The next couple of years in state government will be challenging and fascinating and I appreciate the opportunity to serve as your state senator.
They are likely to be tough years financially. The economic recovery is still soft and some of the possible outcomes of the debates in Washington could be very costly to the state.
Also, it seems clear that we are nowhere near the end of the long-term economic transformation that began several decades ago. Globalization and automation — while providing us with all kinds of inexpensive goods and services — will hold down incomes for people at every education level.
The ongoing challenge of how to actually grow a new economy that floats all boats ultimately falls to people in every walk of life thinking creatively about how to make a living, but I think that state and local governments have an important role to play.
A top local concern with important implications for the economy is the MBTA. Fortunately, there is a strong consensus that we need to act early next year to put the MBTA on a stronger financial footing. My effort will be to make sure that the actions we take will allow the system to actually improve and provide better service. Better service is a top priority for people across my district, both as users and as residents on streets suffering from traffic congestion. Improving the MBTA may also be the most important contribution state government can make to the vitality of the businesses and institutions in my district. Congestion now constrains growth in many areas, including the Longwood Medical Area, which is vital to the region.
Most agree that improved education is an essential part of the longer-term response to globalization and automation — not just more education, although more education usually leads to career flexibility, but education that develops kids, with their varying aptitudes and inclinations, more directly towards market employment opportunities.
I’m in the middle of a program of visiting every school in my senate district and I’m impressed at how educators at every level are using innovative methods, including online learning, to better tailor instruction. Online learning lets kids focus on the concepts that they most need help with and also allows them to move rapidly in the subjects they understand best. At the post-secondary level, online learning is even more rapidly transforming the way kids access instruction.
As a legislator, I will be doing everything I can to improve schools and also to assure that higher education becomes more affordable and provides more useful learning for both young people and adults who are going through career transitions.
I’ve long been focused on the issue of climate change and improving energy efficiency. In the coming session, my top priority on this front will be the MBTA. I’ll also be focused on strengthening preparations for more frequent storms like Sandy. Sea level rise threatens Back Bay, Fenway and, to a lesser extent, neighborhoods in Belmont and Watertown. We need to start a multi-decade process of preparing for higher storm surges, which now appear inevitable.
I remain deeply committed to helping those who have trouble finding their way in the changing economy. My background, as a prosecutor and as a defense attorney, gives me an appreciation of the ways in which the criminal justice system can help or hurt economic development. I will be working in the coming session to reform sentencing policies, particularly as to drug crimes, so as to reduce the long incarcerations that burden our taxpayers and keep us from making meaningful rehabilitation efforts.
Finally, I will continue to take an interest in basic government reforms that simplify the law, so improving fairness and transparency. I’m particularly focused on pension reform and tax reform. Although it faces no direct competition, government should be working hard to improve like every institution in the private economy.
There is a lot more on all these issues on my website, willbrownsberger.com. I welcome feedback there, or by email, firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone, 617-722-1280. Please don’t ever hesitate to call about any matter large or small.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to serve.