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Newton group trying to repeal $56 million in high school spending

Posted by Ralph Ranalli May 10, 2008 04:48 PM

Even as Mayor David Cohen of Newton announced yesterday morning that he will not run for reelection, a new challenge surfaced threatening the $197.5 million high school that many see -- for better or for worse -- as his legacy.

A group of residents has organized a ballot effort to repeal $56 million in funding for the new school, staff writer Megan Woolhouse reports in today's City & Region section. They're trying to collect enough signatures to put the question on a ballot in September.

NNHS%20concept2.jpgWill this vision of a new Newton North High School ever come to fruition? Not if a new group of angry Newton taxpayers has their way. (City of Newton image)

News of the weekend referendum surfaced on the same day Cohen announced that he will not seek reelection, calling the city's May 20 override vote "more important than my political career."

Cohen was under pressure by former political supporters to announce that he would not seek reelection after disclosure that he budgeted a 28 percent pay raise for himself, despite the prospect of teacher and police job cuts in the city.

"The hard-working proponents for the override publicly expressed their concern that if I stood for reelection it may have an adverse effect on the override," his statement said. "The outcome of this is far more important than my political career."

However, the proposed ballot initiative signaled that controversy in Newton over the school, the override, and Cohen may not subside, despite the mayor's announcement.

Janet Sterman, organizer of the ballot drive, said yesterday that the soaring cost of the high school sparked the ballot initiative. The Board of Alderman approved $56 million of the total earlier this year.

"I can't believe they [the Board of Aldermen] allowed the project to get close to $200 million without asking anybody if they wanted to pay for it," she said by phone. "For the price to go up 39 percent in one year is just outrageous. I think it's embarrassing."

City spokesman Jeremy Solomon said that if the effort were to succeed, it would set the project back and add more costs to the project. The new high school is scheduled to open in September 2010.

Read the complete story of the latest challenge to the Newton North High School project in the online edition of today's Globe.

-- Megan Woolhouse

3 comments so far...
  1. The mayor wasn't going to run again anyway. He didn't have any money left and told his cronies to throw out his campaign stuff months ago. He was just waiting to collect some "political capital" on his announcement. The Globe and TAB fell for it hook, line, and sinker. They're just a bunch of amateurs next to these guys.

    Posted by ron May 10, 08 10:18 PM
  1. It's pretty obvious that nobody is minding the store over there in Newton. Needless to say the property owners and all the citizens of Newton are NOT being well served by their elected officials. In some parts of the world their actions would trigger a NO CONFIDENCE vote and a move for a special election to get some folks in there that know what they're doing with the tax payers money!
    Mayor Cohen had a lot of hutzpah to seek a 28% to30% raise in the midst of this fiscal disaster and I seriously doubt that he affixed a check mark onto his State income tax forms this year to pay the optional higher State income tax percentage on his income for 07!

    Posted by Martin J. Costello May 10, 08 11:42 PM
    Mayor Cohen deferred the raise (his words) -- he did not decline it. He will be paid the deferred salary eventually. The REAL reason he wanted the raise was in anticipation of leaving office with a vested pension, which will be 80% of his ending salary. By adding $30,000 to his salary, even if he doesn't take it, he has RAISED the pension he will get EVERY YEAR OF HIS RETIREMENT from about $80,000 per year to over $100,000. Newton will be paying Cohen more not to be mayor than it pays him to be mayor. Only in Newton!

    Right now, Cohen makes more than the average salary of a Newton resident, and so does his spokesman, Jeremy Solomon. Given his recent PR disasters, we are paying about $250,000 per year, including benefits, fora mayor who won't talk and a spokesman who can't think.

    Posted by Katy May 11, 08 07:18 PM
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