Caccamo, Latura Differ in Pittsfield Ward 3 Debate
Nicholas Caccamo, left, and Richard Latura, right, are both seeking the Ward 3 seat on the City Council.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Ward 3 City Council candidates presented themselves as one who will work the system for ward residents versus one who will upset the apple cart to get what those residents want.
Richard Latura and Nicholas Caccamo are vying for the ward seat that will be open because incumbent Paul Capitanio is not seeking re-election.
On Monday, Caccamo and Latura faced off in a debate at Berkshire Community College, each making their case on how they can best serve the ward.
"I will be the guy that stands up and says what we need to do and when we need to do it. I won't sit there and be voiceless," Latura said. "I will have the loudest voice in the room."
Latura said the ward has been "unrepresented" for year because previous councilors focused on citywide issues more than individual concerns within the ward. Latura has set his sights on ward-specific issues such as getting traffic off side roads, increasing police presence and cleaning up the parks.
"My top priority is to get more police and firemen on the street," Latura said. "We have a lot of criminal activity in the parks. Our kids are not safe."
Caccamo focused more on process, saying he will work in the subcommittees and on the council to get residents' voices heard through his collaborative efforts.
"I am committed to the process of city government," Caccamo said. "I'm dedicated to promoting a pragmatic approach to government and work in subcommittees."
Caccamo, an employee of Pittsfield Public Schools, says he believes that investing in education should be the city's priority because that will later lead to economic development. He also says he wants the city to be more energy efficient to lower those costs while at the same time, he wants to make sure the roads, sidewalks and parks in Ward 3 are prioritized for upkeep and repairs.
"If we can improve the parks in Ward 3, we can attract other residents to come visit," Caccamo said.
Caccamo says he will be focused on "long-term" solutions such as changing the streetlights to be on a management system so the city can adjust the brightness and control from one area. Energy efficiency could save taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars, he said.
He said he would advocate for bicycle lanes and the redevelopment of vacant sites — particularly the former Hibbard School and the Grossman's lot.
Latura agreed with energy efficiency and said he wants the city to use more renewable energy — solar, wind. He, too, wants vacant lots and blighted properties to be reused and cleaned up. But his first goal is to make sure the neighborhoods are safe.
"My main objective would be the reroute traffic our of our neighborhoods and onto the main roads where they belong," Latura said.
Latura believes the schools are underfunded and envisions the city being "leaders in technology," a reason why Latura does not support the most recent proposal from Waterstone Reality to bring retail to the former General Electric land.
"They're low-paying, no-benefit jobs that will just leave another building empty," Latura said. "We really need to fill that spot and manufacturing is the way to do it."
Caccamo, too, rejects the idea of a retail development, calling for "living wage" jobs instead.
"It is a net-zero game because certainly it will close other retail," Caccamo said.
While the two do agree there, they disagree on the proposed city charter modifications. Caccamo says he is in favor of the change to make the mayoral term four years because it allows the residents to see some of initiatives come to fruition.
Latura, however, says he is fearful the additional years gives the mayor even more power and takes that from the councilors. Currently, the power is in the hands of the council but with only two-year terms for councilors proposed, that will give the mayor an advantage over newly elected councilors, he said.
Both candidates also agree that the council should work closer with school officials. However, Caccamo will need to abstain from the vote on the school budget, which Latura said isn't fair to the residents.
"Everybody in our ward deserves a voice on each and every vote," Latura said.
Caccamo responded by saying that the vote on the budget is the only vote he would abstain from and can still advocate for the school.
Overall, Caccamo says he will be looking for "progressive and new ways" to set the city up for long-term success. He wants the city to look at modern ways to reduce crime and economic development.
"At the end of the day, I am responsible to the residents of ward three," Caccamo said.
Latura said he will put in the effort needed to make sure Ward 3 neighborhoods are safe and he said he will not be ignored when it comes to those issues.