With municipal elections coming this fall, the six city councilors running for reelection in North Adams, Massachusetts are touting their accomplishments.
This year, 15 candidates will vie for the nine seats on the North Adams City Council. With a third of the sitting council opting to not seek re-election, the remaining six will enter the race as incumbents.
“I spend a lot of time talking to people, asking them questions, what concerns you, what are we doing right what are we doing wrong – I can tell you that the people of North Adams are not shy at all about telling you exactly what they think is right and wrong," said Councilor Paul Hopkins, who is seeking his second two-year term. He says his strengths lie in community development.
“So as we look at things even as simple as setting the tax rate, if you remember we had to essentially make a choice between three options – do we keep the tax burden fairly evenly split, or at least maintain the division that we had, do we push more of the burden onto residents, do we push more of it onto businesses, and we opted for a middle of the road approach and I think that’s an important think to do,” Hopkins told WAMC.
“I think the most important thing is being a voice for all the citizens in North Adams and trying to move the city forward," said Councilor Marie Harpin, who is also pursuing a second term. “I think I did that by issues like the RFP for the Mohawk and securing and making sure that we’re going to have the marquee in the RFP, Windsor Lake lifeguards – I got a lot of calls on that, and people were concerned that their children were going up there and there wouldn’t be a lifeguard on duty, or not even for just children, but for adults – so issues like that. Domestic violence was one of the first issues that I brought up.”
Councilor Jason LaForest is another member of the class of ’17 with Harpin and Hopkins. He pointed to his efforts as a member of the Massachusetts Municipal Association to represent North Adams residents not just locally but across the state.
“I serve on a legislative policy committee for the MMA on personnel and labor relations, and so I think that I’ve proven to the people of North Adams that I am willing and able to work hard and represent the best interest of the average families that make up most of the population of North Adams,” said LaForest.
Pointing to the city’s increasing reliance on the fine arts and creative small business economy, LaForest advocates for more development along those lines.
“But we need to be very careful that we don’t reach a tipping point where that creative development negatively impacts the people who have lived in North Adams for generations,” said the councilor.
Councilor Benjamin Lamb – who’ll be going for his fourth term – said he was proud of his downtown revitalization efforts.
“People have concerns about downtown and increasing the foot traffic and energy and activity and so while it wasn’t in specifically my city council hat, pivoting that into working with folks with an amazing initiative on Eagle Street and now Ashland Street and continuing to engaging that downtown reenergizing, revitalization aspect,” Lamb told WAMC.
Councilor Wayne Wilkinson – a real estate appraiser who prides himself on his ability to help the city with its zoning bylaws – is also in his third term.
“I’ve been on the finance committee for most of that, chaired it one year," said Wilkinson. "Got the pleasure of helping to spend $43 million. That’s always interesting as well as challenging, especially in times of tight budgets. I took the school department to task when they were having subsidized lunches for children of parents that didn’t pay for their accounts and kids would end up with a sandwich rather than a hot lunch, and I took the school department to task on that. I don’t know if I had anything to do with it, but lo and behold, a year later all the children in the school were getting free lunches.”
Lastly, council president Keith Bona has served nine nonconsecutive terms. He drew on his early, most trying experiences on the council to underscore his experience in city government.
“When the Alcombright administration started 10 years ago, we were facing some really tough times," said the council president. "The state made major cuts and the budget, the reserves were down to zero. So we had to make some tough decisions. They weren’t pretty decisions, they weren’t pleasant decisions with the taxpayers. Some people think it’s an easy route to just say ‘raise taxes,’ but we didn’t just raise taxes – we cut a lot of stuff too, and that’s not – people don’t like that either, because it cuts into services, it cuts into maybe the quality of how certain things are taken care of in the city. But getting through that, I would say was one of the toughest but at the same time it really put the test to the councilors who were serving then.”
City elections on November 5th also feature Mayor Tom Bernard going for a second term against declared candidate Rachel Branch.