Brookline Town Meeting Comes to a Close
Results from the final Warrant Articles could take Brookline out of Norfolk County.
During last night's final chapter of the Brookline Anual Town Meeting, the Town Meeting Members and Selectmen discussed the remaining five Warrant Articles. The remaining articles included winter sidewalk clearing, the Transportation Board's traffic calming procedures, a resolution to end robocalls, an MBTA easement and ceding from Norfolk county.
Home Rule in Norfolk County
The discussion of this article, now passed, begins with a figure: $700,000. That figure is the cost to the town for membership in Norfolk County, and this assessment was referenced by Selectman Nancy Daly, Norfolk County Commissioner Peter Collins, and the petitionerer and Advisory Committee memb Fred Lebow, among others. The speakers also noted that it is a number based on real estate prices, and could go up.
"Brookline pays nearly $700,000 annually to Norfolk County.With 28 member communities, Brookline pays over 13% of the overall county assessments, based on property values. While this progressive taxation approach may or may not be appropriate, Brookline recieves very little in return. Mostly because of our quality public schools and town services," explained Advisory Committee member Michael Oates, who is also a Town Meeting Member for Precinct 12.
County Commissioner Collins explained that the County Tax is an issue Norfolk County is addressing. He noted that the average filing fee is $75, of which $65 go to the state, and $10 to the town.
"If the county can increase its share, we may be able to eliminate the County Tax altogether." Collins added that the County is working with legislators, with the hope of eliminating the County Taxes.
In the end, Town Meeting voted in favor of the version proposed by the Advisory Committee, which removed two paragraphs and called for exploration into removing the town from Norfolk County. Check back on Patch for more on the discussion, and what this means for Brookline.
Traffic Calming Procedures
Earning itself a tongue-in-cheek "Marty" award, Moderator Sandy joked that the Traffic Calming article generated the most e-mail traffic. It also came with a number of amendments from different committees, at least one in response to the Stedman Street amendment passed last week. The one of the Advisory Committee versions of the article was ultimately passed, with a vote of 176-4. Check back with Patch for more information on this version of the article.
Automated calls from political candidates were described almost unanimously as annoying by people who spoke about Petitioner and Pct 12 TMM Michael Burstein's Robocall Resolution, article number 20. Differences in opinions from there lead to the article's failure to pass.
Burstein explained his position, "Freedom of speech is a two-way street. It is a great power that we the people ensured for ourselves in our constitution, but with this great power there must also come great responsibility. Your right to publish a newspaper does not require me to buy a copy and read it. Your right to create a cable news channel does not require me to watch it twenty-four hours a day."
Selectman Jesse Mermell said, for a Board of Selectmen who voted 4-1 against taking action, "The majority of the Board agree with petitioner, the calls are indredibly annoying and can be intrusive. However, we disagree that they should be regulated. Robocalls from political campaigns are political speech: obnoxious political speech, but political speech all the same... I’m not prepared to limit political speech because the candidates running in one special election used robocalls to an excess."
The advisory committee's version of the article was different from that of Burstein's original, in that it called for the "regulation" and not "banning" of robocalls.
Advisory Committee member, and TMM Pct 8, Frank Caro explained, "The language calls for regulation, without saying what form it will take. A vote for favorable action sends a message to legislature that it needs to be fixed, and to campaigns that they are not okay."
The message was not sent. The concern about free speech won over the resolution, which failed to pass with the majority voting against it.
Sidewalk Snow Removal
The Department of Public Works was showered with praise, and asked to do more in the discussions for Article 11, which ended with the motion failing with a vote of 180-2. Seymour Ziskend, Town Meeting Member for 42 years, introduced his petition, and announced that he would not be running Town Meeting Member again when his term is up.
“The man [DPW Commissioner Andrew Pappisturgion] we have in there now, he has been in that office for 40 years. He knows his business real well, and he can do the job.” Ziskend asserted, “Some of you may say 'we don't have the money.' Well, we do have the money, but where are the priorities.”
The priorities, according to Pappisturgion, lean toward the roads first. Some sidewalks are plowed, but these are the 43 miles of sidewalk deemed priority because they lead toward schools, commercial areas, and houses of worship. Pappisturgion also noted that the priority for sidewalk clearings pre-date him.
Selectman Nancy Daly repeated the statistics Pappisturgion had presented at a Selectman's Meeting months ago: Only an estimated 97 miles of sidewalk, out of Brookline's 154 miles, can be plowed. This includes the 43 miles already being plowed. She listed a number of additional expenses such as equipment and staff which make it impossible to do this.
Daly added that, “It would be unfair to the remaining one-third [of Brookline] who would not have their sidewalks plowed.”
The remaining 57 miles of sidewalk would need to be cleared by hand. As it stands, residents are responsible for clearing their own sidewalks, with warnings and tickets issued for failing to do so.
Pappisturgion joked, "I too would like nothing better than to plow Seymour’s sidewalk. I’d do it myself if I could, and had the time."
The final article, number 23, concerned a drain at the Brookline Village Green Line stop. No discussion was required for the Town Meeting Members to accept the Selectmen's unanimous recommendation. Article 23 passed unanimously, accepting the $25,000 payment and ending negotiations.
[Correction: Fixed a grammatical error in "Automated calls from political candidates were described almost unanimously by people who spoke... "]