eHop posed the following seven questions to our Board of Selectmen Candidates and we are posting their responses here exactly as submitted. We thank them for their time and for their commitment to Hopkinton. In addition we recommend voters watch the HCAM Contested Races Debate and the Women’s Club Meet the Candidates Night, both of which are available on the HCAM YouTube Channel.
BOARD OF SELECTMEN, For 3 years, Vote for 2
Question 1: What is your ideal vision of Hopkinton in 10 years? How will you as a Selectman help to achieve that vision?
Brendan T. Tedstone: Ideally, my Hopkinton will have overcome all its obstacles that are present right now and remain the best place to live. Schools are still the best around, police and fire remain cutting edge and the DPW is given the proper resources to do their job in the best way that is possible. Tax rates remain low and seniors are able to live comfortably in the town that they grew up in.
Michael P. Umina, Sr.: I see Hopkinton as a more financially stable town, living within its means. I see that stability being achieved by a combination of increased revenue and being more frugal wherever we can. Like most of us in the town, we have a limit on our income, and we must be careful about buying expensive items and loading our children with our debt. Most municipalities deal with this by having to reign in spending and becoming more responsible. At our last town meeting the town voted in quite a few items that I feel were not necessary, or could have been purchased at significantly lower prices, or even leased. Some items could have been purchased used for 1/10 of what we spent. Some items were Deluxe items where plainer items could have been substituted. If you want to be more fiscally responsible, your elected officials must be more careful with your money. I will be looking for ways to save, and keep things going. I have always been paid to be an idea man, finding and fixing things to make them work. My nickname has always been “McGyver”. (after the old TV series of the same name) I see people running the town who are experts in high finance. people who are in the finance business are used to spending money. Its time we find more people who want to save money.
Margaret A. Wiggin: My vision for Hopkinton in 10 years is that there will still be a small, charming town center, with family activities on the common, and a great school system. I envision small shops on Main Street with ample parking, and an easy flow of traffic. I hope to see people still greeting each other on the street, and still letting others into traffic, not driving by uncaring. As Selectman, I would encourage initiatives which would be revenue positive, and community based. Families should feel safe here, so I would continue to honor and support our Police, Fire and DPW workers, as I would our Youth and Family Services and Parks and Rec Departments. I would encourage open communication from residents and do my best to help Hopkinton continue to be the place we love now.
Claire B. Wright: In 10 years hence, I would like to see a Hopkinton that has successfully absorbed the new growth, with continued quality services and an expanded community that still reflects our cherished small town character of neighborliness, community engagement, safety, and cohesiveness. I hope to see our traffic better managed, parking, roadways, and sidewalks improved to promote walkability, and a revitalized downtown. I would like to see storefronts filled, now-vacant commercial spaces occupied, and more amenities offered to keep shopping dollars in Hopkinton.
The Board of Selectmen can provide the directives to achieve the improvements to roadways, traffic management, sidewalk connectivity, etc., setting these as town priorities. Sound fiscal management, and conservative tax policy from the Board of Selectmen is key to well managed growth. Economic development also depends on this. Economic policies and partnerships through the Board of Selectmen will help attract and keep businesses in Hopkinton, through services, infrastructure, tax policy, and regional collaboration.
Question 2: As Selectman, you would have to juggle many competing pressures in your decision-making. Describe an issue that faced the Board of Selectmen this year and indicate what you liked about how it was handled and/or what you would have done differently.
Brendan T. Tedstone: An issue that the Selectmen faced that I feel was handled horribly was the one of the promotion of the Fire Chief. My take would have been common sense one. The candidate presented to the board for promotion was our existing Deputy Chief, he had been with the department for 30+years, has all the required (and much more) education and training, and was deemed the best applicant of the 18 resumes that the personnel committee reviewed. To decide to re-open the search at a cost to the taxpayers was absolutely ridiculous and meaningless. It was an exercise in futility and ego driven. The ONLY thing that was done correctly, in my opinion, was that they eventually saw the errors of their ways and removed the acting label from Chief Slaman and made him permanent. I would have voted on the spot to make him permanent and saved much time, money and embarrassment.
Michael P. Umina, Sr.: One issue was infrastructure. This means our roads and bridges. Most of the townspeople have noticed that the roads are falling apart. They have been crack sealed with liquid asphalt. I used to work with an asphalt paving company years ago when I was in Hopkinton High School in the late 60’s. About 20 years ago, oil prices went up sharply, and the price of asphalt doubled. The State of Massachusetts had a specification for how all asphalt in the state was to be made. It had a certain amount of liquid asphalt that had to be in the mix of sand and stone. The asphalt companies suggested lowering the amount of liquid asphalt oil in the mix to reduce the price. It was accepted by the state.
This had one critical flaw. Asphalt mix is supposed to be a flexible material. It expands and contracts with temperature, and flexes in small amounts under load. With the right amount of oil, the asphalt flexes and doesn’t crack or break for about 5 years. With the lower amount of oil it cracked in 1 year. Remember when the state paved 495 and it came apart with terrible pot holes the next summer? The State had to grind it all up and repave it again. They put more oil in the mix, but still not as much as the old standard. What they paid in damage, labor, and repairs, was more than if they had just paid the higher price of asphalt. The big asphalt companies that pave the roads made many millions in profit that year. We paid for it,and for the stupidity of the State that was responsible for it.
So here’s the point. Now that oil prices are around $2 a gallon, the price of asphalt is down, This is the time to pave. It should be done ASAP before summer comes and the price goes up again. Was this built into the town budget so that we could take advantage of the lower prices? Definitely not! But, we spent 10 million dollars for fluff. This cannot continue. We must find a way to pay for it, or stop it..
Another problem is our traffic in town. The schools are mostly to blame for this. The Town has taken no effective action to deal with this horrendous problem. The solution is to make all school buses free for all students. If I was charged the highway robbery of $300 per child to ride the bus, I would take my kid(s) to school too. These twice daily trips to drop off and pick up kids are costing us. First one bus puts out the pollution of 2 cars. When 1000 short 2 way trips to school are made each day, this puts tons of CO2 in the air and
Margaret A. Wiggin: I will refer to the Fire Chief Slaman issue. I believe if there is a selection process which includes 18 candidates, and it comes down to 2 candidates, and one of those drops out, then the remaining person would be the natural selection. If there was some glaring issue that the Selectmen knew about which would make that remaining candidate unsuitable, then that person wouldn’t have been a good acting Fire Chief either,. I will say that I have great respect for our Selectmen and Town Manager, but would have more transparency and better communication with Townspeople if elected.
Claire B. Wright: Recently, the Board of Selectmen made a decision to set uniform hours for liquor service throughout the town. Some establishments had earlier or later hours than others and did not want to lose them or be disadvantaged. The Board of Selectmen did a good job of listening to all sides, understanding the issues, and treating the parties fairly. They gave affected business owners the chance to be heard, also considered other establishments not represented at the hearing, sought counsel from the Chief of Police, and discussed the issues and objectives openly and honestly. In the end, a decision was reached that actually reduced some hours for some establishments, but it was acceptable to all. The acceptance seemed to be the result of the way the proceedings were conducted, in a spirit of fairness and openness.
Question 3: What current issues/conditions pose the greatest challenge to Hopkinton?
Brendan T. Tedstone: The current status of the Legacy Farms build out is a big challenge. We need to control it’s growth and monitor the entire project so it does in fact remain tax revenue positive for the town. If we lose this fight, the town is in for a very hard financial time in the very near future.
Michael P. Umina, Sr.: Our towns over spending is the greatest challenge to our town. Our expansion without helping to create increased revenue to pay for it is like taking your Mastercard and running it up to its limit and having to pay half your payment as interest. I think everybody does that once in their life, and then they learn how hard it is to catch up. Our town is learning that lesson the hard way, and it will get worse. We can’t balance the books now, so what will we leave our kids in the future? I see people move into town to take advantage of our services, then they vote up even more services we can’t pay for. Then they don’t want to pay the high taxes anymore when the kids are grown, and move out of town, leaving the rest of us to pay for it. They take advantage of the increased property values when they sell out and move, and we pay the taxes for it. It has to stop. Hopkinton has to become a place where people can afford to live again. And a place they can afford to live. After the debate yesterday another elderly woman resident spoke with me about the awful situation she is in, having to move out of town because she can’t pay her taxes and eat at the same time. lots of people are telling me this.
We must realize that Hopkinton has to change. When Legacy farms came to town, the cat came out of the bag. We were wooed by how great it would be, and how it would help the town. But new residences are never revenue positive, and it is too late now to do anything but make the changes necessary to keep Hopkinton afloat. Hopkinton has to change to do this. Will everyone like it? NO. Will I like it? NO! But we hav no choice. This isn’t the city of OZ There are no yellow brick roads or wizards here. We must take care of our problems ourselves and do our best to do the best we can for the town. If this means some belt tightening and some changes, we must work it out the best we can.
Margaret A. Wiggin: Rapid growth and commercial development. High expenditures in recent years which has left our taxes creeping higher. Population increase which impacts schools, traffic, police and fire.
Claire B. Wright: Some of Hopkinton’s greatest challenges for the near future are 1) living within our means – in other words, maintaining the quality of our services, including schools, while avoiding tax increases. 2) Managing our growth to keep the town prosperous while holding on to our character and quality of life. 3) Bringing in new sources of revenue to limit our tax burden and allow seniors and others of varied income levels to be able to live here.
Question 4: Why do you feel you are qualified for this position?
Brendan T. Tedstone: I’m a lifelong resident of Hopkinton that has had his finger on the pulse of the town for years. I’m honest and direct. If I see an issue that needs attention, I will work to make it right. I am not easily talked out of my opinion and my opinion has historically been for the good of others before the good of myself. I am passionate to keep the town great so that my 2 young children can love it here as I have, my mother has, her parents have, and so on.
Michael P. Umina, Sr.: I have experience in working as a Mechanical engineer, being a Manufacturing Engineering Manager, and managing a Construction and Paving company. I have a degree in General Science and Psychology from Brigham Young University, along with extra work in Marine Biology, Zoology, and a year of Economics.
I have 3 years in towards an Engineering degree at UMASS Lowell, with a concentration in Physics and Computer Science. I have Real Estate Management experience as well Managing large residential properties.
I have always agreed with “Benjamin Franklin’s” philosophy of it being necessary to be a “well Rounded Man” and knowing something about everything.
I have also been poor. I know what it was like growing up at the bottom of the heap. Everything I have done, I have had to struggle and fight for all my life. I have learned how to make do with less because I had to.
I know how hard it is to get what you need, and how to manage a budget that gets everyone what they need to get by, and doing it so the wealth is spread out equally. We all can’t have everything we want, but we all deserve something. We must take care of our Elderly too.
Margaret A. Wiggin: I moved here in 1986, moving out 5 years later to Newton, then Weston, and back to Hopkinton in 1998 because of the schools, natural resources, and charm. I feel strongly about protecting all that is special here, and will do my best as Selectman because of that strong feeling. Professionally, I have run two non-profit organizatons. I have worked in business, including Hopkinton businesses: Weston Nurseries, Playhouse Preschool, Next Generation, Cedar Street Chiropractic, Body Restoration and Hopkinton Wine and Spirits. I have a Master’s Degree in Elementary Education and Reading Specialist, and have worked in the Brookline and Weston school systems before working in Hopkinton schools for the past 10 years. As a Hopkinton volunteer, I have chaired Cultural Council for at least 6 years, been a member of Youth Commission for 14 years, the past 4 or so as Chair. I have run the MLK Day of Service for Youth Commission for 5 years. I have volunteered in Hopkinton Scouts, Schools and Soccer. In Scouts, I was den leader, then Cubmaster of Pack 4, then merit badge counselor and Eagle Advisor for Troop 1, helping 15 scouts over 5 years to attain their Eagle rank. I am now Unit Commissioner for Hopkinton Scouts. I attend and volunteer at FAITH community church. I have had experience in cities and small towns and prefer small towns, I have had experience in businesses and schools professionally and have volunteered in many different aspects of town. Culturally, my family has Mayflower and Daughters of the American Revolution ancestry. My mother was born in China, near Beijing, and lived tgere fir 15 years with her family. I have rich and varied experience to bring to my role as Selectman, which will aid in my decision-making process.
Claire B. Wright: I have given 30 years of service to the town, on a wide variety of boards and committees, learning how town government works, understanding our needs and problems, and finding ways to address them. I understand where we have been, who we are, and the issues that determine where we are going. This time of intense growth poses great challenges and is the source of much concern. Serving as an elected member of the Planning Board for the last 15 years, I have gained a depth of knowledge in the complex issues of managing growth, respecting property rights, working within the law, and responding to the townspeople’s concerns. This is the solid background in town government, public policy, and citizen outreach that the Board of Selectmen requires.
Question 5: What are the top three priorities that will guide your decision-making as Selectman?
Brendan T. Tedstone:
Manageable tax rate
A cohesive, transparent and open relationship with the Hopkinton citizens
Michael P. Umina, Sr.:
Priority 1. Can we afford it?
Priority 2 Can we get the same things we want for less money?
Priority 3 Can we control our spending?
Margaret A. Wiggin:
1) Full understanding of all aspects of a proposal or decision.
2) Evaluation of which decision best helps Hopkinton as a whole, and aligns with the people’s will.
3) Consulting people who know about an issue, telling them what we want to do and asking their advice/opinion on how best to proceed.
Claire B. Wright:
1. Is this fiscally responsible or burdensome to the taxpayer?
2. Is this in the long-term best interests of the town?
3. Have citizens been heard, their concerns understood, and efforts made to accommodate them?
Question 6: How do you define your budget priorities when tough decisions have to be made?
Brendan T. Tedstone: In the medical field, we routinely have to triage patients. This is when we have multiple patients needing our immediate assistance at the same time. Triaging is when we place the ones that need the most urgent attention first, and some of the ones that we can put off for a bit until later. This is the same train of thought that I have moving in to a Selectman. The immediate, hot button, issues that need immediate attention get it and the ones of not so urgent are reviewed after. Not sent away, but reviewed after.
Michael P. Umina, Sr.:
1 People of the town
3 Whats left
Margaret A. Wiggin: I would lean towards fiscal conservatism at this point. There have been a lot of proposals for spending large amounts of money in recent years, and I think many of those expenses could have been pared down or prioritized to not put as great or as quick an increase on the town budget.
We need to evaluate what will benefit Hopkinton, as a whole, and then carefully and thoughtfully go through our options before deciding to spend large sums of money.
Claire B. Wright: Foremost in budget policies will need to be managing to keep our services level and avoid deterioration in quality while at the same time staying within the 2 ½% levy limit. Efficiencies, seeking out areas of duplication, or finding ways to perhaps combine or streamline functions are some possible approaches. Budgeting needs to include capital asset management, so that our assets are not allowed to deteriorate. Times of tight budgets – which we will face – make this a challenging objective, but all the more important, because the temptation to defer upkeep will end up costing us more. At the top of the capital asset management list must be a plan for the repurposing of Center School.
Question 7: What will you do to minimize the tax burden for seniors and residents on fixed incomes?
Brendan T. Tedstone: Keep holding the feet to the fire of the people that have the ability to make the decisions to manage expenses. Developers, Town Managers, department heads and other boards are all players in this game
Michael P. Umina, Sr.: I would like to see taxes commensurate with income. Housing for poorer people is provided by the state as a percentage of income. When someone has worked all their life and paid taxes in town for over 20 years, their taxes on their primary residence should be no higher than a percentage of their income, and remain that way until they either move or pass on, as long as they are the head of the household. The taxes should at least be frozen for them at the level they are at when they reach retirement. Maybe then they might be able to stay in town.
Margaret A. Wiggin: I would like to see seniors and residents on fixed incomes have a tax break and the application process for this modification be simple and streamlined so it is possible for seniors to continue to live in the town where they raised their children.
Claire B. Wright: The Board of Selectmen does not have direct control over the taxes of our seniors. Fortunately, there are a number of methods for direct relief within the town. Seniors can file with the Board of Assessors for a tax exemption of $1,000. In recent years, the town has voted to accept an additional exemption under Massachusetts law, granting up to an additional 75% of real estate tax relief, for a total tax exemption of $1,750. In addition, the town maintains a Tax Relief Fund, supported by citizen donations, to offer additional aid to seniors and others in need. The State of Massachusetts Real Estate Tax Credit (Circuit Breaker Credit) also gives seniors means-tested relief from state income taxes.
The Board of Selectmen must weigh the effects of all spending initiatives on our citizenry as a whole, but with added consideration for those with fixed or limited incomes, who are least able to absorb rising taxes.