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North Adams Council Candidates: Eric Buddington
07:59PM / Tuesday, October 29, 2013
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Moved to North Adams in 1997, after looking all over New England for a place to settle down. In the last few years , I have become a homeowner, husband to Elena Traister, and father to Solomon.

My work consists of several things; most weekends I am a traveling dance musician, playing mainly in New England and New York. I teach string instruments at MCLA. I also maintain the computers, network and website for Northern Berkshire Community Television, and do a variety of other programming work.

1) What do you consider the city's greatest asset?
One of the city's greatest assets is the stability of the population. North Adams has many families that span several generations, and are committed to the city's future.

2) What do you consider the city's greatest challenge?
Lack of money is our single greatest challenge. Many of our other problems stem from that.

3) How do you perceive the taxation question: Do you think they are too high/too low/just right? If the city has a spending problem, what should it cut? Should the commercial rate ($32.95, second highest after Pittsfield) be raised again?
North Adams has a tradition of being frugal with city expenses, sometimes to a fault. I think the proper approach to taxes is to decide which services we want the city to provide, then find the most affordable strategy for the long term. The City has made mistakes in the past, underfunding teachers' health care (which costs us in needless legal fees), and neglecting our water pipes (which costs us in emergency repairs).

We must be willing to plan ahead five to 50 years, so we can keep taxes affordable for the long term. This means having long-term plans, such as the water upgrade plan and Mayor Alcombright's work to create a master plan for the City.

While I am not aware of the city wasting any large sums of money, I do believe we are missing out on grant opportunities - surely if there is Homeland Security money for an armored police vehicle, there must be funding for police and fire buildings that we would use every day?

On the other side of the equation, we should consider a progressive property tax for resident homeowners. This would help residents who are already stretched to the limit, while still requiring everyone to contribute to the City's operation.

4)The North Adams landfill has been operating without a permit for years and needs costly upgrades. Should the city fix it or close it?
The city should definitely fix the transfer station. It is far cheaper to upgrade and maintain this facility than to individually pay to have our trash hauled out of town.

5) Education: The design for the Conte renovation project is nearly complete. What do you think of the project? Should the city reconsider?
This project has the great benefit of keeping a school right in town where it can be part of the community - not to mention the excellent state funding that takes most of the burden off local taxpayers. We should definitely continue with this project, and always be thinking ahead - what is the next school that will need expanding or replacing, and when?

6) City council candidates often talk about improving the school system but the council has no control over the schools other than voting on the budget. Should the council be more involved? How?
Councilors are in a great position to talk to constituents and encourage informed debate. Aside from that the Council should let the elected School Committee do its job without interference.

7) Housing: As a councilor, what measures would you support to prevent or remediate blight? Some residents feel there is too much low-income housing that is making the problem worse. If so, how could the council address that?
Low-income and public housing is necessary in North Adams, and we must ensure that the Housing Authority maintains its buildings and responds quickly to issues of noise and cold. Additional efforts such as community gardens and public space already help to make low-income housing projects into real neighborhoods.

A greater concern to me is the number of abandoned properties in town. The city should insist on redevelopment in existing neighborhoods, rather than new housing developments.

8) Public Safety: The city has suffered through a number of high-profile crimes this summer. What can be done to make the city safer? Would you support spending more to hire more officers? Are there other ways to make it safer without spending?
We should not hire more police officers at this point. Our recent high-profile crimes are frightening, largely because North Adams is overall a very safe place. Must of the improvements we need to make involve more frequent contact between neighbors, and more frequent and relaxed contact with the police. The city is already moving strongly in this direction.

9) Resident question: Would the councilors be willing to help organize public meetings with police or other city employees to discuss municipal issues?
Of course; we should make the Council meetings as friendly as possible to citizen concerns, and we should provide less formal opportunities to have discussions as well.

10) City Council: The city has a "Plan A" government with a strong mayor and limited council. How do you see the role of the council in the city's government? Should it be more proactive or more questioning of the mayor? Or should it focus on more of an advisory role as the voice of constituents? Can it be both? Or should the city's government be changed?
Our current form of government is a good match for a city of this size. The major problem with our current government is not its structure, but the awful amount of time spent on petty personal arguments, as any recent Council meeting will illustrate. These personalities would poison any form of government.

We don't need either more or less questioning - we need better questioning. I will study before meetings, ask useful questions, and say nothing when I have nothing to say. If another councilor contradicts me, I will not repeat my same point endlessly. I will not insult other councilors or respond to insults directed at me.

It will make for less compelling television, but we'll get more done.

11) The council instituted limited speech from citizens as a way to prevent disruptions. Do you agree with the rules or should they be revisited? If the council allows more speech, how can it prevent disruptive behavior?
The council's past efforts to control speech have repelled most of the reasonable and polite citizens who would otherwise speak, leaving only the most abrasive voices to represent the public.

The council should encourage citizens to comment on agenda items as they are brought up during the meeting. These comments should be limited to a couple of minutes per person, and councilors should simply ignore speech they find offensive.

12) Business: How can the council help to attract and retain businesses? Should it allow or limit the number tax-increment financing (letting businesses phase in property taxes) agreements? What realistically do you think the council can do in terms of ordinances and other measures?
It would be useful for the City to maintain closer informal contact with downtown businesses, especially with regards to special events downtown.

I favor making TIF agreements standard for any significant investment in business property. These trade off a slight delay in the new tax income in order to make investment easier for businesses.

13) A national drugstore chain has shown interest in the former St. Francis Church. The council passed an ordinance that would delay any demolition of older buildings until plans could be reviewed. Do you agree with that? Or should the city allow historic buildings to be demolished after a certain time? Should the city attempt to save St. Francis for other uses?
We should certainly protect our historic and attractive buildings. The high maintenance cost of churches makes them unattractive for most businesses, so the city should not expect unrealistic tax revenue from these buildings.

14) The Redevelopment Authority is considering a long-term lease with private developers to turn Western Gateway Heritage State Park into "Greylock Market," an artisan studios and residences. Do agree with the plan? Should the city actively help the current nonprofits in there - the local museum, theater company and television station - relocate?
Of course the city should help these groups relocate, just as it should help any business or nonprofit find a suitable space.

The bigger question is really about ongoing support - because these groups belong to the community, not the city government. We owe it to ourselves to keep these things going. They add value to the city and we have a responsibility to support them - especially the volunteer efforts that simply can't exist without encouragement, support, and respect.

15) Resident question: Do you think municipal employees salaries should be posted online like the state employees are? Why or why not?
I think the top city salaries should be posted, as well as the median salary for larger departments. Otherwise, no.

For better or worse, we generally consider salaries to be private information. As long as that is true, we should allow public employees a similar consideration. We need to know that the city is paying our employees fairly, but we do not need every detail.

16) Is there another topic not addressed here that you feel is important to bring up?
We need to have long-term environmental planning. While the Greylock reservation is quite safe from development, we need to ensure that the Greylock well remains pure into the distant future. This means paying closer attention to the TCE contamination nearby, and being strict about environmental safety in the area.

We also need to make sure that any land suitable for farming is kept clean. Local farms are on the increase, and providing more and higher-quality food to us every year. We need to ensure we don't contaminate future farmland through poor land-use planning.

Finally, the Hoosic River should not just be preserved but improved. The Hoosic River Revival is exploring many options that would maintain our flood protection and let the river become part of the city again.





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