Monthly Archives: June 2014

Housing Advisory Board: a June 30 meeting that never was

The Housing Advisory Board scheduled a meeting for Monday, June 30, 2014, at 3 pm in Town Hall, but the board failed to post an agenda on the calendar at Brookline’s Web site. An investigation on foot found no written notice or agenda posted on the bulletin board outside the town clerk’s office and none in the town clerk’s records.

The Housing Advisory Board failed to satisfy requirements of the state’s open meeting laws and the Brookline bylaws for public meetings. Board members might shake hands but would otherwise be unable to transact public business. Shortly before noon on June 30, the meeting proposed for that afternoon was cancelled.

The recent problem was discovered simply by examining Brookline’s online event calendar. Anyone with Internet access could have done the same. A 3 pm inspection of the previously designated meeting room at Town Hall, on June 30, found Virginia Bullock, a housing project planner who provides staff support for the Housing Advisory Board, engaged in discussions with two other people, but no meeting of the Housing Advisory Board was underway.

Brookline has experienced substandard compliance with open meeting laws. Regina Frawley, a Precinct 16 town meeting member, has been notably vigilant. She was not a source for this article. She was the main sponsor for a recent bylaw requiring boards and commissions who present views on warrant articles at town meetings to hold public hearings about the issues prior to the town meetings.

A major defect in Brookline’s current online calendar is lack of verifiable, public time stamps on notices and agendas. Time is of the essence; a notice must appear 48 hours or more before a public meeting. Written notices that are posted and filed at the town clerk’s office carry imprints from an electromechanical time recorder, providing verifiable time stamps for posting.

– Beacon staff, Brookline, MA, June 30, 2014

Repeal casino gambling: on the ballot this fall

As most readers of the Beacon probably know, yesterday the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts decided casino gambling repeal goes on the state election ballot this fall. The court unanimously dismissed all arguments against putting the question on the ballot from Martha Coakley, the attorney general now running for governor as a gambling supporter. She had refused to certify a question on repeal of casino gambling for the 2014 state ballot.

The obvious precedent was repeal of dog racing, approved by voters in 2008. It drew similar legal objections, in stronger forms. Dog racing and betting had been operating since the former Wonderland Dog Track, in Revere, opened in 1935. That repeal question was certified by Ms. Coakley for the 2008 ballot, but then it was challenged at the Supreme Judicial Court by people interested in racing and betting. Writing for the court, Justice Margot Botsford stated, “the Attorney General’s certification…was proper.”

In yesterday’s decision, Justice Ralph Gants wrote for the court, saying, “We see no reason to depart from our precedent [for dog racing]…the legislature and, through the initiative, the voters of Massachusetts may choose to abolish casino and slots parlor gambling and parimutuel wagering on simulcast greyhound races, and doing so would not constitute a taking of property without compensation.”

Ms. Coakley did not seem to learn a thing from the controversy in which she played a part just six years before. Who has been paying Ms. Coakley’s political bills?

– Craig Bolon, Brookline, MA, June 25, 2014


Casino gambling repeal: Abdow v. Attorney General, Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court No. SJC-11641, June 24, 2014 (Select Opinion type “Opinions from the Supreme Judicial Court” and Docket number 11641)

Dog racing repeal: Carney v. Attorney General, Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court No. SJC-10158, 451 Mass. 803, July 15, 2008 (Select Opinion type “Opinions from the Supreme Judicial Court” and Docket number 10158)

Massachusetts redux: best available control technology

As readers of the Beacon will likely know, yesterday the U.S. Supreme Court ruled mostly in favor of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, deciding a case challenging EPA authority to regulate “greenhouse gas” emissions. [Utility Air Regulatory Group v. Environmental Protection Agency, No. 12-1146, June 23, 2014]

The decision was an outcome of a pathbreaking lawsuit brought about a decade ago by Massachusetts, leading several other states in opposing the Walker Bush administration’s refusal to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. [Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency, No. 05–1120, 549 U.S. 497, April 2, 2007] In the earlier case, the court wrote, “EPA has offered no reasoned explanation…Its action was therefore ‘arbitrary, capricious…’…The judgment of the Court of Appeals is reversed.”

In its Utility Air decision, the court found EPA exceeded statutory authority by proposing to regulate U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from all stationary sources that exceed as little as 50,000 tons per year in carbon-dioxide equivalents. However, the weird decision allows such regulation if some other air pollutant is also being regulated. The latter circumstances are estimated by EPA to account for more than 80 percent of current U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from stationary sources.

Consequences for Brookline and for other large communities in Massachusetts are substantial. With 14 major structures and many smaller ones, the town might have become subject to carbon dioxide emission regulations. Although Brookline’s buildings use natural gas as the main or only heating fuel, if regulated as a single facility they might reach a threshold of 50,000 tons per year. Brookline’s cost of compliance could easily top $10 million a year.

The current revision of the Clean Air Act requires facilities subject to emission controls to implement so-called “best available control technology” (BACT) when making a major change. If Brookline were regulated, that might include upgrading or replacing an elementary school. A problem which would bedevil a regulated facility is that currently there is only one main choice for BACT: carbon capture and storage (CCS).

Today, CCS is theoretical. There is no proven, industrial-scale example anywhere. It is not yet known whether it will work reliably or what it might really cost. Twice over the past fifteen years, the U.S. government began and then stopped an industrial-scale test project. In 2009, the Energy Department approved five test projects, but all were far too small to provide a reliable base of reference.

The only large-scale CCS project underway is the Kemper plant near Mobile, AL, from Southern Company and industrial partners. Plans are to extract about two-thirds of the carbon dioxide from coal-fired flue gases at the 580 MW power-plant and send that through a special-purpose pipeline to east Texas, to be injected into wells for tertiary oil recovery.

Often regarded as voodoo when begun in the mid-1950s, today carbon-dioxide injection has become standard practice with some types of oil formations. However, the Kemper project is wildly out-of-control, recently projected to cost twice as much as initial estimates. Potentials to use large amounts of carbon dioxide in that way are geographically limited–found mostly in the Southwest and parts of the Mountain West.

– Craig Bolon, Brookline, MA, June 24, 2014


Peter Folger, Carbon capture and sequestration, Congressional Research Service, February 10, 2014

Will the Massachusetts supreme court let us repeal casino gambling?

September 13 of 2011 was a Tuesday but still an unlucky day for the state. That was when Gov. Patrick met with the two leaders of the General Court to cut a deal on casinos. Mr. Patrick got some concessions in return but sold out supporters who expected him to keep casinos at bay. Everything piled onto the deal after that day has been animal droppings.

Since New Jersey sparked a casino invasion in 1977 by legalizing gambling in Atlantic City, casino maggots have swarmed nationwide–notably in Connecticut and eastern Pennsylvania. In Massachusetts, it takes three to play: the governor, the House speaker and the Senate president. Until late summer of 2011, one of the three kept a can of Raid handy for casino maggots. Then Mr. Patrick caved and the casino deal was on.

A Winthrop-based organization, Repeal the Casino Deal (RCD), led by John Ribeiro, organized efforts to reverse the damage Mr. Patrick inflicted on the state. RCD collected over 90,000 signatures and validated about 70,000 of them to put a repeal question on the state election ballot this fall.

Currently blocking the group’s efforts is Attorney General Martha Coakley, a popular but unworthy candidate for governor. Ms. Coakley refused to certify the ballot question, essentially on grounds that, unlike casino maggots she favors, people of the state do not have constitutional rights. Ms. Coakley is reportedly advised by former Patrick administration Chief of Staff Doug Rubin, who has been working as a consultant and registered lobbyist for the gambling industry, assisting a casino operator and a manufacturer of slot machines.

RCD challenged Ms. Coakley at the Supreme Judicial Court. It has heard arguments and is expected to rule early in July. Meanwhile, since the General Court declined an option to enact repeal, RCD collected another 26,000 signatures and is validating and filing them.

As the Boston Globe recently disclosed, at least one member of the Massachusetts supreme court has longstanding ties to the gambling industry. As a “partner at McDermott Will & Emery in the 1990s,” Andrea Estes wrote, “[Justice Robert] Cordy represented the owners of Suffolk Downs,” which from 1995 to 1997 sought to open a slot-machine parlor. Owners of Suffolk Downs are involved in the pending case.

An upstanding judge with a partisan history of participation in legal issues will commonly recuse himself or herself from a case involving those issues or their beneficiaries. So far, Mr. Justice Cordy, a nominee of former Republican Gov. Paul Cellucci, has failed to do that. He risks being seen as dishonoring the courts.

– Craig Bolon, Brookline, MA, June 22, 2014


Frank Phillips, Ex-Patrick aide now lobbyist for gambling firm, Boston Globe, February 24, 2011

Noah Bierman, House Democrats to discuss gambling bill tomorrow, Boston Globe, September 12, 2011

State House News Service, Coakley says casino law repeal is not eligible for ballot, Gatehouse Media, December 8, 2011

Andy Metzger, State House News Service, AG rebuffs casino ban question, accepts 14 others, Cape Cod (Hyannis) Times, September 4, 2013

Frank Phillips and Jim O’Sullivan, Baker enters governor’s race, Coakley weighs bid, Boston Globe, September 4, 2013

Matt Murphy, State House News Service, Anti-casino advocates file injunction against Attorney General’s ballot ruling, Cape Cod (Hyannis) Times, September 11, 2013

Joan Vennochi, What does a casino share with Coakley? Boston Globe, February 13, 2014

Andrea Estes, Justice hearing casino repeal case tied to Suffolk Downs, Boston Globe, May 10, 2014

Associated Press, Anti-casino group collects enough signatures for ballot, Boston Herald, June 17, 2014

Dr. Lupini moves to Brookline

In a sketch bound to remind someone older than–well, maybe around 90–of Frank Capra’s classic film feature with Jimmy Stewart, William Lupini, the superintendent of schools, moved his mental apparatus to Brookline this week, to the obvious surprise of and some consternation from his School Committee. The occasion was to have been a committee vote June 19 on adopting the new PARCC testing regime, replacing MCAS.

Instead, in a scene worthy of the late 1930s “screwball comedies,” Dr. Lupini transmogrified into “the instructor,” teaching “the class” a lesson on social justice. “I have pushed,” said Dr. Lupini, “on the untimed nature of MCAS versus the timed nature of PARCC…I’ve been promised a set of accommodations I haven’t seen yet.” After proposing just two weeks earlier to replace MCAS with PARCC except for tenth-grade testing, Dr. Lupini began singing “Let’s Put the Whole Thing Off.”

Now, it’s so well known that standard testing regimes disadvantage slow readers, since those regimes appeared in the 1920s, that the facts must have wormed their ways into the hearts of even the most wooden of School Committee members. They can’t possibly be a surprise, yet the acting skills on display June 19 might have convinced almost anyone who didn’t know better.

Committee chair Susan Wolf Ditkoff launched yet another “wordburst” like the one that underwhelmed town meeting this year. The change, she said, “does not reflect on my part an opposition to PARCC…PARCC was designed by governors…there were experts involved.”

As she often does, vice chair Barbara Scotto, a veteran of about 30 years teaching in Brookline schools, took a measured approach. “I am not basically opposed to testing,” she said. “I am against increasing the time that we spend on testing.”

Dr. Lupini and the School Committee are to revisit the issues in September. While they won’t have changed, public opinions may have. Referring to a recent decision in Medford to pass on PARCC for the coming year, Dr. Lupini noted, “Once you opted in, you were locked in.”

– Craig Bolon, Brookline, MA, June 21, 2014


Frank Capra, producer and director, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, with James Stewart, Jean Arthur, Claude Rains and Edward Arnold, Columbia, 1939

Ira Gershwin, lyrics, and George Gershwin, score, Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off, in Shall We Dance, with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, RKO Radio, 1937

Zoning Board of Appeals: Chapter 40B project at Hancock Village

The Zoning Appeals Board held a continued hearing on Thursday, June 19, over a proposed Chapter 40B housing project at the site of Hancock Village, along Independence Drive in the Putterham neighborhood of south Brookline. Hancock Village began as a model development built just after World War II, originally for returning veterans, by the John Hancock Insurance Company under an agreement with the Town of Brookline.

Renamed Westbrook Village in the 1960s, after it was sold to a division of Niles Realty, the spacious, garden apartment development has since been renamed Hancock Village and is owned by Chestnut Hill Realty of 300 Independence Drive in West Roxbury. Partly in Brookline and partly in West Roxbury, Hancock Village has become Brookline’s lowest-density multiple apartment district–the sole application of what is currently called M-0.5 zoning. Chestnut Hill Realty’s most recent proposal is the Chapter 40B plan of June 5, 2014.

As illustrated on a site view available from the Planning Department, the current proposal has a C-shaped, 5-story apartment building, about 450 x 200 ft on diagonals, located from about 300 to about 750 ft west of Russett Rd., and nine 3-story structures, each about 83 x 46 ft, chocked into current greensward behind houses along Beverly Rd. and Russett Rd. The large building is to sit at the end of a relocated private way extending Asheville Rd. beside 284 Russett Rd. into the property. Plans are said to total 184 new units but fail to list how many units each new building is to contain.

Participants: Board members at this hearing were Jesse Geller, the board’s chair, Christopher Hussey, Jonathan Book, Mark Zuroff and Avi Liss. Board member Johanna Schneider was not at the hearing. Also present with the board were Samuel Nagler, legal counsel, and Edith Netter, consultant. Theodore Touloukian, principal in Touloukian and Touloukian, architects of Boston, presented a design review prepared on contract to the board. Last year his firm was responsible for renovation of a building housing Foodie’s Market in the South End, formerly American Nut.

Steven Schwartz, a lawyer from Goulston & Storrs, and Joseph Geller, a landscape architect and former member of the Board of Selectmen, represented Chestnut Hill Realty. Maria Morelli, a consultant for the Neighborhood Conservation District Commission, helped organize the hearing. Polly Selkoe, assistant director for regulatory planning at the Planning Department, attended the hearing but did not participate in an official capacity.

The Planning Board sent no representative. There is nothing to keep it from appointing a design advisory team with neighborhood representation, as it has done for many other proposals including the recent, controversial Brookline Place. However, it did not do that, and so far it has taken a low-profile public role in recent reviews.

Without a background of well structured citizen participation, the appeals board had obvious difficulties managing an adequate process. The hearing floundered. Participants failed to identify themselves and spoke in erratic succession, some in code-words. It may well have confused members of the public and proved less useful than it might have to the appeals board.

Plans or no plans: There was a discussion about what kind of plans the Board of Appeals needs for its review and what Chestnut Hill Realty is willing to provide. Mr. Touloukian said the June 5 proposal has major changes to “building footprints…and elevations.” Mr. Hussey of the board, also an architect, said a physical model was the best way to convey the proposed development in the context of its surroundings. Polly Selkoe, from the Planning Department, commented that Brookline’s zoning bylaw requires such a model.

Mr. Schwartz, the lawyer representing Chestnut Hill Realty, acknowledged that Mr. Touloukian had asked for a model and said a “digital” model–that is, one displayed by a computer program–would be made available. Mr. Joseph Geller, the landscape architect representing Chestnut Hill Realty, said it would “update the information” from the previous proposal.

Chestnut Hill Realty’s model must be viewed by using an Autodesk software product called “3ds Max,” priced at $3,675 for the basic version, plus support fees. Mr. Touloukian said that was an acceptable approach for him. Mr. Schwartz urged speedy action by the board, saying, “We feel we’ve submitted everything required by 760 CMR”–referring to state regulations for a Chapter 40B project.

Professional “peer review”: Mr. Touloukian said his review was not finished, because Chestnut Hill’s architects had not yet sent him the revised model. He told the board he had no commitment about when it would be available. Illustrating with recent photos of proposed development sites within Hancock Village, he described the process for his review.

Mr. Touloukian said he will aim at (1) understanding land use guidelines, (2) integrating site access into the neighborhood, (3) respecting natural resources, (4) screening parking areas, (5) buffering edges, (6) blending with existing development patterns, (7) relating scale and proportion to the project’s context and (8) reviewing architectural detail.

Voices from the public: Mr. Jesse Geller of the appeals board asked for public questions and comments. Alisa Jonas, a Precinct 16 town meeting member, asked about consideration of historic preservation and of the neighborhood conservation district enacted in 2011. Ms. Netter said developers can seek overrides of town laws.

Stephen Chiumenti, a Precinct 16 town meeting member and an abutter to Hancock Village who lives on Russett Rd., insisted Mr. Touloukian’s “land use guidelines” not be restricted to zoning but also include the Hancock Village Neighborhood Conservation District and the 1940s agreements to build Hancock Village. Mr. Nagler described the Chapter 40B process as a “balancing test,” saying that “local rules” will be considered.

Betsy DeWitt, a member of the Board of Selectmen, asked about impact of a National Historic Register listing for Hancock Village. Ms. Netter said that issue was “not within Zoning Board of Appeals jurisdiction.” Ms. DeWitt pressed on, saying, “Someone needs to request a Section 106 review.” Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 requires federal agencies to take into account the effects of their undertakings on historic properties. Brookline’s appeals board is clearly not a federal agency.

William Pu, a Precinct 16 town meeting member, objected, saying, “None of us have the software to view the plan.” He stated that “time pressure is self-imposed.” Mr. Hussey asked the developer representatives about illustrating the proposed development in its context, “Can’t you take snapshots?” He asked the audience, “Can someone from the neighborhood indicate what views you would like to see?”

Vague views: There was no direct response. Mr. Hussey had previously said he was “not sure we need such a complete set of drawings as the first submission.” Judith Leichtner, a Precinct 16 town meeting member, expressed concern that, regardless of the approach, whatever emerged “won’t be seen until a meeting at the end of July.” Mr. Joseph Geller, representing Chestnut Hill Realty, said, “We’ll get it as soon as we can get it done.” However, he conceded he does “not know how to distribute” the results. Apparently no town department uses 3ds Max software.

Discussion lurched back and forth among members of the board, representatives of Chestnut Hill Realty and audience participants. There were mentions of a “site walkthrough,” of “staking the site” and of stringing up balloons to suggest building elevations. Mr. Hussey spoke last, saying it was “really the massing of the buildings that matters” but not saying how he could describe that.

– Beacon staff, Brookline, MA, June 20, 2014


Andreae Downs, Brookline town meeting makes Hancock Village the town’s first neighborhood conservation district, Boston Globe, November 16, 2011

Board of Selectmen: school programs, electronic voting and permits

A weekly meeting of the Board of Selectmen on Tuesday, June 17, started at 6:30 pm in the sixth-floor meeting room at Town Hall. Board member Neil Wishinsky did not attend. There were no reports from departments or organizations.

Announcements: The Brookline Farmers Market opens for the season on June 19. Hours are Thursday from 1:30 to 8:00 pm at the municipal parking lot on the west side of Centre St. just north of Beacon St. This year Carr’s Ciderhouse of Hadley, MA, has a permit to sell hard ciders in addition to cider vinegars and cider syrups. The Olmsted House, a historical site at 99 Warren St. operated by the National Park Service, opens for summer visitors June 25. Hours are Wednesday through Sunday from 9:30 am to 5:00 pm.

Planning school programs: Helen Charlupski, a School Committee member, and Peter Rowe, the deputy superintendent of schools, sought approval of a $100,000 contract with Symmes Miana & McKee of Cambridge for planning services at Brookline High School. As Mr. Rowe explained it, this is not for architectural planning but instead for planning school programs. The Building Commission is listed as the agency in charge of the contract, as would normally occur for architecture or construction, but no member of the Building Commission addressed this topic.

Funding may be from item 59 under Article 8 as approved at the 2014 annual town meeting, but there was no description of the source of funds. Members of the board approved the $100,000 contract in a unanimous vote, without asking questions about contents of the project or qualifications of the contractor. Little engagement with the substance of some topics produced such a speedy meeting that the board paused twice, for a total of about 30 minutes, because it ran far faster than scheduled.

Electronic voting records: Town Administrator Mel Kleckner was granted a request to transfer $3,000 from an insurance account to the account for town meeting expenses, to pay overtime so employees of the Information Technology Office can attend town meetings. They will assist with the recent electronic voting system that has produced records inconsistent with votes as called by Edward “Sandy” Gadsby, the moderator. None of the other officials usually responsible for town meeting appeared: the moderator, the town clerk or the chair of the Advisory Committee.

Appointments: In contrast with its speedy approval of $100,000 for the purposes of Public Schools of Brookline, the board took a relaxed pace interviewing applicants for committees and commissions: two for Martin Luther King, one for Park and Recreation, one for Building and one for Information Technology. Dan Lyons, applying for a fourth term of three years on Park and Recreation, engaged in conversations with Kenneth Goldstein, chair of the board, over plans for the municipal golf course. Mr. Lyons said he favors building a driving range using part of the first fairway, reducing it from par-5 to par-4.

Permits: The board speedily approved several permit items: three events at Larz Anderson, a name change for a restaurant at 1009 Beacon St., a change in company officers for Trader Joe’s in Coolidge Corner and one hour earlier opening on Sundays for Sunset Cantina at 916 Commonwealth Ave. Mark Berkowitz was the applicant for extended hours; he appeared on friendly terms with some members of the board.

Annual review of open-air parking lots hit a snag. Board members Betsy DeWitt and Nancy Daly spoke of several complaints about operation of a lot near the intersection of Washington St. with Bartlett Crescent, northwest of Washington Square and just before Corey Rd. The lot appears operated in conjunction with U.S. Petroleum, at the corner of Corey Rd. on Boston land. Since it took over the location a little over 20 years ago, the gas station has been regarded by its Brookline neighbors as an eyesore and sometimes a nuisance. The board held that permit for investigation and approved the others.

– Beacon staff, Brookline, MA, June 18, 2014

2014 annual town meeting: electronic voting issues

The 2014 annual town meeting held eleven electronic votes: one at the first session May 27, six at the second session May 29 and four at the third and final session June 2. Only two of those from the last session appear in town meeting records on the Brookline municipal Web site. The other votes were on motions to refer Article 26, seeking to repeal sale of taxi medallions, and to refer Article 29, supporting “independent” local businesses.

Because records of the votes were collected by elected officials at a public meeting and used for a public purpose, they are public records under state laws and regulations. Copies were requested on June 11 and were supplied by Patrick Ward, the town clerk, on June 16. Mr. Ward sent a spreadsheet file with all eleven of the electronic votes.

Referral votes: Looking over the votes suggests that the two referral motions won because a majority of the town meeting members saw some merit to the corresponding articles but doubted there was enough support for them to pass. Both articles attracted strong opposition and sounded likely to lose an up-or-down vote.

John Harris of Precinct 8, who submitted Article 26 seeking to repeal sale of taxi medallions, voted to refer it to a moderator’s committee. If Mr. Harris thought he could win an up-or-down vote, he would surely have opposed referral.

Article 29, asking for support of “independent” local businesses, was submitted by a coalition of business owners spoken for by Abram “Abe” Faber, co-owner of the popular Clear Flour Bakery on Thorndike St. Some town meeting members said they found Mr. Faber’s approach exclusionary. Referring his article drew notable support from nearby precincts and from Precinct 5–perhaps a kind of consolation prize.

Uncertain votes: The file sent by Mr. Ward contained another mismatch with individual votes previously found on the Brookline municipal Web site. A vote on Article 32 from a Precinct 13 town meeting member changed from No to Yes, for a total of five votes that differ according to the source of data. The others were on the Driscoll School feasibility study, under Article 8, from Precinct 4 town meeting members.

Those might be “political” issues. Town meeting members sometimes find themselves recorded one way and later want to present their views differently. Records on the Web site do not say when or how individual votes changed. If one lacked copies of the records available at different times, those changes would be invisible.

Discrepancies in totals: There are several discrepancies between totals found by adding votes in the computer records and totals declared at town meeting by the moderator, Edward “Sandy” Gadsby. Totals for five of the eleven electronic votes differ from ones declared at town meeting sessions, by margins of one to three votes.

The uncertain votes do not explain the differences, so the discrepancies may represent “technical” issues. Mr. Gadsby found it necessary to repeat one vote and to call out corrections for two others. Those votes did not produce discrepancies. Problems occurred with eight out of eleven electronic votes. Of those, Mr. Gadsby was able to catch three at town meeting. The others remain lodged in Brookline’s records.

None of the discrepancies was large enough to affect an action at the recent town meeting. That may be luck. Close votes at past town meetings could have been clouded. At a town meeting in 1972, for example, the late Sumner Kaplan–a former chair of the Board of Selectmen, state representative and district judge–proposed to combine the police and fire departments into a public safety department. The controversial proposal failed on a tie vote. A single-vote discrepancy could have clouded that result.

Technology: The current system appears to continue responding to voting changes after a vote is supposed to be over. The system fails to provide a clear signal saying when it has finished tabulating a vote. Brookline has many lawyers and executives but few design engineers. The 2012 committee that configured electronic voting lacked relevant expertise. It tended to accept system performance claims without thorough investigations and to discount the values of security measures and of direct feedback to town meeting members about how their votes are being recorded.

After practice with the current system at three previous town meetings, at the 2014 annual town meeting the technology failed to provide precise, reliable results for more than two-thirds of the electronic votes. Mr. Gadsby was able to detect and correct some problems, but he missed a majority of them. The electronic voting system needs to go back to the shop, to straighten out obvious kinks. It’s not ready for prime time.

Policy: If Brookline had a reliable electronic voting system, allowing town meeting members to change recorded positions after a vote has been declared would be a highly dubious practice. It opens an avenue into allowing town meeting results to become clouded after a town meeting is over, introducing potentials for protracted disputes or lawsuits over close votes.

– Craig Bolon, Brookline, MA, June 17, 2014


Brookline 2014 annual town meeting, electronic votes as of June 16, 2014

No. Day Article Section/vote Question voted
1 5/27 8 58 Driscoll School feasibility study, strike delay on spending funds
2 5/29 10 1 Community relations, close debate (2/3 vote)
3 5/29 10 2 Community relations, make director a department head
4 5/29 10 3 Community relations, main motion to create new commission
5 5/29 22 1 Zoning, convenience store with gasoline station (2/3 vote)
6 5/29 23 1 Zoning, prohibit accessory dwellings in single-family zones (2/3 vote)
7 5/29 25 1 Adopt local option, Retirement Board stipends
8 6/2 15 1 Zoning, Brookline Place, with controversy over parking (2/3 vote)
9 6/2 26 1 Legislation, repealing taxi medallion sales, refer to moderator’s committee
10 6/2 29 1 Resolution, supporting independent local businesses, refer to EDAB
11 6/2 32 1 Resolution, support state legislation, fossil-fuel divestment

Electronic recorded votes Y for “yes,” N for “no” & indicates an
2014 annual town meeting P for “present” or “abstain” uncertain vote
A for absent or not voting
Pct. Given name Family name 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11
01 Cathleen Cavell Y N Y Y Y Y A Y Y Y A
01 Ernest Cook A A A A A A A A A A A
01 Jonathan Cutler Y Y Y Y N A A A A A A
01 Elijah Ercolino Y Y Y Y Y Y N A A A A
01 James Franco Y Y N Y Y Y N Y N Y N
01 Richard Garver Y A A A A A A P Y Y Y
01 Neil Gordon Y N Y Y P Y Y Y P Y Y
01 Helen Herman Y N N Y N A A A A A A
01 Carol Hillman Y N Y Y N Y Y Y N N Y
01 Sean Lynn-Jones Y Y N Y Y Y N Y N Y Y
01 Alexandra Metral Y Y Y Y N N Y N Y N Y
01 Paul Moghtader Y Y N Y Y Y Y Y Y A A
01 Bettina Neuefeind Y N Y Y N A A N N N Y
01 Robert Schram Y N Y N N Y Y P Y Y Y
01 Katharine Silbaugh Y N N Y N A A Y A A A
                           
Pct. Given name Family name 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11
02 Judith Kidd Y A A A A A A Y N N N
02 Lisa Liss Y Y Y Y Y N N Y A A A
02 Rita McNally Y Y N Y N Y N Y Y Y Y
02 Adam Mitchell Y A A A A A A A A A A
02 Barbara O’Brien Y Y A Y A Y Y A A A A
02 Gwen Ossenfort Y Y Y Y N Y A Y N N A
02 Linda Pehlke N N N Y N Y N Y N Y Y
02 Edward Richmond Y Y Y Y A N N Y A A A
02 Susan Roberts Y Y N Y N Y N Y Y Y Y
02 Diana Spiegel Y N Y Y Y Y Y Y N N Y
02 Stanley Spiegel Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y N N Y
02 Eunice White N Y N Y N Y N Y N Y Y
02 Bruce Wolff Y N Y N P Y P Y Y N Y
02 Ana Vera Wynne Y N Y Y Y Y A Y N Y Y
02 Richard Wynne Y N Y Y Y Y A A A A A
                           
Pct. Given name Family name 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11
03 Harry Bohrs Y A A Y Y Y N Y N N P
03 Patricia Connors Y N Y Y Y Y Y P N N Y
03 Mary Dewart Y Y Y Y A A A A Y A A
03 Murray Dewart Y Y Y Y Y A A Y N Y Y
03 Dennis Doughty Y N Y Y Y Y N Y Y N Y
03 Kathe Geist Y A A A A A A N N A A
03 Jane Gilman Y P Y Y Y N Y Y Y Y Y
03 Heather Hamilton Y Y N Y Y N N P N Y Y
03 Gary Jones Y A A A A A A Y A N A
03 Laurence Koff Y Y N Y Y Y N A N Y N
03 Donald Leka Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
03 Kathleen Scanlon Y N Y Y Y Y N Y N N Y
03 Frank Steinfield Y N Y Y Y Y N Y Y N Y
03 Rebecca Stone Y P N Y Y N N A A A A
03 Jean Stringham Y Y N Y Y N N Y N Y Y
                           
Pct. Given name Family name 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11
04 Sarah Axelrod Y N Y Y Y Y N Y Y N Y
04 Eric Berke Y& N N A N N Y Y N Y N
04 Edith Brickman Y N N Y N Y Y Y N N Y
04 Alan Christ Y& Y Y Y Y A Y Y Y N Y
04 Ingrid Cooper Y N Y Y N Y N Y Y Y Y
04 Anne Covert N Y Y Y Y Y N Y N N Y
04 Frank Farlow Y N Y Y Y Y Y P Y Y Y
04 Martha Farlow Y Y Y Y Y N Y Y Y Y Y
04 Nadine Gerdts Y Y Y Y Y Y N A A A A
04 John Mulhane Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y N Y
04 Mariah Nobrega Y Y Y Y N Y N A Y N Y
04 Joseph Robinson Y Y N Y A A A Y Y A A
04 Marjorie Siegel Y& N Y Y A A A Y Y Y Y
04 Virginia Smith N& Y Y Y Y Y A N Y N Y
04 Robert Volk Y Y Y Y Y Y N Y Y Y Y
                           
Pct. Given name Family name 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11
05 Richard Allen Y Y N Y Y A A A N Y A
05 Robert Daves Y N N Y Y Y N P Y Y y
05 Dennis DeWitt Y A A A A A A Y A Y Y
05 Michael Gunnuscio Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y N Y Y
05 Angela Hyatt Y Y N Y Y Y N Y N Y Y
05 David Knight Y Y N Y N Y N Y N A A
05 Hugh Mattison N Y N Y Y N N Y Y Y Y
05 Puja Mehta Y A A N A A A Y A A A
05 Randolph Meiklejohn Y Y Y Y Y Y N Y N Y Y
05 Phyllis O’Leary Y Y N Y Y P Y Y N A A
05 Andrew Olins N Y N Y Y A A Y Y Y A
05 William Reyelt Y Y Y Y Y N N Y Y Y Y
05 Betsy Shure Gross N Y N Y N Y N N Y N Y
05 Claire Stampfer Y Y N Y N Y N Y N Y Y
05 Lenore von Krusenstiern Y P Y Y P A A Y Y Y Y
                           
Pct. Given name Family name 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11
06 Catherine Anderson Y N N Y N N Y Y N Y Y
06 John Bassett Y Y N Y Y Y N Y Y N Y
06 Jocina Becker Y A N Y Y Y P Y Y N Y
06 Christopher Dempsey Y N N Y Y N N A A A A
06 Brian Hochleutner Y N Y Y Y Y N Y N Y Y
06 Sytske Humphrey Y Y N Y Y Y N Y A N N
06 Virginia LaPlante Y Y Y N N N N A Y N Y
06 M.K. Merelice Y Y Y N Y Y N P N A Y
06 Ian Polumbaum Y N Y Y A Y N Y Y A A
06 Clinton Richmond Y N Y Y N N P Y N N Y
06 Ian Roffman Y N Y N N A A A A A A
06 Kim Smith Y N Y Y Y Y N Y Y Y Y
06 Ruthann Sneider Y N Y Y N Y P P N N Y
06 Robert Sperber Y Y Y N N Y Y Y N N Y
06 Thomas Vitolo Y N Y Y Y N N Y Y Y Y
                           
Pct. Given name Family name 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11
07 Ellen Ball Y Y N Y Y Y N Y N Y A
07 Susan Cohen Y A A A A A A Y Y N Y
07 Susan Ellis Y A A A A A A Y Y Y A
07 Ernest Frey P Y Y Y Y Y N Y N N Y
07 Phyllis Giller Y Y Y Y N A A Y Y Y A
07 Elizabeth Goldstein Y Y Y Y A A A Y Y Y A
07 Mark Gray A N N Y Y Y N Y Y Y Y
07 Bernard Greene N N Y Y Y N Y Y N N A
07 Kelly Hardebeck Y Y N Y Y A A Y Y N A
07 Jonathan Lewis A Y N Y Y A A A A A A
07 Jonathan Margolis Y Y Y Y N Y A P N N Y
07 Christopher Oates N N Y N Y N Y Y Y N Y
07 Sloan Sable A A A A A A A Y Y N Y
07 Rita Shon-Baker Y Y Y Y N Y N Y Y N Y
07 James Slayton Y Y Y Y Y Y N Y N N A
                           
Pct. Given name Family name 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11
08 Lauren Bernard A A A A A A A Y A Y A
08 Abigail Cox Y Y P Y Y Y N Y Y Y Y
08 Gina Crandell A A A A A A A A A A A
08 Franklin Friedman N Y N Y Y N A Y N Y A
08 David-Marc Goldstein Y Y N Y N N N Y N N Y
08 John Harris Y N N P N N A Y Y Y Y
08 Nancy Heller Y Y N Y N Y N Y Y Y Y
08 Anita Johnson Y A A A A N N Y Y N Y
08 Edward Loechler Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
08 Jeanne Mansfield Y N N Y N N N Y N Y Y
08 Robert Miller Y N Y Y N N P P N Y Y
08 Barbara Scotto Y Y N Y P Y Y Y Y N Y
08 Lisamarie Sears Y N N Y A A A Y Y A A
08 Sara Stock A A A A A A A A A A A
08 Maura Toomey Y Y N Y N Y N Y Y Y Y
                           
Pct. Given name Family name 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11
09 Liza Brooks N N Y Y Y A A Y N Y A
09 Joseph Geller N A A A A A A A A A A
09 Paul Harris Y Y Y Y Y N N P N N Y
09 Nathaniel Hinchey Y Y Y Y Y A A Y A A A
09 Barr Jozwicki Y Y Y Y A A A A A A A
09 Joyce Jozwicki Y Y N Y A A A A A A A
09 Pamela Katz Y Y Y Y Y N Y Y Y Y Y
09 Julius Levine A A A A A A A A A A A
09 Stanley Rabinovitz A Y Y Y A A A Y A A A
09 Harriet Rosenstein N A A A A A A A A A A
09 Martin Rosenthal Y Y Y Y Y N Y Y N Y Y
09 Charles Swartz N N Y Y Y Y Y Y N A A
09 Dwaign Tyndal N Y A A A A A N Y N Y
09 Judith Vanderkay P Y Y Y N Y N P N Y Y
09 George White Y Y Y Y N N Y N Y Y Y
                           
Pct. Given name Family name 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11
10 Carol Caro Y N Y Y N N Y P Y Y Y
10 Francis Caro Y N N Y Y N Y Y Y Y P
10 Sumner Chertok A A A A A A A A A A A
10 Jonathan Davis A N Y Y N Y A Y Y N A
10 Linda Davis Y N Y Y N Y A Y Y N A
10 Holly Deak Y Y Y Y N A A Y A N A
10 Stephan Gaehde Y A A A A A A P A A A
10 Beth Jones A A A A A A A A A A A
10 David Micley Y N Y Y Y N P Y N Y Y
10 Sharon Sandalow Y N Y Y Y N Y Y N N Y
10 Rachel Sandalow-Ash Y N Y P P N Y Y N N Y
10 Stanley Shuman Y P Y Y Y N N Y Y Y Y
10 Finn Skagestad Y Y Y Y A A A Y Y A A
10 Alexandra Spingarn Y A A A A A A A A A A
10 Naomi Sweitzer Y N Y Y N N N Y Y Y Y
                           
Pct. Given name Family name 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11
11 Carrie Benedon Y Y A Y N Y N Y N Y Y
11 Joseph Ditkoff Y A A A A A A Y Y N N
11 Shira Fischer A N N Y Y Y N N N N Y
11 Shanna Giora-Gorfajn Y N Y Y N P N Y N Y P
11 Jennifer Goldsmith N Y N N Y N A P Y N A
11 Martha Gray N N Y N N Y N P Y N Y
11 Bobbie Knable Y N Y Y Y Y Y Y N Y N
11 David Lescohier Y Y N Y N Y N Y Y Y Y
11 Kenneth Lewis Y Y N Y Y Y N Y N Y A
11 David Lowe N N N Y N P N P Y Y Y
11 Rebecca Mautner Y A Y Y N N N Y A Y Y
11 Maryellen Moran N Y N Y A A A Y Y A A
11 Carol Oldham Y N Y N N N N P N N Y
11 Brian Sheehan Y N Y N Y N P Y N N P
11 Karen Wenc N N N Y Y N N Y N Y N
                           
Pct. Given name Family name 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12 Michael Burstein N Y Y Y Y N Y Y N Y Y
12 Bruce Cohen Y Y N Y P Y N Y N A A
12 Lee Cooke-Childs Y A A A A A A Y Y Y Y
12 Chad Ellis Y Y N Y Y Y N Y Y N N
12 Harry Friedman N Y N N P Y N Y Y N N
12 Jonathan Grand Y Y Y Y Y Y N Y Y N A
12 Stefanie Greenfield Y Y N Y N Y A Y N A A
12 Casey Hatchett Y N N Y Y N A Y Y N Y
12 Amy Hummel Y Y N Y Y Y N Y N Y Y
12 Jonathan Karon Y Y Y Y Y Y N Y N Y Y
12 David Klafter Y P Y N Y N Y Y Y N Y
12 Mark Lowenstein Y Y N Y A A A Y N N A
12 Judy Meyers Y A Y Y Y Y N Y Y Y Y
12 William Slotnick Y Y Y Y N N N Y Y A Y
12 Donald Weitzman Y Y Y Y Y N N Y Y Y Y
                           
Pct. Given name Family name 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11
13 Joanna Baker Y N Y Y N N Y Y N N Y
13 Carla Benka N Y Y Y Y Y N Y N Y N
13 Roger Blood A A A A A A A Y A N N
13 Chris Chanyasulkit Y Y N Y Y Y P Y Y N Y
13 John Doggett N Y N Y Y Y Y Y N N N
13 Jonathan Fine N Y Y Y Y N Y Y Y Y N
13 Andrew Fischer N Y Y Y N N N N N Y Y
13 John Freeman N Y N Y Y Y N Y Y N Y
13 Francis Hoy Y Y N Y Y N Y Y A A A
13 Ruth Kaplan Y Y Y Y A A A Y N N A
13 Werner Lohe N Y Y Y Y N N Y N Y Y&
13 Paul Saner N Y N Y Y Y N Y A A A
13 Lee Selwyn N Y N Y Y Y N Y N N N
13 Barbara Senecal Y Y N Y A A A Y Y A A
13 John VanScoyoc Y Y N Y Y Y N Y N N A
                           
Pct. Given name Family name 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11
14 Robert Basile Y Y N Y A A A Y A A A
14 Clifford Brown P Y N Y A A A Y Y N A
14 Linda Carlisle Y A A A A A A Y N Y A
14 Gill Fishman N Y Y Y N Y N Y Y N Y
14 Paula Friedman A A A A A A A Y Y Y A
14 Deborah Goldberg Y A A A Y N Y A N Y A
14 Georgia Johnson A A A A A A A Y N Y Y
14 Fred Levitan N Y N Y A A A A A A A
14 Roger Lipson Y Y N Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
14 Pamela Lodish N Y N Y Y Y N Y N N N
14 Shaari Mittel Y A A A A A A Y A N N
14 Kathleen O’Connell Y A A A A A A A A A A
14 Benjamin Rich N A N Y Y N N Y N Y Y
14 Lynda Roseman Y Y N Y P Y N Y N N Y
14 Sharon Schoffman Y A A A N Y N Y N Y Y
                           
Pct. Given name Family name 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11
15 Edwin Alexanderian A A A A A A A A A A A
15 Mariela Ames N Y N N A A A A A A A
15 Eileen Berger Y Y N P A A A P Y A A
15 Michael Berger Y N N N A A A P Y A A
15 Abby Coffin Y Y Y A A A A A A A A
15 Jane Flanagan N Y N Y A A A A A A A
15 John Hall A A A A A A A A A A A
15 Benedicte Hallowell Y Y P Y A A A A A A A
15 Janice Kahn N N P Y A A A Y N N Y
15 Richard Nangle N Y A Y A A A A A A A
15 David Pearlman N N N N N N N Y N N N
15 James Rourke N Y N Y A A A A A A A
15 Ab Sadeghi-Nejad N Y N Y A A A Y N Y Y
15 Cornelia van der Ziel Y N Y N Y Y Y A A A A
15 Vacant town meeting seat A A A A A A A A A A A
                           
Pct. Given name Family name 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11
16 Saralynn Allaire N N N P Y N N Y N P Y
16 Robert Allen Y A A A A A A A N Y A
16 Beverly Basile Y Y N Y N Y N Y N Y A
16 John Basile A Y N Y A A A Y A A A
16 Stephen Chiumenti Y Y N Y Y Y N Y Y N N
16 Regina Frawley N N N Y P Y N Y N P P
16 Thomas Gallitano Y Y Y Y N N N Y Y N Y
16 Scott Gladstone Y Y Y Y Y Y N Y P Y Y
16 Alisa Jonas A P N Y N N N Y Y Y Y
16 Judith Leichtner Y P N Y N Y N Y Y Y Y
16 William Pu Y Y N Y N Y A A A A A
16 Joshua Safer Y Y N Y Y Y N Y N N N
16 Irene Scharf Y Y Y Y N N N P N Y Y
16 Arthur Sneider Y Y Y Y Y Y Y A A A A
16 Joyce Stavis-Zak Y Y Y Y N N N Y Y Y Y
                           
Pct. Given name Family name 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11
AL Nancy Daly Y P N Y Y N Y Y Y Y Y
AL Betsy DeWitt Y N N Y Y Y N Y Y Y Y
AL Benjamin Franco Y N N Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
AL Edward Gadsby P P P P P P P P P A P
AL Kenneth Goldstein Y Y N Y Y Y Y Y N Y Y
AL Hon. Frank Smizik Y A A A A A A A A A A
AL Patrick Ward P P P P P P P P P P P
AL Neil Wishinsky Y N N Y Y Y N A A A A
                           
Result of vote, as declared Y N Y Y N N N Y Y Y Y
Quantum of vote 1/2 2/3 1/2 1/2 2/3 2/3 1/2 1/2 1/2 1/2 2/3
                           
Totals in records Yes 179 128 107 185 109 106 47 171 96 99 126
  No 43 68 94 18 62 59 100 9 91 78 20
  Abstain 5 10 5 6 11 5 10 23 4 3 7
  Not voting 21 42 42 39 66 78 91 45 57 68 95
                           
Vote declaration Yes 176 128 107 185 109 106 47 170 96 99 126
  No 43 66 94 17 62 59 100 9 91 76 20
  Abstain 5 10 5 6 11 5 10 20 4 3 7

Human Relations: harassment complaints and resignations

A meeting of the Human Relations Youth Resources Commission on Wednesday, June 11, started at 7:00 pm in the Denny Room at the Health Center. Ten of the fifteen commissioners attended, as well as Lloyd Gellineau, Brookline’s human relations and human services administrator, Benjamin Chang for the School Committee, Philip Harrington for the Police Department, a secretary recording minutes and three visitors.

Under “new business,” Commissioner Ernest Frey described two recent Brookline incidents suggesting racial harassment and occurring in private settings. He asked about the commission’s approach to addressing such reports. Responding also to a related question from Commissioner Valencia Sparrow, Dr. Gellineau said there is a brochure about Brookline’s human relations program and said Brookline’s municipal Web site has links to the “Brookline Discrimination Report Form.”

On a page providing a link to the report form that Dr. Gellineau mentioned, the municipal Web site describes Brookline’s Human Relations and Human Services Division, housed in the Health Department building. The page also has a link to the “Brookline Citizen Discrimination Inquiry Procedure.”

The discrimination report form has four options for “type of incident.” They are “housing,” “business,” “work” and “other.” The “Citizen Discrimination Inquiry Procedure,” an undated document, comes with a file title noting “amendment 1.” This version of the procedure asks only about a “business or service of concern.” It does not describe processes for addressing “housing,” “work” or “other” discrimination.

Since the incidents that Mr. Frey described are probably more related to “housing” than to “business,” it is not clear how Brookline plans to address them. Commissioner Dwaign Tyndal called them “fair housing issues” needing prompt action, because of time limits for filing complaints with MCAD and fair housing agencies. Mr. Frey suggested dispute resolution as an approach. Mr. Tyndal responded, “When you discriminate against someone who belongs to a protected class, it’s the law” that governs.

Brookline’s procedure advises people with complaints to contact the town’s human relations and human services administrator, Dr. Gellineau. The procedure says “all complaints will be forward [sic] to the Human Relations Commission for review.” It provides a link to the Human Relations Commission’s page for people who want to contact a commissioner directly.

Turning to a “leadership” agenda item, Mariela Ames, who chairs the commission, said she was resigning from it. That’s not likely to surprise readers of the Beacon, because Ms. Ames has maintained since April that the bylaw creating a new commission, approved by town meeting under Article 10 on May 29, would not produce an improvement over the current commission. She described that as her main reason for leaving.

It was “disappointing to get blocked by the selectmen,” Ms. Ames said. They had “excluded members of the commission” from participating in changes and had “drafted bylaws that enshrine [bad] practices in writing.” Ms. Ames spoke similarly at town meeting on May 29. “As a person of color,” she said, “my voice was not heard…This town needs a strong commission, but there’s no support from the selectmen.”

Mr. Frey said to Ms. Ames that he was “very disappointed in [her] feeling the need to take this step.” He said he was also “upset that the [selectmen's "diversity] committee” excluded members of this commission. They will say that they didn’t, but we all know that they did.”

Commissioner Larry Onie said, “I too am going to resign tonight. Town meeting made a very radical decision.” He continued, “It’s crystal clear that the five selectmen…do not understand that they have a serious ‘white problem’ in Brookline, so I’m going to work on this…in a different way.”

Commissioner Cruz Sanabria asked, “Does anybody believe…we can do something when it comes to helping people? Our effectiveness has been watered down. What is our purpose now?” He said he was also resigning from the commission.

Commissioner Brooks Ames said that, like his wife Mariela, he was resigning from the commission. It has become “a steering wheel not attached to anything,” he said. “All the department heads are white. In the recent years, we hired new white department heads.” Those positions include a new fire chief, planning and community development director, comptroller, building commissioner, town counsel and town administrator.

Ms. Sparrow stated, “People of color are not getting positions” in town government. The Human Resources office, she said, “won’t let go of the information. A request last year to review information was angrily declined.” Mr. Sanabria agreed, “The only time the selectmen listened was when an article came out [in a newspaper] about jobs maintained [for] everyone but people of color.”

Although not resigning, Commissioner Georgi Vogel Rosen said she is “not applying to the next commission.” Ms. Ames, Mr. Onie, Mr. Sanabria and Mr. Ames said goodbye to the other commissioners and left the meeting. Commissioner Kelly Race said “leadership” should head the agenda for the next meeting. “We should also review subcommittees,” she said. The next meeting was tentatively set for Wednesday, July 9.

– Beacon staff, Brookline, MA, June 12, 2014


Mariela Ames, Selectmen’s agenda does not include race relations, Brookline TAB, September 11, 2013

Brock Parker, Diversity panel’s item reflects ongoing dispute, Boston Globe, November 17, 2013

Andreae Downs, A racially tinged clash just keeps on going, Boston Globe, January 20, 2008

2014 annual town meeting: missing and uncertain votes

At both open town meetings and elected town meetings–like Brookline’s–counted votes are a longstanding custom, sometimes called “dividing the house.” Until recently, Brookline’s approach was for the moderator to appoint a few town meeting members as “tellers”–usually six–who would count the votes.

If unable to call a vote by scanning the hall–or if seven town meeting members rose to “doubt the vote”–the moderator would organize a standing, counted vote. The tellers would count those standing to vote “yes,” then those standing to vote “no,” then those standing to vote “present” (also called “abstain”). Typically, a counted vote would take at least five minutes. In our traditions, legislative voting is a public act, whether or not detailed records are kept. Tellers had an unusual privilege: their own votes were invisible to the public.

Roll-call votes: When first elected moderator in 1970, Justin Wyner began roll-call votes, at the request of 35 or more town meeting members. Roll call had been fairly common in state legislatures but not in town meetings. Mr. Wyner would call the names of town meeting members and confirm their votes by repeating them aloud. The town clerk would record the votes and make lists available to the public. A roll-call vote took at least 20 minutes; there was rarely more than one each town meeting.

Automation for recording votes began at a 2012 fall town meeting, a contribution to “open government” for Brookline. Each town meeting member uses a small wireless device. Edward “Sandy” Gadsby, the current moderator, sets low thresholds for a recorded vote: seven town meeting members who “doubt the vote” he calls after a show of hands but 35 town meeting members if a recorded vote is requested in advance. He also initiates an electronic vote when he says he is unable to call a vote by scanning the hall–doing so instead of conducting a standing, counted vote.

The current approach to electronic voting allows 40 seconds, recommended by a 2012 moderator’s committee, during which votes appear on a projection screen as town meeting members cast them. Then Mr. Gadsby reads the totals and declares whether or not a motion has passed. Most records of the electronic votes appear fairly promptly on Brookline’s municipal Web site, as computer files called “Electronic Recorded Votes.” Some electronic votes are not being shown in the “roll call vote” computer files available from the Brookline municipal Web site–a dubious practice. Publicly available video recordings of town meeting sessions show individual votes being acquired during such events. The public collection and use of those votes at town meetings strongly suggests that all the electronic votes are public records under Massachusetts laws.

Problems, uncertain votes: Some obvious and some hidden problems occurred this year. The voting system appeared to malfunction during the vote for Article 22 on May 29; Mr. Gadsby called for that vote to be repeated. It appeared the system might continue recording after a 40-second voting period had ended. Changes would show on the projection screen. Mr. Gadsby apparently tried to take totals at 40 seconds in order to declare the votes, but the electronic system seemed to be confusing him. On May 29, he called out corrections to the town clerk for an amendment to Article 10 and for the main motion on Article 23, correcting the vote on the amendment twice.

Comparing “Electronic Recorded Votes” files found the day after each of the first two sessions with the “Combined Electronic Recorded Votes” file found six days after the close of the town meeting showed uncertain votes. Four votes by Precinct 4 town meeting members shown in the file found the morning after the May 27 session differed from corresponding votes shown in the “combined” file, inspected six days after the close of the town meeting. The first two changed from no vote being recorded to a Yes vote; the third from No to Yes and the fourth from Yes to No.

Totals of the votes taken from the “Combined Electronic Recorded Votes” were discrepant with both the totals listed at the end of that file and the totals announced at town meeting–used to decide whether motions passed or failed. Differences of up to 3 votes occur between the Yes or No votes declared at town meeting and totals of Yes or No votes found in the “Combined Electronic Recorded Votes” file. None of the uncertain and discrepant votes would have been enough to change a result at this town meeting, but mistakes could cloud results of closer votes.

Absent town meeting members, missing votes: Some precincts had much larger fractions of missing votes than others–that is, votes which could have been cast by town meeting members who were absent at the time of a vote or who did not vote. Based on “Combined Electronic Recorded Votes” as found today, the at-large town meeting members and those from Precinct 6 had the lowest fractions of missing votes: 8 and 9 percent. Town meeting members from precinct 15 had the highest fraction of missing votes: 55 percent. The average among the precincts was 24 percent missing votes.

Precinct 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 AL
Missing 24% 20% 21% 10% 15% 09% 29% 28% 38% 33% 12% 12% 13% 42% 55% 16% 08%

A table of recorded votes following this article comes from “Combined Electronic Recorded Votes” as found today. Votes are indicated as Y for “yes,” N for “no,” P for “present” or “abstain,” and A for absent or no vote recorded. An ampersand (&) marks an uncertain vote, differing between sources examined. From the A entries for the 4-1/2 hour second session, it looks as though town meeting members started to leave around 9:30 pm. The moderator and the Board of Selectmen might consider scheduling more sessions with shorter durations. This year’s twelve total hours of an annual town meeting, for example, might have run as four sessions of three hours each.

– Craig Bolon, Brookline, MA, June 9, 2014


Addendum, June 11, 2014. A written public records request was filed with Town Clerk Patrick Ward today for copies of the records of two electronic votes that were conducted and recorded during the third session of the 2014 annual town meeting, on June 2. Copies of the public records request have been sent to the Supervisor of Public Records in the office of the Secretary of State and to Town Administrator Mel Kleckner. Those were votes on motions to refer, under Articles 26 and 29. Records of the votes were collected by elected officials at a public meeting and used for a public purpose. However, the votes by individual town meeting members do not currently appear in the “Combined Electronic Recorded Votes” file for this town meeting, available on Brookline’s municipal Web site as of June 9, 2014.


Brookline 2014 annual town meeting, recorded votes as of June 9, 2014

No. Day Article Section/vote Question voted
1 5/27 8 58 Driscoll School feasibility study, strike delay on spending funds
2 5/29 10 1 Community relations, close debate (2/3 vote)
3 5/29 10 2 Community relations, make director a department head
4 5/29 10 3 Community relations, main motion to create new commission
5 5/29 22 1 Zoning, convenience store with gasoline station (2/3 vote)
6 5/29 23 1 Zoning, prohibit accessory dwellings in single-family zones (2/3 vote)
7 5/29 25 1 Adopt local option, Retirement Board stipends
8 6/2 15 1 Zoning, Brookline Place, with controversy over parking (2/3 vote)
9 6/2 32 1 Resolution, support state legislation, fossil-fuel divestment

Electronic recorded votes Y for “yes,” N for “no” & indicates an
2014 annual town meeting P for “present” or “abstain” uncertain vote
A for absent or not voting
Pct. Given name Family name 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
01 Cathleen Cavell Y N Y Y Y Y A Y A
01 Ernest Cook A A A A A A A A A
01 Jonathan Cutler Y Y Y Y N A A A A
01 Elijah Ercolino Y Y Y Y Y Y N A A
01 James Franco Y Y N Y Y Y N Y N
01 Richard Garver Y A A A A A A P Y
01 Neil Gordon Y N Y Y P Y Y Y Y
01 Helen Herman Y N N Y N A A A A
01 Carol Hillman Y N Y Y N Y Y Y Y
01 Sean Lynn-Jones Y Y N Y Y Y N Y Y
01 Alexandra Metral Y Y Y Y N N Y N Y
01 Paul Moghtader Y Y N Y Y Y Y Y A
01 Bettina Neuefeind Y N Y Y N A A N Y
01 Robert Schram Y N Y N N Y Y P Y
01 Katharine Silbaugh Y N N Y N A A Y A
           

           
Pct. Given name Family name 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
02 Judith Kidd Y A A A A A A Y N
02 Lisa Liss Y Y Y Y Y N N Y A
02 Rita McNally Y Y N Y N Y N Y Y
02 Adam Mitchell Y A A A A A A A A
02 Barbara O’Brien Y Y A Y A Y Y A A
02 Gwen Ossenfort Y Y Y Y N Y A Y A
02 Linda Pehlke N N N Y N Y N Y Y
02 Edward Richmond Y Y Y Y A N N Y A
02 Susan Roberts Y Y N Y N Y N Y Y
02 Diana Spiegel Y N Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
02 Stanley Spiegel Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
02 Eunice White N Y N Y N Y N Y Y
02 Bruce Wolff Y N Y N P Y P Y Y
02 Ana Vera Wynne Y N Y Y Y Y A Y Y
02 Richard Wynne Y N Y Y Y Y A A A
           

           
Pct. Given name Family name 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
03 Harry Bohrs Y A A Y Y Y N Y P
03 Patricia Connors Y N Y Y Y Y Y P Y
03 Mary Dewart Y Y Y Y A A A A A
03 Murray Dewart Y Y Y Y Y A A Y Y
03 Dennis Doughty Y N Y Y Y Y N Y Y
03 Kathe Geist Y A A A A A A N A
03 Jane Gilman Y P Y Y Y N Y Y Y
03 Heather Hamilton Y Y N Y Y N N P Y
03 Gary Jones Y A A A A A A Y A
03 Laurence Koff Y Y N Y Y Y N A N
03 Donald Leka Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
03 Kathleen Scanlon Y N Y Y Y Y N Y Y
03 Frank Steinfield Y N Y Y Y Y N Y Y
03 Rebecca Stone Y P N Y Y N N A A
03 Jean Stringham Y Y N Y Y N N Y Y
           

           
Pct. Given name Family name 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
04 Sarah Axelrod Y N Y Y Y Y N Y Y
04 Eric Berke Y& N N A N N Y Y N
04 Edith Brickman Y N N Y N Y Y Y Y
04 Alan Christ Y& Y Y Y Y A Y Y Y
04 Ingrid Cooper Y N Y Y N Y N Y Y
04 Anne Covert N Y Y Y Y Y N Y Y
04 Frank Farlow Y N Y Y Y Y Y P Y
04 Martha Farlow Y Y Y Y Y N Y Y Y
04 Nadine Gerdts Y Y Y Y Y Y N A A
04 John Mulhane Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
04 Mariah Nobrega Y Y Y Y N Y N A Y
04 Joseph Robinson Y Y N Y A A A Y A
04 Marjorie Siegel Y& N Y Y A A A Y Y
04 Virginia Smith N& Y Y Y Y Y A N Y
04 Robert Volk Y Y Y Y Y Y N Y Y
           

           
Pct. Given name Family name 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
05 Richard Allen Y Y N Y Y A A A A
05 Robert Daves Y N N Y Y Y N P y
05 Dennis DeWitt Y A A A A A A Y Y
05 Michael Gunnuscio Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
05 Angela Hyatt Y Y N Y Y Y N Y Y
05 David Knight Y Y N Y N Y N Y A
05 Hugh Mattison N Y N Y Y N N Y Y
05 Puja Mehta Y A A N A A A Y A
05 Randolph Meiklejohn Y Y Y Y Y Y N Y Y
05 Phyllis O’Leary Y Y N Y Y P Y Y A
05 Andrew Olins N Y N Y Y A A Y A
05 William Reyelt Y Y Y Y Y N N Y Y
05 Betsy Shure Gross N Y N Y N Y N N Y
05 Claire Stampfer Y Y N Y N Y N Y Y
05 Lenore von Krusenstiern Y P Y Y P A A Y Y
           

           
Pct. Given name Family name 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
06 Catherine Anderson Y N N Y N N Y Y Y
06 John Bassett Y Y N Y Y Y N Y Y
06 Jocina Becker Y A N Y Y Y P Y Y
06 Christopher Dempsey Y N N Y Y N N A A
06 Brian Hochleutner Y N Y Y Y Y N Y Y
06 Sytske Humphrey Y Y N Y Y Y N Y N
06 Virginia LaPlante Y Y Y N N N N A Y
06 M.K. Merelice Y Y Y N Y Y N P Y
06 Ian Polumbaum Y N Y Y A Y N Y A
06 Clinton Richmond Y N Y Y N N P Y Y
06 Ian Roffman Y N Y N N A A A A
06 Kim Smith Y N Y Y Y Y N Y Y
06 Ruthann Sneider Y N Y Y N Y P P Y
06 Robert Sperber Y Y Y N N Y Y Y Y
06 Thomas Vitolo Y N Y Y Y N N Y Y
           

           
Pct. Given name Family name 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
07 Ellen Ball Y Y N Y Y Y N Y A
07 Susan Cohen Y A A A A A A Y Y
07 Susan Ellis Y A A A A A A Y A
07 Ernest Frey P Y Y Y Y Y N Y Y
07 Phyllis Giller Y Y Y Y N A A Y A
07 Elizabeth Goldstein Y Y Y Y A A A Y A
07 Mark Gray A N N Y Y Y N Y Y
07 Bernard Greene N N Y Y Y N Y Y A
07 Kelly Hardebeck Y Y N Y Y A A Y A
07 Jonathan Lewis A Y N Y Y A A A A
07 Jonathan Margolis Y Y Y Y N Y A P Y
07 Christopher Oates N N Y N Y N Y Y Y
07 Sloan Sable A A A A A A A Y Y
07 Rita Shon-Baker Y Y Y Y N Y N Y Y
07 James Slayton Y Y Y Y Y Y N Y A
           

           
Pct. Given name Family name 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
08 Lauren Bernard A A A A A A A Y A
08 Abigail Cox Y Y P Y Y Y N Y Y
08 Gina Crandell A A A A A A A A A
08 Franklin Friedman N Y N Y Y N A Y A
08 David-Marc Goldstein Y Y N Y N N N Y Y
08 John Harris Y N N P N N A Y Y
08 Nancy Heller Y Y N Y N Y N Y Y
08 Anita Johnson Y A A A A N N Y Y
08 Edward Loechler Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
08 Jeanne Mansfield Y N N Y N N N Y Y
08 Robert Miller Y N Y Y N N P P Y
08 Barbara Scotto Y Y N Y P Y Y Y Y
08 Lisamarie Sears Y N N Y A A A Y A
08 Sara Stock A A A A A A A A A
08 Maura Toomey Y Y N Y N Y N Y Y
           

           
Pct. Given name Family name 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
09 Liza Brooks N N Y Y Y A A Y A
09 Joseph Geller N A A A A A A A A
09 Paul Harris Y Y Y Y Y N N P Y
09 Nathaniel Hinchey Y Y Y Y Y A A Y A
09 Barr Jozwicki Y Y Y Y A A A A A
09 Joyce Jozwicki Y Y N Y A A A A A
09 Pamela Katz Y Y Y Y Y N Y Y Y
09 Julius Levine A A A A A A A A A
09 Stanley Rabinovitz A Y Y Y A A A Y A
09 Harriet Rosenstein N A A A A A A A A
09 Martin Rosenthal Y Y Y Y Y N Y Y Y
09 Charles Swartz N N Y Y Y Y Y Y A
09 Dwaign Tyndal N Y A A A A A N Y
09 Judith Vanderkay P Y Y Y N Y N P Y
09 George White Y Y Y Y N N Y N Y
           

           
Pct. Given name Family name 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 Carol Caro Y N Y Y N N Y P Y
10 Francis Caro Y N N Y Y N Y Y P
10 Sumner Chertok A A A A A A A A A
10 Jonathan Davis A N Y Y N Y A Y A
10 Linda Davis Y N Y Y N Y A Y A
10 Holly Deak Y Y Y Y N A A Y A
10 Stephan Gaehde Y A A A A A A P A
10 Beth Jones A A A A A A A A A
10 David Micley Y N Y Y Y N P Y Y
10 Sharon Sandalow Y N Y Y Y N Y Y Y
10 Rachel Sandalow-Ash Y N Y P P N Y Y Y
10 Stanley Shuman Y P Y Y Y N N Y Y
10 Finn Skagestad Y Y Y Y A A A Y A
10 Alexandra Spingarn Y A A A A A A A A
10 Naomi Sweitzer Y N Y Y N N N Y Y
           

           
Pct. Given name Family name 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
11 Carrie Benedon Y Y A Y N Y N Y Y
11 Joseph Ditkoff Y A A A A A A Y N
11 Shira Fischer A N N Y Y Y N N Y
11 Shanna Giora-Gorfajn Y N Y Y N P N Y P
11 Jennifer Goldsmith N Y N N Y N A P A
11 Martha Gray N N Y N N Y N P Y
11 Bobbie Knable Y N Y Y Y Y Y Y N
11 David Lescohier Y Y N Y N Y N Y Y
11 Kenneth Lewis Y Y N Y Y Y N Y A
11 David Lowe N N N Y N P N P Y
11 Rebecca Mautner Y A Y Y N N N Y Y
11 Maryellen Moran N Y N Y A A A Y A
11 Carol Oldham Y N Y N N N N P Y
11 Brian Sheehan Y N Y N Y N P Y P
11 Karen Wenc N N N Y Y N N Y N
           

           
Pct. Given name Family name 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
12 Michael Burstein N Y Y Y Y N Y Y Y
12 Bruce Cohen Y Y N Y P Y N Y A
12 Lee Cooke-Childs Y A A A A A A Y Y
12 Chad Ellis Y Y N Y Y Y N Y N
12 Harry Friedman N Y N N P Y N Y N
12 Jonathan Grand Y Y Y Y Y Y N Y A
12 Stefanie Greenfield Y Y N Y N Y A Y A
12 Casey Hatchett Y N N Y Y N A Y Y
12 Amy Hummel Y Y N Y Y Y N Y Y
12 Jonathan Karon Y Y Y Y Y Y N Y Y
12 David Klafter Y P Y N Y N Y Y Y
12 Mark Lowenstein Y Y N Y A A A Y A
12 Judy Meyers Y A Y Y Y Y N Y Y
12 William Slotnick Y Y Y Y N N N Y Y
12 Donald Weitzman Y Y Y Y Y N N Y Y
           

           
Pct. Given name Family name 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
13 Joanna Baker Y N Y Y N N Y Y Y
13 Carla Benka N Y Y Y Y Y N Y N
13 Roger Blood A A A A A A A Y N
13 Chris Chanyasulkit Y Y N Y Y Y P Y Y
13 John Doggett N Y N Y Y Y Y Y N
13 Jonathan Fine N Y Y Y Y N Y Y N
13 Andrew Fischer N Y Y Y N N N N Y
13 John Freeman N Y N Y Y Y N Y Y
13 Francis Hoy Y Y N Y Y N Y Y A
13 Ruth Kaplan Y Y Y Y A A A Y A
13 Werner Lohe N Y Y Y Y N N Y N
13 Paul Saner N Y N Y Y Y N Y A
13 Lee Selwyn N Y N Y Y Y N Y N
13 Barbara Senecal Y Y N Y A A A Y A
13 John VanScoyoc Y Y N Y Y Y N Y A
           

           
Pct. Given name Family name 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
14 Robert Basile Y Y N Y A A A Y A
14 Clifford Brown P Y N Y A A A Y A
14 Linda Carlisle Y A A A A A A Y A
14 Gill Fishman N Y Y Y N Y N Y Y
14 Paula Friedman A A A A A A A Y A
14 Deborah Goldberg Y A A A Y N Y A A
14 Georgia Johnson A A A A A A A Y Y
14 Fred Levitan N Y N Y A A A A A
14 Roger Lipson Y Y N Y Y Y Y Y Y
14 Pamela Lodish N Y N Y Y Y N Y N
14 Shaari Mittel Y A A A A A A Y N
14 Kathleen O’Connell Y A A A A A A A A
14 Benjamin Rich N A N Y Y N N Y Y
14 Lynda Roseman Y Y N Y P Y N Y Y
14 Sharon Schoffman Y A A A N Y N Y Y
           

           
Pct. Given name Family name 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
15 Edwin Alexanderian A A A A A A A A A
15 Mariela Ames N Y N N A A A A A
15 Eileen Berger Y Y N P A A A P A
15 Michael Berger Y N N N A A A P A
15 Abby Coffin Y Y Y A A A A A A
15 Jane Flanagan N Y N Y A A A A A
15 John Hall A A A A A A A A A
15 Benedicte Hallowell Y Y P Y A A A A A
15 Janice Kahn N N P Y A A A Y Y
15 Richard Nangle N Y A Y A A A A A
15 David Pearlman N N N N N N N Y N
15 James Rourke N Y N Y A A A A A
15 Ab Sadeghi-Nejad N Y N Y A A A Y Y
15 Cornelia van der Ziel Y N Y N Y Y Y A A
15 Vacant town meeting seat A A A A A A A A A
           

           
Pct. Given name Family name 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
16 Saralynn Allaire N N N P Y N N Y Y
16 Robert Allen Y A A A A A A A A
16 Beverly Basile Y Y N Y N Y N Y A
16 John Basile A Y N Y A A A Y A
16 Stephen Chiumenti Y Y N Y Y Y N Y N
16 Regina Frawley N N N Y P Y N Y P
16 Thomas Gallitano Y Y Y Y N N N Y Y
16 Scott Gladstone Y Y Y Y Y Y N Y Y
16 Alisa Jonas A P N Y N N N Y Y
16 Judith Leichtner Y P N Y N Y N Y Y
16 William Pu Y Y N Y N Y A A A
16 Joshua Safer Y Y N Y Y Y N Y N
16 Irene Scharf Y Y Y Y N N N P Y
16 Arthur Sneider Y Y Y Y Y Y Y A A
16 Joyce Stavis-Zak Y Y Y Y N N N Y Y
           

           
Pct. Given name Family name 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
AL Nancy Daly Y P N Y Y N Y Y Y
AL Betsy DeWitt Y N N Y Y Y N Y Y
AL Benjamin Franco Y N N Y Y Y Y Y Y
AL Edward Gadsby P P P P P P P P P
AL Kenneth Goldstein Y Y N Y Y Y Y Y Y
AL Hon. Frank Smizik Y A A A A A A A A
AL Patrick Ward P P P P P P P P P
AL Neil Wishinsky Y N N Y Y Y N A A
           

           
  Totals Yes 179 128 107 185 109 106 47 171 125
  of Recorded No 43 68 94 18 62 59 100 9 21
  Votes Present 5 10 5 6 11 5 10 23 7
    Absent 21 42 42 39 66 78 91 45 95
           

           
  Declared Yes 176 128 107 185 109 106 47 170 126
  Vote No 43 66 94 17 62 59 100 9 20
    Abstain 5 10 5 6 11 5 10 20 7
           

           
  Quantum   1/2 2/3 1/2 1/2 2/3 2/3 1/2 1/2 2/3
  Result   Pass Fail Pass Pass Fail Fail Fail Pass Pass

2014 annual town meeting recap: fine points

Town meetings seem to behave, in part, like musical theatre. If you can’t carry a tune, you probably won’t carry an argument. Alas, some of today’s would-be performers come across–politically speaking–as tone deaf. However, there still remain quite a few sparks of life.

May 27: Tommy Vitolo of Precinct 6 flagged conditions the Advisory Committee had tried to attach to special appropriations item 41 under Article 8: $50,000 to study Beacon Street traffic signals, aiding MBTA Green Line trains. Dr. Vitolo said the proposed conditions amounted to an invalid attempt to bind actions of a future town meeting and moved to delete them. No Advisory Committee member stood up to respond. Town meeting members agreed by a show of hands, with only two people counted as opposed.

Joyce Jozwicki of Precinct 9 sounded more than a little cross about special appropriations item 40 in Article 8: $30,000 for “bicycle access improvement.” She contended it “should be preceded by enforcement of the rules for bicyclists.” Over the fan noise, no response could be heard from the Bicycle Advisory Committee.

Driscoll School: In the debate over a Driscoll School feasibility study, School Committee chair Susan Wolf Ditkoff admitted what had long been clear to close observers: despite nearly religious objections, the School Department has already increased class sizes, “on average 1-1/2 students per class,” she said.

That almost cancels Brookline costs to support METCO and “materials fees” students. If standards for class size rise from about 25 to about 27 students, then the current students from outside Brookline will all have been absorbed by the current staff within the current buildings–responding to historic promises that those students occupy “available seats.”

Concerning special appropriations item 51 under Article 8, George White of Precinct 9 asked: Where’s the plan for light-emitting-diode (LED) street lights? For once the moderator, Edward “Sandy” Gadsby, sounded flustered, saying that should be in the warrant report. It is not. He brushed off Mr. White, telling him to go ask the Department of Public Works–whose commissioner was standing on town-meeting floor, looking ready to answer the question. After all, LED street lights are Mr. Pappastergion’s signature project of the year.

School funding: In the debate over school funding, Jonathan Davis of Precinct 10 asked about costs of “carts” for computers: “Is that much money really needed?” He never got a clear answer. School superintendent William Lupini launched his “so” “right” dialect–a local curiosity at School Committee meetings–as in, “So…they’re for the computers we’re purchasing…Right?” Yes, indeed. “Exactly what it says on the tin.”

More items from Ms. Ditkoff of the School Committee: “The cost per student has been absolutely flat for the last five years…We’ve added more than 50 classrooms out of our current spaces.” Without explanation, the latter sounded like “space magic.” Apparently a School Committee insider violated current town-meeting protocol–a Gadsby invention–distributing rogue handouts on town-meeting floor. It caught Mr. Gadsby’s attention and drew a reproach, but then he relented, saying it “has my retroactive approval.” Humph! Issues of free speech went unmentioned–even with Martin “Marty” Rosenthal, Karen Wenc and Harry Friedman on hand.

Somebody might have asked but didn’t: since Public Schools of Brookline already spends around $17,000 per year per student, if computers are so important and the ones PSB prefers cost only $330 each, why not get a computer for every student and forego the fancy carts and projectors PSB wouldn’t need?

Police Department topics: Harry Friedman of Precinct 12 objected to investigating criminal backgrounds of construction workers, during debate about the police budget. Joslin Murphy, recently appointed as town counsel, said Massachusetts law now requires checking national Criminal Offender Record Information if workers have unsupervised contact with school children. That might be an issue, for example, in the upcoming Lawrence School project. Mr. Friedman was dissatisfied, saying, “People in these jobs often have criminal records” but need employment to regain a place in society. He called the practice “heartless and vindictive.” However, workers on town jobs are usually going to be union members–unlikely to get those particular jobs fresh out of prison.

Mr. Friedman also objected to police seeking out a “Groton man”–apparently not a graduate of Groton School–who answered a fake “personal” ad Brookline police placed online. Outside a putative “hands off” stance, Moderator Gadsby asked Daniel O’Leary, the chief of police, about the “purpose of entrapment policies.” Not satisfied at Mr. O’Leary’s responses, Mr. Friedman said, “From a moral or ethical point of view [the incident] really…crosses over the line…. If the Brookline police want to be the protectors of eastern Massachusetts…they can go into Boston and patrol the streets there.”

Advisory chair Harry Bohrs confirmed the once touted Galaxy WiFi services are dead and gone, although many antennas still hang from street-light brackets. He said Brookline is equipping some employees with wireless Internet, to the tune of $50 per device per month.

May 29, human relations: Article 10 proposed to replace the Human Relations Youth Resources Commission, dating from 1970, with a new Diversity, Inclusion and Community Relations Commission. It also designates a new “chief diversity officer” reporting to Town Administrator Mel Klecker and reduces the new commission’s duties and powers, compared with the 1970 commission. Nancy Daly led the effort to write Article 10 and spoke for the Board of Selectmen. She said it would “not give the [new] commission the quasi-judicial authority to hear and act on…complaints.”

Precinct 15 town meeting member Mariela Ames, chair of the Human Relations Youth Resources Commission, spoke for the current commission and against Article 10. She said it “will take away any direct role or oversight on complaints brought to the [chief diversity officer] by employees…[and] take away the commission’s authority for developing…equal opportunity and affirmative action. It will give the commission about eighteen tasks…but appropriates no money for them.”

Speaking about a chief diversity officer, Ms. Ames said, “What good does that do if we’re going to ask this person to do precisely what was wrong by his predecessor? Only this time, we put it in writing: that is, handle complaints privately, have sole discretion whether to share information with the commission, have no oversight and no accountability…in essence, get paid hundreds of thousands to do…what exactly? Keep the lid on?”

Stature as a department head: It must have been a troubling moment for Ms. Daly and other members of the “diversity committee.” However, one of them, Martin “Marty” Rosenthal of Precinct 9, had joined with Stanley Spiegel of Precinct 2 in proposing an amendment to this year’s Article 10: designating a new chief diversity officer as a “senior administrator/department head”–the same language used in Brookline bylaws for the head of the Human Resources office, which was created by town meeting in 2000.

A motion to close debate after nearly an hour proved premature; it failed to get a two-thirds vote. Arguments continued. While Mr. Rosenthal and Dr. Spiegel had offered spirited sallies for their amendment, it was likely Joanna Baker of Precinct 13 who sailed it over the net.

Ms. Baker recounted experiences as a recruiter, helping to employ and advance people of color. “People hate change,” she said. “Change makes people uncomfortable.” According to Ms. Baker, the stature of being a department head will matter. In order to be effective, she said, a chief diversity officer will have to be “shrewd, discerning, sophisticated, gutsy.” In a recorded vote, town meeting adopted the Rosenthal-Spiegel amendment by a margin of 107 to 95. The main motion also got a recorded vote: approved 185 to 16.

Noise control: In Article 12, changes to Brookline’s noise-control bylaw were proposed by Fred Lebow, an acoustic engineer and a former Precinct 1 town meeting member–to provide what he claimed would be better standards for regulating noise. He proposed a new standard for estimating background noise at night: make measurements during the day and subtract 10 decibels. That’s not helpful if your neighborhood tends to be fairly noisy by day but quiet at night. Selectmen missed the problem, but they managed to flag a provision to regulate some of the leafblowers while exempting others–large ones mounted on wheeled carts.

Tommy Vitolo of Precinct 6–a recent B.U. Systems Engineering grad and transplant from Precinct 1–challenged the proposed standard for night-time noise at town meeting. Dr. Vitolo carved away pseudoscience from the proposal, saying, “This warrant article is bad news. The most sensible way to measure ambient noise at night is to measure ambient noise at night…Legislating night-time ambient noise is a bit like legislating that the earth is flat.”

For the supporters of the article, including a majority on the Board of Selectmen and a unanimous Advisory Committee, there was no recovery. In a show of hands, Moderator Gadsby found zero raised in support and declared unanimous rejection of the article–an extremely rare event. He asked officials gathered at tables just past the auditorium’s stage, “Have we no courage in the front of town meeting?”

Mavens of precinct politics–towns don’t have wards–may recall that Mr. Lebow was among a wave of Precinct 1 conservatives who infiltrated, years ago, a moderate delegation. Dr. Vitolo was involved with a second, progressive wave, who eclipsed the first wave a few years later. The waves more often involve galleries of mostly incumbents, promoting themselves as friendly “neighbors.” Controversies at the time roiled over whether or not to support renovation of the Carlton St. footbridge. Was that really a convenience to the neighborhoods, or would it instead become a crossway for criminals, slinking in from Boston? We shall see.

Down-zoning: Two quietly successful articles carried on a trend: adapting Brookline’s land use regulations to neighborhoods. It had taken root at a heated, 4-night town meeting held in December, 1973. Like that previous effort, both recent ones were organized by neighborhood residents. Unlike that previous effort, both got help and support from town boards and agencies, and both aroused little controversy.

Article 11 proposed a neighborhood conservation district for Toxteth St. between Aspinwall Ave. and Francis St., plus adjacent parts of Perry St., Harrison Ave., Aspinwall Ave and Francis St. It was built out starting in the late nineteenth century–before Brookline adopted zoning–on a more spacious scale than the current T-5 two-family zoning requires. Ann Turner of Precinct 3 said the recent effort was prompted by an obnoxious project built to the maximum under zoning limits and requiring no special town review.

Article 21 proposed a new S-4 type of single-family zone for parts of Buttonwood, near Meadowbrook Rd., also currently zoned T-5 two-family. Neighborhood resident Diane Gold told town meeting she and her neighbors were motivated by a developer who took advantage of current zoning to replace one modest, single-family house with a pair of “huge, 4-story, 2-family luxury condos…Green space was paved over to create ten parking spaces.” She recalled, “We were told they can do this by right…If you don’t like it, change the zoning.” With help from Polly Selkoe of the Planning Department and with town meeting’s approval, that is what residents did.

Zoning changes rejected: The Planning Board, Board of Selectmen and Advisory Committee all took it on the chin with two other zoning changes proposed by the Planning Board. Article 22 revived the long-running disputes over self-service gasoline stations–proposing to allow them in business districts when combined with so-called “convenience stores.” As proposed, those stores could be up to 3,000 square feet–far larger than many current retail stores.

Judith Vanderkay of Precinct 9 recalled, “Twenty years ago…my neighborhood rallied to prevent a giant, highway rest-stop-type gas station.” She said Article 22 looked “like something from ALEC being proposed in the guise of an innocuous regulation”–referring to the American Legislative Exchange Council, a far-right group that has been promoting pro-business, anti-labor laws, mostly in state legislatures. The proposal failed on a recorded vote of 109 to 62, below the two-thirds margin required for a zoning change.

In S-40 single-family districts–Brookline’s lowest zoning density–Article 23 proposed to disallow new, detached accessory dwellings to be occupied by employees or their family members. Last November, town meeting disallowed them in single-family districts with smaller lot sizes. Steve Heikin spoke for the Planning Board, saying that accessory dwellings are a “loophole” allowing permanent construction for a temporary use.

Town meeting members Anita Johnson of Precinct 8, Rebecca Mautner of Precinct 11 and Jane Gilman of Precinct 3 denounced the Planning Board proposal–partly as an attack on “affordable housing.” Ms. Johnson cited an approach used by Portland, OR. “They put a size limit on accessory units…825 square feet.” She said Portland’s regulation “has been totally successful, and everyone agrees with it.” Article 23 failed on a recorded vote of 106 to 56, again below the two-thirds margin required for a zoning change.

Renovation of the Carlton St. footbridge, strongly controversial a decade ago, returned to town meeting in Article 24. The now-dilapidated bridge was built in the 1890s to serve a whistle-stop on the former Boston and Albany commuter rail service between Needham and Boston. It has been closed since fall, 1975. Article 24 proposed accepting a grant in easement from MBTA to accommodate wheelchair ramps. Speaking for the Board of Selectmen, Betsy DeWitt said Brookline would “apply for a state [Transportation Improvement Program] grant, up to 90 percent” of funds already set aside. In a quiet surprise, town meeting voted unanimous approval.

Retirement Board pay: Stipends for Retirement Board members–a perennial–returned to town meeting in Article 25. As on previous occasions, board member James C. “Chet” Riley asked for town meeting’s support. “We have the ability right now to invest your $245 million,” he said. “We are the deciding body.” According to Mr. Riley, the board’s work has become “a lot more daunting, a lot more challenging.” That did not sway Advisory. Committee member Karen Wenc of Precinct 11 said, “The substance of this article [came] before town meeting in the May, 2012, session–with no demonstration that the Retirement Board’s efforts are [now] measurably greater” than they were then. “There is no compelling reason for change.”

The Board of Selectmen reversed former opposition–by a margin of 3 to 2. Speaking as one of the three in favor, Nancy Daly said the “vast majority [of neighboring communities] do provide a stipend…Boston, Newton, Cambridge….” Town meeting members would likely notice that the few communities Ms. Daly named–unlike Brookline–are all cities. In a personal appeal, Martin “Marty” Rosenthal of Precinct 9 stated, “Nobody’s done more for the town of Brookline than Chet Riley.” Stanley Spiegel of Precinct 2 took a financial approach, saying, “This is one of the few boards that actually has the final say over large quantities of money. They’re volunteers, but they deserve the sort of minimal compensation that this article proposes.” Article 25 proposed a stipend of $3,000 per year for each of the five board members.

Regina Frawley of Precinct 16 did not agree. “[This is] at least the fourth time in fourteen years” with the proposal, she said. “They’ve been waiting for the right town meeting, the right Board of Selectmen…It’s a town. This is a volunteer [effort], and if they don’t want to do it they shouldn’t volunteer.” Precinct 6 town meeting member Merelice said, “I’ve been in the financial services industry,” and asked, “Do [board members] get the advice and counsel of licensed [financial] planners?” Mr. Riley of the Retirement Board responded, saying, “We hire and fire consultants and money managers.” What may have sounded like posturing did not sit well with town meeting members, who rejected Article 25 in a recorded vote, 47 to 100.

June 2, Brookline Place: The final session of the 2014 annual town meeting began with the postponed Articles 15 through 19, concerning proposed redevelopment for Brookline Place. Moderator Gadsby’s stagework in positioning those articles to begin a session provided a showplace for Children’s Hospital–the landowner and developer–and for the town officials, boards and committees who became sponsors and supporters of the project. The block bounded by Washington St., Brookline Ave. and Pearl St. is part of the former Marsh Project–involved in redevelopment efforts for nearly 50 years.

Town meeting members who declared partial opposition had proposed alternative zoning in Article 16. As compared with Article 15, the official zoning proposal, Article 16 would have restricted new on-site parking for over 180,000 square feet of added office space. Supporters of Article 16 claimed that the adjacent MBTA Green Line trolley stop and the nearby bus stops for MBTA routes 60, 65 and 66, traveling via Route 9, should make any added parking unnecessary. Management of Children’s Hospital have contended that more parking is needed for financially viable development and that costs of removing contaminated soil would make it too expensive to place that parking underground, as normally required by Brookline’s zoning.

In an apparent response, the Planning Board and their Brookline Place Advisory Committee proposed to reduce added parking from about 465 to about 325 spaces–negotiated with the management of Children’s Hospital. The change apparently undercut support for Article 16. Submitters of that article opted not to offer a motion for it. Town meeting passed over the article without a vote. Fifty years ago and earlier, weak opposition would have been squelched: maybe allowed a speaker and then switched off. Brookline’s traditions have changed. The debate over the Brookline Place articles included many speakers and took about an hour and twenty minutes.

Precinct 6 town meeting member Merelice spoke forthrightly. “Let’s start with admitting the reality that Children’s Hospital has us over a barrel,” she said. Children’s had acquired 6-story offices the former Harvard Community Health Plan built on the eastern part of the Brookline Place block during the 1990s. More recently, Children’s bought the western part of the block, occupied by two low-rise buildings dating from early twentieth century. The literal “Brookline Place” is a narrow, little used way running north from Washington St. between the larger low-rise building and the 6-story offices.

Referring to a former attempt at redeveloping Brookline Place, Merelice commented, “Town meeting members ten years ago lost sight of the fact that they were voting for zoning.” The controversial project–never carried out–anticipated biotechnology laboratories. A key problem with the site has been soil that is badly contaminated from nearly a century of use by a former gas works. Merelice continued, “When Children’s bought, they knew full well the soil was contaminated. Nevertheless, they proceeded to buy up all the adjacent parcels. Now they’re asking the town to feel sorry for them, because it would be ‘too expensive’ to remove the soil. Their answer is a huge garage with no underground parking.”

Treating Article 16 as though it posed a real threat to the Brookline Place project, Stanley Spiegel of Precinct 2 recalled, “Fifty years ago…[with the] Chestnut Hill shopping center, [which] straddles the line between Brookline and Newton, Brookline did not want any retail development because of concerns about congestion and traffic…All the retail establishments were built on the Newton side of the line; Brookline got the parking lot. Newton got the abundance of taxes; Brookline lost millions in tax revenue.”

Dr. Spiegel described an unsuccessful attempt in the early 1980s to build a hotel replacing the former Boston Cadillac, located opposite the B.U. Bridge. Brookline Place, he said, offers the town “$2 million in taxes…[That] means more classroom teachers…support for METCO…[and] the Coolidge Corner Library…With all the good that it has, will it be built?”

Moderator Gadsby held a recorded vote on Article 15 for zoning changes. Town meeting approved 170 to 9, he announced, with 20 abstaining. Mr. Gadsby then passed over Article 16 without a vote. Articles 17 and 18 were approved by voice votes. Article 19 was approved by a show of hands, declared unanimous.

Taxi medallions: Town meeting member John Harris of Precinct 8 filed Article 26, proposing that Brookline ask the General Court to repeal laws it had passed, at town meeting’s request, authorizing Brookline to sell taxi medallions. The Transportation Board and Board of Selectmen, both committed to the medallions since they were proposed in 2007, proved much exercised over the attack from Mr. Harris. Robert Volk of Precinct 4 proposed referring Article 26 to a special committee to be appointed by Moderator Gadsby.

Mr. Harris said his “intention [was] to begin the debate…the town should have had in 2008.” He asserted that “medallions establish an artificial quota on the number of taxis allowed to operate,” leading to evil consequences. Jonathan Karon of Precinct 12 agreed, describing his experience representing a person who had been injured during an incident involving a taxi in Boston, which uses medallions. If you are injured in such a way, Mr. Karon said, you will find the “medallion is mortgaged…insurance [is] at the legal minimum…[and the] medallion owner will disclaim responsibility,” saying the taxi driver is an “independent contractor.”

Advisory Committee member Michael Sandman, a former Transportation Board chair, responded for the committee, saying “nearly every premise that Mr. Harris spoke of is wrong.” He showed three pages of items. About a claim that “medallions establish an artificial quota,” Mr. Sandman said Brookline has actually “had a closed system for decades, with a fixed number of licenses.” Joshua Safer of Precinct 16, the current Transportation Board chair, agreed. He said, “The current system is a closed system…There is scarcity by design…We have no logical way to bring newcomers into the industry.”

Charles “Chuck” Swartz of Precinct 9 asked, “How would a Brookline [medallion] system be different from Boston? He got a fairly opaque answer from Richard La Capra, who has been employed by the Transportation Department as a consultant on taxi regulation since 2010. Mr. La Capra stated that a “Brookline [taxi medallion] system will be different [from Boston]…because it is handled at the regulatory level in a…different fashion.”

Chad Ellis of Precinct 12 said he had prepared a financial model, checked out with Mr. La Capra, finding that a 10 percent fall in taxi fare revenues would produce at least a 50 percent contraction in medallion values. He supported the article filed by Mr. Harris.

Moderator Gadsby called for a vote on Mr. Volk’s motion to refer the article rather than approve or reject it. Unable to decide from a show of hands, Mr. Gadsby held an electronic vote. Town meeting approved referral, he announced, 96 to 91. Mr. Gadsby asked for volunteers to serve on a moderator’s committee and said he plans to appoint a committee within three weeks.

Resolutions: Article 27 was filed by Neil Gordon of Precinct 1, who described himself at town meeting as a veteran of the Vietnam War. It asked for a “modest but meaningful memorial to Brookline’s veterans,” flying flags in their honor. Town meeting approved in a unanimous voice vote.

Article 28, filed by Frank Caro of Precinct 10, did not get such a swift hearing. It proposed a resolution saying that Brookline should “proactively deploy enforcement officers on foot in business districts beginning in the fourth daylight hour after snowfalls,” to enforce Brookline’s snow clearance bylaw. The Board of Selectmen, supported by the Advisory Committee, proposed referring Article 28 to Town Administrator Mel Kleckner–to address it using a “task force.”

However, the same problem had been taken to at least three previous town meetings. Each referred an article to a moderator’s committee, yet the problem remained unsolved. Dennis Doughty of Precinct 3 presented some graphics showing snow-removal complaints logged since December, 2011, by the Brookonline Web page. They indicated several chronic problem spots, targets of repeated complaints.

Robert L. “Bobby” Allen, Jr., of Precinct 16, a lawyer with quite a few local business clients, had already voiced a related argument, saying there were a few chronic problems but that nevertheless “the goal should not be to fine and to warn” business owners. Lea Cohen, an Advisory Committee member at large, spoke as the outgoing chair of the Brookline Chamber of Commerce. She objected that “the existing bylaw has some very tight time-frames.” She asked town meeting not to “make another gesture that singles out our merchants with uneven enforcement policies.”

Joshua Safer, of Precinct 16, disagreed with trying a “partnership” tactic again. He noted that “the last moderator’s committee on sidewalk snow removal suggested exactly [what Article 28 proposed], across the entire town.” Mr. Safer stated, “The police force seems comfortable that they would have the resources to undertake this particular effort.” Saralynn Allaire of Precinct 16, a member of the Commission for the Disabled, turned adamant, “It’s time,” Dr. Allaire said, “to take serious action on this problem, instead of just kicking it down the road yet again.” By a show of hands, a large majority of town meeting rejected referral of Article 28 to Town Administrator Mel Kleckner. Nearly all approved the resolution.

Local First: Article 29, a resolution urging support for local business, was submitted on behalf of an organization called Brookline Local First. Issues developed at town meeting and in several earlier reviews over what “local” might mean in that context. The Board of Selectmen proposed that town meeting refer the article to the Economic Development Advisory Board, which they appoint, rather than accept or reject it.

Abram “Abe” Faber, co-owner with his wife Christina “Christy” Timon of Clear Flour Bread on Thorndike St., made the arguments for Article 29. The two have run Clear Flour since 1982, live in Brookline and brought up a family here, he said. “Vibrancy of Brookline’s economy,” Mr. Faber stated, “stems from its independent businesses.” Comparing them with what he called “formula businesses”–franchises and chain stores–he said, “Independent businesses hire a greater proportion of local employees [and] pay them higher wages…Cities and towns benefit most…from…independent…rather than formula businesses.”

The arguments rang false to Hsiu-Lan Chang, also a Brookline resident. She introduced herself to town meeting as owner of Fast Frame, a franchise located on Beacon St. in Washington Square. She described her background as a trustee of the Brookline Community Foundation, a founder of the Washington Square Association and a supporter of several local civic and charitable groups. Her sons David and Leo, she said, are graduates of Brookline public schools. “Article 29,” she stated, “left…[an] impression that I’m not a part of this community.” She urged town meeting to reject the article, saying, “The imposition of an arbitrary definition on the word ‘local’…is exclusionary, divisive and simply wrong.”

Speaking for the Board of Selectmen, Betsy DeWitt suggested proponents of the article might be seeking more than the town could do. She mentioned requirements of “state procurement law to solicit broadly, without discrimination among suppliers in purchasing practices.” Ms. DeWitt stated, “While well intentioned, this resolution is flawed. We must have a fair, broad and inclusive definition of local business.”

Speaking for the Economic Development Advisory Board, Clifford Brown of Precinct 14 said EDAB would give the article careful consideration if it were referred to them but cautioned, “Brookline businesses should focus outward and on expanding the local economy.” A show of hands on the motion to refer proved too close to call for Moderator Gadsby. He conducted an electronic count. Town meeting approved referral 99 to 76, he announced, with 3 abstentions.

Article 31 proposed a resolution affirming “support for the prohibition of discrimination or harassment on the basis of gender identity and expression in employment, housing, public accommodations, credit, lending and public education.” Alex Coleman, a clinical psychologist and a member of the Human Relations Youth Resources Commission, submitted the article and made the main arguments for it. He said he had lived in Brookline more than 30 years, bringing up a son who is a Brookline High graduate, and described his recollections of making public a trans-sexual identity, over 20 years ago, as being a “horrific experience.”

Dr. Coleman said that attitudes have begun to change: “There are now students in the Brookline schools who identify as being gender-nonconforming,…[However], people…[with] a different gender identity…or expression…don’t have the same protections as everybody else.” Frequent problems he noted are “harassment in places of public accommodation…[and being] denied equal treatment by a government agency or official.”

Leonard “Len” Weiss spoke for the Advisory Committee, supported by the Board of Selectmen. The committee proposed an amendment asking Brookline’s legal staff to review Brookline’s bylaws and propose changes at next fall’s town meeting to make them “consistent with [the] purpose” of Article 31. Town meeting approved the resolution as amended.

Article 32, submitted by Frank Farlow of Precinct 4, proposed a resolution urging the General Court to enact S. 1225 of the current session, An Act Relative to Public Investment in Fossil Fuels. That calls for state pension funds to divest from “fossil fuel companies” but does not specify what the term means. Speaking for the Advisory Committee, Harry Bohrs, the chairman, cited that issue, claiming the “bill does not support its own goals in a meaningfully effective way.” Karen Wenc of Precinct 11, an Advisory member, said as an energy consumer she “would feel hypocritical and insincere in voting for this resolution.”

Arguing in favor of the resolution, Edward “Ed” Loechler of Precinct 8 acknowledged, “When you hear the word ‘divestment’ you think, ‘well, we’ll lose too much money’.” Dr. Loechler said, “Profits are not the same as returns on investment.” It is the latter, he contended, that matters for pension-fund portfolios. He cited an independent review of returns on investment for around 3,000 U.S. public stocks over many years, claiming that the difference between performance with and without including about 200 “fossil fuel companies” proved “statistically insignificant.” However, Dr. Loechler argued, even if that were not so, “It’s time to stop talking about climate change and start doing something about it…Making money from the destruction of the planet is wrong…as wrong as making money from slavery was in the 1850s.”

For the Board of Selectmen, Nancy Daly spoke of a “very tangible financial hazard to not addressing climate change.” Town meeting members asked for a recorded vote on the article. They approved the resolution 126 to 20, with 7 abstaining–the last action during a long and complicated town meeting.

– Beacon staff, Brookline, MA, June 7, 2014


Correction, June 8, 2014. In the discussion of Article 23, the phrase “family members or employees” was corrected to read “employees or their family members.” Thanks to Stanley Spiegel for spotting the mistake.


John Hilliard, Brookline taxi consultant contract signed, Brookline TAB, December 3, 2010

City of Boston, Taxi Consultant Report, Nelson Nygaard, October, 2013

Brookline legacies: Olmsted and coal ash

At the third session of Brookline’s 2014 annual town meeting, Betsy Shure Gross, a Precinct 5 town meeting member, raised her wonderfully endowed voice in a peroration over the tragedy of Brookline Place. During the 1860s, she recounted, former Brookline resident Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr.–the founder of modern landscape architecture–began the Brookline segment of Riverway Park, a key element of the Boston area’s Emerald Necklace. During debate over this year’s Article 15, she implied that an enlarged parking garage at the proposed Brookline Place development would dishonor the Olmsted legacy.

It does indeed sound like a grand theme. However, it fails to reflect accurately what was happening during the nineteenth century. Before there was electricity, there was gas. It was not the “natural gas” we now use but instead “coal gas” and later “water gas.” Before there was gas, there was steam: notable in the steam locomotives that carried coal to gas works. Brookline had a strong historical role in all of these.

Steam locomotives entered Brookline around 1855, riding the Charles River Branch Railroad between Needham and Boston. It was built to haul gravel, filling most of Boston’s former Back Bay salt marsh–the largest urban landfill project ever conducted in North America. From the start, the railroad served other commercial uses. Another purpose was to deliver coal from Appalachian mines to the Brookline Gas Light Company.

Brookline Gas Light, founded in the 1820s, built a large gas works in the middle 1850s at what are now sites of Hearthstone Plaza and of Beacon Place, in Brookline Village, and it had a storage tank up Washington St. toward Washington Square. During the Boston “gas wars” between about 1890 and 1910, Brookline Gas Light was absorbed by Standard Oil. Then it became an arm of Boston Gas, but it still operated under its founding name through at least 1904.

Almost forgotten today, commercial quantities of natural gas did not reach the Brookline area until the early 1950s. Before then, first “coal gas” and later “water gas” circulated in buried pipelines to provide street lighting and later domestic lighting, cooking and–more rarely–heating. Those products were generated by high-temperature decomposition of coal or of water mixed with coal, using coal-fired retorts.

Plentiful waste from “coal gas” and “water gas” was huge heaps of coal ash. We now recognize that coal ash contains large amounts of arsenic, mercury, cadmium, vanadium and other hazardous “heavy metals.” During the nineteenth century, those hazards were either unknown or ignored. Rainfall leached hazardous byproducts from coal ash deep into soils under Hearthstone Plaza and Brookline Place, creating what might be, but so far has not become, a Superfund pollution site in Brookline.

– Craig Bolon, Brookline, MA, June 6, 2014


John William Denehy, A History of Brookline, Massachusetts, Brookline Press, 1906

George W. Anderson, Esq., Consolidation of gas companies in Boston, Legislative Committee on Lighting, from Public Franchise League, 1905

Annual town meeting: Brookline Place, taxi medallions and resolutions

Brookline’s 2014 annual town meeting held its third session Monday, June 2. Although running a little late, town meeting members worked their way through the remaining articles and will not need another session. A summary of actions on articles:

15. Zoning amendments, Brookline Place–approved
16. Zoning amendments, Brookline Place (alternative)–rejected
17. Grant of easement, Brookline Place–approved
18. Restrictive covenant, Brookline Place–approved
19, Release of documents, Brookline Place–approved
26. Legislation, repealing authority to sell taxi medallions–referred
27. Resolution, urging memory of Brookline veterans–approved
28. Resolution, urging snow clearance in business districts–approved
29. Resolution, supporting Brookline businesses–referred
30. Resolution, supporting legislation on obstetric fistula–approved
31. Resolution, opposing discrimination by gender identity–approved
32. Resolution, supporting legislation on fossil-fuel divestment–approved
33. Reports, town officers and committees
(1) Police department, complaint process–presented

The contentious issues were expected to be Articles 15 and 16, two versions of zoning for Brookline Place, and Article 26, legislation to repeal the state authorization to sell taxi medallions. Article 16, submitted by petition, called for less parking than official Article 15. Debates proved fairly compact. There were four more electronic votes after the seven of May 27 and 29, but only records for two of those appeared on the town’s Web site later in the week.

Brookline Place: The Planning Board and its Brookline Place Advisory Committee proposed to complete nearly a half century of redevelopment in the Brookline Village block bounded by Washington Street, Brookline Avenue and Pearl Street, adjacent to the Village’s Green Line stop. Except for the T stop and the former Water Department building at the eastern extreme, the commercially zoned area now called Brookline Place–which includes 6-story offices built in the 1990s–is owned by Children’s Hospital.

Management of Children’s Hospital proposed to replace low-rise buildings near the corner of Washington and Pearl Streets with business and medical offices in an 8-story tower–as reviewed over an extended period with the Board of Selectmen, Planning Board, Brookline Place Advisory Committee, Planning Department and other committees and agencies. Because the development should not add to the school population, substantial net tax revenue is expected. Parking has been the main controversy.

Brookline’s usual zoning requires underground parking. However, Children’s Hospital management claimed that underground parking would make the project uneconomic. Brookline boards and agencies agreed to propose zoning with above-ground parking. However, controversy continued around the amount of parking. Because the site of the development includes a rapid-transit stop, Brookline’s representatives took an unusual stance, advocating less parking than standard zoning. Children’s Hospital management also took an unusual stance, calling for more parking than the town’s representatives.

Article 15 presented a negotiated compromise. That calls for replacing a current 3-story parking garage, with 355 spaces for 105,000 square feet in the existing 6-story offices. A new 6-story garage would be built on the site of the present garage, providing 683 spaces for a new total of 287,500 square feet in the 6-story and new 8-story offices combined. It represents a substantial cutback from 820 spaces that had been under discussion earlier.

Town meeting members led by Andrew Fischer of Precinct 13 submitted an alternative proposal under Article 16. Although complex, it would allow little above-ground parking beyond the current parking garage. More spaces could be built underground. Petitioners argued that transportation via the Green Line and the three MBTA bus routes serving the site should make additional parking unnecessary.

Proponents of Article 15, supported by the Advisory Committee, said that Article 16 would not allow enough on-site parking at costs that make the project economic. Without substantially more parking than the current garage, they said, new offices could become unmarketable at premium rents and could expose the surrounding neighborhood to predatory “impacts from cars circling and taking on-street parking.” Town meeting agreed with those arguments, approving Article 15 and rejecting Article 16.

Article 17 proposed Brookline accept a grant of easement from Children’s Hospital, allowing a public path 45 feet wide between Washington Street and the Village T stop. It will pass between the new 8-story office tower and the older 6-story offices and parking garage. Article 18 proposed Brookline enter into a restrictive covenant with property owners involved in the new development, such that future uses maintain tax income. Article 19 proposed authorizing the Board of Selectmen to release documents concerning a 2007 project for Brookline Place, also involving Children’s Hospital, that was never completed. Articles 17, 18 and 19 attracted little controversy, and town meeting approved them.

Taxi medallions: Article 26, submitted by Precinct 8 town meeting member John Harris, proposed asking the General Court to repeal sections of state laws allowing Brookline to sell taxi medallions: in Chapter 51 of the Acts of 2010 and in Chapter 52 of the Acts of 2012. Sale of taxi medallions had originally been requested by a special town meeting held in November, 2008. In his arguments to town meeting, Mr. Harris cited a 2013 Boston Globe article alleging that contract taxi drivers were being abused by medallion owners and singling out Edward J. Tutunjian, the owner of Boston Cab. The Globe article is replete with political sleaze and official corruption.

Mr. Harris sought to revive basic controversy over ownership of taxi medallions, calling it a “social justice issue.” He cited a 1986 New York City brief calling the medallion system there “an engraved invitation to corruption” and recalled the 1930 resignation of former New York City mayor Jimmy Walker, “after being accused of accepting bribes from the Checker Cab Company.”

The Board of Selectmen has called the recent Boston scandal, instead, “the fault of regulators” and argued, in effect, that Boston is Boston. Since 2003, they said, the Brookline “Transportation Board has suspended or revoked the license to operate for several companies and many drivers” when they did not follow regulations.

The Advisory Committee took a less partisan approach, calling Mr. Harris’s “concerns…legitimate for some forms of taxi medallion systems” but arguing that Boston’s medallions–at around $600,000–probably sell for around ten times as much as Brookline’s should–because of a monopoly for serving Logan Airport. Advisory has estimated $10 to $15 million in one-time revenue. Town meeting approved a motion to refer Article 26 to a moderator’s committee, to report in time for a fall town meeting.

Resolutions: Precinct 1 town meeting member Neil Gordon submitted Article 27, asking for a “modest but meaningful memorial to Brookline’s veterans,” flying flags in their honor. Town meeting approved the resolution.

Precinct 10 town meeting member Frank Caro submitted Article 28, resolving that Brookline should “proactively deploy enforcement officers on foot in business districts beginning in the fourth daylight hour after snowfalls,” to enforce Brookline’s snow clearance bylaw. The Board of Selectmen and Advisory Committee both proposed to refer the matter to Town Administrator Mel Kleckner, but town meeting supported Mr. Caro and approved the resolution.

Article 29, submitted by a local-business group calling itself “Brookline Local First” got quite a different response. The group sought a resolution calling for a “task force,” jointly appointed by Brookline boards and committees, to “support the growth and development of locally owned and independent businesses” and calling for declaration of a “Brookline local economy week.” The Board of Selectmen questioned a narrow focus, apparently excluding franchise holders, and moved referral to the Economic Development Advisory Board. The Advisory Committee found only about 70 businesses involved with “Brookline Local First” versus about 2,000 businesses in Brookline, recommending no action. Town meeting took up the question of referral first and approved referral by a vote of 99 to 76.

Sarah Gladstone, a student at Brookline High School, submitted Article 30, a resolution in favor of H.R. 2888 of the 113th Congress, proposing the Obstetric Fistula Prevention, Treatment, Hope and Dignity Restoration Act of 2013–which did not pass last year. The complication of labor is now rare in the United States but remains common in poor countries. Surgical treatment usually works but is often too expensive for victims, The House bill seeks assistance to international organizations. Town meeting approved the resolution.

Alex Coleman, a Human Relations Youth Resources commissioner, submitted Article 31, a resolution to express “support for the prohibition of discrimination or harassment on the basis of gender identity and expression.” The Advisory Committee moved to amend that, by also asking Brookline’s “legal services department”–apparently meaning the Office of Town Counsel—to review Brookline bylaws and propose changes “consistent with [the] purpose” for a fall town meeting. The Board of Selectmen supported the Advisory Committee, and town meeting approved the amended resolution.

Precinct 4 town meeting member Frank Farlow and Brookline resident Byron Hinebaugh submitted Article 32, a resolution urging the General Court to enact S. 1225 of the current session, proposing An Act Relative to Public Investment in Fossil Fuels. The bill, filed by Sen. Benjamin B. Downing of Pittsfield, who chairs the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy, seeks for the state to divest all pension fund holdings in “fossil fuel companies”–not defined in S. 1225. The Board of Selectmen recommended approval of the Article 32 resolution, after amending a “whereas” clause.

By a substantial majority, the Advisory Committee recommended no action, calling S. 1225 a “blunt instrument” and citing vagueness about the meaning of “fossil fuel companies.” General Electric, the committee report noted, operates a wind turbine business and other “clean energy” divisions but also owns GE Oil & Gas. The hour was getting late, and town meeting members may not have been troubled by such distinctions–voting to approve the resolution as amended by the selectmen.

– Beacon staff, Brookline, MA, June 3, 2014


Correction, June 6, 2014. Faulty information found on the Brookline Web site the morning after the June 2 session led to two mistakes. Article 26 on taxi medallions was not rejected but instead referred–to a moderator’s committee, to report before a fall town meeting. Four electronic votes were held. They include one on that referral, approved 96 to 91, and another on a referral under article 29, a proposed resolution in support of “Brookline local first,” approved 99 to 76. Votes of individual town meeting members were not available from town meeting records for those two matters. The other two electronic votes are recorded in town meeting computer files: on Article 15, zoning for Brookline Place, approved 185 to 18, and on Article 32, a resolution supporting divestment of state pension funds from fossil fuel companies, approved 126 to 20.


Bob Hohler, Marcella Bombardieri, Jonathan Saltzman and Thomas Farragher, For Boston cabbies, a losing battle against the numbers, Boston Globe, March 30, 2013

Environment: be careful what you ask for

Brookline’s incautious foray into environmental regulation has produced a small-scale disaster–a reminder to “be careful what you ask for.” One thesis held containers made from closed-cell, expanded polystyrene foam to be the Devil’s work. They were banned from local foodservice businesses. These common, lightweight products are sometimes misidentified as Styrofoam, a Dow Chemical trademark for slabs of extruded polystyrene foam.

Here is what happened at our neighborhood favorite: Dok Bua–a popular, highly regarded Thai restaurant on Harvard St. that does a busy trade in take-out as well as table service. Before the disaster, a take-out usually included five containers: a Dart 80HT3 hinged-lid polystyrene foam box for the main dish, a soup cup and three portion containers. The last four were unaffected by Brookline’s hasty ban and are still provided.

Dart is a well known U.S. manufacturer of foodservice packaging, with headquarters in Michigan and several U.S. plants. An 80HT3 container provides lightweight, disposable packaging with good thermal insulation. It measures 8 x 7-1/2 x 2-1/4 in and weighs 14 g, equal to 0.5 oz. Because Brookline has never provided any practical recycling for such containers, we take them once or twice a year to a privately run recycling program, when we can combine the errand with another trip nearby.

For take-out, Dok Bua now provides a Pactiv VERSAtainer NC723 round container and lid, 7-1/4 in diameter x 2-1/4 in high. It weighs 40-1/2 g, equal to 1.4 oz, and is made of virgin, solid polypropylene. These sturdy containers are easy to clean, dishwasher-proof and handy for leftovers. We’re not recycling them; we reuse them. However, we have seen plenty of the previous as well as the current Dok Bua take-out containers tossed in both refuse and recycling bins. Either way, their most likely fates are to be burned at an incinerator in Rochester. Recycling symbols on the Pactiv items are so small they are almost sure to be missed.

The small-scale disaster that Brookline’s hasty and foolish ban produced is wasting about an extra 0.9 oz of virgin polymer resin for each take-out serving from Dok Bua. We don’t see any evidence that many of our neighbors are taking up an opportunity for reuse. The container cost for Dok Bua has at least tripled. Any competent analysis would very likely find the overall effect of Brookline’s ban on polystyrene foam, as worked through by Dok Bua, to be substantially more–not less–environmental damage. Hundreds of pounds a year in extra plastics are being used for no benefit whatever–instead, for overall harm. It turned out to be a lose-lose proposition.

– Craig Bolon, Brookline, MA, June 2, 2014