2006 Campaign Statement of Priorities

The statements below from my 2006 campaign are included here for the record — to allow comparison between what I said I would work on and what I have done.  The statements are reproduced without change from my 2006 campaign website.

Regional Transportation Planning

I will be an effective and hard-working advocate for better regional transportation planning and for critical transportation projects in the district.

If we are ever going to reduce the volume of cut-through traffic in Arlington, Belmont and Cambridge, we will have to take a regional approach to the problem. As your state representative, I will bring together citizens and local officials with state and regional planning agencies and work with my colleagues towards cost-effective medium and long term improvements.

Some of the ideas that are likely to gather support include: Strengthening the existing commuter rail service and extending attractive transit options beyond the current terminus of the Red Line at Alewife-very high quality bus service connecting the Alewife Station to a parking garage on Route 128 or beyond might be a cost-effective step. We may also be able to make improvements in some of the main through routes that would reduce incentives for motorists to seek short-cuts.

Not all of the traffic in the region flows along the east-west suburban commuter axis. To reduce cut-through traffic, we must also support cost-effective pedestrian, bicycle and mass-transit improvements throughout the metropolitan Boston area. In addition, I will support measures to reward people for driving less, for example, by making available auto-insurance policies that are priced according to annual miles-driven.

In the long run, we need to carefully consider our development patterns. We should favor transit-oriented development (the concentration of development around transit nodes). Major new development projects in the region should be judged on smart-growth criteria. They should also be required to show that they will not worsen the traffic problems we face. Of particular concern is the pending rezoning of the “quadrangle”-the vast underdeveloped neighborhood across Concord Avenue from Fresh Pond.

The state has a central role in rebuilding our major roads, and I will be a steadfast and diligent advocate for roads projects that improve safety for motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians. High priorities include:

  • Completing the Pleasant Street reconstruction.
  • Moving the Belmont-Trapelo Corridor design forward to the funding stage.
  • Building the bicycle path segment from Brighton Street to the Alewife station.

I look forward to working with local officials to identify and advance additional high priority projects in all three communities. I will also advocate generally both for increased state support for local road maintenance and for greater local control of road design.

Educational Excellence

Free public education is the foundation of our community, our economy, and our democracy. We need to fully fund public education, and we need to adapt public education for the 21st century.

Funding Public Education

Supporting public education means, above all, supporting adequate funding for public schools. As your state representative, I will be a diligent and effective advocate for more generous and more reliable state aid for education. This is especially a priority for Arlington and Belmont with their limited commercial tax bases.

More broadly, I will be a diligent advocate for state aid for municipalities. I will also support measures to give municipalities greater flexibility to raise revenues other than the property tax. The property tax often burdens those least able to pay.

Supporting public education also means working to assure that charter school funding formulas do not unfairly drain the budgets of other public schools. It also means limiting divisive expansion of charter schools. This is especially a priority for Cambridge.

 Adapting Public Education for the 21st Century

Supporting public education also means fostering change that will improve both the quality and the cost-effectiveness of the schools.

Small class sizes are the key to effective class-room learning, but class-room learning is not always the best way to learn. Rapidly improving distance learning and computer-based instruction offer real alternatives today.

If we can use new technology to serve some percentage of the students for some percentage of the time, then we can free up teachers to achieve smaller class-sizes while perhaps relieving cost pressures. We also may be able to expand course offerings, especially at the secondary school level in math and science areas. Scientifically gifted students may be able to progress further in the public schools. Generally, students may be more able to pursue their own particular gifts with more diverse offerings. Computer based learning can also be useful in helping students remedy weak areas.

The state should undertake a leadership role in fostering steady step-by-step progress towards better technology use by:

  • developing a list of high-quality computer learning programs, so that school systems can more quickly identify the best options;
  • making professional development grants to school systems to help teachers prepare to supervise students who want to use the new tools;
  • defining clear but flexible standards under which computer based learning, whether at home, in a school computer lab, or at a public library, can count fully towards class-room hour requirements;
  • encouraging the development of computer based learning programs in the public higher education system, which could also be made available to proficient high school students.

I absolutely support the trend towards performance measurement and accountability for schools, teachers and students. But measurement should be used constructively. It should further all of the larger goals of education-excellence, but also social and economic inclusion. The MCAS test is a relatively good test, but it does not measure all dimensions of competence.

The Board of Education should develop multiple performance standards for graduation, as required by the Massachusetts Education Reform Act. If computer based learning can lead to more diverse course offerings, it may also support more diverse milestones for achievement.

 Urban Schools

Finally, we must recognize that, in disadvantaged neighborhoods, the schools are an essential safe haven and a venue for social service access. The schools are the only universally accessible pathway out of poverty. We must assure adequate funding for urban schools and for effective sheltered immersion programs for English language learners.

 Affordable, Quality Health Care

High-quality health care is a basic human need.

Massachusetts is blessed with some of the best hospitals and health care professionals in the world. But many citizens lack coverage or are anxious about their ability to maintain coverage. And many others–both workers and employers–are struggling with rising costs.

We need to follow through on health care reform and assure that all residents have meaningful coverage.

If we are to succeed in providing universal access, we have to take the problems of cost and quality seriously. As your state representative, I will support:

  • Transparency of information about physicians, hospitals and insurers. Fair cost and quality comparisons should be published. The mere publication will spur improvement. And consumers and employers may be able to make better choices and reward results. Better quality care, with lower error rates, is often less expensive.
  • Infrastructure improvement. Better electronic record-keeping infrastructure can reduce paperwork, reduce expensive errors, and improve patient care while protecting privacy.
  • Expansion of health care purchasing pools. In particular, municipalities should be able to join the state Group Insurance Commission’s purchasing pool, if their employees agree to it in collective bargaining.
  • Removing barriers to delivering health care in less expensive settings. This could include nurse practitioners in drop in locations, or good elder home care services that let elders live with dignity in their homes, instead of moving-in to nursing homes.
  • Expansion of public health programs to fight obesity and diabetes – these problems are having a growing impact on health care costs.
  • Restoration of other public health programs that improve health and reduce general health care costs, including substance abuse and mental health treatment and basic public health programs like smoking cessation and AIDS prevention. Over the past few years, many of these programs been gutted by funding cuts.
  • Consumer cost-sharing approaches that encourage cost-effective choices without discouraging intelligent use of health care. Good management of chronic diseases like diabetes can reduce total health care costs by reducing hospitalizations – we want to encourage more routine visits for these patients.

Life scientists and health care workers have, over the past century, given us an historically unprecedented expectation of long life. There is every reason to believe that, over the decades to come, medical progress will continue. It is highly likely that, for the foreseeable future, we will choose as individuals and as a society to continue to increase resources devoted to health care. And we can hope that innovators in our health care and life sciences sectors will continue to spark growth that will create opportunities for Massachusetts workers at all levels.

Growth of the health care sector is a good thing. Our challenges are to maximize quality and value, to assure universal access, and to share the challenge of funding care fairly.

 Environmental Protection

We need to take a long and realistic view of our future and sustain for our children both our built and our natural environment.

Rising energy consumption and greenhouse gas production are among the gravest environmental challenges we face. I will work to address these challenges on several fronts:

  • Controlling pollution in electric power generation — participating in the New England Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and maintaining the cap on emissions from the state’s “Filthy Five” power plants.
  • Expanding use of renewables in electric power generation — approving the Cape Wind Project and strengthening the state’s Renewables Portfolio Standard for utilities.
  • Reducing automobile fuel consumption by rewarding purchasers of fuel-efficient vehicles with tax incentives and by rewarding reduced driving through insurance reform (pay-by-the-mile insurance).
  • Improving regional transportation planning (see above)
  • Encouraging energy conservation in buildings, through Green Building Tax Credits, and expansion of the Systems Benefit Charge (which electric utilities use to fund conservation measures) to natural gas utilities and fuel oil dealers.

As State Representative, I will continue my efforts to improve our regional sewer and storm-water infrastructure and address flooding. I will have added clout in working with the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority and the Department of Conservation and Recreation-the key state players involved in water quality improvement and storm-water management. And I will continue to work in partnership with local officials, as I have over the past few years as chair of the Arlington, Belmont, Cambridge Tri-community Working Group on flooding issues.

I will view it as a particular responsibility of mine as State Representative to support the enhancement of the Alewife Reservation, most of which lies within the district. In particular, I will support measures to acquire the Belmont Uplands as a component of the Reservation. More broadly, I will support the state’s conservation land acquisition program and will work with those who are developing creative models to foster private equity investments in land conservation, such as conservation and wetland banks.

The central challenge in making the Alewife Reservation a vibrant natural resource is to continue to reduce the sewage entering the Alewife Brook. I would like to see a day when all of the open water in the district-from Claypit Pond in Belmont and Spy Pond in Arlington and through the Alewife Brook to the Mystic River-is safe for fishing and recreation.

The state Department of Environmental Protection has a lead role in addressing hazardous waste problems, and one of the most serious consequences of the last few years of state budget strain has been the dramatic weakening of its enforcement capacity. I will press for vigorous enforcement to address hazardous waste sites in the district.


Published by Will Brownsberger

Will Brownsberger is State Senator from the Second Suffolk and Middlesex District.