Haverhill’s mayoral challengers came together face-to-face for the first time Thursday night to discuss some of the city’s biggest issues—including education, police staffing and taxes—during a debate at Merrimack Street’s Harbor Place.
While the Hale Hospital debt, cannabis and ward councilors were among the topics discussed, it was education and public safety that took center stage. Mayor James J. Fiorentini, Haverhill’s longest-serving mayor, touted the heavy hand he had in renovating Haverhill High School and rebuilding Hunking Middle School, while Dan Trocki pledged to spend the city’s $12 million in reserves on education “without a doubt.”
Less than a week after Haverhill Police Patrolman Trocki personally responded to a call in which a Lawrence man was allegedly shot in the face by a city teen, he implored voters to let him speak from his experience—on the streets. “If you want safer streets and better education, I think you’ll want to vote for me on Nov. 5. If you want longer response times and less officers on the street, you may want to vote for the incumbent,” Trocki said.
For his part, Fiorentini renewed his pledge to bring in part-time police officers and increase foot patrols. Citing FBI statistics that crime is down “fairly dramatically” in the last 10 years, Fiorentini said he leans on “nationally recognized” effort UTEC to keep the city safe from gangs and other violence.
Trocki, who works in the city’s Acre neighborhood, was quick to find fault with Fiorentini’s plan. “I believe it’s a bad move. It’s a very dangerous job and people who aren’t as qualified will have a very tough time here in Haverhill,” the officer said.
When asked to discuss how he’d approach a city budget, Trocki spoke of his time negotiating as the vice president for the Haverhill Police Patrolmen’s Association, vowing not to hand out raises to his police peers if elected. Fiorentini applauded Trocki’s decision, and in doing so, alleged his campaign was “fully funded” by local unions including the public safety group he attaches his name to.
“I think he has to answer one simple question tonight: When the doors are closed, the shades are down and the press is out of the room, which side are you going to be on? The public knows that in the last 16 years, when the negotiations are going, I’m on the taxpayers’ side, each day, every day,” Fiorentini countered.
In his closing statement, 16-year incumbent Fiorentini called his tenure as mayor the “greatest honor of his life,” but acknowledged there’s more work to be done to build the Haverhill he hopes for. “We’re just getting started,” he kept repeating to voters. “We’re just getting started.”
Haverhill voters head to the polls on Tuesday, Nov. 5.