Candidate Q & A: Alexa Singer, Select Board

The following represents the candidate’s responses to the Current’s Select Board-specific questions. Jump back to Election Guide

Years in Marblehead: 22
Occupation/education: Chief pilot/tenured professor
Appointed positions and/or elected offices: Select Board

What are the three reasons/issues motivating your decision to run for election?
I am deeply committed to giving back to my community. My goal is to continue working towards addressing opportunities for growth. Comprehensive planning is at the top of my agenda and I look forward to continuing my work on the implementation of the many plans the town is now completing. There is much work to be done on the Net Zero, Harbor Plan and Hazard Mitigation Plan. We need to chase down grant opportunities. I am a creative thinker and I want to explore ways to address our structural deficit outside of simply raising taxes. Strengthening the relationship between citizens and town government through the excellent delivery of services and effective communication is vital.

Do you believe the $2.5 million override will pass? I believe Marblehead voters are educated voters and know the importance of addressing the structural deficit. It will increase, and a delay will impact the taxpayer. The cuts to public safety and education are significant. Utilizing free cash to balance the budget outside of one-time expenditures is not a best practice, and it is not sustainable, as the amount of free cash available no longer can support the budget shortfall. We have a tremendous financial team in place and the ClearGov platform to allow for clear and expedited reporting. The sooner this is addressed, the more effective the solution will result. I advocated for proactive action to address the deficit after I joined the Select Board in 2021, but it was not the will of the majority of the committee then. I am confident when the public educates themselves on the ballot question, they will recognize its importance.

How are you actively persuading the town to support it?
I am urging for clear and concise communication to Marbleheaders, such as an easy-to-understand FAQ. In addition, I am making myself available to answer any questions. It is imperative that voters understand that first responders and students will bear the brunt of this situation if it does not pass. Building support requires clear communication with the public. The data and analysis presented at the Town Meeting was an important step in this process. You will find the sample ballot, information on projects, as well as the Finance Committee Report from Town Meeting on the website. I encourage all voters to review this information.

In the event that it does not pass, what alternatives do you propose?
I have confidence the citizens of Marblehead understand the town’s structural deficit. This is a conservative request. That said, regardless of whether it passes, we need to immediately roll up our sleeves and propose ideas and solutions.

What measures would you propose to increase our town’s revenues without excessively burdening taxpayers?
The cost of running a town continues to skyrocket. The DLS highlights the dramatic increase in costs to municipalities. The Select Board must continue exploring options for strategic smart growth outside of taxation.
One idea I continue to promote is controlling energy costs and grants. I have advocated for a grant writer to identify opportunities and drive the process of obtaining them. It is not good enough to want funding, or even need funding; we need to approach government agencies and other funders with shovel-ready projects. Otherwise, we will not be successful. We should also explore strategic stabilization funds. 

How would you ensure the long-term financial health of our town, extending beyond the immediate deficit? Long-term fiscal health is about finding the balance between identifying sources of new growth and maintaining the level of services our residents deserve. We can’t just look at the taxpayer. We need a multi-tiered approach, starting with professionals and systems that can execute and then evaluate outcomes. For example, comprehensive capital planning, including the monitoring of purchasing supplies and materials, would help facilitate a process that could lead to funding opportunities.

Could you share your philosophy on maintaining reserves and their significance in situations like the present budget deficit? The importance of maintaining reserves is a basic best practice in municipal management. I recognize the need for these stabilization funds and cash reserves. There is also the opportunity to utilize stabilization funds for capital projects to decrease the cost of borrowing funds.

What areas of municipal government do you think the town could give more attention to?
I would start with fiscal strategies and comprehensive capital planning followed by more creative economic development. We need to actively support our existing businesses and welcome new businesses. That involves getting our fiscal house in order so that we can offer a level of services, including safe streets and sidewalks and excellent schools. It’s not enough to rely on our remarkable natural location.

As real estate prices continue to soar, Marblehead homes appear increasingly unaffordable for many police officers, teachers and other public servants. This also affects those who grew up in town but cannot afford to return home; To what extent do you consider this a problem, and what potential solutions can you propose? As a teacher myself, I am aware of the financial restraints that exist in this current economy. There is a national affordable housing crisis that is being felt across Massachusetts, but as a densely populated town, we feel it acutely. We have limited opportunities for new growth and an overwhelming inventory of single-family homes compared to other communities. We must increase the diversity of our housing stock to allow for more types of housing, while maintaining its character. This follows the state’s new multi-family zoning requirement for MBA adjacent communities. Marblehead created a set of strategies in our Housing Production Plan. Solutions will come from implementing those strategies, along with the commitment to seeing it through.

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