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Incumbents face challengers in Oak Bluffs selectmen's race
Oak Bluffs voters go to the polls next Thursday to elect town officers. Among the races voters will be asked to decide is a four-way contest for two seats on the five-member board of selectmen.
1. Why are you running for selectman, and why do you think you are the best candidate.
Roger Wey: I am running for selectman because I deeply care about the town in which I have raised seven children. I have been elected selectmen for six terms and feel that I can continue to serve the citizens of Oak Bluffs effectively. During my tenure I have gained experience that will be invaluable in addressing the upcoming needs of our community.
2. What are some of your goals?
Mr. Wey: My main goals are to continue to balance our budget without an override, to provide a new facility for our police department, upgrade our town hall building, protect our open space and parklands, complete our addition to the senior center, develop long-term solutions to the intersection at the blinking light on the Vineyard Haven-Edgartown Road and encourage the construction of more affordable housing for Oak Bluffs citizens. Additionally, I support the construction of the new hospital on the current site of the Martha's Vineyard Hospital.
Mr. Coogan: We have a lot of real estate issues that need to be cleaned up. Many of them are intertwined. We need to upgrade our town hall, public safety facilities and move on with some of our unused public buildings. The old town hall and library need to be used or put back on the tax roles. We need to retain our highly skilled professional staff that works in our town. We've come a long way in the last few years and I hope to continue to be an integral part of a town that listens and acts in a positive way.
Mr. Starks: As a selectman, I would work to continue balancing the budget and avoid overrides. I would work with the business owners on a plan to spruce up the downtown area without sacrificing the charm. I would encourage better attendance at town meetings and elections so that the decisions reflect the opinions of a larger number of citizens. We need a new town hall for the convenience of our citizens and to give the employees a better work space as well as more meaningful programs for the senior citizens.
Ms. Todd: My primary goal is to work with the board in managing the growth of our community by ensuring thoughtful development of the town, taking into account the economic prosperity and aesthetic appeal of the downtown area and its surrounding neighborhoods. As a member of the zoning board of appeals I know that we can enhance this effort by improving our zoning bylaws and architectural review so that we can better manage our commercial growth for the benefit of the entire community.
3. Oak Bluffs continues to struggle with a tight budget and growing tax burden. Please outline some of your solutions to deal with this issue.
Mr. Wey: We must continue to build on our financial team, led by the financial director, Paul Manzi. All departments must work as a team with our finance committee. We must continue to use our revenues wisely, balancing and separating desires from needs. Over the last three years we have balanced the budget without the need of an override. As selectmen, we have the obligation to be good stewards of the taxpayers' money, spending wisely while maintaining the high level of education, public safety, and human services that we have grown to expect from our local government.
Mr. Coogan: I think this is a very tough question to answer. We have a very sound team in place to help us balance our budget. Paul Manzi and Casey Sharpe do a great job working with a tireless finance committee to account for every penny. Our department heads have shaved their budgets each year to help us out. However, we have a town that continues to grow and we will continue to search for some other revenue sources. The ferry fees have been a welcome relief to help us out with supporting our needs around the harbor and with public safety. The Community Preservation Act will give us additional revenues to keep the things we love in and about our town. Many towns in the Commonwealth are finding this to be a tough problem to tackle. Additional monies that will contribute significant amounts of revenue are hard to find locally. I think we are all looking for creative solutions to this situation.
Mr. Starks: I don't think Oak Bluffs is struggling with tight budgets and tax burdens any more than any other town in the commonwealth. These are financially difficult times, the population on the Island is growing, and more services are demanded by more people. The solution is to spend every penny wisely; to explore the availability of grants like the one that provided our patrol boat and encourage our citizens to volunteer their time and talents.
Ms. Todd: It is an unfortunate fact that taxes keep going up. This is something we must accept but also something we must strive to control. There is no hard and fast solution. The first and most important thing is to make sure that our citizens are getting the best quality of services with the tax dollars they pay. When we are satisfied with the service, the price is more acceptable. Secondly, we must always revisit our service list to make sure that we are getting what we need; nothing more and nothing less.