New Mayor, New President, Renewed Debate

President Richard Lapidus

By Libby Taylor
Tonight at 7 the four Fitchburg mayoral candidates will be debating in Kent Recital Hall at Fitchburg State University, moderated by the new head of the university, President Richard Lapidus. The event is free and open to the public.
Lapidus said he believes that a part of the debate would be focused on the “user-friendliness” of Fitchburg’s downtown, “how business friendly is Fitchburg,” meaning how easy is it for prospective business owners to work through the steps of starting a business in Fitchburg.
Another concern he believes will be debated is the city’s infrastructure. “They will talk about roads, about sidewalks, about lighting – things that will make the city more attractive, easy to navigate by foot,” he said.
A hot topic for the city, policing, is also believed to be up for debate. Lapidus mentioned social services geared more toward rehabilitation than arrest could be a part of this exchange. He said he believes that a more long-term solution to the opiate abuse and homelessness in Fitchburg needs to be considered.
Returning to the businesses of Fitchburg, Lapidus said he is excited about efforts to build what he called an “art culture” in the city. He brought up the Fitchburg Art Museum’s extraordinary efforts to bring artists into the city, which he feels could lead to more businesses and more citizens bringing life to Fitchburg’s Main Street that currently exists as a shadow of its former self.
The preliminary election will be next Tuesday, Sept. 22, which will knock out two candidates and leave two standing for the final election on Nov. 3.
Currently, the candidates are state Rep. Stephen L. DiNatale, Andrew J. Couture, Miguel A. Fleitas, and Stephen T. Sandrelli.
Couture, 37, is an attorney at Curtin, Murphy & O’Reilly, a law firm in Boston.
Fleitas, 47, former Navy sailor and currently in the U.S. Navy Reserve, is scheduled to graduate from Fitchburg State University in May 2016 with a degree in communications. He has been a resident of Fitchburg since 2004.
Sandrelli, 51, and his wife moved from Arlington to Fitchburg in 2005. He has a bachelor’s degree in political science and now works as a stay-at-home dad after a congenital heart defect was diagnosed, causing him to leave his job as a TSA agent in 2010.
DiNatale, 62, has served as state representative since 2007.
Doors will open at 6 p.m., with the debate beginning at 7 p.m. There will be 10 rounds of questions, each candidate answering every question with two minutes of debate among them after each of them has answered. At the end of 10 rounds, each candidate will be given two minutes to provide a closing statement.
The panel questioning the candidates includes Fitchburg Sentinel & Enterprise Editor Charles St. Amand, Fitchburg State University associate professor of political science Josh Spero, and Stephany Infante, student representative on the Board of Trustees to Fitchburg State.