"This is an historic time of great crises, but it is also exhilarating - with great opportunities, if we can seize them together." -Darcyll Dale
Love where you live:
Environmental concerns revolving around rampant, unchecked, unplanned growth in the 4th Essex District challenges our ability to protect and mediate climate disruption exacerbated by human activity such as de-forestation, filling in marshes, blasting, and other practices that degrade our environment. Carefully controlled -and targeted- growth and development is part of the solution. Developers should be encouraged to re-use, re-purpose, and recycle properties that are already clear-cut with minimal site development.
Water Planning, Infrastructure, and Conservation:
How will the 4th Essex manage its water resources? The Ipswich River is in the top 10 most endangered rivers in the United States. Some of the Towns in the 4th Essex District will be looking to the North Coastal Basin located in the Chebacco Lake region of Hamilton and Manchester-by-the-Sea. Towns are exploring the North Coastal Basin to relieve some of the burden on the Ipswich River, so there will be enough water for all. There are competing pressures from developers who want to blast the Chebacco Lake aquifer/recharge areas for two years in order to build roughly 60 ultra-luxury senior housing units in pristine forestland. We must find ways to discourage that kind of flagrant, dangerous development; there are alternatives for growth and development in areas that are ripe for re-development, re-purposing, and re-imagining.
The Towns of the 4th Essex District rely mainly on property taxes to fund our public schools, but Towns are rapidly reaching their levy limits under Proposition 2-1/2. This is not a sustainable way to fund education; we need to work together with State and Federal governments to re-work and re-imagine funding formulas so that property taxes are no longer the main source for our public schools. I am not a fan of Charter Schools, and I am not keen on privatization of "public" education at the primary, secondary, and higher education levels. Higher educational organizations supported by the public have an obligation to the public to provide an affordable, excellent education and should not be run as a privatized business.
Energy systems and climate mitigation will be our newest, and most important initiatives as we continue to wind down on the fossil fuel legacy systems. We must continue to convert solar and wind (and other renewable systems) as rapidly as possible. New construction should adhere to best practices, and those at the State level should provide a roadmap with guardrails for all new construction - we must provide State guidelines for future construction standards to reflect our new reality.
In Hamilton, we have taken the lead on re-thinking regionalization agreements; we have opted for shorter-term, and more flexible agreements with Towns both within and without the 4th Essex District area. Some examples are the Human Resource Departments that are shared between several Towns where costs are distributed and services are enhanced. We have worked up similar agreements regarding the Building Commissioner, IT Department-sharing, Board of Health, and we are looking for other areas to build cooperation such as sharing Local 911 Dispatch services for those Towns in the 4th Essex District who are without those services. Hamilton has a state of the art 911 Dispatch Center that can serve up to 4 more Towns. Towns can keep their dispatchers in-house locally; these Dispatchers know their Towns and the people who live there.
Working together to make progress:
Finally, I would like to say a word about how we can work together to make progress for the 4th Essex District: I would seek out like-minded legislators who would be willing to collaborate, learn, and listen together to form a plan of action with concrete steps - even baby steps - so that we can form a base of support for these changes.
I want to bring more revenue, resources, and other funding mechanisms and initiatives to the 4th Essex District while continuing the tradition of excellent and robust Constituent Services. Massachusetts receives roughly 81 cents back in grants and services for every dollar we send in to the Federal Treasury; I would like to see that increased. I want more of our tax dollars to come back to us so we can put it to work for the 4th Essex District. Let us not leave any money on the table.
Initiated and organized September Workshop/Retreat for Selectboard members focusing on team-building, and learning how to spot and root out unconscious bias in our every-day lives. Being cognizant of how words and actions are perceived is the first step in recognizing and mediating one's own internal biases.
Organized and ran a meeting with our Senator Bruce Tarr, Representative Brad Hill, Mr William Joyce, the Executive Director of the MA Architectural Access Board and other Town leaders to address our non-compliance regarding a law called the Americans with Disability Act (ADA). Our Hamilton Town Hall has zero ADA access, and it meets no safety, fire, building, sanitation, electric, plumbing, or HVAC codes. This is a civil rights and human rights issue, and I am working with the State to find more revenue/grants to move Hamilton to 100% compliance with the law.
Worked collaboratively with Selectboard colleagues voting 5-0 to institute a "living document" that reflects the ease of changes or amendments to our Human Rights policy. Everyone is entitled to their human rights, regardless of how you feel about people personally. People will have different opinions; it is one's personal right to have feelings about other people, but all people are worthy of their human rights and human dignity.
Assisted a local family with a complicated tax issue that required 2 Home Rule Petitions to be addressed by our State Legislators. The 2-step process has taken years to bring to this point. I have been persistent in my advocacy working with Rep Brad Hill and Sen Bruce Tarr, and we look forward to a final resolution for that family in 2022.
Worked with colleagues and the Town Manager to manage our Covid response and to the spending of CARES ACT funds in ways that benefitted the Town. We implemented policies that beefed up our Public Health Department to keep our citizens safe and healthy.
I initiated the replacement of a critical shut-off valve that was located in the Grove that had the potential to leak septic waters into our post-treated water. With Covid in the septic waters, I sounded the alarm. The valve is to be replaced this fall using the CARES ACT funding.
Encouraged and initiated entrepreneurial approaches toward hybrid regionalization with towns both within and without the 4th Essex District. Shared services are flexible and short-term, allowing for Towns to pivot when the incentives dry up or if agreements are no longer beneficial. This is a good way to manage negotiations every so many years.
I initiated and continue to support the exploration of having a local Hamilton Fire Department Ambulance unit that would give better response times than we currently have with the private ambulance company. Public Safety Head and Fire Chief, Ray Brunet, has initiated a fact-finding team to analyze and explore the process.
While on the Finance and Advisory Committee over 2 appointments, I was instrumental in analyzing our fee structures for the Building Department permitting process. I recommended changes that would put Hamilton on par with our counterparts, leading to an increase in revenues for that department.
I supported the Composting Program under the leadership of Gretel Clark. This is the first such program in the State, employing forward-thinking measures that reflect the values of the community.
We, as a Board, are now engaged in the Master Planning process which will chart our pathway into the future. This comprehensive planning measure has the potential to give us a glimpse into the future of our Town and all the options available to us.
Executive policies adopted during my tenure on the Selectboard:
Policy establishing the Human Rights Commission
Organics Ban Policy
Buy Recycled Policy
Established the Capital Committee
Financial Policies formed/adopted during my tenure on the FinCom:
Disbursements - August 6, 2018
Revenue Turnover - August 6, 2018
Travel Reinbursernent - August 6, 2018
Capital Planning - October 22, 2018
Financial Reserves - October 22, 2018