Sparks Fly Between Mayoral Candidates Bardsley and Narkewicz at Smith College Debate: Audio Playlist
While Bardsley referred to a “great divide” in the city and extolled his support for the working middle class, Narkewicz spoke of common goals and a positive vision.
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NORTHAMPTON — There were few Kumbaya moments at Monday night’s mayoral debate, sponsored by the Smith College Democrats and held at the college’s student center on Elm Street.
Candidates Michael Bardsley (a retired educator who served on the City Council for 16 years, 8 as its president) and David Narkewicz (City Council President and Acting Mayor, finishing up his sixth year on the council) got down to brass tacks early in the evening, with Bardsley charging that he is the only candidate who cares about the “working middle class.”
Narkewicz said that that it’s common knowledge that the middle class is being squeezed, and that the real issue is what local government can do about it.
And where Narkewicz said that communication between Smith College and the city could be better, particularly where development plans are concerned, Bardsley fired back that Smith “represents the face of corporate America” and is “representative of the one percent.”
While Bardsley said that the treatment of the Occupy Northampton protesters by the city “could use a lot room for improvement,” Narkewicz said that he supports the goals of the occupy movement, had met with the protesters in the Mayor’s Office, and is serving as a liaison between protesters and the police, who had told them that they couldn’t pitch tents in Pulaski Park downtown.
When Bardsley once again charged that Narkewicz ascended to the role of acting mayor as the result of a “backroom deal” with former Mayor Mary Clare Higgins, Narkewicz quipped “If there was a deal I got the raw end of it.” He said that it’s a challenge to run a campaign for mayor, be City Council President, and Acting Mayor at the same time.
Bardsley said that there were “rumors circulating two years ago” that Higgins would resign early to give Narkewicz incumbency status and a leg up on election day.
Bardsley said that what’s needed at City Hall is “not so much personality change as regime change,” and said there’s a “perception” that a small elite group of insiders are making all of the decisions.
Narkewicz countered that he’d been duly elected as a city councilor three times, and was elected council president by his peers. “I’m David Narkewicz, and I’m running for mayor,” he said. “…If you want to debate Clare Higgins you’ve come to the wrong place.”
Higgins left office in September to take another job, which propelled Narkewicz, as council president, into the corner office, as stipulated by the city’s charter.
Bardsley said that he has a history of taking unpopular stands. “I was the only person on the council who expressed concerns about the hotel and voted against it.” He was referring to a controversial plan several years ago that would have planted a Hilton Garden Inn Hotel behind Pulaski park downtown.
“Here’s where I have to do a fact check,” answered Narkewicz: as for the hotel, he said, Bardsley was “before it before he was against it,” openly expressing his support for the project early on. What’s more, Narkewicz said, there was never a City Council vote on the hotel.
Bardsley countered by criticizing Narkewicz’ “attitude,” saying that he was trying to make “gotcha point.”
“Whether or not we took a vote on it, I was one of the councilors going to a Planning Board meeting and speaking against it. Trying to gain favor by making a little smart remark does not benefit the city,” said Bardsley.
The two face off again on Wednesday evening at 7 at the Bridge Street School at an event sponsored by the Ward 3 Neighborhood Association.
Mary Serreze can be reached at email@example.com
© Northampton Media 2011