BROOKLINE, MA — There are now two candidates running for the State Representative, 15th Norfolk seat that serves Brookline. Patch reached out to both of the candidates with a series of questions to help introduce voters to those candidates. This is part of a series of candidate profiles we will publish leading up to the primaries in September and the general election in November.
Today we introduce readers to Rebecca Stone, who you might know already around town from the many hats she's worn from Town Meeting member to School Committee chairwoman. Stone is one of two Democrats running for the seat most recently held by Frank Smizik who is retiring. Stone, 59, has two young-adult children who both went to Lawrence School and then graduated from Brookline High School. She holds an AB from Harvard/Radcliffe College and an MPA from Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.
All of the candidates were asked the same questions. We are publishing their answers to selected questions as they were submitted to us, with some editing for space and style considerations.
Strategic Consultant to progressive non-profits and philanthropy (15+ years)
The single most pressing issue facing the 15th Norfolk District is _______, and this is what I intend to do about it.
The single most pressing issue facing our district in north Brookline is uncontrolled market-rate residential growth and inflated housing values that are making the town less affordable for working families and our growing senior population. Condo development and conversions, in particular, are adding to the physical and financial pressure on Brookline's schools and driving the need to expand. Abuse of an outdated Chapter 40b law threatens to further overwhelm the district with a long list of oversized developments.
I have proposed several legislative actions that could help Brookline manage and balance growth, prioritize affordable housing, and limit the number of massive 40b projects that have put developers in the driver's seat. For example:
- Modify 40b to bar new proposals when those in the queue would take a municipality to or beyond the 10% affordability "safe harbor"
- Include public school facilities in the calculation of development impact on municipal utilities
- Create more incentives for municipalities and developers to work together toward a housing market that supports economic diversity, such as raising the value of subsidized housing vouchers.
What are the critical differences between you and the other candidate seeking this post?
- VISION: I am running to create change at a crucial time in our country, to be part of breaking the MA House out of its insular political traditions and norms that year after year promise much but deliver too little, especially for vulnerable populations and for those historically marginalized. My opponent has said he will "continue the legacy" of the long-serving incumbent, promising continuity rather than bringing needed change.
- PRIORITIES: My focus as a professional and my priorities as a legislator are much the same: Fighting for women, children, and families, socioeconomic equity and racial justice, public education for all, protecting the environment, and shielding our democratic rights and principles that are under attack in this country right now. We need legislators who will stand up and speak out, for whom those are their first priorities at the start of the day AND at the end of the day. I applaud my opponent's work on clean energy and the environment. We agree on the importance of climate change, but a single-issue focus does not prepare someone for the range of policy issues before the General Court.
- EXPERIENCE: With a Master's degree in public policy from Princeton and a decades-long career working to improve the lives of children and families through better, more responsive government and policy, I bring greater breadth and depth of policy and legislative experience to the job of State Rep.
In my professional career, I have worked for Ralph Nader fighting for citizen action on environmental threats and against PAC money in elections. I worked for four years as a foreign policy and human rights congressional staffer on Capitol Hill where I documented human rights abuses in the Contra war in Nicaragua and helped Kim Dae Jung return to South Korea and re-establish democracy. After graduate school, I headed the policy division of a non-profit advocating for youth, reproductive rights, access to healthcare, and comprehensive sex education in schools. I have studied and written extensively about political dynamics in community-building efforts across the country. More recently, I analyzed outcomes from child mental health programs in Massachusetts and, with a family foundation, funded innovative programs to reduce maternal and child stress in low income families in Ohio and Hawaii.
Living in Brookline for the past 19 years, I've served 16 years as a Town Meeting Member from Precinct 3, organizing the first-ever neighborhood parking plan for teachers at an elementary school, working to limit abuse of street parking by a growing Longwood Medical Area, helping neighbors negotiate with Northeastern around Parson Field impacts, and joining with neighbors to advocate for the Lawrence Neighborhood Conservation District. I also served 12 years on Brookline School Committee where I chaired the subcommittees on both Policy and Government Relations and chaired the full committee from 2010-2012, negotiated 3 teacher contracts, secured funding and completed renovations or expansions at 4 out of 8 elementary schools, and helped win two major Prop 2½ overrides.
My opponent announced his candidacy saying, "I've been Frank's treasurer for a number of years, and I've gotten to know him and learn about the position a little bit."
Describe the other issues that define your campaign platform:
There is a long list of things I want to do to help Brookline meet its challenges of growth, public transportation, school pressure, and affordability. I will do everything I can to keep Massachusetts making progress in essential areas like health care affordability and access, criminal justice reform, and equity in funding for public schools. I will fight tooth and nail against the federal assault on immigrant families, LGBTQ rights, civil rights, and civil liberties. And I will be ready to fight post-Janus attacks on public employee unions as well as what I fear will be a Supreme Court assault on reproductive rights and gun safety.
What accomplishments in your past would you cite as evidence you can handle this job?
Please see my answer above re: Experience (in the answer about differences between me and my opponent). Briefly: My professional career of more than 30 years has been in public policy working to have real impact on improving people's lives. My experience as a legislative aide in Congress, my policy and budget work on the School Committee, my long relationships with Brookline leaders and state legislators as part of my School Committee work, and my knowledge of the legislative process all prepare me to hit the ground running for Brookline on Beacon Hill.
The best advice ever shared with me was ...
Don't just make a living. Make a difference.
What else would you like voters to know about yourself and your positions?
I am running for State Rep because I feel compelled to do something about what's happening in this country. The State Legislature is where we must protect policy gains that we've made and to keep moving forward, but the MA House of Representatives needs to change in order to do that. It needs more women to make it a more responsive, collaborative, and effective body. It needs more Reps with diverse backgrounds, experience, and perspectives. It needs Reps with the courage to do what's right and not just what they're told. I hope to have Brookline's vote to be part of that change.
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Check out her opponent Tommy Vitolo's answers.
Photo Courtesy Rebecca Stone. Credit: Aynsley Floyd.