One event that I didn't want to miss, however, was the November 22 installment of the administration's series of Housing Strategy meetings, where participants were asked to put Lego blocks on maps of Newton to indicate where they would put higher density housing. One of my concerns is that opinions collected from a small number of people, on the Sunday before Thanksgiving, under rules and format set by an administration determined to build more housing and high-density housing regardless of the impacts on school overcrowding, traffic, taxes, and loss of open space, would be used to justify future policy decisions.
I thought it was important for people who were not able to attend, or who did not even know this event was happening, to be able to hear the discussion, hence the video. With ten tables in the breakout session portion (which starts about one hour into the video), I couldn't be everywhere, so that portion is only a random sampling, but I think it captures the competing viewpoints. It's striking, though, that one thing that people had in common was that no one seemed to like teardowns. (So what is the city doing about that? Nothing.)
Contrary to my fear that this exercise would attract mainly people interested in building more and more housing until "demand" is satisfied (when would that be?), there actually seemed to be quite a lot of pushback on the premise of more housing development being needed or desirable.
But the rules of the "game" seemed designed to achieve a particular outcome. I was especially disturbed by how the consultant invited participants to convert commercial and industrial property to residential -- calling that an "opportunity" -- when our percentage of commercial property is already low, and we need to preserve and expand our commercial tax base to have any hope of paying for $1 billion of unfunded pension and OPEB liabilities. And as I say near the end of the final Q&A period, I question why the administration is pushing what amounts to a 10% increase in housing units in a city that many of us feel is already fully built out, (And it's not even clear that 3,200 units is the target, or whether it could be higher.)
A big thank you to my fellow former candidate, Chris Pitts, for processing the video clips and getting this 2 hour 40 minute video uploaded to YouTube. I hope people will take the time to watch it, and let our elected officials know what they think.