Pittsfield City Council Ward Candidates Debate for Wards 5,6 & 7
Patrick Kavey, left, and Jonathan Lothrop are seeking the Ward 5 seat be vacated by Donna Todd Rivers.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — All ward issues were on the table during Tuesday night's debate as candidates for Wards 5, 6, and 7 made their case to voters.
All ward candidates running for contested seats participated in half-hour debates hosted by the Pittsfield Gazette and Pittsfield Community Television in Berkshire Community College's K-111 on Tuesday night. James Arpante was the moderator.
Political newcomer Patrick Kavey and former City Councilor Jonathan are seeking to fill the Ward 5 seat being vacated by Donna Todd Rivers.
Kavey said he went through the Pittsfield school system and, after graduating, left the area for some time. He said eventually he decided to come home although it was difficult finding a job that offered a competitive wage. He said instead of leaving he dug in and vowed to improve Pittsfield.
"I had an internal dilemma do I leave the area and move to Boston or New York like the majority of my friends or try to fix the problem," he said. "I chose to try to fix the problems. I have big ideas for the future of Pittsfield ... I think politics is the right path and there is momentum building in the city."
Lothrop said he was a councilor for 12 years and after stepping away to spend more time with his family he has decided to throw his hat back in the ring. He said going door to door he was often asked what a councilor actually does.
"It is about being a strong advocate for your needs and your neighbor's needs in the community and that represents itself in many different ways," he said. "Like making sure public education is funded properly ... we believe in a future for this city."
Both candidates thought more needed to be done to combat voter apathy. Kavey said education can go a long way and people need to be aware of what they are voting for and how it affects them. He said he also would like more people to get involved in government.
Specifically for Ward 5, he advocated for bringing back a second voting station.
Lothrop hit a lot of the same points as Kavey and said people need to be convinced that their vote matters. He said the council and government need to give residents something to vote for.
Lothrop addressed the trash toter program that he saw a version of when he was on the council. He said a one-size-fits-all model is not the solution with so many different variables involved in trash pickup. He said they need to find an "easier, cheaper, and better system."
He added that these sorts of programs really need to be thought through.
"We want to make sure several things happen. We want to make sure when you press 911, someone is at your door and we want to make sure the garbage is picked up," he said. "I don't want to be the councilor who made an inconvenient decision that every single week when you put your garbage out you are reminded of."
Kavey agreed and did not think the current system or a like system were feasible. He said something needs to be done about solid waste in the city. He added the city also has to increase recycling.
Both candidates thought it was OK to use city funds to attract businesses but only ones that benefit the city and both agreed better signage and more police presence needs to be on Barker Road to reduce speeding.
Actual council meetings were brought up and the candidates were asked how they felt about vigorous debate.
Lothrop said during his time on the council he thought the debate was critical and really brought all aspects of an issue to light.
Kavey agreed and said debate is needed to truly understand an issue.
"We need to have debate and someone might have a different opinion than you or you may not fully understand their perspective," he said. "I think in city government you need to be civil and work collaboratively. We need to be honest with each other and we need to be well informed."
Lothrop said he thought there were some minor things the city could do in house but felt it was OK to hire consultants on larger city projects such as the airport renovation project the city underwent during his original tenure.
Kavey agreed and said the more information the city and council have the better.
The marijuana tax also came up and Kavey advocated for putting some of it towards education while Lothrop favored public safety and infrastructure - specifically one time purchases.
At the end of the half-hour, each candidate gave a closing statement and Lothrop said when he was on the council he changed the "nature of politics" in the city creating more transparency in government. He added this experience will be an asset on the council.
"There is experience I bring to the job so you have a choice," he said. "You have someone who has those experiences and knows exactly what the job is and exactly how to get the job done. My opponent is new to this."
Kavey said his fresh perspective would make him an effective councilor.
"We were all new once and I am asking you to give me a chance," he said. "You know that I am ready to work for you and I think it is time for us to come together as a community and a collective consciousness to be the positive change we want to see ... I think it is time for new perspectives and new voices."
Joseph Nichols and Dina Guiel Lampiasi are vying for the Ward 6 seat being vacated by John Krol.
At 7:30, the Ward 6 candidates Dina Guiel Lampiasi and former councilor Joe Nichols sat down for their ward specific debate and gave their opening statements. The are seeking to fill the seat being left vacant by John Krol.
Lampiasi said she comes from three generations of small-business owners and although she is not from the area, she has made Pittsfield her home.
"I chose this place as my home over a decade ago and married a lifelong Pittsfield resident and this is where we want to grow our family and set our roots," she said. "I heard that residents feel unheard, calls for help go unanswered, and I don't think that is right: residents deserve to feel heard."
Nichols said unlike Lampiasi, he is a life-time resident and has lived in the ward much longer. He said he wanted to make sure the ward had full-time representation.
"You can be sure that I will be very responsive to you I will answer your calls and help you resolve your issues on city matters," he said. "The issues I hear most are crime, drugs, and violence and as your city councilor, I will advocate for your tax dollars to be spent wisely on reversing these trends."
Nichols said he thought the parks have deteriorated, are underutilized, and are not enjoyed like they used to be.
Lampiasi said she did not think the parks were underutilized but use has changed with a changing culture. She said the city needs to look at how outdoor spaces are being used and when the city decides to make changes to the parks, it needs to confer with those who use them.
The candidates were asked about dropping population and enrollment in the school system and Lampiasi said she thought it came down to economic development and attracting young families to the area.
She said many families have left the city because of a lack of jobs. She added that there are attractive things in Pittsfield like its natural amenities, culture, and great restaurants.
Nichols agreed and said economic development will help create new jobs that will attract new families. He said ever since General Electric closed this has been an issue in Pittsfield.
"It is very difficult to run a business here in Pittsfield. I know I have been a business man for many years," he said. "...I think we need to work with our small businesses that are here we need to open up zoning so more investment can come in."
Voter apathy came up and Lampiasi said by being more communicative with those in the ward and city at large, councilors can show citizens that their vote truly matters.
Nichols said he thought both parents and the school system need to encourage the importance of voting among young people. He said it would also help to find city projects the youth could get involved in.
Both candidates were supportive of school consolidation but only where it made sense. Lampiasi said she thought the city had to really look at what schools are in the worst condition to better inform building consolidation.
Both candidates did not support a countywide school district. Lampiasi said she would only be open to smaller larger districts within the county.
Candidates were asked their opinion on civility among counselors in the chamber during debate and Lampiasi said it was critical to really take apart the issues.
"I believe that those discussions need to remain respectful and thoughtful," she said. "Where I do have concern is when they become unproductive to the issues being discussed or to the morale of the city. I want to see a council that is truly collaborative and ready to work together."
Nichols said he preferred passionate debates over heated ones. He thought councilors needed to leave their political aspirations outside of the chamber.
In her closing statement, Lampiasi questioned her opponent's work ethic, noting that Nichols had said in a past interview his name recognition would help him bring in votes.
"I believe in engagement and I believe in building this community up together that is really at the heart of why I am running for City Council," she said. "If you listen to my opponent ... I don't think what he said is appropriate and I don't think the residents of Ward 6 deserve a candidate that does not believe in work ethic."
Nichols said he is a hard worker, which was one of the reasons he was unable to get more involved in the preliminary election.
"Anyone who knows me knows I am a workaholic … and my accomplishments when I was on the council I was very effective in building consensus on board issues," he said. "I will be a great positive counselor and one that will help the city grow."
Anthony Maffuccio, left, is seeking the Ward 7 seat against J. David Pope. The seat is being vacated by Anthony Simonelli.
The last debate started at 8 p.m. between Ward 7 candidates Anthony Maffuccio, a former councilor, and newcomer J. David Pope. They are vying to fill the seat being left vacant by Anthony Simonelli.
In Maffuccio's opening statement, he said he was born and raised in Ward 7 and wants to return to a City Council and government that he thinks is dysfunctional.
"I have sat back for about a decade now watching our city end up with a stale government and unprofessional conduct and a city that has been failing for years," he said. "There has been no proper leadership ... and I want to bring my skills back to Ward 7."
Pope said he is stepping up to better serve his community.
"I am running because it makes me feel good to help people," he said. "It is a selfish endeavor and I dream of Pittsfield being that city once again."
The candidates both supported Pittsfield being a sanctuary city. Maffuccio said Pittsfield has always welcomed immigrants.
"Right now our population is a very diverse population ... when immigrants came to America they came to our city," he said. "Ward 7 was little Italy so I think Pittsfield should give this support and invite those who want to come here with open arms to grow our population in any way possible."
Maffuccio said he thought that any tax-exempt property making a profit should give back in some way to the city.
Pope turned the conversation to delinquent taxpayers and said he thought the city should go after the properties of those who don't pay their taxes.
Both candidates agreed the parks were underutilized. Pope thought the city needed to encourage the youth to go outside more and Maffuccio thought the city had to make sure they were improving all parks.
As for marijuana tax revenue, both candidates wanted to see some of the money go toward roads and public safety. Maffuccio said the city should expect more of this revenue in the coming years and should plan accordingly.
Pope pivoted to marijuana cultivation facilities and thought the city should be careful where they let these facilities touch down. He questioned the Zoning Board of Appeal's recent approvals of a grow facility.
"I think we have to think about this instead fo just letting people come in and do what they want the zoning board in my estimation is useless," he said. "Where we have schools and people trying to live their lives in a great way and the zoning board disregarded the children, the schools, and everything. We have to be careful about what we allow."
This lead to a question about the Proprietor's Lodge and a solar array in Ward 7 and both candidates believed abutters' opinions needed to be taken into account when issuing permits.
Both candidates thought debate in the council chamber was a good thing. Pope thought it reassured citizens that they were not rubber-stamping things. Maffuccio agreed that debate was important but felt the current council "bickered" and were "unprofessional" in their discourse.
As for trash, Maffuccio said the system does not work and people abuse it. He said he thought the city just had to enforce the trash regulations they already have on the books to better the situation.
Pope agreed that there was abuse and limits needed to be built-in within the system. He said the city needs to gather input from citizens to better the trash program.
Maffuccio said if elected he would hit the ground running and bring a collaborative environment back to the council that he thinks is missing.
"I have a proven track record ... I stood up for every individual in Ward 7 and I listened to all of the people in the city," he said. "We have to understand one thing when you are elected to office you are responsible for city-wide issues and I think we need to return to collaboration on the City Council."
Pope said although he is new he has ideas.
"I am new to politics but I have experience and I have ideas," he said. "I think through proper leadership we can get these ideas done."
Tags: city election, debate, election 2019, Pittsfield city council ,