Terra Friedrichs running for Acton Selectman

Acton Forum asked candidates in competitive races for Selectman and School Committee questions. The answers for Selectman candidate Terra Friedrichs are below. The election will be held on Tuesday, March 27, 2018. The polls are open from 7 am to 8 pm. For more election info, visit the town clerk's webpage at http://www.acton-ma.gov/598/Elections

1. How long have you lived in town and why do you want to serve as Selectman?

I been here in Acton since 1974. Acton is my home.

I am concerned that we were headed for a water crisis. I think we need to begin to act responsibly now.

When I served as Selectmen from 2008-2011, We had for a road safety/traffic issues and Town Hall was not managing “land use” well. There was no “cumulative” planning relative to how much of our “fixed community assets” were being “given away” to developers. The BoS did not keep track of how much they were giving away with the projects Town Hall was approving. In fact, when I participated in the Acton2020 planning, Town Hall Planning Department staff didn’t even know how many housing units were in town. I had to go figure that out.

Since then there has been only slight improvement.

Recently, it became apparent that Acton was going to greatly exceed its allotted water withdrawal limit, the BoS did not seem very concerned. I am concerned we are headed for a grave problem. It was time to jump in again. Please see this chart, created by a group of water scientists using measurements from official Acton documents, that was presented to the Acton Board of Selectmen on March 5th.

To read Terra's chart, click here: http://www.actonforum.com/sites/default/files/Terra_Selectman_flyer.png

The scientists asked the BoS to hire a $10,000 consultant to perform an independent audit to validate their findings: Acton is headed for a major water crisis. The BoS said that they can not afford this expense. I disagree. When we can afford to spend $10s of thousands of dollars on stylish bricks in front of Town Hall, we can certainly afford to plan our water. We must plan.

2. Do you feel that Acton's property tax burden, projected to exceed $11,000 per year on average next year (according to the Town Meeting warrant) is too high, too low, or just about right?

My main goal is “sustainability”. Sustainability means not only environmental and social sustainability, but fiscal sustainability. With that, I think taxation must be affordable if we are to preserve a middle class. Taxation today in Acton is high. That does not mean it is wrong, but we must recognize that it is higher than neighboring communities and difficult for may in town to pay. In the end, we trust our public servants to get the bang for the buck we need in services.

I played a lead role organizing the Green Advisory Board, which today is leveraging grants from the state to reduce power and materials costs.

I was the first Selectman to push to increase the Senior Tax Relief program by orders of magnitude. While I was Selectman, the budget for the Senior Tax Relief program increased almost 3 fold. Currently, if you are paying more than 10% of your income to property taxes, and you are over 65, it’s quite likely you will get a discount, perhaps up to 50% of your taxes. Not everyone qualifies.

The value of homes in Acton have stagnated. This is a golden opportunity to restrict growth, and benefit from the increase in property values. However, I also want to ensure that we are doing “our share” of ensuring that basic housing is available to all. Preventing unnecessary Chapter 40B building can come in the form of making money while also meeting our social obligation. But to do this, we have to consense upon solutions that are holistic, and focus on “value”...and “Net Present Value”.

The bottom line is that if we are to survive as an independent town AND be sustainably fiscalling, environmentally, and socially, we must plan land use and stop unnecessary building.

For those who can not afford the taxes because of cash shortage issues, I am all in favor of tax relief for long term property owners.

3. What are the top three most pressing issues that you would face as Selectman, and what is your position on each of them?

a. Water, water, water. Water is my first priority. We must stop unnecessary growth. We must plan “cumulatively” to ensure that we don’t run out of water. We can not conserve our way out of this problem. Note regional water supplies are just as stressed local resources. We must collaborate with the Acton Water District to ensure that all the pieces of the puzzle fit. The AWD provides water. Acton, the Town of, controls land use and water hookup permit approvals. AWD has no control over land use. And AWD has no control over Town Hall. AWD has not authority to stop inappropriate building. Only the Town and the BoS can.

b. Cumulative land use planning. We can not keep claiming that every developer project has “No impact”. The BoS rely on the developer’s traffic consultant, and the developer’s water consultant. This is inappropriate. Town Hall must look forward with a cumulative approach to making certain all of these projects together are not exceeding our water or our road capacity.

c. Fiscal Sustainability. I want the books audited again. I was the first to focus on the issue of the unfunded pensions. I was the first to figure out that Town Hall had hundreds of thousands of dollars in the enterprise funds and other funds that was not being reported to the BoS. A fiscal audit of the town is important diagnostic tool and we should do one again.

4. Town Manager Steve Ledoux is retiring after many years in Acton. What policies should the new Town Manager have that differ from Ledoux's, if any?

I think I have been addressing this question all along. Plan cumulatively. Plan by "balance sheet", so that Town Hall isn't blindly focused on raising taxes and spending them. We need the right people in charge of permitting development and zoning so as to consider property values, health, safety, and town character. Plan by "value". What value is each action contributing or negating. How do employees use their time? Are we administration heavy in areas that negatively impact our property values, and light in areas that could be using their time to increase our property values? How do we know if we don't publish efficiency metrics tied to value?

5. A new North Acton fire station appears to be back on the town's capital plan. Do you favor building a new station and why?

We have built a great deal in North Acton. Now we must support it appropriately. I think we do need a new fire station. The presentation that I saw convinced me. I did some background research to confirm the numbers I was seeing, and it seems like we desperately need a new fire station. Development was supposed to pay for the firestation. Development happened, development paying for a fire station; That didn’t happen. Now we have many extra houses but not the infrastructure to serve them. That is a problem.

6. Any other comments or things you'd like to say?

Dear Voters,

My name is Terra Friedrichs. I'm running for a seat on the Board of Selectmen in Acton.

This upcoming election is very important. It may very well be the single most important issue in the town’s history. The issue is “water”.

When I served on the Board of Selectmen from 2008 to 2011, I learned a great deal. In particular, I learned what the Selectman can and what a Selectman can't do. And I know how many votes it takes.

While no one can anticipate all of the issues that may come before the Selectmen in the coming years, right now, I believe this election is about only one issue. Water.

In the foreseeable future there is already a majority of votes supporting an established position. Whether it's to support the schools, rebuild the schools, increase the school budget, build a new fire station, advocate for town services...there are already a majority of supporting votes on the Board of Selectmen.

There is only one issue that is undecided.

You can count on me to vote to protect our increasingly crucial water rights, as well as our right to healthy food, clean water, and decent housing for the most vulnerable among us.

Now, we must mobilize to protect our precious water supply.

This election is about ensuring future Acton has enough water for the needs of its population.

Please let that sink in.

This election is about ensuring Acton has enough water.

The future of Acton’s water supply lies in the approval of special permits and the establishment of policy with regard to building.

The Board of Selectmen must get serious about protecting our rights to the disposition of Nagog Pond water.

Please visit my website for more information about my background and my skills.

And please VOTE FOR WATER! Vote for me, Terra Friedrichs. http://www.TerraForActon.com
Email: VoteForTerra@gmail.com
Phone: 978 808 7173.

To see Terra Friedrichs' photo, click here: http://www.actonforum.com/sites/default/files/Terra.png

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