Metro, Politics, Newton

Mayor Fuller Voices Confidence in Newton’s Future at State of the City Address

Mayor Ruthanne Fuller spoke before the Newton City Council expressing her confidence in the city’s future despite recent challenges, such as division over the teachers strike and the new zoning ordinance, in her State of the City address Tuesday night.

“These headwinds weigh heavily on all of us, fraying social bonds, eroding confidence in our democratic institutions, and fertilizing the dual maladies of anxiety and distrust,” Fuller said. “Yet, in spite of all these seemingly intractable issues, I can’t think of a better place than here in Newton.” 

Fuller began her speech by listing increasing housing prices, zoning disagreements, the teachers strike, traffic congestion, migration, and environmental issues as key issues from the past several years. 

She explained that despite these challenges, she remains energetic and optimistic in the work being done to better the community—namely in the areas of education, future governance, and infrastructure. 

“We have a visionary, energetic new superintendent focusing on high standards, high supports, and high respect,” Fuller said. “Superintendent [Anna] Nolin brings a track record of using metrics, accountability, and communication to drive both decision making and excellence in learning.”

Fuller further emphasized the city’s commitment to Newton Public Schools (NPS) in the upcoming fiscal year’s budget.

“Two months from now, I’ll be proposing a city budget that, as always, increases the funding for our schools,” Fuller said. “This year the increase will be another $14 million for a total budget for NPS of $282 million dollars.”

Fuller spoke optimistically on the ongoing changes in the community, such as environmental initiatives, the Newton Thrive program, an updated Tree Preservation Ordinance, and the newly enacted zoning ordinance

“As a result of recently updated village center zoning, affordable and market-rate housing mixed in with retail and restaurants will be more possible,” Fuller said. “This zoning stems from a combination of hard work and compromise by city councilors backed by a new state law.”

Additionally, the city is working on many public facility improvements, according to Fuller. She listed four new school building projects in the works, a project regarding the Jackson Homestead and Museum, police station overhauls, and several municipal buildings that will be undergoing conversions to become fully electric. 

“With this additional solar, close to 40 percent of our total municipal electricity consumption will be offset by our solar arrays,” Fuller said.

Alongside new investment plans for parks and recreational spaces, accelerated road paving using the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds and free cash, new traffic calming measures, and bicycle roadmap plans, Fuller said infrastructure updates in Newton are progressing rapidly. 

Fuller also revealed the upcoming senior center, informally named Newton Center for Active Living, will officially be the Cooper Center for Active Living in honor of Newton resident Audrey Cooper, who passed in 2021. 

Cooper served as a secretary at Underwood Elementary School for 27 years. She worked at the nonprofit Family ACCESS, aiding in the establishment of many of its programs. She was also a volunteer and trustee at the Newton Free Library. Among many other contributions within the community, Cooper helped establish the first-ever Newton Senior Center.

“Let us be led by the example of Audrey Cooper as we resolve to strengthen our civic body with stronger bonds,” Fuller said. 

Fuller concluded her speech by reiterating the power of Newton’s identity when it comes to problem solving. 

“While we have different opinions, we are all Newtonians and we are all committed to this community,” Fuller said. “By working collectively and collaboratively, we can address the issues that divide us with solutions that unite us.”

February 21, 2024