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City Council choices

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After a vigorous primary in September when two candidates were winnowed from the list of those aspiring to sit on the Watertown City Council, the race for two seats has become much less visible with few issues separating the political hopefuls.

What does differentiate the candidates are experience and vision. Teresa R. Macaluso and Jeffrey M. Smith sit on the council today and are seeking re-election. Stephen A. Jennings and Cody J. Horbacz each want one of those seats.

Since the primary, there has been little overt political action. Each candidate has been interviewed by radio, television and the newspaper. There have been two public debates — the last of which was a rather desultory affair because the audience was more interested in leaving the auditorium at Immaculate Heart Central Junior/Senior High School to go outside to watch IHC win a football game.

The primary attracted 2,840 voters, who overwhelmingly supported Ms. Macaluso. Mr. Smith narrowly came in second ahead of Mr. Jennings by 45 votes.

The primary set the stage for an anticipated debate over city issues. That has not happened.

None of the primary issues such fluoride in the water, the Thompson Boulevard shared housing debacle and oversight of the city’s rental properties have earned anything but minor lip service. The candidates have been campaigning, going door to door, placing lawn signs and appearing in what few public debates have been sponsored. But the electorate does not seem engaged.

Ms. Macaluso has served on the council for four years and has been a voice of reason. She failed to be carried away by the crowd mentality that fired former City Manager Mary M. Corriveau, but she has been supportive of efforts of new City Manager Sharon A. Addison.

Ms. Macaluso kept her wits about her in the controversy over just who can live in family dwellings zoned Residential A. She is a listener and seems to have a clear understanding of what is important to Watertown residents. Operating her coffee business provides her with an immediate conduit to public opinion.

Mr. Jennings brings an interesting and thoughtful perspective to the race and would make a valuable addition to the council. He has a vision for Watertown that revolves around focusing attention on deteriorating neighborhoods.

He relies upon data to define the most challenged neighborhoods in the city. His vision is simple: Focus on these neighborhoods to define the root issues and prescribe a game plan for improvement by invoking help from social agencies, government and residents.

That the council would have a voice with a vision for changing the direction of city neighborhoods is refreshing. It is a focused approach that would utilize resources, not to create a new arm of government but to help contain deterioration and embolden residents and property owners to invest.

The ill thought out dismissal of this approach by Mr. Smith at the IHC debate is inadequate.

And it shows that Mr. Smith may have been in office so long that he is becoming jaded.

Mr. Jennings’ professional life relies on data analysis to create healthier communities.

His public health record is clear and has benefited Jefferson County.

That he is willing to devote his professionalism and enthusiasm to becoming a strong advocate for a clear vision for Watertown is commendable.

Residents have two votes Tuesday. Electing Ms. Macaluso and Mr. Jennings will improve the tone of Watertown government.

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