City Council Candidate: Eric Buddington
I grew up in Connecticut, and moved to North Adams in 1997.
I have a bachelor of arts in earth and environmental science, 15 years of experience as a dance fiddler, and a variety of experience as a computer programmer and systems administrator.
I am married to Elena Traister, and we have two young sons.
Why are you running for City Council?
I would like to continue my work in making city information more accessible.
If elected, what issue in particular would you push the council to address?
The city should organize the Board of Health regulations, and start the practice of putting all new minutes, contracts, finances, and other records online.
The council should relax some ordinances that are now redundant or in conflict with the city's new employee handbook. This issue was brought up a year ago, but the promised formation of an ad-hoc committee to address this never happened.
What experience or perspective would you bring to the council?
I have decades of experience with computers, and can offer concrete suggestions for improving how city information is managed.
As a musician, I know the value of bringing people together and establishing relationships.
I spend time with people who disagree with my political views, and am able to recognize good ideas that are not my own.
North Adams has a "strong mayor" form of government. How do you see the council's role in governing?
The council has quite a lot of power that it never uses; I do not think we can blame our inaction on our "strong mayor" system.
The council's primary role is to set the rules that govern not only citizens, but also the mayor and the executive branch. As the most direct representatives of the people, we have a moral obligation to help constituents resolve any problem, even when that help is simply introducing them to the city department that has the authority to help.
The current commercial tax at $36.07 per thousand is more than double the residential rate. Should the city rethink the current tax rate shift? Why or why not?
If state aid is gradually restored, as I expect it will be, we should shift to a smaller CIP shift, and get closer to the policies of other Berkshire towns.
There have been claims that blight – abandoned or unkempt properties – is increasing. Do you agree? How do you think the council can be more proactive in addressing this issue?
We need to resolve our huge backlog of tax-delinquent properties. We should have a way for owner-residents to get some forgiveness of debt, if they are honestly unable to pay. Other properties should be taken and auctioned by the city.
Under no circumstances should we sell the right to collect back taxes to an outside company.
Our goal should be to get (or keep) our housing stock in the hands of people who will use and take care of it.
The proposed bike path, skate park and Hoosic River Revival have been touted as community development projects. Do you agree? Why or why not?
Yes. They both can all provide good outdoor social space that will bring people together.
Should the city continue to try to resurrect the Mohawk Theater or is it time to turn the project over to a private or nonprofit venture?
I think a non-profit owner would be the best solution; I see no compelling reason that the city should own or manage the theater.
Plans for the private redevelopment of Western Gateway Heritage State Park have recently fallen through. Would you support another attempt at privatization?
I would prefer that the city continue to develop the area as a park, and allow the historical museum and the visitors center to remain there.
I would also support an outright sale of the property to private owners.
I would oppose most hybrid solutions, as I believe they are generally to complicated and ambiguous to serve the public good.
How have you personally supported the community?
I maintain the computers at Northern Berkshire Community Television, and help out with various other things, mostly as a volunteer. I designed our webcasting system, which archives video of many public meetings for North Adams and our other constituent towns.
I formerly ran the All Saints' Church contra dance for 10 years, with immense support from our local community of musicians.
How would you reach out to constituents? Do you use Facebook or other methods?
I prefer to speak in person whenever possible. I would like to establish regular meetings that will allow for free-ranging public input, and actual discussions of local topics.
Should the city hire more police? If so, how would you support funding that increase?
The city should have some employees who work more to prevent crime, and thereby reduce the load on our police officers. We need more of a personal presence in neighborhoods.
The Police Department should also find ways to use input from citizens to pinpoint and address problems (speeding in residential areas, drug activity) more quickly, and provide more followup after a complaint to build stronger trust with the communities.
The public safety building is known to have a number of deficiencies, including violations of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. Can the city afford to push for a new facility or should it try to "Band-Aid" the current structure?
We need a new building. Given the age and condition of our current building, it seems unlikely that patchwork fixes would be economical or effective.
Heroin and opiate addiction have been related to increasing crime. Should North Adams focus on more policing, on getting addicts help or a combination of the two?
We should treat addiction mainly as a public health problem. We need to aggressively offer help to anyone who will accept it (as we have done for people who want to quit smoking), and demand funding from the state for the months-long counseling that is needed to keep former users from relapsing.
Do you think city government is transparent enough in its processes? Could it be better? Would you support an Open Checkbook system?
The city is not transparent enough. Minutes of various boards are not well organized. Very little is posted on our website. Even the well-organized records in the clerk's office suffer from not being indexed, and are not searchable by topic.
I would certainly support a system that publishes all public city data online. My conversations with this administration suggest that our biggest limits are lack of computer expertise and lack of available time to organize and digitize old records.
A thriving community requires a diverse population, yet the city and Berkshires overall are seeing a decline in its younger population. What initiatives might the council be able to support to attract young people?
We need more social and political activities that engage the younger generation along with the rest of us. Personal connections are a major factor in employment and retention of youth.
One obvious missing piece is a good public space downtown. We need a park as part of our city center, as well as better public indoor space that can be used for gatherings and social events. The old town halls of Holliston and Salem are great examples of town buildings designed for use by citizens, not just government.
Adams and Williamstown recently developed economic development committees. Should North Adams do so as well?
North Adams should reconsider its zoning. The council recently decided to create more flexibility in zoning to allow one particular lot to be used for a business despite being in a residential neighborhood. I argued against this, as I see zoning as a long-term planning tool that will not work if we grant exceptions to it so freely.
We should also make our business laws more specific, to ensure that a business owner can follow clear rules and be certain of his right to start a business, regardless of his personal relationship with the Planning Board.
What question have you not been asked that should have been?
I'd love to discuss ways to improve local Internet access, though that is an involved and technical topic that doesn't lend itself to short paragraphs.
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