CHELMSFORD — The Chelmsford Select Board candidates shared their ideas on everything from diversity, equity and inclusion to pandemic recovery and the town’s infrastructure during the group’s third debate Thursday night, sponsored by the Chelmsford League of Women Voters.
Ellen Harde, of the Westford League of Women Voters, hosted the hour-long debate, and incumbent George Dixon, Latosha Dixon (no relation to George Dixon), Mark Carota and April Danielson participated. Deirdre Connelly, the only Planning Board candidate in attendance Thursday night, was given a platform to share a statement, since candidates Glenn Kohl, Tim Shanahan and Paul McDougall were not able to attend.
During the candidates’ opening statements, Latosha Dixon emphasized public health and safety as the town emerges from the pandemic, especially for front-line workers and students. She also emphasized the importance of supporting the town’s small businesses.
Carota used his opening remarks to address head-on an issue that was not otherwise brought up in the debate: the dispute over Town Manager Paul Cohen’s contract renewal. “I felt as though we could potentially broker some more communication, close the gap,” he said. He also mentioned pandemic recovery as a priority.
George Dixon used his time to talk about his deep roots in Chelmsford and his love of helping the people in it. He said he would use a fifth term to continue some of the major projects the town has started, including the sewage capacity issue, the “water issue,” which is likely the PFAS chemical contamination found in the North Chelmsford Water District, and communication and transparency with Chelmsford residents.
Danielson said Chelmsford had “embraced” her and her family after they moved there following a house fire. “This is the place that I want to raise my children and I see a need to serve the town, and offer a new voice and perspective to the constituents,” she said. “I have nothing to gain from this other than just having the opportunity to serve the constituents in my community.”
All four candidates said they would support the formation of a committee to study the town’s greenhouse gas emissions and reduce them to net-zero by 2050, a proposal first put forth by a citizen petition. George Dixon called it “a specialty area,” but said he’d support it and general increased participation in town politics. Danielson said she had been attending meetings organized by Chelmsford Climate Action, the group that posed the question to the candidates, but would need to do more research on the topic to learn more herself. Latosha Dixon mentioned her desire to increase the electric vehicle charging infrastructure in town. Carota added that these initiatives would need to be budgeted for.
The candidates differed over the Town Meeting article that would allow nonmedical, nonretail marijuana facilities, such as those for cultivation, research and testing. Latosha Dixon and Danielson were in favor, largely for their revenue-generating potential. Carota and George Dixon said they’d want to first consult public safety officials on the matter. Dixon previously voted against a similar proposal.
When asked by The Sun how they’d support diversity, equity and inclusion in Chelmsford, George Dixon reminded the audience that he signed the Diversity, Racial Equity & Inclusion Committee’s antiracism proclamation after a few rounds of edits. “I’d like to see them helping businesses, I’d like to see more businesses working with, you know, in this respect,” he said. “The committee is young, and I think as they progress, they’re going to bring a lot of ideas to the town and potentially some business.”
Carota alluded to the proclamation as well.
“It’s important to have the pledge, I think it’s important that we practice it, but I also think it’s important that it follows through and all of our policies and procedures within the town halls so that it’s the way we do business,” he said, specifically mentioning being cognizant of diversity in who is issued town contracts.
Latosha Dixon highlighted her work as vice chair of the Diversity, Racial Equity and Inclusion Committee, the group that presented the proclamation. Danielson said she has already brought this perspective to other boards she’s served on in her work.
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