The selection committee got it right, but the process is defective.

  • January 20, 2019 9:37 PM
    Message # 7012263
    Ted Chapman (Administrator)

    Summary

    The selection committee got it right, but despite reassurances that the developer (who is paying for the consultant) would not influence the process, the duration allowed for the process appears to be set to meet the developer's  needs.

    As one who sat in on the selections process as an alternate from Lower Falls, I am grateful that there was a consensus that chose an extremely well-qualified firm CivicMoxie, which has the potential to do an excellent job. The firm’s founder Susan Silberberg said the firm loves getting into the middle of messy situations. They will be welcome, and should be engaging with us really soon and in a hurry. We must all be ready to participate and be responsive We will have plenty of room to vent our concerns; and hopefully we can dig down and get some important visioning principles on the table, by which to measure the proposal that will soon me filed by Mark Development.

    As to the issue of the developer paying for the process and the process being completely independent, that may be true from one perspective but in a fundamental way it is not. 

     The 10 week timeframe is clearly driven by his needs, and the needs of the administration to fit the Zoning and Panning & Land Use processes into 2019, before a new city council is seated. (There is municipal election in November). The needs of the community, or the city at large,  would benefit from a less time-constrained process. This was acknowledged by every applicant interviewed, in response to a question by Josh. When four consultants same the same thing and the administration fails to change course by extending the process,  or make transparent their agenda, the embedded conflict of interest is not lost on anyone. 

    And the effect of this hurried process, which was mandated by the administration in the RFP, was acknowledged in the selection discussion, and will potential have a negative effect on the process. When I asked Susan Silberberg about the role a steering committee involving community members, which usually plays a core role in their community engagement processes, she responded that her team had discussed it and felt the short time frame precluded this element. Jonathan Yeo, the mayor’s Director of Operations, heartily agreed and said Barney Heath, Director of Planning, will be the steering Committee. Susan acknowledged this was an important issue and would attempt to compensate by a robust community engagement process and reaching out to stakeholders. 

     Of utmost importance is for the LFIA Riverside Committee will quickly ID themselves as a stakeholder.

    Anyone interested in learning more and remaining updated and participating in discussion on various aspects of the process, the LFIA is actively setting up on the new website a Riverside Committee section, https://newtonlowerfalls.wildapricotorg/Riverside-Committee. 

    Look around and subscribe to the News and Updates Blog, other forums (or ask to have added) any discussion forums you are interested, or find other was to support the efforts on the Support/Donate page.

     There is a momentum building in our Neighborhood, and throughout Newton to ‘RightSize’ development; so “Let’s Get it Right”.

    Ted Chapman

    Last modified: January 20, 2019 9:46 PM | Ted Chapman (Administrator)
  • January 20, 2019 9:47 PM
    Reply # 7012286 on 7012263
    Ted Chapman (Administrator)

    As Chair of the LFIA Riverside Committee and a member of the Selection Committee, I appreciate everyone's interest in the visioning process and the comments that people have made -- especially Ted Chapman who provided a thorough explanation of what has happened so far.

    I was initially very concerned that the RFP process was so rushed (released on Dec. 27 with a firm selected on Jan. 17) and limited to five firms that were invited to respond.  I still believe this was a very poor way to hire a firm but I think we have ended up with an excellent choice in CivicMoxie.  Check out their web site (https://www.civicmoxie.com/) to get an idea of what they have done.  Despite funding by the developer, I have total confidence in the integrity of CivicMoxie.  (BTW, the developer has not yet received the bill which is likely to be in the $100,000 range.  He could balk at the price.)

    Of much greater concern is the arbitrary 10 week time frame to conduct the process.  Not only did all the firms that presented have reservations about the time frame, many members of the City Council raised concerns about it at the Zoning & Planning (ZAP) Committee hearing on Dec. 10, 2018 and a joint ZAP/Finance Committee hearing on Jan. 14, 2019. At the conclusion of the selection process last Thursday, Josh Krintzman asked Jonathan Yeo, the Mayor's Chief Operating Officer, to include as much flexibility in the contract for completing this work as possible.  Jonathan gave a non-committal response which probably means there won't be much.  Perhaps the weather will work in our favor and force a more sensible time frame.

    As for what we should do next, please watch for announcements regarding the visioning process and how to get involved.  This is not the only activity that the LFIA Riverside Committee is involved in.  We will be making public presentations at the Waban Library on Jan. 30 at 7pm and the Newton Public Library (tentatively scheduled for Feb. 27 at 7pm).  We are in regular contact with the ward 4 City Councilors, the Mayor, and as many other City Council members as will meet with us. We are consulting with traffic engineers, housing experts, transportation experts, and urban planners so we can make the best case to the City Council in favor of a much more modest development.  If you have some expertise in these areas or want to get involved in another way, please contact me or anyone on the Riverside Committee.

    Randy Block

LFIA
91 Cornell St.                           

Newton Lower Falls, MA

02462-1320

Contact Us@newtonlowerfalls.org


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