< < PAX Recommendations Brookline Fall 2009 Town Meeting

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PAX Recommendations, Fall Town Meeting, November 17, 2009

Before our warrant recommendations, we offer two comments:

  1. We’re concerned that so few TMM's will stand for even a handful of RECORDED VOTES, which we’ve been urging since long before the Moderator's recent and welcome expedited system, now improved by lowering the threshold to 30 votes. We hope this system helps, along with the work of Frank Caro’s Recorded Vote Coalition and, we hope, faster recorded votes as everyone gains experience. But if not, we encourage future discussions about lowering the threshold even further. We believe the voters generally deserve at least ONE recorded vote per night of Town Meeting.
  2. Second, everyone appreciates the Herculean and thoughtful analyses of articles by the Selectmen and Advisory Committee. But we urge extra effort – to the extent possible – to offer analyses of ALL warrant articles before the mailing of the COMBINED REPORT. We believe recent years have seen a trend toward delays that could be avoided, e.g., Article 15 in this Town Meeting. When there is a compelling reason for a delayed final report, why not at least provide the pros and cons in the Combined Reports and thereby minimize the use of the supplemental mailing? By-Law §2.5.2 states: “The Board of Selectmen and the Advisory Committee shall prepare written reports, stating their recommendations and the reasons therefor for all articles in the Warrant ... The combined reports [shall be] delivered or mailed not later than the 7th day prior to each special Town Meeting and not later than the 15th day prior to the start of each Annual Town Meeting,” (Possibly too strictly, the by-law makes no provision for exceptions.)

Art. 4B: Funding the renovation of Runkle School = SUPPORT

Article 4B is a bond authorization for renovating and expanding Runkle School. The lack of space at Runkle has necessitated starting the first lunch shift at 10:15 to alleviate overcrowding in the cafeteria, and transforming former closet and janitorial storage areas into teaching spaces. Town Meeting cannot address the FAR issue that has recently arisen; we trust that it will be dealt with through the appropriate public process. In the meantime, bonding must now be authorized before the end of January 2010 in order to obtain $12 million that is available in state assistance.

Arts. 4C, 5: Carlton St. Footbridge = SUPPORT BoS/AC Motion and ADA-compliance Resolution

Article 5 appropriates through bonding $1.4 million to restore the Carlton Street Footbridge, providing the “enforceable commitment” required by the state for the Muddy River Restoration Project. The current wording, a compromise between the petitioners and the selectmen, has been approved by the state and is supported by the Advisory Committee. It preserves the favorable cost allocation (Brookline paying only 1.8% of the projected total of $91 million), and it provides schedules for restoration. If Brookline receives a grant (Town officials are very optimistic that up to 90% of the bridge’s total cost will be awarded by the state), restoration will be completed by 2013. If no grant is received, it will be completed by the end of Phase 2 of the project, which includes dredging of Leverett and Willow Ponds.

PAX has long supported both the Muddy River Project and restoration of the footbridge. The bridge will once again facilitate foot traffic to and from the Longwood Medical Area, link Precinct 1 to Riverway Park and restore the Olmsted-designed entrance, and the project as a whole will prevent flooding of many Brookline homes and eliminate Town contamination liabilities at Willow and Leverett Ponds. Since the current wording was approved by the state only after much deliberation, PAX urges Town Meeting to reject amendments. However, on November 8 our Board recommended encouraging Town officials to seek solutions that will make the footbridge ADA-compliant and decided to support a possible resolution to that effect. We are pleased to learn that such a resolution will be offered, and we urge its adoption.

Art. 6: Terminate funding for DHS surveillance cameras = (Petitioners not moving article)

PAX has decided not to move this article, but instead to await the report of the Camera Oversight Committee, which should become available prior to next spring’s Town Meeting. Until then, we encourage all Town Meeting Members to attend closely to the actual costs and benefits of the system, including all of its tangible and intangible costs, the extent to which the cameras truly achieve results that could not have been obtained with other resources (“how often?” “how much?” and “how else?”), and the immediate and future consequences of adopting such a system in a free society.

Arts. 7, 8 and 9: Town- and State-owned Fisher Hill Reservoir Sites = SUPPORT

PAX enthusiastically recommends FAVORABLE ACTION on Articles 7, 8, and 9, which collectively enable the Town to move ahead on plans for the two reservoir sites on Fisher Hill. If the process has been longer than some of us might have wished, the results have been worth the wait. The Town acquires the ten-acre state reservoir site for much needed open space and recreational purposes, and we get a landmark mixed-income housing development on the Town-owned site. The latter project, in particular, is a testimony to what the citizens of Brookline can accomplish together: abutters, affordable housing activists, the neighborhood association, and many Town officials, both appointed and elected, ultimately were able to hammer out an agreement that would seem to work for all. Congratulations!

Art. 13: Amend zoning to regulate Car Sharing Organizations = SUPPORT AC MOTION

ZipCars, which have been in town for nine years, provide important benefits both to the environment and to more than 3,000 Brookline residents who are now ZipCar members. In recognition of the dependence of ZipCar members on their existing ZipCar parking spaces, along with the need to balance the concerns of neighborhoods regarding potential adverse impacts from unregulated expansion, Articles 12 and 13 provide definitions and regulations that legalize the great majority of all of the current 78 ZipCar parking spaces in town and provide an orderly mechanism for adding others, subject to public input and regulatory oversight by the Board of Selectman and the ZBA where applicable. The current compromise proposal is a big improvement; the original one reflected the Zoning By-Law Committee’s chronic insensitivity to the pressures of congestion in North Brookline and the neighborhood blight symbolized by Dexter Park.

Art. 15: Double selectman stipends = SUPPORT PETITIONER’S RESOLUTION

For three reasons, PAX supports this non-binding resolution encouraging the Town to double the stipends for the Selectmen, and the Advisory Committee to review the stipends "at regular intervals ... .” First, there has been no adjustment for inflation for about three decades. Second, the financial barriers to running for selectman are daunting; anything that even slightly encourages more diversity in candidates is important. Third. the Fall 2008 Town Meeting eliminated health care benefits for long-serving selectmen, decreasing the compensation, but adjusting the stipends received little attention and was rejected. The cost of doubling the stipends ($13,500 annually) is nominal but should still be weighed as part of next year’s budget.

Art. 27: Resolution to support abolition of nuclear weapons = SUPPORT AC MOTION

PAX, originally an anti-nuclear weapons group in 1962, commends petitioner Susan Gracey for introducing this resolution supporting the 2008 U.S. Conference of Mayors’ unanimous decision urging the President to negotiate a verifiable treaty to abolish nuclear weapons.

Marty Rosenthal and Frank Farlow, Co-chairs
PAX supports: Excellent public education and services, Respect for public employees and organized labor, and Respect for the environment, diversity and social justice. Think globally, act locally

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