Alcombright Kicks Off Mayoral Campaign
|Mayor Richard Alcombright makes a point at his campaign kickoff.|
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Mayor Richard Alcombright kicked off the city's campaign season on Thursday night with a downtown rally.
More than a 100 supporters attended Alcombright's announcement for a third run at the corner office, held at the newly named MediTerra on Main Street. In between kebabs and cigar boreks, the mayor told the crowd he had three simple reasons for running again: his love of the city, working with people and solving problems, and the progress he has seen.
(Alcombright spoke with iBerkshires about some of the challenges he sees in a third term earlier this month.)
"I truly love this city, I love what was, what it has become and the thought of what it can become," he said. "I think we truly are making progress. I would not do this again if I didn't think we were moving in the right direction."
Alcombright pointed to Crane & Co., which had planned to leave the city with 120 jobs when he first entered office three years ago. After many discussions and a negotiated tax break, North Adams is now the headquarters for Crane's Fine Stationery Division and is expected to employ 280 people by September.
"Maybe the first time that this old mill town in decades has seen two shifts running," said the mayor to applause.
"I work very quietly ... I want folks to know and understand that being mayor is about one thing ... leadership," said Alcombright. "I quietly provide that leadership each and every day. I don't look for headlines, quite honestly I try to avoid them, I look for results and when I get them, I pat those folks on the back who make it happen."
He checked of a list accomplishments that included keeping Juvenile Court and state services in the city, the Conte School project, the Walmart Supercenter and its nearly 200 jobs, plans for a 4 megawatt solar array, development of tourist trains, collaborations with surrounding communities, pushing for the resurfacing of the West End bridges ahead of schedule, savings in city services and health insurance costs, a new master plan, ongoing talks for the redevelopment of Western Gateway Heritage State Park, and keeping budgets at less than 2 percent over the last three cycles.
"But there is a darkness in this city brought on by a few who I truly believe do not want the city to succeed," said Alcombright. "However, despite destructive efforts, we have a clear mission within my administration and that is simply to make things happen through vision and collaboration."
More effort is still needed in working with efficiencies and state and local officials, he said, and the recent rash of violence has to be addressed.
He vowed to "put the hurt" on those selling drugs in the city. And after the stabbing incident outside a city bar two weeks ago, he determined "the day of the incident that that bar would be closed ... It remains closed as we speak."
|Alcombright was introduced by Richard Taskin.|
"Our crime issues for the large part are drug and alcohol related and we need a way to figure out how to fix that," said Alcombright, adding that he would be meeting with the Police Director Michael Cozzaglio and the media on Friday.
Much of the mayor's comments were met with applause. Eight of the nine city councilors stopped in — President Michael Bloom, Alan Marden, Marie Harpin, Lisa Blackmer, Keith Bona, David Bond, Nancy Bullett and Jennifer Breen — as well Pittsfield Mayor Daniel Bianchi, Berkshire Community College President Ellen Kennedy and North Adams Chamber of Commerce President Glenn Maloney.
He was also endorsed by 2005 mayoral candidate Walter L. Smith Jr., who said Alcombright had accomplished 90 percent of the goals he'd laid out four years ago.
The simplest sign that he was turning the city around was the installation of the benches on Main Street, said Smith. "This is not the old North Adams anymore, this is the new North Adams."
Local attorney Richard Taskin, who produces a program with Alcombright on NBCTV, introduced the mayor as "a man of faith and a person with faith in people" who was big enough to admit his mistakes and "willing to do what is right even if it is not popular."
Perhaps the most unpopular was his decision to pursue a Proposition 2 1/2 override two years ago. "I'm still in therapy," Alcombright joked, but he was convinced it was the right thing to do to square the city's continued fiscal woes. Despite its defeat, he said it "proved I can handle myself in a tough situation."
"Have you liked everything I've done?" he said. "I don't think so but that's OK. Hell, even my mother tells me all the things I do wrong."
Alcombright said he had delivered on his vows for openness, honesty, accessibility and transparency and asked voters to continue to trust him.
"We only have to agree on two things here tonight: We love this city and we want to see it grow," he said. "If we have those two things in common, we can work together."
Marchetti Will Not Seek Recount in Close Mayor's Race
Peter Marchetti, seen here at his headquarters during the campaign, has decided not to ask for a recount in last Tuesday's close election for mayor. Candidates have until Nov. 18 to petition for recounts.
Speculation about a recount has been ongoing since the return of Tuesday night's results, which saw the four-term city councilor defeated by opponent Daniel Bianchi by a now official margin of 113 votes.
In 2009, Pittsfield went through a recount at the request of Bianchi, who lost to James Ruberto by an initial margin of 209 votes. The recount yielded an additional two votes for Bianchi, reducing the margin to 207.
"I entered this race because I truly wanted to bring us all together as 'One Pittsfield.' This would have been my objective as mayor, as it has been the goal of all my volunteer work and my public service throughout my career: to bring people together from every neighborhood and band together to find common solutions for the challenges we face as a community. Even in defeat, 'One Pittsfield' is still my goal and my aspiration," Marchetti said in his statement.
Marchetti said it was this hope for unity, along with the probability that a recount would produce no significant change, that lead to his decision:
"I do not wish the city to incur the expense of a process that is unlikely to change the outcome based on past precedent. Even more importantly, it is time for healing. Campaigns force us to draw contrasts between candidates and platforms. Voters benefit from being offered clear choices. The entire community will now benefit from ending the mayoral campaign season, enabling all of us to get to work on the important challenges that lie ahead."
Marchetti told iBerkshires following the election that he had "no intention of disappearing" from public life, regardless of which way he decided on a recount. This sentiment was echoed in today's statement.
"I have a great love and respect for this city and look forward to serving her in any way I can."
Bianchi Squeaks Out Victory in Pittsfield
Mayor-elect Daniel Bianchi in a swirl of supporters at Mazzeo's.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The cheers for were so loud in the banquet hall at the old Mazzeo's Ristorante that results were being drowned out as they were read off.
The lead see-sawed back and forth as the city's 14 precincts reported in but it wasn't until the very last that Daniel Bianchi was able to claim victory by a mere 106 votes.
The final official tally was Bianchi at 6,144 to Peter Marchetti at 6,038, revealing that the city continues to be evenly divided.
The victor arrived late to the growing crowd of supporters and city councilors, having stopped first to speak to Marchetti and Mayor James Ruberto.
Bianchi warmly thanked his family and supporters who made the win possible.
Bianchi pledged 'inclusive government' and a crackdown on crime. Right, the numbers show a city having trouble making up its mind. Bianchi won Wards 7 & 6; Marchetti Wards 4 & 3. The rest were split.
"Throughout this election, your voices and concerns have been heard, and they will continue to be heard. Because all along I've talked about having an inclusive government, where everybody's opinion matters, and no one will be marginalized for having an opinion different than mine."
See video of Bianchi's speech here.
The close vote recalled Ruberto's equally narrow win over Bianchi two years ago; the tone of the campaign was similar, too, as Bianchi and Marchetti, vice president of the council and perceived by many as Ruberto's heir, battled over the summer.
Bianchi had come out on top in the September preliminary, about 700 votes behind in second place.
"I thought it was either going to a big win for me or a big loss for me but I never expected it to be this close," said Marchetti at the Berkshire Hills Country Club, where his supporters had hoped to celebrate his victory. "I don't know what more I can say. The voters spoke and they chose Dan. I will do all I can to make sure Pittsfield moves in the direction that's best for Piittsfield."
The four-term councilor said he would decide in the morning whether to call for a recount. If he does, it will be second recount in the last two elections.
In any case, Marchetti said he would serve out his post and continue working with the community projects in which he's been involved. He also said he'd offered his help to his opponent.
Bianchi touched on several of the key campaign issues in his victory speech, particularly crime. "I'd like to put another 1,000 eyes on the streets through a neighborhood watch program.
Marchetti gets some hugs after coming up short in the voting. See Marchetti's speech here.
Also seated were incumbent at-large Councilors Melissa Mazzeo and Kevin Sherman, and newcomers Barry Clairmont and Churchill Cotton, currently on the School Committee.
Many expressed that the at-large election was a difficult choice for them because of the number of capable candidates.
"I wish I could have voted for five. I really was stuck," said Donna Todd Rivers.
Nicholas Caccamo, who came in sixth out of eight, expressed gratitude and pride in his campaign supporters while at Mazzeo's to congratulate the new mayor-elect.
In Ward 2, Kevin Morandi won in his second try for the seat with incumbent Peter White losing by 300 votes in his write-in attempt. White had tried and lost for the state representative seat this summer.
In Ward 3, incumbent Paul Capitanio easily fended off a challenge by Jeffery Ferrin.
"I'm disappointed, obviously," said Ferrin. "But I'm glad we have a great new mayor and some good new counselors, and hopefully we'll see some positive changes."
In Ward 4, Christopher Connell won also on his second try, defeating Ozias Vincellette who had hoped to reacquire the seat. The seat was vacated by Michael Ward.
In Ward 5, incumbent Jonathan Lothrop was the winner by six votes over J. Joseph Breault. No word if Breault will request a recount.
On the School Committe, Kathleen Amuso, Alfred Barbalunga, Daniel Elias and Katherine Yon were all re-elected and James Conant and Terry M. Kinnas were elected.
All other candidates were running unopposed. Election results can be found here.
Editor Tammy Daniels and reporters Andy McKeever and Joe Durwin contributed to this article.
Alcombright Wins Second Term as Mayor
Mayor Richard Alcombright gives the crowd a thumbs-up before his victory speech at campaign headquarters on Main Street.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Incumbent Richard Alcombright fended off a strong challenge by City Council President Ronald Boucher to earn a second term in the corner office with a "spectacular" victory.
Alcombright wound up the race with 2,333 votes to Boucher's 1,377, nearly the same margin he won by two years ago. The turn out wasn't as high but still clocked in at an impressive 42 percent according to unofficial results.
"It resonated today that what we're doing is good, what we're doing is right and I think the majority of the people said that today," said Alcombright, moments after finding out he'd won.
The former councilor took the helm of the city two years ago after ousting longtime mayor John Barrett III, who himself won a City Council seat in this election.
Surrounded by green-clad, cheering supporters, Alcombright thanked voters and others for giving him another term.
"Two years ago, we ran a people-powered campaign that will long be remembered in this city and tonight after two years, after facing down some of the most difficult finanical and economic times in our nation's history, I appreciate the trust the voters have placed in me to do what's right for our city," he said, standing on the stage at the former Petrino's Cafe on Main Street.
The faces were far more sober at the American Legion, where the red-shirted supporters of Boucher had gathered with hopes of a victory party.
Supporters lined up to congratulate the winner.
"I think we were a little bit too late at the end," said Boucher. "I think we had a strong last two weeks, I think that first debate hurt me a little bit; the second debate helped us ... I just believe the voters spoke tonight and they're happy with the administration, the way the city's moving and I respect that."
He asked the mayor to listen to the residents "because the people are hurting and don't forget them that's all, they're all important."
The six-term councilor said he'd been considering since last year not running again but was attracted by the idea of running for mayor. He didn't start his campaign until late in the summer, but spent that short time attacking what he saw as Alcombright's failed campaign promises. If anything, he exhibited a more aggressive style of leadership than the incumbent's pledges to "keep plugging along."
Alcombright's had some ups and downs over his short tenure as he's grappled with the city's financial woes. He's made progress in stabilizing North Adams' fiscal health and in developing fruitful relationships with surrounding communities. But he stumbled on the controversial Proposition 2 1/2 override and on the Sullivan School project, both of which Boucher called him to task on.
A preliminary election in September, despite the voting difficulties, indicated that Alcombright was going to be tough to defeat and his campaign motto of "progress" were hitting hom.
Despite their opposing views, they were friends on the council and friendly during the campaign. A crowd of supporters for both roared their approval on election eve as the candidates walked into the Main Street intersection to shake hands after a standout.
"We've been friends a long time," said Alcombright. "We ran a race on the issues."
Boucher said he'd told Alcombright he and his supporters "will continue to help progress North Adams."
The mayor said he'll get back to work at 8 a.m. on Wednesday while Boucher, a sales executive for EcoLab, will serve out his term as council president and on the Hoosac Water Quality District. He didn't rule out running for office again but said he'll take a break for now.
"I spent 12 years giving to the community and it thought I'd give it a shot," he said of the mayor's race. "I'm happy with everything. I would have loved to have won but it wasn't the most important thing." Rather, he said, it ensuring residents were listened to.
Alcombright supporter Richard Taskin called the victory "spectacular."
"There are very few mayors in the United States of America under the current economic conditions who could have made the decisions that this man did who could be re-elected by the margin he won tonight," he said. "They trust this man, they trust him to do what's right."
Ronald Boucher, talking with one of his biggest supports Robert Cardimino, said he wanted the mayor to remember to listen to residents.
He estimated he'd shaken at least 2,000 hands of voters coming in and out the polling stations and had expected far better results than 11th.
All six incuments — Lisa Blackmer, David Bond (who received the most votes at 2,210), Michael Bloom, Alan Marden, Marie Harpin and Keith Bona — were re-elected. Joining them will be Barrett, Jennifer Breen-Kirsch and Nancy Bullett.
Mary Lou Accetta and Lawrence Taft were easily re-elected; joining them will be David Lamarre, currently a city councilor. George Canales, running unopposed, was re-elected to the McCann School Committee.
Candidate for Mayor: Peter MarchettiNote: These interviews constitute an experiment in crowd sourcing election concerns from the public. Over a period of weeks, responses from the public were solicited as to what questions they would like to hear the two mayoral candidates answer. The questions were selected and distilled from among those received most frequently via email, Facebook, Twitter, and conversations with voters to be representative of some of the concerns respondents felt they had not heard not heard enough on candidates from.
Favorite Color: Green.
Favorite Sandwich: Spicy Italian from Subway
Endorsed by: United Educators of Pittsfield, The Berkshire Eagle, Mayor James Ruberto, City Council President Gerald Lee
In order to move forward, we have to unite. I believe my track record on the City Council speaks more of unification than of division. While getting all of the 45,000 people in Pittsfield to agree on something will never be realistically possible, I think I have demonstrated my skills for building concensus and establishing compromise, for instance in the rezoning of the Petricca property. One of the most important tasks of the mayor is to help make sure all parties realize what it is they're striving for, and then they find there is usually a lot that they agree on.
You have been called by some 'an extention of the Ruberto administration' — do you agree or disagree with that assessment, and why?
I think it's important to remember that I have served as a city cCouncilor under two mayors, and two City Council presidents, and have worked with all of them to set goals and advance agendas. There have been decisions [of Ruberto's] I have not been happy with, such as appointing himself to the PEDA board, and I have made those concerns known.
Also, I think that my leadership style is different. But I think the real question is, what are you afraid I'm an extension of? I intend to continue those policies which have been successful and improved life in Pittsfield, and I think my opponent would also agree that he is in favor of continuing the positive growth we've seen as well.
The immigrant population and ethnic diversity of Pittsfield is growing. How would you address the need to increase the racial diversity of teachers in our schools?
First of all, I think that all city government should reflect that kind of diversity, that it should be representative of the people it's serving. Having devoted so much of the last 7 years to the Morningside district, which is the most diverse in the city, I feel I am uniquely prepared to make strides in this area.
With Pittsfield receiving international attention for one of our most serious crimes in years and a wave of recent robberies, what do you think of the current state of crime in perception and reality, and what as mayor would you do to improve both?
There is crime, and obviously more needs to be done. Public safety services need funding. There's also an issue of perception vs reality, and its important to look at everyone's perception. I feel safe when I am walking around at night near our cultural outlets, but someone else might not, and if their perception is of being unsafe, then that's their reality and we need to do something about that. I want to have a permanent full-time police chief and work with them to reduce crime and increase the perception of safety in town. I want people to feel safe. We have had a terrible violent crime recently, and that's a tragic situation, but I think unfortunately it's lead to a perception that 'none of us are safe,' and I think it's important for people to remember that this was not a completely random act. The parties had an existing relationship with each other, they weren't strangers. There was an underlying issue, so it's not something that was a random act that might happen to any of us at any time.
You've indicated that continued cultural growth in Pittsfield is an issue of great importance to you. About a year ago, WBUR from Boston did a lot of coverage of the emerging arts and cultural scene here, and since then at least three of the establishments featured — Storefront Artist Project, Pittsfield Contemporary, and Emporium — are no longer open. This and the closing of shops such as Chapters Bookstore has some wondering if interest in cultural happenings is declining in Pittsfield, or if support for the cultural sector is lacking. What as mayor would you do to support and foster more growth?
First of all I would point out that stores like Chapters are foremost a business, and not a cultural attraction. Retail-oriented business is tough and there is only so much support the department of Cultural Development can do. I do think that the mayor needs to work with Megan Whilden to get more grant funding for the department to use in its efforts. I'm in favor of creating a full-time grant writing position for the city. But I think that if you look back to a few years ago, when you had Pittsfield with no major cultural venues, in the center of these communities with long-established attractions like Tanglewood, and now we have Colonial, we have Barrington Stage and the Beacon. We have people like Julianne Boyd and Kate McQuire and we have all these things going on. My opponent and some of his colleages voted against all that.
Springside Park, Pittsfield's largest and most historically controversial park, has had recurring differences of opinion about what projects and uses are appropriate. Do you have any particular vision or ideal for the future of this 200-acre area near downtown, and/or ideas or priorities for Pittsfield parks in general?
In order to look at really making much progress in doing anything at Springside Park, there needs to be an effort to connect the dots between all the people involved. There's about five different groups involved, you've got the Friends of Springside, the Arboretum, Morningside Initiative. It needs money, of course, but before you can really do a lot with it there needs to be a concensus and some connections cultivated between the groups. There's been some progress already, we've removed the outdated heating house there, Morningside Initiative is talking with Jim McGrath [parks manager] on the issue of restoring the pond. Generally I'd say priorities like preserving and restoring natural beauty and the Springside House come before a dog park, but again, we need to get everybody together and see where we agree and don't to move forward with this.