Brockton mayor debate: WATD hosts Sullivan v. Fontaine – Enterprise News

MARSHFIELD — South Shore radio station WATD hosted the only debate this election cycle between Brockton Mayor Robert F. Sullivan and challenger Fred Fontaine. The forum, held Thursday, Oct. 26 at WATD’s studio, featured questions from WATD Managing Editor Christine James, WATD correspondent Charles Mathewson and Brockton Enterprise reporter Chris Helms. Early voting is underway. The election is Tuesday, Nov. 7.

Here are five takeaways from the hour-long forum:

1. When did Sullivan know about the school deficit?

Some Brocktonians say Sullivan must have known the extent of the school deficit months before the $14.4M in overspending became public. Or that if he didn’t know, he should have as chairman of the school committee. Here’s how the mayor said he’d respond to residents who have these concerns:

“People know me and my reputation, the way I was brought up,” Sullivan said. “I’m an honest person. There’s no need to lie. You only know what you’re told, right? That’s all. That’s the facts. Myself and the seven members I serve with, we weren’t told. I was told on August 8th.”

Sullivan reiterated that he was dismayed when he found out and vowed to bring systemic change.

“I can only tell people the truth. That’s what I’ve always done, and people are either going to believe me or they’re not going to believe me,” Sullivan said.

2. Fairgrounds decision to be made by election winners

Before the deficit scandal broke, the biggest issue in Brockton was arguably Sullivan’s proposal for the city to pay $55M for the old Brockton fairgrounds so that the city could shape how the 65 acres will be developed.

“As mayor, I put it forward, but only the city council can decide if we’re going to move forward,” Sullivan said, noting that city councilors will also be on the Nov. 7 ballot. “I think we have to figure out how to control our own destiny. I was adamantly opposed to having an Amazon-type distribution center on Belmont Street in the City of Brockton. It just doesn’t make sense. Not a good location for that.”

Fontaine has also expressed support for the idea. But the Brockton businessman said now isn’t the time.

“With that deficit I would put a pause on it,” Fontaine said. “It’s a good idea if we did have the money. I would love to see the city take charge. But for now, it’s not a good idea. For now, the city’s having so much trouble I would put a pause. Table it.”

3. Fontaine says ‘leadership has failed’

Fontaine argued that the city needs a new mayor based on the problems at Brockton Public Schools. “When you see families are leaving the district at a record rate, what else can we say other than that leadership has failed,” said Fontaine. “I empathize with many Brockton residents who feel left out and left behind by the current administration.”

4. Candidates’ favorite Brockton spots

Panelist Mathewson asked the candidates their favorite place in Brockton other than D.W. Field Park.

Fontaine drew a big laugh from Sullivan when he leaned toward his opponent and said, “I think I like the mayor’s office.”

Sullivan said his favorite place is Marciano Stadium, where he trains for marathons. “I love Marciano. I love Marciano Stadium. I love it,” he said.

5. Candidates agree: Doing business in Brockton should be easier

A standing feature of WATD debates is a “lightning round” where politicians must answer yes-or-no questions. Asked, “Is it as easy as it should be to open a business in Brockton?” both candidates agreed that it isn’t.

“That’s a big no,” Fontaine said, emphasizing his strong feelings with an arm gesture.

The incumbent agreed. “No,” Sullivan said. “We have to work on it.”

Fontaine covered similar ground in answering a different question. “They make it difficult for small businesses to survive,” Fontaine said of city red tape he’s faced with his own businesses. “When I get in, I will make sure to unlock the door, open the city.”

Send your news tips to reporter Chris Helms by email at CHelms@enterprisenews.com or connect on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, at @HelmsNews.


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