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.
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