The 2022 Guide to Inform Voters’ Choices for Bedford’s Town Election on March 12

~ Submitted by the League of Women Voters of Bedford

The League of Women Voters is non-partisan, neither supporting nor opposing candidates or political parties at any level of government, but always working on vital issues of concern to its members and the public.

The League encourages informed and active participation in government at all levels.

In this spirit, the members of the League of Women Voters of Bedford developed candidate questions to provide voters with information on the backgrounds and positions of those who are volunteering to serve on Town Boards to help voters make informed decisions about their choices on March 12.

Democracy is not a spectator sport
~ Lottie E. Scharfman
Namesake of the Massachusetts League of Women Voters Education Fund

TOWN MODERATOR
1 position, 3-year term, uncontested

Q1—Why are you interested in serving the Bedford community as Town Moderator and what do you consider your primary qualifications?

Siegenthaler:  I believe I can use my 28+ years as an elected official, my involvement on appointed boards and committees, and my recent experience as temporary moderator, to perform the duties of Moderator, in positive and constructive ways.

Bedford’s Town Moderator has two responsibilities.  First, is to preside over our annual town meeting and any other special town meetings called throughout the year.

Many of you, like me, have been to town meetings many times.  I think that my experience at the front of the auditorium looking out has given me a perspective on the meetings that may be a little different from yours.  It’s a unique experience to be up there on an elected board, listening to questions, trying to coordinate productive responses, taking cues from the Moderator, responding to residents’ concerns, and keeping the warrant articles moving.  I can use that experience in my role as Moderator.

The second duty of the moderator is participating in the appointment of members of the Finance Committee.  I have worked with many Finance Committee members over the years. I believe my experience working with those members, and understanding the role and tasks of the Committee, will help in the appointment process.

Q2—What changes in Town Meeting procedures do you identify you would like to promote?
Siegenthaler
:  Town Meeting is both a long-standing, traditional way of legislating in towns like Bedford but also a way to personalize our town and its operating functions for residents who attend or tune in.  They are important events where we come together to confirm our choices – through budgets and bylaws – and make changes if we choose.  It is direct control for residents when they want it.  When we engage each other in that setting – listening to the information that supports proposed warrant articles, comparing ideas and available solutions through civil discourse – we continue to be a successful, well-managed community.

Town Meeting is not a perfect model.  I would like to explore better ways to engage people through possibilities such as, improved microphone systems, electronic voting, closed caption displays of questions and even remote questions (without remote voting).  Some of these changes may take a little while – proposals need to be discussed with residents, boards, and town departments.  Some may require funding at future town meetings for improved communication and accessibility equipment.

I have the interest and energy to apply my knowledge and experience to the position of Town Moderator and to explore improvements to Town Meeting procedures.

SELECT BOARD
2 positions, 3-year term, 4 candidates

Q1—Please identify one thing about Town government that, if you could you change and how?

Carroll:  One thing I would change about Town government if I could would be granting our senior citizens (65 or older) an annual tax break after having resided in  Bedford for more than 20 consecutive years. The reason for this would be to allow senior citizens the affordability to remain in Bedford for the remainder of their years. At the age of 65 years and older, our seniors no longer have children in our school system, which is a large portion of the taxes we all pay. In the current environment, taxes continue to increase along with the cost of gas, food, etc. and we owe it to our senior citizens to keep Bedford an affordable community to live.

Hanegan:  One of my priorities as a Select Board member will be to incorporate more viewpoints into Town Government activities. Many of us live busy lives and have commitments that limit the time we can spend on town matters. As a Select Board member, I will look for ways to hear more voices, especially of those who cannot join a board or committee and/or regularly make the time to come to meetings. During my time on the Planning Board, we held multiple public visioning sessions for the Comprehensive Plan and Great Road Zoning Project that were well-attended and allowed us to get community feedback. I also worked on the 2019 Bedford Housing Study, which incorporated feedback from 886 members of our community from both public sessions and survey responses. I will work to extend this model of gathering and incorporating feedback to more areas of Town government.

As a Select Board member, I plan to hold public sessions for feedback on major issues coming before the Board. I will also examine things like town-provided child care for parents attending Town Meeting, and using Ranked Choice Voting to encourage more candidates to run in local elections.

Mitchell:  I would improve communication and expectations with residents. The Town offers e-alerts, where people can register for notifications about committees and issues of interest. We use robocalls to alert folks about upcoming storms or other critical news. And the Town website has lots of resources, if you know where to find them.

But they’re all part of the sea of information we swim in every day. It can be hard for residents to keep up. We also have folks in town who don’t have the same facility with email and online communications, people who speak other languages, and people with disabilities who need to access information in different ways.

Upgrading the Town website has been a goal for years, but it’s been hard to prioritize during COVID. It’s also time-consuming: we run a very lean operation at Town Hall, and I know from experience, as the webmaster for five separate organizations, that sometimes “just put it on the website” is not as quick or easy as we’d like.

Our form of government requires active participation from citizens. The Town can make it easier for folks to find information they need; then it’s up to us to take advantage of it.

O’Brien:  I think our Town government is great.  My time on the Conservation Commission reinforced my faith in our citizen government’s capability to do good work.  One thing I noticed while serving on the Conservation Commission was that many Bedford residents were confused about local rules and regulations, which sometimes led to negative interactions with the Town boards and employees.  I would like to continue Bedford’s work to demystify and communicate critical aspects of our local rules and regulations to town residents.   

Q2—What is your assessment of Bedford’s capacity to develop more  economically diverse housing particularly in light of new State regulations that will tie future MBTA service to increasing low income housing options?

Carroll:  For those unfamiliar with this new requirement: Enacted in January 2021, new Section 3A of M.G.L. c. 40A (Zoning Act) requires that an MBTA community shall provide at least 1 zoning district of reasonable size in which multi-family housing is permitted; provided that such multi-family housing shall be without age restriction and shall be suitable for children and families. The housing must be located no more than 0.5 miles from MBTA Service areas, if applicable. Failure to comply negates the town from receiving funds from three different state programs. With that said, Bedford may already be in compliance (if 2 family housing meets the criteria). Bedford must weigh the pros and cons of complying, as not to create an adverse impact on our schools, emergency services, infrastructure, etc.

Hanegan
:  This question refers to proposed state requirements mandating zoning to support multifamily housing in designated areas without requiring a special permit from the town. This would apply to communities such as Bedford that are served by the MBTA. The proposed state requirements do not address deed restricted affordable housing that would fall under the state’s affordable housing law Chapter 40B. The state requirements are still in the comment phase, and are not yet firm. Town staff is looking first at what zoning we currently have that can apply to these proposed requirements. Existing zoning, such as around Depot Park, may be used toward fulfilling these requirements with some updates.

One of the key findings of the 2019 Housing Study is that Bedford lacks an adequate supply of moderate-income housing available for seniors and returning students looking to remain in Bedford while starting their careers and families. Any talk about maintaining our town’s character should start with allowing deeply connected members of our community to afford to continue to live here. Creating multifamily housing in appropriate locations- taking into account neighborhood impact and traffic- can be an effective way to allow those who want to remain in Bedford to do so.

Mitchell:  At nearly 300 years old, Bedford is largely built out. We don’t have lots of open parcels left for housing development, so our ability to meet the state’s new regulations for MBTA communities will likely lean heavily on redevelopment of existing parcels. I appreciate the Planning Board’s recent deliberations around the MBTA guidelines, and the desire, based on our 2019 Housing Study, to create housing that allows seniors to age in place, provides starter homes for young people and families, and supports multigenerational households. I’m aware of some interesting ideas in the pipeline in the Carlisle Road area, as well as the proposed “Friendly 40B” development at the end of South Road. I would also like to see thoughtful community visioning around the Great Road/Shawsheen district, including the Stop & Shop plaza.

O’Brien:  The State of Massachusetts enacted Section 3A of M.G.L. c. 40A (Zoning Act) in January 2021. This act requires communities served by the MBTA provide at least one zoning district of reasonable size for multi-family housing; provided that such multi-family housing shall be without age restriction and shall be suitable for children and families and located within 0.5 miles of MBTA Service areas.

We need to see how the regulations will ultimately be written to support this new law.  Like any new regulation, Bedford should take a rational approach and weigh the pros and cons.  We may find that much of the new regulation will be in line with aspects that our Zoning By-Law already has in place, such as the Residence D zoning district, or the provisions in 4.2.2 Two Family Dwelling.  However, we need to ensure that we clearly identify potential impacts to our schools, traffic, and infrastructure prior to making any Zoning changes to accommodate this new regulation, once promulgated.

Q3—What are one or two sustainability projects that you identify will improve the quality of life for Bedford residents that you will champion and advocate for the Town to implement in the next two years?

Carroll:  I will champion town wide clean up days. Having organized and executed a very successful town wide clean-up day for Bedford on May 2nd 2021, the response was overwhelming to repeat this more than once per year. The local Scouts have done these historically and I was able to work with them hand in hand in 2021. I will push for the town to coordinate permanent bi-annual clean up days (one in the spring and one in the fall) with the full support of the Town government. We can work together with the Town Manager, Police, Fire, DPW and local organizations such as Mothers Out Front, Girl Scouts, Cubs Scouts, Boy Scouts and the business community. A cleaner Bedford will improve the quality of life for all. Secondly, I will champion more community gardens. During the pandemic, many residents became first time gardeners and received the benefits of physical activity, improved nutrition, human interaction with others and reduced stress. Gardening is a wonderful way to improve quality of life for all.

Hanegan:  I will continue to advocate for the creation of a department-level full-time Sustainability Director for our town. This is a key recommendation of the town’s Net Zero plan, adopted by Town Meeting in 2017. The Select Board took a good first step in this direction in proposing an Energy Manager position as part of this year’s budget, to be voted on at Town Meeting.

A Sustainability Director would advise our town’s boards and committees about how best to take steps toward a carbon-free future with the help of grant funds. The Director would also help identify specific projects in town, propose changes to our zoning laws, advise residents and current and prospective businesses on resilient buildings, energy efficiency, and waste reduction, and work with other towns to advocate for changes in state laws making building codes more sustainable.

Besides the environmental benefits, hiring a Sustainability Director makes financial sense for Bedford’s taxpayers. Experience from other towns shows that such an investment pays for itself many times over in grants, rebates, incentives, and energy savings that would not otherwise have been realized.

Mitchell:  Bedford has many opportunities to increase our capacity and use of solar energy, including the proposed microgrid at the Town Center campus and possibilities for solar farms or canopies at the Compost Center and elsewhere. I’d also like to see further development of the Town’s solid waste diversion programs, including home, school, and municipal composting to keep more food waste out of landfills. I’m grateful to our DPW staff, especially former recycling manager Ed McGrath and current recycling administrator Elizabeth Antanavica, for their creative efforts to partner with outside groups for mattress, glass, and textile recycling as well. Climate change is an immediate problem and a long-term problem, and we need both immediate and long-term solutions to do our part to minimize its effects in Bedford.

O’Brien:  Every waste stream is a squandered resource.  Bedford has made great strides in reducing our landfill bound wastes.  Our recycling program is excellent, but I think we can do more.  I would focus my attention to this potential resource.

Sustainability is foundational for well-run facilities and needs quite a bit of care and feeding.  There are many great sustainability projects that involve energy reduction and alternative energy sources.  Bedford should continue to pursue their 1 to N list of sustainability projects, such as the conversion to LED street lights and recent HVAC upgrade at the Town Hall.  This list should continue to be reviewed, revised, and prioritized every year utilizing the current 6-year horizon.

I call attention to these projects, because they could be executed well and save significant energy, reducing Bedford’s carbon footprint; or they could be executed poorly and provide only moderate savings to the Town and not effectively move the needle to reduce our energy consumption.  Our Town’s Executive leadership should have experience in this area.  In addition, we need to ensure that we have the effective training to maintain our new systems and proper feedback loops to ensure that the systems continue to operate efficiently.

PLANNING BOARD
2 positions, 3-year term, uncontested

Q1—What is your assessment of Bedford’s capacity to develop more economically diverse housing particularly in light of new State regulations that will tie future MBTA service to increasing low-income housing options?

Crowley
:  Bedford has the ability and capacity to develop more economically diverse housing over the next few years.  The state is currently planning on removing access to various funding methods for MBTA towns * (Bedford included since it has MBTA bus service) if the towns do not create a new high-density zone of fairly substantial size allowing multi-family housing by right.  This is a good forcing function to push Bedford to consider multi-family housing in many different areas of the town, and to  reassess what Bedford has currently zoned for housing.  The Planning Board has already begun discussing multi-family homes as well as 2 family homes.  They are also continuing to discuss other housing options, such as potential modifications to current accessory dwelling unit zoning regulations.  I feel the state’s regulations will help shape the Planning Board’s discussions which will in turn force the board to come up with appropriate areas to have different types of housing in Bedford (which must be approved at Town Meeting).  Having more two-family (note: single-family houses that existed in 1945 can be converted to a two-family) and multi-family housing will help Bedford reach its goals of having more economically diverse housing stock.

*  https://www.mass.gov/info-details/multi-family-zoning-requirement-for-mbta-communities

Lloyd:  No response

Q2—What do you identify as the three primary issues the Planning Board needs to address during the next three years?

Crowley:

  1. Expanding housing options within Bedford
  2. Balancing town needs with environmental needs
  3. Supporting Local Businesses

Bedford needs to expand its housing options to have a more economically diverse housing stock available.  Having more 2-family and multi-family housing available will assist with this goal.  Having the state push the MTBA towns towards having multi-family housing by right will also spur discussion and action.  I am also encouraged by the Carlisle Road / North Road intersection housing plan that discussed at the 2/8/22 Planning Board meeting.

As I stated in my Initial Statement, I feel that we all must always consider the environment when making plans for our town.  I know this can be challenging at times, but in the end, we need to make sure that we do the best job we can to limit our impact on the Earth, and always look for ways to make things sustainable.

The third issue is to make sure the town does everything it can to support local businesses.  This is a fairly new area for me, but I feel maintaining strong relationships with local businesses, and expanding opportunities to attract businesses should be a priority for Bedford.

Lloyd:  No response

Q3—How would you balance the interests of developers, neighbors, and the town in general when making decisions on proposed new or modified developments?

Crowley:  Having been on the Zoning Board of Appeals for the past 10 years, I am very familiar with having to balance the interests of developers, neighbors, and the town when making decisions regarding residential lots (and business lots as well).  All parties need (and deserve) a chance to speak their mind about what they feel is important, then compromises need to be made by everyone.  Most times everyone will have to give a little, but in the end on the ZBA we have always been able to come up with a compromise that will make everyone satisfied.  People in town do need to understand that sometimes things need to change, as the times have changed in the world.  But it is also good to always remember where the town came from, to keep things in perspective.  Again, I am encouraged by the proposal given to the Planning Board on 2/8/22 regarding the Carlisle Road and North Road intersection, as the initial proposal had a healthy mixture of various sizes of single-family homes and a large building dedicated for senior living.

Lloyd:  No response

SCHOOL COMMITTEE

2 positions, 3 year term, 4 candidates

Q1—In other districts and parts of the country, there are controversies about “critical race theory,” the appropriateness of some books, and the extent parents should determine the content of their children’s education.  Are these issues in any way relevant in Bedford?

Gorsey: 
 The controversies about critical race theory, appropriateness of some books and parental involvement in educational content are relevant in all school systems, including Bedford. Regarding any theory, students should be encouraged think for themselves and to research primary sources so that different points of view can be evaluated. Challenging ideas is vital to critical thinking.

Library books should be age and topic appropriate.  Some topics are too much information for young children, who have great imaginations and can be easily led by animations and educators they like.  Children should be encouraged to respect their parents and traditions.

In the upper grades, there should be books presenting different ideas—liberal, conservative, progressive or other.  Educators should demonstrate tolerance for \

There should always be parental involvement in the content of their children’s education as stated in the Letter to Principals from the Commissioner of Education, which introduces the Comprehensive School Health Manual.

Horton:  Yes, these topics are on the minds of people in every city and town across America, and Bedford is no exception. As a town, it will be important for us to ensure that citizens and parents have an opportunity to express their perspectives on these topics through respectful dialogue. In our classrooms, we should continue to promote inclusion and celebrate our differences and our similarities, leveraging age-appropriate books and materials.

Mehta-Green:  There is lots of buzz about “Critical Race Theory” these days and what it actually means. It is the linking of racism, race and power and how they are interrelated, most commonly taught in undergraduate and graduate education. When bringing the concepts of racism, race and power and understanding history together, these elements are appropriately present and taught in K12 education.  In terms of content for our children’s education in Bedford, I have trust in our teachers, curriculum specialists and administrators in choosing age-appropriate content to teach our children about racism, race and power.  It would be beneficial for the content provided to our children in school, also be made available to families and our community, so together we can have a common language to understand the relationship between racism, race and power within our community and society. It allows us all to have an open dialog on understanding history and how we all have the power to influence the future. Knowledge is power and continuing to bring in diverse content, fosters acceptance.

Morrison:  I believe that parents should be informed and aware of what is being taught in their children’s classrooms. We do not teach CRT in the Bedford schools. We teach diversity, equity, and inclusion, in accordance with the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks.  I trust our teachers, department heads, principals, and administrators to make prudent decisions on what topics should be taught in our classrooms and the materials used to teach. How we teach can be as important as what we teach. At an age-appropriate pace, it is important to expose our youth to issues that can be viewed from multiple perspectives and demonstrate by example that they can be curious about how others see things, engage in civil discussions about differences of opinion, and think critically for themselves.

Q2—What is your plan regarding climate education?

Gorsey:  Climate Education has always been part of the curriculum and should follow unfolding scientific research.

Horton: 
This is undoubtedly a timely topic that should be incorporated into our curriculum.  As a school committee member, I would look forward to collaborating with the district to consider their proposed plans for climate education.  It is critical that the students of Bedford understand the importance of environmental matters and develop a culture of caring for the climate.

Mehta-Green: 
I believe in climate education from both a scientific and practical perspective across our K12 curriculum. Using the data to explain the changes of global warming and how we as individuals and a collective society can actually make a difference. That the decisions we make, impact our environment.  Focusing on the positive impact that sustainable energy, recycling, and conservation are areas that we as an entire community can continue to improve on in our education and in practice.  Currently in all four of our schools, there are curriculum and some extracurricular activities around climate education and protecting our environment, such as sustainable gardens, environmental clubs and science fairs.  We should continue to add additional curriculum, teacher resources, extra-curricular and community-based opportunities, which will allow us to further our understanding of positive climate impact practices. .

Morrison: 
I have been teaching about climate change at the university level for over 20 years. I believe we should be teaching about climate change in our schools, because it will be a prominent issue for our global society throughout our children’s lifetimes. Our students need to understand the basic science of our ecosystem and why scientists are concerned about climate change.  But, we need to teach this topic in a way that engenders hope for the future and catalyzes action to make things better.  If we can do this well, at age-appropriate times, our current generation of students will be informed and prepared to steward our planet into the next century.  As for how to do this in the schools, the topic spans several departments, most notably the science and social studies departments. We want to ensure that multiple departments are in fact coordinating with each other about a multi-disciplinary topic such as this and then expect the department heads and teachers to do the actual planning and implementation.

Q3—Do you identify lingering issues in student academic growth as a result of the impact of Covid that need to be addressed?

Gorsey
:  Academic growth has been affected by the isolation of Covid 19.  Summer and after school programs would helpful.

Horton: 
We all know that extended periods of remote learning and other pandemic-related disruptions and restrictions have greatly impacted children’s education.  The question of issues in specific areas of academic growth is something I would look to the district to provide data on so that we can support effective solutions.  I am deeply committed to addressing learning gaps and the overwhelming array of mental health challenges that students are currently facing.

Mehta-Green
:  I believe there are lingering academic growth issues as a result of COVID.  In looking at the MCAS scores from 2019 compared to 2021, the “Meeting Expectations” scores were within 2 percentage points, in the low 50’s for ELA Gr 3 – 8, Math Gr 3-8 and Math Gr 10.  For ELA Gr 10, was the difference of 5 percentage points, showing a decline in 2021 from 2019. MCAS is one data point, but it is a benchmark that helps us gauge our student’s comprehension of ELA and math. In speaking with several teachers, many are expecting the gap to be greater with the 2022 MCAS results.  This year both teachers and students are working to catchup to get back to grade-level curriculum. There is learning loss on necessary skills that are needed as you advance in content complexity.  Our schools anticipated this and have already added additional reading and math support in several areas. We will need to continue to provide proactive additional resources to ensure that successful grade-level performance metrics are achieved.

Morrison:  There is no doubt that our students were impacted by Covid in many ways. We know that many have lost time on learning and now have gaps in their education. While we do not yet know the full impact, the School Committee, in partnership with administration, is working proactively to determine the needs of our students so that we know where to provide additional support. Our teachers will be making adjustments to instructional plans for next year to address our findings. As an additional layer of support, we hope to continue the expansion of our summer programs to include any students that would benefit from additional instruction.

It is also clear that the social and emotional impacts on our students are widespread. Our four principals have all have reported increased attention to social and emotional issues through faculty conversations, staff meetings, and informal, day-to-day activities. We have added counselors at our schools and relevant content into our professional development programs for our teachers. We will continue to solicit feedback from parents, students, and experts to provide the support our students need and deserve.

BOARD of HEALTH
1 position, 3 year term, 2 candidates

Q1—Why are you interested in serving the Bedford community as a member of the Board of Health, what are your qualifications?

Brunkhorst
:  I have had the honor and pleasure of serving as a member of the Board of Health for 23 years. I come to the Board with a PhD in biochemistry, decades of experience as a scientist, and day-to-day implementation of biosafety rules and regulations. With my training, experience, and passion for science and public health, the Board of Health is a natural fit.

In my day job, I am the Biosafety officer and Chair of my company’s Institutional Biosafety Committee. This role is incredibly useful for many facets of the Board of Health’s work, such as developing safety measures in this unprecedented pandemic and serving as the community representative on some of the Biotech Institutional Biosafety committees in Bedford. I have helped the Board grow from a pure advisory role to the strong organization it is now.

My training as a scientist doing research in cancer immunotherapy ensures that I can keep the board and public informed on the latest public health-related science, including COVID-19.   If re-elected I will ensure that the Board of Health will develop the frameworks for assessing our responses to COVID, which can be deployed once the pandemic subsides.

O’Connell
:  Having made Bedford our new home just over a year ago, I am looking to be an active member in my community, leveraging my professional experience in a meaningful way. With a desire to provide leadership by example to our young son, I look forward to the opportunity to drive policy changes, initiatives, and communications that support strong health outcomes in our community.

Professionally, my experience in public-sector healthcare compliance, strategy, and consulting will be applicable in ensuring the BOH operates smoothly, objectively, and informed by data.

Currently, as Director of Corporate Compliance for a prominent health insurer here in Massachusetts, my role is focused on analyzing firm-wide operations to identify inefficiencies in our practices, and ensure behavior and protocols truly drive the outcomes we’ve committed to.  I’m known for my collaboration and approachability, fearless challenging of norms and assumptions, and a relentless commitment to driving results.  Education wise, I have my bachelor’s from Fairfield University, and my MBA from Suffolk University.

Q2—What area of the Board of Health’s responsibilities will be most important to you when the pandemic is no longer such a dominant issue for the Board?

Brunkhorst:  Over the last 21 months, we have learned that the pandemic has increased pre-existing health issues such as mental illness, food insecurity, and obesity. Mental health, in particular, touches us all and the pandemic has certainly exacerbated mental illness.

I am proud that our town has invested in four social workers. The Board of Health has been central to the expansion of our town social work services, a process I am glad to have been a part of.  I’m particularly proud to have supported the hiring of a pediatric social worker to meet the needs of our youngest population. I look forward to working with the schools and following up on such important tools as the Health Risk Survey that can capture mental health trends.

Unfortunately, COVID has not stopped Lyme, EEE, or any other tick- or mosquito-borne diseases. I am pleased that pre-COVID the BOH held several public education forums; supported the continued contract with East Middlesex Mosquito control; and installed playing field barriers that prevent balls from going into tick-infested woodlands. The BOH will pick up these issues again, as we head into warmer months and our youth and families will be ready to enjoy outdoor activities again. 

O’Connell
:  First, I’m of the mind the last 2 years imply that COVID will aptly continue to be a focus of the Board’s responsibility for years to come.   However, the focus can shift to cyclical, pre-bell curve mitigation.  Meaning, the goal should be to have regular, and broadly accessible Covid and Flu vaccines in September, before the cooler weather spikes.  This can include town walk up clinics which I’ve made use of in the past, and, perhaps, parent-consented clinics during the first week of school, on premises.  And of course, the continued provision of vaccination services for our home-bound residents.

Beyond Covid, my understanding is the 2nd most prevalent public health issue in our community is Tick and Mosquito borne illness. I’d like us to review our past, current, and future management strategies, and resource allocations for mitigating risk, both in terms of illness avoidance, as well as ensuring minimal environmental impacts.

Q3—Will you support the general guidelines promulgated by the national CDC and other health agencies and the Massachusetts  Board of Health in regard to wearing of face masks and vaccination against Covid 19 viruses?  Are there measures that you think go too far or not far enough?

Brunkhorst:  I support the Board of Health decisions to provide a tool box of vaccine and testing clinics, masking and social distancing protocols, and ventilation requirements all based on CDC guidelines. Creating an experienced immunity is the only way out of this pandemic. Hospitalization and vaccination rates can steer the way to responsible masking guidelines.

The pandemic has evolved from the moment it began, and I have been working hard to keep the BOH decisions rooted in science-based solutions.  The Board of Health’s responses to COVID enabled businesses to remain open, children to return to their school buildings, and community events to resume. The judgment of whether these measures were effective is best studied over significant populations. If re-elected, I will ensure that we pay attention to such studies and implement these learnings into our response tool box.

I am committed to the BOH vision of helping neighbors lead healthy lives, and to our values of maintaining a balance between short-term benefit(s) to human life vs. long-term risk. Decision-making priority is given to town/community needs vs. individual needs with special attention to the underserved in our community.

O’Connell:  As the question states, I am supportive of guidelines by reputable health agencies.  I define the term guideline as more similar to a recommendation, and not the same as a mandate. I am very supportive of DESE, Mass DPH, and Bedford’s own Board of Health’s decision to discontinue mask mandates in town, while simultaneously supporting our overall toolkit of Covid mitigation strategies, especially for our most vulnerable.  In the last handful of days, the CDC as well is no longer recommending masks in places where they have been most prevalently enforced, such as schools and buses.

Early in the pandemic, when there was much unknown, exhibiting the upper limit of caution felt necessary, and was a wise approach. As we are about to kick off year 3 of an ongoing pandemic, our response to it has, and should change in its restrictiveness.  The Board’s role going forward, in my view, is providing access and education.  This includes continued, and well timed access to vaccination clinics and insights into our town/county specific data.  Vaccines continue to be our best tool for mitigating extreme illness and hospitalization, and therefore is a value-added area for continued, and on-going efforts.

Editor’s Note: Candidate O’Connell’s response to the LWV questionnaire was received on Saturday, February 26, 2022.  In paragraph 1 of question 3, O’Connell refers to the latest CDC guidance that was published after the February 20 deadline for candidate replies.

LIBRARY TRUSTEES
3 positions, 3-year term, uncontested

Q1—Will you maintain the anti-censorship policy of our current board?  If not, why not?

Choudry:  I support the current board’s anti-censorship policy.  I believe most people would be surprised to hear the names of some of the formative books of our childhoods that have been challenged:  The Great Gatsby, The Catcher in the Rye, The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men, The Color Purple, The Lord of the Flies, Animal Farm and 1984, The Sun Also Rises and A Farewell to Arms, Beloved, and In Cold Blood.

It’s important that people are exposed to different opinions and ideas and are able to make up their own minds, while also understanding that others may hear the same facts and reach different (but valid) conclusions.  As a whole and individually, people are messy and flawed and think differently from each other.  Books and art should represent, explore and celebrate those perspectives.  It’s important for our kids to see and know that.

Hacala
:  Yes, as a Trustee I will always take a stand against censorship. It is critical that libraries be a source of diverse viewpoints and information.  I still remember clearly being a grade-schooler and my mom, who was a librarian, bringing me to the library to get my first card.  She explained there was a blue card that gave you access to all materials and a different color that limited what you could take out.  She explained to me that even as a child she thought it was important for me to have whatever I needed without barriers.   That childhood memory has informed my view of and defense of libraries ever since.  I would oppose any banning or restriction of books as we have seen in Tennessee and other states. Such bans are antithetical to the purpose of libraries and damage our democracy and community.

Hafer:  I support having materials of all sorts available to the patrons of the Bedford Free Public Library.  This is a crucial part of how the library can help patrons become ever better informed and educated.  Further, patrons should be protected from government inquiries as to their internet searches and borrowing records. This policy, known as the Right to Read, is, and always has been an important part of my platform as a candidate. Access to materials, coupled with the protection of privacy, are a central part of how the library operates, and I will do my best to make sure that these policies continue.

Q2—Are there changes in current services or new services you would propose to meet the needs of underserved parts of our community?

Choudry:  I am grateful to our library for working hard to safely facilitate checkouts and service our community during the pandemic, when several other libraries were unable to.  Being relatively new to the community, I am just getting familiar with some of the different services the library provides, such as serving as one of the pickup locations for Covid-19 test kits and free printing.  Partnering with community organizations is the best way to understand and address the needs of the community.  Adding story times (including inclusive options) or homework assistance hours could be helpful.  Another idea is for the Friends of the Library to donate some of their donations that cannot be resold to local organizations that could make use of them (e.g., gently worn children’s books to shelters).  Of course, these – and any ideas – would need additional resources for implementation, and I also have some thoughts on ways to increase community and volunteer engagement.

Hacala:  The library has always strived to serve the entire community and has taken further steps to ensure we serve all of Bedford during the pandemic. Knowing the Internet is critical to much of modern living and the library is a lifeline to it for many, we upgraded the WIFI service and signal in and around the building. It was our hope that even when the building was not open patrons could access the internet nearby and as we reopened, they had better service inside.

In reaction to the Covid pandemic, the library has already instituted new services. We developed and implemented curbside pickup; a service that continues to be popular and expanded ebooks and digital resources.  During the pandemic, we suspended most fines to eliminate any financial hardship and brought programming online.

The library staff completely changed the way they work and the physical configuration of the library several times during the pandemic. At this point, I would not emphasize additional new services and instead focus on reinstating pre-Covid ones as quickly as safety and staffing allow as well as spotlighting the services people might not be aware of.

Hafer:  Printing by patrons is something that the library is reviewing at present.  In the past, when we allowed entirely free printing, some people took advantage of this generosity. Our policy of allowing the printing of 10 free pages per patron per day was very successful.  However, the library’s new software does not allow this, so we are wrestling with whether to again offer entirely free printing, or to charge for every page.  We are currently taking data on how the printers are being used.

I regard the library as part of our social safety net, but even more importantly, I see it as a social springboard—enabling patrons to get jobs, improve their knowledge, and otherwise improve their lives as they wish.  It is my fervent wish to allow some free printing, since the ability to print small numbers of resumes, forms, and other job application materials is a part of this enabling process.  I hope that we will be able to create a software fix to allow this, or if this does not work, that we will be able to convince patrons to pay a small amount per page, if they print more than ten pages.

Q3—Bedford’s demographics are changing.  Our population is aging and we have an increasing number of residents whose primary language is not English.  How can the Library reach out to and better serve these residents

Choudry
:  Here, too, I think the Library is doing quite a good job.  The Large Print and foreign language book selections are significant – and even better because of the sharing across the Minuteman Library Network.  In addition, there are great resources for children in different languages and about different cultures.  The Library also offers audiobook and e-book options that provide alternatives for people with accessibility issues.  This year, the Library partnered with the Parents Diversity Council for Diwali and Lunar New Year, with craft kits and book stations.  My family enjoyed these activities, and I think we should do more partnering events like this (with PDC and other organizations) throughout the year.  Other ideas include a senior book buddy programs or bringing back One Book, One Bedford, which I’ve heard so much about.

Hacala
: The library has always strived to serve the entire community and has taken further steps to ensure we serve all of Bedford during the pandemic. Knowing the Internet is critical to much of modern living and the library is a lifeline to it for many, we upgraded the WIFI service and signal in and around the building. It was our hope that even when the building was not open patrons could access the internet nearby and as we reopened, they had better service inside.

In reaction to the Covid pandemic, the library has already instituted new services. We developed and implemented curbside pickup; a service that continues to be popular and expanded ebooks and digital resources.  During the pandemic, we suspended most fines to eliminate any financial hardship and brought programming online.
The library staff completely changed the way they work and the physical configuration of the library several times during the pandemic. At this point, I would not emphasize additional new services and instead focus on reinstating pre-Covid ones as quickly as safety and staffing allow as well as spotlighting the services people might not be aware of.

Hafer
:  Our aging population will benefit greatly from downloadable audiobooks, which we currently offer.  However, I suspect that the people who would most benefit from this are usually the least able to, due to uneasiness with technology.  I hope that the library can continue to reach out, and help make people comfortable and able to access this important technology.

Having collections in languages other than English, as we do already, is an important part of helping Bedford’s citizens honor and enjoy their heritages. Continuing to do this, and to have events honoring various cultural holidays celebrated in other parts of the world is an important part of our programming.  I look forward to the future, when we can again do more of these events in person, when this is appropriate.
 
ASSESSOR
1 position, 3-year term, uncontested

Q1—Why are you interested in serving as an Assessor and how do your skills and experience prepare you for this role?

Wolk: 
We moved to Bedford in 2003 and raised our kids here. Now that my youngest is graduating this June, I feel it’s the right time to give back to the town. My main goal in this position will simply assure the process remains fair to our residents.

This is a position that follows the law and precise methods to assign the assessments.  My professional experience includes spacecraft science operations on NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory. We follow well scripted protocols and check and double check every command and expected response. The Board of Assessors will require similar attention to detail.

Q2—As an Assessor, there is lots of technical and legal information you will need to understand.  What is your plan to prepare yourself in these areas?

Wolk: 
The Board of Assessors covers some of the most important information in town; how we assess the value of property and vehicles. At the moment, I am aware there are many things to learn. The Commonwealth has an online course that is about 10 hours long that covers the legal and practical details of the process. I expect to take that course as soon as reasonably possible if I am elected.  I am generally a quick learner, but I will not hesitate to ask my fellow board members for assistance as needed.

SHAWSHEEN REGIONAL TECHNICAL HIGH SCHOOL COMMITTEE
1 position, 3-year term, uncontested

Q1—What are your objectives in representing Bedford on the Shawsheen School Committee during the next three years?

Asbedian
:  When I first ran for the Shawsheen Valley Regional Technical School Board, my primary goals were to increase both Shawsheen’s visibility in Bedford and  Bedford’s enrollment numbers.  As I now run for a second term, those goals remain the same.

My first term has been eventful.

We began a superintendent search at my first meeting three years ago, and we are currently in a search for his replacement. We again seek quality leadership to continue to guide Shawsheen’s outstanding legacy and promote its exceptional programs for Bedford students.

I am currently Chair of the Policy Subcommittee which is in the process of reviewing and updating our policy manual. If re-elected, I am committed to this project which will require a major time commitment going forward.

Despite obvious Covid-related obstacles, Bedford’s Town Manager, School Superintendent, School Committee members, and JGMS Principal have toured Shawsheen to see for themselves the opportunities it offers Bedford students. And thanks to the efforts of staff at both JGMS and Shawsheen in improving our visibility, Bedford’s enrollment numbers are increasing.

Q2—Historically, Bedford enrollment at Shawsheen has been significantly lower than the other communities eligible to enroll students.  What do you think accounts for the lower interest on the part of Bedford students?

Asbedian:  I believe our enrollment is low because Bedford parents and students are unaware of the options that Shawsheen provides.

Students choose from over 20 skills and trades, from culinary and computer technology to automotive and cosmetology, and most participate in coop jobs to insure a successful transition into the workplace. They carry a full academic schedule balanced with their skills training. Shawsheen offers 20 varsity and 15 sub-varsity sports and  95 championship banners represent our students’ successes. Our students are both busy and well-rounded.

More than half attend college or post-graduate training, and some enter the military.  But each graduate always carries the pride of a vocational technical education forward into their careers.

I urge anyone who believes in career vocational technical education to consider running for Shawsheen school committee.  We are ten members representing five communities with the goal of helping Shawsheen students to thrive.  We currently have former educators and former Shawsheen parents among those serving. Perhaps in the future, we will also have a former student join us.


Keep our journalism strong! Support The Citizen Journalism Fund today. Contact The Bedford Citizen: editor@thebedfordcitizen.org or 781-325-8606

Share your enthusiasm for this article!

Subscribe
Notify of
guest

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x