A Better Brookline strives to change for a fair town government



A Better Brookline (ABB) seeks to change Brookline from a town government into a city and make town politics more fair and equal for every community member.

Senior Ronnie England thinks Brookline’s local government isn’t representing the town’s views. So she decided to try to change the 300-year-old system.

England has now motivated 60 volunteers to launch a student-run program called A Better Brookline. Their goal is to improve the way the town’s government operates.

According to England, Brookline’s town meeting system is not “equitable, efficient or effective.” She said the town’s volunteer-based government bars many from participating, while oversized town meetings make the government inefficient. Additionally, low-stakes elections negatively affect voter turnout.

To rectify these issues, A Better Brookline is looking to change Brookline’s government from a town system to a city system. Under this plan, Brookline would be run by a smaller group of paid employees. England said that this would allow anyone to run for office, rather than reserving government positions for those who have the extra time.

A Better Brookline has launched a campaign to put a question on the May 2021 ballot asking whether voters want to set up a charter in Brookline. England said the proposed charter would study the current system and propose changes.

Senior Adrian Seeger, who became involved in June, said he hopes the group can collect 7000 signatures by May to get the issue on the ballot.

Seeger said he is concerned that not enough Brookline residents know how their local government works. This is something A Better Brookline is trying to change.

“Some of the people we meet at our tabling events are registered voters in Brookline, and we have to explain to them how exactly the government works in the town that they live in, which is a little bit ridiculous,” Seeger said.

Junior Claire Gallion said this knowledge gap leads to fewer people participating in local politics. Additionally, the Town Meeting’s size creates a lack of political action.

“In our last municipal election our voter turnout was 11 percent, which is crazy low, so people aren’t having their voices heard,’’ Gallion said. “Every single decision has to go through 248 people any time anything has to happen, so things move super slowly.”

England said that changing Brookline’s government system to a city would also make elections more representative of Brookline’s views.

“City elections are higher-profile. It’s typically for a mayor and the city councilor, so more people come and there’s a higher voter turnout,” England said. “Also, elected officials have to run on issues, so you actually know who you’re electing into the government and what they stand for. Right now, it is really just name recognition, like, ‘Oh, that’s my neighbor. I’ll elect them to Town Meeting.’”

According to Seeger, the fact that A Better Brookline is a student-run movement is important to its success but also comes with certain challenges.

“There are some people who may look at us as a youth-led organization and say, ‘Do they really know what they’re doing or what they’re proposing?’ But there are other people who say, ‘I’m really excited that the young people in our community actually care about what’s going on,’” Seeger said.

What started as a group of students reaching out to their friends has since become a growing movement with 60 volunteers and over 2,700 signatures, according to England.

“When we started we were connected to a Town Meeting member, and we’ve been in touch with a lot of different Town Meeting members, some of which have joined as volunteers,” England said. “But in the beginning, it was really just reaching out to our networks. It was just a group of students when we started it, and now we’ve grown into something much bigger.”