To the Editor:
Last week, Councilor Chris Willi was critical of the previous Town Council on Facebook noting that that Council did not vote for a housing stipend for a Town Manager.
When I saw that, my initial thoughts were that if we are to work together to solve our issues, social media isn’t really the place to lash out at the First Warden, and by extension the Second Warden, as they are the only ones left from the previous Council. It’s just very, well… Trumpish. I do not know what was discussed at that meeting, or during previous Town Manager contract discussions, except from a letter from former Councillor Chris Warfel indicating this had happened, and I do take him at his word. That letter is a public document, easily found at Town Hall. If Ken was opposed to this in the past, and has indicated now that he’s willing to support it, it shows a willingness to adapt in a changing environment to suit current needs and that takes a lot for a man with strong conservative values to say. I respect and admire that. It’s what separates us from the Neanderthals.
I don’t really care what happened on the last Council. I sit on the Council now, today, not to litigate the past, but to find a path forward with an eye on the future. Spending time and energy on anything less amounts to nothing more than petty foolery. If people want to live in the past they need to go see Pam Gasner. That’s the Historical Society’s Mission and they do a great job.
We are currently discussing all options with the new Town Manager. He has been thrown head first into our housing issue and has a first-hand account about how dire it is to find affordable year-round housing. It has brought the issue to the forefront, not only to him, but reignited the fire under this Council and its many partners and citizens to work to solve this issue. Again, I remind you that this is my Town Council. Not a former one. I’m very aware of the ghosts of Councils past and this one has shown up with a vengeance and a renewed sense of urgency. Yay! Happy Halloween.
Some have commented "what makes the Town Manager more important than me?” That’s not the case at all. The housing options we have had to date are from owners of houses that have not sold and were never going to be rented on the open market on a year round basis. They have been taken off the market. These owners are taking a hit by not being able to use their homes and not collect rent in the high season at the weekly rental rates in the summer. They are folks that realize the need to house this guy is necessary for our town to run. There are real estate agents who are helping that will lose income by not renting weekly in high season, or commissions lost due to homes being taken off the market. I sincerely thank all of them for stepping forward. Their efforts are an immense contribution to us all.
What the real problem here is that there are units of affordable housing in the West Side 20 that are not, nor have ever been, occupied by their original owners. They are rented for profit. That’s a total and blatant punch in the nose to the people on the affordable housing waiting list and the town that was so proud to build these units. It also puts at risk potential donations of land by other generous citizens to continue this highly valued initiative.
Should we engage someone, or a committee, to review the island’s housing situation? Sure, these groups and individuals are already in place. All options are open for discussion, and we, my Council, need to take the lead and initiate that discussion. The flip side of the Facebook post is that many comments are from those that are affected by the chronic lack of housing and a willingness to get involved to help solve it. This is the first time in a very long time I have heard “I want to help” instead of “My voice won’t matter.” This excites me, however, my Council is not going to be able to solve it alone. This goal will never be realized unless all of our citizens get involved: you, led by us, along with a strong, committed Town Manager. We have that commitment in Ed Roberge. We have that in you. We have that in our current Council. We have that in our Housing Board.
Moving forward we must all work together to decide where we want to be as a community in the next 20 or so years. We can’t accomplish that without tackling the housing issue...for a town manager or the guy who pumps raw sewage out of transient boats. We are all equals here. I recognize no “elitists.” We certainly won’t accomplish anything by beating up on each other over things that are wholly out of our control. If we dwell in the past we are still going to be talking about this in the next 20 years and beyond and I simply don’t have time for that.
Lets re-start taking those steps, to solve the important issues we face, together…now.
Councilor André Boudreau