Pittsfield City Council Hopefuls Outline Positions
Incumbents Melissa Mazzeo and Kevin Sherman, former councilors Anthony Maffucio and Richard Scapin, 2009 mayoral candidate Nicholas Caccamo and local accountant Barry J. Clairmont appeared out of the total eight candidates seeking election to the four at-large council seats voters will decide on Nov. 8.
Churchill Cotton, who is also on the ballot, was not able to be present at the debate for medical reasons. According to PCTV debate moderator Shawn Serre, Cotton was admitted to Berkshire Medical Center on Monday for "precautionary tests."
Ward 7 Councilor Joseph Nichols, who is mounting a write-in campaign for one of the at-large seats was not included in the debate because only candidates appearing on the ballot were invited.
Nichols, who placed third in the preliminary election for mayor on Sept. 27, is one of two councilors seeking to remain on the council through write-in campaigns. Peter White, who was edged out of the Democratic nomination for 3rd Berkshire District representative, is campaigning as a write-in candidate against Kevin Morandi for the Ward 2 seat.
Candidates also leaned in favor of advancing a review process to look at updating the city charter, an idea which has gained interest over the last year. Mazzeo said she believes a city charter commission should be comprised of volunteers who come forward from the community, not chosen by the mayor.
"I definitely think we need an overhaul," she said. "It's going to take a few years, we have plenty of other communities [going through charter reviews] to watch."
Sherman, who has advanced the petition to begin a charter review commission, envisioned something based on the model of Northampton, which has moved forward rapidly with the process. He described a scenario involve a drafting commission with one citizen from each of the city's seven wards appointed by the City Council, along with two mayoral appointees.
The six contenders differed on the question of whether there should be a shift in tax burden off the commercial tax base onto residents. Sherman, Clairmont and Caccamo said yes, that they supported at least some shift off local business. Maffucio and Scapin said no, and Mazzeo described herself as "in the middle," and that while she doesn't want to put more burden on residents, nonetheless echoed Scapin's contention that higher taxes on businesses cost residents anyway in the form of higher prices for goods and services.
Though unable to attend the debate for health reasons, Cotton spoke to iBerkshires last week, at which time he indicated that educational issues, such as the high school problem, were a major factor in his choice to run for council this term. The current School Committee member said he'd been pleased with Superintendent Jake Eberwein's presentation on the progress of the School Building Needs Commission.
"It's important for residents to understand that no decisions have made yet, they're not going to be made without them," Cotton told iBerkshires.
Voters may choose to cast a vote (or write-in) for up to four of the eight candidates at the general election on Nov. 8. The four top vote recipients will become the four at large city councilors for the upcoming term.