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Ward 3 Hopefuls Outline Platforms in Pittsfield Debate
By Joe Durwin On: 03:02PM / Tuesday September 17, 2013
Nicholas Caccamo, left, Thomas Wells, Richard Latura and Jeffrey Germann express their ideas for Ward 3 at Berkshire Community College.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Four contenders for an open seat in Pittsfield's Ward 3 laid out their priorities and concerns in a debate held Monday, in advance of a preliminary election that will narrow the race next Tuesday.

Nicholas Caccamo, Jeffrey Germann, Richard Latura and Thomas Wells expressed their diverse opinions on issues ranging from traffic and commerce to more neighborhood concerns about the disposition of the Hibbard school and the conversion of a former church into a day care.

The debate sponsored by the Pittsfield Gazette and Pittsfield Community Television at Berkshire Community College was broadcast live. Moderator was Dan Dillon.

The four are vying for an open ward seat. Two will be chosen in the preliminary to proceed to the November election; the only other preliminary race is in Ward 1.

Perspectives among the candidates varied somewhat on the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority and an emerging proposal for a big-box store at the William Stanley Business Park, which straddles the border of Wards 2 and 3. 

Wells voiced the most enthusiasm for the proposal, expressing disappointment with the rate of progress of PEDA in attracting industrial or technology business to the former GE property. "I think we should explore other uses, whether it's retail or something to that effect," he said.

"I think PEDA is doing a good job," Germann espoused, suggesting Pittsfield "wait it out" for a better possibility. "I don't agree with another box store."

"I don't agree with putting retail into it," said Latura, "I do agree that [the process] has dragged, and dragged, and dragged."

Caccamo expressed some skepticism about the viability of developing the site for retail, but also emphasized that challenges to attracting major manufacturing operations may be even more daunting. "It may mean 50 or 60 jobs here and there," he said, "but I don't think it's going to be the manufacturing hub it once was."

The Ward 4 hopefuls also offered their ideas on the future possibilities for the former Hibbard Alternative High School building on Newell Street, which was closed in 2009 because of facility inadequacies and worsening building conditions.

Latura suggested that if financially feasible, the building could perhaps become a secondary fire station or house additional city offices, but voiced staunch opposition to it being sold for commercial purposes.

Caccamo questioned the educational impact of re-absorbing the program and students at Hibbard into its other high schools: "Maybe it should return to that use."  

Germann agreed that this was a strong option that should be examined. Wells also believed the building still had potential for educational uses, potentially as a site for the Adult Learning Center, whose relocation to a rented North Street retail site last year proved controversial.

The candidates were evenly divided on a plan by the Building Blocks day-care center to reuse the former All Souls Mission on Pembroke Avenue.

Wells and Caccamo both thought the day-care operation (currently located on Dalton Avenue) would make an ideal use of the vacant property if concerns of abutting neighbors can be addressed; Latura and Germann staunchly opposed a change in use that they believe will create major traffic and parking issues at that location.

The four contenders outlined differing priorities and perspectives in what they hope to bring to the role of councilor for Ward 3, for which two candidates will emerge next Tuesday to run in the general election in November.

"I think we need to better monitor taking care of our properties," indicated Wells, calling for an improved building maintenance plan. Wells said he believed he could bring business experience and "new ideas" to representing Ward 3.

"Residents want to see projects that enhance the city, past Ward 3," said Caccamo, who pointed to his experience attending council meetings following unsuccessful runs for mayor and at-large councilor. "I think most importantly being accessible to constituents, returning phone calls and emails and getting the information back to them, that requires a good deal of organization and that's all going to be part of making sound votes and improving the infrastructure and well being citywide."

"We need to start making our neighborhoods safe," said Latura, who repeatedly emphasized public safety issues such as crime and traffic. "Then we can concentrate on the arts and entertainment, and we can get back to everything else.  First we need to make our neighborhoods safe, and the rest of the city will follow."

Germann cited road repairs as one of his highest priority issues, and also urged for refurbishing of Goodrich Pond.
"We've got to fix the roads and sidewalks first. when I'm elected, I will work hard to make sure your issues are addressed in a timely manner," he said.



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Crime, Politics at Issue in Pittsfield's Ward One Race
By Joe Durwin On: 10:31AM / Tuesday September 17, 2013
Ward 1 candidates Lisa Tully, left, Tammy Ives and incumbent Christine Yon debated ward issues at Berkshire Community College on Monday night. Next week's preliminary election will determine which two will face off in November.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — With eight days until a municipal preliminary election, three candidates made their cases on Monday for serving Ward 1 on the City Council next term.

The preliminary on Tuesday, Sept. 24, will narrow the field down to two; the only other preliminary that day will be in Ward 3.

Incumbent two-term Councilor Christine Yon, who ran unopposed in 2011, faced off with challengers Tammy Ives and Lisa Tully on issues such as crime, the city's high school building needs and recent methadone clinic controversy at Berkshire Community College in a live broadcast debate sponsored by the Pittsfield Gazette and Pittsfield Community Television. Moderator was PCTV's David Cachet.

Yon stressed recent actions and appropriations by the City Council as having accomplished much but having further to go, while Tully cited perceived frustrations in the ward with current city politics.  

Ives, who said her desire to run emerged out of dissatisfaction with the incumbent councilor's handling of a parking issue on her street, frequently repeated a focus on improving communication with ward residents.

All three candidates agreed in opposition to a failed plan by Spectrum Health Systems to locate a methadone treatment clinic in a largely residential area of Ward 1, though Tully differed with Yon's handling of the issue.

"I did what I could do to represent my neighbors ... I took it on the chin, but I would do it again," said Yon, who publicly protested the site and later challenged the handling of the negotiations with Spectrum by Mayor Daniel Bianchi and City Solicitor Kathleen Degnan. "I was able to prevent that methadone clinic from going on that residential neighborhood on Stoddard Ave."

"I would have talked to the mayor to see what we could have done," said Tully. "My first response would have been to talk to Dr. Adamo who owned the house, to see if he could get the methadone clinic where it was originally supposed to be put, off North Street."

Tully called crime in their ward "a major issue," and called for increased city support of neighborhood watch programs.

Ives said many residents she's spoken to in the campaign were felt they were not receiving enough information from police, city councilors and the mayor's office.

"They have a lot of concerns about the break-ins and the lack of communication from the city," said Ives. "They just feel like they're not being heard."

Yon said crime is a citywide problem, but cited as recent progress the City Council's recent approval of a new crime analyst position in the Police Department, a concept first vetted in the Police Advisory Committee recently reactivated Bianchi last fall.

Yon said that through this analyst processing crime reports, the city "will be better able to utilize our resources exactly where they need to be."

With the city to decide whether to renovate or replace the existing Taconic High School while maintaining Pittsfield High School, Ives was firm that this decision should be solely up to the voters, while Yon and Tully agreed that this should be a cooperative effort between all parts of city government and the voters.

In regard to what city government could be doing better, Yon said the biggest improvement she'd like to see is more funding for maintenance of city buildings, such as the former fire station on Tyler Street and the McKay Street parking garage, which incurred large expenses last year because of years of deferred maintenance.

"You can be pennywise and pound foolish," said Yon. "We need to take better care of our buildings, they're our assets."

Ives suggested that police patrols of downtown currently done in the morning should be done toward evening, and also argued for increased police presence in city parks.

"The parks in Pittsfield definitely need some sort of patrolling," Ives stressed. "There's just not enough patrols at the parks."

Tully agreed that police increases were a priority, emphasizing traffic enforcement.

"If the police could be funded a little bit more, then maybe we could have more people out patrolling, and then all the problems with the speeders, the congestion, and the accidents on the road could stop before they happen."

"We might not always agree, but I think we need to work together to get things done," Tully added, in closing remarks that emphasized the polarization in city politics. "I know that I would work well with the current City Council and administration."

"I may not have all the answers right now, as far as exactly what's going on specifically," concluded Ives, who passed on several debate questions. "But I'm nore than willing to learn, and will do my best in order to serve everybody."

"My motto is 'How Can We?' " said Yon in summation of her service on the council. "I believe through teamwork with department heads, we can find solutions."



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Coakley Visits Berkshire Cities for Governor's Race Kickoff
Staff Reports On: 10:48PM / Sunday September 15, 2013
Martha Coakley

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Attorney General Martha Coakley will announce for governor on Monday at the beginning of a three-day swing through the state that will bring her to the Berkshires on Tuesday.

The North Adams native had been among the high-profile Democrats expected to declare — one way or the other — on their interest in the state's top office.

In a statement, Coakley said, “Massachusetts is poised to take off. We can either grab this moment and move forward together, or risk falling behind.  

"I believe we must continue to rebuild our economy in a way that gives everyone the opportunity to succeed, and launch new education reforms so that every child and adult has the skills they need to compete in a global economy."

Coakley's Campaign Stops on Tuesday

2:30
Dottie's Coffee Lounge
444 North St., Pittsfield
 

4:30
Freight Yard Pub
Heritage State Park
North Adams

Coakley will officially announce her gubernatorial campaign by video at www.marthacoakley.com and start the day Monday greeting voters in Medford, Brockton, Attleboro, Fall River, New Bedford and Hyannis. On Tuesday and Wednesday she will campaign in Newton, Framingham, Worcester, Springfield, Pittsfield, North Adams, Boston, Lowell, Lawrence, Newburyport, Gloucester, and Salem among other stops.  

Democrats who have already lined up for governor include Treasurer Steven Grossman, who announced at the Democratic convention earlier this summer; Dr. Donald Berwick, former Medicare chief; Joseph Avellone of Wellesley, a biotech executive; and Juliette Kayyem, a former Homeland Security official. State Sen. Dan Wolf of Harwich has suspended his campaign pending appeal to the Ethic Commission to reconsider its ruling that his interest Cape Air impedes his ability to serve in public office.

Running as an independent is Evan Falchuk of Newton; Charlie Baker, who ran unsuccessfully in 2012, is so far the only Republican candidate.

The last time Coakley was in the region to meet with publicly with local leaders was as keynote speaker at a Berkshire Chamber breakfast last August. Coakley talked about her office's efforts to reduce the number of abandoned properties caused by the fallout of the global recession.



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Absentee Ballots Available for North Adams Election
On: 11:16AM / Friday September 13, 2013

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The city clerk's office has posted the times and dates for voter registration for the municipal election on Tuesday, Nov. 5.

Last day to register to vote is Wednesday, Oct. 16. The city clerk's office will be open from 8 to 8 that to accept voter registration or changes to voter information.

Absentee ballots for the November election are available now in the city clerk's office.

Those unable to vote on election day may stop by the office and vote any time during office hours, Monday through Thursday from 8 to 4:30 and Fridays from 8 to 1:30 p.m. Those who are physically unable to come into the office can have a ballot mailed, but must allow extra time for mailings. Ballots must be returned to the city clerk's office before the close of polls.

Absentee ballots are available until noon the day before the election.

To register to vote, one must be 18 years of age or older on or before election day, a citizen of the United States and a resident of North Adams.
 



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Even Dozen Vying for North Adams City Council
Staff Reports On: 11:58AM / Monday August 19, 2013

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Barring any further changes, voters will have a round dozen City Council candidates on the ballot this fall.

The potential field had been a large 18 — one short of the number for a preliminary election — but swiftly declined as the deadline drew near. Three more candidates have fallen off after the deadline passed.

The latest to withdraw is Michael Denault, who informed the city clerk on Monday that he was buying a house in Vermont, taking him out of the running. Anthony Sarkis Jr. withdrew his name earlier and incumbent David A. Bond, who took out papers late, missed the required 50 certified signatures by two.

City Clerk Marilyn Gomeau said candidates have until Thursday to withdraw their names from the ballot.

So far, appearing on the ballot will be only four incumbents — Lisa Blackmer, Keith Bona, Jennifer Breen and Nancy Bullett — ensuring that more than half the council will turn over this election.

Seven newcomers and previous candidates will join them: Eric Buddington, Robert F. Cardimino, Michael J. Hernandez, Benjamin J. Lamb, Kate Hanley Merrigan, Joshua J. Moran, David R. Robbins, Wayne J. Wilkinson.

Voters can select up to nine candidates so it will be a tight race to get into the top slots.

Historically, voters have been amenable to keeping all or most of the incumbents in office. Three of the incumbents not running this year have around 20 years each under their belts — Michael Bloom (22), Marie Harpin (16) and Alan Marden (24); the fourth, John Barrett III, served one term but is the city's (and state's) longest serving mayor (26).

The incumbents running for re-election can't boast those numbers yet. Blackmer and Bona are the veterans this time, with Blackmer running for a fourth consecutive term and Bona seeking a third term, although he previously served four terms in the 1990s. Both Breen and Bullett were elected in 2011.

The candidates will be listed alphabetically on the ballot with the incumbents listed first.

iBerkshires will be asking all the candidates for their views on various city issues. We are inviting North Adams residents to give us questions they think the candidates should answer. You may post your question in the comments below or send to info@iBerkshires.com with  "Candidate Questions" in the subject line. Please, stick to issues and avoid personal attacks.



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The cities of Pittsfield and North Adams will hold municipal elections for mayor, city council and school committee in 2015

You may vote absentee: if you will be absent from your town or city on election day, have a physical disability that prevents you from voting at the polls or cannot vote at the polls because to religious beliefs.

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