Civics Day panels address controversial issues in community


Mayor Ruthanne Fuller addresses the student audience on Civics Day Thursday, Dec. 1.

Kerri Huang

Student parking and the status of permanent lights in Dickinson Stadium were among the hot topics addressed by local government officials during Civics Day, hosted by Next Gen Voices in the Little Theatre Thursday, Dec. 1. 

Mayor Ruthanne Fuller said during b-block, “The issues facing not just young people but all of us and the planet are so significant that we need our young people to be thinking deeply about these issues, standing up, speaking out, and acting on behalf of all of us.”

Student parking, according to City Councilor Rebecca Grossman, is a hot button issue.  In response to a student question during an a-block panel on “Local Government,” Grossman explained that while many students would like additional student parking at North, there are several road blocks, including the City Council’s goal of encouraging eco-friendly transportation and safety concerns regarding having more cars around the school as students enter and exit. 

When asked about the status of installing permanent lights at Dickinson Stadium, the turf field at the rear of the school, Fuller said that the lights are on their way. Fuller added that a $63 million increase in funding from the American Rescue Plan Act has helped with the process of obtaining lights for the Dickinson Stadium.

Important issues that affect the Newton community, such as the proposed tax override and whether or not the seal of Newton should be changed, were also discussed during Civics Day. 

Fuller gave her opinion on Newton’s proposed tax override during the “Mayor and Taxes” panel which ran during b-block. Fuller acknowledged that this is an economically difficult time for a tax override, which would raise property taxes above the 2.5% ceiling if put into effect. However, she added, “I know this is right for Newton.” 

Another noteworthy discussion, which occurred during the “Local Government” panel, was when school committee member Anping Shen brought up that the official seal of Newton includes an image of John Elliot attempting to religiously convert local indigenous people in 1646. 

A working group among City Council members have explored the idea of changing the seal, but after the Mayor proposed it in February, no official move to change the seal has been enacted. Shen said that he felt the seal needed to change, but the City Council members on the panel discussed how the process for changing it was still unclear. 

During lunch block, a variety of civics clubs at North, such as Key Club and the Climate Collective, as well as outside organizations such as Green Newton and FORJ, held displays on Main Street to encourage students to engage in local government, according to Haruka Nabeshima, a club officer in Next Gen Voices. 

“Civic engagement can be as simple as voting,” said senior Hannah Ireland, a club officer of Next Gen Voices. “A lot of times we only see turnouts for presidential elections, because it gets the news. But it’s actually these tons of local positions that are also very important for creating whatever type of society you want to see.”