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Four Candidates Heading Into Pittsfield Mayoral Primary

Jim Levulis

Four people are vying for the mayor’s seat in Pittsfield just two years after Dan Bianchi skated through an uncontested re-election.Mayor Bianchi is seeking a third term, which under a new city charter would last four years instead of the previous two-year stints. City Clerk Linda Tyer has been the most visible of the challengers thanks in part to a campaign headquarters in downtown Pittsfield. A former city councilor, Tyer has focused on combating blight and problem properties, saying her administration would pursue owners who fail to maintain their buildings. She wants to use city money to create a system where schools partner with private educational and care organizations to offer pre-kindergarten learning.

“That controls costs, gets to the goal of expanding it for 3 and 4-year olds and for parents in the community at the same time helping our current organizations and those who are currently in this work to maintain their success,” said Tyer.

According to Strategies For Children, 44 percent of Pittsfield’s 1,544 preschool age children are enrolled in an early education program. The state average is 60 percent. In the wake of deadly July shootings, Tyer has called for increasing the police force. Bianchi looks toward city and community support of childhood literacy programs to the fill the gap left by the lack of universal pre-K. Bianchi says his top priorities are public safety, economic development and education. Saying those items are linked, Bianchi believes the Berkshire Innovation Center will stimulate economic opportunity.

“We have the nanotechnology center over in Albany that is going to be a member,” Bianchi said. “Other manufacturers are going to have access to nanoscale sciences that they didn’t have in the past.”

The center’s groundbreaking is expected in the fall. Also on the September 22nd preliminary ballot is Craig Gaetani “The next mayor of the city of Pittsfield" as he introduced himself at the most recent city council meeting.

He has constantly criticized the Bianchi administration and city councilors. At that meeting Gaetani echoed his call for police officers to walk the West Side, the site of deadly July 4th shootings.

“Let me tell you something every last one of you people here who have done really not much for our city in the past couple years, those people down there definitely are screaming for a relationship with the cops,” said Gaetani.

But Gaetani’s campaign got off to a rocky start. He denies charges that he threatened to shoot a city employee during a series of harassing phone calls. He is scheduled to be arraigned August 19 on charges of threatening to commit a crime and making harassing phone calls. Gaetani calls them “trumped up charges” made by Bianchi and the city’s police and fire chiefs.

“These same charges against me is what’s going to sink them,” Gaetani said. “Because I will definitely be sinking my teeth into them shortly.”

Bianchi says he didn’t know Gaetani was facing charges until contacted by The Berkshire Eagle.

“I think Mr. Gaetani really has to examine his behavior,” Bianchi said. “You can’t be threatening people. Just because people are public employees doesn’t mean people can threaten them or frighten them. It shouldn’t happen.”

Donna Walto, who operates a sightseeing company and has run unsuccessfully for city council and mayor numerous times over the past dozen years, returned the necessary 300 signatures to make it onto the preliminary ballot. Walto says her first priority is the safety of the people.

“One of the ways to achieve that is to make sure we get some economic development here,” Walto said. “For the last 15 years at least I haven’t seen anything. In fact I’ve seen it getting more distraught and dire.”

A mayoral forum is scheduled for 7 p.m. September 14th at Berkshire Community College. Pittsfield Community Television will broadcast it live.

Jim is WAMC’s Assistant News Director and hosts WAMC's flagship news programs: Midday Magazine, Northeast Report and Northeast Report Late Edition. Email: jlevulis@wamc.org
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