Introduction to Candidates for Acton Board of Selectmen: Jim Snyder-Grant


Acton Forum has contacted the candidates running in the upcoming election for the Board of Selectmen. Jim Snyder-Grant has submitted the following announcement and introduction and we thank him for his contribution.

When I was deciding whether to run for the Acton Board of Selectmen, I started by meeting with current and former Board members to find out what it took to do this job well. This is what I heard:

1) Be able and willing to work hard and long. Being an effective Board member now takes 20–40 hours per week to keep up with assigned committees and make progress on projects of particular interest.

2) Have a strong ability to build agreements with others. Each board member is one person among five. What matter less than a member’s good ideas are the abilities to listen, learn, find points of agreement, and build up to good shared decisions.

I encourage voters to think of these two criteria when they consider for which candidates to vote. Here's my particular story of learning to work hard and work well with others:

I moved to Acton in 1993 with my wife, Dana Snyder-Grant. We moved here to help design, build, and then live at New View cohousing on Half Moon Hill in West Acton. New View is structured as a condominium, with a big emphasis on building connections between residents in a safe, pedestrian-focused neighborhood. I became one of the lead facilitators, helping the group to find a path through many contentious issues during the last 25 years. I have learned to be curious about conflict, because we need to understand how we disagree before we can build lasting agreements.

I joined the Town's Land Stewardship Committee, which looks after the conservation lands and trail systems, and the Acton Conservation Trust, Acton's private, nonprofit land trust, which works to preserve open space in Acton. I was chair of the Land Stewardship Committee for 10 years, and I was the vice-president of the Acton Conservation Trust for four years during my 10 years on the Board. Along the way I learned more about appreciating and protecting forests, meadows, and wetlands, and how to make decisions together with board and committee members.

I retired in 2002 from a career in software development and managing software developers to focus on community service work in Acton.

I volunteered for the Acton 2020 Steering Committee. Acton 2020 was Acton's most recent comprehensive community plan. I worked with the committee from 2008 through 2012 to give shape to the overall goals for the plan, and the detailed objectives and action steps that made up the implementation plan. I became the vice-chair, and also built the website for this phase of the process: a href="http://implementation.acton2020.info">Acton2020. What I loved about this work was the way the seven of us worked together with Town staff and consultants to dig into the relationships between all the aspects that make Acton what it is. We did not begin that process with similar points of view, but because of our hard work and ability to make decisions together, we finished with a plan of which we are all proud.

In 2008, I co-founded Green Acton, Acton's umbrella environmental group, which has grown into a nonprofit (of which I am currently co-president). We've worked on energy, water, and materials issues: more at greenacton. I've learned a lot about how to help develop and advocate for Town policies. Our most recent success was helping to draft the Town's sustainability policy, which commits the Town to developing and tracking a set of environmental sustainability goals: ActonEnvSustainabilityPolicy

This policy was adopted in December of 2018. I decided to run for the Board at this time because I knew it would need an environmental advocate to implement successfully and follow through on this new policy during the next few years.

I look forward to participating in all the important issues in which the Board is involved, including permitting for businesses, reviewing budgets, and setting tax rates. In addition, each Board member finds certain issues to focus on, and ideas to pursue and bring to the larger board. Here's a list to show you where my current interests are:

1. economic development that focuses on jobs for people that live in Acton; and housing policies that help people that work here to live here

2. ways to discourage additional large, stand-alone houses, because they now cause net financial and environmental harm to Acton

3. changes to our housing mix: encouraging smaller houses and apartments, both deeded affordable and market rate, especially for people with disabilities, veterans, and elders

4. property tax support programs helping keep seniors in Town, which need to be seen and presented as vital programs for achieving our town's goals, and not as “charity” programs

5. expanded open space protection

6. evaluation of any open space purchase for potential utility in helping meet our housing needs

7. zero energy buildings, especially the two large and important projects coming up: the new elementary school, and the North Acton fire station

8. regional agreement on the use of Nagog Pond water

9. cooperation between the Town and the Acton Water District on the best future uses of the WR Grace land

10. coordinating the cleanup efforts for the two superfund sites that are sending contaminants into our water supply (Nuclear Metals Inc. has a requirement for cleanup of 1,4-Dioxane, but WR Grace does not)

11. increased Town staff time in support of social services, especially for trainings and initiatives to help reduce isolation among people of all ages, including the suicide prevention efforts of the AB Cares Coalition

12. calling ourselves the Select Board, instead of the Board of Selectmen; we now have firefighters instead of firemen, and police officers instead of policemen; it's time to change the name of the Board, as 150 other New England towns have done

13. Increased opportunities for residents of different backgrounds to get to know each other, so that we aren't forming opinions or making decisions based on stereotypes

I look forward to our ongoing conversations in search of keeping Acton a great place to live for everyone. You can contact me via the campaign website, JimForActon.

I hope to get one of your two votes for the Board of Selectmen. If I am elected, I will be stepping back from much of my other volunteer work to focus on the work of the Board. I am ready to work hard, and to bring people together to make good decisions for our Town.

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Comments

got my vote!

Jim, Your history and approach to life is impressive. Hope you succeed in this contest. Just one tiny suggestion: the picture of you on the "Forum" does you no justice. I went to your website and saw the real you. Much better. Good luck.
Bill Alstrom

BUT HOW WILL WE PAY FOR YOUR DESIRES

Fewer "large" houses! Why is it any of your business if a person buys property in Acton and chooses to build a home you deem too big?

Why do we need new school buildings? You assume we will be building new school buildings and tearing down existing buildings. There might be a plan which justifies NEW but as a "green" person you should not be in favor of the waste associated with building new as apposed to refurbishing existing.

Your "green" group: you state it is a not for profit. Where does the funding for the group originate? Are there any paid positions within the organization? How do we know the organization reflects any opinions save for those of its employees/volunteers?

You seem to spend a good deal of ink telling us how wonderful you are and how you are the Super Person to manage the condo. development you have chosen as your residence. What preciously will you work towards as a select person and how will we pay for them? I really have no interest in your condo. group.

Every acre of buildable land we set aside as "open" is land from which Acton will not receive taxes. How much open space can we afford? How much can we a

Why open space protection is a financial win, and other question

Hi Doug: There's a lot in your note (and perhaps some of it got cut off?), but let me focus on open space protection and large residential development. Typical taxes in Acton are now about $10,000 per household, and the cost per child in the schools is about $15,000. New large housing, typically housing more than one child, costs the town money year after year, where protecting the land is a one-time cost, brings other benefits. We have a spiral of increasing housing costs and taxes that are squeezing many Acton households. There are no single magic answers, but finding ways to slow down large housing development can be part of the answer, if we can figure out how to do this without interfering with landowner rights.

Jim Snyder-Grant is a member of Green Acton - more at http://greenacton.org. More about me at http://snyder-grant.org/jim. Or - just contact me at 978 266-9409 or jimsg@newview.org

HUH?

If I built a 10000 sq. ft. home on my 1/2 acre in lieu 0f my 1800 sq. ft. home this would cost the town money? If I had done the above - my wife and I have not had and will not have any children, how would that cost the town money? People enrolling children in our schools cost THE TAXPAYERS - not "the town" - additional money. Should we demand people with more than, say, two children move out of Acton and keep all families with more than two children from moving to Acton? As for large housing developments being a burden on our town, tax the buildings properly

And, yes, our property taxes are outrageous - as retired people with health issues we know this first hand. But I read the town (?) is spending over $200,000.00 to refurbish "historical buildings" which are being used as residences. Why should the town maintain any building the town doesn't own? And, if we continue to maintain buildings by spending hundreds of thousands - or any money - on their upkeep why don't we have free access to them? "Historical" has come to represent nothing more than "I want you to be responsible for the upkeep on my private residence or business because it is more than a hundred or so years old." Guess what guys, 100 or 200 year old structures are not old. Maybe by the standards based on the age of our republic they are old but not even by the western European invasion of this area are they old. And they did not require any special building skills or architectural skills to build or duplicate. Maybe our property taxes would come down if we stopped throwing money at "historic" stuff?

The members of the up and coming generations don't understand our country very well and are in a hurry to give away our freedoms often to satisfy their socialist ideas (limit children by dictating types of housing). Or to dictate their beliefs based on their fears. Will banning plastic grocery bags in Acton have a measurable positive impact on our ecological challenges? Of course not, but it will give false comfort. Think! it is not the right of anyone to dictate to others. Work to change laws? Why not. The changes can be reviewed in the legal system. But to "know" you're correct and people must do as you say is wrong. Even more wrong than your addressing me as "Doug" given that you don't know me at all. Once again, you are sticking your values into a space where they have not been welcome.