Joseph P. Lopes
Executive Director/CEO of MassHire Greater New Bedford Workforce Board
Twelve years of municipal experience as the Ward 6 City Councilor and four-time New Bedford City Council president
Member of Diversity Equity and Inclusion Committee for the New Bedford Ocean Cluster
Board Member of the Massachusetts Workforce Association
Regional Board Member of the Department of Transitional Assistance
I’m Joseph Lopes, and I’m a lifelong resident of New Bedford, and a proud graduate of the New Bedford Public Schools. I am running for election to the New Bedford City Council, where it would be my honor to serve the residents of Ward 5 and the city of New Bedford. I have over 12 years of municipal government experience and nearly 20 years of financial experience. During my tenure on the council, I worked to be a voice for my constituents and build consensus surrounding many key issues affecting city residents, including the financial management of the city.
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?
Understanding the importance of municipal finance and the burden placed on homeowners, the city needs to expand on its commercial tax base and one means in which this can be accomplished is the construction and establishment of a second industrial park in the city. I previously participated in the discussions for the proposed 100-acre Advanced Manufacturing Campus at the New Bedford Municipal Golf Course. The resurrection of this plan would provide New Bedford residents with well-paying jobs, modern facilities, and improvements to both Hathaway Road as well as the golf course. In addition to the above-mentioned benefits, the proposed Advanced Manufacturing Campus would provide the city with additional commercial tax base while becoming a catalyst for commercial real estate development across the city, which supports an increase in the overall tax collection on commercial real estate.
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?
UMass Dartmouth’s College of Visual and Performing Arts continues the New Bedford tradition of arts, from its roots in the Swain School to present. The loss of the CVPA in downtown New Bedford will be felt by all of the small businesses that were supported by the arts community.
Prior to the expiration of the lease on the Star Store property, all parties should have been working towards the contractual transfer of the property as stipulated within the terms of the lease. Each extension of the lease pasts its original terms should have resulted in a meeting between all interested parties being facilitated by the City of New Bedford. The city now needs to facilitate such a meeting between all interested parties as a means of working towards a resolution that brings the College of Visual and Performing Arts back to the Star Store Campus. The longer the situation plays out in its current form the harder it will be to secure the Star Store property for the students and staff at College of Visual and Performing Arts.
Most agree the city needs more affordable housing. How do you see the role of the City Council in this?
When we look at rent affordability, we need to take into consideration a number of factors, one being the free market and supply and demand. Until there are enough units in the city to handle the demand, the city will continue to be dealing with this issue.
Secondly, we need to look at how we can expand the first-time home buyer program, to incentivize renters into first-time home buyers which in turn creates opportunities to expand on one’s wealth and also for the generational transfer of wealth. Additionally, we need to look at the number of vacant city-owned lots that once housed apartments buildings on them and bring them back to the tax roll and allow for the development of new construction on those sites and support the first-time home buyers program. An initiative like this would bring properties back on to the tax roll, increase the number of units, strengthen neighborhoods with owner-occupied properties, and create wealth opportunities.
Finally, we need to continue to support housing development that takes advantage of the Housing Development Incentive Program; utilizing HDIP’s allows for larger developments to be built, which expands on the diversity of housing stock, supports economic development, and promotes neighborhood stabilization.
How should the city balance the needs of the offshore wind industry with the needs of New Bedford’s commercial fishermen?
From 2001 to present, the Port of New Bedford has been the nation’s number one most valuable fishing port with an average of over one million pounds of seafood entering and exiting the city. The city is known worldwide for the quality of seafood that is produced off our shores, and we have the fine men and women who work in the industry to thank for that distinction. That same supply chain that has been supporting the number one fishing port in the country is also able to provide the support needed by the offshore wind industry. When discussing the fishing industry, it is important to understand the constrictions in which they are forced to work within and making sure that the offshore wind industry supports them professionally. This will be key to both industries being able to thrive. Wind farm designs must first account for fisheries’ uses and how fisheries will be conducted within the wind farm areas.
The offshore wind industry needs to take into account the feedback provided to them by fishermen, and BOEM needs to significantly reduce the size of ocean tracts for leasing in response to feedback provided to them by fishermen. The City of New Bedford and BOEM need to support fisheries’ working groups, so that both industries are able to flourish into the future.
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 printed as they are returned by the candidates.