Mayor hopefuls agree: Market Fitchburg better

By Jon Bishop

UPDATED:   10/30/2015 08:49:27 AM EDT

FITCHBURG -- Voters got the chance to take another look at mayoral candidates Andrew Couture and state Rep. Stephen DiNatale during a forum held by North of Main and Main Street Thursday evening at Destaré.

And both candidates had much to agree on.

The event, which was co-sponsored by ReImagine North of Main and Fitchburg Pride, had Couture and DiNatale answer seven prepared questions before taking any from the audience.

They involved how to better market the city, their thoughts on a one-lane Main Street, how to address homes being financially underwater, engaging residents, creating a business-friendly environment, using departments to improve quality of life, and utilizing the creative economy.

Couture spoke first, and throughout his remarks, he stressed getting businesses into the city.

"Start reinvesting in Fitchburg," he said. "We need to start marketing the city. I want to get Fitchburg in publications -- business publications, business journals."

As mayor, he would hold an open-door policy for both residents and businesses, he said.

"I can't do anything if I don't know about the problem that you're having," he said.

He said he'd also like to streamline the process for getting businesses into Fitchburg.

"Don't just put up walls," he said. "By making it easier for businesses, you're going to see businesses develop here."

He suggested, too, having a "business of the month" as a way to recognize businesses for their loyalty to the city.

City Hall also needs to be "more accessible, more approachable," he said, stressing that Fitchburg's website should be re-done.

In terms of the creative economy, he cited the B.F. Brown artist colony project as something that is "really good." There should also be more bookstores and coffee shops in the city.

"We need to start working with businesses to get the creative economy going," he said.

DiNatale also said it's important to reinvest in Fitchburg and to be business-friendly.

As mayor, he said he'd work to promote economic development by increasing the commercial and industrial tax base through rezoning, and he'd use some of the relationships he's made on Beacon Hill to help the city.

"The mayor has to be the chief marketer, and I would commit to that," he said.

He'd also hold an open-door policy, and he, like Couture, stressed the approachability of City Hall.

"Our goal must be to get to yes," he said. "The mayor must set the example for a cultural change within City Hall and all city departments. And that culture change is based on a simple phrase: Be nice. Just be nice."

DiNatale said Fitchburg's website "must be emphasized."

"We have to make this website user-friendly," he said.

Another goal, he said, is to remove "onerous regulations and red tape."

All of this, he said, is about "true customer service."

"Our door is open for business," he said. "City Hall must be approachable."

He also praised the BF Brown project, pointing out that it will likely generate new businesses: shopping, dining, walking areas, places where people will want to come downtown.

During the audience question-and-answer period, both candidates heard from City Councilor Joel Kaddy, who asked them about opening up parking downtown, and both agreed it was something that should be addressed.

When asked about the forum, Patricia Pistone, project director of ReImagine North of Main, said she thought it was "great," calling it "very upbeat, positive."

"Our purpose tonight was to educate," she said.

Destaré owner Chris Iosua, there on behalf of Pride, said both candidates "did an exceptional job."

Elections are Tuesday, Nov. 3.

Follow Jon Bishop on Twitter and Tout @JonBishopSE.

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