Shoen has plan to clean up blighted areas of city

·2 min read

Oct. 23—WATERTOWN — Ben Shoen says none of the other six City Council candidates knows more about the city's housing than he does.

For the past 24 years, Mr. Shoen, a political newcomer, has owned a contracting business, working on fixing up homes in Watertown.

He also owns and has renovated a number of rental units in the city.

And it's with that business experience that he has some ideas that would make Watertown a better place.

He has a plan to clean up the blight in neighborhoods.

"I hate trash," he said.

He'd make drastic changes to the city's code enforcement office.

It's now a complaint-driven department, in which a neighbor calls to complain about the condition of a house in their neighborhood.

"I think code enforcement is misguided," he said, adding he'd have one codes staffer just seeking violations for unmowed lawns and unshoveled sidewalks.

He would change the current approach. The code enforcement office should cite violations after finding them on their own rather than driving by 100 and not doing anything about them, he said.

He also proposes a new way to collect property taxes on residential properties. Rather than using assessments, he would like to tax properties on square footage of land.

He thinks property owners are punished for making improvements to their homes that results in their property taxes increasing, while those who don't fix up their homes end up costing the city more in city services. Everyone would pay the same amount in taxes, he said.

"Doesn't matter if it has a nice house or a rundown house, or any house at all, everyone pays the same square foot tax rate," he said, adding grievances and comparable properties would be a thing of the past.

While campaigning, voters talk to him about "the little things," and that he's not hearing "about big issues." They want to see better streets and sidewalks.

The city doesn't need three pools, he said. Don't fix the Flynn pool on the city's north side. Replace it with a splash pad, he said.

End the fight with the city's firefighters' union. It just doesn't look like a winnable fight for the city, he said. Single-stream recycling would cost too much and there isn't a market for recyclable materials, he said.

He's still upset with the way the City Council handled it when he unsuccessfully sought a vacant seat. He blamed "dysfunction" on council.

The situation inspired him to run for office, he said.

Benjamin Shoen

Age: 42

Profession: Self-employed for 24 years, Ben Shoen's Home Improvement.

Family: Wife Brandy, one daughter

Education: Graduated Immaculate Heart Central and an associate's degree in business from Jefferson Community College.

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