Brookline is vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and so needs to be a shining example in leading the way in mitigating its effects. While national leaders retreat from our collective responsibility to maintain a healthy planet, it’s time Brookline doubled down on our efforts locally. This means tackling toxics and climate change. In addition to keeping Brookline committed to sustainability efforts we need a new intersectional approach to environmental justice that ensures nobody is left behind by the new green economy.
Raul will bring together residents, businesses, institutions, and policy makers to craft a net zero action plan starting with public buildings and expanding to all new construction aiming for Brookline to be a carbon-neutral community by 2035. We should be offering curbside compost to all municipal residences and rapidly expand community solar. We should explore a carbon fund that large property owners and developers would pay into to offset their emissions, and the money raised would be used to reduce energy consumption. Raul will prioritize green open space preservation including a dedicated dog park and enhancements to the town tree canopy.
Education is essential for the success of our youth and the growth of our community and society. Brookline schools must not only be excellent, but also equitable, so that every student has the opportunities leading to the best outcomes, and so that all of our educators receive a wage and benefits worthy of their contributions.
Raul supports the Yes for Brookline override campaign as a means to relieve overcrowding – the expansion of Driscoll School and building the new Baldwin school are critical steps to achieving that goal. Raul supports expanding after-school programs and establishing universal pre-kindergarten. The school committee must work to ensure greater diversity in school department hiring.
We can better incubate small businesses – especially those that are women and minority-owned, to get them through the first year and beyond. The revenue from this mix of larger commercial projects and thriving, well-supported small businesses, as well as additional revenues from hotels, and well-regulated marijuana dispensaries, ride-shares, and Airbnb’s will help provide relief from property tax increases.
We need a just transition to a more sustainable transportation system, prioritizing safety and protecting access and convenience for everyone. There is great diversity in people’s transportation needs, and as a member of the select board Raul would take that into account as we make necessary changes. We need a more transparent, community-oriented process to limit surprises and make sure everyone’s voices are heard in transit planning.
Raul will push for a comprehensive plan for the implementation of a network of protected bicycle lanes and bicycle traffic lights within Brookline as part of the growing regional network which connects us to neighboring cities like Boston, Newton, Cambridge, and beyond. Raul will also work toward bicycle equity by creating a light and helmet giveaway program at schools and community centers throughout the Town as the high cost of bicycle equipment could scare away lower-income cyclists. We also need to implement a Brookline vision zero plan to reach zero traffic fatalities. Raul will also push for traffic calming methods in our squares.
As electric vehicle (EV) technology continues to be refined, and as EV sales are on the rise, travel by EV is poised to become the dominant form of automobile transportation in the future. Substituting EVs for combustion engines will ensure cleaner air and a brighter sustainable future. However, this will only happen with a network of accessible charging stations as many homeowners, renters, and small businesses don’t have space or electric capacity to install chargers where they are. Raul will push for a townwide comprehensive EV charging station plan as well as a policy to replace municipal vehicles with electric models as part of routine replacement.
Smart Growth and Housing Equity
In an era of increasing income inequality, the questions of who can afford to live in our community and how to prevent the erosion of our socio-economic diversity while maintaining a strong sense of neighborhood and community have no easy answers. While housing affordability is a regional and national challenge, Brookline needs to step up its leadership here in the urban core.
We should increase low income inclusionary zoning from 15% to 25%, and add an additional 5% inclusionary zoning requirement for middle income households and families, including 2 and 3 bedroom units. Raul will lead efforts to raise new revenue for affordable housing such as a local transfer tax on luxury real estate transactions or a tax on flipping. Raul will explore strategies to incentivize landlords to keep rents affordable and push for tenant protections from so-called no fault eviction and limiting upfront costs due at lease signing. Brookline should also have a housing stability coordinator on staff to help individuals find and maintain affordable housing. Tenants should have a right to first purchase when their building is for sale. Condo conversions should be fair and equitable for tenants.
Seniors should be able to age in place and Brookline should be an age-friendly community. Seniors contribute to the vibrancy of our community just as much as any other group.
We should look to stabilize rents for low to moderate income seniors and freeze their property taxes after a certain age to provide economic security. The Town should engage in a community process to create an age-friendly action plan covering the domains of housing, transportation, open space, health, social and civic engagement, communication, and inclusion. The Town could begin piloting an intergenerational housing program pairing seniors with extra rooms for rent with tenants that need them. Such a program would be a win-win, providing extra income for seniors that need it and savings for tenants.
Unity and Inclusion
Brookline works best when everyone is involved.
If we the people want more inclusive schools, smarter economic development, more affordable housing, and racial and environmental justice, our approach will need to be comprehensive, with buy-in from the grassroots and those we’ve elected to represent our interests.
Raul will bring new voices to the table by reforming the appointment process to boards, committees and commissions to ensure that more diverse and progressive voices are also being heard on the inside. Raul will foster new levels of civic engagement by educating the public to get involved in town government so it is more reflective of its resident’s needs and apply a social-justice lens to policymaking and decisions. Brookline should also engage in Participatory Budgeting where money is set aside each year for residents to directly appropriate funds to projects selected through a town-wide community process separate from the board appropriations process.