Medfield's annual Town Election is Monday and the one contested race on this year's ballot is for one of the town's most important offices – Board of Selectmen.
Current selectman Osler "Pete" Peterson is running for reelection Monday and has been challenged by Medfield resident and Nikolaos "Nick" Athanasiadis for a seat on the Board to serve with selectmen Ann Thompson and Mark Fisher as the collective Chief Executive Officer of the town.
An important factor to consider when choosing a candidate to represent the town is understanding where the candidate stands on issues you care about. Medfield Patch asked Peterson and Athanasiadis to weigh in on the following town issues:
- Affordable housing and the town's current dilemma regarding Chapter 40B
- The town's tax rate
- Communication and transparency in town government
Below are Peterson's and Athanasiadis' responses to the issues mentioned above and a statement from each candidate explaining why you should vote for him for selectman on Monday.
Affordable Housing and Chapter 40B
Chapter 40B became a hot topic in Medfield when news came out that . Here's what each selectman candidate had to say about Medfield's dilemma with 40B.
Peterson: "In the 12 years I have been a selectman, I have raised the issue of affordable housing more than a couple of times. ... The first time I remember raising it was the first time I came back from the first Massachusetts Municipal Association annual meeting I went to. I remember listening to this guy who had been the executive director of the Falmouth Housing Authority talk and I was fascinated. Their goal was to convert existing housing into affordable housing and I thought that’s a cool way to do it because you’re not changing the neighborhoods at all.
"I had suggested at another time that . There’s land there that the controls and that’s when I started to learn about what the Medfield Housing Authority was. It’s actually a state agency; the executive director is paid by the state."
Peterson's position: Peterson would like to see an active study group comprised of Medfield residents to study alternatives and possibilities to address the Chapter 40B issue in town and help the town develop an updated and relevant affordable housing plan moving forward or see the town's existing Affordable HOusing Committee be more proactive, given the town's need for affordable housing under Chapter 40B. Peterson also remains open to expansion at Tilden Village, pursuing existing housing and converting it to affordable or developing affordable housing at the Medfield State Hospital property to meet the town's Chapter 40B requirement of 10 percent.
Athanasiadis: "There was the state hospital, which was going to help us out, but that didn’t happen and there was a period of time that we did nothing. We need to be proactive and need to come up with a plan to produce more affordable units in town. I think it would be very beneficial to the town if we could produce housing units that are directed towards the seniors.
"I have attended several [Board of Selectmen] meetings where the board has been repeatedly questioned on every aspect of the [40B] issue. Independent groups in town are trying to come up with solutions instead of letting the board do their work. People felt misled on the intentions of the . The existence of the Affordable Housing Committee was not known by my opponent, who tried to recreate the committee. I urge any concerned citizen to send a letter to the Town and volunteer for a committee. It's time we all worked together in town to get things done."
Athanasiadis' position: Athanasiadis is encouraging the town and its residents to be proactive to create an affordable housing plan for the town. Furthermore, Athanasiadis says he would like to see affordable housing focused on accommodating seniors in town, who otherwise are forced to leave Medfield and seek affordable housing units elsewhere.
Medfield State Hospital Issues
The property on Hospital Road has had many issues in Medfield but the most recent issues that need to be addressed are the found on a section of the property and the .
Peterson: "The state hospital site is zoned for agriculture and business industrial. Whatever happens there will most likely require a zoning change, which would require a 2/3 vote at Town Meeting. The town really has to buy in to what happens there.
"Without the discussion [with the town] and the education [of the 2005 reuse housing plan at the state hospital site] about what the alternatives are, where we are, why we got to the 440 units of housing that the selectmen signed off on ... without having that sort of discussion, I don’t think there was much interest in the town in doing anything there. The status quo was seen as better and there were fears about the 440 units of housing that it would result in an increase of municipal services.
"I was hoping at some point there would be extensive discussions with residents about what the different issues were that got us to the 440 units of housing, how it was crafted so that the impact on municipal services would be the least and how it benefited the town in terms of our 10 percent affordable housing goals so we wouldn’t be facing issues like the 40B project on West Street.
"I think the 40B project proposal by Gatehouse on West Street has really focused the attention back on the state hospital because that was one of the big goals of the hospital – to deal with that unknown [of affordable housing] that was already a threat [to the town].”
Peterson's position: Peterson supports a plan for a housing development on the site to address the Chapter 40B issue in town but has also , if it makes sense for the town. Peterson also supports a complete cleanup of the site and opposes DCAM's plan to only partially remove hazardous material while capping the rest on site. after the state agency told the town earlier in March it would be willing to sell the site to Medfield. No financial details of that scenario have been released.
Athanasiadis: "The hospital has been an issue forever. ... Obviously, everyone knows about the cleanup that has to happen. It would have been a perfect location for 40B. It’s tough to have a position because the state has to clean it up and I am not for any kind of shortcuts, like capping it. I really want to see the [waste] gone. This is something that is going to affect us, maybe not tomorrow but 10 years down the road it will affect us. Get it out of here, take it away and at the same time, let’s be practical about coming up with a plan to present to the state on what we think will benefit Medfield most.
"Of course, it is still up to the state to do whatever they want, but if we can be forthcoming about plans, or how we think Medfield is going to benefit, then I don’t see any problems with that.
"This development of the town being able to buy the property is a very interesting option. We would definitely have to do some type of study to determine what it would cost us to make it usable. I would hate for the town to purchase something and then spend millions of dollars to clean it up. If it is something that would come at the cost of the developer then maybe we could work something out and share the cost. There’s no reason to kill the taxpayers with something that can be very costly.”
Athanasiadis' position: Athanasiadis supports a full cleanup of the property and opposes DCAM's plan to partially remove the waste and cap the rest. He is interested in a housing plan on the site to address the town's 40B requirement – but ultimately favors whatever is best for Medfield. He would like to learn more about the town's opportunity to buy the property from DCAM.
Addressing the Tax Rate
Both candidates cited the town’s high tax rate as a cause for concern in Medfield and an issue that needs to be addressed moving forward.
Peterson: “Our taxes are just so high. We don’t have anything but a residential tax base. 95 percent is residential. What I’ve decided, because of our location, we are not so likely to bring businesses to town. … I think our business in Medfield really is the providing of residences. I’ve come to think that’s really what our town business is. If we provide the right sorts of residences, we can do that and still increase our property tax base without increasing the municipal service costs. The municipal costs are really the school children and the schools are 2/3 of our town budget.”
Peterson’s position: Peterson believes the best way to address the tax rate is to provide apartment-type buildings and attached, multi-family buildings in town because they attract "about a tenth of the number of school children that single-family, detached homes do." Peterson explained an ideal situation for Medfield would be a two-story building with residences above first-floor businesses.
Athanasiadis: “Taxes should be on everybody’s mind. When I got my last tax bill, I was like ‘whoa.’ I’m not the only one that went through that emotion. Medfield likes a lot of nice things. We have a good school system, we have great infrastructure, nice buildings, and we care for our community. But everything we do costs money. Taxes are a necessity.
“Towns have been able to attract large businesses to help offset costs. We have not been able to do that. We had the Potpourri building for a while and it would be nice to attract a nice, big company. We have plenty of small businesses. I think a nice big business is going to bring some money into Medfield.
“During my campaign, I have been talking to a lot of people, especially the seniors, that is one of their biggest concerns and it is my concern also. People are literally forced to leave Medfield because they cannot pay taxes. I’m not sure what can be done about that and other than lowering the tax rate that is something that we have to work really hard to address.”
Athanasiadis’ position: Athanasiadis says the town can’t keep raising the tax rate and it is an issue that needs to be addressed by bringing larger businesses to town. It should be a focus in town to find a large company willing to operate in Medfield.
Transparency in Town Government
While both candidates believe the Board of Selectmen and town government need to be transparent and openly provide information to residents ... they disagree on how it should be done.
Peterson: “I don’t have the expectation that the town’s residents are going to have the time to sit and watch endless meetings, or come to meetings. I think we need to set up the information sharing process in a way that we push the information out to them.
“I think the more information you share, the more transparent government is and the more people are going to trust it. What is frustrating is when you don’t know what’s going on and you can’t get the facts and can’t get the information. You need to share the information.”
Peterson’s position: Peterson believes in sharing as much information as possible about the town with its residents to keep everyone informed. It is why he created his blog, Medfield 02052, “a few years ago” and why he strives to make information he sees as a selectman public and accessible.
Athanasiadis: “We are living in the Internet age so everybody wants to have all the information available at their fingertips. If the Internet went down I would be lost.
“I’m all for open transparency and making sure people know what’s going on and meetings coming up. People are complaining that they don’t know when the meetings are coming up.
“Let’s set something up like a mailing list that people can get on. There’s nothing wrong with communication. Transparency, being able to tell people what’s going on and keeping them informed in matters is very important.
Athanasiadis’ position: Athanasiadis says while transparency in government is important, he doesn’t believe a blog is the right way to present that information.
“[The information is] going to be the facts and nothing but the facts,” he said. …“[Peterson] puts up stuff but a lot of times he will give his own take. … I will let the media add the commentary and residents can add the commentary. Anything that comes from [the town] should be just the facts.”
Involvement in Town Government, Town Meeting, Elections
A lot has been said about . Each candidate’s attendance record for town meetings and town elections can be viewed in the PDF above. As for what those records mean, each candidate offers an explanation.
Athanasiadis: “From the beginning of my campaign, I have been upfront with the fact that I have not been involved in local politics as much as I would have wanted to be. I never assumed that my record of attendance and voting is a secret. I have told anyone that I have met in the campaign that my primary concern has been raising my family and looking after its well being. In the last election, only 800 people voted. I guess I am not alone. Would it be fair to tell all the hard working citizens of Medfield, that since you do not have a perfect record in voting, there is no room for you in Medfield government? Does having a perfect attendance record for Town Meeting and voting make someone a better selectman? A good Selectman should be based on what they can offer to the town and what they can bring to the board."
Peterson took a different view, saying the town needs someone with experience in local government and familiar with the system.
“I am concerned that someone is running who has not been to Town Meeting,” said Peterson. “I’m concerned that someone running hasn’t voted much in municipal elections and hasn’t participated in things in town. Typically, I think what the town would like to see is what somebody has before they try and take over. Let us see what you got before you try and run things. … I think it is important to have opinions and I think it is important to go to Town Meeting.”
Why Medfield Voters Should Choose Pete Peterson for Selectman
“Experience. I have been doing it and I know how to do it,” said Peterson. “I’m more effective than ever. I think I have shown a willingness to work hard. I go to the meetings and I report back. I have been a participant in the process.”
Why Medfield Voters Should Choose Nick Athanasiadis for Selectman
“I pride myself in being able to work as a team,” Athanasiadis said. “I pride myself in being able to listen to people’s point of views. I don’t have a problem saying I’m wrong. I don’t have a problem taking someone else’s idea. … You will rarely hear me say that ‘I did’ something. You will hear that ‘we’ did something. I think that’s a quality that my opponent does not have. … I want to bring back the concept of WE to the board. My goal will be to work as a team, proactively to gain the trust of the citizens of Medfield. … I want to bring back the concept of ‘we’ to the board. My goal will be to work as a team, proactively to gain the trust of the citizens of Medfield.”
To read more on Osler “Pete” Peterson’s bid for reelection,
To read more on Nikolaos "Nick" Athanasiadis’ campaign for selectman,
So Medfield, we want to know ... who is your choice for selectman at Monday's election? Vote in our poll above and tell us why in the comments below!