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Scituate selectman candidates voice their views

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  April 24, 2013 02:54 PM

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Scituate residents will come out to vote on April 30 for one of three candidates for an open selectman seat, vying for the position long-term official Joseph Norton will leave absent after 30 years.

While it will be difficult to fill those shoes, Ann Burbine, James Gilmore, and Martin O’Toole want to give it a shot.

Each talked to The Boston Globe about their views. Whom do you plan to vote for?

All other races are unopposed. To view a sample ballot, click here.

PUT POLL HERE

Ann Burbine
10 PennyCress Road
Previous Experience: Advisory board, Planning Board, Chairman of the South Shore Coalition
Previous races: Waged an unsuccessful bid for selectman in 2010

Boston Globe: What makes you the most qualified applicant for selectman?

Ann Burbine: Because I’ve paid attention for all these years. I’ve been on different town committees, I’ve worked really hard. I was president of the seniors association - we ended up giving them two vans.

I’ve worked really hard for the town of Scituate. It’s where I live, my children grew up here, my grandchildren are going to school here. I love the town, and as terms of qualifications, I have the most, and I pay attention and I do understand what’s going on.

There is so much going on and the bottom line is communication. We have to talk to one another. We can’t assume things will get better.

BG: What one issue in particular are you passionate about?

AB: There are so so many issues. We’ve got sea walls, the wind turbine, the grand plan, economic development. We have all of these different things that are important to different segments of the population.

But my passion is good government. Once we make a decision, it has to be an informed one. My passion is government, good government, and the involvement [of] as many people as possible in the decision-making, knowing we don’t have to all agree, but we can at least find common ground.

BG: Where do you hope to make the biggest difference? Or what is something you hope to change as soon as you get into office?

AB: I think because of my knowledge and having paid attention, I can hit the ground running. We have different departments, somewhat fractured. We have to talk to town hall, police, fire to come up with a way to go forward to treat people with respect.

James Gilmore
735 First Parish Road
Previous experience:
Capital Planning Advisory Committee member the past four years, chairman for two of those years.
Previous races: Unsuccessful bid for state representative against Jim Cantwell in 2008.

Boston Globe: What makes you the most qualified applicant for selectman?

JG: I think because of two things really. The knowledge I have of the financial, capital situation in the town. I know the budgets very well, I know the kind of request, the internal workings of the department, so I feel comfortable about that, in terms of being involved in the management side of it…

Secondly, my business experience. I run a large, multimillion floor covering company…I understand the working and needs of employees and how to provide good service. And it’s not very different from running a business and running the town. They are similar. You need to have compassion, need to be practical, and understand the concept of long-term planning, and sound fiscal footing, and that’s what you do in business.

BG: What one issue in particular are you passionate about?

JG: There are three. The one that’s come to a point, we’ve had about 50 years of benign neglect in our facilities in town. There are 52 buildings that range from being 100 years to 29 years old, and in … some circumstances there has been nothing done with these buildings, and that has allowed us to have a need for a master plan…

I think everybody, because there’s still not enough info out there about what is it or what will it look like, people are concerned about how it will be paid for. And everyone jumps to it will be paid for by a tax increase.

If we’re all wiling to listen and review and talk, put a specific ad hoc committee on that to study the methods of revenue distribution, that it could be an obtainable program. But people are jumping to the end right now, and that’s not always good in these circumstances. The master plan, something needs to happen…

The other two is the sea wall, foreshore protection. Are we funding that properly? Are we thinking of the short-term, taking care of things to protect the town and are we also thinking outside the box…what are we talking about going forward? What is science telling us? Even if the walls are in full repair, they may not be able to hold back these storms looming in the future…

I think as a selectmen you don’t need all the immediate answers, but you need to bring together experts and committees and built consensus so you can get results.

Those two are pretty much what everyone is concerned about. The wind turbine is something you’ve heard enough about, but once we get the information and get people together, there are some short-term and long-term things that could mitigate that quickly and restore health to neighbors and not cause the town to be in default with their contract.

BG: Where do you hope to make the biggest difference? Or what is something you hope to change as soon as you get into office?

JG: I think the master plan will take its course, and that is going to take some consensus building. Foreshore protection, there are remedies out there for that....

I would think the master plan - some people are throwing numbers around that average taxes may go up $1500 a year, if we don’t find revenues from other sources…that’s enough to make people very concerned. Do we need leadership there? Absolutely. It’s looming because of these time frames with state funds and the true need to get some of these buildings in order…

Martin O’Toole
15 Maple Ave.
Previous experience:
Vice President of the Chamber of Commerce, treasurer for the Chamber of Commerce.
Previous races: Unsuccessful write-in campaign against Selectman Richard Murray in 2012

Boston Globe: What makes you the most qualified applicant for selectman?

Martin O’Toole: I’ve never been a politician; I’m just a guy seeking to change things. I don’t want to be influenced by capital planning, zoning – I’m trying to bring refreshing ideas in…

I’m a business owner…and sometimes you have to make tough decisions. I like the idea of creative planning, but not jack someone’s taxes up the next year. If we do phases of these ideas, I think it’s beneficial to everybody…

My belief is if we look at the town as a business, and we can sit there and run it more like a business. … I believe that there are a lot of things we’re spending money on … we need to look at what are the real things we need to fix and how are we going to start doing those…

For a lot of years, we haven’t done a lot to stay up on these things. We need to start taking care of these things. Our buildings are in tough shape, our sea walls are falling apart.

I don’t want to eliminate [the Community Preservation Committee], but I think we need to take CPC and reduce it slightly, take [the surcharge taken in property taxes for the act] to 1 percent and take the other 2 percent and do things in the town. Just for a while…

[In business, if] I’m running a big job, I say here’s what we need to get [things done]…we don’t blow our budget out. We get it done and everyone is happy. Unfortunately there are [sacrifices] you have to make, laying off a person or someone taking a reduction in pay. The hard decisions have to be made to get it done. You may have to sacrifice a bit on this side to make it happen on this side…

We need to stand ready to fix those [the sea walls] … Front Street, we have beautiful community of condos and shops and restaurants, and it’s hard to find that in any other towns around here. In this area we’re unique…

The other thing is Scituate has made a lot of strides [in education]… [Test score rankings] says something about how the teachers are working in Scituate, and I believe education is going in the right direction.

The other thing we did is at Town Meeting they passed the meals tax … that money [should partly go] to economic development. A good portion needs to be earmarked for a period of time for these [other] problems we have.

....I’d like to get a part time grant writer in town, to keep their eye on things. I’m trying to do it as a citizen now. Things to make sure were not missing out on any of that money. It’s getting tighter, but we don’t want to miss out on anything coming our way.

I’ve been a successful business owner, legally in business since the early '80s, and I’m still in business ... in tough economies, you make tough choices, and we need to do things in the town…

BG: You’ve mentioned several issues – grants, seawalls, and building problems. What one issue in particular are you passionate about?

MO: My biggest thing is balance … [such as fire department staffing], we need to figure out a way to have staffing for public safety and that’s a key concern.

I believe education is going in the right direction and our buildings are in tough shape. Our infrastructure is lacking, and when I say infrastructure, I’d mention our buildings as well. That would be a top priority right now.

There are some things we need to work on and work on gradually, but some things can’t wait. Our seawalls and buildings are in tough shape, and we have to do something right away.

We have a lot of issues, and none should be minimized, bur our schools, infrastructure, education, and public safety are my top issues …

BG: Where do you hope to make the biggest difference? Or what is something you hope to change as soon as you get into office?

MO: As far as trying to realign [town] money, [we need to] do something with CPC money and do something to meals tax money so it goes towards our major problems - either the master plan or infrastructure needs. Those are the things that affect everyone. They affect seniors, property values. That would be my number one thing.

Our seniors don’t have a great place to go to and we have an empty Pier 44 building that’s difficult to get in to…that needs to change...

Our sewer systems, our water supply, people’s homes by the water or adjacent, it’s a dangerous situation for hurricanes and other storms…

[It’s] buildings, infrastructure – roads and sea walls – are big things, with public safety and education very close behind...

We need to balance the needs for everybody. There isn’t one person that’s more important…I want the seniors to be comfortable and the children to have a great education.

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