North Adams City Council Candidates for 2009

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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Voters will elect at least two — if not more — new City Council members on Tuesday, Nov. 3.

There are seven incumbents running for re-election: Lisa Blackmer, Michael Bloom, Ronald Boucher. Gailanne Cariddi, Marie Harpin, Alan Marden and Robert Moulton Jr. There are eight challengers: Michael Boland, Keith Bona, David Bond, Eric Buddington, Brian Flagg, David Lamarre, Gregory Roach and Dennis Whitney.

Two incumbents are not running for re-election: Clark Billing resigned and Richard Alcombright is running for mayor.

The top nine vote-getters will win election for two-year terms. Their names are listed in alphabetical order on the ballot, with the incumbents listed first and then the challengers.

Below are capsules of pertinent information of the candidates, listed in order of their ballot position. Candidates were asked to submit a position statement and/or biography; for those who did not, we culled information from past interviews and quotes and stances from recent forums. Where available, links to campaign position statements or biographies are provided.

For more information on the candidates, the City Council debate story with audio is available here and their response to questions by local resident Tony Israel can be found here.

The Incumbents

Lisa Blackmer
One term

Blackmer and her husband, Bill, moved to North Adams 23 years ago and raised their two children here. She has been active with various school and civic organizations.

She holds a bachelor's degree in business administration, pursing masters in public administration.

Blackmer has worked in human services and managerial positions. She also worked as the assistant downtown manager for the former Downtown Development Inc. and currently is treasurer of North Adams Open Studios.

She was elected two years ago from a field of 12.

She believes the City Council can take a more active role in budgeting, community development and advocating for the city.


"The council should be open to new ideas and ways of doing things and always remember that they are the people's representative in city government."

Michael Bloom
10 Terms
     
Bloom and his wife, Lorrie, have three children in the publis schools. He graduated from North Adams State College with a degree communications in 1982.

He has operated a property management business for more than 25 years and owns a number of residential and commercial property. Bloom, 50, also owns the Key West Lounge on State Street, which he purchased in 1986, and employs 12 people.

He points to his long experience on the council and his service on every one of its committees and several terms as council president. He is currently chairman of the Finance Committee.

Bloom said he wants to continue helping make the critical decisions that have made North Adams an attractive and affordable community.

"We must keep an eye on our state funding and manage our resources well in the event of budget cuts.  We must continue to move the city forward through good government, stronger business and a strong community spirit."


Ronald
A. Boucher

Five Terms

Boucher, 52, and his wife, Ellen, have three children. He is a graduate of McCann Technical School and works in corporate sales for Ecolab, a sanitation supply firm.

For some time, Boucher also has been the North Adams representative to the Hoosac Water Quality District, which operates the wastewater treatment plant for both North Adams and Williamstown. He has also served as vice president of the council is currently the chairman of the Public Safety Committee and a member of the Traffic Commission.

Boucher said he enjoys public service and wants to continue working to make North Adams an affordable and attractive community. In this past term, the Public Safety Committee worked with a number of residents who let their properties run down.
 
"I am in favor of a Housing Commission that will set expectations for buyers of property they purchase. And to eliminate the property owner who only goal is to suck the property dry and leave its tenants in limbo and for the absentee landlord who just collects the rent and does nothing else for there tenants there needs to be accountability."



Gailanne
Cariddi

10 terms

Gailanne Cariddi, 56, is financial manager for Cariddi Sales Co. Inc., a wholesale toy distributor. She resides with Billie, her miniature schnauzer, and is a graduate of Drury High School. She earned her degree in business management from Bentley College.

She has served on a range of civic boards, and has been particularly interested in organizations working with environmental and recreational pursuits. She is currently on the boards of both the Hoosic River Revival and the Berkshire Bike Path Council. In 2008, she was presented an Environmental Award by the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition.

Cariddi has served on various council committees and several terms as president. She also works on most of the ordinances and resolutions brought forward by the council, and has said this function of the council is among its most important. She has written a number of resolutions as a way to inform the region's representative of the city's strong interest in various issues.

"The most important issues facing the city are financial and budgetary. It is critical, as our resources are drying up at the state level. This year, we were able to enact a hotel/motel tax and use some state funds and reserve cash, but it's very important we move forward and see where we can be creative where monies are no longer available."

Marie Harpin
Six Terms

Harpin, 71, is a native of the city and raised her six children here. She now has 14 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

A graduate of the former St. Joseph's High School, she is head of the Berkshire Community Action Council's North County office. Through that office, she's gotten to know well the needs of the poorest of the city's residents and has worked hand-in-hand with numerous nonprofit agencies in the region.

She's been an advocate for affordable housing, supporting the plans for the Clark Biscuit building and encouraging actions against delinquent landlords, and backed the development on condominiums in the city's vacant building to get them on the tax rolls. On the council, she's spoken out for those most at risk and often pairs with Councilor Gailanne Cariddi to bring resolutions and ordinances forward.

While backing efforts to bring the Mohawk Theater back to life and development in other areas, Harpin has urged patience during her runs for office, saying such things take time and must be done right.

She's looking forward to another two years on the council to see the theater project and others come to fruition.



Alan L. Marden
11 terms

Marden, 68, came to the city more than four decades ago and settled in for the long run. He and his wife, Nancy, have two daughters, Darcy and Beth, and five grandchildren. He is currently president of the City Council, a post he's held several times.

He earned his bachelor's degree from Bates College and started in journalism, but soon left for marketing and development. He currently works for real estaet developers Alton & Westall Associates.


Marden was hired as director of the former North Adams Chamber of Commerce in 1967 and later of the Redevelopment Authority. He was president of Light & Power Productions, a small business producing corporate and special events, for 20 years.

Marden says his economic development background and 20 year on the board may be critical in the coming years as the city continues to face fiscal challenges beyond its control.

"The fiscal challenges facing municipal government alone suggest that experience in that arena merits strong consideration on election day. With the certainty that there will be two new councilors and the likelihood there will be more as there is a strong field of challengers, and the with the possibility of a new mayor, experience on the City Council is more important than ever."

Robert M. Moulton Jr.
Four terms

Moulton, 53, and his wife, Bonnie, have two children. He graduated from the former St. Joseph's High School and works as an optician in and president of the family business, Moulton's Spectacle Shoppe.

He's been chairman of the Public Services Committee and a member of the Finance Committee. He's also been a member of 30 years and president of the board of the North Adams Ambulance Service.

He's said he's hard working and his experience as a small-businessman and working with budgets are useful for the City Council.

With the global recession playing havoc with state and local budgets, Northern Berkshire needs to work more collaboratively to find ways to lure employers and share ideas. The city is facing a tough few years as state funding disappears, he has said, so jobs and economic development, along with careful budgeting, will be imperative.

"This is a nationwide problem but what the city can do, what the City Council should do, is there should be a group formed among us to reach out to Clarksburg, Williamstown, Pittsfield ... We're all in this together; if we work together we'll do a whole lot better and be a whole lot stronger."

 

The Challengers

Michael S. Boland

Boland and his wife, Jennifer, have three children, Michael Jr., Jonathan and Grace. A city native, he is a graduate of Franklin H. Pierce University and holds his master's degree in education from Springfield College.


Boland, 41, has been a vocational rehabilitation counselor in the state's Rehabilitation Commission office in North Adams for 17 years. He is a visiting instructor at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and an annual lecturer at Springfield College, and is involved in local youth sports as a coach.

He was active in the former Downtown Development Inc. as vice president and was chairman of its Mohawk Theater committee. He was named one of Northern Berkshires 50 Most Influential People by the North Adams Transcript somey years ago.

Boland is running on a vision of better integrating the city's gritty industrialism with its newfound artistic flair. He would resurrect Downtown Development Inc. and streamline permitting through the Planning Board to better serve small businesses and attract other employers.

City councilors, he said, can be agents of change on social, economic and educational needs.

"I am committed to utilizing my problem-solving, organizational and leadership skills to address issues affecting the quality of life for all residents of our city. As a city councilor I feel it is my role to be a civil steward to the citizens of North Adams and the city's administration."

Keith Bona

Bona, 41, isn't a newcomer. He spent four terms on the council before deciding in 2001 not to run for re-election. Now he says he's ready to jump back in again.

The McCann Technical School graduate and his wife, Anne-Marie, have two children, Alexander, 15, at McCann, and Elizabeth, 11, at Brayon Elementary. Bona also holds a bachelor of arts from Rochester (N.Y.) Institute of Technology in graphic design and communications.

He says he is attuned to the city's creative economy sector as both a small businessman and designer. He's owned Bona Marketing & Printing since 1990 and Creations Outlet gift shop and is a landlord and instructor at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.

After the leaving the council, he became more active in the Elks, serving as president. He's also worked with the such groups as the former North Adams Community Development Corp. and the Berkshire Regional Employment Board.

Bona says too many organizations that had formed to promote jobs and development by the city have dropped by the wayside. He's calling the hiring of an economic development director and for greater openness and sharing of ideas with the city's newest residents.

"City Hall has built a wall around itself that many fear to climb, or forced to stay out. These people have creative solutions that can help our financial situation, build a welcoming city for tourist and locals, and develop more businesses and jobs."

David Bond

David Bond has deep roots in the community and now lives here with his wife, Karen, and daughter Anna, 9 months. This is his first time running for elected office.

A graduate of the University of Massachusetts, he operates The Range, a miniature golf and driving range off Curran Highway, and is a men's golf coach at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and a PGA golf professional.


Bond says his experience as a small-businessman and his experience working at the college, along with legacy of civic duty instilled by his father, the late John "Jack" Bond, would be an asset to the council.

He has staked out a position that calls for greater communication about the city's educational, recreational, cultural and development opportunities to the wider region through a revamped, interactive Web site.

The city needs to think beyond its small corner of the world and aggressively pursue potential employers to expand its tax base.

"Let's show the world what we have to offer and let's do it together by combining our students, artists and residents. This is just the first step as a more in depth marketing plan would have to created to further put North Adams in front of as many businesses as possible. This first step is an important one and it can be done with everyone working towards the common goal of job creation."


Eric Buddington

Buddington has thrown his hat back into the ring for a third try at City Council. The Wesleyan University graduate came to the city a dozen years ago after a year with the U.S. Geological Survey. He holds a degree in Earth science and splits his time between working as a computer program and as a musician.

Buddington's goals haven't changed much: He continues to push for greater transparency and inclusiveness in local government. Among his goals are to put more of the city's business on its Web site so that citizens can easily access it, including tax rolls, ordinances, agendas and meeting minutes.

He also says the city needs more long-term planning for development to protect its natural resources while providing suitable locations for commercial development. A streamlined process for new businesses, including clearly written regulations, should be implemented instead of "personal judgment."


Buddington supports the arts that have flourished in the city but says what it generates doesn't "provide a complete and stable economy." The city needs to diversify its commercial base, he said.

"I intend to distinguish myself as a city councilor by introducing detailed, practical, and incremental changes to the way North Adams governs itself. I value openness, simplicity, and foresight."

Brian
L. Flagg


Flagg, 40, and his wife, Janeen, have four children, Carmalita, Elizabeth, Whitney and Zachary. Flagg is a Drury High School graduate who operates Bronco Entertainment DJ services and is restaurant and banquet manager at Gala Restaurant in Williamstown.

He's been involved with youth sports for years with the Whitney Basketball League as head coach and serving on its board of directors. He's also the founder of the Fall Foliage Charity Bed Race, which over the past three years has raised money for for Northern Berkshire Healthcare.


Flagg is concerned that there has been little progress in the city over the past few years, citing the issues of education, crime and jobs as perennial topics in city elections. He is suggesting an "ABC" approach (Assess Belief and Communication) to fill in the gaps to make the community stronger.

The council's roles is limited, he said, but it can organize business and community leaders to recommend actions; by doing so, instill belief in residents that they can make a difference and open positive communications between city leaders and residents.

"For too long we have been mired in negativity and unproductive communication. Before anything positive can happen, we need to come together as a city and have positive input and dialogue from everyone involved. Through my ABCs, I strongly believe we can make a positive impact on the future of this city."

David Lamarre

Lamarre, 51, is married to Jane Marie and is currently chairman of the city's Licensing Commission.

A city native, he holds associate's degrees from the New England Culinary Institute and in restaurant management from Berkshire Community College. He is supervisor of facilities services at Williams College and has more than two decades experience work
ing as a chef or dining manager.

In addition to the Licensing Commission, he supports the local arts scene as a member of Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Arts and MCLA Presents! and the SteepleCats as a booster and host family.

He believes the city should prepare better for opportunities by looking at the creative economy and future work-force needs. He would push to keep the residential rate low and develop strong middle-class housing for residents and better work/live studios to support the growing artist demographic.

To do prepare for the future and position the city within a regional economy, councilors need to not only work cooperatively but think creatively and listen to each other and their constituents, he said.

"City councilors have a responsibility to think independently and avoid influences that may shortchange the process or ensure a predetermined outcome. Thinking independently requires confidence with a balance of creativity, perspective and experience, important elements to building a foundation for collaboration."

Gregory
B. Roach


Roach, 41, and his wife, Robin, have a son, Ethan. He is the chef and prepared foods manager at Wild Oats Market and has worked under such chefs Wolfgang Puck, Jimmy Schmidt and Charlie Trotter during his years in the hospitality industry.


He also is freelance writer, an occasional columnist for the North Adams Transcript and frequently posts his thoughts on Greg Roach's Berkshires Blog. Locally, he is a 4-H volunteer and member of the Brayton Elementary PTA and of the North Adams Democratic City Committee.

Roach advocates the adoption of the governor's Education Readiness Plan that would make all teachers state employees and create pay equity across districts. Strengthening the city's neighborhoods could be done by creating tax incentives to convert blighted properties into owner-occupied homes.

He also calls for more of the city's documentation to be available online and supports efforts to redevelop the banks of the Hoosic River. Roach said city government should be more inclusive by creating a nonvoting student position on the council, removing the comment time limit at City Council meetings and be more attentive to constituent concerns. The city's future, he said, is boundless.

"I am 100 percent positive that North Adams will continue to bloom in various fashions and I personally believe that we are within a decade of our latest renaissance. We are a college town, a museum town, an arts mini-mecca and potentially one of the best places in America to raise a family."

Dennis J.
Whitney


Whitney, 54, and his wife, Ann, have three children, Shannon, Jonathan and Brian.

He is a graduate of Drury High School and the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy. Whitney worked in the family drugstore, and then in Lake George. After returning to the city, he now works as a pharmacist at Thorpe's Pharmacy in Hoosick Falls, N.Y.

Whitney is not a stranger to public service, having spent time on the Conservation Commission, two years on the McCann School Committee, and eight years as a member of the North Adams School Committee.

A
s a member of the North Adams School Committee, he said he had to make tough choices, such as closing Mark Hopkins. He pledged to do his research and make tough decisions based on the information at hand.

Whitney said economic development and job creation are the only ways to eliminate poverty but does believe the city can afford an economic director at this time. Rather, the mayor and City Council should do what they can to attract jobs.


The City Council should act as a check on they mayor's power, he said, by questioning the executive branch on issues and vetoing actions when necessary.


"My basic vision is to keep city services high while keeping property taxes low. It is trying to have open exchanges with, if elected, whichever mayoral candidate the voter's choose. I have discussed issues with both candidates, and would have no problem working with either candidate."

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Adams COA, Town Seek Funds for Memorial Building Bathrooms

By Brian RhodesiBerkshires Staff

ADAMS, Mass. — The Council on Aging is still waiting to transition its programming from the Visitor Center to the Memorial Building and is looking to the Community Development Department for help. 

The COA has been waiting for additional bathroom facilities to be completed for the facility, but the council and the town have so far been unable to obtain grant or other funding for the work.

 

COA Director Sarah Fontaine said they are working with Community Development to find funds for the bathrooms and other small improvements, including increased entrance accessibility, renovations to the former music room and fixed windows. 

 

"I had voiced my concern. It's a very extensive list, I don't expect that it will all be done before we transition over. The only need is the bathrooms," Fontaine said. 

 

At last week's Board of Selectmen meeting, Community Development Director Eammon Coughlin said he looked into using Community Development Block Grant funds for the project. He said, however, that the Memorial Building is ineligible.

 

"The guidance we received from [the state Department of Housing and Community Development] has basically told us that the building is ineligible for funding because we already received funding in 2018," he said. "There has to be five years between the application for senior-center type projects. So based on that guidance, I don't believe Memorial School is eligible for funding."  

 

Fontaine also mentioned the auditorium in the building, which the town plans to renovate separately as a future capital project. 

 

"It would be nice as a senior center to have the auditorium available for guest lectures and other things like that," she said. 

 

Moving staff to the Memorial Building now while keeping programming at the Visitor Center, Fontaine said, is not an option. She noted that the Hoosac Valley Regional School District had previously expressed interest in using the second floor of the Visitor Center for its office space. 

 

"I was very firm in saying, logistically, it's hard for us to manage things just being upstairs. It's going to be very difficult if we're off site to try and manage programs downstairs," she said. 

 

In other business: 

 

  • The Council on Aging is looking for volunteers to fill vacancies on its advisory board. It filled one of the vacancies on Wednesday, appointing Barbara Ziemba. Ziemba, an active participant in the COA, had already filled out the paperwork needed for her appointment. 

 

"I have attended many COA activities, volunteer, and am a member of the Friends of the Council on Aging and attend meetings. I have been interested in being a member of the Board of Directors for some time. Please consider my appointment to the board," Ziemba wrote, explaining in her paperwork why she was interested in the position.           

 

The group also discussed two other vacancies on the board and potential candidates to fill them. Two members have been unable to attend recent meetings for health reasons. 

 

  • The board voted to approve updated bylaws. The bylaws were revised and written primarily by Board Member Elizabeth Mach. 

 

"I just wanted to make a comment, or rather an appreciation, for Liz for taking this project on," Fontaine said. 

 

The new bylaws have a provision to allow honorary members. Fontaine said there are currently no honorary members. 

 

The board appointed Bruce Shepley as the board's chair to replace Barbara Lagowski, who filled one of the now vacant member seats. 

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