Rebecca writes regularly to the community about her position on major issues of concern to Brookline and the Commonwealth. Check out this page to see the issues she has written about in her newsletters.
Since I wrote this newsletter in early March, the MA Legislature joined many other states and passed the Extreme Risk (ERPO) bill. Despite that and some other progress since the tragedy at Parkland, our State Legislatures need to keep doing more to protect our children and neighborhoods from gun violence.
As a State Representative, I will work with my gun-sense colleagues, with the fabulous new generation of advocates organizing through the #NeverAgain movement, and with groups such as Moms Demand Action and the Massachusetts Coalition to Stop Gun Violence to take sensible next steps in further limiting the threat from gun violence while respecting legitimate gun ownership. For example:
- Limit the number of firearms that may be purchased at one time
- Impose a waiting period on firearm purchases (even for those with a valid license)
- Require ALL sellers to conduct background checks on a purchaser
- Strengthen mental health services and ensure that they are adequately covered by insurance to help anticipate and prevent violent incidents
I am very proud to have been recognized by Moms Demand Action for Gun Safety as a Gun Sense Candidate.
Read my March 7th Gun Control newsletter here.
Women, Gender Equity, and Reproductive Rights
Nothing animates my candidacy more than this set of issues. From #MeToo and #TimesUp to the sexual harassment scandal in the MA House of Representatives just last year, to the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court, gender equity and basic freedoms for women and girls, including the freedom to determine and express one's gender identity, are front and center in the news. The MA House is 75% male and that needs to change. Equity for all cannot move forward until and unless there is gender equity as a starting point. As Yvonne Abraham wrote in the Globe back in November 2017: "There is only one sure way to fix this: Elect More Women."
There is ample evidence that women’s economic security is linked to the ability to control childbearing. Massachusetts has contributed much to reproductive health, including Brookline’s own John Rock testing and then championing the first birth control pill, ENOVID. Massachusetts’ state constitution and laws protect the right to safe, legal abortion. In addition, our legislature has recently stepped up to protect MA women from some of the Trump administration’s attacks on women and women’s health. For example,
- Passing the contraceptive ACCESS bill to guarantee copay-free prescription contraceptives in Massachusetts
- Passing the PATCH Act (Protecting Access to Confidential Health Care), ensuring that confidential health care information is shared only with the patient, regardless of who holds the health insurance (e.g. a spouse)
- Passing Paid Family Medical Leave
With the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to be a Supreme Court Justice, we've learned that basic reproductive health and rights are again at risk, even here in true blue Massachusetts. We need champions in the State Legislature to protect the gains we've made and continue to move forward. My legislative priorities as your State Representative include:
- Strengthening Sex Education to be inclusive of LGBTQ youth
- Improving access to medical care for pregnant teens
- Eliminating archaic laws that could still be enforced if Roe v. Wade is weakened or overturned
Read my April 4th Women, Gender Equity, and Reproductive Rights newsletter here.
Environment and Climate Change
As is all too clear from the past several years of wild weather, killer heat in Europe, powerful storms, unprecedented sea level rise and flooding, climate change is here now. So as exemplified by the Massachusetts Climate Change Adaption Coalition, we need the same kind of emphasis and investment in readiness, adaptation, and resilience as we have had on mitigating future impact. For example:
- Heed the warnings and proposals in the recent University of Massachusetts Financing Climate Resilience report to protect our vulnerable coastal infrastructure
- Insist that essential infrastructure improvements (like the massive I-90 Allston Interchange project on Brookline’s northern border) include long-term planning, analysis, design, and funding to make the project climate resilient
- The MA legislature should approve Rep. Smizik’s bill for a Comprehensive Adaptation Management Plan (CAMP)
- Ensure that inland climate impacts receive equal attention, such as groundwater and natural habitat protection in Western Mass
- Make sure the Commonwealth's environmental agencies are fully funded and staffed by committing 1% of the budget to the environment
Read my April 25th Climate Change newsletter here.
Today, the inhumane treatment of immigrant and refugee families at our southern border has put vulnerable children and families on the front page. Seeing and hearing the anguish of the children and parents being torn apart and herded into cages has sparked national outrage, as it should.
Having led philanthropic efforts to lessen the impacts on children and families of maternal and childhood toxic stress, I am twice as outraged because – as the American Academy of Pediatrics has stated – this is more than a current crisis. We may be doing irreparable harm to these children.
Attacks on immigrants, unfortunately, have risen over the years since 9/11. In Brookline, I have been proud to be a member of Town Meeting voting to establish and strengthen our status as a “sanctuary city,” and to extend limited local voting rights to permanent legal residents. Last year, as the White House and Congress went after DACA and threatened towns like Brookline that had declared themselves sanctuary cities, the School Committee, Superintendent Bott, and the Select Board all pledged to refuse cooperation with ICE in identifying anyone’s immigration status.
I am heartsick that the MA House of Representatives refused to pass the Safe Communities Act budget amendments passed by the MA Senate. Basic legal protections for immigrants and refugees in our community are essential, and our legislature just turned its back on these families.
The State Legislature must do more for immigrant families here in the Commonwealth. For example:
- Re-introduce and pass the Safe Communities Act to prevent local law enforcement from helping ICE target and deport immigrant families
- Consistent with the DREAM Act’s focus on a path to citizenship, I support extending in-state tuition to undocumented students at Massachusetts colleges and universities.
- Support AG Maura Healey who has challenged the repeal of DACA on behalf of some 20,000 Massachusetts DREAMers who are DACA-eligible.
Read my June 20th Immigration newsletter here.
Housing Affordability & Brookline’s 40B Dilemma
Brookline’s Housing Production Plan describes our diverse affordable housing needs. Implementing the plan has proven more difficult, and in the meantime a rush of 40B projects are confounding our ability to manage growth and meet the community’s needs.
My opponent and I strongly disagreed about the vote on Hancock Village. While he voted “no” on the negotiated development deal, I voted for the agreement because I wanted to preserve Brookline’s ability to limit the impact of other 40Bs. Voting “no” was promoted as a solidarity vote with Precinct 16 Town Meeting Members. But that took too narrow a view of the vote's impact on the whole town, especially the Norfolk 15th District. Town Meeting’s “no” on the deal sent a strong message to 40B developers that negotiating with the Town of Brookline is a waste of time and money. With dozens of new projects pending, they are more likely to take their chances in court because those decisions have gone their way. Just last week, the MA Land Court ruled for the developer at Hancock Village.
Chapter 40B has spurred affordable housing and should be preserved. But the “one size fits all” approach crafted in 1969 is badly out of date. I believe the Legislature should modify the law to encourage more cooperative development agreements for affordable housing and allow towns like Brookline, already densely built, to manage the size and flow of projects.
For example, we could:
- Modify 40B to put a hold on new proposals when those in the queue would take a municipality to or beyond the 10% affordability “safe harbor”
- Include public school facilities in the calculation of development impact on municipal utilities
- Create other incentives for municipalities and developers to work together toward a housing market that supports economic diversity, such as raising the value of subsidized housing voucher.
Read my July 31st Affordable Housing and Senior Housing newsletter here.
According to Brookline’s Frank Caro, “Brookline needs about 2,000 more affordable units in the coming years” to meet the needs of the aging Baby Boom generation. Seniors have been hit particularly hard by the rapidly rising cost of housing in Boston and Brookline. Housing values have increased dramatically. For some that means wealth that can be tapped. For others, it means property taxes are rising beyond 30% of their fixed income, compromising their ability to pay for other necessities such as food and transportation. For most seniors in the Boston area who are seeking to reduce housing costs or downsize, market-rate rents and sale prices are not affordable and housing subsidies are insufficient.
The good news is that on May 31, a $1.8 billion Housing Bond Bill was signed into law. It will support low- and moderate-income housing, including funds to modify dwellings for seniors. That will help with building and renovating affordable units, and it includes improved tax credits over the next five years. In the meantime there are other measures that need to be taken to relieve the housing cost burden especially on seniors.
As your State Representative, I would support:
- Increasing the Senior “Circuit Breaker,” raising the amount seniors with modest fixed incomes can exclude from property taxes
- Providing favorable financing for the development of home shares or supportive collective housing, such as Brookline has with the Centre Street communities.
Read my July 31st Affordable Housing and Senior Housing newsletter here.