First elected to the Newton City Council in 2013, Emily Norton was originally inspired to run after witnessing problems in her kids’ public schools such as a lack of working faucets.
“I saw that I could get involved in trying to make things better,” Norton said “I did that as a volunteer going to school committee meetings, blogging about the schools, and advocating for things to be better. Then, when a seat opened for city council, I decided to run, thinking I could be an advocate from a different perch from a voting seat.”
Norton currently works as the executive director at Charles River Watershed Association, which is an environmental advocacy group, andher goal of developing a more proactive stormwater system to address the frequent flooding in the city reflects her commitment to the environment in her campaign.
Norton said her proudest achievements as ward councilor include introducing Newton Power Choice to the council in March 2017, an electricity program dedicated to bringing renewable energy to the city, as well as being responsive to her constituent’s letters and inquiries.
The lack of local press coverage to inform citizens on local issues is a challenging part of serving on the city council, Norton said. This lack of coverage has translated to low voter turnout in local elections, as Norton said it is hard for people to know what is going on.
“It’s hard to let people know about whether there’s a development … or anything that people would really be interested in if you don’t have a local press reporting on things the way they used to,” Norton said. “We all behave better when our actions and words are public, and so I think that has been a real loss.”
In addition to environmental programs, some of Norton’s other priorities include racial equality, affordable housing, and education, according to her website. Norton said she supports the hiring of a diversity, equity, and inclusion director to make recommendations about operations and policies in the city.
In terms of housing, Norton wrote that she supports expanding affordable housing options in the city. Throughout the zoning redesign process, she said she will be looking for zoning that discourages teardowns and incentivizes maintaining Newton’s existing housing stock. Norton said zoning should encourage new units close to public transit to be compact, which will help with affordability.
“Serving has been gratifying work,” Norton said. “I hope that there are young people who will consider getting involved, whether running for office, working on a campaign, or any career working for a city or town … you really get to affect people’s lives. I think the rubber really meets the road at the local level.”
Albright was first elected to Newton City Council in 2004 and said her wide knowledge of the city council makes her a valuable staple, according to her website.
Since joining the city council, Albright has worked on upgrades to Cabot Elementary School, which involved communicating with neighbors, students, parents, and teachers to design a site plan. She also led the creation of the Welcoming City Ordinance in 2017, which declared Newton a sanctuary city.
Albright is a life-long resident of Newton and attended Newton Public Schools, according to her website. After high school, Albright graduated from Tufts University and later developed her own company that supports medical schools with software that she developed.
Albright is concerned with diverse housing opportunities, economic development, improving transportation, creating ordinances to mitigate climate change, supporting senior services, and improving zoning ordinances, according to her website.
Albright did not respond to The Heights’ request for an interview.
Tarik Lucas was first elected to the Newton City Council last March, and is currently running for re-election as councilor-at-large.
Lucas’s top priorities for his upcoming term include zoning redesign, affordable housing, the environment, racial justice, education, transparency, and biking and mobility, according to his website.
Lucas said his life experiences have had an impact on his initiatives within the council. Due to his family’s displacement from their Roxbury home during his childhood, the issue of affordable housing is a personal one, he said on his website. For this reason, Lucas said he wants to advocate for affordable housing that makes Newton accessible to low and moderate income residents, according to his website.
Mayor Ruthanne Fuller appointed Lucas to the Newtonville Historic District Commission in 2018, according to his website. In addition to being a youth basketball and soccer coach for the last 20 years, Lucas currently works at Harvard University Press, according to his website.
“I have a track record of listening to residents and a commitment to representing my constituents,” Lucas said on his website. “I look forward to being your voice on the Newton City Council.”
Lucas did not respond to The Heights’ request for an interview.
Christopher Brezski is running for his first term on the Newton School Committee. While his career is in investment management, he has always been concerned with education as a father to two children in Newton Public Schools (NPS) and a former volunteer teacher in New York City Public Schools.
Following the city’s handling of the pandemic, Brezski was inspired to run for office.
“There was no real leadership and no political will to get kids back to school,” Brezski said. “As the year wore on the science was becoming clearer and clearer that the benefit [for] the community in terms of not risking transmission of disease was far outweighed by the costs we were incurring of keeping kids out of school … I mean the social and emotional and mental health costs.”
Brezski said he worked with other parents to establish a medical advisory committee in NPS. He said that this committee consisted of physicians to help guide the reopening of schools in a safe way that was backed by science.
The main focus of his campaign is helping make up for the time lost during a year of online learning, Brezski said.
“I don’t think there’s any dispute that the pandemic has widened gaps that previously existed, and that’s what we need to focus on,” he said. “Everything else is secondary to getting all our students back to where they need to be.”
According to Brezski, these gaps can be closed by extending existing programs, creating new programs, implementing professional development training, and increasing staffing for social workers and for math and literacy specialists.
“The most important thing without question in my mind is focusing on getting our students back to square—academically, socially, [and] emotionally,” Brezski said. “There’s unquestionably ground to cover up from the pandemic, and I think that outweighs everything else at the moment.”
Featured Graphic by Olivia Charbonneau / Heights Editor