The eight at-large City Council candidates had their differences at Wednesday night’s debate, most notably on whether to allow a piecemeal deconstruction of the city’s Designated Port Area and how to best utilize the Fuller School and its adjacent property.
Beyond those, the candidates generally agreed on how to approach some of the various the issues facing the city as it moves toward the Nov. 5 municipal elections that will fill the four available at-large posts on the newly constituted City Council.
In many ways, Tuesday night was more a forum than a debate. There was no rancor or finger-pointing, no arm-wrestling over the microphone.
Instead, the hourlong event at the Gloucester Stage Company — hosted by the Gloucester Daily Times — was civil and reasoned, with each candidate offering measured positions on the various issues that will frame the election. Clearly, the three incumbents and five challengers had done their homework.
The first question was on the future of the Fuller School property and how they would vote on the non-binding referendum question that will be included on the Nov. 5 ballot.
Incumbent at-large Councilor Bob Whynott said he supports Option A, which would consolidate most of the city services at the Fuller site while leaving only a skeleton crew operating at the current City Hall. That, he said, would provide citizens with “one-stop shopping” at the Fuller School site.
Current Ward 5 Councilor Greg Verga, seeking to expand his representation citywide, said he favored Option C, which calls for a mixed-use development of the site that would include some city offices — particularly those paying rent at non-city-owned sites — and some not-for-profit and for-profit business tenants.
Incumbent Councilor-at-large Joe Ciolino also said he supports the mixed-use option, as did challenger Bob Whitmarsh and incumbent Councilor Sefatia Romeo Theken — though Theken said it’s “very hard to know what mixed use is.”