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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 .

Bill Davidson October 20, 2011 at 01:24 PM
Grahame, do you have a link to the revised version of Article 15? The version I saw was horrendous, an absolute "No" vote for any Town Meeting member. "Identification bracelets" for children to use a playground?!? Any fees charged to Brookline day care centers to use town parks will only be passed on to Brookline families. It's essentially a tax on select Brookline residents, not unlike the new Green Dog program fees. The guidelines are too stringent and difficult to follow. Who's going to enforce this? I hope the changes made to this article eliminate any idenfitication requirements, user fees, and new rules and regulations. ...I guess what I'm really saying is that Brookline doesn't need this warrant article. TMMs: please vote no on Article 15!
Grahame Turner October 20, 2011 at 02:46 PM
I have not yet seen a revised version on the web, but I'll let you know if I do. (The poll wasn't working when you commented, but I've fixed it, if you want to vote).
Laurie Lasky November 02, 2011 at 07:13 PM
I have run my large family daycare program for over twenty years in Brookline. I am very sad to say that identification shirts or bracelets are a mandatory requirement of all daycare programs. You can thank the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for this regulation, and not blame well intentioned citizens of Brookline who are working towards playground safety for all. Article 15 is a recommendation, not a by-law, which asks the Health Department and Park and Recreation Commission to seriously study issues of overcrowding and safety in our playgrounds. When the burden of outdoor playspace falls upon exisiting parks for 11 group daycare centers in the course of seven years, there are bound to be issues that need addressing. Article 15 is long overdue and I urge you to vote YES!
Bill Davidson November 02, 2011 at 08:49 PM
Grahame, did you update this news article recently? I don't remember you listing the changes to Article 15 in the original version. Ms. Lasky, with all due respect, you failed to mention in your comment that it has been reported in another Brookline publication that you have chosen to stop bringing the children in your program to Brookline parks because you believe they are overcrowded. It seems to me that your complaint seems to be based largely on your frustration with competition from newer daycare facilities. It's my belief that the owners of said 11 group daycare centers could meet to discuss this issue without the need for town legislation. Asking the Brookline Health and Parks & Rec. departments to police this situation will not solve your problems.
Grahame Turner November 02, 2011 at 11:36 PM
Bill, I haven't yet touched this one, no. It seems that the Advisory Committee version of the article, however, is very similar to what the health department is currently doing. That may explain it (typically, when I edit something, I will make a note of the edits on the page).
Laurie Lasky November 03, 2011 at 12:15 AM
With all due respect to you sir, I have a private outdoor play space and the overcrowding and safety issues are not my personal business problems. Like many civic minded community members I am voicing my heartfelt and well thought out views. I have listened to many disturbing stories of experiences my daycare families have had in our playgrounds. I take offense at your ungrounded accusation that I am motivated by my fear of competition from the newer daycare centers. I strongly suggest you read my website where you will learn that my program offers an alternative to these programs for folks who might want a different option.
Bill Davidson November 03, 2011 at 12:55 AM
Ms. Lasky, you are entitled to your opinions as I am entitled to mine. Perhaps I misunderstood your complaint about overcrowding. I was unaware that your center does not need to use Brookline parks. Could you share some examples of the "many disturbing stories of experiences [your] daycare families have had in our playgrounds?" I'm still not convinced that Article 15 is necessary.
Laurie Lasky November 03, 2011 at 01:31 AM
Certainly. One recent story came from a current daycare father who reported taking the day off to be with his child. They went to one of our local playgrounds where he described seeing a little girl, from a daycare center, very bloody, crying and not a single adult coming to assist her. He also reported that a little boy about a year older than his own child, literally ran over his son's back. The father felt he had to say something to the boy who ran over his child because none of his teachers said a single word. This summer, one of my colleagues reported that the staff of one of the larger centers grabbed one of her daycare children to take back to their center. The problem seemed to be that the child in my colleague's program was wearing the same color shirt as all the kids from their center. This is why the original language of Article 15 suggested a name face check against attendance sheets when a group daycare classroom arrives at the park and before it leaves. This is to insure the staff follow the safest possible procedures to insure against mistakes such as the one I described, or worse, leaving a child behind. And I have heard a number of eye witness accounts to the latter occurring as well, I am very sad to say. Most simply put, Bill, I am simply an advocate for the strongest possible child safety we can achieve in our parks and playgrounds.
Nelly Langlais November 03, 2011 at 02:24 AM
I am a family day care provider who uses the parks on a daily basis ans have been a victim of overcrowding myself. There has been an improvement because the Group day care centers are under scrutiny right now and I hope this will still be true in two years when additional group day care centers will open in this area with no room in the parks to bring additional children. And the identification is a necessity when you know of two children having been forgotten in a park by the staff from a group day care, one for an hour!!! I also would like to add that the group centers do not represent competition for us, family day care providers, since we address a totally different population, namely those children who would not thrive in larger groups!!!!
Bill Davidson November 03, 2011 at 05:00 AM
Ah, I get it now. This is about good day care vs. bad day care, family day care vs. group day care. Ms. Lasky and Ms. Langlais, you both claim that some day care centers bring too many children to the parks and do not provide adequate supervision. Fair enough, that doesn't sound like good care. Still, I do find it interesting that both of you run family day care centers and that your complaints refer to the actions of group day care center staff. What I don't get is how these new rules and regulations will be enforced. Will someone regularly patrol the parks and playgrounds to check for violations? Will children be expelled from playgrounds if they do not have proper identification? New rules and regulations look good on paper, but I don't understand how they will improve things unless all day care centers communicate with one another and solve these issues themselves.
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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