I'm delighted to announce that I'm running for re-election to the Board of Library Trustees of the Public Library of Brookline. This would be my fifth term if I am re-elected.
As it turns out, though, I'm facing a contested race this year (yes, again). Two challengers have chosen to run along with the four incumbents (including me) who are running for re-election.
Having been on the Board longer than anyone else running this year, and as I am currently serving as chair of the Board (and have been for almost two years), I have the experience our town needs. You can find out more about my experience and accomplishments on the Burstein for Brookline website.
And, as much as I hate to say this, political campaigns cost money. I am once again actively fundraising. If you are so inclined, please visit the Burstein for Brookline Contributions page to find out how to donate. You can mail us a check or use PayPal. Either way, no donation is too small, and all donations help in getting me re-elected to the Board.
I’ve mentioned in a few places that I am supporting Steve Grossman in his candidacy to be the new governor of Massachusetts. I know that some of my friends (and possibly others) are interested in my opinion and endorsement and where it comes from. So to that end, here’s a short article explaining why I support him. If you’re still undecided in this race, please consider reading it.
The short version is that having met Steve a few times over the past 12 years, I have seen that he is an intelligent man who also cares about the people around him and listens to the voters. He is one of those rare political figures who really does put other people’s interests and needs ahead of his own. Steve cares about making Massachusetts (and the world) a better place, and he has a lot of great ideas for doing so. Take a look here to see where Steve Grossman stands on the issues.
The longer version:
Obviously, Steve’s political leanings are consonant with my own, which is where my endorsement starts from. But here’s my personal experience with him, which is how my support for him crystallized.
Nomi and I first met Steve at a campaign event in 2002, when he first ran for governor. We got to know him a little bit then, even though we only had a few minutes of personal time with him. One of our concerns at the time (which is still a concern for us) was the lack of affordable housing in the state. We mentioned this to Steve, and he not only explained his plans to us for building more affordable housing, but when it came time for him to address the whole crowd, he brought up affordable housing specifically as one of the issues he had been asked about. It showed me that he not only thought this issue was important when talking with us but thought that it was important enough to bring up with the whole group.
We didn’t meet Steve again in 2002, but I did read a news article at the time that impressed me. The voters of the commonwealth had passed a referendum to reduce the state income tax rate, and the legislature put together a budget that kept the old rate in place, basically saying that they couldn’t make it work. When Steve was asked about this, he said that he disagreed with the voters on this issue, but then he went further and noted that this was something that the majority of the voters wanted, and so if he was elected, he would make it work. I too disagreed with the reduction of the income tax, as I know how important those revenues are for state and local services. That said, Steve impressed me with his willingness to listen to the voters on this issue. I suspect that had the income tax rate been reduced, we wouldn’t have had the later referendum on reducing it to zero (which, thankfully, the voters rejected).
Nomi and I met Steve again in 2006 when he ran for Treasurer. Once again, the personal touch showed me how genuine Steve is, as he remembered us and our concerns. Steve made a bunch of promises and commitments when he ran for Treasurer, and when elected, he fulfilled every single one of them. Although Treasurer is an important job, it’s not one of those that seems to be high-profile, and many of my friends seem unaware of Steve’s accomplishments in the job. So I encourage everyone to do some research and read about his achievements. Here’s an endorsement from The Bay State Banner that goes into details, including Steve’s commitments to diversity and to women. And here’s Steve’s own agenda as explained on the website of the Treasurer’s office.
Finally, I met Steve again this year as he traveled the state talking with voters about the issues (which he talks about much more often than his own accomplishments). Steve’s campaign is very well-run; when I got in touch with the office and asked for the Brookline coordinator to contact me, I heard back the very next day. How efficient a campaign is run is a pretty good metric for how well the governor’s office will be run. Steve is humble when meeting the voters while at the same time passionate about his public service. He has a vision for Massachusetts that will make it a better place for all of us (again, see where he stands on the issues, such as earned sick time and supporting science and the arts). Furthermore, he has the background and experience to make it work.
I would encourage all my friends to strongly consider voting for Steve Grossman in the Democratic primary next Tuesday.
(About me: I am an elected Town Meeting Member and Library Trustee in Brookline, Massachusetts.)
As a resident of Brookline, I don't vote in Boston, and I haven't been following the races very closely. However, I attended the event because of my interest in politics and because I wanted a chance to meet and evaluate the candidates. What I discovered to my delight was a series of high quality candidates who were all eager to see Boston thrive. It makes me very hopeful for the large city that surrounds my town on three sides.
I haven't asked any of the candidates if they want my endorsement, and to be honest, I suspect the endorsement of an elected Library Trustee and Town Meeting Member in Brookline won't carry a lot of weight. However, if you are voting in the Boston municipal election next Tuesday and you're interested in my opinion, here are the four candidates I would be voting for were I a Boston voter, plus some personal reasons why. In alphabetical order by last name:
Anissa Essaibi-George impressed me with her background and experience, and I'd suggest you take a look at her biography. Among other things, she's a small business owner, as she runs the yarn and fabric store Stitch House in Dorchester. As my friends know, my wife Nomi is an avid knitter who also enjoys sewing, and what with the closing of too many fabric shops in Boston recently, we can attest to how hard it is to keep such a small, local business going. I suspect Essaibi-George's experience would be very valuable on the City Council.
Ayanna Pressley is an incumbent, and already well-known in Boston. She's friends with one of my former colleagues on the Brookline Board of Library Trustees. Pressley's work on behalf of the people of Boston is impressive, and I understand that she might look into whether or not Boston can follow Brookline's lead and open some of their branch libraries on Sundays during the summer.
Jeff Ross impressed me as he was the one candidate who made an appearance at our synagogue the day before the event, in order to better get to know the residents of Brighton. As an attorney he has represented people who were at risk. Quoting directly from his website, he has "helped survivors of domestic violence, human trafficking victims, and immigrant families from war-torn countries find access to housing, health care and mental health services." Also, he has been endorsed by a lot of Democratic Ward Committees and by State Representative Jeffrey Sanchez, who not only represents parts of Boston but also part of Brookline as well.
Michele Wu is only 28 years old, but her platform bespeaks a wisdom greater than her years. I would encourage you to go look at it, especially her Pipelines to Opportunity. She's particularly interested in how Boston can apply technology to solve its problems, something I've advocated a lot myself during my own political career.
So there you have it. In my capacity as an elected official in the Town of Brookline, I endorse Anissa Essaibi-George, Ayanna Pressley, Jeff Ross, and Michele Wu for election to the Boston City Council as the at-large members.
What is the connection between these votes and Muffin and Squeaker? Read "Roots in the Future" to find out.
And if you're a fan of either Spider Robinson's Callahan's Bar stories or J. Michael Straczynski of "Babylon 5" fame, there's a little bonus for you.
(There's also some cute pictures of the kids holding their own campaign signs. What issue did they support? Click through to find out.)
The deciding factor was probably this PSA on voting from one of our town selectmen, Jesse Mermell.
Also, this gives me a topic for this week's The Brookline Parent column.
I am pondering bringing Muffin and Squeaker to the polls on Tuesday for their first presidential election. But I'm not sure if it is worth it, as they are only 3 years old and there's no voting booth. They'll get to see Mommy and Daddy fill out bubble sheets and feed them into a scanner. (Perhaps they could do the feeding.) Any thoughts on whether or not it's worth bringing them to the polls? Will they remember this election years from now? Or is it not worth the bother?
Let me explain.
Today is primary day in Massachusetts, and Nomi and I made it out this morning to the polls to vote. I'm a registered Democrat, so I took a Democratic ballot. Nomi is an independent, and generally takes the ballot for the election that seems more important to her. In this case, she also took a Democratic ballot, as we are both supporting Harry Margolis in his Governor's Council race.
Earlier this year, for the presidential primary, the polls weren't all that crowded in Precinct 12 of Brookline, and it was the same again today.
Nomi and I got our ballots, voted, checked out, and headed over to the scanning machine to submit our ballots. And that's when it happened. For the first time ever in my life, the voting machine got jammed on my ballot.
They called over the elections warden, who unlocked the machine and pushed my ballot through, but then the machine said that the ballot was unreadable. So then they called over the police officer, and he watched as the warden removed my ballot, showed it to me so that I could verify it was mine, and wrote the word "SPOILED" across it. He instructed me to fill out a second ballot, which I did. This one went through the machine without a problem.
I ended up as voter #33 this morning. I would have been voter #30 but for the machine jamming. As it is, Nomi was voter #30 and two other people voted before I was done with my second ballot. (You can be sure I counted the numbers to ensure that no other problem had happened with my ballot.)
After we voted, Nomi and I hung around for a few minutes outside to talk with people we knew. That's Brookline Selectman Nancy Daly and Catherine Anderson, who is a fellow Town Meeting Member and the Legislative Director for Senator Cynthia Stone Creem.
There weren't a lot of people out voting, but there were some campaign signs posted.
One interesting note. At the moment, Precinct 12 is voting in the high school, along with Precinct 6.
As it so happens, Precinct 6 is where Joe Kennedy III lives, so we saw a news truck parked outside, presumably there to get footage of him showing up to vote.
We didn't see Kennedy himself, though, as he had voted even earlier than we had. I presume it's because he's got a busy day ahead.
(All photos copyright ©2012 by Michael A. Burstein. All rights reserved.)
Next Tuesday, May 1, 2012, is Town Election Day in Brookline. As many of you know, I hold two elected offices in Brookline. I'm a Town Meeting Member from Precinct 12 and a Library Trustee for the whole town. My current term as a Town Meeting Member expires this year, and I'm in a contested race as we have 17 candidates running for the 15 seats. (Why so many? Due to redistricting because of the Census, all 15 seats are up this year, instead of the usual 5.)
If you happen to live in Precinct 12, I'd appreciate your vote. If you want to know more about my campaign, you can visit my campaign website at Burstein for Brookline for my letter to the voters. And look for my flyer in your mail this week.
I'd also ask for your support for a few other candidates. As a Precinct 12 Town Meeting Member, I'm part of Neighbors Building Brookline, a coalition that came together in 1994 to support better government in the town. There are 13 of us running for re-election this year, and as a group we endorse all 13 candidates.
Town-wide, we have one contested race for a vacant two-year seat on the Board of Library Trustees. Both of the candidates running would be an asset to the Board, and I hope in the future to serve with both of them. For this year's race, however, I am endorsing Puja Mehta. I think she will be a great advocate for the library at the state level given her work with the Massachusetts Legislative Library Caucus.
Finally, there are two Town Meeting seats in other precincts that have candidates I've endorsed. In Precinct 13, I support Joanna Baker, who has done a lot of work to support our local parks, among other things.
In Precinct 11, there is an open Town Meeting seat, as only 14 candidates filed to run for the 15 seats. I'm delighted to support Shanna Giora-Gorfajn in her write-in campaign for that open seat. Shanna writes the column The Bounty Hunter for Brookline Patch, so you can read the column to get to know a little more about her. If you vote in Precinct 11, look for her outside the Driscoll School on Election Day handing out flyers and stickers with her name on them.
This morning, things were a little different. With the permission of the elections warden, I took a few photographs for public posting.
|Empty Voting Stalls in Precinct 12 Photo copyright ©2012 by Michael A. Burstein. All rights reserved.|
As you can see, the polls were practically empty this morning. There was no one waiting to vote, no long line of people.
|No Long Lines To Vote This Morning in Precinct 12 Photo copyright ©2012 by Michael A. Burstein. All rights reserved.|
There was very little campaigning going on either. A lone gentleman was holding a sign up for one of the few non-presidential contested races, that for the Republican State Committee.
|A Lone Campaign Sign at the Polls Photo copyright ©2012 by Michael A. Burstein. All rights reserved.|
There was also a dearth of people collecting signatures for nominating papers. Two ladies were collecting for Joe Kennedy III, but they asked me not to take their picture. We also ran into Harry Margolis, who is collecting signatures for Governor's Council, and Nomi and I also gathered some signatures for my own campaign.
It's possible things will pick up later on today, but I doubt it'll be nearly as crowded as it was four years ago. On the Democratic side, the only candidate is Barack Obama, and on the Republican side it's pretty clear that Mitt Romney will win Massachusetts.
|Only 19 Voters by 8 AM Photo copyright ©2012 by Michael A. Burstein. All rights reserved.|
As you can see, Nomi and I ended up being voters #18 and #19 as we left the polls. Last year around this time, those numbers were much larger.
However, I wanted to let everyone know that my exploratory committee has posted a platform on our website. As we work to collect signatures to get my name onto the Democratic ballot, I thought it was only right to let people know what I hope to accomplish if elected to congress. So visit the Michael on the Issues page and see where I stand on the issues of jobs, education, health care, marriage rights, women's rights, copyright and the Internet, and space exploration.
The first meeting I had was with the Personnel Subcommittee of the Advisory Committee to consider Article 18. This is my new warrant article concerning political robocalls. This new version doesn't call for banning or regulation of such robocalls, but instead asks political candidates and campaigns to be "judicious and sparing" in the use of such calls. The subcommittee in general was well-disposed to my warrant article. Their main concern was the provision that the Town send notice of the resolution, if adopted, to political campaigns. Still, we worked out some better language, and I suspect that some motion under this article will be presented favorably to Town Meeting.
The other meeting I had was my monthly Library Trustees meeting. As usual, we had many issues to deal with during the meeting, but I wanted to note one vote we took that I feel has significance. At this meeting, we had to vote on the budget that we are requesting from the town for the next fiscal year, and so we had to consider whether or not to request the additional funding we would need to open the Coolidge branch of the library every Sunday next summer. I am pleased to report that the Trustees unanimously voted to request the funding. Now this doesn't mean that the town will agree to give us the funding, nor does it mean that that Trustees will necessarily vote to open the Coolidge branch on all summer Sundays when we vote on the summer schedule in 2012. But without this vote, we wouldn't even have the option at all. We'll see where we go from here.
The fact is that most local libraries are not open at all on Sundays in the summer. While many of the nearby communities do offer Sunday hours at their libraries during the school year, in the summer they are almost always closed. Neither Newton or Cambridge, two of our closest network libraries, have Sunday hours in the summer. Furthermore, none of the Boston libraries have Sunday hours in the summer, even the branches in nearby Allston and Brighton. So I expected that opening Coolidge in the summer for one Sunday afternoon would be welcome.
Indeed, it appears that it was.
On Sunday, July 31, I visited the library to take note of the results of the trial balloon. I arrived at the Coolidge Corner branch library at around 1:45 pm and stayed until 3:30 pm. When I got there, the library was very busy. Lots of patrons were present. One of the staff members who usually works at Putterham but chose to work at Coolidge on Sunday told me that when they opened at 1 pm, there were already 25 patrons waiting to get into the library. She was working at a very busy circulation desk with a long line.
I walked around to see that the patrons represented a large cross-section of the community, not just any one group. Most of the chairs were occupied, and all of the computers were being used. Lots of books and other materials were being checked out. All sections of the library were being used. I recognized a lot of people from Brookline, Allston, and Brighton.
The library had arranged a special program item for the day, the puppet show "Here Come the Clowns" performed by Brad Shur of Puppet Showplace Theatre. It was very popular. I counted over 60 people in attendance, about half of them children, and then I gave up counting. The kids were very engaged with the show.
I ran into two other Library Trustees who took the opportunity to visit the library on Sunday. I also ran into fellow Town Meeting Members and an Advisory Committee member who was delighted by the library being open. He told me he would support whatever the library needed for the budget to be open more regularly on Sundays in the summer.
One staff member told me that all of the staff working that day were volunteers, happy to be earning the extra money to work on a Sunday. It sounds like no one found themselves forced to work due to lack of volunteers.
Finally, a few days later the Library Director provided me with attendance and circulation numbers for the day. I didn't write them down, and they will be reported at the Trustees' next public meeting in September, but the numbers were quite respectable. Even without seeing them, though, but from just walking around the library, I would say that the experiment was an unqualified success.
A few Brookline residents have asked me what they can now do to help continue the idea of Sunday hours next summer. The best thing anyone can do who wants to show further support would be to send a polite letter to the Library Trustees care of the main library and to the Selectmen and Town Administrator care of Town Hall. The process of creating the budget for the next fiscal year will start very soon if it hasn't already; your elected officials need to know that you want the library to be open on Sundays in the summer for it to happen.
This year, for the first time in a long time, the Coolidge library will be open for one Sunday over the summer: Sunday, July 31, or this upcoming Sunday. The Trustees as a whole decided to open the Coolidge branch for that one Sunday this summer, to gauge the popularity of summer Sundays.
The Brookline TAB has an article today on the topic, in which I'm quoted—Coolidge Corner Library to test Sunday hours:
Trustee Michael Burstein said he’s recently heard a lot of community interest in Sunday hours.
Burstein said he’s always pushed for the extra hours.
“On the board, whenever I meet someone from Brookline and introduce myself as a library trustee, almost always the first question they ask me is why isn’t the library open on Sundays in the summer,” he said.
Burstein said the board conducted a community survey last year, soliciting feedback from residents on a variety of topics regarding the public library.
He said Sunday hours topped the list.
“What we found was that summer Sunday hours at Coolidge Corner was one of the top priorities of the people who responded to the survey,” he said. “It gave us a feel for what people really want.”
So if you live in Brookline, and you'd like to use the library on Sundays in the summer, here's your opportunity. Not to mention that there will be a puppet show!
"Don't worry. They'll be back."
"Aye. To vote us down."
- Reverend Jonathan Witherspoon and Colonel Thomas McKean, 1776
Last night, Brookline Town Meeting had its final session in May. One of the articles we were considering was Article 20, which I filed in an attempt to get some sort of regulation for political robocalls.
Throughout the process of bringing my article to Town Meeting, the biggest obstacle I encountered was that many people felt that robocalls, as annoying as they are, are protected speech under the First Amendment. My original article suggested calling for a ban on robocalls, but the Advisory Committee supported an alternate motion calling for their regulation, which I supported.
Unfortunately, neither the Board of Selectmen nor Town Meeting felt the same way I did. I presented my case last night, but in the end Town Meeting voted down the motion by a majority vote.
My hope was that we could send a message to our political candidates that excessive robocalls are not an acceptable method of campaigning. Despite the fact that Brookline Town Meeting disagrees, if you live in Massachusetts you still have a chance to let your voice be heard.
This year, the Honorable Stephen Kulik, who represents the First Franklin District in the Massachusetts House, has sponsored House Bill H00870, "legislation to restrict calllers from using certain automatic dialing devices for sending informaion to subscribers of telephone services." Furthermore, eleven other representatives and senators are supporting the bill.
If you live in Massachusetts and feel as I do on this issue, I encourage you to contact your state representative and state senator, and let them know that you support House Bill H00870 and would like to see it pass.
Otherwise, expect to be bothered by robocalls again and again during election season.
Folks last night did tell me that I thought I spoke very well. I assume that at some point Brookline Access Television will make the third night of Town Meeting available on their website; in the meantime, for those of you who are interested, the text of my floor speech is below. (Bonus points to anyone who catches my reference to Spider-Man.)
( Article 20 Floor Speech )
On Tuesday night I went before the Board of Selectmen with my new motion. After a rather good discussion, in which many of the Selectmen dissected the details of House Bill B00870, they voted against my new motion. This time the vote was 4-1 instead of 3-2, which meant that I had actually lost ground.
Last night, I met with an Advisory Committee subcommittee to discuss the new motion. After some more high-level discussion, I decided in the end to withdraw my new motion and return to the Advisory Committee's motion, which I still fully support.
The back-and-forth has been a little confusing, but I've emailed my fellow Town Meeting Members to let them know where everything currently stands. I expect that we'll get to Article 20 on Tuesday, May 31, and I'm hoping my arguments in favor of the Advisory Committee motion will be persuasive.
In All Politics Is Hyperlocal Nomi discusses how my local political career impacts our parenting.
Click the link, to see a picture of Muffin and Squeaker from a year ago helping me to get out the vote!
Last night, I went to the Selectmen's Meeting in support of the revised motion under Article 20, which I filed with Brookline Town Meeting. This motion would ask the state and federal legislature to pursue legislation that would regulate political robocalls.
As reported by both Brookline Patch and the and the Brookline TAB, the Selectmen voted 3-2 to recommend No Action on Article 20. (Patch has a lot more detail than the TAB, but you have to scroll to the bottom.)
It's a bit of a setback, but on the other hand, I also discovered that the issue was moving forward already. It turns out that the Honorable Stephen Kulik, who represents the First Franklin District in the Massachusetts House, has sponsored House Bill H00870, "legislation to restrict calllers from using certain automatic dialing devices for sending informaion to subscribers of telephone services." Furthermore, eleven other representatives and senators are supporting the bill.
I spoke to the legislative director in Representative Kulik's office, who told me that he was prompted to take action due to the requests of many of his constituents, who were plagued by an excess of robocalls during the recent special race for senate.
Given the Selectmen's decision to recommend No Action, I've filed a new petitioner's motion under Article 20. My new motion, if passed, would simply support House Bill H00870 as it currently reads. My hope is that Town Meeting will approve either my new motion or the one recommended by the Advisory Committee.
As it is, both the AC and the BoS will have a chance to weigh in on the new motion; perhaps this version will draw more support.