Questions and Answers
Since announcing my candidacy for trustee, I have received a number of questions. I find it important to share these questions along with my answers so residents have an understanding of where I on stand on specific issues. Below are some preliminary questions I received from residents, followed by my response. As more questions come in, I will be sure to publish them.
RESIDENT DIRECT QUESTIONS:
Q - What is your opinion about Facebook governance? Some current board members seem to form their opinions by what is said on Facebook.
A - I am not exactly sure about what you mean by governance, but assume you are speaking about the idea of elected officials taking a position based on social media conversation. Let me first state that I am a free and independent thinker, and although social media serves a purpose in creating a dialogue, I certainly do not think it is an accurate data sample to draw a conclusion.
Statistically, speaking there are roughly 25,000 residents in Erie, and our largest community social media group has around 7,000 members, however; there are many unknown variables in this figure (number of registered voters, inactive users, non-residents, etc.) and would estimate the number active users somewhere around 300 people. If you use this number and compare it to the populous you would find that active engagement represents just 1% of our populous. Not only is 1% a very low number to use as the base of an argument, you also have to consider that this 1% still has a range of opinion variations, which lowers the percentage even further. Although these figures are not entirely accurate, it is a good example of why elected officials should rely on more accurate data sources, like ballots and surveys as they help drastically reduce the level of bias.
Don’t get me wrong, I certainly feel every resident has the right to voice their opinion and to have their opinion validated, but when it comes to making a fair decision, I feel there should be an opportunity for everyone to have a say so, including those who don’t use social media as a communication channel. I cannot speak for other elected officials, but this is my philosophy and the philosophy I would apply if elected.
Q - How open are you planning to be open with the citizens, both in your reception to criticism and to the hard question that are posed to town representatives?
A - If elected, I intend to hold myself to the same standards as I would expect someone representing me; with honestly, transparency and respect. Residents deserve to be informed as to what is happening in their community and the opportunity to have their voice taken into consideration in the process. Regarding the acceptance of questions and criticism, I believe in active listening, as listening first defines good leadership.
Q - I'm curious what your thoughts are on requiring xeriscaping on non-recreational areas in new developments, and banning bluegrass in new developments due to the high amount of water it requires.
A - Due to the rising cost of water, I absolutely support the idea of water conservation and have thought of a few concepts that I will suggest to the board if elected. My main suggestion would be to offer homeowners and HOAs incentives to use xeriscaping and drought tolerant landscaping, while requiring all new developments to include such measures before building permits are approved. Maybe we also revisit the current free tree coupon, and maybe offer an option that does not require as much water. In regard to banning a specific grass species, I am not very familiar with what alternatives are appropriate, but I am certainly willing to research it further and address the concern.
Q - Are you going to accept money or endorsements from O&G or any other special interests?
A - I will not be accepting any money from special interest groups, including O&G, corporations, or environmental groups. I intend to raise 100% of my campaign funds through community residents, friends and family. To provide absolute transparency, I have provided a link to my campaign financial records that include both my expenses and any contributions. This report will be updated frequently throughout the campaign and can be found HERE or under the Donate tab of my WEBSITE.
Q - I would like to know your thoughts on well pads so close to our homes/schools/playgrounds and trails. Additionally, as a town leader, what action are you willing to take to the state to affect change?
A - I know Oil and Gas is an important topic to many people in the community and something that I feel should certainly be addressed further and welcome that discussion. Before I answer your questions though, let me first disclose that I am not against the oil and gas industry as I believe petroleum, petroleum based products and natural gas are essential commodities necessary to support both our lifestyles and economic well-being. However, due to recent industry activity, it is clear that there are valid safety concerns regarding drilling in close proximity of residential areas. I too share this concern, and will work hard to strengthen our operator agreements and increase our town’s presence at the state level in hopes of increasing setbacks to get oil and gas operations away from residential areas. I feel especially strong about aggressively pursuing the state on this issue in order to alleviate our residents from the unnecessary and costly expense of meaningless litigation. Although there are many legal variables involved with the pursuit or implementation of any change, rest assured, my interest is and always will be maintain the health and wellness of Erie and its residents.
Q - What have you done as a private citizen on the (O&G) issues pre-election? There have been many chances to become involved. Have you spoken out at the BOT meetings on your desire to hold industry accountable? Have you met with individuals who are using their own personal time and resources to make a difference, asking how can I help?
A - Previous to receiving my Master degree, I spent an extensive amount of time working in the community. I was a founding member of D.E.B.A. (Downtown Erie Business Association), which was a joint marketing group between downtown business owners. I also helped plan and execute Erie’s first light up Briggs event, and worked extensively with the chamber of commerce to plan and participate in the vast majority of Erie’s hometown events. I admit that the past 7 years or so has not allowed adequate free time for me to be more involved in community activity as my focus was on advancing my professional career through higher education and starting a family. Now that I have achieved these goals, I feel I have enough free time again to be more involved with the Erie community and have spent some of this free time attending or watching BOT meetings and volunteering for various community non-profits. I have not spoken at these meetings, but rather spent my time listening, as I believe a good leader listens first and takes all sources of information into consideration before taking a position.
In regard to meeting with residents, I am certainly open to meeting with any resident and will be hosting a number of “meet and greets” (dates TBD) over the next several weeks and encourage any resident interested to attend. In the meantime, I plan on doing further research as to what has been attempted and what can be done at the state level so that a formal action plan can be written. At this point I do not have all the answers, but am offering my community service to get answers so appropriate and reasonable actions can be taken.
Q - What are your thoughts on increasing the setbacks for new home and business development around existing and planned (O&G) operations? It seems that is an area that the town could take to increase space around these operations, but it seems one that is not talked about enough.
A - This is a great question and can’t help but reference the Firestone home explosion. The “Frederick-Firestone Fire Protection District announced that the unexpected blast was fueled by odorless gas leaking from a severed flow-line that had not been disconnected or capped” (Times Call). The explosion is an obvious example of human negligence and something that should be considered for future development. According to sources, this particular accident occurred just 178 feet from the said well and was within the legal limit of Firestone’s 150-foot setback. To me 150 feet between industry and residential/commercial property is too close, especially considering the potential dangers of O&G activity, but I am unsure as to what distance is considered “safe”. It seems setbacks in and around our immediate area vary anywhere from 150-750 feet. Erie took measures to test for a “safe” distance at 500 feet but seems further discussion and research is necessary to reach a final conclusion, at least that is my understanding. Personally, I feel government and corporations alike have a certain ethical responsibility to establish safety guidelines to protect both employees and residents and ultimately would like to see the state and industry endure some of the research costs to ultimately form a universal (statewide) setback plan.
HAVE A QUESTION THAT I HAVEN'T ANSWERED?