Editor's note: The following is an interview with Selectmen and re-election candidate Ralph Patuto. Burlington Patch will feature articles on all of the candidates in the contested Board of Selectmen and Planning Board races.
Selectman Ralph Patuto is seeking a third term on the Board of Selectmen and is looking to raise support for the April 14 town election. Patuto was originally elected in 2006 and is currently the vice chair on the board.
Patuto moved to town in 1970 and has lived in Burlington ever since. In 1972 he was appointed to the Burlington Police Department and worked for the department until retiring in 2005 at the rank of Sgt. Detective. He was also the town's prosecutor 1990 to 2005. Patuto has a law degree from the Massachusetts School of Law and is currently a working attorney. He lives with his wife Jeanette, and the couple has two children who all graduated from Burlington High School and they now also have three grandchildren.
In an interview with Patch, Patuto said he wasn't drawn into town politics by any one issue in particular, except perhaps the potential development of Burlington's Landlocked Forest, which was an issue when he first ran for the board.
"I didn't run because of a specific problem, I was always interested in how the town was run," he said. "What peaked my interest I think was a lot of talk on the possibilities of what was going to happen in town that I wanted to be involved in. I was particularly interested in the preservation of the Landlocked Forest and to help preserve as much open space as we could in Burlington. I didn’t like what I was hearing about what developers were trying to do with the landlocked parcel."
Patuto said he was glad that the possibility of developing portions of the Landlocked Forest never got further than the discussions.
"Fortunately, in my opinion, what was going to happen to the property; the planned development of some of the parcel never materialized on its own," he said.
A lot has happened since Patuto was first elected to the Board of Selectmen and we asked him what he was particularly proud to be part of during his time as a selectman. Patuto said he was proud of the construction of the new Memorial School and the renovation of the , the development of , the deal struck with the city of Boston to begin the and the development of , among other projects.
"I'm proud of the successful negotiations with Northeastern University to bring the to Burlington," he said. "There were three sites they were considering and they chose Burlington."
"I'm also proud of the long overdo insulation of the new town sewer line, the sewer main, along with the new pump station on Terrace Hall," he said. "The original pipes from the main went under our wetlands. That posed a danger because those do wear down over time and if they ever broke we would have a lot of problems so I'm glad that project was undertaken."
Patuto also highlighted his and the board's work in maintaining services while keeping taxes steady.
"I’ve been working on budget for six years and we’ve maintained very low budgets," he said. "We've asked our department heads to keep their budgets low and through good management we’ve kept a low residential tax rate for the level of services we provide. For example we have great Recreation Department and trash pickup. I want to stay involved to keep us moving forward and keep taxes low. I think I’m very qualified to do that because of my education and experience with town and with the history of the town."
Part of the way to keep residential, and business, taxes low, is to bring in new development and commerce to share the burden. Patuto said he thinks Burlington has been on the right track in these regards and should continue with the type of economic development it has seen in the past years.
"We’re a competitor because of our location, amenities and tax rate and we want to keep trying to attract new businesses to redevelopment sites in town," he said. "I think that going forward over the next three years, smart growth is the way the town should go."
When asked for his definition of "smart growth," Patuto said he means that Burlington should continue to try and bring in new businesses, include high-tech and medical companies, that will fit with existing businesses in town.
"I like our status as a competitor in the Route 128 business district," he said. "I think we have the best companies located in Burlington. I want to continue that course, hoping to attract businesses to Burlington that are compatible with the town’s dynamic character."
Looking ahead, Patuto said there are some issues facing the town he feels ready to take on and that his experience will help resolve. Up front is the potential cuts of MBTA services, which could mean the reduction or elimination of the services in Burlington or a drastic increase in fares. Patuto is the town's representative to the Route 128 CS group, made up from leaders from area communities, that has and continues to do so.
"The proposed cuts in MBTA buses is particularly important to me," he said. "I know how many residents and workers depend on it to go to and from work, and people need the buses to get to . We also to make sure the MBTA keeps funding our B-Line, which many people use to get to work and services in town."
Finally, Patch asked Patuto why he decided to get into the race for re-election.
"I enjoy it, I enjoy doing this and I enjoy being involved in the community," he said. "It seems like every month there is something new and we have a lot of things coming up and with committees I take part in, we have a lot of work to do. I believe I can help. I’m an attorney and I think my education, training and critical thinking skills make me an ideal candidate to continue on the board."
The town election will be held April 14 in the Burlington High School gym.