By Joe Durwin On: 03:23PM / Monday November 07, 2011
Note: These interviews constitute an experiment in crowd sourcing election concerns from the public. Over a period of weeks, responses from the public were solicited as to what questions they would like to hear the two mayoral candidates answer. The questions were selected and distilled from among those received most frequently via email, Facebook, Twitter, and conversations with voters to be representative of some of the concerns respondents felt they had not heard not heard enough on candidates from.
Favorite Color: Green
Favorite Sandwich: Preferred not to pick a favorite. "There aren't many foods I will say no to."
Endorsements: Building and Trades Council; Laborer's Local 473; Local 12 Bridge, Structural and Ornamental Ironworkers
There seems to have been a lot of differences and animosity between different segments of Pittsfield population since long before this campaign began. As mayor how would you seek to unite a divided city and represent constituents with such seemingly conflicting ideas about where Pittsfield should be going?
First of all I'm glad that you're using the word seemingly, because I don't think there really is. I think the people of Pittsfield, with maybe some exception, ... are very good, polite, smart, hard-working people.
I think what's happened is we've created this government that's very exclusionary. Unless you're on a certain special list ... I've talked to enough businessmen who wanted to do something in Pittsfield, and they just didn't seem welcome at City Hall, and I've heard that from other citizens, too. What we have to do is create an atmosphere — and it starts from the top — of welcoming. People are not getting encouraged to get involved, so we've got to really welcome people. I think that just having a welcoming environment will unify people.
Of the remaining $6 million in GE Economic Development Funds, are there any promising opportunities you see on the horizon for future allocations?
Industries ... Especially the life science industries. When you think about it, Pittsfield has high, inordinate cancer rates, and I think that life sciences would be an interesting fit. I'd like to see us with either research or development firms, or manufacturing firms involved with green technology and renewable energy. Also, we have a very, very strong plastics industry here in the city, so I think that a cutting edge plastics company should be something we would consider.
With Pittsfield receiving international attention for one of our most serious crimes in years and a wave of recent robberies, what do you think of the current state of crime in perception and reality, and what as mayor would you do to improve both?
You can say it's just a perception, but when you have senior citizens who are concerned for their safety, that's a reality to them, that's not a perception. We have had a rash of armed robberies, a horrendous triple homicide ... It's really hard to just look at statistics and go 'Compared to the natural average, we're not that bad' ... but we shouldn't be satisfied with hovering around the national average. We're a small community, in a beautiful area, and we should be doing everything we can to drop that crime rate down.
It's very important that we encourage everyone to understand that they have to be invested in reducing the crime rate, and being involved.
The immigrant population and ethnic diversity of Pittsfield is growing. How would you address the need to increase the racial diversity of teachers in our schools?
I think diversity should alway be a goal. You want your school systems, you want your government to be reflective of the people that they govern and that they educated. Having said that, you always want to go for the most qualified people.
Your opponent has said in campaign speeches and debates that you voted twice against the creation of the Office of Cultural Development, and once against Megan Whilden's appointment once she had been selected. How would you describe your position on the creation, and continuation of this department?
Once at a subcommittee level, once at a City Council level. What he [Marchetti] fails to say is that I subsequently voted at least twice for it. He's done a lot more research on my voting record than I have, and I've done none on his. I've really tried to look forward as opposed to looking back. But I have voted for that, and I think that the person that's in there is doing a wonderful job. My vote against it, originally, was really a protest at how shabbily the mayor had treated a longtime city employee who had been responsible for having donated to us a beautiful, wonderful art center. I believed that was politically motivated, and not called for.
Springside Park, Pittsfield's largest and most historically controversial park, has had recurring differences of opinion about what projects and uses are appropriate. Do you have any particular vision or ideal for the future of this 200-acre area near downtown, and/or ideas or priorities for Pittsfield parks in general?
"Of course, I grew up over there [on Harvard Street], so Springside Park was just such a great place - I learned to skate over there. I would really love to see us put aside some money to do something there. I also would love to put together a cross-section of the community to talk about what we could do with Springside Park. Is there something that we could do that wouldn't be intrusive but that might generate money for the park that could go into a revolving account. Maybe new hiking trails, or low-impact Appalachian camping that would generate fees. I think we've got to think creatively. There's been some talk over the years about putting in a golf course, municipal golf courses are very popular, I don't know whether or not Springside Park is appropriate for that, I think that there's some things that we could do."
In a recent ad, City Council President Gerald Lee accuses you of being absent from city affairs since being defeated in the 2009 election. Would you like to take this opportunity to respond to that, or discuss what you've been doing during that time?
When things change, there's always an opportunity. First of all, I do hold a job, so it was nice to be able to focus on that. I belong to a civic organization called Unico, and they do an awful lot of wonderful things for things like the Special Olympics, the Brien Center, Women's Financial Center, National Association for Mental Illness, walk for life. I also had the time to help out with the National Diabetes Association this year, I'm very involved with St. Mark's Parish, and the finance committee there. Theresa and I started a group called the Family Sponsorship Program, and it's very quiet, but when there are parishioners who have a need, or an illness ... so we do that. My daughter Madeline was a senior at Taconic High School, and they were always fundraising for one thing or another. It was neat to be able to focus on different things.
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The state is holding a special election to fill the seat vacated by John F. Kerry, who has been confirmed as U.S. secretary of state.
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