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Northampton mayoral race intensifies

(Erica Lowenkron/ Daily Collegian)

Incumbent Mayor David J. Narkewicz officially launched his campaign for re-election in September, and will be hoping to fight off competition from John Riley to secure his third successive term in office.

Narkewicz, who defeated Michael Bardsley in 2011 and ran unopposed in 2013, is standing on a continuity platform. He stresses budget stability and economic development, alongside advocating support for public schools.

Mayoral terms were increased from two to four years in Northampton’s new city charter, which was ratified in 2012. Narkewicz is the first mayor to have served a four-year term, following his initial term of two years.

Speaking at his campaign launch, Narkewicz celebrated Northampton’s diversity, telling the crowd, “I’ve been proud to stand up for this community and stand up with this community for the values we believe in, and to stand up for our commitment to protecting the rights of everyone, including women, minorities, people with disabilities, immigrants and our LGBT community.”

After referring to threats of federal funding loss and harmful cuts to community programs, Narkewicz said, “We have welcomed refugees to our community after our governor waivered and our president tried to ban them because of their religion. This is the city, these are our values at work. This is the city I’m proud of, and this is city I’m so proud have led, and I hope I’ll have the opportunity to lead it for another four years.”

Narkewicz’s challenger John Riley was a leading voice in the campaign against the controversial ‘Stormwater & Flood Control Utility,’ which was passed by the Northampton City Council and approved by Narkewicz in March 2014. Riley has said he considers the utility a “poorly thought out, unscientific and regressive tax” and has promised to repeal it if he succeeds in being elected.

“I think students will support my stance on banning surveillance cameras in downtown Northampton, which my opponent supports fully. Students will also appreciate my contributions to the Northampton cultural and arts scene from my founding of the Iron Horse in 1978 to my current running of Gabriel Books,” Riley said after being asked by the Massachusetts Daily Collegian why University of Massachusetts students living in Northampton should consider voting for him.

Riley also reaffirmed his commitment to tax reform, adding “I am also working hard to keep Northampton an affordable place to live by lowering regressive fees and taxes that affect all renters here in Northampton.”

Concerns about increased surveillance have been previously raised to the Collegian by Northampton residents.

Northampton voters will go to the polls on the November 7 and will also have the opportunity to vote for the city clerk, ward councilors and school committee members. Turnout for municipal ballots are historically much lower than those for national elections. According to statistics compiled by the Daily Hampshire Gazette, turnout in the contested 2013 election was 48.7 percent, while just 30.8 percent of registered voters turned out in 2011.

Glenn Houlihan can be reached at ghoulihan@umass.edu.

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