PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Richard Latura wants his hometown back the way he remembers it and he doesn't care how that happens -- legal or not.
Latura is running for an at-large seat on the City Council. He doesn't like what is happening in Pittsfield and he wants to make it safe, cut out political nonsense, and reel in the taxes.
"I'm too old. I don't care. I'm just so tired of having so many politicians on that dais that are useless," Latura said.
The Police Department would be a top priority: making sure officers have everything they need and looking the other way if officers become physical with some offenders.
"I don't care if I have to stop Third Thursdays. What do you need to stay safe? Make our neighborhoods safe," Latura said. "Make the neighborhoods safe and the city will follow because it is nothing but a bunch of neighborhoods stuck together. Once you have it safe, everybody can say hi to each other every day, they can walk their dogs, their kids can play in the parks, everybody can be a community again."
Latura said he'd want some offenders to have "accidents" while in custody and he thinks jails are too soft -- he'd like to see more inmates being put to work doing various jobs in the city. He said he wants to "weed out the scum" in the city.
"If you were a real offender, you fell down the stairs a couple of times. It was an accident. But you fell down the stairs a couple of times. It needs to be done again," he said.
In one neighborhood, Latura said there was drug dealing and other nefarious activity going on right in the middle of the streets and neighbors didn't want to leave their houses. The police couldn't legally do anything about it given the circumstances. He said he went out day after day and made sure the miscreants knew that they were not welcome. Eventually, he said he confronted those causing a nuisance and they moved their activities inside.
"The cops didn't do that. They need warrants. I don't need warrants. They aren't doing that anymore. You won't hear that address on your scanner," Latura said.
"They couldn't take care of it because they have to follow the rules. I don't have to follow the rules. I have to follow what my constituents say."
That attitude stems from about a decade in the military, but even then, it had ultimately led him to be "asked" to leave. He served in the Army and said he suffered a bullet wound during his time in Grenada. That is when he first got in trouble when he overstepped his bounds in making a call. He said he would later "knock out" a superior and he was asked to leave -- still keeping his service record intact.
He returned to the city where he grew up and became a locksmith. Now he is retired, though he does some work on the side, and has had enough of politics. He ran for council in 2013 for Ward 3 because he really thought that he'd make a difference but lost. He had no interest in running again and hadn't been paying attention to politics until his tax bill arrived.
"I opened up my tax bill and almost puked on the dining room table. For what? What am I paying this kind of money for? I look out my window and I have a pothole in front of my house that I can't get fixed for six years," Latura said.
He has no plans to fund raise. He doesn't plan to campaign. But he will be talking to people and bringing up issues he doesn't believe anybody is actually talking about. And if elected, he plans to let everybody know if he gets wind of any backroom dealing or closed-door meetings among politicians.
"They are going to stop with the nonsense. It is going to end. I get on that dais and it is going to be the worst day of their lives," Latura said.
He'll want to start with improving the Police Department and then move to improve the Fire Department. And his third priority will be to rebuild the Department of Public Works so it can handle all of the jobs needed so contracts aren't being given to out-of-town contractors. If there is work the city needs done, he wants that money to go to local companies where the employees are all local and will spend their money here.
He isn't going to ask people to email him -- nor will he answer any -- or ask them to text. He wants people to call and talk to him. Too often, he feels, councilors don't respond or respond via email telling the residents that their problem will eventually be fixed. Latura said he'll answer for the phone at any time on any day to solve problems.
"The city deserves the government they elected. I don't know when it started or why it happened but for some reason this government decided that they are a monarchy. They deserve it. They are royalty. No. You are there to serve at the pleasure of the people and that is all I want. I want to serve you because you put me there. If you have a problem, trust me, I'll answer your telephone call," Latura said.
No matter what it is, Latura said within a week he'll be able to figure out a solution.
He doesn't support using public funds on the arts and tourism. He thinks the city can be revitalized from within by making neighborhoods safe so people will walk downtown. Companies will see community and move here. He discredits the mayor's involvement in Wayfair's expansion, saying it is only happening because the owner had lived here.
He questions where the money was spent on the new playground for Durant Park, saying it doesn't look like it should have cost as much as it did. He questions the implementation of parking meters, saying nobody in the city wants them.
He believes city officials are grossly overpaid and he'd be pushing to cut salaries. Latura feels much of what is happening with various projects stems from backroom deals among politicians and he plans to bring that out into the open.
"The city needs to know that you have a handful of councilmen running behind closed doors and making deals," Latura said.
He had a troubled childhood. As the oldest of nine children, he had to become the man of the house at age 13 when his father left.
"I had to come of age real quick. I went out and got jobs doing nothing for dimes and nickels just so my mother could eat, just so my siblings could have heat, just for that. From the age of 13, I should have been out playing cowboys and Indians and not going to work for a living," Latura said.
"I learned a lot of things I shouldn't have done when I was young, but I had to."
But he had a tight-knit neighborhood there that supported him. He remembers nobody ever locking their doors and everybody in the neighborhood looked out for each other. That isn't the case anymore, he said, believing that stems from the government.
"If you think you are voting for a politician, vote for somebody else because you will not like me. I do not have a filter. I am not politically correct. And I'm not afraid to use words. If I think you are an idiot, I'm going to tell you, you are an idiot," Latura said.