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Loew down but is she out? More Taxpayer strife
Wednesday, March 2, 2005

A fourth candidate has declared his intention to run for mayor this fall.

Mark Lyons, a Republican from Newton Highlands who said he co-authored the Proposition 2 1/2 bill, told the TAB that he has become troubled by the way the city has been managed under Mayor David Cohen.

The self-styled fiscal conservative, who said he was good friends with former Mayor Ted Mann, vowed to work to get the city back to strong financial grounds, although Moody's Investors Service - the country's top assessor for municipal and corporate bond issuers - recently gave the Garden City its highest credit rating, one of only 11 communities in the state to receive the designation.

Lyons also said he supports renovating the existing Newton North building instead of constructing a new building, as has been proposed by Cohen and endorsed by challenger Michael Striar.

In addition to Striar, Thomas Sheff is also declared he intends to run against Cohen.

Cohen, Sheff and Striar are all Democrats; Lyons is the first Republican to declare his candidacy.

Cohen, who is expected to run for his third term for the city's top office this November, though he has not formally declared his intention yet.

If all four candidates follow through on their pledge to run and file the proper paperwork, they would compete in a preliminary election on Sept. 20. The two top vote-getters would face off in the finals on Nov. 8.

- Bernie Smith
Bickering among members of the Newton Taxpayers Association continued this week after the group once again delayed its planned election and a debate erupted over the status of one of the group's most notorious members - or as it may turn out - nonmembers.

Last week's scheduled elections for the NTxA president, vice-president, secretary and treasurer have now been moved to March 9, reportedly due to a struggle between members of the group's old guard and a band of new, reformed-minded participants.

But at the same time, NTxA's outgoing president, Paula Kay, is challenging the membership of two-time School Committee candidate and local gadfly Brenda Loew.

Kay was hesitant to speak of the group's internal matters, but said she had checked with the group's treasurer, and there were no records of Loew paying dues to the group. Kay also said Loew disavowed the group after the 2003 citywide elections.

Loew insists that she joined the group in 1999 and has been a member ever since. She said she made a $200 donation to the group as recently as last year, and would have paid the $15 minimum annual membership dues had she been asked.

"I'll send her a check [today]," Loew said. "... how do we know any of [the other members] paid. How do we know that's the real issue?"

Loew, meanwhile, said she has filed a defamation lawsuit against member Jeff Seideman, claiming Seideman - who would be a candidate for NTxA president if the elections are ever held - abused her reputation in e-mails circulated among NTxA members, which she forwarded to the TAB in January.

"If you think this Jeff Seideman can spread vast slander about me, either verbally or in writing, he's going to learn a lesson the hard way."

Loew said she is asking for $100,000 in damages, to recoup what she expects to be about $10,000 in lost business each year for a decade as a result of Seideman's alleged defamation.

Seideman declined to comment.

- Bernie Smith
Board approves O'Brien as next police chief
Deputy Police Superintendent John J. O'Brien and his wife received a standing ovation from the Board of Aldermen and members of the public in attendance at their biweekly meeting on Feb. 22, moments before he was unanimously approved by the board as city's next police chief.

O'Brien succeeds former Chief Jose Cordero, who abruptly left the position last July after several months of well-publicized conflicts with the rank-and-file officers and some citizens. Cordero said in July he felt his work in Newton was done because crime had improved. It was later discovered that Cordero had covered up a job offer to be the civilian police director in East Orange, N.J., where he is today.

Superintendent Robert McDonald had been serving as acting chief in the interim, but did not seek the job himself, as state law requires McDonald retire later next year.

O'Brien will be sworn in on March 9.

- Bernie Smith
Police: Crime is down in Garden City
After being named the "Safest City in America" last November, Newton's boys in blue have the numbers to prove it.

The Newton Police Department released a 2004 crime statistics summary, showing that crime levels had decreased in three of four categories, and overall have dropped 9 percent from last year's figures.

Sexual assault, felonious assault and larceny are down between 9 and 25 percent. The number of burglaries, however, remained constant last year from the year before.

In addition, the summary lends credibility to former Chief Jose Cordero's strategy of using "targeted patrols" to reduce vehicular accidents. Officers issued 13 percent more tickets to vehicles travelling in historically high-accident areas, and saw a 12 percent reduction of motor vehicles.

In 2004, the police issued 19,674 citations of motor vehicle-related infractions, and received a total of 13 citizen complaints, at least seven of which were related to motor vehicle stops.

- Bernie Smith

New Rep gets 14 IRNE nominations
The Independent Reviewers of New England announced the candidates for the 2005 awards ceremony honoring New Repertory Theatre with 14 nominations. New Rep shows received recognition for excellence in production, direction, playwriting, design and performance. Award winners will be announced at a ceremony Monday, March 21 at 7:30 p.m.

At least year's ceremony, New Rep received nine IRNEs, and this year's nominations range from recognition of bold new work ("Scapin") cutting-edge contemporary plays ("Yellowman") and innovative treatment of classic drama ("The Threepenny Opera"). Rick Lombardo received a best director nomination for "The Threepenny Opera," and performers honored for their work at New Rep include regional favorites Nancy E. Carroll and Leigh Barrett, as well as newcomers to the Boston theater scene, such as Adrienne D. Williams.

Swiston, Healey speak at BC
Boston College hosted an event on Tuesday evening featuring two Republican women in politics, Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey and local Newtonite Greer Tan Swiston.

Swiston cited Healey as being her role model and mentor. "It was an honor to be able to introduce the lieutenant governor who has been such an inspiration to me over the past year," said Swiston. "It was Kerry Healey who said to me, 'If we don't run, how will the people ever have a chance to elect us?'"

Healey, in turn, commended Swiston for having the courage to step into the public limelight and again appealed to the audience to consider a role in public service. In her speech, Healey touched on topics ranging from the challenges of being a Republican in a Democrat-dominated state to being a working parent of school-aged children.

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