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Two square off for vacant West Tisbury selectman seat
Two well-known candidates seek to fill a seat on the three-member West Tisbury board of selectmen occupied for the past 30 years by selectman John Early, who decided not to seek an 11th term.
1. What moves you to run for selectman? What's on your agenda for the town?
Dianne E. Powers
Ms. Powers: I have a deep affection for the Town of West Tisbury and a desire to help us move forward through inevitable growth and change without losing the quality of life that drew many of us to this community in the first place. My experiences have helped me develop skills that will be beneficial to the Town.
Ms. Riggs: I believe in a democratic society where individual citizens can make a difference. That's why I'm running for West Tisbury selectman.
Secrecy has no place in a democratic society. As selectman, I will fight to keep our town's affairs open and transparent.
As selectman, I will work closely with my colleagues. The selectmen's two primary jobs are to control the Town Meeting warrant and make key appointments to non-elective positions, including police chief, fire chief, Personnel Board, and others. As selectman, I will work to improve communications between the selectmen, town bodies, and townspeople, and will do all I can to bring a renewed sense of unity to our town.
2. Since independent consultants have determined that West Tisbury will be best served financially by remaining in the Up-Island school region, withdrawal seems off the table. However, with Chilmark School under-populated and West Tisbury School numbers declining, common sense says consolidate. Keeping the Chilmark school open may cost the district as much as $500,000 more than might be needed to serve the children of all three towns. How do you propose to approach this difficult situation, which appears to put West Tisbury at a financial disadvantage?
Ms. Powers: The question of West Tisbury's continued participation in the Up Island School District is very much still on the table, and on the warrant. As a forming member of this district I have struggled with this issue. While I would still argue the educational strength of the original intention of the district, the information prepared and distributed by the Finance Committee has made me realize that at the very least, we must send a strong message to the District Committee and participating Towns that there need to be changes. This vote does not mean automatic withdrawal; a second vote must take place unless Chilmark and Aquinnah vote to allow us to opt out.
Ms. Riggs: While one consultant suggests that West Tisbury should remain in the Up Island Regional School District, another consultant disagrees. The West Tisbury Finance Committee (FinCom) has sponsored an article on the Town Meeting warrant recommending that West Tisbury withdraw from the district. FinCom members are experienced and dedicated. They have studied the issue for almost 10 years from every possible angle. I support their findings. The voters, including myself, will decide.
3. How should West Tisbury solve its town hall problem? Do you favor the recommendation of the space needs committee to renovate the town hall or building a new town hall on either the present site or the town-owned site at Lambert's Cove and State roads, or another option?
Ms. Powers: I am encouraged by the Space Needs Committee report as it affords us the option to renovate the existing town hall. That building is and has been for many years the center of this community.
Ms. Riggs: With a mandate from the voters, the West Tisbury selectmen appointed a Space Needs Committee consisting of architects, planners, financiers, and administrators, headed by an individual with broad experience in negotiating and group dynamics. The committee hammered out a plan to preserve our present Town Hall, and provide for a future police station and library expansion. I am running on a platform to reduce our town's budget, and applaud the committee's strategy for accommodating our needs without raising our taxes. Again, approval of the Space Needs Committee's recommendations is up to the voters.
4. Do you agree that town hall is the first priority for town space needs? What is your view of the order and timing for all the future capital projects the town faces?
Ms. Powers: Yes, the town hall is the first priority for space needs. Beyond that, I agree with the well thought out progression recommended by the Space Needs Committee and encourage all voters to read that report prior to the town meeting.
Ms. Riggs: The Capital Improvements Planning Committee was recently reactivated to guide financing for present and future capital improvements. The committee is comprised of experienced individuals who have spent many, many hours on planning for town projects. I fully support their work.