The Issues

School Enrollment Growth

I've been following the school expansion issue closely, attending numerous BSPACE, School Committee, Selectmen, and Override Study Committee meetings. The task is undeniably difficult, and the process has been rocky and sometimes appears rudderless or deaf to the concerns of parents and neighborhoods. My beliefs are that:
  • The Town should treat the school districts fairly, regardless of that neighborhood's wealth or apparent political power.
  • The neighborhood K-8 model should be maintained -- any deviation should be temporary or strictly optional.
  • Once renovated, the Old Lincoln School will be adequate for temporary use by older students as "swing space" during other renovations or construction, but it is not an acceptable location for a permanent ninth school without dramatic (and costly!) changes to school access, classroom space, other indoor space, outdoor greenspace, and a plan to substantially mitigate the daily long term exposure to the pollutants from autos on Route 9.
  • Pierce is long overdue for a renovation and the Pierce School community has patiently waited "it's turn." Whether or not Pierce gets renovated and expanded as part of the plan to deal with the current enrollment increase, a complete renovation for Pierce is overdue and should become part of the Town's Capital Improvement Plan.
  • The enrollment surge in the lower grades will soon bubble up to Brookline High School. I am opposed to following Newton's lead in creating "Brookline North" and "Brookline South" high schools. The relatively large enrollment of BHS allows the High School to offer a wider variety of academic coursework and extracurricular activities, a real benefit to students. Although the area is dense, there is room for expansion on the BHS campus, and it's likely that a renovation will allow for more students to learn within BHS's current footprint.
  • All school expansion plans must include neighbors in every step of the process. Nearby residents deserve continued enjoyment of their homes, and they often have very detailed specific knowledge of problems and opportunities surrounding the school site.
I'll continue to comment, cajole, and otherwise advocate for equitable and cost-effecitve ways to maintain Brookline's remarkable public school system.

Greening Brookline

While Brookline has made progress toward becoming a greener town, there are still areas of tremendous potential. Encouraging the use of public transit, walking, and cycling reduces congestion and air pollution. Improving energy efficiency of public buildings reduces waste. Improving our parks and paths will result in citizens' increased enjoyment of our greenspaces.

Green Transit

  • Biodiesel for school buses and Brookline DPW vehicles.
  • Adequate shelters and handicap accessibility for all Green Line MBTA stops.
  • More benches and shelter at bus stops.
  • More bicycle racks in commercial centers, near government buildings, and at schools.
  • More bicycle lanes, thereby creating more predictibility for motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians.
  • An increased number of electric, hybrid, and other high MPG vehicles in the town fleet.
  • Continue the conversion of traffic lights and street lights to LEDs, which will reduce both energy consumption and maintenance requirements.
  • Require that Brookline taxi fleets phase high MPG vehicles such as hybrids into their fleets.
  • Work with the MBTA to implement traffic signal prioritization for bus and streetcar routes.

Green Buildings

  • Install green or solar roofs on public buildings.
  • Increase municipal use of green (renewable) energy, phased in over time.
  • Use zoning bylaws as a tool for incorporating energy efficiency and sustainability into private development projects.
  • Introduce recycling to all Brookline schools in a coordinated manner, incorporating an educational component.
  • Mandate that businesses in Brookline recycle, just as residents are required.
  • Give the "green light" to captial improvement projects that will lower town building energy bills.

Green Spaces

  • Continue to increase the capital budget for street trees at or above the rate of inflation.
  • Continue the ongoing renovation process for all of our public parks and playspaces.
  • Increase maintainance on sidewalks and intersections, such as:
    • repairing sections with fall hazards;
    • installing more curb cuts at intersections for wheelchair accessibility;
    • increasing frequency of crosswalk repainting;
    • ensuring that crosswalks are accessible after snow storms;
    • ensuring that all crosswalk signals and buttons are functioning properly.
  • Properly maintain and repair foot paths and foot bridges.

Transportation Safety

Our neighborhood faces a number of transportation safety issues, including personal safety near MBTA stops in the evening, speeding near the high school and along Route 9, frequent double parking in the bicycle lane on Harvard and Washington Streets, inadequate snow removal on our sidewalks, and inadequate crossings near our schools and day care centers. While I can't promise to fix all of these problems, I can promise that I will continue to exert pressure on the Department of Public Works, the Transportation Board, our selectmen, and our state legislators to improve the safety for all who use our roads, paths, and sidewalks: drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians.

Managing Town Debt

Brookline is one of just a few cities and towns in Massachusetts with credit rated Aaa by Moody's. However, Brookline is walking a tenuous financial line—the FY18 net general fund outstanding debt is $147 million for fiscal year 2018 budget. The payments on this debt are $11.7 million per year, and will be approximately $19 million by 2023. Town Meeting must work with the Selectmen to make sure that this debt gradually decreases in the 2020s, thereby reducing the amount of tax money funneled to banks and investors instead of town services and schools. More budget information is available here.

Furthermore, Brookline's underfunded pension obligations are about $216 million (source, p. IV-128). In private industry, unfunded pensions have left retirees with no way to purchase food, housing, and medicine. Brookline must honor its commitments to those civil servants who worked hard for the benefit of our town. The current plan is to be fully funded in 2030, having slipped from 2028 just a few years ago. Brookline must hold the line and not put off our obligation any longer.

Finally, other post employment benefits (OPEBs) are also underfunded, to the tune of $203 million. That is, it will cost Brookline an additional $203M to meet the non-pension promises we've made to our current employees, obligations for which we hadn't been putting aside monies to fund. Fortunately, the Town has begun to make progress on this obligation, and in FY18 the Town will add approximately $4.5M to the $30M already contributed. OPEBs won't be fully funded in 2040; Brookline won't even be fully funding our ongoing obligations until approximately 2023. Once the pension plan is fully funded, the Town should use that line item to speed the meeting of our OPEB obligations.

All of these issues have been identified and addressed by the Selectmen and Town Meeting in the past ten years, but due to insufficient contributions and a bearish market, the pension unfunded ratio and the OBEB defecit have gotten worse over that time period. It's quite easy to buy something now and put off payments until some future date. I assure you that I will keep a close eye on these debts Brookline holds, working to make sure that interest payments on debt are reduced and to ensure that Brookline honors its financial obligations to those who have worked for her in the past.

Democratic Values

While the Town Meeting Member position is officially nonpartisan, don't think that political ideology doesn't come through in Town Meeting votes. I'm proud to be a Democrat, as I believe in preserving civil liberties and equal rights for all people, affordable and accessible health care for all, sustainable environmental and energy policies, and appropriate investment in education and public infrastructure. While specific issues on the national and statewide scenes aren't always the same as those in Brookline, the principles and priorities I believe are important nationally and in the Commonwealth are the same ones that I believe are important in our precinct.