Voter Guide for Select Board Special Election
December 7, 2021
Candidates for Select Board for the December 7, 2021, Needham special town election are listed below. Candidates are listed in the order they will appear on the ballot. Each candidate has been asked to answer the first two questions in 300 characters or less and answer the remaining questions in 500 characters or less. The Voter Guide was also published in the November 18, 2021 Needham Times on page 2.
The candidates provided all responses; no editing was done by the LWVN.
Karen L. Calton
Kevin J. Keane
387 High Rock Street
88 Lexington Avenue
1. What are your qualifications for office?
Attorney for 24 years. Experience in state & federal government policy making. Possess the ability to analyze the legality, efficacy & budgetary impact of policy & follow through on its implementation. Homeowner, taxpayer, parent of public school children & Town Meeting member for Precinct D.
I have the experience and temperament needed. Having served on numerous boards, committees, and in the schools for more than a decade, I understand the needs of the community. As a Town Meeting member since 2012, I value the decentralized and collaborative democratic approach we have in Needham.
2. What personal qualities do you possess that would make you an effective Select Board member?
Have the ability to manage tasks, foster relationships, gather input, build public consensus, & see projects through to conclusion. A hard worker who won’t quit. Intelligent, rational, reasonable and thoughtful. I have high standards for myself and others; however, I am empathetic and compassionate.
I am open-minded, level-headed, and eager to listen to the people in my community. I value civil discourse, honesty, and communication. I believe collaboration is crucial to affect change, and I will work with my colleagues while not shying away from difficult questions or necessary discussions.
3. What are your short-term priorities as a Select Board member if elected?
It is imperative that I build positive working relationships with key stakeholders across Needham. I am not seeking this position to advance my own agenda. I will represent the concerns and priorities of ALL the residents of Needham, not just a select few. My priority is to bring respectful, orderly and effective governance back to Needham so that we can continue to move in a positive direction that attracts more individuals and families to our beautiful community.
Most importantly, I want to bring everyone to the table for effective communication of all issues. In the short term, my top priority is to recruit diverse voices to serve on community boards to create an equitable, bottom-up approach to leadership. Additionally, I plan to address issues of affordable housing, reexamine expanding the Rail Trail, enhance collaboration and discourse with our public safety officials, and closely partner on the Climate Action Plan subcommittee.
4. What do you see as the most important long-term goal you would like to achieve if elected?
Ensuring the Town continues to be led by capable, qualified & effective leaders. The Select Board is responsible for establishing policies & procedures for the coordination of town government operations & making appointments to boards & committees, town manager & town counsel. We must maintain rigorous standards & ensure that the most qualified individuals are hired for Town positions. This is essential in order for Needham to provide services in an efficient & effective manner.
Addressing issues of equity and access in all facets of government is critical. Ensuring that diverse voices and perspectives are represented in town leadership - at the committee and board levels as well as at the top - will benefit our community long term. We must promote and increase participation to enable us to address the spectrum of issues in Needham and affect change more substantially in areas of climate action, access to green space, affordable housing, and countless other matters.
5. How would you encourage greater awareness of, and participation in, Needham town government?
I believe in leading by example. I’m hopeful that my participation in this race will encourage others to get involved. You can do it! You can make a difference! Run for Town Meeting. Vote on December 7! Let your voice be heard! As we regain our freedom of movement post-pandemic, I am looking forward to face-to-face engagements with town residents so that I can share my story and encourage awareness of town governance and the myriad of ways individuals can get involved.
Communication is key. We must make it easier to take the first step toward getting involved - especially for historically underrepresented groups. We should better promote opportunities to serve and convey the need for a broad spectrum of voices to drive change. We must always commit ourselves to dialog with the citizens of Needham and highlight the rewarding nature of being a leader in making the town the best expression of itself. With a variety of options, there is room and need for everyone.
6. When planning for the future of municipal buildings, what factors should the town consider around prioritizing projects, renovating vs. replacing buildings, funding, etc.?
We must be forward looking & recognize that our Town is growing & that many important functions take place in the municipal buildings - educating our children, providing public safety for all residents, providing public services for town residents. The town should have short term & long term plans for servicing infrastructure & work by, with, and through our local boards & businesses to determine & analyze future impacts & create viable strategies that will not waste our limited resources.
Projects are funded by a mix of local tax revenues, grants, state funding and debt. It is important to stagger projects to observe the town’s 10% debt rule and not overwhelm us as taxpayers. We must maintain both environmental and fiscal responsibility in every decision. Close examination of each project is critical; swift action based on recommendations is important to avoid cost increases due to delay. Priority should be determined by the function of the building and whom it will benefit.
7. What specific actions, if any, could the Select Board take to address the climate emergency?
The Select Board should be proactive in working with the DPW to explore new ways to promote conservation and recycling initiatives and to educate the residents and businesses of the ways they can be more energy efficient and reduce their carbon footprint. In addition, we should seek out new conservation approaches if they are in the best interest of the citizens of Needham.
The climate emergency is a global challenge, and the town has taken steps to combat it. There’s so much more that can be done. The Select Board should take a strong stance on climate policies including a building code that encourages green buildings and sustainable housing development. They must examine a more comprehensive transportation plan and support the greening of our energy supply to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2050, the Commonwealth’s Roadmap to Decarbonization goal.
8. When considering the town’s annual operating budget, what factors would guide you in making tradeoffs among competing funding priorities?
I would consult all relevant departments and managers when looking at the annual operating budget to help make determinations on how to best allocate funds. The Town has a $200 million budget which is quite substantial, but not infinite. Strategies and subsequent decisions are not made in a vacuum and require competent and mindful planning to ensure all services in Town are adequately funded including schools, public safety, public works, and elderly services, to name a few.
Projects should be grouped by “must dos”, “should dos”, and “nice to dos”. The first would address immediate needs of the community, health and safety concerns, critical infrastructure and building maintenance, and the needs of our schools. The second would include renovating and updating buildings, increasing green spaces, and improving recreational space. An example of the last would be beautification projects. Tradeoffs must be fiscally sound, and operating budgets should avoid overrides.