Glenn Hearn plans changes
Glenn Hearn, a selectmen in West Tisbury in his second term, is running for assessor against Jonathan Revere and incumbent Michael Colaneri. Mr. Hearn, 68, is also West Tisbury's elected representative to the Land Bank, a trustee of the Agricultural Society, and a director of the F.A.R.M. Institute.
A graduate of Tisbury High School, Mr. Hearn holds a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and a master's in education from the University of Massachusetts, Lowell. He worked in industry, where he specialized in computer applications and became an instructor, and for five years was a professor at Northeastern.
Leaving the Vineyard after high school, Mr. Hearn continued to spend summers here until moving to the Island year-round in 1993. On his return, he started substituting in the Vineyard schools, first as a shop, math, and computer teacher at the Tisbury School and then for six years as a tutor in the math lab at the high school.
Of his public service, Mr. Hearn says, "I really enjoy working for the people, giving back to the town, serving the people."
In the last few months, prompted mostly by the controversy that has arisen surrounding the William Graham case before the Massachusetts Appellate Tax Board (ATB), Mr. Hearn has been a strong critic of the assessors. "I became very concerned about the way things are done," he says. "I had asked a few people that they run for assessor, because I thought it was important that we make a change. But then these people that I thought were qualified, for one reason or another, they couldn't do it, so I decided to take out nomination papers."
Mr. Hearn is not sure whether or not he will be affected by the bylaw proposed in a citizens' petition, if it passes, that would prohibit town officials holding more than one of seven offices, including selectman and assessor. Although it is possible that officials already elected will not be covered by the new bylaw, Mr. Hearn comments, "The way it's written is if I'm elected assessor, I would not be selectman. I don't want that to happen, but if it happens, I want to be assessor. My being assessor is more important to this town than being selectman."
Proposals for change
Mr. Hearn told The Times, "I'm very interested to hear what the ATB has to say about the Graham case, but no matter what they have to say, there's a lot of changes that we have to make."
- "We have to make it [the assessors' work] understandable to the people," Mr. Hearn says, explaining that he has done research recently, reading the "Assessors 101" handbook, studying the Vision Appraisal spreadsheets, and developing contacts at the Department of Revenue. He is confident that he can use his teaching experience to explain the process to the public in simple terms.
- Mr. Hearn believes the ATB should be the last resort in disputes between the town and a taxpayer. "They [the assessors] did a terrible job on the mediation with Graham," he says. "I know that for a fact because I was the one that finally instigated the fact that they went to mediation after they had refused it a couple of times." Mr. Hearn also criticizes the way the mediation was cancelled and the lack of public explanation of why it was cancelled.
- The assessors should take responsibility for their bills, he says. In reference negotiating the bills for the defense of the Graham case, Mr. Hearn comments, "We the selectmen had to do that. The assessors didn't come to any of those meetings, they didn't contribute to try to negotiate down those bills, and they knew more about what happened than we did."
- Another Hearn priority is to improve the way the elected assessors deal with the public. While Mr. Hearn concedes that there are some who have had good experiences with the board, he cites some assessors' inappropriate responses quoted to him by angry taxpayers. Mr. Hearn told The Times that he was strongly affected by a line from a letter from a taxpayer, which said, "As citizens and taxpayers of West Tisbury in good standing, we expect more open and respectful treatment from our elected officers."
- In Mr. Hearn's view, the assessors need to communicate better with the selectmen. He says that the selectmen didn't know that the assessors had hired an independent appraiser to assist in the Graham defense and were surprised when the bills began coming in, even though the selectmen are supposed to have authorized the expense. In reference to Mr. Graham's request to negotiate with the selectmen, Mr. Hearn says, "Mr. Graham didn't understand that the assessors have to be involved, [but] I spent three months trying to get the assessors and the selectmen together and just couldn't do it."
- Through an evaluation process, Ellen Hutchinson should be replaced as counsel to the assessors, Mr. Hearn feels. He says that Ms. Hutchinson made serious errors in the financing of the Graham case, violating the uniform procurement law. He also faults her management of the hearings and the consultants: "It wasn't just Graham that contributed to these 36 days. A lot of it was the way the town went about the process."
- Mr. Hearn suggests that the town establish a log book in which the assessors and their employees record their visits to properties and what they found.
- Mr. Hearn would evaluate the contract with Vision Appraisal Technologies and consult with other towns. He notes that Edgartown uses Vision's software but conducts the assessments themselves, using outside consultants only for specific tasks. Mr. Hearn also believes that West Tisbury citizens with real estate skills could be used on a volunteer basis in the revaluation process.
Mr. Hearn closed by saying, "The town now needs somebody as an assessor that has the time to do this, and I have the time to do it and I'm willing to do it. It's an important thing for the town at this time."