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Tyer, Mazzeo Make Final Arguments for Pittsfield Election

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Mayor Linda Tyer is seeking a second four-year term.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Mayor Linda Tyer and Councilor at Large Melissa Mazzeo faced off Monday in a spirited — and final — debate as the two women sought convince voters they are the right choice for a four-year term in the corner office on Nov. 5. 
 
The mayoral candidates sparred along familiar lines during the hourlong forum sponsored by the Pittsfield Gazette and held at Berkshire Community College. The debate was moderated by Tammy Daniels of iBerkshires.com and televised live by Pittsfield Community Television. 
 
Tyer defended the decisions she's made during her first term and touted her record in bringing jobs to the city, investing in police and infrastructure, and pulling the city out of a financial crisis when she came into office four years ago.
 
"As your mayor, I have tackled issues that affect our daily lives," she said. "My record reflects a solution-oriented mindset and Pittsfield is in a better position today than it was four years ago."
 
Mazzeo, a 10-year councilor, accused of Tyer of taking her past votes against certain initiatives out of context and vowed a transparent — and not sugarcoated — plan to improve the city. 
 
"You will hear me talking about from education, infrastructure, and economic development, and how I can lead to provide solutions to these important issues," she said. "Some of these discussions may not be pleasant to hear as we must face the facts: to paint everything in a positive light simply will not help our city, which is at a critical turning point."
 
The councilor and mayor took their opportunities to highlight their opponents' actions in several areas. Mazzeo criticized Tyer's use of GE Economic Development Fund money to keep Covanta operating and the waiving of $2.55 million in loans made to the Beacon Cinema (both approved by the City Council). Tyer said Mazzeo's votes against Covanta would have put people out of work and that the Beacon has continued as a vital economic entity for North Street. 
 
The two candidates also tussled over the $54 million wastewater treatment project. Tyer has been a strong proponent in pushing the project through, saying it is a necessity required by the state and federal governments and that it's come in $20 million lower than forecast.
 
"We are working every day to ensure that we have environmentally protective facilities in our city, while managing the cost impact to our residents," she said, saying the city supports the Clean Water Act.
 
Mazzeo has objected to the cost and says the changes being made at the federal level over the past decade should have triggered a new look at the permit.
 
"We're not working at a permit that is new and relevant because the mayor and the administration's refused to go sit down, at my request, with the MassDEP and EPA to renegotiate," she said, adding that the city's lost appeal of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's order to upgrade was based on paperwork, not the merits. 
 
"Councilor that is simply not true. That's not true. We were denied because we were not able to prove that we should have a lower standard than everyone else," Tyer responded. "This is infrastructure improvements, one of the things Councilor Mazzeo talked about, it is important that this community invest in environmental initiatives that protect our water and rivers."
 
The treatment plant had come up in Mazzeo's response to another question and the two candidates continued to debate the issue beyond the time alloted. Mazzeo said the project was "off the rails" because of the number of companies working at the site; Tyer said it was a complex project and that the subcontractors were listed on the bid. Mazzeo pledged if elected mayor, "we're going right back to it."
 
The challenger has pummeled the incumbent on crime, pointing out Tyer had run on making the city safer and challenging whether it is.
 
Tyer, however, said she's pushed for funding for more police, has applied for federal high-traffic drug zone designation to pull in grants, instituted the SpotShotter program that alerts police to shots fired and opened a community policing outreach on the West Side that has law enforcement working with the public.
 

Councilor at Large Melissa Mazzeo is seeking a term as mayor. 
"Those emerging leaders are working together closely with police to strengthen their presence in that neighborhood that needs it the most," she said. "We have also been working on making sure that our police officers have a Brien Center clinician that travels with them in the moments of the domestic violence crisis or mental health issue."
 
Mazzeo countered that the initiatives are being done in this election year, like the community outreach post, and that the city shouldn't be proud of being a high traffic zone for drugs. 
 
"If we're using hot-spot policing and troop allocation plans for our officers, we should see officers in these areas at all times when there's been a crime, and we're not seeing that," she said, vowing to sit down with the police chief if elected to do just that. "If you had issues in getting more officers ... why wasn't it addressed before?"
 
The mayor responded that the issue of officer recruitment and retention is complex, with some retiring and others taking higher-paying jobs elsewhere, and constraints of Civil Service. The initial push for 31 officers has become a net gain of six over past four years. 
 
"It's more than a politically convenient argument," Tyer said. "It takes tenacity, day in and day out, to keep our city safe."
 
The candidates took several questions on economic development, both agreed that the soon-to-open Berkshire Innovation Center will be a significant component in attracting new businesses and generally supportive of moving to a form based permitting in the downtown designed to encourage mixed use.
 
Tyer said once investment and groundwork is laid for businesses, creating an an attractive environment was critical in terms of marketing to young professionals to get them to move to Pittsfield.
 
"The next step in the process — and believe it or not have to you can't finish everything all in one year, or you can all in one term — but what we can do now is to pivot and work with our business leaders to create a retention recruitment programs that we can share with one another, to fill those vacancies that exists across the diverse landscape a business community," she said. 
 
Mazzeo agreed that amenities can attract workers but focused on the need for developing vocational programs that will offer greater opportunities for those already here. 
 
"We go to our vocational schools, our new Taconic High Schools, and we talk about how you bring community partners in with them and talk to them about training with those students right there, to develop a workforce that can come out and then go right into their businesses," she said. 
 
Both did, however, agree that Berkshire Athenaeum was a jewel and lauded the director for his efforts on marketing and working with all elements of the community. They also were in concert on keeping the Pittsfield Municial Airport under city control and supporting it as both a community and commercial resource. 
 
In a question related to leadership, the candidates were asked what they had learned about failure and how they would convince the City Council to support their initiatives. 
 
Tyer said listening to the community and understanding when it was unable to embrace change was an important aspect of leadership, and that's what happened with her proposed toter program. She said she had compromised for the failed At Home housing rehabilitation program and tried to find common ground with councilors, including Mazzeo, who rejected it.    
 
"Compromise in leadership is a two-way street," she said.
 
Mazzeo said the At Home disagreement was over the funding and accused the mayor of "taking your ball and going home." The circumstances were why her vote was often in the minority, she said. 
 
"It's because I looked at the initiative. I looked at what was what was being proposed and what was the right thing to do," Mazzeo said. "I don't say no to you because of a proposal. It's because there's an initiative that's out there that I don't agree with it."
 
Tyer responded that leadership cannot be successful "without compromise, without alignment, without an acceptance of shared responsibility, without doing a little bit of arm wrestling." 
 
In their closing statements, both candidates vowed to fight for the citizens of Pittsfield. 
 
"As your mayor I would work from my first day to my last for you the taxpayers," said Mazzeo. "I will listen and I will act, that is my pledge. So Pittsfield is at a turning point, it's time for a change. We cannot afford to not make this change."
 
 "I am solution-oriented, hard-working and I'm a tenacious in fighting for every citizen," said Tyer. "I will put my record and performance up against Councilor Mazzeo's 10 years on the City Council a thousand times, and the choice becomes clear."
 
The city election is Tuesday, Nov. 5, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Tags: city election,   election 2019,   mayor,   


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PHS to Determine Reopening This Weekend

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — With cleanup ongoing, administrators will decide this weekend if Pittsfield High School will open Monday after a water line break.
 
Superintendent Jason "Jake" McCandless said families will receive a call Sunday letting them know whether or not school will reconvene Monday.
 
"We are optimistic," McCandless said Friday.
 
The school was dismissed early Thursday after a pipe burst causing water damage in the building.
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