Glenn Hearn faces challenger Richard Knabel
The West Tisbury election ballot features a three-way race for a seat on the board of selectmen. But voters who go to the polls from noon to 8 pm on Thursday April 10 will only be asked to choose between two of the candidates.
Jim Powell announced that he was withdrawing from the race too late to have his name removed from the ballot. The Times recently emailed the remaining two candidates and asked each man to provide a brief history and answer a series of questions.
Glenn Hearn challenged a long-time incumbent to win election to the board of selectmen in 2002. Now seeking a third term, he is the incumbent and faces a challenger.
Mr. Hearn is a graduate of the old K-12 Tisbury School. He returned to the Vineyard in 1993 after his retirement from a career as an electrical engineer in the Boston area.
Among his many civic activities, he is an elected member of the Martha's Vineyard Land Bank commission, a trustee of the Agricultural Society and a founding director of the Farm Institute.
Richard Knabel was born and raised in Manhattan. A retired professor of physical science, he moved to the Vineyard permanently in 1999, after spending years as a part-time resident.
Mr. Knabel was the president of Riverkeeper, an environmental organization dedicated to the protection, preservation, and restoration of the Hudson River Estuary. Closer to home he now serves on the West Tisbury Finance Committee, the Dukes County Charter Study Commission and the town energy committee.
Why are you running, and why do you think you are the best candidate?
Mr. Hearn: I am running for re-election for several reasons. I promised change the first time and think there has been positive change since then. I received feedback from several friends and citizens and have been encouraged to continue to serve another term. I plan to continue positive changes wherever possible. I am the best candidate for selectman because of my six years of experience and my accomplishments.
Mr. Knabel: I'm running for selectman for two principal reasons: Three budget cycles with the Finance Committee have alerted me to real fiscal problems not far down the road. I'm concerned that both young and old alike won't be able to afford West Tisbury, unless we as a town set some priorities and stick with them. Second, I think West Tisbury should be a lean operation, but not mean. The atmosphere in town is once again needlessly tense between taxpayers and elected officials because of inadequate communication and a lack of leadership. This shouldn't happen, and with proper leadership it won't. I hope to provide some of that leadership. I believe selectmen should be proactive.
If elected, what are some of your goals and how would you accomplish them?
Mr. Hearn: Since my election we have put in place a strong financial team which includes the Capital Improvements Planning Committee (CIPC), Treasurer, and Accountant and received recommendations from the Space Needs committee. Our last three annual levy increases have been held to 1.7, 2.7, and 2.0 percent while tax rates have been $4.54, $4.38 and $4.09. My goal is to continue this trend by combining this long-term (5-10 years) financial planning with the Space Needs recommendations.
Other goals are raising funds to dredge the Mill Pond; improving our cell phone coverage; gaining more revenue by leasing lots in the light industrial area of the land fill; completing cemetery database management; completing the acquisition possibilities of the Flatlands project; and working with the All Island Selectmen on regional issues such as the combined refuse district.
Mr. Knabel: Some of my goals are: (a) Have a community dialogue about what we want from town government. (b) Review and evaluate the seven town committees, seven boards, and four commissions to see whether this structure serves us well. Currently West Tisbury has 41 elected officials, and the Selectmen make a total of 143 appointments. (c) Better coordinate the five separate entities that currently are responsible for fiscal planning and budget policy. I will go to lots of meetings, do a lot of listening, involve a large number of people, and collaborate with my fellow selectman to reach a consensus about how to proceed.
The town of West Tisbury continues to face increasing costs. Please outline some of your solutions to control municipal costs and restrain the tax burden placed on property owners.
Mr. Hearn: Our challenge is to control spending and provide services. More stabilization funds should be used to spread out large purchases such as has been done for fire equipment.
School spending (60 percent) is our largest budget item. Island towns need to make some significant decisions. We cannot continue to have large increases with declining enrollments. The West Tisbury School has a capacity of 430 students but is only educating around 270. We have to be more efficient and maximize the use of our resources and work with Chilmark to use both schools more effectively.
I am for an excellent, affordable education. We need to begin joint meetings with the board of selectmen, finance and school committees, the administration and the parent representatives now, long before the next budget season.
Other spending can be minimized using CPA funds. It would be reasonable to spend a larger portion of the CPA funding on capital needs of the town.
Mr. Knabel: Property taxes currently make up 83 percent of the town's revenue. That high fraction is not likely to decrease in the near term. Approximately 60 percent of our budget is for education, which is an extremely important function of any town, but in our case is not under the control of selectman. However, selectman must constantly remind the two regional school committees and the superintendent that their budget decisions have a great impact on the taxpayers of West Tisbury. Lastly, we need to review our personnel bylaw and establish priorities for needed capital projects. The timeline for completing these capital projects, under current economic conditions, is probably longer than many people would prefer, but we must keep West Tisbury affordable for everyone, and that has to be a priority.