Lang comes out firing in city’s mayoral race

By AARON NICODEMUS, Standard-Times staff writer

This article appeared on August 13, 2005 in the Standard Times
NEW BEDFORD — Scott W. Lang, a well-known city attorney who has never run for public office, said yesterday he is running for mayor because the city is heading in the wrong direction.

“The administration has let the people of this city down,” he said in his statement announcing his candidacy for mayor. “It no longer works for or projects the interests of the citizens in this city. Special interests and undue influence dominate many important decisions. This administration no longer has the trust of the people of the city. In fact, they think they own the city. … This mayor is obscuring the reality of our city’s plight for the sole purpose of another election victory.”

Mr. Lang said that Mayor Frederick M. Kalisz Jr. is a good man, but that he has lost touch with the people he serves.

“No one is born to be mayor. No one owns the office of mayor or should feel it is an affront if someone decides to run for mayor,” he said.

He also issued a “direct challenge” to the mayor to begin directly addressing his administration’s record. “I want the mayor involved, not hiding behind someone else,” he said.

He criticized Mayor Kalisz for driving a “gas-guzzling SUV,” and wondered whether the mayor of New Bedford needed a car at all. “The pomp and circumstance of the mayor’s office is no longer going to exist if I’m elected mayor. I’ll understand who I work for,” he said.

Mr. Lang made a strong pitch for support from the city’s labor unions, noting that he has represented management and labor in other labor disputes unrelated to the city.

“We have collective bargaining chaos in this city,” he said. “There is no excuse for a lack of communication between the city and the workers of this city. … You have to bargain in good faith. New Bedford cannot fold its hands and say we’ll wait you out. They deserve to have their contracts resolved…. I will respect every worker in this city, and I expect them to obey the law as well.”

Mr. Lang, who just entered a crowded mayor’s race last week, issued a point-by-point criticism of Mayor Kalisz’s record. On crime, Mr. Lang said New Bedford is in “crisis.” He said personal and property security will be “the number one priority of my administration.” He called the city’s dropout rate “unacceptable” and said he will “commit to significantly lowering the dropout rate.” He said the city’s streets are a mess.

In the area of economic development and jobs, Mr. Lang said he will aggressively attempt to convince companies to relocate to the city. And he promised, “Every presentation will be based on its merits. There will be no insiders and no outsiders.”

In that vein, Mr. Lang said the proposal to build Home Depot at the Fairhaven Mills site “needs to be looked at again.”

“Let’s look at whether the last — and best — piece of city property on the interstate and on the water should be developed into a “box store” with a limited number of full-time jobs, many without employee benefits,” he said. “Let’s look at whether the merits of the proposal are independent of the administration’s former city solicitor earning a brokerage commission on this project. … I am very skeptical about the Home Depot development project and the events that brought it about.”

Mr. Lang said that he will campaign for mayor and continue to hold down his full-time job at his law practice. “My energy will match anyone’s in the campaign. No one will be able to say I didn’t vote for Scott Lang because of his lack of energy.”

Mr. Lang held his campaign announcement at his law practice. Besides the media, only his wife and daughter attended. His two law partners, Margaret “MarDee” Xifaras and Peter C. Bullard, have publicly thrown their support behind mayoral candidate Matthew Morrissey. Mr. Lang said he has not asked them to leave Mr. Morrissey and join his campaign.