Please provide a brief biographical background on yourself. What should voters know about you?
My name is Rajesh Uppalapati, and I am honored to be running for Select Board again. I am excited to continue working for the betterment of our community. I come from a humble background where I recognize the value of hard earned money and how maintaining a healthy standard of living matters to our people with fixed income, low income and people raising kids with limited resources. We have all faced hardships and so have I. It breaks my heart to see some systemic issues that we together in collaboration with town leadership can solve for and that’s the leadership I intend to provide our town. Giving back to our people comes to me naturally, I have been engaged with Beal school PTO, board, several fundraising efforts and mask donation campaigns. I am the father of two beautiful girls and my wife is my pillar of strength who inspires me to build a greater future for our town. With a Harvard school management degree and engineering background, I have every intention to serve Shrewsbury to make a significant difference for all of us.
Why are you running?
To be honest, I never intended to. But then the Beal Deal happened, and I could clearly see the disparity; how a 4 acre plot of land to build 53 apartments was sold for much less, than my own house, which is assessed at much higher value. I protested alongside some of the other volunteers, but our voices were ignored. With the support and encouragement I have received from our residents since the last election I am motivated. As a father of two daughters, I know that having many families move into the Beal commons and other residential developments approved in town will result in a higher teacher-child ratio for Shrewsbury which is already higher than the state average. I am concerned about our children’s future. The resources could have been used to provide more programs for our children, rather than burdening our school system. I hope to bring new perspectives to the Select Board committee to help the town of Shrewsbury to prosper and thrive. This town requires someone who can strike the right balance between strategy and execution.
The Beal school redevelopment is under consideration. What is your vision for downtown, and how does this project fit into this vision?
The Beal transaction falls short of residents’ expectations. It will harm our children’s futures and pockets of fixed income and low income families. For more than a year, many kids are spending hours in the middle of town with nowhere to go. They are being barred from the library and Dunkin Donuts, the old Beal school property could have helped resolve this issue rather than building apartments, which will not only increase traffic flow but will also tax the school system that is already overwhelmed. Alternatively, we could have started a vocational school and/or special needs school, focused programs such as Artificial Intelligence, robotics, and so on for high school students who already lack access to such programs at the high school due to overcrowding. Many good suggestions were made by Shrewsbury residents, such as a skating rink, a park for residents and dogs, a community center while preserving open space. This decision should have been put to a vote rather than being made unilaterally by town officials.
There are a number of housing projects on the horizon in Shrewsbury. What specific criteria would you weigh when considering support for a project?
Any housing project has advantages and disadvantages. It may bring in revenue and help small businesses in town, however it may put additional strain on our educational system, increase traffic and pollution, and be more taxing on our resources such as water, electricity, parking, and so on. Coming from a business and engineering background, I’ve learned that in order for a project to succeed, we must maximize the returns on our investments. Given that Shrewsbury’s population of approximately 40,000 people is more than double that of neighboring towns the aforementioned factors become even more important. Looking at recent trends, the population of Massachusetts is decreasing, and existing apartments are not being rented to capacity. For any project to be successful one must consider available resources such as infrastructure, water resources, and school capacity, taxes and opportunity cost residential vs commercial, opportunities for employment, problems with traffic and parking, air and noise pollution and cost of road maintenance.