Challenger, Two Incumbents Face off in Ward 6 Race
Greg Schwartz is challenging incumbents Charlie Shapiro and Vicki Danberg in the Ward 6 alderman-at-large race.
Newton voters on Tuesday will decide whether to keep both seated Ward 6 aldermen-at-large — Charlie Shapiro and Vicki Danberg — or elect challenger Greg Schwartz to one of those seats.
Schwartz, who has been involved with politics and policy his all of his adult life, including working for two congressmen and a senator in Washington, D.C., he said, hopes to bring a new voice to the board — that of a parent and doctor.
“I decided to run because I’m very concerned for the future of Newton,” he said, noting he’s a parent of two young children. “It’s a very disturbing future.”
The city needs to work on building maintenance, especially where it has been deferred; deal with current overcrowding of schools and rising enrollment numbers; and find a way to balance the school budget without cuts to major programs, he said. Parks and open spaces are also a priority of Schwartz’s.
“It’s very important to enable people to use the open spaces,” Schwartz said. “That’s seen through the perspective of a physician and wanting to get everyone up and walking.
For Shapiro, who has served one term, being reelected would mean continuing his work to improve the City of Newton. One of his past efforts includes the Newton Silver Alert system, put into place in the city to help find older adults who wander off due to dementia or other diseases.
“The governor is literally taking the program statewide on the basis of what was put into place in Newton,” said Shapiro, who said he was the only elected official appointed to a state committee on implementing a statewide Silver Alert program.
Shapiro said his involvement with the city and residents is what he’s passionate about – from attending events and lectures to meeting people at businesses and in different villages.
“An at-large-alderman needs to look at the city as a whole and keep an eye on the individual villages,” he said. “I’ve made it a point to really take a lot of time and invest that time in meeting people wherever I can.”
Shapiro said he’s heard concern from residents about wanting solid schools. People are also focused on finances and maintaining the quality of life they’ve had, he said.
Although she was not available for a separate interview for this article, Danberg notes in a candidate Q&A with Newton Patch that finances and schools are a priority for residents.
“Increasing Newton’s financial security and stability is of paramount importance to me, as well as safeguarding the continued excellence of our schools,” she said.
Danberg, who has been an at-large-alderman since 2004, said she also wants to continue the work she’s started on the board.
“I’m a very hardworking Alderman,” she said. “I see a problem, take it on and find a solution. I am excited about being able to continue to bring my vision for Newton to reality.”
Shapiro, on the other hand, said he's listened to residents on the campaign trail who are unhappy with the ordinance, which requires homeowners to clear snow off the sidewalks in front of their homes within 36 hours of a storm.
“The mayor is essentially trying to balance the budget by offloading city responsibility onto the backs of city residents,” Shapiro said. “The city should retain its responsibilities.”
While Schwartz said the schools are one of his main priorities, he does not feel that he could better serve the city on the School Committee, as budget issues need to be dealt with first at the city level.
He’s encouraged by changes in the board leadership over the last few years, and is excited to help the board move forward. Schwartz has made adjustments to his work schedule, seeing patients half-time, and brings the value of being a good listener to the board as well, he said, as perspectives on how to manage healthcare costs.
Schwartz said his background as a doctor gives him an analytical approach to problem solving, one based on collecting data and figuring out the best treatment plan. That can be applied directly to city government, he said.
“That’s what I do every day,” he said. “Try to hear what people are saying, whether it’s subtle or unsubtle.”