Meet the Candidates: Who’s running for mayor of Fall River?

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FALL RIVER, Mass. (WPRI) – On Tuesday, September 21, voters will head to the polls to vote in the Fall River mayoral preliminary election.

Outgoing Mayor Paul Coogan faces challenges from three other candidates: City Council President Cliff Ponte, Jonathan James Albernaz and Michael Vandal. The two best-ranked candidates will face each other in the legislative elections in November.

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12 News asked each of the candidates about their priorities. See their responses below:

Paul Coogan

Why do you want to serve another term as mayor?

I want to be mayor for another term because we have already made substantial progress on a number of priorities and there is still a lot of work to be done. I spent most of my first year in post navigating the COVID-19 pandemic. I would love to have the opportunity to bring back cultural events, to be with the residents again, and to see my plans come to fruition as we move to the other side of the COVID-19 crisis. I think that our administration has brought back to this post the essential values ​​of transparency, stability and collaboration. We have built excellent working relationships with our elected officials, with our service providers, with our businesses and more. I want to continue our work together. Above all, I think Fall River needs continuity and confidence right now, and I can deliver that for another two years.

What past experiences make you well suited to be a mayor?

After spending over 30 years as an educator, I have a unique pulse on the strengths and issues within the Fall River community. My passion has always been the people of Fall River, and I have spent most of my life and career being as involved in the community as possible. My time on the school committee before being elected mayor also prepared me for this role. But the strongest experience I have in my area is the year and a half that I have already spent as mayor. I faced a “trial by fire” in my first six months in office due to the pandemic, social unrest and a massive economic shutdown. I had to learn quickly, think quickly and rely on a team of trusted colleagues. It was the biggest challenge and the best training I could have as a mayor.

What do you think is the biggest problem the city will face over the next two years?

There are many, many issues that we work on every day, so it’s hard to pick just one. Public safety is a priority in Fall River and is one of my main concerns. Keeping our streets clean and safe is my ultimate goal. We need to make sure our police service has the tools to be successful, that we act preventively when it comes to public safety, and that people feel safe in their neighborhoods.

What is a hidden gem in your city?

The town of Fall River is full of hidden gems. We have incredible natural resources. People don’t realize that Fall River is 50% forest and water, which makes it a great hiking and waterfront activity. The Fall River waterfront area is currently undergoing revitalization. Another hidden gem is the Fall River food scene, which is one of the most impressive and diverse in the region. It represents the melting pot of the communities that have made Fall River their home. I truly believe Fall River is one of the most promising communities on the South Coast, and I look forward to helping this city reach its full potential.

Where can voters go to find more information about your campaign?

To learn more about me or my campaign, voters should visit electpaulcoogan.com or like my Facebook page.

Ponte cliff

Why do you want to be mayor?

I’m running for mayor because the city needs a collaborative leader who has a plan for Fall River’s future. As mayor, my administration will use the “Good Government” rating when making decisions. Good government includes in-depth research and analysis, strategic planning, performance reviews, accountability, transparency, streamlined services, and responsiveness. My goal is to provide our city with quality public services that are directly linked to improving the quality of life of all residents of our city. Our city needs a mayor who will need lean and competent services.

What past experiences make you well suited to be a mayor?

My combined experience in the private sector as a successful businessman translated well into local politics. As a Fall River City Councilor for 6 years, Chairman of City Council for 4 years and Acting Mayor for 3 months in 2019 – I understand and appreciate the role of legislator and executive. My success as a local businessman and entrepreneur in the city will serve me well if I am elected mayor.

What do you think is the biggest problem the city will face over the next two years?

Give our taxpayers real relief and provide additional police officers on our streets. Currently our expenses are higher than the income we get. If it was business, we would be “bankrupt”. As mayor, I will work over the next two years to provide our taxpayers with lean and competent services.

My administration will reorganize and add more police and firefighters to improve public safety. In addition, my administration will strive to improve academic performance and offer a free full-time preschool to all residents of the city.

What is a hidden gem in your city?

The city gates. The Doors are a life-size replica of the Portas de Cidade in the Azores. The city gates are located near our waterfront and in the center. Considering that half of our city’s population has Portuguese roots, this is truly a must stop in our city.

Where can voters find more information about your campaign?

Our website: cliffponteformayor.com

Jonathan james albernaz

Why do you want to be mayor?

In March 2020, the government imposed a devastating lockdown on the residents of Fall River. This has resulted in the closure of most of the town’s businesses; crippling the economy and the livelihoods of its citizens. Since then, the government has continued to demonstrate its incompetence; opting for tyrannical mandates that history can attest to as the practices of authoritarian and totalitarian regimes. The United States is a republic which recognizes that individual and inalienable rights flow from natural law; and not an enumerated privilege granted by the current administrative authority. As the mayor of Fall River, I would not allow these mandates to be imposed on the people. It is not for the government to dictate and regulate the private health status of our police, firefighters, teachers and other local government employees. These mandates infringe on our individual rights to bodily autonomy, privacy and personal sovereignty. These rights are not granted to us by the government, but rather by something greater; that of natural law; was given to us by our Creator, to be held responsible by man as well. The United States is the beacon of the world and the ever-burning torch of freedom and prosperity. When dictators like Salazar of Portugal and communist Pol Pot of Cambodia oppressed their people; these oppressed peoples regarded Fall River as their place of refuge and salvation. With respect and pride for these communities and others, Fall River must continue to serve as a torch of freedom against current and future tyrants. So, with this important reason, along with a desire to ensure that all Fall River residents have the opportunity to flourish into an ever-prosperous future, I am running to be the next mayor of Fall River.

What past experiences make you well suited to be a mayor?

First and foremost, I am not a politician. I (Jonathan James Albernaz) was born and raised in Fall River. I graduated from the Diman Regional Technical Professional High School, specialized in electronics. I obtained an Associate of Science degree for Computer Networking (Cum Laude) from Bristol Community College. I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Network Engineering (Magna Cum Laude) from Johnson & Wales University. I obtained a Master of Science in Computer Science (Magna Cum Laude) from Northeastern University. I have worked in the professional industry as a technical support engineer, escalation engineer, network engineer and currently as a senior software engineer. I am also an entrepreneur. I founded an intellectual property (IP) and entertainment development company called Punk This Studios, in 2014, of which I am currently president. Through these experiences, I became a problem-solving expert, respected mentor, educator, researcher, scientist, director, producer and leader. I’m the kind of person who pays attention to detail and always strives to “do the right thing”, no matter how hard it is. Through these experiences, I can provide a unique outside perspective on how to run local government in a better, more efficient and, more importantly, way out of the city’s current status quo.

What do you think is the biggest problem the city will face over the next two years?

The long-term stake for Fall River will always be its economy. The city’s unemployment rate in 2018 was 5.8% compared to the rest of Massachusetts at 3.3%. This rate is much worse than in 2021. The big question that does not arise is why is this city significantly lower than the state average? Why is the town of Fall River not doing better than the state average? Over the next two years, and beyond, one of my main goals will be to improve the city’s economy in every way possible without raising taxes on the population. Of these, bringing Fall River Celebrates America back could offer an immediate and positive boon to local businesses and city residents.

What is a hidden gem in your city?

This is a biased opinion because it is a family business, but AJ’s Bar & Grill, located on East Main Street, has fantastic food. Their Portuguese steak plate is made with a cut of rib eye and sold for a very reasonable price.

Where can voters find more information about your campaign?

More information is available at Instagram and Youtube via “Vote Albernaz”.

Michel vandale

Vandal’s campaign has yet to respond to the 12 News questionnaire.



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