City Council Candidate: Wayne Wilkinson
I first came to North Adams in 1975 (40 years ago) to take my first job out of college (Springfield College) as greenhouse manager for what was then the Northern Berkshire Association for Retarded Citizens (NOBARC). I wrote a grant for $60,000 from the federal government and built the greenhouses on South Church Street now owned by the city. I had a workforce of nine mentally challenged adults. The best job I ever had, but my family started to grow and I had to move on to other endevours that paid more money. I eventually became a real estate appraiser and own Wilkinson Appraisal Associates on Church Street in North Adams. I do the commercial appraisal and my son and daughter work with me doing the residential appraisals. It's a real family affair.
Why are you running for City Council?
Over the years, North Adams has been very good to me. I have been able to prosper here and I ran the first time for council as I have always felt I should give something back to my community. I am running again for the same reason and have enjoyed being an advocate for the people.
If elected, what issue in particular would you push the council to address?
Taxes, taxes, taxes.
What experience or perspective would you bring to the council?
I have been a city councilor now for two years. I have been on the Finance Committee and am chairman of the Community Development Committee. I have learned a great deal on both and know my experience would be a great asset for the upcoming council.
North Adams has a "strong mayor" form of government. How do you see the council's role in governing?
The council's role is to approve monetary appropriations from the mayor. However, it is also our role to agree or question that appropriated money. The present council IS NOT the rubber stamp some have accused us of.
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?
Yes. Besides crime, people say they want jobs, jobs, jobs. If they truly want jobs, they have to accept we are not attractive with a high commercial rate. It's a hard pill to swallow, but the commercial rate 2.5 times the residential rate, and most cities and towns in Massachusetts have single rates. In my opinion this separation occurred more to win political votes, then to benefit the city. People voted for lower taxes over attracting and keeping businesses.
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?
I certainly do agree. Blight is based on degradation of properties that are not owner occupied. The absentee landlords just don't care. This leads to increased drug traffic and loss of good neighborhoods. Programs to help first time home buyers fix up and return to those neighborhoods is the best chance to turn things around.
The proposed bike path, skate park and Hoosic River Revival have been touted as community development projects. Do you agree? Why or why not?
I agree they are big pluses, but think that more needs to be done for the youth of our city.
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?
Studies have concluded that the Mohawk can not be a success in its present format for resurrection. I think some kind of partnership with Mass MoCA and the college is the only way this property can be a success.
Plans for the private redevelopment of Western Gateway Heritage State Park have recently fallen through. Would you support another attempt at privatization?
YES. The city has done a terrible job as a property owner. It is time for the city to get out of the real estate business. Privatization is the only answer.
How have you personally supported the community?
I have served 10 years on the North Adams Planning Board and have been the chairman of the North Adams Mobile Home Rent Control Board for the past 28 years.
How would you reach out to constituents? Do you use Facebook or other methods?
My office downtown is very visible and accessible. For the past two years of my tenure as a councilor many constituents have dropped by or called with their concerns. I plan on continuing this if re-elected.
Should the city hire more police? If so, how would you support funding that increase?
I think reallocating the present force is the answer. Getting them out of their cars more and into the neighborhoods is a better idea. I think more police would be great, but as a member of the Finance c
Committee I see funding additional police would be difficult.
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?
This building is beyond band-aiding however the city cannot afford a new facility. More effort has to be given to get the state to help us.
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?
A combination of the two.
Do you think city government is transparent enough in its processes? Could it be better? Would you support an Open Checkbook system?
This has been discussed in council. The city cannot afford the "open checkbook" system. More information could be put online then we presently have for a lot less money.
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?
The only thing that can attract young people to the area are jobs. Although we have not been real successful at creating them here we must keep trying. It is the only thing that will turn this situation around.
Adams and Williamstown recently developed economic development committees. Should North Adams do so as well?
We already do. I am presently the chairman. However, not enough initiatives have been made to bring ideas to this committee.
What question have you not been asked that should have been?
You seem to have covered it pretty good.
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