PROVINCETOWN — As the one new candidate running against two incumbents in this year’s town election, Austin Knight has some criticisms of the current select board.
Knight and incumbents Louise Venden and Bobby Anthony are running for the two seats in contention. The board’s recent vote to make people wear masks on Commercial Street between Bangs and Pleasant streets from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. makes it one of the most regulated towns in the state during this pandemic, which Knight said is alarming.
“First of all, I think we need to follow the governor’s regulations,” Knight said. “He has professionals in all areas looking at this. I’m comfortable with the governor’s regulations.”
He’s concerned about economic ramifications. “How are we going to get through this financially?” he asked. “I know friends who are not even going to open up their restaurants. They cannot make it with so little seating.”
Knight also criticized the select board’s vote to close off Commercial Street to cars from June 4 to June 7, and perhaps longer, to allow expanded pedestrian access and outdoor shopping and eating.
But, Knight said, the closure also restricts pickup by car of takeout food and merchandise.
“We need to be a little bit more clear in our thinking and our spending,” Knight said.
Knight, a 62-year-old contractor, was on the select board for seven years, from 2007 to 2014, before resigning. At the time of his resignation, enough signatures had been collected to hold a recall election about him.
Voters had become outraged by his perceived support of the former police chief, Jeff Jaran. Jaran was fired in 2014 after he lost his temper at the Squealing Pig bar when the bartender played N.W.A’s “Fuck tha Police!” and for interfering in a local election in support of Knight.
The police arbitration board ultimately ruled that Jaran’s termination violated his contract and awarded him $512,797. The costly legal error was what Knight had tried to avoid when he argued against firing the former chief, he told the Independent.
Now, he said he wants to return to the board in order to help deal with shrinking the budget in a post-pandemic landscape.
The fiscal year 2021 budget must be approved at a fall town meeting, and Knight said cuts must be considered everywhere except for maintenance projects that protect valuable property or depend upon grant funding.
As for the police station, he supports it being located at the former V.F.W., where Fire Chief Michael Trovato would like to see it — but he added that the location should be placed on a ballot for the voters to decide.
Knight also sees the logic in Trovato’s desire to end the town’s relationship with Lower Cape Ambulance, which it has shared with Truro since the 1930s.
“I think we should have one system,” Knight said. “I believe the billing and administration should go through one source.”
Why, he asked, is Lower Cape Ambulance based in Truro and coming to Provincetown, when Provincetown has the greater population?
Knight himself came to Provincetown in 1997. A graduate of Ledyard High School in Ledyard, Conn., where he studied vocational agriculture, Knight is a Shriner and a Mason. He was also state president of Connecticut’s Future Farmers of America in the 1970s.