Candidate questions: Mark Howell for Select Board

March 10, 2023

Would you make any changes to Town Meeting and the voting process to ensure the greatest participation?

Open Town Meeting can only survive if there is an informed electorate. I will work to promote clear, open and timely communications that enable citizens to be well informed for Town Meeting. This starts with the Town website. It needs improvement to enable people to easily find the specific information on topics of interest. The availability of recorded board meetings and hearings is a step forward. We should explore ways to add bookmarks to the recordings so agenda items can be quickly accessed. Meeting materials need to be posted in advance, and in a consistent way to support voter education.

Do you think property taxes are the best way to pay for town improvements?

Property taxes have never been the best way to pay for Town improvements, but in most cases, it is the only available avenue. Whenever possible, grants, user fees and public-private partnerships should be used to reduce the dependence on property taxes. I am supportive of efforts to explore the residential exemption to shift some of the property tax burden towards the higher end of the assessed value range. I will also focus on careful planning, and improved efficiency and productivity to reduce expenses and the overall tax burden in the first place.

How would you address housing in Concord?

The need for more affordable housing in Concord is acute. I believe it is a workforce issue that impacts businesses as well as town operations. As Concord’s IT Department Head, I found it very challenging to recruit and retain staff. The lack of a diversity of housing options has significantly reduced the number of town employees who live in Concord. I believe that increased density and somewhat larger projects are necessary because land is scarce and it is critical to reduce the unit costs and increase the sustainability of such projects. I also support more accessory dwelling units in residential zones. 

How would you address the generational divide as evidenced by the recent middle school vote?

I’ve learned that in Concord someone’s age is not necessarily a good indicator of the opinion they hold on any given issue. However, the 40 percent no vote on the increased middle school cost must be viewed as an indicator of concern by many about the cost to live in Concord. I will look for ways to increase the dialog across constituency groups. Careful stewardship of our resources while listening well is the place to start. It is important that everyone has a chance to understand what’s on the horizon, to be encouraged to participate and to be heard.