Mayoral Candidates Discuss Top Issues At First Forum
With less than two weeks until Election Day, New Bedford's two mayoral candidates took part in their first forum together Tuesday night at the Whaling Museum presented by the Mayor's Youth Council.
Three major topics ruled the roughly 45 minute discussion: education, crime and economics.
When asked about education priorities in the city, incumbent Mayor Jon Mitchell said he's going to continue with the current progress within the school system such as building new facilities and improving technical advancement.
"We're going to continue to build out technology, just as we've done at the high school, so kids can get a modern education," Mitchell said
On the same question, opponent Maria Giesta said one of the biggest needs within the school system is working together and getting more people involved.
"We need to bring back the respect. We need to work with teachers. We need to work with the parents. Parents need to be more engaged with their children in school," Giesta said.
When asked about budget prioritizations, Giesta focused on public safety.
She plans to add 40 additional police officers to the force, and called for better lighting and more cameras around the city with the help of additional funding.
"We need to go to the federal government and ask for more funding for our police officers," said Giesta.
Mitchell insists crime rates are on the decline and the city will continue to get safer.
"New Bedford is not the violent city that is portrayed in the media. This is a safe city - we're going to make it safer, and you're listening to somebody that knows a thing or two about doing that," Mitchell said.
Mitchell attributed the major decrease in violent and property crimes to the police department and Chief David Provencher, whom Giesta has said she would fire if elected mayor.
As for generating an economic boost within the city, Mitchell said he plans to continue the work already being implemented by his administration.
Those efforts include "a very robust Economic Development Council that works with businesses of all sizes" and "a robust planning effort that enables businesses to understand where they might fit" in New Bedford.
Giesta claims the major economic concern within the city's small businesses is that taxes are too high.
She admitted she can't lower them, but plans to do the next best thing.
"I do promise that I won't raise your taxes, but unfortunately I can't lower them," Giesta told the crowd. "So what do we do? We market the city in a way that makes it presentable for people to want to come into this city."
Some other jabs were taken at each other over different stances on the school system's turnaround plan and who's responsible for the increase in jobs within the city.
Both candidates, along with candidates running for seats on the School Committee and City Council, will be on the November 3rd ballot.