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Mayoral hopefuls amp up messages

By John Laidler
Globe Correspondent / October 9, 2011

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The two contenders in Revere’s mayoral race exchanged verbal shots last week, with George Rotondo labeling Daniel Rizzo a political insider, and Rizzo charging that his opponent does not work well with others.

The remarks by the two city councilors, offered in interviews Monday, were a sign that their contest to succeed Mayor Thomas G. Ambrosino, who is retiring, is intensifying with a month to go before the Nov. 8 election.

Rizzo, who owns a local insurance agency, is in his sixth term as a councilor at large. Rotondo, a cardiothoracic intensive care nurse at Brigham and Woman’s Hospital, is in his first term as a councilor at large after three terms as Ward 4 councilor.

“I am the political outsider. He’s the political insider,’’ Rotondo contended. “He represents the status quo; I represent change. I want accountability. I am the only candidate who has a proven record of demanding accountability in government and I want to continue that.’’

Rizzo said if Rotondo was suggesting he is part of a “ ‘good old boy network,’ I reject that. I have to make votes week in and out that don’t always make people happy, but I vote my conscience . . . . Nobody has ever owned my vote and that would not change as mayor. I would always do what is right for the people of Revere.’’

“I know I’m the only candidate in the race with the ability to work well with others,’’ Rizzo said. “That is the reason I have the support of the predominant amount of my colleagues in government.’’ He said he has received public backing from seven of his council colleagues, three School Committee members, and state Representative Kathi-Anne Reinstein, a Revere Democrat. “I view that as an asset that I am very proud of, to have a history of working with people.’’

Of Rotondo, Rizzo said, “He clearly doesn’t work well with other people.’’

Rotondo rejected the criticism.

“I’ve worked with my colleagues on the City Council and at times I’ve battled with them, but I’ve always engaged with them to do what is best for the city of Revere,’’ Rotondo said. What is important “isn’t always agreeing on issues. It’s finding issues you can work together on.

“Through seven years on the council, I’ve accomplished much. I ushered in the first local ordinance in the state that keeps Level 3 sex offenders from living near schools. I led the charge to take properties plagued by gangs and drug dealers on several city streets.’’ He also pointed to an audit undertaken at his behest that uncovered 46,000 gallons of gas unaccounted for at the city yard.

The two candidates also clashed over who has most consistently supported locating a casino at Suffolk Downs if the state approves the bill to expand gambling.

“Unlike my opponent, I’ve always supported Suffolk Downs and the expanded gaming. He has kind of been for it and maybe not for it,’’ Rizzo said.

But Rotondo said, “I have been the leader in bringing casinos to Revere,’’ noting that in addition to backing the current proposal to make Suffolk Downs a venue for a casino, he backed a previous plan to locate a casino on the site of the former Wonderland Greyhound Park.

Rizzo, who co-owns a function facility in Revere, said a key strength he brings to the race is that “I’m a known quantity,’’ citing his 12 years on the City Council, his being part of the business community, and his participation in local charitable causes.

“I think that’s something that’s resonated with people. They know my heart is here, my interest is here,’’ he said, adding that “people appreciate the fact that I have business experience.’’

Rizzo said one of his priorities as mayor would be to work for the revitalization of Broadway, which would include façade improvements and infrastructure work.

“I think our downtown and our central business district have really deteriorated over the years. To me, there is a lot of value to having a main thoroughfare through the city that is vibrant and functioning,’’ he said.

Rizzo said expanding police presence in the neighborhoods also would be a key goal.

“I want people to feel safe so that they are able to leave their house at night and not have to worry if they have to go down the street to Walgreens or Rite Aid or to pick up a gallon of milk,’’ he said.

Rotondo said that as mayor, “The first thing I would do is audit every single city department to improve accountability and efficiencies.’’

Another priority would be working to bring new businesses to Revere. He said that would include offering short-term tax incentives to foster the redevelopment of the Wonderland Greyhound Park site.

“I’d like to see that turned into a science and technology park,’’ he said of the Wonderland property. “My goal would be to bring some of those businesses from Cambridge into Revere.’’

Rotondo said he would also like to establish a fund to provide onetime emergency grants to people who need assistance in purchasing prescription drugs.

“The last thing I want to see is someone cut their pills in half or not use their medication and end up in the hospital and then lose their home,’’ he said.