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Candidates vie for Aldermen seats

By Denebola
Published: October 2007
By Christopher ErspamerThe residents of Newton will vote on November 6 to determine the membership of the Board of Aldermen and the School Committee for the next two years.
Although all 24 seats of the Board of Aldermen and the entire eight-member School Committee are up for election, most incumbent candidates are running unopposed. Only seven seats are contested for these elections.
Aldermen-at-large Ben Weisbuch of Ward 1 and Richard Lipof of Ward 8 both have announced that they would not seek reelection this fall, and their wards are undergoing intense races between several different candidates.
Carleton Merrill, the other Ward 1 Alderman-at-large, is facing three different challengers. Allan Ciccone Jr., Janet Sterman and Al Cecchinelli, are all ahead of Merrill, leaving him hard-pressed to retain his seat for another term.
Another challenger, James Schpeiser, failed to receive enough votes and was eliminated from the race in a September election.
Mitchell Fischman, incumbent from Ward 8, is also meeting a significant challenge from Myra Tattenbaum, Tom Sheff and John Friedman. The candidates have sparred over issue such as a possible override, the budget, and a proposed development in Chestnut Hill.
Alderman Christine Snow Samuelson is in an especially tight race with
Bill Brandel in Ward 5. Samuelson has come under severe criticism from
Newton’s firefighters, who accuse her of not doing enough to support
them. Newton’s dilapidated fire stations have been a hot button issue
in local politics. Firefighters and their supporters such as Brandel
accuse members of the Board of Aldermen of not moving fast enough to
appropriate the funds necessary for renovation.
In the Ward Alderman election for Ward 3, incumbent Anthony Salvucci
faces a challenge from Anatol Zukerman. Zuckerman also advocates
giving more funding for fire stations. In addition, he wants to revise
Newton’s current sick leave policy.
In Ward 7, Jeff Seideman is challenging Aldermen-at-large Sydra
Schnipper and Verne Vance. These three candidates are running for two
seats. The candidates in this ward hold different views, especially
over the budget. As president of the fiscally conservative Newton
Taxpayers Association, Seideman opposes raising taxes, whereas Vance
and Schnipper believe that taxes are necessary to solve the budget
deficit.
Elections are also taking place in Ward 3, where incumbents Ted
Hess-Mahan and Leslie Burg are facing one contestant, Greer Tan
Swiston.
The only seat on the School Committee being contested is in Ward 1,
where Geoff Epstein, who ran unsuccessfully in 2005, is once again
campaigning against incumbent Gail Glick.
Epstein, is especially concerned with funding math and science
programs, but believes that most school subjects and after school
programs need to be improved.
“We have all been focused recently on building projects, and rightly
so,” Epstein said. “But now we need to pay as much attention to the
funding of school programs”.
Glick agrees that funding programs is important, but she feels that
Epstein is concentrating too narrowly on math and science programs,
and in doing so he would be playing the role of a superintendent
rather than a Committee member. Glick believes that a broader focus is
needed in funding curriculums, and that it is not the job of a school
committee member to advocate for a specific subject.
Glick feels that it is important to listen to certain procedures such
as the Strategic Planning Process, when allocating funds for programs.
The Strategic Planning Process was set up last year by Superintendent
Jeff Young with the goal of identifying which programs are need more
assistance.
School Committee member Anne Lerner will retire after this election
because she is term-limited. Real estate lawyer and PTSO-School
Committee liaison Kurt Kusiak is running unopposed to replace her.
An important issue in all of the campaigns is the increasingly large
deficit in the city budget.
According to Vice President of the Board of Aldermen Amy Sangiolo,
Newton is currently facing a $10 million deficit, which is projected
to rise to $38 million in the next five years.
Though not a primary issue, the Newton South turf is receiving an
increasing amount of attention from several Aldermen.

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