Editorial: Time to consider political office in Easthampton, Northampton

We hope the candidacy of mayoral challengers in Easthampton and Northampton signals an active and instructive political season, and we encourage residents who want to help move their city forward to consider running for mayor, City Council, School Committee, or other offices available in this year’s elections.

The campaign for mayor started this week in Easthampton when Nicole LaChapelle formally announced her candidacy. The 50-year-old attorney who has lived in the city for 20 years says increasing transparency in municipal government is among her priorities.

LaChapelle is the only announced candidate for any political office in Easthampton. Mayor Karen Cadieux has declined to say publicly whether she will seek re-election to a third term. In an email sent Tuesday to Gazette reporter Caitlin Ashworth, Cadieux stated that “a candidate cannot take out nomination papers until July and that is why and when I will be making any announcements. A person is not considered an official candidate until nomination papers are returned to the city clerk for signature certification which has a deadline of Sept. 19.”

By contrast, in 2015 when she had no opposition, Cadieux announced in mid-June her candidacy for a second term and she held a formal campaign kickoff event June 25. Cadieux, who defeated three other candidates in 2013 with 59 percent of the vote, had served as assistant to Michael Tautznik during his 17 years as Easthampton’s first mayor. We believe that other potential candidates for mayor, as well as Cadieux’s supporters, deserve to know soon whether she will run again.

LaChapelle on Tuesday said she is motivated to run for mayor “by the same things that have driven me for decades — advocating for communities to make them the best they can be, for everyone, regardless of profession, race, age, creed or income.

“Easthampton deserves a mayor who cultivates progress and thinks creatively to solve existing challenges. I am a leader with new perspectives to lead our city forward and into the future,” added LaChapelle, who previously served on the Easthampton Zoning Board of Appeals and as treasurer of the Massachusetts Democratic State Committee.

LaChapelle said she would provide leadership on issues that have roiled Easthampton this year — including a proposal to become a sanctuary city that was dropped — by making sure that everyone is heard and learning from the experiences of other communities.

Also on the Easthampton ballot are nine seats for City Council and six for School Committee. Nomination papers are available in the city clerk’s office beginning July 3, and they must be returned by Sept. 19. Because there is no preliminary election in Easthampton, all candidates who submit the required number of signatures will be on the Nov. 7 ballot.

Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz, who announced in April that he is seeking a third term, also has a challenger, Roy Martin, who already has run unsuccessfully eight times for the office. Martin says he is running again in part because of the displeasure by some residents with a stormwater fee adopted by the City Council in 2014.

A petition signed by 500 people calling for the fee’s repeal was rejected when the city’s attorney ruled in May that any such effort should have been initiated no more than 21 days after the measure was approved.

Narkewicz cites continued work on the municipal budget, economic development, capital improvements, affordability and sustainability among his reasons for seeking re-election, as well as “our leadership in terms of a community that’s welcoming and at the forefront of social justice issues.”

At least two other contested races also are shaping up in Northampton. Pamela Powers and Robert Driscoll have announced they are running for the city clerk’s job being vacated by Wendy Mazza, who is retiring after holding the position since 2004. Incumbent Lonnie Kaufman and Tom Davidson have taken out papers for the Ward 6 School Committee seat.

Northampton candidates have until July 27 to return their nomination signatures for certification. If there are more than two candidates for any seat, there will be a preliminary election Sept. 19 to determine who advances to the Nov. 7 final ballot.

We urge new candidates and incumbents to engage in informed and civil political discourse this year so voters in Easthampton and Northampton have the opportunity to make thoughtful choices about their government.