Ken Parker Seeks to Save Taxpayers Millions in Repair Costs

The April 29th Newton TAB highlights Alderman Ken Parker's leadership on the issue of maintenance of our public buildings, which has suffered under the Cohen Administration.  

 From the article:

Newton - Newton’s lack of a documented preventive maintenance program for city buildings has one alderman worried the city is squandering money on expensive repairs that could be avoided.

“It’s a matter of having a documented program that is followed,” Alderman Ken Parker said. “It’s not a matter of throwing money at the problem. The practical consequence is that we spend far more on repair and replacement than we need to because we don’t have a strong program.”

According to the meeting minutes for an April 9 Programs and Services committee hearing, Nick Parnell, Commissioner of the Public Buildings, attributed the city’s poor maintenance to an underfunded budget that doesn’t allow him to perform as many checks as he would like.

“Basically, unless something was broken, it did not get attended to,” Parnell inferred from the meeting minutes.

“Unfortunately, there really is no comprehensive preventative maintenance program in place to cover all of our school and public buildings,” mayoral spokesman Jeremy Solomon said. “We essentially take care of the necessary improvements as they come up.”

With infrastructure deterioration fast becoming an urgent statewide and national issue, it's not hard to understand the need for a well-thought-out comprehensive preventative maintenance program.  As we in Newton can certainly appreciate, it would save taxpayers millions of dollars.



Meet Ken in April!

Spring is here and everyone is probably starting to ask: "when can I meet Alderman Ken Parker to talk to him about issues facing Newton!?!?"  Well, our schedule for the next two months is filling up fast.  Ken would be delighted to meet you at one of our many upcoming events.  From our events page, here is the schedule so far:

Upcoming Events:

  • April 6 at 3:00 pm in Newton Highlands - coffee for Ken Parker
  • April 8 at 7:00 pm in Newton Centre - coffee for Ken Parker
  • April 15 at 7:00 pm in Newton Centre - coffee for Ken Parker
  • April 17 at 7:00 pm - coffee for Ken Parker
  • May 4 at 7;00 pm in Newton Centre - coffee for Ken Parker
  • May 18th at 4:30 pm in Newton Highlands - coffee for Ken Parker
  • May 18th at 7:00 pm - FUNDRAISER: Newton Doctors for Ken Parker
  • July 8th at 7:00 pm in Newton Highlands - coffee for Ken Parker

Primarily because many of our hosts have space limitations in their homes we aren't listing the exact locations on the web.  If you would like to attend an event, please give me a call any time at (617) 997-2577 or get in touch with us via email.  I would be more than happy to tell you more about a specific event or let you know if we still have space available.  Our coffees so far have been very engaging and exciting discussion about the future of Newton - please consider stopping by!

~ Shawn 


Ken Parker Interviewed by Newton South Student Paper

With the debate raging in Newton about education, city finances and politics, Ken was recently contacted and interviewed by a journalist with Denebola, the Newton South student newspaper.  Their reporter asked great questions - the Q&A can be found below.  Let us know what you think!

Why do you want to become mayor?

Newton is a wonderful place to live and work and, as Mayor, I will be in a strong position to restore Newton to its position of leadership in providing excellent services, world class public education, and cutting-edge environmental policies. While we have lost some ground in recent years, I know what we need to do to get Newton back to being the model of excellence that has long been our reputation. 

What criticism do you have of Mayor Cohen and/or of the direction Newton's been heading recently?

My differences with Mayor Cohen are not personal, but focus on issues.  We have strong policy disagreements regarding the direction he has been taking the City of Newton. We need effective management practices that emphasize accountability and results and make the most of our limited resources.  For example, we should invest in maintenance rather than waiting until buildings are in such poor condition that they need expensive repairs or even replacement.  We should invest in our police and firefighters  and provide them with the resources they need to keep us safe. We should maintain and continuously improve our parks, so that all our citizens can enjoy them.  We should encourage Newton residents to participate in projects to improve our city. I want to change the culture of City Hall, so that new ideas are welcomed. I believe that by tapping into the ideas and talents of our citizens, we can improve local services and the quality of life for people throughout Newton.

What will you do about the new turf at Newton South if you are elected?

We need to have safe, playable fields in our high schools, so I strongly support the NEWTURF initiative. We should not debate this forever. As mayor, I would take swift action to get it accomplished.

What do you think of the Newton North Project?  I heard that you support a new high school but have criticized the way the project is being handled?  Why do you think it isn't being done correctly and how would you handle the project if elected?

The current  administration has mismanaged the Newton North project from day one, ignoring good advice about how to keep costs under control and refusing to see the merits of a simple, compact design that could offer all of the elements of the current  plan at an affordable price tag. As a result, the design that is being used is very complex with significant numbers of custom elements and excessive foundation work and will cost, according to numbers presented by the project architect Brad Dore, about 50% more than comparable high schools built elsewhere in Massachusetts in recent years on a per square foot basis (adjusted for inflation). My fear is that paying for this expensive design could force us to lay off teachers throughout our school system, increasing class sizes and lowering the quality of public education in Newton. The farther we go down this path, the more sunk costs we have and the fewer good alternatives will remain. By the time the next Mayor of Newton takes office on January 1, 2010 it may be too late to get this project back on the right track.  However, at the least I would be able to lead the Aldermen and the citizens of Newton to shift the financing of the project to a debt exclusion (an option this Mayor has steadfastly opposed), so that paying for the new high school does not force layoffs of teachers, police and firefighters.

Do you believe that an override is necessary?

After years of poor fiscal planning at City Hall, including failure to take advantage of cost saving and new revenue opportunities, an operating override is necessary to maintain the current level of services and to avoid layoffs of teachers, police and firefighters. Also, a debt exclusion is necessary to pay for Newton North, without which millions of dollars will be diverted from the operating budget, forcing even more layoffs.

If elected, what will you do to help education in general?

My family moved to Newton because of the reputation of the Newton Public Schools and excellence in public education remains my highest priority. I support School Committee Member Geoff Epstein’s math and technology initiatives and will work with parents, educators and other interested Newton residents to develop new ideas for improving our schools through innovative new programs and public-private partnerships that put Newton back in the forefront of school systems around the country.

What do you think qualifies you for office?

I have a vision for Newton’s future and the knowledge, experience and energy needed to implement that vision. Having served more than sixteen years on the Board of Aldermen, I know our city government inside and out. I know what works and what doesn’t and how to fix the problems. I also know how to tap into the incredible and diverse expertise of Newton residents in an effort to empower the citizens of our community to address the challenges facing City Hall.

What would be your key priorities if you are elected?
As mayor, I will work with the Board of Aldermen and Newton residents to put Newton back on sound financial footing through innovative initiatives and management reforms that improve our revenue stream and control costs, so that we can support world class public schools, efficient police and fire services, and sound infrastructure maintenance. If I am elected mayor, in four years Newton residents will be able to say once again that their community has schools that are second to none, clean parks, smooth streets, well-maintained public buildings, and that we are on the forefront of the environmental movement with policies that reduce carbon emissions and save energy.
~ Shawn 

Ken Parker Contributes to Award-Winning TAB Editorial Page

Newton TAB Editor Gail Spector announced on the their blog recently the details of the paper's recent New England Press Association Award.  According to Gail, it was the paper's April 4th, 2007 editorial pages which drew the accolade.  Included among the contributors that day was Alderman Ken Parker with an op/ed about the Newton Firefighters entitled, "Firefighters Deserve Better."  Here's an excerpt:.

While many Newton residents are aware that our firefighters have been without a contract for nearly four years, there remains a great deal of information about the situation of which many in our community are not aware. If the only problem regarding the treatment of our firefighters were a collective bargaining impasse, the situation would have likely been resolved long ago.

In fact, the entire contract dispute would probably never have taken place were it not for the administration falsely singling out of Newton firefighters as “abusers of sick time,” rather than using the standard applied in every other department in the city: individual employees are taken at their word when they call in sick unless they have past problems.

Nearly every union in the city has some kind of provision in its contract requiring employees to provide evidence of illness when they call in sick. The difference is that for everyone other than the firefighters, that provision is only applied in problem cases.

This contract dispute is only one part of the pattern of poor treatment to which our firefighters have been subjected. Specifically: (click here for the rest of the letter)

Newton Firefighters' struggle with the current Administration is one that has become somewhat lost amidst the debate about Newton North and the City's financial situation.  It's important to remember that it's still out there; our firefighters have gone five years without a new contract or a pay raise.  Ken Parker has been a long-time advocate for these public servants and, if elected mayor, would work to solve this problem very soon after taking office in 2010.

Congratulations to the TAB journalists for their editing and writing success!