Media highlights from Candidates Night

by beth on November 2, 2017

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Above: The Library drew a crowd to hear what the candidates running for selectman had to say last night. (images cropped from SAM tweet)

Last night, candidates for the Board of Selectmen addressed potential voters at the Southborough Library. The four competitors spoke about themselves and answered questions from the floor.

Southborough Access Media recorded the event. When the video becomes available, I’ll be posting that to the blog. (Today and tomorrow, I’ll also be sharing candidates’ statements to readers.)

In the meantime, Southborough Wicked Local/Metrowest Daily News reporter Jonathon Phelps wrote about candidates’ responses to some of the questions.

Conflict of Interest issues:

Some residents have accused a few Town officials as behaving improperly on conflict of interest issues related to Park Central. Last night, Phelps live tweeted from the event. Here are his tweets on candidates’ positions on handling conflicts:

  • “No conflict of interest and if something would come up I would recuse myself,” Stivers said.
  • Shifrin said he would disclose an “perception” of conflict of interest.
  • Jasinski agrees with Stivers when it comes to conflict of interest. She will recuse herself if anything pops up.
  • Boland said conflict of interest usually arises at a moment and needs to be addressed then.

Phelp’s posted article focused on two issues raised in the Q&A – Flagg Road and the budget:

Flagg Road and Park Central: 

Bantry Road resident Howard Rose asked the candidates if they agree with a previous plan to block access onto Flagg Road from Rte. 9, if 180 apartments are built under the state’s Chapter 40B housing regulations along with 150 market-rate condominiums as part of the Residences at Park Central project.

Shifrin, who serves as the chairman of the Recreation Commission, said selectmen are responsible for the safety of all roads.

“If it is not a priority for the developer to have safety in that area, then the Board of Selectmen have to step in and do whatever they can to provide the safety for not only the people of that development, but for the neighbors and residents as a whole,” he said.

The town needs to be proactive in looking at the safety along that stretch of road, said Jasinski, who serves as the vice chairwoman of the town’s Financial Advisory Committee. Previously in the meeting, she said the road should be widened.

“We know there is going to be a pretty significant impact if that goes through,” she said. “We need to get a working group together and we need to study and look very at the safety because there are a lot of children in that area.”

Boland, a former selectman, said Flagg Road is like many streets in town, narrow and lined with trees.

“We need to slow down,” he said. “We need to look at all of our streets, Lovers Lane, Breakneck Hill, Sears Road and other streets. There are a lot of town roads that are very narrow and get a lot of traffic and we need to look at all of them and try to make them safer.”

Stivers, a Financial Advisory Committee member, said he is in favor of closing access to Rte. 9, if it is the only option to protect the safety of residents.

“I certainly don’t see any obvious solutions to the public safety issue,” he said. “It would be unfortunate for many reasons to have to close Flagg Road at the end, but if it is necessary to protect public safety, I’d be in favor of it.”

Fiscal Restraint:

Advisory Committee member Kathy Cook asked the candidates to provide an example were they have shown “financial restraint” on a budget item.

Stivers said the selectmen’s budget for this fiscal year came in $400,000 above the Advisory Committee’s target increase.

“We were able to talk with selectmen and find a compromise,” he said.

Boland said as a previously selectman he has had to say “no” to departments’ requests to increase staff, including adding a police officer several years ago.

“It is something that goes on all the time when you are a member of the selectmen and involved in a budget,” he said.

As part of last year’s budget, Jasinski said she did not support money requested by the Recreation Commission for field lights.

“I didn’t think we really needed that at that point, and we were trying to cut the budget,” she said.

Shifrin said “saying no” to a budget item isn’t the only way to cut expenses. The Recreation Commission worked with parents to raise money for added features at the Fayville Playground, he said.

“We used a combination of public and private funding to actually get it done,” he said. “It is more about when you see things that need to be done there is more than using tax dollars to get things done.”

Click here for the full article.

Once again, when the video from the event is available, I will share it. (And, once I’ve had a chance to view it – if I feel there were other important moments to call out, I’ll address those in a later post.)

To view all my coverage related to the election this coming Tuesday, click here.

1 SB Resident November 2, 2017 at 10:23 AM

So Shifrin’s response on fiscal restraint is to raise more money? Wasting 10’s of thousands on lights for the basketball court and not funding the playground, essentially blackmailing the citizens to donate money for something our taxes should clearly cover is not fiscal restraint. Sad.

2 beth November 2, 2017 at 11:32 AM

I didn’t get out to the Library last night and have yet to see the full responses. So, I don’t know what the full responses were last night.

But I can tell you that it’s less simple than that based on what I have previously learned about the projects and funding.

Rec lighting projects – the lighting projects were funded by money from the Community Preservation Act. Money does come from taxpayers, but it’s a set amount that isn’t raised or lowered by what projects it pays for. The pool of money can be used for certain projects, but not just anything.

So, when it comes to those funds, it’s less a question of how much are we spending in a given year. It’s more a question of what projects are we prioritizing to fund and how much money are we saving up to use for future CPA projects.

Obviously, not everyone considered the lighting money a waste. Town Meeting voted to support the spend. Of course, a lot of baseball parents showed up specifically to support lighting for Mooney field. That may have had some impact on the votes for other recreation lighting projects. But even if it did, parents arguing for baseball lights made it clear that they believed encouraging healthy physical recreation is a positive and important thing. (One person’s waste is another person’s value.)

Fayville playground fundraising – At a recent BOS meeting, Shifrin explained that the Rec Commission believed that the playground as originally designed was sufficient. As the project was heading into construction phase, some residents asked for more to be added. The commission said that if the residents wanted more they should raise funds for those extras. Going to the CPC for more funds would have pushed the project out even further, leaving people without use of the playground for even longer. And the commission didn’t agree that the extras were necessary.

In my communications with Rec when the fundraising campaign was launching, Director Doreen Ferguson said that some residents thought there should be more in the 2-5 year old section for kids to play on.

In communications to me and the public, organizers have presented a positive public face about the compromise that Rec supported.

I’m not arguing that you are wrong. (Remaining neutral on that.) I just think that people should have more facts than are clear in article before deciding whether or not you are right.

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