Senate President Karen Spilka has appointed me to serve in a new role: President Pro Tempore of the senate. My role is to help her move the senate’s agenda forward.

I fully endorse the agenda that she has defined for the senate. Her agenda speaks directly to the concerns that have motivated me to serve in public office.

I started my involvement in local politics as a young parent concerned about education funding and that remains a central concern for me. In her inaugural address, she affirmed that “Adequately funding our education system will be one of the top priorities of the Senate this session.”

She also appreciates the close relationship between housing, transportation and environmental concerns. Everyone is frustrated with traffic congestion. The problems created by inadequate housing production are well understood. What is emerging now is the possibility that a big upgrade in our regional rail system could help alleviate congestion and housing supply needs while reducing carbon emissions.

If we could offer frequent all-day service between the inner core and gateway cities like Brockton, Worcester and Lowell, then people could live more affordably in or around those communities and commute to jobs in the core. With adequate connectivity, the gateway cities could themselves become employment centers. That potential would be greatest if we had the North-South rail link connecting communities across the region.

Cut through traffic in inner core communities could be further reduced if suburban commuters could leave their cars at stations on 128 and switch to frequent rail to get downtown. Congestion in the inner core would no longer constrain job and housing growth and the quality of life in the inner core communities that I represent could be improved.

Getting people out of cars reduces emissions, especially if the rail is electrified and supplied with power from green sources. And, there may be a connection between long-term climate resiliency of the region and an emphasis on development in the gateway cities instead of concentrating all development in Boston.

All of that is somewhat theoretical, but MassDOT is engaging in a careful study of the rail options to determine what is physically possible. Then we will need to address the financial challenge.

The Senate President is starting with an open mind and a clear set of principles — regional equity, access and affordability, sustainability, connectivity, innovation and responsiveness. She has said that “now is the time to be bold” while recognizing that “we still need to find ways to reach political consensus on our bold ideas.” That is a challenge I’m eager to be helpful with.

The Senate President was a close partner to me in the Criminal Justice Reform package that we moved forward last year. She was Ways and Means Chair and her support and guidance was critical to the success of the package. She has a career-long commitment to justice issues and will continue to support progress on that front.

She has been a champion for the vulnerable and has made a personal commitment as Senate President to achieving “true mental health parity” and improving preventative mental health care.

She has a strong track-record on economic development issues and fiscal responsibility. She has chosen Senator Rodrigues from Fall River as her Ways and Means Chair. He brings a business perspective and I believe will run a very solid budget process.

An agenda of this breadth requires a strong leadership team and I’m very pleased that she has asked me to be part of her team. I’m looking forward to all of the important work that lies ahead.

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Published by Will Brownsberger

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

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71 Comments

  1. Congratulations! I can’t think of anyone who could do a better job. Continued success in all you do!

  2. Bravo! Good for you, and good for us. What you have laid out here is an inspiring and necessary vision.

  3. Excellent! You’ll be able to really move many priorities forward with your focused attention to detail and community involvement.

  4. Congratulations Will! You deserve it. You’ve been working hard for a long time. Janet Rome

  5. Will, nice idea with the Rte 128 rail stations, but I have to tell you there is a lot of NIMBY resistance that will need to be overcome. This is the same NIMBY resistance that is opposed to affordable housing and to apartments in the suburban neighborhoods.

  6. Will,you are continuing a natural progression in leadership which we know you have and have come to expect. Your teams agenda is on target and I wish you success.

  7. Congratulations on your new position as President Pro Tempore.
    You most assuredly deserve it. And I heartily agree with your
    proposed agenda.

  8. Congratulations on your new job & thank you for this excellent statement in support of Regional Rail!

  9. Congratulations, Will, on your well-deserved appointment. You have a varied portfolio. The only thing I want to ask you at this point is to oppose charter schools, which have powerful forces behind them: Governor Baker, billionaires, such as Bill Gates, and most Republicans.

      1. Thanks, Will. I don’t like the idea of charter schools. They are contrary to democracy and equality. The ideas of Horace Mann and the common school, in which all students receive the same education promotes democracy, equality, and liberal nationalism. If I may, I suggest that you take a look at Sam Abrams’s wonderful book, Education and the Commercial Mindset, in which he identifies the problems of for-profit and charter schools.

  10. Congratulations, and well deserved. I’m no longer in your district (Arlington) but follow what you do. Keep it up.

  11. Congratulations and thanks as always for your informative posts. Regarding the transit challenges, I am wondering how all this fits together. More frequent rail service may require an expansion of South Station, or the North-South rail link. There is also the decision on when to build West Station, connecting the Blue and Red MBTA lines, and keeping the slow-moving South Coast rail project moving forward. The takeover of the House by Democrats has generated some talk of high-speed rail between Springfield and Boston. Plus the ongoing efforts to catch up on the decades of deferred maintenance, the GLX and the proposed Green Line improvements. Can state agencies successfully manage all of this, and how will projects be prioritized? And as you stated, there is the question of funding.
    I do sense that political considerations are shifting on both climate change and transit, and that people generally feel both need more action, short and long term. On a related note, I hope state and local officials will make a strong push for far more dedicated bus lanes.

  12. Congratulations and Auguri, Will !
    You richly deserve to serve in this new role.
    Anne Covino Goldenberg

  13. Your admirable public service is being recognized by more and more smart and dedicated others. CONGRATULATIONS!

  14. Senator Brownsberger,
    Congratulations on your appointment as Senate Pro Tempore. We look forward to you and President Karen Spilka continuing to advocate for education, transportation, housing, and justice.

  15. Congratulations, Will, on your new position. It sounds as if the partnership with Karen will give you even more opportunities to move your ideas forward. I’m proud of what you have done already and cheer you on for the future.

  16. Heartfelt congratulations, Will. That is a powerhouse agenda. I’ll be especially eager to see if the greening of our electricity and the electrifying of an expanded transit network can advance in tandem. Quite a challenge, but you’re right–it’s what our climate goals demand. Very best wishes to you and Senator Spilka, and the rest of your team.

  17. thank you, I have used the train from Fitchburg and also from Haverhill; at other times I have thought I would bring my car into Malden and get the T but the parking is poor so then I end up taking the car into the City. We need better resources for transportation that is timely and dependable when we live in the “hinterlands.”

  18. Congratulations! Your appt increases my faith in the State Senate. Hopefully, you will still continue your thoughtful posts of the current issues facing us and the Senate.

  19. Congratulations Will. Your deep understanding of active transportation and public transit issues and your commitment to building a greener metropolitan region will be huge assets to the senate president. We need your fair-minded leadership. Thank you for serving.

  20. All this sounds very positive; I hope the goals will be accomplished in a fiscally sound way with future growth for the commonwealth in mind.

  21. As a life long user of public transit, I’m on board with the overall program. But I think there is a big hole there, and that is population density and access.

    Everyone likes to talk about Europe and how great their rail transportation is, but most Americans don’t realize what a great impediment is presented by local control of density and access.

    For commuter rail to be successful, it must be easy to park at the stations or to have excellent bus access. Even more important is increasing the number of residence units within walking distance of the station. Too often I’ve read about communities around the stations objecting to more parking space or zoning to allow greater residential density.

    As long as every town has the ability to obstruct the essentials for the economic success of rail, I don’t believe it is possible for Masachusetts to come anywhere near realizing the full potential pf public transpot.

    Also please note that I said “public transpot”, not “rail” You’ve got to include the bus network. There is a level of potential ridershiop where bus is much more cost-effective than either rail or the automobile.

    Can the legislature address the subject of constraining local communites ability to obstruct efficient public transport. Unless it does, I fear that the reasl economies of rail transport cannot be achieved.

  22. I’m very happy to read that the Senate has an agenda that will address two of my community concerns, education and transportation. I believe both are issues which effect us not just locally but nationally as well.
    I look forward to watching the progress the Senate makes in achieving its goals in these areas.

  23. It’s not just rail. Suburban and even rural congestion during commuting hours, on fewer and smaller roads, even parking at rail stations, all limit access to commuter rail. What does it take to get to the rail station—buses and vans, and in the suburbs, cars in more rural areas (optimistically with more than one commuter)?

  24. “just wondering”
    Congratulations on your new position in the Senate. You have many things to occupy yourself with throughout your tenure.
    Last night a horrific crash took the life of one person and affected many others. Cause of the accident is “TBD”. Blatant disregard for coming to a full STOP at 4 way intersections, running red lights and not paying attention to lanes where it is noted they MUST turn right or left is ignored. Traffic concerns me. Enforcement is my priority . It is also one more thing for you to consider.
    Best wishes,
    Richard B. Sullivan

  25. Bravo Will!! Well deserved and in this role you will continue to benefit all of us with your new responsibilities. Agree completely with your ‘dream proposals’ and hope that these dreams come true. Carry on!! Thanks for your dedication and hard work.

  26. Congratulations Senator Brownsberger – the agenda you have put forth is outstanding – developing rail connections to the Cape and to the western part of the state is critical – the traffic situation is really difficult – not to mention the need for expanded housing and employment opportunities in those areas.
    Also the older housing stock surrounding the cities needs attention – particularly for seniors who are being forced to leave their apartments because of the increase in rent – or sell their homes
    because of the increase in taxes – upkeep etc.
    I come from the mental health world so applaud the work that Senator Spilka has done for the field. Happy to hear you are so supportive of her. Looking forward to the year ahead.
    Ann

  27. Sen. Spilka’s priorities are good ones. Developing a sustainable lifestyle is critically important. I’ve recently learned about anaerobic digestion facilities which can recycle food and farm waste into renewable natural gas. That and other innovations which can reduce our use of fossil fuels should be encouraged. I’d also like to see money shifted out of our prisons, among the most expensive in the country, by the abolition of life without parole and enactment of presumptive parole. Lifers should die in prison only when their behavior — judged in more real life settings — is a threat to public safety. Money could be saved here, as in Germany, by evidence based justice policies regarding emerging adults. Money saved should be redirected into higher education and expanding public support of health care. Thanks for asking

  28. Congratulations, Will. Your honesty & desire to improve things will be an asset to all of us.
    Sincerely, Pat Fisk

  29. Congratulations on your new role. This is welcome news! It’s encouraging to hear that housing, transportation and the environment will be areas of priority. These three items are critical to attract businesses growth, improve quality of life for residents, and will be key in attracting a skilled workforce to greater Boston.

  30. Congratulations, Will! It is so good to feel connected to our State government when the Federal government feels like such a disaster! You have been so communicative and transparent with your efforts and I feel so fortunate to be in your district! I did read Karen’s speech and am very excited that mental health is starting to rise to the top of the list! Best of luck to both of you!

  31. Will, congratulations on your new role ! I know you will continue to be the well-informed, thoughtful leader you have been thus far.
    RE public transportation: We subsidize single-car driving CONTANTLY by building and widening highways [with NO HOV lanes] and without charging user fees/tolls. There’s little to no benefit to carpooling [3+ passengers like California] or time saving or convenience by taking public transit. What comes first – better more frequent commuter rail service or higher ridership? We need to stop rewarding single driver commuting.

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