Brookline Advisory Board Meeting Votes on Commercial Areas Coordinator Position Currently Held by Marge Amster

Brookline Advisory Board Meeting Votes on Commercial Areas Coordinator Position Currently Held by Marge Amster

Brookline Town Administrator, Mel Kleckner recently presented an annual budget to members of the Advisory Board. The Advisory Board, all members of which are appointed, is tasked with reviewing and making recommendations on matters to be considered by a Town Meeting.

In response, Board members Fred Lebow and Fred Levitan motioned the Board to modify the recommended budget by eliminating the position of Commercial Areas Coordinator, currently held by Marge Amster. Their reasoning for the motion was the belief that the CAC position is that of a cheerleader for business interests. They also expressed disapproval that Ms Amster is a member of both the Coolidge Corner Merchants’ Association and the Brookline Chamber of Commerce, even though other town employees, such as a Brookline Police Department Captain, are also members.

The Advisory Board Subcommittee chaired by Neil Wishinsky met on March 6 to consider the motion. Many members of the business community attended the meeting. Brookline Chamber of Commerce President, Lea Cohen and Coolidge Corner Merchants’ Association President and Publisher, R Harvey Bravman spoke in support of retaining the CAC position explaining that Ms Amster’s role is that of a liason between the Town and local business. The Subcommittee recommended to retain the job in a 4 to 1 vote.

The Board met last night to discuss the subject further. Debate was heated among several Board members. The move to eliminate the position was led by Fred Lebow, Fred Levitan and Stanley Spiegel. Mr Spiegel suggested the CAC position be replaced by a beat cop in Coolidge Corner. Board member, Carla Benka noted that the workload of the Preservation Commission staff has substantially increased, and asked the Planning Director whether there could be more flexibility in allocating staff members to meet division (Planning, Economic Development, Preservation, Housing) demands as needed.. Those in favor of eliminating the CAC position expressed the opinion that Ms Amster’s salary should be funded by the Chamber of Commerce.

Although many members of the business community attended, one representative was allowed to speak at the meeting. BCC President Lea Cohen explained the CAC represents the Town of Brookline, not the businesses. The Commercial Areas Coordinator is critical in maintaining the large tax base upon which the Town heavily relies for its financial health. In addition, Ms Cohen reminded the Board that Coolidge Corner already has a bet cop in place.

There were two votes of consequence taken at the meeting. The first was on the proposal to eliminate the CAC job from the Town budget as of 12/31/2011. This was rejected by an 11 to 10 vote, with 1 abstention. The second vote was to accept the Town Administrator’s budget as is, with the CAC position intact. It passed 15 to 7. Board members in favor of retaining the Commercial Areas Coordinator position largely remained quiet during the debate until the vote was taken.

The issue may or may not be revisited at any time in the future. The Advisory Board can motion to reconsider at their discretion.

Catie Hayes, Editor