newton North students enjoying their new $197.5 million high school. Not pictured: Stressed out parents and taxpayers.
(City of Newton image)


Newton Mayor David B. Cohen said he has drawn a "line in the sand" on the cost of the Newton North High School project, and that line is just south of $200 million.

Cohen has announced that he will ask the city's Board of Aldermen for $197.5 million in bond authorization for the project, which has already broken ground. While the figure is not necessarily the guaranteed maximum price that the city's project manager at risk, Dimeo Construction, will be held to, Cohen said that all the parties involved in the construction -- including Dimeo -- have signed off on the maximum figure.

"This is the line in the sand," said Cohen said in a statement released by his office. "At this price we can be sure that this outstanding community facility will be of the highest quality, meet our high expectations, fulfill our public schools' dynamic academic and wellness curriculum, and provide an environmentally friendly and structurally sound building that many generations of Newton residents will be proud of."

"With this announcement we bring closure to the period of uncertainty regarding the cost of Newton North, enabling us to collectively look forward to building on the significant on-site progress happening each day," Cohen said.

The $197.5 million figure represents a 40 percent increase in the project's estimated price since Newton voters approved the current site plan in January 2007. It is a 6 percent increase over the cost estimate made public by the city just two months ago, although at that time Cohen said that the price was likely to go higher.

-- Ralph Ranalli

Calling a technology timeout

Posted March 10, 2008 07:56 AM

NEEDHAM

With cellphones strapped to their hips and the Internet in their pocket, they hustle down suburban streets, always racing off to somewhere. One child's swim lessons, another's choir practice. There's Hebrew school to attend, and science projects to finish, and, finally, from many suburban families, there is screaming.

People want to be unplugged, be unscheduled.

And so, in recent years, town officials have started giving people that opportunity, writes Keith O'Brien, a roving reporter for the Globe's regional editions. Month-long calendars have been created in Needham, Newton, Belmont, and Bedford suggesting daily activities that don't include watching television or instant-messaging. Nights have been set aside in these towns - as well as in Northborough and Southborough - where meetings and school homework are forbidden, freeing families up to spend a quiet evening together. And in Needham - where the local "unplugged" or "unscheduled" movement began - a few brave souls decided to do something radical last Friday.

No e-mail. All day.

"When you combine the number of hours devoted to television and being online, it could be up to 10 hours a day or more," said Jon Mattleman, director of the Needham Youth Commission, who planned "Needham Unplugged." "So I really want people to think about it. If you're doing anything for 10 hours a day, what does that mean for your life?"

Read more about the family time vs. technology time debate in the online edition of today's Globe.

Researchers studying the impact of technology on our lives say it's a valid question, given the ways that digital gadgetry divide us as well as connect us. But in a world gone wired, calls for technological temperance often fall on unwilling ears - even when people say they want to go unplugged. And carving out family time for board games on the living room floor?

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Newton Taxpayers group launches new anti-override initiative

Posted February 22, 2008 04:29 PM

NEWTON

The Newton Taxpayers Association, a non-profit group that has traditionally opposed Proposition 2 1/2 overrides in the city, has announced the formation of a new group, Newton For Fiscal Responsibility, to oppose Mayor David B. Cohen's plans for a new Newton North High School and a $23.9 million override.

In a press release circulated by president Jeff Seideman, the group said it is now "seeking members and support from the many Newton residents frustrated and angry over the way Newton's budget has been raided to pay for a new, over-priced Newton North High School."

Cohen has announced he will request a $23.9 million override vote for this May, which the group said it will oppose.

The group is also urging the city to scrap the current $186 million plan for Newton North and adopt an alternative proposed by Mark Sangiolo, a local architect, that calls for renovating the current building and adding a new science wing.

The group's press release said that more information is available on the Newton Taxpayers Association website.

-- Ralph Ranalli

State Treasurer says extensive design changes are needed to save money on Newton North project

Posted February 22, 2008 09:07 AM

NEWTON

State Treasurer Timothy P. Cahill warned Mayor David B. Cohen of Newton yesterday that extensive design changes would have to be part of any meaningful plan to save money on the most expensive high school project in Massachusetts history.

The warning came in a bluntly worded letter in which Cahill accepted Cohen's request for help in holding down the soaring cost of building a new Newton North High School.

The project has come under increasing fire since Cohen announced last month that its estimated price tag had risen from $141 million to more than $186 million in six months and that the final cost likely could go even higher.

Last week, the mayor sent Cahill a letter inviting state officials to Newton to give their "suggestions on how we could save money on this important project."

In his response yesterday, Cahill raised questions about the timing of Cohen's request for help from the state School Building Authority, which is committed to paying $46.5 million of the project's cost.

The letter included a long list of documents Cahill is asking the city to provide before scheduling any future meeting.

While saying that he and the authority's executive director, Katherine Craven, would be happy to meet with Newton officials, Cahill pointed out that the agency has already been working for three years "to accommodate Newton's selected design for the high school project."

Over that time, the city has considered but rejected a number of cost-saving measures, including renovating the existing building and opting for a simpler design over the complex, zig-zag-shaped structure envisioned by renowned architect Graham Gund of Cambridge.

More recently, the city declined several other smaller cost-saving design changes, including scaling back the school's multilevel theater into a single-level auditorium and using polished concrete blocks instead of brick for the exterior.

While Cohen said recently that he was willing to revisit some of those smaller decisions, Cahill wrote that the time for minor adjustments to the project had already come and gone.

"Given the timing of your correspondence and the fact that the pouring of the foundation for the newly designed school is imminent," Cahill wrote, "I would caution that the opportunities for significant cost savings may no longer be available unless you and the city agree to make changes to the proposed design of the school, which may be extensive."

That sentiment appears to put the two sides significantly at odds. Cohen has said repeatedly lately that any savings from major design changes would be offset by the cost associated with delays in building the project.

The mayor has also rejected any suggestion that construction of the new school be delayed, even temporarily, and crews began pouring concrete this week.

City spokesman Jeremy Solomon said yesterday afternoon that the city would provide the extensive project documentation requested by the treasurer in his letter, but he called Cahill's suggestion of major design changes "a big question mark."

"I am sure the treasurer knows the ramifications of changing the design at this stage in the process," Solomon said.

Opponents of the current plan said they were encouraged by Cahill's offer to help.

"I only wish his invitation would have been accepted sooner," said Alderman Ken Parker, who has backed scrapping the Gund design and has formed a committee to explore a possible run for the mayor's office.

"But I'm optimistic that we can get this project back on track. We need a high school project we can afford, not one that will force us to lay off police and firefighters."

-- Ralph Ranalli and Rachana Rathi

Newton residents to get chance to weigh in on override

Posted February 21, 2008 07:19 AM

NEWTON

Newton residents will have a chance to voice their opinion on Mayor David Cohen's proposed $23.9 million Proposition 2 1/2 override on Wednesday, during a joint meeting of two key committees of the city's Board of Aldermen.

The Finance Committee and the Programs and Services Committee will hold the joint meeting at 7:45 p.m. in the aldermanic chamber in City Hall. If it receives the backing of the city's aldermen, the mayor's request for a tax increase could go before voters in May.

Cohen has said the city would have to eliminate more than 60 positions if the override fails, including 16 police officers, 16 firefighters, eight public works employees, and four library workers.

Superintendent of Schools Jeffrey Young has said the school system would have to eliminate about 100 full-time positions if the override is voted down. Young said most of those losses would come through attrition.

-- Rachana Rathi

Newton Police release sketch of strangler suspect

Posted February 12, 2008 11:13 AM

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NEWTON

Newton Police released the sketch of a man wanted on attempted murder charges after he tried to strangle a woman Monday inside the Greater Boston Chinese Cultural Center.

Police said the man walked into the center on Cherry Street at 3 p.m. Monday and asked for an employee by name. After he was told that person no longer worked there, the man asked to see a book in the library and showed an ID that appeared to be from the cultural center.

Inside the library, the man approached a 40-year-old woman and began to strangle her, police said. After the woman passed out, the man fled, police said.

The woman was taken to the Brigham and Women's Hospital. Police did not release details about her injuries or condition.

The suspect is described as a dark-skinned Asian male who is approximately 40 years old. His is 5 feet 5 inches tall, has a thin build, and weighs about 120 pounds, police said.

Anyone with information about the suspect or the attack should call Newton detectives at 617-796-2104 or the police tip line at 617-796-2121.

-- Jillian Jorgensen

Aldermen: Newton North project isn't set in concrete ... yet

Posted February 11, 2008 10:47 AM

NEWTON

Even as construction crews prepare to pour the first concrete next week for a new Newton North High School, a majority of aldermen are asking Mayor David B. Cohen to "pause, assess, and right this project" by working with state officials to rein in the $186 million plan.

Several members of the Board of Aldermen are sponsoring a resolution that asks the mayor to halt installation of the project's concrete foundations until the board approves a financing plan based on the yet-to-be-determined final project price, and until the board receives a review of the project and its financing from state Treasurer Tim Cahill. A number of aldermen and residents are floating their own scaled-down proposals for replacing the current Newton North.

Seemingly under fire from all sides, Cohen is holding fast, saying not only that the foundation work should proceed on schedule, but the project should move forward as designed. According to Cohen, altering the current plan to one that mixes renovation and new construction, or one that involves renovation alone, could delay the project by years and send costs soaring over the $200 million mark.

"The options that have been discussed are really nonstarters," Cohen said in an interview last Wednesday. "The plans that have been bandied about will put us back to square one."

Cohen is expected to present a financing plan to the board on Wednesday, but it will be based on his cost estimate last month for the project - $186 million. A final guaranteed maximum price for the project is not expected to be negotiated until perhaps May.

-- Rachana Rathi

The Daley show debuts in Newton

Posted January 29, 2008 07:43 AM

NEWTON

Tom Daley, the former director of public works in Duxbury, was hired last week as Department of Public Works Commissioner for the city of Newton, city spokesman Jeremy Solomon said.

David Turocy has been the acting commissioner since Robert Rooney left the position in late to accept a post as Deputy Secretary for Public Works for the state.

-- Rachana Rathi

Woman dies, firefighters burned in heroic rescue attempt in Newton

Posted January 25, 2008 11:47 AM

NEWTON

Two firefighters suffered severe burns early this morning when they ran through flames and smoke to try to save an elderly woman who had collapsed on the second floor of a family duplex.

The firefighters were able to pull 85-year-old Dorothy Beatrice out of a rear window, but she went into cardiac arrest and died at a local hospital, said Chief Joseph LaCroix of the Newton Fire Department.

Lieutenant Doug Quinn and Firefighter Mark O'Hare lost their helmets as they ran up the flaming stairwell in an attempt to save Beatrice. Quinn suffered second- and third-degree burns on his arms, neck, and ears and was rushed to the burn unit at Massachusetts General Hospital.

O'Hare sustained similar burns but was not as badly injured. He is expected to be released from the hospital today, LaCroix said.

Flames billowed out of a shattered picture window when firefighters arrived at a duplex on Ashmont Avenue at 4:30 a.m. after a neighbor called 911. John Beatrice, a blind man in his 50s, met Quinn and the front steps and told him that his mother was trapped inside.

"The fire was advancing, and he knew he couldn't wait for the hose," LaCroix said.

Quinn and O'Hare found Dorothy Beatrice unconscious on a second floor landing. The flames were so intense they could not go back down the stairs and ran to the back of the building, LaCroix said.

The fire started in a front room on the first floor and remains under investigation.

-- Andrew Ryan and John Ellement

Newton Superintendent: Schools would get $12 million from override

Posted January 15, 2008 01:43 PM

NEWTON

Newton's schools would receive about $12 million for next year's education budget from a proposed Proposition 2 1/2 override, with the money going toward building maintenance, technology, and classroom aides, School Superintendent Jeffrey Young said today.

Young said he is preparing two budgets for the 2008-2009 school year.

The first, which he will present to the School Committee this evening, would give the schools a total of $171 million, a 10.5 percent increase over this year's $155 million budget. The increase of $16 million includes both the $12 million in override funds and another bump of $4 million that Mayor David B. Cohen has pledged even if the override fails, Young said.

On Jan. 28, Young is expected to present a second, $159 million budget -- one which doesn't include the override funds -- that would represent a 2.9 percent increase over this year's budget.

Due to rising costs and a system-wide enrollment expansion of 55 students, Young said the schools will need a 7.4 percent increase to maintain current programs and services.

Cohen has not announced a total figure for the proposed override, but the school's portion alone as disclosed by Young is already larger than the city's last override, a $11.5 measure approved by voters in 2002. Voters passed that measure 14,251 to 13,542, with about two-thirds of the money going to the schools and the rest funding municipal services.

City spokesman Jeremy Solomon said Cohen will announce the overall figure for the proposed override next month.

-- Rachana Rathi

Newton Superintendent: "Cameras also used at North; I take responsibility"

Posted January 14, 2008 08:56 AM

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Newton Superintendent of Schools Jeffrey Young has taken responsibility for controversial video camera systems installed in the city's high schools.
(Globe Staff photo by Suzanne Kreiter)

NEWTON

Superintendent of Schools Jeffrey Young has taken responsibility for the controversial hidden security cameras installed at Newton South High School and has revealed that cameras were also used at Newton North to catch a thief who had stolen approximately $30,000 in electronics and other equipment.

In an open letter to the school community released late last week, Young said that Newton South's principal, Brian Salzer, installed the cameras after consulting with Newton North principal Jennifer Price. Salzer was attempting to deal with a rash of thefts from a locker room area and repeated vandalism in a bathroom near the school's auditorium, Young wrote.

The presence of the cameras at South was revealed by student journalists in the high school's newspaper and several members of the School Committee have said that they should have been consulted before they were put in place.

Young said that Price, working with Newton Police, installed a similar system near a technology locker where more than $30,000 worth of laptops and other equipment had been stolen.

"Shortly thereafter, the thief was recorded using a pair of shears to cut the chain locks on the closet door and was arrested," Young wrote in the letter. "Much of the stolen property was recovered. No other use was made of the tape, and the system has since been turned off."

Young wrote that there are no other cameras installed at any other schools in Newton, and that they will not be used again until there is consensus on a clear policy for their use.

"The cameras at South are off and will remain off, unless and until the School Committee decides on a policy for their use," he said. "As this security issue occurred 'on my watch,' I accept responsibility for the distress it caused."

-- Ralph Ranalli

Jewish students to honor King with work, not rest

Posted January 10, 2008 08:50 AM

NEWTON

While most students enjoy the time off on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, students at the Rashi School in Newton are invited to come to school voluntarily on Jan. 21 to participate in service projects in honor of the civil rights leader.

From 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., students and their families will gather to at the Jewish day school to create cards and birthday boxes for children in local shelters; make scarves for people in need; and write letters to local troops in Iraq.

A discussion about King's legacy will also be incorporated into the day.

-- Rachana Rathi

Aldermen to meet with Newton mayor again on high school project

Posted January 5, 2008 08:25 AM

NEWTON

Newton Mayor David Cohen will provide the Board of Aldermen an updated cost estimate and revised schedule for the estimated $171 million Newton North High School building project during a special meeting Jan. 16, city spokesman Jeremy Solomon said.

After the mayor's short meeting with aldermen in December, which was held before a regular board of aldermen meeting, numerous aldermen left saying they were dissatisfied with the time constraint.

Board president Lisle Baker arranged next week's meeting after numerous aldermen said the first meeting did not provide them with enough of an opportunity to question Cohen about important aspects of the project.

-- Rachana Rathi

If you help build a duplex for two low-income families, does that give you double good karma?

Posted January 3, 2008 08:34 AM

NEWTON

Habitat for Humanity is seeking volunteers for a home-building project in Newton.

The organization broke ground in September on the project, which involves building a duplex for two families at 76 Webster Park, and needs to raise about $300,000 to complete the project, said Ted Kuklinski, co-chair of the Newton Habitat Committee.

The organizing committee is meeting at St. Ignatius Church in Chesnut Hill on Jan. 7 at 7:30 p.m. Volunteers can visit www.localendar.com/public/hfhnewton to find build days.

Donations can be sent to Habitat for Humanity of Greater Boston, P.O. Box 610242, Newton, MA 02461.

-- Rachana Rathi

Aldermen to Newton North students: Butts out

Posted December 25, 2007 08:41 AM

NEWTON

Beginning Jan. 1, students and residents can be fined for smoking within a 900-foot radius of Newton North High School.

The board of aldermen approved an ordinance banning smoking on public properties around the high school by a vote of 20-2. Sydra Schnipper and Anthony Salvucci voted against the ordinance, and Marcia Johnson and Ken Parker were absent.

A subcommittee of the high school liason committee, which is chaired by Newton North principal Jennifer Price, recommended the ordinance to help reduce smoking among students and faculty at the high school.

Violators would face a $50 fine for the first offense, $100 fine for the second offense, and $200 fine for all offenses thereafter. Students would also have the option of completing a smoking cessation course in lieu of the fine.

-- Rachana Rathi

Aldermen will pick up trash discussion in the New Year

Posted December 24, 2007 12:14 PM

NEWTON

The board of aldermen has delayed discussion of whether Newton will switch to an automated trash collection system until its Jan. 7 meeting. The board's Public Facilities Committee recommended the proposal, but its Finance Committee rejected it.

The proposed system would provide each household with a 64-gallon trash container that would be collected each week by a truck with a single driver and automated arm. Currently, there is no limit on the amount of trash residents can dispose of each week, and two employees are required to collect it.

-- Rachana Rathi

Newton School Committe bets more than $100,000 on a successful override

Posted December 20, 2007 12:56 PM

NEWTON

The School Committee is moving forward with plans to build $1.4 million in modular classrooms to address overcrowding at four elementary schools, even though the district can't afford to staff them unless the mayor's proposed tax override passes next year, member Susan Heyman said.

The committee recently approved spending $100,000 to design the four modular classrooms, and could spend another $25,000 in administrative costs to put the construction out to bid next spring. All that money could be lost, Heyman said, if the override fails.

The need for the classrooms is based on a projected enrollment increase of 68 students next fall, Heyman said. Burr and Angier elementary schools would each receive one classroom. Bowen Elementary School would receive a double-decker classroom, and its current single modular classroom would be moved to the Mason-Rice School, Heyman said.

"Although the overall enrollment increase is not huge, it would put these already crowded buildings over the edge," she said.

-- Rachana Rathi

Bomb threat prompts officials to close Newton North High School for the day

Posted December 12, 2007 12:05 PM

NEWTON

Newton North High School canceled all classes today after a faculty member found a bomb threat on one of the school doors at 6 a.m.

The note contained a threat and "another element" that raised the concern of school administrators to the point that they decided that canceling school for the day was the safest course of action, said city spokesman Jeremy Solomon. Solomon did not elaborate further on the note's contents.

The Newton Fire Department sweep of the building did not uncover a bomb, Solomon said. Police would not say whether students are suspected of being involved, but said that they are following all leads.

Parents were notified of the cancellation through the city's mass notification telephone system. The high school will be back in session tomorrow, and the lost day will be made up at the end of the school year, Solomon said.

-- Rachana Rathi

Aldermen alarmed by cost of Newton North project

Posted December 5, 2007 08:54 AM

NEWTON

Political support is slipping for the Newton North High School project amid signs that the cost of the state's most expensive high school will climb far beyond the estimated $154-million price tag.

Newton Alderman Paul Coletti told the Globe he plans to offer a resolution saying the board of aldermen have no confidence in the way Mayor David Cohen has handled the project, in order to send "a very strong message to the public that the project and mayor are out of control."

"There's this tremendous void of leadership out of the executive department right now," Coletti said. "In my 30 years in office, I haven't never seen a situation that equals the incompetence of the way this has been handled."

The school project could rise to as much as $171-million, according to figures released this week.

Cohen faced aldermen in a heated meeting Monday to address their frustration over a lack of information on the high school building project and the timing of an expected property tax override Cohen wants to take place next year. He insisted that the override is not needted to fund the school project.

"The Newton North High School project can and will be built whether or not the override passes," Cohen said in an interview Tuesday.

-- Rachana Rathi

Newton wants to hit jackpot with one-armed trash bandit

Posted December 4, 2007 12:29 PM

NEWTON

The city's finance board is pursuing an automated trash collection system that officials say could save taxpayers $2.5 million over the next five years.

"It's more financially responsible and ecologically a better way to go," said Sydra Schnipper, chairwoman of the Public Facilities Committee, which approved the contract 5-2 this week.

The proposed system would provide each household with a single 64-gallon trash container that would be collected each week by a truck with a single driver and automated arm. Currently, there is no limit to the amount of trash residents can dispose of each week and two drivers are required to collect it.

The new contract must be approved by Dec. 31, Finance Committee chairman Paul Coletti said.

-- Rachana Rathi

Cohen to face the aldermanic music on Newton North costs

Posted November 30, 2007 10:48 AM

NEWTON

Mayor David Cohen will meet with the Newton Board of Aldermen Monday night at 7:15 p.m. to address their questions about the $154 million Newton North High School building project.

President Lisle Baker made the request to the mayor last week, after many aldermen expressed frustration at the lack of communication and accountability from the executive office about additional costs and delays associated with numerous problems encountered at the building site and in the project management.

The issues that will be discussed include the discovery of asbestos and an underground ledge that must be removed through blasting -- both of which were not accounted for in the project's budget or timeline -- as well as the date the city will negotiate a guaranteed maximum price for the project with the contractor.

-- Rachana Rathi

Newton lawyer nominated for state Appeals Court

Posted November 14, 2007 03:01 PM

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NEWTON

Gov. Deval Patrick has nominated Peter J. Rubin, a 44-year-old Newton resident, constitutional scholar, and Georgetown University law professor to fill one of three vacancies on the Massachusetts Appeals Court, the administration announced today.

Rubin, former law clerk to Supreme Court Justice David H. Souter, represented, with others, Vice President Albert Gore Jr. in the two Florida election cases heard by the Supreme Court, Bush v. Gore and Bush v. Palm Beach County Canvassing Board.

Rubin, who is a counsel at the law firm O'Melveny & Myers, teaches constitutional and criminal law, and focuses his writing on equal protection, due process and voting rights. In 2001, he founded the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy, a national legal organization with chapters at 155 law schools in the United States and in 26 cities around the country.

"Peter Rubin is a dynamic collaborator whose brilliance as both a constitutional scholar and appellate counsel will be appreciated fully by his fellow jurists at the Appeals Court and all of the citizens of the Commonwealth," said Patrick. Rubin will replace Associate Justice Gordon L. Doerfer, who retired in September.

Patrick nominated Superior Court Judge Francis R. Fecteau, 60, a Holy Cross graduate and longtime Worcester resident, and Gabrielle R. Wolohojian, a 46-year-old Boston resident who is a senior partner at the law firm of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale & Dorr, for the other two slots.

-- Ralph Ranalli

Green Line to add 10 trolleys, straphangers to rejoice ...

Posted November 12, 2007 02:18 PM

NEWTON

After fighting for a decade with an Italian company that MBTA officials once accused of supplying defective Green Line trolleys, the T said yesterday that it has solved past problems and will take an additional 10 cars from the company.

For riders on the T's most-crowded line, that will mean more trains available for service, resulting in fewer delays, said Daniel A. Grabauskas, general manager of the MBTA, Globe transportation reporter Noah Bierman reports in today's City & Region section.

"It's easily the largest fleet size in the last 25 years, maybe ever," Grabauskas said.

The first of the new trains went into service last week. Once the T gets the last of 10 new cars, by the middle of next year, it will have a total of 209 cars to carry the 200,000 passengers who ride the Green Line each weekday.

More asbestos found at Newton North High construction site

Posted November 8, 2007 02:46 PM

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Demolition began on the Newton North campus in June
(Globe staff photo by Bill Polo)

NEWTON

The city announced today that contractors have halted work at the new Newton North High School construction site after workers uncovered a pipe covered in asbestos insulation earlier this week.

The insulation contains a kind of asbestos that can become airborne and pose a health risk said Jeremy Solomon, a spokesman for Mayor David B. Cohen. He said workers at the site had already been taking precautions against airborne asbestos by controlling dust and monitoring the air quality at the site and inside the existing high school building. Newton North High School has been in session during the construction project.

Solomon said "the entire operation shut down" when a worker found the pipe Monday.

Solomon said he did not know the size of the pipe or the amount of asbestos on it. It was then sent for testing and state officials at the Department of Environmental Protection were notified when it was found to contain asbestos, he said.

"Public safety is our primary focus here," Solomon said.

Last May, city officials discovered old floor tiles containing asbestos were buried on the construction site and hired a remediation firm to deal with it. At the time, they minimized health concerns, saying the asbestos was of a "nonfriable" [non-airborne] type.

McPhail Associates, the licensed site professional overseeing the asbestos removal, has submitted an amended work plan to state DEP officials, but work at the site cannot continue until state officials review the amended plan. The overall cost of the new school project is currently estimated at $155 million.

-- Megan Woolhouse

The voters have spoken

Posted November 8, 2007 10:46 AM

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Governor's Councilor Marilyn P. Devaney, right, leaves the courthouse with Rev. Emmanuel Metaxas following her arraignment on assault charges in May at Waltham District Court.
(Globe staff photo by Lisa Poole)

WATERTOWN/NEWTON

Watertown residents bid adieu to a long-serving and embattled town councilor and Newton voters ousted a pair of incumbent aldermen in this weeks election, staff writer John C. Drake reports in the online edition of today's City & Region section.

Watertown Town Councilor Marilyn Petitto Devaney, who faces felony charges in a recent confrontation at a Waltham beauty supply store and has been an aggressive critic of town administration, came five votes short of maintaining the at-large council seat she has held for 26 years.

Barring a recount, her 1,816-vote tally placed her fifth in a race for four at-large seats, a stunning reversal of fortunes for the 69-year-old, who outpaced challengers by a wide margin in previous elections. Her closest competitor, incumbent John Donohue, finished with 1,821 votes. Devaney could not be reached for comment.

Read more about local election results in today's City & Region section online.

Newton eyes permanent withdrawal from ADL anti-hate program

Posted November 6, 2007 10:06 AM

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Anti-Defamation League national director Abraham Foxman
(AP photo)

NEWTON

With the recent decison by the Anti-Defamation League's national board to take no further action on a Congressional resolution acknowledging an Armenian genocide, Newton Mayor David Cohen must decide whether to sever ties with the ADL's No Place for Hate Program permanently.

Earlier this fall, Cohen dropped the program, as a matter of "conscience" and asked ADL National Director Abraham Foxman to unequivocally acknowledge the Ottoman Empire's World War I massacre of Armenians by supporting a Congressional resolution calling it a genocide.

The ADL did not publicly acknowledge the deaths as a genocide until last summer when Foxman, under pressure from ADL members, issued a statement calling the massacre "tantamount to genocide."

Many criticized his statement as unclear and seven communities including Newton discontinued the ADL No Place for Hate program, awaiting a more concise explanation by Foxman. Foxman has said he feared international repercussions by Turkey, a key ally in US efforts against terrorism and Islamic extremism.

Jeremy Solomon, Cohen's spokesman, said the mayor will discuss the national ADL's decison at the city's next Human Rights Commission meeting. A date has not yet been scheduled, he
said.

"We're going to evaluate the actions taken in their entirety," Solomon said. "Perhaps it is not as black and white as it was when we issued the demand."

-- Megan Woolhouse

Obstructed view, unobstructed satisfaction

Posted October 24, 2007 09:41 AM

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The view from there.
(Photo courtesy of the Steve Glidden Foundation)

NEWTON

If you just have to see the Sox in the World Series in person but the thought of lining some greasy ticket scalper's pockets makes you ill, the Steve Glidden Foundation may have the ducats you've been looking for.

The foundation is named for Steve Glidden, a 7th grader who was one of four Oak Hill Middle School students killed in 2001 when their bus overturned during a school band trip to Nova Scotia. The foundation raises money for a summer camp, scholarships, and for other organizations and projects that "foster leadership and advocacy capacity in young people."

The foundation is offering 2 obstructed view tickets to the Thursday night's Game 3 in Section 23, Row 10. The opening bid is $750 per ticket (they have a $150 face value) but the first person offering $2,500 for the pair takes them away, according to an e-mail sent out yesterday by Elaine Alpert, Steve's mother.

Bids are usually taken on the foundation's "Steve-bay" auction site, but anyone interested in buying the World Series tickets is instead urged to bid by sending an e-mail to the foundation. Anyone seeking more information is urged to call either 617-527-0172 or 781-929-5136.

The foundation also said that any amount paid that is over face value is considered a charitable donation and that a receipt would be provided for the buyers' taxes.

-- Ralph Ranalli

Newton mayor calls for Proposition 2 1/2 override

Posted October 23, 2007 08:41 AM

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NEWTON

Mayor David B. Cohen called for a property tax increase through an override in his State of the City address last night, less than a year after voters approved construction of the most expensive high school in state history.

Cohen, who once insisted he would not ask for a tax hike to pay for the $155-million school, said an override is needed to pay for rising city expenses and improvements to public buildings. Cohen said his administration would calculate the cost of an override to taxpayers by Jan. 15, in time for a possible vote next spring.

"The choice before us is to make deep cuts in the level of services we are providing today or to raise the necessary revenue that will allow us to move forward," he said. "Now is the time to seek an operating override."

Judging from what has happened recently in other municipalities in Massachusetts, Cohen will have his work cut out for him. A majority of cities and towns across the state have rejected similar tax increases through overrides. In December, the Globe found that two-thirds of overrides in 2006 were rejected and that 2007 was on track to be the second-straight year in which more override requests failed than passed.

Newton voters approved an $11.5 million override that permanently raised city taxes in 2002. It won by 709 votes.

-- Megan Woolhouse

More work on the Pike

Posted October 22, 2007 09:49 AM

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Expect backups at Exit 17
(Globe staff photo by Lane Turner)

NEWTON/TRAFFIC

From the Globe's "Starts and Stops" column:

Until late 2007, reconstruction work will take place on the Church Street Bridge on the Mass. Pike in Newton.

Lane closures, daytime and nighttime, will be in place at various times in that area on the Mass. Pike east and west. Expect periodic Exit 17 ramp closures.

Also, Church Street traffic near the bridge has been reduced from four lanes to two lanes (one in each direction).

For a complete listing of recent commuter updates, read Starts and Stops online.

Newton library director who defied FBI to retire

Posted October 20, 2007 11:17 AM

NEWTON

Kathy Glick-Weil has announced she will retire as director of the Newton Free Library in January, with plans to move to Pennsylvania with her dog, Nino to volunteer at hospitals and nursing homes.

Glick-Weil, the library's director for 14 years, also served as president of the Massachusetts Library Association last year. She made headlines last year when she made FBI anti-terrorism agents wait nearly nine hours to seize three computers by insisting that they get a warrant.

Glick-Weil will remain in her position until Jan. 2, when she will move to Bethlehem, Pa., to join her husband, Gordon, who on July 1 began serving as vice president for academic affairs and dean of the faculty at Moravian College.

A celebration in her honor will be held from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Dec. 2 in the Newton Free Library's main branch, at 330 Homer St.

-- Megan Woolhouse

Newton, about to lose Cultural Center, gets grant to help create a replacement

Posted October 17, 2007 01:44 PM

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NEWTON

The creation of new regional cultural arts center in Newton took a step forward last week when the Newton Cultural Alliance received an $18,750 grant to conduct a feasibility study of the project.

The money came from he Massachusetts Cultural Council's Cultural Facilities Fund and will be matched with $31,250 in private donations raised last spring for the project. The city's current Cultural Center is housed in the former Carr School in Newtonville, a building that is being reclaimed by the school department.

State Representative Kay Khan, who has championed the project, noted in a press release that "Newton is a community of artists."

A regional arts center will, Khan said, "enrich the quality of life in the city, while stimulating the creative economy and raising revenue for the entire western suburban Boston region."

The Newton alliance applied for the grant and was one of 62 winners out of 201 applicants. Cultural officials urged anyone seeking more information or looking for ways to get involved in the push for a new cultural center to contact them via e-mail.

-- Megan Woolhouse

Newton commuters can sound off tonight

Posted October 10, 2007 01:25 PM

NEWTON/FRAMINGHAM

The Massachusetts Turnpike Authority will hold a public hearing tonight in Newton on its recent vote to increase the tolls at both the Weston and Allston-Brighton toll plazas by 25 cents each for 2008.

The authority board took its preliminary vote on the hike last week, passing on proposals to raise the tolls even higher. Globe West reported Sunday that western commuters who use the pike will still end up paying more than nine times as much in gas taxes and tolls -- the state's two user fees for drivers -- as commuters on the South Shore or in the northwest suburbs.

Under the law, the board must hold public hearings before taking a final vote on the 25 cent toll increase. The meeting will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Veterans War Memorial Auditorium at Newton City Hall.

A similar meeting will be held tomorrow night from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in Framingham at the Memorial Building at 150 Concord St.

-- Ralph Ranalli

Mayor gets new wheels

Posted October 9, 2007 04:52 PM

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Hizzoner and hiz hybrid, fer shizzle

NEWTON

Newton Mayor David Cohen traded in his gas-guzzling Crown Victoria this week, in favor of a new Toyota Prius hybrid. The city bought two of the cars, at $20,800 a piece, unveiling the purchase today.

Cohen receives use of a city car as mayor, not to mention a parking spot close to the entrance to City Hall. The other Prius will be used by the city's inspectional services department.

Jeremy Solomon, the mayor's spokesman, said the Crown Vic got about 18 miles to the gallon. The new car gets 46.

-- Megan Woolhouse

Alderman 2.0

Posted October 7, 2007 09:03 AM

NEWTON

Ward 5 Alderman at-Large Brian Yates may not have any opponents in this fall's elections, but he has re-launched his website anyway.

On it, he notes that the city's Design Review Committee, which he served on, helped keep the main library construction project "on time and under budget." He also said the committee's current influence over the Newton South High School project was "limited."

Yates, who lives on Chestnut Street, also offers links to his other pet issues, like the effort to restore chestnut trees to Chestnut Hill.

-- Megan Woolhouse

Possible Cohen opponent, a Navy reservist, is shipping out

Posted October 5, 2007 01:28 PM

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(Globe staff photo by Bill Brett)

NEWTON

Setti Warren, U.S. Senator John Kerry's deputy state director, possible 2009 Newton mayoral candidate, and a Navy reservist, is headed to the war in Iraq.

Warren, 37, has been a Navy reservist since 2002 and he learned last week that he will be deployed to Iraq on Oct. 26. An intelligence specialist, Warren said he had few details about where he will be assigned in Iraq, only that he ill be "on the ground." He is scheduled to return home to his wife, Tassy Warren, in late 2008.

And as for his run for mayor?

"I'm still seriously considering this," he said.

-- Megan Woolhouse

Newton superintendent to announce plan

Posted October 5, 2007 12:20 PM

NEWTON

Newton Superintendent Jeff Young will hold a press conference at 2:30 p.m. today to unveil a new "five-year strategic plan" for the public schools.

The school department normally sets one-year goals but undertook a long-range planning process last spring. The district hired the Interaction Institute for Social Change in Cambridge to create the plan. Staff, teachers, and parents also participated.

More details to come this afternoon.

--Megan Woolhouse

A day in court turns to half an hour on the lam

Posted October 4, 2007 08:53 AM

NEWTON

A suspect is back behind bars after making a brief escape from police at the Newton District Courthouse and injuring a court officer while on the run yesterday.

The suspect, Todd Corcoran was in court for a detention hearing. During the hearing, Corcoran learned he was going to have to spend a night in jail and then bolted out of the courtroom, WHDH/Channel 7 television reported on its web site.

Corcoran allegedly threw a court officer to the ground, and then did the same to another, giving him a head laceration. Corcoran then ran into a nearby neighborhood, confronting an elderly man.

"He waved some money at the elderly male asking for his help," Lt. Bruce Apotheker of the Newton Police Department said. "This elderly gentleman raised up his cane and told the suspect to back off."

Corcoran then attempted to carjack a truck with two men inside.

"This suspect jumped into the passenger side of the pickup truck," Lt. Apotheker said. "And an officer, approaching the scene on his motorcycle, observed what was going on, got off his motorcycle and went up to the red pickup truck."

Corcoran fled again, however he was apprehended after a 30 minute manhunt, police said.

Watertown man charged with assault after melee with Boston College athletes

Posted October 2, 2007 08:00 AM

WATERTOWN/NEWTON

A bar patron who was allegedly assaulted by an off-duty Massachusetts State Police sergeant and two Boston College football players was charged yesterday with punching the sergeant during the altercation.

Sean Maney, 28, a software engineer from Watertown, was charged with assault and battery against Sergeant Joseph J. Boike during a melee July 1 at The Greatest Bar near North Station. Assistant Magistrate Francis X. Cunningham issued the complaint after a hearing in Boston Municipal Court, staff writer Robert Hohler reports today.

Witnesses for Boike supported the sergeant's assertion that Maney started the fight by punching Boike after the sergeant, a part owner of the bar, asked Maney and his friends to vacate their seats to make room for a group of Boston College players.

"This gives the public a much better, clearer view of what really went on in terms of who started the physical confrontation," said Boike's lawyer, Timothy M. Burke.

Boike, 52, sought the complaint after he was charged with assaulting Maney and Christy Osborne, the girlfriend of Maney's brother Brian, during the brawl. State Police have suspended Boike without pay pending the outcome of the court case. BC players Gosder Cherilus and DeJuan Tribble also were charged with assaulting Maney, who suffered a broken neck and other injuries in the altercation.

"We have faith that justice will prevail," his mother, Maureen, said. "Anybody who knows Sean knows he would never do what [Boike] said he did."

Key committee on the fence about immigration rule

Posted October 1, 2007 08:11 AM

NEWTON

The city's Public Facilities Committee has voted 3-3 on a new rule requiring city contractors to sign a "verification clause" that they do not use undocumented or illegal workers when accepting city contracts.

The city is currently building a $154 million high school, the most expensive in state history. Alderman Ben Weisbuch, a former immigration lawyer who will not run for reelection this fall proposed the ordinance. He said he wanted to make sure the city does not facilitate illegal activity.

"This is a national issue played out on the local level," he wrote in an email. "Many of us would like to see immigration reform on the national level, which has stalled."

For the committee vote, there was one member absent and one member abstaining. The full board is scheduled to vote on the rule Oct. 1.

-- Megan Woolhouse

Judge Rules Against City's CPA Spending

Posted September 28, 2007 04:24 PM

NEWTON

A Middlesex Superior Court judge ruled that the city of Newton could not spend $765,000 in Community Preservation Act funds for improvements to two parks in Nonantum because the spending violated the provisions of the law.

Monday's ruling is the first of its kind on the controversial CPA law. The law allows cities and towns to impose a surcharge on residential property tax bills and use the money for housing, open space, recreational enhancement and historic preservation. The state matches the funding dollar-for-dollar.

Associate Justice Bruce R. Henry ruled that the money could not be used to make improvements at Stearns and Pellegrini parks in Newton because they were not bought with CPA funds.

"While using CPA funds for the rehabilitation or restoration of recreational land is permitted under the CPA, it is permitted only for those recreational lands which were originally acquired or created with CPA funds," Henry wrote.

Jeremy Solomon, a spokesman for Newton Mayor David Cohen, called the ruling "a blow."
"The city is disappointed," Solomon said yesterday. "We believe that the [park] upgrades that were to be made under the proposal would have served the community well."

Solomon said its unclear whether the city can afford to make improvements to both parks without the funding. City officials are weighing an appeal.

Guive Mirfendereski(cq), the lawyer who represented the 10 city taxpayers who filed the lawsuit, said the law was clear about how the money could be spend. He and others also opposed a plan by the mayor to use CPA funds to install artificial turf fields at other city playing fields.

"The lesson of this case right now is if you want to spend CPA money on an existing playing field ... you'll be violating the law," Mirfendereski said.

-- Megan Woolhouse

Leaf blower story kicks up some dust

Posted September 28, 2007 01:55 PM

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(Globe staff photo by Pat Greenhouse)

NEWTON

Newton Alderman Ted Hess-Mahan recently proposed a ban on leaf blowers in the city, citing the noise and pollution they cause as a widespread problem. The Boston Globe received dozens of e-mails on the issue, mostly from residents concerned about noise and dust they kick up.

"Good for Newton for appreciating the effects of the noise, dust, and other particulate matter on health, quality of life, and safety, especially for children," Cambridge reader Stephen Tournas-Hardt wrote in an e-mail to the Cambridge City Council and the Globe.

National Public Radio also weighed in with a report on the controversy.

-- Megan Woolhouse

There's no such thing as a free ... Oh, wait.

Posted September 28, 2007 11:23 AM

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NEWTON

The Newton History Museum is offering free admission to all visitors during its Community Weekends, which are currently being held on the first weekend of each month.

The next Community Weekends will be held on October 6 and 7, November 3 and 4, and December 1 and 2. The Museum Ship is also holding a holiday sale in conjunction with the December dates, in which patrons will receive a 10% discount, and members will receive an additional 10% off in addition to their usual discount.The Museum is open from 12 noon to 5 pm on Saturday and Sunday.

Current exhibits at the Museum include "Four-Legged Newton," a family-oriented exhibit and play space that looks at the connections between people and animals throughout the history of Newton, and "Norumbega: Recreation and Romance by the River," which takes a nostalgic look back at Norumbega Park, which was one of the region's premiere recreation and entertainment destinations in the first half of the 20th century.

Museum officials are urging anyone interested in finding out more about community weekends to call 617-796-1450 or visit the museum online.

-- Ralph Ranalli

In losing, they gain

Posted September 23, 2007 10:48 AM

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Tina Fisher holds a picture of herself, pre-surgery. (That's her on the right. Honest.)
(Globe staff photo by David Kamerman)

NEWTON/WELLESLEY/REGION

The findings - released last month from long-term studies of 20,000 dangerously overweight people in Utah and Sweden - were stunning.

Obese patients who had undergone stomach reduction surgery were up to 40 percent more likely to live longer, 56 percent less likely to die of heart disease, and 92 percent less likely to die from diabetes than those who tried diet and exercise alone.

Yet for Tina Fisher, program coordinator for the new Center for Weight Loss Surgery at Newton-Wellesley Hospital, the studies only confirmed what she already knew. In the six years since her own gastric bypass surgery, the 30-year-old nurse practitioner has lost 137 pounds. She exercises four times a week, can fit into a standard movie theater seat, and sometimes forgets what her old life was like, staff writer and web producer Ralph Ranalli reports in today's Globe West.

A roller-coaster enthusiast, Fisher used to watch her husband ride alone because she was worried whether the seat belt or safety bar would fit around her 297-pound frame. She also suffered from the litany of health woes common to the very overweight diabetes, joint problems, and sleep apnea, a disorder in which a person literally stops breathing repeatedly during sleep.

"Patients come back and tell me about their experiences, like the first time they didn't have to go into a plus-size clothing store," she said. "And I think, 'Oh yeah, I remember that.' "

Thanks to stories like Fisher's, officials at Newton-Wellesley said they were convinced that gastric bypass operations represent a sound medical option and were aggressively expanding their weight loss surgery practice even before the new findings were released. Last year, the hospital's bariatric surgery program was accredited to operate on even the most severely obese patients, and in June, the program was elevated to a full-fledged department and renamed the Center for Weight Loss Surgery.

As it turns out, the timing of the hospital's push could not have been better, officials said.

Read more about how bariatric surgery is changing lives in the online edition of today's Globe West. While you're there, you can also view an audio slide show about Tina Fisher's experience with the surgery and losing 137 pounds.

Hello ... is that you, Mr. Mayor?

Posted September 21, 2007 03:00 PM

NEWTON

Mayor David Cohen's office will launch a $70,000 system next week that allows city officials to send personalized phone and text messages and e-mails to all city residents.

The system would automatically send messages to residents about weather and other emergencies and notify people about routine city business, like hydrant flushing. It could also be used to remind residents to vote.

The city has contracted with NTI Group Inc., a Sherman Oaks, Calif. company, to provide the service. Jeremy Solomon, the mayor's spokesman, said city officials will be responsible for deciding the type and number of messages.

"We have to strike a real balance between calling too much and getting out information people want to hear," he said.

-- Meg Woolhouse

Newton mayor drops No Place for Hate program

Posted September 18, 2007 05:30 PM

NEWTON

Newton dropped out of the No Place for Hate program today, joining Watertown and Belmont in protesting the Anti-Defamation League's ambiguous stance on the Armenian genocide.

ADL National Director Abraham Foxman has said the mass killings were "tantamount to genocide,'' but a growing number of critics are dissatisfied with that response and with the ADL's refusal to endorse a congressional resolution acknowledging the genocide.

"The recognition of the Armenian Genocide is an important step along the path of freedom and justice, and crucial in combating other genocides now and in the future,'' Newton Mayor David Cohen said in a statement today. Cohen, who is Jewish, said Newton hopes "for the day when national ADL leadership fully and unequivocally embraces'' the effort to acknowledge the genocide.

The ADL, a non-profit established to fight anti-Semitism and bigotry, created the No Place for Hate program in 1999 as a vehicle for local municipalities to take a public stand against bias. In late August, the Newton Human Rights Commission voted unanimously to urge Cohen to end its participation the program.

Nancy Kaufman, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston, was critical of Cohen's decision. She said the council officially recognized the Armenian genocide two years ago on the anniversary of the deaths and that New England leaders have already sent a clear message to national ADL officials.

"I think it's unfortunate that a program that is designed to bring groups together to counteract hate against any one group is now the focus of the whole issue," she said today. "I think we're missing the forest for the trees."

-- Megan Woolhouse

Something's blowing in Newton, and it isn't the wind

Posted September 17, 2007 04:03 PM

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(Globe staff photo by Pat Greenhouse)

NEWTON

Elm and maple trees rustled in the breeze on Highland Avenue in West Newton one afternoon last week. Spacious homes cast long shadows across carefully manicured lawns. Gardens brimmed with freshly planted asters.

And the shrill whine of leaf blowers filled the air.

"I hate them," said Lynne Bail, shouting over the noise made by a crew cleaning her neighbor's yard. "They go all day long. It really spoils the neighborhood and the peace and quiet we used to have."

It is a quintessential suburban problem. In the quest for a flawless yard, leaf blowers have become a modern necessity to get a job done efficiently. But with more homeowners and landscapers using them from spring to fall, critics say they have become an ear-shattering nuisance, robbing neighborhoods of cherished quiet. Now, a Newton alderman wants to outlaw gas-powered leaf blowers, joining Cambridge, Lincoln, and other communities around Boston that are considering leaf blower restrictions, Globe West staff writer Megan Woolhouse reports.

Under the law, it would be "unlawful for any person, including a City employee, to operate any portable gasoline-powered leaf blower within the City limits." The ban would take effect in January 2009. Excluded are electric leaf blowers, which have less power than gas leaf blowers and run more quietly. Police, who would be responsible for enforcing the proposed ordinance, could issue warnings and fines of up to $300 to violators.

Newton Alderman Ted Hess-Mahan said he proposed the ban after hearing complaints from residents annoyed by the noise, dust, and exhaust created by the blowers. A lawyer who occasionally works from home, he said the coming and going of landscaping crews using leaf blowers seems to leave a constant cloud of dust, which aggravates his wife's asthma and covers their house and car.

How does he maintain his own yard?

"I have children," he said.

Read more about the dust-up over leafblowers in Newton in the online edition of today's City & Region section and listen to a bonus audio report filed by Meg Woolhouse.

Newton schools simplify web look

Posted September 14, 2007 07:22 AM

NEWTON

The Newton public schools have launched a new website and it makes getting information about schools and the school committee easier.

Until recently, parents and students had to visit two websites, one for the school district and another for the school committee. The School Commitee website had been created and managed by volunteers since former School Committeeman Andy Vizulis created it years ago. Shelley Chamberlain, director of information technology for the schools, said the new site -- newton.k12.ma.us -- is now managed by a staffer in the school department.

We're really trying to update our look and make it easier for parents to get information quickly," she said.

The site offers information on curriculum, student assessments and evaluation reports, like a recent audit performed by Sun Associates of North Chelmsford. The report looks at technology in the schools and how well teachers are using it.

-- Megan Woolhouse

A cup with Joe

Posted September 10, 2007 11:21 PM

NEWTON

State auditor Joseph DeNucci will be honored at a Sept. 30 brunch hosted by the Newton Democratic City Committee.

Ex-governor Michael Dukakis, his wife Kitty, Secretary of State William Galvin, former attorney general Frank Bellotti, as well as Newton Mayor David Cohen and former mayor Tom Concannon are among the guests expected to attend.

The event, which is open to the public with a $20 donation, will take place at the home of Carol and Ken Krems at 55 Saint Mary Street in Newton Lower Falls.

DeNucci and his wife, Barbara, live in West Newton. He is a former professional boxer who served in the legislature 10 years in the 70s and 80s before becoming state auditor in 1987.

-- Megan Woolhouse

Next stop: Needham?

Posted September 5, 2007 11:28 AM

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(Photo by Jodi Hilton for the Boston Globe)

NEWTON/NEEDHAM

Srdjan Nedeljkovic and James O'Connell have a plan, and they want to share it. The pair of Newton residents have teamed up to discuss the benefits of extending the MBTA's green line through Newton Upper Falls into Needham.

Nedeljkovic is a physician who has written an extensive proposal touting the environmental benefits of the possibility. O'Connell works for the National Parks Service and is a historian with an interest in street railways in Newton. Both advocate that a T extension in Newton is the most economically viable way to spend MBTA transportation dollars.

The cornerstone of their plan would reactivate a long-unused spur of the Riverside D line. The tracks run parallel to Needham Street and past the Depot bakery in Newton Upper Falls. Their ideas will be aired through Sept. 30 on The Environment Show, produced by the Green Decade Coalition on NewTV's blue channel.

-- Megan Woolhouse

Teed off at tax break for golf clubs

Posted August 30, 2007 12:20 PM

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Newton Alderwoman Victoria Danberg wants to end tax subsidies for "playgrounds for the wealthy."

NEWTON/REGION

The concrete steps leading into Newton's Cabot Elementary School are crumbling and the building has no handicapped access. Across town at Fire Station No. 7, the roof leaks water into the firefighters' bunk room.

Meanwhile, Charles River Country Club in Newton -- with its rolling fairways and carefully manicured putting greens -- received a $381,000 tax break last year under a state law that exempts private country clubs from paying 75 percent of their property taxes.

According to the Newton assessor's office, Woodland Golf Club also cut $301,000 on its tax bill last year and Brae Burn Country Club shaved $390,000 from its taxes. Counting Charles River, that's more than $1 million in taxes that Newton cannot collect from three private, local institutions. Framingham and Marlborough country clubs also take advantage of the tax break, as do many other private country clubs across the state, staff writer Megan Woolhouse reports in today's Globe West.

That has outraged Newton Ward 6 Alderwoman at Large Victoria L. Danberg, who said the city could use the money for repairing city schools, fire stations, and other public buildings instead of subsidizing "playgrounds for the wealthy." She wants local elected leaders and the city's legislative delegation to toughen the law.

"We can take them on," Danberg said. "I can tell you very few people have sympathy for the poor golfers from these clubs who are crying poverty."

Read more about the controversy over Chapter 61B in the online edition of today's Globe West.

First underwater photos come back from what may be Newton commander's lost WWII submarine

Posted August 24, 2007 02:35 PM

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A historic image of the USS Grunion taken during its launch. Note the propeller guard visible above the waterline at the stern.
(Image courtesy of www.ussgrunion.com)

Gruniontail.jpg
A photo taken by a deep-diving robot submarine yesterday of the stern of a sunken submarine. The configuration of the sunken sub's propeller guard, together with historic records, has convinced the sons of Commander Mannert L. "Jim" Abele that they have at last found their father's submarine.

NEWTON

The USS Grunion disappeared in July 1942, leaving 70 American families grieving and the three sons of skipper Mannert L. "Jim" Abele, a Newton native, without a father. Abele's boys, ages 5, 9, and 12 when their father disappeared, grew up and built their own lives, but they never forgot him.

For years, the sons Bruce, Brad, and John, pored over Navy documents, any shipping records of the area they could locate, and contacted others interested in the Grunion's fate. John Abele, the billionaire founder of Boston Scientific Corp., has paid for much of the search.

Yesterday, those sons received the first in a series of underwater pictures that they hope will very soon positively confirm that they have found the final resting place of their father's submarine.

"It's an amazing story," Bruce Abele said in an e-mail. "And it's still unfolding."

The Grunion, one of the Gato-class attack submarines commissioned in the early part of World War II, was on its maiden operational voyage when it disappeared while patrolling the seas between Alaska's tip and Japan, according to a Navy website. Almost exactly a year ago, the brothers discovered a wreck using side-scan sonar that matched the probably location of their father's sub. But it wasn't until yesterday that they could put a robot sub down on the wreck and take pictures.

Bruce Abele said the pictures have given his family great confidence that they have found the Grunion, although not yet definitive proof. The former crab-fishing boat that is carrying the robot sub has been forced back to port by heavy seas and 75-mile-per-hour winds.

"The evidence is very strong that it is the Grunion but we still don't know what caused its demise," Abele said.

For more information:

Read a story about the search for the Grunion.

Visit the Abele brothers' USS Grunion web site.

View pictures of:
Part of the sunken sub's periscope
An open hatch cover
A portrait of Commander Mannert L. "Jim" Abele

-- Ralph Ranalli

Guatemalan adoption raid turns Newton family's joy to torment

Posted August 24, 2007 01:14 PM

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Sean Darcy holds his 22-month-old son Dylan, right, and 4-month-old Carolina, who the couple had also hoped to adopt.
(Globe staff photo by Essdras M Suarez)

NEWTON

They gave her a bottle, put her down for naps, snapped photographs. Over five days in June in Guatemala, Ellen and Sean Darcy lived like a family with Carolina, the 4-month-old baby they planned to adopt.

Back home in Newton, they bought a double stroller for Carolina and Dylan, 22 months, whom they adopted from Guatemala last year. Ellen Darcy sewed Carolina a pink quilt, and bought her pajamas.

Eight weeks later, armed officers seized Carolina's orphanage, confiscated paperwork, and detained orphanage lawyers. Guatemalan officials alleged that babies there may have been abducted or their mothers forced into giving them away, staff writer Michael Levenson reports in the Globe's City & Region Section today.

Now the Darcys fear they may never see Carolina again, and Ellen Darcy worries that authorities are neglecting Carolina. She searches for news from Guatemala. She cannot bring herself to set up Carolina's crib.

"It's been horrible; it's been heart-wrenching," Ellen Darcy said. "I don't think we can breathe easy until we go to pick her up and we have her back in the United States."

Forty-two US families, including four from Massachusetts, who are trying to adopt babies from the orphanage are caught in limbo. Unsure of the treatment the children have received and uncertain whether the allegations will be resolved, they have pleaded with members of Congress to send US officials to check on the babies' welfare. They have turned to one another for advice, solace, and any scraps of news.

Read more about the Guatemalan orphanage probe and the fallout for local families
in the online edition of today's Boston Globe City & Region section.

MBTA to seek proposals for development at Riverside Station

Posted August 20, 2007 01:22 PM

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MBTA officials believe Riverside Station is ripe for development
(Globe staff photo by Dominic Chavez)

NEWTON/WESTON/NEEDHAM

MBTA officials said they will request proposals as early as this fall from developers interested in building housing and commercial space at the Riverside T station.

Transit officials also said they have asked aldermen in Newton to solicit input from Auburndale residents who will be affected by the project and and that they will will incorporate those ideas into the design requests. Several neighborhood residents have spoken out against the project, saying the streets are already jammed with auto traffic.

The Riverside station sits on 22 acres close to the borders of Weston and Wellesley, less than a half-mile from Interstate 95 and the Massachusetts Turnpike.

-- Megan Woolhouse

Newton Human Rights Commission demanding that the ADL change its stance on the Armenian Genocide

Posted August 16, 2007 04:36 PM

NEWTON

In the wake of Watertown's decision to withdraw from the Anti-Defamation League's "No Place for Hate" program, Newton's Human Rights Commission is drafting a letter “demanding" that the ADL change its position on the Armenian genocide.

“We’re incredulous,” commission chairwoman Marianne Ferguson said of ADL national director Abraham Foxman’s refusal to characterize the massacre of as many as 1.5 million Armenians by the Turks between 1915 and 1923 as a genocide. “To try and come to understand how they came to this conclusion … it’s mind-boggling.”

Ferguson said that the commission, which includes Jewish and Armenian members, is unanimous in its opposition to the ADL’s stance.

“The Jewish folks are just as outraged and are in as much disbelief as anyone else,” she said.

Commission member Brenda Krasnow, who is Jewish, said she was “really upset” about the ADL’s stance.

“There is no question in our minds that there was a genocide by the Ottoman Turks against the Armenians,” she said. “As a Jewish person, and as a human being, you don’t want to see these genocides repeated. But what you are doing here is opening the door for other groups to deny.”

Ferguson said the commission is scrambling to schedule an emergency meeting to discuss the issue, and that ending the city's affiliation with the “No Place for Hate” program is one possible response being considered.

-- Ralph Ranalli

Police: Newton bank robber also may have struck in Westborough, Stoughton

Posted August 16, 2007 02:08 PM

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NEWTON

Newton police suspect a man who robbed the Village Bank branch in Nonantum yesterday may be responsible for two other bank robberies in Westborough and Stoughton earlier this month.

The Village Bank was robbed shortly before 3 p.m. when a man police described at 6-foot tall, clean-shaven, and wearing a Red Sox baseball cap, passed a note to a teller demanding money and said he had a gun. Police said the suspect then fled with cash.

Police said they think the same man robbed Citizens Bank branches in Westborough on Aug. 5 and in Stoughton on Aug. 6. Compare suspects for yourself. Police have posted photos from each of the robberies on the links below.

Newton robbery photo
Wesborough robbery photo
Stoughton robbery photo

Anyone with information is asked to call the Newton Police Department Detective Bureau at (617)796-2104.

-- Meg Woolhouse

Fired elections' commissioner bows out of local race

Posted August 15, 2007 10:56 AM

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(Globe staff photo by Pat Greenhouse)

NEWTON

Former Newton elections' commissioner Peter Karg, who was fired by the mayor after a vote-counting controversy last year, said he has withdrawn from the race for Ward 8 alderman.

In a brief statement issued by e-mail, Karg said he had difficulty mustering support before the Sept. 18 primary at a time when many city residents are on vacation.

Karg is currently suing the city of Newton for $500,000 for his termination last spring. He claimed his one-time friend, Mayor David Cohen, fired him after "intensely pressuring" him to speed up the vote count on a petition to scale back construction of a $154 million
new high school.

Cohen hired a consultant to investigate the vote count error and claimed Karg botched the job by failing to oversee the count properly.

The lawsuit is pending.

-- Meg Woolhouse

Milford officials frowning on big rental complex

Posted August 11, 2007 10:26 AM

MILFORD/NEWTON

Town Administrator Louis Celozzi said officials will notify the state that the town does not support a proposed 180-unit apartment complex on East Main Street.

Celozzi said selectmen objected to the development primarily because it would create rental housing, rather than owned units.

"The rental units are sometimes not conducive to long-term stability," he said.

The town's ability to affect the project, however, may be limited because Newton-based Northland Quarry Pond LLC has proposed setting aside a portion of the units as affordable.

Under state law, towns with less than 10 percent affordable housing have limited ability to reject projects that create more affordable housing. Milford's affordable housing stock is just over 7 percent, Celozzi said.

-- Calvin Hennick

Trans Fat Ban, Twinkie Exemption

Posted August 10, 2007 11:36 AM

A Newton alderman said she will propose a trans fat ban in the city similar to one already enacted in Brookline.

Ward 6 At-large Alderman Victoria Danberg said the ban would not apply to any food packaged outside Newton and brought into the city. "You could still indulge in Twinkies to your heart's content," she said this week.

The legislature is currently considering a statewide ban on trans fats, but "it will probably be quite some time before anything is passed," Danberg said in an e-mail asking other board members for their support.

--Megan Woolhouse

Newton firm to help Herald get up and go

Posted August 8, 2007 09:21 AM

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The Herald is on the move, publisher Patrick Purcell says.
(Globe staff photo by David L. Ryan)

NEWTON

Boston Herald publisher Pat Purcell is teaming with a Newton-based development firm to replace the newspaper's plant off the Southeast Expressway in a deal that could include residential, retail, and office space.

Purcell has sold the Herald building and the 6.6-acre parcel it sits on for an undisclosed price to a joint venture that includes himself and National Development, which is headquartered in Newton Lower Falls, Christopher Rowland and Steve Bailey of the Globe's Business section report today.

While it will potentially add a major new feature to Boston's southern skyline, the deal also marks another step in Purcell's efforts to transform Herald assets into cash and streamline the tabloid's operations. Purcell considers the Herald's antiquated printing presses obsolete in a time when newspapers can be electronically transmitted to be printed anywhere, said Purcell spokesman George Regan. The deal allows the current operation to remain in place for up to six years while the newspaper is relocated.

"This is an important strategic move as we plan for the paper's long-term future," Purcell said in a statement. "We intend to publish the Herald for a very long time and realize that we must do so more efficiently than is possible in our current location."

Last year, Purcell sold the Herald's daily and weekly suburban newspapers surrounding Boston to GateHouse Media Inc., a national chain, for $225 million. Earlier this year, Purcell confirmed he was in talks with Dow Jones & Co. to outsource the printing of the Herald to a Dow Jones press plant in Chicopee. That concept is still in play -- Dow Jones will soon be owned by Purcell's old boss at News Corp., Rupert Murdoch -- and would allow Purcell to eliminate up to 100 of the 650 jobs at the Herald site.

Purcell owns the Herald property independently from the newspaper. The deal to transform the site, which the Herald has occupied since 1958, into a major real estate development is another piece of the puzzle.

Melon-choly Newton residents lament drive-by vandalism

Posted August 6, 2007 10:07 AM

NEWTON

Vandals hurling cantaloupes hit three cars in Newton last week in the Newton Centre area, damaging two of the vehicles, police said.

One Manemet Road resident told police he saw a sedan pass by his house and watched a girl throw a cantalope at his car from outside the sunroof. The melon smashed the back windshield of his car. Police also received a report of a broken tail light on Commonwealth Avenue and found melon and seeds at the scene the same night.

And a Loring Street resident found cantaloupe remains strewn across the hood of his car, which was parked in front of his house. There was no damage, but police said it appeared to have been smashed on the hood of the car.

-- Megan Woolhouse

Developer says Marlborough a possible casino site

Posted August 2, 2007 10:43 AM

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Developer Sheldon Adelson
(AP photo)

MARLBOROUGH/NEWTON

While the Wampanoag tribe presses forward with its plan to build a casino in Middleboro, Sheldon Adelson, majority shareholder and chief executive officer of Las Vegas Sands Corp., told the Worcester Telegram & Gazette he remains interested in building a resort style casino “in the Marlborough area” off Interstate 495.

“It’s up to the government, the governor and the legislature,” Adelson said of the decisions facing the state over whether to allow casino gambling.

His comments came after a two-hour private meeting at the Statehouse with House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi, D-Boston, who has opposed expanded gaming in the state in the past, staff writer John J. Monahan reports.

Mr. Adelson, considered the third wealthiest person in the country with more than $20 billion in assets, has a home in Newton. He emphasized that he spoke with Mr. DiMasi about the pending decisions over casinos yesterday both as a concerned resident and a casino developer.

“I care more about what happens in Massachusetts with all my family here. I told the speaker and I’d tell the governor, I put on two hats. One is my resident hat. My other is my commercial hat. They are two different things,” said Mr. Adelson, who grew up in Dorchester.

“I am a Massachusetts resident. I still have a home here. My ex-wife came from Worcester,” he said of his ties to the state.

Asked if he was preparing to develop a full-scale resort casino here at this point, he said, “If the state wants to do it, yeah.”

Read more about this story in the online version of the T&G

One day at a time

Posted July 29, 2007 11:28 AM

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Carole Kelley is the primary caregiver for her daughters Shannon, 21, in baseball cap, who has Down syndrome and Crohn’s disease, and Caitlin, 18, with backpack, who is developmentally disabled. (Globe staff photo by Matt Lee)

NEWTON

Carole Kelley intimately knows the geography of her children's scars; not just the marks left from a bout of chicken pox or a tumble from a bike, but those where doctors once inserted Caitlin's feeding tube and where Shannon had her colon surgery. She can point them out like countries on a map.

Many families find themselves dealing with a tragedy. The Kelleys of West Newton have suffered a stream of life-altering calamities. Carole's husband, Mark, 51, has end-stage kidney disease. His doctors say people live with the condition for decades, surviving through dialysis, but already he has endured the partial amputation of his left foot and the loss of a toe on the right, staff writer Stephanie Siek reports.

The two youngest of their four children, 21-year-old Shannon and 18-year-old Caitlin, have special needs -- Shannon has Down syndrome and Crohn's disease, and Caitlin is developmentally disabled. The family also includes two other children, 23-year-old Sarah and 22-year-old Ryan, who are both living at home.

As the primary caregiver, Carole, 55, has to choreograph an intricate dance of differing dietary needs, medical appointments, and medications, on top of the conventional details of family life -- her job as a cafeteria worker at Newton North High School, Sarah's graduation from Pine Manor College, Caitlin's prom, paying the household bills, making sure the family's two dogs have food and belly rubs.

For balancing all of this, people have called Carole an angel, a saint, and a martyr. But that's too simple. Angels don't get angry or depressed, or cry with frustration. They probably have tidier houses and never argue.

Read more about the difficult yet rich life of Carole Kelley and her family in the online edition of today's Globe West.

You can also check out a gallery of Globe staff photographer Matt Lee's photos of the Kelleys.

Newton North costs puff up, Cohen takes a powder

Posted July 16, 2007 08:28 AM

NEWTON

It was already the most expensive high school building project in state history. Now, the cost of the new Newton North High School is rising.

Mayor David Cohen's office informed city aldermen at a meeting Wednesday that the official cost estimate of the project had risen to $154 million. The mayor did not appear before board members to discuss the news and left City Hall 20 minutes before the meeting, Globe West reporter Megan Woolhouse reports.

Cohen said in January that he wanted to cap the cost at $141 million. Asked about that figure last week, his spokesman, Jeremy Solomon, said: "I think he always considered it a target," not a promise.

The city had previously pegged the official cost at $151 million. The Globe estimated the cost of the project at $154 million in April, based on public records. The latest cost estimate was given to the city by Dimeo Construction of Providence, which is overseeing the project.

In recent months, Cohen and the School Committee considered but rejected design changes that could have shaved millions of dollars off the project's cost.

For example, the city has decided to spend extra for a more efficient heating and cooling system in the hope of cutting future energy costs. But Cohen also opted for a more expensive brick facade and the creation of a school theater balcony.

While the state will contribute $46.5 million to the project, the rest will come from city coffers. Sandy Pooler, Newton's chief administrative officer, said debt payments would cost the city an estimated $13 million annually by 2019.

Officials from the mayor's office still held out the possibility the city could find other savings to trim the cost.

Ward 4 Alderman Jay Harney said he thought the mayor had broken a promise to keep costs at $141 million.

"He sold a bill of goods to everybody, knowing full well he wouldn't be able to deliver," he said.

A Working Vacation

Posted July 13, 2007 03:48 PM

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(Globe staff photo by Michele McDonald)

NEWTON

Mayor David Cohen bolted from City Hall this week just 20 minutes before his office announced ballooning cost estimates for Newton North High School construction.

Earlier this year, Cohen reportedly pledged to hold construction costs at $141 million before a key referendum vote on the project. Voters approved the plan by a 59 percent margin, but several aldermen complained that the mayor had low-balled the cost as a way to win support for the school project.

On Wednesday night, Cohen's office announced the latest estimate for the project: $154 million. And officials said the mayor would likely ask the aldermen to approve millions in additional funding for the school.

The news did not come from Cohen himself, however.

Officials said he was on vacation last week. Yet a Globe reporter encountered Cohen in his car outside city hall shortly before the meeting began Wednesday night.

Cohen defended the $141-million estimate he had made earlier, saying it was based on the best information he had from construction officials at the time. "I had to get it somewhere," he shrugged.

Read more reaction to the mayor's turnaround in Sunday's Globe West.

-- Megan Woolhouse

Bank is robbed for second time in eight days

Posted July 11, 2007 11:53 AM

NEWTON

The Eastern Savings Bank at 2060 Commonwealth Ave. was robbed for the second time in eight days yesterday morning, Newton police said.

According to employees, the suspect handed a note to a teller demanding money. After obtaining an undetermined amount of money, the suspect fled west on Commonwealth Avenue. No weapon was shown during the robbery.

Police believe the suspect, described as being in his late 20s or 30s, is responsible for the robberies at the Eastern Savings Bank and two at Citizens Bank earlier yesterday morning, in Waltham and in Arlington.

The FBI Bank Robbery Task Force and the Newton Police Detective Bureau are investigating the Eastern Savings Bank robbery.

Big words on gun control

Posted July 10, 2007 11:21 AM

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(PR Newswire image)

NEWTON

It looks like a ransom note, but it is not being sent by kidnappers. It is being promoted by the Patrick administration, the Boston Police Department, and the State Police, and delivered to drivers on the Massachusetts Turnpike courtesy of John Rosenthal, a provocative gun control activist from Newton.

"We have your President and Congress," declares the message in letters that look as if they had been snipped from a newspaper, staff writer Michael Levenson of the Globe's City & Region section reports today.

It is signed simply, NRA, referring to the National Rifle Association, and will be unveiled today on a 252-foot billboard on the Mass. Turnpike near Fenway Park.

The message is the latest from Rosenthal, founder of Stop Handgun Violence, who has for more than a decade used the billboard, which he owns, to promote stricter gun laws. In the past, he has erected a mock road sign that declared, "Welcome to Massa chusetts -- You're More Likely to Live Here," because Massachusetts has "the most effective gun laws," and a display that featured photos of 15 children who were shot to death, under the slogan, "The cost of handguns keeps going up. 15 kids killed every day."

His latest message has drawn support from Lieutenant Governor Timothy P. Murray, Public Safety Secretary Kevin M. Burke, Boston Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis, and State Police Colonel Mark Delaney, all of whom plan to attend a press conference to unveil the billboard today.

It has also drawn the ire of gun owners' groups, starting with the NRA. "It's a shameless publicity ploy, and I think that's all we can say to describe it," said Andrew Arulanandam, a spokesman for the NRA.

Read more about the giant billboard in the online edition of today's Globe.

A "victoria" for Newton's Latin Mass community

Posted July 8, 2007 10:27 AM

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Theresa Higgins of Plymouth is a member of the Archdiocese of Boston's Latin Mass community.
(Globe staff photo by Tom Herde)

NEWTON

The minority of Catholics who have clung to the Latin Mass, who are based locally at Mary Immaculate of Lourdes Parish in Newton Upper Falls, are celebrating a decision by the Vatican to allow wider celebration of the traditional rite.

In a document released yesterday, Pope Benedict XVI reached out to alienated traditionalists and opened the door to wider use of the Latin Mass by allowing priests to say the Mass without requiring authorization from their local bishop.

But the step is troubling liberals, who worry the move could be the first step toward a broader rollback of a variety of modernizations that have taken effect since the Second Vatican Council ended, prizewinning Globe religion writer Michael Paulson reports.

Read more about the Vatican's decision in the online version of today's City & Region section.

Two Mount Ida College students killed in crash

Posted July 2, 2007 07:37 AM

NEWTON

The two Mount Ida College students from Japan had just finished classes Friday and were ready to start celebrating summer, a college official said. But their lives were cut short early yesterday when the car they were in crashed into an oak tree about a mile from campus, Globe staff writer April Simpson reports today.

Takahiko Nagashima, 23, and Masaki Matsuguchi, 22, were pronounced dead shortly after crashing near the corner of Dedham Street and Woodcliff Road in Newton at 12:49 a.m., police said.

Matsuguchi, a junior majoring in fashion merchandising and marketing, was making arrangements to live off campus for the summer; and Nagashima, who graduated from Mount Ida last month with a bachelor's degree in graphic design, had just completed his last course and planned to return to Japan today, a college spokesman said.

"It's just a devastating event," said Philip Conroy , vice president for enrollment management and marketing at Mount Ida. "We know all of the students here, so it's like losing members of the family."

Read more about the tragedy in today's City & Region section.

Green line shuttles running smoothly

Posted June 25, 2007 11:04 AM

NEWTON

Shuttles hummed from station to station every 4 to 5 minutes on the D Branch of the MBTA’s Green Line this morning, with seven buses waiting for riders at Reservoir Station in Newton. A bevy of transit officials in orange vests with yellow stripes helped passengers navigate the detours. And delays for commuters were only about 15 to 20 minutes, the exact window that the MBTA had predicted when it announced the repair work.

The feared summer slog on the Green Line didn’t materialize today, this first commute since more than two months of work began on the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority's popular trolley route that runs between Newton and Boston.

"I wasn't expecting it to be like this," said Bernice Sookie, 48, who left herself an extra 90 minutes for her commute from Jamaica Plain to Newton Center. "I was expecting it to be chaotic, but it's running smoothly."

The repair work will close the trolley lines from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. The first phase between Riverside and Reservoir stations in Newton will run until Aug. 3, while the second phase will stop trolley service between Reservoir and Fenway stations Aug. 4 to Aug. 31. There will be full service for the Fourth of July.

-- April Yee, Javier C. Hernandez, and Andrew Ryan

Cracking people up for a cure

Posted June 22, 2007 11:04 AM

NEWTON

Ten years ago, Jon Fisch began two endeavors that stick with him today. The first was stand-up comedy. The second was the Pan-Mass Challenge, a bike race to raise money for the Jimmy Fund and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

He'll get to combine those things for the second year in a row Thursday when he comes back from New York City for a PMC benefit at the Dedham Community Theatre with several of his fellow Boston comics.

The 34-year-old Newton native left town as a promising comic six years ago, having biked in two Pan-Mass Challenges and volunteered in two others.

He had no way to participate in the race from New York until last year, when his friend Anne Maneikis decided to join the race. The two had started in comedy together, although Maneikis, who works in advertising, now pursues stand-up as a hobby. A comedy fund-raiser seemed a natural fit.

Read more in today's Globe.

-- Nick A. Zaino III

State Police dive team removes body from Charles River

Posted June 12, 2007 03:00 PM

NEWTON

A State Police dive team pulled a man's body out of the Charles River today after a worker at a boathouse on Commonwealth Avenue noticed a decomposed human foot jutting out of the water.

The worker made the discovery at the Charles River Canoe and Kayak boathouse at about 11 a.m. and called police. About an hour later, a single diver lifted the body out of the water. It was place in a white body bag that was zippered shut.

Corey Welford, a spokesman with the Middlesex District Attorney's office, said it may take days for the medical examiner to identify the body because it had severely decomposed.

-- Brian R. Ballou

Summer repairs on Green Line will halt D branch trains

Posted June 12, 2007 01:48 PM

NEWTON

The 14,000 people who travel between Newton and Boston each day on the MBTA's Green Line should brace themselves for a long summer on the bus.

Major renovations will suspend service on the D branch during the day from 7 a.m. until 9 p.m. and on weekends from June 23 through Aug. 31.

The work, which will be completed in two phases, will include trimming trees and brush; cleaning and digging new drainage ditches; realigning and resurfacing tracks; replacing rail ties; and improving signals. During the construction, the Longwood and Brookline Village stations will be rebuilt and the Hyde Street Bridge in Newton will be replaced.

The first phase of the work from June 23 to Aug. 3 will halt trains between the Reservoir and Riverside stations. From Aug. 3 to 31, the second phase will suspend service between the Reservoir and Fenway stations.

As a substitute, shuttle and express buses will travel the normal Green Line route. MBTA officials said the agency chose to perform work in the summer because traffic on the Green Line is lighter.

-- Globe City & Region Staff

Bacon, egg, and Chevy

Posted June 12, 2007 09:42 AM

NEWTON

A Newton Dunkin' Donuts yesterday got more than just a tip from a customer. They got his car in their store.

A man drove through the front door of the Beacon Street store, manager Sandra Ribeiro told WHDH.

Amazingly, the coffee shop stayed open while the glass was cleaned.

-- Adam Sell

Memorable moment mesmerizes Millis

Posted June 9, 2007 10:33 AM

MILLIS

After spending years raising funds and planning, local volunteers are throwing a "Picnic in the Park" June 16 from noon to 5 p.m. to celebrate the grand opening of new playground equipment and a garden at Oak Grove Farm on Exchange St.

Nancy Sitta, president of the Millis Garden Club, said the free event would include field games, vocal performances, and an opening ceremony with guest speakers.

"It's going to be Millis' most memorable event in my lifetime," Sitta said.

-- Calvin Hennick

Will Willard Scott be the MC?

Posted June 3, 2007 12:30 PM

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NEWTON

The Newton Community Service Center sure looks young for its age.

The private, nonprofit human services agency will celebrate its 100th year with a birthday party next Sunday from 1 to 5:30 p.m. The party will begin with an antique car parade and will continue with crafts, face painting, balloon sculpture, and music all day long.

Performing at the event will be the Joanne Langione School of Dance, The Suburbanette’s, the Daylites, the Newton All-City Honor Chorus Treble Singers, Alex Kurland’s Quartet, and the Tamias Ecuadorian Band. The day winds down with a pop/swing concert with music from the Sharon Community Band and Roy Scott Big Band.

All events are free and will take place rain or shine at the agency’s main facility at 492 Waltham Street in West Newton. Anyone seeking more information is urged to call Jean Devine at 617-969-5906, x 119, or visit the center online.

-- Connie Paige

Leaves of three, let it be ... or not

Posted May 29, 2007 07:32 AM

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(Globe staff photo by Mark Wilson)

NEWTON

Usually it's hikers who need to beware of poison ivy, but now it's the toxic plant's turn to watch out. The Newton Conservation Commission has given permission to the state Department of Conservation and Recreation to clear poison ivy and invasive plants from state land within city limits.

According to Nancy Radzevich, chief planner in Newton, the state will be doing the work in Cutler Park, Hammond Pond Reservation, and the Charles River Reservation area. Radzevich said it is not clear exactly when the state work will begin, since they have many other nearby communities to clear as well.

-- Connie Paige

Newton alderman says the city is headed for "frightening times"

Posted May 28, 2007 10:42 AM

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Alderman Paul Coletti says Mayor David Cohen is creating a city that only the rich can afford.
(Globe staff photo by Michele McDonald)

NEWTON

While officials have not called for a property tax override, one alderman is declaring that one next year is now inevitable after the board last week approved a $310.5 million city budget for the 2008 fiscal year, which starts on July 1.

Paul Coletti, chairman of the board’s Finance Committee, said the city was in for “frightening times.” To keep pace with the new expenditures, he said, the city will need an override next fiscal year and the resulting tax increase will price the city out of some middle-class residents’ reach.

“What we’re left with are people who have the funds, the bank accounts, and the jobs and lifestyle to feel that whatever the mayor proposes is what they’re prepared to spend,” Coletti said. “It’s going to be somewhat of a defining moment.”

-- Connie Paige

Millis High gets new principal

Posted May 26, 2007 10:57 AM

MILLIS

Robert Mullaney, an assistant principal at Hingham High School, has been hired as the next principal of Millis High School starting July 1.

Millis Superintendent Peter Sanchioni said he chose Mullaney over 25 other candidates because of his work ethic and his commitment to high student achievement. Mullaney will replace Linda McCann, who is retiring.

Prior to working in Hingham, Mullaney taught at Walpole High School and Trinity Catholic High School in Newton. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in history from Assumption College and master’s degrees from UMass Boston and Endicott College.

-– Calvin Hennick

On the defensive, Newton fire chief fires back

Posted May 24, 2007 02:00 PM

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NEWTON

Under pressure critics, Fire Chief Joseph LaCroix has fired back at what he calls “misleading claims” about the working order of vehicles and equipment used by firefighters.

In a memo to aldermen this week following an accident with a pumper truck that sent Lt. Richard Geary to the hospital with serious injuries earlier this month, LaCroix lashed out at the firefighters union for asserting that refurbishing a fire truck consists of putting in new brakes, painting, a little bit of polish, and not much else.

LaCroix said that the department’s equipment – from the fleet of trucks to oxygen tanks and masks to flashlights to chainsaws – is all up to code.

“Under no circumstances would I send our firefighters out to do their jobs with equipment that was not code compliant or otherwise unsafe,” LaCroix wrote in the memo.

-- Connie Paige

Swab your mouth, save a life

Posted May 24, 2007 06:56 AM

NEWTON

Learning whether you can save a life no longer requires a CPR course or even a blood test, just a quick swab of the inside of your mouth.

The Rich Cronin Hope Foundation will sponsor the Driving for Donors Boston area Bone Marrow Registry Drive, today in Newton Highlands from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. The drive is co-sponsored by Indulge! Fine Confections and Gifts and will take place at The Hyde Community Center, 90 Lincoln St.

Singer and organizer Rich Cronin from the band LFO will be there and attendees can enjoy food and beverages from local Newton Highlands merchants. One hundred percent of money from the sale of refreshments will be donated to “Driving for Donors”.

-- Ralph Ranalli

Newsweek’s “Best High Schools” list includes six area schools

Posted May 24, 2007 06:46 AM

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Needham High's new rallying cry: "We're No. 1,028!"
(Globe staff photo by Bill Polo)

DOVER/SHERBORN/WELLESLEY/WESTON/
NEWTON/WAYLAND/NEEDHAM

Six schools in Globe West have made Newsweek’s newly released 2007 “America’s Best High Schools” list, including Dover-Sherborn High School, which ranked second highest in the state.

Of the over 1200 public schools on the list, Dover-Sherborn ranked 127th, Weston High School 186th, Wellesley High School 487th, Wayland High School 686th, Newton South High School 714th, and Needham High School 1028th. The state’s highest ranking school was Boston Latin School, which at 76th was the only Massachusetts school to make the top 100.

Rankings are based on only one factor: the number of Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, and/or Cambridge tests taken by all students at a school in 2006 divided by the number of graduating seniors. Newsweek reports that while some critics consider the criteria too narrow, research studies have shown that passing scores on AP exams are a predictor of college success.

Scores from 27,000 public schools were reviewed, meaning schools included on the list are in the top 5% of public schools nationally. Three schools fell off the list from last year: Hopkinton High School, Newton North High School, and Holliston High School.

-- Denise Taylor

Newton to transfer pension assets to state retirement system

Posted May 21, 2007 10:56 PM

NEWTON

Newton’s decision to transfer all of its pension assets into the state’s system could motivate other municipalities to follow suit.

After weighing for years whether to divest its $265 million fund, the Newton Retirement Board took the plunge last week. On Friday, Paul Levy, president and chief executive officer of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and a member of the commission urging the change by Newton, recommended that all Bay State communities make the shift.

"Most communities do not have the technical expertise to manage the very, very large sum of money that's in a retirement fund," Levy said.

Mayor David Cohen said that in tight fiscal times, "we must examine all opportunities for cost reductions and revenue enhancements. This is the right vote for our city," he said.

Pension funds cover benefits for retirees and for employees who have left work because of disability.

The future of such pension funds is being debated as many communities struggle to stretch property-tax dollars to cover municipal needs.

If a local pension fund's investments perform poorly, the community must make up the difference to pay benefits. With higher returns, the fund is less dependent on municipal reserves.

The $48 billion state fund, called the Pension Reserve Investment Trust, currently manages all or part of the assets of 74 municipal retirement systems, according to Alison Mitchell, a spokeswoman for state Treasurer Timothy Cahill, whose office oversees the fund.

Newton will now be one of the four largest communities in the state system in terms of assets; the others are Springfield, Lowell, and Framingham, Mitchell said.

-- Connie Paige

Injured firefighter goes home

Posted May 21, 2007 12:29 PM

NEWTON

A firefighter who was seriously injured by a runaway pumper truck has gone home from the hospital as two investigations are underway to determine how he became trapped under the truck as it teetered on a ledge.

State police investigators are working to determine what caused the accident in which Lt. Richard Geary suffered a serious head laceration and several broken limbs in the incident, which occurred last Tuesday about 12:30 a.m. The local firefighters union is also conducting its own probe, according to Patrick Vardaro, vice president of Local 863.

Vardaro said today that he believes a gear malfunction may have caused the truck to hurtle forward unexpectedly as firefighters were dousing a trash bin fire at Boston College. Geary was trapped under the truck and had to be pried out.

-- Connie Paige

Newton firefighter injured by fire truck

Posted May 15, 2007 09:57 AM

NEWTON

A Newton firefighter was injured late last night after being struck by a fire truck that slipped out of gear.

Crews were putting out a dumpster fire on the Boston College campus when the truck rolled over the firefighter.

The firefighter, whose name was not officially released by Newton fire officials, suffered a broken forearm and shoulder blade, along with several lacerations, according to WHDH-TV.

"Basically he got trapped. He saw the truck coming at him and thank God it hit a big pine tree in front because that's what stopped it,” Chief Joseph Lacroix of the Newton Police Department told the station.

Several other firefighters received medical attention for smoke and diesel inhalation from the rescue effort, according to WCVB-TV.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

-- Boston.com staff

Newton YMCA uses video games for fitness

Posted May 14, 2007 11:33 AM

NEWTON

After his light workout at the West Suburban YMCA in Newton last week, 7-year-old Max Melville hardly seemed out of breath. But he did have a complaint. "I feel like I sprained my arm," Melville joked, already eyeing his next activity: hitting the rock-climbing wall at the far end of a converted racquetball court inside the 97-year-old building, the Globe reports today.

Sore muscles are a common grievance at the Newton Y, where many adults are trying to shake off their spare tires in time for summer. But Melville's "sprain" came from exerting himself while bowling on the new Nintendo Wii video gaming system at the Y, one of 100 of the hard-to-find systems that manufacturer Nintendo has donated to YMCAs nationwide.

Nintendo is trying to position the Wii as an "exergame," alongside the more frenetic Dance Dance Revolution, and virtual reality golf games, which you can also find at the Newton Y.

-- Mark Baard

Saving your skin

Posted May 11, 2007 08:13 AM

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Sun season is coming
(Image courtesy of the Coppertone Company)

NEWTON

Approximately one million cases of skin cancer will be diagnosed in the US this year. As the sun-worshiping season approaches, Newton-Wellesley Hospital is holding a free screening this Wednesday to raise awareness of skin cancers, including melanoma, the most dangerous form that accounts for 79 percent of deaths.

Clinicians will be teaching techniques for skin self-examination, which consists of looking for any changes in the size, color, shape, or texture of a mole, the development of a new mole, or any other unusual changes. Any of these signs should be reported to a dermatologist immediately.

Pre-registration s required. For more information or to register, call 617-243-5900 or visit the hospital online.

-- Connie Paige

The Pat answer

Posted May 10, 2007 08:25 AM

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Pat Hannon and his wife Elizabeth in front of their Rogers Street home.
(Globe staff photo by Bill Polo)

NEWTON

It didn't take a genius to figure that controversial Crystal Lake property owner Pat Hannon wasn't going to go quietly. It's just not his style.

On Monday night, the city's aldermen approved the taking of Hannon's one-acre property by eminent domain for public recreational use. The aldermen also approved the use of $2.3 million in Community Preservation Act funds to pay Hannon off.

The response? The ever-combative Hannon immediately threatened to sue the city. “Now they’re going to have to evict me,” he said.

Hannon claims the city got a “bogus” appraisal on the land, which has a house and garage partially destroyed by fire. While not living on the property, Hannon now says he intends to “occupy” it. Hannon also said the city is “going to have to get me off the property first” before fixing a wall officials deem unsafe. The wall stands on his property in back of an extension of the public beach owned jointly by Hannon and the city.

To take ownership, the city has to file with the Middlesex Registry of Deeds. Even if the taking succeeds, officials said it would take time to fix the property for public use.

-- Connie Paige

State to Newton: suck it up

Posted May 10, 2007 06:50 AM

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Underground oil at Newton South and other sites has prompted the mayor to ask for cleanup funds.
(Globe staff photo by Barry Chin)

NEWTON

A state Department of Environmental Protection order to clean up four city-owned hazardous-waste sites has prompted Mayor David B. Cohen to request $58,000 from the city's aldermen.

Underground containers at the Cabot and Horace Mann elementary schools, Newton South High School, and the Eliot Street Department of Public Works yard once leaked oil into nearby soil, and the city has been working to remove it for several years, mayoral spokesman Jeremy Solomon said.

“We’re sucking it out of the ground, and will continue the cleanup until the DEP tells us we no longer have to,” he said.

Solomon said the sites pose no hazard to people. The request must go through several aldermanic committees before the board takes a final vote.

-- Connie Paige

A decade of visual arts

Posted May 9, 2007 10:48 AM

NEWTON

Newton Open Studios, the annual celebration of the visual arts in Newton, will showcase more than 190 artists will displaying and sell their work throughout the city on May 19 and 20.

To mark the event's 10th anniversary, the organization is having its first-even Gala Silent Art Auction & Party on Saturday, May 12 at Newton City Hall. The event includes a free viewing, silent auction bidding and a raffle from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. and a party from 7 p.m. to 10:30 that will feature live jazz and a wearable art fashion show.

Tickets for the evening event are $15 each or $25 for a pair. More information and an online gallery can be found at Newton Open Studios' online site.

-- Ralph Ranalli

Openstudios.jpg

Newton doesn't forget

Posted May 7, 2007 09:00 AM

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Oh, those wacky Shriners
(Globe staff photo by Evan Richman)

NEWTON

While some municipalities have relegated Memorial Day to an afterthought, Newton appears to have a good memory. A full slate of holiday observances have been planned by the city, including:

* The Memorial Day Parade, which will be held on Sunday, May 20 at 2 pm, starting in front of our Lady’s Church on Washington Street in Newton Corner and finishing at Coletti/Magni Park in Nonantum. The parade will feature the ever-popular Aleppo Shriners and their Clown Unit;

* Prayer observances and wreath-laying, which will begin at 9 a.m. on on Sunday, May 27 and at the Private Richard Forte Memorial in Allison Park and ending at 12 noon in Newton Cemetary. In between, wreaths will be laid at a variety of other sites, a full schedule is available online or by calling the Veterans Department at 617-796-1090, and;

* The mayor’s annual prayer breakfast, which will be held on Wednesday, May 30 from 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. in McElroy Commons on the Boston College campus. Keynote speaker is US Congressman Barney Frank.

At the breakfast, the Mayor’s Medallion Award, to recognize outstanding contributions to the city will go to a student, as yet unnamed, and posthumously to Father Robert Drinan. Also receiving the awards will be Newton residents Stephan Ross, a Holocaust survivor who spearheaded the building of the Boston Holocaust Memorial, and Susan Zuker of the Conquer Cancer Coalition, who helped launch a state license plate to raise money and awareness. Zuker’s husband Michael died of cancer earlier this year.

Proceeds from the breakfast go to the Foundation for Racial, Ethnic, and Religious Harmony, based in Newton. For more information on tickets, call Jeremy Solomon at 617-796-1110 or Judy Epi at 617-969-5906, ext. 121.

-- Connie Paige and Ralph Ranalli

70-year-man wanders from rehab center

Posted May 3, 2007 05:55 PM

NEWTON

Police were searching the West Newton area this afternoon for a 70-year-old resident of a rehab center who took off his alarm bracelet and wandered away around noon.

Police describe the resident, Ernest French, as a slim black male, 5 feet 9 inches tall, with close-cropped gray hair and a light discoloration on some of his face. They say he was last seen wearing a yellow jumpsuit and a long sleeve blue dungaree shirt.

French is “alert and oriented” and not a danger to himself or others, according to the facility, Golding Living Center-West Newton, 25 Armory St.

Police ask anyone with information on his whereabouts to call 617-796-2100.

Newton North design completed, city says.

Posted May 1, 2007 10:55 PM

NEWTON

The design for Newton North High School has been completed, Mayor David Cohen announced this week.

Cohen's spokesman, Jeremy Solomon, said the final design does not differ greatly from preliminary drawings and, as yet, the city has not posted any of the final document on its web site. For now, Solomon said, copies of the 300-page final design document are available for public review at the Building Department and the Clerk's Office in City Hall and at the Newton Free Library.

Cohen also announced that the city has formed a Newton North Liaison Committee to monitor and share information about the construction phase of the project, which could begin as early as this summer.

The committee is made up of members of the school community, Board of Aldermen, and citizen representatives from all four abutting neighborhoods and is co-chaired by the mayor and Planning Department Director Mike Kruse.

-- Ralph Ranalli

"D" as in down for repairs

Posted April 30, 2007 10:28 AM

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(Photo: Jodi Hilton for the Boston Globe)

NEWTON

Service on parts of the Green Line’s D train will not be running from mid-June to September.

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority is closing down the tracks to make repairs, trim vegetation, and reconstruct stations. Work on the line, which is also known as the Riverside Line and the Highland Branch, will affect service at the Riverside, Woodland, Waban, Eliot, Newton Highlands, Newton Centre, and Chestnut Hill stations.

Shuttles will take passengers from Riverside station in Newton to Reservoir station in Cleveland Circle. The first phase of the project, from June 21 to July 31, will make the Riverside station more accessible for riders with disabilities.

The second phase is scheduled for Aug. 6 to Sept. 2. The MBTA will be adding extra shuttle buses during that period to accommodate fans of the Boston Red Sox, who who are scheduled to play nine home games during the period.

-- Connie Paige

Matsuzaka pitches at Newton North.... or does he?

Posted April 27, 2007 11:41 AM

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Matsuzaka in action
(Reuters photo by Brian Snyder)

NEWTON

Columnist Dan Shaughnessy imagines Sox pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka throwing just about everywhere he goes, including Newton North High, as he keeps his arm loose, in a fanciful column today.

Shaughnessy writes:

Remember last Sunday night at Fenway against the Yankees? Most of you went to bed after the Sox completed the sweep, just before midnight. Not Dice-K. He went over to Belmont Hill and did some throwing to former Sox catcher Rich Gedman. They got done around 3 in the morning.

On his way home from Belmont Hill, Dice-K saw one of those rickety station wagons trolling through his neighborhood, delivering the Monday morning newspapers. Dice-K got into the car, rode shotgun with the guy, and starting throwing newspapers onto porches. Apparently he wanted to keep his shoulder loose.

The Sox wouldn't let him throw Monday, so he stopped at Howard Ferguson Field at Newton North High School on the way to Fenway. He threw to North catcher Ryan McCarthy for about an hour. Then he walked over to the football stadium and tossed footballs with some kids who were hanging out after school. Done with the footballs, he went to the track and threw the javelin for a half-hour.

On the way to his car, Dice-K was distracted by the Newton North ultimate Frisbee team. He joined them for some tosses. He was amazed to learn that the ultimate Frisbee kids already knew how to throw the Gyro.

Full disclosure here: Everything above was made up. None of it happened. But it is perhaps only a slight exaggeration.

... And so Shaughnessy's flight of fancy came back to earth. None of it really happened.

But Matsuzaka does love to throw -- and he'll be back on the mound tonight facing the Yankees in New York.

-- Adam Sell

Cutting in the middle man

Posted April 24, 2007 05:31 AM

NEWTON

The city and its firefighters are still facing off over a contract, but soon a mediator will step in between them.

Mayor David B. Cohen announced yesterday that the state Joint Labor Management Committee, an organization that evaluates disputes involving police and fire departments in the interest of preserving public safety, has determined that the two sides cannot reach an agreement without mediation.

Firefighters, who object to the city’s sick leave policy, have been without a contract for four years.

"It became clear to us long ago that collective bargaining with this union was going nowhere, and we needed the assistance of an outside party," Cohen said at his weekly Monday press conference.

If mediation fails, the JMLA will appoint an arbitrator to decide the case, Cohen said.

-- Connie Paige

The Romance of Norumbega

Posted April 23, 2007 01:31 PM

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(Newton History Museum image)

NEWTON

Long before the atmosphere in western Auburndale was overrun by the sounds of cars zooming along Route 128 and the Massachusetts Turnpike, it was filled with adventure and romance.

From the late 1890s to the post-WWII era, Norumbega Park was a mecca for recreational boating and home at various times to a zoo, a vaudeville theater, and the sophisticated elegance of the Totem Pole ballroom. The park was so popular that, just a few years after it opened, it was considered to be one of the most heavily canoed places on the planet.

To remember the park's golden age, the Newton History Museum is presenting a new exhibition titled Norumbega: Romance & Recreation by the River. An Opening Reception for the exhibit will be held on on Thursday, April 26, 2007 from 5 to 7 pm. The public is invited, and admission is free.

Anyone seeking additional information is urged to visit the museum online or call 617-796-1450.

-- Ralph Ranalli

Going up? Not so fast...

Posted April 19, 2007 05:52 AM

NEWTON

After fears surfaced about the possibility of unchecked vertical development near Route 9, a development group has offered a new zoning proposal for the area.

Developers of the proposed Chestnut Hill Square project had requested a zoning change for their mixed development that would allow approval of theirs and other large projects with no height restrictions. That proposal drew fire from critics like Ward 6 Alderman Kenneth Parker, who warned that it would alter the city’s zoning code to allow buildings as tall as Boston's Prudential Center.

City Planner Michael Kruse now says that New England Development has changed its proposal so that buildings in new mixed residential and commercial zones would need specific permissions on building height and stories, lot coverage, and open space.

Kruse said last week that the changes in the proposal, which he had not yet reviewed, will be available at a hearing scheduled for Monday night. The proposed zoning amendments would pave the way for the development of Chestnut Hill Square, now planned with two 14-story residential towers, another residence of six stories, and a block of two- and three-story retail buildings.

-- Connie Paige

No cuts, no override, Newton mayor says

Posted April 18, 2007 06:51 AM

NEWTON

Mayor David B. Cohen said his 2008 city budget contains no cuts and will -- almost -- fully fund Superintendent of Schools Jeffrey Young's ambitious school budget request.

Cohen said the city would use $2.2 million in free cash to give the schools an $11.2 million increase over last year's budget. Young had requested $11.6, an amount that included $1 million for new initiatives in the areas of middle school instruction, math, technology, and building maintenance.

"This budget reflects our shared commitment to keeping Newton schools among the finest in the land," Cohen said in his annual budget address to the city's aldermen last night.

Cohen's $266 million budget proposal also contained an additional $120 million in new funding for the Newton Free Library, which will use the money to buy new materials for preschoolers and to enhance the online services it offers to city residents.

He also said that the city would use federal, state, and local money to hire a new six-man crew for the Department of Public Works, so that the city can keep more repair jobs in-house.

While there would be no override this year, Cohen said that fundamental funding trends could force a vote on one for the city's 2009 budget. The city, he said, faces an ongoing structural budget gap because fixed costs such as health care and energy are rising at a rate of 5 percent per year, while revenues have been rising an average of 3.8 percent per year.

Cohen said he would be working over the next year to implement many of the recommendations made by the city's Blue Ribbon Commission, including merging the city's pension plan with the state retirement system. He also said he hoped Beacon Hill lawmakers would soon allow cities and towns to participate in the state health care system, which could also allow them to save money.

-- Ralph Ranalli

Tales from Heartbreak Hill

Posted April 17, 2007 02:20 PM

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NEWTON

Blame it on hallucinations brought on by glycogen depletion, or possibly the runner's version of highway hypnosis, but strange things just seem to happen on Heartbreak Hill.

Running couples get married. Giant hot dogs scream encouragement. Runners are offered beer and Skittles alongside water and Powerade. A guy dressed as The Flash gets passed by a woman old enough to be his mother.

Globe West web producer Ralph Ranalli and Globe photographer John Blanding were at the Boston Marathon's famed 20+ mile mark and captured some of the sights and sounds of yesterday's wet and wild race in an audio slide show.

-- Ralph Ranalli

On your mark! Get set! UGH!

Posted April 16, 2007 07:17 AM

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Workers struggled to put up this banner in Chestnut Hill yesterday.
(Globe staff photo by Matthew Lee)

NEWTON

Ahh, nothing says Patriots Day like ... driving downpours, 50 mile-per-hour wind gusts, and sporadic power outages?

Short of an April blizzard, conditions on the Boston Marathon course are about as bad as they could be this morning, including swamp-sized puddles and downed tree limbs. In parts of Newton, residents lost power several times, although it was quickly restored.

As of 7:30 a.m., meteorologists are predicting that the storm will taper off from a nor'easter into plain old showers in a few hours and Boston Athletic Association officials are holding to their scheduled 10 a.m. start (9:25 a.m. for elite wheelchairs).

Boston Red Sox officials, however, have announced that today's game against the Angels has been moved to 12:05 p.m., meaning that spectators won't get a chance to see the elite runners finish after the game as they traditionally do.

-- Ralph Ranalli

Springtime on the farm in Newton

Posted April 15, 2007 10:26 AM

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Greg Maslowe holds a radish from last year's crop.
(Photo by Patricia McDonnell for the Boston Globe)

NEWTON

The greenhouse is filling up, the field is greening up, and the farmer is getting out from behind his computer in preparation for a new season at the Newton Angino Community Farm.

But that's not all that's sprouting on Nahanton Street. The farm now has its own “wiki” – a special blog, like Wikipedia, that allows public contributions and corrections. Right now, its primary feature is online recipes, including butternut squash soup with apples, but farm-loving folk are urged to contribute other morsels of information.

The non-profit farm is also seeking assistance for a successful season. City farmer Greg Maslowe has a wish list including a Palm Pilot with Microsoft Excel and a portable electric or propane space heater needed for the farm. Anyone with one to donate is urged to contact him at 617-916-9655 or by e-mail.

Meanwhile, farm officials are launching a fundraising program, called Friends of the Farm, designed for Newton businesses. Prospective contributors should contact Jon Regosin by e-mail or by calling 617-244-0736.

-- Connie Paige

Update: Students dismiss controversy over Chomsky speech

Posted April 11, 2007 02:38 PM

NEWTON

Students who attended left wing author and linguist Noam Chomsky's speech at Newton South High School this morning dismissed the controversy and hype over the event, calling it overblown.

The students said that Chomsky spoke for about an hour, mostly about US involvement in Iraq, but made no wildly radical statements. Chomsky called the Iraq war "illegal," the students said, and said there was a disconnect between American public opinion about the war and government policy. He also said that there were few real differences between the way Democrats and Republicans are approaching the war and that a small segment of wealthy elites is responsible for much of US policy, the students said.

Most of the students said that inviting Chomsky was a worthwhile exercise.

"We often say that we embrace difference of skin color and religion, but we don’t often extend that to difference of opinion," said Michala Krug, a 16-year-old sophomore who called herself a Chomsky fan. "A school that is going to emphasize the importance of embracing difference is going to have to emphasize and respect different opinions. It’s often underestimated how much high school students notice and observe and care about the state of the world."

Abby Kaplan, a 17-year-old junior, said that while she found Chomsky's talk interesting, he didn't say anything that made her change her opinions.

"I don’t think it was dangerous," she said. "I think it was good for us to hear different viewpoints."

-- Ralph Ranalli

Protesters decry Chomsky appearance at Newton South High

Posted April 11, 2007 11:42 AM

NEWTON

About a dozen protesters picketed the appearance of author and linguist Noam Chomsky at Newton South High School today, charging that school officials should not have allowed a student club to invite him because of his leftist views on the Iraq war and Middle East politics.

At one point this morning, while Chomsky was speaking inside the school, 76-year-old Holocaust survivor Steve Ross - wearing a striped cap of the type given to prisoners in Nazi concentration camps - tried to enter the school but was denied access by Newton Police. School officials had closed the event to the public and the press, saying it was a school club event.

Ross said Chomsky should not have been allowed to "spread his poison" inside the school. Some Jews and pro-Israel activists have accused Chomsky of defending Holocaust deniers.

"We would like Mr. Chomsky to apologize for the people he has tried to protect," Ross said.

School officials defended their decision to allow the Chomsky visit. Newton South Principal Brian Salzer said that it was the leaders of the school's Social Awareness Club who had invited Chomsky, and that school officials were defending the students' intellectual freedom.

A student who tried to videotape the event, Student Senate President Dan Groob, 17, was also ordered outside with his small video camera.

Groob called it "horrible and hypocritical" that Chomsky was allowed to speak at the school in such a controlled environment, without an opposing viewpoint being offered.

"It should have been more open," Groob said.

-- Ralph Ranalli

Fake grass, real issues

Posted April 11, 2007 09:30 AM

NEWTON

State Sen. Cynthia Creem is bullish on fake grass. In fact, she's the lead sponsor of a bill to allow payment for artificial turf out of Community Preservation Act funds.

But those who believe artificial turf is environmentally suspect and others who think it's too expensive aren't happy about the Newton Democrat’s bill.

If approved, it would set to rest a long-standing controversy over the rules for preservation funds. Newton is currently facing a lawsuit over its use of the preservation funds, which come from a one percent surcharge on property taxes, for artificial turf.

Cream's amendment would change the definition of “recreational use” to permit the rehabilitation of facilities such as athletic fields, bathrooms, refreshment stands, and parking at sites such as gardens, trails, playgrounds, and parks. Under her proposal, "recreational use” would not include horse or dog racing, however.

-- Connie Paige

Update: Web site founder denies involvement in prank

Posted April 9, 2007 01:31 PM

NEWTON

The 18-year-old founder of a new teen social networking site insists that she had nothing to do with four suspicious backpacks that prompted the evacuation of a Newton North High School parking lot and a visit from the State Police Bomb Squad this morning.

Sofia Loginova, a senior at North Quincy High School, said she first heard about the incident when she was met by a Quincy Police officer who questioned her as she arrived at school.

The backpacks bearing the name of her web site -- b4class.com -- were found stuffed with shredded newspaper, hanging from a fence on the Walnut Street side of the campus. Loginova said she has given away about 2,000 of the promotional backpacks, mostly at Faneuil Hall.

Loginova said she is "horrified" that officials are comparing the incident to a publicity stunt in January that shut down roads in Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville as authorities investigated nearly 40 small, light-up devices. The devices turned out to be part of a guerilla advertising campaign for a Cartoon Network show, "Aqua Teen Hunger Force."

"I don’t know who did it and it sucks that my name is being associated with it," she said. "I don’t want to be compared with that [the Cartoon Network stunt] and its not at all how I want my site to be seen. I completely understand how people might feel about it and I feel horrible that this happened. But I don’t know how it happened."

Loginova says her site, which went live on Wednesday, has about 500 users. She said she does not have outside marketing help, and that she has been relying mostly on word-of-mouth and the bag giveaways to publicize the launch.

-- Ralph Ranalli

Newton North bomb scare looks like a publicity stunt, city officials say

Posted April 9, 2007 12:16 PM

NEWTON

In an incident reminiscent of the Cartoon Network publicity stunt that threw Boston, Cambridge and Somerville into turmoil in January, Newton officials are saying that several suspicious backpacks discovered a Newton North High School this morning contained references to a myspace.com-style web site aimed at teens.

The appearance of the backpacks prompted the evacuation of the school parking lot and a call to the State Police Bomb Squad, officials said. Students were ushered into the school until police determined that they were harmless.

An examination of the backpacks found that they contained references to b4class.com, a social networking site that purports to have been started by a high school senior from Quincy. Authorities also found shredded newspaper, Superintendent of Schools Jeffrey Young said.

"It appears to be either a prank or a marketing ploy of some kind," Young said. "But there was no threat to the school environment."

Some officials speculated yesterday that Newton North was targeted because it has been in the news lately, with recent high-profile stories about its $154 million new building project -- the most expensive in state history -- and a front page story in the New York Times about overachieving female students.

-- Ralph Ranalli and April Simpson

Avoiding that sinking feeling ...

Posted April 9, 2007 10:23 AM

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They're recycling everything these days, including the kitchen sink.
(Globe staff photo by Suzanne Kreiter)

NEWTON

One of the nation’s most significant sources of solid waste comes from construction, weighing in at 136 million tons of debris per year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

But debris isn't necessarily the right word for much of what gets thrown away -- perfectly good sinks or vanities or light fixtures that just aren't a homeowner's or decorator's cup of tea get put into the waste stream too.

But on Newton Serves Day, residents will be given their opportunity to reduce such waste by bringing high-quality reusable materials to the Swap & Trade event on Sunday, April 29. Residents will be encouraged to bring items such as vanities, unused ceramic tile, light fixtures, appliances less than five years old, flooring, and other materials to the Rumford Avenue Depot in Auburndale.

Usable items will then be made available to low- and moderate-income homeowners at affordable prices by the Boston-based Building Materials Resource Center, a non-profit group. For larger items that can’t be brought to the Swap & Trade event, such as a kitchen cabinet set, Resource Center staffers can arrange for a pickup for a $25 fee.

Donation guidelines are available by visiting the center online, and you can make a donation offer online. Anyone interested can obtain additional information by calling 617-442-8917 or by stopping by the center’s truck at the Swap & Trade event, which will run from 9 a.m. and 2 p.m.

-- Ralph Ranalli

Skyscrapers in Newton?

Posted April 8, 2007 07:09 AM

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NEWTON

A proposal for a commercial-residential development on Route 9 would alter the city’s zoning code to allow buildings as tall as Boston's Prudential Center, Ward 6 Alderman Kenneth Parker testified at a recent zoning hearing.

Developers of the proposed Chestnut Hill Square, on Route 9, have requested a zoning change for their mixed development that would allow approval of theirs and other large projects with no height restrictions. That’s not a good thing, he said.

“It’s a direct frontal assault on the protections our zoning affords neighborhoods in Newton,” Parker said.

Zoning and Planning Committee chairman Brian Yates, however, called Parker's warning an “exaggeration.”

New England Development spokeswoman Deborah Black, meanwhile, said the developers “are working on some modifications to the proposal, and we’ll be presenting them to the city in the near future to address concerns about height limitations.”

Chestnut Hill Square, situated on 11.5 acres almost directly across Route 9 from the Mall at Chestnut Hill, is currently planned with two 14-story residential towers and another residencial building of six stories, along with a block of two- and three-story retail buildings.

The Prudential Center tower, incidentally, is 52 stories tall.

-- Connie Paige

Amazing girls, amazing pressure

Posted April 6, 2007 12:57 PM

NEWTON

The New York Times used Newton North High as the setting for a recent Sunday front page story on so-called "amazing girls" - high schoolers with big expectations and big stresses.

The thesis of the story -- that girls are getting conflicting messages from parents and teachers to be perfect, but to be themselves at the same time -- has sparked a debate about whether we expect too much too soon from our kids.

The story has been mentioned in several local blogs and prompted numerous letters to the Times from readers, including this one from Chris Ludwig of Maynard:

When will the madness end? Yet another generation consumed with the destination rather than the journey.

Esther Mobley, the subject of your article, says, “In a lot of ways, it’s all about that one week,” when the Newton North (Mass.) school newspaper lists where the seniors are going to college.

Unless we teach our children to enjoy each day, this race to the next peak will continue, and real satisfaction with the here and now will not be realized.

What do you think? Are we pushing girls too far to fast or just pushing them to be their best selves? Sound off in the Globe West Message Boards.

-- Ralph Ranalli

The one-mile marathon

Posted April 5, 2007 09:14 AM

NEWTON

Running 26.2 miles not your idea of a good time? Well, thanks to the City of Newton, you can shorten your big April road race down to one mile, and still compete on Heartbreak Hill.

The 15th annual Heartbreak Hill International Youth Race will take place April 15 starting at noon at City Hall. All runners receive a commemorative seedling tree and a ticket to a pasta-pizza party the night before with guest speaker Bill Rodgers, the four-time Boston Marathon winner.

The first 500 to register get a t-shirt. The fee is $10 for ages 9-18, and $12 for ages 19-90, but hurry, because the (tax-deductible) fees (which benefit the Newton Pride Committee), increase after April 6.

Families also have the option of an alternative walk with small children, for $10. For more information and to register, visit Newton Pride online or call 617-796-1540.

-- Connie Paige

He came, he saw, he gave a thumbs up...

Posted April 4, 2007 03:07 PM

NEWTON

An engineering inspector has examined cracks in the floor of Fire Station No. 7 and determined that it will bear the weight of a new 82,000-pound fire truck due to be housed there. And he did the old-fashioned way - by actually looking at it.

John M. Looney, president of Aberjona Engineering Inc., the company that examined the concrete slab floor, assured city officials in a letter dated March 31 that the cracks “affect the appearance only.” Looney recommended the “cracks be cleaned and sealed to prevent further water leaking into the slab.”

The city's aldermen had asked for the inspection after learning that a previous safety review of the floor had been completed without anyone actually visiting the station, which is located on Eliot Street in Newton Upper Falls.

-- Connie Paige

Newton native told 'You're fired!'

Posted April 4, 2007 01:28 PM

urban.jpg

Tim Urban
(NBC Photo)

NEWTON

Newton's Tim Urban had a pretty gruesome time in Donald Trump's "The Apprentice" boardroom on Sunday night with all the requisite back stabbing and yelling.

And when it came down to eliminating someone from the team that had botched the task of pitching mouthwash, the 24-year-old Harvard grad was given the "You're fired!" by the Trumpster.

Considered by the fan websites to be among the favorites for winning this sixth installment, Urban took a lot of grief from his fellow contestants and Trump for his budding relationship with teammate Nicole D'Ambrosio, who survived this week's boardroom scrutiny.

The Los Angeles-based Urban seemed to shrug off his loss in the car ride out of the LA mansion, but he was too overwhelmed Monday hearing from everyone he had kept at bay to elaborate to us about what his plans are.

We do know that the pianist and songwriter, who was dubbed "The Musician" on the show, has just released his first CD, "Turning Home." He also continues to oversee The Cartim Group, an LA tutoring company he helped launch two years ago.

-- Boston Globe "Names" column

'Amazing' girls at Newton North High

Posted April 1, 2007 04:21 PM

NEWTON

Esther Mobley is one of the best students at Newton North High, but she's quick to point out her flaws.

“I run, I do, but not very quickly, and always exhaustedly,” she says. “This is one of the things I’m most insecure about. You meet someone, especially on a college tour, adults ask you what you do. They say, ‘What sports do you play?’ I don’t play any sports. It’s awkward.”

In a front-page story today, The New York Times reports that many high school girls are "amazing" -- high achieving, ambitious and confident -- but they're finding themselves in competition with other amazing girls around the country for elite colleges.

The story focuses on Mobley, but also takes an in-depth look at the city, the high school, and several other accomplished -- and frazzled -- Newton girls.

Everything's kosher in Newton

Posted March 29, 2007 07:04 AM

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Kosher butcher Richardo Bosich is back where he wants to be ... behind the grill.
(Globe staff photo by Bill Polo)

NEWTON

For years it was a fact of life, but to Newton's observant Jews it always seemed so, well, . . . not kosher. If you wanted to have a pastrami sandwich while still observing the Jewish dietary laws, you had to leave one of the great centers of Jewish life in Greater Boston and schlep next door to Brookline.

Until earlier this month, that is, when a 49-year-old Sephardic Jew from Uruguay opened what may be the region's only kosher strip of stores.

Ricardo Bosich moved his Gordon & Alperin kosher butchery across Commonwealth Avenue in Newton Centre into a strip of stores that includes the Bodavi Bakers shop, which is run by his wife, Susan Davis. Bosich, who describes himself as a butcher by trade but a chef at heart, expanded his business into a full-service kosher food center that includes the butcher shop and a grocery store under the Gordon & Alperin name, a catering operation, and a new restaurant, the Avenue Deli.

Read more about this story in today's Globe West.

See a photo gallery of Bosich's kosher strip mall.

Listen to patron Sam Bergman explain the importance of kosher food stores to local observant Jews.

-- Ralph Ranalli

National buzz on Newton's 'civic virtue'

Posted March 28, 2007 01:32 PM

NEWTON

A recent Boston Globe story about a plan in Newton that would give legal immigrants the right to vote in municipal elections caught the eye of the New Republic blog "The Spine."

The magazine's editor-in-chief, Marty Peretz, notes in a March 2 entry that voting is a "primary expression of citizenship" and says he doesn't like the idea of giving that power to non-naturalized residents.

"This is another instance of the devaluing of civic virtue," Peretz wrote. "You can see this is the next step in the fight against the American nation."

-- Megan Woolhouse

Why should we care about Guantanamo Bay?

Posted March 28, 2007 06:51 AM

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(AP photo)

NEWTON

Abdul Aziz Naji, an Algerian Muslim, was captured in Pakistan and brought to the US prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where he has been behind bars for more than five years.

His local attorneys, Doris Tennant and Ellen Lubell, want you to know why you should care.

Tennant and Lubell, who are representing Naji pro bono, believe that it is important for America that he have his day in court and will present a talk next week entitled “What's Going on at Guantanamo and Why Should We Care?" The talk, part of the Newton Dialogues on Peace and War program, will take place on Wednesday, April 4 at 7:30 p.m. at the Newton Free Library.

-- Connie Paige

Calling Dr. Leaky, calling Dr. Leaky ...

Posted March 27, 2007 12:38 PM

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Gath Pool.
(Globe staff photo by Bill Polo)

NEWTON

Complaints about Gath Pool just won't hold water this year. Not after bids are scheduled to go out within the next two weeks for fixing the cracks in the popular summer swimming spot.

In February, aldermen unanimously approved $30,000 for repairs. Sanford Pooler, the city’s chief administrative officer, said the work will be done in May and wiil be finished in time for the scheduled opening on June 11.

Anyone seeking more information about lessons and swimming times at the pool is uged to visit the city's web site.

-- Connie Paige

Cuenin goes to bat for urban youth

Posted March 27, 2007 11:34 AM

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The Rev. Walter Cuenin at last year's Palm Sunday celebration on the Brandeis University campus.
(Photo: Patricia McDonnell for the Boston Globe)

NEWTON/WALTHAM

Rev. Walter Cuenin, formerly pastor of Our Lady Help of Christians in Newton, is appealing to his former flock and others to help a program to discourage gang involvement and decrease urban street violence.

Now Catholic chaplain at Brandeis University in Waltham, Cuenin is promoting what's being is billed as a peace concert to honor the spirits of youths who have lost their lives to violence. The event will take place at the Episcopal Cathedral of St. Paul, 138 Tremont St., Boston, will take place this Saturday at 2 p.m.

Donations at the concert will support summer jobs for Boston youth at risk in programs promoting care for the earth. Anyone interested in more information is urged to call 617-969-6378.

-- Connie Paige

How about a house that picks up after your kids?

Posted March 23, 2007 10:20 AM

NEWTON

David and Elva DelPorto of Newton Centre have spent 25 years transforming their home into a model of sustainable technology that integrates heat, food production, air purification, and wastewater treatment within a two-story solar greenhouse. They call it their "Urban Ark."

This Saturday, the Del Portos will open their home to the public and share both the successes and failures in their saga of self-sufficiency. The event, from 10 a.m. to noon, costs $20 ($15 for students and members of the Green Decade Coalition, which will receive the proceeds).

Anyone interested in the event is urged to call 617-969-5927 or visit the Green Decade Coalition online.

-- Connie Paige

Crocuses on the lawn, Camrys on the street

Posted March 23, 2007 07:22 AM

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(Globe staff photo by John Tlumacki)

NEWTON

Daylight savings time in the second week of March won't be the only sign of an early spring in Newton this year.

Thanks to a law change made by the city's aldermen Monday, residents will able to park overnight on the street beginning on April 15 instead of April 30. The 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. ban for street sweeping will also begin later this fall, on Nov. 15 instead of Nov. 1, giving residents a full extra month of overnight street parking.

-- Connie Paige

Three percent green

Posted March 22, 2007 06:27 AM

NEWTON

It's not going to stop the polar ice caps from melting, but the city is on the way toward purchasing two more gasoline-electric hybrid cars for its fleet. Newton currently owns just one hybrid out of a fleet of just over 100 vehicles, 70 percent of which are used by the Police Department.

Last week, the aldermen’s Finance Committee approved a request from the mayor for $154,000 to pay for eight new cars, two of them hybrids. Three of the vehicles to be replaced have been driven for more than 100,000 miles, including one that is 18 years old.

-- Connie Paige

Newton North project lurches along

Posted March 21, 2007 03:10 PM

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NEWTON

Although Mayor David B. Cohen urged quick passage of a design for a new Newton North High School, his negotiators still have not finalized a contract with the construction manager at risk.

Mayoral spokesman Jeremy Solomon said the delay is not “substantive,” but relates to “scheduling conflicts” between the city and Dimeo Construction, the company that is supposed to oversee construction and guarantee against cost overruns.

Meanwhile, aldermen are dragging their feet on approving Cohen’s request for $131.9 million for construction. That delay stems from board members, many of whom who originally complained about the high price tag of the school, now reconsidering cost cuts.

Paul Coletti, the board’s influential Finance Committee chairman, has written Cohen asking him to restore elements to the design, bringing the total construction cost back to $141 million. Coletti did not specify what elements were mentioned in the letter, but the board has previously discussed restoring a more efficient heating and cooling system, a glass and brick exterior, a balcony in the school theatre, and sloping roofs instead of flat.

-- Connie Paige

Young at art

Posted March 20, 2007 05:04 PM

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(New Art Center image)

NEWTON

The New Art Center in Newton is hosting an exhibit this month that highlights the artistic side of children's literature.

Focusing on the work of thirteen contemporary artists, the exhibition includes art from the book "Punk Farm" by illustrator Jarrett Krosoczka, which was recently acquired by DreamWorks as a possible computer-animated feature. In the story, farm animals start a rock band and perform at the first animal band music festival: “Livestock.”

The exhibition opened yesterday and through May 20 at the Center, which is located at 61 Washington Park in Newtonville. A gala opening reception is planned for this Friday night. For more information, visit the center online.

-- Ralph Ranalli

Mass Pike accident snarls eastbound traffic

Posted March 19, 2007 03:10 PM

NEWTON

A one-car accident on the Mass Turnpike closed two lanes of eastbound traffic this afternoon for nearly 90 minutes.

A 2004 BMW convertible rolled over just east of Exit 17 at Newton Corner around 1:20 p.m., state police said.

Two people were taken to Beth Israel Medical Center in Boston. Their identities and condition were not immediately available.

-- Adam Sell

Mayor asks for capital study funds

Posted March 19, 2007 06:42 AM

NEWTON

Mayor David B. Cohen has asked aldermen to authorize $300,000 to review the state of the city’s municipal buildings, with an eye toward planning how to repair those in need – and how to pay for it.

The request comes as the School Committee has chartered a similar survey of schools and related buildings. Once completed, the inspections could cast a new light on municipal finances already under pressure from projected state aid, higher school expenses, and plans for a new Newton North High School.

-- Connie Paige

City officials asked to back pension change

Posted March 14, 2007 11:59 AM

NEWTON

The city’s retirement board has formally asked mayor and aldermen to back a transfer of Newton's pension fund to state control.

That move was recommended by a special blue-ribbon commission that said the city pension fund has regularly underperformed the state’s in investment returns. The commission said the state fund made $30 million more than the local fund over the past decade.

Mayor David B. Cohen has already endorsed taking the step, which will now be debated by the Board of Aldermen.

-- Connie Paige

Alex Cohn, 18

Posted March 13, 2007 06:18 PM

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WESTON

Putting people at ease was so effortless for Alex Jacob Cohn it seemed a birthright.

‘‘Alex was born with a great sense of humor,’’ said his mother, Carol Kaplan. ‘‘From the time he was pretty young we have so many pictures of him fooling around with his brother, laughing at jokes that you wouldn’t think a baby that age would get.’’

A competitive freestyle skier who put more emphasis on the skiing than the competition, Mr. Cohn was on the threshold of adulthood and college when he died of viral encephalitis Monday in Newton-Wellesley Hospital. He was 18 and had lived with his family in Weston while attending his senior year at Beaver Country Day School in Chestnut Hill. He had been accepted to Connecticut College by early decision.

‘‘He was a wonderful kid, really,’’ said his father, Rick Cohn. ‘‘There was something special about him.’’

In addition to his parents and brother Zachary, Mr. Cohn leaves his grandparents, June and Seymour Cohn of Selma, Ala., and Ziona Kaplan-Weber of West Hartford, Conn.

A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. tomorrow in Beaver Country Day School in Chestnut Hill. Burial will be private.

-- Bryan Marquard

Think globally, stroll locally

Posted March 13, 2007 03:32 PM

NEWTON

It sounds pretty common-sensical: If you want to affect climate change, start by going for a walk.

March 24 has been dubbed Climate Rescue Day by the group Religious Witness for Earth, and some Newton residents will mark the occasion by walking to the Old South Church in Boston for an interfaith service from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m,, followed by a public rally across the street from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.

The walk is timed to coincide with the end of a longer, cross-state trek, scheduled to starting March 16, from Northhampton to Boston, led by environmental author Bill McKibben. The walks have been endorsed by the Andover Newton Theological School Ecology Ministry, the Coalition for the Environment and Jewish Life, the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ, and several environmental groups.

Anyone interested in more information about the walk and related events is urged to visit the web site Climatewalk.org.

-- Connie Paige

Red faces and angry voices on firefighters issue in Newton

Posted March 12, 2007 03:19 PM

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NEWTON

A free-for-all during a press conference today signaled a new escalation in the long-running, bitter dispute between the mayor and the firefighters union.

A battle of words erupted when a union supporter drowned out Mayor David B. Cohen, who continued to charge that firefighter absenteeism has been higher than that of other city employees even has he admitted that the city released incorrect data last year that exaggerated the problem.

“These are lies,” shouted Jessica Locke, of Watertown, while Cohen tried to make his case.

They talked over each other for several minutes, until Locke stormed out of the office and slammed the door.

Locke, who runs a nonprofit organization she calls the Firefighters Fund, has calculated with the help of the union that firefighters called in sick about 6 percent of the time in 2002.

That is at odds with a chart made by city employees showing the firefighters’ rate of absenteeism at 14 percent that year. Cohen admitted today that the figure was wrong, and put the absenteeism at only about half that rate, about 6.7 percent that year. That chart was provided to the Globe last November, and the figure was included in an article about firefighter sick leave.

Cohen insisted, however, that the sick leave rate for firefighters was still higher than that of other city employees, including police officers, at 5 percent, and all other departments at 4 percent or below. He said the furor over the mistake from firefighters was a “red herring” to take attention away from contract negotiations.

Sick time is the sticking point in the negotiations between the city and firefighters, and has stalled a settlement for more than three years. The city has a sick-leave policy requiring firefighters to bring a note from a doctor after they return to work from sick leave to prove their illness or that of a family member.

Cohen said the policy has allowed the city to save more than $500,000 per year in overtime that formerly was paid to firefighters to cover for colleagues who called in sick. Firefighters say the policy is demeaning and not applied to other city employees.

-- Connie Paige

The pitter patter of little feet, the clatter of upended trash cans

Posted March 12, 2007 09:37 AM

NEWTON

Want to know whose paw prints are crossing your back yard? Well, tonight you can find out whether it’s a raccoon, deer, fox, coyote, or fisher – or a domestic pet on the loose.

Nick and Valerie Wisniewski, cofounders and directors of the Walnut Hill Tracking and Nature Center, in Orange, MA, will bring years of tracking experience to Newton with a slide show and lecture.

The free event, sponsored by Newton Conservators, takes place at 7 pm at the Druker Auditorium in the Newton Free Library.

-- Connie Paige

High count of wanna-be counters in Newton

Posted March 12, 2007 09:12 AM

NEWTON

Despite turmoil over elections in recent years, counting votes still appears to be a popular job.

Eight people have applied for the job of Newton’s election chief, “all of whom are very impressive,” said Jeremy Solomon, the spokesman for Mayor David B. Cohen.

The previous elections supervisor, Peter Karg, was ousted after a glitch in which signatures on an initiative petition were undercounted. A recount showing sufficient signatures allowed a citywide vote on the designs for a new Newton North High School, approved at the ballot box in January.

Karg, who had an annual salary of $78,595, has appealed the firing. Karg was replaced in a temporary appointment by Peter Koutoujian, father of the state lawmaker of the same name who represents part of Newton, Watertown, and Waltham. The elder Koutoujian will continue to work part-time until a permanent successor is appointed, Solomon said.

-- Connie Paige

More cars vs. more taxes

Posted March 11, 2007 08:52 AM

NEWTON

More cars versus more taxes.

Developers proposing a project that could put nearly 11,000 more cars on Route 9 every day have begun applying for necessary local permits.

New England Development will be before aldermen on March 23 for a public hearing on a zoning change requested for Chestnut Hill Square, across Route 9 from the Mall at Chestnut Hill. As currently planned, Chestnut Hill Square, situated on 11.5 acres, would have two 14-story residential towers atop a two-story parking garage, and another residence of six stories.

In all, it would have 226 condominiums, some priced at $1 million; 34 would be set aside as affordable. Also planned is a block of two- and three-story retails buildings, including a high-end restaurant and grocery store.

Local officials have mixed feelings about the development. While they believe it could cause traffic jams, it could generate $2.9 million or more in much-needed annual tax revenue.

-- Connie Paige

Project Prom

Posted March 11, 2007 08:07 AM

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(Globe staff photo by Barry Chin)

NEWTON

A local student is a finalist in the Project Prom contest being conducted by Globe Magazine.

Lauren Gauthier, a senior at Lasell College, designed a green, knee-length dress out of satin and tulle with pearl-bead straps. The 21-year-old fashion design student said, "the front and back bodice of the gown is meant to take on the shape of a cupcake, with the vertical lines around the middle portraying the paper liner of a dessert."

Read more about Gauthier's dress and the contest, and watch a video of her interview, on Boston.com.

-- Adam Sell

Newtondale: the village that wasn't

Posted March 10, 2007 09:22 AM

NEWTON

Today is Newton Highlands History Day, but it could just have well been "Newtondale History Day."

When the neighborhood, one of Newton's 13 villages, grew to 500 residents, they all met to vote on a name: "Newtondale" lost, and "Newton Highlands" won.

To mark the occasion the Newton History Museum is presenting a collection of scans of maps and photographs from its collection and inviting the public to help plan a new permanent history exhibit for the Hyde Community Center. The free event is being held from 3:30 to 5:30 pm. at the Hyde Center, 90 Lincoln Street.

-- Ralph Ranalli

Woman gives birth at gas station on Route 9

Posted March 7, 2007 11:52 AM

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Elananzeh back at work
(Photo by Erik Jacobs for the Globe)

NEWTON

A gas station employee on Route 9 in Newton gave new meaning to the slogan "full service" this morning when he helped deliver a customer's baby in a minivan.

Rafet Elananzeh, 42, was sitting in the office of the Getty gas station at about 6:25 when a nervous man burst through the door and yelled that his wife was giving birth. Elananzeh, who recognized the man as a regular at the station, called 911.

The emergency operator told Elananzeh to check on the mother, and he ran out into the bitter cold. Elananzeh said he noticed that the woman had begun giving birth underneath a coat.

When the newborn emerged, Elananzeh followed the emergency operator's instructions and wiped the child’s face, mouth, and nose.

"Then the baby started crying," said Elananzeh who lives in Lexington. "From that point, I knew this was serious business."

Elananzeh got blankets to help keep the baby warm, and an ambulance roared into the station. Mother and child were rushed to a local hospital. Elananzeh had been in the delivery room for the births of his 5-year-old son, Amir, and his 2-year-old daughter, Lilah. Those experiences, he said, helped prepare him for what happened this morning.

"It's amazing," he said. "There is nothing like seeing a new life."

-- Andrew Ryan

Lesbian rabbi from West Newton to head rabbinical association

Posted March 7, 2007 10:19 AM

NEWTON

A West Newton rabbi will be elected next week to head the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, the Jewish news service JTA reports.

Spitzer is a 1997 graduate of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and has been serving Congregation Dorshei Tzedek, a Reconstructionist congregation in West Newton, for the past 10 years, the movement said.

Spitzer’s election continues the Reconstructionist movement’s trailblazing tradition on gay and lesbian issues. In 1984, Reconstructionism became the first American Jewish movement to ordain gay rabbis, a move since followed by the Reform movement in 1990.

-- Adam Sell

Historic play

Posted March 7, 2007 06:59 AM

NEWTON

Who knows, maybe they'll turn into history buffs later, but all pre-schoolers appreciate a place to play, especially at this time of year. That's why The Newton History Museum at the Jackson Homestead is opening a Children's Playspace on Fridays this month from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

The play space is free with a paid admission, but month-long memberships are also available at $25 for Newton Historical Society members, $30 for Newton residents, and $35 for non- residents. Anyone interested is urged to call 617-796-1450 for more information.

-- Ralph Ranalli

Darfur crusader hits the hustings

Posted March 6, 2007 09:14 AM

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Alan Greenfield and his wife Claudia in front of their Needham home.
(Globe staff photo by Bill Polo)

NEEDHAM/WELLESLEY/NEWTON/REGION

Alan Greenfield's one-man crusade to save Darfur has graduated from placing signs to public speaking.

The Needham man, who initiated a sign campaign to raise awareness of genocide in Darfur will speak in area towns over the next few weeks about the ongoing genocide in the war-torn region of western Sudan.

Greenfield formed the Needham Darfur Initiative, and has paid for more than 20 banners and more than 200 lawn signs to be placed on churches, synagogues, schools, businesses and houses in is hometown of Needham, where he runs a dog-walking business.

Now Greenfield has joined the Massachusetts Coalition to Save Darfur as a speaker, to talk about how one person came make a difference. Greenfield is scheduled to speak to students at Wellesley High School next Wednesday, March 14; serve as a panelist in forum hosted by a group called “Discovering What’s Next” next Thursday, March 15 at the Newton Free Library; and share his story with Congregation Bnai Shalom in Westborough at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, March 23.

-- Jennifer Rosinski

Newton school budget likely to fuel override debate

Posted March 5, 2007 02:45 PM

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Superintendent of Schools Jeffrey Young
(Globe staff photo by Suzanne Kreiter)

NEWTON

Superintendent of Schools Jeffrey Young this morning unveiled a proposed budget for the 2007-2008 school year that contains no cuts, restores programs, and is $4.8 million more than Mayor David B. Cohen has proposed allotting for the schools.

Based on expected revenues, Cohen said he was giving the schools a 4.8 percent budget increase for next year. Young, however, said that the school system needs a 7.3 increase just to keep pace with rising fixed costs like health care and with an expected enrollment increase of 231 students. Young's budget proposes an 8 percent increase of just under $11.6 million.

The School Committee directed Young to prepare the no-cuts budget three weeks ago, after members said that the system could not maintain educational quality while sustaining cuts for the fifth year in a row. The $155.5 million budget, which Young will present to the committee tonight, is certain to fuel further discussion of a possible property tax override.

Young said he has hope that the citizens of Newton will support his budget.

"I think that we as a city need to look in the mirror and decide who we want to be," he said at a press conference this morning. "We're deluding ourselves if we think we can have it all without paying for it."

Most of the increase in Young's budget would go to maintain current programs and class sizes. But Young also said he wants to restore 15 minutes of art and 30 minutes of music education at the elementary level and add about $1 million of new initiatives in the areas of math, technology and building maintenance.

The School Committee will begin discussions of the budget on Wednesday night and will hold a public hearing on Thursday, March 22.

-- Ralph Ranalli

Wanted: Tree huggers to make the kindest cuts

Posted March 5, 2007 02:30 PM

NEWTON

Spring is almost here, and Newton is looking for volunteers to join its Citizen Pruners corps to help keep local trees healthy.

Interested residents will be trained in tree maintenance and pruning techniques. People who complete their training will work on trees during supervised pruning sessions in locations throughout the city.

Classes will be held on Monday evenings from 7 to 9 p.m. on March 19, March 26, and April 2 at the Albemarle Field House. A hands-on training session will be held Saturday April 14, from 8 a.m.-noon.

Tools will be supplied. Ladder climbing is not required, all citizen pruning is done from the ground. To register or get more information, contact Newton’s Director of Urban Forestry, Marc Welch at (617) 796-1500 or newtonforestry@gmail.com.

-- Erica Noonan

Great Writers is back!

Posted March 4, 2007 11:20 AM

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Author Michael Thomas, photographed in Allston, where he was born. He moved to Newton in the fifth grade and graduated from Newton North High School.
(Globe Staff photo by Suzanne Kreiter)

NEWTON/REGION

The Great Writers Podcast is back, with a new episode this week featuring a reading at Newtonville Books by Newton North High School grad Michael Thomas from his critically-acclaimed novel "Man Gone Down."

The podcast was on hiatus for two months due to the sale of the bookstore, but a full slate of live-recorded author events is on tap for the next several months. Next week: Jodi Picoult, author of the acclaimed and controversial "Nineteen Minutes."

"Man Gone Down" is the first novel for Thomas, who now lives in New York City and teaches creative writing at Hunter College. It's the story of a young African-American husband and father, down on his luck, desperately trying to make enough money to hold his family together while battling traumatic memories of childhood and witnessing the Sept. 11 attacks.

In a featured review, the New York Times Book Review called Thomas's work "an impressive success."

You can listen to the podcast on Boston.com's Podcast Page or subscribe to the series via RSS or iTunes. You can also read more about Thomas in David Mehegan's recent profile in the Globe's Living/Arts Section.

-- Ralph Ranalli

Plugging the leaks in the fire department

Posted March 4, 2007 09:53 AM

NEWTON

While debate rages on about how to pay for the many needs of the city’s older municipal buildings and outdated schools, a key aldermanic committee has backed spending $207,000 to replace the roof on Fire Station No. 7.

Now the full board must approve the cost. Officials backed the fix at the Newton Upper Falls station because leaks and other problems affected “not only quality of life but essential safety” of firefighters, said Jeremy Solomon, spokesman for Mayor David B. Cohen.

Alderman Paul Coletti, chairman of the aldermen’s Finance Committee, said the measure went through with little debate. Coletti said he hopes the job goes out to bid soon.

“We’ve approved a lot of these projects, and none of the stuff is getting done,” said the alderman at large from Ward 5.

Solomon, however, pointed out that designs for repairs of the roof and windows at Fire Station 4 in Newtonville are underway. The work, estimated to cost $190,000, should start soon, he said.

Solomon said further major repairs of other city buildings will likely wait for the completion of a survey of all the city's capital needs.

-- Connie Paige

A new marquee name at Lasell

Posted March 4, 2007 08:03 AM

NEWTON

And the award for the presidency of Lasell College goes to ...

... Michael B. Alexander, an independent film distributor who has been associated with such movies as “The Big White,” with Robin Williams and Holly Hunter.

Alexander will start the job July 1, with the retirement of Dr. Thomas E.J. de Witt, who has been president for 19 years. Alexander said he would leave it to others to run his company, Echo Bridge Entertainment, when he dons the cap and gown. Alexander has previously served as assistant dean of freshmen at Harvard College and executive assistant to the president of Barnard College.

“I set out in life to be a college president and got waylaid,” said Alexander, who lives in Sudbury. “To reach my original goal, in the same community where I live, was unbelievably fortunate.”

Alexander said he believes Lasell is in a strong academic and financial position. Lasell now has 1,300 students, up from just 400 fifteen years ago, and has built a new building almost every year in recent years.

-- Connie Paige

This Old Museum

Posted March 3, 2007 09:25 AM

NEWTON

March is fixer-upper month at the Newton History Museum, with four Sunday seminars will explore how to rehab an historical home in ways that are creative and environmentally sound. One talk even gets down to the nitty-gritty of preventing leaks, smells, drafts, and peeling paint.

The seminars begin tomorrow and will be held weekly until the 25th. Tickets are $25 each or $70 for all four sessions. A discount package of $60 for the entire series is available to members of the two sponsors, the Newton Historical Society and Green Decade Coalition of Newton. Pre-registration is required.

For more information, call 617-965-1995 or 617-796-1450 or visit the Green Decade Coalition online.

-- Connie Paige

Newton North supporters won money race, too

Posted March 3, 2007 08:54 AM

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(Gund Partnership image)

NEWTON

Final campaign finance reports show that not only did the backers of the current plan for a new Newton North High School win the citywide election in January, they won the money race too.

In the reporting period covering Jan. 7 to Feb. 22, supporters pulled in $13,864.11 to just $4,065.42 for opponents of the $151 million project. During the previous reporting period from Sept. 27 to Jan. 6, proponents raised $45,600 versus $3,000 for opponents.

The largest contributor who liked the design for the new school, as shown in the most recent reports, filed last week, was Democratic activist Steven Grossman who gave $3,000. Other big names were state Auditor A. Joseph DeNucci, who gave $500(cq) through his campaign committee and $100 personally; Paul Guzzi, CEO of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce and former state representative, who gave $250; and Michael Jellinek, president of Newton-Wellesley Hospital, who gave $250.

-- Connie Paige

Solar solicitors seeking support

Posted February 28, 2007 09:15 AM

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NEWTON

A non-profit group says it is about halfway to having the funds needed to install a 2-kilowatt solar panel on a municipal building to help the city save on energy costs.

As of early this week 78 people already have donated to the project, but an additional 72 were needed, officials said. The solar panel, worth about $25,000, could “take a chunk out of the electric cost for the building,” depending on it size and placement, said Adam Briggs, of New England Wind Fund, the non-profit organizers of the fundraising challenge.

The group is asking residents or businesses are asked to give a tax-deductable donation of $5 per month for a year or a one-time contribution of $100. The fund, which is not connected with the controversial proposed wind farm off of Cape Cod, promotes development of clean energy such as wind power and solar.

The deadline for the city to get up to 150 donors is March 31. Anyone interested in making a contribution is urged to call Briggs at 617-524-3950 or visit the organization's web site for more information.

-- Connie Paige

Fight over laundry leads to stabbing at BC

Posted February 27, 2007 09:48 AM

NEWTON

A bloody feud in Boston College's Vanderslice Hall that left one student hospitalized and another free on bail began with accusations that one of the women had sabotaged her dormitory mate's laundry with bleach, court papers say.

After the showdown in the laundry room on Feb. 19, the two continued their agitation, the documents say, and last Friday it turned violent when Brianna L. Jones, 19, allegedly stabbed Diana Mirambeaux-Saker, 19, twice in the chest with a pocket knife. The attack left the wall and floors of Vanderslice Hall, a center of student life at the Chestnut Hill campus of the Jesuit university, smeared with blood.

Jones, a sophomore from Middletown, Conn., pleaded not guilty yesterday to two counts of aggravated assault with a dangerous weapon at her arraignment in Brighton District Court. Mirambeaux-Saker, a double major in theater and psychology, was recovering from a punctured lung at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

"It had been something that escalated for the past two weeks," said 19-year-old Theresa Hamilton, who lives down the hall. "The two girls had been fighting for a while, and on Friday night, at about 10-ish, things seemed to erupt."

After Mirambeaux-Saker accused Jones of intentionally bleaching her laundry eight days before, the two students, who lived across the hall from each other, traded threats. Mirambeaux-Saker, from Roxbury, ratcheted up the tension last Friday by ripping the name tags off Jones's dorm room door, court papers say.

After noticing her door tag missing, Jones confronted Mirambeaux-Saker last Friday night in the first floor hallway of Vanderslice Hall, which houses 423 sophomores and juniors. Mirambeaux-Saker then grabbed Jones by the collar of her sweatshirt and verbally threatened her before Jones choked and punched Mirambeaux-Saker, records say.

The two women fought until another student, Kevin Gordon, 19, a friend of Mirambeaux-Saker, intervened.

Read more about the incident in April Simpson's story in today's Globe.

Commercial ad-venture

Posted February 27, 2007 09:02 AM

NEWTON

A Newton native who won a Jeep Compass for his homemade commercial is selling the vehicle to pay the crew that helped him make the spot.

Zachary Miller, a junior at Pitzer College in California, won the "Free Your Thoughts" contest with 1,856 votes, according to the web site Collegenews.org. The second place entry only garnered 403 votes.

Miller's commercial can be seen at http://www.freeyourthoughts.com/

-- Adam Sell

Cohen to Aldermen: Take this!

Posted February 26, 2007 11:20 AM

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Maybe someday this will be the only kind of cannonball seen at Crystal Lake, instead of the ones the city and homeowner Patrick Hannon have been firing at each other.
(Globe staff photo by Suzanne Kreiter)

NEWTON

Mayor David B. Cohen as announced he wants to use the city's eminent domain powers to take possession of a controversial property on Crystal Lake, opening another front on in the long-running war between the city and the property owner.

The announcement came in a letter to aldermen saying that while "a taking by eminent domain is a very serious matter," he did not want to pass up a once-in-a-lifetime chance to create a park on the property, which abuts the popular public swimming hole on Crystal Lake.

Hannon, owner of the one-acre beachfront property at 20 Rogers St., said today that he has no problem with the city owning the property, but he wants a “fair” price.

“I’m not challenging the taking,” Hannon said in a telephone interview. “All I can challenge is the value they offer for it.”

Hannon had placed a $4.5 million price tag on the 1924 Colonial revival house and surrounding land, which he bought for $3 million in August 2002. He said the broker has now taken it off the market.

Hannon has battled with the city for more than a year over an order that he postpone demolishing his fire-damaged house because of its possible historic value. Now that the one-year order has expired, Hannon has threatened recently to knock down the house and develop the land as a 12-story condo project with affordable units.

Cohen said the city is prepared to offer $2.3 million, based on an independent appraisal. The property has a 200-foot beach, which has been shared with the city since a 1962 court settlement with the previous owners.

Cohen said in his letter that he would petition the local Community Preservation Committee for funds to pay for the Hannon property. The state Community Preservation Act allows funds collected from a 1 percent surcharge on property taxes to be used for open space and recreation, historical preservation, and affordable housing.
Aldermen would have to approve the deal.

The property eventually would be held by a private foundation, with custody and management by the city Parks and Recreation Commission, Cohen said.

-- Connie Paige

Serving it up in Newton

Posted February 26, 2007 09:16 AM

newtonserves.jpg

NEWTON

Even if you don’t want to clean up your own back yard or paint your house, you might feel good about volunteering to do someone else’s.

Projects you can help with in the seventh annual NewtonSERVES day of community service include spring clean-up of parks and non-profit agencies’ grounds; various projects at schools and facilities for seniors and the developmentally disabled; helping with a recycling swap-and-shop; and making art cards for isolated elders.

March 8 is the deadline for businesses and residents to have their names listed in the registration brochure as a supporter of the privately-funded event. Projects that need volunteers must sign up by March 15. On the same day, volunteers can join an orientation and overview of available projects at 7 pm at Newton City Hall.

The service day is planned for April 30, with 1,000 volunteers expected. For more information, call Beverly Droz at 617-796-1290 or contact her by email.
-- Connie Paige

A day in the life of a hospital

Posted February 25, 2007 08:38 AM

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8:35 p.m.: Child Life Specialist Kim Gannon blows bubbles for for 19-month-old Ben Wertheim, who came into the Pediatric Emergency Department with a high fever, as he sits on his mother Jodie's lap.
(Globe staff photo by Bill Polo)

NEWTON/WELLESLEY/REGION

A large hospital is like a city within a city. It has its own rhythms, a workday, a night life, and a vast array of citizens -- from professionals to floor cleaners to engineers to volunteers, from wealthy to poor, and, of course, from the sick and the healthy.

Globe West reporter and web producer Ralph Ranalli and photographer Bill Polo spent 16 hours at Newton-Wellesley Hospital earlier this month, capturing the sights, sounds and stories of a typical day in a story and an audio slideshow.

A Day in the Life of a Hospital is the third in Globe West's yearlong Day in the Life Series.

In the fall, Ranalli and Polo captured the music and art and passion that occur during A Day in the Life of a Cultural Center at the Newton Cultural Center in Newtonville.

Last summer, Ranalli, Polo, and fellow photographer Josh Reynolds chronicled A Day in the Life of a Park at Albemarle Park, the hub of swimming, baseball, summer camp and other hot-weather activity in Newton.

Resident aliens welcomed to the polls in Newton

Posted February 25, 2007 07:13 AM

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Ward 3 Alderman-at-large Ted Hess-Mahan

NEWTON

What a difference two years makes, at least for resident aliens in Newton.

Last week, by a large majority, the city's aldermen approved a measure allowing immigrants who are not US citizens the right to vote in local elections. Two years ago, a similar proposal was defeated.

The measure's sponsor Ward 3 Alderman-at-large Ted Hess-Mahan said he believes it’s only fair that residents who pay taxes, send their kids to school, and own property in Newton should also be able to vote on measures that affect them.

Hess-Mahan’s proposal would authorize the city’s Election Commission to create a register of qualified permanent resident alien voters. Resident aliens would have to sign registration forms including a sworn declaration that they live in Newton, are lawfully admitted to the US, and intend to become citizens, if eligible. Registered resident aliens would be able to vote only in local – but not state or federal – elections.

Mayor David Cohen must now ask the city’s legislative delegation to file the proposal with the state legislature, which must approve it as a home rule measure for it to go into effect. Hess-Mahan said Cambridge, Amherst, and Wayland are also seeking state approval for similar measures.

-- Connie Paige

New book causes a stir at high schools

Posted February 24, 2007 08:46 AM

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Jodi Picoult at her home in New Hampshire
(Photo by Caleb Kenna for the Boston Globe)

NEWTON

Best-selling author Jodi Picoult intended to spark debate about the causes of school violence when she gave advance copies of her novel about a mass school shooting to three schools, including one in her hometown of Hanover, N.H., and Newton South High School.

She succeeded.

Officials at Hanover High School, which Picoult's son attends, yanked her book, "Nineteen Minutes," from a mandatory reading list last week, after some students wondered whether it was about their school. Picoult's fictional Sterling High School had an eerie resemblance to Hanover High, with its two-story glass atrium and green roof.

Last month, Newton South considered removing the book from its English classes out of fear the book would rattle students. Part of it was timing: As teachers handed out the books, they learned that a student at nearby Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School had been fatally stabbed by a fellow student in a school bathroom.

"Knowing I hit a nerve convinces me this was the right book to write," Picoult said in an interview. "I don't think this is a conversation you should sweep under the carpet."

"Nineteen Minutes" raises questions about whether a novel about a high school shooting rampage is a wise offering at a school. Picoult's book is slated to hit bookstores March 6. Picoult gave the advance copies to the schools with the caveat that there had to be adult-led discussion.

Read more about the stir being caused by Picoult's book in James Vaznis' story in today's Globe.

Seeing the light in Newton

Posted February 24, 2007 08:45 AM

NEWTON

It’s tough enough driving in the dark, but more so when many of the street lights are out.

Within two weeks, however, the city is expecting private companies to bid on a contract to switch more than 8,000 of the city’s 8,486 lights from mercury to high-pressure sodium. The changeover was in the works as an energy saving measure, but will also result in fewer dark light poles, city officials said.

A Globe West nighttime survey on four major thoroughfares through eight neighborhoods in December showed as many as 10 percent to 25 percent of the lights out in some spots, including intersections and village centers.

“I expect the work to begin over the summer and continue into the fall,” said Jeremy Solomon, spokesman for Mayor David B. Cohen.

-- Connie Paige

Up in smoke

Posted February 22, 2007 07:32 AM

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The Wheelabrator smokestack, as seen from Shrewsbury
(Globe staff photo by Bill Polo)

REGION/NEWTON

The Wheelabrator incinerator in Millbury, burning 24 hours a day, is the last stop for trash from most communities in the western suburbs.

Forty miles away in Newton, the average resident stoked the fire with 722 pounds of refuse in 2005. Newton sent something else to Wheelabrator as well -- more than $3 million in fees. That's too much money going up in smoke, according to a blue-ribbon panel appointed by the mayor to study the city's finances.

"While Newton was once in the forefront of recycling, it has now fallen behind," said the committee's report, which was released late last month. "Newton could derive substantial financial advantage by reducing the amount of trash and increasing the amount of recycling."

Newton is not alone in looking for ways to reduce its trash disposal expenses. Two dozen area communities could be saving money under a program promoted by the state Department of Environmental Protection as a way to reduce the amount of trash hauled to landfills or burned in Wheelabrator's waste-to-energy operation.

Read more about waste involving municipal waste in Megan Woolhouse's story in today's Globe West.

Voices of a painful history to echo in Newton

Posted February 22, 2007 06:32 AM

NEWTON

Capping their celebration of Black History Month, this Sunday the Newton History Museum and the Newton Free Library will host the multimedia presentation "Voices: Those Who Wore The Shoe," a program that examines the reality of what it was like to be a slave.

The presentation, which originally premiered on National Public Radio, is based on based on slave oral histories. It was written and performed by Harlin C. Kearsley, who used interviews conducted through the Federal Writers Project with several thousand former slaves still living in the United States in the 1930s. A dramatic play based on the same material was performed in 2005 at Newton North and Newton South high schools.

The program will be held at 2 p.m. at the Newton Free Library and admission is free. Anyone seeking more information can visit "Voices" on the web or contact the Newton History Museum at 617-796-1450.

-- Ralph Ranalli

A new voice for Newton Centre shul

Posted February 19, 2007 07:30 AM

NEWTON

Temple Emanuel has selected Argentinian Elias Rosemberg to become the congregation’s new cantor, says Michael Benjamin, temple president.

“What really attracted us to him is he’s a cantor who inspires people to participate,” Benjamin said.

Rosemberg, 35, a native of Buenos Aires, was raised in a family of musicians and studied music theory and harmony at Manual de Falla School of Music. Most recently, he served as cantor at Temple Emeth in Chestnut Hill.

The temple, which counts New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft among its members, conducted an 11-month search process for a replacement for cantor Charles Osborne, who walked out in the middle of a service just after an associate rabbi gave an impassioned sermon calling on Conservative Judaism to sanction gay marriage.

For the record, Osborne said he left because he wasn't feeling well, but he never did return to Emanuel and his departure touched off a flurry of newspaper articles about the split among Jews in the Conservative movement over gay rights. Osborne has since helped found his own congregation, Adath Shir Rinah, which translates to "Congregation Song of Joy."

-- Connie Paige

Former "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" star in Newton tomorrow

Posted February 19, 2007 06:55 AM

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Karyn Parsons (far left) and the rest of the "Fresh Prince" cast.
(Photo by Chris Haston/NBC)

NEWTON

Karyn Parsons, the actress and producer who is perhaps best known for her role as Hilary Banks on the long-running NBC sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, will be at the Newton History Museum tomorrow afternoon in a special celebration of Black History Month.

Parsons will be on hand for a screening of her short film, "The Journey of Henry Box Brown." the story of a slave who won his freedom in 1849 by shipping himself from Virginia to Philadelphia in a wooden box.

The film is being presenting as part of a special program aimed at children aged 3 to 8, which will run from 1:30 to 3 p.m. at the Museum. Following the screening Parsons in person. While adults learn more about the film from Parsons, children will be able to climb inside the replica of Henry's 3-by-2-by-2-foot box, which is housed in the Newton History Museum's permanent exhibit, and also work on an art project.

The Newton History Museum, located on Washington Street in Newton Corner on the site of the historic Jackson Homestead, is a documented site on the Underground Railroad and presents exhibitions on a variety of historic topics.

Tickets for the event are $10 and include admission for one adult and one child. Anyone interested can visit the museum online or can call 617-796-1450.

-- Ralph Ranalli

Meaty commentary turns to spam

Posted February 15, 2007 02:35 PM

NEWTON

The blog that formerly served up news and commentary on the City of Newton's finances is now hawking advice on personal debt consolidation and ways to repair your credit score.

Paul Levy, president of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, recently shut down the blog of the Newton Blue Ribbon Commission, the elite, mayor-appointed body that has caused a stir with its dire pronouncements about the city's financial future. Now, like many newly-former-blogs, the blue ribbon group's URL has apparently been harvested by an internet direct-marketing company.

Levy's commission recommended several ways the city could save money and boost revenues in a report released early this month. After the report was out, Levy continued to address city leaders on a blog created for the commission, taking the mayor and aldermen to task for failing to implement the commission’s recommendations.

Recently, Levy discontinued his commentary. He said that if he had any further comments to share in cyberspace, he would do so on a blog run by a local newspaper.

“I asked if there was any reason I should continue the blog,” he explained yesterday. “Nobody responded, except two people who said no. I guess the people have voted.”

-- Connie Paige

Priced to sell, nr transportation

Posted February 15, 2007 02:14 PM

NEWTON

Location, location, location – that seems to be about about the only worthy aspect of a property once again on the market in the heart of Newton Highlands.

The stone building that once served as a train station is on the auction block for a minimum bid of $425,000, as one of many properties being sold off by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. One encouraging sign for prospective owners: the T required a bid of at least $500,000 at the last auction, so now the price has dropped by $75,000. Bids are due by March 2.

The 3,000-square-foot structure and 11,000 square feet of surrounding land off Walnut Street could be a prime destination for a shop or office -- except for a few complications.

Any repairs or reconstruction of the building, which dates back to 1887, will be closely monitored by the Massachussetts Historical Commission. Transit officials will also retain the right to use a small office inside, and the new owner must pay for upgrading and maintaining it, according to the specifications of the auction. Moreover, no construction associated with the station or property will be allowed to interfere with T operations, and the T retains the right to build facilities to provide universal access for its riders on the Green line.

Now vacant, the building, at 18 Station Avenue, was most recently used as an auto parts store.

-- Connie Paige

What would he call it? Spite Tower?

Posted February 14, 2007 01:25 PM

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Patrick and Elizabeth Hannon in front of their Rogers Street home.
(Globe Staff photo by Bill Polo)

NEWTON

Pat Hannon, Newton's most combative homeowner, is at it again.

In the latest chapter of his battle with City Hall over his property on Crystal Lake, Hannon is threatening to develop his land as a 12-story condo tower with as affordable housing under Chapter 40B, the state law that allows developer to skirt some zoning requirements.

The only problem for Hannon is that state law also allows local conservation officials to restrict how developers build on property within 100 feet of wetlands. Hannon's latest statement's came after his negotiations with the city to purchase his property broke down.

Conservation officials, meanwhile, will deciding tomorrow whether to order repairs to a wall on Hannon's property, which is located next door to the popular city swimming hole on the lake. Hannon is expected to ask the commission to order the city to remove a small wooden dock that he claims is leaching arsenic into the water.

-- Connie Paige

Less white equals more green for schools

Posted February 13, 2007 09:15 AM

NEWTON

Energy and snow removal savings from this year's mild winter have allowed the School Department to pay both for its share of eight new modular classrooms and for a comprehensive study of the elementary school facilities, officials told the school committee last night.

The school department is kicking in $200,000 toward the cost of the modular classrooms, which have been made necessary by soaring elementary enrollments. Last week, the Board of Aldermen voted to authorize its share of the funding, $1 million, and approved design plans for installing one modular classroom at both the Bowen and Horace Mann schools, and two apiece at the Cabot, Pierce, and Zervas schools.

The school facilities study is expected to cost $70,000 and will help the committee plan capital improvements to the city's overcrowded and dilapidated elementary and middle schools.

-- Ralph Ranalli and Connie Paige

Accident on I-95 seriously injures two in Newton

Posted February 12, 2007 04:33 PM

NEWTON

A 2005 Saab traveling the wrong direction on I-95 was involved in a four-car accident last night, sending two people to the hospital with serious injuries.

The driver of the Saab and the driver of one of the cars that was struck, a 1990 Oldsmobile, were in serious condition at Newton-Wellesley Hospital. The wrong-way driver also struck a 1999 Toyota and a 1998 BMW.

Travel on I-95 south was restricted to one lane for more than an hour while the accident was cleared.

-- Adam Sell

The earth's bounty -- available at weekly rates

Posted February 12, 2007 08:51 AM

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Municipal farmer Greg Maslowe holds some of last year's produce.
(Photo by Patricia McDonnell for the Boston Globe)

NEWTON

The crocuses are still weeks away, so locally-grown vegetables probably aren't the first thing on many people's minds. But if last year was any measure, people should act fast if they want to secure a steady supply of produce from the Newton Angino Community Farm's second growing season.

Farm officials have announced that a regular prepaid share, providing weekly produce for a family of four, will cost $525 for 2007. The farm this year is also offering alternate week shares for half the food at the reduced price of $275.

Two “work shares” – working on the farm in exchange for produce – are also offered. People interested in the option must be capable of heavy lifting, bending, kneeling, and working in inclement weather. Enrollment is first come, first serve, and farm officials expect to be fully subscribed soon. Produce will be available starting June 13.

More information and an enrollment form can be found at online at the farm's web site.

The farm is also seeking donations and volunteers. Contributors or those who might have equipment the farm might need can email fundraising chairman Jon Regosin . Prospective volunteers are asked to email coordinator Sam Fogel.

-- Connie Paige

Curb unappeal

Posted February 10, 2007 11:20 AM

NEWTON

Newton residents may find their household trash overstaying its welcome soon if they fail to recycle properly, the city says.

Elaine Gentile, the city’s Director of Environmental Affairs, said municipal officials have been contemplating how to mount a more aggressive recycling program. She could give no date for the start of the new recycling program, which would use stickers to identify what homeowners should be putting in their green recycling bins instead of in the trash.

Gentile said it is likely that the city would simply leave the trash of scofflaws at the curb, rather than follow the lead of other communities and fine them -- even though a Newton ordinance allows it. She recently told the Newton Blue Ribbon Commission, which weighed in last week on the city’s finances, that the city could raise $200,000 more from recycling each year.

-- Connie Paige

Cyber-Newton a step closer

Posted February 9, 2007 05:03 PM

NEWTON

Post to your blog, e-mail your friends -- and do it from anywhere in the city.

Newton is one step closer to citywide wireless internet after having received proposals from two companies eager to set it up, Homeland Security Wireless of Falmouth and Galaxy Internet Services of Newton.

The winner, after receiving necessary city approvals, will set up a pilot program of two hot spots, one of which will be Newton Centre. Once the technological kinks are worked out, the company will wire the entire city.

When fully installed, the service will be for private individuals and companies, with the cost to subscribe yet to be set. City workers will use the service, too, ranging from police on patrol accessing photos of suspects to meter readers tracking water use.

Alderman Kenneth Parker, who pushed hard for the initiative and is on the committee that will decide between them, said it was too early to provide a timeline for when the service would be available.

-- Connie Paige

A helping hand for Haifa

Posted February 8, 2007 10:12 AM

NEWTON

After the Northern Israeli city of Haifa experienced heavy damage during last summer’s missile attacks by Hezbollah, hundreds of Jewish school children in more than a dozen area schools answered the call.

This week, their efforts paid off, with the dedication of a $106,000 mobile intensive care unit ambulance at the Leventhal-Sidman Jewish Community Center on Nahanton Street. After visiting the Jewish schools in Newton and other cities that supported the effort, the ambulance will be shipped to Israel for use by Magen David Adom (The Red Star of David), the Israeli version of the Red Cross.

The two groups that led the fundraising, the Student Save-a-Life Program and the Boston Friends of Magen David Adom, have now collaborated to send four ambulances to Israel.

-- Ralph Ranalli

City Hall ceremony to honor Drinan

Posted February 7, 2007 03:29 PM

NEWTON

The life of Reverend Robert Drinan, the longtime congressman from Massachusetts, will be celebrated Sunday at Newton City Hall in a program led by his successor, Congressman Barney Frank, and Mayor David B. Cohen.

Drinan, who died last month at the age of 86, was the first Catholic priest elected to Congress and the first representative to file a resolution to impeach President Richard M. Nixon.

In 1980, Pope John Paul II forced the outspoken five-term congressman to choose between the priesthood and politics.

He became a professor at Georgetown University Law Center, opening the way for Frank to run and win his seat.

Sunday's ceremony will take place at the War Memorial Auditorium at 1:30 p.m.

-- Connie Paige

Coletti just may run for mayor

Posted February 7, 2007 03:25 PM

NEWTON

After sitting out the last mayor’s race, Alderman Paul Coletti said he is likely to throw in his hat for the next one.

“I have a funny feeling the city’s going to be just in the right position for a leadership change,” the Ward 5 at-large aldermen said. “Hopefully, all the stars will be aligned.”

A run for mayor would probably mean stepping down from his chairmanship of the Finance Committee, he said.

“After all these years, maybe somebody else wants to do it for a while,” he said.

Coletti is the second longest-serving alderman and has been a perennial critic of Mayor David B. Cohen, most recently on his handling of the new Newton North High School project.

-- Connie Paige

Wearing his blue ribbon on his sleeve

Posted February 7, 2007 10:45 AM

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Paul Levy
(Globe Staff photo by Pat Greenhouse)

NEWTON

Just days after releasing a dire report about the city's financial future, the chairman of the city's blue ribbon financial commission has turned the commission's blog into his own bully pulpit.

Paul Levy appears to be throwing himself into his new role as a blogger and the city's financial conscience, as evidenced by this recent entry in which he took on Mayor David B. Cohen's spokesman, Jeremy Solomon, about recent comments in a Globe story. Here's Levy:

Then, we turn to today's story in the Globe, about a shortage in funds to support the schools, in which the student population is growing. The mayor's press person is quoted, as follows:

Asked about the possibility of a tax increase , Solomon said the administration believes the city will not need one for fiscal 2008. But after that, he said, the city would use the recently released report from Cohen's blue-ribbon financial commission to explore ways to bring in increased revenues.

Jeremy, read the report. It says that the City's forecast for fiscal year 2008, showing a deficit of $3.6 million, is probably wrong by almost a factor of two. The BRC predicted a deficit of $6.1 million.

Let me be clear. I no longer have children in the Newton public schools. (They are in their 20's.) But I have friends and neighbors whose children deserve the best we can do for them. Let's raise our taxes to pay for that. Let's not wait till the system gets cut further.

-- Ralph Ranalli

Money OK'd for Newton North -- with no squabbles

Posted February 6, 2007 05:57 PM

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NEWTON

We've seen the broad brush strokes, now the architects will fill in the details of the new Newton North High School.

Aldermen voted unanimously last night in favor of $2.6 million for architects to complete design drawings. A month ago, the project was sparking predictions of dire consequences for the city and the dispute was fracturing long-time friendships.

A resounding “yes” vote in a citywide election in favor of the school has silenced critics among the aldermen -- for now. The design money was approved without debate.

-- Connie Paige

Newtonville Books owner closing a chapter

Posted February 6, 2007 04:48 PM

NEWTON

Tim Huggins, a Mississippi native who built a small independent bookstore near the Massachusetts Turnpike into an unexpected literary powerhouse west of Boston loved by readers and writers alike, announced this week that he is selling the store to a former employee and her husband.

Over the eight years he ran Newtonville Books, the 38-year-old Huggins billed his store as "eclectic" and his customers found that it was not an exaggeration. The smallish storefront shop in the imposing Newtonville Masonic Lodge building on Walnut Street has minimal signage on its shelves and was designed for unhurried browsing and consulting with Huggins and his young but highly-literate staff. One of those former staffers, literary journal publisher Mary Cotton cq, will be the new owner along with her husband.

To conserve space, Huggins decommissioned one of the store's two bathrooms and filled it with books suited for bathroom reading. To cement the shop's reputation as an authors' bookstore, Huggins hosted more than 100 author events a year, mostly at his award-winning "Books & Brews" series, holding readings in a space that was once the Masonic horse stable and then inviting authors and audience alike to local restaurants for an informal discussion over drinks afterward.

Newtonville Books has also collaborated with Globe West and Boston.com in a podcast of author events called "Great Writers."

Huggins said earlier this week that his decision to open a companion children's bookstore, The Lizard's Tale, in a connected space, created a business with a lot of growth potential but one that demanded more time than he could give.

"It is just the right time for me and for the store," Huggins said. "I felt that the store needed something from me that I couldn't provide and this was the only way that I could save it and the eight years of work that I've put in."

Cotton is also publisher and managing editor of the literary magazine Post Road, which was founded by her husband, Jaime Clark cq, who will bbe the co-owner.

Huggins said that the couple, who met at the bookstore, plan to preserve the aspects of the store that made it a popular with both readers and writers, including Newton's sizeable population of authors. Best-selling writer Anita Diamant ("The Red Tent") and Globe reporter and author Charlie Pierce("Moving the Chains: Tom Brady and the Pursuit of Everything") didn't necessarily walk to the store to do their Newtonville Books readings last year -- but they could have.

"Tim is a hero of mine," Diamant said in a telephone interview. "He bucked all the business advice and opened a bookstore in a place that needed a bookstore, and made it into one that people love."

In a press release, Cotton said the bookstore will reopen today and that, in the future, she and Clark will add a customer loyalty program, discounts on select titles, and writing workshops. The couple is exploring the idea of a film series of movies based on books.

-- Ralph Ranalli

Newton North project moves forward

Posted February 5, 2007 12:55 PM

NEWTON

Moving forward after the resounding "yes" vote in last month's referendum, the new Newton North High School project is on the agenda for the Board of Aldermen tonight. The aldermen are scheduled to vote on a $2.6 million request from Mayor David B. Cohen for architects to complete design drawings for the high school.

Meanwhile, Cohen spokesman Jeremy Solomon said last week that the city is "within days" of signing a contract with Dimeo Construction Co. of Providence, R.I., to serve as construction manager-at-risk on the job. In addition to hiring subcontractors, Dimeo would be responsible for making sure the project keeps within its budget, or face liability for cost overruns.

Within two months of the signing, the city and Dimeo will negotiate a preliminary price for the project, which is currently estimated to cost about 151 million. Cohen has said he wants to cap the price tag at $141 million.

-- Connie Paige

A campy show at Newton City Hall

Posted February 4, 2007 01:06 PM

campfair.JPG

NEWTON

Summer camp has always been about escaping monotony and seizing opportunities for fun once school is out. Oh, and it's nice for the kids, too.

Parents who want to learn about children’s camp opportunities for this summer can go to the Camp Fair Tuesday afternoon in the War Memorial Auditorium in City Hall between 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. The snow date is Feb. 8.

Each summer, the city operates more than 15 camps and clinics, including activities and training in sports for those with special needs. Also available are outdoor and indoor swimming lessons for all ages. The Camp Fair will have information, registration, entertainment, and even job applications.

-- Connie Paige

Newton mayor reverses position on tax hike

Posted February 1, 2007 02:28 PM

NEWTON

Facing a new report that says Newton must raise taxes to prevent a $100 million budget shortfall by 2012, Mayor David B. Cohen has switched his anti-override stance.

Cohen said this morning he would consider the use of an operational override if other alternatives are not sufficient to solve the deficit.

“I will adopt that recommendation, and we will look seriously at our revenues and our expenses to see whether an override is necessary to maintain the level of services I believe people in Newton have a right to expect,” Cohen said.

Cohen formed an 11-member blue ribbon commission last fall to determine what to do about the city’s finances in the future.

In its report released today, chair Paul Levy -- president and CEO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston -- said Newton must raise property taxes through overrides as soon as possible and also demand larger payments from its tax-exempt colleges and universities.

The report also recommended that the city's aldermen relinquish to an outside independent board their role as zoning and permitting authorities on large developments to encourage more commercial development.

The report also called for turning over the city's underperforming pension fund to state managers, a recommendation Cohen said today he supports as well.

-- Connie Paige

Newton man injured in hit-and-run

Posted February 1, 2007 12:09 PM

NEWTON

A 59-year-old Newton man suffered internal injuries Tuesday evening after he was struck by a vehicle while walking across the street in Newton Corner, police said. Authorities said the driver fled the scene after the incident and are asking for the public's help in identifying he driver.

Newton Police
said the incident occurred at about 7:17 p.m. near 300 Washington Street, which is located at the entrance to the Mass. Turnpike West in Newton Corner.

According to witnesses, the victim had a pedestrian walk light and was walking in the crosswalk when a vehicle failed to stop for a red light. After striking the victim, the driver waited a moment, then drove around the victim and stopped again without getting out.

The driver then fled westbound on the turnpike. The vehicle is described as possibly being a small older white Toyota Tercel, Nissan Sentra, or Geo Prism. The registration plate was white with a blue heading.

The victim was transported to the Beth Israel Hospital with internal injuries, an update on his condition was not immediately available. Anyone having any information regarding this incident is urged to contact the Newton Police Department at 617-796-2106.

-- Ralph Ranalli

Masters of disasters

Posted January 31, 2007 12:49 PM

NEWTON / NEEDHAM / WATERTOWN / WELLESLEY

Newton, Needham, Watertown, and Wellesley are among 27 greater Boston communities that are the best prepared to respond to epidemics and natural or man made disasters, a national public health organization has determined.

The cities and towns singled out by the National Association of County and City Health Officials were rated on their their response readiness, planning, workforce competency, and emergency exercises, officials said. Greater Boston was also cited for its overall readiness, one of only six regions in the nation to receive such the recognition, said Newton Health and Human Services Commissioner David Naparstek.

"The bar is set very high for public health groups to meet this standard,” Naparstek said.

-- Connie Paige

Local Bands Rock For Darfur on Feb. 8

Posted January 29, 2007 05:00 PM

NEWTON

Local indie acts The McCoy Brothers and Chad Urmson's State Radio will perform Thursday, Feb. 8 at the Field House at Newton South High School.

Co-organized by Newton South's STAND (A Student Anti-Genocide Coalition) proceeds will benefit victims of the genocide in Sudan, where an estimated 400,000 civilians have been murdered and more than 2 million driven from their homes and face starvation, disease and violence in refugee camps.

Doors open at 6:15 p.m. Tickets are $20.

-- Erica Noonan

Immigration's effects explored

Posted January 28, 2007 10:14 AM

NHMJackson.JPG
Newton History Museum Executive Director Cynthia Stone in the museum's "Hyphenated Origins" exhibit
(Globe Staff photo by Bill Polo)

NEWTON

Even with the cold snap, it's hard to find a hotter topic than immigration these days.

Over the next month at the Newton History Museum, several speakers will be exploring how immigration patterns are changing dramatically and how they affect Newton and the surrounding area. The talks include:

* “Gender and Generation: Soviet Jews,” by Annelise Orleck, on Jan. 31;
* “Chinese Families, Boston Suburbs,” by Peter Kiang, Josephine Louie, and Anping Shen, on Feb. 8, and;
* “Honolulu, Los Angeles, and Boston,” by Reed Ueda, on Feb. 28.

All talks are free and begin at 7:30 p.m., with the museum opening for browsing at 7 p.m. For more information, call 617-796-1450 or visit the Newton History Museum at the Jackson Homestead online.

-- Connie Paige

Excedrin headache No. 9

Posted January 27, 2007 09:15 AM

Route9.JPG
Yuck.
(Globe Staff photo by Bill Greene)

NEWTON

Route 9 commuters better watch out. The state’s highway department is set to start this spring repaving the already busy highway on both eastbound and westbound sides from the Newton border to High St. in Brookline.

The $5.2 million project will include resurfacing, guard rail replacement, reconstruction of the median, and drainage improvements, said Erik Abell, a MassHighway spokesman. Construction crews will work only at night, from Sunday through Thursday, 8 p.m. to 5 a.m., he said.

Contractor Aggregate Industries will restrict construction during Red Sox games, to ease traffic before and after, Abell said. The project is scheduled to be completed by the fall of 2008.

-- Connie Paige

Crystal Lake saga goes to the Community Preservation Committee

Posted January 26, 2007 09:34 PM

NEWTON

The Crystal Lake saga has now reached the Community Preservation Committee.

Patrick Hannon, owner of a one-acre property next door to the popular swimming spot, last week authorized Alderman Kenneth Parker to convey an offer to the committee to sell the property for $3.9 million. Hannon said he was disappointed, however, that no one showed up at a recent committee meeting except for him, Parker, and the members.

"I see a definite lack of interest," Hannon said last week after the meeting.

Hannon has the property on the market for $4.5 million, and asked the preservation committee to give him some kind of sign of interest in the sale by Feb. 9. Hannon is declining to deal with Mayor David B. Cohen, who had offered $2.3 million for the house – what officials said is the appraised value they are required to offer but what Hannon took as an "insult."

After a long-running dispute with the city over the property, Hannon says he is moving to Maine and selling it to developers, if the city doesn't buy it.

-- Connie Paige

Party animals of the donkey persuasion

Posted January 26, 2007 11:38 AM

newtondems.jpg

NEWTON

The Democratic Party finally has a say in the corner office of the State House. Now you can have a say in the Democratic Party.

Caucuses to elect Newton's delegates and alternates to the 2007 Massachusetts Democratic Convention will take place a week from tomorrow, Feb. 3, at the Mason-Rice School, 149 Pleasant St. in Newton Centre. The doors will open at 1:15 p.m., and those who wish to participate must be there by 2 p.m.

The party is encouraging all Democrats in Newton who were registered to vote as of Dec. 31, 2006 to participate. Those who registered after Oct. 18, 2006, however, must bring proof of registration.

The state convention is scheduled for May 19 in Amherst.

-- Connie Paige

Conquering cancer one plate at a time

Posted January 25, 2007 04:16 PM

licenseplate.jpg

NEWTON

Those "Conquer Cancer" license plates you've seen on the road might make you think of a loved one, or a friend, but probably not the Zuker family of Newton.

But the plates are indeed a Zuker family production. They were inspired by 53-year-old Michael Zucker, who died of lung cancer in 2004, designed by his son Jonathan, and brought into existence by his widow, Susan.

It wasn't an easy task, in fact, Susan Zucker had to get 1,500 people to sign up and write a $40 check for one of the plates before the Registry of Motor Vehicles would agree to sanction them.

But she did it, and today Susan Zucker and her two sons presented nearly $70,000 to five local cancer organizations at the Wellness Community in Newton. The plates now adorn more than 2,100 cars across the state.

Conquer Cancer license plates are available at RMV branches online or at the Zucker family's web site.

-- Ralph Ranalli

Cohen: Newton North project to move forward swiftly

Posted January 24, 2007 10:18 AM

cohen.JPG
Mayor David B. Cohen got a big win yesterday.
(Globe Staff photo by Bill Polo)

NEWTON

Buoyed by a solid win at the polls in favor of his vision for a new Newton North High School, Mayor David B. Cohen said late last night that he would quickly be taking steps to move the project forward.

Voters yesterday voted 58 percent in favor of the current site plan for a Newton North, which is estimated to cost $151 million. Cohen has said he wants to cap the cost at $141 million, which would still represent the most expensive high school ever built in Massachusetts.

Cohen said last night that he would move quickly to ask the Board of Aldermen to approve funding to finish the design work by the Gund Partnership of Cambridge.

He also said he would begin working to secure a contract with Dimeo Construction, the company that has emerged as the city's choice for a construction-manager-at-risk.

The construction-manager-at-risk designation was created under a new state law that allows municipalities to bypass competitive bidding processes and reach a contract agreement with a contractor for a maximum project price. After the agreement is reached, the construction-manager-at-risk, not the city, would be liable for any cost overruns.

-- Ralph Ranalli

Newton North supporters get solid referendum win

Posted January 23, 2007 11:16 PM

NEWTON

Casting aside the warnings of from critics who said it would hobble the city's finances for decades, voters in Newton last night yesterday voted decisively to let the gave the city approval to move forward with the most expensive high school construction project in state history.

The site plan voters approved calls for an estimated $151 million replacement for the current Newton North High School, a 35-year-old building plagued by leaks, heating and cooling problems, and a lack of natural light.

Supporters said last night that, with the new school, students at Newton North will finally get facilities befitting a city that identifies itself with educational excellence. Newton North's SAT and MCAS scores annually rank it among the top high schools in the state, and the boy's basketball team has been state champions for the last two straight years.

"This is a real victory for the city of Newton," said Newton Mayor David B. Cohen cq, who staked much of his political capital behind the design created by a consortium led by prominent architect Graham Gund of Cambridge. "We are reaffirming out commitment to making sure that all our children receive a top-notch education."

The "yes" vote (8531 of the 14569 ballots cast) won handily yesterday with more than 58 percent of the vote and 24 of the city's 31 precincts. Voter turnout was 31 percent citywide, with the heaviest turnout on the city's north side, where the school's population base resides.

The vote was a vindication for Cohen, whose resistance to modifying Gund's vision and stubborn insistence that the city could pay for the project without overrides helped fuel the petition drive that forced yesterday's referendum vote.

Cohen has recently struck a slightly more conciliatory tone, saying he would like to cap the project's cost at $141 million. But Cohen stuck to his assertion last night that the city can afford to build the school without raising taxes or resorting to a debt-exclusion override, a temporary tax increase that lasts until the bonds on a particular municipal project are paid off.

Critics called the result disappointing. Jeffrey Seideman cq, president of the Newton Taxpayers Association, said that the vote simply sets up a future showdown in which voters will have to chose between a tax override or severe cuts in city services.

"I don't believe that anyone who is reasonable can believe that this can be done without additional money or massive layoffs," Seideman said.

Aldermen Ken Parker, Amy Sangiolo, Paul Coletti, George Mansfield, and Jay Harney released a statement last night congratulating the site plan supporters on their victory, but stressing that that "there are 6000 Newton voters who believe that there is more work to be done on the plan."

"We are committed to continuing to work to improve the plan as we move into the next phase," the statement said.

-- Ralph Ranalli

Update: Yes vote wins handily, Newton North project to move forward

Posted January 23, 2007 09:09 PM

NEWTON

In unofficial results posted for all 31 precincts at 9:10 p.m., the City of Newton is reporting that the "yes" side carried the vote in today's referendum with 59 percent of the votes cast.

The vote appears to be a solid mandate for Mayor David B. Cohen to continue pursuing his vision of a $141 million replacement for Newton North High School.

The total was 14,569 votes, with 8,531 voters choosing "yes" and 6,038 voting "no."

The "yes" vote carried 24 of the city's 31 voting precincts. Turnout appeared to have been heaviest on the city's north side.

Stay tuned to this space for reactions to the total.

-- Ralph Ranalli

Update: Yes vote well ahead with more than half the vote counted

Posted January 23, 2007 08:29 PM

NEWTON

A quick update on the Newton North High School site plan referendum:

With 18 of 31 precincts reporting, the City of Newton web site reports that "yes" is leading with 61 percent of the vote to 39 percent for "no."

-- Ralph Ranalli

Listen: Newton North voters voice their opinions

Posted January 23, 2007 07:02 PM

voter.jpg
Fred Goldstein, a 53-year-old consultant with a son at Newton North, voted on the site plan.
(Globe Staff photo)

Listen to voters explain how they voted on the Newton North site plan and why.

NEWTON

I voted no, it's a terrible site plan and a terrible building. Basically what they designed was a gold-plated athletic complex with all sorts of athletic fields suitable for Olympic training ... then they squeezed in a crappy little high school in the corner. The price is way too high and it appears it's mostly there because of the athletic fields.

Fred Goldstein, 53
Newton Highlands

I voted yes because I believe that education is a very high priority. I happen to be a teacher and I think that it is important to put money into education and it is important to fund what is needed to be funded in this city even if the price is high. Even if we need to raise taxes.

Enid Wetzner, 60
Newton Centre

-- Ralph Ranalli

Crystal Lake homeowner balks at city's offer

Posted January 23, 2007 05:59 PM

NEWTON

The city is offering to enter binding arbitration to acquire property on Crystal Lake next to the municipal swimming hole. But Patrick Hannon, owner of the Rogers Road parcel, said Monday that he would refuse the deal announced by Mayor David B. Cohen.

“I would never participate in that,” Hannon said. “He either wants to buy my house at a fair price or he doesn’t.”

The administration earlier had offered $2.3 million for the house. Officials said that was the appraised value they are required to offer. Hannon called it “an insult.”

The one-acre property with house is on the market for $4.5 million. A fire badly damaged the 1924 Colonial not long after Hannon bought the property in 2002.

Hannon has had a long-running battle with the city over a moratorium on demolishing the structure. He said he will tear it down it on Feb. 23, when the moratorium expires.

Hannon said he expects to get plenty of offers after that. “I think once the house comes down, people will see what a beautiful piece of land it is,” he said.

-- Connie Paige

Update: Turnout in South Newton appears lighter

Posted January 23, 2007 03:35 PM

NEWTON

Voter turnout in the battle over a new Newton North High School appears to be lighter at the mid-afternoon point in the southern part of the city, where most students would attend Newton South High School, according to poll workers.

Poll workers at the Countryside School polling place in Newton Highlands said that, by 2 p.m., had been about 200 votes cast. Workers said that fewer than 100 votes were cast by mid-morning at the Oak Hill Middle School polling spot.

Jeremy Solomon, the spokesman for Mayor David B. Cohen, said at about 2 p.m. that -- barring an unexpectedly-large late rush -- the city appeared to be headed for an overall turnout between 20 and 30 percent.

-- Ralph Ranalli

Newton North vote turnout "steady" in North Newton

Posted January 23, 2007 11:56 AM

NEWTON

Turnout for the referendum vote on the current $151 million plan for a new Newton North High School was steady, but not overwhelming, precinct wardens on the city's north side said this morning.

Voters are being asked to approve or disapprove of the city's current site plan for a building to replace an aging, dysfunctional facility that was built in the early 1970s. Supporters say the new design is solid and the plan is affordable, critics say it is too expensive and fraught with potential traffic, flooding and environmental problems.

Judy Eyal, warden of the polling station at Newton North, said that there had been 331 ballots cast as of 11 a.m. That count included 63 absentee ballots, including one sent by a voter in Israel.

"It's been less than a normal election," Eyal said. "But it's higher than one would normally expect for a one-issue special election."

Over at the Horace Mann School in Newtonville, precinct warden Merrill Pregeant said that by 11:20 a.m., voters had used just over 200 of the 1,000 ballots the city provided for the election.

"It's been steady," Pregeant said.

-- Ralph Ranalli

Voters get their say on Newton's $151M high school

Posted January 23, 2007 08:45 AM

NEWTON

After almost eight years of designs, cost estimates, and controversy, voters in Newton will decide today whether construction should proceed on a $151 million building that would be the most expensive public high school in the state.

The proposed design on today’s ballot has a glass-walled cafeteria at the center of a 400,000 square-foot building and includes a 2,000-seat football stadium, two theaters, and large science labs.

Proponents of the plan include Mayor David B. Cohen, who wants to cap spending on the new school at $141 million. Cohen says the city can afford the investment without taking on debt-related tax increases.

Some critics charge that the project would drain away needed money from elementary schools and neglected fire houses and want a less expensive building. Others foes want to relocate the school’s proposed entrances and reconfigure traffic patterns.

Some opponents, who want to derail Newton North completely, see today’s referendum as a way to finally stop the project in its tracks.

Polls opened at 7 a.m. and will stay open to 8 p.m. Full-size copies of the plans for Newton North can be inspected at the City Clerk's office until 8 p.m. Call the city election department at 617-796-1350 with any questions.

After the polls close, check boston.com for the results.

To learn more about the controversy over the project, check out the story and photo gallery in Sunday's Globe West.

-- Andrew Ryan

Arkansas man arrested on kidnapping charges in Newton

Posted January 22, 2007 01:39 PM

NEWTON

An Arkansas man was scheduled to be arraigned on kidnapping and other charges this morning after he was arrested at the Newton Service Plaza on Route 128 over the weekend, police said.

Charles D. Minyard of Searcy, Arkansas, was detained late Friday after calling State Police and claiming that he wanted to clear up an allegation that he had kidnapped a woman from his home state. Minyard faces charges of kidnapping, threats to commit bodily injury and assault with a dangerous weapon, a knife.

The alleged victim was seated beside the 48-year-old man in his tractor trailer, police said. Police said the woman, whose identity is being withheld, was taken into protective custody.

-- AP

Down to the wire -- and out in the cold -- in Newton high school vote

Posted January 22, 2007 10:18 AM

Cafeteria cutaway.jpg
A cutaway view of the Gund Partnership plan showing the glass cafeteria.
(City of Newton image)

NEWTON

As the two sides in the Newton North High School referendum made 11th-hour pushes to gather support, city officials were reluctant this morning to predict the turnout for tomorrow's vote.

City spokesman Jeremy Solomon said that while everyone in the city seems to be talking about the vote on whether to approve the Gund Partnership's $151 million vision for a new school, turnout was a tough call because participation in one-issue elections tends to be lighter than normal.

"The two things are sort of working against each other," Solomon said. "It will be interesting to see what happens."

Meteorologists were predicted a chance of snow tomorrow, mainly before 9 a.m., with the rest of the day being mostly cloudy with a high near 30.

Last minute campaigns were in full swing yesterday.

At the Shaw's Market in Newtonville, two Newton North Now supporters were holding orange signs and handing out orange paper flyers urging a "yes" vote.

Their opponents at Voters for a Better Newton North, meanwhile, took their last minute campaigning to porches and mailboxes, with a postcard mailing that arrived late in the week and hand-delivered blue-colored flyers over the weekend.

-- Ralph Ranalli

Fired election chief says he's suing Newton for $500,000

Posted January 19, 2007 05:30 PM

NEWTON

The fired chief of the Newton Election Commission put the city on on notice today that he intends to sue for $500,000.

Peter Karg is bringing the claim against the city; its spokesman, Jeremy Solomon; and Edward Mitnick, who investigated the botched petition count that led to Karg’s dismissal.

Karg declined today to comment on his claim, dated Jan. 13, except to say: “Things are progressing.”

Solomon said this afternoon that neither he nor other city officials would have any comment on the claim, which is a legally required prelude to a lawsuit.

Mitnick’s investigation criticized Karg’s supervision of workers counting signatures on the petition drive that forced this Tuesday's referendum on the site plan for a new Newton North High School.

Initially, Karg's office announced that petitioners had failed to collect enough signatures, only to reverse itself several days later.

Karg's claim alleges that Mitnick’s report was “a calculated falsehood,” and that Solomon participated in a “public smear campaign” against Karg.

Karg is also asking for a positive letter of recommendation; a change in his personnel records from “terminated” to “retired”; a public apology; and an agreement to “cease and desist” from “further defaming” his “personal or professional reputations.”

Aldermen have put on hold an investigation into the petition glitch, pending resolution of Karg’s claim, according to Marcia Johnson, alderman-at-large from Ward 2 and head of aldermanic Programs and Services Committee.

-- Connie Paige

Diane Bezan, 59, much-loved teacher

Posted January 18, 2007 06:02 PM

NEWTON

At The Winsor School in Boston, where she was a beloved member of the faculty for nearly 30 years, Diane (Jaffa) Bezan taught generations of young women much more than math and algebra.

"Mrs. Bezan was an amazing woman," said Mary Gallagher of Boston, a 1994 Winsor graduate, who works in currency trading. "She gave her students an enormous sense of empowerment, validation, and guidance. She shared her love of math, but I think the most important thing she offered was her love. She transformed young girls into young women and inspired them to go out into the world and, to some degree, emulate her. She taught us how to learn and how to love."

"In recent years, we saw her courage and grace while she was battling cancer," Gallagher said. "Aside from my mother, she was one of the largest female influences in my life."

Mrs. Bezan, who was also an administrator for 15 years of her almost three decades at Winsor, died Monday of a brain tumor at Waban Health and Rehabilitation Center. She was 59 and lived in Newton.

Read more of this obituary in today's Boston Globe.

-- Gloria Negri

A poet and blogger reads in Newton

Posted January 18, 2007 11:27 AM

NEWTON

Poet, novelist, and blogger Lisa Cohen of Newton will be reading a selection of her work tonight at the New Art Center.

You can check out her work in her blog, Once in a Blue Muse: A poet's journal, or live at 7:30 p.m. at the center, which is located at 61 Washington Park, just off Walnut Street in Newtonville.

Here's some of her recent work:

Giant
(for my father)

Hands large enough to swallow
two of mine in one gulp. Fi fie fo fum,
I smell the blood. I struggled
to match your stride. Size thirteen
shoes shook the floor, thunder
rumbled through my chest. I collapsed
in a heap of giggles and a nest
of blankets. Nothing loomed over me

when your shadow did. Fi, Fie, Fo,
Fum. I smell the blood of an Englishman.
Be he live or be he dead, I'll grind
his bones to make my bread. Your kidneys

betray you, blood sluices sediment, soil
to fertilize only poisonous flowers.
Belladona, foxglove, nightshade. None
of these will twine into a vine strong
enough for me to climb. You will live
and die here, rooted to the ground
while I agonize over what to trade
for the magic beans that can save you.

-- Ralph Ranalli

Housing discrimination against the disabled found in Newton

Posted January 18, 2007 08:50 AM

NEWTON

Fair housing groups who sent undercover auditors into the city found discriminitory practices in 48 percent of tests to see whether whether people with disabilities get fair treatment when seeking housing, Mayor David B. Cohen said.

The 52 tests were part of a first-of-its-kind audit focusing specifically on the experiences of people with disabilities, Cohen said.

“While the results are concerning, the fact that we now have the data is a testament to our will and desire to improve,” Cohen said. The mayor pledged to “eradicate” the problem.

The tests were carried out by the Disability Law Center, the Fair Housing Center of Greater Boston, the Newton Fair Housing Task Force, and the city’s Planning and Development Department.

Cohen said the groups would be meeting with Newton’s real estate community over the next several months to try to discuss the audit and determine what steps to take next.

-- Connie Paige

Backers of Newton North plan winning cash race

Posted January 16, 2007 07:55 PM

NEWTON

Backers of the site plan for a new Newton North High School report raising $45,641, far ahead of the $3,095 reported by opponents of the proposal.

A citywide referendum Tuesday will decide whether the plan for a $141 million building goes forward.

Newton North Now, a group supporting the site plan, received contributions from most members of the School Committee, according to the first round of campaign finance reports filed Tuesday.

The top givers included Newton North Now members Anne Larner and Susan Heyman, who each gave $1,000; the Committee to Elect Jonathan Yeo, $600; Marc Laredo, $250; Dori Zaleznik, $250; and Claire Sokoloff, $200.

City and state officials giving to the “yes” campaign included Mayor David B. Cohen’s campaign committee, $1,000; Alderman Ben Weisbuch, $300; Lisle Baker, the Board of Aldermen president, $200; Alderman Ted Hess-Mahan, $100; state Representative Kay Khan, $200; and the campaign committee for state Representative Ruth Balser, $100.

Voters for a Better Newton North, which opposes the site plan, received $1,000 from the Newton Taxpayers Association, and the group’s treasurer, Richard Frantz, donated $200.

While the victor of the money battle may be clear, the outcome of the vote may hinge on whether the city’s vaunted proeducation voting bloc continues its dominance.

Cohen, Superintendent Jeffrey Young, and the rest of the project’s supporters are counting on an alliance of parents concerned about their children’s future and liberal voters willing to spend what it takes to maintain the city’s reputation for educational excellence.

Yet interviews in recent weeks appear to show some cracks in the supporters’ foundation, with some people expressing ambivalence and even unhappiness about the costly Newton North plan and the chunk it would take out of the overall school construction budget.

-- Connie Paige

She's gone 2,000 miles ...

Posted January 16, 2007 03:17 PM

NewEdna.jpg
Edna Benson, age 95
(Photo courtesy of Scandinavian Living Center)

NEWTON

At 95, Edna Benson is getting more exercise than most people half her age.

Many days, she walks nearly 2 miles, or 26 rotations around the courtyard at the Scandinavian Living Center, the assisted living center in West Newton where she lives.

Recently, she reached her major five-year goal -- logging 2,000 miles on her walker.

Edna's commitment to fitness has already made her a local celebrity. When she hit 1,500 miles in 2005, she was featured on Channel 5's ``Chronicle'' program.

-- Erica Noonan

Slaying suspect arrested at Newton-Wellesley hospital

Posted January 16, 2007 01:54 PM

Lee_Chiero-blog.jpg

Lee Chiero
(police handout photo)

NEWTON

The Uxbridge man accused of murdering his mother was arrested today at Newton-Wellesley Hospital when he sought treatment for an injury on his hand, according to Newton police. Lee Chiero was taken into custody around 11 a.m. and is being held at the Newton police department, said Officer James O'Loughlin.

It was not immediately clear whether Lee Chiero would be returned today to Uxbridge or arraigned in Newton District Court on a murder charge. He is accused of killing his 59-year-old mother inside their Uxbridge home.

The body of Nancy Chiero was discovered around 2 p.m. Sunday inside their basement apartment by Uxbridge police, who had been dispatched on a "wellness check" by someone who was concerned about Nancy Chiero.

Natick police told the Worcester Telegram and Gazette that Chiero was involved in a physical altercation with Natick Lt. Brian Grassey in the 1990s. The police said they were familiar with Chiero.

-- John R. Ellement and Telegram and Gazette Staff

A lot of agreement

Posted January 14, 2007 04:56 PM

NEWTON

The three teams of volunteers trying to forge a plan for revamping Newton Centre are likely to agree that the parking lot in the central triangle should go.

The Newton Centre Task Force has hired landscape architect Bruce Leish and is now pondering his preliminary sketch of a park in the triangle with a kiosk or other public meeting space, according to chairman Charles Eisenberg. Task Force members are also looking at the costs of solutions to various vexing traffic problems.

Ultimately, the three subcommittees will have to reconcile differing visions of how much to leave green and how much to build in the area, including increasing the height of stores, extra housing, and parking lots. They are scheduled to meet again on Jan. 31.

-- Connie Paige

February vacation got you down? Head for higher ground

Posted January 14, 2007 04:38 PM

NEWTON

Teens who want to learn comedy, do snow sports, and visit New York City during February vacation can sign up for the Newton Community Service Center’s Higher Ground Program.

Starting Feb. 19, youth in grades 7 through 10 can join friends for a week that begins with winter sports at a ski resort and ends with a winter team challenge led by the Appalachian Mountain Club. In between, teens will practice getting laughs at a Boston comedy club and travel to the Big Apple for a tour of MTV Studios, including seats at the show TRL (“Total Request Live”).

The weeklong program, planned and supervised by service center staff, costs $450, not including meals, except Friday lunch. Early reservations are encouraged, visit NCSC online or call 617-244-1404.

-- Connie Paige

School association: Newton North accreditation in jeopardy

Posted January 12, 2007 05:02 PM

NEWTON

The New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) today became the latest group to chime in on the debate over a new Newton North, warning that the school could lose its accreditation "in the very near future" if the city doesn't move forward in replacing it.

In the summary of a report on the current Newton North, a panel of 18 visiting evaluators praised the school's teachers and programs, but called the building "deplorable and discouraging."

"As fiscally unpleasant as it may be, the City of Newton must address the desperate state of affairs at Newton North and immediately move forward with its plan to replace the aging, obsolete, and long neglected facility," the summary states. "Failure to do so will certainly prevent Newton North High School from fulfilling its mission and jeopardize its ability to maintain its school accreditation status in the very near future."

The report by the evaluators will go to a separate committee at NEASC, which will decide on the school's accreditation. Building issues aside, the group found the climate at the school "positive, even uplifting" and the education of "very high quality."

Newton voters will go to the polls on Jan. 23 to vote yes or no on the current site plan for Mayor David B. Cohen's $141 million vision for a new Newton North.

The threat of losing accreditation has spurred numerous school districts in the state to repair aging and outmoded buildings, although what the actual consequences would be are often disputed.

NEASC is not affiliated with the state and the accreditation process is voluntary, although virtually all public schools participate. The association has no power to fine school system or force them to do anything, but instead relies on the public embarrassment factor to see that its recommendations are followed.

While proponents of school renovations sometime also assert that students from non-accredited schools could face problems getting into colleges, numerous college admissions officials have said they generally do not punish individual students for problems in the districts where they attended.

-- Ralph Ranalli

Unraveling the connection between teen depression and substance abuse

Posted January 11, 2007 12:38 PM

Jellinek.jpg
Dr. Michael Jellinek
(Photo by Sarah Brezinsky for the Boston Globe)

NEWTON

The statistics are sobering: More than 800,000 teenagers in the US suffer from depression each year and more than 500,000 make a suicide attempt that requires medical attention. Often, experts say, those teens have been experimenting with or using drugs and alcohol.

To shed more light on the problem, a panel of speakers will share information on this topic next Thursday at a free Newton-Wellesley Hospital forum. The speakers will include:

* Dr. Michael Jellinek, an expert on child psychology and president of Newton-Wellesley Hospital;
* Jeffrey M. Young, Newton school superintendent;
* Nadja Reilly, director of a depression prevention initiative at Children’s Hospital;
* Chris Fortunato, vice president of teen and adult programs at Newton Community Service Center.

The forum will be held at 7 p.m. in the hospital's Shipley Auditorium.

-- Ralph Ranalli

Immigrants and the suburbs

Posted January 11, 2007 12:25 AM

NEWTON

The Newton History Museum will present a lecture series on immigration and the suburbs in conjunction with the current exhibition, Hyphenated-Origins: Going Beyond the Labels, which was curated by seven Newton high school students.

The series aims to encourage more informed discussions of some of the challenges posed by immigration, including alternatives to the choice between preserving traditional culture and becoming "American." Presented by leading experts in the field, the lectures will highlight the experiences of Italian, Chinese, and Soviet Jewish immigrants in the greater Boston area.

The first in the series is entitled "What Second-Generation Immigrants Can Teach Us about Community-Building: A View from Nonantum," and will be presented on Wednesday, January 24 at 7:30 p.m. by Susan Eckstein, of Boston University. According to Eckstein, moving from cities to suburbia often can destroy ethnic bonds. Her talk will demonstrate how a suburban neighborhood thrived on the basis of community giving, even as the neighborhood became more mixed ethnically, and more
prosperous economically.

The free lectures will be held at the Newton History Museum, 527 Washington Street. For more information about the rest of the series, call 617-796-1450 or visit the museum online.

-- Ralph Ranalli

Firefighter union brings in big guns

Posted January 10, 2007 06:42 PM

NEWTON

Some big guns in organized labor turned out for the Newton Fire Fighters Local 863 today as they demonstrated in front of City Hall.

Among them were Harold Schaitberger, general president of the International Association of Fire Fighters; Robert Haines, Massachusetts AFL-CIO president; and Robert McCarthy, president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts.

About 200 firefighters heard the labor leaders say that they had never seen as dire a situation for firefighters as in Newton, where they have not had a pay raise in 3 ½ years.

McCarthy said union members “will not be treated like children.”

He was referring to a sick-leave policy that requires union members to prove their absences for illness are legitimate.

Firefighters from as far away as Attleboro and Holbrook also came to support the Newton union. They held signs decrying Mayor David Cohen(cq) for the contract delay.

In a press conference earlier in the day, Cohen said he had offered firefighters 12 different contracts, while they have offered none that “the city could reasonably be expected to sign.”

He said their proposal would give firefighters three “free” sick tours a year, meaning they could claim they were sick and take three 24-hour shifts off, and the city would be powerless to verify the illness.

Enforcing the sick leave policy for firefighters has saved $750,000 per year, he said.

-- Connie Paige

What's the quickest way to the hospital? Play in traffic!

Posted January 9, 2007 03:55 PM

NWHER.JPG
Newton-Wellesley Hospital Emergency Department chief Dr. Mark Lemons tours an exam room during construction.
(Globe Staff photo by Bill Polo)

NEWTON

Ever craved a chance to see an emergency room without having to be bleeding profusely or nursing a fracture? Sunday is your chance.

Newton-Wellesley Hospital will hold an open house from 11 am to 2 pm to show off its new $80 million emergency department facility. Refreshments (jello?) will be provided ... and don't worry, the facility doesn't open for medical business until next Wednesday, the 17th.

The new department, named in memory of Newton resident and philanthropist Maxwell Blum, is designed to meet a growing suburban emergency room demand. Annual visits to the hospital’s emergency room are projected to climb from 35,000 in 1999 to a 55,000 by 2008, according to a hospital spokesman.

-- Connie Paige

Absenteeism makes the vote grow stronger

Posted January 9, 2007 10:06 AM

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The site plan.

NEWTON

The deadline for registering to vote for the Jan. 23 special election on a new Newton North High School site plan has passed, but registered voters may obtain absentee ballots up until Jan. 22 at noon at the Elections Commission office in City Hall, officials say.

For more information, go to the city web site, where an explanation of the site plan and a sample ballot can be found.

-- Connie Paige

Keynote speaker: Newton North a real fixer-upper

Posted January 8, 2007 12:54 PM

NewtonNorth1973.JPG
The city wants to replace the old new Newton North High (shown at right in this 1973 photo next to the old old Newton North) with a new new Newton North. But some people say it would be cheaper to make the old new Newton North like new rather than build a new new Newton North. Got it?
(Globe Archive photo)

NEWTON

In yet another presentation of possible alternatives to the city's $141 million plan for a new Newton North High School, the Newton Taxpayers Association will hold a forum tonight at 7 p.m. at the Newton Free Library.

The keynote speaker at the event will be Mark Sangiolo, an architect, who will discuss his ideas for renovating the existing building while solving some of its persistent problems.

Sangiolo will show drawings of his conception of a new entrance, glass-walled atriums that would bring natural light into every classroom, a new science wing, and a new heating and air conditioning system, association president Jeffrey Seideman said.

Supporters of Sangiolo's renovation play say it would cost $60 million less than the projected cost of a new building.

Tomorrow night, in another forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters, Seideman will debate Sandy Pooler, the city’s chief administrative officer, over the financing plan for the new school.

That forum will take place at 7:30 pm in the Newton North auditorium.

-- Connie Paige

Is it warm out there or is it just me? Part II

Posted January 8, 2007 11:56 AM

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Dr. Cynthia Rosenzweig
(NASA Photo)

NEWTON

If you're as confused about this winter's weather as those tulip bulbs starting to peek out of your garden, you might want to check out “Climate Change in Our Back Yard,” a speaker series sponsored by Newton’s Green Decade Coalition.

The first speaker this year will be Dr. Cynthia Rosenzweig, leader of the Climate Impacts Group at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies. In addition to her work for NASA, Rosenzweig is also an adjunct research scientist at the Columbia University Earth Institute and an adjunct professor at Barnard College.

Her free talk is set for Jan. 22, at 7 pm, at Druker Auditorium in the Newton Free Library. For more information, call 617-965-1995 or visit the coalition’s website.

-- Connie Paige

Man sought in alleged road rage incident

Posted January 6, 2007 09:18 AM

NEWTON

Newton police last night were seeking the driver of a car from Maine who allegedly kicked out the window of another motorist in a violent display of road rage on a crowded commercial street.

The alleged assault sent a 23-year-old Boston woman to the hospital for treatment of cuts to her face from shards of flying glass.

Police said they were looking for the driver of a black 1996 Honda Civic with Maine plate number 5401 ND. The driver was described as a male, about 5 feet 7 inches, and wearing a white T-shirt and jeans.

"If somebody sees that plate, we urge them to contact the Newton Police Department or their local police and make them aware," Lieutenant Bruce Apotheker, a Newton police spokesman, tells the Globe today. "This is unacceptable behavior."

-- Raja Mishra

Tea for 5,000?

Posted January 5, 2007 02:39 PM

NEWTON

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Frattaroli with one of the items in her collection
(Globe Staff Photo by Bill Polo)

The folks at the Guinness Book of World Records want to hear from Ethel Frattaroli of Newton.

Frattaroli has a penchant for teapots. When she last counted, she had 4,981 of them.

“We’d love to hear from her,” Kim Lacey, records manager for Guinness. The official record holder owns 3,950.

Frattaroli, who has been collecting for nearly half of her 88 years, has pots that look like Sherlock Holmes, Scrooge, and Lucille Ball.

So where does one store 4,981 teapots?

Find out Sunday in Globe West.

-- Susan Chaityn Lebovits

Cohen unveils new capital spending plan

Posted January 5, 2007 09:00 AM

NEWTON

Looking to head off a negative referendum vote and save his $141 million plan for a new Newton North High School, Mayor David B. Cohen has sent the city's aldermen a new city capital spending plan which he says shows that the city can pay for the new building and invest in other capital projects without the need for a debt-related tax increase or for relying on revenues from new growth.

Cohen said late last week that the city’s borrowing forecast has brightened recently due to several number of positive developments, including new revenue projections, trends in interest rates and a decision by the state to give the city a $15 million low-interest loan for the project.

Those development, he said, will allow the city to pay for the high school while also spending a minimum of an additional $3.5 million annually on other capital projects. He also said that the new revenue projections show that, after 2008, the city will be able to maintain the necessary level of capital spending without relying on money from new growth and development. Critics had ripped the reliance on new growth as the most over-optimistic component of Cohen's plan for financing Newton North.

"People are asking, quite reasonably, how are we going to pay for a $141 million high school?" Cohen said in an interview with Globe West this week. "Well, there are several factors in this plan that make it affordable."

Voters will go to the polls on Jan. 23 to either approve or reject the preliminary design (also called a site plan) for the new high school created by the Gund Partnership of Cambridge. The vote is also seen by many in the city as a referendum on the overall cost of the plan and the city’s ability to pay for it and still have money left to fix its crowded, outdated elementary schools and its long-neglected firehouses.

Cohen's assertion that the city can afford both the current high school plan and its other capital needs runs counter to a pronouncement made last week by a blue-ribbon commission that he himself appointed to examine the city's finances.

After receiving copies of the plan via e-mail last week, critics of the Newton North plan hit the mayor for going against the advice of his own commission and called the revised estimates overly optimistic.

"This plan isn't a plan, it's PR," said Alderman Ken Parker.

While the mayor's revised plan would provide about $70 million for non-Newton North capital projects over the next 20 years, Parker said he estimates that it will cost as much as $100 million to renovate the elementary schools alone, plus at least another $14 million to fix the city's fire stations.

"It's crystal clear that $3.5 million is grossly inadequate to address the city's capital needs," he said. "This plan is about mortgaging our future."

-- Ralph Ranalli

What about the Butler Bible?

Posted January 4, 2007 04:03 PM

NEWTON

INAUGURAL-19-blog.jpg

(Globe Staff Photo by David L. Ryan)

Gov. Deval Patrick was sworn in today at 12:20 p.m. with his left hand on the Mendi Bible, which was given to John Quincy Adams by the freed captives of the slave ship Amistad.

The Mendi Bible may be getting a lot of attention, but the Butler Bible has for years been passed along from one governor to the other.

Benjamin F. Butler, who was governor of Massachusetts in 1883 and 1884. Butler, who fought for the North in the Civil War, was apparently disturbed not to find a Bible in the governor's office when he arrived, so when he departed, he left behind a copy, which he inscribed as a "needed transmittendum to my successor in office to be read by him and his successor each in turn.''

Bonnie Foz of Newton is a great-great-granddaughter of Benjamin F. Butler.

"I'm really interested that Deval Patrick is choosing a (different) Bible, not for religious reasons, but for identification reasons, and to send a message about human equality and human dignity, which I think is great,'' Foz told the Globe's Political Intelligence blog. "But it may be that Butler's Bible will never be used again.''

The Butler Bible is one of the four symbols given by each governor to his successor, and Mitt Romney gave it to Patrick yesterday.

Police warning on Crystal Lake robberies

Posted January 4, 2007 11:23 AM

NEWTON

Newton police issued a citizen's alert yesterday about three incidents involving robbery, or attempted robbery, near Crystal Lake.

On New Year's Day, a local resident told police he was walking his two dogs on Rogers Street when a man standing at a nearby intersection threatened him and demanded his wallet. The victim turned and ran back to his home with his dogs, and nothing was taken.

There have also been two other Lake-area reported crimes over the past several months. On Nov. 3, a local resident told police that he was walking near Hyde St. and Lake Ave. when two men, one flashing what appeared to be a handgun, took his wallet and ran away.

Several months earlier, on July 6, two 20-year-old women told police they were sitting on a bench near the lake when two young men approached them, made small talk for a few minutes, then grabbed their pocketbooks and ran.

Newton Police spokesman Bruce Apotheker said the department is investigating the crimes, as well as possible connections between them.

Click here to reach the Newton police website, which has a composite drawing of suspects under the press releases section.

-- Erica Noonan


Can a Newton guy impress The Donald?

Posted January 3, 2007 10:56 AM

NEWTON

timurban.jpg

Tim Urban
(NBC Photo)

If Newton native Tim Urban can avoid hearing the words "You're fired!" for the next three months, he'll land a job working for Donald Trump at $250,000 a year.

Urban is one of 18 contestants on the new season of "Apprentice," which premieres at 9:30 p.m. Sunday.

Urban, 25, was class president his junior and senior years at Newton North. Now he runs a tutoring business in LA, while trying to establish himself as a pianist and composer.

He's also a prolific blogger, writing about auditioning for Trump in his blog timurban.blogspot.com

Read more about Urban's adventures in tomorrow's Globe West.

Teachers' union and city reach tentative pact in Newton

Posted January 2, 2007 04:42 PM

NEWTON

The Newton Teachers Association and the city's School Committee have reached a tentative agreement on a new contract, both sides said today.

Neither Gail Glick, the chief negotiator for the school committee, or union president Cheryl Turgel would divulge the details of the pact yesterday. The School Committee released a statement yesterday calling the agreement something "both sides could accept."

Officials familiar with the agreement, however, said that it provides teachers with an 8-percent pay raise spread across three years and that it preserves the current 80-20 split of health care benefit cost between the city and the teachers.

The teachers union rank and file, who have been working without a contract since September, must now ratify the deal for it to become official. The School Committee must also vote to accept the deal.

-- Ralph Ranalli

Make a realistic New Year's resolution

Posted January 2, 2007 01:13 PM

NEWTON

Maybe those New Years' resolutions aren't worth the effort after all.

Dr. Lisa Livshin, a Newton psychologist, told the Journal News of White Plains, N.Y. that trying to quit a habit for the new year is usually setting yourself up for failure.

"I'd rather say: 'I haven't been on a bike since I was a little kid, so by my next birthday I'd like to get on a bike,'" Livshin said. "Or I'd like to go to South Africa before I'm 50."

The trick, says the Psychiatric Society of Westchester County, N.Y., is to not let your goals exceed your capabilities. Making a resolution simply because of the date won't cut it.

-- Adam Sell

Developing concerns

Posted January 2, 2007 10:11 AM

NEWTON

Friday is the last day for the public to sound on the proposed mall and residential complex on Route 9 called Chestnut Hill Square.

The proposal includes 226 residential condos, with 34 affordable, and 191,000 square feet of retail space on 11.4 acres near the Brookline border. Anyone with questions about the project is urged to call New England Development, at 617-243-7811.

Copies of the project’s environment impact report are available at City Hall. Comments about the project should go to the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act Office, Secretary of Environmental Affairs, 100 Cambridge St., Suite 900, Boston, MA 02114.

-- Connie Paige

High school, musical

Posted December 31, 2006 10:31 PM

NEWTON

The Newton History Museum at the Jackson Homestead will present a series of free concerts featuring musicians from Newton’s high schools during selected Community Weekends.

The concerts will be performed by students: jazz and classical musicians from Newton North and Newton South. The first concert in the series, featuring classical chamber music, will take place from 3 to 4 p.m. on Sunday, January 7.

During Community Weekends, admission to the Newton History Museum is free for Newton residents. The concerts are also free, but a $5 donation, which will support Newton’s music programs and the museum, is suggested.

Upcoming concerts will take place on Sunday, April 8 with classical music and Sunday, May 6 featuring jazz and original compositions. For additional information, contact the Newton History Museum at 617-796- 1450 or visit www.newtonhistorymuseum.org.

-- Ralph Ranalli

Heloise hits cyberspace in Newton

Posted December 29, 2006 03:36 PM

turkeytips.jpg
(City of Newton image)

NEWTON

Tips on everything from turkey (clean it, cook it well to avoid bacteria) to winter power outages (have flashlights on hand, flush toilets with a pail of water) can be found on the city’s web site.

Some of the links (which are actually maintained by the state) are more helpful than others. Under "Poison Help," for example, you learn that 81 of the 28,700 poisoning deaths in the U.S. in 2003 were homicides and that it cost $26 billion to treat poisonings in 2000. Fascinating, yes, but not exactly what you want to read when you’re staring at the bottle of who-knows-what that your toddler just swallowed. Want to know how to properly operate your wood-burning stove? Too bad. It’s the “Wood-burning Stoves and Other Appliances” that doesn’t work.

Still, if you want to volunteer to prepare and serve food safely for family reunions, church dinners, and community gatherings, you can get a useful 40-page guide under “Cooking for Groups.”

-- Connie Paige

Fare game

Posted December 28, 2006 01:07 PM

charliecard.jpg

NEWTON

The MBTA's New Year's resolution is apparently to use the Green Line (and other subways, buses and trains) to bring in more green.

A new fare structure will be in place starting Jan. 1, along with new CharlieCards and CharlieTickets. Cash will still be accepted in some buses and trains, but tokens have been phased out.

The new fares will affect the Green Line, commuter rail, express and local bus service in Newton. For example:

* The cost of a monthly link pass, which allows for unlimited subway and local bus service, will now cost $59.

* The cost of an express bus ride to Downtown Boston will rise to $2.20 each way.

* The cost of a monthly commuter rail pass will be $106 for Zone 1 (Newtonville) and $118 for Zone 2 (Auburndale and West Newton). Single one-way tickets will cost $3.25 in Zone 1 and $3.50 in Zone 2.

-- Connie Paige

Unseasonable weather

Posted December 26, 2006 03:39 PM

NEWTON

Weather Feature 1.jpg

With the temperature at nearly 50 this afternoon, it seems like it's been one gray unseasonably warm day after another.

Globe photographer Bill Polo caught Ralph Gilbert of Newton last week on one of those days as he rode his bicycle along the Chestnut Hill reservoir in Boston's Brighton neighborhood.

Let my puppies go

Posted December 26, 2006 07:13 AM

NEWTON

Ahh, the great arguments of our time. Same sex marriage. Immigration. To leash or not to leash.

At least one is getting closer to resolution, apparently, because the Off Leash Dog Park Task Force has developed a draft ordinance governing where and when dogs can run free, according to chairwoman Susan Albright, alderman at large from Ward 2.

A key provision of the draft law would leave the ultimate authority over dog parks in the hands of city departments and commissions, shifting responsibility for the contentious issue away from the board of aldermen.

For example, the control over whether and when dogs can run free in city parks and athletic fields overseen by Parks and Recreation Commission would be in the hands of commission members, Albright said. The task force has been meeting with representatives from the Parks and Conservation commissions for their input, she said.

Albright said a future meeting will include input fro dog owners. The draft ordinance will likely be presented to the full board of aldermen some time in January.

-- Connie Paige

The dark streets of Newton

Posted December 22, 2006 02:37 PM

NEWTON

A street light stands by the spot on Woodland Road where 22-year-old Kevin Flaherty was struck and killed by a car as he was walking back to his Lasell College dormitory shortly after midnight last September.

The night of the accident, the light was out, according to the police report. The dark street light was not found to be a contributing factor, but the incident has prompted Newton to address its recent problems maintaining street lights.

‘‘We’re all very saddened by the tragedy,’’ said Jeremy Solomon, spokesman for Mayor David B. Cohen. ‘‘If any good could come of such a terrible incident, it is that we are reforming our street light policy... Obviously, the maintenance of our street lights is a matter of public safety.’’

The list of street lights with burned-out bulbs or faulty wiring has been growing for more than a year. No one knows for sure how many there are, as only now is the city preparing a maintenance roster of its 8,486 street lights.

Lasell students conducted a petition drive asking for better lighting on Woodland Road and met with the mayor earlier this month. The city said it has outstanding citizen complaints for about 250 lights, about 3 percent of the total.

A Globe West survey suggests the percentage could be much higher. Nighttime drives last week down major thoroughfares in eight neighborhoods — Newton Centre, Auburndale, West Newton, Lower Falls, Nonantum, Newtonville, Newton Highlands, and Upper Falls — showed:

* More than a quarter of the lights out on Walnut Street between Crafts Street and Route 9;
* Some 15 percent out on westbound Commonwealth Avenue from Hammond to Lexington streets, and;
* More than 10 percent out on Winchester Street.

-- Connie Paige

Not just your average high school volleyball player

Posted December 22, 2006 12:00 PM

NEWTON/SPORTS

DREW CHIN 3.jpg

Drew Chin demonstrates a stance
(Globe Staff Photo by John Bohn)

Drew Chin is, in many ways, your average Newton South student. He's working hard to earn a spot on the varsity wrestling team and this spring he hopes to advance from the junior varsity to varsity volleyball squad.

But this October he traveled to Zhengzhou, China to compete in the Second World Traditional Wushu Championships, and he came away with gold medals in the bare hand and broadsword kung fu competitions for his age group.

"I saw my competitors going through their drills and I thought they were very good. I didn't think I was going to do as well as I did," admitted Chin.

Read more about Chin's trip in Sunday's Globe West.

Newton South may scan Internet for student misconduct

Posted December 22, 2006 11:42 AM

NEWTON

Newton South High School is considering implementing a new tactic to catch rule-breakers: the school is checking their Myspace profiles.

The policy, which has popped up in at least 20 high schools across the state, has been created to help enforce the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association code of conduct. The code prohibits drug and alcohol use among athletes during the season.

Many students thought that what they posted online was private, but some supported the new rules:

"I don't think athletes should be doing that sort of thing to their bodies," Courtney Chaloff, 16, told the Globe. Chaloff frequents Facebook, another social website. "I would never do it, and if I did, I would never post pictures of myself online."

--Adam Sell

A father's plea

Posted December 20, 2006 01:32 PM

HOPKINTON/NEWTON

With authorities unable to locate the motorist who caused a fatal Hopkinton hit-and-run accident in September, the father of the victim issued a public plea today urging the driver to step forward voluntarily.

Michael MacDonald, 25, of Newton was killed on Sept. 16 while trying to cross Route 495 after the car in which he was a passenger broke down. His father, James MacDonald, called the loss a "terrible tragedy," in a statement released by the Middlesex County District Attorney's Office.

"Michael was a caring son, brother, grandson, cousin, nephew, and friend," the elder MacDonald said in the statement. "As his father, I not only lost my best friend, but the joy of fatherhood, and his positive impact he would continue to have on others."

"Nothing will ever take away our pain. However, one of our needs is knowing who was driving the car that morning. We can’t imagine a person or persons living with this secret. It is human nature that this tragedy will consume you and others with the pain and anxiety, along with the fear and the legal consequences, for the rest of your life."

"We have so much pain in our hearts but through the pain we try to remember that people are generally good. We realize that this was not an intentional act and it is a tragedy for all involved. The truth will set you free."

Authorities have said they know little about the car that hit MacDonald at about 4:35 a.m., except that it was mid-sized and dark in color. Prosecutors have urged anyone with information about the case to call the State Police Barracks in Millbury at 508-929-3232, or the State Police assigned to the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office at 617-679-6600.

-- Ralph Ranalli

Cable cutthroats

Posted December 19, 2006 03:56 PM

NEWTON

Verizon has entered the cable-TV market in Newton with the brio of a new kid expecting a schoolyard brawl.

The telecommunications giant recently signed a franchise agreement with the city that put it up against the two other longtime cable TV providers, Comcast and RCN. That's a good thing, the company insists.

“Competition always drives price,” said Verizon spokesman Phil Santoro.

Verizon is offering a bundled package called Triple Play costing $105 per month. For that, you get unlimited local, regional, and long-distance phone service, high-speed internet access, and cable TV with on-demand programming.

So ... Comcast now has a promotional offer, also dubbed Triple Play, with a phone-TV-internet bundle for only $99 per month for first-time cable buyers. Originality is obviously not the cable industry's strong suit. RCN also has a phone-TV-internet promotion, at only $89.95 per month.

Charges vary for such things as converter boxes and installation. If you factor in additional features -- faster Internet speed, premium channels, ; high-definition TV, pecialty cable stations (Brazilian soccer, anyone?) -- comparing plans is like shopping for drug insurance under Medicare.

Best advice: Check the company Websites and closely question their customer service agents. You may also find it pays to play one company off another. Ask for the "Customer Retention Department."

-- Connie Paige

Knowfat knows marketing

Posted December 19, 2006 10:34 AM

NEWTON

Talk about finding your target audience.

George Naddaff, who founded the KnowFat restaurant chain in Newton two years ago, knows how to reach the right people. Mini billboards for his health-conscious restaurant now appear in several area gyms, which happen to be conveniently located near a KnowFat franchise.

The billboards also list the location of the nearest KnowFat. Naddaff told Inc. magazine that he plans to have at least 500 locations by 2010.

-- Erica Tochin

Moderation urged during the festivities

Posted December 19, 2006 10:30 AM

NEWTON

The holidays are a stressful time, and can lead to weight gain. Ann Marie Sheridan, owner of Cutting Edge Fitness in Newton Centre offers some helpful tips to avoid the "holiday bulge":

- Portion control. If you are planning on eating dessert, take a small sample of it.

- If you are going to a party, bring your own low-fat alternative.

- Plan ahead! That way, you are less likely to indulge in unhealthy snacking habits.

-- Erica Tochin

A window onto the war

Posted December 19, 2006 08:23 AM

NEWTON

newtondisplay.jpg

O'Shaughnessy with the display
(Globe Staff Photo by Suzanne Kreiter)

Their faces are frozen in military photographs, the images of young men and women who peer from a store window with expressions of patriotism, hope, and determination.

The display has grown from one picture placed there after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, a solitary reminder that Newton Upper Falls had a personal stake in the war.

"The next thing you knew, the kids from the neighborhood joined, and I started putting them in there," said the owner of Upper Falls Variety, Tom O'Shaughnessy, who added that about 20 photographs, a few obscured, have been arranged in the display.

Nearly everyone in the pictures is deployed or has served in Iraq or Afghanistan, most of their faces as familiar to O'Shaughnessy as the customers who begin showing up every morning at 5 for a cup of coffee, the newspaper, or a gallon of milk.

"A woman wanted to know the meaning of the window," O'Shaughnessy, 55, said in a Globe story today. "And I just politely said it's a tribute to the kids in the service."

-- Brian McQuarrie

Faithful in transition

Posted December 17, 2006 03:58 PM

Dorothy.jpg
(Photo: Tom Herde/Globe Staff)

Koreankids.jpg
(Photo: Cyrus Moghtader for the Globe)

NEWTON

Two devout Catholic communities. Two groups of the faithful in transition.

The Archdiocese of Boston's Latin Mass community is coming to Newton, thanks to a decision by church officials that will close their current home church, Holy Trinity Parish in the South End. The archdiocese's Korean Catholics, meanwhile, have been told that they may have to vacate their current home at St. Philip Neri Parish in Waban.

Today's Globe West section takes a closer look at these two communities of faith. An audio slideshow on Boston.com also gives you a flavor of how they worship.

-- Ralph Ranalli

Newton company goes Hollywood with Morgan Freeman

Posted December 16, 2006 09:53 AM

NEWTON

ExtendMedia Inc. of Newton is going Hollywood, thanks to a deal with an Internet video start-up cofounded by actor Morgan Freeman.

ExtendMedia will provide a service that formats movies to play on desktop computers or TV sets while limiting the number of times a film can be viewed or the devices on which it can be shown. The company's software is designed to provide these features while remaining invisible to the end user.

"We're striving to achieve the technology behind the scenes that'll make the consumer experience easier," ExtendMedia founder Keith Kocho said in a Globe business article today.

-- Hiawatha Bray

Newton man co-authors book on Jewish humor

Posted December 16, 2006 09:39 AM

NEWTON

Have you heard the one about the rabbi?

Twenty-five years ago, two friends published "The Big Book of Jewish Humor," a collection of Jewish humor, from wry social commentary to corny self-deprecating wit.

William Novak of Newton and Moshe Waldoks, a rabbi in Brookline, have just released a new edition of the book.

"It's not uncommon now to find overtly Jewish elements in American culture that perhaps would have been more hidden before. You can say that America has gotten more Jewish and Jews have gotten less so," Waldoks said.

"Jews have gotten more so," countered Novak.

To see video of Waldoks and Novak telling a knee-slapper, go to boston.com's Living page.

-- Linda Matchan

Override in the cards for Newton?

Posted December 14, 2006 07:44 PM

NEWTON

A commission studying Newton's finances is leaning toward recommending a tax override to pay for construction projects, including rebuilding Newton North High School.

‘‘We did not find a silver bullet to solve the city’s financial problems,’’ said panel chairman Paul F . Levy, president and chief executive officer of Beth Israel Deaconess (cq) Medical Center in Boston.

‘‘Unless things change dramatically in the next three or four weeks, I think the commission is going to recommend [debt exclusion] as a sensible approach for making sure our city’s buildings are put back into good shape.’’

The 11-member commission, which was appointed by Mayor David B. Cohen early this fall, is made up of prominent financial, educational, and business leaders.

It is due to make its final report in February.

-- CONNIE PAIGE

On pins and needles

Posted December 13, 2006 09:07 AM

missingpin.jpg
The missing pin

normalpin.jpg
A normal one
(Image courtesy of Curtis Betts)

NEWTON

Curtis Betts had always worried about the small steel cotter pins that were used to hold in the large, galvanized steel pins connecting cables of the new Blue Heron Bridge in Newton to its walkway.

Not only were they disconcertingly flimsy-looking for a piece of hardware with such an important job, but they were also within easy reach of anyone who felt like kneeling down on the $2 million pedestrian connector between Newtonville and Watertown and trying to yank one out.

For months, Betts tried to get the state Department of Conservation and Recreation to fix what he saw as a glaring design flaw, but was told that there was nothing to worry about. Then, during a walk on Thanksgiving weekend, Betts' worst fears were realized: one of the cotter pins was missing.

He tried again to contact DCR by e-mail, but again couldn't get anyone to answer him.

"This was my first experience with asking them (the state) to do something," said Betts, a member of the group Friends of Albemarle, which advocates for preservation and improvements to the area surrounding Albemarle Park and Cheesecake Brook. "One could get cynical from such experiences."

It wasn't until the Globe called late last week that DCR swung into action. Within hours of an inquiry by a reporter, a spokeswoman for DCR said a crew was on scene, replacing the missing pin, and that the agency was considering a permanent solution, which probably involved pins with permanently welded ends.

-- Ralph Ranalli

For a change, it's money that goes begging

Posted December 12, 2006 09:58 AM

NEWTON

What if they gave away money and nobody came?

As of last Friday, city officials said, no one had yet applied for a new program, which gives as much as $90,000 to residents wishing to create accessory apartments in their homes for rental to low- and moderate-income tenants.

The money can be used to offset the cost of surveying, designing, and constructing the apartment. The money will come in the form of a loan or grant, depending on how long the homeowner is willing to commit to offering the apartment to low- or moderate-income tenants.

The program also provides assistance with applications, in hiring an architect, getting building permits, and finding tenants. Qualifying tenants must have a yearly income of less than $46,300 for a single person or $66,150 for a family of four.

Any takers? The city contact is Kevin McCormick at 617-527-6576.

-- Connie Paige

Windows of opportunity

Posted December 11, 2006 12:20 PM

NEWTON

When winter knocks at the door, funding comes in the windows.

At least that could be true at the Zervas and Mason-Rice elementary schools, which could soon receive new windows and doors to address chronic cooling and heating issues, thanks to a vote by a key committee of the board of aldermen.

At the request of Mayor David Cohen, the Public Facilities Committee last week approved $1.4 million for the project by a vote of 7-0. The measure now goes to the full board.

-- Connie Paige

Faye Gloria Stone, lawyer and philanthropist, 80

Posted December 11, 2006 12:13 PM

NEWTON

Faye Gloria Stone blazed her own trail in life. She was one of the few women practicing law in Boston in the late 1940s.

Mrs. Stone, who was a corporate lawyer in her father's law firm, died Nov. 26 in her Newton home.

A firm believer in the importance of the arts, Mrs. Stone gave generously to her alma mater, Boston University, including a sculpture in the law school.

"She was an accomplished lawyer and editor, a discerning connoisseur of the arts, and a generous philanthropist," former BU president John Silber said in a Globe obituary today.

"She had tremendous intellect and strong opinions and could receive as well as she gave," said Avram Goldberg, a longtime friend of Mrs. Stone's and retired chairman of the Stop & Shop Companies.

-- Erica Tochin

Another flu clinic tomorrow

Posted December 8, 2006 03:08 PM

NEWTON

In a major push to nip the flu in the bud this season, five local health departments are working together to hold a regional flu clinic tomorrow to provide vaccination shotsand exercise emergency plans.

The Arlington, Belmont, Brookline, Newton and Watertown health departments will converge in Newton for the clinic at Our Lady Help of Christians in Newton at 573 Washington St. from 10 a.m. to noon. The clinic is open to the public, free of charge and no appointments are necessary.

For the needle-phobic, the five health departments have partnered with MedImmune Vaccines, Inc. to provide FluMist, a nasal spray version of the influenza vaccine. Healthy persons between the ages of 5 and 49 who are school personnel, school children, or healthcare workers may be eligible to receive FluMist at the clinic based on several criteria.

Pneumonia vaccine will also be available for people 65 years and older. Call 617-796-1426 for more information.

-- Ralph Ranalli

Jury to decide damages in fatal fire

Posted December 7, 2006 07:55 AM

NEWTON

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Brookline firefighters make a rescue during the Feb. 9, 2000 fire
(Globe Staff Photo by John Tlumacki)

A second jury will determine damages from a fire that took five lives and leveled a Newton office building in February 2000.

The fire started in a second-floor office of a three-story building that housed 25 businesses at 200 Boylston St.

Last month, a civil trial jury decided that the building's owner, Sidney Kriensky, was negligent. The plaintiffs are seeking $5 million, said Kevin Curry, a lawyer for one of the plaintiffs. A second jury will assess damages, and a judge will decide the awards.

-- Globe City & Region staff

Move it or lose it, Part II

Posted December 5, 2006 11:18 AM

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Newton resident Herb Kliger shovels his driveway two winters ago.
(Globe staff photo by Suzanne Kreiter)

NEWTON

The city is also making pronouncements on everything related to that ever popular winter pastime: snow shoveling.

Pronouncement 1: Shoveling is not optional. Residents should shovel sidewalks abutting their property to keep pedestrians safe.

Pronouncement 2: The city believes it would be nice if residents would also show a little civic spirit and shovel out fire hydrants and catch basins abutting their properties.

Pronouncement 3: The Department of Public Works this year will give priority to clearing designated sidewalk plow routes, crossing guard locations, bridges and stairs around transit areas, and handicap access ramps.

Pronouncement 4: The Public Works and the School departments have developed a list of students available to shovel snow for a fee. The list is available at the Newton Free Library, City Hall, the Senior Center, the Department of Public Works, and the Police Station, or by calling 617-796-1000. All arrangements are made between the homeowner and the student.

-- Connie Paige

Move it or lose it, Part I

Posted December 5, 2006 10:54 AM

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Our advice: Stay out of John Capello's way.
(Globe staff photo by Bill Polo)

NEWTON

Christmas music in stores the day after Halloween. "Rudolph" on TV a week before Thanksgiving. Well, at least there's something that still comes in December.

Yes, Newton, the overnight parking ban and the special parking rules for snowstorms are now in effect.

That means at night, parking is not allowed for longer than one hour between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. If the city declares a snow emergency, parking is prohibited on all city streets and municipal parking lots.

And from the Duh! Department: the city is also reminding residents that, when plowing a driveway, they should pile snow toward the right side of their property -- not plow it onto the street or across the street or onto a neighbor’s sidewalk.

-- Connie Paige

Ring, ring goes the bell (not!)

Posted December 4, 2006 03:03 PM

REGION

Ah, those high school memories. "Mystery meat" in the cafeteria. Trying to remember your locker combination. Waiting for the bell that signaled the end of class.

Well, strike that last item off the list. The new generation won't have those memories because bells have rung for the last time in some high schools around the area.

Some high schools, like Newton South and Weston, play music over the loudspeaker to announce the end of a class. Others, like Lincoln-Sudbury, have abolished bells altogether, the Globe reports today.

-- Erica Tochin

A big turn-on at Newton City Hall

Posted December 4, 2006 09:32 AM

NEWTON

Story time with the Mayor. Songs by David Polansky. Refreshments. What more do you want?

Newton's annual holiday lighting ceremony is set to happen this Thursday, Dec. 7, at 4 p.m. on the grounds at City Hall.

-- Connie Paige

Gift cards, shmift cards.

Posted December 2, 2006 12:25 PM

NEWTON

C'mon, be original this holiday season and get the people you love original gifts. Instead of heading to the mall, head to Newton for the next two weekends.

Tomorrow from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the Celebrate Newton! Arts and Crafts Festival will take place at Newton South High School, showcasing more than 60 local artisans.

The benefit for the Newton public schools costs $2 per person for admission, $5 per family. Refreshments will be served, and a silent auction held. The school is located at 140 Brandeis Road.

Next weekend, a variety of work from artists throughout New England will be showing and selling their work at the Newton Cultural Center's Fine Art and Craft Show.

The event, which costs $5 per person for admission with children 12 and under for free, takes place on Dec. 9, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Dec. 10, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The Cultural Center is located at 225 Nevada St. Proceeds benefit cultural programming in Newton.

-- Connie Paige

Is it warm out there or is it just me?

Posted November 29, 2006 01:17 PM

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Yes, but did he invent the internet?

NEWTON

With temperatures expected to be in the mid-60s tomorrow, maybe its not such a bad time to talk about that whole global warming thing.

One chance to do so will be Saturday at the Newton Free Library, which is hosting a showing of “An Inconvenient Truth,” the global-warming film by former Vice President Al Gore, followed by a discussion. The talking will be led by Eric Olson, chairman of the Green Decade Coalition's Energy Committee.

The event will take place at the Druker Auditorium of the Newton Free Library at 1 p.m.

-- Connie Paige

Newton superintendent makes sweeping recommendations to fight overcrowing

Posted November 28, 2006 09:20 AM

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Newton Superintendent of Schools Jeffrey M. Young
(Photo by Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff)

NEWTON

Newton Superintendent of Schools Jeffrey Young last night released a sweeping set of recommendations to deal with the looming elementary school overcrowding crisis, including spending $1.2 million to buy eight modular classrooms for five overcrowded schools and reclaiming the former Carr School in Newtonville as the city's 16th elementary school.

"These schools are packed," Young said of the five schools that would receive modular classrooms. "There is no other flexibility there."

Young also recommended reclaiming the dedicated space given to some private programs based at the elementary schools, including Ploughshares, which runs preschool and after-school programs at the Lincoln-Eliot and Franklin schools. Other recommended measures included closing some school-choice zones to relieve pressure on the worst-crowded schools, including Horace Mann and Bowen.

Young also recommended that a special task force be appointed to study options at Bowen, which he described as the school facing the greatest enrollment pressure in the coming years.

Young said his recommendations were designed to avoid redistricting as much as possible and that younger siblings of current students would be grandfathered into slots at the same school.

The Carr currently houses the Newton Cultural Center and would need significant renovations to be brought up to current school building codes. Some school committee members last night also suggested that the Education Center on Walnut Street, which is itself a former school, also be considered for future conversion, with the school system's administrative offices moving to office space somewhere else in the city.

The measures, Young said, are designed to be a two-year stopgap while a comprehensive study of school space needs is conducted. Enrollment projections unveiled at last night's school committee meeting predict that the city's elementary school population will grow by 25 percent over the next 10 years.

To see Young's complete recommendations, click here.

-- Ralph Ranalli

Stephen Heywood, 37, battled ALS

Posted November 28, 2006 08:42 AM

NEWTON

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(Stephen Heywood and family in the 2006 documentary film "So Much So Fast," directed by Steven Ascher and Jeanne Jordan.)

During the past several years, Stephen Heywood allowed stem cells to be injected into his spinal column, participated in clinical trials for new drugs and genetic studies, and received a brain implant as part of an experiment in how thoughts can be used to control a wheelchair and other robotic objects.

Just as the 37-year-old father from Newton gave his body to science in the waning years of his life -- even allowing himself to be the subject of the recently released, critically acclaimed documentary "So Much So Fast" -- he submitted himself to science in death as well, a Globe obituary reports today.

Eight years after being diagnosed with ALS, the degenerative neurological disorder also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, Mr. Heywood lost the use of his ventilator early Friday morning, leaving him brain dead. His body survived for two days, long enough for him to donate his kidneys to two patients, relatives said.

"Stephen would tell a joke about wanting to die a heroic death," said his brother, Jamie of Newton. "It went something like this: There would be a fire, and he would save someone. But it would have be a slow fire with ramps, because he would be in a wheelchair. I think he found a way to do that."

-- David Abel

From near extinction, Newton's Mary Immaculate of Lourdes Parish is on the rise

Posted November 27, 2006 11:14 AM

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Mary Immaculate of Lourdes Parish in Newton Upper Falls.
(Photo by Janet Knott/Globe Staff)

NEWTON

What a difference two years makes.

Thanksgiving 2004 was not a happy one for the parishioners at Mary Immaculate of Lourdes Parish in Newton Upper Falls. Their church was on a list of those being closed by the Archdiocese of Boston and in danger of being sold as excess real estate.

Less than a month later, though, the Archdiocese said it was reconsidering its decision and put the closure on hold. Now it appears that not only will the parish survive, but that it will likely become the archdiocesan home of the traditional Latin Mass, a spokesman says.

Terrence Donilon, a spokesman for Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley, said this morning that church officials had "open and candid" discussions yesterday with parishioners at Mary Immaculate and at St. Philip Neri in Waban, which was originally supposed to stay open but is now expected to be merged with its Upper Falls neighbor.

While no "final decision" has been made by O'Malley, Donilon confirmed that a key church body, the Archdiocesan Presbyteral Council, has recommended that Philip Neri be merged into Mary Immaculate.

The archdiocese is also leaning toward moving the traditional Latin Mass to Mary Immaculate from its current home at Holy Trinity Church in the South End, which is also expected to close, Donilon said. The Rev. Charles Higgins, who oversees services in Latin for the archdiocese, is also expected to become Mary Immaculate's new pastor.

Moving the Latin Mass makes sense, Donilon said, because people come to it from all over and, as Catholics in the archdiocese have migrated to the suburbs, Newton is closer to being a geographical center for the archdiocese.

One still unanswered question is what will become of the archdiocese's Korean Catholic community, which called St. Philip Neri its spiritual home. Donilon said the community will have at least a year at Philip Neri while discussions continue.

-- Ralph Ranalli

Newton's center of art and culture

Posted November 26, 2006 03:32 PM

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Six-year-old Anna Larsen takes a piano lesson from Sachiko Isihara, the director of the Suzuki School of Newton, one of the busiest tenants at the new Newton Cultural Center.
(Photo by Bill Polo/Globe Staff)

NEWTON

In September of 2005, the City of Newton brought many of its arts and culture groups together for the first time in the old Carr School in Newtonville.

The new venture, called the Newton Cultural Center, faces an uncertain future due to the city's expanding elementary school population. But for now, the art, music, and theater groups based there say that it has become a hub of cultural appreciation the likes of which the city has never seen before.

In today's Globe West, a story on the front of the section brings you a day in the life of the new cultural center. Online readers can also experience an audio slide show with interviews, music, and pictures from that day.

The presentation is the second installment of an ongoing series we're calling "A Day in the Life." If case you missed it, you can also go back and check out the first installment, "A Day in the Life of a Park," which ran this summer.

-- Ralph Ranalli, Globe West Web Producer

A tale from the city

Posted November 26, 2006 12:00 PM

NEWTON

J.M. Lawrence contributed to the Globe Magazine's Tales from the City today. Here's the story:

The big Starbucks on Boylston Street near Copley Square can be a delightful microcosm of the city. One morning recently, students, tourists, business types, and young couples were all jockeying for caffeine and a good spot to read the paper. I read mine next to an elderly man who was holding his about 3 inches from his face. His reading was interrupted by a toddler. The kid dug out a pair of diapers from his stroller and inexplicably held them out to the old guy. "No. I don't need those yet," the man told the child.

Season of giving

Posted November 25, 2006 02:54 PM

NEWTON

There is no "I" in "Holidays." Oh, wait ... yes there is. Sorry.

Thankfully, what the holidays also have are plenty of opportunities to do things for others. A quick visit to Newton City Hall between now and mid-December can yield at least two.

Over at the Veterans' Services Department, donations for the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan are being collected, either at the office or in a drop box at the front door of City Hall. Items requested include clothing, toiletries, food, and entertainment, such as Frisbees, electronic games, and paid phone cards.

The Department of Health and Human Services, meanwhile, is asking for new, unopened toys or gift certificates for families in need. Recommended stores for gift card include Kaybee Toys, Learning Express, Gap, and Marshall's.

A complete list of recommended gifts for both programs can be found on the city's web site.

-- Ralph Ranalli

Historic change in Newton

Posted November 24, 2006 07:32 PM

NEWTON

The Patriots will win this weekend. Or they won't. Why not learn something useful instead? You can, now that the Newton History Museum at The Jackson Homestead has announced extended weekend hours.

The Museum is open to the public Tuesdays through Fridays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and now on both Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. The museum is closed on Mondays, including major holidays.

Accredited by the American Association of Museums and a documented site on the Underground Railroad, the museum presents exhibits that interpret Newton’s past and present, and a variety of public programs for adults and children.

Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for children and seniors. For Newton residents, the fee is $2 for adults and $1 for seniors and children.

For additional information, call 617-796-1450 or visit the museum website.

-- Ralph Ranalli

Globe West leads the way in multimedia

Posted November 23, 2006 12:25 PM

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NEWTON/REGION

Here at Globe West, we're not just about local news; we're striving to be the leaders in presenting it in as many formats as possible: print, online text and photos, audio, photo galleries, audio slideshows, podcasts, and (coming soon) video.

One of our most exciting recent developments was the launch last month of the Boston Globe-Newtonville Books Great Writers Podcast, where the best local and national literary talent come to read from their latest bestsellers-to-be.

Featured this week: author, Globe Magazine columnist and NPR personality Charlie Pierce discusses and reads from his new book, "Moving the Chairs: Tom Brady and the Pursuit of Everything."

Since Brady's magic is in the intangibles -- his almost supernatural poise and confidence, his ability to come through in the clutch, his ability to lead the Patriots -- Pierces goes deep to figure out what influences helped mold the future Hall of Fame quarterback and what makes him tick.

Charlie's reading can be found as the featured Great Writers podcast on the Boston.com Podcasts page. The Books page in the A&E section of Boston.com also has Charlie's reading, as well as an archive of other recent Great Writers events at Newtonville Books with authors like Nell Freudenberger, Katherine Weber and Heidi Julavits. You can even subscribe to the series through iTunes and get a new event every week.

-- Ralph Ranalli, Globe West Web Producer

Tough talk on state of the city

Posted November 21, 2006 11:48 AM

NEWTON

“Totally unacceptable, morally unacceptable, and educationally unacceptable.”

No, that's not your Dad talking about your SAT scores. It was Mayor David B. Cohen, who used about one-third of his State of the City speech last night to scold critics of his plan for a new Newton North High School.

In addition to lambasting the current facility, Cohen urged voters to allow completion of a new one, and pledged again that its cost would not bankrupt the city or prevent the renovation or reconstruction of other crumbling buildings.

“Today’s opportunity is to improve our educational facilities to ensure that Newton’s schoolchildren have a learning environment that enhances their educational experience in the 21st century,” Cohen said.

In the speech, Cohen announced that he had sent the Board of Aldermen a five-year capital plan proposing spending of $235 million on improvement projects for fiscal years 2008 to 2012; he also proposed $27 million in capital spending for fiscal year 2007, which began July 1. The plan includes $200,000 for review of the 25 largest municipal sites to determine their needs.

After the speech, frequent mayoral critic Paul Coletti, chairman of the aldermen’s Finance Committee, said Cohen’s financing plan for Newton North would not allow the city to care for other needs.

Coletti also chastised the mayor for failing to mention challenges the city faces, including settling the contracts of 2,300 teachers and administrators and 1,800 municipal workers, including firefighters.

“I’ve never seen a time when 14 union contracts were unsettled,” Coletti said. “The state of the city is we need to take some extraordinary steps, even if it’s just to settle a reasonable wage package.”

-- Connie Paige

School power

Posted November 21, 2006 06:46 AM

NEWTON

Anyone who's ever been in the way of a group of second graders on the way to recess knows that schools usually don't have a problem with energy.

Yet Marcia Tabenken, the mother of a second grader at Horace Mann Elementary School, said the principal emailed recently to inform families that the boiler didn’t go on and to make sure kids dressed warmly. Last spring, she said, there was no air conditioning, and the heat was so bad that a teacher asked parents to bring in water bottles so the kids wouldn’t get dehydrated.

Meanwhile, the School Department’s energy costs are rising, and a grassroots group has formed to help the city address the problems.

Tabenken, a member of the group’s strategy team, said Stand for Children is pushing the city to hire an energy services company to implement long-term energy efficiency measures for the schools and other public buildings. The group is holding a forum on the idea on Dec. 5 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Newton Free Library.

-- Connie Paige

Newton company to produce wind power in Utah

Posted November 20, 2006 06:38 PM

NEWTON

A Newton company will generate electricity at a $400 million wind farm in southwestern Utah.

"The Milford Valley creates a funnel effect that produces a great wind resource," said Krista Kisch, business development director at UPC Wind Management LLC.

The first phase of the 16,000-acre project will require 80 towers that will generate 320 megawatts of power, enough to supply about 60,000 homes.

Beaver County's planning commission voted unanimously last week to grant a permit to UPC Wind. The first phase could employ up to 100 people.

The company also has plans to generate an additional 80 megawatts on land that includes a sliver of Millard County, about 200 miles south of Salt Lake City.

-- AP

Newton fires elections chief

Posted November 20, 2006 05:14 PM

The city of Newton fired its elections chief on Monday, according to mayoral spokesman Jeremy Solomon. That was the deadline Mayor David B. Cohen gave Peter Karg to resign or face termination.

Karg’s removal stems from a miscount of signatures on a petition drive to overturn the aldermen's approval of a site plan for a new Newton North High School.

The Election Department, under Karg’s direction, initially said that not enough names were collected. Karg released a statement saying he had been “pressured” to tabulate the results of the campaign in three days instead of the allowed 10.

Now some aldermen are pressing for an investigation into what happened. The board’s Programs and Services Committee is scheduled on Dec. 6 to decide whether to undertake the probe and how.

Marcia Johnson, committee chairman and alderman at large from Ward 2, said in an email message that she would prefer an outside investigation “to diminish the politics of it” but had not yet secured funding for it.

-- Connie Paige

Being good sports about it all

Posted November 18, 2006 09:43 AM

NEWTON

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(Borat at an appearance in Australia, AP Photo by Mark Baker)

Beware of people who tell you they're Kazakh journalists. You may end up appearing in a major motion picture.

And yet... The Newton couple, Joe and Miriam Behar, who were duped into appearing in the "Borat" movie are being pretty good sports about it.

Joseph P. Kahn profiles them in a story in the Globe's Living/Arts section today.

The ups and downs of property taxes

Posted November 18, 2006 09:39 AM

NEWTON

If the city's tax rate is declining, how come property taxes are going up?

Because the average home in Newton is more expensive, that's why, city officials say.

The residential tax rate for fiscal year 2007, set at a hearing last week, is $9.33 per thousand dollars of value. The rate was $9.36 last year. The bad news is that the median value of a single-family home, which was a mere $684,750 in fiscal year 2006 is now $711,500, City Assessor Elizabeth Dromey.

The bottome line? The tax bill on the median home will increase from $6,409.26 to $6,638.30.

The rate still has to go to the state Department of Revenue for final approval, which should come this week, Dromey said.

-- Connie Paige

Newton inches closer to citywide Wifi

Posted November 16, 2006 09:56 AM

NEWTON

A citywide wireless network is closer to reality, now that the aldermen’s Programs and Services Committee voted unanimously to ask the mayor to move forward on it.

At their meeting earlier this month, committee members heard testimony from various city departments, including police, about how the service would help them do their jobs, according to Kenneth Parker, the alderman at large from Ward 6 who has spearheaded the WiFi effort.

Parker said the city is facing a Jan. 1 deadline from Galaxy Internet Services, Inc., which has offered to conduct a free pilot deployment of the technology allowing wireless internet access for city departments and employees and for the public in parks and some other public places.

-- Connie Paige

Traffic from H-E-double hockey sticks

Posted November 15, 2006 02:36 PM

NEWTON

Traffic from Hell.

That is the fear of many people when they hear about the impending repaving work on Route 9, which is scheduled for next spring. To get a sense of the impact, the Chestnut Hill Alliance, a citizens group for both Newton and Brookline residents, has invited MassHighway to talk about it.

The meeting will take place on Nov. 29, 7 p.m. at the Municipal Service Center, 870 Hammond Street, Brookline. Alliance co-founder and chairman Anthony Andreadis said the meeting is also a warmup for the group's next challenge, Chestnut Hill Square, the proposed Steve Karp development planned for Route 9 near the Newton-Brookline border.

The state representatives will also discuss landscaping planned from Hammond Street to Hammond Pond Parkway, Andreadis said.

-- Connie Paige

They had their doubts about Borat

Posted November 14, 2006 02:30 PM

NEWTON

borat2.jpg

(Cohen as Borat, Reuters photo by David Gray)

A Newton man who was duped by comedian Sacha Baron Cohen into appearing in the movie "Borat" says he didn't suspect anything was strange until the very end.

Joseph Behar and his wife, Miriam, are the couple in the movie who offer to put up Cohen's fictional foreign journalist, Borat, in a bed and breakfast they own.

Borat, who is portrayed as a clueless clod from a backward country, and his sidekick check in. But they become horrified and flee when they learn the Behars are Jewish. (The inside joke is that Cohen himself is Jewish.)

Behar said he and his wife didn't suspect anything until near the end of Borat's stay, when he told them he was going to marry a woman in Malibu.

"I've spent many years in California, and I know what the people are like in Malibu," said Behar. Borat, he said, is not the kind of guy who could get a girl in Malibu.

... Not to mention the fact that the woman Borat was probably referring to was Pamela Anderson. Borat has a hopeless crush on her in the movie.

-- Erica Tochin

Bamboozled by Borat

Posted November 13, 2006 11:31 PM

NEWTON

borat.jpg

(Comedian Cohen clowning at a Southern dinner party)

A Newton family has a role in "Borat," the comedy movie that has swept the nation for the past two weeks -- and they never even asked for it.

ABC News reports that Joe Behar of Newton and his family were duped into participating in the movie.

Comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, who posed as a clueless clod of a foreign journalist making a documentary about America, has been criticized b