My name is Tommy Vitolo. I’m a progressive Democrat running for re-election as the State Representative for you and most of Brookline. I’m writing to update you about what I have been doing on behalf of Brookline and our Commonwealth, to explain what is at stake in this election, and to ask for your vote in the September 6 Democratic primary election.
Serving as our voice in the Massachusetts House of Representatives these past four years has been the greatest honor of my life. I’ve fought for equity, education, and the environment. I’ve worked to pass significant legislation to expand reproductive health care access including abortions, to reform policing in Massachusetts, to invest in underfunded schools, and to expand Massachusetts’ leadership on green energy.
After just two terms in office, I’m proud to have authored multiple bills and amendments that have become law. And especially during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, I’m pleased that I have been able to preserve state funding for Brookline and our schools, town services, and critical programs. Hard work, active listening, and strong relationships with colleagues has led to success; in just my first two terms I’ve been able to:
- Draft and enact law that improved building codes to reduce the use of fossil fuels in new construction and substantial renovation;
- Draft and enact law that enabled town meetings, including the Brookline Town Meeting, to conduct business on Zoom to limit the spread of COVID-19;
- Draft and enact law that will enable the Brookline Housing Authority to replace 60 units of outdated affordable housing with 115 units of modern affordable housing built to net-zero and passive house standards;
- Bring together MBTA and town leadership to speed the C Line with Transit Signal Prioritization and to dramatically improve the design of the new Brookline Hills D Line station;
- Direct state investment to badly needed infrastructure projects like Green Line track and signal replacement, study of the Beacon Street bicycle and pedestrian Bridlepath, renovation of the Brookline Village Fire Station, and significant investment in the badly needed rehabilitation of Brookline Housing Authority kitchens and bathrooms;
- Secure state funding for local nonprofits like the Brookline Senior Center, Brookline Teen Center, Brookline Community Mental Health Center, Brookline GreenSpace Alliance, Steps to Success, and Women Thriving.
But my biggest accomplishments go beyond passing progressive bills and securing money for important causes. During the past four years, I’ve helped renters negotiate with landlords, high-risk residents get vaccinated, struggling neighbors connect with state and local government agencies, and small businesses navigate state laws and grant applications. I’ve joined in Shabbat, Iftar, and Christmas celebrations and worked shoulder to shoulder with our neighbors during park clean-up days. The help I’ve been able to provide and the personal connections I’ve made over cups of coffee, at office hours, and in community meetings are what motivate me and what I see as being at the core of my job.
My Personal Story
My passion for equity, education, the environment, and so many other issues stems from my upbringing. I grew up in a working-class New England community. That town had values similar to Brookline’s—we cared for and looked out for one another. When the bank foreclosed on my childhood home, I quickly learned how fragile life can be for families; when neighbors quietly stepped in to help, I learned the importance of a caring community. I’ve built my life on those lessons.
I won a scholarship to attend a state university, where I met Jenn Taranto; we’ve been married for 18 years.
She and I moved to Brookline in 2002 when I enrolled in a systems engineering program at Boston University. After earning my PhD, I became a consultant on clean energy projects, turning down the oil and gas industry to instead focus on climate change. Working with attorneys general and environmental advocates, I led teams that successfully opposed new natural gas pipelines and forced the retirement of nearly one percent of all coal-fired power plants across the country. My team’s work supported new wind turbines, solar farms, and energy efficiency installations.
Like many Brookline families, Jenn and I moved every so often to find housing that fit our budget and lives: from an apartment on Saint Mary’s Street to a condo on Longwood Avenue where we welcomed our son. Eventually, we moved into our current home between Washington Square, Brookline Village, and Coolidge Corner where we raise our two kids, Felice and Angelina. Most days, you can find me walking them down Washington Street to school at Pierce, taking the T to the Statehouse, or biking to a community meeting in the evening, all while trading childcare responsibilities with Jenn.
Since moving to Brookline 20 years ago, I have been an active participant in community groups and Town government. I wanted to contribute to sustaining the sense of community that supported me as a kid—to pay my childhood experience forward. I volunteered with groups like the Brookline Community Foundation, Brookline Rotary, and friends groups for local parks. I ran for and was first elected to Town Meeting in 2007, where I authored nine local laws on important topics like education, clean energy, diversity, and public health. I actively supported much-needed overrides to fund additional teachers, maintain town services, and enable long-overdue school renovations. And increasingly I recognized the importance of bringing sometimes disagreeing neighbors together, working with them to find common ground, so we could pass the kinds of progressive legislative and budget proposals that made Brookline a better place to live, work, and raise a family.
During my time as a state representative, Massachusetts has made historic investments and undertaken long-overdue reforms. But the legislature often moves too slowly, and there is more work to do. We need to invest more in our people and communities like Brookline. We must continue to make good on our promise to increase K-12 education, expand our efforts on early ed, and help recent graduates struggling with student debt. Infrastructure investments have been delayed. Our responses to climate change and bigotry require even more focus and effort.
- We need to help our neighbors who are struggling with the cost of housing. A two-income family should not be forced to live in a one-bedroom apartment because they can’t afford appropriate housing. Seniors should not have to struggle to stay in the community they have called home for decades.
- We need to end racism, bigotry, anti-Semitism, and discrimination and address the inequities these harmful and wrong beliefs cause. Society has ignored the problems of the most vulnerable for far too long, and, worse, has actively taken steps to compound the harm inflicted. It is time to stop turning a blind eye to the needs of our neighbors and to begin to rectify past wrongs.
- We need to reform and invest in the T. We pay too much and get too little from the T– the safety and reliability of trains and buses must continue to improve and proposals to eliminate fares for bus trips and vulnerable riders must be adopted.
- We need to increase investment in education. Government has neglected its responsibility to the next generation. We need to ensure that K-12 schools in Brookline and across the Commonwealth have the resources they need. And we need to support education at every level from affordable daycare to public college.
- We need to take urgent action to address the climate emergency. The irrefutable fact is that temperatures are rising, storms are more severe and the environment is changing. There is much we can do at the state level. The time to take action to stop these human-caused changes is now.
The policy positions of both candidates in this race—mine and those of my opponent—are largely the same.
What’s at Stake in This Race?
In the upcoming Democratic primary, you will be asked to choose between two candidates with very different approaches to the job of state representative. The key differences are leadership style and effectiveness.
When you first elected me to the House in 2018, I saw that the most productive representatives—those who were most successful at obtaining results for their communities and getting their ideas passed into law—were the ones who built coalitions of colleagues with different backgrounds and viewpoints. So, I began collaborating with colleagues from across the state to get the best results for Brookline and our Commonwealth. I believe that a state representative should be a thoughtful voice, one who builds trust with neighbors, cooperates with colleagues, listens with humility, and yes, sometimes compromises to achieve meaningful policy improvements. My strong results in policy, in funding, and in serving neighbors directly are a direct result of my cooperative and open-minded style.
I am proud that so many colleagues support this collaborative approach, both in Brookline and across Massachusetts.
Locally, I’ve been endorsed by five of the six people who have served with my opponent on the Select Board, as well as his successor. More than 75 percent of all town-wide elected officials have endorsed my re-election, as have over 75 percent of Town Meeting Members. So too has former Governor Michael Dukakis, dozens of former Select Board and School Committee members, and four prior Brookline state representatives.
I have been endorsed by Representatives Trish Farley-Bouvier and Jack Lewis, the chairs of the Massachusetts House Progressive Caucus, because they have seen my success in turning our values into policy. In just my second term in the House, I was elected to serve as a Committee Vice Chair—an indication of how my colleagues from across the state and ideological spectrum value my abilities.
Our elected leaders understand that leadership requires collaboration and cooperation. We cannot afford to lose our seat at the State House table.
You Care About Brookline as Much as I Do
I am working to build coalitions in this campaign just as I have in my career. I care about Brookline maintaining its partnership with state government, keeping an influential voice in the House of Representatives, and making progressive statewide change. I think you do too.
Thank you for taking the time to read this letter. If you’ve made it this far it’s clear that you care about Brookline and Massachusetts as much as I do. If you would like more information or have questions, or want to be more involved in my campaign, please visit tommyvitolo.com, call my cell phone at (617) 872-8921, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I hope to earn your support to serve our community another term.