The Select Board has declined to reappoint an original member of the Bedford Housing Partnership after she was asked to explain her position on affordable housing.
Alice Sun was appointed to the Fair Housing Committee in 2003, and was a member when that panel and the Affordable Housing Committee merged in 2012 to become the Housing Partnership. For several ensuing years, she was the partnership’s liaison for fair-housing issues.
Board member Shawn Hanegan, during a meeting on July 10, moved to reappoint Sun to a three-year term. He said it is important for members to hear different voices on housing issues. But the motion was not seconded.
The board subsequently approved by a 3-1 margin informing the Volunteer Coordinating Committee about a vacancy on the partnership. Board member Margot Fleischman was absent.
Select Board members held off on Sun’s reappointment at their June 26 meeting so they could ask her about an interaction with someone on town staff. Paul Mortenson said the incident occurred at a meeting of the Municipal Affordable Housing Trust, on which Sun is a representative of the Housing Partnership.
Mortenson said he was concerned about a “back and forth” that he feels could have been handled privately or through the town manager’s office. Sun, who attended the Select Board meeting virtually, acknowledged that “I had a long day and was a little impatient. I probably could have told him outside the meeting or sent him an email, I just didn’t think about it. I do speak very honestly, but I do not talk like that to any person.”
Then Select Board Chair Bopha Malone questioned Sun on her commitment to the goal of increasing the town’s inventory of affordable housing.
“I do believe we are trying to help people as much as we can,” she replied, adding, “My goal is not to build a large amount of affordable housing at all cost. To carry too many units will be a burden on the taxpayer.
“I am from the taxpayer point of view and I want to make sure things are built in a cost-effective way,” she continued. “I am not thinking that we should build whenever we have a chance; my goal is to spend the money wisely. Sometimes I may have to say no, simply because I don’t think that’s the best way to spend our money.”
Malone asked Sun whether she supports an approved plan with which she disagrees.
“I have been on the losing side. This is a democracy, so majority vote rules,” she replied. Sun noted her “particular perspective and background as an engineer and a realtor. I think I sometimes add a unique perspective or information to the board.”
Select Board member Emily Mitchell pointed out that not everyone who lives in Bedford is literally a taxpayer. “There are a lot of reasons why a resident may not own a home and pay property tax,” she said. “Those people who are not taxpayers are just as valuable, just as important, to the community.” As Select Board members, “Our job is to take care of our residents whether they are property taxpayers or not.”
Sun answered that in her vernacular, “Taxpayers” and “residents” are interchangeable. “We all want what is in the best interest for the town.”
Other recent appointments by the Select Board include Ron Scaltreto, Acting Facilities Director, to the Fire Station Building Committee; Amy Hamilton to the Taxation Aid Committee; and Jennifer McClain from alternate to full member of the Historic District Commission.
Reappointed were Molly Haskell, Arbor Resources Committee; Christina Wilgren, Housing Partnership; Erin Dorr, Robin Steele, and Wilgren to the Community Preservation Committee; Thomas Kinzer and Cindy Tulimieri to the Council on Aging; James Burton and John Pecora to the Patriotic Holiday Committee.
Also, Michael Barbehenn, Tim Brown, Mark Levine, Dan Hurwitz, John Campos, and Peter Desjardins to the Trails Committee; Scot Shaw and Sean Laffey to the Transportation Advisory Committee; Jeffrey Dearing and Robert Kalantari to the Zoning Board of Appeals; and Sarah McGinley, School Committee Representative to the Youth and Family Services Board.