mabfan (Michael A. Burstein) (mabfan) wrote,
mabfan (Michael A. Burstein)

Brookline Fall Town Meeting, 2005

As many of you know, I am an elected Town Meeting Member in Brookline, which has had a representative Town Meeting since 1915. Last week we had our Fall session, and for those of you who are interested, I've written up a little bit of what happened and the articles upon which we voted. If you're local, you can probably find a rebroadcast of the three nights on Brookline Access Television (BAT).

And if you happen to live in precinct 9, I'm running for re-election next year, and I'd appreciate your vote.

Tuesday, November 15

Town Meeting has a tradition that goes back a bit of reciting the Pledge of Allegiance just before 7 PM on the first night. The reason we recite it before BAT starts broadcasting apparently has to do with some people's reactions during the 1960s. Some TMMs insisted on the pledge, whereas others refused to recite it but didn't want to be seen as unpatriotic. Or something like that. Anyway, since then the pledge is recited before we are called to order, and is strictly voluntary.

Of course, after we're called to order we all stand and sing the national anthem (or at least the traditional first stanza). No one seems to have a problem with that.

This year is Brookline's 300th anniversary, and in honor of that we had a little bit of theatrics before we got to the warrant. The Selectmen donned fake powdered wigs, and former state representative Sumner Kaplan, playing Samuel Sewell Jr., recited the document granting Brookline its status as an independent town on November 13, 1705.

Then we got to the articles. We had 31 articles in the warrant, and on this first night we got through Articles 1-10. They included payment of our unpaid bills, agreement to the settlement with the Firefighters Union, additions to the budget (including the funding of a new Library Assistant II position at the Coolidge Corner Library), and clarifications and alterations to some zoning bylaws. We also created a committee to look into Pension Obligation Bonds. Finally, we created the Coolidge Corner Interim Planning Overlay District, or IPOD, which will halt development in that area for a year while a committee studies the impact.

We adjourned at 10:30 PM.


Wednesday, November 16

We were called to order at 7:08 PM. This night, we got through Articles 11-19. A few of interest --

Articles 13 and 14: For the past few years, the Town has had a problem with spotty cell phone coverage in south Brookline. A committee has met for about a year to determine how to resolve this issue, and they did a fantastic job. They settled on building a Distributed Antenna System so we don't have to construct a huge cell tower anywhere. TMM Geoff Cohen, the co-chair of the committee, gave an excellent presentation on how a Distributed Antenna System would work to bring better cell phone service to south Brookline. We voted unanimously on Articles 13 and 14, which altered the bylaws to allow for the installation of the network.

Article 16: The vote to add the Advisory Committee to approve Housing Advisory Board expenditures failed 108-101.

Article 19: A motion to regulate how the Moderator selects speakers, which failed. What was interesting about this motion was that our Moderator, Sandy Gadsby, had taken a public position against the article, so he recused himself and had Charles Ames moderate the discussion.

We also referred to committees questions of the replacement of old street signs and questions about the noise bylaw.

We adjourned at 10:30 PM.


Thursday, November 17

We were called to order at 7:11 PM, and we managed to get through the rest of the warrant.

Two interesting articles we dealt with together, Articles 22 and 29, had to do with the Iraq War. The first one would have required the Selectmen to set up a commission to educate the people of the town about the effects of the war. At first I had planned to vote in favor, but then one of the more conservative TMMs, Richard Wheeler, gave a convincing argument against it. So did TMM Geoff Cohen, even though he opposes the war. Basically, they both pointed out that having the Selectmen set up a commission to teach the people what to think on an issue felt...well, wrong. So I voted against it, along with a majority of Town Meeting, and it was defeated.

However, Article 29, a resolution supporting the immediate construction and implementation of a plan to withdraw from Iraq, passed by a vote of 157-13-20. I voted in favor of the resolution.

Shortly after that, we dealt with an article to set up a committee to report on whether or not Brookline should participate in the Community Preservation Act (CPA). The CPA basically grants money to towns to pay for the support of parkland and other green space, in exchange for a surcharge paid by the citizens. A few years ago, despite a strong push for us to participate in the CPA, Town Meeting voted against it. However, that was at the inception of the CPA. Today, quite a few communities in Massachusetts have benefited from the CPA, so it was proposed that we set up a committee to take another look.

This led to the most colorful exchange on the floor of Town Meeting this session. One TMM who had opposed it before spoke out against even setting up the committee. He claimed that they were sure to come back with an erroneous report in favor and that we should nip this in the bud before that could happen.

Then another TMM, a woman who is known to be outspoken, and who had voted against the CPA last time, went to the microphone to speak out in favor of the committee. She referred disparagingly to the previous TMM's comments, pointing out that he was not clairvoyant with the following words:
"Does [name omitted] have a crystal ball? Does he have any balls at all?"

We were somewhat, um, shocked by this comment. Our Moderator was taken aback, and did chastise her for the phrasing of her remarks. After she finished, the previous TMM asked to speak again and pointed out that he seemed to have the "intestinal fortitude" to stick to his position, whereas she did not.

Ah, well. At least people weren't hitting each other with sticks. The motion to refer the CPA to a committee passed.

Two final pieces of business of interest:

We voted our opposition to the Supreme Court's recent ruling in Kelo v. New London expanding the powers of eminent domain.

We voted to register our opposition to the building of a Biosafety Level 4 lab in downtown Boston by endorsing a bill against it being submitted to the General Court by State Representative Gloria L. Foxe.

In the end, I voted along with the endorsement of Brookline PAX on every article on which they took a stand except for Article 22.

We dissolved the Fall Town Meeting at 11:26 PM.
Tags: boston, brookline, personal, politics, town-meeting

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