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September 10, 2021

HOLYOKE — Rebecca Lisi in a forum of mayoral candidates Thursday highlighted her vision of a strong urban core, cannabis industry jobs and revenue and a culture of volunteerism.

“Over the years I’ve developed a reputation as a city councilor who does her homework and gets things done,” Lisi said.

A 14-year veteran of the Holyoke City Council at large, Lisi said she learned early that Holyoke’s strength lies in the collective power of individuals unified to help.

The forum was held at Holyoke High School auditorium, 500 Beech St.

The Greater Holyoke Chamber of Commerce and Holyoke Taxpayers Association sponsored the forum. Questions to the seven candidates generally dealt with economic development.

“Holyoke is my home,” Lisi said. “It’s where I’ve passed through so many milestones and where I’m raising my family. That’s why for the past 14 years, I’ve led the city with courage, bright ideas and heart.”

Economic development means making Holyoke a city of opportunity for everyone here, she said.

She supports smart growth, she said. That means permitting development to take place in areas best suited for the type of business seeking space while allowing for areas of mixed uses, open space and walkable neighborhoods, among other features.

The cannabis industry is a good example, said Lisi. She led the drive on the City Council to welcome the industry’s jobs and tax revenue when medical marijuana was legalized in 2012 and marijuana for recreational use became legal in 2018.

Just one of the benefits of the cannabis industry is that such businesses occupy and pay property taxes on hundreds of thousands of feet of previously vacant space in Holyoke’s old mill buildings, she said.

“It provides living-wage jobs with benefits and advancement opportunities for our residents,” Lisi said.

Also helpful to the urban core would be establishment of a business improvement district, she said. According to the state of Massachusetts, business improvement districts are areas with specified boundaries in which property owners pay a fee and manage services for their members beyond services provided by the city or town.

“This would make our downtown safer, cleaner and more attractive to pedestrian traffic,” Lisi said.

Regarding management of the city budget, Lisi has participated in 14 straight years of City Council scrutiny of municipal spending. No other candidate can claim such line-item, by-line-item expertise in the review of city budgets.

Lisi’s priority in managing the municipal budget is focused not necessarily on cutting but on ensuring efficiency.

For example, the City Council Public Safety Committee is discussing a proposal from Lisi to hire a firm to do an independent assessment of the Holyoke Police Department. This study would show whether the department’s structure, policies and practices are working well, or need to be changed, and whether spending in the police budget is being done wisely, such as whether the training that police are getting is effective, she said.

“I think we all know that policing is changing, public safety is changing,” Lisi said.

Regarding the $14.9 million Holyoke is receiving in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, Lisi said, “I really believe that the priority of the ARPA funds is to invest in infrastructure … we have a very old city with a crumbling infrastructure.”

Lisi has declared the four pillars of her campaign for mayor are economic development, education, welcoming newcomers and civic engagement. She would promote a culture of volunteerism if elected mayor, celebrating the city’s diversity and capitalizing on its dynamism, she said.

“I’m Rebecca Lisi and join me and together we can build a city of opportunity,” Lisi said.

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