Jason Foster challenges Paul Spector for Ward 2 City Council seat in Northampton
Northampton Ward 2 City Council candidate Jason Foster.
Paul Spector and Jason Foster
NORTHAMPTON — Decade-long incumbent Ward 2 City Councilor Paul D. Spector tells voters that his experience and longevity on the council make him the most qualified candidate, while challenger Jason Foster says his business experience and fresh eye make him the best choice.
Foster said he can bring his business acumen and a new skill set to the council that can help develop new ways to generate revenue for the city.
Spector said he brings valuable institutional knowledge to the job and cites his involvement in the passage of several initiatives during his tenure, including the Community Preservation Act.
What follows are profiles of the candidates and their stands on some of the issues.
Paul D. Spector
ADDRESS: 74 Massasoit St.
JOB: Organizational consultant, organizes yoga and meditation retreats
As incumbent Ward 2 councilor, Spector said he hopes to spend another term addressing quality-of-life issues such as parking and potholes while helping steer the ward through new development.
Spector, 64, has served on the council for 10 years and is now chairman of the economic development, land use and housing committee and the appointments and evaluations committee. He also sits on the joint Department of Public Works City Council committee.
Spector lives on Massasoit Street with his wife, Jane Cross, and has two grown children, Jessie, 27, and Abby, 24. He said one of the things he appreciates about the ward is what he sees as its passionate involvement with issues that affect it directly, such as potholes and parking, but also regarding national issues like the use of unmanned military aircraft or drones.
He said the catalyst for his decision to enter local politics was the dissatisfaction he felt during the first term of President George W. Bush.
“I remember the 2002 to 2004 era was a very depressing time in the national scene. Many of us felt powerless,” Spector said. “I was already involved locally but never thought I would be running for public office.”
In an interview with the Gazette, Spector spoke favorably about the process leading up to the sale for development of a part of the former Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech property, which sits squarely in Ward 2. He said he met with groups of residents and school personnel a number of times before the sale.
Spector said three major concerns about the sale were keeping what he called “the campus footprint” as unchanged as possible, limiting the number of units in the new development to fewer than 90 and maintaining the historic character of the buildings.
“The developer meets all three of these criteria,” he said.
The sale of the property to Opal Real Estate Group was finalized in April.
Spector stood behind his attendance record at council meetings — something he said Foster has criticized him for on the campaign trail.
Spector said he misses about three council meetings a year, but added that he never is absent from committee meetings and that a large part of his time as councilor is spent addressing constituent concerns. Spector said Foster may not be aware of all aspects of the position and everything the job entails.
“Anybody running for council should take the time to talk to councilors who have been there, either former or those serving now, and ask, ‘What’s the nature of the work here?’ ” he said.
Spector makes his living running meditation and yoga retreats and working as an organizational consultant.
“The first career keeps me breathing,” he said. “The second brings some specific skills to the job.”
Among his priorities if re-elected, he said, are to secure funding to replace the four-way stop at the Jackson Street intersection with a small roundabout, which he believes would be safer.
Spector said he would welcome more public input to help determine a fair way to apply stormwater fees to pay for required maintenance on the system.
He said he’s in favor of a tiered system that would apply to any homeowner, business or institution that uses the system.
“There needs to be a tiered system, based on the size of the house,” Spector said. “People should pay according to usage — that, to me is a utility, that’s a fee, not a tax.”
Jason T. Foster
ADDRESS: 87 Round Hill Road
JOB: Owner of Cruising Chrome and Northampton Karate
Ward 2 City Council candidate Jason Foster said he wants to bring his business background to the council to find ways to generate revenue for the city.
Foster, who considers himself an entrepreneur, said he can bring the experience he has from running two businesses to the council. Foster is president of Cruising Chrome, a New Mexico-based cosmetics company he founded in 2004 that distributes a line of skin-care products designed for motorcyclists. He has also owned Northampton Karate in Florence since 2009.
Foster moved to the ward in February 2011 after living in Leeds and Haydenville with his wife, Wendy Foster, and sons Isaac, 12, and Henry, 9.
Foster said he became interested in running for the council after he and some 35 other ward residents felt underrepresented during discussions about the Clarke School redevelopment.
Foster said if he were the ward councilor at the time, he would have organized discussions and invited any interested parties and all ward residents to have their say.
“I would have wanted to meet with the Clarke people and be part of the process before decisions are made,” Foster said. “We would have liked to have input on decisions that affect us, our neighborhood and quality of life.”
“I would have wanted to meet with prospective buyers, to help shape what the neighborhood would look like rather than be told after the fact,” he said.
“In some of the meetings, I felt our opinions were dismissed and disregarded,” Foster said.
He said he and neighbors walked away from a meeting last year between developers and the planning and zoning boards feeling as if their concerns regarding traffic mitigation fell on deaf ears.
“It seems as if giving us a platform to speak was a formality — it seemed like the decision had already been made,” Foster said.
He said other issues particular to Ward 2 that he hopes to address if elected include reducing speed limits throughout the ward and improving road conditions overall.
“Everyone would like to see speed reduction. But there has to be a heightened awareness and follow-up, a genuine effort with the right leadership to reduce speed. It doesn’t require money,” Foster said.
“When I look around the ward in general, it’s disappointing to see messy roads that are just pothole after pothole. Practically every street in the ward has massive cracks in the sidewalk,” he said. This makes travel dangerous for children, elders and other pedestrians, he said.
“This comes down to priorities,” Foster said.
If elected, he hopes to use his business experience to help spur opportunities for the city to generate revenue and be less reliant on state and federal aid.
Foster said he envisions converting the city landfill into a renewable energy park with the city owning 51 percent of the shares and the remaining 49 percent of the shares sold to the public.
“Picture a co-op between the city and its citizens, except in this case the city has 51 percent,” he said. “People can participate in and be a part of this renewable energy park.”
Foster said such a park could reduce the city’s expenses and could generate its own revenue if excess power is available for sale to utility companies.
Foster said he holds progressive views and beliefs and believes his business experience can complement those attitudes and that’s part of what excites him about the prospect of serving his community.