By Barbara Taormina
REVERE – The race for the Ward 1 City Council seat is headed for a preliminary election on September 19 with longtime incumbent Joanne McKenna facing challenges from Revere Conservation Commissioner Brian Averback and business consultant John Joseph Stamatopoulus.
McKenna, who is seeking a fifth term on the council, said the race has been positive and civil and she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“My record speaks for itself,” she said adding she wants to continue on the council because there’s a lot of unfinished business.
As for finished business, McKenna highlighted the community improvement funding she shepherded into the ward from Link Logistics which is redeveloping the 44-acre Global Petroleum oil tank farm into a warehouse facility. The mitigation money will be used for some of the repairs and renovations needed to transform the Beachmont Fire Station into the Revere Public Arts Center, one of McKenna’s pet projects. There is also money to rehabilitate a park and create a community garden on a patch of unbuildable land in Beachmont.
Looking ahead, McKenna feels the next big project for the ward will be repairing the seawall which she considers a public safety issue. McKenna said she is working with U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark on the repair work and although they are in the beginning phases of planning, McKenna is hopeful there will be some climate resiliency money available to fund the repairs.
“It’s a concern for everybody,” she said.
McKenna is also keeping a watchful eye on Winthrop Avenue which is in line for $585,000 of street upgrades from National Grid which tore up the road to upgrade and install infrastructure for Suffolk Downs. She is also working on the rehabilitation of McMakin Field, which she said has some major problems with flooding.
“We have to figure out how to fix that,” she said.
Citywide, McKenna seems encouraged by the progress on the new high school at the existing site.
“It seems like we are moving forward,” she said stressing that it has to be an affordable project for the city. She voted against building at the Wonderland site because she feared what the cost of that project would mean for continuing city services.
“We are building what the city can afford,” she said.
McKenna again emphasized she is running on her record of bringing attention and improvements to Ward 1.
Brian Averback felt being appointed to the conservation commission was a good opportunity to be involved in bolstering Revere which he calls his “forever home.” But he now feels he could have a greater impact as a member of the city council.
Averback also said he decided to join the race because, “I didn’t feel the council represented me and my neighbors as it should.”
Originally from Peabody, Averback is a real estate sales professional who also owns The Estate Kings which specializes in estate sales, liquidations and auctions. He knows the value of things tucked away in everyone’s attic and in the backs of closets.
Averback feels more should be done to correct the flooding and problems with roads in Ward 1.
“It’s been a big issue,” he said.
He is also concerned with what he feels is a rise in violent crime in the ward. He suggested more police patrols and control on Revere Beach with fines and penalties for unacceptable behavior.
Averback said while out knocking on doors and speaking to residents he has heard that many in the neighborhood are upset with Suffolk Downs and the fact that their interests and concerns haven’t been heard.
“It’s a gigantic space and there was never any talk about building a hospital which is something so many seniors could use,” he said. “It was never brought up and the City Council could have demanded it,” he added.
Averback said the city needs some help from consultants to make the best decision about the different options for the high schools.
“We need to move ahead with whatever makes the most sense financially for the future of the city,” he said.
He said Ward 1 is an amazing community and more should be done to unite residents.
“We can start with the easier stuff,” he said adding events such as properly advertised block parties that will bring people out and put them in touch with their neighbors.
Averback welcomes the role of ward councillor, the person who gets the phone calls when something is wrong or needs repair.
“When anyone has an issue or a problem, I want to be the person who is called,” he said. “I want to be someone who will protect the little guy, I want to be that guy,” he said.
Averback wants to bring a new voice and a new perspective to city hall.
“I am the future of Revere,” he said.
John Joseph Stamatopoulos is a business consultant who hopes to bring his experience organizing and fostering successful businesses in the healthcare field to local government.
Stamatopoulos has three children in Revere public schools and his original intention was to run for school committee. He received plenty of encouragement from friends and acquaintances. But after watching the Revere High School debate unfold, he decided to run for a seat on the council.
“If the school committee doesn’t have the voice or the juice to get the job done, I decided I should run for the Ward 1 seat,” he said.
He has some concerns about building on the existing site such as the lack of sports fields and having students housed in the middle of a construction site. And the city will still need a central middle school.
“We are very reactive as a city, not proactive,” he said.
He believes the high school project, done correctly, will bring more people and businesses to settle in Revere.
“I want to maximize people’s property values,” he said.
But it’s more than just the high school.
“We need some change,” he said. “We need someone who is going to be a champion for the neighborhood.”
Stamatopoulos is calling for more infrastructure support for Ward 1. “Flooding, traffic and development, we need some change,” he said. “Every week our neighborhood has been flooded and that’s the norm around here.”
He is concerned that Ward 1, which is densely packed with older wooden homes has a “Fragile water supply.” And when his son was hurt during a sports event, he recalled it took 40 minutes for and ambulance to arrive. An unacceptable response time.
“Revere is understaffed,” he said.
Stamatopoulos believes there needs to be more oversight and moderation of development.
“I think it’s critical that we get this right,” he said. “The only places getting any love and attention are Broadway and Shirley Avenue.”
He is concerned about Suffolk Downs and ensuring the area is getting an adequate amount of commercial development.
“If we get it right, people will stay in Revere and more business will be attracted to the city,” he said. “It breaks my heart when I hear people want to move.”
Stamatopoulos said he is frustrated by what he describes as a lack of forward vision. “We’ve known for a decade we need a new high school and infrastructure improvements. It’s not just major projects like the seawall.”
A self-described neighborhood activist, he said he has been to scores of meetings where community input is on the agenda.
“I hear people voice concerns but there’s no follow up – It’s time we change that,” he said. “We just feel forgotten, we don’t feel heard.”
Stamatopoulos said McKenna has done the best she can but it’s time for change. He said McKenna suggested that he run for an at-large seat on the council. But as a first-time candidate he decided on the ward race. He said when he’s out knocking on doors, he asks residents who their councillor is and many don’t know.
“There is a lack of awareness in the neighborhood, but I want to make sure everybody gets heard. That has to happen,” he said.