Category Archives: Information

Information on local issues and events

Circuses: cheaper than bread

Last fall, the cockroach candidate attacked “people who are registered to vote in more than one state.” At the time, an Associated Press reporter recently discovered, his “voter fraud expert” Gregg Allen Phillips was registered to vote in three states: Alabama, Mississippi and Texas.

A “voter fraud” investigation recently vanished from political radar. Jonathan Lemire of Associated Press quoted Lindsay Walters as saying on February 3 at the White House, “I do not have an update at this time.” The cockroach President had enjoyed no political “honeymoon.” Less than a day after he took office, millions of protesters had begun to march in more than 600 events held world-wide.

This January 21, at least 500,000 demonstrated in Washington, DC, and in Los Angeles, 200,000 in New York City and in Chicago, 150,000 in Boston and many hundreds of thousands in at least 300 other U.S. cities–all together the largest single day of demonstrations in U.S. history. Many more hundreds of thousands demonstrated in London, Paris, Mexico City, Buenos Aries, New Delhi, Sydney, Tokyo and hundreds of other locales on all the continents.

The next day, the New York Times dropped its whining about “fact checking” and “errors”–writing that the new President told a “lie” about supposedly winning the popular vote. That seemed to startle some readers of the Grey Lady, but it likely had no impact on voters who chose this President.

Sewage clerks: Early last year, the Politico organization dispatched three experienced reporters to review the cockroach candidate and check out the sewage. On average, they found a false statement for each five minutes of public contact.

*** “death of Christianity in America”
*** Sen. Rubio “totally in favor of amnesty”
*** taking “no money from donors” [then $7.5 million]
*** we send Japan “nothing” [$62 billion in 2014 imports]
*** owns a “successful winery” [denied by the actual owner]
*** “Made in the USA…not anymore” [$4.4 trillion in 2014]
*** “winning every poll with the Hispanics” [losing in all]

Harry G. Frankfurt, a social philosopher, published a widely quoted essay, On Bullshit, in 1986, when he chaired the Philosophy Department at Yale. It anticipated the cockroach candidate, as Prof. Frankfurt, now retired from Princeton, noted in discussions with reporters last year. That candidate, he said, “provides a robust example of someone who…indulges freely both in lies and in bullshit.”

Reporters and news media, repeatedly smeared by the cockroach President, have begun checking every claim and describing what they find. Associated Press posts a “fact check” summary at least once a week. The New York Times publishes “fact check” stories about public events and news conferences.

*** This administration is running like a fine-tuned machine….
“Trump’s first month has been…missteps and firestorms”

*** I inherited a mess….
“Incomes were rising and the country was adding jobs”

*** ISIS has spread like cancer….
“Islamic State…began to lose ground before Trump took office”

*** The biggest Electoral College win since Ronald Reagan….
“The winners of five…won a larger Electoral College majority”

*** You probably saw the Keystone pipeline I approved….
“He hasn’t approved the Keystone XL pipeline”

– from Associated Press, February 20, 2017

No prior President has been so rampantly and casually dishonest. History offers other salient examples in U.S. politics, notably from campaigns against Communism and drugs. At a party conference in West Virginia held in February of 1950, the late Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R, WI) waved a sheaf of papers that he said named “205…individuals..loyal to the Communist Party” and working in the State Department. After years of filth, smears and lies, McCarthy was eventually censured by the Senate. He died in office, likely from alcoholism.

Present danger: Clear dangers from an unhinged President are war and financial collapse. An unhinged Walker Bush was left a strong economy and a world in tension but not at war. From him we got Iraq, the September 11 hijack attacks that he was warned about a month before and the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. It took eight years of an Obama administration to work through the disasters.

The cockroach President has already shown signs of trouble. We need to keep the heat on and be prepared to act when he falters. He has earned no charity. As Kevin Baker noted, writing in the New York Times, “Mr. Trump was exposed enough for any thinking adult to see exactly what he is.”

– Craig Bolon, Brookline, MA, February 21, 2017


Jim Drinkard and Calvin Woodward, AP fact check: Trump’s view at odds with events of the week, Associated Press, February 20, 2017

Linda Qiu, Fact check: what Trump got wrong at his rally, New York Times, February 18, 2017

Charles J. Symes, Why nobody cares the President is lying, New York Times, February 4, 2017

Jonathan Lemire, Trump executive order on voter fraud quietly stalled, Associated Press, February 3, 2017

Garance Burke, Trump’s voter fraud expert registered in 3 states, Associated Press, January 30, 2017

Michael D. Shear and Emmarie Huetteman, Trump repeats lie about popular vote in meeting with lawmakers, New York Times, January 23, 2017

Kevin Baker, The America we lost when Trump won, New York Times, January 21, 2017

Nika Knight, On first full day as President, Trump attacks the press, Common Dreams (Portland, ME), January 21, 2017

Robert King, Trump says it’s OK if ‘rigged’ voters vote for him, Washington (DC) Examiner, October 22, 2016

David Greenberg, Are Clinton and Trump the biggest liars ever to run for President?, Politico Magazine, July, 2016

Harry G. Frankfurt, Donald Trump is BS, Time, May 12, 2016

Daniel Lippman, Darren Samuelsohn and Isaac Arnsdorf, Trump’s week of errors, exaggerations and flat-out falsehoods, Politico, March 13, 2016

Harry G. Frankfurt, On Bullshit, Raritan Quarterly Review (Rutgers, New Brunswick, NJ) 6(2):81-100, 1986

Craig Bolon, Second day: millions protest, Brookline Beacon, January 22, 2017

Surfing a vortex: energy and climate

Among the few benefits a Trump administration might have brought was review of energy policies. Only three months after the 2016 elections, however, hostile actions and childish tantrums had cashiered the chance. After that opening, any proposals would be greeted as tainted goods and attacked in federal lawsuits.

Stephen Bannon–latter-day Rasputin–had coaxed his proxy, Donald Trump, to rail against climate change as a “hoax.” Props for the accusation came from clannish behavior of scientists starting in the 1990s, trying to manage access to historical data they had carefully combed. Those tactics produced a so-called “Climategate” incident and risked both scientific and political mischief.

Limits of knowledge: Climate change and measures proposed to cope with it remain clouded by knowledge issues. Some key factors are intrinsic to the physics of weather. Working at MIT in 1963, the late Edward N. Lorenz, a meteorologist, found, while trying to compute results from apparently straightforward equations representing circulation in the atmosphere, that they would not provide stable solutions. Instead, results would diverge by greatly varying amounts.

Comparable behaviors are well known for turbulent fluid flow, and they had been suspected as early as the 1880s for orbits of moons and planets. Lorentz found development of weather patterns similarly lacked predictability. Small eddies could grow into large disturbances. Such effects greatly complicate analysis of climate, which indicates long-term weather.

Swedish physicist Svante Arrhenius first estimated the effect of atmospheric carbon dioxide on the Earth surface temperature in 1896. He predicted that a doubling of concentration would lead to a temperature rise of around four degrees Celsius (deg. C). As late as the 1970s, a way to increase the Earth temperature was sometimes welcomed for help in staving off “global cooling” and perhaps another ice age.

Early predictions did not consider time dynamics or the many interacting influences–including changes in plant growth, solar output and Earth orbit, clouds, dust, aerosols, surface variations, water-vapor cycles, human activities, methane and other gases. “Greenhouse factors” relating gas concentrations to temperatures remain uncertain to a fair degree. While few laboratory scientists doubt that there are linkages, measuring the factors became a great challenge–complicated by intrinsic unpredictability of weather, by dynamics of exchanges between the atmosphere, oceans and Earth surfaces and by issues of reliable measurements.

Historical data before the last few decades proved erratic. A 1956 survey of carbon dioxide measurements from the atmosphere found values published during the 1820s through the 1950s ranging from about 200 to 550 parts per million (ppm) by volume. Its authors proposed to “select” some lower values as representative, but they lacked an approach validated through primary evidence.

Improving knowledge: The late Charles D. Keeling, while a geochemistry fellow at Caltech in 1956, began the first systematic survey of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. He calibrated newly developed infrared absorption spectroscopy against a primary standard from gas manometry, providing much more reliable measurements than previously available. He soon found regular daily and seasonal variations.

Keeling series, carbon dioxide in ppm, monthly

KeelingSeries1958Thru2016
Source: Scripps and U.S. Department of Energy

The Keeling series, measured since 1958 at Mauna Loa, shows atmospheric carbon dioxide already at a steep rate of increase when it began and therefore at an elevated level–a 1958 average of about 313 ppm. During 2016, the average high-altitude concentration in the northern hemisphere rose above 400 ppm. The residual level from the 1600s, after Columbus and before intensive coal mining, was around 280 ppm.

Measuring solar output and global average Earth temperature is more difficult than measuring atmospheric gas concentrations. Direct temperature sampling is concentrated within industrialized countries. Every populated location has sources of bias. Solar measurements from the Earth are skewed by effects from the atmosphere. More progress was achieved after the deployment of polar-orbit weather satellites by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, starting with Nimbus-7 in late 1978.

GISS series, Earth temperature

GissSeries1979Thru2016
Source: NASA Goddard Institute of Space Science

Satellites do not measure Earth surface temperatures directly. They measure infrared emissions from the sun and from the atmosphere. There is no signal to separate low-altitude from high-altitude emissions, so that numerical interpretations are needed to estimate surface temperatures. Those are among many adjustments applied to satellite data. The adjustments have often changed as measurement issues have been discovered.

The two series shown indicate strong association between carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere and Earth surface temperature, as estimated from satellite data. For 1979 through 2014, carbon dioxide increased from about 313 to 398 ppm, a base-2 logarithm of 0.35, while estimated Earth surface temperature rose from about 14.2 to 14.7 deg. C, an increase of 0.5 deg. C. Those amounts lead to a “greenhouse factor” of about 1.4 deg. C for a doubled carbon dioxide concentration–when about 4 deg. C was predicted by Arrhenius.

Controversies: Substantial controversies remain over “greenhouse effect” measurements and their interpretations. The relatively short time spans of reliable measurements–around 35 years–may not be enough to allow mixing between the atmosphere and the oceans. That should produce positive feedback, when warmer temperatures cause carbon dioxide to be released. However, warming effects from greenhouse gases also tend to be offset by cooling effects from human-generated aerosols.

The main source of information about atmospheric changes over much longer time spans has come from analysis of ice cores, starting in the 1970s. The longest cores extracted so far trapped air over around a million years of snowfalls. The 1985 Vostok core from Antarctica was the first to span a glacial cycle, providing a look at transitions between low and high temperatures and gas concentrations over geologic times. That inspired mathematical modeling efforts, trying to reconcile factors contributing to observations.

Over longer times–from dozens of years to a few hundred years–data from ice cores suggest that the carbon-dioxide increase already incurred from human activity, since the 1600s, can produce temperature increases two or more times more those already measured. The Keeling series shows that about half the total increase in carbon dioxide has happened since 1980. Research continues at an active pace, still dotted with controversies.


David Cohen, Albright on Trump: Bannon pulling the strings, Politico, February 5, 2017

Atmospheric carbon dioxide data, Scripps Institution of Oceanography and U.S. Department of Energy, January, 2017

Atmospheric carbon dioxide, monthly, Scripps Institution, January, 2017

Surface temperature analysis, Goddard Institute for Space Science, U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration, January, 2017

Land-ocean temperature index, monthly, Goddard Institute, January, 2017

Spencer R. Weart, The Discovery of Global Warming, American Institute of Physics, January, 2017

Edward Wong, Trump calls climate change a Chinese hoax, New York Times, November 18, 2016

Robert Monroe, The Keeling curve: carbon dioxide measurements at Mauna Loa, American Chemical Society, 2015

Adilson E. Motter and David K. Campbell, Chaos at fifty, Physics Today 66(5):27-33, 2013

Andrew Freedman, Satellite climate data at 33 years, Washington Post, December 20, 2011

R.J. Nevle, D.K. Bird, W.F. Ruddiman and R.A. Dull, Neotropical human–landscape interactions, fire and atmospheric CO2 during European conquest, The Holocene 21(5):853-864, 2011

Patrik Jonsson, Climate scientists exonerated in Climategate but public trust damaged, Christian Science Monitor, July 7, 2010

Christopher Booker, Climate change: worst scientific scandal of our generation, London Telegraph, November 28, 2009

Kenneth Chang, Edward N. Lorenz, meteorologist and a father of chaos theory, dies at 90, New York Times, April 17, 2008

C. Lorius, J. Jouzel, D. Raynaud, J. Hansen and H. Le Treut, The ice-core record: climate sensitivity and future greenhouse warming, Nature 347(6289):139-145, 1999

J.M. Barnola, D. Raynaud, Y.S. Korotkevich and C. Lorius, Vostok ice core provides 160,000-year record of atmospheric CO2, Nature 329(6138):408-414, 1987

Walter Sullivan, International team of specialists finds no end in sight to 30-year cooling trend in northern hemisphere, New York Times, January 6, 1978

Stig Fronselius, Folke Koroleff and Karl-Eric Wärme, Carbon dioxide variations in the atmosphere, Tellus A 8(2):176-183, 1956

Svante Arrhenius, On the influence of carbonic acid in the air upon the temperature of the ground, Philosophical Magazine and Journal of Science (Fifth Series) 4(251):237-276, 1896

Obama’s legacy: tracking hate crimes

Electing an African-American as U.S. President in 2008 capped centuries of bigotry and began a legacy of inclusion. An image of Obama taking the oath of office became a picture worth a billion words. Despite all the flapping from Europe and Asia about peace and tolerance, so far nothing comparable happened there. For example, there has been no Franco-Arab president of France–not even someone mentioned or on the horizon.

A quiet message, the obverse of promoting inclusion, was delegitimizing racial and ethnic hate. From growing up with bigotry, signs are easily remembered–serving as sly handshakes through words and acts that signal shared outlooks: “one of the gang.” Electing a black President, then re-electing him to another term said, “No, that’s not OK any more. That’s not us.”

Lynching and race riots grew in the aftermath of the Civil War and continued into the 1940s. The way of inclusion became an official outlook through the Great Depression, the era of World War II and the landmark Brown v. Board decision from the Supreme Court in 1954. That did not make it the common way of life. Hate crimes against African-Americans surged during civil rights struggles of the 1950s through the 1970s.

Tracking hate crimes: The U.S. Department of Justice finally began to record hate crimes in 1992, as required by the Hate Crime Statistics Act of 1990 and the Arson Prevention Act of 1996. [Public Laws 101-275 and 104-155] About 17,000 law enforcement agencies now contribute to annual reports. Records since 1996 are available online as part of Uniform Crime Reports compiled by FBI central offices. However, the Justice Department does not publish trends and has not tried to provide consistent reporting.

Anti-African-American hate crimes

usantiblackhatecrimes2009thru2015
Source: U.S. Department of Justice, 2016

Data from the U.S. Department of Justice show that the most numerous reported hate crimes target African-Americans, Jews and Muslims. For 2015, recent hate crime data show about 1,750 incidents targeting African-Americans, about 660 targeting Jews and about 260 targeting Muslims.

Anti-Jewish hate crimes

usantijewishhatecrimes2009thru2015
Source: U.S. Department of Justice, 2016

The most recent U.S. population survey for race and ethnicity estimates 43 million African-Americans. The most recent survey for religion estimates about 6 million Jews and 3 million Muslims. Proportionately, the 2015 rates of hate crimes per million residents were about 40 targeting African-Americans, 110 targeting Jews and 90 targeting Muslims.

Anti-Muslim hate crimes

usantimuslimhatecrimes2009thru2015
Source: U.S. Department of Justice, 2016

Crime trends: Hate crime statistics reflect crime motives as reported by law enforcement agencies–not as determined by courts or as found by other third parties. They are affected by reporting bias. If, for example, law-enforcement training increased likelihoods that incidents were flagged as hate crimes, then rates of reported hate crimes would rise, but such increases would reflect training rather than changes in crime rates.

The falling rates of reported hate crimes targeting African-Americans, down about 20 percent for the five years from 2010 to 2015, signal apparent progress during core years of the Obama administration. There was similar apparent progress in lower rates of reported hate crimes targeting Jews, falling about 25 percent over that five-year span.

However, reported hate crimes targeting Muslims increased significantly, about 60 percent over those years. All of that increase occurred during the final year, 2015. Not shown in the foregoing charts, a sustained and even greater increase occurred in reported hate crimes targeting Native Americans. They tripled between 2010 and 2013, then remained nearly steady at the increased rate.

Situations of Native Americans might be so different from those of other groups for reported rates to be largely fictions. On the basis of hundreds of interviews, Barbara Perry, a professor of criminology at the Ontario Institute of Technology, estimated in 2008 that hate crimes targeting Native Americans had been drastically under-reported. A sharp rise in reported rates between 2010 and 2013 could stem from reporting improvements during the Obama administration. Ken Salazar, Interior secretary during those years, promoted policies of inclusion toward Native Americans. So far no systematic survey has addressed the issues.

Causes and consequences: Filth spread by Donald J. Trump’s campaign for President acted to relegitimize and encourage racist behavior, starting in 2015. Trump did not need to “be” a racist or an anti-Semite but just to become a fellow traveler. His race-baiting dog whistles drew poisonous support from Nazi, Klan and other white supremacist groups. He circulated some of their propaganda. There is an obvious precedent. Former President Wilson also drew support from racist groups. The first Southerner elected since Taylor in 1848, he resegregated parts of the federal workforce, notably the Post Office.

Just as Wilson’s attitude and behavior encouraged lynching and growth of the Ku Klux Klan, vile propaganda emerging around the Trump campaign probably encouraged recent hate crimes–notably against Muslims, whom Trump savaged. People with antisocial outlooks and violent bents are apt to find signs of acceptance and perhaps approval. Unless Donald J. Trump were somehow to reverse his ways and become a beacon of tolerance, we can expect a parade of moral cretins and their crimes to surge in future years.

– Craig Bolon, Brookline, MA, November 18, 2016


Errin Haines Whack, Associated Press, Trump’s staff picks alarm minorities: ‘injustice to America’, U.S. News, November 18, 2016

Hate crime statistics for 2015, U.S. Department of Justice, November 11, 2016

Adrian Walker, The politics of hatred and resentment seem headed for defeat, Boston Globe, November 7, 2016

Dana Milbank, Anti-Semitism is no longer an undertone of Trump’s campaign. It’s the melody, Washington Post, November 7, 2016

Trump closes his campaign as he opened it: preaching xenophobia and hate, Daily Kos (UK), November 7, 2016

Michael Finnegan, Trump stokes terrorism fears, citing refugee ‘disaster’ in Minnesota, Los Angeles Times, November 6, 2016

Sarah Posner and David Neiwert, How Trump took hate groups mainstream, Mother Jones, October 14, 2016

Stephanie McCrummen, Finally: someone who thinks like me, Washington Post, October 1, 2016

Daniel Marans, Meet members of Donald Trump’s white supremacist fan club, Huffington Post, August 25, 2015

Martin Pengelly, American Nazi Party leader sees ‘a real opportunity’ with a Trump Presidency, Manchester Guardian (UK), August 7, 2016

Emily Flitter, Reuters, Trump tweet that blasts Clinton as corrupt includes the Star of David, Washington Post, July 2, 2016

Tom Shoop, When Woodrow Wilson segregated the federal workforce, Government Executive (Washington, DC), November 20, 2015

William Keylor, The long-forgotten racial attitudes and policies of Woodrow Wilson, Boston University Office of Public Relations, March 4, 2013

Population statistics, Bureau of the Census, U.S. Department of Commerce, 2016

Gregory Smith, et al., America’s changing religious landscape, Pew Research Center, 2015

Barbara Perry, Silent Victims: Hate Crimes Against Native Americans, University of Arizona Press, 2008

Brown v. Board of Education, Leadership Conference (Washington, DC), 2004

Robert A. Gibson, The Negro Holocaust: Lynching and Race Riots in the United States, Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute, 1979

Craig Bolon, Election aftermath: recovery starting, work pending, Brookline Beacon, November 9, 2016

Craig Bolon, Chump disease: political virus, Brookline Beacon, October 2, 2016

Early voting: strong service in Brookline

Brookline is providing fairly strong service for early voting in 2016 federal and state elections. There are three Brookline sites and 11 days of early voting operations. On several days, extra service is provided outside 8am-5pm weekday working hours. There are also two days of accepting absentee ballots at Town Hall: November 5 and 7.

Town Hall, first floor
333 Washington St–108 hours
Mon, Oct 24, 8 am-5 pm
Tue, Oct 25, 8 am-5 pm
Wed, Oct 26, 8 am-5 pm
Thu, Oct 27, 8 am-8 pm (3 extra)
Fri, Oct 28, 8 am-5 pm
Sat, Oct 29, 9 am-5 pm (8 extra)
Mon, Oct 31, 8 am-5 pm
Tue, Nov 1, 8 am-5 pm
Wed, Nov 2, 8 am-5 pm
Thu, Nov 3, 8 am-8 pm (3 extra)
Fri, Nov 4, 8 am-5 pm
Sat, Nov 5, 9 am-5 pm (absentee)
Mon, Nov 7, 8 am-12 noon (absentee)

Sussman House Community Room
50 Pleasant St–32 hours
Tue, Oct 25, 8 am-8 pm (3 extra)
Sat, Oct 29, 9 am-5 pm (8 extra)
Tue, Nov 1, 8 am-8 pm (3 extra)

Putterham Golf Course Clubhouse
1281 W Roxbury Pkwy–76 hours
Mon, Oct 24, 8 am-8 pm (3 extra)
Tue, Oct 25, 8 am-8 pm (3 extra)
Wed, Oct 26, 8 am-8 pm (3 extra)
Mon, Oct 31, 8 am-8 pm (3 extra)
Tue, Nov 1, 8 am-8 pm (3 extra)
Wed, Nov 2, 8 am-8 pm (3 extra)

Sussman House, near Coolidge Corner, is convenient to around 40 percent of the town’s residents and gets 32 hours, while the Putterham Golf Course is convenient to less than 10 percent of residents and gets 76 hours. Of 216 total early voting hours, only 46 extra hours are outside 8am-5pm weekday working hours.

Election day polls are Tuesday, November 8, for 13 hours–7am-8pm, at locations in the 16 precincts–for 208 poll hours. Of those, 64 poll hours are outside 8am-5pm weekday working hours. Early voting service for this year will double total poll hours and increase extra hours outside 8am-5pm weekday working hours by about 70 percent.

– Beacon staff, Brookline, MA, October 24, 2016


Early voting sites and hours, Brookline, MA, Town Clerk, October, 2016

Craig Bolon, Hillary Clinton for President, Brookline Beacon, October 8, 2016

How soon will Zika disease spread to New England?

Zika disease, at epidemic levels in Brazil for more than a year, has come to Miami, FL. Although often described as a “tropical disease,” it has escaped the tropics, and people are keeping a greater distance. This month, the Miami Herald quoted the operator of a Florida travel business, saying, “I had to cancel eight out of my 12 weekly summer season tours.” In recent days, several locally transmitted Zika cases were reported in Miami Beach, and the danger zone was expanded from 1-1/2 square miles to most of the community.

Origin of the threat: Zika is not a new threat. It was first found almost 70 years ago as a disease of rhesus monkeys in the Ziika Forest–for which the disease was named–located near Lake Victoria in Uganda. The cause is a flavivirus (“yellow virus”). That virus family and genus includes the agents of yellow fever, dengue fever, chikungunya and West Nile fever. The diseases have mostly been transmitted by aggressive species of mosquitos common in the tropics. Some of the diseases have migrated to temperate regions, and some infect wild and domesticated animals–including goats, sheep and mice–as well as humans.

The flaviviruses are single-strand RNA viruses, like the virus that causes AIDS. Lacking stabilizing effects of DNA-based genetics, they mutate relatively often, sometimes producing new, persistent strains. Research shows that happened in recent years with Zika. The original strain found in Africa caused mostly mild, brief illness in humans. The common symptoms were low fever, sometimes with skin rash or joint pain, that lasted up to a week.

The disease spread from Africa into south and southeast Asia. A 2007 outbreak on Yap and nearby islands of Micronesia drew attention because it seemed very widespread, even though it caused no deaths or long-term health problems. A survey using immunology tests suggested that about three-quarters of the population had been infected. Those tests encounter cross-reactions among the flaviviruses. A previous infection by dengue or chikungunya may produce a positive result. Since dengue is often present where Zika strikes, estimates of infections using immunology tests can be clouded by errors.

Growth of the threat: Starting in 2013, another flavivirus epidemic occurred in Tahiti and nearby islands of French Polynesia. This time health centers had genetics tests available when live virus could be sampled. They distinguish more clearly among viruses, and Zika was soon identified as a main cause of the epidemic. However, the virus had mutated, producing new strains. Some victims had more severe symptoms than previously reported for Zika disease. A small fraction of the victims developed long-term problems including profound muscle weakness, known as Guillain-Barré syndrome.

After the epidemic in French Polynesia, unusual problems began to be found in newborns: smaller heads than normal, called microcephaly. While such symptoms occur without Zika, they occurred more often in births from pregnancies during the epidemic. Other severe problems began to be found, including defects in the brain, eyes and spinal cord. Immunology tests associated a high proportion of newborn victims with Zika exposure.

During 2014, newer strains of Zika spread eastward, appearing in other Pacific islands and then in South America. During 2015, the disease spread through most of Brazil, then appeared in neighboring countries and Central America, including the Caribbean. Windblown mosquitos helped spread the disease, but epidemiologists also attribute the spread to infected people traveling to places where aggressive species of mosquitos are common. Cabo Verde, near the west coast of Africa, recently reported cases involving newer strains of Zika.

As of 2012, only five strains of Zika had been reported. By early spring, 2016, about 60 Zika strains had been identified by gene sequencing. Comparisons found two main groups: one common in Africa, the other common in south and southeast Asia. Strains responsible for the 2013 outbreak in French Polynesia and the recent outbreaks in South and Central America had developed from previous Asian strains. As with older strains, many people apparently infected by newer strains did not seek care for relatively mild symptoms, while the virus was infecting cells and multiplying.

During the past year, publications surged. By mid-September, 2016, gene sequences for almost 100 strains had been reported. Compared with other diseases, however, research on Zika immunology and therapeutics remains poorly developed. According to a recent review of the science, researchers “currently lack major basic tools for [Zika vaccine] development, including reliable animal models, reference reagents and assays.” In Congress, for months Republicans driven by reactionary agendas failed to act on President Obama’s request of February, 2016, seeking $1.9 billion in emergency funds for applied research on Zika.

Dangers and precautions: Soon after an infection has taken hold, Zika has been found in many body tissues and fluids. It may persist for months after symptoms of an infection–if there were any–have gone away. Laboratory measurements found that newer Zika strains are highly infectious; just a few copies of the virus may be needed to transmit the disease. Although apparently not contagious, the disease is transmitted by intimate contact, including sex. Since current genetics tests cannot insure that levels of Zika virus are below an infectious threshold, major health organizations have been recommending long delays between potential Zika exposure and pregnancy.

It is not yet known whether antibodies produced during infection by one Zika strain can prevent infection by other strains. A pattern from the closely related dengue virus is troubling. A previous infection involving one class of dengue virus does not prevent infection by strains belonging to another class and may worsen health hazards. Early indications, still controversial, suggest Zika infections might behave similarly.

There is no approved vaccine against Zika. One candidate vaccine recently began the first of three stages in clinical trials: testing for safety. The first vaccine approved against dengue began marketing just this year, after over 80 years of experiments, and already it has been clouded with safety issues–potentially worsening health hazards, including those from Zika.

Spreading disease: Mosquitos, notably those in the Aedes genus, have been the main vectors for Zika and other flaviviruses. The Aedes aegypti species is adapted to humans and their habitats. Other Aedes species are also frequent carriers, helping to infect wild and domesticated animals as well as humans. Although often called “tropical,” Aedes mosquitos live throughout the southern half of the United States. They are also key vectors for yellow fever virus, which became a scourge of East Coast and Mississippi River cities during the late 1600s through the late 1800s. New England is already visited by dengue fever, the flavivirus most closely related to Zika.

New England dengue fever cases

denguefevercasesnewengland2009
Source: Natural Resources Defense Council, 2009

The Aedes aegypti mosquito range extends into New England, including at least the western seacoasts of Connecticut. However, laboratory experiments show that mosquitos in the Culex genus can also carry Zika. They are common back-yard and house mosquitos throughout New England, with ranges extending well into Canada. During the last few decades, they have become vectors in the region for West Nile virus, and they may be vectors for dengue virus. Although the region is not likely to see Zika epidemics as widespread as those in the tropics, New England remains under threat.

– Craig Bolon, Brookline, MA, September 20, 2016


Roni Caryn Rabin, Zika test not easy to obtain, New York Times, September 20, 2016

Brendan O’Brien, Florida expands Zika zone in Miami Beach after five new cases, Reuters (UK), September 17, 2016

Lizette Alvarez, Pregnant women anxious as Florida’s Zika test results take weeks, New York Times, September 13, 2016

Chabeli Herrera, Nancy Dahlberg and Nicholas Nehamas, Zika takes bite out of Miami-Dade economy, Miami Herald, September 9, 2016

Maggie Fox, Zika funding fails again in Congress, NBC News, September 6, 2016

WHO expands Zika sexual transmission advice, Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, University of Minnesota, September 6, 2016

Wanwisa Dejnirattisai, et al., Dengue virus sero-cross-reactivity drives antibody-dependent enhancement of infection with Zika virus, Nature Immunology 17(9):1102-1108, September, 2016

Raj K. Singh, et al., Zika virus: emergence, evolution, pathology, diagnosis and control, Veterinary Quarterly 36(3):150-175, September, 2016

Rafael A. Larocca, et al., Vaccine protection against Zika virus from Brazil, Nature 536(7617):474–478, August 25, 2016

Luisa Barzon, et al., Infection dynamics in a traveler with persistent shedding of Zika virus, Eurosurveillance 21(32) online, August 11, 2016

Paulo Prada, Brazilian scientists find Zika traces in Culex mosquitoes in wild, Reuters (UK), July 21, 2016

Jesse J. Waggoner, et al., Single-reaction multiplex reverse transcription PCR for detection of Zika, chikungunya and dengue viruses, Emerging Infectious Diseases 22(7):1295-1297, July, 2016

Didier Mussoa and Duane J. Gublerb, Zika virus, Clinical Microbiology Reviews 29(3):487-524, July, 2016

Contrary dengue vaccine response hints at possible problems with Zika, Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, University of Minnesota, July, 2016

Amanda B. Keener, Zika and dengue immunity: a complex relationship, The Scientist (Canada), June 28, 2016

Ingrid B. Rabe, et al., Guidance for interpretation of Zika virus antibody test results, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, June 3, 2016

Charlotte J. Haug, et al., The Zika challenge, New England Journal of Medicine 374(19):1801-1803, May 12, 2016

Van-Mai Cao-Lormeau, et al., Guillain-Barré syndrome outbreak associated with Zika virus infection in French Polynesia, Lancet 387(10027):1531-1548, April 9, 2016

Estimated U.S. ranges of Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, April 1, 2016

Lauren M. Paul, et al., Dengue virus antibodies enhance Zika virus infection, Florida Gulf Coast University (not yet published), April, 2016

New CDC laboratory test for Zika virus authorized for emergency use by FDA, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, February 26, 2016

Jason Beaubien, Zika in French Polynesia, (U.S.) National Public Radio, February 9, 2016

Jon Cohen, Zika’s long, strange trip into the limelight, Science (online edition), February 8, 2016

Andrew D. Haddow, et al., Genetic characterization of Zika virus strains, Neglected Tropical Diseases 6(2) online, Public Library of Science, February, 2012

Mark R. Duffy, et al., Zika virus outbreak on Yap island, New England Journal of Medicine 360(24):2536-2543, June 11, 2009

Kim Knowlton, Gina Solomon and Miriam Rotkin-Ellman, Mosquito-borne dengue fever, Natural Resources Defense Council, 2009

Andrea Ryan and Melissa Lee Smith, Major American epidemics of yellow fever 1793-1905, (U.S.) Public Broadcasting Service, 2006

Laura B. Goddard, et al., Vector competence of California mosquitos for West Nile virus, Emerging Infectious Diseases 8(12):1385-1391, December, 2002

China’s influence on nuclear power

Over the next several years, China is likely to influence “third generation” nuclear power more than any other country. That is partly because China already is and will likely continue to be the largest market. It is also because China has the most active efforts at nuclear design, manufacturing and construction.

China’s nuclear fleet: Before 1994, no nuclear power operated in China. China never built “first generation” nuclear-power plants or any power plants with “boiling water” reactors. During 2016, 34 “second generation” nuclear-power units are or will be in full, normal operations at 11 power plants in China. Organizations primarily responsible for construction have been China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) of Beijing–5 plants and 15 units–and China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN) of Shenzhen–6 plants and 19 units.

Nuclear-power units operating in China during 2016

Click Here for a table of China’s nuclear power-plant units in full operation during 2016: plant and province, unit number, rated net MW, equipment type and source, year and month in full operation, builder organization.

Source: International Atomic Energy Agency, 2016

CNNC worked with several types and sources of equipment designs. CGN concentrated on a single type, first sourced from France. After building four units, CGN localized the type to China, with increased output, as the CPR-1000 design. That became the major nuclear-power design in China, built by CNNC as well as by CGN and representing 19 of the 34 units operating in 2016. The first CPR-1000 unit at Ling Ao in Guangdong province took 6-1/2 years to build. More recent CPR-1000 units have been completed in a little over 4 years, with about 90 percent of the value sourced from China.

Responses to disaster: After the Japanese nuclear catastrophe at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant in March, 2011, the government of China briefly halted nuclear plant and unit authorizations and began a review of China’s nuclear-power programs. A so-called “white paper” from October, 2012–officially a statement of “energy policy”–provided the following:

“Since the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear disaster in 2011, China has launched comprehensive safety inspections at all nuclear-power plants. The inspection results show that nuclear security is guaranteed in China…China’s installed capacity of nuclear power is expected to reach 40 GW by 2015.” [Information Office of the State Council, China’s Energy Policy 2012, as released in English October 24, 2012, pp. 12-13 of 25]

The capacity goal was silently ignored. China’s net rated nuclear generation capacity at the start of 2015 totaled only 20 GW–half the claimed goal. No clear public statement came from China’s government reflecting the nuclear safety review. There was little chance of a candid assessment amid a command economy and regimes long arrogant toward the people of China. Because disclosing information outside official channels is harshly punished, China’s regulation of its nuclear industry is far less effective than even United States regulation in 1974, before dissolving the former Atomic Energy Commission and starting the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Some changes began with retirement of Hu Jintao as general secretary in the fall of 2012 and succession of Xi Jinping. During the Hu regime, China promoted pell-mell industrial growth at the expense of infrastructure and environment. Energy production gorged on China’s coal and led to large coal imports. Motor vehicle traffic grew apace, combining exhaust fumes with coal smoke to produce intense storms of air pollution–sometimes worse than Pittsburgh in the 1940s but enormously larger.

Regime change: Near the start of the Xi regime, the Chinese government lifted the moratorium on nuclear authorizations and quickly moved to consolidate and spur activities of nuclear organizations. Owing to needs for large sources of capital, these are all effectively arms of government–regardless of charters. A modest growth in nuclear-power capacity became a surge. More than half the nuclear generation capacity at the end of 2016 will have begun normal operations within the latest three years.

Nuclear generation capacity in China by years

chinanuclearpower2003to2016
Source: International Atomic Energy Agency, 2016

A practical effect in China of the nuclear catastrophe in Japan was to accelerate “third generation” nuclear-power technology, in hopes it would deliver on claims of safety yet to be proven through operating experience. Plans for “second generation” units were cut back and new plans for “third generation” units pushed forward. China had already contracted to build four AP-1000 units at Sanmen and Haiyang, mostly designed at Westinghouse in the United States, and two EPR units at Taishan, mostly designed at Areva in France. China had licensed Rev. 15 of AP-1000 designs from Toshiba of Japan–omitting aircraft impact resistance and rejected for U.S. plants, which use Rev. 19 of AP-1000 designs. Chinese organizations apparently saw EPR technology as less promising and had not licensed it from Areva of France.

In a reversal of usual behaviors, typically more proactive CGN had taken responsibility for EPR technology, while CNNC took responsibility for AP-1000 technology. Nevertheless, CGN moved rapidly toward a Chinese localization of “third generation” nuclear-power technology using AP-1000 rather than EPR as a model. The overall approach appears to wrap protective AP-1000 “third generation” elements around CPR-1000 “second generation” designs–the latter adapted and promoted by CGN but also utilized by CNNC.

For a time, CNNC and CGN elaborated separate, competitive approaches to integrating AP-1000 “third generation” nuclear technologies into Chinese “second generation” designs. Both organizations had built locally sourced “second generation” nuclear units at multiple power plants. In early 2014, China’s government directed the two organizations to produce a single design. They soon began to refer to the object of the joint effort as the 华龙 Hualong (grand China dragon) design.

Disputes over still separate elements of plans were resolved by reviewers assembled by Hualong International Nuclear Power Technology Company, a 50-50 joint venture of CNNC and CGN begun in March, 2016. Bloomberg News reported in early August, 2016, that CNNC elements were chosen over those from CGN. The organization will seek overseas business. Its 1.09 GW nuclear-power design has been designated HPR-1000. Geographic regions were separated for CNNC versus CGN activity. CGN, now focused on Guangxi, Guangdong and parts of Fujian provinces, will pursue opportunities in Europe. CNNC will seek overseas business in South America.

CNNC asserts that the HPR-1000 “design concept and technologies…have been verified” by “natural science.” That sounds like an appeal to magic. By comparison with the United States and the European Union, regulatory review in China has been, at best, extremely hasty. News sourced from China shows foundations being built for the first HPR-1000 unit in May, 2015, before organizing joint management and more than a year before resolving design issues. In telling contrast, U.S. regulatory review for the AP-1000 design took from March, 2002–when the first complete design was submitted–through December, 2011. No construction occurred during that interval.

Developing technology: The HPR-1000 design is not a knockoff of the AP-1000 design, although it uses similar approaches and has nearly the same external ratings. Obvious differences include these five. (1) AP-1000 has a water reservoir for passive cooling on the roof of its containment building; HPR-1000 has a water reservoir inside its building. (2) AP-1000 has two “loops”–steam generators; HPR-1000 has three. (3) AP-1000 has four coolant pumps moving reactor water through its steam generators; HPR-1000 has three. (4) AP-1000 has a core with 157 fuel assemblies, each 264 rods that are 15.0 ft long; HPR-1000 has a core with 177 fuel assemblies, each 264 rods that are 12.7 ft long. (5) AP-1000 has a vessel with 13.3 ft diameter around the core; HPR-1000 has a vessel with 14.4 ft diameter around the core.

Nuclear “third generation” designs in China

Characteristic AP-1000 HPR-1000
rated net MWe 1110 1090
heat transfer 2-loop 3-loop
coolant pumps 4 3
fuel assemblies 157 177
rods per assembly 264 264
fuel rod length 15.0 ft 12.7 ft
vessel diameter 13.3 ft 14.4 ft
water reservoir on roof inside
passive survival 72 hr 72 hr
ground acceleration 0.3 g 0.3 g
seamless vessel on core yes yes
bottom cap solid solid
double containment yes yes
load following yes yes
refueling cycle 18 mo 18 mo
design life 60 yr 60 yr

Source: China National Nuclear Corporation, 2016

The HPR-1000 design leverages China’s infrastructure built around the CPR-1000 design, by far its most widely applied nuclear-power technologies. Chinese type AFA3G fuel assemblies have become its high-volume nuclear fuel, required by the CPR-1000 units. Type CF3 fuel rods for HPR-1000 assemblies are slightly (15.9 mm) shorter than type AFA3G rods for CPR-1000 assemblies and use a double-welding process. Dimensions of reactor vessels and steam generators nearly match, assuring that current manufacturers will be able to build them.

China’s nuclear industries remain plagued by lack of consistent standards for dimensioning, measuring, testing, inspection and qualification. Instead of adopting or developing a comprehensive set of standards, China continues to apply multiple standards copied from the countries that have been sources for equipment. Those include France, Russia, Canada, the United States, Japan and Spain. A document from China’s National Nuclear Safety Administration suggests that the French RCC-M code (Règles de Conception et de Construction des Matériels Mécaniques) may be the most common standard, because it was used for the CPR-1000 design. When foreign standards are revised–a frequent occurence–it is unlikely that the forest of Chinese copies can be kept synchronized. Over time, that can become a potential source of equipment failures.

According to CNNC in 2015, longstanding Chinese official policy of a “closed nuclear fuel cycle” remains unchanged. A presentation at a meeting in Sao Paulo, Brazil stated, “China has been adopting the closed nuclear fuel cycle, i.e., the spent fuel shall be reprocessed to recycled uranium, plutonium and other elements to enhance the fuel utilization.” [text in English, figure legends in Chinese] However, locations in the general area of a reprocessing facility proposed near Jiayuguan in Gansu, near a military outpost since the 1950s, currently provide only storage, despite a claim by CNNC about plans for “big commercial reprocessing.”

Energy context: During 2015, China’s nuclear-power fleet produced about three percent of China’s net electricity. So far, growth in nuclear electricity is far outpaced by growth in coal-fired electricity. Between 2014 and 2015, a rated 6 GW of nuclear capacity was added, while a rated 72 GW in coal-fired capacity was added. At recent rates of change, China might never achieve the current world average of about 11 percent nuclear electricity.

Quoting from China’s National Bureau of Statistics, Energy Post–produced in the Netherlands–finds that renewable electricity has been growing faster. Between 2014 and 2015, China reported adding about 33 GW, peak in wind capacity and adding about 18 GW, peak in solar capacity. Discounted by typical capacity factors of 90 percent for nuclear, 25 percent for wind and 12 percent for solar, China reported adding about 5.4 GW in average nuclear capacity and about 10.3 GW in average renewable capacity. There has been no information on China’s internal energy development costs that is generally regarded as reliable.

– Craig Bolon, Brookline, MA, September 9, 2016


Nuclear power-plants in China, International Atomic Energy Agency (Vienna), September, 2016

Nuclear power in China, World Nuclear Association (London), August, 2016

Tom Holland, Why Britain’s Hinkley nuclear reactor is a horror show, South China Morning Post, August 29, 2016

Edward Wong, Coal burning causes the most air pollution deaths in China, New York Times, August 18, 2016

Chris Buckley, Chinese city backs down on proposed nuclear fuel plant after protests, New York Times, August 11, 2016

Aibing Guo, CNNC says its plan to merge ‘Hualong One’ reactor designs favored, Bloomberg News, August 3, 2016

David Dalton, China nuclear companies form joint venture to export ‘Hualong One’ reactor, NucNet Newsletter (Brussels), March 17, 2016

‘Hualong One’ joint venture officially launched by China, World Nuclear News (UK), March 17, 2016

China’s electricity mix, Energy Post (Netherlands), March 1, 2016

China to build more ‘Hualong One’ reactors, Nuclear Engineering International (UK), February 25, 2016

Nuclear fuel industry in China, China National Nuclear Corporation (Beijing, in English), October, 2015

Chinese reprocessing plant to start up in 2030, World Nuclear News (UK), September 24, 2015

Haiyang Wang, China’s nuclear power development and ‘Hualong One’ (HPR-1000) pressurized water reactor technology, China National Nuclear Corporation (Beijing, in English), September, 2015

Emma Graham-Harrison, China warned over plans for new nuclear power plants, Manchester Guardian (UK), May 25, 2015

Fuqing-5 foundation in place, World Nuclear News (UK), May 12, 2015

Tang Bo, Use of mechanical code and standard in Chinese nuclear-power plants, National Nuclear Safety Administration (Beijing, in English), c. 2015

Ian Hore-Lacy, China’s new nuclear baby, World Nuclear News (UK), September 2, 2014

Caroline Peachey, Chinese reactor design evolution, Nuclear Engineering International (UK), May 22, 2014

Jane Nakano, The United States and China: making nuclear energy safer, Thornton China Center, Brookings Institution (Washington, DC), February 6, 2014

Matthew L. Wald, Approval of reactor design clears path for new plants, New York Times, December 23, 2011

Craig Bolon, Third-generation nuclear power: uncertain progress, Brookline Beacon, September 6, 2016

Craig Bolon, Nuclear power-plants at risk from hidden defects, Brookline Beacon, September 3, 2016

Craig Bolon, Will New England revive nuclear power?, Brookline Beacon, August 10, 2016

Third-generation nuclear power: uncertain progress

The AP-1000 nuclear power-plant design from the U.S. Westinghouse division of Toshiba in Japan may become the major and perhaps sole survivor of competition in “third generation” nuclear. Eight units are currently under construction in the United States and China. The European Pressurized Reactor (EPR) from Areva of France has four units under construction in Finland, France and China. However, it is currently on life-support, owing to design and testing scandals and to major manufacturing defects.

“Third generation” nuclear from Rosatom in Russia, Kepco in South Korea and Hitachi in Japan gained little traction outside countries of origin. No plants are under construction, and no financing has been announced for deals reported with governments in Egypt, Abu Dhabi, Poland and India. A former barrier to manufacturing–as of 2009 only one plant, located in Japan, able to produce critical components–has been overcome by large, new steel forging facilities in several countries, including China, Korea, India and the United States.

There are other claimants to “third generation” technology–not credited by international business. In Japan, Hitachi completed four ABWR units in the 1990s. All remain idle in the aftermath of the March, 2011, nuclear catastrophe at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant. Using French technology, China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN) in Guangdong province developed the CPR-1000 design. Like the Hitachi ABWR, it produces a slightly improved “second generation” nuclear power-plant. More recently, possibly using technology from the AP-1000, CGN announced another cheapened design called ACC1000 at first and more recently 华龙一 Hualong One, couched in Chlingish, or HPR-1000. A prototype has been announced for the Fuqing plant in Fujian province, which currently has two CPR-1000 units.

Schedules and costs: There are currently four AP-1000 nuclear units under construction in the United States, using the Rev. 19 design–providing aircraft impact resistance–approved in 2011 by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. There are four units under construction in China using the Rev. 15 design, documented in 2006 by the U.S. but lacking aircraft impact resistance. A nationalized company in China licensed the Rev. 15 design and announced plans to build 10 or more additional units. Rev. 19 of the AP-1000 received “interim” approval by the UK in 2011. Currently, UK officials remain conflicted about whether to build EPR units. The Office for Nuclear Regulation has registered slow movement toward final AP-1000 approval.

An AP-1000 unit in Sanmen, China looks likely to become the first “third generation” nuclear unit to operate. Chinese industry got a head start by adopting the Rev. 15 design, rejected for U.S. plants. However, all AP-1000 projects world-wide are around three years behind schedule. The worst delays were caused by test failures of coolant pumps built by Curtis-Wright of Cheswick, PA. Those were controversial elements, based on technology developed for U.S. nuclear-powered submarines. Each AP-1000 unit has four of the pumps, using an innovative, sealed design unproven in industrial applications. After delivery delays of up to about two years, revised pumps have been installed at four of the eight AP-1000 units currently under construction. The revised pump designs are apparently not part of the Rev. 15 technology licensed to Chinese industry.

Fully burdened costs of AP-1000 units in the U.S. were recently reported more than $7 a watt, nearly a factor of two cost overrun. Full cost of the EPR unit at Flamanville, France is also reported at over $7 a watt–and still growing. Both European EPR projects are around ten years behind schedule, with cost overruns at least a factor of three. Schedules for the two EPR units in Taishan, China leaped ahead of the two in Europe, under a less demanding regime of regulation. However, schedules for all EPR projects are now in question from recent threats of catastrophic failure, owing to major manufacturing defects that remain under review in Europe.

Safety concerns: Safety concerns are always relative. Fatalities in automobile crashes per miles of vehicle travel probably peaked in the United States during 1900 through 1920, years before the U.S. government compiled records. Since 24.1 deaths per 100 million vehicle-miles for 1921, official tallies fell almost continuously to a low of 1.08 for 2014. For decades, however, the lures of automobile travel distracted U.S. attention from the dangers, while enthusiasm surged.

Lures of nuclear power in China and several other countries will more likely be weighed against hazards of alternatives rather than against hazards of nuclear power-plants. Hazards in those countries are dominated by large-scale burning of coal. Chinese steel, smelting and cement plants have been expanding rapidly, most of them burning coal. Over the past ten years, China added more than 800 coal-fired power units averaging 600 MW capacity. Academic research published in the summer of 2015 attributed more than a million and a half deaths per year in China to air pollution.

– Craig Bolon, Brookline, MA, September 6, 2016


First two AP1000s move closer to commissioning in China, World Nuclear News (UK), May 26, 2016

Scott Judy, U.S. contractor shake-up stirs nuclear project’s acceleration, Engineering News Record (Troy, MI), March 31, 2016

‘Hualong One’ joint venture officially launched by China, World Nuclear News (UK), March 17, 2016

Heavy manufacturing of power plants, World Nuclear Association (UK), 2016

Fatality analysis reporting system, U.S. National Highway Safety Administration, 2016

Jim Green, EPR fiasco unraveling in France and the UK, Nuclear Monitor (WISE International, Amsterdam), October 15, 2015

Rod Adams, Reactor coolant pumps for AP-1000 still a problem, Atomic Insights (Crystal City, VA), August 29, 2015

Dan Levin, Study links polluted air in China to 1.6 million deaths a year, New York Times, August 14, 2015

As U.S. shutters coal plants, China and Japan are building them, Institute for Energy Research (Washington, DC), April 23, 2015

UK assessment of AP-1000 design advances, World Nuclear News (UK), March 12, 2015

Robert Ladefian, The world’s largest canned motor pump, Nuclear Engineering International (UK), January 1, 2013

AP-1000 overview (Westinghouse), International Atomic Energy Agency (Vienna), 2011

Sven Baumgarten, Bernhard Brecht, Uwe Bruhns and Pete Fehring, Reactor coolant pump type RUV for Westinghouse reactor AP-1000, American Nuclear Society, Paper 10339, Proceedings of the International Congress on Advances in Nuclear Power Plants, June 13-17, 2010

Stephen V. Mladineo and Charles D. Ferguson, On the Westinghouse AP-1000 sale to China and its possible military implications, Nonproliferation Policy Education Center (Arlington, VA), March 29, 2008

Craig Bolon, Nuclear power-plants at risk from hidden defects, Brookline Beacon, September 3, 2016

Will New England revive nuclear power?

Many New England people became enthusiasts for nuclear power after World War II. Nuclear research reactors, nuclear equipment and service firms and one small nuclear power-plant emerged. Yankee Rowe, located in the Berkshire foothills of Massachusetts–the second commercial plant in the U.S.–closed in 1992. As of 2007 it had been disassembled and taken away, its buildings had been razed and the grounds had been cleared.

Yankee Rowe site in 1986 and 2006

YankeeRoweSite2006
Source: Vermont Public Service Board

All that is left now at the former Yankee Rowe site are 16 steel and concrete casks, weighing more than 100 tons each and guarded at all times, holding spent but highly radioactive nuclear fuel. One small research reactor remains–at M.I.T. in Cambridge, just southwest of Massachusetts Ave. between Vassar and Albany Sts. beside historic tracks of the former Grand Junction Railroad, now operated by the MBTA. Little known to the public, the M.I.T. reactor long ran on weapons-grade enriched uranium. Students and staff called the former Warner Calvary’s, next to the service entrance, the “nuclear diner”–zapped while you ate, no extra charge.

M.I.T. nuclear reactor, Cambridge, MA

Looking southeast toward Metropolitan Storage

MitResearchReactor2012
Source: Cambridge City Council, 2012

Nuclear eclipse: With closure of Vermont Yankee in Vernon, at the end of 2014, New England was left with four operating nuclear-power units. One of those four, the unit at the Pilgrim plant in Plymouth, MA, is now scheduled to close on May 31, 2019.

New England nuclear-power units

167 MW Yankee Rowe Rowe, MA opened 1963 closed 1992
641 MW Millstone 1 Waterford, CT opened 1970 closed 1985
860 MW Maine Yankee Wiscasset, ME opened 1972 closed 1996
620 MW Vermont Yankee Vernon, VT opened 1972 closed 2014
680 MW Pilgrim Plymouth, MA opened 1972 to close 2019
1130 MW Seabrook 2 Portsmouth, NH begun 1976 abandoned 1988
882 MW Millstone 2 Waterford, CT opened 1975
1155 MW Millstone 3 Waterford, CT opened 1986
1194 MW Seabrook 1 Portsmouth, NH opened 1990

Source: U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

From peak nuclear generating capacity of 5.6 GW in mid-1991, New England will be left with 3.2 GW in mid-2019, a decrease of 42 percent over 28 years–with six of nine commercial nuclear-power units out-of-service. (Unit 2 at Seabrook was abandoned during construction and never operated.) Little of those losses can be made up from wind or solar sources, since they will stop when the wind stops blowing or the sun stops shining. Instead, the deficits are mostly being filled from newer combined-cycle power-plants fired by natural gas. The latest one, being built by Footprint Power at the site of the former coal-fired Salem Station, has about the capacity of the Pilgrim nuclear plant, soon to close.

Survivors: Although not well known to most of the public, after mid-2019 New England will no longer have any operating nuclear units with relatively hazardous Mark 1 “boiling water” containment designs–like those that exploded in March, 2011, at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant in Japan. Vermont Yankee and Pilgrim plants used those designs. The three nuclear units to remain in New England used “pressurized water” designs, with more stable characteristics. Unit 2 at Millstone, with two secondary loops, will then become the region’s least stable. It was developed by Combustion Engineering–a high flyer of the 1960s that built 15 of the 119 completed U.S. utility-scale nuclear-power units, wound down operations during the 1980s and was sold in 1990.

Millstone Unit 3 and Seabrook Unit 1 both use Westinghouse 4-loop “pressurized water” designs. They were both completed after the major upgrades to safety requirements that followed the Three Mile island nuclear meltdown in 1979, under supervision of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Three Mile island has “pressurized water” units designed by Babcock & Wilcox, with only two secondary loops. Nevertheless, margins of stability were enough that the meltdown of Unit 2 was almost entirely contained. In contrast, Mark 1 “boiling water” containment designs had been strongly criticized during the 1960s for inadequate margins, but an industry-dominated Atomic Energy Commission, which was disbanded in 1975, had failed to intervene.

Survival of current nuclear power-plants is hardly guaranteed. Heat exchangers, which industry calls “steam generator loops,” are major sources of added stability for “pressurized water” designs. They are also among the worst sources of failures. The reason that Maine Yankee was shut down after only 24 years service was impending failures of those devices. More recently, operators of the San Onofre plant in California squandered nearly a billion dollars on steam-generator replacements–botching the jobs, getting only about another year of service and starting disputes and chicanery after the San Onofre shutdown that could take a decade to resolve.

New thinking: In the late 1990s, manufacturers of nuclear-power equipment, encouraged by academics at M.I.T. and other schools of engineering, began to work up plans for a so-called “third generation” of nuclear power-plants. It was, perhaps timely, an era of “millennial thinking.” The initial goals, in the aftermath of the Three Mile Island meltdown and the Chernobyl disaster, were to make nuclear power far safer. Rather soon, however, came notions that nuclear power-plants might also be much cheaper than they had been for some 20 years. The two concerns reflected widely perceived problems of the industry.

In 1954, Lewis Strauss, then chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, spoke at the National Association of Science Writers annual meeting, saying nuclear power would become “too cheap to meter.” He was soon countered by industry spokespersons, but the phrase stuck in memory, and notions that nuclear power should be low in cost became widespread expectations. If such notions ever had merit, they were demolished by long delays and steep cost increases to meet U.S. safety requirements added after the Three Mile Island meltdown. During the 1980s, the Vogtle plant in Georgia became a poster child for schedule and budget overruns. Its two units came on line in 1987 and 1989, more than 10 years late and at over 25 times the cost budgeted in 1971.

Alvin Weinberg, a former director of Oak Ridge National Laboratory–who had enthusiastically endorsed the “too cheap to meter” claim of the 1950s–re-emerged years later to make a claim for everlasting equipment. “If nuclear reactors receive normal maintenance,” he wrote, “they will never wear out, and this will profoundly affect the economic performance of the reactors.” Dr. Weinberg was not an engineer; he had never worked in industry. Still, trained as a physicist, he should have known better. He dismissed out-of-hand embrittlement and build-up of radioactivity, and he likely did not even think about structures and control systems. Such a cavalier approach reflected “millennial thinking” that remained common in public views for about a decade.

Rubber meets road, gives way: The U.S. economic recovery from 2002 through 2007 began to stimulate utility interest. During the Walker Bush administration, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission proposed a one-step process for utilities, to expedite approval of nuclear plants using standard designs. Four contenders vied for design approval: Westinghouse Nuclear, by then a division of Toshiba in Japan, General Electric Nuclear, by then a division of Hitachi in Japan, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries of Japan and Areva, the French nuclear conglomerate. No application came from Rosatom in Russia or Kepco in Korea, despite both announcing plans. Toward the end of 2007, Nuclear Street, a trade publication, reported 34 letters of intent to build new U.S. nuclear-power units. Of the 28 naming a design, 14 proposed to use the AP-1000 from Westinghouse.

By the late 1990s, academics and consultants were enjoying great sport as market speculators, projecting ever lower costs based on supposed economies of scale. In order to exhibit the lowest possible amounts, they touted so-called “overnight” costs–omitting interest, infrastructure, land and site preparation. “Overnight” estimates ranged as low as about $1 a watt, although some plants from the 1980s had cost around $4 a watt, before factoring inflation. After glory days of a so-called “nuclear renaissance”–around 1997 through 2007–both everyday and episodic factors intervened. The rubber was to meet the road when the equipment builders proposed prices and their potential utility customers had to figure out whether they could afford the tabs.

Starting in 2008, along with a sharp recession, the tabs came in high: at least $4 a watt, maybe more. The outgoing Walker Bush administration assembled $18.5 billion in a loan-guarantee program, likely supporting less than 5 GW of capacity and perhaps four nuclear-power units. Soon the incoming Obama administration faced huge economic stress to reverse the Walker Bush recession, the worst downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s. It was eager to identify fast-growth opportunities, and it offered nothing more toward slow-growth nuclear power. Then came the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe in March, 2011, and financial losses threatened by the January, 2012, shutdowns of both San Onofre units near San Diego. Those episodes capped off a would-be “nuclear renaissance.” U.S. support for investments in nuclear power collapsed.

Active applications to build third-generation nuclear-power units in the U.S. dropped rapidly. In states with deregulated electricity markets, none survive. Utilities operating as unregulated merchant power generators proved unwilling to accept financial risks at prices being proposed–with or without loan guarantees. Only utilities continuing to function as government-backed monopolies maintained interest. Of 34 proposed new nuclear-power units, as named in 2007, only four units are now active–all using the Westinghouse AP-1000 design. Two are under construction at the Summer plant in South Carolina, and two are at the Vogtle plant in Georgia–the 1980s poster child for cost overruns. These projects took the federal loan guarantees, emptying the pot.

Propping up survivors: Odd as it might sound, Andrew Cuomo (D, New Castle), the New York governor opposed to the Indian Point nuclear power-plant in Buchanan, NY, has arranged subsidies funded by electricity customers to prop up four other nuclear-power units in the state. Estimated only a few months ago at perhaps $200 million over about ten years, the subsidies are now widely reported as likely to cost $8 billion or more. Within days Exelon, which already owned three of the units, announced a plan to buy the fourth from Entergy. Exelon is able to economize by sharing personnel, now the main expense of running nuclear plants fully depreciated years ago.

Operating New York nuclear-power units

610 MW Ginna Ontario, NY opened 1970
838 MW FitzPatrick Scriba, NY opened 1975
621 MW 9-Mile Point 1 Scriba, NY opened 1974
1140 MW 9-Mile Point 2 Scriba, NY opened 1987
1032 MW Indian Point 2 Buchanan, NY opened 1974
1051 MW Indian Point 3 Buchanan, NY opened 1976

Source: U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

FitzPatrick and 9-Mile Point 1 used the Mark 1 “boiling water” containment design, the same as Vermont Yankee, Pilgrim and the wrecked Fukushima Dai-ichi units in Japan. If the two plants in New England deserved to be shuttered, then so do FitzPatrick and 9-Mile Point 1. However, unlike the many, longstanding critics of nuclear power in southern Vermont and eastern Massachusetts, in upstate New York very few people are demanding action on hazards their region faces. There are no signs that the Cuomo administration has genuine concerns about such hazards either, aside from personally and politically motivated attention to the Indian Point plant, located less than 15 miles from the governor’s home.

News from New York government sources has been the usual, opaque OCA blarney–officials covering arses–but obviously money spoke. A tiny fraction of $8 billion could fund a huge legacy of political campaigns. However, despite long entrenched corruption, Illinois governments rebuffed Exelon solicitations this year. Mr. Cuomo invoked environmental saviors to buttress his cause–notably James Hansen, a Columbia professor. Joined by three less well known partners, Dr. Hansen occupied a New York Times pulpit in November, 2013, to present a prayer for nuclear power. It was, the four then claimed, “the only viable path forward on climate change.”

Others disagreed. As the late Michael Mariotte of Nuclear Information and Research Service wrote, “No environmental organization took the bait. Instead, NRDC, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and Sierra Club decry nuclear power….” According to Morningstar, in an investment newsletter issued a week after the Hansen prayer, “Enormous costs, political and popular opposition, and regulatory uncertainty” render new reactors infeasible [as recounted in Forbes]. Low costs for nuclear power occurred only before nuclear disasters of the 1970s and 1980s, leading to stringent and costly safety regulations, and under repressive oligarchies, ignoring lessons from the disasters. Outside command economies of Russia, China and South Korea, only two of several “third generation” nuclear designs are being implemented: the AP-1000 in the U.S. and the EPR in Europe.

Practical developments: The European [or "evolutionary"] pressurized reactor (EPR), designed by Areva in France, took a partly conventional approach to reliability: increasing steam generator “loops” for a “pressurized water” reactor to four instead of two or three. That was adapted from a proven design: the Westinghouse 4-loop “pressurized water” units built in the U.S. during the 1980s. The EPR specifications have been disrupted by several surges of changes, leaving the first unit in Olkiluoto, Finland, more than ten years late, with at least a factor of three in cost overrun. Last year, the government of Finland cancelled another EPR unit, but the former Cameron and Osborne regime in Britain signed up for two EPR units at Hinkley Point in Somerset, on the Bristol Channel. Recently the successor British regime, headed by Theresa May, put those plans on hold, questioning Chinese involvement in the project.

The AP-1000, designed by Westinghouse in the U.S. and by Toshiba in Japan, mainly took a structural approach to reliability: providing a very large volume of passive cooling to manage a thermal spike. While the EPR design tends to increase complexity, working against reliability, the AP-1000 design tends to reduce complexity, at least in some respects. Four units are under construction in the U.S. as noted before, and four are being built in China at Sanmen and Haiyang. China has also licensed the technology, and it has developed a much-cheapened system, the CPR-1000, omitting most of the major improvements in safety and reliability. AP-1000 units in China use a cheapened design of that type, omitting protection against aircraft impacts required in the U.S.

All AP-1000 projects are running years behind schedules. Those in the U.S. suffer from major cost overruns, but there is no reliable information from China, since anyone providing it would probably be jailed or killed. Last year Chicago Bridge & Iron, one major contractor for the U.S. projects, sold out to Westinghouse, the other major contractor, creating an effective U.S. monopoly in nuclear power-plant construction. U.S. utility sponsors are protected by CWIP regulations–construction work in progress–enacted by politically captive state governments in Georgia and South Carolina and allowing the utilities to charge customers increased rates before the plants are operating.

New England opportunities: So far, there are few signs that New England will respond to what parts of the nuclear-power industry might cast as opportunities. New England nuclear generation capacity has been falling for about a quarter century. Once Pilgrim in Plymouth, MA, closes in 2019, only New Hampshire and Connecticut will have nuclear power-plants operating. No utility is likely to propose any new nuclear facility for the region until the “third generation” units under construction in Georgia and South Carolina have been operating for quite a few years and unless their safety and economic performance has lived up to claims.

Dominion Power, the operator of Millstone in Waterford, CT, since 2000, tried to put a squeeze on Connecticut government, similar to what Exelon has pulled off in New York. They frightened the state senate into passing a subsidy bill in April, 2016, but after that their momentum stalled. Dannel Malloy (D, Stamford), the state’s governor, could prove as susceptible as Andrew Cuomo became in New York. Last March, Malloy reportedly met privately with Dominion lobbyists and executives. Typical shell-game tactics are showing up. One news report quotes a state senator, Paul Doyle (D, Wethersfield), saying, “It’s not a subsidy.” Maybe, but it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck….

– Craig Bolon, Brookline, MA, August 10, 2016


Karen DeWitt, Nuclear part of New York’s energy future, WRVO (Oswego, NY), August 10, 2016

Leonard Hyman and William Tilles, New York nuclear plants deemed a ‘public necessity’, Oil Price (London, UK), August 6, 2016

Tim Knauss, New York board approves ratepayer subsidy to save upstate nukes, Syracuse (NY) Post-Standard, August 1, 2016

Kate Holton and William James, UK’s May worried by China investment, intervened to delay Hinkley, Reuters (UK), July 30, 2016

Vivian Yee, Nuclear subsidies are key part of New York’s clean-energy plan, New York Times, July 21, 2016

John O’Connor, Exelon to close two nuclear plants in Illinois, still seeking subsidies, Associated Press, June 2, 2016

Michael Steinberg, Nuclear shutdown ripped off California ratepayers, San Diego Free Press, June 2, 2016

Walter C. Jones, Who will pay for Vogtle construction costs?, Augusta (GA) Chronicle, May 1, 2016

Mark Pazniokas, Connecticut senate passes bill to stabilize revenues in nuclear industry, Connecticut Mirror (Hartford, CT), April 30, 2016

Carol Matlack, French plans for a nuclear plant begin to look like a bad deal for Britain, Bloomberg News, April 29, 2016

David Abel and John R. Ellement, Closing date set for Pilgrim nuclear power plant, Boston Globe, April 14, 2016

Steve Daniels, Exelon’s Crane beats the drum again for nuke subsidies, Chicago Business, February 3, 2016

Jeff McDonald, It’s not just the steam generators that failed, San Diego Tribune, January 30, 2016

Linda A. DeStefano, Oswego County leaders short-sighted in backing nuclear energy, Syracuse (NY) Post-Standard, December 23, 2015

Aaron Larson, CB&I out, Fluor in at Vogtle and V.C. Summer nuclear power plant construction projects, Power Magazine, October 28, 2015

John Lichfield, UK nuclear strategy faces meltdown as faults are found in identical French project, Independent (London, UK), April 17, 2015

List of power reactor units, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, 2015

Jack Newsham, Vermont Yankee nuclear plant shutdown complete, Boston Globe, December 29, 2014

Rinaldo Brutoco, Nuclear power: totally unqualified to combat climate change, Safe Energy Project (Santa Barbara, CA), September 14, 2014

Jusen Asa, et al., Nuclear power is not the answer to climate change mitigation, Tohoku University (Japan), January 31, 2014

Michael Mariotte, Letter by Hansen et al. misses the mark on nuclear power and renewables, Nuclear Information and Research Service, November, 2013

Jeff McMahon, Morningstar calls nuclear renaissance fiction and fantasy, Forbes, November 10, 2013

Andrew C. Revkin, James Hansen, et al., To those influencing environmental policy but opposed to nuclear power, New York Times, November 3, 2013

Michael R. Blood, Associated Press, Federal regulators say design led to nuclear plant problems, Boston Globe, June 18, 2012

John S. Quarterman, Original Plant Vogtle cost overruns, Lowndes Area Knowledge Exchange (Valdosta, GA), 2012

David E. Moncton, MIT Nuclear Reactor Laboratory, Cambridge (MA) City Council, 2012

Fred Contrada, Casks holding spent fuel assemblies all that’s left of Yankee Rowe, Springfield (MA) Republican, April 17, 2011

Yuri Kageyama, Associated Press, History of bungles and cover-ups in Japan’s nuclear industry, Sydney Morning Herald (Australia), March 17, 2011

Nuclear Reactor Characteristics and Operational History, Nuclear Reactor Operational Status Tables, U.S. Energy Information Administration, 2011

Adriaan Buijs, Too cheap to meter?, Canadian Nuclear Society, 2009

Loan guarantee applications for nuclear power plant construction, U.S. Department of Energy, 2008

David Schlissel and Bruce Biewald, Nuclear power plant construction cost, Synapse Energy Economics, 2008

Proposed new nuclear power plants, Nuclear Street, 2007

Tyson Slocum, The failure of electricity deregulation, Public Citizen, 2007

Yankee Rowe site closure plan, Rev. 4, Vermont Public Service Board, 2006

Alvin M. Weinberg, New life for nuclear power, Issues in Science and Technology 19(4), online, Summer 2003

John Deutch, Ernest J. Moniz, et al., The future of nuclear power, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2003

Brandon Haddock, Morris News Service, Nuclear power plant not drawing same attention as before, Athens (GA) Banner-Herald, May 18, 1999

Igor Kudrik, Russian nuclear power for the next century (in English), Bellona Foundation (Norway), 1998

Jim Riccio and Michael Grynberg, NRC’s efforts to renew nuclear reactor licenses, Public Citizen, 1995

Dan Adams, Conversion of MIT reactor to safer fuel pushed to 2027, Boston Globe, September 2, 2016

Craig Bolon, Losing steam: U.S. nuclear power-plants, Brookline Beacon, September 27, 2015

Craig Bolon, U.S. energy for 2014: a year of gradual progress, Brookline Beacon, March 10, 2015

Craig Bolon, New England energy: wobbly progress, Brookline Beacon, January 12, 2015

Opioid overdose deaths: Brookline reporting low hazards

Opioid overdose deaths, caused by both prescription painkillers and illegal narcotics, have grown rapidly in the past few years. According to recent articles in the Boston Globe, the problem is particularly severe in New England, including Massachusetts. However, community burdens are grossly unequal.

A recent Globe article indicated that some small towns, including Aquinnah on Martha’s Vineyard, have major problems. However, the Globe lacks math skills. Its reporters and editors failed to consider whether data they presented had statistical significance. For Aquinnah, numbers of events were so small that there was little significance. Lack of significance occurred with 254 of the 351 Massachusetts cities and towns.

Rates of opioid overdose deaths varied greatly among the 97 communities for which data had strong statistical significance. For the four years of data now available, calendar 2012 through 2015, the statewide average was 162 deaths per year per million residents. Communities can be compared by the differences between their opioid overdose death rates and the state average. Expressing those differences in units of confidence intervals gives a statistically weighted picture when comparing communities.

Considered that way, the three least hazardous communities were Brookline, Needham and Wellesley:

Community 4-year rate 95%-confidence interval difference, in intervals
Brookline 17 17.0 -8.5
Needham 9 26.0 -5.9
Wellesley 9 26.8 -5.7

From 2012 through 2015, Brookline experienced a rate of 17 opioid overdose deaths per year per million residents–from a total of 4 events. Statistics gave 17.0 as a 95%-confidence interval for its rate. The Brookline rate was 8.5 confidence intervals lower than the state average: a very significant difference.

At the other end of the scale, the three most hazardous communities were Lynn, Quincy and New Bedford:

Community 4-year rate 95%-confidence interval difference, in intervals
Lynn 357 62.9 +3.1
Quincy 333 60.1 +2.9
New Bedford 329 58.8 +2.8

From 2012 through 2015, Lynn experienced a rate of 357 opioid overdose deaths per year per million residents–from a total of 125 events. Statistics gave 62.9 as a 95%-confidence interval for its rate. The Lynn rate was 3.1 confidence intervals higher than the state average: a very significant difference.

Massachusetts opioid overdose deaths concentrated in 17 high-hazard communities: Lynn, Quincy, New Bedford, Fall River, Worcester, Lowell, Haverhill, Brockton, Everett, Revere, Weymouth, Pittsfield, Taunton, Malden, Wareham, Stoughton and Carver. With 18 percent of the state population, they experienced 33 percent of the events.

– Craig Bolon, Brookline, MA, May 4, 2016


Lenny Bernstein, Deaths from opioid overdoses set a record in 2014, Washington Post, December 11, 2015

Matt Rocheleau, Opioid overdose deaths by Massachusetts town from 2012 to 2015, Boston Globe, May 3, 2016

Opioid overdose deaths in Massachusetts communities, 2012-2015, Brookline Beacon, May 4, 2016

Software magic: epic bungling of healthcare.gov

In October, 2013, New York Times reporters Robert Pear, Sharon LaFraniere and Ian Austen first reported gross conflicts and disorganization among contractors developing the major U.S. health-care Web site, healthcare.gov, and their supervisors who were federal government employees. While the Times described problems soon after a crisis became public, its reporters did not explain how the problems developed.

Three weeks later, Washington Post reporters Amy Goldstein and Juliet Eilperin traced them to blunders committed by lawyers who were serving as government officials but had no significant operations backgrounds, technical competence or business experience–their authority underwritten directly by Pres. Obama.

Protracted failures of the U.S. healthcare.gov Web site became a classic case of the “software runaway,” memorialized about 20 years ago in the like-named book by Robert L. Glass. Recently, the inspector general for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provided a legal-eye view of this epic disaster.

Within the industry, a disease had been recognized by the late 1960s, with crashes of early airline reservation systems as the major, public danger signs. After a few years, remedies were known, and software professionals were addressing issues when clients and employers allowed them the time and responsibility to do that. The Software Engineering Institute at Carnegie-Mellon University gradually created a new profession: “software architect.”

However, the lure of “coding” as a source of instant magic remained amazingly seductive and has continued to undermine efforts. Project failures remain common, although few become as dramatic as the one that almost capsized the federal Affordable Health Care program. The root causes are usually the same: muddlers in charge of projects–lacking strong skills and strong character. Muddlers can be pleasant to work with and are often successful in some roles. Developing new software is not one of those, nor is designing a new bridge.

Assigning blame: As Daniel Levinson, inspector general for Health and Human Services, wrote, core elements in the recent disaster were:
Poor leadership: “HealthCare.gov lacked clear project leadership to give direction and unity of purpose, responsiveness in execution and a comprehensive view of progress.”
Poor management: “[The office] mismanaged the key…development contract, with frequent changes, problematic technological decisions and limited oversight of contractor performance.”

The software, coordinating transactions between millions of users and hundreds of back-office systems, would have been a nightmare on a sunny day. As usual, the foul-ups began at the beginning: writing requirements. The approach in nearly all durable efforts has been to start modestly and build out in steps. Disregarding readily found advice, spun from a long history of painful failures, government nitwits bought into the aptly named “big bang” approach: launch everything–all at once–and make it slick and shiny, and thus very complicated.

Chief Muddler at Health and Human Services was Marilyn Tavenner, the former administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services–not a “dear, sweet woman” but by training a nurse and street-wise organizer. Trying to direct technology, she was out of her depth. She lacked the sense to find and hire someone who could do the job.

While manufacturing a disaster, she had plenty of help from White House nitwits. They had only dreams of sharing limelight in a splendid performance. They had no industry backgrounds and no role in making anything actually work. Up against those would-be luminaries, Ms. Tavenner lacked the character to say “No,” and she lacked the skills to see she was merely rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

Remedies and wreckers: Mr. Levinson, the inspector general, seems to think remedies are obvious. He calls for “clear leadership.” However, his approach of “project leaders” would not help when designated leaders were also nitwits or muddlers. He is on sounder ground seeking “factors of organizational culture” that might help. However, as a career bureaucrat and a lawyer, Mr. Levinson does not seem to understand just what those factors might be or how to get them.

No major news source has yet described how a senior Administration official behind the blunders, Nancy-Ann Min DeParle–former director of the Office of Health Reform at the White House and from 2011 to 2013 Pres. Obama’s deputy chief of staff for policy–was allowed to quit the government before the health-care reform program began operating.

An ambitious person, regarded as a health-care policy expert, Ms. DeParle had served in prominent positions in the federal government and the state government of Tennessee, where she spent much of her youth and graduated from college. Her most obvious blunder, failing to set and then freeze program requirements, allowed a stream of changes ordered when efforts were already gravely behind schedule.

By failing to name key perpetrators in the healthcare.gov collapse and failing to state plainly what they did wrong, Mr. Levinson, the inspector general, emulates ancient Tibetan lamas. He is spinning prayer-wheels. His report will be shelved and forgotten, as federal government lurches toward its next appointment with disaster.

– Craig Bolon, Brookline, MA, February 23, 2016


Daniel R. Levinson, U.S. HHS inspector general, CMMS management of the federal marketplace: case study, February, 2016

Amy Goldstein, HHS failed to heed many warnings that HealthCare.gov was in trouble, Washington Post, February 22, 2016

Robert Pear, Sharon LaFraniere and Ian Austen, From the start, signs of trouble in federal project, New York Times, October 13, 2013

Sharon LaFraniere, Ian Austen and Robert Pear, Specialists see weeks of work ahead on federal health-care exchange, New York Times, October 21, 2013

Amy Goldstein and Juliet Eilperin, HealthCare.gov: How political fear was pitted against technical needs, Washington Post, November 2, 2013

Robert L. Glass, Software Runaways: Monumental Software Disasters, Prentice Hall, 1997

School building wonder: mishegoss from moxie

Contractors on sites for a ninth elementary school reported at a joint meeting of the School Committee and the Board of Selectmen, starting at 7:30 pm October 22 in the fifth-floor meeting room at Town Hall. Fees for an outfit called Civic Moxie, addressed in Brookline, are approaching $100,000. So far, the town got little for such lavish spending. The new concepts aren’t that useful, and the useful concepts aren’t that new.

Shlock tactics: Contractors say they found 3-acre school sites. Brookline has not accepted postage-stamp sites for elementary schools since early years of the Great Depression. Old Lincoln School–less than two acres on Route 9, built in 1932–was the last of the postage-stamp sites. Social injustice in cramming old Lincoln School onto a squat of land on a busy highway sparked the 20 years of protests, between the 1970s and 1990s, that brought new Lincoln School on Kennard Rd.

Brookline school sites, counting adjacent parks

BrooklineSchoolSites
Source: School outdoors comparison, 2013

Site models illustrated by the contractors reuse old factories and warehouses found in depressed parts of Newark, NJ, and Baltimore, MD. Few of today’s Brookline parents probably look forward to housing their children in old factories and warehouses. Brookline never had much of either, anyway. Most of the ones remaining can be found in Brookline Village, between Station St. and Andem Pl. Contractors did not propose to reuse them.

Elementary school sites, from Newark and Baltimore

ShlockSchoolSites
Source: School site presentation, 2015

Search and research: In 2013, a committee organized by the Board of Selectmen produced a school site plan of sorts. Caught up in strong controversy, after proposing to use parks and playgrounds as sites, that committee backed away, recommending an approach it called “expand in place”–meaning enlarging current schools. As some members knew, such an approach could prove extremely costly. The Devotion School project now underway will cost around $120 million, yet it adds only about nine classrooms.

Neither the 2013 nor the recent 2015 study provides a geographical analysis, showing densities of increased school populations. Lack of this basic tool indicates that neither group sought professional guidance, and neither made constructive use of data and expertise already available in Brookline agencies. Instead, both engaged in speculation about specifics, without creating a knowledge base to guide the choices. The Moxie report describes six potential new school sites with some detail, five of them in urban Brookline.

New school sites in urban Brookline

NewBrooklineSchoolSites
Source: Ninth elementary school study, 2015

The sixth location, in suburban Brookline at the southeast corner of Larz Anderson Park, can probably be neglected as an elementary school site, since very few students would be within reasonable walking distance. Of the five urban sites, the one shown as no. 5 is old Lincoln School–firmly rejected as a suitable for a permanent elementary school. Instead, that site has become a land bank, Brookline’s relocation center during major town projects.

The three shown as nos. 2-4 are postage-stamp sites strung along Harvard St. All three are too close to either Pierce School or Devotion School to create a credible locus for a new school district. Only the site on Amory St., shown as no. 1, has some potential. However, this site would need to draw students from the low-density Cottage Farm and Longwood neighborhoods to make sense. Lack of geographical analysis for growth trends in Brookline’s student population makes it impossible to know whether the Amory St. site would solve more problems than it might create.

Moxie study files in their original form are probably outside most people’s price range: all but unreadable on much less than giant UHD 2160p displays costing around $2,000 and up. The study’s failure to explore the northeast side of Addington Hill–off Washington St. at Gardner Rd. and about equally spaced from Driscoll, Pierce, Lincoln and Runkle Schools–leaves a major gap in knowledge. The appendix files from the study show no attention at all to a critical part of Brookline.

–Craig Bolon, Brookline, MA, October 25, 2015


School site presentation, Brookline Department of Planning and Community Development, October 22, 2015 (9 MB)

Ninth elementary school study, Brookline Department of Planning and Community Development, October, 2015 (in 12 files, 92 MB)

Final report, School Population and Capacity Exploration Committee, Town of Brookline, MA, September, 2013 (3 MB)

Perry Stoll, Ninth school site presentation, Driscoll Action, October 22, 2015

Ulrich Mok, Brookline school outdoors comparison, Driscoll Action, November 15, 2013 (4 MB)

Recommendation, Edward Devotion School, Massachusetts School Building Authority, November 12, 2014

Trevor Jones, Brookline dedicates two newly renovated K-8 schools, Brookline Tab, December 13, 2012

Property listing, 194 Boylston St, Brookline, MA, RealtyTrac, 2008

Community Facilities, Comprehensive Plan for 2005-2015, Town of Brookline, MA, November, 2005 (7 MB)

Richard Feynman, Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!, W W Norton, 1985

Advisory Committee: don’t lock up town land, Brookline Beacon, October 3, 2015

School news: new superintendent, Devotion plans, Brookline Beacon, October 1, 2015

School enrollment: no room in the inn, Brookline Beacon, December 26, 2014

Advisory Committee: don’t lock up town land

The first Advisory Committee warrant review for the fall, 2015, town meeting got underway at 7:30 pm on Thursday, October 1, in the first-floor south meeting room at Town Hall. The committee tackled Article 6, likely to be one of the most contentious. It recommended against adding more restrictions on use of town land–specifically, Larz Anderson Park–until community needs for school expansion are better understood.

Lakeside view at Larz Anderson Park

LarzAndersonLake
Source: Brookline Recreation Department

Larz Anderson Park: The land now known as Larz Anderson Park was conveyed to the Town of Brookline through the will of Isabel Weld Perkins Anderson, wife of Larz Anderson, III (1866-1937), after she died in 1948. The Weld family, from whom she was descended, had owned the former Windy Top estate since the 1840s. It also owned the site of today’s Hancock Village, using it for a private golf course until 1945.

Although it might seem odd now, Brookline’s 1949 annual town meeting struggled over whether to accept the gift of land. Some said Brookline could not afford to maintain it. The large parcel was then occupied by a mansion, by Italianate gardens at the hilltop and by several support buildings–including a handsome garage for classic automobiles that had interested Mr. Anderson.

Eventually doubts were overcome, and the town meeting voted to accept the bequest. That said the land must be used for park, educational or charitable purposes. A location at the edge of town–64 acres bordering Jamaica Plain, far from the town’s population centers–led to use for what has become Brookline’s best known public park. It includes a small lake, picnic and grill facilities, baseball fields and an outdoor skating rink.

Unfortunately, the Brookline DPW description of Larz Anderson Park on the municipal Web site omits nearly all the rich historical context of the site. The DPW map display offers text that will be unreadable with most browsers and monitors. The map information is not page-linkable, does not name, locate or describe the park features and does not outline the park boundaries–a disgrace.

Parkland protection: For many years, most involved in Brookline’s government had thought the major town parks were protected under Article 97 of the Massachusetts state constitution. However, several may not be, including most of Larz Anderson Park. Parkland protection under Article 97 requires a declaration by a town meeting.

At a public hearing held September 30 by the Advisory subcommittee on capital, Joslin Murphy, the town counsel, testified that the status of protection for several Brookline parks is uncertain. Recent cases from state appellate courts say protection is not active simply because of ways land has been acquired or used.

Restrictions in wills, deeds and trusts are not generally permanent, under Massachusetts law. Brookline was sharply reminded of that by the recent Court of Appeals decision affecting Hancock Village. In many circumstances, those restrictions expire after 30 years. Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 184 (Real Property), Section 23, provides (in part):

“Conditions or restrictions, unlimited as to time, by which the title or use of real property is affected, shall be limited to the term of thirty years after the date of the deed or other instrument or the date of the probate of the will creating them, except in cases of gifts or devises for public, charitable or religious purposes.”

There are other exceptions to the 30-year rule. Conditions of wills and deeds involved with Brookline parks will need review. Brookline also needs to review which parks or parts of them are covered by town meeting declarations protecting land under Article 97. Such protection can be altered, but according to Ms. Murphy that takes a unanimous vote of the supervising board and two-thirds votes of both a town meeting and the General Court. Only votes in the General Court are required by Article 97. Ms. Murphy did not cite any sources for other requirements.

Proposal and background: In Article 6 for the November town meeting, the Park and Recreation Commission is proposing to declare about 55 of the 64 acres at Larz Anderson Park protected under Article 97. That would be needed to satisfy requirements for a state grant, reimbursing parts of planned improvements. The hilltop, now occupied by the town’s skating rink, was protected in 1998. According to Ms. Murphy, most of the remaining park area is probably not similarly protected.

In 2013, under item B.15 of Article 8, the annual town meeting appropriated $0.66 million for a program of improvements at Larz Anderson Park. However, the DPW Division of Parks and Open Space had developed a plan needing more than $1 million. For the balance, the division expected to seek state support. The division has prepared an application for a $0.4 million grant, not yet acted on.

Brookline’s continuing surge in school enrollment became a wild card in the deck. In December, 2014, the town hired a consultant to review needs and possibilities to build new schools. After a surge of school building during the middle and late nineteenth century, school sites have become a foreign topic. During the twentieth century, the only new school site was for Baker School on Beverly Rd., opened in 1939. The new Lincoln School opened in 1994 at the former, private Park School site on Kennard Rd.

It has been more than 75 years since Brookline had to search for a wholly new school site, one that was not in similar use before. Over that time, the town has become fully built-out, and land prices have escalated. If Brookline tried to buy land equivalent to Larz Anderson Park today, $50 million might not be enough. Most of that parkland area apparently remains eligible for use as a school site.

Advisory review: The Advisory subcommittee on capital brought in a recommendation against Article 6, by a vote of 1-4. Amy Hummel took more than ten minutes to present it, mentioning only at the end that all the other subcommittee members opposed Article 6. A prospect of locking up $50 million or more in permanent land value in return for $0.4 million or less in one-time state aid had not convinced them.

Erin Gallentine, the director of parks and open space, tried to sway the committee with arguments about a 1989 “master plan.” She said park improvements were “the next big vision for the community.” The 1989 document has not been available on the municipal Web site–a plan that few committee members had even heard about. The recently prepared grant application has not been available on the municipal Web site either.

Strangely, Ms. Gallentine did not distribute details of the grant application to Advisory Committee members, who were left to imagine what it proposed. Committee member David-Marc Goldstein asked how likely Brookline stood to get $0.4 million. Ms. Gallentine offered a rambling reply that sounded uncertain. An amendment was offered to restrict spending to any amount awarded. John Doggett asked about protecting a smaller part of the park. Ms. Gallentine complained she would have to change the grant application.

Exploring an activity that seemed contrary to restrictions of the Anderson bequest, Leonard Weiss asked how DPW equipment garages came to be built on Larz Anderson land. Ms. Gallentine claimed not to know, saying that had happened “before my time…done by the Park Department.” The former independent department was made into a DPW division through a 1981 town meeting article, after long-time director Daniel Warren retired.

Carla Benka, chair of the subcommittee on capital, described her work years ago to get Larz Anderson Park listed on the National Register of Historic Places. That insures a process of review for most proposed changes. She questioned the relevance of a 1989 plan, comparing school versus open-space priorities and saying, “It’s not right to play favorites…a whole lot has changed in 26 years.”

Several committee members defended Article 6 against detractors, including Mariah Nobrega, Michael Sandman and Stanley Spiegel. However, few votes were there for those views. Ms. Benka joined a majority of more than two to one, recommending that town meeting turn down Article 6.

– Beacon staff, Brookline, MA, October 3, 2015


Larz Anderson Park information and reservations, Recreation Department, Town of Brookline, MA, 2012

Memorandum and order, case number 2014-P-1817, Town of Brookline and others v. Massachusetts Development Finance Agency and others, Massachusetts Court of Appeals, September 25, 2015

Sanjoy Mahajan v. Department of Environmental Protection, Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, 464 Mass. 604, 2013

Board of Selectmen of Hanson v. Melody Lindsay, Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, 444 Mass. 502, 2005

Adele Toro v. Mayor of Revere, Massachusetts Court of Appeals, 9 Mass. App. Ct. 87, 1980

Massachusetts Constitution, as amended through 1990, see Article XCVII (97, approved 1972) and Article XLIX (49, superseded)

Warrant for November 17, 2015, special town meeting, Town of Brookline, MA, September 8, 2015

Article explanations for November 17, 2015, special town meeting, Town of Brookline, MA, September 8, 2015

Advisory Committee: new park land for Putterham neighborhoods, Brookline Beacon, April 10, 2015

Craig Bolon, School enrollment: no room in the inn, Brookline Beacon, December 26, 2014

Town boards: special tokes for “special” folks

Members of town boards, commissions, committees and councils may become “special municipal employees” when they are not performing paid duties as regular municipal employees. Such a classification is not automatic in most cases but must be established by a vote of a board of selectmen in a Massachusetts town. Such a vote will apply to all who hold a specified type of position and not to particular individuals.

The “special” people: A “special” designation allows lawyers on a regulatory board to hear and decide cases that are presented by other lawyers in the firm where they work, as long as they did not participate in those particular cases. The “special” people can work and be paid in arrangements for town business as long as their duties for town boards or agencies do not involve the particular arrangements. Those remain dubious practices–more understandable in a small rural town with few lawyers, professionals and businesses than in an large urban town with many of each.

Members of a board of selectmen in a large town are not eligible for “special” designation, whether or not they are paid for serving. Others who receive pay for municipal work are generally not eligible unless they perform 800 or fewer hours of paid municipal work a year.

The Brookline Board of Selectmen is known to have awarded the “special” designation to members of the Zoning Board of Appeals and the Housing Advisory Board. Participation in various matters that could be viewed as conflicts of interest suggest that Planning Board, Transportation Board and Building Commission members might also enjoy “special” status.

A list of organizations with “special” status is supposed to be “on file” in the town clerk’s office. During former years that some have come to regard as flirting with corruption, members of many town boards, commissions, committees and councils are said to have been designated as “special.” However, no list of Brookline’s “special” designations could be found on the municipal Web site.

Training on the laws: At this year’s fall town meeting, scheduled for November 17, Article 8 seeks to require training about laws on conflicts of interest for town meeting members. Some will have already received training because they are also members of town boards, commissions, committees and councils or because they volunteered for it.

Section 3.20.1 of Brookline’s general bylaws–enacted under Article 18 at the May 23, 2006, annual town meeting–applies to members of town boards, commissions, committees and councils. It requires attending training sessions about laws on conflicts of interest and open meeting requirements, organized by the Office of Town Counsel in Brookline.

Article 8 at this fall’s town meeting would allow watching an online lecture about laws on conflicts of interest and requires no training on open meeting requirements. Practical experience has shown that training sessions organized by the Office of Town Counsel proved more effective than lectures, because of questions and answers reflecting specific, local situations.

A list of members of town boards, commissions, committees and councils who have received required training is supposed to be “on file” in the town clerk’s office. However, no such list could be found on the municipal Web site.

– Craig Bolon, Brookline, MA, September 10, 2015


Warrant for November 17, 2015, special town meeting, Town of Brookline, MA, September 8, 2015

Article explanations for November 17, 2015, special town meeting, Town of Brookline, MA, September 8, 2015

Special town employees, in Minutes, Brookline, MA, Board of Selectmen, June 2, 2009, see pp. 6-7

Special municipal employees, Massachusetts State Ethics Commission, 1992

General bylaws, Town of Brookline, MA, November 18, 2014 (3 MB)

Special municipal employee, defined in Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 268A, Section 1, paragraph (n)

Craig Bolon, Open meetings in government: groping toward transparency, Brookline Beacon, August 10, 2014

Craig Bolon, Override Study Committee: Open Meeting Law problems, Brookline Beacon, August 7, 2014

Broadband telecommunications: Brookline-based services

Brookline has had multiple telecommunications services for over 30 years, but they are so different in structure and focus that there has been far less competition than an outsider might expect. Once established, companies tend to march in place.

Resident companies: Resident telecommunications companies in Brookline–newest to oldest–are RCN beginning 1993, Comcast beginning 2006 (originally Times Mirror 1981, then Cox 1995) and Verizon beginning 2000 (originally New England Telephone 1883, then NYNEX 1984, then Bell Atlantic 1997). These companies all have cables under or above streets serving nearly all Brookline businesses and residences.

Each of the companies has a different base of technology and a different service focus. Verizon and its predecessors offered only analog telephones to the general public for more than 70 years. Eventually, the telephone services could be used for digital data by connecting them through modems, starting in the 1950s.

Comcast and its predecessors focused on cable television. The frequencies and bandwidth were much too great to be carried over Verizon’s copper wire pairs, or so it was thought at first, giving this succession of companies another type of natural monopoly for a time.

RCN focused on Internet services at first but also provided cable television. The bandwidth needed for thousands of broadband Internet channels was a step beyond that needed for tens of television channels, giving this company a natural monopoly for a time.

Technologies: Founding eras of the original companies led to different bases of technology. Verizon has a network of copper wire pairs, some over 100 years old, installed for analog telephone service. Comcast has foil-over-foam coaxial cables, a technology advance of the 1960s for video signals. RCN has fiber-optic cables, a fully digital technology practical on a municipal scale by the late 1980s.

For more than a decade, all three resident companies have offered a mix of similar services. All promote so-called “bundles” of telephone, television and Internet services but also sell separate services. A key element for Verizon is so-called DSL (digital subscriber line) technology, transmitting broadband signals over copper wire pairs for up to about 3 miles–thought impossible or impractical before the middle 1990s.

Since the middle 1990s, Comcast and its predecessors have encountered an increasing frequency of signal quality problems, according to Stephen Bressler, who was for many years telecommunications coordinator for Brookline. Their cable technologies are usually regarded as reliable for around 20 years, and cables are now well beyond that nominal service life.

Except in small patches, Comcast, recently rebranded as Xfinity, does not seem willing to renew its main infrastructure. Customer service personnel are described often as unresponsive and sometimes as worse. Of about 180 Yelp reviews for the Boston area as of August, 2015, all but three rated the Comcast (Xfinity) service at “one star,” the lowest rating–an astonishingly negative set of reviews.

RCN fares better with online reviews but hardly well. Many complaints concern erratic Internet and poor response to outages. Remember that with cable Internet one is sharing bandwidth with neighbors, predictably causing slower response at popular times of day. RCN will not install premise wiring. One will need to provide coaxial cable between the service connection and the point of use.

If trying RCN for Internet, it’s probably best to buy one’s own cable modem rather than rent from RCN. Complaints suggest that RCN tends to shrug off problems with cable modems, including those the company supplies. The cost will typically be recovered in about a year. Check with RCN to see that a prospective unit has been approved for use with their cable service.

Verizon experiences increasing problems maintaining broadband Internet over its aging copper wires. Every August, temporary installation crews come in to help with changes when large numbers of tenants typically move. Most are not familiar with Brookline wiring and equipment. They predictably create large numbers of problems that can sometimes take weeks to resolve. Paper-ribbon, 19 AWG wire-pairs from the 1920s and paper-pulp, 22 AWG improvements from the 1930s are fragile and suffer from humidity.

DSL can be a tricky service to use and maintain. Technologically skilled people can get considerable help from DSL Reports online. Verizon may have sold more DSL service in Brookline than it can reliably provide. The company cannot readily expand capacity, owing to decades of shortsighted practices. Newer cable segments jammed alongside older ones, without reorganizing wire pairs, have clogged the space in underground ducts. Some technicians say long-term records of wire-pair assignments by cable segment have become haphazard.

Competition: Obviously knowing that it operates the most capable technology, RCN resists offering price competition, although it now sells unbundled services. As of summer, 2015, its lowest performance Internet service is priced on a par with Verizon’s highest priced DSL but delivers about three times the bandwidth that Verizon usually provides, when Verizon DSL services are working well.

However, after the first year, RCN hikes the price of its lowest performance Internet service in steps until it costs about twice as much as Verizon’s highest priced DSL service. Comcast (Xfinity) does not look as though it intends to compete. Reliability of its service has been reported as so dim for so long that only unwitting prospects, who have not learned about problems, and those who find themselves locked in because of apartment wiring seem particularly likely to become new customers.

During leadership by Brookline resident Ivan Seidenberg, from 2000 through the end of 2011, Verizon promoted a fiber optic Internet service called FIOS. Verizon accepted billions of dollars in federal subsidies when committing to install that service. FIOS remains unavailable to nearly all locations in Brookline, and it might never become available. Equipment was reportedly installed in Brookline, but it has reached few if any homes and businesses. Nationwide, FIOS availability is very spotty, as shown in a coverage map prepared by an independent organization.

U.S. availability, Verizon and Frontier FIOS, 2014

FiosMap2014Techdirt
Source: adapted from Techdirt (Mike Masnick)

Unlike the original map, which tries to show “percentage” of coverage with shading, the above, reduced scale map has been altered to a uniform color where at least some coverage was reported. The “percentage” map was clearly missing actual conditions in areas of metropolitan Boston. The original, full scale map and information about how it was assembled are available from Fiber for All of Sarasota, FL.

AT&T claims to be developing a competitive fiber optic network to be called U-Verse, but no such Internet service has been reported as available anywhere in Massachusetts, only telephone and television services that may or may not be distributed by fiber optics.

Regulation: Brookline is now unable to monitor or investigate telecommunications services. After the retirement of Mr. Bressler last year, Brookline has effectively had no regulation. No one on town staff and no member of a standing board or committee has the needed combination of technical knowledge and business experience. Anyone able to perform such work competently would make an unlikely candidate to tolerate the political committee appointments and domineering practices of the current, technologically challenged Board of Selectmen.

– Craig Bolon, Brookline, MA, August 22, 2015


Raymond Bartnikas, Cables: a chronological perspective, in Bartnikas and Srivastava, eds., Power and Communication Cables: Theory and Applications, Wiley, 2003, pp. 1-75 (12 MB)

Sean Buckley, Frontier will expand FIOS in markets it purchased from Verizon, Fierce Telecom (Washington, DC), May 22, 2015

Phillip Dampier, In Massachusetts, Verizon FIOS arrives for some but not others, Stop the Cap (Rochester, NY), 2013

Hiawatha Bray, Cable provider RCN banks on better service to drive growth, Boston Globe, August 11, 2012

Compare Comcast in Brookline, DirecTV (El Segundo, CA), 2015

Saga of a song: Happy Birthday to You

A chain of disputes over rights to the Happy Birthday song–a controversy now stretching over more than 80 years–recently enjoyed a revival with a federal lawsuit being heard in California. It was brought by Jenn Nelson, a video producer in New York who has been assembling a documentary about the saga. A key, unresolved issue throughout long controversy has been lack of a clearly established author of the song.

Disputes: Ms. Nelson reluctantly paid a subsidiary of Warner/Chappell Music of Los Angeles, who claim to own interest in a copyright, a royalty of $1,500–so that her video could use the song without wrangling over an infringement lawsuit. After a slow burn, she found a New York lawyer, Randall S. Newman, who was willing to challenge the copyright claim. Mr. Newman filed suit in New York on June 13, 2013, joined by Mark C. Rifkin of Wolf, Haldenstein, Adler, Freeman and Herz. The venue proved questionable, and a new complaint was filed in California later that month.

Circumstances of the Happy Birthday song have been contentious. Disputes began in 1934 with a charge against producer Sam Harris and composer Irving Berlin, who included the song in a Broadway musical without an agreement. Robert Brauneis, a professor at George Washington University Law School, explored origins of the song and legal issues about it in a 92-page journal article published in 2009, plus supplements available from the law school.

Origins: While working at the Louisville Experimental Kindergarten School in the early 1890s, Mildred Jane Hill and Patty Smith Hill composed a song with the same melody and different lyrics. Mildred Hill was a professional pianist and organist who taught at the school. Her sister Patty Hill had trained as a teacher at the school and then become principal. A pioneer in early childhood education, she later became a professor at Columbia University. The sisters collaborated on songs to appeal to and be easily learned by young children.

In 1893, the two sisters submitted a manuscript for publication to the Clayton F. Summy Co., then at 220 Wabash Ave. in Chicago. Mr. Summy published the work in 1893, 1894 and 1896 as editions of Song Stories for the Kindergarten. The first song on the first page of music was titled Good-Morning to All. It had the melody of the Happy Birthday song, but the lyrics said “good morning” instead of “happy birthday.”

Subsequently, the Clayton F. Summy Co. republished Good-Morning to All in 1899 as part of Song Stories for the Sunday School and in 1907 as a free-standing composition. In each case of publication, according the original complaint in the recent lawsuit, Mr. Summy or the Summy company applied for copyright registration and asserted that Mr. Summy or the company was “proprietor” of the work. No Summy publication included the “happy birthday” lyrics, only the “good morning” lyrics.

Changes and infringement: The trail diverged in 1912, after a large, Chicago-area piano manufacturer, The Cable Company, published and began to sell The Beginners’ Book of Songs. For a song titled Good-Morning to You, alternatives to “good morning” were shown in subtitles as “good bye” and “happy birthday.” Key, melody, main lyrics and piano arrangement were the same as Good-Morning to All in Song Stories for the Kindergarten from the Clayton F. Summy Co., still under copyright.

The Beginners’ Book of Songs, cover

BeginnersBookOfSongs1912CableCover
Source: The Cable Company, Chicago, IL, 1912

As published in The Beginners’ Book of Songs, no authorship, permission or copyright was cited for Good-Morning to You. That looks like infringement. However, this 1912 publication also introduced into commercial circulation the “happy birthday” lyrics in combination with the “good morning” melody.

Any later attempt to claim original authorship of the “happy birthday” lyrics, alone or in combination with the “good morning” melody, could suggest plagiarism. So far as can be seen in records from the recent lawsuit, neither Mildred Hill nor Patty Hill claimed authorship or left unpublished manuscripts for the “happy birthday” lyrics or for their combination with the “good morning” melody.

According to Prof. Brauneis and as recited in the original complaint for the recent lawsuit, the Clayton F. Summy Co. did not seek copyright extension for the publication of the Good-Morning to All song occurring in 1893. Later publications notwithstanding, melody and lyrics of that song could have entered the public domain when their 1893 copyright term ended in 1921 without renewal action by the “proprietor,” Clayton F. Summy or the Summy company.

From 1922 to 1927, The Cable Company published the fourth to sixteenth editions of The Everyday Song Book. Song 16 in those editions was titled Good Morning and Birthday Song. It has the melody of Good-Morning to All, transcribed from G to A-flat, with no piano arrangement and with three sets of lyrics: two with “good morning” and one with “happy birthday.” No authorship or copyright was cited. However, a note below the title said, “Special permission through courtesy of the Clayton F. Summy Co.”

Lawsuits and arguments: That situation is now presented to a federal court in the Central District of California. Judge George H. King, the chief judge of the district, has something of a mess to clear, mainly because of lapse of time but also because of several actions during the previous 81 years to prosecute a claimed but vaguely justified copyright.

Supposed rights to the Happy Birthday song may never have been enforceable. No authorship for the “happy birthday” lyrics or for their combination with the “good morning” melody appears to have been claimed at or before publication in 1912. Without an author, there is no copyright interest. [See note, below.] However, arguments in the recent case became tangled–tending to obscure some elements of copyrights.

Judge King does not have a particularly strong record when dealing with intellectual property. In Alfred Mann Foundation v. Cochlear, a patent lawsuit beginning as Central California case no. 07-cv-8108, he was overruled by the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in 2010 [case no. 2009-1447], which found faulty justification from Judge King for holding that plaintiffs in the district court case lacked standing to sue.

The Clayton F. Summy Co. was sold in 1930, into what became a succession of organizations. When lawsuits began in the mid-1930s, the Happy Birthday song had been published several times before, essentially in the form it is currently performed, without claims of authorship or copyright and without prior challenges for infringement. By at least 1922 it was a known work, published in full and combining the “happy birthday” lyrics with the “good morning” melody.

Aggressive copyright prosecutions look to have begun with efforts by Jessica Hill, youngest sister of Mildred and Patty Hill, after Mildred Hill died in 1916 and Jessica Hill, who played no role in creation of their songbook, inherited a potential interest in the songs. In a brief filed July 28, 2015, Warner/Chappell argued that Jessica Hill renewed the copyright to the songbook in 1921.

In an appendix to his journal article, Prof. Brauneis argued that, as a successor in interest, Jessica Hill was entitled to obtain and hold a renewal of copyright and would have held it in trust for other family members. As renewed in 1921, the 1893 copyright for Song Stories for the Kindergarten would have expired in 1949, and the enforceable copyright to the Happy Birthday melody would have expired with it.

After 1921, Mr. Summy and the original Clayton F. Summy Co. would no longer have been the “proprietors” of copyright for Good Morning to All. Instead, Jessica Hill would have become “proprietor.” According to that logic, the Happy Birthday melody, as published by The Cable Company in 1922 and later, would have been yet another pirate edition. Its “permission” was bogus. The “happy birthday” lyrics are a different story.

Neither the 1893 songbook nor later editions of it contained the “happy birthday” lyrics, alone or in combination with the “good morning” melody. So far, briefs for Warner/Chappell have apparently failed to acknowledge lack of documented authorship and copyright coverage for the “happy birthday” lyrics, alone or in combination with the “good morning” melody, between at least 1893 and 1933.

In the 1930s, successor management of the Clayton F. Summy Co. filed for copyrights involving the Happy Birthday song. However, they were for similar works with varying piano arrangements and additional lyrics. They did not address issues arising from combining the “happy birthday” lyrics with the “good morning” melody. At those times and since, there have been allegations of copyright infringement. So far, disputes over the Happy Birthday song have been settled privately, leaving legal issues of copyright unadjudicated.

Potential outcomes: It is possible Judge King will find there have been no enforceable rights to the “happy birthday” lyrics or their combination of with the “good morning” melody, because there has been no clear evidence of authorship for the lyrics or the combination. It is also possible the judge will find potential rights connected with the melody of the Happy Birthday song were abandoned or had expired by 1922 or by 1950, either through acts or through neglect.

If the judge somehow reaches the far side of those legal chasms, he will need to decide whether the 1930s copyright filings reflect rights of original authorship to the combination of the “happy birthday” lyrics with the “good morning” melody or whether instead they concern only rights to derivative works with different piano arrangements and additional lyrics. If inclined toward finding original authorship, the judge would also need to consider potential plagiarism in the filings.

The money involved makes at least a trip to the Court of Appeals and a try at the Supreme Court likely, no matter what Judge King finds. However, pitfalls ahead for Warner/Chappell Music suggest a fair chance that in a few years the Happy Birthday song may be recognized as public-domain. Warner/Chappell Music might have to disgorge years of unearned royalties, depending on findings of culpability.

Ms. Nelson’s lawsuit already has class action recognition. It seeks to restrict copyrights currently claimed for the Happy Birthday song from covering more than specific piano arrangements and additional lyrics, and in addition it seeks injunctive relief, royalty reimbursements with interest and costs. A victory by the plaintiffs would likely draw attention to other older copyright claims, including Sherlock Holmes stories, already public-domain in the UK.

– Craig Bolon, Brookline, MA, August 8, 2015


Note: “Without an author, there is no copyright interest.” Authorship and originality have been ingredients of copyrights since they were authorized by the U.S. Constitution in Article 1, Section 8. In Section 4, the Copyright Act of 1909 provided, “works for which copyright may be secured under this act shall include all the writings of an author.” Section 102 of the Copyright Act of 1976 narrowed the range somewhat, saying, “copyright protection subsists in original works of authorship.” A requirement of originality, expressed in case law, was made explicit under that statute.

Susanna Kim, Why Happy Birthday to You should be copyright-free, lawyers say, ABC News, July 29, 2015

Zachary Crockett, Who owns the copyright to Happy Birthday?, Priceonomics, April 14, 2015

“Until there is a work of authorship, there is no copyright interest,” U.S. Copyright Office, 2014

Good Morning to You Productions Corp., et al., v. Warner Chappell Music, Inc., et al., case 2:13-cv-4460 in the Central District of California (Los Angeles), filed June 20, 2013
(originally filed as Rupa Marya v. Warner Chappell Music, Inc., first filed as case 1:13-cv-4040 in the Southern District of New York)

Class-action complaint, case 1:13-cv-4040 in the Southern District of New York, filed June 13, 2013

Robert Brauneis, Copyright and the world’s most popular song, Journal of the Copyright Society of the U.S.A. 59:335-426, 2009
Links to text and supplements, George Washington University
Formatted text of the article, George Washington University

Jason Mazzone, Copyfraud, New York University Law Review 81(3):1026-1100, 2006

Russ Versteeg, Defining “author” for purposes of copyright, American University Law Review 45(5):1323-1366, 1996

First Publications v. Rural Telephone Service Company, U.S. Supreme Court, case no. 89-1909, 499 U.S. 340, 1991

Geraldine Fabrikant, Sound of a $25 million deal: ‘Happy Birthday’ to Warner, New York Times, December 20, 1988

The Cable Co. (Chicago, IL), Everyday Song Book, 101 Best Songs and 101 Famous Poems (advertisement), Normal Instructor and Primary Plans 31(4):4, F.A. Owen Publishing Co. (Dansville, NY), February, 1922

Clayton Frick Summy, in John W. Leonard, ed., The Book of Chicagoans, A.N. Marquis & Company, Chicago, 1905, p. 558

Advisory Committee: probing a disconnect

The Advisory Committee met Tuesday, July 28, starting at 7:30 pm in the first-floor south meeting room at Town Hall–mainly to understand a disconnect in budgeting before and during the May town meeting. Details had been reviewed by the Capital subcommittee at a meeting the previous Tuesday, July 21. While some events had become known, understandings of them remained murky.

Structural deficit: As adopted at the 2015 annual town meeting, the fiscal 2016 budget had a structural deficit, around $200,000, known to some Brookline employees but withheld from most or all members of boards and committees and from town meeting. At the point of the Advisory Committee’s review July 28, a timeline for some events of the disconnect had become clear:

Late April: Public Works gets only three bids for recycling
Late May: Public Works settles on best bid, $200,000 over budget
May 26: Annual town meeting adopts fiscal 2016 budget
May 28: Annual town meeting completes work and dissolves
June 23: Board of Selectmen approves $1.22 million FY2016 contract
June 23: Board of Selectmen applies for $200,000 from reserve fund
July 7: Advisory Committee approves $200,000 and starts investigation
July 14: Advisory Committee members lodge protest with Board of Selectmen
July 21: Advisory subcomittee conducts special hearing and drafts report
July 28: Advisory Committee holds special review meeting

By late April, at least Andrew Pappastergion, the commissioner of public works, Mel Kleckner, the town administrator, and Melissa Goff, the deputy town administrator, knew that a structural deficit in the fiscal 2016 budget was likely. Before the end of the annual town meeting, they knew the budget deficit was certain and would be about $200,000.

None of them told any member of the Advisory Committee, which has a legal duty to propose budgets to annual town meetings. Had they done that, the committee could have amended the budget proposed to town meeting, to bring it into balance, or it could have proposed to reconsider the budget, if notified after the budget had already been voted.

It has not been clear whether members of the Board of Selectmen had timely information. No member of the board told any member of the Advisory Committee or told town meeting about it before June. Treatment of protesting committee members at the board’s meeting July 14 looked and sounded disrespectful. However, on July 28 the committee skirted those issues, focusing on information received from town employees.

Explanations: As described in a subcommittee report prepared by Fred Levitan, a Precinct 14 town meeting member, during the May town meeting, Mr. Kleckner was also aware of about $190,000 in extra state aid for Brookline. He failed to inform Advisory Committee members and town meeting about those circumstances as well. Apparently he hoped to use the extra funds somehow to repair the structural deficit.

According to a 20-year “town-school partnership,” that would have been unrealistic. Revenues have to be reviewed by a standing committee and are typically divided between municipal and school accounts. So far, there has been no meeting of the partnership committee to consider changes in fiscal 2016 state aid.

According to Mr. Levitan, Mr. Klecker said not notifying the Advisory Committee was “a mistake.” To many observers, that might not appear likely. Mr. Klecker has about 20 years experience with work similar to his current position–serving four Massachusetts towns, most recently Winchester and Belmont. The same provisions of Massachusetts General Laws have applied to all the towns.

The committee discussed whether to reconsider the contentious $200,000 reserve fund transfer it had approved July 7. That had been an evening when the committee rejected a reserve fund request, the only rejection any member could recall in about ten years. The request approved came on a vote of 12 to 10 and one abstention. With just a single vote cast as No instead of Yes, the $200,000 request would have been rejected on a tie vote.

Following Advisory customs, reconsideration needed a motion from a member who had voted Yes on the $200,000 transfer. If the transfer were reconsidered, it might be voted down and withdrawn. When Sean Lynn-Jones, the committee chair, called for such a motion, there was no response. Most members seemed satisfied such a disconnect would not happen again.

– Beacon staff, Brookline, MA, July 29, 2015


Report from Fred Levitan for Capital subcomittee to Advisory Committee, $200,000 DPW transfer request, Town of Brookline, MA, July 28, 2015

Memorandum from Melvin A. Kleckner, Town Administrator, to Sean Lynn-Jones, Chair, Advisory Committee, Town of Brookline, MA, July 13, 2015

Richard Kelliher and James Walsh, Memorandum of understanding: town/school budget partnership, Town of Brookline, MA, May 16, 1995

Board of Selectmen: two boards, changing colors, Brookline Beacon, July 18, 2015

Craig Bolon, Advisory Committee: reach for the reset button, Brookline Beacon, July 8, 2015

Board of Selectmen: water fees, snubbing the public, Brookline Beacon, June 24, 2015

Advisory Committee: budgets and reconsiderations, Brookline Beacon, May 1, 2015

Government records: continuing barriers to access

Government records are once again a focus of concerns in Massachusetts, notably problems getting access to records enforced. A bill pending in the General Court’s committees might have a chance to pass in the next two weeks. Otherwise, it is likely to remain shelved for another year or more.

Sunlight: In the memorable words of former Justice Brandeis, “Sunlight is…the best of disinfectants.” House 3665, now up for review in Ways and Means, would let more sunlight into some dim corners of state and local governments. However, this bill–from Rep. Kocot of Northampton and Sen. Lewis of Winchester–offers only limited progress toward lifting a chronic, statewide curtain of secrecy.

A few years ago, during Martha Coakley’s terms as state attorney general, her office said public records access was “not a top priority.” The public records supervisor in the secretary of state’s office soon said he was no longer referring violations to the attorney general. According to the Boston Globe, Secretary of State “Galvin’s office leaves it up to citizens to go to court to force agencies to comply with…rulings, something that can cost tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees.”

In parts of the state, access to information became a luxury. Even the winner of a successful lawsuit could not be sure of cost reimbursement. Not all situations proved hostile. For example, during the past year the Brookline town government responded promptly to six public records requests–three to the Office of Town Clerk and three to other agencies–for the benefit of Brookline Beacon readers. Those agencies did not charge fees for copies of their records.

Proposed reforms: As reported out of the joint committee on state administration, H. 3665 recognizes electronic data and in Section 2 tries to regularize formats, a quest probably better left to regulations. Section 3 requires naming “records access officers.” The Massachusetts Municipal Association has tried to paint this as a cost burden, but government agencies are tasked to provide access to records anyway. They would simply have to say who handles requests.

Section 4 tries to improve enforcement. The supervisor of public records “shall” rather than “may” notify the attorney general of violations, and the attorney general “shall” rather than “may” pursue remedies. It would also rein in cost and legal barriers. A “reasonable fee” for a copy of a record must not “exceed the actual cost of reproducing the record…provided that no fee shall be charged unless at least two hours of employee time is needed.” When administrative remedies fail and a lawsuit follows, “the court shall award reasonable attorney’s fees and costs to the party seeking public records if that party has substantially prevailed.”

The proposed reforms leave untouched the worst barriers to public information. In Chapter 4 of the General Laws, Section 7(26) specifically excludes 20 categories of information from “public records.” Those include information about personnel rules and practices (item b), policies under development (item d) and contracts for medical services (item m). None of these exclusions contribute to “transparency” in government.

Origins, secrecy and arrogance: Records requirements began in Massachusetts law with Chapter 161 of the Acts of 1851: An act for the better preservation of municipal and other records. That and later laws required records “open for public inspection.” Public records laws were bound into the General Statutes of 1860 and reached their current organization in the General Laws as published in 1921.

In Chapter 4, Section 7(26) defining “public records” had no exclusions in 1921. Today’s curtain of secrecy is a web of devices largely unknown during the previous seven decades and mostly invented over the following five decades. Few of those have ever received open discussion and withstood scrutiny. In 1921, the sign of a black hand emerged in Section 18 of Chapter 66, “This chapter shall not apply to the records of the general court….” also excluding state assistance and pension information from “public records.”

The arrogance of the Massachusetts legislature in 1920, excluding its own records from public inspection, later extended to ethical and financial disclosures and to open meeting laws, when those began to be developed in the 1950s. It may take an initiative enacted by voters to extract the black hand from the General Court, long a corrupt body unwilling to inform the public because of being unable to reform itself.

– Craig Bolon, Brookline, MA, July 23, 2015


Dan Crowley, Massachusetts public records reform bill nears vote amid intense lobbying, Hampshire (MA) Gazette, July 22, 2015

An act to improve public records, House bill no. 3665 of the 189th Massachusetts General Court, 2015

Todd Wallack, Lobbying picks up on proposed public records law, Boston Globe, July 20, 2015

Allison Manning, Here’s how bad public records laws are in Massachusetts, Boston Globe, May 14, 2015

Editorial Board, With Mass. public records law in tatters, it’s time for reform, Boston Globe, March 13, 2015

Todd Wallack, Secretary of State regularly keeps government records secret, Boston Globe, September 13, 2014

An act for the better preservation of municipal and other records, Chapter 161 of the Acts of 1851

General Laws of Massachusetts, Vol. 1, 1921 (96 MB)

Craig Bolon, Override Study Committee: Open Meeting Law problems, Brookline Beacon, August 7, 2014

2015 annual town meeting: how town meeting members voted

The 2015 annual town meeting held eleven electronically recorded votes, the same as the annual town meeting last year, even though this year’s town meeting considered only about half as many articles. As happened last year, there were discrepancies between votes reported by the town clerk, three days after the town meeting ended, and votes declared by the moderator when they were taken. This year there were no “straw” votes–supposedly just to get a count–and the biggest discrepancy was a difference of two votes–not enough to change any result.

Frank Caro, a Precinct 10 town meeting member, stepped out as captain of recorded votes. He would leap to a microphone and ask for a recorded vote. Edward “Sandy” Gadsby, the moderator, would call on supporters to stand, and he would count to see if there were at least 35. There always were. Soon Dr. Caro needed only to approach a microphone and didn’t have to say why. Perhaps because it needed less than two minutes, town meeting members took to the process.

With the table of recorded votes, two indices have been calculated for each town meeting member. One is an index of voting, measuring participation: 100% for voting Yes, No or Present at every opportunity, 0% for being absent or not voting at every opportunity. The other is an index of concurrence, measuring agreement with the town meeting results: 100% when voting Yes or No the same way as every result at town meeting, -100% when voting the opposite way as every result. Votes of Present (or Abstain), records of being absent and records of not voting were counted as neutral for an index of concurrence.

There were, in total, 266 records with no vote being cast by town meeting members who had checked in with tellers and taken out their assigned keypad transmitters. That was far more than the 75 vote records of Present (or Abstain). An average of 32 out of 248 town meeting members were absent at the two sessions–that is, they did not check in and take out their assigned keypad transmitters. There are no records of whether town meeting members stayed at the town meeting sessions after checking in.

The voting records designated as Precinct AL (at large) are those for the moderator, the town clerk, members of the Board of Selectmen and the single state representative who lives in Brookline. High indices of both voting and concurrence were recorded for Benjamin Franco and Nancy Heller, members of the Board of Selectmen, at 100% voting and 82% concurrence. Three town meeting members were recorded with both 100% voting and 100% concurrence: Virginia LaPlante of Precinct 6, Craig Bolon of Precinct 8 and Lee Cooke-Childs of Precinct 12.

– Craig Bolon, Brookline, MA, June 28, 2015


2015 annual town meeting: budgets, bylaws and resolutions, Brookline Beacon, May 30, 2015


Brookline 2015 annual town meeting, electronic votes as of May 31, 2015
Source: Town Clerk’s on-line records

No. Day Article Result Question voted
1 5/26 10 N Changes to Living Wage bylaw, motion to terminate debate
2 5/26 10 Y Changes to Living Wage bylaw, opposing changes to seasonal and temporary
3 5/26 10 Y Changes to Living Wage bylaw, main motion as amended
4 5/28 13 N New bylaw requiring tap water in restaurants, motion to refer
5 5/28 13 Y New bylaw requiring tap water in restaurants, main motion
6 5/28 14 N New bylaw for bottled water ban, motion to terminate debate
7 5/28 14 N New bylaw for bottled water ban, motion to refer
8 5/28 12 N Changes to snow shoveling bylaw, limit discretionary delay in enforcement
9 5/28 12 Y Changes to snow shoveling bylaw, fine on first violation rather than warning
10 5/28 18 N Resolution for study of eminent domain, motion to terminate debate
11 5/28 19 Y Resolution opposing Boston Olympics in 2024, main motion

Electronic recorded votes Y for “yes,” N for “no” A absent    
2015 annual town meeting P for “present” or “abstain” Q not voting Index Index
Pct. Given name Family name 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Voting Concur
  Vote Result N Y Y N Y N N N Y N Y    
1 Cathleen Cavell N Y Y N Y N N Q Q Q Q 64% 64%
1 Jonathan Cutler N Y Y N N N Y Y Y Y Y 100% 27%
1 Elijah Ercolino N Q Y Y Q Y Y Y Y Q Q 64% -9%
1 James Franco Y N N Q Y Y N N Y Y N 91% -18%
1 Richard Garver Y Y N N N N Y P Y Y N 100% -18%
1 Neil Gordon N Y Y N Y Y N Y Y Y Y 100% 45%
1 Helen Herman N Y Y A A A A A A A A 27% 27%
1 Carol Hillman N Y N A A A A A A A A 27% 9%
1 Sean Lynn-Jones N Y Y N Y N N N Y N P 100% 91%
1 Alexandra Metral Y Y Q Y Y N N Y Y N N 91% 18%
1 Paul Moghtader Y N Y N Y Y N Y Y Y Q 91% 0%
1 Bettina Neuefeind Q Q Q N Y N N Y Y Q Q 55% 36%
1 Robert Schram Y Y Y N Y Y N N Y Y Y 100% 45%
1 Kate Silbaugh N Y N N Y N N Y Y Q Q 82% 45%
1 Robert Sloane Y Y Y N Y N N Y Y Y N 100% 27%
                               
Electronic recorded votes Y for “yes,” N for “no” A absent    
2015 annual town meeting P for “present” or “abstain” Q not voting Index Index
Pct. Given name Family name 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Voting Concur
  Vote Result N Y Y N Y N N N Y N Y    
2 Judith Kidd Y Y N N Y Y N N Y P Q 91% 27%
2 Lisa Liss Y Y Q N Y Y N Y N Y Q 82% -9%
2 Rita McNally A A A A A A A A A A A 0% 0%
2 Adam Mitchell Y Y Y N N Y N Y Y Y N 100% -9%
2 Barbara O’Brien Y Y N Y N Y Y Y Y N N 100% -45%
2 Gwen Ossenfort Y Y Y N Y Y N Y Y Y N 100% 9%
2 Linda Pehlke A A A A A A A A A A A 0% 0%
2 Susan Roberts Y N Y Y Y Q Y N N Q N 82% -27%
2 Livia Schachter-Kahl Q Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Q 82% -9%
2 Diana Spiegel N Y Y Y N Y Y N N N Q 91% 0%
2 Stanley Spiegel A A A A A A A A A A A 0% 0%
2 Eunice White A A A A A A A A A A A 0% 0%
2 Bruce Wolff A A A Q Q Q Q Q Q Q Q 0% 0%
2 Ana Vera Wynne Y Y Y Y Y Q Y Y Y Y Y 91% 0%
2 Richard Wynne Y N Y A A A A A A A A 27% -9%
                               
Electronic recorded votes Y for “yes,” N for “no” A absent    
2015 annual town meeting P for “present” or “abstain” Q not voting Index Index
Pct. Given name Family name 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Voting Concur
  Vote Result N Y Y N Y N N N Y N Y    
3 David Aronson Y N Y Y N Y Y N N Y N 100% -64%
3 Harry Bohrs N Y Y N Y Q Q N Q P P 73% 55%
3 Patricia Connors Q Y Y Q Y N N Y Y N Q 73% 55%
3 Mary Dewart Y Y Y N Y Y N Y Y N Y 100% 45%
3 Murray Dewart Y Y Y N Y Y N Y Y N P 100% 36%
3 Dennis Doughty N N Q Y N N Y N Y N N 91% 0%
3 Jane Gilman Y Y Y N Y N N Y Y N Y 100% 64%
3 Heather Hamilton Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y P Y 100% 0%
3 Gary Jones Y Y Y Q Q Y Y N N Y Y 82% -9%
3 Laurence Koff Y N Y A A A A A A A A 27% -9%
3 Donald Leka Y Y Y N Y N N Y Y N Y 100% 64%
3 Kathleen Scanlon N Y Y Q Q N N Y Y N Y 82% 64%
3 Frank Steinfield N Y Y Y N Y N N Y N N 100% 27%
3 Rebecca Stone N N Y Y Y Y N Y Y P Y 100% 18%
3 Jean Stringham Y Y Y N Y Y N N N N Y 100% 45%
                               
Electronic recorded votes Y for “yes,” N for “no” A absent    
2015 annual town meeting P for “present” or “abstain” Q not voting Index Index
Pct. Given name Family name 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Voting Concur
  Vote Result N Y Y N Y N N N Y N Y    
4 Sarah Axelrod N Y Y Y Y N N N Y P N 100% 55%
4 Eric Berke N Y Y Y N Y Y Y Y Y N 100% -27%
4 Sarah Boehs N Y N N Y N N N Y Y Y 100% 64%
4 Alan Christ N Y N N Y Y N N Y P N 100% 36%
4 Ingrid Cooper N Y Y N Y N Y Y Y N N 100% 45%
4 Anne Covert N Y Y Y Y N N N N N Y 100% 64%
4 Frank Farlow N Y Y N Y N N Q Y N Y 91% 91%
4 Martha Farlow N Y Y N Y Y N Y Y N Y 100% 64%
4 Nadine Gerdts A A A N Y N N Q Y Y Q 55% 36%
4 John Mulhane Y Y Y Y N N Y N Y Y N 100% -9%
4 Mariah Nobrega N Y Y Y Y N Y N Y N Y 100% 64%
4 Joseph Robinson Y Q Q Y Y Y Q Y N Q Q 55% -36%
4 Marjorie Siegel Y Y Y Q Q Q Q Y Y N Y 64% 27%
4 Virginia Smith N Y Y A A A A A A A A 27% 27%
4 Robert Volk Y Y Y N Y Y Y N N Y N 100% -9%
                               
Electronic recorded votes Y for “yes,” N for “no” A absent    
2015 annual town meeting P for “present” or “abstain” Q not voting Index Index
Pct. Given name Family name 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Voting Concur
  Vote Result N Y Y N Y N N N Y N Y    
5 Richard Allen N N Y Y N Y Y N Y Y Q 91% -18%
5 Robert Daves N Y Y N N Y Y N Y Y N 100% 9%
5 Dennis DeWitt A A A A A A A A A A A 0% 0%
5 Betsy Gross Y Y Y Y N Y Y Y Y Y Y 100% -27%
5 Michael Gunnuscio Y Y Y Q Q Y N Y Y Y N 82% -9%
5 Angela Hyatt Y N Y Y N Y Y N Y Y Y 100% -27%
5 David Knight Q Q Q A A A A A A A A 0% 0%
5 Hugh Mattison Y Y Y N Y Y N N Y N Y 100% 64%
5 Puja Mehta Q Q Q N Y N Y Q Q Q Q 36% 18%
5 Randolph Meiklejohn N Y Y N Y Y N N Y Y Y 100% 64%
5 Phyllis O’Leary Q Q Q N Y Y N Y N Q Q 55% 0%
5 Andrew Olins Y N Y N Y Y N N N Y Q 91% 0%
5 William Reyelt N Y Y N Y N N Y Y Y N 100% 45%
5 Claire Stampfer Y Y Y A A A A A A A A 27% 9%
5 Lenore von Krusenstiern P Y N Y N Y Y N Y Y Y 100% -18%
                               
Electronic recorded votes Y for “yes,” N for “no” A absent    
2015 annual town meeting P for “present” or “abstain” Q not voting Index Index
Pct. Given name Family name 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Voting Concur
  Vote Result N Y Y N Y N N N Y N Y    
6 Catherine Anderson N Y Y Q Q N Y Y Y N N 82% 27%
6 John Bassett N N N N Y Y N N N Y Y 100% 9%
6 Jocina Becker N Y Y Q Y Y Y N Q Y Y 82% 27%
6 Christopher Dempsey N N Y N Y Y N Y Y Y Y 100% 27%
6 Brian Hochleutner Y N Y Y Y N N N Y N N 100% 27%
6 Sytske Humphrey Y Y Y N N Y Y N Y N Y 100% 27%
6 Virginia LaPlante N Y Y N Y N N N Y N Y 100% 100%
6 Merelice N Y N N Y N N Y Y N Y 100% 64%
6 Clinton Richmond Y Y Y N N N N Q Q Y Y 82% 27%
6 Ian Roffman N Y Y N Y N Y Y Y N P 100% 55%
6 Daniel Saltzman N Y Y Q Y N Y Y Y N N 91% 36%
6 Kim Smith N Y Q N Y N N Y Y N Y 91% 73%
6 Ruthann Sneider N Y N N Y N N Q Y N Y 91% 73%
6 Robert Sperber N N N A A A A A A A A 27% -9%
6 Thomas Vitolo N Y N N Y N N Y Y N Y 100% 64%
                               
Electronic recorded votes Y for “yes,” N for “no” A absent    
2015 annual town meeting P for “present” or “abstain” Q not voting Index Index
Pct. Given name Family name 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Voting Concur
  Vote Result N Y Y N Y N N N Y N Y    
7 Ellen Ball Y Y Y Q Q Y N Y Y Y N 82% -9%
7 Susan Cohen Y Y Y Y N Y Y N N N N 100% -27%
7 Keith Duclos Y Q Q N Y N Q Y Y N Y 73% 36%
7 Susan Ellis N Y Y N Y N N Y Y N Y 100% 82%
7 Ernest Frey N Y Y Y Y N Y N N N N 100% 27%
7 Phyllis Giller Y Y Y Q Q Y Y N N N N 82% -9%
7 Susan Granoff N Y Y Y Y Y Y N Y Y N 100% 9%
7 Mark Gray Y Y Y Y Y Y Y N Y N Y 100% 27%
7 Kelly Hardebeck Y N N Y Y Y Y Q Q Q Q 64% -45%
7 Jonathan Lewis Y Y Y A A A A A A A A 27% 9%
7 Jonathan Margolis A A A A A A A A A A A 0% 0%
7 Christopher Oates N Y Y Y N Y Y N Y N Y 100% 27%
7 Stacey Provost P P P P Q Y Y P P Y Y 91% -18%
7 Rita Shon-Baker Y Y Y Y N Y Y Y N Y Y 100% -45%
7 James Slayton Y Y Y N Y Y N N Y Y Q 91% 36%
                               
Electronic recorded votes Y for “yes,” N for “no” A absent    
2015 annual town meeting P for “present” or “abstain” Q not voting Index Index
Pct. Given name Family name 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Voting Concur
  Vote Result N Y Y N Y N N N Y N Y    
8 (vacancy) (vacancy) A A A A A A A A A A A 0% 0%
8 Lauren Bernard N Y Y Y P Y Y Y Y N Y 100% 18%
8 Craig Bolon N Y Y N Y N N N Y N Y 100% 100%
8 Abigail Cox N Y Y Y Y Q N Y Y P Y 91% 45%
8 Gina Crandell Q Q Q A A A A A A A A 0% 0%
8 Franklin Friedman Y N Y N Y Y N Y Y Y Q 91% 0%
8 David-Marc Goldstein P P Y Y N Y Y N N N Y 100% -9%
8 John Harris N Y Y Y Y Y Y P Y N Y 100% 36%
8 Anita Johnson N Q Y Y N Y Y P Y Y Y 91% -9%
8 Edward Loechler Y Y Y N Y N N N Y Y Y 100% 64%
8 Robert Miller Y Y Y N Y Y N Y Y P Q 91% 27%
8 Barbara Scotto N Y Y A A A A A A A A 27% 27%
8 Lisamarie Sears A A A Q Q N N N N Q Q 36% 18%
8 Sara Stock A A A A A A A A A A A 0% 0%
8 Maura Toomey Y Y Y N Y Y N Y Y Y Q 91% 18%
                               
Electronic recorded votes Y for “yes,” N for “no” A absent    
2015 annual town meeting P for “present” or “abstain” Q not voting Index Index
Pct. Given name Family name 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Voting Concur
  Vote Result N Y Y N Y N N N Y N Y    
9 Liza Brooks Y Q Q Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Q 73% -36%
9 Joseph Geller N N Y Q Q Y N N Q P Q 64% 18%
9 Paul Harris P Y N N Y Y N N Y P Y 100% 45%
9 Nathaniel Hinchey P Y Y N Y Y N N N Q Q 82% 36%
9 Barr Jozwicki A A A Y Y Y Y N N Y Y 73% -18%
9 Joyce Jozwicki Q Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y 91% 0%
9 Pamela Katz Y Y Y N Y Y N Y Y Y Q 91% 18%
9 Julius Levine A A A A A A A A A A A 0% 0%
9 Stanley Rabinovitz A A A A A A A A A A A 0% 0%
9 Harriet Rosenstein Y Y Y N Y Y Y Y Q Q Q 73% 0%
9 Martin Rosenthal N Y Y N Y N N N N N Y 100% 82%
9 Charles Swartz N Y Y Y N N Y N N N N 100% 9%
9 Dwaign Tyndal A A A Q Q Y Q Q Q Q Q 9% -9%
9 Judith Vanderkay Y Y N N Y Y N N N Y Q 91% 0%
9 George White Y Y N Q Y Y Q Y Y Y Y 82% -9%
                               
Electronic recorded votes Y for “yes,” N for “no” A absent    
2015 annual town meeting P for “present” or “abstain” Q not voting Index Index
Pct. Given name Family name 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Voting Concur
  Vote Result N Y Y N Y N N N Y N Y    
10 Clifford Ananian N Y N N Y N N N Y Y N 100% 45%
10 Carol Caro N Y Y Y N N Y Y Y N Y 100% 27%
10 Francis Caro N Y N Y N N Y N Y N Y 100% 27%
10 Sumner Chertok A A A A A A A A A A A 0% 0%
10 Jonathan Davis N Y Y Y N Y Y N N Y Y 100% -9%
10 Linda Davis A A A Q Q Y Y N N Y Y 55% -18%
10 Holly Deak Y Y Y N Y Y N Y Y Y Q 91% 18%
10 Stephan Gaehde Y Y Y N Y N N Y Y Y Y 100% 45%
10 Daniel La Y Y Y N Y Y N Y Y Y Q 91% 18%
10 Paul Lipson Y P Y Y Y Y N Y Y Y N 100% -18%
10 Sharon Sandalow A A A A A A A A A A A 0% 0%
10 Theodore Scholnick Y N Y Y Y Y N N P Y N 100% -18%
10 Stanley Shuman Q Q Q N Q Q Y Q N N Y 45% 9%
10 Alexandra Spingarn Q Q Q Y N Y Y N Y Y Q 64% -27%
10 Naomi Sweitzer Y Y Q N Y N N Y Y Y Y 91% 36%
                               
Electronic recorded votes Y for “yes,” N for “no” A absent    
2015 annual town meeting P for “present” or “abstain” Q not voting Index Index
Pct. Given name Family name 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Voting Concur
  Vote Result N Y Y N Y N N N Y N Y    
11 Carrie Benedon Y Y Y N Q Y N Y Y Y N 91% 0%
11 Joseph Ditkoff N Y Y N Y N N Y Y N N 100% 64%
11 Shira Fischer Y Y Y Y Y N N N Y N Y 100% 64%
11 Shanna Giora-Gorfajn N Y Y Y Y N N N Y N Y 100% 82%
11 Jennifer Goldsmith N Y Y Y Y Y N Q Q Q Q 64% 27%
11 Martha Gray N Y Q N Y N N Y Y N Y 91% 73%
11 Bobbie Knable N N P Y Y N Y N Y N N 100% 18%
11 David Lescohier Y Y Y N Y Y N Y Y Y Y 100% 27%
11 Kenneth Lewis Y N N Y N Y Y Y Y Y Y 100% -64%
11 David Lowe N Y Y N Y N N Y Y N Y 100% 82%
11 Rebecca Mautner Q Y Y Q Y N N N Y Y Y 82% 64%
11 Maryellen Moran Q Q Q A A A A A A A A 0% 0%
11 Carol Oldham Y Y Y N Y N N N Y N Y 100% 82%
11 Brian Sheehan N Y Y Y N N Y Y Y N N 100% 9%
11 Karen Wenc N N N Y N Y Y Y N N Y 100% -45%
                               
Electronic recorded votes Y for “yes,” N for “no” A absent    
2015 annual town meeting P for “present” or “abstain” Q not voting Index Index
Pct. Given name Family name 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Voting Concur
  Vote Result N Y Y N Y N N N Y N Y    
12 Michael Burstein Y Y Y N Y Y N N Y Y Y 100% 45%
12 Bruce Cohen Y P N A A A A A A A A 27% -18%
12 Lee Cooke-Childs N Y Y N Y N N N Y N Y 100% 100%
12 Chad Ellis Y N N N N Y Y N N Y Y 100% -45%
12 Harry Friedman Y N N N N Y Y N N Y Y 100% -45%
12 Jonathan Grand Y Y Y Y N Y Y N N Y Y 100% -27%
12 Stefanie Greenfield Y N N N Y N N Q Q Q Q 64% 9%
12 Casey Hatchett Q Q Y Q Q N Y N N Q Q 45% 9%
12 Amy Hummel P N N N N Y Y N N P Y 100% -27%
12 Jonathan Karon Y Y Y N Y Y Y N Y Y Y 100% 27%
12 David Klafter N Y N Q Q N N Y Y N Y 82% 45%
12 Mark Lowenstein N Y Y N Y Y N N Y Y N 100% 45%
12 Judy Meyers N N N N Y Y N N N P Y 100% 18%
12 William Slotnick N N N N Y N N N Y Y Y 100% 45%
12 Donald Weitzman N Y Y N Y N N N N Y Y 100% 64%
                               
Electronic recorded votes Y for “yes,” N for “no” A absent    
2015 annual town meeting P for “present” or “abstain” Q not voting Index Index
Pct. Given name Family name 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Voting Concur
  Vote Result N Y Y N Y N N N Y N Y    
13 Joanna Baker N Y Y N Y N N Y Y N Y 100% 82%
13 Carla Benka Y N N N N Y Y N N N Y 100% -27%
13 Roger Blood A A A A A A A A A A A 0% 0%
13 Chris Chanyasulkit Y Y Y N Y N N N N N Y 100% 64%
13 John Doggett Y N Y N N Y Y N N Y N 100% -45%
13 Jonathan Fine Y N Y Y N Y Y N N P Y 100% -36%
13 Andrew Fischer N Y N N Y N N Y Y N Y 100% 64%
13 John Freeman Y N Q P Y Y Y N Y N Y 91% 9%
13 Francis Hoy A A A A A A A A A A A 0% 0%
13 Ruth Kaplan A A A A A A A A A A A 0% 0%
13 Werner Lohe Y Y Y N Y N N Y Y P Y 100% 55%
13 Paul Saner Y N N Q Q Q Q Y Y Y Y 64% -27%
13 Lee Selwyn Y N N Y N Y Y N N N Y 100% -45%
13 Barbara Senecal Y Q Q Y N Y Y N N Q Q 64% -45%
13 John VanScoyoc Y Y Y Q Q Y Y N N Y N 82% -27%
                               
Electronic recorded votes Y for “yes,” N for “no” A absent    
2015 annual town meeting P for “present” or “abstain” Q not voting Index Index
Pct. Given name Family name 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Voting Concur
  Vote Result N Y Y N Y N N N Y N Y    
14 Robert Basile Y N Y Y N Y Y Q Q Q Q 64% -45%
14 Clifford Brown Y N Q Y P Y Y Q Q Q Q 55% -45%
14 Gill Fishman Q Q Q Y N Y Y Q Q Q Q 36% -36%
14 Paula Friedman Y N N Y N Y Y N N N Y 100% -45%
14 Kenneth Goldstein N P P N Y Y Y N N Y N 100% -9%
14 Jeffrey Kushner Y N N N N Y Q N Y Y Y 91% -18%
14 Fred Levitan A A A Y N Y Y N N Q Q 55% -36%
14 Roger Lipson Y Y Y N Y Y Q N N Y Y 91% 18%
14 Pamela Lodish N N N Y N Y Y Y Y N Y 100% -27%
14 Shaari Mittel Y N Y Y N Y Y N N Y Y 100% -45%
14 Kathleen O’Connell Y Y Y N Y Y N N Y Y Q 91% 36%
14 Benjamin Rich A A A A A A A A A A A 0% 0%
14 Lynda Roseman N P Y Y N Y Y N Y Y Y 100% 0%
14 Sharon Schoffmann Y Y Y N N Y Y Y Y Y Y 100% -9%
14 Jennifer Segel Y Y N Y Y Y N N Y Y Y 100% 9%
                               
Electronic recorded votes Y for “yes,” N for “no” A absent    
2015 annual town meeting P for “present” or “abstain” Q not voting Index Index
Pct. Given name Family name 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Voting Concur
  Vote Result N Y Y N Y N N N Y N Y    
15 Mariela Ames A A A Q N Q Q Q Q Q Q 9% -9%
15 Eileen Berger Y Q Q N Y Y N N N Q Q 64% 9%
15 Michael Berger A A A A A A A A A A A 0% 0%
15 Abby Coffin A A A A A A A A A A A 0% 0%
15 Jane Flanagan A A A Q Q Y Y Y Y Y Y 55% -18%
15 John Hall A A A A A A A A A A A 0% 0%
15 Benedicte Hallowell Q Q Q N N N Y Y Y Q Q 55% 0%
15 Janice Kahn Y Y Y Y N Q Y N N N Y 91% 0%
15 Ira Krepchin Y Y Y Y N Y Y N N N N 100% -27%
15 Robert Liao Y Y Y Y N Y Y N Y Y Y 100% -9%
15 Richard Nangle A A A Q Q Y Q Y Y Y Y 45% -9%
15 David Pearlman Y N Y N Y N Y N N N N 100% 9%
15 James Rourke A A A A A A A A A A A 0% 0%
15 Ab Sadeghi-Nejad Q Q Q Y Y Q N Q Q Q Q 27% 9%
15 Cornelia van der Ziel N Y N N Y N N N N N Y 100% 64%
                               
Electronic recorded votes Y for “yes,” N for “no” A absent    
2015 annual town meeting P for “present” or “abstain” Q not voting Index Index
Pct. Given name Family name 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Voting Concur
  Vote Result N Y Y N Y N N N Y N Y    
16 Saralynn Allaire Y N Y N Y Y N N Y N Y 100% 45%
16 Robert Allen N N Y Y N Y Y N Y Y Q 91% -18%
16 Beverly Basile Y N Y N Y Y Y N N P Q 91% -9%
16 John Basile Y N Q Y N Y Y Q Q Q Q 55% -55%
16 Stephen Chiumenti P P Y Y P Y Y N Y Y Y 100% 0%
16 Regina Frawley N Y Y Y N Y Y Q Q N Y 82% 9%
16 Thomas Gallitano N Y Y A A A A A A A A 27% 27%
16 Scott Gladstone N Y N Y P N Y N Y Y Y 100% 18%
16 Alisa Jonas N P N Q Q Q Q Q Q N N 45% 0%
16 Judith Leichtner P Y Y Y Y Y Y N P N Y 100% 27%
16 William Pu Y N N Y Q Y Y Y Y N Y 91% -36%
16 Joshua Safer Y Y Y N Y Y N N Y N N 100% 45%
16 Irene Scharf Y Y Y Q Q Q Q Q Q N Y 45% 27%
16 Arthur Sneider N Y Y Q Q Y N Q Q Q Q 45% 27%
16 Joyce Stavis-Zak Y Y Y N Y Y Y N Y N N 100% 27%
                               
Electronic recorded votes Y for “yes,” N for “no” A absent    
2015 annual town meeting P for “present” or “abstain” Q not voting Index Index
Pct. Given name Family name 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Voting Concur
  Vote Result N Y Y N Y N N N Y N Y    
AL Nancy Daly N N Y N Y Y N N Y Y Y 100% 45%
AL Benjamin Franco N Y Y N Y Y N N Y N Y 100% 82%
AL Edward Gadsby P P P P P P P P P P P 100% 0%
AL Bernard Greene N Y Y P P N Y N Y N Y 100% 64%
AL Nancy Heller N Y Y N Y N N Y Y N Y 100% 82%
AL Frank Smizik Q Y Y Q Q Y N N Y Y N 73% 18%
AL Patrick Ward P P P P P P P P P P P 100% 0%
AL Neil Wishinsky Y Y Y Y Y Y Y N Y Y Y 100% 9%

Board of Selectmen: Village Street Fair, trash metering

A regular meeting of the Board of Selectmen on Tuesday, June 9, started at 7:10 pm in the sixth-floor meeting room at Town Hall. The board had invited Andrew Pappastergion, the public works commissioner, to present plans for a trash metering system, replacing Brookline’s partly unstructured, fixed-fee approach to collecting solid waste from households and businesses.

Some board members had attended a “visioning” session conducted at Town Hall the previous evening for the Economic Development Advisory Committee. According to Neil Wishinsky, the chair, it focused on “medium-scale commercial parcels.” Board member Nancy Daly commented that “most projects would require rezoning.” Zoning changes take two-thirds votes at town meetings and have become difficult to achieve. Ms. Daly said there would need to be “neighborhood involvement and dialog.” So far there has been none of either.

Public affairs: Andy Martineau, an economic development planner, reported on the Brookline Village Street Fair, a new event to occur on Harvard St. from noon to 4 pm Sunday, June 14 (not June 15 as in the meeting agenda). Best known among similar events nearby may be the annual Allston Village Street Fair, usually held on a September Sunday. Mr. Martineau’s plans sounded somewhat more commercial, with about 40 merchants involved. Performances are planned by Vanessa Trien and the Jumping Monkeys, a favorite of young children, Ten Tumbao, Afro-Latin-Caribbean music, and the Muddy River Ramblers, bluegrass.

Richard Segan, from the Brookline Sister City Project, asked the board to approve a proclamation for Brookline Sister City Week, to be October 18-24. Cornelia “Kea” van der Ziel, a Precinct 15 town meeting member, and Peter Moyer, a Brookline resident, had visited Quezalguaque, Nicaragua, the third week in May. Drs. van der Ziel and Moyer described their visit and future plans. The board approved the proclamation.

The two Brookline physicians have mainly been concerned with atypical chronic kidney disease, a longstanding and severe problem in Quezalguaque–also common in Costa Rica and El Salvador. Unlike similar maladies in the United States, mainly found in older people, in Central America the disease strikes people as early as their twenties. Every year thousands die. Although environmental and occupational factors are suspected, no cause is known. Those working with the Sister City Project plan to extend epidemiological efforts, hoping to associate the disease with locations, occupations, water supplies, agricultural chemicals and other potential influences.

Trash metering: Andrew Pappastergion, Brookline’s commissioner of public works, presented the first detailed plans for trash metering. Programs known by that trademarked term–coined by WasteZero of Raleigh, NC, a contractor for Brookline–aim to improve on antiquated and simplistic “pay as you throw” efforts through automation, public education and convenience.

The City of Gloucester achieved a 30 percent reduction in waste disposal costs during the first full year of such a program, according to the Gloucester Times of March 7, 2010. However, Gloucester previously had a poor recycling record, while Brookline began curbside recycling in 1973 and has operated an increasingly advanced program since 1990.

Six Massachusetts towns with populations above 30,000 have some form of solid waste limit: Plymouth, Taunton, Amherst, Shrewsbury, Dartmouth and Natick. None of them are among the more urbanized and sophisticated towns Brookline typically regards as peer communities–including Arlington, Belmont, Lexington and Winchester. There is strong evidence that in urbanized and sophisticated communities public education has been more effective than trash metering at reducing solid waste. Although Brookline has a Solid Waste Advisory Committee, so far its members have been passive, performing no public outreach. Those are hurdles for Mr. Pappastergion’s plans.

Mr. Pappastergion presented a slide show to the board. It included a review of Massachusetts information organized by the Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. State officials remain focused on antiquated and simplistic “pay as you throw” efforts, so far found mostly in smaller rural or suburban towns.

Mr. Pappastergion presented data unavailable to the public: recycling rates for communities using municipally supplied bins. The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection has collected recycling rate data since 1997, but after 2008 state officials stopped releasing them to the public. It appeared that no Massachusetts town with a population above 30,000 operates a program comparable to the one Mr. Pappastergion proposes.

Mr. Pappastergion proposes that Brookline supply to each of about 13,000 customers now using municipal refuse services a 35-gallon bin with wheels, similar in construction to the 64-gallon bins already supplied for recycling. Brookline would reduce the number of collection trucks from six to four and equip those trucks with automated bin-handlers like the ones now used for recycling bins.

Households would continue to pay the current $200 per year fee to have one 35-gallon refuse bin and one 64-gallon recycling bin collected each week. Extra refuse bags would be available at stores and town offices. They would have 30-gallon capacity and cost $2.00 each. For fees yet to be stated, Brookline would supply extra bins collected each week. Mr. Pappastergion estimated that 35-gallon bins would hold, on average, 40 lb of refuse, while 30-gallon bags would hold 25 lb.

Based on his estimates, Mr. Pappastergion might be proposing that Brookline violate state law by charging more than the cost of service for refuse bags. He estimated a cost of container and disposal at $1.15, as compared with a $2.00 fee. However, he did not include costs of collection and transfer. He provided no estimates for likely quantities of bags or extra bins.

In the proposed program, current practices for collecting bulky items, yard waste and metals would not change. Combining personnel, supplies, contractual services and capital equipment, Mr. Pappastergion estimated savings of about $0.1 million for fiscal 2017, the first full operating year, rising to about $0.4 million per year for fiscal 2022 and later years–including allowances for inflation.

Members of the board reacted with a diffuse scatter of comments. Mr. Wishinsky said the refuse bin on display looked “awful small” and asked about 48-gallon bins. Mr. Pappastergion said 35-gallon bins were important “to achieve goals of this program.” Board member Bernard Greene, in contrast, said he was “surprised at how large” the 35-gallon bin was. “We’d have room to rent out space.” Ms. Daly asked whether people would use compactors to overstuff the bins. Mr. Pappastergion doubted that would occur.

There were several questions about storage space and handling, to which Mr. Pappastergion responded by citing four years’ experience with the larger, single-stream recycling bins. The introduction of those elements led to increasing Brookline’s recycling rate from 30 to 37 percent, he said, but during the past two years progress has stalled. The department has yet to stimulate recycling through public outreach. It is not clear whether the department has the talent or the willingness to try.

Personnel, contracts and finances: Sara Slymon, the library director, won approval to hire three librarians, turning current interim positions into permanent ones, thanks in part to the tax override passed by voters in May. Mr. Greene and board member Ben Franco asked how the positions would be advertised. Ms. Slymon replied that union contracts restricted the library to internal posting unless a qualified candidate could not be found. She said all the current employees were well qualified for their positions.

Linda Golburgh, the assistant town clerk, asked for approval to hire an administrative assistant. The position is becoming vacant because of a retirement. It marks the third recent change in personnel at a small agency. Ms. Daly remembered that the current employee previously worked in the office of the Board of Selectmen. The board approved, with Mr. Wishinsky asking Ms. Golburgh to seek help from Lloyd Gellineau, the chief diversity officer, and Sandra DeBow, the human resources director, to insure a diverse candidate pool.

Peter Ditto, the engineering director, asked for approval of a $0.07 million increase in the contract to renovate Warren Field. The contractor is New England Landscape and Masonry (NELM) of Carver, MA. The board asked whether the project was staying within budget limits. Mr. Ditto said that it was and that the project was about to conclude. The board approved the change order.

Mr. Ditto also asked for approval of a $1.07 million contract with Newport Construction of Nashua, NH, to reconstruct Fisher Ave. It is this year’s largest street project. The other bidder, Mario Susi & Son of Dorchester, which is working on other Brookline projects, proposed a substantially higher price. The board approved the contract.

The board also approved several smaller financial transactions. Among them was accepting a $0.06 million state grant, using federal funds, to hire a transportation coordinator based at the Senior Center on Winchester St. Ruthann Dobek, director for the Council on Aging, described an innovative program aimed at helping older people adjust to living without automobiles. Board members asked how the program would operate in future years.

Frank Caro, a Precinct 10 town meeting member and a member of the Age-Friendly Cities Committee, responded that such a program had already begun with volunteers and would continue that way if necessary. However, Dr. Caro said, the program needed planning and coordination. Even a year of staffing, he contended, would move the program to better levels of service.

– Beacon staff, Brookline, MA, June 12, 2015


Celebrate Brookline Village, The Village Fair, 2015

Cause of CKD epidemic in Sister City remains a mystery, Brookline Sister City Project, 2010

Miguel Almaguer, Raúl Herrera and Carlos M. Orantes, Chronic kidney disease of unknown etiology in agricultural communities, MEDICC Review 16(2):9-15, Medical Education Cooperation with Cuba, 2014

Board of Selectmen: new members and leadership, Brookline Beacon, May 13, 2015

Town elections: tax override for schools passes, Brookline Beacon, May 5, 2015

Trash metering, WasteZero (Raleigh, NC), 2010

Solid Waste Advisory Committee: recycling and trash metering, Brookline Beacon, September 3, 2014

Craig Bolon, Recycling makes more progress without trash metering, Brookline Beacon, April 11, 2014

2015 annual town meeting: budgets, bylaws and resolutions

Unlike last year, Brookline’s 2015 annual town meeting rolled along at a brisk pace and needed only two sessions–Tuesday, May 26, and Thursday, May 28–both starting at 7 pm in the High School auditorium. The generally progressive tones of Brookline civic engagement remained clear, and some of the musical theatre of years past returned for an encore. This is the one-hundredth year for Brookline’s elected town meeting.

Budgets: Disputes over budgets that roiled the winter workups to town meeting had evaporated after voter approval of a major tax override at the Tuesday, May 5, town election. Edward “Sandy” Gadsby, the moderator of town meeting, mentioned “controversy” over a three-word amendment to one special appropriation. The Advisory Committee proposed two changes to the “override” financial plan as proposed by Mel Kleckner, the town administrator.

In the traditional presentation of an annual budget, Sean Lynn-Jones, newly elected as chair of the Advisory Committee last winter, called 2015 “an interesting year.” He noted that new revenues were going to be involved in maintaining a stable budget, singling out parking meter and refuse fees. Mr. Lynn-Jones said he expects “fiscal challenges…another general override in three to five years…possibly a ninth elementary school…high school [expansion] at over $100 million, not $35 million,” as most recently estimated.

In the traditional response from the Board of Selectmen, Neil Wishinshy, recently elected as the new chair, said strongly contested elections, like those this year, “make our town and democracy stronger.” He spoke of new efficiencies contributing to a stable budget, singling out trash metering, which has been mentioned at official meetings but so far not detailed. Mr. Wishinsky called on town meeting members to “put aside narrow self-interest,” saying, “We live in the real world.”

Staff for preservation planning will increase from 1.8 to 2.0 full-time-equivalent positions, a budget hike of $14,119. It is expected to provide a full-time position for preservationist Greer Hardwicke. The Public Works budget for pavement markings got $2,673 more, to cope with after-effects from a harsh winter. Those had been wrapped into Advisory Committee motions. A $264 million spending plan sailed through, mostly on voice votes.

A three-word amendment to a $100,000 special appropriation had been proposed by Craig Bolon, a Precinct 8 town meeting member who edits the Brookline Beacon. Offered on behalf of Brookline PAX, it asked that a study of Coolidge Corner parking be done “with neighborhood input.” Town meeting agreed in a unanimous voice vote.

Instead of parochial concerns with Public Works, this year’s town meeting focused more on the Police budget. Lynda Roseman, a Precinct 14 town meeting member, asked about progress coping with mental health issues. Daniel O’Leary, the police chief, compared last year–when three members of the force were involved–to this year, when two grant-funded programs are underway. By the end of the year, he said, about a quarter of the force will have completed 40 hours of training.

A large municipal solar-power array, in effect a budget item, was approved out-of-line under Articles 15 and 16. Brookline is contracting with Blue Wave Capital, a company endorsed by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, which is to build and operate it, using part of the former landfill site near the waste transfer station off Newton St. Rated capacity is to be 1.4 MW, peak. Expected income is about $0.08 million per year.

Bylaw, Living Wage: Under Article 10, the Recreation Department proposed to gut much of the Living Wage bylaw enacted several years ago, by exempting from coverage several employee groups and by eliminating the Brookline minimum wage: a one-dollar premium over the state minimum. Patricia Connors, a Precinct 3 town meeting member who was the chief sponsor of the bylaw, had resisted the effort strongly.

Scott Gladstone, a Precinct 16 town meeting member, was entirely opposed to Article 10. “The bylaw is already a compromise,” he claimed. “Junior lifeguards,” whom it would remove from coverage, “are lifeguards…with the same Red Cross certifications as anybody else…What we’re trying to teach here…is work values…Should we teach them that they should not be demanding a living wage?”

Ms. Connors was supported by Brookline PAX. Co-chair Frank Farlow, a Precinct 4 town meeting member, stated, “PAX supports working people and fair wages.” Board member Andrew Fischer, a Precinct 13 town meeting member, called Article 10 “an assault on working people,” saying, “I wonder how many [town-funded] cars it would take to cover the wages of students with first-time jobs.”

Robert L. “Bobby” Allen, Jr., a Precinct 16 town meeting member and former member of the Board of Selectmen, tried to deflect those arguments. saying that when the now-disbanded Living Wage Committee proposed the bylaw, “We were way out front.” He favored some compromises being sponsored by the Advisory Committee. Pamela Lodish, a Precinct 14 town meeting member who lost this year when running for the Board of Selectmen, agreed with Mr. Allen. “If we pass the [Connors] amendment,” she said, “we’ll be hiring college students instead of high-school students.”

Ms. Connors was proposing to maintain the current bylaw’s definitions of seasonal and temporary employment. It was not certain whether Mr. Allen or Ms. Lodish understood, but Merelice, a Precinct 6 town meeting member, clearly did. The current bylaw’s approach is not supported by the HR module of Munis, recently adopted for maintaining employment records by the Human Resources (HR) office. According to Merelice, the attitude of HR is “an example of being concerned about the dirt when we hold the broom.” She contended, “We can certainly find the technology.”

Town meeting members sided strongly with Ms. Connors, Merelice and Brookline PAX. In an electronically recorded vote, the Connors amendment passed 141 to 48, with 10 abstentions. The amended main motion on Article 10 passed 144 to 42, with 5 abstentions. Although the Brookline minimum wage premium is maintained, so-called “junior” employees in the Recreation Department will no longer be covered by the Living Wage, reverting to the Brookline minimum wage–currently $10.00 versus $13.19 per hour. Recreation claims to be able to support more positions.

Bylaw, snow clearance from sidewalks: Town meeting grappled with the latest edition of a snow-clearance bylaw under Article 12. For about 30 years a bylaw initially proposed by Stanley Spiegel, a Precinct 2 town meeting member, has required property owners to clear adjacent sidewalks of snow. However, until a push last year from Frank Caro, a Precinct 10 town meeting member who filed a resolution article, and from the Age-Friendly Cities Committee, enforcement proved erratic.

During the 1970s and before, Brookline plowed most of the sidewalks, but after budget trims in the aftermath of Proposition 2-1/2 it cut back to only a few, including ones near schools. Article 12 was proposed by a Sidewalk Snow Removal Task Force, appointed in the summer of 2014 by the Board of Selectmen to strengthen the town’s law and its enforcement. The group–including staff from Public Works, Health, Building and Police–acknowledged that a complaint-driven approach had worked poorly.

Last winter, the four departments contributing to the task force divided Brookline’s streets into four sectors and began proactive enforcement during weekdays, with Police assuming most duties at other times. Despite the unusually harsh winter, enforcement generally improved, as described to town meeting by Nancy Daly, speaking for the Board of Selectmen. However, Martin Rosenthal, a Precinct 9 town meeting member, pointed out the lack of coordination in the current form of enforcement.

In its town-meeting article, the task force proposed to discontinue automatic warnings for first violations at residential properties, to raise fines and to institute a $250 fine for placing snow into a street–forbidden by Brookline’s general bylaws since the nineteenth century.

Compromises made as outcomes of several reviews had gutted most of the original proposal, leaving relatively weak enforcement, modest fines and no administrative appeals. Tommy Vitolo, a Precinct 6 town meeting member, offered two amendments intended to address some compromises. One would have limited a period of enforcement delay, at discretion of the public works commissioner, to no more than 30 hours after the end of a snowfall.

Amy Hummel of Precinct 12, speaking for the Advisory Committee, objected to an arbitrary time limit for the commissioner’s discretion. During the Blizzard of 1978, many streets remained impassible for several days, because Brookline then lacked much equipment capable of clearing them. That amendment was rejected through an electronically recorded vote, 78 to 108, with 6 abstentions.

Dr. Vitolo’s other amendment sought to restore the schedule of fines that the task force had proposed. Those called for a $50 fine on a first violation at a residential property, rather than an automatic warning, and a $100 fine for subsequent violations.

Dennis Doughty, a Precinct 3 town meeting member who served on the task force, supported the amendment on fines. He compared hazards of sidewalk snow with other hazards now sanctioned by $50 fines and no warnings, including putting refuse out for collection earlier than 4 pm the previous day. Town meeting members approved the amendment on fines through an electronically recorded vote, 135 to 52, with 5 abstentions.

Unfortunately, Dr. Vitolo’s amendment on fines for failure to clear sidewalk snow seems to leave the Brookline bylaws inconsistent. According to the main motion before town meeting, proposed by the Advisory committee on p. 5 of its supplemental report section and amended per Dr. Vitolo, the snow clearance bylaw was changed by town meeting to read, in part:

“The violation of any part of Section 7.7.3 [that is, the requirement to clear sidewalk snow at residential properties]…shall be noted with a $50 fine for the first violation and subject to a fine of $100.00 for the second and subsequent violations….”

However, according to the main motion, revised penalties are stated again in Article 10.3 of the bylaws, Table of Specific Penalties. What Dr. Vitolo’s amendment did was to revise penalties stated in the bylaw on snow clearance but not those stated in the Table of Specific Penalties. There will likely be no more snow before a fall town meeting, which might make the Brookline bylaws consistent.

Bylaws, tap water and bottled water: Articles 13 and 14, the two “water articles,” had been filed by Jane Gilman, a Precinct 3 town meeting member, Clinton Richmond, a Precinct 6 town meeting member, and several other petitioners. Both were “watered down” during reviews before the town meeting, yet significant parts of each survived and won approval.

Ms. Gilman and Mr. Richmond are co-chairs of the “green caucus” in town meeting, which counts over fifty town meeting members as participants and has been effective at marshaling votes for some recent, environmentally oriented initiatives. Brookline PAX, with a somewhat overlapping base of support, was recommending voting for motions offered by the Board of Selectmen in favor of parts of the two articles.

Article 13 sought a bylaw requiring Brookline restaurants to offer tap water. They already do, said Sytske Humphrey of Precinct 6, speaking for the Advisory Committee. She called the proposed bylaw “unnecessary and ineffective.” However, the petitioners had found some sinners. An Indian restaurant in Washington Square did not offer tap water on its take-out menu, and one pizza place did not seem to offer it at all.

Differing from the Advisory position, the Board of Selectmen saw little objection to such a law but added a phrase, “upon request,” and removed a sentence: “Establishments may charge for this service item.” That might give an impression, they wrote, that charging for water “was a requirement.”

Diana Spiegel, a Precinct 2 town meeting member, said the topic could be handled by conditions on restaurant licenses and moved to refer the article to the Board of Selectmen. In an electronically recorded vote, the referral motion failed 78 to 103, with 5 abstentions. The motion for a bylaw drafted by the Board of Selectmen passed 124 to 56, with 7 abstentions.

Article 14, seeking to ban sale and distribution of bottled water at town events and on town property, encountered stiffer headwinds at reviews before town meeting and quickly lost altitude. According to Mr. Richmond, the purpose was not banning water but banning the plastic bottles usually supplied. Hundreds of billions a year are sold. While they might be recycled, at least in part, they are mostly thrown away.

By town meeting, motions under the article had been trimmed back to a proposed ban on spending town funds to buy water in plastic bottles of one liter or less for use in offices. The Board of Selectmen proposed to refer the rest of the article to a study committee, to be appointed by the board. The Advisory Committee stuck with its original approach, recommending no action.

John Harris, a Precinct 8 town meeting member and a past participant in the “green caucus,” was not in line this time. The bylaw favored by the Board of Selectmen would have negligible impact, he claimed, and if widely emulated elsewhere, then companies selling bottled water would easily subvert it. Speaking for the Board of Selectmen, Nancy Daly disagreed, saying the debates over Article 14 had “succeeded at least in educating me.”

The Advisory Committee remained unmoved. Robert Liao of Precinct 15 recommended voting for the Harris motion to refer, consistent with the Advisory position. There will be “adverse unintended consequences” from a bylaw, he claimed, saying, “Reusable bottles require planning and changes in behavior.”

Robert Miller, a Precinct 8 town meeting member, asked whether the town was spending money on either bottled water or bottled soda. The answers were yes as to both, according to Mel Kleckner, the town administrator. Echoing a topic heard often during reviews, Jonathan Davis, a Precinct 10 town meeting member, asked whether vending machines on town property would be affected. Mr. Richmond conceded they would not be, since “the machines are put out to bid” and do not involve spending town funds.

Mr. Gadsby, the moderator, took a motion for the question–that is, a motion to terminate debate. Not enough town meeting members were ready to do that. On an electronically recorded vote the motion failed 129 to 71, with 2 abstentions. Such a motion takes a two-thirds margin but got only 65 percent.

Susan Helms Daley of Chatham Circle and her son Jackson, a fourth-grader at Lawrence School, told town meeting members about an alternative that is catching on. For the past few years, the school has had a “green team” and tried “to discourage use of bottled water.” Ms. Daley asserted, “Bottled water is the same as cigarettes.” Jackson Daley said after the school installed “water bottle refill stations”–a PTO project–”more people brought water bottles” to school. So far, he said, “We have saved 10,129 plastic bottles. How cool is that?”

After hearing similar opinions from a junior at Brookline High School, Mr. Gadsby again accepted a motion for the question. He declared it had passed, on a show of hands. The motion from Mr. Harris to refer all of Article 14 failed on an electronically recorded vote, 97 to 102, with 2 abstentions. The motion from the Board of Selectmen for a bylaw banning some uses of town funds passed by a substantial majority, on a show of hands.

Resolution, recreation land: Article 18 proposed a resolution seeking a study of acquiring land in the Putterham neighborhoods of south Brookline for park and recreation uses–specifically, so-called “buffer” areas of Hancock Village near Beverly and Russett Rds. Regina Frawley, a Precinct 16 town meeting member, and Hugh Mattison, a Precinct 5 town meeting member, prepared the article. Although not an abutter to Hancock Village, Ms. Frawley has lived nearby since 1968.

While it is possible that the current landowner, Chestnut Hill Realty, might agree to sell the land, a series of development plans, currently tapping powers under Chapter 40B of the General Laws, have left the company at loggerheads with the Board of Selectmen. A purchase-and-sale agreement now looks unlikely, so that Ms. Frawley suggested the land would probably have to be taken by eminent domain.

In the Putterham neighborhoods, Ms. Frawley showed, there is little public open space. She described the current open spaces and showed that the Hancock Village buffers look to be the largest undeveloped areas likely to be suitable. The only sizable public spaces now are around Baker School. They are laid out for specialized uses and are unavailable to the public during school days. For over 70 years, neighborhood residents have often used the buffer areas for recreation instead, as tolerated by a succession of landowners.

Moderator Gadsby immediately took comments from Rebecca Plaut Mautner, a Precinct 11 town meeting member, ahead of normal order and before hearing from the Advisory Committee and town boards. He did not explain the unusual conduct. Ms. Mautner operates RPM Consulting, according to the Web site of Citizens’ Housing and Planning Association in Boston–providing “affordable housing development services” in New England.

Ms. Mautner delivered a broadside against Article 18, saying it “will be perceived by the outside world as an effort to undermine creation of affordable housing…a message that Brookline will stop at nothing to prevent affordable housing.” That did not seem to resonate well, broached in the first town in Massachusetts to build public housing, where inclusionary zoning has been active for over 20 years.

Lee Selwyn of Precinct 13, speaking for the Advisory Committee, recalled that the proposed “Hancock Village project did not start out as 40B…there was no affordable housing in the original plan.” The owner, he said, is “using 40B as a means to pressure the town.” He said Article 18 proposed “a reasonable public use” of land, and he noted that a parcel adjacent to Hancock Village had been “taken by the state by eminent domain to prevent an inappropriate development.” The Hancock Woods area was taken as conservation land about 20 years ago.

Janice Kahn of Precinct 15, also an Advisory Committee member, supported the study. She said it could teach the town about using eminent domain. There has been no substantial taking since the Hall’s Pond and Amory Woods conservation projects in the 1970s. Given the ongoing disputes with Chestnut Hill Realty, the Board of Selectmen had declined to take a position on Article 18. Members had said they would abstain from voting on it.

Mr. Mattison of Precinct 5, a suppporter, said the buffer “space has served as informal recreation space.” Some 1940s correspondence with the town, he said, describes “how the commitment would be binding” to maintain it as open space. However, that was not part of an agreement presented to a 1946 town meeting, when the bulk of Hancock Village was rezoned to allow apartments.

Lauren Bernard, a Precinct 8 town meeting member, asked whether a “prescriptive easement” would be possible, given the long history of public use, and whether that would be “mutually exclusive with eminent domain.” Joslin Murphy, the town counsel, said easement issues were “not considered yet,” but easement and eminent domain would probably “be mutually exclusive.”

Even though the hour was getting late, at 10:30 pm, town meeting was willing to hear more arguments. A motion for the question failed on an electronically recorded vote, 88 to 78, with 17 abstentions. Julie Jette of Payson Rd. spoke. She said she had been “very surprised” when moving there “that really the only fully accessible playground is in West Roxbury.”

Crossing the rotary and the VFW Parkway with young children seemed too dangerous, Ms. Jette said, and she had never tried. However, she said, “yards are not a substitute for social and community opportunities. It’s time to create a true neighborhood park in south Brookline…Time is of the essence, given Chestnut Hill Realty development plans.” After a few other comments, town meeting approved Article 18 on a show of hands, looking like a ten-to-one majority at least.

Resolution, Boston Olympics: Article 19 proposed a resolution, objecting to plans for holding the Olympic Games in Boston during 2024. The plans never gained traction in Brookline, where many people see heavy costs and slender benefits. The Board of Selectmen had nevertheless postponed making a recommendation, reaching out to the pressure group pushing for the Olympics, but no one from that group responded.

At the town meeting, Martin Rosenthal, a Precinct 9 town meeting member, led off–speaking for Brookline PAX, of which he is co-chair. Unlike his fellow co-chair, Frank Farlow of Precinct 4, Mr. Rosenthal said he is a sports fan and “was excited at first.” However, he had realized “there might be some issues here…it was more for the benefit of non-Brookline people.” PAX opposes plans for 2024 Olympic Games in Boston.

Christopher Dempsey, a Precinct 6 town meeting member, was giving no quarter. He has co-founded a volunteer group, No Boston Olympics, and was on the warpath, armed with PowerPoint slides. The pressure group behind the Olympics plans, he said, is aiming to raid public funds. A long article published the previous day in the Boston Business Journal revealed much of that story to the public.

According to Business Journal staff, previously secret sections of the Olympics “bid book” said public money would be sought to “fund land acquisition and infrastructure costs.” The plans were also “relying on an expanded Boston Convention and Exhibition Center”–a deluxe Patrick administration venture that the Baker administration has canned.

Mr. Dempsey was having a field day, saying, “Boston 2024 is not going to fix the T…In London and Vancouver the Olympics Village financing was from public funds…Olympics budgets are guaranteed by taxpayers…The more you learn about 2024 Olympics, the less you like it.” Ben Franco spoke for the Board of Selectmen, simply stating that the board “urges favorable action” on Article 19.

Speaking for the Advisory Committee, Amy Hummel of Precinct 12 said that “the money and resources spent would benefit the Olympics shadow.” The current plans have “no real public accountability,” she contended, and “Brookline will be heavily impacted…The biggest concern [of the Advisory Committee] is the taxpayer guarantee…Lack of public process is unacceptable.”

Olympics boosters did have some friends. Charles “Chuck” Swartz, a Precinct 9 town meeting member, advised caution, saying, “Who knows what will happen in Boston? We don’t have to make this decision now.” Susan Granoff of Precinct 7, attending her first town meeting, said, “Let’s give Boston 2024 more time.” The Olympics, she contended, “would create thousands of jobs and bring billions of dollars…It’s private money being donated.”

Most town meeting members were not convinced by such claims. They approved the resolution in an electronically recorded vote, 111 to 46, with 7 abstentions. Katherine Seelye’s story in the New York Times on Saturday, May 30, may have deep-sixed the Olympics plans. She included the Business Journal disclosures and cited the Brookline town-meeting resolution.

Other actions: Under Article 9, town meeting voted no action on a proposal to make holders of state and federal offices living in Brookline automatic town meeting members. After encountering opposition, Ernest Frey, a Precinct 7 town meeting member, offered a “no action” motion on the article that he and other petitioners had submitted.

Article 17 proposed a resolution seeking changes to Sections 20-23 of Chapter 40B, the Comprehensive Permit Act of 1969 that was encouraged by the late Cardinal Cushing. Nancy Heller, the principal petitioner, now a member of the Board of Selectmen, had not seemed to recognize the complexity of the issues and soon agreed to refer the article to the Planning Board and Housing Advisory Board. That was the course taken by town meeting.

Under Article 11, town meeting voted to create a Crowninshield local historic district, on petition from the owners of about 85 percent of the houses on Crowninshield Rd., Adams St., Elba St. and Copley St. Speaking in favor were David King, chair of the Preservation Commission, Robert Miller, a Precinct 8 town meeting member, George White, a Precinct 9 town meeting member, John Sherman and Katherine Poverman, both residents of Adams St., Angela Hyatt of Precinct 5 for the Advisory Committee and Nancy Daly for the Board of Selectmen.

Dr. White recalled that the neighborhood had been home to well-known writers and artists. He mentioned novelist and short-story writer Edith Pearlman, an Elba St. resident for many years, and after a little prompting the novelist Saul Bellow, winner of a Nobel Prize in literature, who lived on Crowninshield Rd. in his later years. Only Clifford Ananian, a Precinct 10 town meeting member, took exception. He said preserving “single-family homes is a waste of a valuable resource,” although he lives in one of those homes. Despite the objection, the town meeting vote to create the district proved unanimous.

– Beacon staff, Brookline, MA, May 30, 2015


Katherine Q. Seelye, Details uncovered in Boston’s 2024 Olympic bid may put it in jeopardy, New York Times, May 30, 2015

BBJ staff, Boston 2024 report highlights need for public funding, expanded BCEC, Boston Business Journal, May 28, 2015

Matt Stout, Gov. Baker puts brakes on $1 billion convention center plan, Boston Herald, April 29, 2015

Warrant report with supplements, May 26, 2015, town meeting, Town of Brookline, MA

Age-Friendly Cities: health fair, outreach, snow and parks, Brookline Beacon, May 25, 2015

Board of Selectmen: police awards, paying for snow, Brookline Beacon, May 20, 2015

Board of Selectmen: new members and leadership, Brookline Beacon, May 13, 2015

Craig Bolon, How we voted, costs of business, Brookline Beacon, May 10, 2015

Craig Bolon, Field of dreams: a Coolidge Corner parking garage, Brookline Beacon, May 4, 2015

Board of Selectmen: landmarks, permits and town meeting controversy, Brookline Beacon, April 22, 2015

Board of Selectmen: farmers’ market, promotions, golf and town meeting, Brookline Beacon, April 29, 2015

Advisory Committee: budgets, bylaws and lectures, Brookline Beacon, April 14, 2015

Advisory subcommittee on human services: tap water and bottled water, Brookline Beacon, April 12, 2015

Advisory Committee: new park land for Putterham neighborhoods, Brookline Beacon, April 10, 2015

Advisory subcommittee on planning and regulation: new historic district, Brookline Beacon, March 31, 2015

Craig Bolon, Advisory Committee: in a generous mood, Brookline Beacon, March 19, 2015

Board of Selectmen: Hancock Village, budget reviews, Brookline Beacon, March 4, 2015

Solid Waste Advisory Committee: recycling and trash metering, Brookline Beacon, September 3, 2014

2014 annual town meeting recap: fine points, Brookline Beacon, June 7, 2014

Craig Bolon, Recycling makes more progress without trash metering, Brookline Beacon, April 11, 2014

Age-Friendly Cities: health fair, outreach, snow and parks

A regular meeting of the Age-Friendly Cities Committee on Wednesday, May 20, started at 10:00 am in the fourth-floor conference room at Town Hall, with just over half the members on hand, joined by a few visitors. There have been three recent resignations, leaving seats open for new volunteers. The committee made Brookline the first New England community to become part of a U.N. World Health Organization network, in 2012.

Health fair: Nancy Daly, a member of the Board of Selectmen who co-chairs the committee with sociologist Frank Caro, reviewed the recent Senior Expo Health Fair, conducted at the Brookline Senior Center Thursday, May 14. Dennis Selkoe, a neurologist practicing at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, spoke about warning signs for Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Selkoe is the husband of Polly Selkoe, Brookline’s assistant director for regulatory planning.

Ms. Daly characterized the Alzheimer’s talk as a “down-to-earth style,” describing how to recognize signs of memory problems. A presentation on nutrition had been harder to follow, she said, with several descriptions of laboratory studies using mice. Members of the Police Department and Fire Department, who came to discuss emergency responses, “got stuck in the back,” according to Ms. Daly.

Outreach: Henry Winkelman, a committee member, described the panel discussion he recently helped to produce as a Brookline Interactive Group video. It features Ms. Daly, Dr. Caro and committee member Matthew Weiss, describing the committee’s missions. As Mr. Weiss put it, early in the panel discussion, “Why would an older person want to live in a retirement community, when a person can live in Brookline?”

The 28-minute video is available to the public at any time of day on the Web, from Brookline Interactive. It mentions recent Brookline efforts focused on health, safety, housing and transportation. Nearly all the discussion concerns needs of older adults, but on sidewalk snow clearance Mr. Weiss remarked, “What older adults want is what everybody needs and [doesn't] necessarily ask for.”

Dr. Caro observed, “When people get older, they’re willing to take a look at some very basic things we tend to take for granted…When we’re younger, we’re athletic enough so that we can compensate for…bumps in the road.” Participants seemed to see practical challenges. However, Dr. Caro mentioned one effort to begin soon, a senior transportation program “in collaboration with Newton.”

This video did not touch on any of the environmental issues that have gathered force in town meeting over the past several years, although Dr. Caro, formerly a Precinct 8 town meeting member and now a Precinct 10 town meeting member, has contributed to some of them. According to Mr. Weiss, the next video in the series, expected in early summer, will focus on Brookline’s parks and its recreation services.

Snow, sidewalks, streets and parks: As indicated in the recent video, snow clearance from sidewalks continues as a perennial concern for the committee. Members discussed Article 12 pending for the annual town meeting that starts Tuesday, May 26. Recently, the Board of Selectmen has backed away from some enforcement provisions of the bylaw changes they proposed, but Tommy Vitolo, a young Precinct 6 town meeting member, has offered amendments to revive those changes.

The discussion veered toward other street and sidewalk issues. Dr. Caro spoke about “some sidewalks that need repairs” and about “hazardous intersections.” Another committee member was concerned about involving the Transportation Board, saying it was an “invitation to alienation…Citizens…think that it’s hopeless to get something done there.”

Toward the close of the meeting, Dr. Caro described an “initiative with parks…a brochure on age-friendly features,” mentioning the Minot Rose Garden, Hall’s Pond, Freeman Square, the Brookline Reservoir, the Olmsted bicycle path and the new Fisher Hill Park. Saralynn Allaire, a Precinct 16 town meeting member, spoke about an effort to make the Putterham Library garden “ADA-compliant,” meaning accessible to people who use wheelchairs.

– Beacon staff, Brookline, MA, May 25, 2015


Board of Selectmen: police awards, paying for snow, Brookline Beacon, May 20, 2015

Board of Selectmen: new members and leadership, Brookline Beacon, May 13, 2015

Board of Selectmen: new 40B project, town meeting reviews, Brookline Beacon, March 30, 2015

Matthew Weiss, Frank Caro and Nancy Daly, Age-Friendly Cities Committee background and missions, Brookline Age-Friendly Cities Committee, April 23, 2015 (28-minute video)

Matthew Weiss, First annual progress report of Brookline Age-Friendly Cities initiative, Brookline Age-Friendly Cities Committee, February, 2014

Frank Caro, Nancy Daly and Ruthann Dobek, Narrative supporting Brookline’s application for participation in the World Health Organization’s Age-Friendly Cities Program, Brookline Age-Friendly Cities Committee, November, 2012 (1 MB)

Board of Selectmen: farmers’ market, promotions, golf and town meeting

A regular meeting of the Board of Selectmen on Tuesday, April 28, started at 6:00 pm in the sixth-floor meeting room at Town Hall. This was the last meeting for retiring board chair Ken Goldstein, first elected in 2009, and for retiring board member Betsy DeWitt, first elected in 2006 and chosen as board chair in 2010 through 2013.

On Tuesday, May 5, voters will elect two new board members among five candidates: town meeting members Merelice of Precinct 6, Bernard Greene of Precinct 7, Nancy Heller of Precinct 8 and Pam Lodish of Precinct 14, and Larry Onie, a Marshall St. resident. Mr. Greene, Ms. Heller and Ms. Lodish were members of the Advisory Committee until they decided to run. Ms. Heller and Ms. Lodish are also former members of the School Committee. Mr. Onie was a member of the former Human Relations and Youth Resources Commission.

Farmers’ Market: The board approved an agreement allowing the Brookline Farmers’ Market to use the smaller Centre St. parking lot Thursday afternoons from June 18 through October 29, 2015. Succeeding Arlene Flowers as market manager after 20 years are three co-managers: Abe Faber, an owner of Clear Flour Bread on Thorndike St., Kate Stillman, of Stillman’s Farm in Lunenberg and New Braintree, and Charlie Trombetta, of Trombetta’s Farm in Marlborough. The market association pays $2,500 a year to rent the space for 20 Thursdays.

Current sign for Brookline Farmers’ Market

CurrentFarmersMarketSign20150428
Source: Brookline Department of Planning and Community Development

Andy Martineau, an economic development planner, presented a concept proposed for Brookline wayfinding signs. It was developed by Favermann Design of Boston as part of a $0.02 million contract awarded by the Board of Selectmen last September. So far, the proposal has not appeared among the Planning Department’s economic development files on the municipal Web site.

Proposed sign for Brookline Farmers’ Market

ProposedFarmersMarketSign20150428
Source: Brookline Department of Planning and Community Development

As the example for Brookline Farmers’ Market shows, wayfinding signs would all become rust-colored with uniform lettering and no graphics. The proposal was released at a meeting of the Economic Development Advisory Board on March 2. Minutes say members of that group reacted to “monolithic appearance” and lack of “iconic” symbols for organizations such as Rotary. Members of the Board of Selectmen had concerns that lettering might be too small to read from a moving vehicle. Faint leaf outlines across the tops might look like graffiti to some.

Personnel, contracts and finances: After a long series of personnel reviews, Daniel O’Leary, the police chief, won approval to promote Andrew Lipson from lieutenant to deputy superintendent, Kevin Mealy from sergeant to lieutenant and Brian Sutherland, Russell O’Neill and Andrew Amendola from patrol officer to sergeant. Mr. Lipson will become head of the Patrol Division, sometimes a station to heading the department.

Brookline has an increasingly educated police department. Of those promoted this time, four have master’s degrees in criminal justice and other fields, and the fifth is currently in a master’s program. At least one member of the force has a PhD. This has not led to any lack of practical effectiveness. To the contrary, most crime counts have continued to fall, year by year, and the town has remained free of ugly incidents.

Paul Ford, the fire chief, got approval to hire seven firefighters to replace ones who have retired, left the department or died. Stephen Cirillo, the town’s finance director, was reappointed to the Retirement Board as a management representative for three years.

Anthony Guigli, a building project administrator, got approval for $0.06 million in added improvements at old Lincoln School, preparing to house part of Devotion School during renovations and expansion. Although not in regular service as a school since 1994, old Lincoln has become temporary quarters for Town Hall, the main library, the health department and several other schools during renovations.

2022 U.S. Open in golf: The board considered negotiating with the U.S. Golf Association (USGA) about holding its 2022 U.S. Open at The Country Club, potentially using parts of Putterham Meadows and Larz Anderson in support. USGA of Far Hills, NJ, had contacted the town. The board’s chair, Ken Goldstein, who retires from the board after this meeting, is an avid golfer. Other board members were not as enthusiastic. “Right now I’m quite a skeptic,” said Nancy Daly.

The club hosted the U.S. Open in golf three times before: in 1913, 1963 and 1988. As board members recalled, the last comparable event was the Ryder Cup in 1999. David Chag, general manager of the club since 1987, said the club provided $0.5 million from that event to start a fund for Brookline youth programs and has been raising about $0.05 million a year for the fund since then.

Board members asked about any plans for 2024 Olympics. Mr. Chag said there had been a contact about a year ago but no follow-up. He was surprised, he said, to see the club described as a potential site this winter. The board voted 4-0-1 to set up a task force to negotiate with USGA, Ms. Daly abstaining. Mel Kleckner, the town administrator, promised to keep board members informed.

Lloyd Gellineau, Brookline’s chief diversity officer, asked to reconvene a memorial committee on the Holocaust, last an active project about 20 years ago. He has located recordings of about 90 hours of interviews with survivors, archived but never made available to the public. Harvey Bravman, a Newton resident, actor and media producer, has collaborated with Dr. Gellineau in investigating and indexing the archive. The board agreed to reconvene the inactive committee.

Town meeting issues: After budget controversies raised by the Advisory Committee, the board asked Melissa Goff, recently appointed deputy town administrator, for a review of financial reserves and of ways to meet costs of snow clearance last winter. Ms. Goff said the overrun against funds appropriated for snow clearance had reached about $3.4 million.

Current plans are to apply about $1.6 million from the general reserve fund and $1.1 million from balances in overlay funds from 2009 and prior years. That leaves about $0.7 million to be made up from other sources. Contrary to hopes of some Advisory Committee members, overlay balances will not be enough to help restore proposed cuts in municipal services. The board voted to reconsider Article 7 for the spring town meeting, on budget amendments, but did not propose new actions under the article at this meeting.

The board did review its recommendations on Article 8, the budget for the 2016 fiscal year starting in July. Members are continuing to support the financial plan presented by Mr. Kleckner February 17, with one change. They will recommend increasing the Health Department budget by $26,000 to support mental health, balancing that with $10,000 from estimated parking revenue and $16,000 from reduced estimates for energy spending.

The board also reconsidered its recommendation on Article 9, which would make elected federal and state officials living in Brookline automatic members of town meeting. Stanley Spiegel, a Precinct 2 town meeting member and a member of the Advisory Committee, proposed instead to make these officials “honorary town meeting members,” non-voting but welcome to participate in town meeting debates. Apparently hoping to head off another simmering dispute with the Advisory Committee, the board supported that approach.

A recommendation about Article 19 had been deferred. It proposes a resolution against Olympic games in Boston. No representatives of the pressure group pushing for the Olympics showed up last week, and the board decided to reach out to them, but no one came to this meeting either. The board voted to support Article 19.

– Beacon staff, Brookline, MA, April 29, 2015


Favermann Design, Wayfinding signs, Brookline Department of Planning and Community Development. Not posted online as of April 29, 2015.

Board of Selectmen: landmarks, permits and town meeting controversy, Brookline Beacon, April 22, 2015

Advisory Committee: budgets, bylaws and lectures, Brookline Beacon, April 14, 2015

Town elections: contests town-wide and in precincts, Brookline Beacon, March 17, 2015

Board of Selectmen: Hancock Village, financial plan, Brookline Beacon, February 21, 2015

Board of Selectmen: celebrations, personnel, programs, licenses, Brookline Beacon, August 13, 2014

Advisory: learning about spending on schools

The Advisory subcommittee on schools met at 6 pm Wednesday, April 1, in the first-floor north meeting room at Town Hall. All subcommittee members were on hand: new chair Michael Sandman of Sewall Ave., not a town meeting member, new subcommittee members Kelly Hardebeck of Precinct 7 and Amy Hummel of Precinct 12, and returning subcommittee members Bobbie Knable of Precinct 11 and Sharri Mittel of Precinct 14.

They met with Peter Rowe, the deputy school superintendent for administration and finance. Visitors at this meeting included Susan Wolf Ditkoff, chair of the School Committee, Barbara Scotto, vice chair of the School Committee, and Carla Benka, vice chair of the Advisory Committee. The Brookline School Committee had held its legally required annual budget hearing on March 26, with slim attendance–including no Advisory Committee members–and only one public comment.

School budgets: The schools subcommittee has traditionally been the most difficult Advisory assignment–partly because of size of and complexity in the budget and partly because of the limited influence of town meetings. Under Massachusetts laws from 1939 through 1980, school committees were effectively taxing authorities. If a town meeting did not appropriate at least as much as a school committee asked, a “ten taxpayer” lawsuit could compel the town to raise more taxes and provide the full amount.

The “Proposition 2-1/2″ law, enacted by voters [Chapter 580 of the Acts of 1980], ended the fiscal autonomy of Massachusetts school committees. However, while town meetings now regulate total amounts of money for schools, they can only recommend how money should be spent. [Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 71, Section 34] School committees allocate the funds appropriated among school programs. The role of the Advisory Committee remains, in part, finding opportunities for efficiency.

Special education: The Advisory subcommittee spent much of its meeting on costs of “special education”–really a misnomer here. Brookline began to provide compensatory services to students with learning disabilities in the 1960s, well before state and federal mandates. Mr. Rowe explained that Brookline has been managing costs during recent years by providing compensatory services directly to more students, within the current schools, rather than sending them to outside programs. However, all students remain eligible for individual evaluations, and some students are still sent outside.

It was not clear whether subcommittee members grasped that the “special education” services, as seen by the school administration, are part of a continuum. A greater variety of services is available today than fifty years ago, when former Superintendent Robert I. Sperber–still an active Brookline resident–began to develop “individualized education.” Mr. Sandman estimated current spending on special education, per student in these programs, as equivalent to about half the cost of a teacher, on average.

Information technology: Information technology has been a growth area in recent budgets, particularly for school programs. In 1979, Dr. Sperber proposed buying four specially configured minicomputers for classroom instruction but chose not to proceed after hearing arguments that microcomputers were about to produce a cost revolution, which would soon make it practical to serve far more students.

With handheld computers widely available, fruits of the revolution have ripened, leaving some now saying Brookline public schools are lagging behind. As the subcommittee saw, costs for equipment are now far outweighed by costs for personnel. Municipal and school organizations supposedly share an information technology department, but the whole picture is more complex and far more costly.

Information technology department, p. IV-14
1 chief information officer
1 applications director
1 network manager
1 Web developer
1 GIS developer
1 systems analyst
2 network administrators
1 database administrator
1 help-desk technician
1 senior programmer
1 administrative assistant
—————————–
12 employees
$1.06 million in salaries

Schools information services, p. 113
1 application manager
2 application support specialists
1 data management director
1 desktop services manager
4 technicians
—————————–
8 employees
$0.62 million in salaries

Schools education technology, pp. 98-99
1 curriculum coordinator
10 educational technologists
1 secretary
—————————–
12 employees
$0.88 million in salaries

There are, in effect, three Brookline information technology departments: the one given that name and budgeted as a municipal department, plus two with different names funded as internal school agencies. Spread among them are a total of about 32 employees, $2.6 million in salaries and $0.5 million in direct benefits–estimated at the average Brookline spending for direct benefits, or about $15,900 per employee proposed for FY2016.

Brookline’s information technology currently has a structure heavy with administration, similar to trends in educational institutions. For a staff count of just over 30, there are ten titles of “officer,” “director,” “manager,” “administrator” and “coordinator”–a management ratio of about 3. Technology industries are far more efficient, with typical professional management ratios of 8 to 12. A well organized staff of that size would need about three instead of ten managers and would have fewer overlapping jobs.

– Craig Bolon, Brookline, MA, April 5, 2015


School Committee: budget bounties and woes, Brookline Beacon, March 13, 2015

Craig Bolon, Brookline’s workforce: signs of strain, Brookline Beacon, January 9, 2015

School Committee: Driscoll plans, policies, technology and testing, Brookline Beacon, May 27, 2014

FY2016 Superintendent’s budget message, Public Schools of Brookline, MA, March 12, 2015

FY2016 Program Budget (public schools), Town of Brookline, MA (39 MB)

FY2016 Program Budget (municipal agencies and departments), Town of Brookline, MA (16 MB)

Paul F. Campos, The real reason college tuition costs so much, New York Times, April 5, 2015

Board of Selectmen: personnel, policies and budget reviews

A regular meeting of the Board of Selectmen on Tuesday, March 31, started at 6:10 pm in the sixth-floor meeting room at Town Hall. The board reviewed personnel changes, policies and budgets proposed for the fiscal year starting in July.

Contracts, personnel and finances: Peter Rowe, the deputy school superintendent for administration and finance, who will retire at the end of June, asked the board to submit a “statement of interest” to the state School Building Authority for expansion of Brookline High School. Such a project could easily dwarf spending on Devotion School expansion and renovation, recently estimated at up to $120 million. Board member Ben Franco mentioned “trying to keep the price tag down.” Then the board approved the submission.

As requested by Alison Steinfeld, the planning director, the board approved a reallocation of sources for the $0.65 million in support it approved last November 25 for the Beals St. subsidized housing project being carried out in collaboration with Pine St. Inn of Boston. About $0.03 million more will be spent from federal Community Development funds and correspondingly less from local Housing Trust funds. Brookline has yet to publish on its Web site a comprehensive description and full cost analysis for this project.

Paul Ford, the fire chief, presented three candidates for promotions. Long-serving Deputy Chief Mark Jefferson recently retired. Kyle McEachern was promoted from captain to deputy chief. Stephen Nelson was promoted from temporary captain to captain. Michael Kelleher was promoted from temporary lieutenant to lieutenant.

Melissa Battite, the assistant recreation director, got approval to hire for business manager replacing Jesse Myott, who took a new job. The Recreation Department recently activated a partly dysfunctional Web site, pointed to by but not integrated with the municipal site, that is costing taxpayers extra money while making it difficult or impossible to find information about personnel and internal operations.

Interviews and policies: The board interviewed Kathleen Scanlon for Climate Action, Frank Caro for Cable TV and Jennifer Goldsmith for Commission on Women. Scott Englander, who co-chairs “Complete Streets” with board member Neil Wishinsky, presented a draft policy and work plan. So far, the documents are unavailable on the municipal Web site.

As applied to Brookline, the cute catchphrase “Complete Streets” looks to mean, essentially, streets with bicycle paths. Brookline currently has none. It has only painted pavement markings and a few signs. The town blew away its biggest opportunity to install some when spending millions of dollars to reconstruct Beacon St. several years ago. Boston recently promoted bicycle paths when proposing to reconstruct Commonwealth Ave. between the B.U. Bridge and Packard Corner. No price tags, sources of funds or schedules have yet been disclosed.

Licenses and permits: Taverna DeHaro, on Beacon St., and Washington St. Tavern got board approval for alternate managers of alcoholic beverage sales. As is now usual board procedure, neither sent a representative to the board meeting.

Budget reviews: The board reviewed budgets proposed by Mel Kleckner, the town administrator, for the Health Department, the new Diversity Department, Veterans’ Services and the Council on Aging. At the budget reviews so far, the board has been asking few questions about finances. The current Board of Selectmen has struck some as lacking interest in financial matters. Instead, community values and priorities have been emerging largely from the Advisory Committee.

Brookline Interactive continues to record meetings of the board on video, but the recordings may not appear on the Web until two or more weeks later. As of April 3, the most recent one available was from March 10. The Brookline channel, whose studios moved from privately owned space on Amory St. to the former Manual Training Building at the high school, now behaves as though it were an organ of the school dept. It currently features seven so-called “forums” with the superintendent that are more recent than the latest Board of Selectmen video.

– Craig Bolon, Brookline, MA, April 3, 2015


Scott Englander, Brookline Complete Streets Policy Development Overview, Complete Streets Study Committee, draft of March 23, 2015 Found as scans in a hidden file from the Board of Selectmen and converted to a text document.

Planning Board: review of Devotion School plans, Brookline Beacon, January 18, 2015

Housing Advisory Board: new assisted housing and expiring assistance programs, Brookline Beacon, November 9, 2014

Craig Bolon, Brookline bicycle crashes: patterns and factors, Brookline Beacon, August 16, 2014

Craig Bolon, Bicycle markings: unsuccessful in B.U. neighborhoods, Brookline Beacon, November 9, 2014

Advisory Committee: in a generous mood, Brookline Beacon, March 17, 2015

Advisory Committee: missing records, more skeptical outlooks

The Advisory Committee met Tuesday, March 31, starting at 7:30 pm in the first floor south meeting room at Town Hall–conducting FY2016 budget reviews for Legal Services and for Planning and Community Development. This time, the committee turned more skeptical about needs for added spending than at previous meetings this year.

Missing records of meetings: The Advisory Committee and its subcommittees are established organizations in Brookline’s government. As such, under state and local open meeting laws they have duties to hold meetings in public, to post advance notices of meetings on Brookline’s municipal Web site, to record minutes of meetings and to make minutes and other records available to the public. Since last July, the municipal Web site has provided a central archive of meetings on an Agendas and Minutes page. The Board of Selectmen maintains a separate archive that includes additional records for their meetings, called “packets.”

Typically, the Advisory Committee turns in exemplary performance at holding public meetings and posting meeting notices in advance. It has not done nearly as well with meeting records. Many minutes are missing for Advisory Committee and subcommittee meetings. During the first quarter of 2015, the municipal Web site showed eight full Advisory Committee meetings (one for subcommittee chairs), but as of April 2 it provided minutes for only five of those meetings.

For the first quarter of 2015, the municipal Web site shows four meetings for the administration & finance subcommittee, seven for capital, five for human services, two for personnel, two for planning & regulation and three for public safety. As of April 2, no minutes were available on the site of any of the 23 subcommittee meetings announced for January through March. That risks being seen as a disaster for public information, since it is usually Advisory subcommittees who review budget and warrant article issues in depth.

Subcommittees often describe their investigations on paper at full Advisory Committee meetings, and copies are usually made available to the public then. In at least some cases, they could serve as subcommittee meeting minutes. However, they have not appeared this year on Advisory Committee pages of the municipal Web site or in meeting records on the Agendas and Minutes page.

Budget for legal services: Committee member Angela Hyatt and Town Counsel Joslin Murphy described a proposed fiscal 2016 budget, starting in July, for Legal Services. The Office of Town Counsel provides most legal services for Brookline agencies and departments, excepting matters related to personnel and public school students. Ms. Murphy said the proposed budget was 1.1 percent more than the current budget, not counting costs that might increase from employee benefits and collective bargaining.

Committee member Christine Westphal asked if the proposed budget includes funds for an assistant town counsel, although a glance at page IV-27 of the FY2016 Program Budget would have shown it does. The position was created after Ms. Murphy was promoted from associate town counsel to town counsel last year. It has gone vacant for about nine months now. A more revealing question might have explored needs for an associate town counsel 1 (grade T-14), an associate town counsel 2 (grade D-5) and a first assistant town counsel (grade T-15).

Questions from committee member Alisa Jonas brought out a disclosure that the proposed Legal Services budget does not provide funds for the Nstar property tax lawsuit now underway, for two lawsuits involving the proposed Chapter 40B project at Hancock Village or for some widely publicized employee grievances. About the frequent uses of outside counsel, Ms. Murphy said, “It’s the [Board of Selectmen's] decision to seek outside counsel.”

The lawsuit recently filed by the Board of Selectmen against members of the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) sparked several comments and questions. Ms. Jonas said spending for people “who worked with ZBA” had been a “waste of money.” The ZBA was advised by Edith Netter of Waltham and by Kathy Murphy and Samuel Nagler of Krokidas & Bluestein. Money came from reserve fund transfers approved by the Advisory Committee last year.

Apparently unknown to some Advisory Committee members, at a meeting on Thursday, March 26, the ZBA voted to request funds to hire defense counsel. Committee member Lee Selwyn, who had obviously found out, said that the town was “turning the heat and the air conditioning on at the same time.”

Committee member Fred Levitan asked the basis for suing ZBA members. Ms. Murphy said that, although the ZBA issued a comprehensive permit for the Hancock Village 40B project with “70 conditions,” members of the Board of Selectmen believe the action was “arbitrary and capricious,” in view of the “integrity of the site” and a 1946 zoning agreement between the Town of Brookline and the John Hancock Co., which built Hancock Village.

Committee members were clearly wary that unbudgeted legal expenses lay ahead. In the end, however, they voted to recommend the proposed Legal Services budget to town meeting without change.

Budget for planning: Ms. Hyatt, Mr. Selwyn and Alison Steinfeld, the planning director, presented a proposed fiscal 2016 budget for Planning and Community Development. Ms. Hyatt mentioned a “full room at the subcommittee hearing on this budget.” The occasion was to promote an increase in preservation planning. The subcommittee recommended an increase from the current 1.8 to 3.0 staff positions.

Ms. Steinfeld confirmed that early in the budget cycle she had asked for an increase to 2.0 staff positions in preservation planning, but she said Mel Kleckner, the town administrator, had not agreed. The FY2016 budget request for her department is 1.9 percent more than the current budget, not counting costs that might increase from employee benefits and collective bargaining. No changes were proposed in personnel, as shown on page IV-42 of the FY2016 Program Budget.

Several Advisory Committee members spoke skeptically about the need for a relatively large and rapid increase in staff for preservation planning. Christine Westphal said, “It makes a lot of sense to do 2.0, maybe not 3.0 [staff positions] right now.” Mr. Selwyn resisted, describing “tension between the Preservation Commission and the [planning] department.” The commission has begun meeting twice a month to cope with an increase in cases.

Committee member Stanley Spiegel said some neighborhoods have been hiring their own preservation planners, citing a recent report about a proposed Crowninshield historic district. Such an expense, said Dr. Spiegel, is “a luxury that not all significant neighborhoods can afford.”

After about an hour, the committee amended the subcommittee’s approach, supporting an increase in preservation planning staff from 1.8 to 2.0 positions with a split vote: 13 in favor and 9 opposed. The amended approach increases funding by about $14,000 plus some amount for employee benefits. It won approval by a vote of 20 to 2.

– Beacon staff, Brookline, MA, April 2, 2015


Advisory Committee, Town of Brookline, MA

Agendas and Minutes, Town of Brookline, MA

FY2016 Program Budget (municipal agencies and departments), Town of Brookline, MA (16 MB)

FY2015 Program Budget (municipal agencies and departments), Town of Brookline, MA (16 MB)

Board of Selectmen: projects and budget reviews, Brookline Beacon, March 20, 2015

Board of Selectmen: Hancock Village, budget reviews, Brookline Beacon, March 4, 2015

Craig Bolon, Hancock Village: development pressures, Brookline Beacon, February 22, 2015

Zoning Board of Appeals: ready to approve Hancock Village 40B, Brookline Beacon, December 2, 2014

Advisory subcommittee on planning and regulation: new historic district, Brookline Beacon, March 31, 2015

Jenkins v. Brookline, case 1:2013-cv-11347, United States District Court for Massachusetts, filed 2013

Craig Bolon, Advisory Committee: in a generous mood, Brookline Beacon, March 19, 2015

Craig Bolon, Advisory Committee: $0.17 million to fight employee actions, Brookline Beacon, February 13, 2015

Craig Bolon, Brookline’s workforce: signs of strain, Brookline Beacon, January 9, 2015

Advisory: a night at the opera

The Advisory subcommittee on administration and finance met at 6:00 pm Thursday, March 26, in the fourth-floor conference room at Town Hall. Groucho, Chico and Harpo were away; Zeppo had left the troupe. New chair Leonard A. Weiss of Hawthorn Road, not a town meeting member, Clifford M. Brown of Precinct 14 and new member Dennis L. Doughty of Precinct 3 were on hand. Town Clerk Patrick J. Ward, whose budget comprised the 6:00 pm agenda, had gone missing.

That did not seem to bother subcommittee members, who immediately advanced to the agenda advertised for 6:30 pm. They briskly dispatched four warrant articles for the spring town meeting: 1. Measurers of wood and bark, 4. Close-out of special appropriations, 5. Unpaid bills and 7. Budget amendments. Following town bylaws, Advisory subcommittee meetings are docketed as public hearings at specific starting times. Members of the public who might have wanted to comment would not get a chance unless they came early.

Hobnobbing with mayors while stiffing selectmen: The subcommittee then turned to the budget for Board of Selectmen with Melissa Goff, the new deputy town administrator, and Item A: $10,000 to join the Massachusetts mayors club–even though Brookline is a town and has never elected a mayor. Town Administrator Mel Kleckner had opted to part with this luxury unless voters pass a tax override in May, but the subcommittee was not so disposed.

A majority of subcommittee members seemed to have their own sense of priorities, and hobnobbing with mayors made the cut. They voted to recommend the $10,000–with or without a tax override–Mr. Doughty dissenting. Maybe compensating for such largesse, they voted to zero out stipends for the Board of Selectmen–with or without a tax override and without consulting them–Mr. Doughty again dissenting.

Members of Brookline’s Board of Selectmen have historically received stipends for their work, dating from colonial times when they constituted the town government. This year the stipends are $4,500 per year for the chair and $3,500 for the other four members. Stipends have not kept up with inflation, going up $1,000 over the last 40 years. The subcommittee proposed to ax them once and for all, as an economy measure. The elected town officers “can be like the rest of us,” a member of the subcommittee remarked, in serving without pay.

With Mr. Ward still missing in action, the subcommittee turned to more than $3 million in the “unclassified” budgets proposed for fiscal 2016: reserve fund, liability fund, stabilization fund, affordable housing fund, contingency fund, out-of-state travel, printing fund and Massachusetts Municipal Association dues. The last of these, often a substantial benefit to Brookline, is to cost $12,278–just a little more than the price for hobnobbing with mayors. The whole $3 million was waved on after about ten minutes.

Summoning the clerk: With no more business at hand, Ms. Goff volunteered to search for the town clerk, whose office stays open Thursday evenings. She found Mr. Ward there. He began pleading ignorance, saying he had not yet caught up with Daylight Saving Time–which started March 8. Subcommittee members seemed unaware of unusual strains in his office during the past year.

Mr. Ward did not enlighten them much, mentioning only that he lost an employee in the previous budget cycle. Willingly or not, he has had the traditional duties of Advisory Committee and Board of Appeals reporting yanked away. Advisory now has its own paid assistant, and Board of Appeals moved in 2014 to the Planning Department. As reported in the Brookline Beacon, during the past year one other employee was fired, and one quit to take a different town job. There has been more turnover in the office than in about the last 20 years. The subcommittee did not wish on Mr. Ward any added grief and will recommend his proposed budget.

– Beacon staff, Brookline, MA, March 27, 2015


Board of Selectmen: Hancock Village, budget reviews, Brookline Beacon, March 4, 2015

Craig Bolon, Brookline’s workforce: signs of strain, Brookline Beacon, January 9, 2015

Groucho, Chico and Harpo Marx, A Night at the Opera, MGM, Sam Wood as director, 1935

Board of Selectmen: snow removal, employee friction and marathons

A regular meeting of the Board of Selectmen on Tuesday, February 3, started at 6:35 pm in the sixth-floor meeting room at Town Hall. The agenda was slim, considering that the previous week’s meeting had to be cancelled because of snow.

Board member Ken Goldstein announced that he will not be running for another term this spring. He has served on the board since 2009 and has been chair since May of last year. Before that, he was a Planning Board member for 15 years, chairing that board from 2004 to 2009. He was previously a member of the Housing Advisory Board, and he served as a town meeting member from Precinct 14. He practices law at a Brookline firm, Goldstein & Herndon.

Contracts, personnel and finances: Sean Cronin, the deputy town administrator, has submitted a letter of resignation. Later this month he begins a position with the state Department of Revenue as Senior Deputy Commissioner for Local Affairs. Mr. Cronin has worked in the Brookline office of the town administrator for 17 years. He described Brookline management as a “team effort” and said he hopes to engage with state policy initiatives in the same spirit.

Mel Kleckner, the town administrator, got board approval to fill Mr. Cronin’s position and said he intends to promote Melissa Goff, the assistant town administrator for the past nine years. She came to Brookline from the Boston Office of Budget Management during the Menino administration. In Brookline, she has been in charge of annual budget preparation and has participated in the development of online services. Mr. Kleckner also has approval to fill Ms. Goff’s position and said he plans a broad-based search for candidates.

Ray Masak, a building project administrator, got approval for a $0.12 million contract with Eagle Point Builders of Belmont to restore doors and windows of the historic gatehouse at the Fisher Hill Reservoir, the lowest of several bids by a small margin. References said Eagle Point Builders did good work for other towns on restoration projects but warned that Mark Moroso, the owner, could be “tough” to deal with. The architect is Touloukian & Touloukian of Boston.

Peter Ditto, the engineering director, got approval for $0.02 million for a dam inspection at the Brookline Reservoir. He hopes to resolve issues with the growth of vines and bushes so that trees and landscaping can be maintained rather than cleared. The contractor, Tighe & Bond of Worcester, will prepare a tree management plan.

Anthony Guigli, a building project administrator, got approval for $0.06 million in change orders for projects underway at Lawrence, Devotion and old Lincoln Schools. He reported that the Devotion project will not require indoor air sampling, because levels of soil contamination from oil tanks were below hazard thresholds, but there will be offsite soil disposal.

Snow removal budget: Andrew Pappastergion, the town’s public works commissioner, described snow removal for the two storms that began on January 27 and February 1. He said the municipal service center received a total of 46 inches of snow, none of which has melted so far, and he estimated costs of snow plowing and removal at $0.53 million for the first storm and at $0.23 million to date for the second one.

The town’s budget for snow was based on 43 inches over the season, in line with the historic average. That has been exhausted, with winter just half over. Mr. Pappastergion asked the board to authorize emergency snow funds under Chapter 44, Section 31D of the General Laws, and the board voted to do so. Those funds will later be made up by tapping the reserve fund, by cutting other budgets this year or by dipping into next year’s funds. There is no Proposition 2-1/2 exemption for emergency snow funds.

Mr. Pappastergion was also authorized to fill four vacant positions and to accept $0.006 million in state grants to support recycling. He said a state grant of $0.2 million is pending, to purchase waste bins for a trash metering program that he expects to implement later this year. He has been operating under priorities of the former Patrick administration and did not seem to have planned for potential changes in priorities under the new Baker administration.

Costs of job friction: As reported in the Beacon, Brookline has been experiencing increasing friction with employees. Sandra DeBow-Huang, the director of human resources, asked the Board of Selectmen to approve a $0.17 million reserve fund request, for legal services. She said unexpectedly high costs mainly came from two employee lawsuits and one employee complaint to the state Department of Labor Relations (DLR).

The request for legal services funds is historically large–around eight percent of the total reserve fund, which is already facing stress to pay high costs of snow clearance. It is likely to be scrutinized when it reaches the Advisory Committee, which controls the reserve fund. Ms. DeBow-Huang complained of “tight time frames” to respond to DLR proceedings.

DLR is a fairly new state agency assembled in 2007 from older agencies. Its investigators and its Commonwealth Employment Relations Board hear and rule on union issues when contracts do not include binding arbitration. The Board of Selectmen later interviewed a candidate for the Human Resources Board, without getting much insight on job friction from that interview.

Marathons: Josh Nemzer, representing Boston Athletic Association (BAA), sought and received a parade permit from the board for the 2015 Boston Marathon segment on Beacon St. He described road closing as lasting from 9:15 am to 5:30 pm next April 20. Board member Nancy Daly objected to repeated refusals by BAA personnel last year to let Brookline pedestrians cross Beacon St. and said BAA might want to consider using Commonwealth Ave. instead, if it could not accommodate community needs.

In another version of marathon, the board resumed its discussion of 2015 tax override proposals, once again without reaching a conclusion. School Committee chair Susan Ditkoff and member Rebecca Stone were present along with William Lupini, the superintendent of schools, Peter Rowe, the deputy superintendent for finance, and Jennifer Fischer-Mueller, the deputy superintendent for teaching.

The process began with appointment of the Override Study Committee of 2013 on August 20 of that year, almost a year and a half ago. The committee soon became embroiled in attacks on the METCO program and never seemed to regain full balance. All members of the Board of Selectmen publicly stated that they favor larger amounts of money than the committee recommended,

– Beacon staff, Brookline, MA, February 4, 2015


Craig Bolon, Brookline’s workforce: signs of strain, Brookline Beacon, January 9, 2015

Annual Report, Massachusetts Department of Labor Relations, 2014

Solid Waste Advisory Committee: recycling and trash metering, Brookline Beacon, September 3, 2014

Board of Selectmen: vacation, town meeting, personnel, contracts, licenses and trash metering, Brookline Beacon, July 23, 2014

Public Works: question time and complaints, Brookline Beacon, May 15, 2014

Craig Bolon, Recycling makes more progress without trash metering, Brookline Beacon, April 11, 2014

Board of Selectmen: larger tax override, Brookline Beacon, January 14, 2015

Craig Bolon, Public schools: decoding a tax override, Brookline Beacon, January 7, 2015

Override Study Committee: Open Meeting Law problems, Brookline Beacon, August 7, 2014

Override Study Committee: $5 million tax override, plus Devotion School debt exclusion, Brookline Beacon, July 31, 2014

School Committee: Driscoll plans, policies, technology and testing, Brookline Beacon, May 27, 2014

Advisory subcommittee on capital: school-building projects

On Wednesday, January 14, the Advisory subcommittee on capital met in the third-floor conference room at Town Hall, starting at 11:00 am. Four of the five subcommittee members were there–all except Amy Hummel–along with Sean Cronin, the deputy town administrator. The meeting attracted another member of the Advisory Committee, three School Committee members, a Planning Board member, a Precinct 7 town meeting member and parents from the Baker and Driscoll School districts.

The unusually large turnout for an Advisory subcommittee meeting on a weekday morning suggested strong interest in plans for school expansion and renovation, heading the agenda. At the May 5 town election, the Board of Selectmen is now widely expected to propose a Proposition 2-1/2 debt exclusion for Devotion School expansion and renovation, as well as a Proposition 2-1/2 “operating” tax override, mainly for public schools.

Past projects: So far, Brookline has performed two school-building projects using Proposition 2-1/2 debt exclusions:

• New Lincoln School construction, December 1, 1990, by vote of 5,919 to 2,963
• High School renovation, December 12, 1995, by vote of 4,648 to 3,038

In different past elections, Brookline voters also approved two Proposition 2-1/2 “operating” tax overrides, partly to benefit public schools:

• $2.96 million per year, May 3, 1994, by vote of 5,958 to 5,072
• $6.20 million per year, May 6, 2008, by vote of 5,236 to 4,305

Future projects: Mr. Cronin told subcommittee members that a preliminary FY2016 capital improvements program he drafted for the Board of Selectmen already includes two additional school projects, beyond Devotion School, also likely to need Proposition 2-1/2 debt exclusions. A High School addition, slated for 2019, is currently estimated at $56 million.

A major project for elementary school expansion and renovations, slated for 2022 or later, is estimated at $48 million. The project description suggests a new, ninth elementary school as an alternative. In addition, the preliminary capital improvement program includes $2.3 million spread over five years for “classroom capacity.” Mr. Cronin cautioned that estimated costs are based on past projects, not on specific plans.

Subcommittee member Clifford Brown asked Mr. Cronin how Brookline voters would know how much of Brookline’s normal capital funding is being used for the Devotion project and how much is covered by debt exclusion. The answer surprised most of the subcommittee and the audience. Mr. Cronin said a debt exclusion ballot question only names a project and gives no financial information. Mark Gray, a Precinct 7 town meeting member, asked if a ballot question could specify only part of a project. Mr. Cronin said he did not think so. School Committee member Helen Charlupski remembered that the 1990s debt exclusion questions included amounts of funding.

It turns out that our Great and General Court changed the law about fifteen years ago. The ballot questions formerly specified amounts of money, but now they read like blank checks. It is up to the Board of Selectmen to tell voters what they mean to do. There are limits on funds, however. They are set by the state Department of Revenue, based on appropriations and bonding authorizations voted by town meetings.

Subcommittee members worried that Brookline was embarking on uneconomic spending. School Committee member David Pollak said that was not the case. Modular classrooms being planned for Baker School and rental space planned for Pierce, he said, were far less expensive than constructing new buildings. Subcommittee chair Carla Benka was concerned about overruns. Fred Levitan, a subcommittee member, recalled that the Town Hall and new Lincoln School projects had been completed on-time and on-budget.

Predicting capital improvements: Brookline’s capital improvement planning has not provided reliable predictions for most types of projects. A study published in 1979 by the Advisory Committee found almost no agreement between projects and predictions five years earlier. Recent years provide the following comparisons for major projects–$1 million and more–funded for the current year.

FY2015 major projects, funds in $millions

Project Predicted Predicted Predicted Actual
Description as of 2009 as of 2011 as of 2013 in FY2015
street rehabilitation $1.55 $1.55 $1.55 $1.55
landfill closure $4.60 $4.60 $4.60 $4.60
wastewater system none $3.00 none none
Village traffic system none none none $1.20
Reservoir Park $1.40 none none none
Baldwin School $1.78 none none none
Devotion School none $48.75 none none
Driscoll School* none none none $1.00
school classrooms none none none $1.75

            * A proposed Driscoll School project was rejected by the state and cancelled.

Source: Financial Plan documents, Town of Brookline, MA

Only routine Public Works projects were predicted reliably during this time period.

– Beacon staff, Brookline, MA, January 16, 2015


Board of Selectmen: larger tax override, Brookline Beacon, January 14, 2014

Sean Cronin, Preliminary FY2016-FY2021 Capital Improvement Program, Town of Brookline, MA, January 13, 2015

Override Study Committee: $5 million tax override, plus Devotion School debt exclusion, Brookline Beacon, July 31, 2014

Financial Plan, FY2015 and previous years, Town of Brookline, MA

Board of Selectmen: larger tax override

A regular meeting of the Board of Selectmen on Tuesday, January 13, started at 6:30 pm in the sixth-floor meeting room at Town Hall. The regular business agenda was slim. Much of the meeting concerned proposals for tax overrides.

Contracts, personnel and finances: Erin Gallentine, director of the parks division of Public Works, won approval for a $0.03 million contract with J.F. Hennessey Co. to survey Larz Anderson Park, in preparation for repairs and improvements. Lisa Paradis, the Recreation director, got approval to hire a building custodian, replacing an employee who took a Library position. Contractors have been filling in temporarily.

Members interviewed a candidate for the Human Resource Board. They approved renewal of an agreement with Boston University for payments in lieu of taxes, totaling about $0.45 million this year. Payments were first negotiated in 2010 by Stephen Cirillo, the finance director. Members accepted annual reports from Powers and Sullivan of Wakefield, the town’s auditor, and from Segal Group of Boston, on retirement benefits.

There were no exceptions or adverse findings from this year’s audit. Funding for retirement benefits has reached $9.9 million this year. According to Segal, payments to a trust fund need to increase. The town has approved $3.3 million for the fund this year, and the board expects to increase that to $3.8 million next year. According to Segal, the town needs to reach $6.3 million per year to maintain the fund on a current basis.

Override proposals: Mel Kleckner, the town administrator, and Sean Cronin, the deputy town administrator, summarized the tax override proposals thus far. The Board of Selectmen has sole jurisdiction over ballot questions to be proposed for an override. Mr. Cronin also presented an initial review of the town’s capital improvement program. Changes are to be proposed to the annual town meeting.

Since summer, it has looked likely that the board will propose a continuing “operating” override, to help Public Schools of Brookline cope with increasing enrollment, and will propose a temporary “debt exclusion” to meet part of the cost of renovating and enlarging Devotion School. Last August, the Override Study Committee of 2013 submitted its report, recommending an operating override of $5 million per year.

A minority of the override study committee, joined by members of the School Committee, have advocated a larger operating override. They say the schools have not been able to maintain levels of support staff during seven years of steady enrollment increases and need more than just funds for regular teachers.

Recently, William Lupini, the superintendent of schools, and Peter Rowe, the assistant superintendent for administration and finance, released details of school spending plans, including three options for how different amounts of override funding would be used.

At the January 13 meeting, the Board of Selectmen did not reach a firm decision, but a poll of the members showed that all favor a larger override. Amounts they discussed ranged up to around $9 million per year. According to Mr. Cronin, the average residential tax bill in Brookline this year is $8,434 per household. For each $1 million per year in an override, the average annual tax bill would increase by about $36.50.

Hearings, elections, town meeting: The Board of Selectmen will hold two public hearings next week on tax override proposals. The first is Tuesday morning, January 20, from 9:00 to 11:00 am. The second is Thursday evening, January 22, from 7:30 to 9:00 pm. Both are in the sixth floor meeting room at Town Hall, 333 Washington St. Override proposals and information are available from the Brookline, MA, municipal Web site.

The board voted to schedule the 2015 annual election for Tuesday, May 5. The annual town meeting will begin Tuesday, May 26. Four other dates are reserved for the town meeting: May 28, June 2, June 3 and June 4. The warrant for the annual town meeting opens on Thursday, February 12, and closes on Thursday, March 12. Instructions for preparing and submitting warrant articles are in the Town Meeting Handbook, available on the municipal Web site.

Meetings, lack of valid notice: The regular School Committee meeting on Thursday, January 22, is starting early–a public session at 5:00 pm, instead of 6:00 pm or later. For Tuesday, January 20, 2015, the municipal Web site calendar page noted a joint meeting of the School Committee with the Board of Selectmen starting at 5:30 pm in the sixth-floor meeting room at Town Hall, but the Web site for Public Schools of Brookline did not indicate such a meeting.

As of Saturday morning, January 17, there was also a notice for a Board of Selectmen meeting starting at 5:30 pm on January 20. No list of topics or other form of agenda for such a January 20 meeting or for a joint meeting on that day appeared on either the municipal or school Web site. Under state and local Open Meeting Laws, there was no valid notice for a January 20 meeting, nor was there enough remaining time to post a valid notice.

– Beacon staff, January 14, 2015, updated January 17, 2015


Sean Cronin, Tax override proposals for 2015, Town of Brookline, MA, January 16, 2015

Craig Bolon, Public schools: decoding a tax override, Brookline Beacon, January 7, 2015

Sean Cronin, Growth in the cost of government, Town of Brookline, MA, January 6, 2015

Craig Bolon, School enrollment: no room in the inn, Brookline Beacon, December 26, 2014

Sean Cronin, Override recommendations and review, Town of Brookline, MA, December 17, 2014

Craig Bolon, Open meetings in government: groping toward transparency, Brookline Beacon, August 10, 2014

Override Study Committee: $5 million tax override, plus Devotion School debt exclusion, Brookline Beacon, July 31, 2014

Pre-kindergarten: parking disputes

Brookline has provided pre-kindergarten classes in much the current forms since the school year starting in 2001, on a voluntary basis. Although administered by Public Schools of Brookline, those classes are mainly paid for by parents through tuitions. Enrollment grew in stages from school and fiscal years 2002 through 2006. During school and fiscal years 2007 through 2015, enrollment has remained in a range of 250 to 280 students aged about 3 and 4.

BrooklinePreSchoolCensus2001to2015

Source: Massachusetts Department of Education

Ordinary enrollment in Brookline public schools is far larger. The current total for kindergarten through third grade is 2,635, as reported to the state last October 1. On average, only about 20 percent of those students could have attended Brookline’s pre-kindergarten classes for two years. The Brookline Early Education Program (sometimes abbreviated as BEEP) publishes no reference information online about student populations, such as proportions of students attending for one year or for two years.

Sites and trends: Pre-kindergarten has operated at twelve sites in Brookline, of which seven are currently active. There were never more than ten sites active during any one year. Of the twelve, eight are Brookline’s elementary schools, two are other public buildings and two are synagogues. During the Walsh administration, in 2001, the current era of Brookline pre-kindergarten began at eight elementary schools.

Small student populations at each school made 2001-2002 operations inefficient and hard to manage. For the next year, classes were consolidated into four elementary schools. Subsequently, other sites were gradually opened or reopened. Rooms at Brookline High School and at the Lynch Recreation Center–the historic Winthrop School–began to be used in 2003 and continue in use today. By 2006-2007, pre-kindergarten grew to about its current number of students and operated from ten sites, including eight elementary schools.

Brookline pre-kindergarten census, October 1, by fiscal years and sites

Site 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
Total 36 210 207 208 242 253 260 249 255 262 277 276 259 264
Baker 7 45 17 15 17 16 16 14 16 15 16 16 0 0
Devotion 2 0 0 0 16 16 16 16 14 16 17 0 0 0
Driscoll 9 60 34 38 32 41 37 37 40 39 42 37 35 16
Heath 4 0 15 16 18 14 15 15 17 16 17 30 32 31
Lawrence 2 0 0 14 33 29 31 30 29 16 15 0 0 0
Lincoln 5 53 38 32 31 31 33 33 33 31 31 18 0 0
Pierce 2 0 0 0 0 15 16 13 14 16 17 17 0 0
Runkle 5 52 22 20 16 17 16 16 14 13 13 15 16 14
High School 0 0 15 11 15 15 16 17 16 34 31 34 30 14
Lynch 0 0 66 62 64 59 64 58 62 66 78 68 66 63
Beacon 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 41 52 62
Putterham 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 28 64

Source: Massachusetts Department of Education

Responding to the need for school space, because of steadily growing student populations, starting in 2012 Public Schools of Brookline began to move pre-kindergarten classes out of elementary schools and into leased space–first at Temple Ohabei Shalom on Beacon St. (the “Beacon” site) and then in 2013 at Temple Emeth on Grove St. (the “Putterham” site). Pre-kindergarten classes no longer operate at Baker, Devotion, Lawrence, Lincoln and Pierce Schools.

Parking permits: At its December 22 meeting, the Transportation Board considered a request from Brookline Early Education Program for about 50 special parking permits to be used near Temples Ohabei Shalom and Emeth by pre-kindergarten teachers, administrators and support staff. Two-thirds of those were for the Putterham site, where BEEP administrators and support staff have been relocated. That proved controversial.

Led by precinct 16 town meeting member Regina Frawley, residents living near Putterham Circle (also called Ryan Circle) protested the heavy daytime concentration of parking around the site. It emerged that seven permits had already been issued by Todd Kirrane, Brookline’s transportation administrator, without public notice or board approval. There had been no notice to town meeting members and no neighborhood review meetings.

Despite widely touted commitments to public transportation and to so-called “transportation demand management,” neither the Transportation Board nor Public Schools of Brookline had prepared plans to reduce parking demand through uses of public transportation, ride-sharing or shuttle services. Residents near the Beacon St. and Kent St. intersection were also incensed. There is an MBTA Green Line stop adjacent to Temple Ohabei Shalom.

By a majority vote, Transportation Board members approved permits on what they called a “trial” basis, to be reviewed when the permits expire next July. Board members Scott Englander and Pamela Zelnick were opposed.

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


School enrollment: no room in the inn, Brookline Beacon, December 26, 2014

Brookline school census reports for fiscal years 1994 through 2015, Massachusetts Department of Education, 2014

2014 fall town meeting: electronic voting

The 2014 fall town meeting held four electronic votes: two at the first session November 18 and two at the second and final session November 19. Problems previously cropped up at the 2014 annual town meeting in May and June. There were more discrepancies in records from the 2014 fall town meeting in November.

This time there were no attempts to use the voting system for “informal” counting. However, despite commitments to provide results the day following a session, no results were posted on Brookline’s municipal Web site until the afternoon of November 24, five days after the second and final session.

Comparisons of records: Electronic voting results were displayed at town meeting on a large projection screen. They were captured on video recordings of both the first session and second session by Brookline Interactive Group, along with declarations of results for official records by the moderator, Edward “Sandy” Gadsby. The video recordings are available to the public from the Web site of Brookline Interactive.

At the first session, Mr. Gadsby declared the vote on a referral motion proposed under Article 12: 65 yes and 138 no, agreeing with totals displayed to town meeting on the large projection screen. The totals from results posted on the municipal Web site were instead: 65 yes and 141 no.

At the first session, Mr. Gadsby declared the vote on a zoning change proposed under Article 12 (the main motion): 60 yes and 146 no, agreeing with totals displayed to town meeting on the large projection screen. The totals from results posted on the municipal Web site were instead: 60 yes and 147 no.

At the second session, Mr. Gadsby declared the vote on a resolution proposed under Article 15: 110 yes and 83 no, agreeing with totals displayed to town meeting on the large projection screen. The totals from results posted on the municipal Web site were instead: 111 yes and 83 no.

At the second session, Mr. Gadsby declared the vote on an alternative resolution proposed by the Advisory Committee under Article 19: 20 yes and 145 no. So far, records of this vote have not appeared on the municipal Web site at all.

Article and motion As it was Declared As it was Posted
  Yes No Yes No
Article 12, referral 65 138 65 141
Article 12, main vote 60 146 60 147
Article 15, resolution 110 83 111 83
Article 19, alternative 20 145 unknown unknown

Unreliable results: After practice with the current electronic voting system at four previous town meetings, at the 2014 fall town meeting Brookline again failed to achieve reliable results. Discrepancies are clear on each of the three electronic votes reported. Unexplained changes to records had apparently been made, after town meeting, in computer files purporting to represent town meeting results. Those might have been connected with unexplained delays of five and six days in posting records on the municipal Web site.

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

If Brookline had a reliable electronic voting system, allowing town meeting members to change recorded positions after a vote has been declared would be a highly dubious practice. It opens an avenue through which town meeting results can become clouded after a town meeting is over, with potentials for protracted disputes or lawsuits over close votes. Brookline does not have a reliable electronic voting system. A week after the 2014 fall town meeting, one of the four electronic votes has not even been reported, and the results for the three reported votes disagree with the moderator’s declarations at town meeting.

Votes shown as “absent”: Of 744 individual votes tallied, 115 were “absent.” Some could be town meeting members who had checked in but did not cast votes. The average number of “absent” votes was about 7 per precinct. Absentees were most prevalent in Precinct 14, with 13 “absent” votes, and in Precinct 15, with 16 “absent” votes.

– Craig Bolon, Brookline, MA, November 27, 2014


Town of Brookline, November 18, 2014, electronic vote results, dated November 24, 2014

Brookline Interactive Group, 2014 fall town meeting, second session, November 19, 2014

Brookline Interactive Group, 2014 fall town meeting, first session, November 18, 2014

Fall town meeting: tobacco controls, resolution derby, Brookline Beacon, November 20, 2014

Fall town meeting: bylaw changes, no new limits on marijuana dispensaries, Brookline Beacon, November 18, 2014

2014 annual town meeting: electronic voting issues, Brookline Beacon, June 17, 2014


Brookline 2014 fall town meeting, electronic votes posted as of November 24, 2014

Vote Day Article Question voted
1 11/18 12 Zoning for medical marijuana dispensaries, referral
2 11/18 12 Zoning for medical marijuana dispensaries, restrict eligible areas
3 11/19 15 Repeal of taxi medallions, adopt resolution instead

Y yes, N no, P present, A absent

Pct. Given name Family name Street address 1 2 3
01 Cathleen Cavell 27 Monmouth Ct A N Y
01 Ernest Cook 4 Euston St A A A
01 Jonathan Cutler 12 Churchill St A A A
01 Elijah Ercolino 2 Euston St N N Y
01 James Franco 126 Amory St N N N
01 Richard Garver 23 Monmouth Ct N N Y
01 Neil Gordon 87 Ivy St N N Y
01 Helen Herman 1126 Beacon St Y N Y
01 Carol Hillman 287 Kent St N N Y
01 Sean Lynn-Jones 53 Monmouth St Y N N
01 Alexandra Metral 42 Beech Rd Y Y Y
01 Paul Moghtader 16 Chilton St A A A
01 Bettina Neuefeind 20 Amory St Y Y N
01 Robert Schram 47 Monmouth St N N N
01 Katharine Silbaugh 68 Amory St Y Y N
02 Livia Kahl 200 Saint Paul St A Y A
02 Judith Kidd 76 Parkman St N N Y
02 Lisa Liss 74 Parkman St N N Y
02 Rita McNally 230 Saint Paul St N N A
02 Adam Mitchell 87 Browne St N N Y
02 Barbara O’Brien 81 Egmont St P A A
02 Gwen Ossenfort 87 Browne St N N N
02 Linda Pehlke 48 Browne St N N Y
02 Susan Roberts 69 Green St Y Y N
02 Diana Spiegel 39 Stetson St N N N
02 Stanley Spiegel 39 Stetson St N N N
02 Eunice White 135 Pleasant St N N Y
02 Bruce Wolff 50 Pleasant St N Y N
02 Ana Vera Wynne 60 Browne St Y Y Y
02 Richard Wynne 60 Browne St Y N Y
03 Harry Bohrs 97 Toxteth St N N N
03 Patricia Connors 80 Francis St N N Y
03 Mary Dewart 90 Toxteth St Y P Y
03 Murray Dewart 90 Toxteth St Y Y Y
03 Dennis Doughty 57 Perry St N N Y
03 Kathe Geist 551 Brookline Ave N Y Y
03 Jane Gilman 140A Sewall Ave Y Y Y
03 Heather Hamilton 75 Longwood Ave A A Y
03 Gary Jones 70 Francis St N N A
03 Laurence Koff 20 Harrison St Y N N
03 Donald Leka 140A Sewall Ave N N Y
03 Kathleen Scanlon 71 Francis St N Y N
03 Frank Steinfield 160 Aspiwall Ave N N N
03 Rebecca Stone 71 Toxteth St N N N
03 Jean Stringham 50 Longwood Ave Y Y Y
04 Sarah Axelrod 41 Bowker St N N Y
04 Eric Berke 77 Pond Ave Y N Y
04 Edith Brickman 33 Pond Ave N N A
04 Alan Christ 117 Kent St N N N
04 Ingrid Cooper 30 Brook St N N P
04 Anne Covert 33 Pond Ave N N N
04 Frank Farlow 8 Bowker St N N Y
04 Martha Farlow 8 Bowker St N N Y
04 Nadine Gerdts 56 Linden Pl Y Y Y
04 John Mulhane 45 Brook St N N N
04 Mariah Nobrega 33 Bowker St Y Y Y
04 Joseph Robinson 41 Brook St N N Y
04 Marjorie Siegel 59 Linden St Y Y P
04 Virginia Smith 12 Linden St N N Y
04 Robert Volk 45 Linden St N N Y
05 Richard Allen 158 Cypress St N Y N
05 Robert Daves 9 Upland Rd N N Y
05 Dennis DeWitt 94 Upland Rd N N Y
05 Michael Gunnuscio 302 Walnut St N N Y
05 Angela Hyatt 87 Walnut St Y Y Y
05 David Knight 5 Maple St Y Y N
05 Hugh Mattison 209 Pond Ave A N Y
05 Puja Mehta 50 Jamaica Rd Y N P
05 Randolph Meiklejohn 161 Cypress St Y Y A
05 Phyllis O’Leary 16 Jamaica Rd A A A
05 Andrew Olins 242 Walnut St Y Y A
05 William Reyelt 121 Chestnut St N N Y
05 Betsy Shure Gross 25 Edgehill Rd Y Y A
05 Claire Stampfer 50 Sargent Crossway Y Y Y
05 Lenore von Krusenstiern 302 Walnut St A A Y
06 Catherine Anderson 106 Davis Ave N N N
06 John Bassett 26 Searle Ave N N N
06 Jocina Becker 18 Elm St N N Y
06 Christopher Dempsey 43 Brington Rd N N Y
06 Brian Hochleutner 35 Elm St Y Y N
06 Sytske Humphrey 46 Gardner Rd N N N
06 Virginia LaPlante 58 Welland Rd N N Y
06 Merelice 22 White Pl Y Y Y
06 Ian Polumbaum 17 Blake Rd N N Y
06 Clinton Richmond 3 Greenough Cir N N Y
06 Ian Roffman 20 Searle Ave Y Y Y
06 Kim Smith 22 Brington Rd Y N Y
06 Ruthann Sneider 30 Perry St Y Y Y
06 Robert Sperber 21 Lowell Rd N N N
06 Thomas Vitolo 153 University Rd N N Y
07 Ellen Ball 441 Washington St A A A
07 Susan Cohen 23 Littell Rd Y Y Y
07 Susan Ellis 431 Washington St N N N
07 Ernest Frey 423 Washington St N N N
07 Phyllis Giller 69 Park St N N A
07 Elizabeth Goldstein 1501 Beacon St N N Y
07 Mark Gray 31 Harris St N N Y
07 Bernard Greene 25 Alton Ct N N N
07 Kelly Hardebeck 18 Littell Rd A A A
07 Jonathan Lewis 104 Harvard St N N A
07 Jonathan Margolis 49 Harvard Ave Y N Y
07 Christopher Oates 42 Saint Paul St N N Y
07 Sloan Sable 50 Harris St N N A
07 Rita Shon-Baker 10 Alton Ct Y Y Y
07 James Slayton 4 Auburn St N N N
08 Lauren Bernard 20 John St N Y A
08 Abigail Cox 18 Osborne Rd P N Y
08 Gina Crandell 117 Stedman St N N A
08 Franklin Friedman 71 Crowninshield Rd N N Y
08 David-Marc Goldstein 22 Osborne Rd N N Y
08 John Harris 41 Osborne Rd Y Y Y
08 Nancy Heller 40 Abbottsford Rd N N N
08 Anita Johnson 41 Osborne Rd N N Y
08 Edward Loechler 106 Beals St Y N Y
08 Jeanne Mansfield 43 Beals St N N Y
08 Robert Miller 19 Copley St N N Y
08 Barbara Scotto 26 Crowninshield Rd N N N
08 Lisamarie Sears 137 Fuller St N N N
08 Sara Stock 19 Abbottsford Rd A A A
08 Maura Toomey 102 Crowninshield Rd N N Y
09 Liza Brooks 36 Russell St N N A
09 Joseph Geller 221 Winchester St A A N
09 Paul Harris 111-B Centre St N P Y
09 Nathaniel Hinchey 19 Winchester St N N Y
09 Barr Jozwicki 183 Winchester St N N N
09 Joyce Jozwicki 183 Winchester St N N N
09 Pamela Katz 29 Columbia St N N Y
09 Julius Levine 40 Williams St A A A
09 Stanley Rabinovitz 117 Thorndike St Y N Y
09 Harriet Rosenstein 53 Centre St N N A
09 Martin Rosenthal 62 Columbia St N N Y
09 Charles Swartz 69 Centre St N N N
09 Dwaign Tyndal 60 Columbia St A A P
09 Judith Vanderkay 16 Columbia St N N Y
09 George White 143 Winchester St N N N
10 Carol Caro 1264 Beacon St N N Y
10 Francis Caro 1264 Beacon St N N Y
10 Sumner Chertok 80 Park St N N A
10 Jonathan Davis 125 Park St Y N Y
10 Linda Davis 125 Park St Y Y Y
10 Holly Deak 124 Park St N Y N
10 Stephan Gaehde 7 Griggs Ter A Y Y
10 Beth Jones 24 Griggs Rd A A A
10 David Micley 675 Washington St N N Y
10 Sharon Sandalow 1272 Beacon St N N N
10 Rachel Sandalow-Ash 1272 Beacon St A A A
10 Stanley Shuman 80 Park St N N N
10 Finn Skagestad 24 Griggs Ter A A Y
10 Alexandra Spingarn 40 Griggs Ter A A N
10 Naomi Sweitzer 14 Griggs Ter N N Y
11 Carrie Benedon 32 Summit Ave P P Y
11 Joseph Ditkoff 145 Mason Ter Y N Y
11 Shira Fischer 50 Summit Ave A A Y
11 Shanna Giora-Gorfajn 66 Winchester St Y N N
11 Jennifer Goldsmith 148 Jordan Rd Y Y N
11 Martha Gray 113 Summit Ave N N Y
11 Bobbie Knable 243 Mason Ter N N A
11 David Lescohier 50 Winchester St Y N N
11 Kenneth Lewis 232 Summit Ave Y N N
11 David Lowe 177 Mason Ter N N Y
11 Rebecca Mautner 12 York Ter Y Y A
11 Maryellen Moran 100 Winchester St N Y A
11 Carol Oldham 1496 Beacon St Y N Y
11 Brian Sheehan 296 Mason Ter Y Y Y
11 Karen Wenc 84 Summit Ave N N Y
12 Michael Burstein 50 Garrison Rd N N Y
12 Bruce Cohen 289 Tappan St N N Y
12 Lee Cooke-Childs 136 Rawson Rd N N Y
12 Chad Ellis 26 Chesham Rd Y Y Y
12 Harry Friedman 27 Claflin Rd Y Y Y
12 Jonathan Grand 120 Beaconsfield Rd N N N
12 Stefanie Greenfield 154 University Rd Y N N
12 Casey Hatchett 84 University Rd Y Y A
12 Amy Hummel 226 Clark Rd Y Y N
12 Jonathan Karon 124 Winthrop Rd A A A
12 David Klafter 63 Winthrop Rd N N Y
12 Mark Lowenstein 158 Winthrop Rd N N Y
12 Judy Meyers 75 Clinton Rd Y Y N
12 William Slotnick 118 Gardner Rd Y P A
12 Donald Weitzman 123 Buckminster Rd N N Y
13 Joanna Baker 1824 Beacon St Y N Y
13 Carla Benka 26 Circuit Rd N N N
13 Roger Blood 69 Cleveland Rd Y Y Y
13 Chris Chanyasulkit 16 Corey Rd A A P
13 John Doggett 8 Penniman Rd N N N
13 Jonathan Fine 57 Willow Cres N N Y
13 Andrew Fischer 21 Bartlett Cres N N Y
13 John Freeman 530 Clinton Rd N N Y
13 Francis Hoy 295 Reservoir Rd N N N
13 Ruth Kaplan 24 Spooner Rd A A A
13 Werner Lohe 25 Salisbury Rd N N Y
13 Paul Saner 462 Chestnut Hill Ave A A N
13 Lee Selwyn 285 Reservoir Rd N Y N
13 Barbara Senecal 345 Clinton Rd Y Y N
13 John VanScoyoc 307 Reservoir Rd N N N
14 Robert Basile 333 Heath St A A A
14 Clifford Brown 9 Hyslop Rd N N N
14 Linda Carlisle 233 Fisher Ave Y Y N
14 Gill Fishman 79 Holland Rd N Y A
14 Paula Friedman 170 Hyslop Rd N Y N
14 Deborah Goldberg 37 Hyslop Rd A A N
14 Georgia Johnson 80 Seaver St A A A
14 Fred Levitan 1731 Beacon St N N N
14 Roger Lipson 622 Chestnut Hill Ave A N N
14 Pamela Lodish 195 Fisher Ave N N N
14 Shaari Mittel 309 Buckminster Rd N N N
14 Kathleen O’Connell 59 Ackers Ave N N Y
14 Benjamin Rich 130 Buckminster Rd A A A
14 Lynda Roseman 49 Ackers Ave N N N
14 Sharon Schoffmann 6 Eliot St N N Y
15 Edwin Alexanderian 945 Hammond St A A A
15 Mariela Ames 25 Whitney St N Y A
15 Eileen Berger 112 Wolcott Rd Y Y Y
15 Michael Berger 112 Wolcott Rd N Y Y
15 Abby Coffin 255 Woodland Rd A A N
15 Jane Flanagan 854 Hammond St N N N
15 John Hall 85 Sears Rd A A A
15 Benedicte Hallowell 96 Sears Rd A A A
15 Janice Kahn 63 Craftsland Rd Y Y N
15 Ira Krepchin 63 Craftsland Rd N N N
15 Richard Nangle 854 Hammond St N Y A
15 David Pearlman 25 Goddard Cir N Y Y
15 James Rourke 679 Hammond St A A A
15 Ab Sadeghi-Nejad 125 Arlington Rd N N N
15 Cornelia van der Ziel 100 Wolcott Rd N N N
16 Saralynn Allaire 157 Bellingham Rd N Y Y
16 Robert Allen 296 Russett Rd N N N
16 Beverly Basile 902 W Roxbury Pkwy Y P A
16 John Basile 1040 W Roxdbury Pkwy A A A
16 Stephen Chiumenti 262 Russett Rd Y P N
16 Regina Frawley 366 Russett Rd N Y Y
16 Thomas Gallitano 146 Bonad Rd Y Y N
16 Scott Gladstone 383 Russett Rd N N N
16 Alisa Jonas 333 Russett Rd P Y Y
16 Judith Leichtner 121 Beverly Rd Y P N
16 William Pu 249 Beverly Rd N Y N
16 Joshua Safer 223 Bonad Rd Y Y N
16 Irene Scharf 250 Russett Rd N N A
16 Arthur Sneider 223 Beverly Rd N N N
16 Joyce Stavis-Zak 44 Intervale Rd Y N Y
AL Nancy Daly 161 Rawson Rd Y N N
AL Betsy DeWitt 94 Upland Rd N N N
AL Benjamin Franco 275 Cypress St N N Y
AL Edward Gadsby 60 Glen Rd P P P
AL Kenneth Goldstein 111 Holland Rd N N N
AL Hon. Frank Smizik 42 Russell St N N A
AL Patrick Ward 12 Edwin St P P P
AL Neil Wishinsky 20 Henry St N N N
             
      Yes 65 60 111
      No 141 147 83
      Present 6 9 7
      Absent 36 32 47

School budget: candor needed in difficult times

William Lupini, Brookline’s school superintendent, is a gifted orator, an advocate for the disadvantaged and a vigorous administrator–clearly committed to providing the best services he can arrange for all the students in the public schools. It must have come at considerable pain for him to propose cancelling two popular programs in the elementary schools: so-called “world languages,” which Dr. Lupini enlarged, and “gifted & talented,” which Dr. Robert I. Sperber, a predecessor and current town meeting member, began in the 1970s.

Dr. Lupini seems nowhere near as skilled at budget presentations as at other aspects of school administration. His budget presentations have sometimes been seen as “evasive.” They are almost always phrased as increments from some uncertain starting points, not as real amounts. Brookline’s taxpayers have to send in real dollars to pay for real amounts, and they expect to find out what they are paying for.

Seeking to justify a tax override, Dr. Lupini’s most recent presentation for the Board of Selectmen Monday, November 10, took a few steps in the right direction by measuring most budget increments as people, not as abstractions: 18 elementary teachers to be hired, 5 high-school teachers to be fired. However, few members of the public are likely to know how many elementary and high-school teachers there are or how to find out.

Squirreled away on the Web site for Public Schools of Brookline, a “preliminary budget” document finally showed up earlier in the year, after the town meeting when a budget was voted. No final operating budget has appeared. The first 27 pages of the “preliminary budget” are mostly rhetoric. To some, it might be inspiring, but it does not tell how much is to be spent on what–as a real budget has to do.

About the closest one can get to budget truth is in so-called “program” listings. They do not provide any job descriptions and do not show numbers of staff at each elementary school. One finds the following teaching staff sizes and costs for Brookline’s academic programs (all numbers rounded, amounts in $millions):

Page Program Teachers Salaries
174 Kindergarten 30 $2.2
178 Elementary 164 $12.5
132 English language 31 $2.5
136 Mathematics 30 $2.4
162 Science 30 $2.4
166 Social studies 29 $2.4
120 World language 46 $3.5
128 Visual arts 15 $1.2
140 Performing arts 23 $1.7
—– Total academic K-12 398 $30.8

Brookline actually spends around $90 million a year and hires around 1,100 people to operate public schools. Only a little more than a third of the spending and staff provide the academic programs. Some of the spending, of course, provides supervision, supplies, and building and food services. Relatively small amounts go for substitute teachers and teaching aides.

The majorities of school spending and staff are found in heavy administrative overhead and in a large variety of special services. That is clearly the tail wagging the dog. Candor is needed in difficult times.

– Craig Bolon, Brookline, MA, November 12, 2014


School budget: cancel world languages, gifted & talented, Brookline Beacon, November 11, 2014

Advisory Committee: $87 million for Brookline schools, Brookline Beacon, April 18, 2014

Superintendent’s FY2015 Preliminary Budget, Town of Brookline, MA, undated (3 MB)

Happiness index: the gasoline factor

The myth is that the U.S. is a nation of gasoline addicts. The fact is that people went on a diet about 35 years ago and have mostly stayed on the diet. From 1945 to 1978, gasoline use per person nearly tripled, from about 0.5 to about 1.4 gallons per day. Since 1980, use per person stayed in a range of 1.16 to 1.31 gallons per day. For 2013, the most recent year tallied, it was near the bottom of the range: 1.17 gallons per day.


UsGasolinePersonalUse1945to2013
Sources: U.S Energy Information Agency and Census Bureau

Nevertheless, trends in gasoline use seem to factor in a kind of national happiness index. Falling trends forecast changing politics: getting rid of Democrats in 1980, getting rid of Republicans in 1992. We look to be in another reversal, with vengeance already taken on Congress.

The happy-go-lucky years are long gone and not likely to return. If you happened to come along in the 1930s or 1940s, it was a wild ride; maybe you can tell your grandchildren.

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

State elections, 2014: liberal Democrats win in Brookline

Turning over a different leaf from federal and state politics, liberal Democrats chalked up strong wins in Brookline’s 2014 state election returns. Deborah Goldberg, former chair of the Board of Selectmen, becomes the new state treasurer, replacing Steven Grossman. Frank Smizik, state representative for Precincts 2-4 and 6-13, returns to the State House.

Both the Brookline liberal Democrats defeated Republican opponents in strikingly similar Brookline election results. Ms. Goldberg won over Michael Heffernan of Wellesley, a business executive with about 25 years in financial services but no political credentials. Mr. Smizik won over Curt Myers of Buckminster Rd., a college student with no political credentials.

Following are preliminary returns, published election evening by the town clerk, for precincts in which both Ms. Goldberg and Mr. Smizik were on the ballot:

Precinct Voting Goldberg Smizik Coakley
2 714 74% 75% 70%
3 1239 74% 71% 70%
4 1044 72% 72% 67%
6 1286 77% 76% 75%
7 1049 74% 75% 70%
8 1141 79% 79% 74%
9 1115 79% 80% 73%
10 1116 76% 73% 69%
11 1167 76% 76% 71%
12 1453 71% 71% 67%
13 1231 70% 67% 62%
Totals 12555 75% 74% 70%

When there is no well known opponent, the results indicate about three-quarters of Brookline residents in these mainly urban areas vote for a candidate who is well known as a liberal Democrat. Mr. Smizik got a little lower percentage in the home precinct of his Republican opponent but came out slightly ahead in Precincts 8 and 9, the part of town where he lives. Ms. Goldberg and her family have long attended synagogue in the same area.

Being a Brookline native provided no more advantage to Mr. Smizik’s Republican opponent than long experience in financial services provided to Ms. Goldberg’s Republican opponent. When voters encounter candidates through news but not local roots, the picture changes a little. Martha Coakley won smaller percentages for governor than either local candidate, with bigger variations among these precincts. Overall, however, Brookline’s well known preference for liberal Democrats outweighed other factors.

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


Election results, 2000 through 2014, Town of Brookline, MA

Board of Selectmen: appointments, warrant articles, school spending

A regular meeting of the Board of Selectmen on Tuesday, October 7, started at 6:30 pm in the sixth-floor meeting room at Town Hall. There were no reports from departments or organizations. There were reviews and hearings for two of the 20 articles coming before the town meeting that starts November 18.

Announcements: The Health Department provides flu clinics this season on October 28 and 29, November 9 and December 4 at the Senior Center, Baker and Devotion schools, and the Health Center. The planned Olea Cafe at 195 Washington St., which was allowed permits on August 12, will not be opening. The Coolidge House assisted care facility at 30 Webster St. is closing. Genesis Health Care, of Kennett Square, PA, operates other facilities in Medford and Chelsea. Hunneman Hall at the main library is hosting a commemorative, Remembering the Tam, this Thursday, October 9, at 7 pm. The Tam O’Shanter pub and music hall operated at 1648 Beacon St. between about 1972 and 1995.

Contracts and appointments: Peter Ditto, the engineering director, got approval for a $0.17 million contract with Susi of Dorchester for street repair on Englewood Ave and at two intersections. The work had been planned for later but was moved ahead because of deteriorating conditions. Greer Hardwicke of the Preservation Commission got approval for a $0.02 million state-funded contract with Wendy Frontiero of Beverly for historical surveys in northern parts of Brookline.

The board voted appointments to the Council on Aging: Peter Ames, Doris Toby Axelrod, Phyllis Bram, Jean Doherty, Harry Johnson, Barbara Kean, Celia Lascarides, Helen Lew, Claire Lurie, Yolanda Rodriguez, Evelyn Roll, Vera Shama, William Wong and Jackie Wright. The board interviewed two candidates for appointments: one for Conservation and one for Tree Planting.

Diversity director: Lloyd Gellineau was appointed Director of Diversity, Inclusion and Human Relations under a bylaw voted at this year’s annual town meeting. That bylaw replaced the former Human Relations/Youth Resources Commission with a new Diversity, Inclusion and Community Relations Commission. Dr. Gellineau is the first African-American in many years to become a Brookline department head. He is also to be Brookline’s chief diversity officer.

The new commission has yet to be appointed, and so far no candidates have been interviewed. The Board of Selectmen had waited for approval of town meeting actions by the state attorney general. It was received on September 23–two days before a 90-day deadline. Several people came to speak in support of Dr. Gellineau. He has worked in Brookline’s Department of Health and Human Services for eight years.

Supporters included Michael Sandman, an Advisory Committee member, Rita McNally, a Precinct 2 town meeting member, Betsy Shure Gross, a Precinct 5 town meeting member, Martin Rosenthal, a Precinct 9 town meeting member, and Cheryl Snyder, a constable. Others contended Brookline should set up a screening committee and conduct a broad-based search for a director. They included Patricia Connors, a Precinct 3 town meeting member, Joanna Baker, a Precinct 13 town meeting member and Dr. Alex Coleman of Tappan St.

Board member Nancy Daly spoke in favor of Dr. Gellineau, saying, “We have someone who’s highly qualified.” She had chaired a committee appointed by the board to review Brookline’s efforts toward diversity. It turned out to be a complicated effort, taking more than a year. Since the commission has to be consulted about a director, Ms. Daly proposed Dr. Gellineau’s appointment as a provisional director. The board agreed in a unanimous vote.

Warrant articles: Claire Stampfer, a Precinct 5 town meeting member, and Heather Hamilton, a Precinct 3 town meeting member, spoke to the board about Article 17 at the November town meeting. It proposes a resolution asking the town to select health-conscious LED lamps for its lighting programs. The lamps differ mainly in brightness and in color temperature, a measure of how much they tend toward red or blue light.

Incandescent and “warm white” fluorescent lamps have color temperatures rated around 2,700 K, “cool white” fluorescent lamps are around 4,200 K and “daylight” halide lamps are around 5,500 K. LED lamps can be made over a wide range; those for street lighting commonly come with 4,000 K or 5,700 K ratings. After an initial review of options, Dr. Stampfer said Public Works chose a 4,000 K rating for its current street-lighting program. She and Ms. Hamilton said color temperature has health effects. Used at night, higher numbered ratings can cause sleep disturbances.

According to a report from the U.S. Department of Energy, lower numbers for LED-lamp color temperature are associated with lower efficiency, usually measured in lumens per watt. At a 3,000 K color temperature, as compared to 6,000 K, it typically found 20 percent lower efficiency. For the same amount of lighting, the cost of electricity would increase about 25 percent–nearly cancelling the electrical-efficiency benefits of LED lamps as replacements for fluorescent and high-pressure sodium vapor.

School spending: An audience of more than 30 gathered as William Lupini, the school superintendent, reviewed school spending, in the light of a potential tax override to support operations. Dr. Lupini distinguished priorities for schools, which he called “core values” and “beliefs,” as compared with priorities from the recent Override Study Committee, whose report referred to “levers.” Much of that committee’s long sessions were conducted in code, nearly opaque to ordinary Brookline residents. Some of that code, like “levers,” factored in Dr. Lupini’s presentation, too.

Dr. Lupini’s presentation was detailed in a 58-page document titled Preliminary Look at Budget Implications. Although not found that evening via a “Packet” link for October 7, 2014, at Meeting Central on the municipal Web site, two days later a link appeared on the Override Central page. The core of Dr. Lupini’s financial presentation was an estimate of operating cost growth to maintain services.

Key elements of school priorities, as described by Dr. Lupini, are neighborhood schools, small classes and commitments to diversity–all involving significant costs. He emphasized that school spending per student, when adjusted for inflation, has been held level over the past five years. The override study report agreed. Most new financial needs come from trying to maintain services during increasing enrollment.

Over the past ten years, Dr. Lupini showed, class sizes have grown. For the 2005 school year, they ranged from 14 to 25 students, with 19 the most common. For the 2015 school year, they are 15 to 26 students, with 22 the most common. The number of K-8 students increased 41 percent, the number of K-8 home rooms increased 29 percent and the average home-room student count increased from 19.3 to 21.2. Although not shown as part of the presentation except for school nurses, numbers of students per support staff member have also been growing, along with numbers of students per teaching staff member.

BrooklineClassSizes2005and2015

Source: Public Schools of Brookline, October, 2014

In code words, on page 13 of his presentation, Dr. Lupini estimated that school operations need a total of $12.29 million in additional revenue for the 2016, 2017 and 2018 fiscal years combined. It was not clear how much allowance had been made for salary increases and other sources of budget inflation. It was also not clear how much of that amount was to maintain services and how much was for new services. There was no explanation of what so-called “catch up,” “enhancement” and “structural deficit” actually meant.

Members of the board seemed to take Dr. Lupini’s word on school priorities, but they had concerns about timing and transparency. Board member Nancy Daly asked for a budget projection. Susan Ditkoff, chair of the School Committee, described a process extending into next spring. Board members said it had to be much faster and said the budget must tell what an override buys. As board member Neil Wishinsky put it, “We have to give the voters a reason to pay more money.”

– Beacon staff, Brookline, MA, October 8, 2014


Dr. William Lupini, Superintendent of Schools, Brookline, MA, Preliminary Look at Budget Implications, October 7, 2014

Energy efficiency of LEDs, U.S. Department of Energy, March, 2013

Override Study Committee: warping the facts

Brookline’s Override Study Committee appointed in 2013 did themselves no favors with a report filed Thursday, August 14, in the dog-days of summer, when no one might be watching. Their report comes across as wordy, warped and awkward–read in tandem with the much more straightforward report from the Override Study Committee of 2007.

Fuzzy logic: A fuzzy argument from the 2013 committee held that Brookline taxes are unusually heavy. [p. 115] That fiction was concocted by combining medians for incomes with averages for taxes. People who work with statistical data would know such an approach is not valid. Actually, community data as taken from the committee report show the opposite: that is, when compared to community incomes, Brookline taxes are unusually light.

Property tax versus Income, selected Massachusetts cities and towns
Source of data: Brookline Override Study Committee, Final report, August, 2014, pp. 114, 115

Fair comparison: In the chart, a magenta line reflects average taxes per resident, as a percentage of average incomes per resident, for the 19 communities that the Override Study Committee of 2013 cited as a basis of comparison. Communities above the line have relatively high taxes, considering their incomes; those below the line have relatively low taxes.

As compared to community incomes, Brookline’s taxes are well below average. In fact, Brookline is the stingiest–or, if you will, the thriftiest–of all. By percentages instead of amounts, Medford–second from the left–is slightly more thrifty than Brookline. Part of the reason families have been moving to Brookline, other than the reputation of its schools, could be that its taxes have become a fairly good bargain.

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


Note: No one, at least any time recently, has tried to relate circumstances in Brookline to those throughout Massachusetts. The recent study committee did not do so. Their so-called “peer” communities were mostly very well-heeled places–not chosen to represent the state.

The town’s history runs to such an approach. As recently as the 1880s, Brookline’s gentry advertised the community–without a trace of modesty–as “the richest town in America.” Who might then have guessed, 130 years later, that Brookline would have a substantial and growing poverty rate?

The following chart presents the same type of picture as the earlier one, but it includes nearly all the 351 Massachusetts cities and towns. Data came from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Massachusetts Department of Revenue for 2011–the latest income data that can be readily extracted from census machinery, with only residential property taxes.

Property tax versus Income, Massachusetts cities and towns

Excluded from this chart were 21 vacation destinations–mostly Cape Cod and the Islands–totaling less than two percent of the population. Property tax versus income comparisons there are badly distorted by absentee owners of luxury houses. Their property taxes are tabulated with those communities, while most of the luxury-owner incomes are not.

This chart shows a concentration of communities near the state’s average income per resident of around $35,000. Of the state’s many moderate-income communities, only Framingham and Medford somehow landed on the committee “peer” list and thus on the earlier chart, while this chart shows nearly all those communities.

The magenta line on the statewide chart is the statistical trend from an unconstrained, unweighted linear regression. The slope is about 0.058 and the source intercept about $9,400. On average, this means that the state’s communities, aside from vacation spots, were collecting in residential property taxes about 6 percent of resident incomes over about $9,000 per person.

As also found in the chart with only so-called “peer” communities, Brookline sat on the low-tax fringe in the statewide comparison. Its residential property taxes were substantially less than typical for the town’s income levels. Cambridge, with its portfolio of high-tech industries, achieved much lower residential property taxes for its income levels. Among the communities with middle and upper average incomes, statewide, Brookline had the second lowest residential tax burdens relative to incomes.

Open meetings in government: groping toward transparency

Before the late 1950s, the Brookline, MA, Board of Selectmen would often meet behind closed doors during weekday afternoons, served refreshments on fine bone china and crystal. They were not an unusual board. In 1957, the Worcester Telegram reported on 27 communities in central Massachusetts and northern Connecticut, finding ten where all government meetings were closed to the public. [Harvard Law Review, 1962, p. 1199]

Open meeting traditions: Contrary to common impressions, open meetings of government bodies are relatively recent in the United States. Aside from New England town meetings, they are not longstanding traditions. Like the “voter rights” of referendum, initiative and recall, most come from twentieth-century reforms. Voter rights laws surged early in the century, while “open meeting” laws surged in mid-century.

Two Massachusetts laws, the Open Meeting Law and the Public Records Law, regulate public information from government organizations. Since the nineteenth century, newspapers had sought government meetings open to the press and the public, but the idea did not gain force until after World War II. Then, during the postwar era of the television and automobile, it engaged “modern thinking” of the day.

At the time, Massachusetts was not engulfed in strong controversy over corruption. At a mention of official corruption, people might have recalled a former mayor of Boston, James Michael Curley, by then out of office and in fading days. Scandals over MDC contracting, embezzlement at the Boston Common garage and bribery at the State House lay in the future. Strong controversies of the day involved the witch-hunt for Communists, the McCarthy scandal and rights to equal education–seen as a Southern issue, notably in Little Rock, AR.

Open meeting law continues to evolve. In Massachusetts, there have been several versions–the latest so far coming about 50 years after the original. Each law has been more complex. The Massachusetts laws applied to cities and towns in 1958, in 1978 and in 2009 amount to about two, five and eleven printed pages.

Original open meeting law: The Massachusetts Newspaper Information Service, an industry alliance, tried to get an open meeting law passed in 1957 but failed. The next year, two influential state senators, Silvio O. Conte, Republican of Pittsfield, and John E. Powers, Democrat of South Boston, took up the cause, sponsored a similar bill and got it through. [Legislative Research Council, 1959]

The original Massachusetts Open Meeting Law, enacted via Chapter 626 of the Acts of 1958, would be regarded as a weak law today. However, it was pathbreaking for its era. It provided separate requirements and sections of the General Laws for state, county and municipal arms of government. One key to getting the law passed can be found in a blanket exemption for the General Court–then and now hierarchical and secretive.

Massachusetts residents still have no rights to meeting notices, open meetings and meeting records from their state legislature. Those elements remain primary features of open meeting laws–now found in all states and the District of Columbia, although in widely varying forms. In 1958, the laws governing Massachusetts city, town and regional district organizations appeared in Chapter 39 of the General Laws, Sections 23A and 23B.

The original Massachusetts Open Meeting Law required only 24 hours notice of a meeting and counted all days of the week, including days when offices were closed and notices could not be read. It provided no penalty for violating the law, while Michigan now stipulates up to one year and Arkansas up to 30 days in jail. A citizen’s only recourse then was to pursue a lawsuit. The only remedies might be nullifications of particular actions and injunctions against future violations. Those were expensive remedies, rarely obtained.

The 1958 law required “accurate records” of meetings, but it did not say what information the records had to contain. Indeed, it did not define what a “meeting” meant, leaving a potential for boards to hold official meetings under the law but also to hold other, unofficial gatherings, not labeled as “meetings.” There was no provision to inform officials about the open meeting law, leaving ignorance of the law as a convenient excuse for violating it.

Nevertheless, in some respects the original Massachusetts Open Meeting Law proved potent and visionary. For example–unlike laws of many other states–advisory groups such as the Commission for the Disabled, the 2007 Override Study Committee and the Advisory Committee of town meeting have been subject to the law. Unlike Maryland’s law, for example, the 1958 Massachusetts law contained no catch-all exemptions, such as closed meetings “for compelling reasons.” [now repealed, Pupillo, pp. 1169, 1181] The 1958 law made “all meetings” subject to requirements. That was vague but potentially included informal meetings and official “events.”

Open meeting law changes: In the wake of corruption scandals–including favoritism in MDC contracting during the late 1950s, embezzlement at the Boston Common garage in the early 1960s and bribery at the State House in the 1960s and 1970s–among other measures, the General Court strengthened the Open Meeting Law. By 1978, many features of the current law were in place. The 1978 Open Meeting Law defined critical terms and narrowed the justifications for executive sessions.

A reform, by 1978, extended the required period of meeting notice to 48 hours, “including Saturdays but not Sundays and legal holidays.” Records of a meeting were required to include “the date, time, place, members present or absent and action taken”–although not topics discussed. New members of local boards were to be supplied with copies of the law. Members of the public were authorized to operate tape recorders. District attorneys were authorized to investigate complaints. Orders could be issued by judges invalidating actions taken at meetings violating the law and requiring future compliance.

The 1978 law excluded a “chance meeting or a social meeting” from coverage, provided “no final agreement is reached” on “official business.” That was eagerly sought by some of the more regressive boards. It opened a loophole at least as big as Maryland’s closed meetings “for compelling reasons.” Rogue boards could do all their reviews and wrangling at private “social” gatherings, merely formalizing actions in public.

Current open meeting law: The Open Meeting Law of 2009 provides several reforms. A notice for a meeting is now required to include an agenda, “topics that the chair reasonably anticipates will be discussed at the meeting.” A notice must be “visible to the public at all hours.” Members of the public are authorized to operate video as well as audio recorders and to “transmit [a] meeting through any medium.”

Minutes of a meeting must now include “a summary of the discussions on each subject.” Meeting records now include “documents and other exhibits.” Those could be charts, diagrams, drawings, sketches, renderings, maps, photographs, computer files, film-slide or computerized presentations, and video or sound recordings. Furthermore, “No vote taken at an open session shall be by secret ballot. Any vote taken at an executive session shall be recorded by roll call and entered into the minutes.”

The required notice period now excludes Saturdays. The loophole for “social” and other private meetings in the 1978 open meeting law is much narrowed. They are now exempt from requirements only when “members do not deliberate,” defined in the law to include “oral or written communication through any medium, including electronic mail, between or among a quorum of a public body.” Distribution of documents is allowed, without opinions, for discussion at future meetings.

Enforcement of the Open Meeting Law has shifted from district attorneys to the state attorney general, who is required to operate a “division of open government” and to prepare an annual report on enforcement. The attorney general is also authorized to “promulgate rules and regulations,” to “interpret the open meeting law,” to “issue written letter rulings or advisory opinions,” to “create and distribute educational materials” and to “provide training to public bodies.”

The 2009 Open Meeting Law requires a complaint to be pressed with the body alleged to have violated the law “at least 30 days prior to the filing of a complaint with the attorney general.” There was formerly no such restriction on filing a complaint with a district attorney. The attorney general may also act independently, upon “reasonable cause to believe that [someone] has violated the open meeting law.” In cases responding to complaints, the attorney general can “impose a civil penalty” up to $1,000 for “each intentional violation.”

The Office of the Attorney General issued initial regulations, effective in July, 2010, and updated regulations, effective in September, 2012. The open meeting regulations resolve some ambiguities in the law. For an agenda required in a meeting notice, they require that the “list of topics shall have sufficient specificity to reasonably advise the public of the issues to be discussed at the meeting.”

The regulations take account of electronic communication. They provide for electronic posting of notices and govern remote participation at meetings, requiring roll-call votes. For a meeting notice to be valid, they say, “The date and time that the notice is posted shall be conspicuously recorded thereon or therewith.” The regulations also detail procedures for filing and resolving complaints, for performing investigations that are initiated by the attorney general and for issuing advisory opinions.

Missing reforms: The Massachusetts Open Meeting Law remains hobbled by complex and weak enforcement. Members of boards, committees, commissions and councils can and do violate the law often and with impunity. In the rare event of a “civil penalty,” the city, town or district that houses the faulty organization is on the hook, not the people who actually violated the law.

Antonio Cabral, a New Bedford state representative who formerly co-chaired the Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight and who was a chief author of the 2009 Open Meeting Law, proposed a small but useful reform, starting in 2006. H.2786 for the 2013-2014 session would have authorized fines of up to $200 for people who violate the law–still far short of sanctions in Michigan and Arkansas.

People who attend public meetings will often be mystified by documents exchanged among members of boards, committees, commissions and councils. There remains no requirement for those to be disclosed to the public at or in advance of a meeting. The Brookline, MA, Board of Selectmen does so voluntarily, through “packets” available on paper at meetings and in electronic form on the municipal Web site. Missing requirements for draft minutes and a missing deadline for minutes to be available remain as barriers to public information.

– Craig Bolon, Brookline, MA, August 10, 2014


Open meeting statutes: the press fights for the “right to know,” Harvard Law Review 75(6):1199-1221, April, 1962 (unsigned)

Teresa Dale Pupillo, The changing weather forecast: government in the sunshine in the 1990s–an analysis of state sunshine laws, Washington University Law Review 71(4):1165-1187, 1993

Rebecca Fater, Legislation would overhaul state’s Open Meeting Law, Lowell (MA) Sun, March 14, 2006

Suzanne J. Piotrowski and Erin Borry, An analytic framework for open meetings and transparency, Public Administration and Management 15(1):138-176, 2010

Massachusetts Open Meeting Law of 1958, as applied to cities and towns, in General Laws Chapter 39, Sections 23A and 23B

Massachusetts Open Meeting Law of 1978, as applied to cities and towns, in General Laws Chapter 39, Sections 23A through 23C

Massachusetts Open Meeting Law of 2009, consolidated, in General Laws Chapter 30A, Sections 18 through 25

Massachusetts Office of the Attorney General, Open Meetings, 940 CMR 29 regulations, current

Massachusetts General Court, Fourth annual report of the Legislative Research Council and Legislative Research Bureau, Report 1599, January, 1959

Massachusetts General Court, Public officers of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 1957-1958

Override Study Committee: Open Meeting Law problems

Open Meeting Law: Meetings and meeting records of government organizations in Massachusetts are currently regulated by the Open Meeting Law of 2009 and by corresponding state regulations. [G.L.C. 30A, Secs. 18-25, and 940 CMR 29] They require every organization to hold all meetings in public–except for ten strict exceptions–and to prepare, keep and distribute accurate records of meetings.

Since 2008, Article 3.21 of the Brookline Bylaws has also regulated meetings of government organizations in the community, It requires posting meeting notices and records on Brookline’s municipal Web site and provides for distribution of information by e-mail.

State law requires a notice for a meeting to be posted 48 hours before the start of the meeting, “excluding Saturdays, Sundays and legal holidays.” [G.L.C. 30A, Sec. 20(b)] A notice must include an agenda: the “list of topics shall have sufficient specificity to reasonably advise the public of the issues to be discussed.” [940 CMR 29.03(b)]

Notices on the Web site cannot satisfy state regulations now, because they fail to provide for “the date and time that the notice is posted [to] be conspicuously recorded thereon.” [940 CMR 29.03(1)(b)] Notices at the town clerk’s office cannot satisfy state law, because they are not “conspicuously visible to the public at all hours.” [G.L.C. 30A, Sec. 20(c)] Brookline organizations post notices both on paper at the town clerk’s office, where they are time-stamped, and on the Web site, where they are visible at all hours.

State law also requires a government organization to “create and maintain accurate minutes of all meetings.” [G.L.C. 30A, Sec. 22(a)] In addition to minutes, state law provides that meeting records include “documents and other exhibits.” [G.L.C. 30A, Sec. 22(d)] Those could be charts, diagrams, drawings, sketches, renderings, maps, photographs, computer files, film-slide or computerized presentations, and video or sound recordings. Brookline’s bylaw requires records of meetings to be posted on the municipal Web site. [Sec. 3.21.4]

The Massachusetts Open Meeting Law requires all members of government organizations participating in meetings to certify receipt of copies of the law, the regulations and instructions from the attorney general. [G.L.C. 30A, Sec. 20(g)] It will not be easy to claim ignorance of the law. Violations are punishable by fines of up to “$1,000 for each intentional violation.” [G.L.C. 30A, Sec. 23(d)(4)] The attorney general can “nullify in whole or in part any action taken” in violation of state law or regulations. [G.L.C. 30A, Sec. 23(d)(3)]

Patterns in Brookline: Brookline boards, committees, commissions and councils have varied patterns of compliance with the laws and of making information available to the public. A few–including the Board of Selectmen–distribute both on paper and via the Web timely and detailed meeting notices, punctual and thorough minutes, and supporting documents including contracts and reports.

Other organizations provide the public with spotty or unusable information. For example, some PDF files distributed by the Planning Department are internally scrambled. They can be viewed but not searched. If one tries to mark and copy a segment for reference, when pasted into a document one gets gibberish. This will not happen by accident; Planning Department staff must configure documents to cause the behaviors. The practices are not currently forbidden by law, but they violate the spirit of so-called “open government” to which Brookline says it is committed.

Actions of the Override Study Committee: Actions of the Override Study Committee of 2013 illustrate some of the serious and typical problems. That committee was appointed on August 13, 2013, and voted its recommendations on July 30, 2014. It has yet to distribute a final report. The organization is neither at the best nor at the worst of Brookline’s Open Meeting Law compliance.

During the year from August, 2013 through July, 2014, the Override Study Committee formed nine subcommittees. The combined groups held a total of 174 meetings. Problems began early. As of August 1, 2014, minutes for two of the 12 meetings held in October, 2013, still could not be found on the Brookline municipal Web site. One group was diligent with minutes, but the others were not. Three posted minutes for only about 20 percent of their meetings.

Organization Meetings Minutes Percent
Override Study Committee 37 21 57%
Benefits subcommittee 4 4 100%
Capital subcommittee 20 4 20%
Demographic subcommittee 32 17 53%
Fiscal subcommittee 9 2 22%
Municipal subcommittee 18 11 61%
Populations subcommittee 17 3 18%
Revenue subcommittee 12 8 67%
School program task force 19 11 58%
Schools subcommittee 6 5 83%
All combined 174 86 49%

Overall, minutes for less than half the 174 total meetings had been posted by August 1. Compliance with Open Meeting Law requirements for minutes collapsed after April. As of August 1, minutes had been posted for only one of the 43 meetings held in May, June and July. Without spending hundreds of hours at meetings, the public had almost no way to know what the committee had been doing.

Year Month Meetings Minutes Percent
2014 Jul 16 0 0%
2014 Jun 15 1 7%
2014 May 12 0 0%
2014 Apr 14 9 64%
2014 Mar 18 13 72%
2014 Feb 11 8 73%
2014 Jan 28 15 54%
2013 Dec 24 12 50%
2013 Nov 22 16 73%
2013 Oct 12 10 83%
2013 Sep 2 2 100%
2013 Aug 0 0 N/A
Total 174 86 49%

The committee and its subcommittees have entertained exhibits of statistical spreadsheets, budget models and computerized presentations at their meetings. So far, despite the requirements of state Open Meeting Law and Brookline law, those have not been posted on the municipal Web site. The committee is currently trying to use information withheld from the public. Since the information was openly conveyed in public sessions, it does not qualify for any of the exceptions in the state Open Meeting Law.

A vote by the full committee taken July 29 did not use a roll call, although one member was connected by telephone–contrary to state regulations, which require roll call votes when any member is participating remotely. [940 CMR 29.10(7)(c)] No exception is obtained by calling something a “straw vote,” as one committee member tried to do. The motion failed on a tie vote, treated as disposative. If a vote matters, then it’s a vote.

The seven full committee meetings this July were described to the public only through opaque and generic notices, saying the committee might do any or many of various things it is authorized to do. Without inside information, the public had no reasonable notice that on July 30–unlike the other days–the committee would vote a recommendation on a permanent, general tax override.

State open meeting regulations require, on a meeting notice, that “topics must be sufficiently specific to reasonably inform the public.” [940 CMR 29.03(b)] They were not, yet insiders clearly knew. A quorum of the School Committee was present at that July 30 meeting but not the others.

– Craig Bolon, Brookline, MA, August 7, 2014


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

Office of the Attorney General, Open meetings, Massachusetts Regulations 940 CMR 29

Article 3.21, Readily accessible electronic meeting notices, agendas and records, Brookline Bylaws

Brookline government: public information and the committee forest

Brookline’s revised municipal Web site, appearing in June, displays pretty pictures and generally has more functional organization than the original site, which grew over several years. However, some former content has disappeared. On the Calendar page, for example, the entire archive of meetings earlier than June, 2014, has gone missing. Displays are empty. Previously, the archive went back to at least 2010.

Records of meetings: On the Agendas and Minutes page, content is spotty and can prove confusing. The page opens by showing all known meetings of all known organizations during the current year–usually an enormous display that would be hard to use. The key to using the page is a button labeled “Select a Category.” What the button actually does is display a checkbox-style list of known organizations.

The secret is to click on an item labeled “All Calendars” at the upper left–removing not only the checkmark on that item but checkmarks on all the others as well. Then one clicks on checkboxes for one or more organizations, to select them. Next, one clicks again on the button labeled “Select a Category.” The list of organizations goes away, exposing the selection of a year.

One can click on 2014, 2013, 2012 and “View More.” Clicking on “View More” brings up 2011 and 2010, which can be selected with a click. Finally, at the upper right of the list, one clicks on a button showing a circle with a short radial bar. Whatever that might suggest, it displays known meetings of selected organizations during a selected year.

Government organizations: As of August 1, there were 69 organizations in the Agendas and Minutes list. The site also has a Boards and Commissions page, listing 74 organizations as of August 1. Several in each list did not appear on the other list. Two of those organizations are the well known Board of Selectmen and School Committee, which have the major management duties. Others are appointed by those two, and still others are subcommittees. The Override Study Committee of 2013, for example, lists nine subcommittees, but the Override Study Committee of 2007 did not appear at all.

The Advisory Committee of Brookline’s representative town meeting, functioning for nearly a century, now has seven standing subcommittees and also forms temporary “ad hoc” subcommittees. None of those subcommittees appear in the Agendas and Minutes list. However, a display of Advisory Committee meetings includes some but clearly not all subcommittee meetings. They are particularly significant, because it is the Advisory subcommittees that usually hold public hearings. There is apparently no online access to minutes of many Advisory subcommittee meetings.

The Transportation Board has several subcommittees. Those active recently include at least Bicycle Advisory, Public Transportation, Traffic Calming and Taxi Medallion Conversion. Bicycle Advisory appears in the Agendas and Minutes list of organizations, but the others do not. A display of Transportation Board meetings includes some subcommittee meetings, including Bicycle Advisory. However, a display of Bicycle Advisory meetings is empty. There is apparently no online access to minutes of most Transportation subcommittee meetings.

The display of Transportation Board meetings also included one meeting of the moderator’s Committee on Taxi Medallions. However, that committee is freestanding. It is not a subcommittee of the Transportation Board. In addition to the Transportation subcommittee called Bicycle Advisory, there is a Bicycle Sharing Committee. It was appointed by the Board of Selectmen; no meetings are displayed for it.

There is a building committee for each major construction project. Those currently include the Runkle School, Heath School and Devotion School building committees. Members of older committees were Brookline employees and members of the Board of Selectmen and the School Committee. With the Heath and Devotion projects, they have also come to include members of other local government organizations and citizens at large. There are usually agendas and minutes for meetings. The Devotion committee appears to be the most diverse. Although still in early planning, it has already held more meetings than the Heath and Runkle committees combined.

The School Committee has currently organized itself into five standing subcommittees, with overlapping membership. Notices for both School Committee and subcommittee meetings have been appearing on the Calendar page of the municipal Web site, and agendas but not minutes appear on the Agendas and Minutes page. The school Web site displays minutes for full School Committee meetings, but none could be found for the more numerous subcommittee meetings.

The School Department has organized a council at each school. Their meetings were formerly announced on the Calendar page of the municipal Web site but have not been appearing on the revised Web site. No school councils appear in the Agendas and Minutes list of organizations. Notices and records for school councils were not found on the Web site maintained by Public Schools of Brookline, either. They are official groups that take positions on public issues. How they are satisfying responsibilities under the state Open Meeting Law remains unclear.

The Planning Board has appointed several design advisory teams. Some recently active ones focus on the Brookline Place and Cleveland Circle redevelopments, the hotel development at the former Red Cab site on Boylston St. and the Coolidge Corner commercial areas. None of them are shown in the Agendas and Minutes list of organizations or on the Boards and Commissions page. How they are satisfying responsibilities under the state Open Meeting Law remains unclear. One design advisory meeting was found under Planning Board meetings, but many others did not appear.

There are project committees for Brookline Place, Gateway East, Hancock Village, Olmsted Hill a/k/a Fisher Hill and “Waldo Street Area” in Coolidge Corner. Brookline’s municipal Web site has a page for each, listing members but not saying when the committee was set up, who appoints members and what they are supposed to do. Only Brookline Place and “Waldo Street Area” appear in the Agendas and Minutes list, so there is apparently no way to find agendas and minutes for the three others. Brookline Place has held 12 meetings in 2013 and 2014. “Waldo Street Area” has held 20 meetings in 2012 and early 2013. All have minutes.

Planning and project committees seem to overlap. There are apparently no Web pages for any of the design advisory teams, and Brookline’s municipal Web site does not appear to provide names or backgrounds of members. The standing Climate Action Committee (CAC) and Economic Development Advisory Board (EDAB) are different Each has its own page linked to the Planning Department’s pages. That might suggest they are Planning Board subcommittees. Instead, they are appointed by the Board of Selectmen.

CAC and EDAB make a study in contrasts. EDAB has been quite active and successful; it has a roster of 12 citizen members and gets staff support from Brookline’s economic development director in the Planning Department. CAC holds regular meetings and also gets Planning Department support, but overall it has been less active. It has three independent citizen members. The remaining 12 are designees of organizations. That is an approach much more often seen in state government, where it has tended to encourage lethargy.

Missing records: Many meeting records are missing. On a display of meetings, the “Download” buttons at the right produce empty windows. Clicking on the dates of meetings at the left is the way to display agendas. When an agenda is missing, one gets an otherwise empty window saying “No Agenda Available.” When minutes are available, toward the right there will be green icons showing checkmarks.

Minutes are missing for a large number of the meetings displayed. For example, no minutes were found for six Advisory Committee meetings from May 7 through July 7, 2014. No minutes were found for seven Planning Board meetings from June 18 through July 24, 2014. No minutes were found for any of the 16 meetings of the current Override Study Committee from May 7 through July 30, 2014. No minutes were found for any of the 23 meetings held by the Transportation Board and its subcommittees between January 1 and July 31, 2014.

Board of Selectmen: Records for the Board of Selectmen do not appear on the Agendas and Minutes page. There is a separate page just for them. On that page there are search tools not available for records of other boards, commissions and committees. The syntax of search text is not explained, but it appears similar to a Google search and does recognize a phrase enclosed by quotation marks.

In addition to agendas and minutes, records for the Board of Selectmen also include “packets”–displaying the contents of information made available to the public in packets of papers at meetings of the board. This is provided through a mix of original text pages and scanned image pages. The search tools look through only agendas and minutes; they will not find information in packets, even though it may be text.

Records for the Board of Selectmen appear fairly complete from September, 2011, through the present. However, they do not include a meeting held August 13, 2013, at which members of the current Override Study Committee were appointed. A paper notice for that meeting–obtained at the town clerk’s office–included a fairly full, normal meeting agenda, specifying appointment of those committee members.

The committee forest: If all the officially sanctioned organizations in Brookline’s local government could be listed, including subcommittees and temporary organizations during just the past few years, there might be around a hundred of them. News reports rarely mention most of them and almost never report their meetings or events–except for a few, particularly the Board of Selectmen, that have broad management duties.

Even the elected Library trustees and Housing Authority board get little attention, as do the Planning and Transportation boards. All four have substantial regulation and management duties. As a result, newcomers to Brookline are unlikely to know about the extensive, citizen-supervised government the town provides. Long-term residents are more likely to be aware of at least some of the organizations, but they too get sparse information about what the organizations are doing.

For those who use them, the municipal and school Web sites help to bridge some of the gaps. However, lack of current information from some organizations creates problems. In recent years, there have been occasional sentiments that the committee forest has grown too dense. Some committees may seem unengaged at times. However, there are also good examples–such as the Public Transportation Advisory Committee–showing renewed energy.

– Craig Bolon, Brookline, MA, August 1, 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

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

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

Board of Selectmen: school programs, electronic voting and permits

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2014 annual town meeting: electronic voting issues

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Human Relations: harassment complaints and resignations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

2014 annual town meeting: missing and uncertain votes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Human relations: more than advice?

In the 1950s and before, Brookline’s government focused on delivering services. Compared with other partly urban communities around Boston, the mix was rich and varied. In hackneyed local news, Brookline was often referred to as “leafy”–a sly dig meant to suggest “flaky.” The town was maintaining thousands of street trees, since setting up the Committee on Planting Trees in the previous century. Crews of foresters went around every spring, trimming many of those trees. Every snowfall, Brookline sent out an armada of small plows and cleared all the sidewalks. During warm months, parks and playgrounds were patrolled by park rangers, whose presence tended to discourage littering, vandalism and violence.

The price for all that became fairly high. Since early nineteenth century, Brookline’s culture and politics had been led by a handful of settled, Yankee families. The 1920s through the 1950s saw placid populations they easily dominated gradually replaced by new and less compliant ones, including Jews, professionals and white-collar business people. In a quest to hold on to elected offices–once the Brookline Citizens Committee could no longer do the job–some of the old-line Yankees made tacit partners among the mostly Irish immigrants and descendants living in town, who provided the local services. Coupled with unionization of the work force, that led to big wage and salary hikes. During the late 1960s, Brookline’s tax rate spiraled upward–growing as much as 20 percent a year.

A cauldron of conflicts developed. There was, for a time, a “Committee to Avoid a $100 Tax Rate.” There was a campaign to restore rent control, in effect during World War II and for a few years afterward. There was anger over new, high-rise buildings that were invading older neighborhoods around them. There were strong demands to make four elementary schools in the northern, mostly urban precincts as effective as four located in the southern, mostly suburban precincts. There was outrage over alleged harassment by some police officers of people of color.

The last of these conflicts emerged just as a Human Relations Commission was created by town meeting in 1970. It was charged to develop “nondiscrimination” policy, specifically: “the development of opportunities within Brookline…for those who are discriminated against and restricted by their race, color, national origin or ancestry, religion, sex or age….” The commission was also to “adopt…affirmative action guidelines” for town departments and contractors, with approval from the Board of Selectmen. Finally, the commission was to “initiate, receive, secure the investigation and seek the satisfactory adjustment of complaints charging discrimination….” [Brookline bylaws, Article XXVIII, 1970]

Effective performance of the broad scope of duties was undermined by Brookline’s failure to provide the Human Relations Commission with authorizations under Massachusetts laws. In order to carry out investigations, the commission would need to subpoena witnesses, take sworn testimony, demand, review and safeguard confidential documents and conduct executive sessions. However, unlike 1960s approaches to consolidating public works and planning, the 1970 town meeting did not seek state authorization for the commission, using a so-called “home rule petition” to the state legislature. Had it done so, the commission, like the town’s contemporaneous rent control board, might have been authorized under Chapter 30A, the state’s Administrative Procedure Act.

The evil of combining ambitious duties with vacuous powers left the Human Relations Commission worse than hobbled. It failed to lead expected reforms and became ridiculed in some quarters. There have been relatively few investigations of discrimination complaints, and there were not many notable outcomes. As in 1970, Brookline’s work force includes comparatively few minorities. Agencies reporting to Town Administrator Mel Kleckner and the Board of Selectmen lack even one minority department head. Like all its predecessors in the past half century, the current Board of Selectmen appears determined to “keep the lid on,” suppressing even mild protests. We have watched one after another supposedly civic-minded member of that board be co-opted into serving interests of the permanent government: town employees who run the town departments.

This year’s sally to replace the Human Relations Commission with a new “Diversity, Inclusion and Community Relations Commission” looks like more damage control. After public embarrassment over Brookline’s decades of failure to make much progress with minority hirings and promotions, the Board of Selectmen sponsored a “Committee on Diversity, Equal Employment Opportunities and Affirmative Action.” Clearly spooked that a live munition could blow up on them, they installed one of their number as chair and excluded all current members of the Human Relations Commission. Unlike any other bylaw setting up a town agency, their proposal for a new one starts with four gassy paragraphs about the agency’s “mission”–with the obvious effect of constraining it. Like the 1970 commission, the new one would lack state authorizations, making it at least as impotent, if not more so. The new commission is expected to offer advice, advice, advice.

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

Advisory subcommittee: a new human relations board

On Thursday, April 24, an Advisory subcommittee set to work at 7:00 pm in the third-floor lounge at Town Hall–slicing and dicing Article 10 for the spring town meeting in May. The meeting, which included a public hearing, recalled an old saw sometimes misattributed to Bismarck. (“Laws, like sausages, cease to inspire respect in proportion as we know how they are made.” John Godfrey Saxe, 1869) However, unlike other town boards, slicing and dicing is the main business at Advisory. They go at it with confidence.

Article 10 had been reviewed just the night before by the Human Relations Youth Resources (HRYR) Commission, which it proposes to abolish–creating in its place a new “Diversity, Inclusion and Community Relations (DICR) Commission.” Michael Sandman, who chairs the special subcommittee assembled for the topic, did conduct a public hearing, unlike HRYR–which advertised a public hearing but did not hear from members of the public. It didn’t take much time, since the Advisory hearing drew only a few members of town boards and two visitors.

Mr. Sandman was prepared with a punch-list of proposed amendments, gathered from several sources. He and Advisory colleagues Systke Humphrey, Bernard Greene and Amy Hummel went through them briskly, yet with close attention to meaning and detail. Although Mariela Ames, who chairs HRYR, was present, apparently she had not sent Mr. Sandman the changes her commission proposed the day before; they were not on his punch-list.

Among the many amendments discussed, three stood out. Facing a potential for a commission with only one staff person–possibly none–calling the organization either a “department” or a “division” doesn’t seem to fit the circumstances. The subcommittee recommends calling it an “office” instead, although it’s not clear whether the proposed DICR commission would have an actual office.

Three members of the selectmen-appointed committee that proposed Article 10 were present: Martin Rosenthal, Rita McNally and Elena Olsen. They were helpful in explaining how they came to propose a new commission with a variable number of commissioners: 11 to 15. However, the subcommittee recommends a commission of fixed size, like all other current boards, settling on 15 commissioners.

The third “hot button” issue was whether the proposed DICR commission should have scope to review practices of more than agencies reporting to Town Administrator Mel Kleckner and the Board of Selectmen. The other major agencies are the Public Schools, Housing Authority and Public Library–each of which has an elected governing board.

At Mr. Sandman’s suggestion, the subcommittee recommends that the proposed bylaw say it “applies to all Brookline departments and agencies.” In his opinion, that would include schools and libraries but not the Brookline Housing Authority. That might be a specious distinction, since the housing authority is a state-chartered agency, while the town is a political subdivision of the state. [Hunter v. City of Pittsburg, 207 U.S. 161, 178-179, 1907, upholding a principle sometimes called “Dillon’s rule“]

Like monitoring of the Public Schools of Brookline, monitoring by a Brookline agency of the town’s housing authority would need cooperation rather than compulsion. A total of 16 potential amendments was considered, with nine to be recommended. The full Advisory Committee will meet at Town Hall Tuesday, April 29, at 7:00 pm, and take up those and other issues.

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

Human Relations Youth Resources Commission: coping with changes

A meeting of the Human Relations Youth Resources (HRYR) Commission on Wednesday, April 23, started at 7:00 pm in the Denny Room at the Health Center. The main topic was a public hearing about Article 10 on the warrant for the annual town meeting in May. That proposes to replace the HRYR Commission with a new town board. Attendance was slim. Other than town officials, there were three members of the public. Although this was supposed to be a public hearing, members of the public were never invited to speak.

Article 10 is proposed by a selectmen-appointed “diversity committee.” Nancy Daly, a member of the Board of Selectmen who chaired that committee, attended the Wednesday meeting and offered several comments. Rita McNally, a former HRYR commissioner and a member of the selectmen-appointed committee, was also there and spoke. Known in full as the Committee on Diversity, Equal Employment Opportunities and Affirmative Action, it met a dozen times between December, 2012, and January of this year.

What HRYR commissioners really did at the “public hearing” was line-by-line review of the selectmen-appointed committee’s proposal in Article 10. An unsigned, draft “Motion to be offered,” amending that article, had been circulated among commissioners. Paper copies were available to the public. No one said who wrote the “Motion” document, but it was explained and defended by Mariela Ames, who chairs the HRYR Commission.

Brookline’s Human Relations Commission emerged amid complaints in the late 1960s that some police officers had harassed people of color. After quite a stir, the commission was created by the 1970 annual town meeting and began operations that August. Except for being merged with the former Youth Resources Council in 1974, its organization and duties remained the same for 43 years–until last year.

A stimulus for reviewing the HRYR Commission looks to have been retirement last year of Steven Bressler, HRYR director since 1974. During its early years, HRYR became an active town department, with a staff that grew to around ten. After Proposition 2-1/2, in 1982, there were many cutbacks in town services. For example, most sidewalk snow-plowing ended. HRYR staff shrank until only Mr. Bressler remained.

Originally Article XXVIII in Brookline’s bylaws, the Human Relations bylaw later became Section 3.14 of the current bylaws. Under it, until last year the Human Relations Youth Resources Commission was charged to:
  • develop…opportunities…for those who are discriminated against and restricted
  • adopt…affirmative action guidelines [for] employment practices…of the town
  • adopt…affirmative action guidelines [for] employment practices of town contractors
  • administer…the affirmative action program relating to contracts
  • secure the investigation of…complaints charging discrimination

Taking the first duty literally, in 2012 HRYR commissioners began to review hirings and promotions by town agencies: departments run by the Board of Selectmen and Town Administrator Mel Kleckner and also the Public Schools, Housing Authority and Public Library–which have elected boards. It didn’t take long to discover that there were no minority department heads among the 26 departments under the selectmen and town administrator, also that there had been–at most–only one during the previous 40 years.

As has happened in other Massachusetts communities with a board similar to HRYR, the commission began to seem like an “itch” to some of the people who have participated in town government for years. There were complaints it was going beyond its “mission.” However, a main purpose of such a board is to air a community’s dirty laundry. When it is doing its job, the HRYR Commission is almost sure to become an “itch.”

In 1974, the Board of Selectmen proposed to merge Human Relations with the former Youth Resources and also to strip away from the merged commission responsibilities to adopt and enforce town policy–instead vesting many responsibilities in a town employee to be called the “director of human relations youth resources,” reporting to selectmen rather than to the commission. Town meeting agreed to the merger but left human relations responsibilities of the HRYR Commission as originally set in 1970.

This year, a selectmen-appointed committee proposes more changes, now creating a new “Diversity, Inclusion and Community Relations (DICR) Commission.” As in 1974, the proposal would strip away from a commission of town citizens responsibilities to adopt and enforce town policy, instead vesting many responsibilities in a town employee–this time to be called a “chief diversity officer.” That employee would not report to a new DICR commission or to selectmen but instead to Town Administrator Mel Kleckner.

The town employee would be charged with “preparation and submission to the Board of Selectmen of a recommended diversity and inclusion policy.” The town employee would also “serve [as] ombudsperson to provide…dispute resolution services.” A DICR “department,” in place of the former HRYR department, might have only one staff person, or it might have no staff at all. However, DICR would have a “mission.”

Hardly a surprise: the first target at the HRYR Commission’s review on Wednesday was a “mission” statement proposed for DICR. The original Human Relations bylaw had no such “mission” statement. The current bylaw, as revised last year, has none either. Bylaws for other agencies don’t have “mission” statements. Instead, bylaws just describe duties and powers of boards, commissions, committees and departments. There have been florid claims of “empowering” DICR through a “mission,” but the practical effect is to constrain it.

Language in the selectmen-appointed committee’s article is prolix. Brian Myles challenged other HRYR commissioners to try to articulate the proposed “mission”–apparently meaning to state it in plain words. No one was able to do that very well. It looks something like the handiwork of Martin Rosenthal, a member of the selectmen-appointed committee. Mr. Rosenthal, who was on the Board of Selectmen in the 1980s, has a similar habit of speech. He is now a Precinct 9 town meeting member and co-chair of Brookline PAX.

The “Motion” document considered at the HRYR meeting would have deleted the “mission” statement. However, after a long discussion, HRYR commissioners voted unanimously that the “mission” should be reduced to one sentence plus one of the four paragraphs. They labored over the size of a DICR commission, voting that it should be 15, like the current HRYR Commission–rather than 11 to 15 as the selectmen-appointed committee proposes. HRYR commissioners would allow one of the 15 to be a parent of a METCO student rather than a town resident.

The HRYR Commission is responsible for enforcing Brookline’s fair housing law, Section 5.5 in the bylaws. Article 10, as proposed by the selectmen-appointed committee, would abolish the HRYR Commission but put nothing in its place to enforce the fair housing law. HRYR commissioners voted that the proposed DICR commission should take responsibility for the fair housing law.

The rest of the HRYR “public hearing” was discussions among commissioners over proposed duties of a new DICR commission, including review of employment practices of town agencies. If the new commission has any staff, its director is expected also to serve as the town’s “chief diversity officer”–typically among the roles in a human resources office. Like most large businesses, Brookline now has such an office, but it did not have one in the 1970s. Two commissioners were opposed in a vote on duties of a chief diversity officer.

On Wednesday, HRYR commissioners seemed unsure how to conduct a public hearing and how to organize and promote a warrant article, yet some commissioners wanted to be involved with employment practices of town agencies–more complicated tasks. They might also need to learn procedures to subpoena witnesses, take sworn testimony, demand, review and safeguard confidential documents and conduct executive sessions.

Nancy Daly, the member of the Board of Selectmen attending, raised a point about the last of those procedures. She also reminded HRYR commissioners that Brookline will have slim financial resources to provide staff, noting that many other boards and committees do their own work–preparing minutes and writing reports. The HRYR Commission could not finish its review on Wednesday and will meet Monday, April 28, at 6:30 pm, trying to wrap up. It might even hold a public hearing.

– Beacon staff, Brookline, MA, April 24, 2014

Commission for the Disabled: taxi accessibility and snow clearance

A regular meeting of the Commission for the Disabled on Tuesday, April 22, started at 5:00 pm in the Denny Room at the Health Center. Commissioner Jim Miczek reported on wheelchair accessibility requirements for Brookline taxis. The town currently has no accessible taxis and is considering permanent taxi licenses. Mr. Miczek said the draft accessibility requirements are cursory and vague.

Eileen Berger, the commission’s chairperson, reported no response to the issue so far from the Transportation Board, which has responsibility for taxis. Dr. Lloyd Gellineau, the town’s Human Relations Youth Resources director and a Human Relations-Human Services administrator, raised a general issue about how the town can require accessible transportation services. The commission will be reviewing a possibility for proposing home-rule legislation.

Dr. Saralynn Allaire, another commissioner, reported on investigations in support of the “age friendly community” designation that Brookline received last year. Several at the meeting remarked on hardships last winter because of haphazard snow clearance, notably in commercial districts. Article 28 on the warrant for the annual town meeting in May, submitted by Frank Caro, a member of the Age Friendly Cities Committee, seeks to send “enforcement officers on foot in business districts beginning in the fourth daylight hour after snowfalls.”

The commission considered ways to raise awareness among older town residents about the services currently available for people with disabilities. Dr. Sarah Whitman, another commissioner, will prepare a proposal for the next meeting, to be held May 20. Ms. Berger will also invite Todd Kirrane, the town’s transportation administrator, to that meeting, to review requirements for taxi accessibility.

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

Advisory Committee: $87 million for Brookline schools

A regular meeting of the Advisory Committee on Thursday, April 17, started at 7:00 pm in the southern first-floor meeting room at Town Hall. The committee has been reviewing articles on the warrant for the 2014 annual town meeting to be held in May. Most of this meeting was review of school spending proposed for the fiscal year starting next July. Attendance was slim, as it often is at Advisory meetings.

Despite a long siege of work, the committee seemed energetic. Subcommittee chair Leonard Weiss summarized the proposed budget through a set of comparison charts, showing in a general way how the financial resources are used. Unlike some of the reviews in past years, his comparisons did not include other school systems. They were distributed on paper. Copies were not offered to members of the public. Mr. Weiss cited risks in the proposed budget’s heavy reliance on grant funds and other one-time revenues.

School superintendent William Lupini gave more information to the Advisory Committee than he had provided a week earlier to the School Committee. However, the proposed school budget as distributed to the public on the school Web site remains vague–even less informative than the “program” approach the school department began to use in the early 1970s. From the public version of the budget, a reader will not be able to find out how many fifth-grade teachers there are at Pierce or Driscoll, how much is spent on supplies for High School science labs or almost any other practical item showing how the school department runs.

Lee Selwyn was the only committee member who noticed and spoke up. He commented to Dr. Lupini that the budget presentation was incremental, mostly showing changes from the current year. Momentarily the agile superintendent seemed caught off guard, but he recovered with a time-chart showing average spending per student–from the school year starting in 2004 to the one starting in 2012. Mr. Selwyn never got a direct response to his objection.

The per-student spending chart is actually part of the public version of the budget, on page 27. Total spending rose from about $14,000 per student per year for the school year starting in 2004 to about $17,000 for 2008, then leveled off. The chart compares Brookline with Newton and Lexington, showing for the last three years reported that school spending per student in those communities was about the same.

Dr. Lupini and his senior staff contended that controlling costs of special education had been the key to controlling total per-student spending. They did not present any charts or numbers. As described at the meeting, a major element has been “mainstreaming” more special-needs students who were being sent to services outside Brookline–bringing them into the town’s schools and providing extra staff to help.

The liveliest part of the review focused on a proposed “technology” initiative. Most of this involves more and newer computers available in classrooms. The department proposes to add about 600 hand-held computers next year and to begin replacing computers every four rather than every five years. Committee members were interested, but apparently no one did the math. There are about 7,000 students now. For each student to be able to work with a computer, the department would be buying at least 1,750 a year–not just 600.

Dr. Lupini and deputy superintendent Peter Rowe discussed with the committee a “budget addendum” much expanded from one previously distributed to the School Committee. Among other matters, it lists funds for the “technology” initiative. However, the addendum has not been made available on the school Web site, and paper copies made available to the public do not include a page explaining “budget magic” discussed with both the School Committee and the Advisory Committee–avoiding major program cuts or a tax override.

A large majority of the Advisory Committee voted to recommend the school budget as proposed, requiring about $87 million in local tax revenue for department operations, plus a capital allocation. Dividing the annual school department appropriation by the student population does not reflect full costs. A state agency reports per-student spending, including costs of health care and pensions. However, contrary to statements made at the meeting by school administrators, those state reports do not factor in the costs of school buildings. A few committee members abstained, but no one opposed the school budget.

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

No news is bad news

The Boston Globe, for about the last 50 years New England’s leading newspaper–following collapse of the old Herald and retrenchment at the Courant–continues to cheapen its products while raising its prices.

Over the last few years, the Globe switched off its once sturdy reporting on health care. Even though it continues to list talented reporters on staff, there are rarely any articles from them and almost none of substance. Although a significant article by young reporter Carolyn Johnson continues to appear once in a while, science reporting–never a Globe strength–has been wedged into a crevice inside “technology,” itself a branch of “business.”

As of mid-April, 2014, New England news totally disappeared from both the Globe’s free site and its paid site. Now “health” is just a feature of “lifestyle.” Chelsea Conaboy, who came to the Globe from the Philadelphia Inquirer less than three years ago to coordinate health-care news, has left for the Portland, ME, Press Herald. Science lost a place in the banner headings. Lapse of New England news, typically dozens of articles a day, is especially grievious, because there has been no comparable source of reports on the region.

Actually, some New England news is still available at the Globe, but “you can’t get there from here.” It’s grouped with pages of the free site, but there aren’t any links on those pages to bring it up. Instead, you need to know the full, Internet locations of all the pages–and maybe bookmark them. They are:
  • Connecticut, http://www.boston.com/news/local/connecticut
  • Maine, http://www.boston.com/news/local/maine
  • New Hampshire, http://www.boston.com/news/local/new-hampshire
  • Rhode Island, http://www.boston.com/news/local/rhode-island
  • Vermont, http://www.boston.com/news/local/vermont
Previously there was a Massachusetts page, but all it ever showed was a few college sports scores. Cape Ann, Cape Cod and southeastern, central and western Massachusetts remain terrae incognitae to the Globe. As of mid-April, 2014, what all the above pages actually show is the same “news lite” as the “local” page.

These developments are hardly surprising. The historic “tiny” Globe–from the 1870s through the 1950s–was usually pedestrian when not blinkered. It often treated anything much beyond Brookline, Cambridge, Somerville and Chelsea as though located somewhere on the fringes of the universe.

A slightly more cosmopolitan Globe, after Harvard grad Tom Winship succeeded his dad Laurence as chief editor in 1965, pushed horizons out to around Route 128. However, the Globe’s moldy standards of local reporting proved little changed. A 1974 “empty parking space” reserved for former Secretary of State Jack Davoren at the State House comes to mind. It was actually photographed on a Sunday. The Globe editors had to know that was a fake event, but apparently they had their agendas.

In particular, the younger Winship seemed to hate former Gov. Dukakis, a fellow Harvard man, for a few years, with predictable results. After he retired in 1984, Winship expressed what came across as remorse about helping Dukakis lose to Ed King in the 1978 primary. The Globe did boost King down the skids by reporting on “lobster lunches” King favored–at taxpayer expense–helping Dukakis return to office in 1982.

The Boston Globe has been ailing for years before and since the Taylor trust sold it to the NY Times in 1993–under a succession of clueless editors, ineffective at coping with electronic news: Michael Janeway, Jack Driscoll, Matthew Storin and Martin Baron. It was only a near-monopoly during the age of paper that propped up an erratic and faltering institution. Once Internet news became popular after the 1990s, the gates began to close.

Brian McCrory, a native of Weymouth, was named chief editor of the Globe in December, 2012. He has been a Globe reporter, then a columnist, since 1989. He has yet to put a distinctive stamp on direction and content; it’s too early to tell whether he will help restore the Globe to a modicum of health. So far he presided over slashing health-care news, ending New England news and decorating the online sites with more gadgets and pictures.

One of Mr. McCrory’s columns in 2011 advocated charging a subscription fee for the Globe’s online edition. That seemed an unpopular view among the news staff, but it was more-or-less what Globe management did shortly afterward–setting up a separate paid site and gradually moving content from the free site to the paid site. Early reports indicated few subscribers. Shortly before the NY Times sold the Globe to Red Sox owner John Henry in August, 2013, Globe circulation reports became opaque, but they are apparently double-counting online subscribers who are also print subscribers.

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


On the Move, Portland (ME) Press Herald, March 16, 2014

Jon Chesto, Boston Globe’s new circulation report underscores challenges in transitioning from print to digital, Boston Business Journal, November 1, 2012