PROVINCETOWN — After running for select board in 2014 and again in 2017 without success, Gordon Siegel believes the time is right for his third campaign.
A real estate agent and business owner who has lived in Provincetown since 1996, Siegel said he is uniquely positioned to forge consensus on the urgent housing questions facing the town today. “Being a realtor, talking to banks, and talking to mortgage companies, I think there’s a position there for someone to facilitate bringing the different parties together to the table,” he said.
Siegel first visited Provincetown in 1984 before a tour in the Air Force. Since moving here, he has served two stints on the finance committee, owned the retail shops Toys of Eros and Wild Hearts, was a partner in Big Daddy’s Burritos, and co-owned Romeo’s Holiday, a guest house that is now the Gas Lamp. He was also on the AIDS Support Group board of directors. His accounting degree from the University of South Florida in Tampa, Siegel said, makes him well qualified to handle budget questions. And after his experience in the military, he has “no problem being a leader and an innovator,” he said.
“I’ve tried to be a stakeholder and an active member of the community over the years in all sorts of different facets,” he said.
At 58, Siegel said he has witnessed seismic changes in the town, from the arrival of the Stop & Shop to the closing of the high school, and he remembers the days when town finances were depleted. He said he has watched the middle class deteriorate in that time, with economic inequality increasing as property values have skyrocketed.
“It’s like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs,” he said. “There are people down here trying to find shelter, and then you have people up here self-actualizing because this is their third home, and they want a certain kind of chandelier for their bathroom. Those kinds of people weren’t here when I first got here.”
Siegel said that the town’s housing efforts need to focus on critical personnel: “first responders, the police, the fire department, teachers, nurses and doctors, and town hall staff,” he said.
Such an effort might mean taking a “crisis approach” to the “crisis moment,” Siegel said, which would involve philanthropy. He sees potentially designing a housing development specifically for employees filling critical town roles and then launching a fundraising campaign in support of it.
“I know that there are enough people with a lot of money coming here who love this town as much as I do, and would be willing to contribute to its survivability,” he said.
The town must also prepare to survive the climate crisis, Siegel said. “I believe climate change and climate resiliency has to be right up there next to housing,” he said. He would propose moving the recently convened coastal resiliency committee from an advisory board to a standing board.
He also said that the short-term rental “debacle,” as he called it, that unfolded at town meeting highlighted the need for the select board to immediately open further conversation without waiting for the UMass Donahue study due in September. “Day one, my first meeting, I would make a motion to have a housing roundtable before summer begins in June,” he said. “We don’t need the report to really have the conversation, do we?”
Siegel also said that the town should look into having a “housing liaison,” perhaps a volunteer who is a retired builder, to help residents with the permitting process for additions to their properties such as accessory dwelling units.
On the national stage, Siegel said he sees a place for Provincetown to “maintain its position as a leader” as drag bans take hold and trans rights are under attack.
“Everybody wants to come here so they can be themselves, and I don’t think we need to hide that fact,” Siegel said. “If anything, we need to market it a little to help those that are out there that don’t have that feeling in their homes, towns, or state.
“I love Provincetown, and I’m going to die here,” Siegel said. “My husband hates when I say that, but this is it for me. I don’t go to Florida. I don’t go to Palm Springs. I want to help, and I want to be a participant.”