Thursday, July 26, 2007

Speak Up Fall River Mayoral Forum Part 2

Dear Readers,

This is part 2 of my debate analysis, again I make no claims at being a political expert and the opinions and observations are simply my own. I have done my best to both summarize the question and the answers and urge you to watch the forum for yourselves so you can make your own determinations. Finally, I want to say how extremely disappointed I am to realize that a month has passed since this forum and not even one additional forum or debate has taken place.

The participants
City Councilor Al Alves
State Representative Bob Correia
City Councilor Brad Kilby
Candidate Eric Poulin
State Representative Dave Sullivan
City Councilor Bill Whitty

6th Question - If elected what actions would the candidate take in his first 6 month to 'daylight' the Quequechan river falls and and to connect the downtown to the waterfront. What the candidate do to develop an urban design program that is specific and bold.

Bob Correia responded that are 3 existing plans already and we need to actively complete these existing plans. He touted that he has, as state rep, ensured that funding sources remain viable for such development and that would push for our federal reps to secure 128 million in federal funding to develop the waterfront and daylight the Quequechan. Al Alves, envisions, hotels and shops and coffee shops similar to Newport, RI. He believes that the existing plans are there to be used he believes that the waterfront development is tied up in red tape and pledges to get through that red tape and get the waterfront developed. Bill Whitty, states that this will be a huge undertaking, but that we should move forward on it. He stresses that development could be down now on areas that are already open teamed with the planned bike path, he points out that he worked on similar projects in the city. Dave Sullivan too states that he is in favor of 'daylighting' the Quequechan and that this will be a long term project. He believes that developing the water front will require teaming with the arts, restaurants and the development of our port, stressing that this has never been properly marketed. He refers to efforts he made for the city to keep its deep water port status. Eric Poulin states that would bring organizations like Green Futures and the Quequechan Action Committee. He believes that this has been a constant 'campaign' issue with little progress being made. If elected mayor he would set up firm time lines and for the completion of various stages and utilize the relationships he has developed with several committees and groups to move the project forward. Brad Kilby believes that this project could have similar results to the renaissance in Providence. He believes in a plan that would revitalize the Capital Theater downtown, unearth the Quequechan and team with the Narrows Center for the Arts to stimulate the city. He stresses that other cities have done similar projects and that grant sources exist.

This is an extremely tough call, several candidates really touched something that maybe the others didn't. Al Alves convinced me that while offering little in substantial details that this was a project that here cared deeply about and Brad Kilby touched on plans for the Capitol Theater but it was Dave Sullivan stressed the need to market and develop our deep water port, no other candidate really spoke of a way to develop an existing economic engine and like Whitty spoke about revitalizing the open areas of the Quequechan river. Winner: Dave Sullivan

7th Question - If elected what would the candidate, in his first 6 months, do to reduce the city's waste flow through recycling and other effort and what would be done to improve the appearance of the city.

Al Alves responded that the state should be called, that prisoner clean up crews should be utilized but that high tech solutions must be embraced, he refers to a waste to energy station. Bill Whitty states he does not support a landfill or an incinerator. Dave Sullivan says mandatory recycling is needed and stated that the city had the ability to shut down the landfill but using the airport but in shortsightedness shut down the airport and lost that leverage. Eric Poulin says that 'pay as you throw' programs our perhaps the best method of improving recycling rates but that it's a plan that might not work in Fall River. He says to improve the city's appearance a street sweeping schedule would be implemented to ensure that all areas of the city our cleaned on a set basis. He also advocated more enforcement of city liter fines. Brad Kilby believes that bringing back the 'incentives program' with public works employees, splitting the department into three groups and on a rotating schedule allowing two groups to go home early if all work is completed and leaving the third group to handle any issues that may arise. Kilby also believes that the closed incinerator could be used as a transfer and holding station, a place that would allow trash to be sorted for further recycling and one that could possibly serve the needs for area community. Bob Correia believes that efforts to clean the city needs to a yearlong effort and that if the city shows a strong effort that the citizens would join in that effort. He also called for mandatory recycling and the establishment of a recycling center.

This is another tough call, I honestly don't think any of the candidates answered this question as thoroughly as they should have. I give Brad Kilby credit for answering the 'waste' part of the question but I don't know if I'm buying the 'incentive program'. I also give Poulin credit for his answer on the 'appearance' part of the question. Street sweeping schedules and liter enforcement makes sense to me. I really wish I cobble both answers into one and assign it to one candidate. Again I'm not sure if I'm buying the 'incentive program' but a regional transfer station is doable, realistic and a step in the right direction. Winner: Brad Kilby

8th Question - What would the candidate do, in the 1st 6 months in office, to create free and accessible busing to and from school and to and from after school activities.

Bill Whitty responds that he been aware of the issue, has talked to the Superintendent, that it effects those in the south end of the city and that the issue is one that the School Department is currently working on. Dave Sullivan believes that this is an investment for success and although there will be a cost it is a matter of priority. He believes that perhaps a regional approach needs to be taken and that state agencies can be brought in. Eric Poulin supports that the idea of constant busing or trolley line to and from the Bank St. Armory, the Boys and Girls club and the YMCA. He states that the Mayor has a seat on the SRTA board and should use it as a bully pulpit on behalf of Fall River students. He further states that block grant funding is there that could be redirected to pay for funding for transportation by cutting funding from programs that have more political motivations. Brad Kilby states that he too has talked to the Superintendent on this matter and agrees that Mayor has considerable sway with the SRTA board, he believes that transportation should be expanded so that all school children would have free transportation to school, after school activities, parks, etc. Bob Correia also believes that this is necessary and that transportation to and from school should be free. He would work with state and federal representatives to secure funding to pay for initiating it. Al Alves also believes school children should not have to pay for for transportation to and from school. He pledges to work with SRTA to change the whole system, including the use of small buses, vans, volunteers, and perhaps a Fall River transportation system.

Okay, they all agree that busing is needed but who actually provided an answer that seemed achievable and offered specifics in how to pay for it? Winner: Eric Poulin

9th Question - What would the candidate do in the first 6 months in office to address the issue of crime, gangs, and drugs in the city.

Dave Sullivan believes that police need to become part of the community, that outreach workers need to reach into the community to steer kids to better choices. Eric Poulin believes that drug trade and drug addiction is the source of the majority of Fall River's crime and gang issues. He would hold a 'Drug Summit' with all applicable agencies to develop a plan of attack and implement it. Brad Kilby has consulted with various experts and that he would reassess the sectors of the Fall River police department, each sector would have a clear chain of command and that they would be held responsible for results in their sector. He believes that the police need to get out of the cars and become part of the neighborhood. and that the Police Department needs to decentralized. He also points out that New Bedford has more officers than does Fall River. Bob Correia cites community policing funds that as state rep he has delivered to Fall River, he cites that a bulk of the trained officers are doing administrative tasks and need to be returned to the streets. He also believes that programs to occupy children would serve as a crime preventative. Al Alves says that the city's police do an outstanding job but that the city faces a drug epidemic and that we need to seek support from all sources, state, federal, etc. and that more needs to be done to combat the drug problem. Bill Whitty believes that the FRPD is second to none but in order to a better job more officers are needed. He pledges to add 20 more officers to be dedicated to walking beats and community policing.

Drugs, crime and gangs are all bad but how to fight them? Summits may generate results, extra officers are nice but how do you pay for them? Community outreach is great. Seeking additional aid and support seems to make sense but what if you seek and there is nothing there? One state rep. talks of funding and makes a great argument for keeping him in the legislature. Kilby spoke with passion and conviction. Listening to him outline his plan I believe it is one he's worked hard on and think he may just may be on to something. Winner: Brad Kilby

10th Question - If elected what would the candidate do in the first year in office to improve the financial condition of the school system and improve budget transparency.

Eric Poulin stresses that he believes in transparency and as proof points out that the current audits are available on his campaign website. He points out that funding could be freed up by following the suggestions outlined in the yearly audit. He also says that existing monies need to be refocused and that he would follow the audits and replace people in city finance that were not meeting expectations. Brad Kilby says that we need to lobby the state for more state aid to increase education funding. He points out that New Bedford is getting a sizable increase in funding, while Fall River is getting roughly an additional 400k. Bob Correia took some exception with Kilby's statements pointing out that Fall River receives the 3rd largest amount of local aid, that there has been a 1600 students and the second highest reevaluation in property, and that it's not just a 'state' issue. He proposed a new marina, as a new revenue source and stressed that we needed to scrutinize how we spend our money now. Al Alves stressed that we needed a combination of getting more state aid, looking for new revenue sources, including the selling of unused school buildings and to scrutinize how we are currently spending our money. He also touched on the idea of using bond issues to fund education. Bill Whitty stated that we need more federal revenue sharing, that we need to outreach to area business to assist in improving education, that he would expand the city's tax base by implementing a residency requirement for all city positions. He also supports the establishment of gaming in Massachusetts as a revenue source. Dave Sullivan states that funding solutions come from Governor Patrick, that a telecommunications tax incentive will provide 700k to Fall River, that the city should have the oppurtunity to enter into the state's health insurance plan to save money, and to enter the state's pension plan to save money, to close corporate state tax loopholes and provide additional monies.

For too many of the candidates the answer is to simply ask, plead, and beg for more state and or federal aid, that's all well and good but if you don't get more aid you're still stuck with the need for more funding. Dave Sullivan made several interesting points but pointed out that they were the Governor's solutions, Correia piqued my interest with a municipal marina but how long would we have to wait to see that idea come to fruition? Of all the candidates Eric Poulin is the only one who spoke of transparency, both in citing that fact that he has put the city audits on his website and by stating he would follow the recommendations of those audits to free up existing monies and refocus them to where we need additional funds. This certainly isn't the solution, but it is a part of the solution and it also seems reasonable and achievable with the 1 year specified in the question. Winner: Eric Poulin

Closing Statements. - Each candidate delivered the expected closing remarks, thanking those who sponsored and participated, thanking their supporters and asking for votes. After listening to their statements a few times I decided to simply summarize them in the form of a tag line. Please note this is not necessarily my view of the candidates, simply the 'message' I think each was trying to convey.

Brad Kilby - The candidate for change and not the status quo!
Bob Correia - Experience! for 30 years he has brought home the groceries, now he wants to do the cooking!
Al Alves - He has the guts and know how to turn Fall River around and move it into the 21st century.
Bill Whitty - Let's move forward together
Dave Sullivan - He's not afraid to take on the big fight!
Eric Poulin - Speaking in specifics with a hope for Fall River

Score Card
Eric Poulin - 5
Brad Kilby - 3
Dave Sullivan -2
Bill Whitty - 0
Al Alves - 0
Bob Correia - 0

Because this post is so lengthy I will do a third post for forum summary.

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