HANSON — When voters go to the polls in Whitman and Hanson on Saturday, May 19, they will see only one contested race in each town — three candidates vying for two school committee seats in Whitman — incumbent Fred Small, Heidi Hosmer and Christopher Scriven — and four candidates running for two selectmen seats in Hanson.
Polls in both towns are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with all Whitman precincts voting at Town Hall and all Hanson precincts voting in Hanson Middle School.
Hanson voters had the chance on Sunday, May 6 to hear the candidates’ position on the issues and to ask questions during an annual forum jointly sponsored by the town’s Democratic and Republican town committees. Town Moderator Sean Kealy, himself a candidate for re-election, moderated the event.
“This is an opportunity to get to know who’s on the ballot and where they stand,” Kealy said.
Going through the ballot in reverse order, Kealy noted that some candidates were unable to, or opted not to, attend the session.
School Committee Chairman Bob Hayes took the opportunity to talk about his candidacy and ask for voter support at the forum, as did constable August P. Silva.
“I’m about education — I think that education is everything,” said Hayes, a Whitman native who has lived in Hanson for 30 years. “I know it costs a lot, and we get a lot of complaints about taxes, but education is a proven fact and without it, you have issues.”
He has served on the school committee for 15 years and has been chairman for 11. Both of his children are W-H graduates who bought homes in Hanson.
“When I accept a duty or responsibility, I do my utmost to fulfill all that is required of me and then some,” said Silva, a 49-year veteran constable, an Army veteran and retired teacher who has also served on more than a half-dozen other elected and appointed offices in town. “My experience and knowledge are what helps to make doing the job right and in a timely manner.”
The other uncontested candidate for re-election is Steven W. Lyons.
But the bulk of the afternoon was focused on the four selectmen candidates: incumbent Donald H. Howard, Wesley Blauss, Matthew J. Dyer and Joseph R. Weeks III.
Howard noted his residence in the home he built in town in 1960 and his 10 years’ service on the Board of Selectmen in his opening statement as well as his concern over the need for expansion of the town’s commercial tax base. Dyer, who grew up in Hanson, is a political newcomer who noted his wish to give back to the community as well as the need to diversify the tax revenue to attract new business in town. Weeks, too, is a Hanson native — who briefly lived in nearby Rockland — strives to give back to the community and stressed the need for business development and long-term sustainable planning, especially in the Main Street corridor. Weeks is now ending his service as a member of the Planning Board. Blauss, retired after a 40-year teaching career and 30-year member of the Recreation Commission, stressed education and environmental concerns in his opening statement, saying he believes strongly in the affect of global climate change on the lives of today’s children and is a proponent of the pay-as-you-throw trash program. He is also a member of the Hanson Historical Society.
The candidates were asked the following questions, starting with what can be done to attract new business to town:
Howard said Conservation regulations regarding wetland areas along Main Street and a drainage problem from Phillips Street create a particular challenge to development there.
“I’d love to see something done down there,” he said. He said the people’s voice should rule what is ultimately done to develop the former Plymouth County Hospital site.
“Right now we are a drive-through community and we need to [develop] some sort of destination,” Dyer said. He advocated development of a project like a boardwalk trail along the wetlands to entice visitors to come to town and develop a multi-use project at the old Ocean Spray building as well as bringing high-speed internet and sewage service to town to help business development.
“We would be the only community on the Old Colony line to have a walkable downtown — Plymouth doesn’t have it, Kingston doesn’t have it and neither does any of the other communities.”
For the PCH site, an indoor soccer facility could be a way to meet the growing demand for such a field in the area, Dyer said.
Weeks advocates continuation of the complete streets project to make Hanson a more walkable town and, along with tax provisions, can bring more business to town as part of a long-term plan. He agrees with Howard, however, that drainage issues have to be dealt with first.
“I feel like I can’t add much to that, although I would like to give a shout-out to Dunkin’ Donuts,” Blauss said, agreeing with the ideas other candidates were floating. “They have done a great landscaping job — it’s attractive, you can get off the train and the area right around there is a draw.”
For parts of that stretch of Main Street that is not a draw, he said he is not certain how much town-owned land there is in the area with which the town can work.
Dyer, who is a member of Green Hanson, said he has worked on green technology and sustainability, noting that Green Community status is “that next step” for Hanson.
Weeks has also been a member of Green Hanson before getting involved in other town committees, said the Planning Board has already taken up the Green Community process.
“It opens us up to all kinds of grants,” he said. “We have a fantastic town planner who is looking at the overall maintenance of the town within both a short-term and long-term plan and she’s in agreement that this is something we hadn’t had the resources to pursue.”
Bluass, noting that so many other communities are working toward plastic grocery bag bans, said he doesn’t know why Hanson hasn’t followed suit.
“I think that there are plenty of avenues that we can start talking about [that in],” he said.
“I think the recall law, in general, is incredibly important because it’s a great opportunity for democracy and a town can correct itself when it feels it needs to,” Weeks said during the forum that took place the day before Town Meeting. “I do want to take away my personal opinion vs. being a person in a selectman’s seat.”
He said it was worth allowing the public to discuss and vote on it.
Blauss said the stipulations for admission to sufficient facts for conviction or outright conviction of a crime as required by the revision, could take too much time.
“There’s no way to remove that person from the position [before a vote could be held],” he said. “It seems to me the people should have the opportunity to decide in a recall election.”
Howard agreed that the public has a right to debate and vote on an issue at Town Meeting, which is why he voted to place it on the warrant.
Dyer said he opposed the article.
“I believe it will take away the rights of our voters,” he said. “It should be up to the voters to take that [person petitioned for recall] out of office.”
“Although I do not smoke pot myself, I think absolutely the town should vote,” Blauss said of why a referendum question is not being put forth. “There are several of us who don’t even understand why it isn’t on this month’s ballot.”
Howard said he was surprised that Hanson voters voted in favor of the 2016 state ballot question.
“I was really disappointed,” he said, arguing that it makes the Police Department’s job harder. “It proved to me that there’s more people smoking pot than voted no.”
Dyer also said it should be on a town ballot.
“I don’t believe a small group should be changing the culture of our town,” he said. “It’s a community decision.”
Weeks said, while there is a referendum option, the moratorium article that the Planning Board drafted last year to provide time to explore that option was voted down at Town Meeting last year.
“We deferred it to Town Meeting because we felt it wasn’t the job of a Planning Board member to say that they are for or against anything.”
He said he would support a referendum question.
RECREATION PRIVATE VENDOR
Howard said that, to be honest, he didn’t really have much involvement with the issue and didn’t have an answer for why a private vendor arrangement was approved.
“This is a really close issue to me,” said Dyer, who has recreation and park ranger experience. “I truly believe in public recreation. I should not be privatized because that’s what sets America apart from every other country — we decided to preserve our land but also [to] make sure we had that balance between conservation and recreation.”
Weeks agreed, arguing privatizing Camp Kiwanee is not in the best interests of the town.
“Would it be good to have it be sustainable? That’s a great idea, businesswise, but we want to make sure we don’t lose the essence of what Camp Kiwanee is, because it is the heart of Hanson.”
Blauss, said he was involved in the purchase of Kiwanee by the town in 1979 as a community recreational center. The weddings and rentals have been used to subsidize its operation.
“As long as we keep Camp Kiwanee on that footing, I think we’ll do well,” he said. “That’s my hope for the future.”
Library Trustee Linda A. Wall, one of two trustees running unopposed for re-election, sent an email to be read at the forum asking for voter support for her continuing collaborative efforts to bring quality programs to the library.
Kealy closed out the afternoon by asking for voters to support his re-election effort.
“No one was foolish enough, other than me, to take out papers,” he joked. “But I would appreciate your vote. I hope I’ve earned it over the past year.”