Medford residents listen to city’s candidates speak at Tufts

Over 300 community members from Medford gathered in Cohen Auditorium to hear from the city’s candidates for mayor, City Council and the School Committee on Wednesday evening.

The “Meet Your Candidates” event was organized by Jay Campbell, a Medford resident and the broker of Jay Campbell Realty, and Tufts Votes. Tufts Votes, according to Ben Kaplan, the organization’s director, is a non-partisan student coalition that aims to promote civic engagement in the Tufts community. It is also a part of the Tisch College of Public Service and Citizenship.

At the Wednesday event, each of the 10 School Committee candidates and the 14 City Council candidates were allotted three minutes to speak, and both mayoral candidates were given five minutes, according to Campbell. According to Kaplan, there are seven open spots on both the City Council and School Committee. 

Kaplan, a junior, kicked off the event by emphasizing the importance of Tufts’ relationship to Medford and the benefits of student civic engagement.

“I firmly believe that it is the responsibility of each individual Tufts student to actively seek out ways to contribute to the community in a positive and productive way,” Kaplan said.

Campbell said that he hoped the event would continue every two years in order to give candidates and residents an opportunity to get to know each other.

“We want people to be really engaged,” Campbell said.

The 10 School Committee candidates, who include both newcomers to the political scene, as well as School Committee veterans, introduced themselves first. These candidates were: John Amirault, Frank Capone, Ann Marie Cugno, Erin DiBenedetto, Kathleen Kreatz, Christopher Murphy, Paulette Van der Kloot and Jane Wright.

In his short speech, Amirault noted that he is first-time candidate, a lifelong Medford resident and a current history teacher.

“One common theme that seems to echo [when I talk to Medford residents] is the need, the desire, the willingness to engage in positive changes,” he said.

Van der Kloot, who said in her speech that she has been on the committee for 26 years, said that she brings common sense leadership and vision to her role there.

“I’ve seen my kids go through the system,” she said. “I’ve seen your kids go through the system.” 

The 14 City Council candidates spoke afterwards, including:  Richard Caraviello, Mark Crowley, Christopher D’Aveta, Frederick Dello Russo, Leonore Eforo, John Falco Jr., Adam Knight, Breanna Lungo-Koehn, Michael Marks, Neal McSweeney, William O’Keefe Jr., Neil Osborne, Michael Ruggiero and George Scarpelli.

Eforo said that her campaign was entirely self-funded in order to highlight what she sees as the problematic connection between money and politics.

Her campaign has focused on helping local businesses, defining campaign spending limits, the expansion of the City Hall plaza and the preservation and expansion of existing green space in Medford, she said.

City Council candidate Osborne, a practicing attorney, also spoke.

“I’m smiling today because our city is at a crossroads,” Osborne said. “We’re going to get new leadership in the mayor’s office, [and] whoever is chosen, they must work with city, [with the] council. They must work with the leaders that you choose.”

Finally, mayoral candidates Stephanie Muccini Burke and Robert Penta took to the stage to introduce themselves and their platforms.

For Medford voters, the 2015 mayoral election is different from those in years past because this year’s contest will be the first in decades that current Mayor Michael J. McGlynn has not participated in. McGlynn, the the longest-serving mayor in Massachusetts, decided not to seek reelection earlier this year, according to an April 14 Boston Globe article. According to a statement issued by McGlynn’s office, he is currently serving his 28th year as mayor; McGlynn was sworn into office in January 1988.

Burke, a former city councilor and director of budget and personnel for Medford, said she would bring a much-needed fresh perspective to the city. 

“I will be a mayor for everyone in our community,” Burke said.

Penta, who, according to his website, has spent decades as an elected Medford official, said that he wants to move the city forward.

“The price of doing the same old thing is much higher than the price of change,” he said.

Medford resident Joanne Hamilton said she went to the event to hear from and learn about the candidates.

In particular, Hamilton said she wanted to hear from the School Committee candidates and the two mayoral candidates about issues surrounding the Medford school system and Medford Square.

“I’d like to know how people might revitalize Medford Square,” Hamilton said. “The squares in other cities are where people congregate, and there’s a sense of community there.”

In his speech, Kaplan said he hoped the event would continue to facilitate the cultivation of lasting relationships between Tufts, Medford and Somerville.

“We want to help foster these close relationships with Tufts in the political sphere and beyond because we are far better [when we work] together than when we [do] not,” he said.

“I thought it was successful,” Campbell said of the event. “The whole reason why I started this is because I truly believe that the voters, the residents deserve the right to meet their candidates. I believe that the candidates deserve the right to meet the residents.”