The Ward Six Democratic Committee sponsored a Candidates' Night at Forest Park Middle School last night and though I'd spent all day in Boston, I made myself go and I'm glad I did. We have five candidates, which will be narrowed to two next Tuesday: Rich Carpenter, Rich Davila, Peter Lappin, Amaad Rivera and Keith Wright.
Quick takes: Davila is an individualist, a pull-yourself-up-by-your bootstraps guy because that's been his experience in life. Lappin believes in the power of experts-- he's been an economic developer. Carpenter, Rivera and Wright are community-focused, though in very different ways.
Wright was careful to define the scope of a city councilor's job, saying he won't make promises beyond the scope of his responsibilities.
Carpenter is a law-and-order guy; crime is high on his agenda and calling the police was his answer to a couple of questions.
Rivera thinks that the community should be the chief player in decision-making.
Lappin clearly has a lot of experience, but I admit he turned me off right away when, in his opening remarks, he asked for a few seconds of silence to honor our service men and woman in Iraq and Afghanistan. I mean, who can say no? I thought it was manipulative. This is not a race for a U.S. Senate seat. And I got a "been there, done that" sense of him as a city councilor.
Davila proved to be better than I'd expected at public speaking and at building a rapport with the crowd. He stressed that if elected, the city wouldn't be his boss, the people would.
Carpenter got a good response from some of the crowd with his anti-Longhill Gardens harangue. I'd like him better if I didn't think he was anti-poor people. When asked what he'd do to improve the housing stock for people on fixed income, he could only say what he wouldn't do-- create projects like Longhill Gardens.
Wright strikes me as a sensible person, a school teacher, with relatively low expectations for what he can accomplish as a councilor.
Rivera is a visionary, with lots of ideas for change he wanted to get across, leading him to speak too quickly sometimes for folks to follow. He's still my candidate of choice because I know he has a commitment to social justice and to building on the diversity of Forest Park to create more community. I've also heard him speak in depth about economic development strategies that I believe could move the whole city forward.
But I've gotta say, except for Lappin, the freshness of ideas and the depth of commitment of all the candidates was impressive. Without being overly idealistic, I do believe ward representation will help us move on to a new chapter in Springfield. It's late in the day for us but not too late. Get out and vote next Tuesday!