3.03.2006

Why I won't be moving to Newton anytime soon

When my family were looking to buy our first house, there were only two places we considered: Newton, where I grew up; and Waltham. We were priced out of Newton. I was quite bitter about this at the time -- I felt I was denied the right to live in the place I considered my home -- but in hindsight, it was the right move for us. Not only is Waltham a great place to live, and nearby to family still in Newton, but also I am avoiding some major problems which I feel will greatly hurt the quality of life in Newton in the coming decades.

The first problem is illustrated by this article in the Boston Globe/Boston.com, by Mindi Pollack-Fusi. That's right, well over a half a million dollars for a bungalow not much bigger than a two-car garage. This tells me that despite the recent downturn in real estate prices, they are still so high that there is no real chance of moving to Newton, unless you already have money or real estate, are paid a lot of money, or inherit property and money. These are not common scenarios for most young families I know.

The second problem is illustrated by this guest commentary in the Newton Tab by Dori Zaleznik, chairwoman of the Newton School Committee. She's just talking about problems this year -- never mind the major plans the City has for the future. If Newton Public School insiders are this worried about budgets now, imagine the state of affairs five years from now, when the city has to start paying cash for a new high school.

What are the amounts the city is tossing around for a new Newton North? $125 million? $150 million? I guarantee you that it won't be just a few obscure school programs that will get the axe. Here are some possibile cuts that I anticipate seeing: Cops, teachers, DPW workers will be laid off, and the unions will call for strikes. Salaries will be frozen, maybe for years. New equipment purchases will be put off. Aid to seniors and poor people, in the form of housing or other assistance, will be reduced. Elementary schools and other facilities will be consolodated (again!). Trees won't be trimmed. Recycling collection will be cut to once every two weeks. Taxes will be raised again, hastening the outflow of the middle class and small businesses.

Will this have an impact on the character of Newton? You bet it will! It will be a tense, angry city -- not the kind of place that I would want to live.

And frankly there's not much anyone can do about it.

Or is there? I have floated ideas in the past concerning Newton North, and have a few others to discuss as well. Stay tuned ....

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