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