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Formerly the Newton-Needham Chamber

Election Need to Knows

Newton voters signaled that they're satisfied with the way their elected leaders performed during the pandemic as well as the overall direction of the city.
 
They reelected Ruthanne Fuller for mayor.
 
Every other incumbent was returned to office too, in spite of a divisive campaign season where every candidate seemed to be defined -- pigeonholed really -- by where they stood on housing, zoning and development and no other issues.
 
Tuesday's results make it likely that City Council President Susan Albright will remain in that role, which is selected by her council colleagues.
 
Our thanks to Amy Mah Sangiolo for stepping up and making the mayoral contest a genuine debate over where Newton has been and where it is going.
 
Thanks also to every candidate for putting themselves forward.
 
And congratulations to Mayor Fuller and all the other successful candidates.
 
Here’s hoping last night’s results convince our leaders that residents support a forward moving agenda and reject the fear mongering that dominated too much of this campaign.
 
Unofficial results here.

Incumbents sweep Watertown too
 
Watertown voters returned incumbents to office too.
 
The three at-large and one district councilor on the ballot were all reelected in unofficial results, according to Charlie Breitrose at Watertown News.
 
Newcomer John Airasian will fill the open at-large seat. Nicole Gardner and Emily Izzo won the open seats in Districts A and B respectively.

And the city known as the Town of Watertown will now officially be known as a city, which I know will be super confusing to everyone outside of town -- I mean -- outside the city.
 
Voters agreed to the change to "City of Watertown" with the passage of the first of two approved charter change ballot questions.
 
The more substantive Charter changes passed as well.
 
The changes clarify the powers and even communication responsibilities of town council, council president and town manager (who will no longer need to be a Watertown resident); establishes a Human Rights Commission and Residents’ Advisory Committee; and mandates the hiring of a Community Engagement Officer, among other measures.
 
Our congrats and thanks to all the winners and candidates in the City of Watertown. 

Not known if Needham man will continue as governor

As of this morning we don't know if a certain Needham High grad will return for another term as governor.
 
No, not Charlie Baker.
 
Baker's classmate, Phil Murphy, is in a too-close-to-call battle for New Jersey governor.
 
Murphy is a Democrat. Baker’s a Republican. But they’re both members of the Needham High Class 1975.
 
Murphy grew up in a house on Central Ave.
 
Biden’s vax or test rules due next week
 
It looks like we’re finally going to see the specifics of President Joe Biden’s long-awaited vax-or-test mandate for employers with 100 or more workers next week.
 
The rule was drafted by OSHA and has been under review by the Labor Department. It will certainly face legal challenges once it goes public.
 
Many other questions remain about the rule too, according to the Washington Post.
 
Some companies are concerned about the rules not yet known time frame with the busy holiday season coming up and labor shortages and supply chain issues already creating havoc for employers.
 
Others want to know who will pay for weekly testing of employees who opt out of getting vaccinated, or even if there will be adequate testing supply.
 
Last week, Iowa enacted a law  that will allow people fired for not complying with vaccine requirements to claim unemployment benefits.
 
UI waivers could end up costing employers (yet again)

Speaking of unemployment, Massachusetts has reportedly overpaid hundreds of millions of dollars in unemployment benefits during the pandemic.
 
Now the state is looking to recipients to pay it back.
 
The estimated total value of overpayments could be between as much as $1.92 billion, with $531 million of that coming from state dollars. The rest is from federal benefits programs that would be returned to the federal government once recouped.
 
The House approved rules last week that would require the Baker administration to notify recipients that they may qualify for a waiver from repayment.
 
Separate legislation would offer waivers to anyone who -- through no fault of their own -- accepted and spent excess benefits to meet ordinary living expenses, reports Matt Murphy at State House News.
 
Wanting to help those who may have already spent the money and can’t afford it repay it is well and good.
 
But here’s the VERY BIG rub: It appears that some of the forgiven funds will come out of the pockets of employers, who ALSO had nothing to do with those overpayment errors.
 
Employers are already being asked to cover the costs of $7 billion in UI costs that accumulated during the pandemic.
 
Gov. Charlie Baker wanted to allocate $1 billion from the tax surplus to reduce that debt. The House and Senate have only agreed to a piddly $500 million.
 
Charging employers for these UI overpayments could more than wipe out that $500 million.
 
State awards grants to enhance Arsenal Street Corridor
 
Watertown has been awarded $3.4 million from the Commonwealth to enhance the Arsenal Street Corridor.
 
The award -- part of the MassWorks Infrastructure Program grant program -- will fund Phase I of the project, which spans approximately 2,700 feet of Arsenal Street from Arsenal Court to Lower Greenough Boulevard. 
 
The project involves reconstruction, milling, and repaving of Arsenal Street, the addition of bike lanes, improved drainage, ADA-compliant sidewalks and wheelchair ramps, MBTA bus stops and shelters, new traffic control signals, new lighting, new landscape, and new pavement markings. 
 
In addition to its first-ever MassWorks award, Watertown received two other state awards: $250,000 for walking and biking improvements and $59,000 to update its Comprehensive Plan.
 
More details here.
 
Needham cuts fees to support restaurants

As part of an ongoing effort to support the town’s independent restaurants, the Needham Select Board voted last week to once again reduce the on-premise liquor license fees by 50%.
 
They also voted to waive the outdoor dining fees for calendar year 2022 for any outdoor dining space on public property.
 
Yesterday I incorrectly wrote that vote was pending. Turns out it’s a done deal.
 
Our thanks to Needham.
 
Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller has also said she will be looking to reduce liquor license fees for restaurants by 50% in 2022. 
 
 
Wellesley kid burns rubber for candy 
 
Before you go, check out this door cam video of WBZ’s David Wade captured at his home in Wellesley of this entrepreneurial trick or treater
 
That’s today’s Need to Knows unless you need to know how to win the transition this Sunday to the end of daylight savings time.
 
Be back Friday.
 
Greg Reibman (he, him)
President
Charles River Regional Chamber
617.244.1688
 
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