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."