Photo: Roy Epstein
Roy Epstein is serving his first term on the Belmont Select Board. A 28-year resident who lives on Cushing Avenue, Epstein is a consulting economist and adjunct professor of finance at Boston College. He previously was chair of the town’s Warrant Committee. Epstein matriculated at Wesleyan (economics) before earning his PhD in Economics at Yale.
Q: If reelected, what are some issues facing the town that you would bring to the fore that may have been neglected or set aside due to more important concerns such as the town’s fiscal condition or Covid?
A: Covid slowed down some work but we’re getting back up to speed.
Progress on a new rink is one example.
The town would benefit from certain changes in the management of our pension assets to increase investment returns and decrease administrative expenses. I hope the Retirement Board, which is independent of the Select Board, will be receptive to taking suggestions for increased efficiency from the Select Board.
Many of our peer towns made the correct decision to leave Civil Service to promote efficiency and diversity in hiring new police and firefighters, and I expect we will explore new avenues to get there.
Our fiscal condition will continue to absorb a great deal of my time, in any scenario. We need to face the reality of our looming structural deficit in FY2024 or 2025 when one-time ARPA funds run out.
Q: There has be talk in the past of reconstituting the select board as a policy body and giving more of the mundane necessities – approving annual business permits and approval of the water rates – to the Town Administrator. Could you support that change?
I could support handing off tasks that are mostly clerical, like approving business permits or other licenses, as long as it’s permitted by state law and that there is an appeal process that could bring a contested decision back to the Select Board for review. Water rates or any other decision that could involve a significant amount of money should stay with the Select Board for deliberation and also to allow for sufficient public comment. The items that could be handed off generally don’t require much time in the grand scheme, so the potential for streamlining the work of the Board in this way is rather limited.
Q: What is your guiding philosophy of good governance? Do you have an example of one?
I’ve always combined thorough research, public input, knowledge of financial impacts, and critical thinking in making my decisions. Examples from my first term include my work that led to more senior housing units at the McLean development, making the Light Board an independently-elected body, and finding a cost-effective way to do more pick-up of trash in the parks and business areas. I would also add that regulations should have a clear rationale, be easy to understand, and be easy to enforce. I hope to demonstrate those principles with a leaf blower bylaw in a few weeks.
Q: What do you wish residents would know about the Select Board they may have a misconception?
First, we really do pay attention to the huge volume of emails we get from residents. Second, nearly all things related to the schools are under the control of the independently elected School Committee, not the Select Board — that’s determined by state law. Third, we take the Open Meeting Law and all ethics matters very seriously. We share a commitment to transparency and accountability in all we do.
Q: One town official said too many town and elected officials “just can’t say no.” Should the select board say “no” and can you tell a time you did so.
I don’t know which official you’re referring to. The Select Board is often unanimous but not always. We had a split vote on the $12.5 million override in July 2020. We also had a split vote on recommending the new Light Board. We also just had a split vote on the traffic plan for Leonard Street this summer.
Q: What do you “enjoy” about being on the board?
I care deeply about Belmont and our residents, and for me it’s a pleasure to find solutions to hard problems. I enjoy the challenge of trying to find common ground when there are so many different opinions in town. I also enjoy working with our highly capable Town Administrator, department heads, and fellow elected officials, who are all genuine public servants.