The race for Concord’s Board of Selectmen has suddenly become a contested one with Elise Woodward running for re-election, and Steven Ng and Dennon Rodrigue both running write-in campaigns. The three met the public at the to discuss the issues they deemed most important to Concord voters.
Ng introduced himself at Sunday’s League of Women Voters Concord Candidates Forum as a Concord resident of 15 years with kids in the public school system. He is also a current member of the Zoning Board of Appeals.
Rodrigue is 37 years old and has three children. He is a veteran who spent 14 years working for the U.S. government and related that he “brings a fresh perspective on the issues.”
Woodward, a Concord resident since 1981, began serving on the Board of Selectmen in 2009. She stressed that she strongly believes in the Town Manager/Selectmen form of local government as it “allows citizens to determine the course of action together.”
When asked by Sunday’s moderator, JoAnn Barry, what the most important issues in Concord were, all three candidates stressed a need to work on the economy.
Woodward’s three most important issues are:
- Financial Stability
- Proactive planning
Rodrigue’s three issues:
- Maintaining an affordable tax rate
- Sustainability of energy and resources
- Maintaining infrastructure and historical nature of town
Ng’s three issues:
- Living within means financially
- Working with demands for open space
- Keeping a watchful eye on development in neighboring communities
When asked about how to encourage communications between every level of town government, Rodrigue stressed that transparency was vital. He advocated the creation of a “super committee,” one that would meet informally and allow for department or committee heads to share ideas and brings other up to speed on any doings since the pervious meeting.
Ng believes that the groups in town work well together, but that they must be very careful to meet the requirements of the Open Meeting law. “Keeping the public informed is one thing we need to be concerned with,” he said.
Woodward agreed that town groups do a good job of sharing information with one another, but that “it’s the way we share information publicly that needs more attention than we give it. We need a wider network of sharing.”
All three candidates stressed the importance of adhering to the sustainability guidelines that the town set forth, ensuring that resources used today can still be used by future generations.
The candidates also agreed that participation in town government was lower than it should be, citing a need for more political interest among young people and more voters in general.
“Why don’t we have more contested races in this town?” Ng asked in relation to low political participation. “It leads to better choices (when we do). We need to get the participation level up.”
Woodward added, “It’s a mystery to me why more people don’t run. It’s a fabulous opportunity for people to have a say in the town.”
Rodrigue answered the question by saying that people “don’t like to be judged harshly.”
“People see the national politics and it’s ugly, but it’s not like that on the local level,” he said.
During an audience Q&A session, Concord resident Casey Winslow asked the candidates about proposed MBTA cuts. Woodward related that the board was currently , which would cut service and raise fares.
“It’s hard to tell if this is actually a threat or more of an advanced warning from the MBTA, but we are taking action,” she said.
Rodrigue said that it seems like these types of cuts are proposed each year and riders are “held hostage for more money.” He said that he supported Woodward’s stance and that the Concord community needs to “speak with one voice,” writing to state legislators to voice displeasure.
Ng added, “When you cut that service, it alienates people and it hurts sustainability. We need to do something about it.”
Nearing the end of the forum, each candidate had the chance to offer final remarks. Rodrigue reminded voters that he brought “a different skill set to the ballot.”
“It’s not just about leading the town, it’s about representation,” he said.
Woodward related her experience already serving on the board and what it means to be a selectman in Concord.
“I want to contribute to the vibrancy of the democratic process,” she said. “It’s important to listen, protect others and have a willingness to change.”
Ng summed up his want to maintain government transparency and the collaboration of ideas.
“It’s the people of Concord I would serve,” he said, “and that’s something I would always keep in mind.”