Monday, August 29, 2011

Meet the candidate: Darek Barcikowski

I made the offer in an earlier post to do a Q & A with any of the candidates in the upcoming city council and school committee primary elections. Below is the first , with councilor-at-large candidate Darek Barcikowski. Questions and answers have not been changed. The offer still stands for all you candidates out there. Darek started us off strong. Who wants to go next? Find Darek's campaign on Facebook here, Twitter here, and the web here.

How long have you lived in Salem? What neighborhood?

When we came from Poland in 1987 my family settled in Lynn. Eventually my parents moved to Salem and I moved to Washington DC and Boston for school. I followed in my parents' footsteps just shy of 2 years ago when we picked Salem as Cafe Polonia’s second location. I live on Curtis Street in the historic Derby neighborhood.

What should the city be doing in regard to the pending closure of the power plant? How would you like to see it redeveloped?

I think the city is right on track as far as what it should be doing in regards to the closure of the power plant. We have pursued a grant, completed a study, held public meetings, and met with state agencies. Most importantly, we have secured the tax revenue generated by the power plant for five years after its closure. I would like to know what Dominion plans to do after it closes the plant. I have yet to hear what their objectives are. Furthermore, I would like to know who are some of the potential suitors knocking on their door. Yet at the same time I realize we cannot expect and/or demand this kind of transparency from a private commercial entity.

I believe that given the cleanup cost, the lack of financial viability in strictly commercial or residential development and the port-related restrictions imposed by state agencies, a substantial portion of the site will continue to be utilized for energy related and/or industrial commerce. We, as residents, along with elected officials need to make sure that if that is the scenario, only green and sustainable operations are permitted. The pollution needs to stop.

That said, I would also like to see a portion of the site developed in a way that would utilize the port, include some commerce/retail and recreation and create a space which can be used by all residents. A cruise ship dock with a restaurant or two, maybe lodging, some retail, welcome center, trolley stop, bike/boat rental, water sports or a park would all fit into that vision. We need to take advantage of this opportunity to create something that will enhance our city and open a portion of the site to public use. Again, the difficulty with this issue is that what we would like to see happen and what we think will happen are two different things. None the less, we are moving in the right direction of making sure future development is in line with the city’s vision for the site, even if just partially.

What should happen with the transfer station?

The landfill needs to be capped and the river cleaned up. I believe that selling the land to Northside for the symbolic sum of $1 is a win-win situation for the city and its residents. Something needs to happen and happen fast to avoid the hefty fines (upwards of $2,000 a day). We cannot afford to clean up the site as a city nor will we find a buyer for a site when the cleanup cost surpasses the value of the land. There are many benefits to Northside taking over that site not as tenant but as owner; revenue to the city, complete clean up, discount on services provided to city, complete redesign and reconfiguration of site to make it clean, safe, and visually aesthetic (as much as a transfer station can be; much more so than current state).

There are also many concerns, especially amongst those residing in close proximity to the site and pertaining to traffic impact. I agree that the concerns of abutters are valid and should be given utmost consideration.

I would propose that a committee be established comprising of elected officials, environmental experts and abutters. The committee would monitor progress at the site and ensure Northside follows all provisions of the agreement precisely and in a timely fashion. Furthermore, the committee would analyze traffic and other impacts and make recommendations on increases in volume that can be handled at the site. It is important to point out that a provision is already in place to increase volume in increments every 6 months. My proposal is to have a dedicated committee make recommendations on these increases in addition to monitoring all progress including clean up. Again, this is a win-win proposal for the site.

As a resident, and a business owner, how will you balance the sometimes competing needs and wants of the business community and residents? For example, when deciding what portion of the levy will go to business, and what portion will go to residents, how will you handle that?

Traditionally the proportion of tax burden allocated to businesses has been and is greater than that levied on home owners. In addition to being disproportional, the current burden is very high on both. It is difficult to balance the need to ease the tax burden on residents and business owners while not undermining services. I believe this can only be achieved through smart spending which eliminates waste and ensures the tax dollars paid to the city (oftentimes painfully) are used wisely. It is a duty and responsibility to the taxpayers, especially in this challenging economic climate.

As for balancing other business and resident interests, I do not believe they are competing at all. Salem has a fantastic small business community. Besides providing revenue to the city and creating jobs, we have a business culture which gives back to the community in a major way. All the events taking place in Salem, all the non-profits, clubs, organizations and initiatives receive a tremendous amount of support from our business community. On the other end, we have a growing consumer culture which supports local enterprise, local retailers, local manufacturers, growers and service providers, sometimes going out of their way to do so.

Salem is on the cutting edge of a trend we are seeing nationwide which is driven by precisely this kind of relationship of sustainability between local enterprise and consumers. Communities will look at Salem (and some already do) and use us as a model for what they want to become. Understanding this relationship leads me to believe that the needs of residents and small businesses are compatible rather than competing. I am confident that I can represent both.

How will you handle the time commitment involved with being a business owner, especially one with the heavy evening hours of a restaurant, and being a city councilor, with committee meetings several times a week?

There is truth to the saying that if you want to get something done, ask a busy person. People often tell me that I am running the most organized campaign and am the hardest working candidate. My reply is that I plan to live up to that reputation not only as a candidate but hopefully as an elected official. My work on the campaign over the last 3 months should be an indication that I will be able to fulfill my obligations as a councilor and as a business owner.

Often I get asked what a councilor does and what the time commitment is. I reply that at minimum, a councilor is required to attend meetings and vote on issued being presented before the council. A good councilor, however, needs to attend public meetings, follow and research local issues, respond to constituents’ concerns and work in close proximity to the communities to understand their needs and opinions on issues. I wholeheartedly intend to be the latter, if elected.

You’re also listed as the Publisher of the White Eagle. Do you think this newspaper role presents a conflict of interest? Where will you find the time necessary to be a city councilor?

My publishing operation does not present a conflict of interest. I publish Polish-American newspapers throughout the country which primarily deal with issues pertaining to the Polish community where the newspaper is circulated. Our New England edition is circulated in Salem but the numbers are insignificant. Salem’s Polish community has declined though we do a fantastic job at preserving the history and heritage. The newspapers do not cover or influence local politics.

I think that by default ethnic newspapers become community activists and voices of the community they serve. I have been such an activist and voice for the Polish community nationwide (10 million members strong) for almost a decade. Pursuing a seat on Salem’s city council I intend to take that experience beyond my ethnic community and become a public servant representing all of Salem’s residents.

My publishing business is run with a business partner and the restaurant is a family business. The day to day responsibilities are shared amongst many individuals. We have also been blessed with wonderful employees, many of them from Salem. Good organization is important, while good time management skills are absolutely crucial. I would like to think I do a decent job with both.

Finally, boxers or briefs? The women of Salem want to know!

There are many more important questions and issues that Salem residents needs to ask. After all, the decisions made by the Council over the next few years will have a profound impact on Salem residents and the business community for a long time to come. I will leave this question for another occasion.

Anything else you think the voters should know?

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