NEWBURYPORT — The three candidates for Ward 6 city councilor discussed trash, retail marijuana and other city issues during a candidates forum on Saturday morning’s broadcast of Local Pulse.
The candidates in the running for the seat are Sarah Hall of 8 Arthur Welch Drive, Byron J. Lane of 14 Hart Road and Mary Zinck of 6 Laurel Road. They will be on the ballot for the preliminary election Sept. 17, which will narrow the field to two candidates to face off in the municipal election Nov. 5.
The three contenders fielded questions from Local Pulse host Joe DiBiase at The Daily News. The show was broadcast live online and is available for listening online at any time.
Hall, a Lexington native, works as lead naturalist at Joppa Flats Education Center and said she hopes to advocate for affordable living through tax relief programs while also fighting to ensure tax dollars go toward infrastructure and neighborhood issues.
Lane, who was raised in the city’s South End and now runs a local real estate business, said he hopes to bring “common sense and a hometown voice” to the council, while advocating for the residents of Ward 6 living on fixed incomes.
Zinck, a longtime city resident and 20-year member of the city’s Board of Registrars, said she hopes to bring her experience negotiating contracts to the council, while encouraging responsibility with local tax dollars.
When asked about the city’s proposed “one cart free” trash program, which would pick up one 32-gallon trash cart from each household and require them to pay for each additional trash bags they use, Lane said it would be unfair to Ward 6’s larger families and residents living on fixed incomes.
“To force some of the residents up there to pay for their trash doesn’t make sense to me ... are we just doing this to offset the losses now? “ Lane said, suggesting the city “look at alternative methods,” such as composting, to reduce overall trash output.
“It’s a conversation that needs to be had and it needs to make sense for everybody,” Lane said.
Zinck also said she was against the proposal, saying the change would be “too large and abrupt” for residents.
“Going from three barrels and taking it down to one-half barrel ... . This is a financial burden on many larger families, and we need to reconsider it.”
Hall, in contrast, supported the program and expressed urgency in dealing with the rising cost to dispose of Newburyport’s trash.
“Costs are going up and trash is increasing. If we don’t do something our property taxes will go up,” she said, adding that the program could use some amendments before receiving approval.
“We have to figure this out because the way we’re doing it is not sustainable,” Hall said.
When pressed by DiBiase about whether they believe the city is slow in repairing its streets, and if they supported a proposed $10 million bond to repave some streets, all candidates shared slightly different opinions.
Zinck admitted being unaware of the proposed bond but said she supported repairing streets.
“Our streets are a mess,” she said.
Hall said that while the $10 million bond “sounds great,” she would want to see how it would affect the city’s AAA bond rating.
Lane agreed that some city streets are long overdue for maintenance, but didn’t support the idea of bonding to raise money for repairs.
“Our economy’s been pretty good, but we shouldn’t have to bond,” Lane said. “Let’s look at it and figure it out so it’s not a potentially bad situation, should the economy turn.”
All three candidates expressed support for the residents of Phillips Drive, who have long dealt with serious drainage issues. They all also said they support either repairing or rebuilding the ward’s West End fire station.
When asked about their positions on potentially banning retail marijuana, Zinck said she believes it should simply be left up to the voters, while the other two candidates took a pro-retail marijuana stance.
“I think it’s a good source of revenue,” Lane said. “We’re not inviting organized crime into Newburyport, but we have to be careful.”
Hall said she does not support a potential ban – which will be on the ballot in November – and she thinks the city is “missing out on revenue” because of the pending vote and current moratorium on opening any pot shops.
“I feel strongly as a parent that legalizing and regulating is the best option for public safety, public health and for our children,” she added.
Zinck said the city’s most critical issue is its “streets, sidewalks and infrastructure,” while Lane said he believes Newburyport’s spending is the most important subject. Hall placed affordability at the top of her list, advocating for the proposal to turn the former Brown School in the South End into a building with affordable housing.
When asked for their opinion on the proposed Waterfront West Overlay District zoning amendment, Lane said it is an opportunity to talk with New England Development and “look at what makes sense for everybody.”
Zinck, on the other hand, said she was against the zoning amendment, and expressed a distaste for Waterfront West as a whole.
Hall said she would vote in favor of the amendment, expressing that it would be a way to place limits on plans from NED, who she said will build on the site either way.
To listen to Saturday’s forum, go to newburyportnews.com and click on the Local Pulse logo.
Staff writer Jack Shea covers Newburyport City Hall. He can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 978-961-3154. Follow him on Twitter @iamjackshea.