NEW BEDFORD - The special election for the Ward Three City Council seat in New Bedford is just days away. Candidates Bethany Fauteux and Hugh Dunn met in WBSM's studios for a live discussion Thursday night on issues pertaining to the ward and the city.

On getting a handle on the city's opioid epidemic, also a nationwide problem, Fauteux says there needs to be less of a stigma in order for addicts to be able to seek out help. "The sooner somebody can say 'I have a problem' and the sooner they can get help, the less chance there is that [they're] going to get into violent crime and things like that," says Fauteux.

Dunn agrees education is key, but would also like to see a more proactive approach, too. "Programs where you provide them with Suboxone or something that helps them (addicts) get off of the drug. And also, I'm not sure that I totally disagree with the Governor's proposal about quarantining folks who are at risk of overdosing," said Dunn.

With the state venturing into the world of recreational marijuana use, retail pot shops will soon be established in communities like New Bedford. Both candidates say they'd rather see pot shops and even recreational marijuana lounges located away from the downtown where bars make up a large part of the night life.

Dunn says visitors don't need to doubly worried when they go out.

"You're worrying about has the person been drinking and smoking? Are they going to be driving? I just think that our downtown is on a good path right now and we shouldn't veer away from that."

Fauteux agreed, saying she also wouldn't want people partaking in multiple substances at once, but feels marijuana is the less dangerous vice.

"If I'm talking about walking with my kids downtown, I would rather walk by somebody who just smoked a hookah than by somebody who's stumbling drunk."

One of the biggest challenges facing the ward economically is what will become of the former Building 19 site, which is currently in the process of demolition. Fauteux says the last thing she wants to see is another auto parts store, donut shop or bank.

"I would love to see something kind of out-of-the-box," she said. "I'd love to see the community come together to discuss what they would like to see done."

Dunn says he sees a lot of potential in the site from both a commercial and residential perspective, but that it all depends on what happens after demolition. He says he'd like to see a community center in the ward where families can gather.

"As a city councilor, you don't get a wand and say, 'this is what I want to see here,'" he said. "You have to work with the private sector and you have to make sure that the uses are benefitting the ward."

Another question addressed the validity of recent statistics that suggest crime is down in New Bedford, and both candidates think there is still much work to be done. Each say they believe drug abuse is driving crime in New Bedford. Dunn says he thinks crime prevention in the ward should start with preventing opioid addiction, as he feels that is what is driving burglaries, robberies and violent crimes. He says that will be his focus on day one if he's elected.

"It's not something that you can completely arrest your way out of, but you have to be clear—if you're addicted, you need treatment, and if you're selling opioids, you need to go to jail," Dunn said.

Fauteux agrees that drug abuse must be stopped for crime to be curbed. She says a big part of the reason why there are so many of these crimes is because people are turning to drugs out of despair.

"There's an air of hopelessness around the city," she said. "You have people who are uneducted who work dead end jobs, making minimum wage, and just don't see any light at the end of the tunnel."

The special Ward Three election takes place Tuesday, April 25, with early voting beginning Saturday at City Hall.

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