As the Garden City, Newton should have high expectations for promoting sustainability, preserving green and open space, and protecting our environment. Through thoughtful local strategies, Newton can be a municipal example for cutting greenhouse gas emissions while making our city more livable.
With a new administration in Washington, DC with concerning policies on climate change, the City of Newton must step up even more and take the lead on combating CO2 emissions. As Mayor, I will use a robust community engagement process to develop strategies to reduce our carbon footprint, improve public health, and help make Newton a greener, more sustainable community.
The four key strategies are using energy efficiency, conserving energy, greening our energy supply, and preparing Newton for climate change. Here’s where we’ll start:
- Actively work to make it easier for people who live and work in Newton to use public transportation. Advocate for improved mass transit options and encourage public – private – non-profit shuttle partnerships. Facilitate access to non-motorized options, especially walkable streets and bike lanes.
- Overhaul our city vehicle fleet by ensuring that new non-emergency vehicles purchased by the city are either hybrid or electric.
- Expand the number of electric charging stations operated by both the city and the private sector.
- Transition traffic lights to smart lights to reduce automobile idling and traffic congestion.
Green Buildings and Housing
- Update and strengthen our 2005 Energy Action plan as a guide in capital investment and economic development decisions, as well as a tool in our efforts to zone according to sustainable community development principles.
- Increase access in Newton to “location efficient” housing near public transit.
- Commit that all new construction on city-funded projects achieve a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold level, and upgrades to existing facilities are LEED-Silver, at minimum.
- Perform more in-depth building envelope assessments of our aging public buildings to ensure that the energy conservation investments we make will maximize short and long term operation, maintenance and energy savings. Reinvest a portion of those energy savings to achieve further reductions in greenhouse gases.
- Set a goal for new municipal construction of renewable energy generation which equals or exceeds energy use.
- Continue to have the City serve as a convener and educator for residences and businesses on energy conservation.
- Encourage green infrastructure – permeable surfaces, green roofs, trees, rain gardens – as cost and ecologically effective alternatives to our stormwater system.
- Ensure, in line with the strategic plan spearheaded by Councilor Crossley and me, that we sharply reduce water lost in the system before metering by continuing to take advantage of the MWRA program providing 75% grant, 25% interest free loans to municipalities seeking to reline their pipes. In addition, by devoting a portion of Newton Water and Sewer funds, 2% now and gradually increasing to 3.9%, to pipe relining and/or replacement, we will save water and our ratepayers’ money. Our water pipe-lining program has greatly reduced the amount of leakage of our water pipes, but with so many of our pipes in excess of 100 years old much more still needs to be done. We know that approximately 28%-30% of our water is lost to leakage and unmetered usage. I will work to reduce this percentage much further.
Greening of Our Energy
- Increase the percentage of Newton’s municipal power purchased that is generated by clean, renewable energy sources.
- Actively encourage electric energy aggregation for Newton with an opt-out plan. Designate a power company to serve all of Newton in order for users to potentially have lower prices and higher use of “green energy” and the option of 100% renewable sourced electricity to Newton’s consumers.
- Expand solar generation in Newton by identifying additional appropriate locations for solar panels, and continuing to promote private sector investment in solar. I’m proud to be the only Mayoral candidate who voted for installing solar panels over the Newton Free Library parking lot.
- Assess Newton’s vulnerability to climate change and proactively create a plan. This includes the city’s exposure to dramatic weather (intense rain, flooding, wind, hurricanes, long periods of intense heat) and from heat islands (concrete, pavement, building density, auto emissions). We need to plan for our infrastructure to be more resilient (e.g., the stormwater system and permeable surfaces), for possible upgrades to our emergency response capability, and for the means to require gas leaks to be fixed by utilities.
- Oppose cuts to the EPA, working with the Massachusetts Mayors Association and the Newton legislative delegation on the state level, and the U.S. Conference of Mayors on the federal level, to see that cuts don’t happen in the first place or, if they do, to restore the funds cut.
Solid Waste and Recycling
Newton’s goal must be zero waste.
- Incorporate Newton’s current mandatory curbside recycling law into a broader program of resource diversion and waste reduction. Create “swap-shops” to divert from the disposal stream used items such as clothing, furniture, and many other resources which still have years of useful life in them if only the right owner can be found.
- Work with the Massachusetts Mayor’s Association and Newton’s state legislative delegation to require producers of household and commercial goods consumed in Massachusetts to cut back on wasteful packaging practices in their manufacture, and cut back on hazardous materials involved in their use.
- Improve Newton’s rate of reducing, reusing and recycling by changing the way we determine our recycling rate, implementing a public education program, exploring the feasibility of collecting, for a fee, solid waste and/or recycling from commercial and multi-unit residential properties, and exploring the creation of a pay-as-you-throw system.
- Employ integrated pest management strategies and shift to alternatives to toxic chemicals, especially in our schools and public spaces, with particular attention right now to chlorpyrifos.
- Demand accountability of our state Department of Public Utilities and the natural gas companies they regulate to eliminate the invisible polluter – methane gas – whose release through leaks in gas company pipes has an impact on climate change 85 times more potent than an equal volume of carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels.
- Work with the Tree Warden and the Newton Tree Conservancy to set an ambitious goal for planting new city trees by 2025. Our current plan is to plant 300 new trees a year; let’s aim higher.
Newton has many green gems, from small parks and wetlands to conservation land, forests, and streams. Our open space is a crucial component of Newton’s livability.
As Mayor, I will have comprehensive strategy for acquiring, preserving and maintaining our green and open spaces:
- Acquire open space using the Community Preservation Act (CPA) and, when necessary, city funds. As with the Waban Hill Reservoir and Webster Woods, we are likely to face some “buy it now, or lose it forever” opportunities in the coming decades. States and cities around the country acquire property regularly; Newton should, too.
- Maintain our conservation lands and parks by allocating more budget and staff. This funding will allow for more accessible and thriving natural spaces.
- Protect and preserve the currently endangered Webster Woods—either by buying the land from Boston College or by negotiating a comprehensive conservation restriction on the land. Learn more about my comprehensive plan for Webster Woods here.
- Improve regular maintenance in green spaces.
- Provide ongoing upkeep of the paths through the woods. In some areas of parks (e.g., Cold Spring), there should be well-constructed boardwalks rather than haphazard wooden packing-crate lids to protect the wetlands and the hikers that use them.
- Provide help in disposing of invasive plants that are removed from city property by volunteer groups, and poison ivy should be consistently removed from areas where residents walk.
- Place restrictions on open/conservation space in the city—so they are preserved in perpetuity.
- Work with the Newton Conservators (and other non-profit organizations) to develop the most cost-effective means of monitoring city property that is protected by conservation restrictions.
- Create connected and consistently walkable paths.
- Work to create a path (through the natural area) that will be a continuation of the Helen Heyn Riverway to the Oak Hill Path along the Charles River near the Cutler Park DCR Reservation and the Wells Office Park. Currently, the path goes in and out of parking lots along Wells Avenue.
- Work with the State (DCR) to complete the trail connection between the restored railroad bridge in Lower Falls and Riverside Park – and then on to Norumbega Park in Auburndale.
- Work with DCR and others to create a connection between the new Greenway in Upper Falls and the Charles River Pathway.
- Work with residents so Newton can accept the MWRA’s offer to make the Sudbury Aqueduct accessible so that the citizens of Newton can legally walk its length through the city.
- Work with MWRA, Town of Needham, our State Representatives and private citizens to raise funds for historic reconstruction of the railings on the Echo Bridge Promenade, which links Needham and Newton in Hemlock Gorge.
Together, let’s work to make sure that Newton truly is the Garden City.
Note: I have used documents created by and for the City of Newton, sometimes word-for-word, when writing this position paper.