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Pittsfield Considers Reactivating Youth Commission

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Ordinance and Rules will take a look at restructuring and reactivating the Youth Commission despite some disagreement among the City Council. 
 
The council spent a large portion of Tuesday's meeting arguing over a cluster of petitions that would re-engage the Youth Commission and while most of the council was reluctant to immediately activate it, the item was sent to the subcommittee to begin a larger discussion on the matter.  
 
"This is a way to engage the youth and provide a valuable resource for our city boards," Ward 2 Councilor Kevin Morandi, who endorsed the petition, said. "The children are the future so what we do for them is going to come back down the road ... we really have to get the message out to them that they matter."
 
Ward 7 Councilor Anthony Maffuccio, who also endorsed the petition, said the Youth Commission has not been active since 2015 and is part of the city charter. He said not only is it an important resource for the city, but a pathway for children to get involved in government.
 
"All we are asking for is to allow these young individuals to get back involved in the city government," he said. "Who knows one day they may sit up here on the City Council." 
 
Councilor at Large Earl Persip said he could not support the petition because he felt simply reactivating the commission with no context or plan was shortsighted. He said past iterations were not successful. 
 
"It was not well attended ... and if we really wanted to make a difference we should support the programming we already have," he said. "We as the city do not have to fix everything and I don't think we would be good at running a Youth Commission."
 
He said there are multiple youth programs within the city limits run by true professionals, many of which have governmental or civics programs. He said the city should be working along these programs or at least asking them for input about possibly restarting the Youth Commission.
 
"We have great organizations in the city," he said. "There are a lot of people who put feet on the ground and get things done that affect youth ... I don't think the Youth Commission back then really affected youth so much."   
 
He added that the city has to know where it would pulling the kids from and it is not as simple as contacting the school system. 
 
Maffuccio said he saw the commission as more of a straight governmental body to work along other city boards and departments. He said it really has nothing to do with other city youth organizations.  
 
"Give the youth nowadays the benefit of the doubt that they will come forward and want to partake in this," he said.
 
Ward 4 Councilor Christopher Connell noted that the city has in general pulled back the amount of money it provides youth programs that are now more reliant on grants. He said with budget hearings around the corner, it is an opportunity for the city to invest more in youth organizations.  
 
"I think if we all feel strongly about this issue ... we need to put our money where our mouth is," he said.
 
Many of the councilors took more of an issue with the process with the petition slated to go both to the mayor for reactivation and Ordinance and Rules for possible restructuring simultaneously.
 
Ward 3 Councilor Nicholas Caccamo and Ward 1 Councilor Helen Moon felt this was redundant and Council President Peter Marchetti said it may be unwise to ask the mayor to put something into action the council may change in sub-committee.
 
Councilor at Large Peter White had questions about the petition's track to subcommittee and felt it would be hard to really consider making changes to the commission without any base information or plan.
 
Maffuccio said he had reached out to other communities for information and was putting together a draft ordinance. He said he would share it with the Ordinance and Rules Subcommittee. 
 
Moon motioned to file the petition. This passed 8-3 with Morandi, Maffuccio, and Connell in opposition.
 
The council voted to table a petition asking the mayor to appoint a city youth advisor to work with the commission. This passed with a 6-5 vote with Persip, Marchetti, White, Caccamo, and Moon voting in opposition.
 
Persip did thank Morandi and Maffuccio for bringing the petition forward and said he understands and appreciates the intent. He said it did start an important conversation he would like to see hashed out in the subcommittee. 

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Federally-Backed & Local Loans Aim to Support Small Business in Crisis

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — As small businesses confront what some analysts already have called the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, the phones of a small-business adviser have been relatively quiet.
 
"The main contact we're getting is through email," Keith Girouard said this week. "That is a lot more effective and efficient for us.
 
"We're working through phone and Zoom [video conferencing] as well. But the phone is not ringing off the hook. The emails are ringing off the hook."
 
Girouard is the Berkshire regional director of the Massachusetts Small Business Development Center Network. He operates one of five such centers across the commonwealth and a thousand in the United States and its territories.
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