Brookline PAX Endorsement Questionnaire

In the spirit of transparency, I'm releasing all the endorsement questionnaires I've completed. The following is what I submitted to Brookline PAX.

Elected/appointed gov’t & public interest group offices held, especially local, and including committees:

Town Meeting Member, Precinct 10; Redistricting Committee (Maps Subcommittee; Equity and Access Subcommittee); Brookline Equity Coalition; Florida Ruffin Ridley Equity PAC (last year)

Do you: Own single-family __; Own condo __; Rent _X_; Other __ Brookline school parent? Yes

1a. ELECTIONS/POLITICS– In recent contested races (including out of district Congressional races, if any), what candidates or ballot questions have you actively supported, and, if not below clear, briefly how:

  • Raul Fernandez, 2022 - endorsed - (donated after questionnaire submitted)

  • Sonia Chang-Díaz, 2022 - donated

  • Miriam Aschkenasy, 2021 - endorsed - campaign volunteer

  • Scott Ananian, 2021 - endorsed

  • Bernie Sanders / Elizabeth Warren / Joe Biden, 2020 - donated

1b. Briefly, what else in your background is pertinent, especially a history of progressive activities besides the above?

In my professional work and now in Town Meeting, I advocate for accessibility and inclusion of people with disabilities. I cosponsored two warrant articles last fall (WA11 & WA12) related to remote meeting access, with the intention of giving people with disabilities equal rights to hold leadership roles in Town.

2. WHAT/WHO INFLUENCED YOU TO RUN? What challenges do you see for Brookline? Where will you focus?

I love that so many people in Brookline identify as progressive, but some actions from Town leadership can be surprisingly far removed from true progressive values. Town Meeting is not representative of our population, and I care most about representing the voices that are missing, especially from marginalized populations.

3. BUDGET PRIORITIES: What would you Increase, Decrease, or Leave the same: Affordable housing _Increase_; Facilities and streets_Increase for traffic calming backlog_; Libraries _Same?_; Parks _Same?_; Police _Decrease/reallocate to alternative public safety measures_; Fire _Same?_; Public Health _Increase?_; Rec programs _Increase to provide low-income tuition assistance_; Schools _Increase for educators_; Transportation alternatives _Increase_; Other(s) __

NOTE: This is difficult to answer since I’m not totally clear on the current budget/needs of these departments.

4. LABOR/PUBLIC EMPLOYEES: After collective bargaining, union contracts come to Town Meeting for approval. As such, what are your views on the Nov. 2020 Police contract vote? (Incumbents: explain your vote or view; others: your view based on the WA2 explanations in November 2020 Combined Reports.

I’m very pro-union; workers in all industries have the right to organize to stand up for their rights. That being said, police unions are fundamentally different from unions in the labor movement. WA2 wasn’t about protecting workers’ rights, but was instead about introducing dash/body cams which could easily end up overpolicing vulnerable populations, has questionable efficacy, and has significant privacy implications. I likely would have voted NO on WA2 to protect the rights of the people that live and work in Brookline.

5. HOUSING –What are your views on land use policy (i.e., zoning)? How and where might you promote/support residential development, e.g., changing some (or all) single family and/or two family zones to more than that, supporting mixed use commercial/residential, and otherwise?

There’s a huge need for both low- and middle-income housing in Brookline. We need to build more units, and they should be a combination of government-subsidized affordable housing and market-rate housing. I’m in favor of upzoning, more mixed-use zoning, reducing parking requirements, etc, especially in areas with access to public transportation.

6. CLIMATE/ENVIRONMENT/OPEN SPACE – Town Meeting has passed many “green” initiatives, including restricting plastic bags & Styrofoam containers; and encouraging alternative transportation, net-zero building, and electric vehicles. What involvement, if any, have you had with environmental issues, and what are your thoughts for what we might focus on next?

I’m new to taking political action on environmental issues, but this is incredibly important and something that will greatly impact all of us in the coming years. I joined the Green Caucus last fall, and have consistently voted in favor of environmental issues like fossil fuel free new construction, heat pumps at Driscoll, and low-carbon concrete. I personally rely on public transportation and rarely drive, and have signed up for the 100% option through Brookline Green Electricity.

8. RACIAL CLIMATE: How do you perceive Brookline’s racial climate (i) in the Town workforce, (ii) in our schools, and (iii) in town, generally – especially as you perceive Brookline as compared with elsewhere in MA and USA.

Not great. How we compare is irrelevant if we care about BIPOC community members. (i) The Town has dealt with several discrimination complaints and settlements, and there are more that haven’t been officially reported. I anticipate complaints to continue since there hasn’t been any accountability. (ii) Students are frequently confronted with racism. They don’t feel safe and those responsible aren’t being held accountable. There’s also a real need to attract and retain BIPOC educators. (iii) Many people of color experience racism in Brookline, and I have no right as a white person to deny or minimize their reality.

9. POLICE DEPARTMENT: What are your views on Brookline PD, (i) in general, e.g., proposals to reimagine and/or reform, e.g., the 2021 reports of the Committee on Policing Reforms and the Task Force to Reimagine Policing; and (ii) the 2020 TM debate/vote on a then proposed 17% Police budget cut. (Incumbents: explain your vote or view; others: your view based on the pages for WA 8 – SUPPLEMENTS 6 through 10 (pp. 1-5) & 15 in June 2020’s Combined Reports?

I fully support the recommendations of the Task Force to Reimagine Policing. I’ve honestly been disturbed at the response from BPD officers during the process, and don’t understand why some self-identified progressives have taken such a strong stance in support of the police. Even if they were the best officers in the country, we’d still be responsible for ensuring transparency, accountability, and making sure the public safety services we provide reach everyone equitably. I likely would have voted in favor of the 17% police budget cut when it was proposed in 2020.

10. TOWN VS. CITY GOVERNMENT: Describe your views of town vs. city government, in particular the role of a Select Board vs. a mayor, and the role of Town Meeting Members vs. a city council.

We should seriously consider a charter change. Our current system excludes many people who can’t afford to volunteer their time, compromising the diversity of our leadership. It’s very inefficient, and difficult to hold elected officials accountable. There would still be potential downsides if we became a city, but it’s definitely worth considering.

11. ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Very briefly, anything else we should consider?

While I’ve spent considerable time forming an opinion on these topics, I acknowledge that I’m by no means an expert. I always listen with an open mind to other individuals and organizations with more expertise to help cast well-informed votes.

I unfortunately do not feel comfortable asking for an endorsement from PAX, but wanted to share my questionnaire anyway in case anyone is interested in understanding my reasoning. I should fall solidly within PAX’s stated values, but there’s a huge disconnect between some of those values and the current iteration of PAX. I expect progressive organizations to take racism seriously, believing people of color even when white members don’t have the same experience. I also expect progressive organizations to advocate for transparency and accountability for those with power, including the police. I’m seeing the exact opposite in PAX, which is unfortunate because that seems to go against your values. I hope to see PAX return to more progressive values in the future, and would be happy to seek an endorsement when that happens. Thank you for your time! - Elizabeth Schafer