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Selectmen Weigh Park and Playground Regulations (POLL)

The Board of Selectmen heard arguments for and against warrant article 15, which could limit their use by daycare programs.

Brookline's parks became the subject of a recent battle between some of the local daycare facilities and other users of these playgrounds. A battle which petitioner Ruthann Sneider hopes to quell with her revised version of article 15 of the warrant for the upcoming Fall Town Meeting.

Sneider noted, "I appreciate everyone who has been involved, even those who would have me tarred, feathered and run out of town. I support the revision and urge you to do the same."

The new version of the article stripped out the controversial fee-based system, which Sneider explained was based on feedback she had received: in order to regulate this article, it would have to pay for itself.

A memo from the Advisory Committee's Human Services subcommittee said began "We are appalled at the recommendations of Article 15." The memo went on to call it "blatant" discrimination against children in group daycare facilities, and that it forced one group of children to bear a burden for all children.

Instead, the article merely calls for the creation of rules and regulations to govern when daycare facilities can use these parks. According to the petitioner, there are 11 parks within a half-mile radius of Brookline, of which 6 are usable by these programs. 

A number of daycare operators came to the meeting, each with their own stories of conflicts between multiple groups attempting to use the same facilities at the same time. To that end, the Health Department has organized a volunteer schedule for some of the larger group daycare centers as a solution to the problem.

Public Health Commissioner Dr. Alan Balsam, "We’ve tried to remain neutral [on the article]. Our position is that, since the volunteer system has come into effect, things have improved."

The Department has also put together the Early Childhood Advisory Council to improve communication between the groups. Balsam did say that, thus far, the council has been working predominantly with the larger group daycares. 

“In any community where you’re trying to regulate the children more than you regulate your dog, our values are skewed,” Adele Mathieu, who runs a daycare center at 28 Village Way started. 

She went on to say that she had no problem with trying to reach out and coordinate, and that efforts should be made to reach out to the smaller day care centers. In response, the Advisory Council will alternate between daytime and evening meeting to accommodate the schedules of some of the smaller programs. 

The Health Department estimates that 90 percent of the children in these programs are from Brookline.

“Let’s face it, people move to Brookline because they want excellent daycare centers and excellent schools. We got it," Balsam added.

The town also received an .

Laurie Lasky November 03, 2011 at 07:58 PM
What an interesting comment. Of the different types of daycare services, which do you consider the good and which the bad? Are you opposed to parents having choices? Have you spent much time with children, sir? Each one is different, as are their needs. As for enforcement, I could not agree more. This is the thorn in the issue all the way around. It is, as Ms. Sneider, the warrant article petitioner has publicly explained, why implementing a fee was suggested in the original language. The intent was to respond to Park and Recreation Commission's assertion that there is no funding for enforcement. Taking a page from their book, The Green Dog Program, Ms. Sneider suggested a similar model for this issue. There was no intention to discriminate against working families. Once this unfortunate impact was realized, the fee for use language was omitted from the warrant article and Ms. Sneider is in full support of the new language. I am having difficulty understanding your denial of the fact that we have overcrowding in our playgrounds. We now have 11 group daycare programs within 1/2 mile of Town Hall, when 10 years ago there were two or three. Not a single new playground has been built in this neighborhood in that time. Why not have all the shareholders study the issue - put their heads together to see if we can make our parks even better? With so much passion and creativity around this , I imagine many wonderful solutions would be brought to the table.
Nelly Langlais November 04, 2011 at 12:26 AM
If you will allow me, Mr Davidson, I would like to ask you how much time you spend in the Brookline Village area parks on a weekday in the morning? Also i do not run a center but a program in my HOME. And do you not find it strange that since the safety problem created by the overcrowding in the playgrounds came into public light, Group day care centers adopted a schedule voluntarily? That speaks for itself! Or would you like me to offer you an explanation? Finally, i will say that the staff of group day care centers are loving care givers to the children but untrained to provide safe play for all in the public parks. I am strongly advocating that the state or town put in place a mandatory training with very specific guidelines as to the use of public parks by group centers. With my 25 years of seniority in the field, I would love to give my input according to my observations to help the staff with this problem and to maximize the safety of all children involved.
Peter O'Hardon December 15, 2011 at 06:07 PM
While I do not have a dog in this fight, or perhaps more appropriately a progeny on these playgrounds, I do find this debate fascinating. If indeed the core issue is "overcrowding in our playgrounds" I would suggest that a close reading of A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift might suggest a solution.
Grahame Turner December 16, 2011 at 05:40 AM
I have nothing really to add, neither dogs nor progeny in this issue either. But, I did want to acknowledge the "Modest Proposal" nod. Great piece, remember it well for being the first time I really understood satire.
Peter O'Hardon December 16, 2011 at 02:07 PM
Observing local governance in Brookline must require that one has an appreciation for satire and irony. In Watertown where I reside it helps if one appreciates film noir.

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