The 2018 Stoneham election is now less than a week away and I have been asked who I’m voting for by a lot of neighbors. I’ve really enjoyed the conversations, and I decided to share my thoughts with the community. As a lifelong Stoneham resident, a Mom that is currently raising kids that attend Stoneham schools, and a prior Board of Selectmen candidate, I have a deeper perspective and understanding of what both the School Committee and Board of Selectmen mean to the direction of the town. (Not to mention I’ve pretty much been involved in Stoneham politics since I was five years old. My parents brought my siblings and me to every Town Meeting, so Stoneham politics are “in my blood.”)
I took a lot of time to research and consider my candidate choices for this year’s election, and I came to one important conclusion: We need the crucial combination of balance and experience on both the School Committee and Board of Selectmen.
Here’s who I am voting for in the Board of Selectmen race, and I hope you’ll join me in supporting these candidates with your votes:
Tom Boussy: During his six years on the board, Stoneham has seen more improvements than it has in over 20 years. He advocated to get the staff numbers at the police and fire departments to the correct levels. He also fought to bring back departments that had been abandoned for years like the Town Planner and Rec Department. (In fact, Tom fought hard for the Town Planner position, spearheaded the process, and was involved in the hiring decision. The Town Administrator at the time had no intention of hiring a TP, but Tom insisted and didn’t stop until Stoneham got one. Is that why he is called a bully? Because he has tenacity and fights for the citizens??) He has ensured that any projects coming into Stoneham paid mitigation for requested zoning changes, including the highest amount paid for a billboard in Massachusetts at $100,000 per year. And when the developers at 42 Pleasant Street tried to go to Town Meeting for a zoning change, he orchestrated a “no vote” to bring them back to the negotiation table where they agreed to install sidewalks from Pleasant Street to Main Street at no cost to the town.
When he was first elected there were a lot of empty store fronts and buildings in disrepair. To-date there has been massive investment in Stoneham, including the new building at 380 Main Street which was the result of hard work to make a deal with the owner, utilizing for the first time ever a TIF (Tax Instrumental Financing package).
As for Stoneham’s downtown, he resurrected the hugely successful Farmers Market, brought in the Food Truck Festival that brought 5,000 people for two years in a row to Stoneham’s Common, and wrote an Article that passed at Town Meeting to start the “façade program.” When the trash contract came up, instead of the “status quo” he fought for increased recycling for lower trash fees- the opposite of what his two opponents did: John DePinto cost the town $100,000 by delaying the trash vote for a year, and Raymie Parker used misinformation to support continued use of what was an insolvent contractor, costing the town $500,000 per year when Hiltz went out of business. It’s also worth noting that Raymie Parker fought and continues to fight against the Rec Department. One of Raymie’s objections on using mitigation money for the Rec Department Director is that she felt the mitigation funds should not be used for a position. The Rec Director position came from the I-93 billboard money. Normally I would agree that the people who are impacted by a project that calls for mitigation should get something in return by way of that money, but in this case the billboard did not negatively impact anyone. Hiring a Rec Director was a way to give back to the town. The Rec Department is an investment. Every other town around us has one. It’s a tool used to attract families to invest in our town and fill our schools. A Rec Department, if supported, should be a money maker as you see in the towns around us.
Tom also fought hard for the Bike Path; something his two opponents were adamantly against and tried to derail for years. Tom also believed that Stoneham should take some pride in its appearance and spear-headed town-wide beautification efforts. Gnarly bushes and overgrown grass on Main Street have been replaced by beautiful landscaping that is admired by all that travel through Stoneham’s main artery. The manicured, vibrant islands truly say something about our town.
For the last six years we have had a steady increase of free cash, lowering fees and increasing services. This kind of progress has not been seen since for the last year, however, when the majority of the current board has decided to be a “three member board” instead of working for you, the tax payer.
Caroline Colarusso: You can’t argue Caroline’s advocacy for Stoneham’s best interests. She’s fought HARD against the Weiss Farm Project, and stood up to high rise apartment complex projects that our town cannot afford. She continually calls for accountability in how our tax dollars are used and managed, including reviews of funds and improprieties, she brought attention to the snow and ice budget, and oversight to the trash accounts. She provides oversight and really isn’t afraid to challenge the “status quo.” She supported technology initiatives over and beyond what has been part of the approved school budget. As a mother whose children all attended Stoneham schools, she understands the importance of helping our students be successful so they can excel and compete.
Caroline constantly works to help keep Stoneham affordable for seniors and young families. She makes decisions with the interests of residents at heart. Based on her efforts to manage the town’s costs, it’s obvious she gets that people are struggling to make ends meet while raising a family. At the same time, she has helped to make Stoneham more attractive to visitors and businesses by supporting tax incentives to grow small businesses.
She strives to improve public safety, and time and time again she –and Tom Boussy– have taken every opportunity to stand with neighbors and neighborhoods. (She and Tom were the only ones that held the MWRA accountable for raiding our streets.) She has proven her loyalty to the citizens of our town, and has always been available for residents when they have had questions or needed assistance. She has an open-door policy and constantly holds office hours. Town government has become more responsive and accountable.
Caroline has been a champion for seniors, both financially and as a population. Having a family member with signs of Alzheimer’s disease, I applaud her raising awareness for something that touches my family and many others. Every November she presents medical professionals to our town to conduct a forum that helps educate residents on how to detect the warning signs of Alzheimer’s.
For me as a Mother of two and a Nurse, I appreciate her commitment to ban recreational pot shops, and that she truly cares about helping to end substance addiction while supporting the families that are directly struggling through it.
Town Employees – A Really Real Concern
Currently we have two BOS members who are also, or who have been, state workers. This makes me wonder if they are more biased towards the issues of town employees and sometimes less tuned into the citizens. If Raymie Parker is elected to the BOS, she’ll be the third municipal employee. That means we would have a BOS that could be more interested in promoting pensions and pay than the citizens. As a town employee, Raymie will have to recuse herself from EVERY town issue. She has promised not to take the BOS stipend, but the fact of the matter is that she CANNOT take it. She can only draw one paycheck and it is in her best interest to retain the pay of her town job than it would be to take the BOS stipend.
Don’t get me wrong, town employees are of vital importance to the town, just as they are to any organization. But the reporting structure of a town is unique and has some differences that a company does not, which is why I’m concerned about Mrs. Parker as a candidate. First, the town citizens are the decision makers. They elect the BOS to represent their needs. On the other side of the house are the town employees. We want highly competent and functioning employees to provide the best possible service. At times there may be differences of opinions between both groups. The town employees, for the most part, are represented by the Union to fight for their interests. Therefore, the town citizens need the BOS to fight for their interests. This creates a system of checks and balances. That is not to say the BOS should be anti-town employee, but in an election the citizens are voting for the person they believe will protect our neighborhoods, uphold our by-laws, and to be someone we can turn to when we have an unresolved issue.
This year’s School Committee candidate pool has three excellent ones, which makes it a tough choice. These three have the right qualifications in common: They’re established adults with “life” experience who have gone through the rigors of careers, homeownership, and most important of all they are all parents of current Stoneham Schools’ students. These candidates are:
No matter what your views of the issues are, the most important thing you can do is VOTE! Please get to Town Hall on April 3rd and do your part to contribute to Stoneham’s future.