Monthly Archives: July 2014

Override Study Committee: $5 million tax override, plus Devotion School debt exclusion

The long-running Override Study Committee of 2013 met Tuesday and Wednesday, July 29 and 30, 2014, starting at 6:00 pm, in the fifth-floor meeting room at Town Hall. The committee voted to recommend a general tax override and a debt exclusion to renovate and enlarge Devotion School.

For almost a year, the key issue for the committee has been how much, if any, added taxes to recommend for Brookline schools. Municipal departments have been able to maintain their services for many years without needing more budget increases than state law allows through town meeting action.

As their July 30 meeting finally showed, the 15 voting members of the committee divided between what most towns might call moderate and liberal outlooks. No one opposed some general tax override for operating schools or some debt exclusion for school buildings. Differences on the committee involved the amounts.

Enrollments, spending and inflation: Brookline schools have experienced sustained growth in enrollment, averaging 2.5 percent per year, from 2005 through last year. There was a 22 percent increase in total enrollment over that eight-year span. So far, there has been no sign of the trend slowing.

School spending per student got about a 10 percent boost from the last general override, in 2008. State law allows a 2.5 percent increase in tax revenue per year, and Brookline has been increasing its taxes by that amount each year. As a result, spending per student stayed about the same for fiscal 2009 through fiscal 2014, as measured in the dollars of those years.

However, inflation eroded purchasing power. Between fiscal 2009 and fiscal 2014, judged by the U.S. consumer price index, purchasing power of the dollar fell about 10 percent. A 2.5 percent budget increase per year, allowed under state law, has not been enough to offset inflation and enrollment growth combined.

Recommendations: Restoring inflation-adjusted school spending per student to the peak levels from the 1990s through early years of this century would take around a ten percent school budget increase. That would mean around a five percent tax override.

After a nearly a year of studying and wrangling, by roll-call votes on July 30 the committee recommended a permanent, general tax override of $5 million per year. It also recommended a debt service exclusion for $23 million to renovate and enlarge Devotion School.

Tax increase: The recommended tax override would increase Brookline taxes about 2.7 percent. The recommended debt exclusion would add about 0.9 percent more in taxes for an estimated 25 years. If accepted by the Board of Selectmen and then approved by Brookline voters next spring, when added to a usual 2.5 percent increase, allowed under state law, Brookline taxes would increase about 5 percent next year–but about 6 percent when debt service payments for the Devotion School project develop.

Earlier this month, School Committee member Rebecca Stone predicted the committee would recommend a general override of about 5 percent. That proved mistaken; the committee’s recommendation is about half as much. The resulting 6-percent tax increase would be much less than an increase of up to 14 percent that some observers said they expected last spring. This season, mavens somehow got garbled messages.

Committee wrangling: Events of July 29 and 30 showed a polarized committee. Based on the roll-call votes, eight moderates on the committee were Clifford Brown, Chad Ellis, Janet Gelbart, Sergio Modigliani, Carol Levin, Lee Selwyn, James Stergios and Ann Tolkoff. Based on the roll-call votes, seven liberals on the committee were Alberto Chang, Michael Glover, Carol Kamin, Kevin Lang, Lisa Sheehan, Beth Stram and Timothy Sullivan. There was no one opposed to some amount of general tax override for school operations or to some amount of debt exclusion for school buildings.

As of Tuesday, July 29, widespread rumors held that Kenneth Goldstein, chair of the Board of Selectmen, had told the non-voting committee chairs, Richard Benka and Susan Ditkoff, that the committee should wind up its work and send its recommendations and report. Those were confirmed by comments at the meeting. Observers expected a vote on a general override.

A flurry of paper appeared at the two meetings: 15 documents at the first and four more at the second. An unsigned document dated July 28, proposing a committee recommendation, called for a general tax override of $7 million. At the July 29 meeting, committee member Kevin Lang described that proposal as a “compromise.” He said he hoped it would develop into a “consensus.” Over two hours of wrangling ensued.

In the end, the Override Study Committee voted not to vote. A motion by Kevin Lang, seconded by Chad Ellis, proposed the committee consolidate their positions on a general tax override through a series of votes starting from the “compromise” proposal. That motion failed on a tie vote. According to co-chair Susan Ditkoff, there were seven in favor, seven opposed and one abstaining.

With committee member Alberto Chang connected by telephone on July 29, co-chair Richard Benka had previously said any vote would be by roll call, but no roll call occurred on the vote not to vote. Since the meeting was recorded by Brookline Interactive, once the video goes online, readers may be able to see how committee members voted.

Committee votes: On July 30, two more proposals were presented. A “high budget” proposal, presented by committee members Beth Stram and Kevin Lang, called for a general tax override of $7.9 million, for school operations, and for debt exclusion of $58.8 million, for the Devotion School project and future school building projects. It was partly described in an unsigned document dated July 29.

A “low-budget” proposal, presented by committee members James Stergios and Chad Ellis, called for a general tax override of $5 million, for school operations, and for debt exclusion of $23 million, for the Devotion School project only. It was described in an unsigned, undated document distributed July 29.

It was apparently Prof. Lang who wrote in one of the documents about “starving” schools with a “low-budget” approach. On July 30, committee members Clifford Brown and Chad Ellis were peeved. Committee member Janet Gelbart said, “Schools are not being starved.” Co-chair Richard Benka sought to make peace, saying, “There are countervailing factors.” Prof. Lang said the word in question was “unfortunate.”

On July 29, Ms. Gelbart said that when seeking information about school priorities for more funds, “Nobody was able to explain to me how the money would be used.” On July 30, Mr. Ellis said that the “low-budget” proposal provided “the amount we see as clearly necessary and appropriate.”

Committee member Sergio Modigliani moved to adopt the “low-budget” proposal. Prof. Lang moved to substitute the “high-budget” proposal. After more than an another hour of wrangling and some parliamentary maneuvers, co-chair Susan Ditkoff conducted roll-call votes. The “high-budget” proposal failed 7 to 8, dividing the liberals and moderates, and then the “low-budget” proposal passed 9 to 6, with Carol Kamin in favor.

Except for filing a report, the votes on July 30 appear to end the committee’s work–nearly a year after it was appointed. The committee had been charged to make recommendations and file a report by March 1 of this year, but it failed to do that.

Committee history: According to minutes of the Board of Selectmen from August 20, 2013, a vote occurred on August 13, 2013, appointing members of the Override Study Committee. No agenda or minutes have been posted on Brookline’s municipal Web site for a meeting of the Board of Selectmen on August 13, 2013. The meeting schedule for August, 2013, formerly posted on the Web site, has been erased.

During July and August of last year, several of Brookline’s well known activists applied to join this committee. Town Administrator Mel Kleckner advised the Board of Selectmen to appoint people presenting a limited range of business and professional credentials. Some of those appointed had years of experience involving Brookline issues and government, but most of them did not.

Although it seemed to have developed a group dynamic, from a public perspective the committee did not communicate well. As of the July 30 meeting, the most recent committee documents and minutes on Brookline’s municipal Web site were from April 16. Notices for recent meetings were generic. They did not describe specific topics.

While insiders knew, from those notices the public would have been unable to tell that on July 29 and 30–in contrast to almost a year of prior meetings–the committee was to vote on recommending a general tax override. According to the state attorney general, “The list of topics must be sufficiently specific to reasonably inform the public of the issues to be discussed at the meeting.”

– Beacon staff, Brookline, MA, July 31, 2014


William Lupini, Superintendent’s preliminary FY2015 budget (summary), March 13, 2014, enrollment data on page 19 and spending chart on page 27

Attorney General of Massachusetts, Open Meeting Law Guide, August 1, 2013

Creating Brookline’s Override Study Committee of 2013, compiled from minutes of the Board of Selectmen posted on Brookline’s municipal Web site, July 30, 2014

Committee on Taxi Medallions: public hearing

The Committee on Taxi Medallions met Monday, July 28, starting at 7 pm in the sixth-floor meeting room at Town Hall: a public hearing on topics of concern to the committee. Only two of five committee members came: Chad Ellis, who chaired the hearing, and Amid El-Khoury. Checking in by telephone was Michael Sandman. Absent were Joshua Safer, the committee chair, and Jeremy Kushner.

A vote by the 2014 annual town meeting had referred Article 26, seeking to repeal the state authorization for sale of permanent taxi medallions, to a moderator’s committee. The referral took precedence over an amendment proposed by David Lescohier, a Precinct 11 town meeting member, to delay the submission of home-rule repeal legislation.

Echoes from town meeting: At the Monday hearing, Mr. Lescohier spoke first. He said that since a 2008 town-meeting vote to seek state legislation, Brookline had been “chasing the fantasy of windfall dreams” but failing to implement a program. Recent technology, he said, is leaving the taxi business “in a state of disruption and uncertainty.”

The current plan, Mr. Lescohier said, is “too risky and potentially unfair to the elderly and disabled, other Brookline taxi riders, the taxi companies and drivers, and environmental mitigation goals.” That reflects, he said, “an obsession to maximize…[a] medallion windfall, at all costs.”

For about a quarter of the current fleet of vehicles, Mr. Lescohier recommended “negotiations in good faith” leading to sale of “driver-owned medallions,” with payment “due at…[subsequent] sale or transfer…not at initial acquisition.” In line with recommendations of the 2007 Brookline Taxi Study prepared by Schaller Consulting, Mr. Lescohier said other taxis should continue to operate with annual licenses.

John Harris, a Precinct 8 town meeting member, was the main sponsor of Article 26, to repeal taxi medallions. Referring to “tiers” of fees now proposed for selling taxi medallions, he said the early years of the program would be “a temporary cornucopia, outsiders excluded.” Mr. Harris claimed medallions in Boston now sell for over $600 thousand, in Cambridge for over $500 thousand and in Somerville for over $300 thousand.

However, Mr. Harris asked, will “drivers get an opportunity to buy in? Once medallions hit the open market, the sky is the limit.” He expressed concern that high-priced medallions “would not create an opportunity for drivers [but] would actively thwart that.” A Harvard Business study found, he said, that in cities with taxi medallion systems fares average 11 to 25 percent higher than in cities without medallion systems.

Taxi company managers: Joe Bethoney, who owns and manages Bay State Taxi, the largest Brookline taxi company, said current competition was “unregulated and flush with cash.” Mr. Bethoney was obviously referring to mobile technology deployed by Uber, Hailo, Lyft and Sidecar. Medallions offered under reasonable conditions, he claimed, “will keep and attract quality drivers to Brookline.” He mentioned efforts to help drivers finance purchases of medallions and vehicles.

Mr. Bethoney emphasized special services that town-licensed taxis have been providing, notably the Brookline Elder Taxi System. That program is coordinated from the Brookline Senior Center and has strict income limits. According to Mr. Bethoney, it provides a few thousand rides a year at 50-percent discounts, for which the town reimburses half to taxi operators and taxi operators subsidize half.

Mr. Bethoney supports a medallion program but said the town’s current approach was “bad from the outset.” He contends the taxi business cannot afford high, up-front fees, such as Brookline now proposes. What he regards as a reasonable approach is for initial medallion owners to pay fees when medallions are subsequently sold. Potential revenue for the town would vary with the prosperity of the taxi business. That looks similar to what Mr. Lescohier supports. However, Mr. Bethoney proposes to cover at least 85 percent of the current taxi fleet, not 25 percent, and to maintain no annual licenses.

Matthew Mazzola, manager of Red Cab, said the Brookline taxi business has “been put on hold” by the long, drawn out discussions over taxi medallions–now seven years since the Schaller report of 2007. He favors a medallion system, saying it will “provide a well trod path to develop new resources” and “create new points of entry to the business.”

Darius Taveshi of Town Taxi complained. “People are slipping into our process,” he said, “who have never been involved.” Now, the “taxi industry in Brookline is dysfunctional.” A medallion system, he said, represents an “opportunity to create a better business model for the town.”

Taxi drivers: George Webber said he is a retired software engineer who has been driving a Brookline taxi since 1991. It was, he said, “very lucrative ten years ago for anybody who would put in the time.” Recently, with the new mobile dispatch competition, he said, “drivers have left.” However, he claimed, some are not getting a great deal. He said there are different pay rates for drivers with different experience.

With Uber in particular, Mr. Webber said, payments to drivers will “fluctuate with the time of day; the rates are auctioned. I wouldn’t do it.” He said that with online companies “there’s no record check, there’s no background check.” In the midst of unregulated competition, he said, “this summer is the toughest ever; I’m breaking even after ten hours of work.”

Donfred Gillies said he had been driving a Brookline taxi about ten years. He was eager to own a medallion and disappointed so far. Many drivers he said, would “lose faith in this process…If we had our own medallions, we could make money.” Another driver, giving his name as Franz, said he had been with Bay State Taxi for ten years. “In a changing world,” he said, “big businesses are shutting down. People want their own businesses to support their families.”

Town meeting members: Merelice, a Precinct 6 town meeting member, described a group of Boston taxi drivers who have been “exploring a co-op, sharing ownership and getting employee benefits.” Leasing taxis by the day, as in Boston, or by the week, as in Brookline, she said “drivers feel like sharecroppers.” Some people in Brookline “live in a bubble,” she continued, ignoring the fact that “most drivers are people of color.” Because the earlier Schaller medallion plan provided “no windfall for the town,” she said, it had been “shelved.”

Jane Gilman, a Precinct 3 town meeting member, said she had been “dismayed by membership of the committee [on taxi medallions]–not representative of a broad spectrum of opinions.” With high medallion fees proposed, she said, “how would taxi drivers service a loan? We should not advance the town finances on the backs of…day laborers.” Ms. Gilman urged the committee to “consider the pitfalls of putting money first,” saying “a lot of decisions…are not only bad but immoral. We are in a changing community…and need new thinking.”

Coping with reality: Except for Mr. Bethoney, neither taxi drivers nor managers spoke in detail about how they would cope with the practical situation of high-priced taxi medallions. It sounded as though many wanted to own them but few had planned how to buy them.

However, Mr. Bethoney of Bay State Taxi has a plan. He runs a credit business to help Bay State drivers buy homes and cars. Now, with participation from a local bank, he says he will help them buy taxi medallions. “I’m 70,” Mr. Bethoney said, “I’m done with the cab business…The era of the one and two cab owner is coming…It’s very hard to get credit for a medallion…I have 45 credit applications on my desk for a medallion.”

– Beacon staff, Brookline, MA, July 29, 2014

Risking a taxi revolt: business survival in Brookline

Dawdling over medallions: Brookline’s government leaders could soon regret dawdling over taxi medallions. Had they acted seven years ago, when first presented with a taxi-medallion plan, they might have set a program in motion and already collected revenue. Instead, they left their work exposed to risks of business changes. Changes have been rapid, and they are accelerating.

Imagine being in business ten to ninety years, like the Brookline taxi companies. A change no business expects is for someone to come in and demand millions of dollars: “Pay up, or your business will be shut down.” Situations likely to come to mind are “protection” rackets and “shake-downs” by gangs. Businesses that have been threatened will likely be trying to figure out–not how to prosper–instead, how to survive. They will look at their alternatives.

Livery vehicles are a common alternative to taxis–particularly strong around New York City but also making inroads across New England. Fares for trips are agreed in advance rather than measured by meters. They can’t pick up passengers from street hails or taxi stands, but they don’t need local licenses. Like the taxis in Brookline and most other suburban markets, until recently they have usually been summoned by telephone.

Summoning rides via the Web became popular over the past several years, particularly with software running on “smart phones.” Uber of San Francisco now operates such services in about 30 countries and has attracted over $1 billion in venture backing. Hailo of London has recently been setting up operations in North America. Both firms operate in the Boston area.

Fighting progress: Cambridge tried to block Uber, and William Evans, the police commissioner in Boston, has been seeking more public regulation of “gypsy cabs,” as he called them. However, the state’s Division of Standards found Uber operations were allowed under state laws.

With emergence of technology, Brookline’s government leaders lost leverage to impose high-priced medallion licensing on taxi operators. One alternative for taxi operators is to set up livery services, equip them with technology and promote them to customers. Boston Cab has set up its own Web-dispatch, competing with Uber and Hailo using licensed taxis.

Switching sides: A few former Brookline taxi drivers are rumored to have switched sides, driving livery vehicles with contacts from Uber, Hailo, Lyft and Sidecar. They might not get as many fares right away but have lower operating costs. With their longstanding business patterns and name recognition, Bay State Taxi and Red Cab may not be able to change as quickly–but then they might not need to.

A deal approved by the Board of Selectmen in 2013–still not implemented–allows current taxi operators some medallions with low fees and other medallions with what might have been seen as outrageous but fixed fees, if there were going to be business as usual. According to the deal, the fees for the latter group of medallions are due three years after the program starts, or those medallions have to be turned in.

Brookline taxi operators would need to start with a livery fleet of about 75 vehicles, if maintaining the current quantities of vehicles. Initially, they could keep 106 of the current 182 vehicles running as licensed taxis for $45,000 in medallion fees, spread among them. The others could be repainted and fitted with technology to work as livery vehicles.

Taxi operators would need to convert most of their taxi business to livery in just a few years, so as to end up with 45 licensed taxis–the ones with low-priced medallions. Otherwise, Brookline would be demanding about $4.6 million in medallion fees to keep an additional 71 vehicles running as taxis. Four small taxi operators might be out of luck here; no low-priced medallions were slotted for them.

After the revolt: Could Brookline get by with only 45 licensed taxis? Although that might seem far-fetched, the town provides taxi stands for only about 30 vehicles. They are found in and near commercial areas, where most flag service begins–from stands and street hails. That comprises less than a quarter of taxi trips now starting in Brookline, so it probably could be maintained with only a quarter of the current taxi fleet.

The rest of the business–now coming mostly from telephone orders–could be served by livery vehicles that don’t need licenses from the town. Today, there are many ways to coordinate vehicles other than telephones and radio rooms–based on modern computers, data communications, wireless, GPS and Internet.

Pipe dreams: Brookline’s government leaders seemed to think they owned the market. Selling and auctioning medallions, they would rake in millions. If they tried that now, they might find no buyers at high prices. Since technology offers other ways to do business, it’s unlikely Brookline’s taxi operators will simply let the town strong-arm them into forking over a fortune, just to keep doing business the same way.

Taxi operators are likely to find it worth substantial efforts to escape the town’s clutches. With such a development, Brookline would stand to lose most of its influence over service quality, quantity and safety. It might not be able to sustain wheelchair-accessible vehicles or special services.

In the first Brookline taxi-medallion plan, Bruce Schaller, now a deputy commissioner in the New York City Transportation Department, tried balancing: (1) service to Brookline residents, (2) prosperity for the taxi business and (3) revenue for the town. Later, service and prosperity were neglected, while money took over. Today, years of sluggish management have left Brookline peddling buggy whips, in an age of jetliners.

– Craig Bolon, Brookline, MA, July 26, 2014


Mike Beggs, Hailo’s black car service like ‘stabbing taxi drivers in the back,’ Taxi News (Toronto, ON), July, 2014

Joe Shortsleeve, Boston police commissioner questions safety of Uber, WBZ (Boston, MA), February 25, 2014

Geoffrey Fowler, Testing UberX, Lyft and Sidecar against a cab in six cities, Wall Street Journal, March 12, 2014

Brookline, MA, Board of Selectmen, Minutes, September 24, 2013, see “TAXI MEDALLION PROGRAM”

Kyle Alspach, Taxi-hailing app startup Hailo gets 1,200 Boston cabbies on board, Boston Business Journal, April 4, 2013

Scott Kirsner, Test-riding Boston Cab’s mobile app, Boston Globe, March 19, 2013

Michael B. Farrell, Cab drivers irate as ban against livery app reversed, Boston Globe, August 16, 2012

Brookline Planning Board: pavilion for Parsons Field

A weekly meeting of the Planning Board on Thursday, July 24, started at 7:30 pm in the northern first-floor meeting room at Town Hall. Reviews of four property improvement applications were scheduled. A proposed change to Parsons Field–as it has been called since 1969–proved controversial and took most of the meeting. It was where legendary Kent St. resident George Herman “Babe” Ruth, Jr., sometimes practiced in the early twentieth century.

Parsons Field: Northeastern University has owned Parsons Field since 1930 and uses it as a sports stadium. The largest use, for the former Huskies football team, ended when Northeastern disbanded the team early in 2010. The major university uses now are baseball and soccer. Brookline High School has used the field in many prior years, though not recently, for home football games.

The 5-1/2 acre field extends between Kent and Harrison Sts. and takes up much of the block from Aspinwall Ave. to Kent Sq. Houses along Aspinwall Ave. and Kent Sq. abut the field, as do one each on Kent St. and on Harrison St. Other dwellings are directly across Kent and Harrison Sts. The field and most of the houses are in a T-5 two-family zone. Dwellings east of Kent St. are in an M-1.0 low-rise apartment zone. In some places, one finds “7 acres” quoted for the field size, but that seems to include parts of abutting land.

Plans for a pavilion: Last winter, Northeastern began plans to build a pavilion for its baseball diamond, with home plate near the southeast corner of the field, toward Kent St. and Aspinwall Ave. Current specifications show 409 seats, about 100 more than provided now in metal bleachers.

There are also nearly 1,800 seats in metal bleachers along the northern edge of the field, toward Kent Sq. Those are to remain for use during soccer games. A field house bordering Kent St., used for both baseball and soccer, will also remain. Parsons is a fairly compact field for baseball. Fly balls and foul balls sometimes reach neighboring houses, and outfielders risk colliding with soccer bleachers.

The field once had about 7,000 seats in open stands. Over the past 50 years, there have been four prior renovations. In a somewhat controversial renovation of 1972, Northeastern installed artificial turf, moved the baseball home plate from the northeast to the southeast corner and reduced seating. The field house was renovated in 1992. The most recent renovation replaced older artificial turf with FieldTurf.

Robert L. “Bobby” Allen, Jr., a Brookline-based lawyer, Precinct 16 town meeting member and former chair of the Board of Selectmen, represented Northeastern–which also sent two administrators and two representatives from its architect. Mr. Allen said Northeastern would welcome Brookline High School’s football team again. He said there would be extended netting to catch more stray baseballs and claimed the pavilion would “improve the streetscape along Kent St.”

Board member Steven Heikin later took exception, saying the “back side [of the pavilion] is pretty industrial.” Mark Zarrillo, the board’s chair, asked about lighting. A Northeastern representative said field lighting had been replaced this year. All except two fixtures operated in common, and those two would stay on about 30 minutes after the others went off. Mr. Zarrillo questioned whether that provided adequate security.

Polly Selkoe, assistant director for regulatory planning at the Planning Department, said that the planning review had been triggered by expansion of seating area. As a nonprofit educational institution, Northeastern has a right to use the field for educational purposes, but Brookline has rights related to dimensions of structures, public safety and nuisance control.

Concerns and objections: Many residents attended the Planning Board meeting to express concerns. The most frequent were about traffic and parking during events. Nancy Daly, a member of the Board of Selectmen, said, “Traffic and parking are serious concerns…streets are narrow…buses obstruct traffic.” She was “glad to hear Brookline’s team can play there again.”

Capt. Michael Gropman, who heads the Brookline Police traffic division, said he had many concerns and complained that he and Transportation Director Todd Kirrane “found out about this only six days ago.” The Northeastern management held a well advertised meeting for neighborhood residents in mid-spring, but there had apparently been no similar effort to contact Brookline departments.

Marla Engle, a Harrison St. resident, said that parking has been inadequate for events, that use means both frequency and intensity, and that the overall impact is increasing. Another Harrison St. resident complained about noise. Some of the worst, he said, is extremely loud music during practice sessions.

Responding to questions from board members Robert Cook and Steven Heikin, Northeastern representatives said that use for soccer was stable but use for baseball was increasing. They made vague statements about noise. Mr. Cook asked, “In terms of good neighbor relations, can it be confined?” There was no clear answer.

The board found too many unresolved issues to reach a decision and will reconsider the case at a meeting scheduled for August 14. Northeastern representatives said they will work with Capt. Gropman and Mr. Kirrane on traffic plans.

– Beacon staff, Brookline, MA, July 25, 2014


Parsons Field to debut new surface this weekend, Northeastern University, August 18, 2010, with some recent history of the field

Board of Selectmen: vacation, town meeting, personnel, contracts, licenses and trash metering

A biweekly meeting of the Board of Selectmen on Tuesday, July 22, started at 6:40 pm in the sixth-floor meeting room at Town Hall. There were no reports from departments or organizations.

Announcements: There will be no meetings of the Board of Selectmen Tuesday, July 29, or Tuesday, August 5. The next meeting scheduled is Tuesday, August 12, but that might be cancelled. Weekly meetings resume Tuesday, September 2.

A fall, 2014, town meeting is scheduled to begin Tuesday, November 18, at 7 pm in the High School auditorium. The warrant for the fall town meeting opens at the start of business Thursday, August 7, and closes at noon Thursday, September 4.

Town meeting articles require signatures of ten registered Brookline voters and must be submitted with written explanations, for the explanations to be published in the warrant report. Originals of articles with signatures are to be filed and time-stamped at the office of the Board of Selectmen, from which they will be forwarded to the town clerk to check signatures. Hearings on articles will be held by the Board of Selectmen, by subcommittees of the Advisory Committee and potentially by other town organizations.

Public comment: During the public comment period, Ernest Frey, a Precinct 7 town meeting member and a Human Relations commissioner, asked the board to appoint members to that commission, replacing ones who have resigned, so it can assemble a quorum for meetings. He sought an expedited process for current commissioners to join a new Diversity Commission that is expected to replace the Human Relations Commission in the fall. He asked Kenneth Goldstein, the board’s chair, when telling department heads to seek a “diverse pool of candidates” for new hires, also to say they should consult the human relations and human services administrator about practices to promote diversity.

The new commission will be set up when approval is received from the attorney general for actions of the 2014 annual town meeting. Neither Town Administrator Mel Kleckner nor any member of the board seemed to know that a letter from the attorney general, on file with the town clerk, says reviews will be completed September 28. Board member Nancy Daly observed that nine commissioners had been interviewed this year, and they might not need another interview. Current commissioners who want to join the new commission should indicate interest, she said, by filing the usual applications to join a board, commission or committee.

Personnel: The board interviewed Sara Slymon, recently hired as library director to replace Charles Flaherty. Ms. Slymon described a background of innovation but also said, “Our bread and butter is still books.” Asked about potential future projects, she declined to speculate. Over the past 25 years, Ms. Slymon has held ten positions in library services for durations of one to four years, most recently as library director in Randolph.

Paul Ford, the fire chief, got approval to hire for four vacant firefighter positions. Andrew Pappastergion, the public works director, got approval to hire another assistant engineer, in addition to one authorized June 24, because of a resignation. Mr. Goldstein omitted what had become his usual request to “seek a diverse pool of candidates.” Despite Mr. Frey’s plea, he said nothing on consulting the human relations and human services administrator about practices to promote diversity.

Contracts: Jennifer Gilbert, former town counsel and a special counsel for Cleveland Circle Cinema redevelopment, presented an amendment to Brookline’s agreement with First General Realty, the proposed developer. Copies were not supplied to the public in information packets distributed at board meetings but are supposed to be available later. Ms. Gilbert said First General needs a utility easement, expected to be sought at the fall, 2014, town meeting. The project will be described in a forthcoming Beacon article.

Mr. Ford, the fire chief, won approval to accept a federal grant of about $0.10 million to train staff as fire instructors. Once certified, they will train other staff of Brookline’s department in advanced techniques and may train staff from other communities. Brookline will have to come up with about $0.01 million in matching funds. Mr. Ford said he expects to find that within his department’s current budget.

Alison Steinfeld, the planning director, got approval to increase a contract with Beta Group of Norwood to review traffic and stormwater plans for a proposed Chapter 40B housing development at Hancock Village. Costs are being reimbursed by the developer.

Mr. Pappastergion, the public works director, got approval for a series of contract changes to complete the long-running sewer-separation project on lower Beacon St, between St. Mary’s St. and Pleasant St. Most costs of the $25 million project are being reimbursed by the state Water Resources Authority. However, about $0.1 million of ineligible costs was incurred because of failure to observe MWRA limits for engineering services. Mr. Pappastergion said he expects to cover those costs within his department’s current budget.

Erin Gallentine, director of parks and open space, got approval to reduce by about $0.06 million a contract with Quirk Construction of Georgetown to reconstruct Waldstein Playground, off Dean Rd. Town staff will do more of the project, including fencing, and it may take longer than planned to finish. Peter Ditto, director of engineering, got approval for an increase of about $0.01 million in a contract to repair the 55-year-old floor at Brookline’s transfer station. He said the original survey missed areas covered by refuse during the winter.

Ms. Gallentine also got approval for a contract with Touloukian & Touloukian of Boston, about $0.02 million to develop specifications to renovate doors and windows of the historic Fisher Hill Reservoir gatehouse. So far, the town has allocated $0.58 million for the project and has received a state grant of $0.04 million. Kenneth Goldstein, the chair, expressed reservation about the costly project, saying no use for the building has been identified, but he voted for the contract with the Touloukian firm.

Permits and licenses: A representative of Nstar sought permits for street work on Copley and Pleasant Streets to replace underground circuits. Mark Zarrillo of Copley St., chair of the Planning Board, asked the selectmen to delay the project so as to allow neighborhood review of plans. The area has a mix of underground and above-ground circuits, the latter recently upgraded from 4 to 14 kV. Mr. Zarrillo said that with the large amount of work in prospect, Nstar should be able to put all the circuits underground. The board agreed to a delay and will reconsider the project at a future meeting.

Michael Maynard asked for an exception to rules so that Coolidge Corner Theatre could serve more than one drink to a customer, including beer and wine. He said that a recent rule caused disruption in the theatre environment. According to Mr. Maynard, since the theatre started serving beer and wine four years ago, there have been only two incidents with “inebriated patrons,” both resolved without needing to call police. The board agreed that recent rules had been designed for a restaurant environment and allowed the exception.

Approval to transfer the common victualler (restaurant), liquor and entertainment licenses for Chef Chow’s at 230 Harvard St. was sought because of a change in management. Health, Building and Police reports were positive. There had been no citations for violations, and there was no opposition. The board approved. Colleen Suhanosky asked to add Sunday hours, 9 am to 4 pm, for Rifrullo Cafe at 149 Cypress St. There was no opposition, and the board approved.

David Iknaian sought a new common victualler license for Panelli’s Pizza, to be located at 415 Harvard St. Health, Building and Police reports were positive, and there was no opposition. The board approved, subject to conditions recommended by the Health Department.

Jenny Yu, a Winchester St. resident, sought new common victualler, wine and malt beverage, and entertainment licenses for Shanghai Jade, to be located at 1374 Beacon St. Health, Building and Police reports were positive, and there was no opposition. The board approved, subject to review of outside seating by the Department of Public Works.

Appointments: As often happens, the board slowed its pace when interviewing candidates for boards and committees: one for Climate Action and two for Solid Waste Advisory. Greg O’Brien, a recent law graduate, said he wants to work through Climate Action on solar power for condominiums and apartments. John Dempsey, chair of Solid Waste Advisory, said the town is currently “stuck” at about 9,000 tons of refuse a year, down from about 12,500 tons in 2007. Amie Lindenboim, also seeking reappointment to Solid Waste Advisory, said she agreed with Mr. Dempsey’s concerns.

Trash metering: On June 10, a plan to increase recycling through trash metering had been described to the board by Mr. Pappastergion, the public works director. He also described the plan at the annual public works “question time” on May 14. It involves town-issued 35-gallon refuse bins, one per household, collected under the current program of fees, plus added fees for extra refuse collection. At this meeting, board member Neil Wishinsky said changes needed to be publicized.

Mr. Dempsey said his committee’s role is “educational” and calls trash metering “pay as you throw.” The name as well as the concepts are hung over from rural and far suburban towns, where residents still take trash to town dumps and throw it into piles. That does not seem likely to educate or help Brookline, where public dumps closed and municipal refuse collection began more than a century ago.

– Beacon staff, Brookline, MA, July 23, 2014


Brookline Town Counsel, General guidelines to drafting warrant articles, August, 2006

Taxi Medallion Committee: lost on a back road

The moderator’s Taxi Medallion Committee is lost and is hitting many bumps on a rough back road.

For years the town has been on a journey of exploration, looking for better Brookline taxis. The town is seeking to discover the secret of navigating from hackney licenses, renewed annually, to perpetual medallion licenses for Brookline’s 185-cab taxi fleet. Back in 2008, the Transportation Board and the Board of Selectmen dropped the route that Bruce Schaller, the consultant hired in 2006, provided. In 2010, with Richard LaCapra, another consultant, as a new guide, the Board turned onto an unmapped, never-before-used road that LaCapra claimed he knew about and recommended. (It involves multiple “tiers” of licenses.)

At a meeting of the committee yesterday, committee member Jeremy Kushner, a Brookline resident who used to drive a cab in New York City, asked Mr. LaCapra if he knew any other community in the country that had used this road. Mr. Kushner said he thought it would be a good idea to check with other such communities to see how well their trip turned out and maybe learn from their experiences regarding nasty potholes, wrong turns, detours and any other perils or problems. Mr. LaCapra admitted that no other community, to his knowledge, has followed the route that he recommended for Brookline.

Chad Ellis, a committee member and a Precinct 12 town meeting member, said that he believes that the town is lost and should try to find a way out to more known, less risky territory. He suggested that the moderator’s committee, the Transportation Board and the Board of Selectmen have journeyed into a very confusing labyrinth. However, Mr. Ellis, who had been working over financial calculations for medallions, hit a tremendous pothole. Committee member Michael Sandman, also an Advisory Committee member and a former chair of the Transportation Board, found an error in his calculations.

Amid El-Khoury, another committee member and general manager of Hello Taxi, seemed like a deer caught in the headlights. His revenue, he said, is down 40 percent; unless the town reaches its destination soon, his company will be out of business.

Mr. Sandman, realizing that the journey is not going well, stopped to ask for directions. He asked a passerby, Naiff Bethoney, an owner of Bay State Taxi. Mr. Bethoney, a member of the audience, had come to watch the travelers. Mr. Bethoney responded that he does not answer hypothetical questions.

This is the way it went for the moderator’s Committee on Taxi Medallions on Monday, July 21, in the fourth floor conference room at Brookline Town Hall.

– David Lescohier, Brookline, MA, July 22, 2014

Brookline taxis: can you afford a “medallion” taxi?

High prices: Since the 2007 Brookline Taxi Study prepared by Schaller Consulting, the Board of Selectmen and the Transportation Board have been considering plans to change Brookline taxi licensing from annually renewed “hackney” licenses to high-priced, perpetual “medallion” licenses. The “medallion” licenses would be sold to taxi operators to raise millions of dollars for Brookline.

So far, no one explained where that money could come from. However, there are only three practical sources: (1) increased fares paid by passengers, (2) reduced net incomes of taxi companies and other license holders, and (3) reduced net incomes of taxi drivers who are not license holders. Neither the 2007 Brookline Taxi Study nor any other available report presents an integrated financial view of the Brookline taxi industry.

Business finance and a phantom report: Some estimates can be made from an unsigned, undated report available from the Transportation Division of the Public Works Department (called here the 2012 Taxi Report). According to mentions of the report elsewhere, it may have been drafted or prepared by Richard LaCapra, a consultant on taxi licensing, and it probably was completed in early 2012.

According to the 2012 Taxi Report, 185 taxis were then licensed by Brookline, and revenues from fares in the first half of 2011 averaged $230 per day per taxi. Adding an average 15 percent of fares for tips leads to estimated total 2011 revenue for the Brookline taxi business of about $15 million. Confidential information from Bay State Taxi for 2010 and 2011 suggests those estimates are high. If Bay State were representative, then total 2011 revenue for the Brookline taxi business, including tips, would be about $13 million.

When costs of business are deducted, about $5.5 million per year is left for net personal incomes of drivers, and about $1 million is left for net business incomes of taxi companies and other license holders. The 2012 Taxi Report proposes to take back 37 existing licenses and to sell the balance of 148 as “medallion” licenses over about five years for a combined total of about $10 million, averaging about $2 million per year.

When extrapolated through total conversion from annual “hackney” licenses to long-term “medallion” licenses, the 2007 plan would have brought Brookline about $9.5 million over about 16 years in “medallion” fees–not adjusted for inflation or other financial factors. It would have involved little change in the size of the taxi fleet and represented added cost averaging about $0.6 million per year for the Brookline taxi business.

Bankrupting taxi companies: Unless offset by huge increases in taxi fares, the 2012 Taxi Report‘s plan for “medallion” licenses would extract about 30 percent of the combined annual net personal and net business income (for 2011) from the Brookline taxi business. At the same time, it would force the business to operate with 20 percent fewer vehicles–thus, on average, cutting personal and business income about in half. The likely fallout: companies shutting down and drivers leaving Brookline.

Compared with the 2007 Brookline Taxi Study, the unsigned 2012 Taxi Report lacks a professional approach. The 2007 study reviewed “medallion” programs in several communities and based recommendations on the comparisons, finding an equivalent to about $40,000 in market value for “medallions” in Brookline. In contrast, the unsigned 2012 Taxi Report simply claims that a “market price of $125,000 is realistic.” [p. 4] It presents no evidence to support the claim and fails to consider conflicting evidence explored in the 2007 study.

– Beacon staff, July 20, 2014


Unsigned, Brookline Taxi Report, Transportation Division Brookline DPW, Undated c. 2012

Brookline taxis: long-term “medallion” licenses

Members of Brookline’s Transportation Board have claimed at public meetings that the board began considering perpetual or long-term “medallion” licensing of taxis as early as 20 years ago. However, its first concrete action was in the fall of 2006, asking the Board of Selectmen for about $25,000 to fund a professional study. The Board of Selectmen approved a contract with Schaller Consulting of New York City.

At the time, Bruce Schaller had 25 years of experience analyzing taxi operations, including New York City, San Francisco, San Diego, Alexandria, VA, Anaheim, CA, Laredo, TX, and Montgomery County, MD. Mr. Schaller conducted surveys and organized conferences in Brookline with taxi owners, drivers and passengers, met with the Transportation Board four times and delivered a final report called Brookline Taxi Study in June, 2007. His report has vanished from Brookline’s municipal Web site, and it is being cached at the Beacon as a service to readers.

In early 2007, Mr. Schaller found two large and two small Brookline taxi companies with a total of 162 vehicles and licenses:

Bay State, 77 vehicles and licenses
Red Cab, 40 vehicles and licenses
Eagle Cab, 25 vehicles and licenses
Town Taxi, 20 vehicles and licenses

In addition, he found a total of 25 vehicles and licenses with a total of 11 individual operators and very small companies. According to Mr. Schaller, the taxi fleet of 187 vehicles and licenses was a reasonable match to the demands for services, averaging 3,300 trips per day. Incidents of slow service were lower than in most comparable places, while typical driver incomes were equal or higher. [pp. 8-10]

Historically, Red Cab is the established service, starting in the 1920s. Bay State is the insurgent, starting in the 1970s. The others are upstarts, starting in about the past 20 years. The Transportation Board added around 50 new taxi licenses over the past 20 years and has also been assigning the upstart companies and individuals some licenses formerly held by Bay State and Red Cab.

Mr. Schaller reported a minimum sustainable company size of about 40 vehicles and licenses, in order to absorb costs of dispatching, maintaining and garaging vehicles. At the time of his report, individuals and very small companies had mostly affiliated with Bay State or Red Cab for services they needed. Town Taxi was also dispatching taxis operating in Boston. Eagle Cab, operating independently, looked to be at risk. That service is now provided by Hello Taxi, operating from Western Ave. in Brighton.

Mr. Schaller found that Brookline’s taxi service more nearly resembled smaller suburban than larger urban services. In New York City and Boston, he wrote, around 80 percent of the trips come from street hails and taxi stands, and around 20 percent come from telephone orders. In Brookline, the numbers are reversed. Bay State and Red Cab dominate telephone-order business through what Mr. Schaller called “name recognition of established companies.” [pp. 12, 16]

Mr. Schaller said Brookline could maintain stable services at reasonable fares, while capturing some income, by licensing three large companies plus a share of licenses assigned to individual drivers. He recommended that Brookline plan gradual transition from “hackney” licenses renewed each year to perpetual or long-term “medallion” licenses for companies and drivers. By spreading a transition over time, he wrote, the industry would be able to absorb the financial burden and would gain stability from ownership of major assets.

The Schaller report emphasized balance: a few large companies sustainably dispatching, maintaining and garaging vehicles, but also some small companies and individual operators that provide competition. In order to maintain such a balance, it advised against auctioning “medallion” licenses to the highest bidders. Instead, it advocated a time-payment approach, in which “medallion” fees would be paid over periods of several years. [pp. 19-22]

Based on comparisons with other communities and business conditions in Brookline, in effect Mr. Schaller predicted a market value around $40,000 for “medallion” licenses, recommending a fee of $600 per month paid over seven years [p. 3] He outlined several options for fees and transition times, recommending a plan to sell about 19 medallions per year to companies and individuals–in other words, given the size of the taxi fleet, about 10 years of license conversions and a total 16-year transition period. [pp. 2, 30]

If Brookline had implemented Mr. Schaller’s plan at the time he filed a final report, by now Brookline would be near halfway through transition, and it would have received nearly $4 million in “medallion” fees:

July, 2008: $600 x 12 x 19 = $136,800
July, 2009: $600 x 12 x 38 = $273,600
July, 2010: $600 x 12 x 57 = $410,400
July, 2011: $600 x 12 x 76 = $547,200
July, 2012: $600 x 12 x 95 = $684,000
July, 2013: $600 x 12 x 114 = $820,800
July, 2014: $600 x 12 x 133 = $957,600
Total revenue over 7 years $3,830,400

So far, Brookline stumbled. It never created a single taxi “medallion” and received no revenue at all.

– Beacon Staff, July 19, 2014


Note: Thanks to David Lescohier, a Precinct 11 town meeting member, for a copy of the Schaller report of 2007 that he had downloaded from Brookline’s municipal Web site before it vanished from the site.


Brookline, MA, Board of Selectmen, Minutes, November 2, 2006, see “TAXI CONSULTANT STUDY”

Bruce Schaller, Brookline Taxi Study, Schaller Consulting, June, 2007

Planning Board: a garage “triangle”

A weekly meeting of the Planning Board on Thursday, July 17, started at 7:30 pm in the northern first-floor meeting room at Town Hall. Reviews of five property improvement applications were scheduled. The first of them proved controversial. Owners of a High Street Hill house opposite Philbrick Square want to reorient the entrance to their garage and expand the garage somewhat so that two cars will fit.

If that were all, the case might have taken only a few minutes, even though it involves a property in a local historic district. The complication is that the garage is currently reached by a driveway from Upland Road, but the applicants now propose to use a little over fifteen feet of exposure in back, to narrow Walnut Place, for a garage entrance. Owners of other properties on Walnut Place were not happy, to say the least, and they turned out in opposition. The case involves some of Brookline’s political “royalty” on both sides: a current member of the Board of Selectmen, a former chair of the Board of Selectmen, a former chair of the School Committee and a former chair of the Preservation Commission.

One side of the current garage is adjacent to Walnut Place, a few inches behind a fence. Walnut Place makes a sharp bend there. The inside of the bend is a curve, but the outside is flared out to the adjacent lot lines–one parallel to the side of the garage and perhaps a foot from it, the other perpendicular and the two meeting at a point. Under ordinary circumstances, the adjacent side of the garage would not be used for an entrance. According to Brookline zoning, a garage entrance has to be at least 20 feet from a “street.” [Table 5.01, note 1]

However, Walnut Place is a private way. Applicants claimed the usual rules don’t apply. Maybe, or maybe not, since Brookline zoning defines “street” as “a public or private way.” [Section 2.21] On advice from Town Counsel, Polly Selkoe, assistant director for regulatory planning at the Planning Department, said the Planning Board should probably leave the access issue to negotiations among the owners along Walnut Place or, if necessary, to a court of law.

The other owners said the “triangle” at the flared-out corner has been a critical feature of Walnut Place, providing a place for delivery trucks to turn around, a place to deposit excess snow in the winter and an occasional play area for children. They showed photos of all these situations. Trying to use it for a garage entrance, they said, would create a “blind driveway” and would be unreasonably hazardous, since there was already satisfactory access to the garage from Upland Road.

The lawyer representing the applicants tried to ridicule opponents, saying they were behaving like a private club where “we don’t want any more members.” Arguments back and forth did not seem to have much effect on members of the Planning Board. They took Ms. Selkoe’s advice and didn’t try to judge the issue of access to Walnut Place. Other issues, they felt, were minor. They unanimously recommended the Zoning Board of Appeals allow the application when it is heard August 14.

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

Conservation Commission: will Muddy River flooding be controlled?

A regular meeting of the Conservation Commission on Tuesday, July 15, started at 7:00 pm, held in the fifth-floor meeting room at Town Hall. All commissioners plus staff Thomas Brady and Heather Lis were present. With chair Katherine “Kate” Bowditch leaving for a job in Europe, the commission elected as new leadership Marcus Quigley chair, Matthew Garvey vice chair and Deborah Michener clerk.

During reviews of projects, it became clear that long-running efforts at Muddy River flood control and environmental restoration continue to be threatened by limits in project goals and funds. The first part of this long-promised project is underway, but the scope of the next part has become uncertain.

In 1958, the Hynes administration, which had destroyed the “New York streets” section of the South End and was busy destroying Boston’s entire West End, paused to destroy part of the Back Bay Fens–burying about 700 feet of the Muddy River in grossly undersized culverts and presenting Sears, Roebuck with land above them to use for a parking lot. Sears threatened to move its Boston store and offices, located near the intersection of Boylston St. with Brookline Ave., out of the city if it did not get space for parking.

The Fens of today is a man-made object: a park designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr., preserving some features of former marshland near the mouth of the Muddy River as it entered former Back Bay tidal mudflats, just east of that modern intersection. The 1950s Muddy River flow was channeled through two 6-foot-diameter culverts under the Sears parking lot, extending into parkland southeast of Brookline Ave.

Mr. Olmsted’s Muddy River channel through the Fens was a partly dredged, narrowed version of the historic Muddy River mouth. In the 1860s and before, the river bent southeast near the modern intersection of Park Drive with the Riverway, split into two weaving channels, joined Stony Brook flowing in from Jamaica Plain near the modern intersection of the Fenway with Ruggles St. and bent northeast in a broad channel, crossing modern Boylston St. as wide as the widest span between Park Drive and the Fenway.

The Hynes administration constricted the river flow, providing a conduit adequate for normal times but much too small for storms that occur about once every 50 years or more. In 1959, the former MTA invited disaster by buying the former Charles River Branch Railroad, then part of the Boston & Albany, digging a ramp for it into the Kenmore Square subway station, electrifying the line and renaming it the Riverside branch of what the MBTA was later to call the Green Line.

Only a few years later, in 1962, nature gave a warning: a rainstorm that made the river overflow just before the Sears parking lot, run down the ramp and enter the subway station. Nature’s warning was mostly ignored. The several-foot-deep flood led to floodgates installed along the ramp, but no other efforts were made to reduce or prevent future floods.

Luck ran out in October, 1996, when 8 to 12 inches of rain fell over three days. By then, the 1962 floodgates had been forgotten, and river water ran unobstructed into Kenmore Station. Water flooded higher than the ceiling of the platform and ran eastward toward the Back Bay stations. Much of the subway was shut down for a week, and it remained impaired for months beyond, as water-damaged equipment was serviced and replaced. Dozens of Boston and Brookline buildings and homes were flooded.

A project for flood control and environmental restoration is moving at the pace of glaciers. Its outlines were clear within a year. The Hynes disaster has to be ripped out, restoring surface flow of the Muddy River through the Fens. Wide but short culverts are needed under the Riverway, at the Park Drive intersection, and under Brookline Ave., between the Fenway and Park Drive. River channels that have silted up and that have been invaded by phragmite reeds over more than 100 years need to be dredged and cleared.

As promised many times over 17 years, apparently sustained work on culvert removal and replacement finally started this April. A so-called “groundbreaking” was held a year and a half before, but then work stopped without explanation after installing half the large new culvert under Brookline Ave. This part of the project was supposed to take about two years but is already nearing that length of time. So far, lots of fences are up, and Brookline Ave. is one-way toward Kenmore Square. No part of the Hynes disaster has been excavated yet. The torpid pace suggests 10 years might be realistic.

A typically insular Corps of Engineers has outdone itself on this project. Recently it has been advertising an asinine goal “to protect against a flood with a return frequency of 20 years.” To meet no more than that goal, no project may be needed at all. Cleaned of silt, the culverts under the Sears parking lot would probably do. A project that has already taken over 17 years–just to get started–should aim at protecting against at least a 200-year flood, The Corps of Engineers goal seems designed to shrink and, if possible, to avoid the next part of the project: dredging the river channels and removing the invasive plants.

Muddy River, except for the Charles the largest remaining open stream in the Boston environment, drains a watershed of about six square miles. Stony Brook, which joins the lower Muddy River in the modern Fens, drains about twice as large an area; it is now almost entirely enclosed in culverts. A large storm, about once a century or two, that deposits a foot of rain in a few days, loads about 1-1/2 and 3 billion gallons onto those two watersheds. The likelihood of such a storm was ignored by the Hynes administration in the 1950s and is being slighted by the Corps of Engineers.

– Beacon staff, Brookline, MA, July 16, 2014


U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Muddy River flood risk management and environmental restoration project, June 13, 2014

Eric Moskowitz, Boston transit flood history, Boston Globe, November 19, 2012

Johanna Kaiser, Muddy River restoration is officially launched, Boston Globe, October 15, 2012

Hugh Mattison, The Muddy River restoration project, Brookline GreenSpace Alliance, 2009

Peter K. Weiskel, Lora K. Barlow and Tomas W. Smieszek, Water Resources and the Urban Environment, Lower Charles River Watershed, Massachusetts, 1630–2005, Circular 1280, U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Department of the Interior, October, 2005

Robert F. Breault, Peter K. Weiskel and Timothy D. McCobb, Channel morphology and streambed-sediment quality in the Muddy River, Boston and Brookline, Massachusetts, Report 98-4027, U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Department of the Interior, October, 1997

Thomas H. O’Connor, Building a New Boston, Northeastern, 1993, p. 64 on the Sears parking lot

Walling & Gray, Boston street map, 1871

Taxi medallions: arrogant town officials questing for money

Some thought Brookline’s traditions of arrogant officials were laid to rest with election of Justin Wyner as moderator in 1970. Maybe not. A meeting of a moderator’s committee on taxi medallions that began at 7:00 pm on Bastille Day–Monday, July 14, 2014–bought back some of the worst of former days. Edward “Sandy” Gadsby, the current moderator, had failed to appoint the main petitioner for Article 26 at the 2014 annual town meeting to the moderator’s committee.

The main petitioner for Article 26, a Precinct 8 town meeting member, sponsored Article 26, seeking to rescind authority to sell taxi medallions, at the 2014 annual town meeting, which was referred to a moderator’s committee. In his arguments to town meeting, the main petitioner for Article 26 had 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. Gadsby insulted not only the main petitioner for Article 26 but also Brookline voters in failing to recognize the town’s main opponent of taxi medallions with a seat on the committee. Joshua Safer, the Transportation Board chair and recently made the chair of that committee, compounded the insult by offering the main petitioner for Article 26 30 seconds to state his views and by cutting him off for trying to speak any longer. Dr. Safer owes residents of Brookline an apology.

The proposed taxi medallion program has been touted as a measure to stabilize a troubled business and to improve services. However, the anxiety that underlies the arrogance began around 2007, with the start of a deep recession, as Brookline searched for revenue to fund services. A taxi medallion program might yield a one-time injection of a few million dollars, against a budget that now runs nearly $200 million a year.

The main petitioner for Article 26, whom Mr. Gadsby and Dr. Safer have been trying to sideline, has been protesting taxi medallions as a hidden tax and a social cancer. Such a program would obviously run up costs of operating taxi services, and the increased costs could only be met through increased fares.

– Craig Bolon, Brookline, MA, July 15, 2014


Martine Powers, No quick action from Boston on taxi reform, Boston Globe, July 15, 2014


Note, July 17, 2014.

The main petitioner for Article 26 at the 2014 annual town meeting asked not to be named in this article. With reluctance, that request was accepted. The petitioner is obviously a public figure: an elected town meeting member and the main author of what became controversial business at town meeting. By seeking distance from a controversy, the main petitioner loses the arguments. Less inhibited opponents will quickly move in for a kill.

Brookline’s solar power: slow progress and a stalled program

So far, Brookline ranks as a small player in the Massachusetts solar panel derby. Over the past four years, the state’s “carve-out” program of state solar power credits shows only 58 installations in Brookline–all but one residential and all but one rated at a modest 0.002 to 0.01 MW, peak. Total capacity shown for the town in this 4-year program is 0.36 MW, peak–an average of about 6 peak watts per Brookline resident. By comparison, the whole state of Massachusetts shows installed solar capacity of 660 MW, peak–an average of about 100 peak watts per state resident.

Brookline has two municipal installations: an array of 120 panels installed in 2007 on the roof of the Health Department building and an array of about 40 panels installed in 2010 on the roof of the Putterham branch library. Both were funded by government grants and private donations. So far, the town of Brookline has made no substantial investments. Charles “Charlie” Simmons, Brookline’s director of public buildings, did not know the rated electrical capacity of two facilities, but from the number of panels it is likely to be around 0.04 MW, peak.

Unlike large wind turbines, solar power is relatively friendly. It does not generate noise or flicker and does not tower over a landscape. Several other towns in the state have authorized or sponsored large solar installations. There are now 27 operating solar farms rated at 4 to 6 MW, peak, in Massachusetts. Most are commercial, but Barnstable, Bolton, Dartmouth and Lancaster have municipal facilities in this power range.

A town meeting action in the fall of 2012 tried to stimulate progress. Article 15, filed by Precinct 6 town meeting member Tommy Vitolo and passed unanimously, advocated “solar ready” roofs on Brookline’s buildings. The Board of Selectmen organized a Solar Roof Study Committee, which met three times from April through June of last year. Broadway Electric of Boston submitted proposals for six projects, ranging from 0.06 MW, peak, for the roof of the municipal swimming pool to 0.2 MW, peak, for the roof of the main High School complex.

Fortunately, in this case, Brookline was slow to act. According to news reports, Broadway Electric is being shuttered. Several Cape and Vineyard towns and towns in western Massachusetts were stuck with unfinished projects and may have missed deadlines to get state energy credits. Broadway Electric had been promoted to Brookline by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council. Although it is not clear that MAPC has any engineering or financial expertise with solar energy, Mr. Simmons said town staff are meeting again today with an MAPC representative, hoping to revive a stalled program.

– Beacon staff, Brookline, MA, July 14, 2014


Clarence Fanto, Broadway Electric’s struggles may leave Lenox, Lee solar plans in the dark, Berkshire Eagle, February 3, 2014

Metropolitan Area Planning Council, MAPC selects regional solar developer, February 26, 2013

School Committee: planning for a general tax override

A special meeting of the School Committee on Tuesday, July 8, started at 4:00 pm, held in the fifth-floor meeting room at Town Hall. Special guests were Town Administrator Mel Kleckner and Town Counsel Joslin Murphy. All committee members except chair Susan Ditkoff attended, with Barbara Scotto chairing the meeting.

The School Committee has begun preparations to support a general tax override, also called an “operating” tax override. On May 6, 2008, Brookline voters approved a general override of 4-1/2 percent–added to an increase of 2-1/2 percent allowed without voter approval, for a total tax increase of 7 percent. Voters also approved a general override in 1994. General overrides become permanent elements of a community’s taxes. Regardless of initial purposes, later a community can use added revenues for other purposes.

According to committee member Rebecca Stone, a report from the selectmen’s Override Study Committee is being assembled by a subcommittee of five, whom she did not name. That committee scheduled meetings for the next two evenings, although it later cancelled the second one. According to Ms. Stone, there proved to be “no appetite” for dropping or reducing the METCO program. She did not mention the program for students from families of town employees living elsewhere, who pay so-called “materials fees.”

Private speculation about potential tax increases had ranged as high as 14 percent. Ms. Stone hazarded a guess that the Override Study Committee might recommend a general override of around 5 percent–for a total 7-1/2 percent tax increase. However, depending on decisions about a school-building program, voters could also be presented with a debt override proposal.

A debt override allows debt-service spending above the normal limits for a specific project and a term of years. That could pay for school renovations and expansions. There were previous debt overrides to renovate Brookline High School and to build the new Lincoln School. In his budget message of February, 2014, Mr. Kleckner included $110 million for Devotion School, $51 million for the High School, $28 million for Driscoll School and $2 million for other school buildings.

In its 2014 budget report, the Advisory Committee stated that it anticipated a debt override to provide about $77 million toward Devotion School renovation and expansion. The town’s FY2015 financial plan projects debt service charges for the project rising to about $5.6 million per year over about 25 years. According to that plan, debt exclusion for Devotion School would add about 3 percent to current taxes, but the largest part of the added taxes would not be levied until July of 2018.

Mr. Kleckner reviewed the override process and the potential schedule. Regardless of its purpose, he said, an override has to be proposed by the Board of Selectmen. Questions can be put to voters at regular or special elections. In past years, Brookline has preferred the annual elections for town offices in the spring. Mr. Kleckner said he will propose that the Board of Selectmen vote January 13 of next year on ballot questions for an election to be held May 5.

Mr. Kleckner’s schedule would allow 16 weeks for what he called a “private campaign.” Mr. Kleckner, who started his work for the town in September, 2010, would not be familiar with any of the previous Brookline overrides. However, he seemed aware that members of the School Committee and Board of Selectmen would likely campaign for an override–as they did during the previous efforts.

Ms. Murphy, the town counsel, emphasized that elected officials must rely on private funding and privately organized efforts when campaigning for an override. About the only government element allowed in such a campaign would be statements of positions and answers to questions on the town’s Web sites. Using private resources, she said, elected officials are free to organize, advocate, raise funds, hold meetings, distribute information, appear on broadcast media, identify themselves and behave as they might in any other political campaign. Municipal employees, she said, are more restricted. Generally they have to be evenhanded.

William Lupini, the school superintendent, said opposition could be expected, recalling what he called “fact police” at forums organized during the 2008 override efforts. Dr. Lupini mentioned that work is underway on a revised Web site for Public Schools of Brookline, expected next September. Compared with the recently revised municipal Web site, the school Web site lacks critical information. For example, it provides no access to detailed financial plans for either the current fiscal year or any prior years.

Beacon staff, Brookline, MA, July 12, 2014

New pipeline across Massachusetts: gas produces hot air

Not likely marked much in Brookline, over the past year a proposed new natural-gas pipeline for the Northeast has been stirring up protests in upstate New York and the northern tier of Massachusetts towns. In those venues, you might think “The British are coming” again. Today the New York Times took notice, in its patronizing way, documenting the proposal and political struggles.

As any seasoned observer of energy issues would know, over the past 20 years natural gas became a quiet hero of a revolution in New England energy practices–as contrasted with contributions from “energy policy” and other hot air castles. The outcome of the revolution has been drastic declines in New England air pollution and “greenhouse gas” emissions.

In a sidebar, the recent NY Times article shows that 14 years ago New England electricity was 18 percent coal, 22 percent petroleum, 15 percent natural gas and 31 percent nuclear–balance hydro and “renewables.” Two years ago–the latest in federal data tables–generation had shifted to 3 percent coal, 1 percent petroleum, 52 percent natural gas and still 31 percent nuclear.

The former 40-percent coal and petroleum shrank to only 4 percent, almost entirely replaced by natural gas. Plants running on natural gas emit very little air pollution and less than two-thirds the “greenhouse gases.” If the U.S. had followed energy practices of New England, it would have greatly exceeded goals of the Kyoto treaty, and it would lead the world in reducing carbon-dioxide emissions.

Should they notice at all, local environmentalists will probably chant a politically correct “party line” against any expansion of fossil fuels–whatever the costs and whatever the benefits. However, their favored wind and solar sources have yet to generate more than about a percent of New England electricity. The obvious problems remain unsolved: high cost and low reliability–little improved despite decades of development.

– Craig Bolon, Brookline, MA, July 11, 2014


Tom Zeller, Jr., Natural gas pipeline plan creates rift in Massachusetts, New York Times, July 11, 2014

Erin Ailworth, Massachusetts pipeline plan stirs hope and alarm, Boston Globe, June 9, 2014

Erin Ailworth, Utilities seek boost in region’s natural gas, Boston Globe, November 5, 2013

Craig Bolon, Coal-fired and oil-fired electricity in New England, Energy and Environment, October 17, 2013

Board of Selectmen: contracts, personnel and appointments

A biweekly meeting of the Board of Selectmen on Tuesday, July 8, started at 6:30 pm in the sixth-floor meeting room at Town Hall. There were no reports from departments or organizations.

Announcements: A design advisory team will start meeting soon for Brookline Place. It was not clear whether that meant the Brookline Place Advisory Committee. The first meeting is to be Wednesday, July 16, 7:00 pm, at the Latvian Lutheran Church, 58 Irving St.

Contracts and personnel: The board reviewed a proposed 2-year extension of the agreement for emergency services with Fallon. Brookline houses two ambulances full-time and links Fallon with emergency communications. Fallon staffs the ambulances full-time and gives priority to services in Brookline. No money is exchanged. Paul Ford, the fire chief, made a strong pitch for extending the agreement, saying that services have been satisfactory and that Fallon has provided emergency medicine training for Brookline firefighters. The board agreed to extend the agreement.

Several public works contracts were presented, briefly reviewed and approved. The largest amounts were three contracts totaling $1.53 million for street and traffic signal repairs, a $0.58 million contract to repair the historic Fisher Hill Reservoir gatehouse, $0.25 million for grounds maintenance, $0.14 million for repairs to the historic Burial Ground and $0.03 million to complete sewer and drain projects.

Costs of the gatehouse project, adjacent to the new Fisher Hill Park, are partly offset by a grant of $0.04 million from the state’s Historic Commission. Costs for sewer and drain projects are reimbursed by MWRA. A check for $0.14 million was accepted from Claremont Companies, building a hotel at the former Red Cab site on Boylston St., to fund public improvements in the vicinity.

Proceeding at a rapid pace, the board approved budget transfers already allowed by Advisory the previous evening, and it approved hirings to fill vacancies–a sergeant in the Police Department, a recreation leader and a health inspector–all created by retirements. Kenneth Goldstein, the chairman, made his usual requests to seek a “diverse pool of candidates.” However, no town organization currently monitors the effectiveness of such efforts.

Appointments: As often happens, the board slowed its pace when interviewing candidates for boards and committees: one for Martin Luther King, one for Norfolk County Advisory, one for Transportation and one for Zoning Appeals.

Elizabeth Childs, a new candidate for the Norfolk County board, is a former School Committee member and a former Massachusetts commissioner of mental health. Her strongest concern, she said, was whether Brookline was “getting a fair return on our tax contributions” to the county. The assessment for the current fiscal year is $0.79 million. There are no visible county services.

Board member Betsy DeWitt asked about abolishing country government, as has already happened in eight of the 14 counties. She did not seem to know that county abolition in western Massachusetts was a pre-emptive strike by legislators who wanted to derail competition for their offices. Mr. Goldstein said he knew of three current efforts in the General Court, but he said “none have traction now.”

– Beacon staff, Brookline, MA, July 10, 2014

New Brookline Web site: a pretty messy product

In late afternoon Wednesday, June 25, Brookline began to display a new municipal Web site, replacing the one that the town gradually built over more than ten years. It’s pretty, but beneath the glamour are some messes. So far, 40 problems readily visible to users have been reported to the town’s Information Technology Department by the Brookline Beacon.

With some effort, the Beacon updated the links to the site in previous articles. They will still fetch information, when it is still available. However, some previously linked documents could not be found so far. Users who have maintained “bookmarks” or “favorites” will find that none of them work. There are also changes to the display of information; many documents are now found on different pages.

A potentially helpful but currently problematic area is the calendar of “events.” At School Committee on July 8, members complained agendas are now tricky to display, requiring more steps. Staff of the Planning Department are also not happy campers. Their June 30 meeting of the Housing Advisory Board had to be cancelled because of faulty notice. Problems were also found with notices for the Planning Board meeting scheduled for tomorrow, July 10.

The Planning Department relied on internal automation for the site, not visible from outside. Posting a meeting notice was previously automated to link a statement of date, time and place for a public meeting with an agenda for the meeting and to send the full notice to the town clerk’s office–where it would be printed, time-stamped, filed with other notices and posted on the town’s notice board, just outside the town clerk’s office. The automation appears to be broken. Agendas are not being linked, and either notices are not being forwarded to the town clerk’s office, or they are not being picked up, printed, time-stamped, filed and posted.

So far, only written notices posted with the town clerk have been satisfactory for compliance with Massachusetts open meeting law, because time is of the essence. There is a 48-hour requirement between posting and the start of a meeting, not counting Saturdays, Sundays, federal holidays and state holidays. Written notices at the town clerk’s office are stamped by an electromechanical recorder, but notices displayed on the Web site do not have and never have had public, verifiable time stamps.

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

Of time and the cesspool

If Thomas Wolfe had lived here in the 1960s and 1970s, he would not have needed an invention; he could have written a true story. That era spawned rotten legacies we are almost finished unearthing and disinfecting. Some unblinkered Brookline residents resisted Chapter 121A housing projects, but there were rarely enough.

Until the mid-1970s, one after another of them larded developer profits with tax reductions–leaving the town holding the bag when 25-year to 40-year tenant-income restrictions expired and properties could be sold at huge profits. Now we inherit the worst of both worlds: former low-income housing being occupied by the rich, combined with more pressure on a costly and already overburdened school system.

It could easily be foreseen, and in fact it was foreseen. However, there were also political fortunes to be reaped. They were reaped at the expense of those who came later and of those who remain. The appeal to former leaders was that when bills came due they would be long gone and probably dead. Now they are gone, and many are dead. Good riddance.

– Craig Bolon, Brookline, MA, July 5, 2014


Thomas Wolfe, Of Time and the River, Scribner, 1935

Public Transportation Advisory Committee: Bridj jitney bus service, MBTA 51 bus route

A regular monthly meeting of the Public Transportation Advisory Committee on Wednesday, June 25, started at 7:00 pm in the 4th floor conference room at Town Hall, with the five current committee members present plus eight members of the public, a Transportation Board member, a member of MBTA management and a representative from GroupZoom, who operate the Bridj jitney bus service from Coolidge Corner.

Jitney bus service: Charles “Chuck” Swartz, a Precinct 9 town meeting member, told the committee that the Centre St. neighborhood near Coolidge Corner was “taken by surprise” around 8 am the morning of June 2, when three full-size buses showed up on the street, labeled BRIDJ. Inquiry found they were starting to offer jitney bus service on weekday mornings to the Kendall Square area in east Cambridge and to the Post Office Square area in downtown Boston. For the first few weeks, the services were to be free of charge. Service has since been extended to the Seaport District.

Mr. Swartz said there had been “no notice to neighbors about buses on the street,” and they didn’t fit. A neighbor complained that the buses were left idling while waiting for passengers for much longer than the five minutes allowed. She had gotten drivers to turn off their engines. Another neighbor recounted that the 54-passenger buses had been almost unable to turn from Centre St. onto narrow Shailer St., calling the buses an “imposition on the neighborhood so that this company can make money.”

Mike Izzo, operations manager for Group Zoom’s Bridj service, agreed that the large buses had trouble negotiating turns, saying he was “losing some of [his] hair when those buses turn the corner.” Mr. Izzo, who affects an ultra-short hair style, didn’t look to have much left to lose. He offered contacts for anyone who wants to report a problem: mike@bridj.com and 931-551-5802. Mr. Izzo said his service was starting to use smaller buses from Academy Bus, operating from Braintree, and vans operated by DPV Transportation of Boston. However, all the current vehicles get their heat and air conditioning from the main engine–as yet an unsolved issue.

Linda Jason, a committee member, asked what Brookline was doing to address the neighborhood concerns. Abigail “Abby” Swaine, the committee chair, said that the Transportation Board would be reviewing permit applications in late summer or early fall. The service has temporary permits from Todd Kirrane, the transportation director, that expire in about two months. Linda Swartz, wife of Mr. Swartz, said buses might interfere with the Brookline Farmers Market, whose vendors start to set up stalls in the morning, and said the buses have been parked in metered spaces without paying at the meters. Several issues were left unresolved.

MBTA 51 bus: Ms. Swaine outlined proposals to alter the MBTA 51 bus route through south Brookline. The main change is to move the segment running from the intersection of Chestnut Hill Ave. with Route 9 to the vicinity of Putterham (Ryan) Circle about a mile westward. It would operate on Boylston St. (Route 9) and Hammond St. instead of Lee St., Newton St. and Grove St. An unresolved issue is how to proceed south of Horace James Circle.

An obvious choice would follow West Roxbury Parkway to Putterham Circle. However, Ms. Swaine said, much of that route is state highway, and it lacks sidewalks and safe, convenient pedestrian access. An alternative would follow Lagrange St. and Beverly Rd. to Grove St. west of Putterham Circle. Beverly Rd. is narrower, particularly the section passing Baker School.

Linda Lally, an MBTA system planner attending the meeting, said MBTA would need full specifications for a proposed change by mid-November to implement it for the winter schedule. The next opportunity is mid-March. Brookline has yet to organize either a ridership survey or neighborhood meetings. If use of West Roxbury Parkway is to be proposed, that will involve consultation with the state’s Department of Transportation.

Scott Englander, a member of the Transportation Board, said the board has been able to improve response rates to surveys by finding a retail sponsor and offering a chance at winning a gift card. Ms. Pehlke asked about including an insert in a utility bill mailing. Ms. Swaine agreed to ask Andrew Pappastergion, the public works director. At the start and end of school days, a full-size bus operating on Beverly Rd. would aggravate congestion near Baker School, and it might be unable to get through in snowy weather. Ms. Swaine said so far there had been no contacts with parents and school staff.

MBTA transit: The committee revisited the topic of transfers between MBTA lines, reviewed briefly at its last meeting. Committee member Deborah Dong said it should be a high priority because of the Government Center station closing for renovations. Mr. Englander said that a likely way to automate transfers would involve microprocessor-based Charlie Cards. Ms. Lally agreed but said that there was currently no way for MBTA to make the necessary changes to turnstile card readers. Ms. Swaine recalled that at the previous meeting Paul Regan, executive director of the MBTA Advisory Board, claimed the change would be “easy.”

With town meeting approval of $50,000 for a Beacon St. signal study, aimed at reducing street-crossing wait times for MBTA Green Line C trains, Ms. Swaine said the Transportation Department was drafting specifications for a consulting contract. Christopher Dempsey will monitor the project for the Transportation Board. There has been no written communication yet with MBTA, but MBTA staff are aware of the project and the funding.

Bridj jitney bus permit: At a meeting of the Transportation Board the next evening, Mr. Englander gave a brief oral report about the committee review of the Bridj jitney bus service. However, he did not convey vigorous neighborhood concerns about traffic and parking problems. The next day, Joshua Safer, a Precinct 16 town meeting member and chair of the board, said that so far there had been no written report to the board about the Bridj service.

Mr. Kirrane, the Brookline director of transportation, who attended the Transportation Board meeting, said that in September the staff of GroupZoom would meet with the Transportation Board, seeking a regular permit for Bridj. A few days after the meeting, Ms. Swaine said Mr. Izzo had informed her that Bridj would no longer use full-size, 54-passenger buses for its services based from Coolidge Corner but instead use smaller 27-passenger and 13-passenger vehicles.

– Beacon staff, Brookline, MA, July 4, 2014

Board of Selectmen: cell-phone antennas, personnel and appointments

A weekly meeting of the Board of Selectmen on Tuesday, June 24, started at 6:30 pm in the sixth-floor meeting room at Town Hall. There were no reports from departments or organizations.

Announcements: Groundbreaking for 32 new public housing units was held in the morning at 86 Dummer St., near the B.U. West segment of Commonwealth Ave. and adjacent to Trustman Apartments. There will be no board meeting Tuesday, July 1. There are to be biweekly meetings during July and August.

Cell-phone antennas: In an item of new business not detailed on the agenda, Kenneth Goldstein, the board’s chair, proposed sending letters to members of the General Court representing Brookline, urging them to oppose S. 2183 and Sections 74 and 75 in H. 4181. He had found out about these bills from messages sent by the Massachusetts Municipal Association, to which Brookline belongs. The board agreed.

The bills would have undercut local regulation of cell-phone antennas. Section 1 of S. 2183 proposed to add the following to Chapter 40A of the General Laws: “No zoning ordinance or by-law shall prohibit, regulate or restrict collocation of wireless facilities on existing structures….” Cities and towns would be unable to regulate placement of antennas on buildings.

S. 2183 came from the Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy Committee and was sent to Senate Ways and Means. No hearing appears to have been held. More recently, H. 4165 has been replaced with the text of S. 2231, which came from Senate Ways and Means. That is an omnibus economic development bill and does not contain the obnoxious “wireless facilities” provisions. It appears on the July 1 calendar for the House.

Contracts and personnel: Alison Steinfeld, the town’s planning director, got approval to hire Tod McGrath of the MIT Center for Real Estate as a financial consultant to review the recently revised 40B housing proposal at Hancock Village. Patrick Ward, the town clerk, got approval to fill two senior clerk vacancies, one replacing a 20-year employee who was recently discharged.

Kevin Stokes, the director of information technology, got approval to hire a network engineer, replacing services formerly outsourced. Andrew Pappastergion, the DPW director, got approval to fill eight vacant positions. Because of unfavorable bids for solid waste collection in February, the service will not be outsourced.

Complete Streets: Scott Englander, a member of the Transportation Board, sought and received the board’s support for a resolution endorsing “Complete Streets”–promoted since 2005 by an eponymous private organization. The Massachusetts Municipal Association became a promoter in 2011, but the state Department of Transportation has yet to sign up.

Appointments: As it did the previous week, the board took a relaxed pace interviewing applicants for boards, commissions and committees: one for Assessors, one for Conservation, one for Zoning Appeals, one for Women, one for Martin Luther King and two for Naming. Carla Benka, seeking reappointment to the Naming Committee, described it as “a quiet committee…reactive rather than proactive.” She said she expects that an article for this fall’s town meeting will seek to rename Cypress Playground as Henessey Field.

Christine Fitzgerald of Fuller St., a new candidate for the Commission on Women, described her background growing up in difficult circumstances when her father died while she was in high school. She became the first in her family to earn a college degree and went on to law school, becoming a law firm partner and litigator working mostly with technology and financial firms. Now, she said, “I don’t have to prove things any more.” Board members Nancy Daly and Betsy DeWitt seemed won over. Ms. Daly commented, “It’s a great story.”

Permits: An open-air parking lot near the intersection of Washington St. with Bartlett Crescent, northwest of Washington Square and just before Corey Rd., became an object of controversy the previous week and had been held over. After further review, its permit was approved.

– Beacon staff, Brookline, MA, July 1, 2014