NEW BEDFORD - A forum featuring the seven candidates for city councilor of New Bedford's Ward One was held at the Casimir Pulaski Elementary School to answer questions about the job in front of the public on Monday night.

The candidates were asked questions prepared by current City Councilors Linda Morad and Jim Oliveira, who both served in Ward One and assisted ward-resident Bob Souza in organizing the event. Councilor Jim Oliveira acted as the moderator during the forum.

Christopher Amaral, Steven Caton, Daniel Costa, Melissa Costa, William Markey, Randall Santos, and Mark Ventura will appear on the Preliminary Election Ballot scheduled for October 3rd. They were peppered with questions ranging from the school budget to economic development, how to improve the public parks in the ward, and more. The candidates were also allowed the opportunity to make timed opening and closing statements as to why they should be the next Ward One City Councilor.

The school budget was a popular topic among the candidates. They were asked about what aspects of the budget they would focus on as a city councilor, and to list any improvements they think should be made, if any. Chris Amaral said that if elected he would want to account for every dollar in the budget and would like “to work diligently with the people on the school committee to see where these funds are going”.

Melissa Costa says she would want to figure out where the school committee is investing its resources into. “Are we a top-heavy school system?” Costa asked hypothetically. “Are we investing in our front-line workers, teachers, our paraprofessionals, our assistants, our counselors?”

According to candidate Steven Caton, “people aren't really playing nice” on the school committee, which he aims to fix if elected. “We have to make sure that we're focusing on getting the most we can for the school system,” he said.

New Bedford's Regional Airport came up as a topic during the forum. Also running for Councilor of Ward One, Daniel Costa recalled a conversation he had with an airline pilot who frequents the city airport. He says that conversation gave him the confidence that investing in the airport is a good idea, and would vote to do so if elected.

“Had a great communication with this gentleman who is the pilot of a major airline and just the conversation with him, by the time I was done with that conversation I was just really excited at the opportunity,” said Costa.

Also discussed at the forum was the pursuit of joining the state-wide GIC healthcare plan in attempt to cut city healthcare costs. Randall Santos is concerned that joining the state plan would negatively impact people with city jobs and says “if we (the city) save money on this plan, this money is going to come out of the pocket of city-workers.”

William Markey explained concerns for city workers that he shares with Santos, and says that if the costs of healthcare are going to continue to climb, all options must be considered.

“I'm not big on costing people more money but health insurance continues to go up, so got to look at everything,” said Markey.

Candidate Mark Ventura would suggest the city bid for an insurance company that's the right fit for New Bedford if he was elected to City Council.

“What I propose is that we bring in several different insurance companies and seeing who the best is with what they have to offer. As everybody knows, insurance rates are skyrocketing and it's going to make a difference between eating and paying for medication,” Ventura said.

The Far North End Neighborhood Association organized and hosted the forum under the leadership of Robert Souza. A forum for the city council candidates seeking election to New Bedford's Ward Four will be held on Tuesday at the Alfred J. Gomes School from 6:00p.m. to 9:00p.m.

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