PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Council President Peter Marchetti has handed out committee assignments to the City Council.
The president is tasked with appointing the council's six subcommittees with five members each. Marchetti, Vice President John Krol, and Ward 7 Councilor Anthony Simonelli will serve on two committees each. The other councilors will serve on three and of those, all but the two newest councilors will have chairmanships.
Marchetti will chair the Finance Committee and be the vice chairman of Public Health and Safety — taking on one extra committee than he had last year. Krol will be the vice chairman of Community and Economic Development and sit on Ordinance and Rules, the same two roles he had the last term.
Ward 3 Councilor Nicholas Caccamo was tapped to chair the Community and Economic Development Committee. He sat on it last term and fills the chairmanship vacated by former Councilor Kathleen Amuso, who did not seek re-election.
"It's one of the most exciting committees we have, its most important task is the block grant appropriations. It's a great chance to make some meaningful improvements across our city," Caccamo said.
"I hope to work closely with the Community Development Office to create a meaningful spending plan. It's also driven by community needs through public hearings which is a great way to get the pulse of each new year."
Caccamo said he's quickly gearing up for a meeting regarding the development of the former St. Mary's the Morningstar Church property — for which the mayor will be proposing a tax increment financing package to assist. And he is looking at accepting the PACE program from the Department of Energy to help small and medium-sized businesses and non-profits.
Overall the Ward 3 councilor is "very happy" with his committee assignments. He also retains a seat on Ordinance and Rules and is vice chairman of Buildings and Maintenance — a committee he chaired this last year. He is one of the councilors who will be returning to the same committees as the last term.
Simonelli is also returning to familiar committees. He will serve on Public Works and Buildings and Maintenance. He had the same two last year as well as Public Health and Safety, which he was not appointed to this time. He said he got what he asked for with the appointments to Public Works and Buildings and Maintenance.
"As a ward councilor, I believe Public Works is very important to serve on, as it deals with issues a ward councilor faces regularly," he said.
He'll serve on that committee with Ward 5 Councilor Donna Todd Rivers. Rivers shares Simonelli's view that Public Works is a good committee for ward councilors but she hoped to give it up and move into finance. Rivers felt the new councilors would benefit from Public Works while she could dive deeper into the city's finances.
"I felt I would give up the seat. I really wanted to learn finance and learn that committee," Rivers said.
Marchetti didn't honor her request. But Rivers isn't that upset about it. She says she can still learn about the issues and have her voice heard on the committee even if she isn't a member. She plans to attend the meetings as a member of the audience and pay close attention to the discussion at that level before the topic is sent to the full committee.
"Whether you are sitting in the five chairs or in the black chairs, if it is something you care passionately about you can still be involved," Rivers said.
While Rivers may not have gotten Finance, she is excited about her chairmanship of Buildings and Maintenance. She says the city's buildings are a major priority but that committee hadn't had much life to it in recent years.
"I think that committee needs more action. I would like to meet more," she said. "I'd like to bring it to life."
Rivers isn't the only one who didn't get what she wanted. Councilor at Large Melissa Mazzeo wanted to be on Community and Economic Development but wasn't assigned it.
"A few things that concerned me was putting the two new councilors on Community and Economic Development. I felt that I would better serve the public on that committee. I have been through three administrations and felt my experience with economic development issues and ideas are needed," Mazzeo said.
The former council president also got ousted from the chair of Ordinance and Rules, one of the more coveted committees to be on, to the chagrin of some of her colleagues. In her place is last term's committee vice chairman, Peter White. Mazzeo will still have a seat on Ordinance and Rules as the vice chair and she will also sit on Finance and Public Health and Safety.
"I was discouraged Melissa Mazzeo wasn't chair of Ordinance and Rules," Ward 4 Councilor Christopher Connell said.
Connell had even hoped to join Mazzeo on that committee as well but he wasn't appointed. Instead, Connell will chair Public Works, vice chair Finance, and sit on Building and Maintenance.
Connell is happy with his chairmanship of Public Works, where he can get even more involved with a topic he had been delving into heavily over the course of the last year.
"I really want to get into the water and wastewater treatment plant upgrades. And really get into the enterprise fund accounts," Connell said.
Simonelli also feels Mazzeo would have been a better chair for Ordinance and Rules.
"I found it strange that Councilor Mazzeo, who arguably is the most knowledgeable councilor regarding ordinance and rules, or Councilor Rivers (who has a law degree) should not be given the chairmanship of O&R," Simonelli said.
White, meanwhile, considers being tapped to head Ordinance and Rules an honor. He's also looking forward to the work on the Community and Economic Development Committee.
"I am honored to be chosen to chair Ordinance and Rules for this term. My plan is to run fair and orderly meetings and just help keep the process moving forward," White said. "I am hoping that the newly created business development manager might have some more items going before Community and Economic Development and also housing projects like the former St. Mary's project."
White will also sit on Public Health and Safety and says all three of his committee assignments will serve a role in the implementation of recreational marijuana.
The newest at-large councilor, Earl Persip, feels Marchetti did a good job assigning him to committees that fit with his skills and expertise. He'll sit on Building Maintenance, Community and Economic Development, and Finance.
"I'm happy with my assignments and I believe I was assigned to committees where I can have a strong impact and bring solid experience. I think President Marchetti was thoughtful when giving committee assignments, and he put councilors on committees where they can do the best work given their particular skills," Persip said.
"I've managed tight budgets for over 10 years in circumstances where every dollar counts, and I'm currently responsible for building facilities at both Berkshire Family YMCA properties. My career and volunteer work also give me a lot of experience working with the community, and that should give me a good handle on issues facing the Community Development committee."
It is the Economic and Community Development position that excites Persip the most because of the wide range of topic he'll handle.
The other newcomer to the council, Moon, will have seats on Public Works, Public Health and Safety, and Community and Economic Development.
Vice President Krol is happy with returning to the same committee positions as last year. But, he'd like to have seen Persip and Moon take on even bigger roles.
"I would have liked to have seen our new councilors better represented on the two most active, and in many ways, most important committees: O&R and Finance," Krol said.
Meanwhile, Ward 2 Councilor Kevin Morandi is particularly happy about taking over the chairmanship of Public Health and Safety. He had last served as the vice chairman but former chairwoman Lisa Tully did not seek re-election. He'll also stay on Finance and Public Works, two committees he had sat on during this last term.
Morandi doesn't mind serving on the same committees as last year. He believes that it is important to have the most experienced councilors on each committee.
"I think it is very important to have consistency on all of these committees for the next two years as every committee is going to have real important and essential items referred to it. Having the most experienced and informed members that have been on these committees and are familiar with the process and items that are referred to them is essential," Morandi said.
Caccamo agrees that there are benefits to having consistency with the committee assignments, but he said there are also benefits to having new voices. Making those decisions and finding that balance is the responsibility of the council president.
"There are some benefits to being on the same committees, but it's also important to have new views. Selecting committee assignments really allows the president of the council to set a vision for the legislative branch based on prior experiences," Caccamo said.
Overall, White thinks Marchetti had created "a good mix given that there are only six committees for 11 councilors to serve on." And Morandi said everyone on every committee has a vital role in city government this term.
"Every subcommittee from O&R to Building and Maintenance will play important roles in the next two years as I really expect and hope that many initiatives and ideas will be brought forward as we continue to try and make Pittsfield a vibrant and thriving economically driven city once again. With only two new councilors coming onto these committees I feel it will be a lot easier of a transition for everyone," Morandi said.
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