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Boulanger, Knapik to fight it out for mayor

Date: 9/29/2009

By Katelyn Gendron

Reminder Assistant Editor

WESTFIELD -- Mayor Michael Boulanger cautioned voters last week not to make any assumptions about who'd come out on top in November's general election.

"Voters really need to get out and vote ... and make sure that they cast their vote for their candidate [of choice]," he told Reminder Publications after the preliminary election on Sept. 22.

Boulanger lost the mayoral preliminary election to City Councilor Daniel Knapik by 446 votes but gained a place in the two-candidate general election in November. Candidates Daniel Szafran Jr., Gaetana Aliotta and Robi Fortier were eliminated from the election cycle.

Knapik called his victory "a good indication" that his message is reaching voters.

"I'm gonna stick with the same [campaign] strategy, which is to continue to bring my message to the voters and do some more door to door campaigning," he said of his plans between now and November.

"I've got the knowledge and experience to get the city moving again," Knapik said, noting his eight-year experience in city government. "There's not a learning curve with me."

He said candidates in the preliminary election seemed to focus on downtown redevelopment, one of his many priorities concerning economic development throughout the city.

"The city has done very little for downtown," Knapik said. "If they [Westfield State College] pull out, there is nothing for the mayor to hitch his wagon to."

Boulanger disagreed. He explained that progress has been made downtown with the help of Westfield State, the non-profit Westfield on Weekends, the Westfield Business Improvement District and the recently announced $15 million Main Street-Broad Street reconstruction project, among others.

Boulanger added that many projects, not just concerning economic development, have been completed throughout his first term as mayor. He said his campaign strategy is to "let people know all that we've accomplished because we have a full plate."

"The city's finances are in fine shape even with minimal money that we have," Boulanger said, adding that the stabilization fund has been boosted from $220,000 to $3.6 million.

"We've garnered 1.1 million square feet of new [retail] floor space and over 25 new businesses," he noted, adding that other priorities include fiscal responsibility, accountability and commercial-industrial development.

Knapik said his priorities include economic growth on the north side; improvement of quality of life for residents; gaining strategies to "steer the economic debate"; improve inspection safety for multi-family housing; and promote "open communication between city government and the city."

Knapik has also taken his campaign into the 21st century using the latest advances in social networking in order to reach voters. He has set up Twitter and Facebook accounts, appealing to the Generation Y demographic and to take advantage of numerous methods of campaigning.

Knapik noted that he will continue campaigning door-to-door until the general election as well as reach out to voters via social networking. He is focused on three platforms, he said, "communications, truth and budgeting and economic development."

General elections are Nov. 3.