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.
|Will 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