Mayor Ruthanne Fuller spoke before the Newton City Council on Zoom Tuesday night to deliver her fifth State of the City address in which she reflected on the city’s successes and outlined her vision for its future.
“Tonight I reaffirm my commitment to building a greater, better, more beautiful Newton, and the core to that commitment is the spirit of working together with elected officials, civic organizations, and residents from all of our villages,” Fuller said. “By finding common cause, we will continue to move Newton forward together.”
Fuller began the address by highlighting city projects over the last four years. She talked about the city’s implementation of full-day kindergarten, the ride service NewMo, the purchase of the Webster Woods, the first Climate Action Plan, and the city’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fuller’s address emphasized the city’s commitment to Newton Public Schools (NPS). The NPS fiscal year 2023 budget of $262 million—a $9 million increase from 2022 according to the official budget—is one of the largest annual increases in Newton’s history, she said.
Fuller also committed an additional $2 million to NPS for technology upgrades and social and emotional support for students.
But Fuller acknowledged the struggles the city is facing, too, including the death of 239 Newtonians as a result of COVID-19, rising housing prices, incidents of hate speech, and increased costs that are putting a strain on the city budget.
Despite the city’s challenges, Fuller expressed an optimistic outlook for the coming year.
“I can say confidently that the year ahead will be a banner one in so many ways, and we have much about which to be excited,” Fuller said.
Fuller spoke on upcoming changes to the city in 2022, including a new preschool, an expanded children’s room at the Newton Free Library, and a new senior center. Fuller also spoke about the transformation of the West Newton Armory into green and affordable apartments.
Fuller also talked about future plans such as creating new commuter rail stations in Auburndale, West Newton, and Newtonville, improving Hammond Pond Parkway to be more “people-centric,” and installing more bike lanes throughout the city.
Additionally, Fuller emphasized the environmental initiatives the city plans to take on in the future.
“Our community must continue to evolve as we move toward a future where Newton continues to lead on green initiatives,” Fuller said. “We must use less, green the rest, compost more, and recycle right.”
Newton can become greener by renovating early childcare centers with heat pumps instead of natural gas and improving greenways and open spaces, according to Fuller.
Fuller said she is confident in Newton because of the city’s leadership and strength of community.
“Our employees did the almost impossible over the last few years,” Fuller said. “They have never worked harder or under more strenuous conditions. Our [city’s employees] are ready and so able to help us turn our ideas for a better future into concrete actions.”
Fuller concluded the speech with an optimistic look toward the future.
“I look forward to all that is to come with hope and with confidence to facing the challenges that will arise with compassion, clarity of purpose, [and] to breaking down barriers that still persist in our community,” Fuller said.
Featured Image Courtesy of Ruthanne Fuller