Campaign Notebook: Northampton election hopefuls rack up endorsements, prepare for forums

  • Northampton City Hall GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 10/14/2021 8:51:03 PM

NORTHAMPTON — The deadline to register to vote in the Nov. 2 general election passed Wednesday, and there are now less than three weeks for candidates in 10 races to win over voters.

On the ballot will be races for mayor, City Council at-large seats and in Wards 1, 3 and 4; School Committee seats in Wards 2 and 6; Forbes Library trustee; Smith Vocational trustee; and Elector Under the Oliver Smith Will.

Two-thirds of incumbent School Committee members did not seek reelection, and neither did Mayor David Narkewicz, who serves as the committee’s chairperson.

Candidate forums next week

On Tuesday, Oct. 19, voters will have several chances to hear from candidates in contested Northampton elections.

The mayoral candidates, Marc Warner and Gina-Louise Sciarra, are scheduled to debate live on 22News at 12:30 p.m.

The League of Women Voters of the Northampton Area and Daily Hampshire Gazette are co-sponsoring two virtual candidate forums later that night. The City Council at-large forum will run from 6 to 7:15 p.m., immediately followed by the mayoral forum from 7:30 to 8:45 p.m.

Pre-registration is required to attend the forums. The form to pre-register is available online at LWVNorthamptonArea.org.

On Saturday, Oct. 23, from 12 to 2:30 p.m., Warner is planning to hold a meet-and-greet event at Arcanum Field in Florence, at the intersection of North Maple Street and Bridge Road.

Endorsements rolling in

The Environmental League of Massachusetts Action Fund has endorsed City Council President Gina-Louise Sciarra for mayor, citing her efforts to address climate change during her eight years as a city councilor.

“She’s been an environmental advocate throughout her time on the City Council and will lead the city to a resilient, equitable, carbon-neutral future,” the action fund wrote in a social media post.

In accepting the endorsement, Sciarra said that one of her top priorities as mayor would be to ensure that Northampton meets or exceeds its goal of carbon neutrality by 2050.

The United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1459 this week endorsed Ward 1 City Council candidate Stanley Moulton, a former journalist who worked at the Gazette for 42 years. Moulton is running against Emily “Lemy” Coffin for the seat.

Local 1459 represents about 5,000 members in western Massachusetts and Vermont, including employees of retail food stores and food co-ops, nursing home workers, school bus drivers and others in the public sector.

“I’m grateful to have the support of this union that recognizes my commitment to labor and the workers represented by Local 1459,” Moulton said.

Coffin is planning a neighborhood “election party” on Sunday, Oct. 24, from 1 to 3 p.m., at Jackson Street School. Children’s activities, music and T-shirt screen printing are planned.

Racial equity surveys

The organization REAL Northampton has circulated questionnaires to the mayoral, City Council and School Committee candidates, seeking their visions for a more inclusive city, and the answers are now available on the group’s website.

REAL — which stands for Racial Equity and Learning — is a group of Northampton public school teachers, staff, students and caregivers promoting racial equity.

The mayoral candidates, Warner and Sciarra, were asked to name “a few ways the (school) district might address more implicit forms of racism that are pervasive in NPS and across society.”

Warner responded, “I don’t believe that racism is pervasive at NPS or across the city, even implicitly.” He said that there are still incidents of racism despite largely successful diversity and inclusion efforts, and if racist symbols or actions “do show up in the schools, I would want the school to have some legal tools to discipline the offender, and would call on all decent people of Northampton to make it clear that such action is abhorrent and completely uncool.”

In an interview with the Gazette, Warner said he was “surprised to see that my view was unique, or largely not shared by the other candidates” in their REAL Northampton responses. He said that the achievement gap among low-income children, which is significantly wider due to the pandemic, is a genuine problem, while he is “not convinced” that racism is pervasive in Northampton schools.

In response to the same question, Sciarra said that, “however difficult the dialogue, we must identify where implicit bias seeps into our institutions, educate our students and ourselves, and change any practice that perpetuates systemic racism. If I am elected mayor, I would also chair the School Committee and would work with REAL and other members of our public school community in such efforts.”

Elsewhere in her answers, Sciarra described the efforts she’s taken as a city councilor “that work towards racial equity and/or intersect issues related to equity,” including opposition to “racially biased facial recognition software in the city” and her support for LGBTQ rights and protections.

Brian Steele can be reached at bsteele@gazettenet.com.


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