, Newburyport, MA

September 14, 2013

Meet the Ward 4 City Council candidates

Newburyport Daily News

---- — NEWBURYPORT — City voters who live in the city’s Ward 4 will be facing a primary race for city councilor in Tuesday’s election.

Three candidates are competing in the primary; the top two vote getters will face off in the Nov. 5 election. Ward 4 stretches along the Merrimack River, from Broad Street to the Chain Bridge. It extends southward to High street and beyond in some areas (voters who are unfamiliar with the ward boundaries can view a map on the city’s website.)

Here are profiles of the candidates who are running for council from Ward 4.

Tom Jones

54, 130R Low St.; married,

Education: Dean College, associates degree, Bentley College, B.A.

Profession: Carpenter and construction superintendent.

Why are you running?

“I am running for my fifth term on the council because I’ve gained valuable experience and insight into what works for Newburyport and the pitfalls that many cities and towns suffer, and how best we can avoid them. I was born and raised here and wish to keep this community a great place to live and raise a family, to preserve the quality of the community and improve the opportunities for our families.

“The most challenging task we now face is balancing the need to improve infrastructure and services and still fight to contain escalating costs of fees and taxes that challenge many of our families.

“How to deal with it? By challenging every expenditure for cost to benefit ratio and critical performance standards for departments and programs. By the hard work of budget management. By reading, researching and challenging functions and initiatives and reviewing annual performance. By seeking feedback from constituents and stakeholders in the community.”

Sean McDonald

46, 9 Farrell St.

married with three daughters

Education: Vermont Technical College in Vermont, Northern Essex Community College, and Kaplan College

Profession: Finance accounts coordinator.

“Why am I running? My reason is this: In 1991 I moved to Florida to raise a family with my wife, Grettel. We moved into a neighborhood that reminded us of Newburyport. Over the years we watched the school system deteriorate and the neighborhood we love go in a downward direction. No one cared to change the situation.

“When we decided to return to Newburyport, I saw a community that cared and I wanted to get involved. I made a promise to myself and I intend to keep it. I am not affiliated with any special interest group or have any agenda of my own. I am for the people of Newburyport and Ward 4.

“What is the most important issue in the city? This question has no one answer. We have many issues to address here in Newburyport, infrastructure, water and sewer, streets and sidewalks, education and the waterfront. But if I was to choose a primary issue it would be the infrastructure and maintenance program. We do a beautiful job of creating something but lack in the maintenance of it.

“We need to get back to basics with respect to budget and spending, evaluating all levels of spending and making sure the tax payers’ money is spent wisely and properly on the issues that face us.”

Charles Tontar

63, 29 Jefferson St.

Wife Candace, son.

Education, Ph.D. studies, M.A., New School of Social Research; B.A. Georgetown University;

Profession: professor at Merrimack College.

“I am running to represent residents of Ward 4 in City Hall. Over the past three or four decades Americans have become disillusioned with government on all levels. Many of us have become cynical about the potential of government to improve our lives. We have lost faith in our representatives and perceive them to be motivated by their own narrow self-interest rather than the public good.

“I will be available and accessible to residents in Ward 4. As a councilor I will engage residents of Ward 4 in a two-way conversation on issues and concerns they may have about our neighborhoods and city. Whether the concern is with sidewalks, speeding through residential neighborhoods, problems with trees, education, tax rates, development around the hospital, odors (and worse) from the Crow Lane landfill or citywide issues, I pledge to be available.

“The most important issue in the city? Newburyport is a community on the cusp of change. The most important issue we face is to preserve our city’s character in the face of strong external market forces. I was attracted to Newburyport by its proximity to the ocean, its historic character, spectacular open spaces and thriving art, music, theater and dance communities.

“Debate over the eventual form of the central waterfront, the Local Historic District, the need for a parking deck, development around the Route 1 traffic circle and the MBTA Station, and speculation over New England Development’s disposition of a large portion of the city’s commercial property all reflect the reality that change offers both an opportunity and a threat.

How to deal with it: “First, it is critically important that we engage in a community discussion regarding any particular change. I think we accomplished this with regard to our need to build a new elementary school. I think we failed to do so with regard to historic preservation. The jury is still out regarding the waterfront. If there is anything I have learned as an urban economist, it is that no one has a monopoly on the ‘best’ way to proceed.

“The debate on our community’s future should be directed toward consensus rather than divisiveness. I will work with those fellow councilors who seek consensus and promote progress.”