Frankie Mancini / Gavel Media

BIG Hosts Newton City Council Special Election Debate

On Monday March 1, 2021, the Boston Intercollegiate Government (BIG) hosted a debate for the Newton City Council Special Election.  The event was moderated by Dennis J. Wieboldt III, Chairman of the Boston Intercollegiate Government, and Mallika R. Pajjuri, Director of the Boston Intercollegiate Government Committee on Governmental Relations. The event featured City Council Special Election candidates Bryan Barash, Tarik Lucas, David Micley, John Oliver, and Madeline Ranalli.  

BIG has not and will not endorse any candidate. The event began by providing each candidate with two minutes for opening statements. 

Candidate Madeline (Maddie) Ranalli is a student, lifelong Newton resident, and Newton public school attendee. Ranalli launched her campaign because she is inspired by the “generation of young people who are stepping up politically to address some of the most urgent crises we face and who want to create a more just and equitable future.”

Ranalli is particularly passionate about a just Covid recovery plan focused on an evidence and community-based approach. She believes that it is vital we achieve our net-zero plan before 2050 to address climate change. Additionally, “it shouldn’t have taken the killing of George Floyd or waving of the Confederate flag for us to have a really serious conversation about racial justice.” If elected, Ranalli promises to “bring a fresh perspective to our government.”

Candidate John Oliver lives with his wife and fifteen year old son in Newton where he has resided for the past eighteen years and works as a consultant. His son attends Newton North High School where Oliver is the co-President of the PSTO.  

Oliver is focused on reforming Newton’s housing, zoning, and policing plans. He believes that progress “requires transparency and broad participation from all our residents.” If elected, Oliver promises to bring “experience and perspective to navigate to the Newton that we want while still retaining what we love about the Newton that we already have.”

Candidate David Micley grew up down the street from Boston College and is currently married with two young children. Micley worked at a variety of non-profit organizations in Boston before he moved to Israel to work with a program that brings college students to the United States for the summer. Micley and his wife moved back to Newton to “raise our kids in an area we loved growing up in.”

Micley is raising no political financing. He is focused on “asking folks to donate to local food pantries because they are doing really important work by putting food on the table of people who need it.”

Candidate Tarik Lucas is running for City Council because he loves Newton. Lucas is approaching this election by questioning how to keep the things we love about Newton while being open to new changes. He currently works at Harvard University Press as a royalty specialist. 

Lucas is particularly passionate about housing because he was only able to move to Newton due to the Affordable Housing Act that exists. Lucas concluded, “I want people to be able to move and prosper in Newton.” 

Candidate Bryan Barash is passionate about exceeding our climate action goals, affordable housing, and racial justice. Many years ago, he left his job in marketing to work for Obama’s campaign in Chicago. He is proud to be endorsed by the Boston College Democrats. 

“I am deeply committed to public service and have the experience to use the tools of government to make a positive impact on the life of every person who lives here, especially  those who are first in need,” Barash said.

The panel proceeded by addressing Covid-19 recovery, education reform, sustainability and energy, housing, and racial justice.

Each candidate agreed that vaccine roll-out in the state of Massachusetts is inefficient and must be reevaluated. 

Ranalli called for, “providing accessible and digestible information about vaccine logistics and vaccine sites that are opening up so people are no longer left in the dark.”

Barash explained, “It’s a shame our teachers aren’t already being vaccinated because that’s key  and could be helping us get students back in the classroom faster.”

Micley even encouraged Newton residents to call Governor Baker and read Baker’s number out loud on the panel to advocate for teachers to get vaccinated.

“He hasn’t called me back yet but maybe if some of you try it’ll be more effective,” said Micley.

On the topic of education, each candidate agrees safely and quickly returning students to school is of vital importance. 

In alignment with Ranalli’s call for full transparency, Oliver argued parents must be provided with a plan for returning to school well before the fall.  

Lucas said, “Many families move to Newton for an excellent education. We have let those families down.”

Covid-19 significantly impacted small businesses; however, Ranalli echoed President Biden’s campaign slogan by arguing this is an opportunity to “build back better.” It is an opportunity for Newton to build back in a sustainable manner while supporting small businesses. 

“Newton should spare no expense. This is the city my generation is going to inherit,” explained Ranalli. 

Micley is especially passionate about encouraging environmentally friendly transportation by establishing more bike lanes. 

Micley said, “We can make Newton more vibrant and support businesses at the same time.”

Lucas explained, “Climate change is a threat to all human life.  But it is more of a threat than some to others. Blacks and Browns will suffer more from the effects of climate change.  I will be a leader on this issue by listening to the experts.  

Following up on Lucas’ statement on race, the panel shifted to address racism and police reforms in Newton. 

Ranalli articulated a comprehensive plan to ensure equity in law enforcement, “We need to make sure that no resident, whether they are a person of color, disabled, or LGBTQ never see our police department as a force of fear.”

Barash pointed out the importance of acknowledging that systemic racism is real and it occurs in Newton. He wants to implement the “8 Can’t Wait” reforms ( 

Lucas said, “As a Black man living in America, as a Black man living in Newton, policing has always been on my mind. I want to work with them, not defund. Let’s reform.”

The panel concluded with a question submitted through the online forum about an attack ad made against one of the candidates.  Each candidate swiftly shut down the negative attack and promised to run a positive campaign. 

The panel ended with closing statements where each candidate provided their website or email: ,,,

At time of press, Oliver had been elected for a seat as a Ward 1 at-large councilor. Lucas was elected as a Ward 2 at-large councilor.

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