Where Do They Stand? A Look at the Selectmen Candidates
Where do the candidates stand on the issues?
With Election Day on Tuesday, we're taking one last look at where the candidates stand on the big issues.
Last week, Patch issued a questionare to the candidates, hoping to give voters another chance to decide which potential Selectmen best represent their views.
(Editor's note: Patrick Goodman chose not to participate in this questionare. Along with the other candidates, Goodman was profiled by Patch last month. For more on the candidates, click here.)
Candidates were asked not to exceed 200 words with their answers. While some questions overlap in content, some candidates merged questions into one. Each candidate is listed in alphabetical order by last name.
This is where they stand...
...On The Beacon Shovel Shops Project:
I support the Shovel Works project, and am excited to see construction fencing going up at the site.
It took a lot of effort to get to this point. Several years ago we were in the middle of a fight to preserve those buildings, and we were spending time and money on what would have been a protracted legal battle with the former owners, who planned a much larger project which included destruction of many of the historic structures. The costs of that legal battle would have been significant, and we may have ultimately lost. The Friends of the Shovel Works proposed an alternative, the Town worked to make it a reality, and Town Meeting voters overwhelmingly supported a partnership with Beacon Communities. We will now have a lower density project in buildings which will be forever preserved.
Our agreement with Beacon includes strong financial protections for our community. The town's contribution to the project is a fixed amount, and cannot legally exceed what was voted at town meeting. Even if Beacon's costs increase, our contribution will not change. Beacon is responsible for the timely construction of the project, and our agreement with them includes monitoring of the construction process.
The benefits afforded via Shovel Shop are clear: town-wide sewer system, including a 55,000 gallon wastewater treatment plant along with a state grant for the downtown revitalization.
The potential detriments of Shovel Shop, however, are not immediately apparent. The project presents the potential for hefty financial burdens and will inevitably result in additional taxes to a town that although showing signs of financial recovery, is still recovering. Detailed and articulate construction timetables are needed so as to mitigate the town’s liability and minimize financial exposure.
I’m excited for the commencement of this project. It is often forgotten that the initial proposed project was for 60 more units and no preservation of the historic buildings. Having seen the Wilbur School project, in Sharon, another Beacon project with historic value, I have confident that this development and the units themselves are going to be first class. Also, this project is the catalyst for the first sewer district in the history of the town.
..on Downtown Revitalization.
I am thrilled that we have the opportunity to make improvements to North Easton Village as part of the Shovel Works Project. We will be able to address a critical need for wastewater treatment in the area of Easton with the highest level of septic system failure, upgrade the Main Street area, and help to preserve a large parcel of open space which will be managed and maintained by the Trustees of Reservations.
We have applied for and received $3 million in grants for the North Easton Village revitalization, which is an incredible achievement for a community of our size. We've been so successful in the grant process in part because this project combines so many elements the State is looking for in grant proposals, including wastewater treatment, infrastructure improvements, historic and open space preservation, and housing. I am proud of what we have been able to accomplish, and look forward to the project moving forward.
See above answer regarding the Shovel Shop project, a component of Easton's "Downtown Revitalization"
More than any other topic, I hear from people who are excited about downtown improvements. With the Beacon project, the Governor Ames estate, the sewer district and the streetscape improvements, there will be a great transformation of that area. We should encourage businesses to invest in the downtown and I believe we will be thrilled with the results.
..on the South Coast Rail.
I do not support the South Coast Rail Project. I firmly believe that the State does not have the financial resources for this project, and should focus on upgrades and improvements to existing services before service expansion.
I am very concerned about the impact on Easton’s public safety departments, water supply, natural resources, historic structures, and neighborhoods. In addition, I feel that the proposed downtown station, which does not include any parking, could put an additional strain on our public safety departments and impact town residents and businesses as riders park on already narrow streets.
Even though I do not support the train, I feel that it is critically important to make sure that we are at the table representing the concerns of the residents of this community. Our planning department has worked with town boards and committees to develop a comprehensive list of mitigation which we will continue to advocate for at the state level.
I do not support the commuter rail project and would advocate against the
construction of the rail through Easton. I would, however, mitigate the impact of the train to local homeowners should it ultimately make its way through town. Specifically, I’d ensure (1) homeowners are adequately compensated for any resulting loss in intrinsic home value, (2) soundproofing barriers are utilized while (3) safety remains the utmost priority. Lastly, resulting traffic from the train station could overwhelm the area. Additional research needs to be conducted to determine what steps would, hypothetically, need to occur in order to mitigate congestion.
I hope it never comes. I think it will have negative impact that far exceeds the positive. Many neighborhoods are impacted and traffic will be further congested. That being said, it is largely out of our control. We have made a decision to work for mitigation measures and avoid a resource draining fight. Our planning department has done a significant amount of work on this and we should support them in that effort.
….On the Four Town Crossroads Veterans District.
We originally regionalized Veterans’ Services with Norton almost two years ago, and several months ago voted to combine the district with Mansfield and Foxboro. I supported the establishment of the new district because it provides more staffing, with three agents proposed for the four communities, and assures that there is clerical support which allows the agents more time to work directly with veterans. It is important that we provide the best service possible, particularly as the number of veterans increase with the return of active duty forces from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Massachusetts leads the country in providing services for veterans, in part because it is the only state which legally requires every town with a population over 12,000 to have a full time veteran’s agent. This means that a city of 60,000 with many veterans must have a full time veteran's agent, and a community of 13,000 with very few veterans must also have a full time agent. Recognizing this, the law allows communities to join together and regionalize Veterans’ Services. The towns develop a regionalization plan, which must approved by the State. Our plan was approved, and will be re-evaluated annually, both at the state and local level.
A substantial void was left when former Easton Veteran's Agent Steve Nolan retired. Rather than replacing Nolan, Easton joined Mansfield, Foxboro, and Norton in the Crossroads Veterans Services District (CVSD). These four towns have only two agents representing 100 percent of their collective interests. Joining CVSD, however, did not yield any financial savings to Easton. It adversely affected the agent-veteran relationship of Easton's servicemen as agents now have less time to spend with each veteran. I intend to champion the initiative to bring back a dedicated Veterans’ Agent to Easton.
I believe it is working and will continue to work. Sometimes, as a selectman, you are faced with a difficult decision that you know will make some people unhappy. Sometimes, you know and respect those people who will be unhappy. I listened to as many people as were willing to talk about the issue, sought out some veterans for their side of the story and made a thoughtful decision. I’ll stand by it. If I’m proven to be wrong, I’ll admit I was wrong and try to improve the situation. The fact that this issue has been politicized because of an election is disappointing.
...On Easton's handling of the down economy.
We have weathered the recession better than many towns. Like every community, we have seen significant decreases in local aid for the past several years, which has resulted in cuts to every department. Unfortunately, in difficult times like these, you can only reduce small departments so much before there is nowhere to go, which necessitates making cuts in larger departments like fire, police and DPW.
Our cuts were not as severe as they could have been if we had not made the decision, after the 2006 override, to place a large chunk of that money into the town's rainy day fund. I advocated strongly for that approach, and we were able to draw from those funds to maintain services and limit staff reductions.
We have worked cooperatively with the town’s unions, which generated savings in health care costs. We have been able to maintain our bond rating, which keeps borrowing costs low, and we have continued to invest in capital items to maintain our equipment and infrastructure. Fortunately, this year’s revenue outlook has improved slightly, and we plan to increase public safety staffing, and focus on increasing our rainy day fund. We need to be prepared for the future.
I’m a trial attorney by trade and constantly run into police department personnel in court. Like their counterparts in the fire department, the police are under-staffed. This is what spawned my interest in trying to get involved to help the community. Based on the national average benchmark and Easton’s safety profile, an increase in staffing levels for both departments is well within reason.
Although our economy was hit during the recession, Easton’s stabilization funds
enabled the town to mitigate loses. Despite the slight uptick in the economy, we need to bolster our reserves so as to ensure Easton’s future financial stability.
This can be done, in part, via (1) addressing potential Shovel Shop financial pitfalls prior to the project’s commencement. (2) Speaking directly with our police and fire department personnel to determine what steps are necessary to rectify dispatcher issues that currently plague both departments and drain resources. (3) Improving the Stonehill-Easton relationship. The college necessitates approximately $70K p/year in Easton resources. The Norton Wheaton relationship paints a very different picture of what an appropriate school-town relationship should emulate and is what I would strive for as selectman.
I think we have handled the recession as well as any town. Due to strategic planning and conservative policies with stabilization and reserves, we were able to emerge in a position that allows us to add back lost positions quickly. That process started this year and will continue next year. We should continue this fiscally responsible approach, so that we will be able to weather the next storm.
...On efforts to put emergency officials back on the street.
Increased staffing in the Police and Fire Departments absolutely has to be our first priority in the upcoming budget. Those departments clearly have a need for more personnel, and the Town Administrator has submitted a budget that restores recent police and fire department cuts. We need to decrease our reliance on mutual aid, and make sure we have more police officers and firefighters on the streets. In addition to adding staff, the town has also hired additional civilian dispatchers in the police department, which will allow more police officers to be out in the community.
We do have to remember that, during this recession, every department has faced cuts. As the budget picture improves, we need to focus first on police and fire, but other departments also need increased staffing. If the DPW can't clear the roads after a storm, police and fire can't get through. If the Council on Aging doesn't have the funding to provide seniors with rides to doctors’ appointments, they may require more emergency services. It is important that we understands how these departments are interconnected, and how cuts in one area can have significant impacts on another.
See the above response regarding Easton's handling of the down economy.
The restoration of public safety cuts began in this year’s budget as we added a firefighter position. That continues to be a priority in next year’s budget by adding two firefighters and a police position. Also, we have continued to make strides toward a central dispatch for both fire and police. We are committed to restoring those positions both by making them a budget priority and being creative.
..On why Easton residents should vote for them.
I believe I have shown that I am an effective leader who is willing to work hard for Easton. I am passionate about serving our community, both locally and at the state level, and I really love what I do. I have shown a strong commitment to maintaining a culture of respect in town government. During these politically turbulent times, Easton has not had the destructive discord that has stalled progress in other communities. We are able to get so much more done, and I’m proud to have played a big part in developing that culture.
I am also willing to take risks and make difficult choices. Someone once told me that the way to get re-elected is to do nothing controversial, ever. It is easy to say no, and avoid controversy. It is much harder to say yes, to support creativity and new ideas. I have supported initiatives that I think will improve our community and town government. I know that some of those votes have made people unhappy. That’s part of the job, and you have to be willing to take those risks if you want to be a leader.
Although this is my first political campaign, I run a small law practice in Bristol County and hold a number of elected and appointed positions throughout the community: on the Board of Directors for the Bristol County Bar Association; appointed council member, small firm section, of the Massachusetts Bar Association; Elected executive member of the Bristol County Bar Advocate program;
My wife, Johnna, and I moved to Easton because of its tremendous reputation, location, and school system. This is where we’ll be raising our family. We’re invested in the town’s future. That said, I have no doubt there will be many difficult decisions while serving the town. If the position weren’t a challenge, I wouldn’t be interested.
But whenever attempting to balance an individual’s concerns while maintaining the town’s budget I will always employ a utilitarian perspective and cast my vote in a manner I feel is truly representative of the town’s collective viewpoint. Realizing there will inevitably be individuals that do not share my opinion, I will always keep an open mind and welcome discussion with individuals, both selectmen and Easton residents, whose opinions differ from my own.
I hope that in the last year, I have shown that I am willing to do the work necessary, am able to work well with the current board and town employees and have the best interests of the town at heart. I got involved with the Finance Committee a few years ago because I have three children starting to go through the schools, a business in town and have been the beneficiary of many of the great things the town has to offer. I’ve been here since I was about 13 years old and made a decision to raise my family here. I’m invested in what happens throughout town. I’ve been on the board of the Easton Chamber of Commerce, the Easton YMCA, a corporator at North Easton Savings Bank and involved in many other civic groups. But, ultimately, I should be judged on my performance in the last year.