Alcombright Dinner at Bounty Fare in North Adams

Mayoral Race a Piece of Cupcake

By: - Oct 04, 2009

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Former North Adams City Councilor, and ardent supporter of Candidate Dick Alcombright, Keith Bona, baked and frosted 300 green cupcakes. With colorful little billboards stuck on top flacking Alcombright for Mayor, a labor intensive task delegated to other supporters, they were served as a tasty desert with a message. Last night, some 250 were anticipated for a sit down dinner at Bounty Fare which is inches from the town line with neighboring Adams. But some 272 showed up for a hearty dinner of roast beef, sliced turkey, roasted potatoes, ziti, mixed veggies and those now infamous cupcakes.

We asked the friendly and sanguine Bona, who is running for City Councilor, how and why he came to such an incredible feat of baking? Did he have a special kitchen or bakery at his access? "No I baked them at home" he answered. "In my kitchen. It took me all day." No, he had never done it before but "Now and then I get the urge to take on a project."

Like helping to elect his friend and colleague Dick Alcombright. Which some supporters, based on Alcombright's strong and withering performance during the Debate this week, now view as a piece of cake. Or a piece of cupcake.

Getting a bit of face time with Alcombright, during an evening when he and his wife Michelle were busy table hopping and pressing the flesh, Dick exuded confidence but was quick to comment that "I don't want to get cocky."

Coming into the final month to a day before the voting on November 3 he compared the hotly contested, and too close to call contest with Mayor John Barrett III, as like a hockey game. "I have seen too many teams get over confident when they are up three to one in the final two minutes. Before you know it the other team scores two quick goals and suddenly you are in overtime."

Asked if he is gaining confidence of winning in a well orchestrated campaign Alcombright answered "I went in this from the beginning feeling that I would win. But at first there were knots in my stomach every time I got a call from the media. For the most part they have been great and fair. Now when I get those calls I feel relaxed and answer 'What can I do for you?' "

In a tough contest that started months ago we asked if he is feeling the wear and tear? "Not really" he said. "I am comfortable and relaxed but this is not the time to ease up or get overly confident."

The next debate is scheduled for Wednesday, October 14 and is sponsored by the North Adams Transcript. The editor of the Transcript, Glen Drohan, is known for his long term support of Mayor Barrett. In the popular and often vociferous Topix responses to the on line function of the paper there have been questions raised regarding the Alcombright campaign getting fair and equal coverage. Larry Murray, who has Interviewed Barrett,  will cover that debate for Berkshire Fine Arts as we strive to balance our reporting.

Attending the Alcombright dinner were two other seated City Council members Lisa M. Blackmer and Michael C. Bloom. Blackmer reminded us of her event scheduled for Tuesday, October 6, at 6 pm upstairs at the Freight Yard. We will try to attend. Bloom discussed his 20 years on the council expressing concerns with Barrett's autocratic manner of governance. The time and effort of committees are too often neutralized by the Mayor's veto power and manner of orchestrating his own views and decisions. Bloom conveyed that he is among those who feel that after 26 years under Boss Barrett it is time for a change.

Of course there are many, perhaps as much of half of the voting population of North Adams, who strongly believe in and support the Mayor. In their view he guided the city back from the brink when Sprague closed and they lost their jobs in the mills. He has in every sense been a hands on Mayor never to miss or fail to acknowledge a birthday, anniversary, wedding, christening, or funeral. He also has a steel trap mind and razor sharp memory for both friend and foe. Many relate the consequences of getting on his bad side. Watch your back appears to be a local mantra.

During our coverage of the first debate we raised the issue of backlash against the newest citizens of the city, artists and first time homeowners which one xenophobic zealot characterized to me as "Carpetbaggers" and "Takers." I reported that Barrett played to the politics of fear evoking the notion of "Us vs Them" pitting long term, blue collar workers against the newcomers. In many e mails, conversations, and comments posted to the site it was pointed out that the newbies are just a small aspect of the broad based community support for Alcombright.

That point was well conveyed as we table hopped and talked with neighbors. There was clearly a broad base of lifelong residents and hardly a yuppie or hippie in sight. Of the artists it was disappointing that only Gail and Phil Sellers of River Hill Pottery in the Eclipse Mill attended the event. Gail grew up around here and her folks live in Adams. She is among those of her generation who came back home and planted roots in the community. Phil Sellers has taken on the daunting job of chairing this year's Open Studios a city wide North Adams event planned for the weekend of October 16-18. The Sellers more than pull their weight for the community.

During the lively and fun evening Dick and his wife Michelle greeted and chatted with their guests. There were no heavy duty speeches beyond thanking folks for turning out as well as acknowledging those who had worked so hard on the event. Including cupcake king and Council candidate Keith Bona. There was a raffle of several gift certificates for The Hub, The Alley and, of course, Bounty Fare. After that guests were invited to stay for disco dancing.

As souvenirs of a great evening many folks were saving those little Alcombright banners on top of the cupcakes. Soon to be valuable items on E Bay. Astrid and I have decided to post them on our front lawn. Who knows maybe the squirrels will vote for Dick.