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Boucher Kicks Off Campaign in Attack Mode
Tammy Daniels,
11:30PM / Wednesday, September 14, 2011
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Mayoral candidate Ronald Boucher, left, chats with sometime-antagonist and City Council candidate Robert Cardimino after officially launching his campaign at the American Legion on Wednesday.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The so-far low key campaign of mayoral challenger Ronald Boucher shifted into high gear on Wednesday night as he came out swinging against the incumbent.

Boucher, a six-term councilor, described North Adams as headed in the wrong direction and floundering because of Mayor Richard Alcombright's lack of leadership and careless handling of finances.

"As mayor I will bring transparency and responsibility to city government and the taxpayers will know the true financial condition of this city," said Boucher to an enthusiastic crowd of about 100 at the American Legion for his campaign kickoff. "Mayor Alcombright has not been transparent and has done everything possible to hide the true financial condition of this city."

Boucher, president of the City Council, took aim at the incumbent's policies.

The council president took particular aim at the failed $1.2 million Proposition 2 1/2 override and the mayor's contention at a series of public meetings that it would have dire consequences on the city's schools and services. 

"He predicted devastation would happen to the school system and the city if the override should fail," said Boucher, adding "schoolchildren were encourage to stand on the street" holding signs in support. "The devastation the mayor said would happen did not happen ... and we wonder why people do not trust their elected officials."

A number of his statements garnered applause; a few of his supporters were decked in bright red T-shirts with his campaign slogan "Back to Basics."

He claimed the current administration had sought an override to cover $700,000 in union raises and that the school system had been sitting on $1.1 million in available funds. A sewer fee that was supposed to go into an enterprise fund was also being used for pay raises, he said.

The 54-year-old Boucher continued on the attack, saying Alcombright had promised jobs but produced none, watched businesses leave and the hospital fall into bankruptcy, and failed to cultivate the Beacon Hill contacts that would have garnered the city some of the economic development money targeted last month to Adams and Pittsfield.

Boucher said "benches, pocketparks and painted crosswalks" don't add up to economic growth and took Alcombright to task for describing the city's financial condition as "just a little below horrible" in a recent story in The Boston Globe.

"The job of a mayor is to sell and promote the city in a way that will bring people here and not keep them away ... why would anybody consider coming to North Adams after reading the mayor's comments?" he asked. "A true leader should challenge negative portrayals of their city."

Boucher said he would move to establish a for-profit foundation to leverage $2 million in tax credits "awarded the prior administration" to create a Monument Square Business Center that would include the vacant churches and Conte Middle School. Boucher, who had appeared to support a two-school project last month, said decisively on Wednesday that Conte should not be renovated for use as a school because it would limit the area's potential.

He did not offer a position on the school project, which currently is to renovate Conte and construct a new Greylock School.

He also pledged to forge contacts in Boston and aggressively pursue businesses and move forward with the Mohawk Theater project. He envisioned a "resurgent downtown" that could include a longtime favorite of the Barrett administration - a boutique hotel on Eagle Street.

"I will not be passing out pay raises while cutting programs nor will I raise taxes to fund contracts," he vowed. "As your mayor, I will surround myself with the best and brightest people ... I will not tolerate any appareance of conflicts of interest in my administration; transparency will not be just talked about, it will be practiced."

Boucher's challenge is already late in the campaign season; a preliminary between he, fellow challenger Robert Martelle and Alcombright is in two weeks.

While most challengers start early (Alcombright kicked off his campaign against John Barrett III in April 2009), Boucher said he's not worried, nor was he disappointed at the turnout.

"We started our work way before tonight. We've been at it for about two months almost," he said. "We've been making lots of phone calls, we've been identifying the vote, we've been having a lot of meetings ...

"We're ready to roll."

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