image description
Peter White is running for re-election to the Pittsfield City Council.

White Keeps Big Picture in Mind in Re-Election Run

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
Print Story | Email Story
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Peter White likes to look at the big picture and not just from his at-large seat on the City Council but by being involved in a host of community activities — from serving on the Morningside Initiative Steering Committee to participating in local Facebook groups. 
"I like being at a coffee shop and just having somebody come up and ask a question or have a conversation," he said. "I like getting to know people and getting to know what needs to be done from their viewpoints ... really listening to as many people as possible and letting that influence how our city goes.
"I love Pittsfield, the Berkshires, and I feel like this is my way to give back. And also to affect what goes on in my community.
He jokes that he has two ears and one mouth — meaning he should listen more than he talks.
White is seeking a third term as councilor at large this November. The Pittsfield native was first elected as a Ward 2 councilor in 2009, serving two years before an unsuccessful bid for state representative and a failed last-minute write-in for council. While he enjoyed his short tenure representing the ward, being a councilor at large gives him the ability to be more involved with events across neighborhoods.
"Being at-large allows me to go anywhere in the city and not have to say this is not my district, that I don't represent this area," he said. "I represent every person in Pittsfield, every business in Pittsfield. ...
"It's hard to isolate something when you have to look at the big picture. You know, being an at-large councilor, I look at the entire city with every decision I make."
That focus beyond one or two neighborhoods gives him the freedom to participate in the West Side, Morningside and Tyler Street Business groups, and Downtown Pittsfield Inc. activities, said White, who's been voted "Best Town Official" the last three consecutive years in The Berkshire Eagle's "Best of the Berkshires" rankings.
White said he may not always talk much at council meetings but comes prepared after going through councilors' meeting packet and speaking with residents and department heads. 
"When I go into a council meeting, I don't have my mind set, but I have an idea of where I'm going on an issue," he said. "I try to jump in on things that I might be a little bit more passionate about, or I think an angle hasn't been explored. Or if I do have a question specifically about it."
While he can guess how a vote will go on a particular issue, he said he's still been surprised over the past two years in being unable to predict how the councilors will fall on a number of matters. 
White's been active in the community since before his 2009 election. He worked at the Bousquet Ski area and then at the Brien Center and, for the past seven years, has been an employment services specialist with the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission. 
His job covers the county, bringing him into contact with business leaders and local officials across the Berkshires. It's a collaboration he relishes and feels it brings him into contact with new ideas and perspectives.
"Finding people jobs, and talking to businesses is all about connecting resources," he said, an aspect that he also feels is important in his role as a city councilor. "I'm not saying I'm less Pittsfield-centric, but I want to know what's going on in the entire region."
White sees potential for finding solutions to shared problems by talking with peers in neighboring towns, working with state officials, and maintaining contacts outside the Berkshires, such as through the Massachusetts Municipal Association. 
"I've been following city politics since 2001. And it seems like ideas are just getting recycled. I think we're always coming up with a new way of doing things," he said. "I think some of the tried and true methods are what we should stick more with, like build community, fix our roads, do the jobs that we're doing now."
He thinks continuing to make the city more attractive — improving the parks, supporting arts and culture — will also make Pittsfield more appealing to new businesses and residents. 
And some of it is continuing to tackle items like trash that keep recycling. White says the most recent trash plan put forward by Mayor Linda Tyer was one of the better the ones, even though the council picked it apart in detail. It makes sense, he said, to look for savings in a program that costs the city millions because that money could be used elsewhere.
"I was disappointed that the council didn't send it to Ordinance & Rules (of which he is chairman)," he said. "Instead, it reverted back to the mayor without specifics of 'we want bigger toters' or 'we want smaller toters.' I think the council could have done more work before we referred to it back to the mayor."
He was also disappointed that Tyer's "At Home in Pittsfield" program failed. The program would provide loans backed by the city's Economic Development Fund for eligible homeowners to do exterior maintenance on their properties, especially targeting Morningside and West Side neighborhoods.
"I was a strong advocate for that being the former Ward 2 councilor and sitting in and being a member of the Morningside Initiative from the beginning," he said. "Being able to as an at-large councilor to do work with the West Side Initiative, I really saw that as an innovative way to help parts of our city that need a little bit more help, while having the program be broad enough that anyone who met the guidelines were eligible. ...
"I'm a big believer in the saying a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. And I think that there are some neighborhoods that we can give them more assistance to so we can strengthen our entire city."
He sees the work being done with the Tyler Street Transformative Development Initiative, through MassDevelopment, and the administration and council as an example of collaborative efforts that can enhance neighborhoods. Through this joint effort, the old Hess Station is expected to be demolished and that property redeveloped. 
He also is glad that a decision was finally made to vote for the $74 million in upgrades for the wastewater treatment plant, a problem that's been kicked down the road too many times, White said 
"It had to be done. No one likes the cost. No one likes to see sewer and water rates go up at all, and no one ever wants to hear that we have some of the lowest sewer model rates in the state," he said. It might have seemed beneficial at the time to push things off and keep the rates "artificially low" but it can mean a big hit in the end. 
"I think municipalities have a huge issue with deferred maintenance, I would rather build into the budget what a project is going to cost to maintain than have to redo it," he continued, saying at least the administration was able to phase in the costs so it wouldn't fall on taxpayers at once. 
White also applauded the opening of the new Taconic High School, which he sees as being "a huge boon for the city and the county to be able to make sure that our employers have the workforce that they need now and for tomorrow. ...
"I'm really thrilled with the direction and that the vocational programs are going and that 'vocational' is no longer a bad word."
White acknowledged there have been some difficulties in implementing the controversial downtown parking plan, "but overall, I think it's a decent system to be using because of the state mandates that we had to have income coming in."
Having a separate budget for parking management would be a benefit to taxpayers, he said, because the money being made downtown would be paying for parking needs. That might be for readers, new vehicles, parking lot maintenance and, hopefully, parking lot landscaping to make the downtown more attractive. 
"Because it's beautifying parking lots, we can tell taxpayers that's not coming out of your taxes, it's coming out of those who use downtown," White said. 
He's generally been pleased with the way the Director of Finance Matthew Kerwood has been cleaning up the city's books and how the School Department has been coming early to the council during budget development.
"[Kerwood] brings the full picture to that office," White said. "So he's not just looking at finances, he's looking at how does the finances affect everything else."
If re-elected, he'd like to look at how the city could deal with unaccepted roads that aren't up to standards. Pittsfield has about 25 miles of road that it can only minimally maintain and can't use Chapter 90 funds on. 
"I think we need to put it out there that, you know, what do we need to do to start accepting the streets without it being just more burden on the people living on those streets," he said.
But the council has a lot on its plate, White said, citing the need for a new police station and challenges with crime, opiods and education. 
There aren't easy solutions to issues that are being felt not just locally but across the country. He pointed to the positive community policing activities that he thinks can be proactive in addressing some of the root causes of drugs and crime. 
"It gets kids feeling comfortable talking to police officers now. And then keep that relationship going," he said, referring in particular to Officer Darren Derby's ice cream program. "And we're proactively raising a generation that can work with our police better and, hopefully, won't get into negative activities."
But the main object for the City Council will be to provide services effectively and economically, he said.
"I think probably the biggest challenge, and this may seem overly broad, is providing essential services, while not overtaxing the people of Pittsfield," White said. "But I think it also has to be what's always at the forefront of what you're doing is, can we do this? Can we afford to do this? And how is it going to benefit the people of Pittsfield and the businesses of Pittsfield?"

Tags: city election,   election 2019,   Pittsfield city council ,   

Comments are closed for this article. If you would like to contribute information on this article, e-mail us at

Community Preservation Committee Project Eligibility Process Now Open

PITTSFIELD, Mass. The Community Preservation Committee has scheduled a public hearing at 6 p.m. Oct. 19 for comments related to the use of Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds and the city's priorities in relation to the Community Preservation Plan. 
Also, the committee announced that the Project Eligibility Application process for a new year of CPA funds is now open.
The public hearing will be held virtually via Zoom. Participation instructions will be included with the meeting agenda once it is posted on the city website in early October. 
The committee will provide an overview of the city's first three years in operation and welcomes public participation to understand community priorities as it begins year three of soliciting potential projects for funding.
View Full Story

More Pittsfield Stories