, Gloucester, MA


October 6, 2012

Mayor's Desk: Surveys reserved for big questions, like Fuller use and the DPA

A question I received this week was, “why are you in favor of a ballot question about the Designated Port Area (DPA) but against a ballot question about the future use of the Fuller School?”

The Fuller School question pertains to administrative and operational aspects of city management and carries a potentially significant financial obligation to the taxpayer depending upon its preferred use. The Designated Port Area question is a matter of city policy — we either believe and agree that the state DPA program is important to the city or we do not. To be sure, the ultimate answers to both questions have far-reaching consequences for the city.

In the case of Fuller School, the administration worked to craft a 21-question survey that you can now take online at (The survey is available until Oct. 12.) There is a section about the Fuller site itself, with an option of having all city offices located there. This begs the next series of questions about what should happen to historic City Hall if there is a municipal complex at Fuller. Then there are questions about how to pay for that type of use.

The Fuller site is also capable of handling a new public safety building with both the Police and Fire Departments located there. This scenario begs the questions of what happens with Central Fire Headquarters on School Street, and the Police Station on Main Street. Then there are the questions about how to pay for this scenario.

There are many interrelated administrative, operational, and financial aspects to the question of “what should we do with the Fuller site?” We believed strongly that a multi-question survey was the best mechanism for obtaining resident input.

In the case of the Designated Port Area, as complicated a topic as this is, it does boil down to a straightforward policy question of whether or not the city should retain, reject or modify the state’s DPA program. An enormous education campaign will need to take place over the next year so that residents are up to speed on the issue, and can knowledgeably vote their preference when they see it on an election ballot.

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