DiOrio, Ross, von Steiger contest two Oak Bluffs posts
Oak Bluffs voters will decide a three-way race for two seats on the five-member board of selectmen when they go to the polls on Thursday, April 10. Incumbents Ron DiOrio and Duncan Ross will attempt to retain their seats in the face of a challenge from Hans von Steiger.
The polls will be open at the Oak Bluffs library meeting room from 10 am to 7 pm. The top two vote getters will win three-year terms.
Ron DiOrio, manager of Craftworks on Circuit Avenue, won a special election in August 2006 to fill the unexpired term of former selectman Michael Dutton. He has played an active role in reshaping employee pay scales and job classifications reflected in the 2009 fiscal year budget, and currently serves as the chief negotiator for the town in collective bargaining with union employees.
Mr. DiOrio is president of the Island chapter of Habitat for Humanity and is chairman of the Oak Bluffs affordable housing committee.
Duncan Ross retired from the Martha's Vineyard High School after a 31-year teaching career that included directing a number of school theater productions.
Mr. Ross has served on the finance and advisory committee, the historical commission, the conservation commission, and the state teachers' association board of directors. He has also been town moderator and water district moderator. He is seeking a second term on the board of selectmen.
Hans von Steiger, a retired executive who spent much of his professional life working for Combustion Engineering, Inc., a Connecticut firm that built and operated waste-to-energy plants, currently serves on the Oak Bluffs wastewater commission. He is treasurer of the Friends of Oak Bluffs Council on Aging, and a member of the Martha's Vineyard chapter of Rotary International. He is seeking his first term on the board of selectmen.
1. Why are you running for selectman, and why do you think you are the best candidate?
Mr. DiOrio: Oak Bluffs enjoys a unique combination of cultural, architectural, economic, and political diversity that is the envy of other communities throughout the Commonwealth. I love Oak Bluffs for our parks, beaches, galleries, restaurants and, most importantly, our people. We are the stewards of a historic treasure and we have to insure that we are protecting this treasure. We have to enable our people to carry forward that stewardship by insuring that they can continue to afford to live here, are involved in the planning of our future, and have opportunities for their children to own their own homes and assume the continued responsibility for our future.
Mr. Ross: I am running because I wish to continue to give something back to the town of Oak Bluffs, which has been very good to me for forty-two years. As a candidate for reelection I want to continue to work on projects including alternative income for the town other than taxation, maintaining Sengekontacket Pond's water quality to a standard for shell fishing, etc.
What sets me apart from the other two candidates is my years of experience and service on Oak Bluffs committees and positions, which gives me a good first-hand knowledge of how the town runs and what its needs are.
Mr. von Steiger: Last month we were informed at a Selectman's meeting that the town of Oak Bluffs faces a potential shortfall in revenues of almost $2 million. The reasons given were higher than anticipated costs and shrinking revenues. The slide showing revenues showed a negative slope which could have been interpreted that our revenues are decreasing. This is not the case. What is happening is that the growth in revenues is not as high as in previous years. The fact that electric rates, the cost of heating fuels, and insurance rates have been increasing at rates substantially above the average rate of inflation for the last three or more years is not new news to the residents of Oak Bluffs. The town's funding retirement benefits but not funding insurance benefits for retirees is at best poor financial management.
2. What are some of your goals and how would you accomplish them?
Mr. DiOrio: We need a board of selectman that acts as a board serving the best interest of the town and gives clear direction to the town administrator and will hold him accountable for implementing the policies of the town. It is critical to have transparency in all of our actions and to guarantee that all people are treated fairly and equitably.
Mr. Ross: Alternative income for the town is paramount. This could include more cruise ships during the season with a mind towards a balance that isn't excessive. We are talking about parking stickers for commuters and other parking solutions that could generate income for the town. Along with events that are good for the businesses in town, I want to see more events that are purely for the enjoyment of the people. I have been working on the creation of a town picnic where Oak Bluffs could celebrate this wonderful town.
Mr. von Steiger: Good stewardship of our town's finances requires detailed budgets that can be easily tracked and permit measurement of performance on a regular basis. It requires at least monthly review by town management of each of the department budgets with department managers. It also requires a monthly presentation of the status of the town budget, income, and expenditures by department, at an open selectman's meeting. Deviations in revenues and expenses from projections should be defined and explained.
3. Oak Bluffs continues to struggle with a tight budget and growing tax burden. Voters will be asked to approve approximately $650,000 in proposition 2.5 overrides at the polls. Please outline some of your solutions to deal with this issue.
Mr. DiOrio: We need to use our current resources as thoughtfully as possible. Every budget item needs to be examined and explained and have the support of taxpayers. Creating new sources of revenue, such as the renovation of the old library and the creation of Bradley Square, which will generate 75,000 dollars in new revenue, is of equal importance to the financial well being of our town. I take great pride in spearheading both of these projects.
For the first time in our history we enjoy an AA- bond rating and we need to keep it there. Oak Bluffs has many non-profits that do not pay taxes to the town. In other communities across this country, non-profits, such as hospitals, make payments to towns in lieu of taxes. Massachusetts General Hospital pays the city of Boston $1.5 million annually. The town needs to pursue these kinds of payments. Only then will our tax burden be truly fair.
Mr. Ross: There is room for some reorganization of staff that would be helpful and more efficient. We have not had an override for six years and the rate of inflation has not remained at or below 2.5 percent so it is inevitable that eventually there will be a crunch like the one we are facing this year. The finance and advisory committee tells us that if all the Proposition 2.5 questions pass this will add approximately $205 to the average $600,000 dollar home. While this isn't a large burden for a lot of people, it certainly is for several, especially the elderly and those on a fixed income. We need to find ways to help these people so that they can afford to stay in their own homes. We need to look at many more alternatives to provide energy. If we fail to accomplish these things the decisions that we will have to make and the consequences will not be pleasant.
Mr. Von Steiger: To achieve these goals will require openness and cooperation on the part of all department managers and town employees. With the declining rate of revenue increases we will need to limit discretionary spending. We will need to accept the fact that the building boom is coming to an end, and we will need to reduce and carefully monitor and control our expenditures. Our financial planning should not be only one year out but should also look at our future needs. We should cease to be reactive in our planning and administration, but proactive. We have a participative government that should operate in an open manner with full disclosure by our town management and all town departments. Our town meetings and our open selectman meetings provide a means for people to air their opinions, ideas, and concerns. As a selectman I would value the comments and suggestions of the residents of Oak Bluffs.
Also on April 10, four candidates will vie for three seats on the finance and advisory board. Seeking reelection to a three-year term are incumbents Joseph Alosso and Michael Perry, while Mac Starks and Mr. von Steiger will challenge for the position. Mr. von Steiger said if elected as a selectman he would forego a seat on the finance and advisory committee.
Two candidates will contest one open seat on the Park Commission. Bill McGrath and Nancy Phillips will compete for the 3-year term. Gail Barmakian originally submitted nomination papers for the Park Commission contest, but has since withdrawn from the race.
All other candidates for elective office are running unopposed.