It’s a busy, busy time for Progressive Newton and we need YOUR help!

Our Statewide Campaign – The Fair Share Amendment

On the statewide front, we’re in full swing collecting signatures for the Fair Share Amendment. The Fair Share Amendment, an initiative of the broader Raise Up Massachusetts coalition, seeks to amend the Massachusetts Constitution to place an additional four percent income tax on income over $1 million annually.

That money would generate over one billion dollars a year, dedicated specifically to our Commonwealth’s education and transportation networks. It would restore state revenue lost to all the successive tax cuts Massachusetts has seen in recent decades. It could stop public college tuition from rising farther beyond the reach of ordinary citizens, or it could fund vital extracurricular programs that parents currently are asked to pay for out of pocket. It can help ensure that our roads are maintained and that the MBTA functions better. It’s a really big deal.

But none of it will be possible if we don’t collect enough signatures NOW. Raise Up MA needs over 65,000 valid signatures by November 20 just to get the amendment one step closer to the ballot in 2018. Because a constitutional amendment is necessary, if we can’t get the signatures this fall our efforts to secure this much-needed revenue literally will be set back years.

In 2013 and 2014, Progressive Massachusetts, led in large part by Progressive Newton, collected thousands of signatures to raise the minimum wage and provide all Massachusetts workers with earned sick leave. It worked – those things came to be thanks to our efforts. We all remember how rewarding that was.

Now we need to do it again, and to have the same success we had last time we’ll need all the help we can get. Let’s not let this chance slip away. Email cgwillinger@gmail.com right away and get collecting!

Our Local Campaigns: Austin Street and Municipal Elections

Just as importantly, Progressive Newton is active on local issues of tremendous importance. It may not be an exaggeration to say there’s a battle right now for the soul of Newton. Starting with the Engine 6 proposal in 2013, some residents have been resisting virtually all proposed development in Newton, in particular developments including a significant number of affordable or rental units. We at Progressive Newton emphatically reject this vision of “Fortress Newton,” where existing residents pull closed the gates to the city.

The simple fact is that soaring housing prices, all over Greater Boston but especially in desirable communities like Newton, are making it harder for newcomers to afford our city unless they are quite affluent, and harder for Newton natives to stay here when they reach adulthood. For Newton to remain a welcoming and economically diverse community, we need affordable housing and a variety of housing options.

For that reason, Progressive Newton strongly supports the proposed mixed-use building on Austin Street, which would provide retail space and 68 apartments in the city-owned Austin Street parking lot in the heart of Newtonville’s village center.  The Austin Street location is ideal for an apartment building: right on the commuter rail and bus lines and within easy walking distance of a supermarket, plus dozens of shops and restaurants. It is exactly the kind of sustainable development Newton needs.  Read more at FriendsofAustinSt.org

The proposal’s 17 apartments reserved for households between 65 and 80 percent of AMI are essential, but even the 51 market-rate apartments (without which no developer would be willing to undertake the project) boost rental supply, relieving pressure on rapidly rising rents in the neighborhood. The new building also would enliven a block that right now feels empty, and connect it better to the surrounding village center.

Although we understand that people have concerns about the project, we believe those concerns can be – and indeed, in many cases already have been – addressed. We reject the NIMBYism many of the project’s most outspoken opponents have shown to date. Standing in place is not a viable option for Newton. If we are not open to building more housing units to meet demand, we will cease to be the economically diverse city we always have been. It’s that simple.

And, because it’s difficult to imagine a better location in Newton for an apartment building than the Austin Street parcel, we are confident that those who oppose this project will oppose every other similar project. Indeed, they are on record as opposing every significant residential development proposal now on the table.

So please contact the Board of Alderman and let them know that you support Austin Street and having more housing in Newton. Come to the hearing on October 29 and get on the record. The opponents are loud and we need to be just as loud. Let them say “no.” We say “yes.”

Municipal Elections

This year’s municipal elections will be very important to determining Newton’s future direction. We have several contested races for the Board of Alderman, two contested School Committee races, and an important election for Charter Commission (our first potential review of the city charter in 45 years).

Progressive Newton is proud to endorse the following candidates, each of whom has a long record of accomplishment and a demonstrated commitment to our progressive values:

  • Susan Albright, for Alderman-at-Large from Ward 2
  • Marcia Johnson, for Alderman-at-Large from Ward 2
  • Ted Hess-Mahan, for Alderman-at-Large from Ward 3
  • Deb Crossley, for Alderman-at-Large from Ward 5

Election Day (November 3) is fast approaching, and these candidates not only need your vote, they need your help. Consider knocking on doors or making calls for them, and spread the word to your friends and neighbors, your email list, your Facebook list, anyone you know who’s a Newton voter. The elections promise to be close, and with your help these great candidates will stay in office, working every day for the benefit of all of Newton.

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Happy Fourth of July from Progressive Newton!

 

We’ve had a busy couple of months. Progressive Newton volunteers were right back out there collecting signatures for the second round of Raise Up Massachusetts’s drive to put a minimum increase and earned sick time for all Massachusetts workers on the November ballot.  In the fall we collected over 4,000 signatures in nine weeks. This spring, between May 10 and June 18, we collected about 1,000 additional signatures. Thanks to all the volunteers and, of course, to all the voters who signed our initiative petitions.

 

We were pleased to see the state legislature pass an $11 minimum wage, the highest state minimum wage in the nation. This increase was motivated in large part by the hard work of the Raise Up MA coalition, collecting signatures to put a minimum wage increase on the ballot and meeting with legislators to discuss the issue. In the long term, we will continue to fight to index the minimum wage to inflation and to provide a higher base wage for tipped workers, two elements that were lacking in the final bill signed this week by Governor Patrick.

 

In the short term, however, we’re working to ensure the Earned Sick Time ballot question passes. As in the fall, Raise Up MA collected far more valid signatures than needed and the question is going to the ballot! We’ll be taking the case to our friends and neighbors that Massachusetts should follow Connecticut’s lead on this key issue, championed in the House by Newton’s own Rep. Kay Khan.

 

The ballot question will allow employees to accrue sick time based on hours worked, up to a maximum of five days per year. This modest measure is designed to ensure that nearly one million Massachusetts workers no longer will have to risk being fired if they are sick, or if they need to care for a sick child.

 

In the midst of all that activity, nine of our steering committee members were delegates to the Massachusetts Democratic Convention held in Worcester on June 14, and many of us are engaged in campaign-related activities.

 

It’s not all work, though: two weekends ago a group of us gathered at Neysha and Robert’s house to celebrate our Raise Up MA success and making it through the convention. Soon we’ll meet again to plan our activities in support of the Earned Sick Time initiative and discuss what other issues we want to turn to next.

 

As always, if you’re a progressive in Newton who’d like to help make Massachusetts better, we want you on board! Just call (617) 340-9527 or email progressivenewton@gmail.com.

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