SELECTMEN RACE Q&A: Candidates Discuss What They’ll Do To Increase Civility In Town

WILMINGTON, MA — Incumbents Greg Bendel and Kevin Caira, and challengers Rob Fasulo, Mark Maselli, Dan Murphy, and Suzanne Sullivan, are running for TWO three-year seats on the Wilmington Board of Selectmen.

Wilmington Apple is asking the candidates multiple questions each week leading up to the April 27 Town Election.

The latest question:

In September, the Wilmington Memorial Library hosted a month-long series of programs on civility to address a growing lack of civility in today’s society. In his latest newsletter, Town Manager Jeff Hull called for more civility in town when discussing controversial topics. If elected, what will you do to create more civility in Wilmington — online, at meetings, and in the community overall?

Below are the candidates’ responses, in their own words:

Suzanne Sullivan

I promise to treat others the way I wish to be treated. Being on the Board would not make me better than others.

I will work for inclusionary government, not exclusionary government, the first step towards respect and civility.

I understand there will be disagreements and when there are I will be respectful of others’ opinions.

I will be a respectful listener.

I believe passion and debate, the expression of opinions and even conflict can be healthy and good if respectful and not personal. In fact sometimes it is the best way to come to a solution.

I recognize there  will always be someone who disagrees with something I may feel passionate about and that they may feel equally as passionate about. I will work hard at not making it personal but making the discussion if it occurs about the issue. Emotion can trigger incivility and I think we all can be vulnerable to this. The key is to allow people to say what they need to say and to be sincere about listening instead of pretending to listen and care.

Suzanne Sullivan
Suzanne Sullivan

Mark Maselli

Civility refers to the way people treat one another, with respect, even when they disagree. We need to model civility in our leadership and in our public meetings, all while setting the example for the town. This includes social media as I’ve seen a lack of civility on those platforms a lot.

I would encourage people to have thoughtful dialogue and to respect one another even when there is disagreement. Disagreement plays a necessary role in politics; however, the issue here is how the disagreement is expressed. I would encourage people to recognize how passionate they feel about the issue at hand and realized that the person that disagrees with them feels just as passionate about their stance on that issue. We need to strive for a better understanding of one another and to be respectful of people’s opinions, especially when they differ from our own.

I would also promote working collaboratively instead of taking sides. When we come together as a community and engage in respectful, civil conversations, we can disagree in a more respectful way. We don’t need to attack one another. We owe it to one another to work towards an ‘us mentality’ instead of an ‘us vs. them’ mentality and work together towards harmonious and collaborative solutions to the issues we are facing. We need to lead by example and show our children that we can come together to work through the issues, so they will do the same in the future. I was always taught that everything you do is a reflection of yourself, and I would remind people of that.

All those who chose to speak during a public meeting deserve to be treated with courtesy and respect. Most people are not comfortable with public speaking so being respectful will help the situation all around. Personal attacks, booing, or yelling from the crowd doesn’t help to move a conversation forward. This is an issue that we have seen at some recent public meetings, especially those that are associated with the Detox Center.

As a Selectman, I would suggest specific time limits on questions or comments in a public forum. Continuous rhetoric from some people in the audience can become annoying and quite counterproductive. Whoever is moderating the meeting needs to be respectful of the person who is speaking and handle situations calmly and rationally.

Civility starts with the town being united as ONE.

Mark M
Mark Maselli

Rob Fasulo

I truly believe to answer this question one needs to understand the root of the problem we have in Wilmington. Residents have begun to see that our government is not working fairly and equally for everyone.

Every day I hear from people all over town about how they were denied pool permits because they were too close to wetlands or they were given a hard time because they were a foot or two too close to the property lines with a deck or addition. In the same breath, they say they can drive down the street and show me a house where the wetlands were filled in, or a house that is 3 feet from the property line. Whether or not things were done “legally,” the appearance is that there are different sets of rules for different people.

A second reason for the discontent, is town officials’ lack of willingness to take comments from residents and incorporate them into their plans. This was displayed outwardly over the inclusionary bylaw discussion where residents wanted changes to the percentage of units required and a change in open space allowed. The latest draft of this bylaw shows that none of the resident comments were taken seriously and were ignored. I have seen first-hand the unwillingness of town officials to act in a transparent manner where the Secretary of State had to issue three notices of determination against the town because officials refused to turn over requested documents. When they did, they exempted a number of documents as privileged and refused again to turn these over. When the documents were finally turned over, my argument that they were not exempt was proven as a handful of them were released in the end.

Finally, I would like to point out the behavior of the Board of Selectmen over the past couple of months. As a board, they have refused to answer resident’s questions when presented in a respectful manner. I understand respect is not easily earned, however it is very easily lost. If I am elected, I have been clear all along that I will listen to residents and represent them. When presented with a question, I will answer it truthfully and with respect. I live my life and raise my children to be self-sufficient, with honesty and integrity as core values. The residents of Wilmington know what they will get by electing me. I will be a voice for them, not the power behind the machine that is currently running this town. Let’s make the change Wilmington needs.

Rob Fasulo

Kevin Caira

I will continue to conduct myself both in public and in private as I have all my life, civil in tone, respectful of others and tolerant of a wide variety of opinion. I applaud the Library Director and the Town Manager for raising this important issue and speaking out for the need to reintroduce civility in the public domain. The best way to create more civility in Wilmington is to lead by example and to treat others in the same manner as you would want to be treated.

Frankly, I have neither the time nor the desire to spend endless hours trolling the internet and offering demeaning and derogatory comments that serve no public purpose. I prefer calm and thoughtful discussion rather than vitriolic hyperbole. I believe that disagreement is healthy as long as it is not contentious. I prefer to rely on fact finding and openness rather than rumors and accusations. I was appalled to learn that a candidate for local public office referred to local officials as “expletives” and commented that a local official who was beat up by a colleague “deserved it.” This is not the example that we should be setting for the next generation of leaders.

I believe that emotion and passion can be a part of healthy debate as long as such debate is grounded in facts and measured by tolerance and civility. Recently, I ran into a resident who, while supporting another candidate, praised me for the way in which I have conducted meetings as Chairman of the Board. He said he appreciated that I kept order to the meetings without denying individuals’ rights to speak even when the comments were entirely negative. Maybe I won’t have that person’s vote, but at least I have his respect. As much as I want to be re-elected, having that respect is far more important. It is incumbent upon all of us to be respectful and tolerant of each other and to acknowledge that everyone’s opinion is worthy of consideration. That is the recipe for civility and I pledge that my conduct as a member of the Board of Selectmen will continue to exemplify the values that were instilled in me by my parents.

Kevin Caira
Kevin Caira

Greg Bendel

On August 13th 2018, I was proud to vote for the signing of a proclamation to declare September 2018 “Revive Civility Month” in the Town of Wilmington. We live in an time where we need more civility in our country. If re-elected I will continue to do my part by being a positive role model for others. It is an honor to serve the residents of Wilmington on the Board of Selectmen and it is a role I take very seriously.  I take great pride in the way that I conduct myself and I like to believe that I lead by example. I am always willing to listen to others and never look to tear anyone down regardless if we differ in opinion. I have always been polite and treated others with respect, values that my parents instilled in me at a young age.  I have and will continue to encourage others to exercise civility so that we can work together to keep moving Wilmington forward.

Selectman Greg Bendel
Greg Bendel

Dan Murphy

No response provided.

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