Andreae Downs

1/16/20233 min read

Happy New Year!
As I write, you may be writing your resolutions, or just looking back over the highs and lows, and the tumult that was 2022. And so have I.

Looking back & Ahead
This year I was pleased to see progress on several long-term projects: safer two-way biking on the Carriagelane, more 20 mph safety zones, traffic calming projects finished at the northern end of Walnut and starting on Lowell, for instance. Implementation of post-construction audits of traffic calming. Regular data reports from police and fire departments, and more training in both to keep our staff at their peak.
But this month also saw three crashes at Crafts/Eddy/Eliot in West Newton. Two cars also veered off Crafts Street and into the fences (or further) at Albemarle. Removing flex posts in Waban Square and near Oak Hill Middle School saw a resumption in unsafe driver behavior. I will be holding a meeting this winter on crashes and the traffic calming priority list to address this.

Newton’s Crisis Intervention Team
In October I wrote about rising drug and mental health calls. This month, Public Safety & Transportation heard more detail about the city’s Community Crisis Intervention Team. Consisting of police, the health department and a number of private partners, the CIT meets weekly to discuss calls, how best to handle them, and how to address the underlying issues, because, as Chief Carmichael told us, “none of the entities involved…operate in silos. None of us can [solve issues] by themselves.”

Meghan Kennedy, director of Social Services, noted the importance of working with the state Department of Mental Health --to reveal trends across the state, evidence-based programs that work and who can advise on individual treatment that can head off a 911 call. Working with the Riverside program, which screens people in our schools and community and connects them with help is also pivotal.

In a hypothetical instance, a young parent contacts the HHS with concerns about alcohol abuse. Underlying this, Kennedy said, is often PTSD, stress or depression. And she is able to provide this person with a plan to deal with both the substance use, treatment for depression or PTSD. The police social worker is fantastic at connecting police involved residents with treatment. Kennedy said many residents learn about HHS’ help from friends, but she also uses the holiday gift drive and other venues to connect residents with services.

The CCIT program is still new to Newton; it is showing some early success. I look forward to seeing some metrics of success in future reports.

Override Questions Answered

There are three school projects on the March ballot--two (Franklin and Countryside) are debt exclusions (which raise taxes only until the project debt is paid) and one, Horace Mann improvements, is in the operating override. You can do a virtual tour of all three schools here.
The bulk of the operating override is for the school’s operating budget (which is mostly staff salaries and benefits)--it will prevent cuts. Having reluctantly voted for a 2023 budget that cut middle-school academic interventions, I hope we can prevent further damage. Details on what the schools face without this funding are here.
I look forward to seeing you on Zoom January 7th, 11 am, when I am hosting a virtual coffee hour with my colleagues in Ward 5, Deb Crossley & Bill Humphrey, along with John Rice, to help answer any remaining questions you may have. Email me for details.

Cool articles I’ve read this month (please feel free to share your recommendations!):
If you want to reduce your carbon footprint, what are the most effective actions?
Why am I obsessed with evaluation of road design? Because some stuff works better

Charitable Giving
Out of the dozens of worthy Newton non-profits that could use your help this winter, here are two of my personal favorites:

Wishing you & yours a wonderful New Year!