Terra Friedrichs
Welcome!                                                    

Terra's Adventure as a Selectman

Thank you to all who voted for me!

 Thank you to everyone that helped with my campaign!

~*~

I look forward to serving you!



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Please choose a link to the left to learn more about Terra.

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TO SEE WHAT TERRA WANTS TO DO TO HELP THE PEOPLE OF ACTON...

Please choose the button "Local Community Work" on the left.




If you would like a resume, references, or position paper, please let me know!

terra at citizenactionteam. com

p: 978 266 2778
c: 978 808 7173



If you want to VOLUNTEER to help Terra improve government, please contact her!

CURRENT STATUS

as of

October 24, 2008:

Oh, man...this is the hardest job I've ever done.  The most aggravation for the buck! The urbanization forces are unbelievably aggressive.  They are positioning themselves as "saving mankind" by urbanizing ("creating more services") Acton and its trodden villages.  But these services are designed to serve people that don't need help (aka Y/Uppies)!!! and are driving out the middle class!!! ($8K/year AVERAGE tax bill!)  If you don't make $100K, see ya!  AND they are positioning ME as backwards because I don't recognize their advanced sophisticated socially-just ways.  HELLO???  They don't even use modern strategic planning (i.e. NPV cost/benefit analysis)!  They won't help figure out what % of our appreciation value is due to supply/demand (development)!  They won't do the demographics analysis necessary to target "profitable" businesses!  Argh...they are starting to, though.  We have some new folks that are SUPER smart and experienced at these technicques and are helping everyone understand how to apply them to our challenges.  Anyway, my goal is to keep Acton affordable for the working class AND serve those who can not serve themselves...MAN is it tough, when the "services" for the Y/Uppies are going to make us like Pebble Beach!...  Someone help me... Oh, they won't even let me see the checkbook, except for a passing glance during a meeting...so I can't even check out what's going on, on a real time basis, so I can't help the citizens advocate for how to use "extra" monies...  It's getting a LOT better, as people start to understand and trust me.  But it's SUCH a long road!  Maybe we could require everyone to take a few stats courses?  A finance course? Perhaps...but it will only work, if they want to serve the same people...the same classes of folks... More on this later, when we start looking closer at our demographics (new EDC task!  Yay Team! AND UPDATE (10/31):  a task for the "housing summit" for this spring!  Yay Lauren!  Yay Cory!  Yay Nancy!  Sue Kennedy, you better make time, we need you!)...THEN we'll know more about "who we are"...then we can figure out "who do we want to serve"...and how.  ALSO NEW (11/3) Good news...people are starting to understand the value of "estimating the cost of our generosity" (putting it to numbers...then we can start to examine the benefits!)...the cost/benefit of residential and economic development and the cost/benefit of government services...
What's interesting is determining where "need" ends, and "want" begins...and how much "want" we are willing to fund.  I heard one person say that "if it's the right thing to do, then it doesn't matter how much it costs."  hmm... I say, let's not disregard cost...let's figure out what we really need and then figure out how to afford it using prioritization, etc.  We MUST include cost in the discussion if we are to keep Acton affordable.  We can still create a just society, we just have to be a little more creative.

Condo Buydown status:  The ACHC came for its annual review.  I suggested changes.  People want to see the analysis.  So I've been invited to come work on some numbers with them.  UPDATE (11/3): BoS voted to see an update of the housing impact analysis.  This will help me figure out where the breakeven is for various buydown strategies.

June 3, 2008:

I'm learning how the "system" works. As a team member, I need to stay tightly coordinated with the other Selectmen. I literally can not proceed in any direction without their knowledge, or trouble will ensue.  I can work with that.  If the others do not like my direction, I have to change direction.  Simple as that. That's what I do anyway.  So I can deal with that, too.  An ex-Selectmen suggested that this is because they are getting to know me, and don't have any idea how I operate, or whether I am a team player or not.  I figured it was obvious from my resume, but alas, I will have to gain their trust.  That is OK with me, because we seem to agree on so much.

Occasionally, I have to bring issues to the Board as a group and get their blessing, so that it's clear that I have their blessing.  This helps if a committee or other group says, "does the Board know you're doing x"?  Then I can say, yes, indeed!  This adds "time" to whatever I'm doing, but I have found that if I can anticipate what I want to do in the future, that I can get that blessing far enough in advance that it has not created a big problem yet.  I "had" thought it would be a problem, because I feared some kind of bureaucratic tangle, but that hasn't happened in any significant way yet.  So I have faith, and am getting a bit excited about the possibilities. I think we could have a very effective Board.  When we agree on something, we seem to be very swift and agile. 

I'm hoping that when we do come to a crossroads, that it won't be "too, too" bad.  I don't foresee any huge disagreements yet.  I hope I'm not being naive.

They are definitely interested in costs.  I had been mistaken.  Not only are they interested, they are more than willing to listen to the details.   BUT they want to do it "off-line", like before or after a meeting. At the meetings, time is considered very precious.  So I have to do the legwork to explain the details offline.  I can do that.  I hadn't understood before why no one wanted to talk about $10,000.  But now I realize that they are happy to talk about it, just not during one of our meetings, because the time is so very short.

They gave me permission to finish the list of financial documents that might be good to put on the town website.  I handed it in to the FinCom.  Let's see what they do with it.  At least one Selectman doesn't want "all" of the information posted, because I'm told that information should only be given to people "that need it".  The concern is about wasted time to post documents, but I have an issue with that, because it forces people to ask for the info.  I would like very much to think that we have an open government where people do not have to go and request basic financial info.  We'll see if we can find common ground on this.  I want at least enough info that private citizen activists can do financial analysis for us without having to go and explain to someone why they want it.  I feel like we have incredible financial experts in town that we can leverage.  But they won't want to have to go ask for basic things like actuals v budget by line item, or income statements/balance sheets.  That kind of info should be readily available, I believe. It is in other towns.

I've also gotten the blessing to work with financial analysis groups that want to think about how to support the FinCom.  This will be difficult, because some of the smartest financial minds in town want big change in the budgetting process.  I think that we can get what they want, in an "evolutionary" way, rather than a revolutionary way.  I believe that the people on the FinCom, when given information and analysis are more capable of understanding it.  They just don't necessarily have the # of hands required to do all of the analysis that everyone says that they should do.  In summary, I think that there is a long list of ideas on what analysis "should" happen, and a short list of people willing to do the work.  So I want to help the analysts get a short list of proposed analysis projects together and propose that to the FinCom and see if the group can be of any use.  If not, no problem.  It's just an attempt to see if we can leverage some available minds.  If we don't give them direction on what analysis would be most useful and guide the analysis process, then they could do work that is useless.  I'd prefer the former... we'll see if we can get that kind of thing going.

The Green Team is going full speed ahead.  The team is supposed to brief the Board on the 9th about what it wants to do.  There is some pushback about potential costs, but there are many things that we can do that are free and/or have short paybacks.

Not much has happened on condo-buydown, except that the individual Selectmen seem interested in hearing more about it.  The demographics folks are tied up, because I missed an "analysis" window.  They are now busy with work and have to wait a few weeks.  BUT the Board has given me their blessing to examine the "market" for lower income buyers. That is exciting.  Not only because they seem to "get it", but because it was fairly easy to get "permission" to proceed.  I just told them what I was doing, and they said, "ok, that sounds fine". Of course, I had to ensure them that I was going to work with Nancy and stay coordinated and all of that.  But that's fine with me.  I just want to do the work.

May 14, 2008:

So far so good.  I'm told that if I want to do some cost analysis, I can propose it to the Board and if they give me the go ahead, I can work directly with the FinCom to get the analysis together.  That's good news.

We'll have to see how the "policy setting" thing goes relative to costs.  The group may or may not be interested in considering how much certain policies cost, and they may or may not want to talk about policies that impact "just" 10s of thousands of dollars/year.  I believe that something that could cost $10,000 or more, especially if it's a repetitive thing is certainly worth considering.

A small group of people seem interested in working on condo-buydown.  I hope the ACHC is interested in serving the lower range of the income spectrum. If we can find people that qualify, we'll be able to serve way more people for the $.  Very much a win-win, in my mind...


May 12th, 2008 4 pm:  

The "committee assignments" came out today.  The Chair of the Board has sole right to assign each Board member to different committees.  Seeing as I have a LOT more experience in finance than any of the other members, and seeing that the Town was in an uproar during the 2008 Town Meeting because of lack of financial info, and seeing as I had specifically asked to be assigned to the Finance Committee, I figured that this would happen.  But alas, I am not assigned to the Finance Committee.  This may dramatically limit my ability to:

- communicate with the FinCom
- increase the amount of financial information that the public has access to
- analyze opportunities for cost savings 

Selectman that HAS been assigned has stated that her main goals for they year are making sure certain infrastructure projects get funded.  Here is her list: the new Senior Center, the new Community Shuttle, new Sidewalk Development, new High Density Development.  I don't quite understand yet how this will help us cut costs.  Perhaps I do not yet fully understand municipal finance.

May 11th:  Last week, we had the Board's "Goal Setting" meeting, which consisted of a "facilitated" brainstorming session.  We developed a "wish list" of 5 goals for the year.  I'm not sure yet how a "wish list" translates into "a plan".  But I will give it a chance.  So far, the Board does not seem very concerned with cutting costs.

May 9th:  I am learning to work with an existing Board of Selectmen.  The processes seem laden with bureaucracy.  But I will give it a chance before deciding what I think and before deciding what I am actually capable of doing with this group.  My first impression was that the new Chair, Lauren likes very tight controls over everything that I do.  I will see if this is a mistaken impression or not.

The new Town Manager seems excellent.  We seem to speak the same language.  He seems to understand the need for the public to have better access to basic financial information about the Town.  He seems to welcome my suggestions regarding how to analyze the numbers.

 

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