Voters, candidates ponder city future in run-up to election

  • Easthampton mayoral candidate Nicole LaChapelle, right, campaigns with supporters Mark Donovan, Maeve Donovan, 8, and Anne Lozier, Saturday, at the corner of Payson and Williston Avenues. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Easthampton mayoral candidate Joy Winnie, right, campaigns beside her husband, William, Saturday at Pulaski Park. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Easthampton mayoral candidate Nicole LaChapelle, center, talks with Roman Powers-Moran, 10, while campaigning Saturday at the corner of Payson and Williston Avenues. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Above left, Easthampton mayoral candidate Joy Winnie, right, campaigns beside her daughter, Amanda Winnie, and her granddaughter Lily McGuire, 5, Saturday at Pulaski Park. Above right, Easthampton mayoral candidate Nicole LaChapelle, right, campaigns with supporters Mark Donovan, Maeve Donovan, 8, and Anne Lozier, Saturday, at the corner of Payson and Williston avenues. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS PHOTOS

  • Easthampton mayoral candidates Joy Winnie, shown at left in this composite photograph, and Nicole LaChapelle were both out campaigning on Saturday. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

@RebeccaMMullen
Published: 11/4/2017 6:21:45 PM

EASTHAMPTON — Education, immigration and concerns about the city’s future all loomed large in the minds of voters in advance of Tuesday’s hotly contested Easthampton elections. On Saturday as candidates and their supporters made a final push to present their case, the Gazette spoke to residents about the issues they would like addressed.

Easthampton will vote in a new mayor to replace Karen Cadieux, who has decided not to seek a third term. The mayoral race between attorney and former zoning board member Nicole LaChapelle and 21-year City Council member Joy Winnie has touched on issues ranging from troubles at the high school to economic development to whether Easthampton is welcoming to immigrants.

Voters will also elect four city councilors out of a field of seven and six school committee members out of a field of eight. Each of the city’s five precincts will also elect a district city councilor.

On Saturday morning, LaChapelle and a small crowd of supporters gathered near Nashawannuck Pond holding navy-blue signs and waving to passing cars.

Ten-year-old Roman Powers-Moran paused a bike ride with his dad, Charlie Powers, to ask LaChapelle a question about her policy on public education. Powers-Moran said he had to leave Easthampton public schools because he wasn’t able to get a quality education. Now he is homeschooled.

“They didn’t have the facilities to accommodate special needs or gifted kids,” he said.

Powers agreed with his son, saying, “Kids who are more advanced are on their own.”

Although Powers-Moran was too young to vote, he had given the race some thought. He was skeptical of Winnie, who he said might not make the changes he hopes to see in the public schools.

“Joy Winnie has been in there a while and she and her people kind of had their chance,” he said.

Up by the rotary on Route 10, Winnie and her supporters carried red and white signs.

Precinct 5 Councilor Dan Rist said that for him, Winnie’s institutional knowledge was a deciding factor in his decision to support her. On Saturday he was also campaigning for his re-election to City Council.

“Experience is everything,” he said. “She knows what the taxpayers expect.”

Anne Lozier and Mark Donovan said they had been helping LaChapelle campaign since she announced her run last summer. Lozier said LaChapelle has her vote because of her stance on workers’ rights and their longtime friendship. She said the mayoral race would be close but she hoped that there would be a high turnout at the polls.

“It’s going to be tight and I think we need everyone,” Lozier said.

For LaChapelle’s part, she said the campaign has been invigorating.

“It’s a blur, it’s exciting to me,” she said. “I’m all about ‘get out the vote’ so being a candidate is surreal.”

Carrying signs alongside her daughter, cousins and grandaughter, Winnie said she felt good going into the final stretch of the campaign.

“I have a plan, I’ve had the experience and I have the community,” she said. “I’ve done my best and we’ll see what happens Tuesday.”

Education platform

Other residents expressed ambivalence about the vote.

Elizabeth Doherty was at the rotary Saturday morning campaigning for friend Dan Carey’s City Council re-election. The lifelong Easthampton resident said she was still deciding whom she supported for mayor but in the end it would come down to who had the strongest public education platform.

Doherty also suggested that the city is at a crossroads.

“What do I really want to see for the city I’ve grown up in?” she wondered.

Nearby, Thom Dixby was unequivocal in his support for Winnie. A self-proclaimed “townie,” 80-year-old Dixby has lived in Easthampton since 1960.

“We’re not Northampton and we don’t want to be,” Dixby said. “It was a mill town and it’s doing real good with local people.

“I’m not into the progressive liberal movement,” he said. “Don’t even get me started on sanctuary cities.”

Meanwhile, in Northampton the lead-up to the campaign seemed to be more laid back. No one was campaigning on Main Street and people displayed their political affiliations through lawn signs. Nevertheless, people still had their concerns about the race.

On Tuesday, voters will choose between electing incumbent David Narkewicz to a third term or bringing in challenger John Riley. They will also elect city councilors and a new town clerk.

Northampton resident Seth Ryan was playing with son Davin outside City Hall. He said he was planning to vote for Riley because he liked his idea to repeal the city’s stormwater tax.

“Obviously, the mayor’s done a great job so far but maybe it’s time for a new voice or a new vision,” he said.

Ryan acknowledged that a Riley win would be a political long shot.

“Northampton is a very tight-knit community and David does have a stronghold,” he said. “If (Riley) wins it would be a big upset.”

At Childs Park, Ward 5 School Committee member Ann Hennessy and Jo Comerford walked their dog, Otis. They said the election would come down to whoever had the strongest commitment to schools.

To Comerford, local elections are a way of keeping the public engaged between national elections.

“We sometimes forget that local government is as important as national,” Comerford said. “The votes we cast now are as important as the votes we’ll cast then.

“I want an informed electorate ready to vote in every election,” she said.

John Daugela, also at Childs Park, said he is voting to re-elect Narkewicz based on his treatment of the city’s homeless population and his appointment of Jody Kasper to police chief.

“He seems like a good fit for Northampton,” Daugela said. “I’m very impressed with him.”

 


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