Macksey, Bond spar at North Adams mayoral debate with only days until election
North Adams, Massachusetts mayoral candidates Lynette Bond and Jennifer Macksey faced off Thursday night in a debate held by iBerkshires.com at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. WAMC Berkshire Bureau Chief Josh Landes served as a panelist, and has these highlights.
The candidates entered the showdown with less than a week and a half until the November 2nd election. Macksey, an Assistant Superintendent at the North Berkshire School Union, has raised around $41,000 for her campaign despite a late start in mid-July. Bond, the Director of Development For Grants and Research at MCLA, has brought in around $28,000.
Macksey only won September’s preliminary election with around 800 votes to Bond’s 600, with around 16% of the city’s registered voters going to the polls.
Heading into the final stretch, Bond and Macksey used a segment of the debate where they could direct questions at each other to dig into a narrative that has come up in the campaign.
“So the one thing that people continue to ask me – and again, I wasn't here back in 2008, 2007, 2008 – is about your role as treasurer collector," said Bond. "This has come up many times. I know there have been letters. So I've had to educate myself about this process. But I think the voters and the people really need to understand what happened in our city government.”
Bond’s question alluded to Macksey’s role under then-Mayor John Barrett when an audit found that the city had underpaid its share of premium costs into the city’s health insurance trust fund for its employees to the tune of around $1.1 million.
“I think it's important that we do bring this issue to light because that is the thing that people keep coming to me and talking about," said Bond. "And I know, after you left, the city had to pay out over a million dollars. So this was a huge sore point for the city. And I don't think anyone wants to see something like this continue, something like this happen again. So it's important that we understand your role. We understand what happened, because the city lost a lot of money. That was a big, big mistake.”
“I was the treasurer tax collector, but as treasurer collector, I do not have the ability or did not have the ability to appropriate money. So if anyone who claims I misappropriated funds, you're just wrong," said Macksey. “The most important thing at the end of this claim, question of who paid what, is in the end, when all claims were paid for this time in question, the city received $733,000 that came in from the stop loss program, and it was closed out. So to say that I mismanaged funds or misappropriated funds or I screwed the employees is absolutely incorrect. I worked very hard for those employees of the city of North Adams, and those people who wrote letters, which I don't blame Lynette for, are completely wrong. And I wish they had the courage to ask me the questions rather than stand cowardly behind their keyboard.”
The candidates differed on strategies to address substance use disorder in the community. Macksey, who said she has a no tolerance policy for drugs, directed part of her response at Berkshire County District Attorney Andrea Harrington.
“I know I can't stop it completely, but I'm going to work very hard to slow it down," said the candidate. "And how I'm going to do that is I'm going to try to convince our DA that we can't be letting people off for $40 bail, and so they're back on the streets dealing again, and we're not going to tolerate people dealing drugs on our playgrounds, or to our students. And at the end of the day, it's going to require more work for the police department, but I'm going to support those efforts. And I feel strongly if we start squishing the little fish in this community, the big fish won't be preying on them. And it's very basic. It's very basic- Take your drugs and go somewhere else.”
“We cannot arrest our way out of this problem. More police officers are not going to solve the issue of substance abuse in our community," said Bond. “We do have programs that are working, I visited the Keenan House North here in North Adams, where they have 16 residents who are active in their recovery and also dealing with mental illness. These are programs that we need to have in North Adams. We know this center in particular has a waiting list of 33. And it's growing. So there is a need for housing that that provides recovery and is safe for people.”
The two also disagreed on issues like the legacy of outgoing two-term Mayor Tom Bernard – Bond praising his leadership through the COVID-19 pandemic, and Macksey expressing frustration at the lack of progress on infrastructure projects and bringing up municipal staffing levels.
In the lightning round of questions that closed the night, Bond supported rotaries on Main Street and the creation of enterprise funds for major infrastructure improvements, while Macksey did not. Neither supported a vaccine mandate for city employees.
Early voting has begun in North Adams, and polls are open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on November 2nd.
You can hear the full debate here: