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OP-ED: Brownsberger Concerns for New Term - Economy, the MBTA and the Environment

State Sen. Will Brownsberger writes that the economy and its effect on public transportation are among the biggest challenges for the upcoming Legislative term.

 

Thank your giving me the opportunity to serve as your state senator in the coming legislative session. Thank you also to my ballot opponent, Republican State Committeeman Steve Aylward, who ran a gracious and constructive campaign. 

The next two years are likely to be tough financially. The economic recovery is still soft and some of the possible outcomes of the debate 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. Check my website, willbrownsberger.com, for more on these trends.

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, william.brownsberger@masenate.gov, 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. 

John DiMascio November 30, 2012 at 08:29 AM
Will, Firstly-- Congratulations on your re-election. We may disagree on many issues. However, you're a class act that is deeply committed to community. Secondly -- With respect to the MBTA, it's really time we look running this "Independent Authority" as a business. You know as well as I do, like all State Agencies it's top heavy with too many patronage jobs. We could also look at how efficiently the whole operation is run. We can no longer afford the wasteful payroll. It's common knowledge that a lot jobs that are done by several people can be done by single person. Maybe it's time to think about franchising or contracting out some of the labor -- be it maintenance or even perhaps some of the routes. The private sector would not tolerate such inefficiencies, neither should the taxpayers.
Will Brownsberger November 30, 2012 at 09:15 PM
Thanks, John. We've taken that approach with the commuter rail and I'm not sure it has made a positive difference. But, I wouldn't rule anything out at this stage -- it's a critical problem and we need to be open to all approaches.

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