Bowler Endorses Breen for North Adams Council
Letters to the Editor 10:23AM / Tuesday October 29, 2013
To the Editor:
I am proud to endorse Jennifer "Jenny" Breen for re-election to the North Adams City Council. I have known Jenny for years both as a local attorney and through both of our roles as elected officials.
I am happy to endorse her, as I did in her first race for office in 2011. Ms. Breen is a person of integrity and honesty. We have had multiple conversations focused on her love for her city, North Adams, and her desire to see North Adams move forward. I also know Ms. Breen as a person of intelligence and education in public safety.
Ms. Breen is a former prosecutor, and as such, I appreciate Ms. Breen's understanding of her municipalities' role in policing and law enforcement. We have discussed her spearheading neighborhood watches in North Adams and the integral role of community policing. I also understand Ms. Breen's support of her local police and fire departments and the risks these men and women face in the front lines. Most importantly, I know Ms. Breen to be a champion for children and the elderly in her work as an attorney. She endeavors to attack the root of crime, poverty, by embracing the private sector's contribution to the tax base in North Adams.
I give my endorsement to Councilor Jennifer Breen for re-election to the North Adams City Council, and ask that you vote for her on Nov. 5.
Very truly yours,
Berkshire County Sheriff Thomas N. Bowler
Oct. 27, 2013
Krol, Nichols Clash Over Pittsfield's Westside
By Joe Durwin Pittsfield Correspondent 07:40AM / Tuesday October 29, 2013
Incumbent John Krol and challenger Joseph Nichols differed sharply during the Ward 6 at BCC on Monday night.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Incumbent John Krol and former Ward 7 Councilor Joseph Nichols traded jabs during a heated debate Monday over who voters should choose to represent Ward 6 in next week's local election.
The two candidates, who frequently opposed each other on the council during the 2009-2011 term, drew pointed contrasts to each other on issues and governmental philosophy as well as disputing each other's honesty during the sometimes tense 40-minute forum held at Berkshire Community College by the Pittsfield Gazette and Pittsfield Community Television.
Sparring began in opening statements, during which Nichols criticized what he called a lack of responsiveness to constituents on the part of the incumbent.
The two were also staunchly divided on the issues of residential property taxes and regulation for homeowners.
Krol defended his role in the council's
7-4 decision last year
to amend the shift factor in commercial/residential property taxes from 1.72 to 1.68, altering the distribution of tax increase in fiscal 2013 to rates of $16.70 per $1,000 residential and $34.48 commercial rather than $16.48 / $35.30 ratio proposed by Mayor Daniel Bianchi.
"We live in a competitive market, in a world where businesses are making choices about where to do business," said Krol. "A small shift that makes a few dollars difference on the residential side makes a huge impact on the commercial tax rate."
"It's a shortsighted gesture," argued Nichols, who blamed Krol for imposing too great a burden on fixed income homeowners. "The businessman can write off taxes, and pass on the cost of that expense, but the homeowner cannot do that."
Nichols also blamed Pittsfield's 2010 adoption of the Stretch Energy Code as being a major impediment to a city lagging behind in the recovery of its housing market.
Krol however said that it was that very regulation and code enforcement that was improving their Westside neighborhood, and citing addressing "problem properties" as a significant measure toward reducing crime.
The two candidates agreed on little, aside from both opposing a current developer proposal to build a new
big box retail complex
at the William Stanley Business Park, and overall approval of the revised city charter that will also be on the ballot next Tuesday.
The debate jumped the rails off its question-and-answer format during a brief but heated exchange after Nichols accused Krol of being non-collaborative in working with the Bianchi administration.
"John says that he collaborates with our mayor" said Nichols. "But I spoke with Mayor Bianchi today and he said that Mr. Krol has not been in his office in two years.
"That's completely not true," Krol interjected, stating he had met with the mayor in his office on several occasions.
"I called Mayor Bianchi soon after the inauguration, I called him several times to get a first meeting in his office, and eventually I did get a meeting," Krol continued. "I have tried to work with Mayor Bianchi and I have continued to try and work with Mayor Bianchi however I can."
Nichols reiterated his statement, and further accused Krol of exaggerating Bianchi's committment to a $200,000 budget item for a sports field at Berkshire Community College.
"I don't think that Mayor Bianchi would lie to me right before a debate," said Nichols. "Again, Councilor Krol has gone beyond what the reality of the situation is, in order to, evidently, make steps toward getting re-elected."
Krol flatly denied this as well, naming several individuals including, state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, among whom he'd met with the mayor on the project and had confirmed his commitment to the capital funds.
After briefly allowing the dispute in controlled 30-second responses, moderator David Cachat cut off the argument, while disgruntled whispers echoed through supporters of both candidates in the small audience.
In closing arguments, Krol emphasized a record of what he saw as progressive improvements for the city he had helped accomplish in the his past two terms.
"These take communication and advocacy, and that is what I've done," Krol summarized. "Responsiveness is what it's all about as a ward councilor."
Nichols ended by again challenging his opponent on that responsiveness, claiming widespread complaints that the incumbent councilor had been incommunicative.
"I think it's great to paint a pretty picture at election time," concluded Nichols. "But actions speak louder than words."
Caccamo, Latura Differ in Pittsfield Ward 3 Debate
By Andy McKeever iBerkshires Staff 01:58AM / Tuesday October 22, 2013
Nicholas Caccamo, left, and Richard Latura, right, are both seeking the Ward 3 seat on the City Council.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Ward 3 City Council candidates presented themselves as one who will work the system for ward residents versus one who will upset the apple cart to get what those residents want.
Richard Latura and Nicholas Caccamo are vying for the ward seat that will be open because incumbent Paul Capitanio is not seeking re-election.
On Monday, Caccamo and Latura faced off in a debate at Berkshire Community College, each making their case on how they can best serve the ward.
"I will be the guy that stands up and says what we need to do and when we need to do it. I won't sit there and be voiceless," Latura said. "I will have the loudest voice in the room."
Latura said the ward has been "unrepresented" for year because previous councilors focused on citywide issues more than individual concerns within the ward. Latura has set his sights on ward-specific issues such as getting traffic off side roads, increasing police presence and cleaning up the parks.
"My top priority is to get more police and firemen on the street," Latura said. "We have a lot of criminal activity in the parks. Our kids are not safe."
Caccamo focused more on process, saying he will work in the subcommittees and on the council to get residents' voices heard through his collaborative efforts.
"I am committed to the process of city government," Caccamo said. "I'm dedicated to promoting a pragmatic approach to government and work in subcommittees."
Caccamo, an employee of Pittsfield Public Schools, says he believes that investing in education should be the city's priority because that will later lead to economic development. He also says he wants the city to be more energy efficient to lower those costs while at the same time, he wants to make sure the roads, sidewalks and parks in Ward 3 are prioritized for upkeep and repairs.
"If we can improve the parks in Ward 3, we can attract other residents to come visit," Caccamo said.
Caccamo says he will be focused on "long-term" solutions such as changing the streetlights to be on a management system so the city can adjust the brightness and control from one area. Energy efficiency could save taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars, he said.
He said he would advocate for bicycle lanes and the redevelopment of vacant sites — particularly the former Hibbard School and the Grossman's lot.
Latura agreed with energy efficiency and said he wants the city to use more renewable energy — solar, wind. He, too, wants vacant lots and blighted properties to be reused and cleaned up. But his first goal is to make sure the neighborhoods are safe.
"My main objective would be the reroute traffic our of our neighborhoods and onto the main roads where they belong," Latura said.
Latura believes the schools are underfunded and envisions the city being "leaders in technology," a reason why Latura does not support the most recent proposal from Waterstone Reality to bring retail to the former General Electric land.
"They're low-paying, no-benefit jobs that will just leave another building empty," Latura said. "We really need to fill that spot and manufacturing is the way to do it."
Caccamo, too, rejects the idea of a retail development, calling for "living wage" jobs instead.
"It is a net-zero game because certainly it will close other retail," Caccamo said.
While the two do agree there, they disagree on the proposed city charter modifications. Caccamo says he is in favor of the change to make the mayoral term four years because it allows the residents to see some of initiatives come to fruition.
Latura, however, says he is fearful the additional years gives the mayor even more power and takes that from the councilors. Currently, the power is in the hands of the council but with only two-year terms for councilors proposed, that will give the mayor an advantage over newly elected councilors, he said.
Both candidates also agree that the council should work closer with school officials. However, Caccamo will need to abstain from the vote on the school budget, which Latura said isn't fair to the residents.
"Everybody in our ward deserves a voice on each and every vote," Latura said.
Caccamo responded by saying that the vote on the budget is the only vote he would abstain from and can still advocate for the school.
Overall, Caccamo says he will be looking for "progressive and new ways" to set the city up for long-term success. He wants the city to look at modern ways to reduce crime and economic development.
"At the end of the day, I am responsible to the residents of ward three," Caccamo said.
Latura said he will put in the effort needed to make sure Ward 3 neighborhoods are safe and he said he will not be ignored when it comes to those issues.
Tully, Yon Argue Issues in Pittsfield Ward 1 Debate
By Andy McKeever iBerkshires Staff 08:27PM / Monday October 21, 2013
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.
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