Archive for the ‘warrant’ Category

Special Town Meeting August 26

August 19, 2009

Next Wednesday, Brookline’s Town Meeting will have a special session to consider imposing a local meals tax and a local hotel tax in order to meet the budget deficit for the fiscal year. The state passed a law allowing local municipalities to impose these extra taxes, and if Brookline passes these taxes in August the town can start to benefit from the increased revenue in October. Otherwise, the town would have to wait until January, losing out on potential extra revenue.

One TMM’s Thoughts on the Security Cameras

June 4, 2009

Michael A. Burstein, one of the members of Neighbors Building Brookline, has posted his thoughts on Articles 24 and 25 on his personal blog at the following link:

Tuesday Night at Brookline Town Meeting: Surveillance Cameras

Warrant Review Meeting Report

May 21, 2009

Last night, the Town Meeting Members of precinct 12 that comprise Neighbors Building Brookline met for three hours to discuss the warrant in advance of Town Meeting. I’ve been a member of Town Meeting since 2001 from precinct 9, and I’ve never participated in an advance discussion other than by email or phone. I found this gathering of my new precinct delegation most useful, as it gave me a chance to hear different perspectives on the issues in a more intimate setting.

As always, the warrant for the Annual Town Meeting is an eclectic mix of articles. The simpler ones are housekeeping articles and the like, but there are also some controversial issues, as well as the town budget. The Brookline TAB has done a nice job of summarizing the issues that will come before us next week in the following article: “Brookline Town Meeting likely to reignite fire manning, camera debates” by Neal Simpson.

For those of you who are precinct 12 constituents, here are a few highlights from our meeting last night. Note that this is my personal report; none of my comments should be taken as the endorsements or opinions of Neighbors Bulding Brookline.

• Article 8 is the town’s budget article. Most of our discussion had to do with the question of what will happen with the Fiscal Year 2010 budget, given that state aid might be even lower than the town originally expected. Personally, I expect that we’ll end up voting on a budget, and then if it turns out that we’ll have to revisit it they’ll either call a summer session of Town Meeting or file budget amendments for the regular fall Town Meeting.

One thing I found out is that years ago, the town apparently would sometimes postpone the budget article until a special session at the end of June. No one seems to be floating this option for this year.

• Articles 9, 10, and 11 deal with amending the budget to maintain engine companies, ladder companies, the Fire Alarm Superintendent, and Signal Maintainer for the Fire Department, as well as requiring the town to adopt NFPA Standard 1710 (which has to do with minimum staffing). These articles were first filed when it looked as if some fire department equipment and personnel were being threatened by budget cuts, but from what I understand the budget no longer includes those cuts. So it seems to me that these articles have become slightly irrelevant. (Article 11 actually has to do with moving positions out of the Fire Department and into another department, but nothing struck me as amiss about that.)

• Article 16 was the proposal made by a citizen petitioner that all food establishments be required to post caloric information on their menu. The relevant town departments reported that this would be too prohibitive for many of Brookline’s single proprietorship food establishments, and that the real concern – easy access to the nutrition information about the food served by chain restaurants – is about to be addressed by a new state law. So the motion under this article is a simple resolution urging restaurants to provide nutrition information and healthy choices. I can get behind that.

• Article 21 is a petition to be filed with the General Court to allow Brookline to hire off the civil service list for all positions in the town, with the exception of the Police and Fire departments. This is a rather complex issue; the basic problem is that the civil service system is broken and hasn’t been working the way it should. To get on the list, one has to sign up for it, and theoretically take an exam to prove qualifications. The problems are that exams are not being given consistently and many people on the list are unqualified. And yet, when hiring for certain jobs, town departments can only hire off the lists, which often means not hiring anyone at all.

Personally, I’m uncomfortable with this article but can see the necessity. Supposedly the governor’s office is working to fix the broken system, so the petition would end up unnecessary. I’m planning to listen to the reports at Town Meeting before making my final decision.

• Article 22 redefines the residency preference for hiring Brookline police officers to include anyone who graduated from the high school. In other words, if you grew up in Brookline and then moved to Allston-Brighton where apartments are more affordable, you could still get residency preference since it’s obvious that you know the town well.

• Article 23 concerns the Citizen Complaint Review Committee and how Brookline investigates complaints against the police. This was an emotional discussion, as the whole business is rooted in an event that took place a few years ago with repercussions still being felt today. It would take far too long for me to go into detail, but in general most of us felt that the article ought to be considered apart from the incident. If at all possible.

• Article 24 and 25 deal with the pilot program for the surveillance cameras. If I read these correctly, Article 24 would keep the program going until the end of the year, while Article 25 would kill the program immediately. (And yes, we wondered what would happen if both articles passed.) We had an excellent discussion on the issue of the cameras. It’s the classic dilemma between freedom and security. On the one hand, people are concerned about the potential for abuse with security cameras in the town; on the other hand, people acknowledge that the cameras make the police’s job a lot easier, something to consider with certain types of crime possibly on the rise. Personally, I think the real issue is that the money for the program came from the Department of Homeland Security, which has a lot of Brookline residents opposed to it on that principle alone.

• Article 26 is a resolution to set up a Pay As You Throw (PAYT) trash collecting system, in which the more you throw out as garbage, the more money you would pay. This is different from the current system, in which people pay a flat fee for trash pickup each year. There’s been a spirited debate on this issue among Town Meeting Members already, which has less to do with the merits of PAYT and much more to do with the problem of illegal dumping. The TAB had an excellent article on this issue; see “Plans for trash fee reform in Brookline on hold for now” by Neal Simpson for the story of the magically appearing sofa. At this point, it looks like Town Meeting will vote to send the issue back to committee. But, as our Town Meeting loves controversy, the debate is now centering on whether to refer the issue to a Selectmen’s Committee or a Moderator’s Committee. What fun!

These, and many other issues, will be debated next week (and probably the week after) at Brookline Town Meeting. Remember, if you have any opinions on these issues, get in touch with your precinct’s Town Meeting Members and let us know where you stand.

Election Day Results

May 6, 2009

Neighbors Building Brookline is happy to announce that our five endorsed candidates (Lee Cooke Childs, David Cotney, Jonathan Grand, Michael A. Burstein, and Casey Hatchett) won their race yesterday to represent precinct 12 in Town Meeting. We’d also like to congratulate Judy Meyers on being re-elected to the School Committee, and we’d like to congratulate Jonathan Karon and Ian Sklaver for their well-run campaigns for Town Meeting.

Now the work of the warrant begins. Neighbors Building Brookline will be gathering before the May Town Meeting to discuss the issues that will come before us on the warrant. If you have any thoughts or questions on the warrant articles, please do get in touch.