Givner, Siciliano vie for Holyoke City Council’s Ward 4 seat

  • Holyoke City Council candidates in Ward 4: Kocayne Givner, left, and Michael Thomas Siciliano. SUBMITTED PHOTOS

  • Holyoke City Council candidates in Ward 4: Kocayne Givner, left, and Michael Thomas Siciliano. SUBMITTED PHOTOS

  • Kocayne Givner SUBMITTED PHOTOS

  • Michael Thomas Siciliano SUBMITTED PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 10/23/2021 4:06:47 PM

HOLYOKE — On Nov. 2, city residents will vote to fill seven ward-based seats on the City Council, five of which are contested races. The ward seats are in addition to six at-large seats on the council.

Ward 4 covers parts of the Churchill and Downtown neighborhoods, as well as smaller chunks of the Oakdale and Highlands neighborhoods. Two candidates are vying for the position and are profiled in the order they appear on the ballot, which was randomly determined.

Kocayne Givner

A homeowner who has lived on and off in the city since the ‘90s, Kocayne Givner is a fashion designer who worked in New York City, Houston and Philadelphia before returning to Holyoke in 2015. She said she’s running for office to do what she has long done in her neighborhood: advocate for improvements.

“I was always a squeaky wheel in my neighborhood,” she said. “I noticed when I moved back the last time there were the same problems here as the time I left before.”

Givner said that trash pickup, keeping parks clean, improving sidewalks and dealing with speeding cars are all areas of focus in her neighborhood. She said that there have been improvements under the tenure of the ward’s current city councilor, Libby Hernandez, who has endorsed Givner, and previous councilor Jossie Valentin. Givner hopes to continue that work.

“I think the most important things in the neighborhood … are public safety things,” she said. “I really think it would be great to do some traffic studies.”

If elected, Givner said she would also work to support the city’s public schools to the extent that she can, and that she wants to work with the city’s new mayor to get things done.

Givner also spoke about the importance of local government being accessible to all residents, which she said is currently not the case, and the importance of boosting voter turnout in the city. She said Ward 7 tends to dominate city politics, and that she hopes to improve interest in city government among her constituents by being there for them.

“Helping people understand that they can be heard if they flex that voting muscle, and helping them realize that there are people who do want to work for them,” she said. “But they have to vote them in.”

Givner said she is the most accessible candidate in the race. And she vowed to bring change to the City Council.

“I haven’t seen anything like this,” she said. “There are a lot of people running so there’s a lot of chance for change.”

Michael Thomas Siciliano

A Holyoker for the last two decades, Michael Thomas Siciliano described the city as the most family-friendly community he has ever known. He became involved in the schools and youth sports when his children were young and has done volunteer work for organizations like the Holyoke Safe Neighborhood Initiative.

“Holyoke is a city with significant issues,” he said. “But when you spend so much time here and it becomes your home, you just see beyond these significant issues and you come to appreciate all the great things about it.”

Siciliano said his priorities include protecting homeowners from higher taxes, advocating for the public schools and an end to state receivership, and holding public officials accountable. He also said he would work to end “mismanagement” in city agencies such as the Department of Public Works, which he said has “experienced difficult times” as a result of poor city management.

“Holyoke has a tremendous amount of resources and it has for a long time,” he said. “They’ve been misappropriated, not wisely spent.”

Improving pedestrian safety is another important focus for Siciliano, who said speeding cars and motorcycles make families and children feel unsafe walking around town. He said some of that is because of “issues with enforcement,” and that he would work to hold the Holyoke Police Department accountable for that enforcement.

Siciliano spoke at length about his work helping to develop the Chestnut Community Alliance, a neighborhood association. He said he learned a lot from volunteering with the South Holyoke Neighborhood Association, as well as taking part in the Resident Leadership Program put on by the organization Wayfinders.

“I’m a very large proponent of the neighborhood associations,” he said.

Siciliano said that what separates him from his opponent is his community development experience.

“It frankly speaks for itself,” he said. “It’s in-depth, it’s diverse. It comes out of a love affair (for Holyoke). I just love it, I love it so much.”

Dusty Christensen can be reached at dchristensen@gazettenet.com.


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