Photo Gallery: North Adams mayoral debate
View a recap of the debate via our blog from Wednesday night
NORTH ADAMS -- The topics of crime, economic development and the school system generated much discussion at Wednesday night's mayoral debate between Mayor Richard J. Alcombright and challenger Robert Moulton Jr.
The debate, sponsored by the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce and moderated by retired Adams Town Clerk Paul Hutchinson, featured questions from the chamber, the Transcript, iBerkshires, WNAW, and the MCLA Beacon.
"There's no doubt we've seen more crime, particularly breaking and enterings, as well as violent crime," Alcombright said. "Our head is not in the sand on this."
A partnership between the city, the Berkshire Sheriff's office, the Attorney General and the State Police led to an increase in the number of arrests, he said. Alcombright also noted that he sits on two committees aimed at raising awareness of addiction and mental health issues.
Moulton stated that the city's rate of violent crime is 45 percent higher than the state average.
"You said four years ago [crime] was your number one priority, and I think that's failed miserably," Moulton said.
Moulton stressed the need for additional police presence, and stated grants were available for the construction of a new public safety facility.
"If there's money out there the city could obtain, we would have found it by now," Alcombright responded.
Moulton stated that many residents are concerned about the increasing cost of living in the city.
"These conversations confirm what I've been hearing for months," Moulton said. "The average people of North Adams, the middle class, no longer have a voice."
Alcombright maintained the city is more affordable than cities of similar socioeconomic demographics, such as Lowell or New Bedford.
Moulton maintained the city use the 1995 HyettPalma report as a stepping-off point to downtown revitalization. Moulton also criticized the city's master plan, set to be unveiled this January.
"If you spend another dime on another report, you spend too much," he said.
Alcombright disagreed, stating the city needs a master plan that takes multiple parts of the community, such as health, wellness, natural resources and infrastructure, into consideration.
Both candidates also disagreed over the $30 million Conte School project.
"It scares me to death what the final cost will be," Moulton said.
Alcombright stated the school project would lead to job creation in the region, and also questioned Moulton's participation in the planning process.
"We had well over 20 meetings, and I never saw you at one," he said. "The only one I remember you being at is when the city council voted to fund the project."
When asked about medical marijuana dispensaries in the city, Alcombright said he would bring a six-month moratorium to the city council this November so the city can study the issue more.
Moulton said he was unsure about issue, and that he would need to study the issue further.
Wednesday's debate was filmed by Northern Berkshire Community Television and will air on Channel 17 multiple times before the election on Nov. 5.
A second debate will be held at the WNAW studios on Wednesday, Oct. 30 and will air live from 9 to 10 a.m.
To reach Edward Damon, email