MARLBOROUGH – The four candidates vying to replace Arthur Vigeant as mayor of Marlborough – At-Large Councilor Samantha Perlman, Ward 3 Councilor J. Christian Dumais, Marlborough Police Det. Patrick Hogan and resident Michael Baker – engaged in a debate on a wide range of topics on Wednesday, Sept. 20.
The debate was sponsored by the Marlborough Regional Chamber of Commerce. It was held in the Early Childhood Center on Washington Street, and the moderator was Darlene Welch.
The candidates stressed their backgrounds in various fields.
Perlman cited her experience in the nonprofit sector as well as her time on the City Council, including the Finance Committee.
Hogan, who has served in the Police Department for more than three decades, highlighted his experience in negotiating union contracts.
As the owner of a small business, Dumais said he’s helped create jobs and manage budgets; during his years on the City Council, he’s worked on and passed six municipal budgets.
Baker, who has no prior experience in government, emphasized his role as a lifelong resident who will listen to the residents should he be elected mayor.
“I’m running because a big part of the city feels forgotten,” said Baker. “My agenda is the people’s agenda.”
After introductions, three business owners – Robert Gustafson of Triton Financial, Luiz Thomaz of Modular Cleaning and Ana Varela of Zarape Restaurant – asked the candidates a series of questions, covering topics such as downtown revitalization, maintaining a business-friendly climate and skills needed to lead the city.
On the issue of immigrant families currently staying in local hotels, Perlman and Dumais said the state needs to provide more support, while Baker said, “Tell the state we can only take so much.”
In regards to road maintenance, Hogan would like to increase staffing at the Department of Public Works while Perlman wants to “aggressively pursue funding” from the state.
When asked about housing, Baker said he wants the city to slow its approval of housing developments while Dumais favors more owner-occupied condo units and in-law apartments. Meanwhile, Perlman said she wants to hire a city planner.
On the mayor’s role as chair of the School Committee, the candidates offered divergent opinions. Dumais backed the hiring of more support staff. Hogan would like to see the schools improve their MCAS scores, calling the scores “a disaster.”
Perlman said she was concerned about building capacity. Baker said, “We need to think about a new high school” and offering more vocational courses.
The West Side Fire Station drew a few mentions, particularly from Hogan. He chided Dumais, who was on the fire station committee, for “failing” to get the station built. Dumais replied that the committee created the report, but “the mayor sat on it.” The money has been allocated, and it remains until the city moves forward with the station.
“You’re blaming someone who’s not here,” said Hogan.
In addition to the questions from the panel, candidates put questions to each other.
Hogan asked Perlman and Dumais why they did not support the use of free cash to purchase communications upgrades, including radios, for the police and fire departments. He questioned the decision to support a bond.
“We lost out on a discount for the communications equipment,” said Hogan. He added that the new radios are needed desperately, as they are outdated.
Perlman said the move would have depleted the city’s free cash only a few weeks after it was certified by the state. Dumais told Hogan he voted against the bond, saying he wanted to use a combination of some free cash and a smaller bond.
The City Council will meet on the bond on Friday, Sept. 29, at 7 a.m.
The preliminary election is scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 10. The primary debate can be watched at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l0Uk6NIDFF8&t=1s.