By Stephen Quigley
With the city’s primary election on September 21 fast-approaching, the three candidates running for mayor of Everett, incumbent Carlo DeMaria, who has served in the city’s top office since 2008, and his challengers, City Councilor Fred Capone and City Councilor Gerly Adrien, engaged in an on-line forum last Tuesday.
The event was sponsored by the One Everett organization and moderated by Jo.el Rivera. One Everett describes itself as “an organizing coalition of local organizations and residents working to address systemic issues in Everett by amplifying community-led activism to advocate for municipal policies and systems that work toward a just and equitable Everett. One Everett’s mission is to develop, build and support resident-led community power and decision-making to ensure that the interests, rights, and benefits of a just, diverse and equitable community are represented in all levels of the city.”
The unique format of the forum, which was held remotely via Zoom and broadcast over Facebook because of COVID-19, presented the same six questions to each of the candidates, who also were provided the opportunity for an opening and closing statement. In addition, the candidates were not able to hear what the others were saying and each candidate was muted while the others spoke.
The questions ranged from transparency of the city budget to education to keeping Everett affordable for all residents. Perhaps the most striking takeaway from the forum was how little the candidates differed on the major issues, with DeMaria noting at the end that his administration already is doing what “the other candidates are talking about.”
All three candidates pointed to the pressing problem of overcrowding in the local schools and the need for new school buildings, including a new Everett High School.
“We need to make commitments to meet the overcrowding in schools,” said Capone. “This has been a problem for a long time. We need to invest in all students. We must do what it takes. Students of today will be the leaders or workers in tomorrow’s society. Education must be a top priority.”
Adrien concurred, adding, “We have overcrowding issues. We need more schools and we need vocational and trade schools.”
“We take public education seriously,” said DeMaria of his administration’s efforts to meet the needs of Everett’s growing student population. “We need a new high school with vocational programs that will give students a career. We have already added 400-600 students at the Webster Extension that is located in the old high school. We must work on reducing class size.”
The candidates also were asked how they would represent “all the people.”
“We must do everything possible to make sure that everyone knows that they have an inclusive city,” said Capone. “Everett belongs to all of us. The people’s voice does matter. It would be a tremendous honor to be mayor. I want your opinions.”
“I would create a separate government office to deal with immigrant issues like education, and creating a mobile city hall,” said Adrien.
“I represent all the people of Everett, all of whom are included in my decisions,” said DeMaria. “We are working on making the boards and positions in City Hall more diverse.”
The candidates gave their perspectives on policies to help long-time residents and their families remain in the city at a time when rents and home prices are skyrocketing.
“Affordability is key,” said Capone. “People are priced out of the market. We need to increase affordable housing and foster more home ownership. We need to eliminate wasteful spending and cannot overdevelop.”
“We should establish a separate office for housing and home issues,” said Adrien. “Homelessness is on the rise. Other cities offer legal help to residents. We need policies for people to buy their own home. Housing is a human right.”
”People want to live in Everett,” said DeMaria, who noted that there currently is a home improvement program in the Office of Community Development office to assist low-income residents. “We need to increase the supply of housing to bring down rents and in so doing, bring down the demand that is forcing people out.”
The candidates summed up their principal positions in their closing statements.
“I am committed to Everett,” said Capone. “Much has been accomplished, but more needs to be done. Overdevelopment is destroying neighborhoods. We need to invest more in education — we spend $2,000 less (per pupil) than other communities. We need to improve the quality of life for all residents.”
“We have the potential to create opportunities for all,” Adrien said. “People need food and shelter. People say, ‘City Hall is not for us.’ We need full investing in schools.”
“You see the investments being made in infrastructure repairs,” said DeMaria. “We already are doing everything that the other two candidates are talking about,” with the mayor adding that under his administration, “Everett taxpayers have the third-lowest property tax bills and seventh-lowest water bills.”