Meet the Candidates: Race for Fall River mayor

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FALL RIVER, Mass. (WPRI) — On Tuesday, Nov. 2, Fall River voters will choose the city’s next mayor.

Incumbent Mayor Paul Coogan is going head-to-head with City Council President Cliff Ponte after they were the top two vote-getters in September’s preliminary election.

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To learn more about the two candidates, watch their debate on Newsmakers in the video above, and see their responses to a 12 News survey about their priorities below:

Paul Coogan

Why do you want to serve another term as mayor?

I want to serve as mayor for another term because we have already made substantial progress on a number of priorities and there is a lot of work yet to be done. I spent nearly all of my first year in office navigating the COVID-19 pandemic. I would like the opportunity to bring cultural events back, to be with residents again and to see my plans through as we make our way to the other side of the COVID-19 crisis. I believe that our administration has brought much needed values of transparency, stability and collaboration back to this position. We have built great working relationships with our elected officials, with our service providers, with our businesses and more. I want to continue our work together. Above all, I think that Fall River needs continuity and trust right now, and I can provide that for another two years.

What previous experiences make you well suited to be mayor?

After spending over 30 years as an educator, I have a unique pulse on the strengths and issues within the Fall River community. My passion has always been the people of Fall River, and I’ve spent most of my life and career being as involved in the community as I can be. My time on the School Committee prior to being elected mayor also prepared me for this role. But the strongest experience I have in my corner is the year and a half that I have already spent serving as mayor. I faced “trial by fire” within my first six months in office due to the pandemic, social unrest and a massive economic shutdown. I had to learn quickly, think on my feet and rely on a trusted team of colleagues. It was the biggest challenge, and the best training, I could have as mayor.

What do you think is the biggest issue facing the city in the next two years?

There are many, many issues that we work on every day, so choosing just one is difficult. Public safety is a priority in Fall River and is one of my main concerns. Making sure our streets are both clean and safe is my ultimate goal. We need to make sure our police department has the tools they need to succeed, that we are being preventative in our public safety and that people feel safe in their neighborhoods.

What is a hidden gem in your city?

The city of Fall River is full of hidden gems. We have some amazing natural resources. People don’t realize that Fall River is 50% forestland and water, which make for great hiking and waterfront activity. Fall River’s waterfront district is currently undergoing massive revitalization. Another hidden gem is Fall River’s culinary scene, which is one of the most impressive and diverse in the region. It represents the melting pot of communities that call Fall River home. I truly believe Fall River is one of the most promising communities on the South Coast, and I look forward to helping this city reach its full potential.

Where can voters go to find more information about your campaign?

To find out more about me or my campaign, voters should visit electpaulcoogan.com or like my Facebook page.

Cliff Ponte

Why do you want to be mayor?

I’m running for mayor because the city needs a collaborative leader who has a plan for the future of Fall River. As mayor, my administration will utilize the “Good Government” assessment when making decisions. Good Government includes thorough research and analysis, strategic planning, performance assessments, accountability, transparency, streamlined services, and responsiveness. My goal is to provide our city with quality public services that is directly related to improving the quality of life for all our city residents. Our city needs a mayor who will require lean and competent departments.

What previous experiences make you well suited to be mayor?

My combined experience in the private sector as a successful businessman has translated well in the local politics. As a Fall River City Councilor for 6 years, City Council president for the last 4 years and acting mayor for 3 months in 2019 – I understand and appreciate the role of being a legislator and executive. My success as a local businessman and entrepreneur in the city will serve me well if elected mayor.

What do you think is the biggest issue facing the city in the next two years?

Providing our taxpayers true relief and providing additional police on our streets. Currently our expenses are higher than the revenue we have coming in. If this was business, we would be “out of business.” As mayor, I will work over the next two years to provide our taxpayers with lean and competent departments.

My administration will reorganize and add more police and firefighters to improve public safety. In addition, my administration will work to improve academic achievement and provide free, full-day pre-kindergarten for all city residents.

What is a hidden gem in your city?

The Gates of the City. The Gates are a full-scale replica of the Portas de Cidade in Azores. The Gates of the City is located near our waterfront and centrally located. Considering half of our city population has Portuguese roots, this is truly a must stop in our city.

Where can voters go to find more information about you campaign?

Our website: cliffponteformayor.com

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