Devin B Byrnes
Chef and owner-operator of Destination Soups in downtown New Bedford
Two-time mentor and judge for E for All business program
Started and ran Cocoa at the Common (free hot cocoa program at Clasky Common Park)
Worked with numerous other non-profit groups
I am deeply committed to making New Bedford a better place for everyone. It’s time that we welcome new ideas, pragmatic outlooks and collaboration in city government to better serve the citizens of this city. Recent developments in the council have proved that the status quo is no longer working. We need elected officials to be responsive, reasonable, accessible and accountable to the folks that elect them. When I take office, I will be that leader. I have proved that I possess these skills in running my business for the past decade-and-a-half and I want to utilize my unique skill set to better serve you.
With limited land in the city for potential commercial development and tax revenue, what can the City Council do to build the tax base outside of taxes on private homes? What would you do as a councilor?
We need to incentivize redevelopment of large parcels of underutilized commercial space like that seen around Kings Highway and in some areas of our downtown and Acushnet Avenue. Not only will the redevelopment add to the assessed values of these properties, but it will also open up more streams of commercial revenue and local employment that may be lacking.
When the train arrives, I expect the areas abutting MBTA stations will see commercial resurgence. I think that our eventual adoption of allowing marijuana facilities in town was a step in the right direction despite delays. Moving forward, I would like to see the city government, the Southcoast Chamber of Commerce, and the NBEDC work closer together to stay ahead of commercial opportunities that come our way.
UMass Dartmouth’s decision to move the College of Visual and Performing Arts out of New Bedford is seen as a significant blow to business and cultural activity downtown. What could the city have done to keep the CVPA here? What should the city do now?
The CVPA leaving downtown is a considerable blow to the region. My restaurant is just a stone’s throw from the Star Store and the steady flow of students and faculty as customers to all downtown businesses will be missed. Unfortunately getting to the bottom of what happened and where blame lies has been like peeling back the layers of a pungent onion. I think now we need to look toward the future in ways that we can incorporate this downtown landmark to be a cultural beacon yet again. I think we repurpose the space as performance and gallery spaces on the lower floor, artist studios or makerspace retail on the middle level and apartments up on top floors. I realize a building of this size needs considerable maintenance, but this repurposing of the space could maintain the vibrant bridge to the arts community and our thriving downtown.
Most agree the city needs more affordable housing. How do you see the role of the City Council in this?
At this point everyone in city government is recognizing that a statewide housing shortage is on our doorstep. The city has made strides in addressing these issues. They are in the process of hiring a vacant properties manager whose role will be revitalizing unused properties and getting citizens who need housing into them.
City councilors need to be non-obstructionist in aiding this to come to fruition. Easing permitting and zoning to enable new construction is essential to a successful housing plan. Real estate is like any other market. Right now, there is not enough supply, and demand has never been higher.
We also need to look into ways to stop massive, predatory corporations from gobbling up housing stock. This nationwide trend continues to rob future generations from the hopes of property ownership and wealth.
How should the city balance the needs of the offshore wind industry with the needs of New Bedford’s commercial fishermen?
I attended Vineyard Wind’s informational meeting, and I was struck at how well that particular business is trying to balance the needs of two major industries that are sharing space side by side. Whether we like it or not, the wind industry is here. We need to monitor things to try to ensure that this partnership continues to be the best deal possible for the city of New Bedford.
I am a proponent of using more renewable energy sources but have some concern with the current wind technology being used in these turbines, which will eventually become antiquated in terms of efficiency. Vineyard Wind does work side by side with the fishing industry, giving them employment with logistics, while federal regulations often keep the boats grounded.
The fishing industry has taken quite a few blows in recent years, but I think it’s important and a good first step that these businesses collaborate. City government needs to do everything in its power to keep the lines of communication open with these two vital industries.
Editor’s note: Candidates in all contested races were asked the same questions with a limit of roughly 200 words for each answer. Additional profiles will be published as they are returned by the candidates.