Our Opinion: Bernard for mayor of North Adams

This is a defining mayoral election for North Adams, the first one in the city in three decades that does not include an incumbent mayor. It features two candidates in Tom Bernard and Robert Moulton with different experiences, ideas and strategies for North Adams, a city confronting serious problems but with strengths to build upon.

Both men know where the problems are, as does everyone in North Adams: a struggling downtown, insufficient job opportunities, persistent crime, inadequate educational funding. Their approaches differ in how to take on these problems.

A veteran city councilor, businessman and president of the board of the North Adams ambulance service, Mr. Moulton is a familiar figure who has contributed much to the city. He promises to be an advocate for taxpayers and downtown, arguing that while he is a supporter of Mass MoCA and Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, both must do more to help raise all boats in the city.

Mr. Bernard has many of the same goals but he has a larger vision. He combines the insights of a North Adams native with a wealth of experience gained both outside the region and within the city at MoCA and MCLA. A graduate of Williams College, he is employed by Smith College in Northampton as a director of special projects. He has worked at a variety of positions at MCLA and as a development officer at Mass MoCA. His background — from budgeting, to community relations to management — should prepare him well to serve as mayor, and if anyone can better integrate MoCA and MCLA into the broader community without scapegoating either it would be Mr. Bernard.

North Adams has been plagued with parochialism, which is a common Berkshire affliction. With his experience and his emphasis on a regional and statewide approach to North Adams' specific challenges, he is the more likely of the two candidates to break through this parochialism and institute positive change.

On the complex issue of education, Mr. Moulton at a candidates' forum proposed the stale non-solution of a dress code to combat "gangster dressing" by students that somehow lowers school standards. That remark was not only "offensive," as Mr. Bernard described it, but focusing on clothing is a distraction from real issues. We prefer Mr. Bernard's more positive approach of, for example, doing more to engage students in the community while they are in school so they will be more likely to remain in the city after graduation.

Both candidates acknowledge that more sharing of services has become a necessity in public education in the city. We urge the new mayor to take the initiative in finding ways for North Adams to join Adams and Cheshire in a merged school district. Declining population and increasing educational costs will make this a necessity at some point, and the sooner that process begins the better.

North Adams is an attractive city with residents who are proud of their community but want their their children to be well-educated in local schools and be able to find good local jobs and deepen their roots in the city. For that to begin to happen, they need to be given more reasons for hope. Along with his background and proposals, we admire Mr. Bernard's mix of optimism and pragmatism. The Eagle endorses Tom Bernard for mayor of North Adams.


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