A VOTER’S GUIDE To Selectman Candidate Rob Fasulo

WILMINGTON, MA — Rob Fasulo is one of the six candidates competing for two 3-year Selectmen seats in this Saturday’s Town Election.

Below are Fasulo’s Closing Argument; his Q&A’s with Wilmington Apple; links to his supporters’ letters to the editor; the full video of the WCTV debate he participated in; his interviews with WCTV (video) and the Town Crier (written); and more.

Closing Argument

This coming weekend folks in Wilmington will have a very important decision to make. We have a chance right now to decide the ultimate future of our town. Some may argue that our future is already set in stone, I choose to be more optimistic and say I don’t believe that it is. When I look at Wilmington, I remember the community where everyone knew everyone. I remember a community that when asked, hundreds of volunteers came out to build the town’s very first playground (Kids Place) at the Shawsheen School. I can also remember a town that was chock full of open space, woodlands and swamp lands where me and my friends played until the street lights came on. My intention on the board is to preserve that small town charm and characteristic that remain so vividly in my mind for my kids, your kids and future generations.

We as a town have never had a more clear difference in direction. The question every voter should ask themselves is, what kind of community do you want your children or grand children to grow up in? My direction will control growth in a manner that will put the least burden on tax payers as well as schools and town departments. I understand the many different challenges residents face because I have aging parents that have lived in Wilmington for a very long time and wish to continue living here. I also have children that will eventually have their own children that may want to remain here.

If the voters do chose to elect me, they will get the individual that they have seen on TV, have had conversations with in person, and who wrote the remarks that were printed in the paper or website. I personally write everything that has been printed, and I answer every question with a direct answer, not a “safe” politicians answer. You know exactly who I am and where I stand on an issue. That’s the real me. I will also take this opportunity to say I do not have all the answers, but my parents raised me to listen and then make the best decision that I can, and my career has reiterated that lesson. That being said, I will listen to you, your neighbors and your family for the guidance necessary to be the advocate for you that I believe is needed on this board. My desire to remain unclouded is why I have now self funded both of my campaigns and have no debts to any person that may come calling in the future.

Through this election cycle, we have had to answer many questions and I’ve read them all. Suzanne and I are the only candidates that have given actual plans. Under my plans, I have said many times I will address senior housing which will by default address both a new senior center as well as add affordable housing to our dwindling numbers. I will oppose the development of the Olin site until a remediation plan is in place. I will also support legal action against Olin and others which the town has failed to do. I will continue to support and call for tax relief. Wilmington’s taxes are too high which has gotten us to where we are today with empty store fronts and seniors being priced out of town. Further, I will support a comprehensive review of our zoning throughout the town, Economic development and redevelopment will start there. I will also support the town’s acquisition of Sciarappa Farm. This parcel of land is the last large parcel left. Our town will need land in the future for schools, administration buildings, an ice rink, fire sub station, or maybe the people would like a nature preserve with walking paths among the Wildlife of Wilmington. Whatever use is determined by future town meeting votes is the limit, however we won’t have a choice if we don’t acquire the land now.

By electing me, you will end the conflicts that seem like business as usual for this administration. If you think back, most of the major issues in front of the board have begun by someone recusing themselves from a discussion. This occurred during the discussion of the purchase of Sciarappa Farm and the Olin development just to name a couple. I would love to talk about the conflicts in the 362 MIddlesex Ave project however by now you know about those so I will move on. By electing me you will restore the full representation that the town lacks so often by the current board.

Throughout world history those with ideas different than the status quo have been labeled as being uncivil. We have seen that word thrown about during this election like my kids throw around their toys. My ultimate statement to those that have thrown about this word while insinuating it toward me is first, a thank you. Some of the greatest figures in our history were labeled as being uncivil by those that wished to remain in power over a people, John Adams, Joseph Warren, Paul Revere to name just a few. It humbles me somewhat in being placed in the same boat as these great men. I hope that this election turns out to be a revolution of sorts for Wilmington. We can remain under the rulers that are in power today traveling the same roads and getting the same results, or we can try something new. This is an exciting time for Wilmington because everything is at stake.

Suzanne and I need your vote on April 27th to effect this change.

On The Issues (Q&A’s with Wilmington Apple)

Is the Town of Wilmington heading in the right direction? Explain.

Wilmington is a great community, if I did not believe that I would not have remained here my entire life nor would I have decided to raise three kids here. While the community is great our local government has issues that need to be addressed. Over the past year and a half we watched while the town was adamant on putting a detox in the middle of a neighborhood, only feet from a school bus stop and residential neighborhood that they were willing to violate Public Records laws to keep residents from seeing the true process that was taken. We have an $83 million dollar high school that was built with less capacity than its predecessor, our elementary school buildings are so out of date that they cannot put air conditioning units into classroom windows for our children. The town’s OPEB (Other Post Employment Benefits) account is more than $112 million in the red and the unfunded pension liability is approximately $78 million.

Are we on the “right track”? These are real dollars that all of us homeowners are going to have to pay at one point or another. Eventually these bills will come due and how is the town going to pay them? With that said, developers are pocket zoning large parcels of land and the town hall knows this. Town officials are also negotiating with the developers on other projects outside of the public eye as we speak. 50 units off Butters Row (confirmed), 77 units (unconfirmed number) at Walpole Woodworkers, 57 units at the intersection of Woburn and Rte. 129 (confirmed). We won’t get into the rumored complexes on Rte. 62 in North Wilmington, Or the bus parking area on Rte. 129 or next to Burger King, or even Phase 3 of the hockey rink that I brought up at a previous selectmen’s meeting. So with all the current debt, after what’s already approved is built, we may now need to somehow make the high school larger, hire more school staff, police officers, fire personnel and apparatus, public works’ staff, and address the other school building needs. I also should mention the dwindling amount of “open space” left in town. When the undeveloped land the town has is gone, it’s gone forever leaving the future needs of the town to be filled by real eminent domain land takings.

In the end when all of this is done, our taxes will be so high that they will exclude the possibility of many of our seniors remaining in town and our kids that would like to start their family here will be priced out of the possibility. The direction the town is in it’s growing too fast. When businesses grow too fast they typically fail, Wilmington will be no different and many of our residents that are here now, will not be able to remain. If we care about our seniors staying in town, or our children having the opportunity to remain here with their families we need to act now. Our town government should be advocating sustainable growth and not uncontrolled growth. It also should be working for the residents, not against.

Describe your past & present involvement with Wilmington’s town government (e.g., any appointed or elected positions, serve on any committees?) AND in the Wilmington community (e.g., volunteerism with non-profits, churches, schools, youth sports, etc.).

I attended Wilmington Public Schools and am a 1994 graduate of Shawsheen Tech.

In 1998, I joined the Wilmington Auxiliary Police, which was a volunteer position where we were tasked with patrolling the school and town buildings and property in the off-hours. I maintained my position with the Auxiliary Police until 2002 when I became a full time officer for another agency.

I currently have one child at the West Intermediate and one child in the Shawsheen Elementary School.

Being a member of the Mass Maple Producers Association and my proximity to the city of Boston, I have been fortunate enough to be called on by many organizations to volunteer to teach children and groups outside of Wilmington about maple sugaring and beekeeping.

Since my run for the Board of Selectmen last year, I have remained active in town politics attending most Selectmen’s meetings and several ZBA (Zoning Board of Appeals) and other departmental meetings. I have been a vocal advocate for transparency in our government after finding that the town was unwilling to provide public documents upon request.

Do you/did you support the construction of a detox facility at 362 Middlesex Avenue? Why or why not? What do you say to residents who strongly disagree with your position?

No, I did not support the 362 Middlesex Ave. project and that was no secret. I established my position during the last election that I support the idea, but in a different location and if being run by a non-profit facility that could handle the medical side of detox without adding demand for the town’s EMS services. I proposed several times during the election and since on my Facebook page, that our town officials should actively seek out a non-profit hospital looking to expand their footprint and invite their representatives into Wilmington to see all the good Wilmington can offer them. We have vacant properties in several locations which fit zoning that do not abut residential neighborhoods and could accommodate up to and including, an emergency room or 24-hour facility that would be a first line of treatment for folks in our town in an emergency. This type of facility could also house a detox where patients would be treated under the purview of a medical doctor and emergencies could be handled in-house with minimal burdens placed on town emergency services. The proposal as presented had many flaws and the process the town took in an effort to get the project passed was questionable. As I said on many occasions, had any other resident took the plans presented by the applicant into Town Hall, it would not have passed the Building Department’s desk before being denied.

In the end, it doesn’t matter if you were for or against the detox, the process the town took regarding the application had no basis in MA General Laws and the liability to the town was not even a concern for the current Board of Selectmen. We heard on many occasions that “The town is going to be sued, it is just a matter of by whom,” and we also heard town counsel say “ The case would be appealed based on discrimination.” When the Board of Selectmen was asked to have a discussion in private regarding derogatory statements made by the chair of the Zoning Board of Appeals at the January 13, 2016 ZBA meeting about the protected class, only one sitting member voted in favor of discussing this matter in executive session with town counsel. One does not need to be an attorney to figure out the argument that attorneys could use in any court action, based on his statement, and to what further extent these comments will cost further taxpayer money in litigation.

Finally, having a meeting with no authorization in the general laws granting the Zoning Board of Appeals authority, with the sole intention of over ruling a legal decision was chilling. How many folks reading this answer can say they have been denied a permit for a project and then, were granted a second “bite of the apple” attempt to get that project approved? I can answer that with, it’s never been done before, not in Wilmington and certainly not within the State of Massachusetts. Accommodations, when appropriate are granted by building inspectors, they are not tools attorneys have to override legal decisions made by local zoning boards.

The facts I laid out here are testimony to my desire to bring the power back to the residents of Wilmington. I am convinced that the reasons so many questionable actions took place during this process is based on who is involved and what money would have been made. It certainly wouldn’t have positively affected the neighborhood that the facility was being proposed in and I stand behind any resident who is faced with such a drastic project in their backyard.

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?

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.

What do you feel should be Wilmington’s next TWO municipal or school building projects? Why do you prioritize these two projects over other projects?

Before I go into my answer for this question, I will pose a question for readers to think about. Every election, candidates claim they are looking out for seniors in our community and that they are being priced out of living in town once they enter retirement age. Once elected, has anything been done to actually address this issue? The town budget since 2015 has risen over 19 percent, Social Security payouts have only risen 5% in that same time. This year we were all shocked when we opened our tax bills to see what we would now be paying just to live here. At a time when we are still paying off the 86 million dollar high school (which was built smaller than its predecessor), we are now going to ask residents to foot the bill for two more large projects? If we are being asked this question, I have to seriously question the sincerity of those that have once said they care about our seniors remaining here.

Here is my answer to this question. I have put forth several times my desire to bring the St Dorothy’s land back to the Selectmen with the intention of following through with a long term lease with a private developer where the town can negotiate as part of the acquisition of the property said developer would include a new Senior Center on that site along with a truly affordable and senior development. This is a way we can truly take care of our seniors, obtain a new senior center costing taxpayers little and take action since politicians have been promising to do something for years.

The only large scale project I would entertain in the short term is to deal with our elementary school problems. Consolidation of schools is clearly the future and our elementary schools are in need of attention. A new school that could house grades K or 1-3 which would eliminate 2-4 schools may be the answer. This plan is not without its problems as we would need to find a decent size lot of land within town that we would be able to properly build this size structure while continuing to educate those that are already in the system.

On a smaller scale I would like to finally begin the process of a fire substation in North Wilmington as it has been talked about at least since the early 1990’s yet nothing has been done to move the idea forward. One idea I believe the town should look into is a model that was used between the city of Revere and Malden located at 3 Overlook Ridge Drive in Revere.

Are there any articles on this year’s Annual Town Meeting Warrant (https://www.wilmingtonma.gov/sites/wilmingtonma/files/uploads/2019_atm_warrant.pdf) that you currently plan to vote against? If so, which articles and why? And what ONE article would you most wish to bring to the attention of voters and ask that they support? 

To answer the question, I do not support Article 42 (Inclusionary Zoning) as written.

Inclusionary zoning was first recommended in late 2001 when the Master Plan was first released. Our town administrators allowed the problem of unchecked development to fester, and in 2010 when the town was compliant with 40B they still did nothing. Former Selectman Frank West went on record at many Board of Selectman meetings to ring the bell for Wilmington to adopt an Inclusionary bylaw and was continually brushed off.

Now we are on the heels of falling under the 10 percent affordable housing requirement which will open our neighborhoods up to 40B developments that do not need to abide by zoning ordinances. This means a developer can buy a plot of land next door to you and place a multi unit residential building and as long as it has 20-25 percent affordable units the town can do little to stop it. Properly written inclusionary language would have been a tool to help us when we were above 10 percent, it will not do anything for us at the present time as written.

During the process of coming up with this language that we see in this article public comment was solicited. Three issues were brought up. Mr. West asked for a 25% requirement because when you do the math what is required in the article it works out to be about 11%. I personally have done research on Inclusionary Zoning and I found a common requirement is 15%. Suzanne Sullivan and I both brought up the problem that the bylaw eliminates the requirement for open space and also allowing a developer to locate an affordable unit off property is ripe for abuse as it paves a road to a “low income neighborhood”.

Not one of these issues were addressed in the language presented giving the feeling that the public comments were nothing but a charade being played under the direction of the development community. A properly constructed Inclusionary Zoning bylaw would have started at a minimum of 15% affordable with a density bonus per acre, with a requirement that graduated as the project got larger ending up to 25%. It would have pertained to all new building projects not just new multi unit construction and it would not allow for offsite units in lieu of. Voting this language in at this point will not help the town as we are already under our 10 percent so it should be voted down and sent back to the drawing board to be written with language that benefits the residents.

The one article I would ask the residents to support is Article 43. When a resident has a dream to give back to a community, that community should allow an environment where that individual can realize that dream. Adam has worked hard to make his dream of becoming a firefighter a reality, his age should not become a hindrance. Please vote in support of this article.

An issue that our administration has recently been asked to consider, is a change in date of our Annual Town Meeting because of conflicts with other aspects of residents’ lives. I certainly hope that a change in scheduling of the meeting is done quickly because too many residents, such as myself this year are faced with the choice (or lack there of) of missing a child’s life event or attending town meeting. We need to encourage participation in Town Meeting and scheduling at a time when children are making communion, confirmation or another of life’s stepping stones does the opposite.

If you are elected, what are at least three big things that you hope to accomplish during your 3 years on the board? How would you accomplish these things?

I have to say, I have far more than three things I will work to accomplish in my first year, but if your going to hold me to three:

  • My first is working for a one year holiday from ever rising property taxes. The fact is, the town has $26 million in free cash and another $11 million in the Capital Stabilization account. The C.S. Should not be touched but it is “free cash” should the town need it. With $37 million in what is essentially money obtained by over taxation, the difference between last year’s budget and this year’s is $5 million. If we leveled taxes this year we would still have $32 million in free cash. Enough is enough, residents deserve a break. We hear so often that town officials have concerns for the aging being priced out of town, this is a small way we can help those seniors “and everyone else.” The incumbents called tax relief unrealistic, under their plan your taxes will continue to rise.
  • Second, I will take a solid stance on the Olin site and will revert back to the town’s old position of no development without a plan for remediation. If we allow development before a plan is in place where is the town’s negotiating power to get a proper cleanup? Children as well as adults across town have died more than likely because of the contamination on site. Wilmington residents are unable to drink from their own private wells to this day and news of NDMA being absorbed through vapor during showers makes simple tasks such as showering a very dangerous game for those families effected. The fact is, we have learned through public records requests that the current chairman has sat in on all executive session meetings regarding Olin even after his brother approached the town on behalf of the project which certainly gave a window into the the town’s strategy for its opponents. Having a family member sitting in on executive sessions on the Olin matter now is akin to having the wolf watch the hen house and it cannot continue.
  • Third, I plan on bringing the St. Dorothy’s land back up to a vote to fulfill the reason the town spent the money on it in the first place. The incumbents have spoken for three years about doing something for the aging, yet their actions have fallen far short of the finish line. I truly believe this land is the best location for our seniors and a new senior center. I will bring it back for another vote in hopes that other selectmen will see the potential I believe is there. Our seniors of today are the parents of my friends, my classmates and my teammates growing up. Their tax dollars made Wilmington what it is today. It’s time we stop using them as tools in a campaign and start providing them with those services that they expect.

I have many plans beyond this, however, as good as these ideas may sound, I need open-minded folks on the board alongside of me. Having consistent four (three) to one votes, as we have had for the past several years, will not achieve anything other than one group’s agenda. I challenge you, the reader, to go back over the past three years worth of selectmen’s meetings and see if either incumbent strayed with their vote from the other more than one or two times. We need folks on the board who are willing to work together toward common goals and not soldiers willing to take orders and vote the way they are told. Wilmington has a chance right now to make the needed changes on the board.

What grade would you give to Town Manager Jeff Hull for his performance over the past year? Why? Are you looking for a change in leadership at Town Hall?

I am not sure its fair to be asked to give Mr. Hull a grade, because I don’t think we have ever seen Mr. Hull do the job we have asked him to do. After having conversations with town employees from many different departments, I firmly believe that Mr. Hull is being controlled by the Board of Selectmen and what we have seen of Jeff is a result of what specific people on the board are directing him to do. Because of this belief I will give the three sitting members of the Board of Selectmen that consistently vote together a failing grade.

Why? For one example, We just watched as the 362 Middlesex Ave. project was forced through town departments, and was approved without so much as a twitch from any boards or commissions, while 99.9% of residents begged the town administration to stop it, yet it came down to one vote in the last board to squash it.

Both incumbents are on record in September of 2017 on WCTV as supporting the measure, Use of politically safe ambiguous language does not change the fact that they failed to represent the people who voted them in. Neither incumbent attended any of the Planning or ZBA meetings to advocate for the residents. They stayed home, they watched on TV and at least one of them communicated with Mr. Hull via text message about town counsel working behind the scenes to get the proposal approved. This project was proposed by Mr. David Ray and the chairman of the board’s brother at the aforementioned meeting.

A second instance, for the past 20 years the town’s position on Olin was no development until remediation. The town has spent thousands of taxpayer dollars fighting New England Transrail pushing this agenda. We learned in September of 2018 that the town changed its position on development at the site sometime after March of 2018 after receiving correspondence from the chairman of the board of selectmen’s brother proposing the project.

Change within Town Hall starts with the Board of Selectmen. Change starts when we can break the consistent four(three) to one votes that come out of every Board of Selectmen’s meeting. Change starts when the board can stop micromanaging our very well paid town manager and letting him sink or swim on his own merits. Change starts when we end the conflicts of interest that have become business as usual in our town hall. Change starts on April 27th when you cast your vote for Fasulo and Sullivan and end the “Caira Fatigue” so often talked about in private circles.

(Editor’s Note: The above questions were submitted by readers. Each candidate was given the same amount of time each week to answer. These answers were previously published on Wilmington Apple over the past two months.)

Letters To The Editor/Endorsements

Watch The Debate

Candidate Conversation with WCTV

Wilmington Town Crier Candidate Profile

Campaign Announcement/Other

Candidate’s Website & Social Media

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