Pittsfield Candidates Pledge to Support Tyler Street Growth |
By Joe Durwin On: 02:22PM / Monday October 17, 2011 ||
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A variety of candidates seeking election or re-election in Pittsfield touted their support for a resurgent Tyler Street last Thursday. |
The candidates were invited to present their views at a meet-and-greet for Morningside area voters hosted by the Tyler Street Business Group.
A small but engaged crowd of voters attended the event, working their way around the tables set up where candidates were on hand to introduce themselves, ask questions, and take campaign materials such as fliers and stickers.
Pre-written statements were collected from each of the candidates by Dianna Marcella, president of the business group, and read at the function.
Ward 1 City Councilor Christine Yon, who is running unopposed, called Tyler Street "funky and charming" and "a piece of the puzzle" that is Pittsfield.
Pete White, current Ward 2 councilor who is running for re-election as a write-in candidate this year, called it "an important business district" and that having lived near it most of his life, "Tyler is home."
Kevin Morandi, who is making a second bid for the Ward 2 seat, said that if elected, he will advocate for and support efforts to expand downtownto Tyler. He cited opening the Woodlawn Street bridge as one priority.
Mayoral candidate Daniel Bianchi, who grew up on Tyler Street, said the street's "future can be a bright one," and will be one focus of his "Plan for Pittsfield."
Peter Marchetti, a current city councilor also seeking election to the mayor's office, said he, too, sees Tyler Street as an extension of downtown and that, as a resident, he has always seen it as an area of "local business flavor and caring residents."
Council at-large candidate Nicholas Caccamo called it the place where "commerce meets health," and drew chuckles from attendees with a reference to the delicious menu offerings at Café Reva's.
Council hopefuls Jason Clairmont touted the importance of Tyler Street's "essential goods and services" while Churchill Cotton called it "the spine from which the Morningside area gets its strength."
Anthony Maffuccio, who's hoping to return to the council as an at-large candidate, called it a "forgotten North Street," saying we need to "market it as one of our great hubs."
Councilor at-large incumbent Melissa Mazzeo spoke of how much she enjoyed Tyler Street as a place where one could go to a bakery, go to church, get their hair done, and shop for furniture all within walking distance.
Joseph Nichols, a councilor at large who running for re-election as a write-in candidate, called it "a fountain of memories" and a "cornerstone of future growth." He said he was pleased with the growth and attention it has received in the past couple of years.
Kevin Sherman, also running for re-election as an at-large councilor, called it a "gateway and business district" that "needs support to continue to grow."
Tricia Farley-Bouvier, Democratic candidate for 3rd Berkshire District state representative, also attended, telling the organizers that no matter who was elected, "now you can remind them that they promised to pay attention to Tyler Street."
Bianchi Sets Meeting to Unveil 'Plan For Pittsfied' |
Bianchi Campaign On: 12:52PM / Monday October 17, 2011 ||
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Mayoral candidate Dan Bianchi announced Monday that he will hold a town hall meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 19, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the GEAA on Crane Avenue. The meeting is free and open to the public. |
"Throughout this campaign, I have been overwhelmed by the number of suggestions and concerns that voters have about issues in Pittsfield. I have done my best to incorporate their feedback — and my vision for Pittsfield — into a comprehensive plan for Pittsfield. Many voters have heard pieces of my plan throughout the course of this campaign, but it has always been my goal to share the specific action items of this plan with the voters of Pittsfield," Bianchi said.
"Because of the enormous interest in the special election for state rep, municipal candidates have had limited public opportunity to debate the real issues facing Pittsfield. Over the next three weeks, I will share my 'Plan for Pittsfield' as I to continue knock on doors and generate public interest on the differences between myself and my opponent.
"As we celebrate our 250th anniversary of Pittsfield, it is a time to reflect and plan for the future. My plan addresses taxes, city services, education, economic development and job creation, expansion of open government, and public safety."
Bianchi said, "This meeting will give everyone an opportunity to learn about my specific action plan to move Pittsfield forward. And, there will be an opportunity for the public to ask me questions."
Following Wednesday's town hall meeting, Bianchi will put his "Plan for Pittsfield" on his website at votebianchi.com.
Beaver Mill Artists Talk Features Council Candidates |
On: 10:10AM / Thursday October 06, 2011 ||
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Beaver Mill's First Thursdays Artist Discussion this month again features candidates for City Council.|
Four candidates, Gail Sellers, Lisa Blackmer, Greg Roach and David Bond, have accepted an invitation to talk to artists and interested residents about how the council will work with the art community and now the city can capitalize on the arts.
The discussion will be held at Frog Lotus Yoga in the mill on Thursday, Oct. 6, from 6:30 to 8. Use the front door entrance on the first floor; parking is available across the street. While established as a forum for the local artists community to discuss issues, the monthly talks are open to the public.
This is the second session in which candidates who have indicated a specific interest in exploring the best ways the city, via the council, can utilize the art community for mutual benefit, will discuss their ideas with artists and interested residents. The arts have been an important economic engine for the city; how to continue this relationship could determine how successful the city is in the future.
The previous First Thursday Discussion also had four candidates. Since this is not meant to be a full debate it has been limited to those who have indicated an interest in the arts, so that there will be time for a discussion with all participants. If there is a willingness to do more, an additional discussion on Nov. 3 (First Thursday) could be scheduled before the election.
Discussions about various topics of interest to artists are hosted by different studios within the Beaver Mill each month.
The mill is located next to Natural Bridge State Park, 189 Beaver St. Light refreshments will be served.
Pittsfield Mayoral Candidates Lay Out Agendas |
By: Tammy Daniels On: 10:08AM / Tuesday September 20, 2011 ||
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Candidates vying to be the next mayor of Pittsfield spent just over an hour on Monday night staking out positions on issues ranging from school maintenance to the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority.
Stephen Fillio, Donna Walto, Joseph Nichols, Daniel Bianchi and Peter Marchetti, aligned according to their ballot position, answered questions from moderator Larry Kratka on the stage in the Boland Theatre at Berkshire Community College. Their numbers will be narrowed down to two in the preliminary election slated on Tuesday, Sept. 27.
More than a few of their responses were similar, but they diverged to some extent over use of the PEDA and how to bring jobs back to the city.
Larry Kratka of WBEC was the moderator; the forum was sponsored by The Pittsfield Gazette and Pittsfield Community Television. Check listings for repeat viewings.
"The sense of urgency isn't there," said Bianchi of the PEDA board, noting the members all had jobs."We have to have a greater sensitivity to those people who are not that fortunate. We've got some real challenges."
The operation of PEDA was a flashpoint in Bianchi's narrow loss against Mayor James Ruberto two years ago. The former city councilor said he would appoint himself to the board that has been "plodding along" to ensure "a well-defined planned marketing plan." He also promoted the idea of an business development director to search out good companies and an incentive package to attract them, not just for PEDA but the city as a whole. "We need to have a greater sense of urgency to get these things done."
Marchetti said he would not appoint himself to the board but would put the members on notice they'd be replaced if they didn't perform. "I would make clear to them that we have goals and objectives that we need to meet," he said. "And if we can't meet them then by all means the appointing authority (mayor) needs to replace each member of the PEDA board that does not want to toe the line."
The current city councilor said communication was a major problem with the PEDA board and he would require a quarterly report to the City Council "so the public understands what's happening at the PEDA site."
Fillio said the PEDA board had to be more open-minded about possibilities, and earlier in the forum had suggested a multi-use stadium. "All they're looking at is one thing; they're looking at as just business, business, business, when there are some other things we can do." Fillio claimed some other concerns had approached PEDA but were turned down. He also said the city had to do more for the businesses already here, such as licensing. "As mayor I'd be right on top of that."
Walto had a more flamboyant vision, calling it an "opportunity to build the best, the brightest, the greenest building the city has ever seen" on the former GE site. She said the city should set an architectural competition to design a building for the William Stanley Business Park, based on the city's historic, industrial and innovative heritage.
"We need to be forward thinking, we need to make sure we design the best building," she said. "This could be the linchpin and be part of the economic development of the city once again."
The forum was friendly, with candidates eschewing debate to concentrate on getting their messages out to voters.
Nichols said it was important to get out the message that PEDA was established to ensure the city and GE weren't held liable for the any contamination, and that brownfields legislation extended that to any companies building on the site. "As mayor, I feel it would be my position to talk to investors in explaining to them about the brownfields legislation and how they're safe to invest there," he said, adding he would also stop PEDA from contracting with outside marketing firms.
"We would be much better served for them to manage the site and have the mayor of this city, and anyone else who wants to help, to bring clients in," Nichols said.
All five said they would fill the city solicitor's spot, left vacant over the past several years as a supposed cost-cutting measure, as well as fill the higher-level posts including a director of personnel. Marchetti went a bit further, saying he would dispense with political appointments and put the personnel director in charge of most hiring and firing.
They all also agreed they were not in favor of making acting appointments, including to head the fire and police departments, as Ruberto has done.
Nichols called it "some kind of control mechanism for the mayor" while Walto dropped the quip it was all because of "the Ruberto administration's renaissance and the arts — everybody's in drama in the city now and that's why they're all acting."
Bianchi said it might not be easy to fill the spots because of Civil Service rules, but "I don't think our goal should be acting chiefs but permanent chiefs." Marchetti pledged to push for permanent posts "to guarantee continuity in the deparments."
They also supported two high schools and better maintenance and upgrading of the Crosby, Conte and Morningside elementary schools that were left out of the last round of school renovations.
In opening statements, the candidates had touted their backgrounds and experience in demonstrating their capabilities to take on the duties of a mayor.
Walto (Berkshire BackRoad Tour Co.), Nichols (The Cove Bakery) and Fillio (construction work) noted their experience as small-business owners and entrepreneurs. Bianchi (former city director of administration and finance) and Marchetti (compliance officer at Pittsfield Co-operative Bank) also talked of their business and financial backgrounds as well as their strong involvement in muliple civic and community organizations.
Fillio said his concern was the city's youth: "They literally have nothing to do but roam around the city and get in trouble."
Walto said she was the right candidate with "the strength of a man but the caring of a woman."
Nichols informed the audience he had "no party affiliation and no political baggage my only loyalty is to the people of Pittsfield."
Bianchi spoke of his family giving him "core values and traits that I think I could bring to the table and I think they would match up very well with the values of the people of Pittsfield."
Not to be outdone, Marchetti said he had "a great love for the city" and would listen to the people, and told Bianchi, "I, too share your family values."
Green-Rainbow Candidates Chance to Shine |
By: Tammy Daniels On: 06:12PM / Tuesday October 19, 2010 ||
David Cachat of PCTV interviewed, rather than moderating.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The incumbents didn't show but their challengers were more than happy to take the spotlight on Monday night for the state representative debates on Pittsfield Community Television.
Rather than a back and forth between the Democrats and the Green-Rainbow Party nominees, David Cachat, coordinator for PCTV's Citylink, spent a half-hour each interviewing tbe Green-Rainbow candidates for the 3rd and 4th Berkshire districts.
It was a rare chance for a third party whose gubernatorial candidate, Jill Stein, has had to battle to be included in debates.
The debates were organized by PCTV and The Pittsfield Gazette in September. Fourth District incumbent William "Smitty" Pignatelli of Lenox had begged off citing calendar confusion (another debate has been proposed for next Monday) but Christopher N. Speranzo of Pittsfield, running for a third full term in the 3rd District, bowed out on Friday.
"I'm running for representative for the 3rd Berkshire District because I want the job. I want it so much that I plan to serve the entire two-year term," said Mark C. Miller, taking a swipe at Speranzo in his opening statement of what would have been the 3rd Berkshire debate.
Speranzo's come in for criticism for reportedly going after the lifetime job of clerk-magistrate in the Central Berkshire District Court while also running for another term as representative. If he wins and then gets the court job, a special election will have to be held to fill his seat. More than one political pundit has pointed out that's exactly how Speranzo came to office after his predecessor Peter Larkin quit for the private sector only days after being sworn in.
"I don't know whether he's a victim of terrible timing or what, but he's got a decision to make," said Miller, who speculated Speranzo expected to be elected anyway just by running as a Democrat. "If I'm elected all that will be moot ... but I am disappointed we can't have a dialogue."
Miller's comments evoked applause from what audience showed up for the two debates. Both he and fellow Green-Rainbow Lee Scott Laugenour are running against the expectation that Democrats — or Republicans for that matter — are safe bets.
Miller, longtime journalist and former editor of The Berkshire Eagle, said it was time to change government. The Democratic-controlled Legislature "works in the shadows," he said, and needs legislators willing to buck the system. "They won't miss one Democrat from Pittsfield; what they might not miss is a challenge by an independent legislator."
Laugenour had raised the same theme in his earlier interview. A longtime executive with Marriott Hotels in the Northeast, he said his position had given him an inside look at the power and influence-peddling behind the scenes in both parties. "There was a lot of secrecy behind that thick curtain."
Both believe the electorate is ready for a change, noting that the majority of voters in Massachusetts aren't enrolled in either party. Where some are turning toward tea party conservatism, the Green-Rainbow Party is offering an option for progressives.
"People are ready for a new kind of government a new kind of Legislature," said Laugenour. "It's time for legislators to arrive on Beacon Hill whose only debts are [to] the people whose hand they've shaken in their district, not to the affiliations of power brokering that goes on right now.
"Once people have a taste for it, they're going to like it."
Where they stand:
Lee Scott Laugenour, whose image refused to be captured.
The candidates were asked similar questions during their interviews. What follows is summing up of their stands on the issues.
Both candidates said the current system is regressive and hurting middle and lower-income citizens. Miller said he wouldn't have voted for last year's increase in sales tax but would not support the current effort to cut it in half: "That would be absolutely disastrous."
Miller said the state constitution prevents a progressive tax system; however, he suggests raising the income tax across the board while providing exemptions targeting middle and lower-income earners. "That would level the playing field a little and bring in a billion or a billion and half more in revenue."
Laugenour, who also would not have voted for the sales tax increase, said it was in the Legislature's power to change to a graduated tax. Its failure to act has put greater pressure on municipalities to use property taxes for services. "The overreliance on property tax revenue has been building for at least the last 10 years that the Legislature has reduced local aid."
The candidates had harsh words for the state and federal health insurance reform. "It's just unaffordable and it's second rate," said Miller. "These are boondoggles for the private insurance industry." Both advocated for a single-payer plan that Miller said was abandoned by the Democrats and the issue that led him to leave the party. Laugenour said health care should be considered as infrastructure.
"It's pretty well proven a publicly funded health insurance system costs less money than ours," said Laugenour, who added he'd experienced such plans while living overseas. "We don't have it right now because we have a lot of insurance industries that purchase influence from the leaders of both parties ... we need people in the Legislature who don't take this money."
"Casinos take more jobs and projects out of the community than they bring in," said Laugenour, who referred to a New Hampshire study that found for every job created by casinos, 1 1/2 jobs were lost.
"It preys on addiction so I tend to be against it for an economic development tool," said Miller. "If you're in an economic low like we are now, it's hard to be against something ... but lot of what they make goes right out of the state."
Both support funding for education at all levels but admitted the difficulty in how to do it. Miller said he was not in favor of charter schools because they tend to siphon not only funds but more motivated students from the public schools. Laugenour said it was important to find ways to provide an equal educational experience not reliant on where you lived. The state had been the first to introduce a public education, he said, and should be able to find a way to improve it.
Miller said he was in favor of alternative energy but didn't think the answer was only in megaprojects like Cape Wind that may well in increase the cost of electricity. Rather, he said, it would be more efficient and cost effective to encourage local activity, such as wind or solar panels on homes and businesses.
"This is decentralized and everyone could take part," he said. "Think of the green jobs that could be developed from this."
Laugenour, who sits on the Berkshire Regional Transit Authority board, is an outspoken advocate for public transportation as a key part of instrastructure. He's made biking around the 18 towns in the 4th District a centerpiece of his campaign (he said he'll take the bus to Boston). He doesn't support the Pittsfield Municipal Airport expansion on environmental and economic grounds, feeling the results won't be worth the cost. Putting the money into expanding bus transportation would have a higher pay off, he said.
"It's because the Legislature does not fund public transportation the way it should," he said. "I'll get a lot more business leaders around the issue of public transportation on evenings and weekends than I ever will to get them to support the airport expansion."
The interviews will be rebroadcast on PCTV and are available on the website (where I watched them.)
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|U.S. Senate Election
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.
The state primary is Tuesday, April 30. The last day to register to vote or to change party affiliation for the primary is Wednesday, April 10. Enrolled voters may only vote in their party primary; unenrolled voters may select a primary to vote in without changing their status.
The special election is scheduled for Tuesday, June 25. The last day to register to vote in the election is Wednesday, June 5.
To register to vote, one must be at least age 18 by the date of the election, a U.S. citizen and a resident of the municipality in which you are voting.
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