Candidates Show Few Differences During Haverhill Forum; One Exception was Election by Wards

Haverhill City Hall. (WHAV News file photograph.)

Candidates for mayor, Haverhill School Committee and City Council took part in a forum last night, presenting their visions for the future of the city that was light on disagreement.

Due to pandemic concerns, the forum, sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Greater Haverhill, was presented remotely and carried live by HC Media and 97.9 WHAV.

The majority of the evening focused on the candidates of Haverhill City Council. They included Council President Melinda E. Barrett and councilors Joseph J. Bevilacqua, Timothy J. Jordan, John A. Michitson, Michael S. McGonagle and Thomas J. Sullivan. Challengers included Katrina Hobbs-Everett, Melissa Lewandowski, Josiah Morrow, Dee Jacobs O’Neil, Catherine Rogers, Fred Simmons, Kenneth Stevenson, William Taylor and Shaun P. Toohey. Not taking part because of schedule conflicts were Tomas Michel and Kenneth Quimby.

Moderator Amelia Koch asked each candidate a series of questions including ideas for greater diversity in the workforce, dumping of raw sewage in the Merrimack River and visions for Haverhill over the next five years. While most responded with similar answers, there were a few that broke the mold, including Josiah Morrow who wants to see a new generation take leadership roles in city government.

“In the next five years, I hope our community becomes a city that has better engagement for young people. I would like to see young people become more involved in our civic process and in various different parts of our city and I believe by electing leaders of that generation, we can accomplish that,” he said.

On the topic of ward councilors, all candidates supported the idea except Joseph J. Bevilacqua who advocated instead for term limits.

The candidates tended to agree with the need for greater transparency by government, more affordable housing, improved broadband service and prudent spending of citizen’s tax money.

On the School Committee side, three candidates took part in the Q&A session. They were incumbents School Committee members Paul A. Magliocchetti and Richard J. Rosa along with newcomer Miguel Andres Quinones, who is hoping to become the first Latino to sit on the School Committee. Member Maura L. Ryan-Ciardiello did not take part in the forum.

Those candidates were asked questions ranging from how to improve teacher retention to raising student grades. Asked about lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, all three cited the need for outreach programs and keeping the kids in classrooms. Committee member Richard Rosa.

“First and foremost, students do better in school and so we are in school again full-time and I think that the work going forward has to be focusing on getting back to where we were before the pandemic,” said Rosa.

Also scheduled last evening were Mayor James J. Fiorentini and challenger Colin F. LePage, vice president of the City Council. However, because Fiorentini is recovering from a breakthrough case of COVID-19, he presented a short video outlining his achievements and plans going forward. LePage also presented a pre-recorded video, focusing on his successes in the City Council and his vision for Haverhill should he be elected to the top spot.

The election will be held Tuesday, Nov. 2. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. that day.

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