By Barbara Taormina
REVERE – The race for at-large seats on the city council is highly competitive this year. Three incumbent at-large councillors, Dan Rizzo, Steve Morabito and Gerry Visconti, are leaving their seats open in order to run for mayor. And as a result, more than a dozen candidates are competing for an at-large seat.
Incumbents Tony Zambuto and Marc Silvestri aren’t taking anything for granted. Both are running hard for another term on the council.
Zambuto, who has served for more than two decades said his public and political life started back when he was president of the Rotary Club. He also served as Veep of the Revere Chamber of Commerce.
He said the city council was a natural extension of those jobs.
“It was a way to further help people,” he said.
And it doesn’t matter who you are or where you live.
“I take care of everybody and I act like a ward councillor. If you call me with a problem in ward 1, ward 2, ward 3 ward 4, I will take care of it. Some things are beyond help. If it is, I’ll tell you or I’ll tell you it’s doable.”
Zambuto said he also acts like a conservative. “I’m obviously, a conservative Republican,” adding he’s one of the few elected Republicans around. He grew up in East Boston and had a career in construction which he said has made him a fiscal watchdog on the council.
Zambuto said the centerpiece of his campaign is his vote to build the high school on the existing site and leave Wonderland on the city’s tax rolls. His vision of Wonderland calls for a commuter rail stop with a tram over to the blue line. The transportation assets would be settled in with restaurants and shops similar to Lynnfield center. Zambuto is optimistic that the eminent domain lawsuit will be resolved and Wonderland will be a significant asset for the city.
Zambuto was also concerned that the plan to build the school at Wonderland lacked a solid financial plan.
“It is a half-a-billion-dollar high school and you can’t fund something like that on hope and change,” he said adding he didn’t support proposals for increased fees and fines.
“They didn’t have a funding source for the high school. I was telling the truth, that’s what I do, it isn’t popular.”
He supports the new designs being developed for a school on the existing site.
“I am pleased and hoping they end up going up five or six stories and not having a big footprint. I’m thrilled no property will be infringed upon,” he said.
Zambuto considers two quiet reforms as leading accomplishments during his years on the council. The first requires special permits be referred to the zoning committee for review.
“So, you see everything about the project,” said Zambuto.
He is also responsible for requiring the city to complete a financial analysis for any expense that exceeds $5,000.
“It’s protection for the taxpayers,” he said.
Zambuto described himself as not anti-development. “But I’m not looking for more apartments. I would like to see controlled economic development,” he said.
Zambuto believes his record speaks for itself.
“I’m honest and I watch out for residents and taxpayers. I make a difference. If I didn’t feel I did, I wouldn’t run.”
Incumbent Councillor Marc Silvestri is in the at-large race looking to keep his seat for a second term.
“My passion has been in service,” said Silvestri. A decorated US Army veteran, Silvestri has served as the city’s director of veterans’ services for more than six years before resigning to become director of the Chelsea Soldiers Home this month.
“I’m in Revere, raising my family here, I feel I should be as engaged as possible,” he said.
Silvestri has been open about his own struggles with opioid dependency and mental health.
“It shows others with those health issues that they’re not stuck,” he said.
And having grown up in a working-class family in Revere, he also understands those challenges.
“I understand those struggles and how to overcome them,” he said.
If you’re an underdog in Revere, Silvestri has your back. And he considers it an honor to be in that position.
Silvestri sees Revere as an economic engine for the state. He’s not a fan of the term anti-development because he worries it could scare away good development opportunities. And he feels the development that has taken place in the city over the past several years, particularly Suffolk Downs, has brought about an amazing transformation.
“I appreciate this type of development. It brings jobs, growth, but there are some growing pains,” he said.
Moving forward, he feels the city needs to focus more on small business and show them some love.
For Silvestri, a priority of his second term will be to ensure that the benefits of Revere’s development boom reach residents throughout the city.
“We need to figure out how to make all this growth a benefit for the citizens,” he said. Part of extending those benefits involves increasing public safety and emergency services. Silvestri also wants to see more emphasis on mental health in city schools.
And as for schools, Silvestri feels the city should have stuck with the plan to build the new high school at Wonderland.
“We voted to take the land, and have the school design done and in the final hour we stopped,” he said.
He described the current plan to build on the existing site as trying to put a 30-pound rock into a five-pound bucket. He worries about impact the disruption of construction will have on students trying to regain their academic footing after covid. He’s concerned about the loss of athletic fields and the effect that will have on the recreation department.
“And those neighbors don’t deserve having a school within feet of their homes,” he said.
Silvestri feels an “all hands-on deck” approach to problems is the most effective. He sees Revere traffic as a natural outgrowth of the city’s location outside of Boston and next to the airport. State studies have shown most rush hour traffic comes from outside of the city. Silvestri said it’s important to work with MassDot, the MBTA and Massport to ensure traffic lights and continually calibrated and roads are maintained.
“That’s what we can do to keep traffic moving,” he said.
Silvestri said he’s proud to live in Revere and he’s happy to tout the city’s success stories.
“In the seven years I’ve been working here, I’ve seen serious growth and outreach to different demographic groups,” he said adding, “We need to continue so everybody has the ability to reach city hall.”
Silvestri feels that outreach is partially responsible for the broad field of candidates in the at-large race and the election overall.
“It’s made people feel more welcomed and engaged,” he said. “We have some strong women candidates, some minority candidates and it’s really exciting to see.”