Merrigan Running for North Adams City Council
Statement from City Council candidate Kate Merrigan
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — I am running for North Adams City Council because I love this community and believe we all have something to contribute as well as a responsibility to use our abilities and our energy to make this great city even greater.
I have worked for years in both my professional role at the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition as well as through my volunteer service to strengthen our city and help others see our strength and our potential. As a candidate for City Council, I want to be a liaison between the residents of North Adams and city government. I know that together we can advance a shared vision of a community in which everyone feels safe, takes pride in where we live, and knows how to access the information, resources, and services we need to move forward as individuals and as a community.
My commitment to service reflects the examples my parents Frank (an English teacher at Drury High School for nearly 30 years) and Marcia (a nurse for many years) set for me and for my sisters. They raised us in the West End of the city, and sent us to North Adams public schools. After college, I returned to build my adult life in my hometown — peers questioned my choice to return to my hometown, but there was no place else I would rather have been.
In 2005, I landed my dream job working with the teenagers at the Coalition and have been with nbCC ever since. I also have been active in community organizations including Big Brothers Big Sisters, Mill City Productions, and the North Adams Youth Commission. Several years ago, I joined with friends to host the first NAMA Prom, which we established as an annual event to bring people together and demonstrate the rich social life that can and does exist in our rural community.
As a City Council candidate, I want to take everything I've learned, my passion for our city, and the many relationships I've developed and put them all to work to move our city forward. Among my many areas of interest are the following: youth engagement, advocacy, and empowerment; community conversation and action regarding substance abuse and its relationship with crime; civic engagement and developing and informed citizenry who know how government processes work and feel comfortable participating in them; and engendering a built environment that supports active living and healthy eating.
There is much that is strong about our community as well as work to be done. I want to help connect people to that work, and to share my love for North Adams through my service as a city councilor.
Please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit me on Facebook at facebook.com/kate.merrigan.council.
Alcombright Rallies Supporters at Campaign Event
|Richard Alcombright 'energized' his campaign with a rally at Public on Tuesday.|
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The city's mayoral campaign is heating up as the incumbent fired back at his challenger to a packed Public restaurant on Tuesday night.
Richard Alcombright is running for a third two-year term in the corner office against Robert M. Moulton Jr., a former city councilor and local businessman.
"I have been waiting to hear his platform, to hear what is so bad, to try to wrap my arms around why he would run," said Alcombright about his former supporter, saying Moulton's kick off remarks more than a week ago "reeked of the past."
"My biggest disappointment with his announcement is that the same Bob Moulton supported me four years ago on the hope that past practices would be just that ... past practices."
Alcombright reiterated some of the highlights of his administration, including the cutting the city's deficit from $2.6 million to $335,000 this fiscal year through cuts and tax increases; the development of the Health and Human Services Center to keep critical state social services in North Adams and lobbying the state to ensure the courts and the Registry of Motor Vehicles stays here; the openings or expansions of at least 30 new businesses, from Public to the Walmart Supercenter to the retention of Crane's stationery division.
He singled out Moulton's comments about the downtown losing momentum and the need for an economic plan to help Main and Eagle streets. Moulton's family has operated Moulton's Spectacle Shoppe on Main Street and in Bennington, Vt., for years.
"He talks about downtown revitalization and that all I have done are benches and pocket parks and that I use social events to mask the problems in our business district," said Alcombright. "My guess then is that he works in Bennington way too much to have not realized that the vacancy rate in our downtown is the lowest it has been in two decades."
That comment and others received hoots and applause from the crowded room that included local officials and business owners, many from Main Street.
Councilors President Michael Bloom, Keith Bona, Jennifer Breen, David Bond, Nancy Bullett and Lisa Blackmer were in attendance along with former Pittsfield Mayor James Ruberto, city department heads and council hopefuls Kate Merrigan, Benjamin Lamb, Joshua Moran and David Robbins.
Alcombright promised further economic development with the long awaited proposal for Western Gateway Heritage State Park set to be announced on Wednesday afternoon. The privatization of the park has been in the works for nearly two years.
He also jabbed Moulton for implying the city's police force was not well trained and expanded on the efforts being made to combat crime and its sources — poverty and drug abuse — through task forces and partnerships with local service agencies.
"We are no longer blind to these realities and, as a community, we need to admit to and address these problems," he said, "and I have."
North Adams, he said, was still one of the most affordable communities to live in, ranking 330 out of state's 340 towns and cities in terms of most-taxed municipalities.
"We will be unveiling our master plan in the first quarter of next year, that plan when given to the community and driven by our recently hired planner under the direction of our community development director holds significant promise and will be our roadmap for the future," he said, dismissing his challenger's intent to use the 20-year-old Hyatt-Palma report.
Moulton has laid out an "action" plan he says will stick to basics and revitalize the city and accused Alcombright of having no plan and managing the city's finances poorly.
The fundraiser was designed to "energize" the Alcombright campaign, which has been fairly quiet since his announcement to run in late June. The two candidates are expected to have at least two debates before the November election.
Mayoral Candidate Moulton Has Action Plan for North Adams
|Mayoral candidate Bob Moulton and his 'supermom' Carolyn Moulton. Moulton said the support of his family, including his children and wife, Bonny, were most important to him.|
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Robert M. Moulton Jr. laid out the themes his mayoral campaign will hammer on going into the November election: finances, economic development, public safety and schools.
"I want the people of North Adams to be proud of the city again, I want them to have a mayor who will not be out of touch with them, and they will have a government that is there to help them," the former city councilor vowed as some 100 friends, family and supporters clad in red "Bob for Mayor" shirts applauded at the American Legion on Friday night.
The three-term councilor said he decided to run for mayor because "I believe North Adams is headed in the wrong direction."
Moulton took aim at incumbent Richard Alcombright, who is running for a third term, saying he had failed to follow through with his campaign pledges of the past four years.
The administration's failures "are the direct result of misguided priorities and broken promises," said Moulton, claiming that Yankee Magazine had once described the city as a "hidden jewel," but "after nearly four years of indecisive leadership, the jewel has lost its luster."
Many of the charges that Moulton fired at his longtime friend were repeats of former Councilor Ronald Boucher's campaign two years ago, including that Alcombright had cried poverty while handing some $700,000 in raises to the school system, that his administration has been far less transparent than he says and that he has failed financially.
Moulton had been a strong supporter of Boucher, as he had supported Alcombright in his first run. This time it's topsy-turvy, with the man Moulton helped Alcombright beat in 2009, now going all out to get Moulton elected.
"Bob Moulton's my candidate for mayor," declared former Mayor John Barrett III, in introducing Moulton. Barrett, currently a city councilor, also thinks the city's on the wrong path. He said he considered running for mayor again but decided he was "too old" so he's throwing his considerable political weight behind Moulton.
"I had long discussions with Bob Moulton before I made a commitment that I was going to support him and throw it in big time," said Barrett. "I wanted someone I thought had the ability, the common sense and, most importantly, understood the average middle class of this city."
Moulton has been in the middle of North Adams, literally, for decades in the family owned Moulton Spectacle Shoppe on Main Street. Picking up on the vision theme — and taking a jab at the current administration's North Adams 2030 master plan — Moulton's put a "2020" on his campaign signs.
It's also because the incumbent has left the city waiting — waiting for development of the Mohawk Theater, waiting for an economic development plan, waiting for a solar array and waiting for action on substandard housing. "We're still waiting," said Moulton.
"With me for mayor, there will be no master plan, there will be an action plan and I will walk the talk," he said, adding it was time for a new vision. "My vision will basic and simple, but it will be doable and it will set us on the road to recovery."
He vowed to add well-trained police to combat the recent rash of break-ins and violence and make the streets safe — and leave the policing up to them. "You will not see me at the scene of the crime talking to the news media, that's a job for the police director," said Moulton, referring to the mayor's run-in with TV media this week.
Moulton said he would replace a lost post in inspection services to fight blight and take an "aggressive stance in my dealings with these landlords"; take advantage of grants and tax credits the current administration hasn't; and create a city-run charter school for math and science in partnership with Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.
"We must start thinking outside the box if we are to improve our school system," he said, calling for a return to innovation and smaller class sizes. Money should not have been spent on the old Conte School but directly on the students' educational needs, he continued.
He pledged to create an economic strategy with the aid of former mayors and administrators, and business leaders, people "who have been in the fray," and to revive momentum he says has been lost in the downtown.
Five years ago, he said, condominiums were selling in the downtown for excess of $300,000 and 85 Main was being transformed into high-end housing, but all that's on hold. Moulton claimed the administration is spending "hundreds of thousands of dollars" on an urban renewal plan behind closed doors. He, on the other hand, would dig up the 1995 Hyatt-Palma report and use its recommendations for the downtown.
The key is to revitalize Eagle Street and restore its historic buildings (and maybe that boutique hotel idea that's been kicking around for years) and, more importantly, get the Mohawk completed and programming in it to draw the crowds from Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art.
"That's how you do it, it's not rocket science," said Moulton.
The next step, he said, is tell residents they were wanted in this campaign by knocking on doors in every neighborhood over the next seven weeks.
"I'm up for this job and I want very much to be your mayor," Moulton said.
Ward 3 Hopefuls Outline Platforms in Pittsfield Debate
|Nicholas Caccamo, left, Thomas Wells, Richard Latura and Jeffrey Germann express their ideas for Ward 3 at Berkshire Community College.|
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Four contenders for an open seat in Pittsfield's Ward 3 laid out their priorities and concerns in a debate held Monday, in advance of a preliminary election that will narrow the race next Tuesday.
Nicholas Caccamo, Jeffrey Germann, Richard Latura and Thomas Wells expressed their diverse opinions on issues ranging from traffic and commerce to more neighborhood concerns about the disposition of the Hibbard school and the conversion of a former church into a day care.
The debate sponsored by the Pittsfield Gazette and Pittsfield Community Television at Berkshire Community College was broadcast live. Moderator was Dan Dillon.
The four are vying for an open ward seat. Two will be chosen in the preliminary to proceed to the November election; the only other preliminary race is in Ward 1.
Perspectives among the candidates varied somewhat on the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority and an emerging proposal for a big-box store at the William Stanley Business Park, which straddles the border of Wards 2 and 3.
Wells voiced the most enthusiasm for the proposal, expressing disappointment with the rate of progress of PEDA in attracting industrial or technology business to the former GE property. "I think we should explore other uses, whether it's retail or something to that effect," he said.
"I think PEDA is doing a good job," Germann espoused, suggesting Pittsfield "wait it out" for a better possibility. "I don't agree with another box store."
"I don't agree with putting retail into it," said Latura, "I do agree that [the process] has dragged, and dragged, and dragged."
Caccamo expressed some skepticism about the viability of developing the site for retail, but also emphasized that challenges to attracting major manufacturing operations may be even more daunting. "It may mean 50 or 60 jobs here and there," he said, "but I don't think it's going to be the manufacturing hub it once was."
The Ward 4 hopefuls also offered their ideas on the future possibilities for the former Hibbard Alternative High School building on Newell Street, which was closed in 2009 because of facility inadequacies and worsening building conditions.
Latura suggested that if financially feasible, the building could perhaps become a secondary fire station or house additional city offices, but voiced staunch opposition to it being sold for commercial purposes.
Caccamo questioned the educational impact of re-absorbing the program and students at Hibbard into its other high schools: "Maybe it should return to that use."
Germann agreed that this was a strong option that should be examined. Wells also believed the building still had potential for educational uses, potentially as a site for the Adult Learning Center, whose relocation to a rented North Street retail site last year proved controversial.
The candidates were evenly divided on a plan by the Building Blocks day-care center to reuse the former All Souls Mission on Pembroke Avenue.
Wells and Caccamo both thought the day-care operation (currently located on Dalton Avenue) would make an ideal use of the vacant property if concerns of abutting neighbors can be addressed; Latura and Germann staunchly opposed a change in use that they believe will create major traffic and parking issues at that location.
The four contenders outlined differing priorities and perspectives in what they hope to bring to the role of councilor for Ward 3, for which two candidates will emerge next Tuesday to run in the general election in November.
"I think we need to better monitor taking care of our properties," indicated Wells, calling for an improved building maintenance plan. Wells said he believed he could bring business experience and "new ideas" to representing Ward 3.
"Residents want to see projects that enhance the city, past Ward 3," said Caccamo, who pointed to his experience attending council meetings following unsuccessful runs for mayor and at-large councilor. "I think most importantly being accessible to constituents, returning phone calls and emails and getting the information back to them, that requires a good deal of organization and that's all going to be part of making sound votes and improving the infrastructure and well being citywide."
"We need to start making our neighborhoods safe," said Latura, who repeatedly emphasized public safety issues such as crime and traffic. "Then we can concentrate on the arts and entertainment, and we can get back to everything else. First we need to make our neighborhoods safe, and the rest of the city will follow."
Germann cited road repairs as one of his highest priority issues, and also urged for refurbishing of Goodrich Pond.
"We've got to fix the roads and sidewalks first. when I'm elected, I will work hard to make sure your issues are addressed in a timely manner," he said.
Crime, Politics at Issue in Pittsfield's Ward One Race
|Ward 1 candidates Lisa Tully, left, Tammy Ives and incumbent Christine Yon debated ward issues at Berkshire Community College on Monday night. Next week's preliminary election will determine which two will face off in November.|
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — With eight days until a municipal preliminary election, three candidates made their cases on Monday for serving Ward 1 on the City Council next term.
The preliminary on Tuesday, Sept. 24, will narrow the field down to two; the only other preliminary that day will be in Ward 3.
Incumbent two-term Councilor Christine Yon, who ran unopposed in 2011, faced off with challengers Tammy Ives and Lisa Tully on issues such as crime, the city's high school building needs and recent methadone clinic controversy at Berkshire Community College in a live broadcast debate sponsored by the Pittsfield Gazette and Pittsfield Community Television. Moderator was PCTV's David Cachet.
Yon stressed recent actions and appropriations by the City Council as having accomplished much but having further to go, while Tully cited perceived frustrations in the ward with current city politics.
Ives, who said her desire to run emerged out of dissatisfaction with the incumbent councilor's handling of a parking issue on her street, frequently repeated a focus on improving communication with ward residents.
All three candidates agreed in opposition to a failed plan by Spectrum Health Systems to locate a methadone treatment clinic in a largely residential area of Ward 1, though Tully differed with Yon's handling of the issue.
"I did what I could do to represent my neighbors ... I took it on the chin, but I would do it again," said Yon, who publicly protested the site and later challenged the handling of the negotiations with Spectrum by Mayor Daniel Bianchi and City Solicitor Kathleen Degnan. "I was able to prevent that methadone clinic from going on that residential neighborhood on Stoddard Ave."
"I would have talked to the mayor to see what we could have done," said Tully. "My first response would have been to talk to Dr. Adamo who owned the house, to see if he could get the methadone clinic where it was originally supposed to be put, off North Street."
Tully called crime in their ward "a major issue," and called for increased city support of neighborhood watch programs.
Ives said many residents she's spoken to in the campaign were felt they were not receiving enough information from police, city councilors and the mayor's office.
"They have a lot of concerns about the break-ins and the lack of communication from the city," said Ives. "They just feel like they're not being heard."
Yon said crime is a citywide problem, but cited as recent progress the City Council's recent approval of a new crime analyst position in the Police Department, a concept first vetted in the Police Advisory Committee recently reactivated Bianchi last fall.
Yon said that through this analyst processing crime reports, the city "will be better able to utilize our resources exactly where they need to be."
With the city to decide whether to renovate or replace the existing Taconic High School while maintaining Pittsfield High School, Ives was firm that this decision should be solely up to the voters, while Yon and Tully agreed that this should be a cooperative effort between all parts of city government and the voters.
In regard to what city government could be doing better, Yon said the biggest improvement she'd like to see is more funding for maintenance of city buildings, such as the former fire station on Tyler Street and the McKay Street parking garage, which incurred large expenses last year because of years of deferred maintenance.
"You can be pennywise and pound foolish," said Yon. "We need to take better care of our buildings, they're our assets."
Ives suggested that police patrols of downtown currently done in the morning should be done toward evening, and also argued for increased police presence in city parks.
"The parks in Pittsfield definitely need some sort of patrolling," Ives stressed. "There's just not enough patrols at the parks."
Tully agreed that police increases were a priority, emphasizing traffic enforcement.
"If the police could be funded a little bit more, then maybe we could have more people out patrolling, and then all the problems with the speeders, the congestion, and the accidents on the road could stop before they happen."
"We might not always agree, but I think we need to work together to get things done," Tully added, in closing remarks that emphasized the polarization in city politics. "I know that I would work well with the current City Council and administration."
"I may not have all the answers right now, as far as exactly what's going on specifically," concluded Ives, who passed on several debate questions. "But I'm nore than willing to learn, and will do my best in order to serve everybody."
"My motto is 'How Can We?' " said Yon in summation of her service on the council. "I believe through teamwork with department heads, we can find solutions."