Greetings citizens of planet Clam. Thanks for following our coverage of Gloucester’s local election “Clam the Vote 2015.” Are we sick of this? Yes, we are sick of it. So let’s take a break from the oh-so-hard math and turn to the very pleasant email debate we conducted with our two mayoral candidates, Acing Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken and City Council President Paul McGeary. [NOTE: THIS IS NOT SATIRE. WE ACTUALLY DID THIS AND THEY REALLY RESPONDED.]
We sent them each a list of questions to answer. “How is this a debate? ” you ask? We happen to think answering questions by email is a good deal more in line with how leadership gets done these days than being questioned in front of a live audience. 90% of any managerial job is conducted via email. The rest is a combination of arranging the Secret Santa partners/March Madness grid and solving disputes about stolen yogurt in the company fridge.
So let’s get to it! The questions were selected by members of Team Clam and denizens of The Clam Secret Underground Lair. We left out the really weird ones (For instance: there will be no hypotheticals around which of Lovecraft’s Elder Gods they would least like to see rising out of the Harbor). And be reminded both candidates know we’re primarily a humor blog -they are both funny people- so we asked them to answer in the spirit of the Clam, which they did. Huzzah.
1. What do you most envy about the other person?
Sefatia: I’m lucky enough to have worked with Paul for years now and though we are competitors now, I’m looking forward to post-election and continuing our progress, which we both have worked tirelessly on. I’m probably most envious of his last name, as “McGeary” is a lot easier to say and write than “Sefatia Romeo-Theken Giambanco.”
2. Of all the things that keep you up late at night about Gloucester, which one concerns you the most?
Paul: Infrastructure. We have been playing catchup for years, but there is a lot left to do. Water and sewer still need work. Our road maintenance as currently funded can’t keep up with New England winters. Our schools are rapidly aging. We need new fire and police facilities. We could be hit with a secondary sewage treatment requirement by the EPA. How do we begin to address what could be $200 million or more in capital spending? It will take a disciplined, thoughtful approach: setting priorities and sticking to them, even when the needs of the moment seem overwhelming. This isn’t a two- or five-year program It’s 20 or 30 years’ duration, but we must begin.
Sefatia: I take inspiration from people and find quotes to keep motivated, but Pope John Paul II said: “A society will be judged on the basis of how it treats its weakest members and the most vulnerable.” It’s been my life’s work to help people, especially when they are weak and vulnerable because finding solutions and having a heart for those in need is my true joy. I worry for all, but take special care to address the concerns of our children, our seniors, our veterans and our vulnerable. While somewhat broad, vulnerable includes those that are hungry, those that are homeless, and those that are addicted – all of which need help that we can rally support for and get if we work together. I’m worried that we forget about those needing help the most when we talk about numbers and figures instead of quality of life and how to best help.
3.Please name three businesses/services you don’t currently have but you think would be great to have on Main Street.
- Common Crow-esque or Whole Foods type of Local Grocery Store
- Parking Garage / Shuttle Service / Bike Rental Service
- Drop-In Community Center / Pop-up Gov’t & Non-Profit Services Support (ie one month could be a cultural museum extension, another month could be voter registration, another month could volunteer food drive support, etc.)
- My fantasy pick is to have The Godmother’s Kitchen, but that’s not realistic (just yet).
- A local “Eastern Mountain Sports” or REI-type shop that would cater to locals and eco-tourism, something that we haven’t begun to capitalize on.
- Stores, gathering places or venues where people living downtown can run their errands, do light shopping and socialize without having to use a car.
- A “TKTS”-like kiosk that would sell admissions to and promote attractions and events throughout the city in a single location.
4. Assuming we will not see a strong return of the ground-fishing industry for many years if at all, what businesses/industries really require the kinds of industrial waterside access Gloucester provides? [example- many folks cite “marine research” but lab facilities can easily be built a short distance away from the water in more modern structures for far less money].
Paul: I would hope that “blue economy” companies (marine biology, marine technology, robotics, tidal energy etc.) would be on the harbor to the extent that they need to be. Their presence on the harbor doesn’t have to be huge. What I envision is that companies will occupy only so much of the waterfront as they need for launching or retrieval of vessels and equipment or house machinery or processes that need direct access to the water. I would hope that, as those companies grow, their “back shop” operations could expand into our industrial parks, saving the harborfront for those businesses that actually need water access.
Sefatia: I’m known as a tireless advocate of the fishing industry and want to harness the potential of our waterfront with appropriate development. I don’t think there is a singular business or industry that can be the secret recipe for success; instead, I believe we have to look at case studies of how other communities empowered growth effectively. Thankfully, we have plenty to look at in close proximity including Salem, Beverly and even Boston. But I do know that my work this year on returning to various seafood expos, alliances with international fishing ambassadors and legislation earned from our state and federal leaders are sowing the seeds for a blossoming economic return. So the good news is that we have righted the ship, but we have to navigate past some murky waters of indecisiveness to charter our path toward a new frontier. I want to work with a larger crew, including tourism, arts, marine industries, restaurants, and Gloucester leaders to provide feedback to our economic specialists so that the expectations can be realistic and so that we can provide jobs that return today and in the future, too. But remember, nothing we do will succeed unless we work with the fishing industry and the fisherman are directly involved with this process, because they do actually want to innovate but they are looking for their leader and to have their input appreciated, too.
5. The combination of expensive housing stock and a tepid job market has made Gloucester a challenge for citizens of moderate income, especially younger ones looking to start families and buy homes. What can be done to address this and why should younger people in particular choose Gloucester as a place to live?
Sefatia: Gloucester has always been a great place to live, but we don’t celebrate our history and offerings enough. We need to expand awareness through dedicated outreach services, both from a consumer / citizen and business angle. People may come to see our beaches in the summer, but we have to showcase our community spirit all year long and keep them coming back for more – whether that’s theater, food, parks, festival events, or museums, we have to first take pride in our community. But to welcome our youth here, we need better commuter options, including increased train services, expanded harbor shuttle locations, and beach parking shuttle services with expanded mobile payment offerings. While we aren’t there yet, I also want more research around better Internet / Tele-Communication offerings that are more affordable and more available, too. Lastly, encouraging the entrepreneurial spirit – as seen at The Hive – or expanding educational services – like we see at Endicott College – help enable young people’s future options while investing in our community locally.
Paul: I would like to revamp our zoning ordinance to allow more clustered housing on smaller lots—particularly in-town and near public transportation, where such housing already exists. I would also like to look at allowing some single-family homes to be subdivided to create accessory apartments. This serves two purposes:
- It ups our housing options by increasing the number of rental units.
- It provides “empty nesters” on fixed incomes with an additional source of money that would help them stay in their homes.
In the long run, however, the real key is bringing new commercial and industrial enterprises to town. Jobs are the basis of all prosperity. Where there is work, housing will be created. Gloucester has a 400-year history as a working town. If we are to not only survive but prosper we must keep true to that heritage.
Bonus Question: Which Beatle do you most identify with and why?
Paul: Ringo. No question. I recall that once in 1964 or so he was asked what he hoped would come of his being part of the band. He said something like he hoped the Beatles thing lasted long enough that he could put enough money aside to be able to open up a beauty salon somewhere. I’m not quite sure why, but that appeals to me.
Sefatia: Oh boy, generations of Americans have battled over this subject! I feel like friendships can be lost arguing their favorite. I would typically pick Paul because he’s been relevant since his career started. Plus, I once heard Paul attempt to speak Italian and appreciated his global appeal. But, I’m going with the “dreamer” John Lennon because he inspired people to help change the world through his artistic works. I still listen to “Imagine” and think about helping all the people and living as one… it’s a brilliant motivational piece.
Thanks again and best of luck to both candidates! –Clam