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North Adams to Elect Mayor, Councilors on Tuesday
Staff Reports On: 10:44PM / Monday November 04, 2013

Mayoral Candidate Moulton Has Action Plan for North Adams
Alcombright Rallies Supporters at Campaign Event
Alcombright, Moulton Spar in First Mayoral Debate
Crime, Finance Return in 2nd Alcombright, Moulton Debate

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — There will be a change in government in the city by Tuesday night, and how different it will be depends on which chief executive voters chose.

Polls will be open Tuesday from 9 to 7 p.m. at St. Elizabeth's Parish Center (Wards 1, 2, 3 & 5) and Greylock School (Ward 4.)

It's a duel for the corner office between longtime friends Richard Alcombright, the incumbent, and Robert M. Moulton Jr., the challenger.

Alcombright is running for a third term for mayor on the progress he's made over the last four years, and his intention to continue along that course. He has pointed to a growing Main Street, the retention and expansion of jobs at Crane & Co., regional partnerships with law enforcement and municipalities, and two landmark initiatives: the Conte School renovation and the privatization plans for Heritage State Park.

Moulton, however, insists that the city hasn't prospered enough and says the incumbent hasn't done enough to combat crime. He is calling for hiring more police and personnel for other city departments, including inspection services, and creating a city-operated charter school, although he has not detailed how those would be funded. He also said he would not support the current deal to privatize the Heritage Park and would instead look for different investors.

No matter who's mayor, one thing is certain: The City Council for 2014-15 will have a very new, likely very younger, face than it has had for years. Links to candidate profiles and forums can be found here.

Five of the dozen candidates are under the age of 35; nine are under the age of 50. The oldest candidate is age 77. Still, differences between the candidates are more a matter of degree than distinction.

Four of the candidates are incumbents, with Keith Bona, 45, having the longest tenure. A local businessman and McCann Technical School graduate, he is running for a third term but spent eight years on the council in the 1990s, making him the veteran with 12 years total.

Incumbent Lisa Blackmer, 49, is seeking a fourth term. She has served as vice president of the council, represents the city on the Massachusetts Municipal Association, and works in accounting and human resources at Wheatleigh.

Incumbents Jennifer Breen, 34, and Nancy Bullett, 58, are each seeking a second term. Both are city natives who operate their own practices: Breen is an attorney and former assistant district attorney and Bullett is a physical therapist.

Past candidates trying again for a spot on the council are Eric Buddington, 40, Michael Hernandez, 42, and Robert Cardimino, 77.

Buddington works in information technology and is a musician and musical instructor, Hernandez is a real estate agent, and Cardimino, a retired GE worker, is a part-time landscaper.

The newcomers include Benjamin Lamb, 28, Joshua Moran, 31, Kate Merrigan, 34, David Robbins, 33, and Wayne Wilkinson, 62.

Lamb is assistant director for student involvement at Williams, Moran is a civil engineer, Merrigan is a program coordinator for the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition and Robbins is a National Guardsman and property manager. Wilkinson, a commercial assessor, is new to the council but not to City Hall, having been a longtime member of both the Planning Board and Mobile Home Rent Control Board.

The candidates are in general agreement that the city should continue the master planning process, that the Conte School renovation is a done deal and that they support plans to privatize Western Gateway Heritage State Park. The exception is Cardimino, who believes privatization should not be done at the expense of the nonprofits, including the city's history museum, currently in the park.

All agreed that crime is a serious concern and that more attention needed to be paid to preventative action such as community organizations, education and drug use. Breen, Blackmer, Moran, Lamb, Bona and Cardimino agreed that hiring more officers would also be helpful, although there would have to be a plan for how to pay for them.

The top nine vote-getters will be seated on the next City Council.

Running for School Committee are incumbents John Hockridge, Heather Putnam Boulger and Mark P. Moulton, and newcomer Michele L. Vareschi.
 
Both Gary F. Rivers and Paul A. Gigliotti are running for re-election to the McCann School Committee.


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Alcombright, Moulton Spar in First Mayoral Debate
By Tammy Daniels On: 12:18AM / Thursday October 24, 2013
Robert M. Moulton Jr., in red tie, and Richard Alcombright shake hands after a debate at McCann Technical School. The moderator was retired Adams Town Clerk Paul Hutchison.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The mayoral candidates spent 90 minutes sparring in a debate Wednesday that was to focus on economics but turned on crime and the incumbent's record.

Richard Alcombright, running for a third term, said he had "made tough decisions that didn't always make me popular" over the last four years, but vowed to continue efforts to revitalize the city.

Challenger Robert M. Moulton Jr., a local businessman and former councilor, repeatedly attacked Alcombright's record and said he "will get the city moving in the right direction again and make sure the middle class of North Adams is a voice again."

The debate, the first of two prior to the election, was held at McCann Technical School with an audience of about a 200 and was sponsored by the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce.

Moderator was Paul Hutchinson, retired Adams town clerk. The candidates were allowed an opening and closing statement; questions were asked by a panel of media — Gabriel Kogel of the MCLA Beacon, Jennifer Huberdeau of the North Adams Transcript,  Megan Duley from WNAW radio and Tammy Daniels, editor of iBerkshires. The candidates were given 2 minutes to respond, 1 minute for rebuttal, and then 30 seconds for more.

The candidates agreed on little other than that the city should do more to partner with Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and that repeat violent offenders should be jailed, not let back on the streets.

They disagreed on virtually everything else,  including how to manage the wave of break-ins and violent behavior that's hit the city this summer.

"We need more police, we need more police, we need more police," said Moulton.

"Four years ago when you ran, it was your No. 1 priority, since then it's gotten drastically worse, drastically worse," he said to his opponent. He said the city's violent crime rate was 40 to 45 percent higher than the state's and that 1 in 218 residents had a chance of being a victim of violent crime, but did not say where he got the statistics.

Alcombright said he recognized the fact that crime has gone up. "The biggest thing we've done since April is engage with the district attorney's office and the state police," he said, which has resulted "in many more arrests."

Putting officers on the beat isn't the only answer, he said, because the city has addiction, social and mental health issues that must be addressed. "Crime has grown because of many social factors," said Alcombright. "The root cause of these problems is addiction, is poverty and is joblessness and we're working all of those issues."

Moulton said he'd "failed miserably." "I walked the streets and I thought taxes would be No. 1," he said. "Overwhelming, overwhelmingly,  2 to 1, it was crime."

Alcombright said pointed to the jobs he'd brought in or helped keep here, including the 120 jobs at Crane & Co. that were set to leave four years ago but which have now doubled, the nearly 100 new jobs at Walmart and the low vacancy rate in the downtown.

Moulton said more needed to be done to bring in jobs and increase the tax base. He did make clear that he would not stand in the way of the demolition of St. Francis' Church, which has been eyed as a site for a national drugstore chain.

Alcombright has opposed the church's destruction as a historic building and an iconic view integral to the city, backing an ordinance that would delay demolition for historical review.  But he pointed out that the proposed buyer could have applied for a permit in the past three years and, at this point, have taken the building by now.

They also sparred over Alcombright's most recent initiative, the privatization of Western Gateway Heritage State Park. 

The incumbent touted the recent agreement with developers to invest some $6 million into the park, including a MassWorks grant, and a flat lease payment of $750,000 for 20 years.

Moulton said the original proposal 20 years ago failed. "Economically it wasn't feasible and I think the economy is worse now," he said, and thought the another request for proposals should be issued since only two had been received.  "It's kind of a one-shot deal and we might want to this right the first time."

He also called into question how much the lease agreement would mean since the city used $150,000 to buy the Sons of Italy.

Alcombright said he had been working for 2 1/2 years to bring private development into the park.

"The public sector should not be operating a retail establishment," he said. The city had been able to get $1.6 million investment to leverage nearly $4 million — and a total of $10 million when the Berkshire Scenic Railway comes in — to get the park back on the tax roles, he continued, and the $150,000 had been from a Redevelopment Authority fund and had nothing to do with the project. (The money had initially been approved for repairs.)

"I don't live in the world of what happened 20 years ago, I live in the world of what will happen now," said Alcombright. "It's a different economic climate."

The inevitable albatross of mayoral elections — the fate of the Mohawk Theater — was again brought up.

"We have wonderful plans, we don't have money," said Alcombright. Standalone theaters, he said, "are not a sustainable model."

He has been in talks with the college to take over operation of the Mohawk as part of its fine and performing arts department, which will also further connect the downtown to the school.

Moulton said the city should find an investor for the theater and take advantage of credits and grants.

In fact, he saw grants as a possible solutions for many of the city's issues, including the looming capital projects such as the police and fire station and the water and sewer infrastructure, saying that "millions of dollars" could be available.

"Economically where we are right now, I think we're bumped up the ladder because of our economic situation," he said.

Alcombright said if there was a grant for building a police station they would have found them by now. "Take a ride folks, look around, there is so much to be done here," he said. "The only way we're going to get capital projects is to borrow."

The city's borrowing debt will fall significantly in 2019, said Alcombright.

The two also differed over the master planning process, with Moulton touting the nearly 20-year-old Hyatt Palma downtown report as perfectly suitable while Alcombright pointed to the ongoing North Adams 2030 master plan as being more inclusive and modern.

As for taxes, Moulton accused Alcombright of reneging on a promise not to raise taxes or shift the commercial rate lower; Alcombright denied he had ever made such a promise.

Alcombright said Moulton as a councilor had voted in the past to raise taxes, which had averaged a 6 percent increase a year as state  "Taxes have increased because basically we needed to fund things," he said. While the city's budget has increased about 1.5 percent the last four years, state aid had dropped

Moulton said Alcombright had been left with a $2 million reserve: "the money you were left with is not there anymore."

Alcombright said it was because he'd also been left with a $2 million deficit, which has been whittle down to about $300,000. He defended again his attempt for a Proposition 2 1/2 override two years ago, saying the city would have been better off in balancing the budget for the long term rather than "mercilessly" cutting school programs.

"This is still the cheapest place and least expensive place to live" in the Berkshires and compared to similar communities, he said. "The average tax bill is a little over $2,600."

Moulton said the middle class was hurting because of the fees but at one point in the debate described the tax rate as "pretty affordable" in terms of buying housing here.

The two agreed of the importance of the MCLA to the city, with Moulton suggesting a liaison to City Council and Alcombright describing his frequent communication with its leaders. In answering how can the city attract college students downtown, Alcombright said it had been a topic for years and Moulton asked Kogel, the questioner, "What are you looking for?"

Moulton said there was nothing downtown except for dinner and a movie; Alcombright that there were clothing and sports stores but the they needed to stay open later.

Both were cautious about medical marijuana dispensaries, agreeing they need to be very regulated. Moulton said needed to do more research; Alcombright was going to ask the City Council for a six-month moratorium to review the issues.

The debate was taped by Northern Berkshire Community Television Corp. for replay on daily on Thursday through Wednesday, Oct. 24-30. The candidates will also debate on Wednesday, Oct. 30, from 9 to 10 live on WNAW radio.

 

 



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Absentee Ballots Available for North Adams Election
On: 11:16AM / Friday September 13, 2013

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The city clerk's office has posted the times and dates for voter registration for the municipal election on Tuesday, Nov. 5.

Last day to register to vote is Wednesday, Oct. 16. The city clerk's office will be open from 8 to 8 that to accept voter registration or changes to voter information.

Absentee ballots for the November election are available now in the city clerk's office.

Those unable to vote on election day may stop by the office and vote any time during office hours, Monday through Thursday from 8 to 4:30 and Fridays from 8 to 1:30 p.m. Those who are physically unable to come into the office can have a ballot mailed, but must allow extra time for mailings. Ballots must be returned to the city clerk's office before the close of polls.

Absentee ballots are available until noon the day before the election.

To register to vote, one must be 18 years of age or older on or before election day, a citizen of the United States and a resident of North Adams.
 



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Four Indicate Interest in North Adams Mayoral Run
Staff Reports On: 02:50PM / Friday August 02, 2013

Update on Aug. 2, 2013: The city could see a lively mayoral preliminary election if the four potential candidates all return papers.

Ronald Boucher, former City Council president who unsuccessfully challenged Richard Alcombright's re-election two years ago, took out nomination papers on Friday. He joins potential candidates Richard David Greene and Robert R. Moulton Jr., a fellow former councilor who backed Alcombright at his first election and Boucher two years ago.

So far the only candidate to return the required nomination papers is Alcombright, who will be running for a third two-year term. Three candidates would have to return papers for a preliminary election on Sept. 24.

Five more people have also taken out papers for City Council and six have returned papers to get on the ballot.

Robert F. Cardimino of East Quincy Street, David R. Robbins of Cady Street, Kate Hanley Merrigan of East Main Street, Benjamin J. Lamb of the Townhouses and Joshura Moran of Catherine Street took out nomination papers between last Thursday, July 29, and today, Friday.

Those five and Edward Lacosse, Richard Lacosse Jr., MaryAnn C. Benoit-Albee, Eric Buddington and incumbent David Bond have not returned papers.

Incumbents Jennifer M. Breen, Nancy P. Bullett and Keith J. Bona have all returned papers; Anthony M. Sarkis Jr., Wayne J. Wilkinson and Michael Hernandez will also be on the ballot.

Incumbents who not taken out papers so far are John Barrett III, Michael Bloom, Marie Harpin and Alan Marden.

If all the potential candidates so far return papers by the Tuesday deadline, there will be 17 names on the ballot.

Taking out papers for North Adams School Committee are incumbents John Hockridge, Heather Putnam Boulger and Mark P. Moulton, and newcomers Michele L. Vareschi of E Street and Stewart Burns of Holbrook Street. None of the potential candidates had returned papers as of Friday.

Both Gary F. Rivers and Paul A. Guillotte have returned papers for McCann School Committee. The incumbents will run unopposed for the two seats.

The deadline to submit papers with the required 50 signatures by registered voters 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 6.
 


So far, three candidates have indicated interest in running for mayor and a dozen for City Council.

 

Original post: July 26, 2013; 7:22 p.m.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — With less than two weeks to the nomination deadline, three people have taken out papers for mayor and 12 for City Council.

The deadline to submit nomination papers with the signatures of 50 registered North Adams voters is 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 6. Papers are still available in the city clerk's office.

Mayor Richard J. Alcombright has already indicated his intention to run for a third two-year term and took out papers on June 24. Also taking out papers were Richard D. Greene of 611 State Road, Holy Family Terrace, and Robert R. Moulton Jr., a former city councilor, of 985 Massachusetts Ave., on July 24 and 25, respectively.

None of the mayoral candidates have yet returned papers.

City Council incumbents who have taken out papers include Lisa Blackmer, Keith Bona, David Bond, Jennifer Breen and Nancy Bullett. As of Friday afternoon, incumbents John Barrett III, President Michael Bloom, Marie Harpin and Alan Marden had not.  

Past council candidates computer programmer and musician Eric R. Buddington of 23 Warren St. and real estate agent Michael J. Hernandez of 160 Eagle St. have taken out papers, as has Planning Board member and Mobile Home Park Rent Control Board Chairman Wayne J. Wilkinson of 120 Oak Hill. Papers were also taken out by Edward LaCosse of 98 Brayton Hill Terrace and Richard LaCosse Jr. of 85 Brayton Hill Terrace; they were the first to pull papers for election, both on May 1. Also in the mix are frequent council attendee MaryAnn C. Benoit-Albee of 16 Rand St. and business consultant Anthony M. Sarkis Jr. of 453 Walnut St.  

Of the council candidates, only Breen and Hernandez had returned signatures, although they had not yet been accepted.

All council seats are at large with the nine highest vote-getters being elected.

Should all three (or potentially more) mayoral candidates return papers, there will be a preliminary election, as occurred in 2011, to narrow the field to two. There are currently 12 people indicating interest in a council run; 19 would be required for a council preliminary election.

There are three seats up for election for School Committee, currently held by Heather P. Boulger, John Hockridge and Mark Moulton; and two seats on the McCann School Committee, Paul Gigliotti and Gary Rivers, both of whom have reportedly pulled papers.



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Markey, Democratic Leaders Rally For U.S. Senate Race
By: Andy McKeever On: 10:40PM / Friday June 21, 2013
U.S. Rep. Edward Markey rallied voters in Pittsfield on Friday with local and state Democratic leaders including his House colleague, U.S. Rep. Richard Neal.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Despite leading in the polls before the special election for the U.S. Senate, Democratic candidate Edward Markey isn't coasting the final four days because "overconfidence breeds complacency and complacency breeds disaster."

He is on a tight schedule through Tuesday that took him Friday to the Berkshire Brigades' offices, where he was joined by Gov. Deval Patrick, U.S. Rep. Richard Neal and a large group of Democratic leaders and elected officials.

"I don't feel confident. You can't feel that way. It's like asking the Bruins 'are you going to win the Stanley Cup?' they don't know," Markey said before entering a full room of supporters. "You have to keep at a high level of intensity just so you maximize the result on election night. Then you can celebrate. Then you can relax."

The congressman from Malden is running for the seat vacated by John Kerry, who accepted appointment as U.S. secretary of state. Being a special election and held on an atypical election schedule, voter turnout is expected to be the biggest concern for Democrats.

"For the final four days it is all about getting out the vote," Markey said. "I want to win out here. I am trying to get up the enthusiasm, get the troops out there and make sure that people get out and vote Tuesday."

Auditor Suzanne Bump of Great Barrington said Democrats are not competing with the Republicans but rather "apathy."

She said the decision of who to vote for is easy because Markey has "already demonstrated his values." But Democrats need to "take it to the streets" in order to win the election, she said.

"This is not a leap of faith when we cast this vote. This is a vote of confidence," Bump said. Republican competitor Gabriel Gomez of Cohasset has been positioning himself as a fresh face and has criticized Markey for being a career politician. Markey was first elected to the U.S. Congress in 1974.

But all of the speakers rallied behind representative's 38-year record in expanding broadband access, support for social programs and protecting the environment.

"New isn't always better. Being better is better," Patrick said. "Being right on the issues is better. Seeing us all, not just the mighty but the meek is better. Voting right on the issues, that's better. Caring about lifting the commonweath and the country up, that's better. Putting national interest before party or partisan interest, that's better."

Patrick received roaring applause from the crowd of about 150 people sporting in Markey campaign stickers. He said Markey knows what it takes to give the opportunity for the American dream.

"The American dream requires personal responsibility, grit, determination and resilience — all the things we often hear our conservative friends talk about — self-reliance. They're right," Patrick said. "But the American dream also requires a good education. It also requires affordable health care and a safe neighborhood.

"It also requires a clean environment and true and equal opportunity. All of those things make the American dream possible and we fight for good government because good government makes those things possible."

Gov. Deval Patrick said Markey voted the right way on the issues.

Markey said building the American dream means to look to the future, as he has done in the past when he has "sided with companies that did not exist yet." He is supportive of furthering technology and making Massachusetts the "biotech capital of the world."

"This race is about the future and we have to make sure we protect and advance it," Markey said.

Neal, who has worked with Markey the longest and would be come the dean of the congressional delegation if Markey wins, said his colleague has always been looking toward the future.

"Those of us who are his peers, know how good he is," Neal said. "He is kind, he is decent and he is a great legislator."

Also speaking were state Reps. Paul Mark and Tricia Farley-Bouvier, state Sen. Benjamin Downing and Mayor Daniel Bianchi. The office was filled with elected officials — including North Adams Mayor Richard Alcombright, District Attorney David Capeless, City Council President Kevin Sherman and Register of Deeds Patsy Harris — and local Democratic leaders.

"We need to be with Ed Markey because time after time, Ed Markey has been with us," Patrick said.

The special Senate election is Tuesday, June 25, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Also on the ballot is Twelve Visions Party canddiate Richard A. Heos.



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