With just over three weeks to go before the September 1 Massachusetts primary election, Democratic Congressman Joe Kennedy III continues to scramble for votes in southeastern Massachusetts.

Kennedy is challenging Democrat Ed Markey for his seat in the United States Senate.

Kennedy came to New Bedford Sunday afternoon for a tour of the North End Business District, and a stop outside Engine 8 at Acushnet Avenue and Davis Street.

Funding for Engine 8 has been eliminated in the new fiscal year budget proposed by Mayor Jon Mitchell.

Kennedy was greeted by a crowd of about 100 firefighters, elected officials, and neighborhood residents chanting "Let's go Joe." Kennedy told the crowd "there's a trillion dollars worth of assistance to communities sitting on the desks of U.S. Senators, waiting for action." He urged the crowd to support him so he could help push that funding through.

Kennedy said people throughout Massachusetts deserve more leadership from people now in the Republican-led Senate. Later, in speaking with reporters, Kennedy said he's met with officials from all over the state who are being forced to make difficult budget decisions. He said the "feds" have the ability to help.

Jim Phillips / TSM

Many in the crowd agreed the federal government could do more. Jerry Pinto of Neighborhoods United said New Bedford could receive up to $138 million over a two-year period if Congress was to pass a second assistance package. He said with that money, the City of New Bedford could certainly find $1 million to keep Engine 8 in operation. Pinto said with the high number of triple-deckers in the area and the age of the housing stock, keeping Engine 8 up and running is a must.

Ward Two City Councilor Maria Giesta drew applause when she stated "the City Council has to make some tough decisions regarding the budget, but shutting down Engine 8 should not be one of them."

Jim Phillips / TSM

In his budget address on July 15, Mayor Mitchell said he was decommissioning Engine 8 because a recent streamlining of dispatch protocols had reduced the New Bedford Fire Department's need to respond to medical calls rather than fire-related calls. His budget also eliminates 10 vacant firefighter positions. Mitchell said the savings would be used to assess the future configuration of fire stations in the North End. It will also add capacity in the EMS Department, he said, to more effectively respond to medical calls.

However, at Sunday's rally, Firefighters Union President Billy Sylvia accused the Mayor of "making cuts to serve his own agenda." Sylvia urged the crowd to call the Mayor's office and ask that he restore funding for Engine 8.

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