- Written by Administrator
- Published: 21 March 2012
(Candidates Paul McCormack (l) and David Madigan (r) discuss the issues at a debate held at WATD radio and co-sponsored by The Duxbury Clipper. WATD news director Christine James (rear) poses a question.)
Saturday to choose a new selectman for the seat being vacated by Chris Donato, they will have to choose between two candidates who largely agree on the issues, but present themselves very differently.
In a debate co-sponsored by The Duxbury Clipper, WATD Radio and Wicked Local, candidates Paul McCormack and David Madigan lightly sparred over the issues, though they agreed more than they disagreed. The most glaring difference between the candidates was how one spoke with wonkish authority while the other was an antagonistic advocate for reform of government and its officials. Running with the goal of creating more transparency in fiscal management, McCormack, a retired Wall Street executive with Bank of America and Chase, didn’t mince words on any of the topics. The debate began with opening statements from each of the candidates, led off by McCormack.“My primary reason for running for selectman is a lack of transparency concerning town finances,” said McCormack. He went on to say that balancing the budget should have included maintaining the town’s buildings all along because it would have saved millions in new construction that could have been spent by meeting Other Post-Employment Benefits (OPEB) obligations that include retiree healthcare and other benefits. “Finally this past year, the town commits to spending $130 million in building projects and then after the vote, we’re told our unfunded liability to our retirees exceeds $85 million. That didn’t just happen. Couldn’t the town leadership tell us this prior to committing $130 million? This lack of leadership causes us to lose faith in officials. I’m not looking to make friends by running for selectman.”
Madigan, who as chief investment officer with Breckinridge Capital makes his living by managing municipal finance, took a more measured tone by suggesting a five-year plan for capital budgeting.
“We really need to look at, over the next few years, the longer range planning of the town and really plan out what we’re going to spend with all those new buildings going in,” said Madigan, explaining that part of those costs will include reconciling additional maintenance and operating fees.
As a follow-up, each was asked if he volunteers in a town that takes pride in giving back to the community. McCormack, a fulltime resident since 1998, said he spent most of his volunteer years in Montclair, New Jersey as a Boy Scout leader when his children were young.
“When I moved up here to Duxbury, I was at that point approximately 50-years-old and there was no way I was going to be a volunteer male for the Boy Scouts without a son involved,” said McCormack. “Believe me, you don’t want to necessarily do that. I’ve not participated in anything, I’m not a joiner if you will.” He later said he is a member of the newly-formed Duxbury Lions and is assisting in the opening of the new Duxbury Food Pantry.
Responding to the same question, Madigan, a resident for 16 years whose two children went through the Duxbury school system, said he’s served on both the Fiscal Advisory Board and the Finance Committee, as well as Holy Family Parish Council, the Weston Farms Homeowner’s Board and on the Appalachian Service Project by leading 70 kids in service work to rural Appalachia each year.
While much of the back-and-forth was taken up by discussion of OPEB and rising local taxes, a question about the recently approved state law that allows for remote participation in committee meetings sparked some interesting comments by McCormack.
“Shawn Dahlen has to be a big proponent, he’s a very big sailor,” said McCormack. “I could see him out on his boat someplace sailing and participating in the selectmen’s meeting.”
When asked later if he had ever engaged in remote participation in his capacity as selectman so that he could pursue sailing, Chairman Shawn Dahlen responded, “No, I never have.”
Madigan took a more diplomatic route.
“I think remote participation is fine for a lot of the other committees,” said Madigan, parsing out which town committees, such as planning, where it would work well. “(With) selectmen there’s only three selectmen. It doesn’t make a lot sense for someone to call in and be in on a conference call.”
Perhaps the biggest firecrackers of the exceptionally collegial night came when each candidate was asked what he would like to see cut from the budget to help combat the anticipated 17 percent rise in taxes anticipated to take effect in 2014.
“When you get right down to it, the largest thing on the budget is personnel,” said McCormack. “So at some point, you have to make the decision. The biggest chunk of personnel is teachers, the biggest chunk after that, you wind up with police and fire. We need to reexamine our needs for that. You have to make some tough decisions.”
In response to McCormack’s remarks, Duxbury Police Chief Matthew Clancy said there were 16,000 incidents in 2011 with 5,000 911 calls and 40,000 nonemergency calls.
“The police department as it’s staffed right now, struggles at times to meet the demands of the town because of cuts over the past few years where we’ve lost patrol positions,” said Clancy, noting two positions were eliminated in 2011 alone. “I think we’ve done an exemplary job of meeting the challenge.”
Fire Chief Kevin Nord said his department has already been stripped of positions and to cut more would have a detrimental effect on service.
“Station 2, Ashdod, would close,” said Nord. “If we cut one person, it would leave only one there and we can’t have only one person in the station.”
McCormack wouldn’t necessarily have the support of Town Manager Richard MacDonald in cutting personnel. Though MacDonald was careful to say the selectman’s race was about the candidates, he was concerned how unfunding more positions would affect services.
“One of my prides here is that we’ve been able to maintain services here and one of the ways I can do that is by maintaining people,” said MacDonald.
Madigan veered away from McCormack’s comments, agreeing that it was appropriate to cut services where possible, but not necessarily jobs. Instead, he suggested reexamining the numerous fees in town.
“I think the key is anytime you want to cut the budget, it means you have to cut services and that’s where you have to start to differentiate what services in town,” said Madigan. “One of the things that’s always bothered me is we pay beach fees, transfer station fees, school fees, why can’t we just roll that into the tax rate so that at least it’s tax deductible… But that kind of thought process of feeing users for everything starts to bother me so that at a certain point, we need to cut the fat. What services do you really need in town, what do you need to support the community?”
Voting will take place on Saturday, March 24, 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. at the Duxbury Middle School gymnasium located at 130 Saint George Street.