7 Make Case For Pittsfield At-Large Council Seats
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Three incumbents and four challengers outlined accomplishments, experience and positions as they compete for four at-large seats on the City Council, to be chosen by voters of all seven of Pittsfield's wards next Tuesday.
North Adams Candidate Forums, Debates Scheduled
• Thursday, Oct 24, 8:30 a.m.: Blackmer and Bona
• Friday, Oct 25, 8 a.m.: Breen and Bullet
• Monday, Oct 28, 8:30 a.m.: Buddington and Cardimino
• Tuesday, Oct 29, 8:30 a.m.: Hernandez and Lamb
• Thursday, Oct 31, 8:30 a.m.: Merrigan and Moran
• Friday, Nov. 1, 8:30 a.m.: Wilkinson
Two Seeking Lanesborough Selectman Seat
|Selectman candidate Barbara Hassan and Tim O'Brien, who moderated the forum at Town Hall on Wednesday. Candidate Henry Sayers was unable to attend the forum.|
LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — Two local business owners are vying for the open seat on the Board of Selectmen.
Henry Sayers, owner of Sayers Auto Wrecking, and Barbara Hassan, owner of Barb Hassan Real Estate, are both running in next week's special election.
The seat is open after Robert Barton resigned to run for School Committee. His resignation was too late to fill the seat at the annual election this past spring.
A candidate forum was scheduled on Wednesday but Sayers was unable to attend. However, Hassan fielded questions for a half hour segment while a letter from Sayers was read.
When asked why residents should vote for her, Hassan said one word kept coming to mind — qualified.
Her job as a real estate agent over the past 25 years requires her to be up to date with the issues, Hassan said, and have a wide range of contacts in business and politics.
"I can seamlessly take on the responsibility left by the previous selectman because I've stayed current on the issues facing the town of Lanesborough," Hassan said, adding that she has increased the number of government meetings she has attended so if she is elected, she can hit the ground running.
She has been an active in politics but hasn't run for an elected office before. When the town hired a full-time administrator, she said it created a much more businesslike environment and she is seeking election to continue the transition.
"There has been a huge transition since the new town administrator came on and more transparency and accountability," Hassan said. "I really like that it is a businesslike environment."
She said she has a "business mindset" and the connections that come with it. When asked about improving commercial buildings, she said she has resources across the country she can ask for advice on, for example, a brownfields project.
Hassan said she has a strong relationship with the Berkshire delegation and the mayors of the the two cities — all of whom said they would be available to help in a situation.
"I am humble enough to ask for help all day long on any subject I don't know about," she said.
She said she has met with Mount Greylock Regional Superintendent Rose Ellis about the impending school project and is comfortable that the town and herself will receive plenty of information about that project as it moves along.
Hassan would like to merge various town departments into one, a move she says will create efficiencies. She has already put a year's worth of effort as a member of a committee researching that possibility and she hopes to complete it.
Sayers, in his letter, boasts similar experience in business. His letter focused on trying to control spending while expanding the tax base.
"Young families do not want to move into Lanesborough because of the high tax rate. Some of the committees are looking at current spending habits and ways we could save money. We have to continue to find ways to stretch dollars," the letter reads.
Meanwhile, attention needs to be paid to the town's infrastructure, Sayers' wrote, and that he would place priority on finding grants or bonds to improve the road systems.
"I believe I can work well with other board members and other departments by bringing common sense to issues as well as thinking outside of the box when needed," the letter reads.
The letter continues to say he would like to make town hall "more user friendly" and would work to resolve problems before they grow to become "major issues." He said he would be "fair" and "listen to everyone that has something to say."
The election is on Tuesday, Oct. 15.
Ward 3 Hopefuls Outline Platforms in Pittsfield Debate
|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.
Crime, Politics at Issue in Pittsfield's Ward One Race
|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."