It is election season in many Massachusetts cities and towns. The smart candidates have started early because COVID-19 is making retail politics more difficult.

As goes the city of New Bedford, so goes the region. There are elections also heating up in the towns of Dartmouth, Fairhaven, Freetown, Fall River, Acushnet, Westport, and Wareham. The towns will be deciding in the spring and the cities will have a final election in November.

This will be the first municipal election in New Bedford since the voters expanded the term of mayor from two years to four years. Mayor Jon Mitchell will not be up for election this year, but the entire New Bedford City Council will be.

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The issues of taxes, jobs, and public safety are always big topics during elections. However, those issues are often discussed in an abstract way by political candidates. Everyone is for "lower taxes" and "safer streets" and "creating more jobs" when they run for office – long on slogans and little on details.

This year, the issues are less abstract and candidates will need to take clear positions.

The shrinking of the New Bedford Fire Department and New Bedford Police Department is going to be an issue, specifically the cuts to Engine 8 and the lack of a labor contract with the police union. The constant use of mutual aid by the city will be an issue in the towns as well. The use of ShotSpotter and the continuing illegal gunfire in the city requires candidates to develop real answers.

The expansion of Parallel Products in the Industrial Park and the creation of a second industrial park on Hathaway Road are ways to increase jobs and tax revenue for the city. Both also have drawbacks and political opposition in sections of the city that turn out to vote in city elections.

The new residency requirement rules passed by the city council, over the opposition of the mayor, will be impacting the appointments and hiring in the city all throughout the election.

At this time it appears that all but one incumbent city councilor will be running for re-election, but that could change. The list of challengers includes Lisa White, Ryan Pereria, Matthew Keefer, and Jason Mello; all are raising money and campaigning now.

This is going to be a great local election season.

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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