Whether it’s door to door, in front of small groups, or just among friends, there’s one question I’m getting asked a lot lately: What made you decide to run for Alderman?
Our Aldermen give up just about every Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday night as well as a host of other times and weigh in on everything from land use, public safety, traffic, finance, the environment and a host of other topics. Why would someone choose to do such a thing?
Serving the City as an Alderman calls to me as I have the skills and experience and drive to make strong contributions. I have over twenty years of experience in working with other communities achieve their goals, and I want to be able to apply what I know in the City I love and where my wife and I have chosen to raise our family.
It's not that I think the people currently in the seats are doing a poor job. Both have made excellent contributions based on their own strengths. However, our City charter calls for elections every two years for a reason. Aldermanic seats are not lifetime appointments, nor should they be.
I believe in the democratic process. If we thought it were proper only to wait until someone retires from the Board (or were term-limited off), then elections every two years would have no purpose. Instead, every two years we get to have a conversation about our goals as a City. We get to make decisions about who we think would best serve these important roles in our local government.
Moreover, Newton is moving into a phase of looking forward and addressing new issues, such as how we will remain committed to excellent schools in an era of constrained finances. How will we address the development pressures and opportunities facing our community? How will we address the environmental and energy issues facing the City? And how can we find more innovative ways of financing our needs rather than continuing to rely solely on a beleaguered residential property tax base. These challenges require new thinking, but thinking with skills and experience to back it up.
I learned ten years ago that Newton is a place that always has room for someone to step in and lend a hand based on their abilities and expertise. After you volunteer the first time, there’s always more to do, if you’re willing. To me, wanting to serve on the Board is a natural progression from the work I have done as a volunteer for as long as I have lived here in Newton.
The Mayor and Aldermen have made improvements in the past years in many areas across the City. I now see a chance to work on areas where I have specific skills and experience:
- The long-term financial stability of the City through implementing proper financial and risk controls,
- Ensuring that we follow through on our commitment to maintain the City’s schools and to continue to stay ahead of our needs,
- Developing land use controls that maintain the character and history of our City while encouraging infill redevelopment where it makes sense,
- Ensuring that our village centers remain vibrant and the centers of our community,
- Ensuring that we also maintain and enhance our open and recreational spaces
My own background as a trained urban planner, as an economic development consultant, and as someone who has advised clients on financial feasibility mean that I have the necessary skills and experience to address these issues.
I hope that this helps explain my decision to run, and also explains a little of why I would be a strong addition to the Board. As always, please let me know if you’d like to talk more.
Chris Steele is running for the city-wide office of Alderman at Large, Ward 5. You can learn more at www.steele4newton.org or by contacting him at firstname.lastname@example.org