Candidate’s Night, March 1, 2016

On February 23, the Gazette sent an email to the two candidates for selectmen asking for a brief bio and whatever statements they wished to include as to their reason for running for office this March 2016. We got an acknowledgement from one of the candidates, but as yet, no reply from either. That being the case, we attended “Candidates Night” and tried to glean whatever we could from that session.

Candidates Night was scheduled for town hall; but alas, no heat in the building, so off to the Mann House. No reason for the failure was given but assume it is similar to the one in the Mann House; either that or the building just ran out of gas?

We thought that building maintenance might be an election issue. But all we have on that are the 2015 minutes in the annual report page 60:

Charlie said that line item 6007-05 (repairs and maintenance) was increased due to the endless maintenance needed to the buildings. Heating costs are at a low right now but “we can’t predict that they’ll stay low.” Stanley Brown asked why the amount was raised so much. Bernie said that they have several project in mind like fixing the roof on the old schoolhouse on Valley Rd. They’ve also consolidated all building maintenance.

There has been no action on the highway barn (a massive heat sink), nor on the preservation of the old schoolhouse donated by Twig (yes, it is a town building and the leaking roof hasn’t been increasing structural integrity).

Ms. Joanne Birman spoke first:

She’s been living in town for 10 years, “doesn’t want to see the town change, but [the town] needs to make progress and broaden horizons”. Ms. Birman would like to see more “mom and pop shops”, supports agriculture and farming, and is dismayed that “one has to drive forever to get anywhere”; however, stopped short of supporting a commercial district. She would not have turned down the NBC dopler radar proposal “out of hand” and wouldn’t object to viewing a tower if it provided much needed improved cell phone and internet service to the town.

Incumbents Bernie O’Grady’s positions appear to be:

He encourages people to get involved. Loves Mason’s rural character. Like Ms. Birman is opposed to a commercial district. Mr. O’Grady indicated that he thought “the problem with taxes is state wide”. He is not opposed to adding “outdoor music venue” to the list of businesses allowed by special exception within Mason, and would rely on the zoning board of adjustment to add sufficient restrictions so such businesses did not annoy the neighbors.

The elephant in the room was “The Pipeline”:

Mr. O’Grady cited the selectmen’s joining of the Municipal Pipeline Coalition and the hiring of an attorney to represent the town’s interests. Although it was not specifically stated, he appeared to be of the opinion of going down with the ship fighting the pipeline. Ms. Birman attitude was different “why are we spending all this time and effort for something that’s inevitable?”

Unfortunately the audience started taking an active role in the discussion so not much further was gleaned as to what either candidate would actually do.

Other items that came up:

Concern was expressed about Ms. Birman’s lack of prior experience on town boards.

Selectman Moser asked whether the fact that Ms. Birman’s husband was a full time employee of the highway is a concern (she answered correctly about the specific question of recusals for personnel issues).

Candidate O’Grady indicated that he was actually for SB2; Ms. Birman likes town meeting. Since the issue is not on either the town or school warrant this year, we’re not sure where that came from. Library director Sue Wolpert mentioned that she was happy to leave town decisions up the the few people that attend town meeting which is yet another perspective.

So there you have it. Your choices are one, the other, write-in or none.

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