Linda Tyer looks at another blighted property just across the street from the one on John Street that she used as the backdrop for her latest campaign stump.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A property with tall grass and smashed windows sends a message to the neighbors.
But it is not the message Linda Tyer wants to be sent. The current city clerk is running for mayor and on Tuesday stood outside of one of the city's most dilapidated properties to says if elected, blight won't be tolerated.
"When you purchase a property as an investment, there is a responsibility to that. This city is going to hold these people responsible," Tyer said outside of a three-unit rental property on John Street that is in deplorable condition.
"This has a community pride component to it. This has a property values component. It affects crime and public health," Tyer said.
Tyer says she will put together a "problem properties task force" consisting of representatives from the city, neighborhood initiatives, and the rental housing association to aggressively go after owners of blighted properties. She also says she'd implement stronger ordinances for health and building codes.
"We have neighbors to this particular property who are doing their best to maintain their properties and sadly the condition of this property is having a negative effect with diminished property values and diminished quality of life. This will be a top, top priority for me in my administration," she said.
The task force would be similar to one in Boston, she said, in that the group will categorize properties as problems based on the number of citations and complaints. The city will clean up them up and then lien the properties to recoup the cost. The group will maintain the property and pursue the cleaning up of it and ultimately try to find a way to get investment.
"As a team of stakeholders we'll use city ordinances that exist now and the ones that I intend to create to more aggressively attack this kind of a problem," Tyer said.
The other ordinance she hopes to implement is for doors and windows. The ordinance will require landlords of vacant properties to put locking windows and doors. That will send a positive message to the neighborhood in a number of ways, she said. It will not only spruce up the property but also eliminate health hazards and crime. It creates a more "neighborly condition" and has a psychological effect on those living nearby.
A well-known criminology theory knows as the broken window theory says that if a vacant property is kept clean and windows repaired, it sends a message to the criminal element that the area is not one to loiter.
On West Union Street nearly all of the properties were well maintained but at the end, at the intersection of John Street the property serving as Tyer's backdrop for the afternoon campaign stump, was in disrepair. She said all of the neighbors are negatively impacted by the owner who let the property decline.
One of her reforms would be to require owners of vacant properties to install locking doors and windows.
"This perfectly illustrates the effect a neglected property has on a neighborhood. This is an extremely important issue to me. As a member of the Pittsfield City Council, I voted to support ordinances and activities that would address these kinds of conditions in our city and I intend to continue to fairly and actively address conditions of blight from both a commercial and a neighborhood impact," Tyer said.
The candidate said neighborhood children are forced to walk by a property that is unsecured and has tall grass that can create health issues from ticks and mosquitoes. The property is near Pitt Park and not too far from Conte Community School.
"In some ways this many seem like I am a one-trick pony on the conditions of blighted properties in the city but this is extremely important to the people of our city," Tyer said.
Tyer is running against incumbent Daniel Bianchi, who she says hasn't made blight a priority. When she served on the City Council, then Mayor James Ruberto implemented a series of anti-blight ordinances. Tyer charged that the incumbent has not only voted against them — in February and in March of 2007 — but has basically ignored that program since taking office.
"As a city councilor, Dan Bianchi voted on two separate occasions against giving our Inspection Services Department more tools to combat problem absentee landlords," she claimed.
Also running for mayor is resident Craig Gaetani and past candidate Donna M. Walto.
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Pittsfield City Council to Discuss Homeless Solutions
By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The City Council on Tuesday sent a group of petitions regarding the city's homeless population to the subcommittee on Public Health and Safety.
The three petitions ask officials to consider measures to safeguard the homeless and begin a conversation about homelessness within the city limits.
"I am glad we are having this discussion, and I look forward to hearing it," Councilor at Large Peter White said. "This has been an issue here for a long time and having people live in the park is not a long terms solution."
Late into the six-hour meeting Tuesday, councilors came to the agreement that although Connell is spending much of his time quarantining out of state, his primary residence is still in Pittsfield.
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