Three gentlemen facing off on the ballot to be the next mayor of North Adams came together Tuesday evening, and at the forefront of that race is the subject of health care and the lack of a hospital. Reporter Jim Vasil takes a closer look at the health care forum from Tuesday night.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. -- Another night in the Berkshires, another mayoral forum. This time in North Adams, where an incumbent, a newcomer and a long-time former mayor are all looking to win the corner office come November.
"They're all three good guys, and they all want what's best for the City of North Adams," said forum moderator Ed Driscoll. "So hopefully we're going to get some sort of synthesis of ideas tonight out of those three guys."
This forum is a little different from Pittsfield's Monday town hall-style mayoral meeting; there was one topic and one topic only: health care, and the hospital closure in 2014 that tore the city apart.
First to speak on the subject was artist and realtor Eric Rudd, one of the most outspoken advocates for the return of a full-service hospital.
"What is wrong with us?" said Rudd. "$25 million for an art museum, $8 million for the Hoosic River, $2 million for a choo-choo train, at one point, $6 million was completed to re-pave Heritage State Park, and we don't have a hospital?"
Then, a surprise. John Barrett III, former mayor of the city for more than 25 years, is back on the ballot. He, too, says North Adams needs a hospital, perhaps the biggest reason why he wants his old office back.
"I made a decision that I wanted to run for the office, not against anyone, but against the priorities and the policies of the present administration," said Barrett.
And then, the incumbent, Richard Alcombright, who of course endured the closure of the hospital 17 months ago. He would not advocate for the return of a full-service hospital, instead backing all that Berkshire Health Systems has done to trickle health care services back.
"I have, virtually, two armchair quarterbacks to my left who are now speaking about what they could have done or what they would have done or what they should have done," said Alcombright. "We were in the thick of this."
The next mayor will have to do deal with other issues in addition to health care, but perhaps, in North Adams, there are none more important than this.