Incumbents Richard Conti, Jay Dilisio, Peter Blais and Brian Kirby were joined by challengers Heather Porreca and Ronald Churchill. Of the six candidates, the top five vote-getters will win.
The debate, hosted by the United Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Attleboro Sun Chronicle, began with a question regarding tax classification in the city. For businesses in Attleboro, taxes have been lowered in recent years, resulting in more of a burden on residents.
"Maybe its time to slow down the way we change the tax rate," Conti said, explaining that residents have been feeling the burden in recent years.
Other candidates, including Blais and Dilisio, said the council should encourage small business growth without burdening residential tax payers.
"I can see us continuing to decrease the burden on the business side without overburdening the classes on the residential side. We need to do this in a slow, progressive way," Kirby added.
"I’ve found that over the years we haven’t been able to attract business and I don’t know if the tax rate has anything to do with that," the former fire chief said.
Porreca said she has yet to form an opinion on the issue.
The head of Attleboro's Farmers Market, Porreca said to grow business in the city, the council should make it apparent that Attleboro is "open for business."
"It’s a wonderful community," she said. "We have what it takes. We’re on the right path. We just need to sell it."
Her statement was in response to a question regarding bringing businesses to Attleboro's downtown. Other candidates expressed a need to create a more business-friendly environment. Dilisio said he developed Attleboro's Restaurant Week to encourage growth in downtown restaurants. Kirby expressed a desire to create a "business week" similar to Dilsio's restaurant week. Blais said legislation, which was recently passed by the council, will allow residential properties downtown and increase foot traffic to help business.
Churchill said all business owners need to be treated similarly.
"[We need a] process where everyone is treated the same whether you know somebody or you don’t know somebody," he said.
The candidates also discussed what could be done with abandoned mill buildings throughout the city.
"It would be interesting to see half of Union St. revitalized
in a different way," Kirby said, while explaining that the city council would need to weigh the issue in terms of priority. The issue, he said, may not be at the top of the list and could be costly
Porreca said the city should speak with nearby communities such as Pawtucket for ideas while Conti mentioned a Community Resource Center at the former Texas Instruments building. Churchill, citing his experience as the former fire chief, emphasized that such projects would be difficult due to cost and strict codes.
In closing statements, incumbents emphasized recent progress such as downtown revitalization, paid down debt, and a new sports complex while expressing that more work is to be done.
Challenger Churchill discussed his experience as a fire chief and in multiple departments in town while Porrecca emphasized the importance of the election.
"All of the decisions made at this level, at this 'U' will affect our quality of life immediately," she said.
Election day is Tuesday, Nov. 5.