Pittsfield Council Looks to Restart Committee on Homelessness
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The City Council is looking to re-establish a committee to address homelessness.
City Councilors Melissa Mazzeo, Helen Moon, and former council candidate Edward Carmel have petitioned to update the rules establishing such a committee for the homeless in 1989.
On Tuesday, Mazzeo and Moon both said the committee would be aimed to combat what is a problem in the city. Specifically, Mazzeo cited a state budget issue earlier this winter that nearly left shelters unfunded as topics the committee can keep an eye on.
"I really think this is something we really should think about getting up and running again," Mazzeo said.
Mazzeo said she was approached by Carmel, who at one point was homeless. Just last year, he ran for a council at-large seat and had voiced particular concerns about an array of housing issues.
Moon said the issue of homeless is often overlooked by many, but there are a number of people facing the issue throughout the city.
"I think this is most definitely a valuable addition," Moon said.
Ward 2 Councilor Kevin Morandi agreed, saying of the committee, "we can have blinders on or we can look out and see that we have a problem."
Ward 4 Councilor Christopher Connell added that the group could also be helped by bringing in representatives from local organizations that currently try to address the issues to serve on it. Meanwhile, Councilor at Large Peter White said the city does have funds directed toward homelessness through the federal Community Development Block Grant program and that such a committee would provide another avenue to help address it.
"The city is committed to helping with this and this is just one more tool in the toolbox," White said.
In other business, Morandi has petitioned the mayor to craft a backup plan should Covanta opt to halt operations. In 2016, the waste-to-energy plant announced it would close because the cost of implementing state-required upgrades wasn't feasible to continue operations. The city provided the company $562,000 to stay open because a closure would have significantly raised its costs for trash disposal.
The agreement had a clause requiring the company to stay open for at least four years. That would mean by 2021, with proper notice, the plant could decide to shut down.
"I don't think we want to put ourselves in this position again," Morandi said. "We have to have a backup plan."
Mayor Linda Tyer said she'd ask the Resource Recovery Commission to handle that task of developing the plan.
The City Council also filed a petition from resident Craig Gaetani calling for a Civilian Police Oversight Committee, but by only a one-vote margin.
Gaetani's petition read, "a petition to the council to reconvene the Civilian Police Oversight Committee. There is no checks and balances in the Police Department. With such poor management as exists at the Police Department, it is imperative that this board not be made up of has-beens and political hacks and this board be given real power to initiate real changes to make the Police Department more accountable to the taxpayers who pay all the city's bills."
The city had a Police Advisory Committee reformed in 2012 under former Mayor Daniel Bianchi, which later became the Public Safety Advisory Committee, but under Tyer the group struggled to get members appointed and ultimately disbanded.
Council Vice President John Krol said a Civilian Police Oversight Commission is different and that he has been in discussions with a group looking to start one. He motioned to file the petition because he feels it would be duplicating efforts already under way.
Meanwhile, White, who chairs the Ordinance & Rules Committee that would handle the petition, objected to its accusatory language that alleges that the department is mismanaged.
"I'm not going to support the language in this petition as currently worded," White said.
Councilor at Large Earl Persip shared the same view.,
"I won't support any petition that has name calling and personal attacks," Persip said.
Connell amended the petition, cutting off everything but the first sentence, in hopes that it could ultimately revive a committee. While his amendment was approved, the entire petition was voted down by a 6-5 margin. Those rejecting the petition were Krol, White, Moon, Persip, Council President Peter Marchetti, and Ward 3 Councilor Nicholas Caccamo.
That conversation did, however, trigger some talk about the number of committees that have been disbanded or approved and never created. Connell had asked for a commission to oversee water and wastewater operations, which was never formed. Morandi had asked to bring the Cable Commission back into action to no avail.
Morandi added that there Youth Commission had also been disbanded.
Tags: homeless, police advisory, trash,
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