Julia Malakie is currently running to be a councilor for Ward 3 against Carolina Ventura. This is Malakie’s third time running for City Council, the first two attempts being unsuccessful.
Malakie lived in Newton until she went to college, eventually moving back in 1988. She is a photojournalist and has worked at the Lowell Sun since 2005.
One issue Malakie has devoted time to is tree conservancy—she is the main organizer for tree planting within the Newton Tree Conservancy. She said she believes it’s important to continue to preserve the environment of the Newton community.
Malakie is concerned about the push that is happening for Newton to upzone parts of the city in order to allow big development projects. She said that many Newton residents are against this push, and she wants to be a voice for those constituents.
“All of that is contrary to the expressed preferences of so many people across the city,” Malakie said. “We like the scale of the villages the way they are, and people like the mix of income ranges and housing sizes that we have in Newton.”
Malakie wants to push for affordable housing in Newton. She wants the city to resist the move toward a city solely for wealthy residents.
“We are becoming a city for the very wealthy that can afford very large houses and less so for people that are looking for smaller houses,” Malakie said.
She also believes Newton could do a better job with its recycling programs. She gave Cambridge’s citywide organics collection as an example of how Newton could improve. Though Newton has recently started a subscription service for organics and compost collection, she wants it on a larger scale.
Furthermore, Malakie is concerned that many people don’t know the realities of the bills that are being proposed for Newton.
“People are busy with their work or their kids or anything else that’s going on and they are so often surprised when they get a notice in the mail about something that’s happening near them,” Malakie said. “If you’re not a city hall policy junkie like I am and you’re a normal person with a life, you’re going to be surprised and often unpleasantly surprised by what the city is proposing.”
She said she will be an effective city councilor because she will keep people informed.
“I have a record of trying to keep people informed and make people aware of what’s going on and issues that they might want to weigh in on with their city councilor,” Malakie said.
Carolina Ventura says she is running to be the Ward 3 councilor for two primary reasons, the first of which is to honor her parents. Ventura moved to the United States when she was 4 years old. Her family settled in Washington Heights in Manhattan, and she says her parents were constantly working multiple jobs in order to make ends meet.
“They never had an opportunity to engage in their community,” Ventura said. “They always felt like things were happening to them and they never really felt like they had a voice. Largely through their sacrifice, I’m in a very different place.”
The second reason Ventura says she is running for council is because of her own family. Ventura and her wife, who grew up in Newton, have lived together in Newton almost 20 years and are currently raising their two kids here. She says she’s running to ensure Newton remains a wonderful place to raise kids.
Ventura believes growth and development is the most important issue in Newton right now. She wants to continue on the path Newton is currently headed in collaboratively discussing the Washington Street Vision project, as well as advocate for diverse and affordable housing. She said it’s important to make sure the projects that she leads are the right size and scale for her constituents.
“What I would like to see is a Newton that is walkable, affordable, accessible, and sustainable,” Ventura says. “That’s my north star.”
Ventura is currently an attorney at Liberty Mutual Insurance. She works with internal business partners to identify risk and assist them in achieving business goals. A large part of Ventura’s job deals with mediation of disputes between clients, which is one reason she is qualified for City Council. She says she is required to make tough decisions on a daily basis and that those skills will transfer over to her job as a city councilor.
“It’s my job to do the right thing in that setting, and to make the best choice that I can for my client—and that’s what city councilors do everyday,” Ventura said.
Ventura wants to be a voice for the constituencies in Newton that are overlooked. She believes that many people from outside the city solely view Newton as a wealthy city, while she knows that’s not entirely true.
“I would consider it to be a real honor to represent folks in Newton who struggle in silence and invisibility,” she says. “Because I know what that’s like, and I think I could be a real advocate for the constituency as well.”
James Cote is currently running to seek reelection for his fourth term as Councilor-at-Large for Ward 3. He is running against Andrea Kelley and Pamela Wright. Cote is currently on the Public Safety and Transportation Board, the Finance Board, and is the Vice Chair of the Real Property Reuse committee.
Cote has lived in Newton for 13 years. He served as a Marine directly after school for 20 years, retiring as a First Sergeant. Cote then met his wife, Albie, who has now lived in Newton for 45 years—the two have 10 kids together. Cote is currently a financial advisor—he said he loves his job because he gets to interact with people on a daily basis.
Cote believes that one of the key reasons Newton citizens should vote for him is because of his experience as councilor.
“The reason I’m running this time is because the experience I’ve gained over the last three terms makes me now more effective and more productive for the residents of the city,” he said. “I feel the value and experience I’ve gained over the last two or three terms has allowed me to get to the point where I’m really hitting my stride as an effective councilor.”
Cote said development is an obvious and pressing issue. He realizes that longtime residents of Newton have a certain idea of what Newton should look like, while newer and younger residents have a different idea of what a city is supposed to be. One of Cote’s main goals is to strike a balance between these two ideas.
Cote also acknowledges that Newton has a budget problem.
“We’re at the limit on our school budget right now,” Cote said. “The city spends about 70 percent of the budget on schools right now. So discussing all of those schools is an important topic as they are now consuming a huge part of the city budget.”
Along with the budget issues, Cote believes there are infrastructure problems in Newton that need to be resolved.
“We have an archaic police station, along with several other fire stations that need to be rebuilt,” he said. “We also need to do something about our senior center, either build a new one or redo what we have. So we have quite a few issues surrounding that area.”
Another important area Cote wants to work on is constituent services. He says he receives at least five to six requests per day from constituents and wants to work even further toward building a relationship and trust with the constituents so they always feel comfortable approaching him with their problems.
Andrea Kelley was first elected to be one of the two councilors-at-large for Ward 3 of Newton in 2017. She is running again for the 2019 elections against James Cote and Pamela Wright. Kelley currently serves on the Public Facilities Committee and the Land Use Committee.
Kelley has lived in Newton since 1979—she is currently a landscape architect and site planner. She first had the idea to run for City Council in 2016.
“I’m running because I felt urged to after watching the presidential debates in the last election,” Kelley said. “The level of divisive, uncivil discourse really got to me and I realized we were seeing something similar happening at the local level. I wanted to try to be a voice of balance and stability to counter that.”
Kelley said one of the priorities in Newton should be redesigning and updating zoning laws in order to stay ahead of development proposals and shape changes in the future. Development is a very big issue in Newton, she said. She realizes that people are very concerned about the depth and pace of development and how it will change their everyday lives.
She hopes to enhance Newton’s living space, make affordable and diverse housing more accessible, support small independent businesses, improve sidewalks and streets, and more.
While debating against James Cote and Pamela Wright in the Ward 3 councilor-at-large debate, Kelley stated she is also passionate about working to combat climate change.
“I want to work on climate change in both a daily, simple one-task-a-day change as well as larger scale long-term efforts,” she said.
In that same debate, Kelley said that she treats each issue she encounters uniquely.
“My approach is one of very much listening and considering each proposal as it comes before us. I don’t presume to know any decisions ahead of time,” Kelley said. “I look at both the micro ramifications and the macro ones.
Kelley believes people should vote for her because of her ability to see both sides of the equation.
“I’m a multi-issue person,” she said. “I’m always looking to hear both sides and how to balance sometimes conflicting desires and concerns in a collaborative and effective way.”
Pamela Wright is running for councilor-at-large against James Cote and Andrea Kelley. This is her first time running for City Council.
Wright has lived in West Newton for 20 years. She worked as an electrical engineer for almost two decades and now manages a few family buildings and volunteers in her community.
Wright is running because she wants to give the citizens of Newton more choices of who to elect for City Council. She realizes that her opponents have run uncontested in the past and wants to give Newton residents an opportunity for change.
“I wanted everyone to have their ideas out there and then the residents of Newton can decide who best represents them and they can vote for who they want to see in City Council,” Wright said.
Wright believes she has a different approach to development than her opponents. She said she does believe Newton should have development, but that it needs to be phased in so that it doesn’t overwhelm the city’s infrastructure, schools, and traffic.
“I would hate to see the developers build all of this and then they leave and the residents are stuck with what’s left,” Wright said.
Wright also wants to ensure that the government incorporates strategies to emphasize climate change resilience into any new development Newton undergoes. She said she is worried that there aren’t many requirements for this in the current state building code, and she would like to incorporate requirements like solar panels and electric vehicle charging stations into special permit codes.
Wright realizes that when building new homes or new apartment complexes, these rules would not be enforceable. For these instances, she has another plan.
“What I would like to see is a two-page informational sheet,” Wright said. “All architects and builders that work in the city would need to read that and sign it. Then they would need to give it to their clients, who before the final building permit, would need to sign it and say they received it. It’s not enforceable but it’s about getting the information out at the planning stage, so some people might take it into consideration while designing or updating their home.”
Wright also wants to push for more affordable housing. She said that in new development housing, only 15 percent is affordable—she wants to make it 25 percent. Wright also would like to preserve Newton’s green space and have a bigger and updated senior center.
Wright believes Newton residents should vote for her because she would reflect the wishes of the people of Newton.
“People should vote for me because I’m trying to represent their values and what they want to see in the city in the development now and in the future,” Wright said.
Graphic by Ikram Ali / Heights Editor