Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Franklin Candidate Interview: Eamon McCarthy Earls

I sat with Eamon McCarthy Earls recently to discuss the following questions. Some of you will recognize the questions as these were collected from the survey we shared in August. Many questions were similar, I tried to select 5 for each Town Council and School Committee candidate that would help to present them to you all, my fellow voters.

As I have shared in prior years, the candidates do get to review the output before it is published but I retain final editing rights. Interviews with candidates are not an exercise I take lightly, it matters greatly to our community to get accurate information from our candidates to enable voters to make an informed decision to run our government.
  • For the following FM presents the question. EE represents Eamon's response.

FM - There are and have been many opportunities to volunteer with community groups in Franklin. Have you taken advantage of any of these? Which ones, and why did you choose that/those?
EE - Why yes. Franklin has a lot of really good community organizations. They definitely run the gamut from those affiliated with the schools, the arts, the Franklin Food Pantry, and so many others. The list is extensive. It was funny I recently was looking (for unrelated reasons) in the IRS list of exempt organizations grouped by city and town. It's vast. There's dozens and dozens of nonprofits just registered in Franklin alone.

But I digress. For me I think the one thing I've really gravitated to is Franklin TV. Last summer I decided to embrace once again an interest that has always been close to my heart which is sort of telling the story of our community history. I've always been fascinated by the history angle and documenting our collective experience as a community.

When I was a high schooler I wrote a history of Franklin which came out back in 2012. During that experience, I loved interviewing people who had been longtime Franklin residents. Sadly I never got a chance to interview Stella Jeon but she was she was always such a good documentarian of things herself. She was such an inspiration to me and others like her, with her work to bridge the gap and bring to video our history beginning around the 80s, 90s and early 2000s.

So I decided to return to that idea, that idea of creating a center for our community. I teamed up with Joe Landry who's also been very active on social media bringing together amazing stories as he researches old photos and videos. He is a true treasure trove of information on the town down to the block by block level. And I've got the big picture. He's got the granularity. It's a great time.

Beginning last summer we teamed up and then we pretty quickly decided that neither one of us was quite a savvy enough video editor to do it alone and plus we wouldn't be able to have the reach we'd hoped for. We teamed up with Franklin TV and launched the program together called “Once Upon a Town.” We've been running for almost a year now.

Once Upon a Town looks pretty broadly at the town's history. Joe and I--mostly Joe--brings together these fascinating stories that he has from his years living in Franklin, as well as photos and videos he's tracked down and I sort of tie in with the bigger picture on what's going on today.

We've also done episodes where we interviewed people, so I've had a chance to talk with some of the last people of the Greatest Generation. It's a generation that's largely in their 90s so we have to act now to make sure that they're able to record their stories, their thoughts, and ensure their hopes for the future are forever preserved. I've been really ecstatic about doing that and that's sort of been the main thing that I've done over the past couple of years.

FM - Where do you get your news about Franklin?
EE - Where I get my news about Franklin, Franklin Matters of course. Milford Daily News, Franklin Country Gazette. I have a Google Alert set up for Franklin. So whatever surfaces with the keyword “Franklin Massachusetts” in it tends to come across my desktop. So sometimes it'll be something in the MetroWest Daily News or sometimes business news stuff occasionally pops up. The Boston Business Journal will have some interesting insights.

FM – For all those running for Town Council: We are in a constant water shortage. We are adding to our population and increasing out need for water. Given that all those who live in Franklin draw their water from the same aquifer, do you support a ban on using water for what I will call cosmetic use (lawn watering) during water shortages, even for those with a private well? If not, why not, considering that those with private wells are still dangerously affecting our water level for uses other than vanity? Or put simply: Do you support the private use of wells for lawn irrigation at times when the town's aquifer is dangerously low for use by the community for essential use in homes and fire prevention?
EE - That's a really interesting question as well. I hesitate to express an incredibly in-depth opinion on this primarily because I don't know all the ins and outs of Mass. general law on this. I think there’s basically there's some term in water resource management which I'm forgetting. Essentially some states have it in place where as long as you keep drilling wells in the ground you can take as much as you want. I think during times when our wells are very low, during a water crisis, I would really prefer that people don't overuse from their private wells. I'm just not sure if we have legal recourse to stop them if it's on private property and they install it themselves. But that's certainly an interesting thing to look into.

Since I do sit on the Policy and Infrastructure Committee with the Mass Municipal Association with all kinds of water department heads and DPW directors and so forth I can actually try to ask that at my next meeting with them, to see if anyone knows if there's options to restrict that. But of course, tracking it would be challenging.

I think it was Washington Post or New York Times, one of those, where I had read that a study was done on water shortages across the nation. We're in an area where we're not on the risky end. There are communities where they're using more than they have. The entire water utilization process is going to be more of an issue at some point. The aquifer where we all sit is the same one.

It's an excellent question. Actually a really interesting couple of follow on notes to that. I just think our readers should know, according to Brutus Cantoreggi, DPW Director, we are the largest municipal groundwater customer in the state. Pretty much everyone else has some kind of surface water resource. I always think back to a conversation I had one time with Steven Mabee . He's the state geologist. One of the big areas of focus for him and his small team of people is actually the I-495 beltway including Franklin. Most of the communities along here are reliant on groundwater in a way that others aren't. And so we actually have potential for some of the worst water issues.

In New England basically because we have large populations, and industry growth, all drawing from groundwater and furthermore it's groundwater that's in soil that's all this mixed together junk from the ice ages. Even though we get a lot of rain we don't actually cling onto a lot of it. A lot of it actually runs off into streams. But as densely populated as we are, we've also got a source of contaminants.

FM - What degree of development do you feel is appropriate for Franklin, and how would you balance the need for affordable housing, with the need to avoid congestion?

EE - Well I think this one is a question of both zoning and then how projects are administered by the Planning Board. It is a perennial question for the town. We must always as a community continue to think about what kind of town we want to be. You know it is “The city known as the Town of Franklin.” We've seen extraordinary population growth since the 70s, particularly since the 90s. And with each passing year we see Franklin become in a sense more and more like an actual city.

As far as how administration of development is handled, I do think we've already begun seeing issues with traffic really maybe the past five or 10 years downtown but really on RT 140. Over time we need to really consider traffic studies and really incorporate those whenever a new project is going in as much as we can. Try to really think of the future, always. You know we almost always have a conservative estimate of the impact. One of the claims put forth with development is there will be no families there. That's nonsense. There will always be families there because if people are driven out of Boston by high prices and they need to live somewhere affordable, they will live in a one bedroom or a two bedroom apartment. So there will always be families moving in.

I think it really just comes down to doing our due diligence and really just trying to think it through, as logically as we can what might happen if a project goes in. It may not make sense to put a project within five feet of an intersection. Perhaps it does perhaps it doesn't. But we have to rely on our own gut feeling a little bit on that and then turn to the professionals whenever we can to get a second opinion.

FM - The Town Administrator has suggested that Franklin needs to consider an override measure. What actions will you take for this?
EE - I think it's a great question. Certainly we've been faced with some very trying times. A lot of it ties back to escalating costs for health care and our overall pension and other post-employment benefit (OPEB) liabilities which continue to mount and which probably nobody back in 1980 was concerned with or fully cognizant of how much it would cost.

I think it's ultimately a decision that rests with the voters. I would support offering that as an option to the voters to decide. I think it's really important to have that participation in something so critical in our town. I'm sure it will be a hard fought issue. Franklin residents have had debates in the past about budgets and cuts. Questions of overrides came up particularly the late 2000s. So I think really letting each side make their case will be really important.

FM – The Franklin voters asks: Why should I vote for you?
EE - That's a great question. My commitment has always been to bring transparency to the Council and to government overall. Hopefully that will help to increase participation in our local government. That's been my mission from the start and it's something I'm continuing to do. I am looking to serve the town for another two years. I think I bring a lot of drive to really see the town succeed by bringing together potentially disparate voices in the town. You have perhaps the perspective of a homeowner that is different than a business owner. Trying to bring all of these folks, all of the stakeholders, to the table is really my goal.

I think what I bring the second time around coming at this is quite a bit more experience. I've scaled the learning curve. I've also helped to bridge Franklin to other communities. Apparently, I may be the first person from the Franklin Town Council, other than the administrators in the past 10 years, to participate in the Mass Municipal Association (MMA).

I've really been working to bring in lessons and connections however they can serve the town, from other communities. I sit down with mayors, with DPW directors, with policy experts, learning continuously try to bring those lessons back to Franklin and then share them with the community.

I think the final thing I would add is that my door is always open. I do pick up my phone I do respond to your email. I really try to get back to people. For some reason, if I can't get back at the moment you call, I always get back to you later. It's really affirming that commitment. 

To contact Eamon for any follow up questions:

Eamon McCarthy Earls
127 King St--Unit 303
(508) 902-8052
Eamon McCarthy Earls (Town of Franklin photo)
Eamon McCarthy Earls (Town of Franklin photo)

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