Five run for two seats in Oak Bluffs
Campaign signs are sprouting faster than spring flowers in Oak Bluffs. The April 16 election features a five-way race for two seats on the board of selectmen, a three-way race for one school committee seat, and a two-way contest for town moderator.
Incumbent Greg Coogan is seeking reelection to a 3-year term on the five-member board of selectmen. Incumbent selectman Roger Wey chose not to seek an eighth term. There are four challengers after the two jobs.
Gail Barmakian is an attorney who currently sits on the zoning board of appeals. Kathleen Burton is a real estate professional and political newcomer. Herbert Combra Jr. is a former selectman and past highway superintendent. David Wessling is a former traffic planner for the Martha's Vineyard Commission (MVC).
The Martha's Vineyard Times asked each candidate to respond to two questions in writing.
Question 1: Against the backdrop of a difficult economic climate, selectmen have proposed a $24.1 million town budget that includes a reduction in the highway department budget, but increases in the education and the police department budgets, and salary increases for town employees. Why should taxpayers have confidence in this spending plan, and how would you reduce the burden on taxpayers going forward?
Photo by Steve Myrick
Ms. Barmakian: I have a measure of confidence in the proposed budget knowing that the financial advisory committee has worked tirelessly with department heads, the town administrator, finance director, and selectmen to achieve a balanced budget, sparing the town from an override.
Financial problems facing all towns today are complex and pervasive. A cost/benefit approach is imperative, evaluating the costs of services, finding ways to provide them more efficiently without compromising quality, and examining regionalization or privatization of some, as long as the town maintains sufficient control and has the right to opt out.
Ways to reduce the burden on the taxpayer include working collaboratively with department heads and the financial advisory committee; consistently and periodically reviewing the budget; keeping a close eye at the federal and state level to take advantage of funding for infrastructure, environmental preservation, support for seniors and education; working with the schools and legislators to identify alternatives to the property tax for funding education, one of the most important functions of any community; outreach to experienced and longstanding members of the community; reducing operating costs in inventive ways; and creatively developing additional sources of revenue. Working together, I am optimistic we can weather this storm.