Three candidates are vying for two Ward 6 alderman at-large seats in the Newton city election Nov. 8. Meet one candidate, Charles Shapiro
Grew up in: Newton, Mass.
Occupation: Founder/President Massmedia, Inc.
Q. What is the biggest challenge facing the city and how would you address it?
A. Our infrastructure is crumbling and we have not kept up with the maintenance needed to preserve our capital assets. Roads, buildings, schools (especially elementary schools), sidewalks, and even our trees are suffering from a lack of attention and long range planning. A simple yet glaring example: the recent storm and power outages. If there was more invested in preventive tree maintenance, the cost of cleanup would have been dramatically less. Power outages would have been significantly reduced.
The city and teachers' contracts are now in place at 2.5% increases matching revenue growth. The biggest challenge now will be to find creative ways to address the physical infrastructure needs.
Q. Do you have any political/civic experience?
A. Yes. I'm currently serving my first term on the Newton Board of Alderman and serve on the Public Safety Committee, the Zoning and planning Committee, and as Vice Chair of the Post Audit and Oversight Committee. Member of Governor Patrick's task force for the rollout of the Silver Alert System. NewTV Community Producer/host of Newton Newsmakers, a local political talk show. Former member of NewTV Board of Directors. Member of the Newton 9/11 Memorial Committee. Member of the Newton-Needham Chamber of Commerce. My complete bio and more info is available at http://www.voteshapiro.org.
Q. What do you think qualifies you as a member of the Board of Aldermen?
A. I've had a successful initial term on the Board. I started off by leading the re-development of the BOA website so 50,000 visitors can find information faster. I worked to establish the Newton Silver Alert system which helps keep those with Alzheimer's safer and which the Governor has pointed to as an example for the statewide system.
As a 3rd generation Newton resident, my love for the city, my passion to make Newton the best it can be, and my ability to put in the time and effort necessary to serve the needs of constituents in each of our 13 villages drives me to seek a second term on the Board of Aldermen.
Q. What separates you from your opposing candidate?
A. I'm honored to serve you and I'm asking you for your vote on November 8th so I may continue my work making Newton a safer, healthier, greener and more vibrant place for all generations. My communications skills have allowed me to reach across different areas of the city and connect with constituents of all backgrounds. I take a consumer-based approach rather than a top-down approach. For example, I believe the city should retain its responsibility to clear the sidewalks of snow and not offload it onto the backs of seniors or those physically or financially unable to do it. ... I believe there are some city services that are foundational: Public safety, education, trash, snow removal. I will continue to fight on your behalf to protect these basic services.
Q. Do you think Newton should pass an override to deal with budget shortfalls and the city's aging buildings? What kind of cuts should the city make in its spending?
A. ... I stood with the majority of Newton residents and did not vote for the general fund "open checkbook" style override three years ago. Also ... I have been clear that I am not in favor of that style of override. I am, however, open to supporting a specifically targeted capital improvement type of override when fully justified and handled fairly and equitably. As far as cuts go, I'm concerned that we are already seeing too many cuts in services, including in our schools. We need to focus on striking a balance between being more business friendly in ways which increase our tax base, and retaining the residential character we all cherish. Newton residents rightfully demand excellent services. It's our job as public officials to cost-effectively deliver such services.
Q. Do you have any ideas that would help make Newton a more attractive
city for business owners and consumers alike?
A. Historically, Newton has had a reputation of being difficult for businesses to deal with. Over the past two years this has started to change. We have much more to do. As a business person with broad based experience, I bring a unique set of skills to the table as Alderman.
Our zoning laws need to be revised to help bring new restaurants and interesting shops to enhance our villages. I look forward to working to promote a city/business partnership to enhance the business mix, while tackling the traffic and safety concerns and ensuring we retain the character of our villages and the residential feel of our entire community.
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