Ward 5 Candidates Differ on Downtown, City GaragePITTSFIELD, Mass. — Local business owner J. Joseph Breault and four-term incumbent Jonathan Lothrop voiced their differences on Ward 5 issues at the final night of election debates at Berkshire Community College this season.
The debate was sponsored by the Berkshire Gazette and BCC and aired on Pittsfield Community Television. The moderator was Shawn Serre of PCTV.
Jonathan Lothrop pointed to what he said was clear improvement in Pittsfield, and throughout Ward 5, in the eight years since he had taken office. He contrasted his terms on the council to the dire economic situation of the city and perceived lack of progress on projects in Ward 5
As throughout the debate, Breault in his opening expressed no particular antipathy for the incumbent or his performance as Ward 5 councilor, but stressed that he felt that it was important to the democratic process that people have a choice, "and if they're looking for a change, that change can happen." He cited this belief in the importance of voters having a choice as his main reason for running for office.
Lothrop agreed that the building is a serious problem, but that no one had yet offered a viable solution. "We need to see some real data, not just 'here's an idea and let's see what you think about it."
As to whether Pittsfield should continue to have a line item on the budget for funding Downtown Inc., Lothrop was in favor, saying that having the nonprofit association, which operates similarly to a chamber of commerce for downtown, has been an important partner with the city in advancing projects such as the Beacon Cinema.
Breault said that although as a business owner he was a member of Dowtown Inc., he believes that the organization has "run it's course, I don't think it's necessary anymore to have that organization in the taxpayer's pockets." He views it as obsolete now that the city is involved in countywide promotional efforts with the formation of the 1Berkshire coalition.
Breault and Lothrop both said they supported the allocation for Ice River Springs to move its cooling tower and increase the number of empoyees. Lothrop said the city government had worked with the company on an ongoing basis to see that promised jobs would be created and noise issues arising from the facility were dealt with. Breault also expressed satisfaction with the way the issue has been handled, and expressed enthusiasm for doing even more to create new jobs in Pittsfield.
In closing, Breault reiterated that the primary reason for his candidacy was to offer residents a choice. He pointed to his experience as a longtime business owner of Jimmy's Restaurant in Ward 5, and his involvement in the community through being a supporter of Little League baseball in Pittsfield for 25 years.
"The choice is now clear for anybody in Ward 5," he said. "They can vote for a change, or if they're happy with what they have they can stay with the current councilor."
Lothrop pointed to what he saw as some of his accomplishments in Ward 5, such as a compromise on the airport, blocking a transfer station on South Street, and negotiations with Ice River Springs, pointing to a lack of involvement by Breault in those conversations.
"My biggest disappointment is that five years ago, Mr. Breault tried to propose a strip club in Ward 5," Lothrop said, referring to a 2005 application to open the controversial Munchies on West Housatonic Street, which Lothrop opposed.