By Ruthanne Fuller
There’s a lot at stake for Newton – our schools, our neighborhoods and villages, our small business districts and commercial corridors and our financial sustainability.
I have worked for 30 years as a strategic planner for the private, non-profit, and public sectors. After getting my MBA, I consulted for large businesses and then entered the non-profit sector to create WGBH’s first master plan.
Over a decade ago, I was appointed vice-chair of the Newton Citizen’s Advisory Group, creating a plan to address long-term structural challenges facing our city.
Elected to the City Council in 2010, I put my business and strategy skills to work as chair of the Financial Audit Advisory Committee and vice chair of the Finance Committee – making sure our money is spent wisely, increasing our cash reserves, and protecting our AAA bond rating.
The strength of the business and non-profit sectors is critical to Newton because:
- We want Newton to be a vibrant place to live and work.
- Developing the local employment base provides greater opportunities for all Newton residents.
- When people can both work and live in Newton, they minimize their travel time, enhancing their lives and reducing traffic congestion.
- Developing quality commercial, office and retail space increases the city’s tax base so we can invest in our schools, public safety, senior services and other municipal services.
I have a clear plan to make Newton more competitive and attractive for business and the experience to deliver.
I will work with the business community and residents to complete zoning reform. Let’s clarify where we want businesses to grow. This will make permitting and land use decisions more predictable. Done in conjunction with strategic master plans for each village and commercial corridor, zoning reform will identify needs and opportunities for small business growth and reduce vacancies (approximately 9 percent currently).
I will work with developers to make sure their projects and the mitigation they provide fit Newton’s needs.
I will embrace and promote the N-Squared Innovation District making it Massachusetts’ suburban innovation hub. We can create a vibrant and entrepreneurial community, integrating place making, business and social networks, economic activity, and mixed-use development while encouraging new industries to make Newton/Needham their home.
I will encourage co-working and/or community business spaces.
I will enhance and promote the Wells Office Park, including road access, dining and retail options, improved lighting and road conditions, and beautification.
I will encourage the development of a robust business attraction program to support entrepreneurs and let businesses around the world know Newton is open for business. My plan includes building a website with events and information on demographics, workforce, and infrastructure; access to a database of sites and buildings available for lease or sale; engaging a site location firm to develop leads of companies and developers interested in expansion or relocation; and supporting the growth and retention of existing companies.
With such a wealth of colleges, universities, and institutions, I will work to provide internship/externship programs, encourage lifelong learning, and connect these entities with our local economy.
I will invest in transportation. For Newton to be truly “open for business,” residents and workers from outside Newton need to be able to access employment easily. New development should be transit-oriented whenever possible. With major MBTA investments unlikely, we need to explore creative transit solutions, especially shuttle buses that run frequently to office parks and retail centers, subsidized to limit the cost to riders. Improving pedestrian and bicycle safety and encouraging shared bike services and Zipcar will increase accessibility.
With automobile use the primary mode of transportation for the foreseeable future, I will increase investments so our streets are paved and safe for transit and new traffic technology is installed to reduce congestion in our busiest intersections.
I look forward to working with you to shape the direction of our city and making sure that Newton is open for business.