FOR SELECT BOARD: Erin Noonan

Years in Marblehead: Hometown, returned in 2014 with my husband to raise our 3 kids

Occupation/education: Attorney, (MA Bar admittance 2006) Private Bar Trial and Appellate Advocate Children and Family Law Division of CPCS.

Appointed positions and/or elected offices: Board of Selectmen 1st Term 2021-2022

What are three reasons/issues as to why you’re running for election? 

  1. To continue to bring my vocal perspective as a returning resident with a young family and professional skill set.  We can preserve our traditions and honor our unique history, while also addressing the modern challenges and difficult financial situation the town is in.  I want to ensure that Marblehead continues to remain a thriving and desirable seaside town to live in for generations to come.
  1. This is the town’s most significant election in my memory.  We must confront the fiscal cliff facing us with next year’s budget.  For the FY’23 budget, the town either needs to make substantial expense cuts in personnel and services, or raise enough revenues through the Proposition 2 ½ override process to correct our longstanding structural deficit and maintain quality services for residents.  I value community outreach, input and thoughtful planning.  I want to make sure that all residents are invited to this decision-making process via public participation.  I feel strongly we need to educate residents on the current financial realities detailed in the 2020 Annual Budget.  
  1. I am action-oriented at a time where this town needs to take steps forward.  There is much work to do to implement the recommendations of our housing production, economic recovery, harbor and coastal resiliency plans – which set forth great vision but will need courage and leadership to bring about.  

What areas of municipal government do you think the town could give more attention to? 

Infrastructure, Services and Revenue.  According to over 1200 residents responding to our annual town survey, the maintenance of infrastructure, including roads and sidewalks, is the single biggest issue facing Marblehead.  Resident feedback also identified the town’s budget and finance as the second biggest single issue facing Marblehead.  As an elected official, the Select Board needs to accordingly devote significant attention to both these areas.   That is why the success of Question 1 on this year’s ballot is so important – so we can authorize the issuance of 10-20 year bonds for the purposes of:

  1. Repairing and replacing roofs reaching end of life.  Yes on Question 1 enables much needed roof work to take place over the next 5-6 years at:  Jacobi Community Center; Mary Alley Municipal Office Building; Franklin Street Fire Station; the Tower Way DPW Headquarters; and Marblehead High and Veterans Schools.  
  2. Repaving and strategically maintaining town roads and sidewalks over the next 5 years.  Yes on Question 1 provides $12.5 million in funding, via 10-year bonds, to upgrade town roads and sidewalks in accordance with the professional pavement management plan laid out at public meetings.
  3. Replacing the 26-year-old DPW salt shed, installing HVAC systems in three school buildings, replacing boilers at MHS, and town hardware and software upgrades.

Thus, the town needs to both pass Question 1 so that we can address these capital infrastructure needs, and then the town government must ensure proper oversight, accountability and diligence in completion of these projects.  Please see my answer to the preceding question regarding attention needed to our budget and finances. There are many other areas I believe need more attention which are outlined on my website at voteerinnoonan.com.

What do you feel will be the biggest issues facing the town in the coronavirus pandemic’s wake? 

As much as all of us want to put the pandemic behind us, the pandemic’s local economic impacts will be with us for some time to come.  The pandemic exacerbated the existential threat facing our town’s vibrant small retail businesses with consumers moving to the convenience of the online market. The economic uncertainties created since March 2020 are still wreaking havoc on our businesses and restaurants.  If re-elected, I would invite a forum of business owners to discuss potential  infrastructure enhancements in the business district that may be helpful to attract more customers.  I would like the Select Board to create a subcommittee working group to implement the recommendations from last year’s Local Rapid Recovery Plan.  This group could work in conjunction with the Chamber of Commerce on implementing recovery strategies via Community One Stop for Growth and the Massachusetts Downtown Initiative.

Do you think the infrastructure override will pass? What are you doing to convince the town to support it? If it doesn’t pass, what will you do? 

Yes, I strongly support Question 1, which is the result of professional assessments of needs, costs and planning.  Question 1 directly responds to consistent resident feedback over the past several years.  These are real infrastructure needs that can be paid for using normal municipal bond financing.   The Select Board is responsible for getting the factual information out to voters through all available means so that voters can go to the polls with informed decisions.  At my request, the Board will be taking a vote of support for it at our next meeting.  Information on Question 1 can be found on the front of the town website as “June 21 2022 Town Election Information.”  I will continue to spread the word on Question 1 via my personal social media, conversations in town, and venues like this one.  

Two-plus years into COVID-19, what do you hope the town has learned about the delivery of services during an emergency like a pandemic? How can you as a selectperson ensure that the value of these lessons is not lost over time?

I hope that all residents have learned that we owe a tremendous amount of respect and gratitude to our municipal employees.  Unfortunately, the pandemic’s toll on the collective psyche of citizens in this country manifested itself in a loss of civility that has often been directed at those showing up to do their jobs despite all adversity.  Employees are leaving municipal jobs at an alarming rate due to strained budgets, inflexible schedules, and overburdened roles.  Marblehead town employees became unsung heroes, performing exceedingly well despite the worst of circumstances.  These are essential workers for whom remote working was not an option.  From our emergency services, to the council on aging’s continued meal service, and across the custodial and administrative staff, our town employees showed up in an invaluable way.  Marblehead residents learned how fortunate we are to have such hard-working town employees.   As a Member of the Select Board, I want to make sure that town employees feel valued as our greatest resource.  I believe that our town is far behind other peer communities without a dedicated Human Resource position.  I want to see a fulsome consideration given to improving in the area of human resources during FY’23 budget discussion.  

The pandemic has also made this a challenging time for local businesses. How would you rate the town’s performance in supporting the local business community? What more could be done to ensure that the town remains home to a vibrant collection of local shops, restaurants and other businesses?

Please see my response above to “What do you feel will be the biggest issues facing the town in the coronavirus pandemic’s wake?”.

As real estate prices continue to soar, Marblehead homes seem to be getting even further out of reach for many of our police officers, teachers and other public servants, to say nothing of those who were raised in town but cannot afford to move back “home.” To what degree is this a problem, and what can be done about it?”

We need to bring all stakeholders to the table to expand and diversify our housing inventory, per the findings of the Housing Production Plan.  We need to address the changing demographics of our town and create more diversity in housing options to meet the needs of residents in different life stages and income levels.

Our town has seen a significant increase in aging households and decrease in younger households. The recent housing study found that “the number of households led by someone 55 or older increased by 21% in seven years” while “the number of residents between the ages of 25 to 44 shrunk by 63% in the same time period.”  We need to consider options to diversify housing options, while maintaining the charming character of Marblehead that attracts young professionals and their families who will support Marblehead’s future.

Although we have many affluent households, almost 30% of households in town are low-income, which includes half of single-person senior households and half of renter-occupied households. Two-thirds of low-income households in Marblehead spend more than 30% of their income on housing.  I am supportive of the town’s examination of accessory dwelling unit (ADU) zoning reforms as one way – but only one piece of a plan – to address this issue.

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