Candidates seek to reconcile Select Board's reputation
By Chris Mazachrism@thereminder.com
EAST LONGMEADOW Five candidates stated their cases to be on the Board of Selectmen at a candidate's forum sponsored by the Council on Aging on Nov. 1.
Peter Punderson, Angela Thorpe and Joseph Townshend, running against each other in a Nov. 20 preliminary for former Selectman Jack Villamaino's remaining term, which expires in April 2013, as well as Debra Boronski and write-in candidate Bryan Doe, running for Board of Selectman Chair James Driscoll's soon-to-be vacated seat, joined candidates for state representative and state senate to present their credentials and ideas for the community.
Nicholas Chiusano, who will also be on the ballot, was not in attendance.
Boronski, current president of the Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce, said her combined personal and professional skills made her an ideal fit for the job.
"I have 25 years of leadership experience," she said.
Boronski also served as senior vice president of the Affiliated Chambers of Commerce of Greater Springfield and has worked with the Sunshine Village in Chicopee, which serves the mentally and physically challenged, where Boronski helped find jobs for the mentally and physically disabled.
"Working with the mentally and physically challenged puts life in perspective," she said.
Boronski also indicated that through her experiences as a single mother, she understands the issues that face families and what their priorities are.
"Bottom line is this this isn't about me; it's about you," she said. "With me, you will get honesty, integrity and transparency."
Doe, an eight-year veteran of the Army whose service includes two combat tours in Iraq, touted his service, stating it gave him the training to be an effective leader. He currently serves as a police sergeant for the Department of Defense at Westover Air Reserve Base in Chicopee.
"Being in the military taught me integrity, courage and personal sacrifice and how to be a fair, compassionate and successful leader," he said. "It was there that I learned that my purpose was to serve as a protector, guardian and leader whether overseas or at home."
Doe added that he would be willing to challenge the status quo on behalf of the town.
"I will have the courage to stand up to local decision makers if I believe their decisions are not in the best interest of the town," he said.
Punderson pointed to his previous service to the town of East Longmeadow, which included acting as chair of the Planning Board and the Community Preservation Committee (CPC), stating that he has a record of making fair decisions based on factual information.
"Fact-based decision making is needed in order to continue making East Longmeadow a great place to live," he said.
Punderson added that he was proud to have been on the CPC for investments that were made to purchase the Norcross House and the Brown Koch property, as well as improvements to the town's affordable housing.
He also stressed that he had no special interests or agendas.
"I am here for the residents of East Longmeadow," he said. "I believe the town is best served by honest and transparent government and I will be honest and transparent in those efforts."
Thorpe, who served for six years on the School Committee and unsuccessfully ran for selectman and school committee concurrently in 2011, outlined several things that she stood for, including honesty and transparency, positive and strong advocacy, decreasing unnecessary spending and collaboration among boards and committees.
She also stated that she was committed to "keeping East Longmeadow a safe place where our schools can offer a solid education that would open global opportunities" and pointed to her work advocating for East Longmeadow schools on the local, state and federal levels.
"I have supported, represented and respected my home in as many ways as possible," she said.
Thorpe described herself as someone who would ask the tough questions as an elected voice of the residents.
"I will continue to make tough decisions, however unpopular they may be, as long as it is in the best interest of the town of East Longmeadow," she added.
Townshend said that his intention was to bring experience and integrity back to the Board of Selectman.
"Why we are all here tonight is because the town has been dealt a black eye," he said.
Townshend promised to call for an immediate audit of the town's financials because of the recent voter fraud situation involving Villamaino and also pledged to stop irresponsible spending.
"We have great department heads, but our department heads are getting exorbitant raises while people in town are losing their jobs," he said. "Every tax dollar collected must be accounted for."
Townshend also said the fact that he was one of the few selectmen in recent history to finish his term speaks to his commitment to the town and that he did not run for reelection because he "was frequently outvoted 2-1."
Longmeadow Selectman Marie Angelides, running against incumbent Brian Ashe for state representative for the Second Hampden District, criticized Ashe for not being available to, or effective for, his district.
She told the crowd that "the work starts in East Longmeadow" and as their representative, she would be active in the community talking with boards and committees to determine the needs of the district and come up with solutions.
"I will work with you and your town to help make a difference," she said.
She also stated that she would be suspending her law practice if elected in order to fully devote herself to the duties of a state representative.
Ashe stated that the district and the state were doing very well, pointing to a deduction in debt and the fact that his district has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the state.
"East Longmeadow's unemployment rate is 5.5 percent," he said. "While one person without a job is too many, those are very good numbers."
Ashe also touted his work with the House to pass reform acts as they relate to pensions, transportation, probation and EBT. He also said he filed legislation to close loopholes regarding cyber cafés and, in the wake of the voter fraud scandal, to make absentee ballot requests private until that ballot is turned it. Currently, he said, that information is public knowledge, opening people up to pressure or coercion.
D. John McCarthy, the Republican challenger to Angelo Puppolo Jr. for the state representative's seat for the 12th Hampden District, said that new blood was needed in the House of Representatives.
McCarthy stated that Massachusetts was similar Kazakhstan, where his adopted son was born, which has a one-party system, pointing out that more than 80 percent of the elected body in the Commonwealth are Democrats.
"The problem with a single party system is once someone is elected, they tend to stay elected," he said.
McCarthy accused Puppolo of turning his back on his district and going against his promise to vote against gay marriage in Massachusetts. He stated that while all partnerships deserve protection under the law, the people should have the right to decide whether it is considered marriage, which he said is not a right, but often a religious sacrament.
He also criticized the state for making it harder for local businesses to thrive.
"We have seen our biggest decline in business friendly ratings and increases in unemployment," he said. "We need to stop passing bills that make it hard to do business in Massachusetts.
Puppolo stated that Massachusetts has done extremely well and has delivered budgets that were on time and balanced without raising taxes.
"I think that speaks volumes for us when you compare us to some of our neighbors, like Connecticut," he said.
He also lauded the increase in the state's bond rating to AA-plus.
"If you look at other states, their bond rating is deteriorating, but we and Wall Street continue to see this state's financial situation as a strong one," he said.
Puppolo echoed Ashe's statements regarding reforms passed, adding that he supported bills for trial court reform and illegal immigration reform. He also said that he has been active in the fight for consumer protection against issues such as identity theft.
State Sen. Gale Candaras, running unopposed, stated that her focus would be on bringing jobs to Western Massachusetts.
"The population is moving east for jobs, which is why the focus of my next term will be on job creation," she said, adding that she would also work for training to create a workforce of caregivers so the elderly in the community could "age in place."
She also stated that her focus would always be in the area she serves and not on Beacon Hill politics.
"I always know exactly who I represent," she said. "My duty of representation has always been Western Mass."