Ward rep candidates gear up for primaries
SPRINGFIELD On Sept. 15, city voters will have the opportunity to do something they have not had to do since the late 1950s -- vote for a ward representative for the city council.|
With the reinstatement of ward representation, all the city's neighborhoods will have a voice on the City Council.
There will be primary races in wards Two, Five, Six, Seven and Eight and the new ward system has attracted newcomers to politics as well as former city councilors, a veteran school committee member and neighborhood activists to run for the seats.
Public safety, as well as quality of life issues, seems to dominate the thoughts of Springfield voters, according to the candidates interviewed for this story. Many of the candidates support residency requirements for city employees.
Reminder Publications has contacted as many of the candidates as possible to provide voters with information to help them learn more about the people who would represent them on the new City Council.
This is the first run for public office by the Springfield resident who described himself proudly as having spent most of his life in the Hungry Hill section of the city.
Fenton, a recent graduate of Providence College, will be attending the Western New England College School of Law this fall. He has worked for Congressman Richard Neal and Rhode Island State Rep. Victor Moffitt.
Mounting a grass roots campaign, Fenton has knocked on doors on over 220 streets in the ward and said there is an overwhelming "decline in the morale of Springfield citizens."
The concern, he said, is that people believe the city is in a "downward spiral."
"Either we accept this decline, accept this status or we get up and do something about it," he said.
Voters are also concerned about public safety and what they see as a "lack of transparency" in city government,
If elected, Fenton would work to lower both the business and property tax rate as he is convinced "there are a lot of ways to make up that revenue [lost by lowering the tax rate.]"
His Web site is www.votemikefenton.com.
This may be the first run for public office for recently retired Gil Perron, but it is not the beginning of his civic involvement. He has been an active participant in both his neighborhood and in city government as the chair of the Traffic Commission.
Perron took an active role in his neighborhood in closing down the Cornerstone Bar on Page Boulevard, a site of much documented crime activity.
He said that voters in his ward have expressed "a lot of concerns about taxes." Specifically, he said, people believe the business tax rate in the city is too high and must be lowered to try to attract more businesses to the city.
Perron said that with the business base being eroded "less and less people are paying taxes and more people are leaving [the city.]"
He said he would bring "an outsider's view" to the City Council and that as a ward representative he and the other ward reps would be "under greater scrutiny' from voters.
"We would be more aggressive about what we want," he said.
He said that he would work for a senior center in Ward Two as well as greater and more visible police coverage and has advocated the use of the East Street Army Reserve Center as a training facility for the Springfield Police Department.
Perron's Web site is http://gilperron.net.
Thomas Sullivan sees the challenges posed by his ward through two perspectives. He is a local realtor and has had a long career in private security. When he sees abandoned properties in his ward he understands as a realtor the perceptions they can cause and as a security manager he knows of the risks they can pose.
The first-time candidate and Springfield native who has spent the last 10 years working in Boston said that he wanted to move back to his hometown and become involved in making it better.
While campaigning, he said many residents have mentioned the trash fee and quality of life issues. Sullivan said he wouldn't favor the final elimination of the trash fee unless the city can come up with an alternative plan to raise the $4 million it generates.
He would support increasing the budgets of programs such as the Quality of Life Flex Squad in the police department that address neighborhood issues and would work to insure residents are aware of these resources.
Sullivan said the recent controversy over the hot dog vendor on Worthington Street pointed out the need to review the city's ordinances and updating them as well.
Sullivan issues information about his candidacy on his Facebook page at www.facebook.com/pages/Thomas-W-Sullivan.
Robert Underwood has been a familiar figure in several state and local races as a Libertarian candidate. This year, he is running for the City Council and the chance to bring a different view to city government.
Underwood is a computer programmer/analyst working with retailing, inventory and manufacturing systems.
"I am a former Democrat who got tired of watching the Democrats hurt the American worker, so I am trying to do something about it. The major party candidates need to be replaced," Underwood said.
"I would use the office of City Councilor as a forum to demand that the state protect its citizens. While my opponents keep talking about 'safety,' that is all they do talk. The city has no jail. It does not appoint judges, nor does it pass criminal statutes; only the legislature can do this. Only the legislature can address the problem of repeat offenders on the streets committing the same crimes over and over.
"I would not waste city money arresting people for victimless crime, such as marijuana smoking. I would also stop using city money to arrest people for defending themselves. How many times have we read of a case where the defender had been arrested for shooting an assailant while the assailant is still at large?" he asked.
"While the local Democrats and Republicans talk about the city's financial crisis, they do not wish to discuss their role in sending jobs out of the United States thus destroying employment opportunities for Springfield residents, as well as destroying the tax base. We no longer talk about what branch of science we will work in, but get into a Third World-style fight over who gets to run a hot dog stand," he added.
Underwood was against the trash fee and would see it removed.
For more information go to his Web site at www.electbobunderwood.org.
Also running in Ward Two is Hamilton Wray.
DeJuan Brown is a first-comer to elected office, but not to civic engagement. He is the co-founder of the anti-violence non-profit agency AWAKE and the husband of Chelan Brown who has run for mayor and, most recently, against State Rep. Ben Swan.
Brown described himself as "a common sense community type of guy." He added this election is one in which "real people get involved."
In his ward, public safety is a key issue.
"Everything else is trickle down," he said. The perception of the city not being safe affects economic development.
Speaking of youth crime, he said, "there is no better deterrent to crime than a job."
He has received the endorsement of one city union and supports a residency requirement for city employees. He also hailed the recent passage of an ordinance that requires the hiring of a percentage of city residents on city construction jobs.
He said quality of life issues are also of concern and that he would work to establish a community health center in Ward 5.
George Bruce said he has been working as a community activist in the city of 40 years.
Now retired, Bruce worked in the Springfield School Department as well as in union shops.
"I've been around a long time," he said.
While this is his first time running for City Council, he has run twice in the past for state representative.
"I think ward representation brings back the possibility to the average person [of running for City Council]," he said.
Bruce is an advocate for education and blames the city's crime rates on the lack of education and preparation for entering the workforce.
"Young people have to go back to school," he added.
If elected, he would sit down with his fellow councilors and representatives of the city's colleges to see "how we can create jobs."
He would also contact the unions about training programs.
Bruce said, "We have to be more creative [in job creation.]"
Clodo Concepcion has run before for City Council and is well known throughout the city as the "Mayor of 16 Acres." He is also known for his direct and plain speaking on issues.
Concepcion has been the long-time president of the 16 Acres Civic Association and said he has been working for his community for the past 20 years. Among his most recent achievements have been working with the developers of the new CVS to be located at the corners of Parker Street and Wilbraham Road and the commitment from the city to pave Wilbraham Road.
Concepcion declines to make promises or state a legislative agenda, because he said, "When I get there I'm going to be my best to help the people who supported me."
He added his role as a councilor is not to court popularity in front of the cable access television cameras, but to "do my work."
He did say that he would work hard for seniors throughout the city and try to bring more jobs to the city. He believes that senior issues have been "put on the back burner."
He said that how his ward goes through several neighborhoods has complicated this election and that he has spent much of his time while campaigning helping people understand where they need to go to cast their ballot.
The former at-large city councilor who served from 2000 to 2002 would like to return to the council as a ward representative.
Lewis-Caulton is a public health nursing advisor for the State Department of Public Health. She served on the former Police Commission from 2004 to 2006 and was named by Mayor Domenic Sarno to the Community Complaint Review Board in 2008. She is also a member of the Family Center Girls Club board of directors.
She believes the new ward seats will be "even closer to the communities, which will feel ownership of the ward representative."
Issues important to her ward will translate into issues important to the entire city, she added. For example, quality of life issues such as barking dogs and rental of homes to college students are issues in her ward.
"They are ward specific and yet they are not," she said.
Despite being aligned to one ward, she asserted the ward reps would serve the entire city.
The 40-year resident is working toward his election to be part of a "new city government."
Carpenter has been active in the Springfield Forward advocacy group that opposed the redevelopment of the Longhill Gardens apartments into low-income housing.
He said there are both citywide issues in the ward as well as ones that are specific to parts of the ward. He noted that residents near Harkness Avenue are concerned about noise from traffic but closer to the "X" there are issues about public safety.
"People who drive though Forest Park every evening don't feel comfortable stopping to shop and dine," he said.
Carpenter, who works in home improvement sales, believes the city "has not been aggressive in recruiting businesses."
He said the city government must "brand the city and market the city."
He would work to try to attract manufacturing that is allied to the auto industry back to Springfield.
While he is running as a ward representative he said he would represent the entire city.
"We don't want divisions. We must work together," he said.
Victor Davila has run for city office before and now is trying to win the Ward Six seat.
Although through his campaign residents have spoken about both ward and citywide issues such as how properties are being kept, crime, traffic and noise, the economy has been a prominent concern. He said if he were elected he would make job creation his number one priority.
"Jobs give a human being a purpose to live, go on to fight," he said.
Davila has worked as a volunteer in the Springfield schools because he said the city needs an educated workforce.
Crime, such as the recent shooting at the Mason Square McDonald's, has given the city a bad name, he said. He called for measures to get "crime under control" and said a "stern police response" to such actions was necessary.
He said that with his grassroots campaign of going to door to door he has encountered residents who say they have never had a candidate in this way before.
"A lot of people feel disenfranchised from City Hall," he said.
Of his candidacy, he said, "I'm excited. I don't give up. I'm not afraid of hard work."
His Web site is http://davilaforcitycouncil.com.
A familiar face in a variety of civic projects ranging from the annual Pancake Breakfast to programs for veterans, Peter Lappin has served in both municipal and state government, including terms as a state representative.
His desire to run is motivated by the same feeling that drives his volunteer work. "I just believe in giving back to my community," he explained.
He believes his experience, including time as the state's economic development director, has prepared him to deal with today's political realities, including the impact a deficit budget from the state could have on the city.
He predicted that after Jan. 1, 2010, the city would be forced to accept additional state cuts in aid.
If elected, he would work to not just try to expand the city's employment base, but retain the jobs the city now has. He is also concerned about the city's crime rate and supports community policing efforts.
The residents with whom he has spoken are concerned about their neighborhood first, he said.
A Springfield native who works on a national level on economical issues leading the National Racial Wealth Divide Program at United for a Fair Economy is making his first bid for elected office.
Amaad Rivera, who achieved national media coverage as the lead author of "The Silent Depression: State of the Dream 2009" and "Foreclosed: State of the Dream 2008," said he has three issues on which he intends to focus if elected.
He would work on retaining jobs in the city and support a residency requirement. He would also work on a comprehensive policy for the city on foreclosure, something the city currently doesn't have, he said.
He would also work on a drug prevention plan with more funding for drug rehab programs as well as intervention programs. He is concerned that schools and libraries are not accessible to be used as youth centers during afternoons and evenings.
"Springfield often has had a problem with implementation," he said of programs started by the city in the past. "We need to hold people accountable."
He said that while he would represent his ward he would be a councilor for the entire city.
His Web site is www.amaadrivera.com.
According to his Web site, Keith Wright, a science teacher at the Springfield Renaissance School, is running because he feels a "personal responsibility" to try to make a difference in the city.
"Over the past five years, I have stood on the sidelines as our city finances were taken over by the state. I have watched as our school department lost hundreds of veteran teachers due to the lack of a contract. I have watched as too few gains have been made economically, and I have wondered about the future of our city," he wrote.
Wright is concerned about making sure the city lives within a realistic budget. He is concerned about how the money generated from the trash fee will be replaced and believes the local option meals tax will help the city.
He is also concerned with zoning and land use and wrote the Ward Six councilor should hold the developers of the new low-income housing at Longhill Gardens fulfill their commitments.
His Web site is http://wrightforspringfield.com
Timothy Allen has careers as a teacher, as a manager with MassMutual and the director of Step Up Springfield. He now hopes to represent his ward on the City Council.
This election marks his first time running for office and he believes his varied experience and his lifetime living in the city gives the resources he needs to help the city.
Allen's focus would be on the financial management of the city and to cure what he sees as an "inferiority complex" caused by the city losing control to the Finance Control Board.
He said the residents have spoken to him about crime issues and he understands well, having been a victim of crime himself. He would work for stronger and more prevalent neighborhood watch programs.
He said he would also work "to connect the neighborhoods to City Hall."
"I want to be part of the solution," he said.
Former elementary school teacher Peter Appleby is so serious about serving his ward and so concerned about the city's financial status, he has pledged not to accept a salary if he is elected.
Currently employed by Western Massachusetts Electric Company as an underground cable specialist, Appleby doesn't see serving on the City Council as a part-time job. He views it as his "civic obligation."
The Springfield native, who recently brought a home and got married, believes he needs to take a role in improving his city
Appleby said people in his ward are concerned about blight and public safety and he believes that more people volunteering time to the city can help these situations.
If elected he would like to establish a neighborhood by neighborhood crime blog operated by volunteers that could report what is happening in their parts of the city and share information that could help stop crime.
He is concerned that future municipal budget cuts will threaten public safety personnel.
He also would work for residency requirements for city employees as he believes that city jobs should be granted to people who live in Springfield.
According to his Web site, Ronald Jordan is also a first-time candidate. He is a Vietnam War veteran and postal worker.
He wrote, "I have lived in this city for over 35 years and am striving to make a difference in our community. I have been going door to door talking to my fellow neighbors, listening to their important thoughts and concerns. Many of my neighbors have expressed to me that their concerns were being ignored and I want to change that. Ward 7 has increased crime and a police presence is needed. Elderly affordable housing and taxes are paramount on their minds. These are not the only issues but these need to be addressed. The time is now to change how business is done in Springfield. I am creative and know that I have the answers to many of these problems. I have expressed these to my neighbors. I promise to work my hardest; not only for my ward, but for the city that I love."
Jordan would support reversing the trend of privatization by advocating for a city-operated ambulance service and tow trucks. He would also work on eliminating outside contractors for tax, water and sewer fee collections.
He also calls for the creation of a citizen oversight committee to work with the police department to "re-instill community trust."
His web site is http://voteronjordan.com.
Current School Committee member Michael Rodgers doesn't believe in term limits, but in his own case, thinks there are times to move on to other challenges. After five years on the School Committee, Rodgers saw the opportunity to run for City Council this year as a "rare opportunity."
He said in Ward Seven, there are quality of life issues that concern residents and the feeling that city government "doesn't move fast enough" to address them.
Rodgers retired after a 30-year career at Verizon and currently works as a renewable energy consultant for greenenergyhelper.com
He said, "People want to see real economic development, not just talk about reviving the entertainment district." Rodgers also served five years on the Board of License Commissioners.
If elected Rodgers would like to work on zoning in the city as well as economic development. As a veteran of balancing budgets while on the School Committee, he said he would offer his assistance to the mayor when working on the municipal budget.
Walter Lysak and Alexander Sherman are also running in Ward seven.
Gloria DeFillipo has run for City Council before and said there is "definitely a difference a ward race is more personal."
DeFillipo has been a long-time activist in her Pine Point neighborhood and even when campaigning she doesn't stop her efforts to improve the city on a citizen's level. She takes photos of homes and properties in clear violation of building codes and sends them to Code Enforcement.
The dean of distance learning for Holyoke Community College, DeFillipo is concerned about the lack of planning for the economic development for each neighborhood in the city. If elected, she would work toward that goal with each reflecting citizens input.
She believes the City Council has lost some "more neighborhood friendly" councilors and that added emphasis should be placed on strengthening more than just the city's downtown.
She would also like to take an active role in the budget process for the city and would advocate for greater resources for code enforcement.
Her Web site is http://gloriadefillipo.com.
John Lysak is the chair of the city's Republican Committee and a man who has challenged State Rep. Ben Swan for his seat as well as having run for City Council in the past. He, too, noted the difference in campaigning in just one ward and described it as "more condensed."
Lysak, like other candidates, have heard from residents concerns about crime in the city and the effort to bring more jobs to the community. He has some agenda items of his own, including establishing a senior center in the Indian Orchard neighborhood. He would like to see it placed in the community building at the corner of Main and Myrtle streets and would pay for part of the cost to air condition the building himself.
This is a large commitment from a man who has been recently laid off from his job. He said he understands what people are going through, but added, "I'm a fighter."
Lysak would also work for an auxiliary police unit, which he believes could help beef up the police manpower without costing the city any additional salaries.
"We need solutions," he said.
His Web site is www.votelysak.com.
Orlando Ramos said that Indian Orchard, a key part of Ward Eight, has "been neglected so long" because the neighborhood hasn't had a voice on the City Council.
A native of Springfield, Ramos recently worked in Gov. Deval Patrick's Western Massachusetts office and said he enjoyed the experience. He is running for City Council because "I saw an opportunity to contribute to the success of my city in a broader sense."
A union carpenter, Ramos' candidacy has been endorsed by four unions. He is also a member of the Indian Orchard Citizens Council.
Ramos said the people in his ward are concerned about gang violence from other parts of the city carrying over to their neighborhood. Public safety is one of his principal concerns.
Stating his ward has the highest percentage of seniors in the city, Ramos supports a senior center in Indian Orchard. With the recent announcement of the continuing clean up of the Chapman Valve site, Ramos said the 53-acre parcel would be ideal for a medical center something needed by the community and a potential employer.
His Web site is http://ramosward8.com/.
Miguel Soto's decision to run for City Council came about from working on Mayor Domenic Sarno's campaign over two years ago. He learned of the movement to change the City Council to include seats and supported it.
Although this is his first time running for office, Soto is no stranger to public service. He is a member of the Community Complaint Review Board as well as a member of Indian Orchard Citizens Council. A Navy vet, Soto is employed by the Pioneer Valley Educational Collaborative and is a certified mental health counselor.
Soto views the move to ward representation as a way to include more people and neighborhoods into city government. If elected, he would work on establishing a senior center in Indian Orchard as well as a clinic.
He would seek ways to improve the city's public schools. In order to attract more families and businesses to the city the school must be better, he said.
"Springfield [schools] used to be a model," he said.
His Web site is http://voteforsoto.com.
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