Narkewicz, Riley to square off for Northampton mayor in November

By AMANDA DRANE

@amandadrane

Published: 07-26-2017 11:09 AM

NORTHAMPTON — A pool of four mayoral candidates dwindled to two on Monday, as two candidates did not submit the required number of signatures to the city clerk’s office by the deadline.

Signatures submitted by incumbent Mayor David Narkewicz and challenger John Riley are currently in the certification process. Once verified, Narkewicz and Riley will appear on the November ballot.

Three candidates trigger a preliminary election, which would have taken place in September at a price tag of around $30,000, interim City Clerk Pam Powers said. She said the City Council passed an ordinance in March prohibiting City Hall from paying election workers in stipends. Now the city pays the $11 minimum wage, she said, meaning the city must budget nearly $9,000 more to pay election workers during municipal election years.

Grammarian candidate Silas Kopf and Roy Martin, who has run for mayor nine times in the past, said they didn’t get signatures to City Hall on time.

“We fell just short,” Kopf said in an emailed statement. “Our last minute blitz brought us right to the edge of success, but in the end the thrashing and begging didn’t quite get it done. I can’t thank all the volunteers enough for their hard tireless work.”

Martin said he had a stroke a few weeks back, and ultimately didn’t realize Monday was the deadline.

Had he known Riley would jump in the running against Narkewicz, Martin said he likely would not have run in the first place.

“I was willing to take a shot at it because I didn’t want him running alone,” he said of Narkewicz. “I do want to thank all the people that did sign and all the people that took time to talk to me and listen to what I had to say.”

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Riley, who made a name for himself as leader of the anti-stormwater fee charge, said he would like to address one thing he’s already hearing on the campaign trail: “I am not a one-issue candidate.”

“I’ve heard that bandied about,” he said. “My issue is democracy in Northampton, if you want to call it one issue.”

Riley, a Florence resident who owns Gabriel Books in downtown Northampton, said he would like to ensure residents on the outskirts of town are heard. He said he would be a strong proponent of schools, sustainability and of keeping a well-managed budget.

“It was our civic duty to step up and say this needs to be done in a different way,” he said of democracy in Northampton. “It’s just an evolution of what I’ve been doing my whole life. I really care about Northampton.”

But Narkewicz, who took office in January 2012, argues democracy is alive and well in Paradise City, as evidenced by the very issue Riley initially targeted. He said he routinely solicits input from residents before embarking on new territory, as he did in the months leading up to the stormwater fee.

“The process used took place over multiple years with meetings held in every ward in the city, and the ordinance as it developed was actually changed in response to feedback that was received in those public meetings,” he said. “We can disagree about policy and that’s what campaigns are all about.”

Narkewicz touted the city’s ascent to a AAA bond rating and commitment to social justice under his leadership, and public investments like those on Pleasant Street, Pulaski Park, Florence Fields and the Connecticut River Greenway.

“Obviously I’m proud of the work that we’ve done in terms of putting in place a transparent budget process and stabilizing our finances and delivering very cost-effective city services,” he said. “I’m looking forward to talking about that record during the campaign.”

City clerk contest

Another contested race in Northampton on Nov. 7 is the one for city clerk. Powers, currently serving as interim clerk, is running against longtime schoolteacher Robert Driscoll, who has worked elections for the city for nearly 15 years.

Incumbent city councilors are all running unchallenged. The only School Committee member not seeking another term is Nat Reade, who currently holds an at-large seat. Newcomer Susan Voss, a professor at Smith College, is running for the vacant seat. Two candidates are vying for the Ward 6 seat on the committee: Tom Davidson and incumbent Lonnie Kaufman, elected by the City Council and School Committee in April to fill a vacancy suddenly left by the resignation of Tom Baird.

All other incumbents on the committee are running unopposed.

Amanda Drane can be contacted at adrane@gazettenet.com.

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