Green Caucus Meetings
The Caucus reaffirms its commitment to the goal of the Selectmen's Tree Protection Study Committee to protect and preserve trees. Should this particular Warrant Article come to a vote this Town Meeting we recommend No Action.
Warrant Article 1 of Special Town Meeting #2
This Warrant Article seeks to broaden the application of funds with respect to a solution for elementary school expansion. The Green Caucus endorses Favorable Action on this Article, because it gives the Selectmen and School Committee additional flexibility to achieve more of the goals listed in the statement that the Green Caucus published earlier this Fall entitled "Best Practices and Opportunities for Environmentally Appropriate School Planning".
The Green Caucus is not taking a position on the High School expansion, but has serious concerns about two possible aspects of this project:
- Underground parking at the Cypress Playground;
- Artificial turf.
Warrant Article 16: Runkle Photovoltaics
The Caucus is enthusiastic about the first solar-energy installation on a Brookline Public School building.
Warrant Article 18 & 19: Lowered Speed Limits
The Caucus endorses FAVORABLE ACTION to accept the provisions of the General Laws - Chapter 90. The Caucus supports these articles to better protect and integrate pedestrians and bicyclists into our town's transportation system.
Warrant Article 20: Resolution on Brookline and the Paris Agreement
The Caucus is pleased to join the Selectmen's Climate Action Committee, Board of Selectmen, and Advisory Committee in endorsing FAVORABLE ACTION.
Warrant Article 21: Net Zero Energy Schools
This resolution asks that the Ninth Elementary School be a Net Zero Energy school; and that Net Zero Energy principles shall be applied, to the extent feasible, during all design phases of Brookline High School expansion. In addition to reducing climate impacts, we hope this will result in lower and more predictable energy costs for these major municipal buildings.
Warrant Article 23: Gas Tax Resolution
This will support the passage of S.1551 (and H.1640) "An Act Relevant to Regional Transportation Ballot Initiatives", a bill co-sponsored by Rep. Frank Smizik , that has now been reported favorably by the Committee on Revenue to the Senate Ways and Means Committee. This bill allows a local gas tax to fund local transportation upgrades.
For the November, 2016 Special Town Meeting, we recommended the following:
Warrant Article 6: Sustainable Bags
The Caucus unanimously endorses FAVORABLE ACTION. This update to the bylaw will accomplish two things that have a high impact and not require additional town staffing:
- Eliminates slightly thicker plastic bags, which have been adopted by a few stores such as CVS. This will bring us in line with our neighboring communities and others around the state and country.
- Expand the coverage of sustainable bags to produce bags at large supermarkets. Petrochemical plastic produce bags are used at roughly the same rate as shopping bags. We join the communities leading this issue, which currently include Williamstown and Lee.
Reducing plastics and keeping fossil fuels in the ground have significant environmental benefits. This WA takes logical steps forward towards this goal.
This article is also supported by statewide environmental organizations.
Warrant Article 7-10: EMERALD ISLAND
The Caucus unanimously endorses FAVORABLE ACTION on WA 7, 9 & 10. This is an attractive transit-oriented zone. There are some environmental benefits in the park space and the removal of parking minimums. Some members expressed concern about the narrow sidewalk on Washington and lack of trees, but we voted unanimously voted for NO ACTION on WA 8. Note: We have no position on the WA 11 resolution, since it was not reviewed while we were waiting for final language.
Warrant Article 17-18: Electric Vehicle Charging
The Caucus unanimously endorses FAVORABLE ACTION. We want to see infrastructure to support EV's become the norm and widespread throughout Town.
Warrant Article 19: Parking Minimum
The Caucus unanimously endorses FAVORABLE ACTION. The Caucus has long supported efforts at Town Meeting to reduce the overuse of real estate for parking where possible. We urge Town Meeting to address this issue now.
Warrant Article 20: Hubway
The Caucus unanimously endorses FAVORABLE ACTION. We support infrastructure the permits reduced automobile ownership.
Warrant Article 23-24: Leaf blowers
The Caucus unanimously endorses NO ACTION. The changes are minimal with respect to noise and sustainability. There are unknown consequences to separation from the Noise by-law. Overall, we feel this is an inadequate response to the increased restrictions on leaf blowers proposed in the WA from 2015 Fall TM that was referred to committee.
For the May 2016 Annual Town Meeting, we recommended the following:
Warrant Article 8: Fiscal Year 2017 Budget
The Caucus unanimously endorses FAVORABLE ACTION on Line item 41 regarding funding the proposed bicycle lane along part of Beacon Street.
Warrant Article 11: TREE PROTECTION BY-LAW
The Caucus unanimously affirms the intent of this by-law, and endorses the Advisory Committee motion to refer this article to a Selectmen’s Committee in hopes that a by-law can be crafted which addresses the issues raised in this article.
Warrant Article 21: A RESOLUTION AFFIRMING BROOKLINE’S COMMITMENT TO SOLAR ELECTRICITY
The Caucus unanimously endorses FAVORABLE ACTION on the Advisory Committee's motion, which is a revision supported by the petitioner.
Among their many benefits, all three of these items support the general goal of reducing local climate impact.
For the November, 2015 Special Town Meeting, we recommended FAVORABLE ACTION on the following:
Warrant Article 6: Dedicating Larz Anderson Park for Park Use
The Caucus unanimously endorses FAVORABLE ACTION on WA 6. This WA would dedicate 55 acres of Larz Anderson Park for public park purposes under Mass. General Laws, Ch. 45 ¶ 3. Such a formal designation creates eligibility for certain grants from the Commonwealth. More importantly, it erects substantial barriers for changing the use of the designated parcel, under Article 97 of the Amendments to the Massachusetts Constitution. The Advisory Committee has recommended NO ACTION on WA 6, citing the need to "keep options open" in light of the possibility that a ninth K-8 School or a High School Expansion may be felt to be needed on this parcel, which would be allowed under current use restrictions. Further urbanization of Brookline is inevitable. As population density increases, the need for a respite provided by open space becomes increasingly important for more and more residents. Thus we need to protect important open spaces such as this. The Board of Selectmen’s Report is not yet available.
Warrant Article 13: Authorizing a Community Choice Electrical Aggregation Program
The Green Caucus endorses FAVORABLE ACTION on WA 13, joining The Selectmen’s Climate Action Committee, a unanimous Board of Selectmen, and a unanimous Advisory Committee. Adopting this WA authorizes the Board of Selectmen to commence a Community Choice Electrical Aggregation (CCA) Program, whereby brokers engaged by the Selectmen will negotiate rates and suppliers for all residences and businesses in the Town. Any ratepayer may opt out of the CCA program. The increased bargaining power enables the Selectman to emphasize lower costs, rate stability, or supply from renewable sources.
Warrant Article 14: Urging the Board of Selectmen to use a Community Choice Aggregation Plan to increase the use of electricity from renewable Sources
The Green Caucus endorses FAVORABLE ACTION on WA14, once again joining the Selectmen’s Climate Action Committee, a unanimous Board of Selectmen, and a unanimous Advisory Committee. Presuming that Brookline adopts CCA [See WA 13], this warrant article sets forth suggested guidelines for tailoring the CCA to emphasize obtaining electricity from renewable sources, so far as feasible and financially responsible. These guidelines, prepared by petitioners who have professional experience in the field, recognize that the market for electricity is quite fluid so that the goals are aspirational rather than rigid. The circumstance that WA 13 and WA 14 have been endorsed by so many groups does not mean the issues are no-brainers or pro forma. But CCA, if adopted and implemented as outlined in these articles, carries the potential to reduce Brookline’s carbon footprint substantially.
Warrant Article 17: Asking Brookline to go on record in opposition to  the Northeast Direct Pipeline proposal;  the Access Northeast Pipeline proposal, and  the proposed investment by the two largest electricity distributors in New England in the Access Northeast Pipeline, and the proposal to include pipeline costs as factors in electricity rates
The Green Caucus endorses FAVORABLE ACTION on WA 17. The proposed pipelines would double the capacity of gas flow into and through Massachusetts, far beyond any projected consumption in the state. The inference is compelling that these pipelines will connect with pipelines through Canada to ports where the gas can be liquefied and exported. Moreover, Eversource (formerly NStar) and National Grid propose to invest in the Access Northeast Pipeline and include pipeline costs in their rate setting process. The audacity of these proposals is exceeded only by the dubiousness of the notion that Massachusetts should assume the environmental risks of transporting gas across the state for export and pay larger electricity bills for the privilege. WA 17 calls for all government agencies involved to deny permits for the pipelines and to reject any attempt by electricity providers to include investments in the same into their rate base. It is sobering to ponder the enormous capital expenditures undertaken for increasingly elusive fossils fuels, and what such expenditures could accomplish if they were applied to renewable sources and to repairing the hundreds of leaks in existing pipelines.
For the May 2015 Annual Town Meeting, we recommended the following:
Article 13: Offering Tap Water to Restaurant Customers submitted by the Caucus Co-Chairs. FAVORABLE ACTION, as amended by the Board of Selectmen. The By-law would require food service establishment to offer tap water to customers upon request. While no one disputes the desirability of this concept, some question whether a By-law is necessary when virtually all common victuallers already provide water. But without such a requirement, a business could abandon the practice at any time. The temptation to sell a packaged beverage rather than serve tap water will always be present, absent this By-law. More generally, this By-law can be one step in a coordinated campaign to wean Brookline from the ubiquitous scourge of bottled water.
Article 14: Barring Use of Town Funds For Purchase of Bottled Water submitted by the Caucus Co-Chairs. Water sold in plastic bottles is the triple whammy of unsustainable commercial exploitation. First, consumers pay for a municipal water supply that is stringently tested for purity and safety. Second, commercial interests (such as Nestlé, Coke, or Pepsi) take water from the municipal water supply or from ground sources, further process it and then fill plastic bottles with it, and then sell it to those consumers. Third, Brookline consumers pay to dispose of empty non-biodegradable containers by the millions. WA 14 seeks to remove the Town from that loop with a bylaw based on a successful San Francisco ordinance. The proponents will now move Section 8.36.4(a) that prohibits the use of Town funds to purchase bottled water for general office use, except where necessary to protect health or safety. The Green Caucus endorses FAVORABLE ACTION on this section. The remaining sections seek additional restrictions such as the sale of bottled water at events on Town property or by Town licensees. These latter provisions are more complex, and will likely be the subject of referral to a Selectman’s committee to be brought back within a year. For those reasons the Green Caucus does not take a position on the remaining portions of WA 14.
Article 15: Amending the Zoning Map to Extend the Renewable Energy Overlay District. FAVORABLE ACTION as revised. This WA reflects ongoing efforts to utilize town property to host solar panel installations wherever feasible. The WA adds a portion of the Town DPW Transfer Station at 813-817 Newton Street to the Town Solar Overlay District while protecting the abutting conservation land. It is gratifying that this site can also be used for sustainable purposes such as renewable energy, while allowing the DPW to consolidate vehicle maintenance and storage operations and potentially convert an area at Larz Anderson Park to recreational use.
Article 16: Authorizing the Selectmen to Lease The Property Rezoned in WA 15 for Hosting a Ground-mounted Solar Facility. FAVORABLE ACTION. A suitable site having been located and rezoned appropriately (see WA 15), this WA empowers the Board of Selectman to negotiate a 20-year lease for the solar development of this site. Through collaboration with Blue Wave Capital, a vendor selected through the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, Brookline will outsource the management, financing, procurement, and commissioning of the transfer station solar plant at no cost to the town. Blue Wave Capital is proposing a solar canopy over a parking area. The panels will be installed and owned by a private contractor, and the Town will purchase the resulting electricity at a rate that will yield an estimated $75,000 savings to the town, an approximately 30% discount.
At our Oct. 2014 meeeting, we recommended the following:
- Article 9: Modifications to the Noise By-Law. NO ACTION. The Caucus had two major concerns: 1) We feel very strongly that wheeled leaf blowers should remain in the definition of portable leaf blowers covered by the by-law.
2) The proposed definition of background noise will weaken the enforceability of the current bylaw.
- Article 10: Expanding Recycling in Brookline to include commercial establishments. FAVORABLE ACTION. The goal of this WA is to increase the quantity and quality of Brookline’s recycling product by requiring on-site separation of recyclables for Brookline businesses.
- Article 15: Resolution regarding the sale of taxi medallions. FAVORABLE ACTION. A robust, affordable, and efficient taxi industry is one of the crucial components of a multi-modal, green transportation system, along with bicycles, walking, short-term automobile rentals, and public transit.
- Article 17: Resolution regarding implementation of LED Lighting Replacements. FAVORABLE ACTION. Requests that the department of Health work with the Departments of Transportation and Building to select lights with wavelengths and intensities with particular attention to reducing blue wavelengths that can disrupt the biological processes of almost all living beings (plant and animal).
- Article 19 Resolution opposing the expansion of natural gas through pipelines and hydraulic fracturing in Massachusetts. FAVORABLE ACTION. This article was inspired by the Kinder Morgan Northeast Energy Direct pipeline and supports proposed state laws restricting hydraulic fracturing.
Note: Town meeting voted in agreement with all of these recommendations.
On May 4, 2014, we examined all Warrant Articles and voted on those Articles most germane to the mission of the Caucus – lessening the impact on the natural environment and enhancing the sustainability and quality of life in Brookline. This is our report on the results.
- Article 8 (B) 8: Special Appropriation of $50,000 for a study of MBTA Traffic Signalization. The Green Caucus unanimously endorses this item in the Capital Improvements Budget, because it will commence an effort to make substantial improvements to service and efficiency on the Beacon Street Green Line.
- Article 12: Amendments to the General By-laws Article 8.15 Noise Control. The Green Caucus believes that this change will have little or no positive effect, and is very likely to unduly complicate enforcement of the Noise Control By-law, particularly with respect to leaf blowers. Accordingly, the Caucus unanimously recommends “No Action” on WA 12.
- Article 15: Zoning changes with respect to development of Brookline Place. The Green Caucus did not take a formal endorsement position on this Warrant Article.
- Article 24: Accepting Grant of an easement from the MBTA for reconstruction of the Carlton Street Bridge. The Green Caucus unanimously endorses WA 24.
- Article 26: To Repeal The Program For The Sale Of Taxi Medallions. The Green Caucus endorses Warrant Article 26. One may debate the ethical desirability and economics of creating artificial scarcity of a commodity such as taxicab transportation, but it is abundantly clear that taxicab transportation is an important alternative to private automobile ownership, along with bicycles, walking, short-term automobile rentals, and public transit. Brookline should be encouraging innovation and facilitating these alternatives, including taxicabs, rather than hindering them.
- Article 28: To Buttress Enforcement of the Bylaw re Slippery Sidewalks in Business Districts. The Green Caucus unanimously endorses WA 28. This Warrant Article is an example of changes that enhance the quality of life, including walkability and improved pedestrian access, without additional funding.
- Article 29: Various Measures to Encourage Locally Owned Businesses. The Green Caucus voted to take no position on WA 29. Without disputing the virtues of locally owned businesses, the Caucus believes that all commercial establishments in Brookline, whether independent, franchise, or chain, have a stake in and should participate in environmentally sensitive and sustainable programs throughout the Town.
- Article 32: Divestment of Holdings in Fossil Fuel Companies. WA 32 seeks to enlist Brookline in the movement to divest pension fund investments in fossil fuel companies, as was done successfully with regard to tobacco companies and to businesses in South Africa during apartheid. Specifically, the WA calls upon our state representatives and Senator to support legislation authorizing and directing such divestment.
On Nov. 14, 2013 we voted unanimously to recommend favorable action on the following Warrant Articles for the 2013 Fall Town Meeting:
- Article 10 - Amend Parking Requirements For Residential Uses By Requiring Less Parking For Studio And One-Bedroom Dwelling Units.
- Article 12 - to lease for a term of not more than thirty (30) years the property known as the Singletree Reservoir for the purpose of hosting a ground‐mounted solar photovoltaic installation
We feel Article 10 recognizes and reinforces multi-family development patterns near public transit that is less reliant on automobiles, and is likely to preserve more green space than the current zoning.
Article 12 will enable renewable energy locally without any capital or operating costs to the Town.
We note that both Articles 10 and 12 have been endorsed by the Climate Action Committee.
On April 14, 2013 the Green Caucus endorsed the following two Warrant Articles for the May 2013 Town Meeting.
Article 22: This article submitted by Michael Sanders and Chris Dempsey is a resolution that funds be included in the Fiscal Year 2015 Town budget for a study of the costs and benefits of upgrading Town-owned traffic signals along Beacon St. to allow for prioritization of MBTA trolleys. Prioritization would encourage the use of public transportation by reducing the trolley waiting times at traffic lights. The Green Caucus endorses Article 22 and urges all Caucus members to vote for its adoption.
Article 23: This article submitted by Carol Oldham is a resolution expressing opposition to the transportation of Canadian tar sands products through New England and to support low carbon fuel standards. Bill McKibben's climate action group 350.org has stated, "The tar sands represent a catastrophic threat to our communities, our climate, and our planet." The Green Caucus endorses Article 23 and urges all Caucus members to vote for its adoption.
On October 14, 2012 the Green Caucus endorsed the following three Warrant Articles for the November 2012 Town Meeting.
Article 8: This Article submitted by Nancy Heller proposes to prohibit use of polystyrene food or beverage containers to serve food or beverages, if the packaging takes place on the premises of food establishments. It would not take effect until December 1, 2013, and six month waivers can be granted by the Director of Health and Human Resources. The intent of the Article, as originally filed, is to eliminate the use of "Styrofoam" containers in Brookline. Based on our understanding of the original intent of this Article, The Green Caucus endorses Article 8 and urges all Caucus members to vote for its adoption.
Article 9: The Article proposes a program to reduce the usage of single-use, non-biodegradable plastic shopping bags by retail establishments in Brookline. It provides exemptions for small businesses. It would not take effect until December 1, 2013, and six-month waivers can be granted by the Director of Health and Human Resources. The Green Caucus endorses Article 9 and urges all Caucus members to vote for its adoption.
Article 15: This article submitted by Thomas Vitolo proposes creation of a Selectman's Committee to study potential costs and benefits of adopting a policy to require suitable Town-owned roofs be made "solar ready" at the time of construction or substantial renovation. "Solar ready" means a roof that incorporates structural and design elements so that solar photovoltaic panels can be installed later when appropriate. The Green Caucus endorses Article 15 and urges all Caucus members to vote for its adoption.
Note: Town meeting voted in agreement with all of these recommendations.
On September 16-18, 2011 twelve of us, from eight pricincts, participated in a successful retreat to launch the Green Caucus. At the retreat we drafted Guiding Principles and the following Mission: "Through Town Meeting, promote a sustainable future, a lower impact on the natural environment, and an improved quality of life for the greater Brookline Community."