Chamber News

June 15, 2020 Likes Comments

Mayor to discuss racism, police, economic recession, tonight

Like mayors across the nation, Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller is facing demands to re-allocate funds from the Newton Police Department to other community programs.

 
Tonight (Monday) at 6 p.m. she plans to discuss those requests and related issues in a rare address to the city.
 
Tonight’s speech comes after the City Council overwhelmingly approved a resolution Thursday asking Fuller to reallocate $200,000 from her proposed budget to perform a bottom up analysis of the police department.
 
The non-binding action (the council doesn’t have the authority to alter budget line items) came after a group of Newton activists organized an online forum that attracted nearly 300 participants, including many young residents, demanding, among others steps, “defunding.”
 
Fuller and the Newton PD also face questions following an incident involving Newton resident Tim Duncan, who had a gun pointed at him by a Newton police officer after being misidentified as a murder suspect, who was also Black.
 
“I will speak [tonight] to some of the critical issues facing our community: racism, public safety and the role of our police, our priorities as evidenced in our city budget, the pandemic and the economic recession,” Fuller said in a statement.
 
Leaders at several civic organizations – including Engine 6, Green Newton, Newton Interfaith Clergy Association and Progressive Newton - want Fuller to call for an independent investigation into the stopping and questioning of Duncan.
 
Also seeking an investigation and transparency is veteran housing activist Josephine McNeil, who served for many years on the chamber’s Board of Directors and was the recipient of the chamber’s prestigious RL Tennant Award last year.
 
In a powerful letter to city leaders, McNeil also called for a “racial equality assessment of Newton institutions” and reflected on being a Black Newton resident.
 
“Over 60 and Black, I am doubly vulnerable to the coronavirus and have been sheltering at home with the exception of walking,” McNeil wrote. “But, even before the George Floyd murder, as I have varied my walks by turning off major thoroughfares onto side streets, I have wondered what the reaction of people might be to seeing a Black stranger in their neighborhood. Since both the Floyd murder and the revelation of the Tim Duncan incident, I am for the first time really fearful, due in part to the backlash from those who do not agree with the demonstrations denouncing institutional racism and police brutality.”
 
 
Some PPP updates
 
A reminder that the Small Business Administration still has billions of dollars available for the PPP program. But your application needs to be submitted by June 30, so apply ASAP. The SBA has updated the PPP application to reflect changes to the law. Here’s a list of chamber member banks that may be able to help.
 
If you already have your PPP loan, you may want to check out a webinar we’re hosting Thursday about how to take advantage of the forgiveness features and the just approved changes to the program and the latest addition to the SBA’s Interim Final Rule published on June 11.
 
Finally, it was nice to see this article in the Boston Business Journal outlining how the region’s community banks stepped in to help thousands of small business secure a Paycheck Protection Program loan, including helping customers of larger banks.
 
“Community bankers earned a small fee on the loan, and, in many cases, the profuse gratitude of the small-business owner,” wrote reporter Greg Ryan. “The PPP offered community banks the marketing opportunity of a lifetime, executives say. The lenders have long contended they offer a personal touch that big banks cannot. They see the PPP’s chaotic early days as a manifestation of that: When businesses faced a crisis unlike any they'd ever seen, they found lenders willing to walk them through a confusing government program, right away, while larger lenders struggled to push applications through automated systems.”
 
Eversource resource
 
Eversource is offering flexible payment plans to all customers who are having difficulty paying their energy bill during the COVID-19 pandemic. For financial hardship customers in Massachusetts, the utility’s New Start program provides forgiveness on past-due balances based on making scheduled payments.

Outdoor dining expanding
 
Massachusetts has launched a $5 million grant program to help communities fix streets and parking lots as restaurants shift focus to outdoor dining, MassLive reports. Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito said the 100-day program would offer grants as little as $5,000 and as large as six-figure awards to quickly undertake improvements.
 
Those grants could come in handy as our local municipalities look to expand outdoor dining while the weather is favorable.

Needham’s Select Board has given Town Manager Kate Fitzpatrick broad authority to allow outdoor dining in parking lots, on-street parking spaces, sidewalks, landscaped yard areas or other locations. Fitzpatrick will also be able to approve modifications to existing permits and licenses, right of way occupations, alcohol licenses, common victualers licensing, entertainment licenses and zoning permits.
 
This follows a successful take-out initiative, which created picnic spaces around Needham for residents to consume their food and beverage takeout al fresco on May 21. The town is now working to reimagine areas including the Chapel Street and Lincoln Street parking lots, areas along Great Plain Ave. and other locations.
 
“We’re committed to removing the obstacles and barriers that may prevent local restaurants from recovering and doing so as quickly as possible,” said Moe Handel, chair of the Select Board.
 
Newton added picnic tables in multiple outdoor spaces last week at these locations. More locations are on the way.
 
“We’re figuring out where we can safely locate dining spots on some streets or parking spaces. We know time is critical to our restaurants and we hope to roll this out as soon as possible,” Fuller said.
 
Watertown has been a little slower in this process but is now accepting applications for temporary outdoor seating. The approval process will begin on Tuesday.
 
Here’s the chamber’s list of local restaurants offering outdoor dining.
 
Newton allows retail outdoor display
 
Sidewalk sales are back! Retailers in Newton are now allowed to place merchandise for sale on sidewalks outside of their businesses. The city is also permitting sandwich boards on the sidewalk directly abutting the business for the purpose of providing information about the business. Tables, merchandise and sandwich boards must be placed so as to provide an unobstructed width of 36”. If you have questions contact Devra Bailin at 617-796-1122.
 
And in chamber news….
 
We miss our members. Rumor has it, some of you miss us too!
 
We haven’t held a non-virtual chamber event since early March. But today we’re announcing plans to hold a somewhat modified version of our annual golf tournament, Monday Aug. 3, at Woodland Golf Club.
 
We’re working with the club to make sure we’re following the latest guidelines but also adding a few first-time enhancements too; like beer and wine out on the course and lobster rolls for lunch, instead of the usual turkey sandwiches.
 
Most importantly, we’ll be able to bring a lot of folks together (in a social distance way) for an afternoon. Registration opens today. Click here for full details.
 
It will be nice to actually see you. Maybe I’ll even get a haircut for the occasion.
President, Newton-Needham Regional Chamber
617-244-1688
Your chamber is here when you need us.

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