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Briefings: Ferreira Starts with Lighter Touch in Bid to Oust Morse…

Jason Ferreira addresses supporters as girlfriend Sara St. Germain looks on. (WMassP&I)

HOLYOKE—The carved horses and lights of the city’s 1920’s merry-go-round whirled in its pavilion. The near-perfect New England weather wafted through the open doors. With City Hall looming to the north, supporters of Jason Ferreira gathered at Heritage State Park for his mayoral campaign kickoff.

In an apparent effort to remain positive, the former Ward 4 City Councilor emphasized public safety, schools and business development. Criticism of the incumbent was present, but so far Ferreira lacks the outright bellicosity that has typified past challengers to Alex Morse.

Morse’s 2015 opponent, Francis “Fran” O’Connell, declined another run and the others who pulled papers seem unlikely to survive a preliminary. That leaves Ferreira, an employment coordinator at Community Enterprises, as Morse’s probable November opponent. The winner will serve the city’s first four-year mayoral term.

In an interview after his remarks, Ferreira said he wanted to focus on issues. He would be “offering what we are going to do instead of beating Alex up.”

Holyoke Fire Chief John Pond. The HFD may become a campaign issue. (via

Long term that may be easier said than done. Still, even as Ferreira panned the current administration’s handling of fire department staffing and accused it of a cliquey governing style, there was a dearth of apocalyptic fire typical of anti-Morseism.

He critiqued Morse’s attention to national issues, but their ideologies overlap a lot, too. Apropos, both backed passage of the Community Preservation Act, for which Ferreira was a spokesman.

“It’s not natural for me to be critical,” he told WMassP&I.

While acknowledging he and Morse will butt heads, Ferreira said “people are worn out” from the negativity of politics.

But the blows will come.

In remarks delivered from the paused carousel, Ferreira decried plans put forward to reorganize the Fire Department as “political.” He alluded to a New Year’s Day apartment fire in which three died and Fire Chief John Pond’s plans to deactivate an engine and up staffing of other vehicles.

“Safety has got to be the first thing,” Ferreira told his supporters.

Firefighters claim overtime cuts which have browned out fire vehicles contributed to the tragedy and called for Pond’s ouster. A state fire marshal’s report fingered the building’s faulty fire alarm, delaying response time. Morse has stood behind Pond.

Holyoke City Hall (WMassP&I)

The candidate riffed on schools, namely high stakes testing—he’s opposed—as well as economic development. On the latter, he said existing businesses cannot need more support, but are not getting City Hall’s attention.

His most searing criticism was an accusation Morse had made Holyoke more “divided and exclusive” than ever. Ferreira said he once supported Morse, but claimed Morse only furthered the political divide and hoarded the levers of power.

Undoubtedly Morse’s campaign will dispute such characterizations, but these hits lack the venom of 2013 and 2015. In that way, Ferreira might represent at least a different threat to Morse. Still, huge challenges lie ahead for the 34 year-old former councilor.

Morse has a fat campaign war chest and, cycle after cycle, a battalion of volunteers. Additionally, Ferreira has not run for office since his 2011 election to his sole Council term.

Ferreira played down fundraising and said he was getting back to basics of campaigning. He said he had been walking neighborhoods and knocking doors, losing 12 pounds in the process.

“There’s no rocket science to it,” he said.