Newton Board of Aldermen Delay Decision on Ward 1 Special Election Date
The board will take up the special election item at its next meeting on March 18.
The Newton Board of Aldermen Monday night agreed to postpone its vote on whether to hold a special election for the vacant Ward 1 alderman-at-large seat in conjunction with the June 25 special Senate election.
The aldermen will take up the item again at its next full board meeting on Monday, March 18.
After a lengthy debate last month on whether to hold the special election, the full board rejected the Election Commission's recommendation to skip a special election for the Ward 1 alderman-at-large seat, which was made vacant with the death of Alderman Carleton Merrill.
Following the Feb. 19 vote, the Programs and Services Committee docketed an item asking to hold the Ward 1 special election on June 25, piggybacking it with the special Senate election also scheduled that day.
The Programs and Services Committee approved the special election item 5-0 on Feb. 20, according to the committee report.
With the item poised for a full board vote, discussion resurfaced last night after Ward 4 Alderman-at-Large and Finance Committee Chair Lenny Gentile brought up concerns about spending money on a special election that Gentile said may have only one candidate.
As of today, the only person who has declared candidacy for the Ward 1 alderman-at-large seat is current Ward 1 Alderman Scott Lennon, who sat out Monday night's discussion due to his conflict of interest.
According to Interim Election Commission Executive Secretary Peter Koutoujian Sr., the Ward 1 at-large special election would run the city roughly $30,000 if it decided to piggyback on the June 25 special Senate election. A typical city election that runs on its own costs around $80,000, he said.
Gentile, who voted last month to forego the special election, said he has received some concerns from constituents about the special election and its cost. With the override vote approaching, Gentile said the board should not give constituents any doubts about how it is spending money.
"If this election goes forward, I'm going to be back here saying [the city needs] $35,000 for an election with one person...and then end up with another vacancy," Gentile said. "We're going to look really foolish."
Gentile, who noted that he does not make public endorsements often, said he supports the override and believes it is "important" that it passes on March 12.
Ward 7 Alderman-at-Large Marc Laredo, who supported holding a special election, reiterated last night that the board should follow the city's charter and the "democratic process."
"Some citizens view this as a waste of money -- I don't," Laredo said. "I think elections are the life blood of democracy."
The city's charter specifies that a special election must be held to fill a Board of Aldermen seat if the vacancy occurs within the first 15 months of the term [Sec. 2-5 (a)]. Because the charter states a special election should be held, the Board of Aldermen would have to petition the state legislature for home rule legislation to allow the city to skip the special election.
After the board voted down the request to petition the legislature last month, Ward 2 Alderman Stephen Linsky said last night he is not sure if the board would be able to take up that home rule legislation item again.
"I'm not certain that we would have the same option to go back and seek special legislation again to put the election off," Linsky said.
With that question still looming, Linsky suggested the board delay its decision in order to "learn what our options are" with the potential special election.
If the aldermen decide to move forward with the Ward 1 special election, it will be one of six elections the city will hold this year; Newton voters are also scheduled to head to the polls for the March 12 special override election, special Senate primary in April, special Senate election in June as well as the municipal primary in September and municipal general election in November.