Though the mayoral debate was the main event on Monday night, there were two other important debates that took place inside the Woburn High School auditorium.
Candidates for Alderman at Large and for Ward 5 each debated during two separate sessions, touching on a wide variety of subjects and issues that face the City of Woburn.
Alderman at Large
Following the mayoral debate, incumbents Paul Denaro and Richard Haggerty hit the stage to debate with challenger Mike Conannon. The auditorium had been at capacity for the mayoral session, but when that ended about half of the residents in attendance filed for the exits.
“I didn’t realize how quickly I could clear out a room,” Denaro joked.
But when things got down to business, all three candidates put together strong debates. The first question to Denaro was what to do about traffic on the west side near the Lexington line.
“Traffic is an issue everywhere in this community,” said Denaro. “We do what we can to mitigate that. The commercial-based growth we have is why Woburn is affordable. What goes with that commerce is the employees and the traffic that it generates. The only way to stop the traffic is to reduce that, and clearly that would shift the tax base onto the homeowners. There is a tradeoff for every decision we make.”
Candidates agreed on several of the topics, including the budget and meeting 40B requirements.
The recent Boston Magazine ranking of Woburn as the No. 113 district in the area was brought up to each candidate. What can be done for improvement in the city?
“The most important thing we do is support the school budget in June,” said Haggerty. “I think our kids are working hard and the school department is working extremely hard. Every year some things will go up and down. At the end of the day is the student getting a good education? It’s up for you to decide.”
Concannon said much of the successes and failures of the education system hinge on something that is beyond the school department’s control.
“I’m of the opinion that the primary variable in success is the support at home and the esteem education is held within the family,” said Concannon. “It contributes greatly to a student’s attitude heading into class every day. That’s what we can focus on. Everyone in the city wants the best for our schools. We should tread lightly when we denigrate the success of our schools. Let’s focus on what we are doing well, and downplay the negative use of statistics.”
Ward 5 Debate
Incumbent candidate Darlene Mercer-Bruen took on challengers James Fletcher and Paul Muise Jr. during the final debate of the night. The first question provided was about restoring the community feel to East Woburn.
“People feel over-commercialized and burdened by businesses there,” said Fletcher. “It’s important to us (having a commercial base), but it’s our job and priority to take care of our people whether physically, monetarily or by comforting them. … It’s our job to take care of the community and foster places where the community can gather.”
Muise and the other candidates touched on making sure the ward never has a water problem like it has had in the past.
“I think the Department of Public Works is doing a great job,” said Muise. “I don’t think we’ll be having any more problems. We’ll stay on top of the businesses around, making sure nothing like that is happening. As long as we stay on top of it and allow them to do the maintenance, we shouldn’t have a problem.
Mercer-Bruen spoke several times about issues she has gotten resolved in the past as an alderman and prior to that as an active community member. She answered a question about growing business without impeding on neighborhood growth, and said balance is the key.
“We have to strike the right balance with integrated growth, making sure we don’t have too much of one thing,” said Mercer-Bruen, who used another question to drive home that point. “I’m very proud of East Woburn and the people I represent. People want to come here. Know why? It’s a great place to live. You can get a gallon of milk and a chainsaw within a half-mile of each other. It’s very convenient.”
Election Day in Woburn is slated for November 5, while there is a primary on Tuesday, Sept. 17.