Monday, July 23, 2007

Speak Up Fall River Mayoral Forum Part I

Dear Readers,

Although I was unable to attend the Speak Up Fall River Mayoral forum, thanks to one candidate making it available on his website I have had the ability to view it in its entirety and offer you the following assessment. I don't confess to having a political science degree or any other expertise in political analysis so please realize that the conclusions and observations are simply my personal opinion. I more than encourage you to watch the forum yourself and come to your own conclusions. I also welcome you to take issue and challenge mine. I believe in political debate, both amongst the candidates and the voters. After all if my opinion is wrong it may take a good debate to make me see the error my ways.

The forum is roughly 2hrs. long with 6 candidates participating. I shall cover half the questions here and the rest in a subsequent post. I typed much of commentary while listening to the debate, so forgive me for the informality of sentence structure and omitting proper titles.

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

Opening statements
Al Alves starts off, stumbling a bit, Kilby is more confident but a bit jittery and goes over the allotted time, Eric Poulin starts strong, finishes in time and does well at delivering the 'campaign message', Dave Sullivan starts strong, fumbles slightly but like Poulin manages to hammer home some of his campaign themes, Bill Whitty sounds confident and mayoral, his pacing and speech really speak to experience not only does he hit the on the themes of his campaign but he chastises those who fail to acknowledge the gains made over the last several years. Bob Correia is running late and is not here to make an opening statement.

1st Question - What plan would the candidates do in their first 6 months in office to develop redevelopment plan for Watuppa Heights site?
Alves, Whitty and Kilby all say they'll work to push forward the existing plan of razing the project and replacing it will single family homes with no clear explanation of how they will accomplish what has been dragging on for over 5 years now. Dave Sullivan mentions that city has yet to submit a plan that is acceptable to the state but runs out of time before he really says much of anything else. Eric Poulin is the clear winner here, his answer is concise, detailed, and specific. His approach would reduce the number of units and create mixed income housing using funding sources that would not impact Fall River taxpayers. Representative Correia is running late and doesn't get to answer this question.

Winner: Eric Poulin

2nd Question - If elected mayor what would the candidate do to implement, monitor, and improve Fall River's public schools?
Whitty says commitment is needed and he voted on the budget championed by the superintendent. Sullivan speaks of redirecting budget resources to benefit priorities. Poulin speaks of removing the mayor as the head of the school committee and of implementing a plan to remove political patrionage, refers to specifics on his website. Kilby says he would allow the superintendent to lead the school department, and push for additional funds from the state, also he explains some the issues he had with the current budget. Bob Correia (arriving late) says that as mayor he would demand accountability. Alves, stresses accountability and that he believes that the mayor should not be the head of the school committee.

The best responses were by Poulin, Kilby, and Alves but none of them really hit this one out of the park. Winner: Brad Kilby

3rd Question - What actions would the candidate make to appoint members of the Zoning Board of Appeals and make sure that all laws are followed?
Sullivan speaks of appointing members with a strong interest and commitment to upholding the law. Poulin responds that if board members are not following the laws, he would replace those members with interested parties and provide training to ensure that members were educated stressing that educated boards make better decisions. Kilby speaks of the qualifications of the current board head, the benefits of variances, speaks of providing some training and the how he would be watchful of any abuses. Correia speaks of appointing qualified board members and only reappointing them if they meet the expectations, Alves responds that he would appoint, qualified, professional people but stresses that anyone interested should have the opportunity to be considered.

Although several candidates provided strong and interesting answers, Eric Poulin again managed to be concise, specific and fit his answer into the time alloted. It's close but Winner: Eric Poulin

4th Question - What would the candidate do, in the his first 6 months as mayor, to indentify problem landlords and enforce housing laws in the city?
Poulin answers strongly, stressing a 7 point plan on his website but highlighting the need to identify using police records, having city agencies work with landlords to eliminate problem tenants and finally sending in the building inspector to fine landlords unwilling to work with the city for various infractions. Brad Kilby compliments Poulin on his plan and says that he would use it himself. Correia, like Kilby, speaks of using an almost identical approach but going out of his way to point out that it's a plan already being used in Brockton. Alves stresses the need to enforce the existing codes and laws but doesn't offer any specifics to do so. Whitty suggests absentee landlord properties should be taxed as a business (a view I share). He also states that additional fees could be charged for constant code and law violations and city pressure could be placed in the way of fines etc. Dave Sullivan says that we've been deaf to the complaints of neighbors and that a position should be created to co-ordinate efforts against absentee landlords, he too mentions using a similiar tact to that of Eric Poulin.

Honestly most candidates hit the same or very similar themes on this question and overall I actually like Bill Whitty's answer quite a bit but when you have two other candidates endorse your plan during the forum and another obviously go out of his way not to give you credit, you win. Winner: Eric Poulin

5th Question - Weaver's Cove LNG, if elected does the candidate commitment to provide funds and do everything in his power to fight the project?
Kilby states yes and that defeating LNG is transcends the politics of the race. He does point out that has asked current legal counsel to remain in a Kilby administration and gives credit to various groups that have fought this. Correia also answers in the affirmative, speaks of strong leadership and his 'track record' as a state rep. Al Alves, stresses that the LNG facility would hamper efforts he wants to make on the city's waterfront. That he would have that Federal delegation come to Fall River to tell the citizens face to face what they are doing to defeat this. Bill Whitty like Kilby and Alves stresses actions he had taken as a councilor to ensure funding was in the city budget to fight this, he also talks about using eminent domain to take the property from Hess LNG. Dave Sullivan stresses that he has has stood with the people of Fall River since the start, that he would certainly commit to providing funds and would battle the project to his "dying breath". Sullivan mentions that many have joined the battle late only because of the pressure and attention that he helped foster. Eric Poulin says he will work "smarter and harder" on defeating LNG, he believes that he may be the most knowledgeable candidate on this subject and that he was instrumental in bringing in the Washington DC legal team that the city currently employs to fight the legal battle.

LNG is such a hot issue that every candidate is going to say yes to providing funding and continuing the fight. Bob Correia citing his track record and Eric Poulin stressing his experience and knowledge both did well here, but it's Dave Sullivan who wins this one with on the emotional appeal of basically saying 'I stood with you first and I'll fight for you until the end'. Winner: Dave Sullivan


Roger Williams said...

Dave Sulliwho? BRAD KILBY IS THE WINNER!!1! Now and forever!

Anonymous said...

If Whitty is too dumb after all these years in office to know that you can't tax residential buildings as businesses, regardless of who owns them, then he is not fit to be on the City Council, let alone be mayor. I wish for once that our leaders would do some research (by which I mean actually reading laws and ordinaces) before opening their mouths.

Lefty said...

Thanks for the comment anon!

I actually like the concept of taxing multi-family housing that is not owner occupied at a higher rate. Can it be done? I don't know but I would think that if there are ordinances or laws that would prevent it, couldn't they be changed?

Anonymous said...

Tax methodologies are laid out by state law in MA, and communities have the flexibility to choose whether to apply level taxing (where same rate for commercial, industrial and residential properties) or separate rates for commercial/industrial properties and residential properties (which FR does). After that, taxes are based on the assessed value, and the assessment method is set by state law.

It's not possible to differentiate based on whether the owner lives in the building or not. A house is a house and is taxed as such. The greater point is that people like Whitty should know these things, seeing as they are elected officials.

Ignorance can't be an excuse for elected leaders, so I hope another candidate will eat him alive on what he's said. We as voters deserve better. I can't go into a meeting at my job without knowing the facts, and if I don't know something I either have to research it, have someone else research it, or keep my mouth shut.

I am by no means an expert in property taxes, but the basics are not rocket science - Whitty is either too stupid to know that he has no power to enforce such an effort, or he knows that it isn't possible to do so, but felt it was worth mentioning in order to get votes. Either way, he's not fit to be mayor.

I'm sorry to be harsh, but I've grown tired of seeing laziness and stupidity from our officials in Fall River - so I tend to call a spade a spade when I see one. I'm sick of seeing government and economic development treated as some type of clubby, insider atmosphere, while the rest of the city is depressed, and I'm sick of seeing just a small amount of people doing well and hoarding what few benefits and profits are around to be made. Fall River more and more reminds me of a third world country, where the rich are very well-off and everyone else struggles. The well-off are good at what they do, but don't understand the concept of shared spending and growth that gives the US its economic power. If you hoard and don't re-invest into the local economy, it hurts the area. If those people with resources put their money back into the city they would be even better off...okay I need some sleep, enough ranting...