Candidate for Mayor: Daniel BianchiNote: 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: Preferred not to pick a favorite. "There aren't many foods I will say no to."
Endorsements: Building and Trades Council; Laborer's Local 473; Local 12 Bridge, Structural and Ornamental Ironworkers
First of all I'm glad that you're using the word seemingly, because I don't think there really is. I think the people of Pittsfield, with maybe some exception, ... are very good, polite, smart, hard-working people.
I think what's happened is we've created this government that's very exclusionary. Unless you're on a certain special list ... I've talked to enough businessmen who wanted to do something in Pittsfield, and they just didn't seem welcome at City Hall, and I've heard that from other citizens, too. What we have to do is create an atmosphere — and it starts from the top — of welcoming. People are not getting encouraged to get involved, so we've got to really welcome people. I think that just having a welcoming environment will unify people.
Of the remaining $6 million in GE Economic Development Funds, are there any promising opportunities you see on the horizon for future allocations?
Industries ... Especially the life science industries. When you think about it, Pittsfield has high, inordinate cancer rates, and I think that life sciences would be an interesting fit. I'd like to see us with either research or development firms, or manufacturing firms involved with green technology and renewable energy. Also, we have a very, very strong plastics industry here in the city, so I think that a cutting edge plastics company should be something we would consider.
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?
You can say it's just a perception, but when you have senior citizens who are concerned for their safety, that's a reality to them, that's not a perception. We have had a rash of armed robberies, a horrendous triple homicide ... It's really hard to just look at statistics and go 'Compared to the natural average, we're not that bad' ... but we shouldn't be satisfied with hovering around the national average. We're a small community, in a beautiful area, and we should be doing everything we can to drop that crime rate down.
It's very important that we encourage everyone to understand that they have to be invested in reducing the crime rate, and being involved.
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?
I think diversity should alway be a goal. You want your school systems, you want your government to be reflective of the people that they govern and that they educated. Having said that, you always want to go for the most qualified people.
Your opponent has said in campaign speeches and debates that you voted twice against the creation of the Office of Cultural Development, and once against Megan Whilden's appointment once she had been selected. How would you describe your position on the creation, and continuation of this department?
Once at a subcommittee level, once at a City Council level. What he [Marchetti] fails to say is that I subsequently voted at least twice for it. He's done a lot more research on my voting record than I have, and I've done none on his. I've really tried to look forward as opposed to looking back. But I have voted for that, and I think that the person that's in there is doing a wonderful job. My vote against it, originally, was really a protest at how shabbily the mayor had treated a longtime city employee who had been responsible for having donated to us a beautiful, wonderful art center. I believed that was politically motivated, and not called for.
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?
"Of course, I grew up over there [on Harvard Street], so Springside Park was just such a great place - I learned to skate over there. I would really love to see us put aside some money to do something there. I also would love to put together a cross-section of the community to talk about what we could do with Springside Park. Is there something that we could do that wouldn't be intrusive but that might generate money for the park that could go into a revolving account. Maybe new hiking trails, or low-impact Appalachian camping that would generate fees. I think we've got to think creatively. There's been some talk over the years about putting in a golf course, municipal golf courses are very popular, I don't know whether or not Springside Park is appropriate for that, I think that there's some things that we could do."
In a recent ad, City Council President Gerald Lee accuses you of being absent from city affairs since being defeated in the 2009 election. Would you like to take this opportunity to respond to that, or discuss what you've been doing during that time?
When things change, there's always an opportunity. First of all, I do hold a job, so it was nice to be able to focus on that. I belong to a civic organization called Unico, and they do an awful lot of wonderful things for things like the Special Olympics, the Brien Center, Women's Financial Center, National Association for Mental Illness, walk for life. I also had the time to help out with the National Diabetes Association this year, I'm very involved with St. Mark's Parish, and the finance committee there. Theresa and I started a group called the Family Sponsorship Program, and it's very quiet, but when there are parishioners who have a need, or an illness ... so we do that. My daughter Madeline was a senior at Taconic High School, and they were always fundraising for one thing or another. It was neat to be able to focus on different things.
Alcombright Questions Proposed Sewer Fee Cuts
In his most recent communication, Councilor Boucher states that he will reduce the sewer fee by 50 percent. He further stated that I promised at the time of the adoption of the fee that it would be placed in an enterprise fund to be used for infrastructure improvements. For the record, that was not what was presented nor was it what the Council voted on. But that aside, let me state the hard reality of Mr. Boucher's last-minute campaign promise.
While the sewer fee was controversial and one of the most difficult decisions I had to make, it has been used to offset the approximately $1 million assessment that the city receives each year from the Hoosac Water Quality District. This years' budget reflects a sewer fee revenue line item of $745,000 which is approximately 42 percent of our water revenue. Should Mr. Boucher cut this revenue line item by 50 percent as stated, $372,500 will be slashed from our local receipts.
Mr. Boucher's promise to cut the sewer fee with absolutely no plan as to how to replace the revenue or cut the budget seems very irresponsible. The reality here is that the FY2012 budget has been set and expenses have been allotted based on anticipated revenues (to include the sewer fee). Does this mean mid-cycle cuts in the school and municipal budget and what will those cuts be? Additionally, if Councilor Boucher is that adamantly opposed to the sewer fee, why not remove it entirely? How far back will this take us?
I have stated time after time that I have not made any of my fiscal decisions in a vacuum. They have been made in consultation with city finance department heads, the City Council Finance Committee, our external auditors and the Department of Revenue. I have made significant strides in reducing our deficits through a combination of cuts coupled with increases in revenue and the institution of efficiencies. Please believe me when I tell you....cutting the sewer fee will only add to further cuts in the budget and further reduction in services. And while no one likes a sewer fee, it plays a vital role in the funding of services in our city.
Boucher Vows to Cut Sewer Tax in Half
"When the City Council originally voted to institute this fee, I was in favor of this because the mayor promised part of the fee would be placed in an enterprise fund for infrastructure improvements. This has not occurred, and instead the money has been used for pay raises, which is completely unacceptable. With the lack of an enterprise fund being set up as per the original plan, why should the people pay for something they are not getting."
"I am proposing an immediate reduction in the sewer fee, from 42 percent to 21 percent, a reduction by half. This would help immediately alleviate the financial burden on property owners. Now people will ask how can we do this and still balance the budget? The truth of the matter is that this fee is already built into our tax base, like the city of Pittsfield, and is not being correctly backed out by the current administration. Residents are being double hit and in these trying economic times that is neither ethical nor acceptable."
"Please remember, Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 8. I would like to ask one final time for your vote for to lead the city of North Adams."
The campaign to elect Ron Boucher Mayor of North Adams would like to extend an invitation to the public to stop by his campaign headquarters at 107 Main St. You can also learn more about Ron Boucher, his campaign and views by visiting his website at www.VoteBoucher2011.com or emailing him at VoteBoucher2011@yahoo.com.
North Adams Mayoral Debate VideoNORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Mayoral candidates Richard Alcombright and Ronald Boucher met in a feisty forum about economic growth, school building options, transparency and whether visions trump plans and vice versa.
The hourlong debate was filmed at Northern Berkshire Community Television and can be seen at various times through Monday. The full debate is here, in four parts.
Boucher Shares Economic Views
"North Adams has been faced with reduced population, increased taxes and fees, and reduced services and educational cutbacks. This leads to a vicious circle leading to a downward spiral into economic disaster. Long-term, this economic model cannot be sustained. Real economic development is the only model which offers the promise of sustained economic growth. The MoCA-based artist community is a nice addition, and can help, but offers little for most residents in terms of good-paying, non-service-related careers. My plans for economic development should be consistent with the blue-collar work ethic of the city, as well as accepting input from the community.
I propose the following:
• Offer tax incentives for industrial development keyed to real job creation. Create an economic development zone. Consider medium-term tax abatements.
• Make subsidized commercial space available to existing and new businesses on a quid-pro-quo basis. No giveaways, subsidies should be based on countable new jobs created over a medium-term time period. The program needs to be carefully monitored to avoid abuse.
• Partner with Northern Berkshire HealthCare to create medical related jobs.
• Use the natural resources of the area:
- Railroad: A valuable asset, currently falling into disuse and neglected
- Forest Products
- Eco-tourism, which can bring publicity to the area
- Air Quality
- Quality of Life
- Partner with schools. MCLA, obviously, and possibly Williams College. There are public spirited academics with real expertise who are willing to help on a volunteer basis.
• Marketing. Create a regional and national marketing program to attract viable, economically sensible industry. Foreign investment is also a possibility which should be researched.
• Approach investment bankers and private equity firms in Boson and New York for potential interest and/or assistance
"Please remember, Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 8. I would like to take this time to ask for your vote, to assist in bringing real economic development back to this city.”
The campaign to elect Ron Boucher Mayor of North Adams would like to extend an invitation to the public for Ron's 2nd Spaghetti Supper Fundraiser at the American Legion on Nov. 2, and also to stop by his new campaign headquarters at 107 Main St.
You can also learn more about Ron Boucher, his campaign and views by visiting his website at www.VoteBoucher2011.com or emailing him at VoteBoucher2011@yahoo.com.