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Time for Ten with Fall River’s Cliff Ponte Jr.



Time for Ten is a series where we ask past and current elected officials ten questions. This is the third in the series.

1. Congratulations on your re-election to the city council. You were gone for a couple of years after you decided to run against Mayor Coogan in 2021. What have you been doing for the past two years?

Following that election, I engaged in various community-focused endeavors that allowed me to contribute to Fall River in different capacities. During my time away from the city council, I dedicated myself to several meaningful projects aimed at enhancing our community’s well-being, doing community type events and fundraisers. One of my primary focuses was on spearheading initiatives related helping my real-estate office continue to grow, agents continuing to be involved in the community and collaborating with nonprofits to support educational programs and initiatives aimed at improving learning outcomes for our students. During my time away, I hosted a golf tournament to give back to the community as well as giving back to the community a number of ways. Returning to the city council, I am committed to leveraging the experiences and knowledge gained during my absence to continue serving our community diligently. I am honored to have the opportunity to contribute further to the progress and well-being of Fall River.

2. Let’s talk about your big decision to run for mayor instead of staying on the council. Looking back, do you regret the choice, and do you think a candidate should be able to run for both mayor and city council at the same time?

Looking back at my choice to run for mayor instead of continuing with the council, it was a pivotal decision rooted in my unwavering commitment to serving the community in a different capacity as an executive. Entering the mayoral campaign, I approached it with great enthusiasm, seeing it as an opportunity to make a more extensive and impactful contribution to Fall River. While the experience was rewarding, engaging with the community on a broader scale, I also recognize the distinct challenges and expanded responsibilities that come with the role of mayor. The position demands a different skill set, a broader scope of decision-making, and heightened responsibilities compared to serving as a city council member. I have no regrets about pursuing the mayoral office I still believe I would have made a good Mayor, but today my focus is elsewhere. Regarding the question of whether a candidate should be permitted to run for both mayor and city council simultaneously, on one hand, allowing individuals the freedom to seek various positions within the community promotes diverse perspectives and talents in government. However, simultaneous candidacy for both roles may present challenges such as potential conflicts of interest and divided attention, which could compromise effective representation and commitment to either role.

3. What do you anticipate your working relationship with Mayor Coogan will be after being his primary opponent in 2021?

As a dedicated public servant, fostering a productive and professional working relationship with Mayor Coogan is my utmost priority, regardless of our past electoral competition in 2021. Although our campaign reflected divergent visions for the city, I firmly believe in transcending political differences to prioritize the collective welfare of Fall River’s residents. Looking ahead, I envision our collaboration founded upon mutual respect, cooperation, and a shared dedication to our community’s well-being. Despite past campaigns, I strongly believe that elected officials must collaborate for the city’s advancement and the betterment of its people. I am fully committed to engaging with Mayor Coogan’s administration in a professional and constructive manner, focusing on common objectives and areas of agreement to serve the best interests of our constituents. Holding the administration accountable is a fundamental responsibility of the city council, and I intend to fulfill this role diligently. While differing perspectives on certain issues might exist, I maintain an optimistic outlook that our shared commitment to Fall River’s prosperity will guide our interactions positively. Collaborative efforts between the city council and the mayor’s office are pivotal for implementing policies and initiatives that enrich our community. Approaching this working relationship with an open mind, a spirit of cooperation, and a focus on shared goals for the greater good of Fall River remains my priority.

4. Were there any big issues that went on over the past two years in the city that you wish you had been able to impact? What things are you looking forward to tackling now that you’re back?

As a business owner, I deeply value accountability and fiscal responsibility, principles that I believe should be integral to government operations as well. I possess a keen understanding of both financial management and municipal finances, and I am genuinely interested in comprehending the inner workings of each department within our city of which much has changed in two years. I’m happy to see Mayor Coogan follow one of my ideas was to restructure City departments. I firmly believe that if political decision-making were akin to business practices, the public perception and appreciation of government would significantly improve. My experience has taught me the pitfalls of making decisions without a thorough financial analysis, especially when those choices prioritize short-term popularity over long-term sustainability.

I’ve witnessed concerning practices these last 2 years such as the reliance on one-time funds to balance budgets and the execution of collective bargaining contracts (which needed to increase) without the essential financial scrutiny. The financial obligations we face, including commitments to Diman and Durfee, along with the imperative of meeting 100% of net school spending and increasing in property values demand a sustainable plan for our community’s future.

My primary goal is to address specific areas of government performance, aiming to streamline processes and create a more business and industry-friendly environment within our city. By implementing measures that prioritize accountability, responsible spending, and long-term planning, I aim to ensure a more sustainable and prosperous future for Fall River.

5. We don’t get to see too much about your personal life. Are you married? Any plans for a family? And why are you so private about your life behind the business and politics?

I am currently unmarried; I do want children of my own one day. However, my primary focus and dedication have been directed towards nurturing my real estate company, as well as overseeing Al Mac’s Diner and Al Mac’s On-The-Go, which I consider akin to my ‘babies’. While I envision having a family of my own someday, I tend to keep my personal life separate from my business and political endeavors. This decision stems from a desire for privacy, as I firmly believe that my personal life is not for public consumption. I’ve witnessed firsthand how the intrusion of personal life into the public sphere can affect relationships, especially during my involvement in the years under the Jasiel Correia administration, where I experienced the impact on the scrutiny. My choice to maintain privacy about my personal life is a deliberate one, stemming from the impact I’ve witnessed on relationships due to public attention. This separation helps me focus on my professional responsibilities without unnecessary interference or judgment.

6. I heard that you were the person who tipped off former city councilman Chris Peckham on where to get a suit in this city. Is that true?

I thoroughly enjoyed this experience. During my tenure as the acting Mayor and at that time – soon-to-be re-elected as Council President, I recognized the opportunity to support Councilor Peckham and Councilor Lee in enhancing their attire game. Understanding the significance of their appearance for their inaugural City Council meeting, I suggested a visit to Professional Image, a place I believe they had not previously explored. My intention was twofold: to ensure they made a strong impression at their first Council meeting and to emulate the supportive guidance I received from Councilor Cadime during my initial years as a Councilor. I strongly believe in paying forward the help I received and wanted to assist them in a similar way. Being a Council President goes beyond presiding over meetings; it involves fostering a conducive environment for new Councilors to flourish. My aim was to build trust and demonstrate my commitment to supporting them, ensuring they knew I had their best interests at heart. This experience remains etched in my memory as a poignant reminder of the importance of mentorship and support within our council.

7. You’re an owner of Keller Williams South Watuppa and your letter to staffers about potentially being mayor and it being more ceremonial than hands on was made public. Do you know who leaked that to the public and do you think it cost you the election?

Yes, I am aware of who was involved, and although it did not significantly impact my election outcome, I believe the reason for my loss wasn’t solely attributed to that factor. Throughout that race, I gained valuable insights not only about trust and respect. Reflecting on the election, it became apparent to me that the result was influenced by timing and the residents’ desire for continuity. I acknowledge that sometimes elections pivot more on the context of timing and the community’s inclination toward continuity in leadership rather than solely on individual factors.

8. Speaking of Keller Williams, it’s obvious that rent prices are a hot topic for city residents and it’s a regional issue for many in the state. What would you say to one of your constituents who’s rent has been raised out of their budget and they cannot find affordable housing in the city?

Addressing the concerns of constituents grappling with soaring rent prices and the challenge of finding affordable housing is a pressing issue that demands both attention and compassion. If a constituent found themselves in this difficult situation, I would express heartfelt understanding of their predicament and offer multifaceted support and guidance: To start, I would empathize with their circumstances, acknowledging the hardships they face. It’s crucial for them to feel heard and assured that I am genuinely dedicated to seeking viable solutions. I would underscore my unwavering commitment to advocating for policies that bolster affordable housing initiatives within our city. This could entail collaborating closely with local housing authorities, partnering with developers to expand housing options, and actively working to increase the housing inventory. The shortage of available housing is a nationwide issue contributing to our local struggles, and addressing this shortage is key to mitigating soaring prices. Economics demonstrates that increasing the housing supply helps alleviate demand pressures, ultimately curbing substantial price hikes. As a councilor, I would guide them toward accessible resources and specialized organizations that offer housing assistance. There might be valuable programs, subsidies, or community-driven initiatives tailored to assist individuals grappling with housing affordability challenges. Encouraging direct communication with landlords or property management companies could potentially yield positive outcomes. Sometimes, discussing rent adjustments or exploring alternative arrangements might be feasible through dialogue. Most importantly, I would reassure them of my unwavering commitment to tackling this pervasive issue in our community. Advocating for and implementing policies aimed at ensuring affordable housing for all residents would remain a top priority throughout my tenure.

9. What should Fall River residents be excited about in the upcoming year?

The development and planning of our waterfront is going to be some of the biggest things to be excited about as well as the train coming to Fall River.

10. Where is the last place you went to eat dinner in the city and what did you order?

I went to Tipsy Toboggan, and I had a wonderful chicken meal (I hate seafood).

Primary correspondent for the Greater Fall River area, Jess focuses on human interest stories and investigations into political corruption. She is a former fill-in host and digital contributor at The Howie Carr Show, former host of The Jessica Machado Show and SouthCoast Tonight on WBSM in New Bedford, former blogger at The Herald News and a former fill-in host at WSAR in Fall River.

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