1b. Briefly, what else in your background is pertinent, especially a history of progressive activities besides the above?
My entire professional career has been built around the idea of serving in or supporting government in providing high quality services to the public. I have done this by identifying where people are best serviced by direct provision of services and finding ways for the government to appropriately regulate and oversee the private sector where they are best suited. I worked for the Missouri State Government, the U.S. Department of Transportation, and now in Government Affairs for a government contractor. In my current role, I have made it a priority of my company to address not just the exciting technologies embraced by smartphone users but to ensure equity and access for people with low-incomes, in minority communities, who are undocumented, who are unhoused, who are unbanked, and/or who have physical or cognitive impairments.
2. WHAT/WHO INFLUENCED YOU TO RUN? What challenges do you see for Brookline? Where will you focus?
Brookline is an amazing place to live. Just a few steps outside of my apartment, I am surrounded by friendly neighbors, inviting shops, delicious restaurants, parks and playgrounds, wonderful schools, walkable streets and public transit to bring us anywhere in the region we want to go.
Brookline has real challenges. We have a crisis on housing availability and housing prices. Our buildings and infrastructure need repair and replacement. Climate change presents an alarming list of unknown problems we will need to address. Social and racial changes are rolling across the country, bitterly resisted by those on the right and those who are made uncomfortable by realizations that the status quo did not work for everyone.
Brookline is an amazing place to live, but that does not allow us to rest on our laurels. We have hard work to do to maintain what is great about Brookline and to ensure it can become a better place for those it has not always been amazing.
I am running for Town Meeting because I want to do this hard work for Brookline.
3. BUDGET PRIORITIES: What would you Increase, Decrease, or Leave the same: Affordable housing _I_; Facilities and streets _S_; Libraries _S__; Parks _S__; Police _D__; Fire _S_; Public Health _S__; Rec programs _S_; Schools _S_; Transportation alternatives _I_; Other(s) _Increase to alternative social services
4. LABOR/PUBLIC EMPLOYEES: After collective bargaining, union contracts come to Town Meeting for approval. As such, what are your views on the Nov. 2020 Police contract vote? (Incumbents: explain your vote or view; others: your view based on the WA2 explanations in November 2020 Combined Reports.
Our public employees deserve our thanks and support in terms of funding, staffing, and necessary resources to do their job. The demands on these offices day in and day out are large, and larger still because of COVID. Our Town needs to demonstrate that we value the essential services provided by our Public Works, Libraries, Public Health, Building Inspectors, Clerks, and other departments. Our commitment to public employees does not start and end only with the Police.
Regarding the specific 2020 contract, I likely would have voted in favor of the Article for lack of a better alternative at that time. We have tasked our police with too many types of responsibilities that we chose not to allocate to specialists; while we certainly need to reimagine this role, the people doing these jobs today deserve compensation and a contract. That said, with the benefit of hindsight, it is also true that the skeptics of this article have been correct in highlighting significant concern that the extra 0.5% raise, put into place in order to make progress on body cameras and similar oversight, would bear no fruit.
5. HOUSING –What are your views on land use policy (i.e., zoning)? How and where might you promote/support residential development, e.g., changing some (or all) single family and/or two family zones to more than that, supporting mixed use commercial/residential, and otherwise?
Brookline needs more housing broadly and more density for related and separate reasons. We have a housing crisis, where many types of housing are unavailable at almost any price, desirable types of housing are not allowed to be built, and the intense demand pushing up prices reduces our diversity as a Town.
Zoning changes that encourage mixed use and higher density is a great way to bring in more housing, but also provides benefits unrelated to the direct housing shortage. It improves walkability of neighborhoods, discourages sprawl, makes public transit more viable, increases the customer base for local businesses, and encourages many other climate-friendly practices.
While there will likely always be a collection of single and two-family homes within Brookline, it is foolish and damaging to our Town to have zoning laws that actively prohibit multi-family housing throughout much of the area of the Town. Moreover, there is a long national history of racism that drove the creation of many zoning laws nationwide and within Brookline specifically (Brookline notably invented the racial covenant in deeds) and we must consider the racial and racist impacts of these past decisions as we consider our future housing policy.
6. CLIMATE/ENVIRONMENT/OPEN SPACE – Town Meeting has passed many “green” initiatives, including restricting plastic bags & Styrofoam containers; and encouraging alternative transportation, net-zero building, and electric vehicles. What involvement, if any, have you had with environmental issues, and what are your thoughts for what we might focus on next?
Our biggest opportunity to impact climate and environment is through our land use policies. Our housing and land use choices have a direct impact on climate outcomes. Denser and more urban living dramatically reduces the carbon impact of day-to-day life. Communities like Brookline make it easy to walk/roll, to cycle/scoot, and to use public transportation to achieve many of life’s day-to-day needs. By reducing or eliminating car use, the direct carbon emissions of all of those actions are similarly mitigated. Beyond transportation, though, denser living means fewer cubic feet to heat and cool (and shared walls and roofs help insulate the spaces we use), fewer carbon-intensive resources needed to provide public services (e.g., fertilizing playing fields or plowing sidewalks and streets), and improving the viability of pooled resources that enable fewer single-person trips (e.g., grocery delivery vans). Moreover, in a growing population, housing will be built somewhere, and encouraging density in places like Brookline means fewer forests and other greenfields demolished to make room for high sprawl and carbon-intensive housing.
8. RACIAL CLIMATE: How do you perceive Brookline’s racial climate (i) in the Town workforce, (ii) in our schools, and (iii) in town, generally – especially as you perceive Brookline as compared with elsewhere in MA and USA.
I do not think I am qualified to perceive the racial climate of the Town, but I am ready to listen to the perceptions, experiences and suggestions of those who have had deeply racial (and racist) experiences within Brookline. Speakers at public meetings, surveys conducted by Select Board Committees, lawsuits lost by the Town, and emails sent to parents from the Schools show ample evidence that there are many people who are having severely negative racial experiences.
How this compares to anywhere else in Massachusetts or the United States is irrelevant. If we are not doing a good enough job, then it is on us to clean up our own house, no matter how much better or worse any other jurisdiction may be doing.
9. POLICE DEPARTMENT: What are your views on Brookline PD, (i) in general, e.g., proposals to reimagine and/or reform, e.g., the 2021 reports of the Committee on Policing Reforms and the Task Force to Reimagine Policing; and (ii) the 2020 TM debate/vote on a then proposed 17% Police budget cut. (Incumbents: explain your vote or view; others: your view based on the pages for WA 8 – SUPPLEMENTS 6 through 10 (pp. 1-5) & 15 in June 2020’s Combined Reports?
There is no doubt that policing in America needs to change.
Too many essential and preventative public services have been “defunded” leaving the police to handle the outcomes of societal failure to care for our neighbors. The best thing we can do to support police is to break the cycle of reaction-only responses and allocate resources toward services to address poverty, access to health care, isolation, joblessness, and dangerous living conditions and reduce the number of cases for which a police response is the only one available to us.
Too many police officers express and act on conscious and unconscious bias against people of color and other vulnerable populations. While it may be true that these are “bad apples” compared to the whole, the oft-repeated expression has an important second half, left with no consequence… bad apples spoil the barrel. Police across America have a lot of bad apples and a population-wide reluctance or refusal to address these issues has spoiled the barrel.
Brookline is not an island. While we have not had the most horrific situations occur within our borders, there is no reason to believe we do not have the same problems as the rest of the society in which we live. There have indeed been high profile incidents of alleged discrimination within the department, a survey showing black and latinx residents trust they to be treated fairly by the Brookline police less than white residents, and plenty of anecdotes of bias and overpolicing of non-whites within our community.
The Task Force to Reimagine Policing provided invaluable work and it is a shame that much of it remains on the shelf. The recommendations will not all be easy to implement but they are necessary.
10. TOWN VS. CITY GOVERNMENT: Describe your views of town vs. city government, in particular the role of a Select Board vs. a mayor, and the role of Town Meeting Members vs. a city council.
While I am ambivalent about the specific Town vs City divide, I am firmly convinced we need a substantial change in the nature of our municipal government. It is clear that we are too big (and have likely been too big for a century) for our current government structure. Our recent lengthy Town Meetings (and the frequent desire by those elected to make them shorter) are evidence that we need a legislature available for more than 5-10 nights a year. The number of non-contested and lightly-contested elections for Town Meeting, for Moderator (contested only once in the last couple of decades), for Clerk (contested only once since the 80s), and even often for the Select Board (including this year) mean that we are have no guarantee our officials represent the voice of the people.
That the demographic makeup of Town Meeting and of our Boards, Commissions, and Committees do not match the demographics of the Town provides stark evidence that the reliance on volunteers to accomplish the functioning of everyday government results in an unrepresentative set of decision-makers and thus an unrepresentative set of decisions. I was recently told that one of the powerful appointed boards likes to have one person with experience in the area they regulate (as the others often have good intentions but no expertise). I find that goal shocking. We deserve a government run by professional people with experience, not by those with the most free time, the most money, or the most overburdened spouses.
Finally, our byzantine system of elected and non-elected boards, commissions, and sub-committees results in extremely distributed decision-making. Aside from being painfully slow at times, it also means that it is difficult to hold anyone or any deliberative body accountable for these decisions.
As a result, I certainly support a Charter Commission to investigate alternative ways of maintaining Town Meeting structures, a Town Council structure, and also various appropriate City structures.