On Thursday night, Oct. 22, 2015, four candidates took the stage to debate their views on the upcoming city election ballot questions, affordable housing, the privatization of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, or the MBTA, amongst other similar topics addressed by the panels.
Dana Brown, the Principal of Malden High School, served as the debate’s moderator. He began by introducing the first panel which consisted of Mass Senior Action Council Members, who sponsored the debate, Karen Lynch, Yi Zhao, Calvin Walker, and Nicole Erika Baltazar, a MHS student.
Following their introduction, the four candidates running for the three Councillor-At-Large positions were brought out: Councillor-At-Large Debbie DeMaria, Councillor-At-Large Craig Spadafora, School Committee Member Adam Weldai, and Councillor-At- Large David D’Arcangelo.
The first question asked by the MSAC panel referenced the November 3, 2015 election ballot questions, which includes the option of having a one year moratorium, turning the vacant Malden Hospital into green space and a historic park, and the Community Preservation Act that establishes a funding source for the city to use for acquiring, creating, and preserving space, buildings, and affordable housing to name a few.
The candidates came close to a consensus on their views. Weldai commented on how these issues are not “just in Malden” but all over this geographic location because of the “universities, hospitals, and the school systems” we have to offer. DeMaria made sure to emphasize Malden’s relationship with Hallmark Help, who owns Malden Hospital, and how that could come into play when deciding what to do with the old hospital.
When asked about the privatization of the MBTA, the candidates were able to personally relate to the many lives that would be affected by this because they too use the train almost everyday. Spadafora commented that we do not need to “increase the train line”; by “not [expanding], and [fixing] what we have”, the rundown line will be vastly improved.
All four candidates recognize the importance of public transportation for a city like Malden, and its necessity especially as Malden grows as a business city. Despite the growth, there is still unemployment, and citizens earning a wage that is not realistic. Each candidate mentioned the “smart residential and economic growth” Malden has undergone in recent years, and the amount of small businesses opening in our city. All agreed that the relationship with our small businesses is essential, because as Spadafora said “we need the economic and residential [aspects] to work hand-in-hand.
The MSAC ended their panel session with one final question that asked the candidates what their priorities would be if elected. Weldai was first to speak about how “a little change goes a long way”, and how they need to “build relationships with the people [they] work with” so there is no “disconnect.” He also claimed that Mayor Gary Christenson is one of the most “forward thinking mayors” he has seen, and how through him this becomes easier to do. D’Arcangelo added that “checks and balances exist for a reason”, and stressed their importance when making decisions in government.
A new panel was presented to the candidates for session two that consisted of Wendell Waters (Malden Observer), Jenna Coccimiglio (Malden Chamber of Commerce), Juhi Varma (Malden Advocate) and Cassandra Reyes (MHS Blue & Gold). Each panelist had the opportunity to ask the candidates one question.
Waters began the second session by addressing how “drug addiction, especially to opioids, has become a huge issue across the state, not just in Malden.” She, as well as many other citizens of Malden, want to know “what role can the City Counsel play in addressing this issue ... on both fronts: decreased drug abuse, and increased safety?
Spadafora made sure to point out how drug issues are not just a “02148 issue”, but an issue everywhere. He also emphasized how these issues are not a result of “economic issues, [or] level of income” families make, contrary to popular belief. All four candidates agreed that with education and awareness, drug addiction can be helped among the youth and adults of our city.
Following Waters was Coccimiglio, who asked the candidates “if elected, what would [they] do to support the Malden Square businesses that will be affected by the City Hall and Pleasant Street reconnection project?” The importance of small businesses in the square was brought back up because of the way it is structured. Opening up Pleasant Street again will take a lot of worth, but “was worth the wait.” The candidates also reminded us that Malden Square is not the “only square in Malden. There is also Maplewood Square, and Linden Square” that need help too.
Next, Varma addressed the economic development taking place in Malden that attracts families to the city. These families bring their children, who are then enrolled in the Malden Public Schools. Although, for years the enrollment numbers have been a concern of many parents, staff, and even the School Committee, so “if elected, how would [they] approach the issue of rising enrollment numbers?”
Even though enrollment numbers have been an issue that has impacted the budget in Malden for years, there are “sixty-two languages spoken at MHS” and almost “seven thousand students” in our system, which DeMaria finds to be an important part of our culture. “There are so many clubs and organizations at MHS … like the Malden Teen Enrichment Center” that she believes is a “wonderful haven” for the teenagers. Other candidates commented on the financial aspect of building a new school, and how realistically it would be up to the School Committee to decide.
Finally, Reyes reflected on her own experience at MHS, and how the diversity of the school plays an important role in the city. Representing the students, Reyes asked the candidates “what would [they] do to reach out to this young and diverse group of young citizens” if elected.
“MHS represents the entire country” according to Weldai; he is a MHS graduate. Overall, he believes that “talking to the kids” and “making strong connections” with the parents who “don’t get to voice their opinions in the government” is crucial. D’Arcangelo agreed, and pointed out that these students are the “youth of the future”, and we should “do everything to engage them” to “continue down the positive path” that has been consistent for years. DeMaria and Spadafora, both active in the schools because of the various committees they serve on, or their own young children, agreed.
Session two ended, and the candidates gave their concluding statements as to why they should be elected as Councillor-At-Large. All candidates mentioned what an “honor” it would be to serve this position. DeMaria, Spadafora, and D’Arcangelo are serving as the current Councillors-At-Large, and Weldai is up for election for the first time.
It is important to vote, especially because the turnout is not always what the candidates are expecting. There are three votes to use, and four candidates. We have the privilege to vote, so we might as well use it to our advantage to make beneficial changes in our city, and elect true leaders.