A VOTER’S GUIDE To Selectwoman Candidate Suzanne Sullivan

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

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

Closing Argument

In my closing statements, I would urge people not to vote against your own interests. Because when one starts to scratch the surface what is revealed is alarming. Now some folks would like to shoot the messengers and call us all “uncivil” “wanna be politicians”, etc. Some of these same people deployed the same tactics when some of us said the water supply was contaminated when I ran 15 plus years ago. Well guess what? We were right then and that water supply did get shut down! It was hard to break the lock these people had on the town then too But we did it. We changed the Board of Selectmen and we got the representation we deserved both legally and professionally.

So yes here we are again.

The people insulting and dismissing the challenges to the “status quo” are actually acting uncivil. You know, those who question are negative when the “status quo” is so wonderfully positive. You see it in the letters and the comments in social media and even their demeanor at meetings, often a passive aggressive demeanor. People see it, at least those I have spoken to door to door do, people I don’t not know personally. It brings the “The “Emperor Has No Clothes ” to mind where there is an effort to make people afraid to criticize something or someone and how these campaigns for civility are using their gained “wisdom” and they are “all good “ and too important for us to lose. Actually a detriment to democracy. Ah yes social media ! The thing that some of the candidates slam unless of course it is used to make them look good. They say they “don’t use it”, yet they are plastered all over it. Social media is awesome then, the part they can control, because that is what it is all about controlling the information. It is only when the truth is told that social media is very very bad and distasteful.

Corruption definition: dishonest or fraudulent conduct by those in power.

This is why I am running. And yes I will use that word and defend it whole heartedly with FACTS like emails, executive session minutes, texts. Remember corruption is not something that just sits up in your face. It hides because that is the only way it can survive. Daylight is what kills it. And we have day lighted just that. The Detox was a dishonest process, period. Our town counsel was working with the developer behind the scenes and we have proof and we have put that proof on “very bad “ social media showing the chairman of the Board being dishonest about his relationships and receiving a text about the detox,like counsel working on where the fire easement will go etc.. Does town counsel help you when you put an addition on your house? Or if you need a variance? Or if you need to acquire a permit? How does one get such privileges on tax payer dollars?

The town needs so much. Things like school buildings, a fire substation, open space, ice rink, senior housing, economic development plans both for North Wilmington and Rt 38. All things I am committed to work on. And like many other towns the list goes on. But instead we are having to fight projects Like the Global Gas Station, New England Transrail/Olin/GFI, and the Detox. What’s next from this common denominator? I guess the next neighborhood’s fate will be in those same hands of the current leadership and their outside special influences unless things change.

I am not running because I want to be a “wanna be politician” as one long time Wilmington resident describes me. I’m tired of the politicians that only attend events and smile all the while they are giving you the shaft? No that’s not what I want to be. I don’t not want to be that brick in the wall supporting the foundation of special interests. I want to knock that wall down. I want to be the peoples’ voice, the one that stands up for our neighborhoods and will daylight the special interests, the one against the plague of the current autocratic leadership.

Please vote change on Saturday.
I will do my ultimate best not to let you down.

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

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

I do not believe the Town is heading in the right direction. I think we lack vision and the amount of vacant commercial and industrial spaces is a reflection of that. The town hired a consultant, the Main St. Market Study, which advised that we create walkable outdoor spaces to try and draw people to our commercial property and instead the town proposes to have an affordable housing by-law that will actually eliminate open spaces on commercial mixed use lots opposite to what their own consultant advised. We have bought absolutely NO passive recreation open space since I moved here 30 years ago to preserve some quality of life. Yentiles, as wonderful as it is, is not enough and there is really nothing left. Due to the gentrification of Boston and the surrounding communities Wilmington will feel the crunch of the so called “housing crisis” and our own space will become even more important to the residents but there is no real effort by the Board to provide this benefit to the townspeople. I think we need to do better. I think it is possible to serve ALL the people if we make the commitment and work together toward this common goal. When I read the purpose of the Bylaw I do not see that we are fulfilling that intent.

1.2 Purpose: “The purpose of this Bylaw is to implement the zoning powers granted to the Town of Wilmington under the Constitution and Statutes of the Commonwealth and includes, but is not limited to, the following objectives: to lessen congestion in the streets; to conserve health; to secure safety from fire, flood, panic and other dangers; to provide adequate light and air; to prevent overcrowding of land; to avoid undue concentration of population; to encourage housing for persons of all income levels; to facilitate the adequate provision of transportation, water, supply, drainage, sewage disposal, schools, parks, open space and other public requirements; to conserve the value of land and buildings, including conservation of natural resources and the prevention of blight and pollution of the environment; to encourage the most appropriate use of all land and water resources throughout the Town including consideration of the recommendations of any special studies and master plans for the Town; to preserve and increase amenities; and to preserve and enhance the development of the natural, scenic and aesthetic qualities of the community.”

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 have been volunteering for the last 20 plus years.

I served on the Board of Selectmen from 2003 – 2007, the Master Plan Advisory, the Affordable Housing, the Comprehensive Water Resource Management Plan, and the Open Space committees. I also served on and helped form the Community Advisory Panel, which was charged with hiring the Town’s environmental consultant, GEO Insight. I served on the Upper Ipswich 21E Committee, which was a citizen liaison group with the MA DEP to review and take action on contaminated sites in Wilmington. I coached youth soccer for approx. 10 years when my children were younger. I volunteered for the Outdoor Life program at Camp 40 Acres and helped run the Vernal Pool Workshop.

I currently am the Vice President of the Wilmington Environmental Restoration Committee (for the Olin Superfund Site). I also currently am a co-vice president of the Ipswich River Watershed Association and co-chair of the Headwaters Stream Team. I also am on the Wilmington Childhood Cancer Advisory Committees and in 2014, for the 15th year anniversary of getting no answers from the Wilmington Childhood Cancer Study, I participated in the Buzz For a Cure and raised just shy of $2,000.00 for One Mission. I intend on doing so again this year to mark, and bring awareness to, the 20th year of the study with still no answers.

Citizen Science – I conduct water quality monitoring of the Ipswich River the last Sunday of every month and have for the past 22 years and have participated in the largest citizen science project in the country the Christmas Bird Count. We have recorded well over 30 species of birds in Wilmington during the count. I also volunteer for the Mass Association Of Conservation Commissions and am their “official photographer.”

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 detox at 362 Middlesex. It was the wrong place to put a 24 hour, 7 day a week, two-story medical facility. I would say to people who disagree with my position that although I understand why a facility like this is needed, the use requires a special permit for a reason. It is understood in our by-laws that a medical facility can have an impact on the surrounding areas that are specific to it, and not to other types of commercial uses. Therefore, it is not a “by right use”, meaning the person proposing it does not have an absolute right to build one. This area of north Wilmington is still a nice neighborhood business district. It did not fit and would have impacted residents severely that were abutters because the cul-de-sac, another mis-matched feature, pushed the two-story large building right up against the neighborhood. There are no other 24/7 operations in this area, and for good reason. It would severely impact the surrounding residents. The commercial areas currently shut down by 10:00 pm, therefore not impacting the surrounding residential areas. I believe we can have what we want and still protect the residents if we make wise choices. I think the detox at this site was not a wise choice and did not protect the residents. I believe the residents should always come first and we should do whatever we can to make that the first priority.

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 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.

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?

I think a plan to address the elementary schools is the biggest concern along with the Public safety issue aka fire sub-station. These two should be a priority for the town.

The combined cost for the schools is around 100 million dollars. That’s crazy. There had been talk about consolidating grades, or schools years ago. It makes sense to me to consolidate and have two buildings instead of five. But the plan was somewhat silent on this issue. I will always see education as the priority and these current building are just not adequate anymore. They were in bad shape when my children went to elementary school 15 years ago. If/when the schools are consolidated then one of the remaining schools, maybe the Woburn Street, could be revamped and used for a town hall. Plus I would like to see some initiatives for greener buildings and the plan is silent here too. Other towns are taking their responsibility on this matter seriously but our town remains behind.

The sub-station was supposed to be addressed when I was on the Board of Selectman 12 years ago and it never has been addressed. Now the already minimal train stops at the North Wilmington commuter rail are being held hostage. This is a very bad idea. This is the opposite direction we want to go in. What is holding back the sub-station? No land? Then buy the farm! Good place to put an ice rink too and save some open space for us tree huggers and the other animals we share the planet with. Sorry I digress. There was some talk years ago about doing a land swap for the parking are at the end of Jefferson and using this for a commuter platform. I do not know what happened to that idea. Or maybe we could share the Tewksbury facility on Main Street? These types of collaborations are not that uncommon. None the less we need a sub-station somehow somewhere and we have obvious space needs. It seems that the town has been paralyzed when the same issues 15 years ago are the same issues today. Let’s start rolling our sleeves up and start finding real solutions.

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? 

There really re no articles I feel particularly passionate about supporting other than the one to allow the gentleman to fulfill his desire to become a fire fighter. So I will feel good about voting YES on Article 43.

I plan on voting NO on Article 42 and unfortunately am against the Inclusionary by-law as written, unless amended. Very disappointed.  I was one of the people that pressed the Planning Board to take it up after 15 years of no action on the recommendations of the Affordable Housing Plan, which I served. This is a giveaway to the developer. How could our town propose to do away with open space on multifamily/mixed use developments in a community that is so concerned with densities.  That means lots with all building and parking with nothing to offset the impacts of the density. The plan developed by the Master Plan Committee, the Affordable Housing Plan,  stressed to use innovative ideas to increase affordable housing while still “accommodating community concerns and preserving town character” (emphasis added- page 4)

This is what I am running on, the town not listening to the residents. We keep communicating that we are concerned about dense developments, that the town is over developing and losing its character. We keep asking for a different direction. People have participated in that process and still not being heard. The Main Street Market Study recommends “invest in projects to help small businesses, improve the curbside aesthetic of downtown areas, including landscaping and attractive sidewalks, and invest in art installations and historic building restoration,” basically the street scares idea.This by-law does the opposite by eliminating the open space requirement for a lot through the density bonus in Neighborhood Mixed Use districts, which was already at  a measly 20% of lot area.

When the Master Plan was developed the idea was that everyone could agree to and compromise to mitigate negative impacts from density factors from developments. Developers wanted entity the people compromised and said ok but let’s mitigate. This proposed by-law blows all that out of the water and totally thumbs it nose to those compromises,  those values and the community concerns.

It simply is not in harmony with the By-Laws of the Town.  I will once again add the purpose of the by-laws to this answer. Hopefully all residents will become experts on it.

“1.2 Purpose -The purpose of this Bylaw is to implement the zoning powers granted to the Town of Wilmington under the Constitution and Statutes of the Commonwealth and includes, but is not limited to, the following objectives: to lessen congestion in the streets; to conserve health; to secure safety from fire, flood, panic and other dangers; to provide adequate light and air; to prevent overcrowding of land; to avoid undue concentration of population; to encourage housing for persons of all income levels; to facilitate the adequate provision of transportation, water, supply, drainage, sewage disposal, schools, parks, open space and other public requirements; to conserve the value of land and buildings, including conservation of natural resources and the prevention of blight and pollution of the environment; to encourage the most appropriate use of all land and water resources throughout the Town including consideration of the recommendations of any special studies and master plans for the Town; to preserve and increase amenities; and to preserve and enhance the development of the natural, scenic and aesthetic qualities of the community.”

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?

This is a hard question because there are so many needs and challenges the Town faces that I believe are equally important. Economic development is important, but not really in the purview of the Board alone, and we do have some action finally being taken on this. So here are challenges and issues that the Board needs to address.

Implement capital improvements. Several seniors I have spoken to love the Senior Center where it is, on the town common, but state it is just not big enough. I would like to see an addition looked at as possible solution. It seems to me there is sufficient land there to accommodate an addition. I hope to finally get an affordable senior housing project off the ground and running. The people were told when the land was bought at St. Thomas that it would be used for this purpose. The Whitfield site is another good spot, with the train and other amenities and worthy of discussion. It is time to take action on this, no more lip service. I want the elementary school challenges to move to the top of the list, not the Town Hall. We need a timeline set for dealing with the school issues. What I heard at the School Committee debate was disturbing and unacceptable that staff and students are complaining that they believe the Wildwood School makes them ill and a new Town Hall is the priority project. I strongly disagree, schools need to come first. The Wildwood School is not worth saving. This is a serious issue that needs to be addressed now! How to offset these financial impacts? See answer #3.

Work harder to negotiate for Scirrappa’s Farm for the future municipal and recreation space (both passive and active) needs of the town. There is very little undeveloped land left in Wilmington. We live in a very stressful world. It is well proven that recreation, both active and passive, are beneficial for our well-being, whether it is taking a walk in a quiet place, exercising, or enjoying a game. My kids could not play hockey because of the cost. I want to see a plan come forward for a town rink that pays for itself and the best location for that could be the farm, while also providing passive open space, maybe even a community garden. Being outdoors, gardening, walking, exercising is one of the best things you can do to maintain good mental and physical health. We need to do better offering this to our residents. Right now the only real choice is to walk on our busy streets. Neighboring communities have resources like Horn Pond, AVIS trails, Lake Quannapowitt, Mill Pond Reservoir and Ipswich River Park for walking. As we continue to develop, future generations will be thankful and this will become even more valuable to the town. Open Space has also been proven to keep taxes lower too. I hope to accomplish through negotiations and a special town meeting warrant article . We already have the money to pay from “free cash” plus maybe get creative to find other funding sources.

Get fair compensation for the loss of the our water supply because of the contamination from the Olin Site and work to get town water to the Cook Ave area and have Olin pay for it. They owe us more than a just pipeline and entrance fee to MWRA . We lost a whole resource they claim they can not feasibly clean up. I want to see a solution to the development of this site when, and only when, there is an adequate remediation plan in place. Not one that is incomplete through an “expedited” process that does not address the real issue. The town has been impacted enough and we deserve to have a project that will not cause further harm to the residents in that area. Time to be a Board that does more than just attend functions but one that actively stands up for its residents. This is what I hope to accomplish the most.

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 would give him a C-, below average. I think he has made some very good Department Head hires at Town Hall. This low grade is more reflective of the current leadership of the Board of Selectmen not totally of Jeff. I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Jeff is talented and very capable of doing the job and finding solutions if left to his own devices. Unfortunately a lot of people see him as the bad guy for allowing and promoting these controversial projects that negatively impact our neighborhoods.He has preached civility to the people but to many of us his actions (which speak louder than words) are not civil. People see though it. I, as others, believe he is taking direction and being pressured not only from the chairman of the board but from outside influences also. Information requests have revealed that his prior bosses, the former town manager (whose brother is the chairman) and a former selectman are really behind the controversy and are responsible for all the ill will in town. They have been involved in the three most controversial projects in recent times: the Global Gas Station/Carwash Development, The Detox, and now The New England Transrail /GFI Project. They basically act as lobbyists pedaling their political influence, controlling the current board. They offer little expertise other than their influence over town boards and they work hard to get their elected representation on the Board of Selectmen. This has made Jeff look very bad and people see him as the reason these projects have come forward, and to some degree he also shares some responsibility. So if the Board changes and we take back our government from the “lobbyists” maybe Jeff could be a good Town Manager and realize the former Town Manager and former Selectman are no longer his bosses that he works for us, the people and we no longer want to have to fight projects that will negatively impact our neighborhoods that will financial benefit only the “insiders”.

(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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