Candidates answer community questions at forum
With town elections set for April 3, candidates for the only contested race on the ballot answered residents’ questions and made their pitches at a candidates night on March 22.
Candidates David Tatelbaum and Lorri-Ann Miller are both vying for the Select Board seat of Kelli Martin Taglianetti, who is not running for re-election.
Hosted by the Dartmouth Rotary Club, candidates answered questions written by audience members in a timed fashion. Here’s what they said about the issues.
On continuing the practice of separating the town’s tax rate between residential and commercial with higher commercial rates.
Tatelbaum: I am a businessperson in town, but I felt it was fair and to this day I still do. There isn’t much commercial development in town. I would continue to support it and I think it’s important to our tax base, our residential tax base especially.
Miller: Personally, I would say no. I think everyone should pay their fair share of what their buildings are worth. But I wouldn’t be on the Select Board for my personal opinion. Yes, I would vote for the two-tiered tax rate… We need to continue the two-tiered tax rate to make up the difference of what homeowners are not paying.
On balancing the town budget given new growth slowing down in town.
Miller: We can try and bring in other industries. We can work our best to bring in what we would call soft industries that don’t pollute, that create decent paying jobs, and pick up the slack and fill empty buildings. I do not, under any circumstances, want to cut our services or our budget. This town has the best services going. I don’t want to cut that budget. It’s very important to bring in new, new high tech — where the future is going — industries and business to town.
Tatelbaum: There's a real balance between expansion of industry and growing the town. We are a rural town and we need to be careful because people want to keep it that way. However there’s a huge abundance of commercial property - especially over on the Route 6 corridor and Faunce Corner Road - still to this day there’s a lot of empty land, there’s a lot of commercial buildings that are empty. We don’t have to start right away to take empty land and use it up. There’s a great opportunity to reuse these properties in ways that could be for housing. It could be for UMass Dartmouth housing, it could be senior housing. I also think there’s marvelous opportunity with UMass Dartmouth.
On what it means to have an open government and ensuring Dartmouth’s government remains open.
Miller: As a member of the Planning Board, we do everything in open meetings. All of our decisions and all of our deliberations are done in open meetings. I do not believe in executive sessions unless they are absolutely important and have to do with negotiating contracts, unfortunately, lawsuits... Government is for the people in this town and they have the right to know what we are doing as leaders, whether it be the Planning Board, the Select Board, or any of the boards in this town… I think all of the boards should also be televised so that the public can see what’s going on and know what’s going on.
Tatelbaum: I think the open meeting laws and the executive session laws are fine. When I’m asked about open meetings I think the people want to be informed. I think when an issue comes along that’s really big and involves major departments and various departments in town, we need to get them with the Select Board’s leadership in a room together, early on, so that information gets passed along and then becomes the real open informational package so that there’s real information passed back and forth.
On staffing for Dartmouth’s fire districts.
Tatelbaum: The fire districts, all three are run by Prudential Committees. I’ve never seen a budget from them, it’s their own organization. I couldn’t comment on budgets or the number of people needed in the fire districts. It’s a self-imposed enterprise. They’re on their own and they do one heck of a job.
Miller: Our fire departments do a phenomenal job. We have three districts in this town and each and every one of them I have the utmost respect for and support. That’s not something that the Select Board would be involved in because each of the districts are controlled and run by the citizens of that district, and I think it’s incumbent upon each fire chief to let his Prudential Committee know that he feels he needs more firemen.
On the most important issue now facing the Town of Dartmouth.
Miller: Finances. No ifs, and, or buts about it. Our income and our revenue is slowing down. We don’t have the growth we’ve had in past years with medical, with retail, and with solar. The revenue is coming in slower and our expenditures are going up. We have healthcare that gets more expensive every year, we have liability funding that is $48 million, unfunded liabilities. How do we continue to give you services that you are so accustomed to, and the good services you deserve, when our revenues are slowing down?
Tatelbaum: Finances are important, but there’s only one real important major issue facing us right now, and that’s replacing our town administrator. I was fortunate enough to work with David Cressman from almost the beginning. I was involved with the hiring, and the man was as equipped for the job as anyone I’ve ever seen for any job... Picking the right individual to lead our town is unbelievably critically important, and I hope and expect to be a part of that decision making process.
On last year’s proposed project to restore a salt marsh at Round Hill Beach.
Tatelbaum: First of all, that project is dead. It’s gone. The money is gone. To even talk about it or bring it up is nonsense. The Finance Committee heard about the issue at the end of our cycle as we usually do, and we found that there was more confusing and conflicting information than that we couldn’t believe it… I would never, ever jeopardize the safety and use of that beach by town residents.
Miller: At this point I don’t feel the project is dead. The maritime project in the village was dead but they went back and got the funds for that. There’s never a dead project. I think it needs to be looked at very carefully because I think it will come back before the town… I’m in favor of marshland, but I’m not in favor of a project that might be a problem or a health problem for the town, the children of this town.