Bianchi Lays Out His 'Plan For Pittsfield'
Dan Bianchi said he wants to review the city's charter and look for ways to restructure it to become more efficient.
Bianchi laid out his plans to a large crowd at the GEAA on Wednesday, focusing on taxes, city services, education, economic development and job creation, expansion of open government and public safety.
"If you have a difference of opinion, you're marginalized. If you have an idea that doesn't match with the status quo, you are put down for it, you're marginalized," Bianchi said. "We've got to be a lot more open and a lot more inviting to people. I want everyone to be involved. You don't have to have a Ph.D.at the end of your name to serve on a board or a commission."
Bianchi said that if elected, he is committed to filling boards and commissions regular people, creating office hours for residents to just walk in and meet with him, host periodic ward meetings and upgrade the city website for residents to better interact with city government. Those plans are aimed to take the "politics" out of government operations.
"Far, far too often in our history we've seen a government that has been tied up and dominated by politics. It makes the operation of government inefficient," Bianchi said. "We're a 21st-century city with a 19th-century form of government."
Bianchi is calling for formation of a charter review committee to re-examine all aspects of the city's governmental structure, including the role of mayor. To help keep tax increases down, Bianchi is calling for another committee of retired professionals who will review the budget every year and look for ways to be more efficient and for annual re-examination of the roles of retiring employees instead of automatically replacing those positions.
"You can't always reduce things but you can making things better," Bianchi said. "We have an opportunity every year to review positions as people retire. It shouldn't be an automatic 'well, Joe retired, we've got to replace them.'"
Bianchi said he wants to plan the city's capital expenditures years ahead of time so that residents are not surprised by the annual bill. All investments should be handled in a more "scientific way," said the city's former finance administrator.
While Bianchi told the crowd that he believes the city can be managed better, he promised that he will not take office and begin firing department heads or other employees.
"I think with good management there is no need for layoffs, especially in an economy where we've got large numbers of unemployment and underemployment. The last thing I want to do is to be mayor and make it worse," Bianchi said. "There will be plenty of firefighters and, if I have anything to do with it, all the stations will be open, all the guys will be employed. That goes to the police officers, too."
Open government and long-term management strategies will allow the city to invest in education and small businesses, he said.
"I think we are on the verge of redefining ourselves as a community from the old manufacturing to the new community of the 21st century and it's going to be an exciting place to be," Bianchi said. "We've got to do what we can to really encourage the growth of our small businesses in the city ... What I'd like to do is create a pool of dollars that will help small businesses."
The city could not only loan money to small businesses from the free cash account but Bianchi said he would also like to take between $500,000 and $750,000 from the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority and make it available for small business owners. Also to grow economic development, Bianchi said he wants to form a development advisory committee and designate some areas of the city as state-recognized business improvement districts to allow small-business owners to access additional state grants and loans.
While supporting local businesses is one goal, Bianchi said he wants to establish a marketing plan to attract businesses outside of the area — particularly in emerging green technologies.
"We need to always being thinking green. I would like us to be the green city that can actually attract from the green industry," Bianchi said.
Bianchi joked about the number of committees he'd like to form, throwing out an idea for a multi-unit homeowner commission to help examine the state of the city's housing. From code enforcement to light ordinances to even the amount of available affordable housing, the commission would discuss all aspects to improve housing for business that are interested in moving their operations to the city.
Encouraging businesses to move here will also mean improvements in the school system. Bianchi said the "uniqueness" of the schools needs to be emphasized so that students will start staying in Pittsfield schools instead of choosing other schools.
For the re-building of the schools, Bianchi said he supports a two-school system and said he will advocate the state of pay for renovations of both Pittsfield High School and Taconic High School. He said he will also encourage a significant study into vocational education to see if there could be a regional trade school. But whatever school system comes to fruition, Bianchi said he would support a debt-exclusion vote for the renovations.
Bianchi also said the schools need to look at sharing services, particularly with administration and technological support, and stressed shared services across the county.
"We've really got to start thinking beyond just the city of Pittsfield," Bianchi said. "I am confident that we can come up with shared services that will make sense and save money."
Bianchi said he would like to meet with boards of selectmen and find ways to help each other. For example, Bianchi said that both North Adams and Pittsfield have engineering departments and the two cities could find ways to split those costs. Once again, Bianchi called for retired businessmen and engineers to provide their own ideas of how to "streamline" services.
But it is not just the senior sector he wants involved in government; he's also advocating for the the formation of a youth commission that can weigh in on city matters. The young people will not only have a say but he wants them to be voting members on boards and commissions.
Those plans also depend on fighting crime, he said, and he would like to work with Sheriff Thomas Bowler to establish citywide neighborhood watches and establish October as National Crime Prevention Month, which could help the city secure extra grant funding to put more police on the streets, he said.
"There are some things that we need to do. We need to have proper planning and that is why, after talking with many of you, after knocking on doors, I've gathered the opinions of a lot of people and put together with my own... that's how my plan was developed," Bianchi said, add as the meeting ended, "When I prevail, I'm going to have a lot of people ready to work... I'm encouraged with their commitment, not with my campaign, but to the city."