BROCKTON —Challenger Bill Carpenter came out aggressively against incumbent Mayor Linda Balzotti on a host of issues – from crime to the proposed Brockton power plant to tax hikes – during Wednesday night’s Brockton mayoral debate.
The jabs at times put Balzotti on the defensive on issues including the city’s reputation and her efforts to bring more private and public investors to the city. The debate covered a range of familiar topics, including crime, residency requirements, police and community relations and the continuing legal battle surrounding the proposed Brockton power plant.
The candidates offered similar visions for the future of Brockton, but disagreed on matters such as the progress made with the representation of minorities in city government and property and commercial taxes, each presenting themselves as the most qualified choice to lead the city.
The candidates offered little revelations during the debate, which was held at the Massasoit Conference Center and sponsored by The Enterprise, BAMSI and Massasoit Community College. The debate at times resembled a wonky policy seminar, as the candidates delved into the minutia of the legal snafus circling the power plant and the city’s excess water supply.
But the debate was also punctuated at times by a series of sharp exchanges, including when Carpenter made a reference to the recent murder of Lee Harmon, who was bludgeoned to death with a hammer, which Balzotti called “disrespectful.”
Carpenter, the Ward 5 School Committee member, opened Wednesday’s debate heralding his work in helping rebuild the Plouffe playground and the renovation of Marciano Stadium. Throughout the debate, Carpenter often emphasized Brockton’s rising crime rate, saying that if left unchecked, Brockton could be come “the next Detroit.” He said that Brockton is the second most violent city in Massachusetts and 41st most dangerous in the United States.
“Today, Brockton residents are three times more likely to be the victim of a violent crime than the average Massachusetts resident. Violence is a daily occurrence in Brockton. The streets of our city are flooded will illegal guns and illicit drugs.”
Balzotti countered by noting a decrease in burglaries and crimes against people. Although historically, relations between police and the community have been strained, Balzotti said she has seen improvement and as part of her crime-fighting initiative. She also said her administration has called for more residents to volunteer in neighborhood crime watch efforts.
Balzotti said the primary focus of a specialized police unit is to patrol neighborhoods like Campello and Montello, in an effort to engage the community in crime fighting.
“We’re starting to see those walls come down a little bit,” she said. “We know we need to be out and be amongst the community and we have made strides and we’ll continue to build upon it.”
Carpenter questioned her recent efforts and numbers, saying he would repair strained relationships between the police and minority communities by hiring more officers, something he said the current mayor had failed to do in four years.
Balzotti noted the recent hiring of two police officers as a result of a state-funded grant. “I haven’t met anyone who feels safer today than they did four years ago,” Carpenter said.
Two more debates are scheduled before Election Day on Nov. 5.
By Dafney Tales