Wednesday night at the Devotion School, three of the State's lawmakers met with Brookline residents and members of the Brookline Democratic Town Committee. The legislators in attendance were State Senator Cindy Creem, and State Representatives Frank Smizik, and Ed Coppinger, who represents a few South Brookline precincts as well as West Roxbury and Roslindale.
Coppinger extended an invitation, "For any issue, even if I don't represent you, call my office."
There were two State Reps who had been invited, but did not make it to the roundtable because of last-minute scheduling conflicts: Michael Moran and Jeffrey Sanchez. With the format of the discussion, this meant there was more time to address some of the neighborhood concerns. Creem, Smizik and Coppinger each had a few minutes to talk about issues they were focused on, before inviting comments and concerns from the people in attendance.
The big concern of the night, from Brookline's resident, was the presence of coyotes in town. When pressed to broach the subject, Smizik noted that he was unprepared for the topic, but attempted to address concerns. He began by reminding people that they are "not inherently dangerous."
"We are taking over land in which the coyotes felt comfortable." Smizik added, "The police can't do anything until they see a threat."
He left it that concerned citizens could reach him at his office, and they could work on an amendment. The amendment would then have to go before a committee and be passed into law, so it could be a while before a new policy is put into place.
Senator Creem brought up the Bottle Bill, of which the Board of Selectmen recently signed a resolution in support. Creem noted that Boston Mayor Menino is also supportive of the Bottle Bill. The bill would add the same $0.05 deposit currently on soda and beer bottles to water bottles, energy drinks and fruit juices.
"Some consider it a tax," said Creem of opponents to the bill. "I don't know why–you can get [the nickel] back."
She did also note that this is her second time filing the bill. State Rep Coppinger later chimed in that he co-sponsored the bill.
For Coppinger, one of the big, local issues is that of Bournewood Hospital, which has seen a number of escapes. Coppinger said that he's working with other Representatives from two nearby communities which have similar facilities. He hopes to "bring three communities together, with similar problems, to address them."
He also hopes to get funding to adult day care programs, which allow senior citizens to continue living at home instead of ending up in a facility. He says that the cost of an institution is $180 per day, while day care costs only $55 per day.
Collective bargaining and healthcare for unions have been in headlines since Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker voted to cut collective bargaining rights for government workers. The Massachusetts house recently passed a bill which would limit collective bargaining to a 30-day window, with a vote of 111 to 42. Smizik voted "present" for the bill, and took a moment to explain his vote.
He said he felt the bill "makes no progress."
A total of 11 people who had originally signed the bill, left it. Shortly before the bill came to a vote, House Speaker Robert Deleo called Smizik into his office to find out how the Rep would vote.
Smizik said he felt pressure, describing conditions and pressure as "pretty nasty."
In the endm he informed the Speaker that he would vote "present," feeling that it would make a statement.
Smizik also says that the discussion about global warming and climate change has shifted.
"People don't talke about 'global warming,' they talk about 'green energy.'" He says, "When I started, people were talking about it. When the Republicans got in, we couldn't have the discussion."
It is impossible, Smizik went on to say, to get a national green energy policy because of the wide variety of opinions about the subject. For example, in some oil-producing states, it affects their economy.
"If you go to West Viriginia," he joked, "they think you're a commie."
He did however commend the Massachusetts green laws, calling them the "strongest," and saying that the state is able to reduce its carbon emissions by 25% before 2020.
Coppinger added that the House passed a bill for wind turbines, but that it got lost in the shuffle behind casino and gaming discussions, and did not make it to the senate. He feels there is enough support this year to pass it.
In a quick-fire discussion like this, it would be impossible to solve any or all of these issues. However, the goal may have instead been bringing some local concerns from Brookline up to a more state-wide level. In that case, Creem, Coppinger and Smizik are already working on some concerns, while others sounded like news to them.