What issues will shape the 2021 elections for the New Bedford City Council? As the race takes shape these are some of the topics on which to focus.

The city council worked for months on a new ordinance governing the residency requirements for certain municipal employees. Whether you agree with the details of the final legislation or not, it was a serious effort to tackle an issue that has been a concern for many taxpayers for decades. The vote for the new ordinance was 10-1 in favor.

When the legislation reached Mayor Jon Mitchell’s desk, he vetoed it. The mayor issued a three-page letter outlining his reasons for vetoing the new rules. At the first full meeting of 2021, the city council voted 10-1 to override the mayor's veto and thereby made the ordinance the law of the city for certain employees. Now it will be more difficult to hire and retain employees who choose not to live in the city that pays them, and that are one of the goals of the ordinance.

Public safety response times will be something the voters will want to hear about this election year. The issue is really about funding. Is the city allocating enough money for skilled labor and equipment to handle the day-to-day needs of the residents? In 2020, the professional fighters of Dartmouth and Fairhaven issued separate open letters complaining that the city was underfunding its fire department and putting the burden on the taxpayers of neighboring communities. Candidates for the city council will need to speak with union leaders in the city to get a front line perspective from the local expert first responders as they prepare for the campaign.

These are just two of the major issues the candidates will need to address in 2021.

Chris McCarthy is the host of The Chris McCarthy Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from 10 a.m. to noon. Contact him at chris.mccarthy@townsquaremedia.com and follow him on Twitter @Chris_topher_Mc. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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