SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

May 1, 2013

Selectman debate focuses on taxes, personalities

BY ETHAN FORMAN
STAFF WRITER

---- — DANVERS — Selectman Dan Bennett, a self-employed real estate broker with 20 years of public service, says one of his strong suits is he’s a people person.

“I’m a good listener,” the two-term incumbent says.

Selectman Keith Lucy, an electrical engineer who is running for his fourth term in the upcoming May 7 Town Election, is focused “on the most effective and most efficient way to spend your tax dollars.”

David Mills, a retired 11-year Massachusetts Appeals Court Judge who has lived in town most of his life, said his personal connection to the town is his strength as he runs for one of the two open seats.

“I like this town,” Mills said, a former town moderator. “I feel real connected.”

All three candidates for two three-year terms on the Board of Selectmen took part in a debate last night that was broadcast by Danvers Community Access Television and moderated by Beverly resident Todd Feinburg, a former radio show host.

Salem News Editor David Olson, Danvers Herald Editor Jeff Pope and Danvers Patch Local Editor John Castelluccio asked the questions.

With a week left to campaign, Bennett, Lucy and Mills had a congenial debate, focused on topics ranging from holding the line on tax increases to a proposed moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries.

All three candidates favor the idea of a moratorium on dispensaries to give the town time to see what the state Department of Public Health has in store as far as regulations go.

When asked how the board could keep taxes down, all three agree that the best they could do would be to moderate increases.

“It’s very difficult to find fat” in the town budget, Bennett said.

Lucy said the key would be to “maximize outside revenue.” Even though he does not favor a slots parlor at the Liberty Tree Mall, he used that as an example of how the town needs to find outside sources of revenue. The town has to push for more state aid, Lucy said.

“What can be done to lower taxes? Nothing,” said Mills, who said he cannot remember the taxes going down in the past 50 years. Making government more transparent is the best way to moderate tax increases, he said.

The idea of a slots parlor at the mall, Bennett said, “makes no sense.”

Lucy said that while selectmen “got into a little bit of trouble in the paper” for meeting individually or in pairs with representatives of the slots casino developer, he said the town has not heard back from them since then.

“They understood, they heard it, and I think we will see the last of them,” Lucy said.

Mills said the issue of a slots parlor was “a nonissue,” given there is no application before the town. If there was one, it would have to be dealt “in accordance with whatever the law is.”

While Mills said he likes the idea of regionalization when it comes to emergency dispatch, he would not favor it if it cost too much. Bennett and Lucy both favor upgrading the town’s emergency communications without joining the regional dispatch center that has been built at Middleton Jail.

Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at eforman@salemnews.com or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.