The purpose of this warrant article is to develop the formal structure and mandate for a community engagement plan for the Town of Brookline. Brookline, like all local governments, has a responsibility to engage its community members in order to effectively carry out the key functions of government, such as crafting and implementing laws, budgets, plans, directives, and strategic visions. Brookline is strongest when its residents work well with government as full partners. A
community engagement plan that is not only meaningful, robust, and effective, but also equitable and inclusive is critical to our growth and sustainability.
An equitable, inclusive community engagement approach to public decisions ensures that everyone, especially those who have been historically left out of these conversations (e.g., low-income people, people of color, recent immigrants, speakers of English as a second language), has a say in the decisions that affect their lives. Inclusive community engagement results in government processes, practices, and decisions that are more responsive to community priorities, avoid many unforeseen consequences, and create relationships that hold local governments accountable. Inclusive community engagement can also lead to decisions that result in a more equitable distribution of resources, like where public transit infrastructure is located or investments in neighborhood parks, schools, or housing. With a greater commitment to intentionally increasing community engagement efforts and specifically equitable community engagement, Brookline will be in a better position to
make better decisions, address social inequities and promote access to resources, services, and programs that help people lead healthier, happier lives.
The proposed Community Engagement Plan includes three components.
1. Guidelines. This bylaw does not attempt to proscribe too closely the exact format of the plan, instead providing latitude to the Select Board and Town employees. As noted in the bylaw, the guidelines are not envisioned to be static but rather a living, breathing document that reflects progress against goals and best practices. Brookline will have many reference resources for the development of community engagement plans, including nationally recognized documents like the National Institutes of Health's Principles of Community Engagement, and locally produced documents like the Metropolitan Area Planning Council's Community Engagement Guide. The guidelines may complement and extend existing bylaws; for example, although currently Bylaw Article 3.21 states that all electronic meeting notices must be posted 48
hours in advance, the Community Engagement Plan could recommend that meeting notices and agendas be posted at least 5 days (or more) in advance.
2. Indicators that will allow for public review of whether the programming that is being enacted to meet the goals of the Community Engagement Plan is successful. The bylaw requires that at minimum those indicators be available for use in the annual budget process, in the performance evaluations of department heads, and in the reappointment reviews of committee chairs.
3. Evaluation of the CEP itself as well as the programming resulting from the CEP. The department head for the Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Community Relations has reviewed this warrant article and affirmed that the department would take the lead in developing the initial community engagement plan as well as the annual review process.