Tully, Yon Argue Issues in Pittsfield Ward 1 Debate
Christine Yon, left, and Lisa Tully are both seeking election as the Ward 1 City Councilor.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The future development of the former General Electric land seemed to be the biggest difference between the Ward 1 candidates during a debate at Berkshire Community College on Monday.
Incumbent Christine Yon is being challenged for the City Council seat by Lisa Tully. While Yon says there is room for mixed usage at the William Stanley Business Park, Tully says the city should focus on industry before considering anything else.
"I think we would be selling out with retail," Tully said, adding that the site has only been "marketable" for the last year and supports the administration's push for manufacturing. "Retail is going to be knocking on our doors in two years."
The newest proposal from Waterstone Reality for a massive box store on one of the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority's parcels has become a dividing issue in the city. Yon said she cannot make an opinion on that particular proposal at this point but says she isn't against uses other than manufacturing.
"There are challenges with the site in question. I do believe there is room for mixed use on the site," Yon said. "How long do we wait? That's what I wonder."
Yon said manufacturing is "very, very competitive" and there are hurdles in the way of attracting those companies. She cited the lack of access to highways and old school buildings as difficulties toward attracting the companies.
Another issue separating the two is the newly crafted city charter. Yon says she will not support the charter revisions because of the difference in terms between the mayor and city councilors. A Charter Review Commission is proposing a four-year term for mayor while continuing the two-year terms for city councilors.
"I would hate to see 10 percent of our population choosing our legislative branch of the government," Yon said, citing a low voter turnout during municipal elections that would be even less without a mayoral election.
Tully, however, says the move to four years for mayor is enough time for to learn the job and begin implementing policies before hitting the campaign trail.
"I think four years would be a good idea for mayor and I think the City Council should be two," Tully said.
Tully said if elected another focus would be stabilizing tax bills. She said the city should look at consolidating city-owned buildings and getting a better handle on the school budget. Yon agreed that there maybe places in the school budget to create efficiencies and added that she would work with department heads to keep a close eye on those budgets.
"We need to evaluate our school system and see where we can be more affective and efficient there," Yon said.
As for ward-specific issues, Yon said speeding cars and mosquito control are particularly pressing. Tully, however, said crime is a major concern.
"I think one of the major issues going on in the city right now is safety," Tully said. "It is swarming the city."
For Tully, crime, bringing in industrial jobs and taxes are her three main focuses; she says her goals would be to make sure the residents are heard.
"My goal in the upcoming election is to make sure all of my constituents are happy, that things are being done in a timely fashion," she said. "I want to bring those needs to City Hall."
Yon agreed and said the "most important issue being a ward councilor is the issue that is directly in front of you when that phone call [from a constituent] comes in."
Yon says for four years she has provided that type of service for Ward 1 residents and has produced "positive results." But she still has the renovation of the Springside House, the extension of the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail and planning a future of the Tyler Street fire station to finish.
"I am passionate about these initiatives and I'd like to see them to completion," she said.
Tully took shots at Yon's record though and cited her votes on increasing the budget every year and being open to the retail option at the PEDA site as ways she is not representing the people. She added the City Council is "divided" and that needs to be fixed so the councilors can work together.
"I believe that a ward councilor is someone you can trust," Tully said. "I'm going to do what they want."
She said she has already begun finding out the residents concerns during the campaign and promised to be "a voice for them."
Tully is in her first bid to get involved in city politics while Yon has served multiple public roles — from churches to councilor to athletic clubs.
"I've always enjoyed being a leader and I work very well with people and developed great relationships that have led me to be affective in government," Yon said."I have four years of a record of accomplishments achieving positive results."
The debate was sponsored by the Pittsfield Gazette and Pittsfield Community Television. It was moderated by William Sturgeon.