Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Marilee Kenney Hunt for Selectman Platform

Where is Bridgewater on the ladder?

Currently, Bridgewater is a town divided. In 2007, Bridgewater cut 28 town employees from the payroll. Although we have created a wonderful infrastructure for our schools, they remain on probation and have never restored 30 of the positions they lost three years ago. Our library is on the brink of being de-certified. We have turned off many of our street lights; de-funded our recreation program and our senior center has been forced to run on private contributions and fundraisers. In the last year, two override propositions failed by a narrow margin; a vote to re-certify the regional school budget passed by an equally narrow margin. Citizens have lost services, property values are jeopardized, town employees and teachers often feel de-valued and we are unable to agree about a course of action to change direction.

The Hunt for Unity platform proposes a way to restore Bridgewater. Climbing the ladder represents positive forward motion. This, however, cannot happen until confidence and trust in government are created. Trust requires two-way, responsible, respectful interactions between government and its citizens.

Rung #1: Respect, Responsibility and Responsiveness—the 3 R’s

Philosophy: Every Board of Selectman action should be guided by an attitude of respect, responsibility and responsiveness. Bridgewater has a “town meeting” form of government. Thus, citizens vote openly to direct the Board of Selectmen (BOS) on a majority of Town issues. The BOS should listen and respond respectfully to the citizens of Bridgewater. Although particular citizens may support a candidate for his or her election, once elected, that Selectman represents all citizens.

Marilee will:
•Maintain regular office hours, remain listed in the phone book, answer email and phone calls and advocate for a public forum at BOS meetings.
•Recommend the establishment of open public meetings in advance of town meetings so citizens may ask questions of their elected officials in an informal setting.
•Communicate respectfully and consistently with both elected officials and general citizens.
•Be a responsible leader and encourage other members of the BOS to be responsible not only to the citizens but to the various state and local statutes/regulations under which the Town operates.
•Be respectful to the various appointed and elected boards and committees in Bridgewater and communicate with them in a consistently professional and responsible manner.
•Respect the findings presented in reports from town departments, boards and standing or appointed committees. While she might disagree or have ideas other than those presented in a particular report’s findings, she will always listen respectfully, respond appropriately and be responsive to those entities.
•Always make her views known as early as possible so the citizens of Bridgewater may express their support or opposition. She will listen respectfully and attentively giving due weight and consideration to arguments that contradict her opinions.
•Marilee will always explain her positions and the reasons she reaches her conclusions.

Rung #2: Consistency

Philosophy: Trust is built through consistent actions. Marilee is absolutely committed to consistency. She will bring that commitment to Bridgewater government. Her word is her bond.

Marilee will:
•Be consistent in her leadership,
•Act professionally by being truthful, respectful, responsible and responsive,
•Abide by the established rules, policies and procedures voted upon by the citizens,
•Use appropriate channels to challenge or change by-laws or rules with which she disagrees,
•Use management methods which will provide solid leadership in fiscal, personnel and general practice arenas.

Rung #3: Trust
Philosophy: When respect, responsibility and responsiveness have been proven consistent in Bridgewater, trust will be established.

Citizens of Bridgewater cannot be expected to trust government that is not transparent and responsive--- which means no hidden agendas, no “found money,” no misleading presentations explaining what the results of a particular vote will be, then changing the impact after votes are cast. Trust is difficult to build and easy to lose.

Marilee will:
•Earn and keep the trust of Bridgewater citizens,
•Explain her thinking and reasons for actions, and
•Hold herself to the “higher standard” expected of a public servant.

Rung #4: Action:
Philosophy: With trust restored, Bridgewater can take action to move forward.

Marilee’s action will:
•Reflect leadership guided by thoughtfulness and consideration;
•Carry out the expressed desires of the majority of Bridgewater citizens,
•Allow the various departments, boards and committees, supported by the BOS, to carry their established charges,
•Lead the town in a beneficial direction,
•Hold the BOS and other departments, boards and committees accountable,
•Establish a clear plan of implementation for BOS accepted reports/recommendations, and
•Advocate for a clear reporting schedule by all departments and boards overseen by the BOS.

Marilee will encourage the following actions:
•Fiscal responsibility. Bridgewater will benefit from Marilee’s experience as a state and federal grant-manager. She has both personnel and fiscal management experience that will allow her to take a thoughtful, disciplined approach to budgeting. She has assisted numerous non-profit agencies across the Commonwealth as they replaced unproductive “crisis management” with best-practice management.

•Changes in town by-laws to promote better fiscal management. Marilee supports the intent of the proposed draft by-laws that are available on her web site and on the Citizens for a Better Bridgewater web site. Such by-laws will bring fiscal responsibility by creating a stabilization account, free cash policy and general reserve policy.

•Research and understand the Tax Incentive Financing (TIF) and District Improvement Financing (DIF) in hopes that they may provide some helpful answers to Bridgewater’s fiscal problems.

•Implementation of the Master Plan. The Master Plan Implementation Committee has worked to encourage implementation of the Master Plan. However, there is little “ownership” of the Plan by various departments, committees and boards. As one member of the BOS, Marilee will encourage their advocacy in encouraging all town agencies to take seriously their roles in the implementation of the Master Plan.

•Completion and implementation of the Four Building Study. Funded through the Community Preservation Committee and undertaken by Newport Collaborative Architects, the Four Building Study, due in April 2008, will outline a 10 year road map for the use, preservation and restoration of the Academy, McElwain and Memorial Buildings and the Town Hall. As chair of the Community Preservation Committee, Marilee has proactively promoted this comprehensive and responsible approach to the use and preservation of municipal buildings. Implementation needs to be coordinated with both the Master Plan and any recommendations being implemented from the Government Study Committee.

•The Government Study Committee. The request for a Government Study Committee was presented to the town by a citizen’s petition at the 2007 Fall Town Meeting. The Town Meeting voted in favor of forming the Committee and the citizens of Bridgewater now await its report/recommendations on the best type and structure for our government. Marilee pledges to listen respectfully to the report/recommendations brought forward by the Committee. Her acceptance/rejection of the Committee’s report/recommendations will be based on thoughtful consideration of what is in the overall best interest of Bridgewater. Implementation must be coordinated with the Four Building Study recommendations.

•Investigation into best practices for streamlined permitting for development in hopes that it may hold some answers to help us attract businesses to Bridgewater.

•School De-regionalization Study Committee Marilee pledges to listen respectfully to the report/recommendations brought forward by the School De-regionalization Study Committee. Her acceptance/rejection of the Committee’s report/recommendations will be based on thoughtful consideration of what is in the overall best interest of Bridgewater.

•Investigate alternatives for town employee health care. Marilee will support investigation into options that will lessen the cost for but not the benefits received by town employees’ health insurance including the following:
o Health Savings Account (HSA)
o GIC (joining the state insurance plan)
o Potentials for a county-wide health insurance “group buy”

•Establish a budget planning calendar to assure scheduled, timely, annual review and construction of the town budget.
o Consider a by-law to mandate a schedule for budget planning;
o Conduct regular, scheduled informational meetings with the Town Accountant, Town Administrator and the Advisory Board; and
o Schedule mid-fiscal year meetings with all department heads to ascertain budget status.

Rung #5: Stability
Philosophy: Bridgewater will be stable when fiscal responsibility and government efficiency result in a balanced budget that provides for the needs of all citizens. Continued stability requires ongoing responsiveness to the citizens, and continued reevaluation of plans. Stability will maintain a …..

Functional, Unified Bridgewater.


  1. Ms. Kenney Hunt,

    In your "Hunt for Unity Vision Statement" specifics are lacking.
    Both challengers in the race have
    promised to be honest and straightforward. With this in mind, can you please tell me what your top three priorities are? Public Safety? Our Senior Center? Recertification of our Town Library? Education? Recreation? Public Works? Some other area?

    Thank you

  2. Dear Marie,

    Thank you for writing.

    My top priority is Unity for Bridgewater and my commitment is to support the citizens of Bridgewater so that they can use facts to determine what they want for their community.

    While it is, indeed, vital for a Selectman to provide leadership and guidance, it is the citizens who set the budget. I am not the type who "decides what is best" for an entire town without consulting that town. Thus, I pledge to support citizens in their quest for the truth about budget numbers and the impact of funding/not funding all services. I will seek to present a full budget picture for the town based on exact information from the paid employees who have full access to that information. Currently, we see the budget in pieces and parts. Rumors abound; some people think they know what a particular number is or what it means but often do not. It is quite difficult to make an accurate "apples to apples" comparison of numbers.

    For instance, I was at the Advisory Board last night when the Highway and Fire Departments made their budget presentations. I was also at the Selectman's meeting on Tuesday when the Treasurer/Collector, Senior Center and Library gave their budget presentations. Some of the presentations included upcoming retirements (with the associated costs for the retirement and the savings when hiring a lower cost employee for replacement) some did not; some are working under signed union contracts, some are in negotiation or will be soon (meaning that some can speak more precisely about their future expenses than others); some budgets included health care costs some do not because those are calculated elsewhere for the town; some have done calculations that show how an increasing one line item will allow savings in another (e.g., hiring more firefighters will save overtime), others have not done that calculation, etc. It is confusing to many people and the "truth" of the budget can seem elusive.

    The one thing we know is that numerous years of spending "one-time-money" for annual operational costs has caught up to us. To meet the current requests of the departments and the schools we are short over $2.2 million.

    Personally, I want it all---excellent and prompt public safety, a Sr. Center supported by the town not private donations, a certified library, plowed and repaired streets and excellent schools. I oppose a menu override (see my position paper on overrides) or anything that pits departments against each other or that pits "the town" against "the schools." That will only further deepen and damage the current divisions in Bridgewater.

    The "ladder" describes a *process* that can heal the long-standing divisions, exchange emotions for logic and restore trust. That is necessary so Bridgewater can, in a clear, rational, responsible manner, make difficult decisions about what it wants to restore and what it is willing to lose. We, obviously, cannot have it all with our current revenue, and I do not presume to know what the town will choose.

    As I said, I personally do not wish to give up any of the standard municipal services (public safety, schools, library, senior center, recreation, highway department, etc.). I have and always will support all of those services equally. I spent years working in public safety; I also put 4 children through the B-R school system, use the library, drive on the roads and have conducted and attended numerous meetings at the senior center.

    It is extremely sad that Bridgewater was allowed to arrive at this juncture. We knew when I ran for Selectman in 2002 that hard times were coming and we chose to ignore it. However, I'll waste no time on the "could of, would of, should of" dance. We are here now, we have a serious problem and it is not merely a Selectman's problem, it is Bridgewater’s problem. We need to elect leadership that admits to the problem, offers ways for us to deal with it and will support citizens when they make the difficult decisions. We have not had that to date.

    I am neither a dictator who will railroad the public to force my conclusions nor a shrinking violet who will sit back and allow the public to remain uninformed or ignorant. It will be hard work to bring transparency to the budget in a way that is accessible to most people. It will be hard work to bring a severely divided town together so that one "side" may decide to defer to another without feeling coerced and becoming bitter. I am not talking about sweet sounding words and singing kumbyah around the Common. I am talking about true healing and unification provides a strong foundation into the future. Anything short of that is a "patch" that is bound to fail when it is put to the test. I am asking that we begin to build this town upon a bedrock foundation of truth, transparency, respect and responsibility.

    When elected, I will strongly contend for citizens' access to all financial information---with accompanying interpretation and education. Then, I pledge to always support what the citizens choose (e.g., I will never re-write a budget as happened last September). I also understand that there are difficult decisions to be made and services must be weighed against resources. I will work hard to make my personal decisions thoughtfully and will share those decisions with the public. However, I do not want those personal decisions to be interpreted as my “telling” someone else what he/she should do. I sincerely believe in democracy and strongly encourage each voter to become educated and cast an informed vote. I will abide by and work diligently to uphold the choices of the voters.

    I recommend that you go to my web site (www.huntforunity.org) to read some of my position statements for further information.

    Thanks for your concern and for taking the time to write. I am always more than happy to meet with you in person to discuss things at greater length. Please contact me through my web site since I may not check the blog daily.