Some of the many attendees of a Great Barrington candidates forum on Tuesday, April 25 at the Claire Teague Senior Center. Photo by Shaw Israel Izikson.

Great Barrington candidates speak out at forum

Several candidates were present at a candidates forum on Tuesday, April 25 at the Claire Teague Senior Center to advocate for themselves before the Great Barrington town elections are held on Tuesday, May 9.

Great Barrington — This year’s town elections will be held on Tuesday, May 9 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Polling stations will be at the town’s Fire Station for Precincts A, C, and D, and at the Housatonic Community Center for Precinct B.

Several of the candidates were present at a candidates forum on Tuesday, April 25 at the Claire Teague Senior Center. Previous articles in The Berkshire Edge included coverage of the candidates for Selectboard and candidates for the Library Board of Trustees when they spoke at the forum.

Other candidates were present at the April 25 forum, including Michael Wise, who is running unopposed for Town Moderator. “This will be my seventh year as the Town Moderator, and I think I’ve done 10 [years] so far,” Wise told the audience. “Reviews have been generally good, but I’m still learning and I am open to suggestions about how we can do it better. We have half a dozen or a dozen items every year [at the annual town meeting] that are always adopted unanimously. Some towns all do this in one package with a so-called consent agenda.”

While Wise said that he would like to institute a consent agenda at Great Barrington’s annual town meeting, “Explaining how to do that would take longer than doing it,” he explained. “This town has already figured out a drill. We can get through an article in 90 seconds if it is really what we want to do.” When was asked if he felt that the annual town meeting could be finished in one night, however, Wise said “No.”

Town Moderator Michael Wise during a candidates forum at The Claire Teague Senior Center. Photo by Shaw Israel Izikson.

The next candidate to speak was Ruby Chang, who is running unopposed for reelection on the Board of Health. Chang has served on the board for more than six years. According to her LinkedIn profile, Chang earned her Doctor of Medicine degree in Pediatrics in 1982 from National Taiwan University. She has served as a pediatrician at Macony Pediatrics and with Berkshire Health Systems.

“I grew up in Taiwan where there were exposures to tuberculosis, Hepatitis B, hepatomas, and all kinds of infectious diseases,” Chang said. “I was trained at Baystate [Medical Center in Springfield] where I saw children who had exposure to meningitis, chickenpox, strep infection, babies who have died of sepsis. In my over 40 years of medicine, I have seen everything that you could see when it comes to infectious diseases. Public health encompasses quite a bit of different areas, including everybody’s well-being and environmental causes. I hope to continue that work while providing support to the work with this office.”

Board of Health member Ruby Chang. Photo by Shaw Israel Izikson.

The next to speak at the forum were the candidates for Planning Board. Both Malcolm Fick and Jonathan Hankin are running for reelection for three-year terms for the two seats available on the board.

Fick said that he moved to town years ago after he retired. “When I moved from the city to a town, I discovered that a town requires volunteers in order for it to work,” Fick said. “I have spent nine years on the Planning Board, including two years as an associate member.”

Fick said that he also serves on the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission and has served as its treasurer on the executive committee, environmental review committee, and regional issues committee. He also serves as the chairman of the town’s Historical Commission. “In retirement, I’ve done everything except being retired,” Fick said. “Looking at other [town’s] Planning Boards, we have expertise on our Planning Board because we have engineers and architects [serving on it]. Engineers and architects tend not to be on town Planning Boards because they have to appear before the board. But we are lucky that the chairman of the Planning Board [Brandee Nelson], is a practicing engineer who works in New York and doesn’t appear before any of Great Barrington’s boards for projects. That makes a big difference.”

Planning Board member Malcolm Fick. Photo by Shaw Israel Izikson.

Fick said that he would like the Planning Board to work on reviewing and possibly revising the town’s Master Plan. “When people come into the Planning Board [for project approval], they are still referencing the Master Plan as an argument for doing their projects,” Fick said. “The Master Plan has stood the test of time, but right now I think it’s starting to get a little stale.”

Planning Board member Jonathan Hankin. Photo by Shaw Israel Izikson.

Hankin, who came in later during the forum, is currently a real estate broker with Berkshire Property Agents, according to his Linkedin profile. “I’ve done a lot of things in my life,” Hankin said. “I was a hippie carpenter. I was also a school teacher, but it was way too hard to do it and I wasn’t very good at it. I was in the Peace Corps as a photographer. After I went to architecture school, I became a licensed architect in California where I worked on institutional projects like performing arts centers and museums. I got burned out in that and moved here in 1995. In December 1997, Berkshire Bank gave me a house. I had to cut it in half and move it, and that was how I started pissing people off in this town. I’ve been doing it ever since.”

Several candidates were not present at the April 25 candidates forum including Finance Committee candidates Anne O’Dwyer and Richard Geiler. O’Dwyer is running unopposed for reelection for a three-year term, while Geiler is running unopposed for reelection for a one-year term.

Also not present at the forum was Housing Authority candidate Philip Orenstein, who is running unopposed for reelection for a five-year term, along with Peter Most, who is running for one of the two five-year seats on the Zoning Board of Appeals.

Most, who is currently an associate member of the board, is running alongside current member Wise. “Please vote for Peter,” Wise told the audience. “He’s very good. As for myself, I have been on the board for 10 years or so. I got onto the board by accident, because I was a victim of a write-in campaign no one told me about. Much of what we do [on the board] is routine. I think that the Zoning Board should do better to help people who have routine matters. Some of the stuff [the board deals with] is not routine at all. That’s where Peter and I, both retired lawyers, are having our fun.”