Meet the Candidate: Why I am running for County Commissioner
Cape Cod faces an unusual mix of serious challenges that we will be living with for a long time. We are in the early stages of a pandemic, an incredibly serious public health crisis. We are in the early stages of an economic crisis that is completely immeasurable as of today. We are in the midst of a crisis in national leadership and a failure to deal with a lack of faith in some Police Departments that has lead to civil unrest.
It is critical that we elect candidates to office that have the education, experience and proven leadership to serve our citizens well.
I bring to the table 35 years as a primary health care provider. I took care of folks in the midst of an earlier epidemic, AIDS, and know the importance of understanding science and human behaviour.
I bring to the table 30 years of public service, both at the municipal and county level. I know how to create public policy and balance a budget. I know how to hire and supervise staff. I know how to run an excellent meeting where people are treated with respect and listened to. Consensus building is the key to effective government. I work well with all kinds of people, even ones I totally disagree with. People must talk to each other to find answers.
I bring to the table a life-long love of Cape Cod and an understanding of the issues. There is an old-saying in navigation: to know where you are heading you must know where you’ve been. This is true in life as well. To understand how to work with these challenges and help folks during these difficult times, we must understand our history and each other. County government has achieved some excellent results but often the achievements are drowned out in political turf battles. Those battles are a waste of our time. We, the people of Cape Cod, deserve much better.
I have been asked to talk about a few current issues. I will comment briefly. Please feel free to contact me at email@example.com if you have questions.
Public & Economic Health
Governor Baker said it best when he said “no matter what I do, some folks will think we did too much and some will think, too little.” He’s right. Half the people want everything open, the other half wish everything was closed…including the bridges. I understand both points of view. Generally, the science supports Gov. Baker’s approach as striking a good balance. The County can, and should, assist where needed. Over time, the needs will change and then be redefined. To date, the County Health Department has worked well with the local Health Organizations to improve access to testing. I would like to see the Department get more involved in worker training, which is lacking. Small businesses are under incredible stress. The owners, the employees and even the patrons are stressed emotionally and financially. The County Commissioners should work with the Barnstable County Economic Development Council & the Cape Cod Commission to identify areas where County Government can assist and with the County Health Department to identify areas of safety compliance that need attention.
Police and Race Relations
I am thrilled that Governor Baker supports a new Registration system for Police Officers. The fact that Massachusetts has never had one is rather unconscionable. That change alone, should help Towns avoid hiring officers that have behaved badly in other states or towns. Just last year, Barnstable County opened a new Police Academy here on the Cape. Having police officers trained locally makes a lot of sense. I am not an expert, but my instinct tells me that a Police Department should look …and reflect…. the community it serves. In cities where a majority of the population is of colour, the Police Chief and a majority of the department’s officers should be as well. It just makes sense.
Barnstable County has over 500 miles of coastline and much of our land is rather flat. We are seeing multiple effects of climate change here: rising sea level, coastal flooding and microburst weather events. The Cape Cod Commission has compiled an extensive body of information on the subject. Check out this site: https://www.capecodcommission.org/our-work/climate-change/
But compiling data is not enough. What actions should we the people and our governments take to be responsible citizens? This has proven to be a difficult question for regulators. We must bring the best and the brightest together to craft an Action Plan. As I was quoted in the Cape Cod Times,
“Our lives are changing. Do we look back and say did we do enough, or could we have done more?”
I believe we need to do more.
It’s interesting to note the different way folks talk about climate change and what their age is. The younger the person, the more disappointed they are that we are not doing more. There are basic changes the Cape Cod Commission can make to its Regional Policy Plan that would help. New construction can be consistent with environmental protection. More use of pervious pavement when pavement is needed or reconstructed. Re-examination of any utility lines that cross over Rte 6 must be a priority. Just 2 years ago, Route 6 was closed after a microburst storm took lines down and the “evacuation route” of 6A was closed due to flooding at the same time. We were trapped.
The “Green New Deal” is a resolution we should all be talking about. Most of the goals are laudable and our future depends on achieving them.
I support efforts to bring all 15 Cape Cod towns up to the 10% minimum level of affordable housing. At this point, only 2, Orleans and Provincetown are close. The cause is pretty easy to understand. Housing became unaffordable for the working class on the Cape a long time ago. This fundamental problem is common in coastal communities all along the United States ocean front. We are not exempt. Cape Cod is a wonderful place to live or own a second home. But the cost of living is high. Mortgage interest is deductible for a second home, and folks can rent out the property when they aren’t here. If you wish to see an income diverse population of year-rounders living on the Cape, and I sure do, for a myriad of reasons, we must get more support behind the creation of year-round affordable housing units .
Take a look at this data from the state. Only 2 of our 15 towns are near the 10% target, Provincetown and Orleans. This is not acceptable.
Barnstable County Subsidized Housing Inventory, 2017
|Town||2017 SHI Units||% of Total|
As for solutions, this is one problem where you need to throw everything including the kitchen sink at it. Often times, location is a big sticking point in Towns, so that discussion should happen first. Identify areas of each town where folks agree should be for housing . and then bring the developers in. Build consensus.
Water Quality & Wastewater Treatment
Every citizen deserves clean drinking water. The County has worked with the Towns for many years to support local and regional solutions to wastewater issues. The solutions are not one-size-fits all. We must be clear that without controls, sewering can lead to unwanted growth . We don’t have an endless supply of drinking water. Living within our means is important. Sewering is also very expensive, and can add to the burden on a working family trying to afford to live here. On-site septic systems will continue to be part of the mix of solutions. Water ontaminants often happen because of pesticide use, pharmaceutical use and flushing of products down a toilet. Well head protection zones must be respected and protected as the most important land area in each town.
Balance. It’s always about balance. Wind & solar energy can and must be a greater proportion of our energy supply. At the same time, appropriate location is critical for quality of life issues. The work of the Cape Light Compact and the Cape and Vineyard Electric Co-operative are notable for their achievements. With new leadership at the Federal Level, projects like Vineyard Wind will receive prompt support. Off shore is where wind generation is. Energy conservation and reduction in use must be a critical part of the discussion.
Unfortunately, one side effect of the current pandemic will likely be an increase in substance abuse and the problems that accompany it. Treatment, not incarceration, should be our focus. Massachusetts needs more beds for in-house treatment. Emotional support for our friends in crisis is critical.
The Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station
I was asked to comment on the current closure plan. It is still unacceptable. That site was never constructed to house and safely maintain the spent fuel that is there. Our Federal and State Legislators MUST keep a close eye on this situation. The NRC has let us all down. And we are at risk.
Much has been said about restructuring County Government. Unfortunately, the conversation has not been productive. Proponents of a restructure have not provided adequate explanation as to why a drastic restructuring would be worth the effort. What is the goal? I believe in a bicameral structure and I support having each town have a voice at the decision making table. The current charter gives a great deal of power to the County Commissioners. Do they need…more? I believe this is a great conversation to have but in our current dire health and economic situation, a better approach would be to focus on amending the County Charter to include a recall provision. All elected officials should serve at the pleasure of the voters. A recall provision should be job one. Anything less is unacceptable.