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Pittsfield Mayoral Race: Last Round For Bianchi And Tyer

Jim Levulis
Pittsfield Mayor Dan Bianchi and City Clerk Linda Tyer took part in the final debate before Election Day.

Pittsfield Mayor Dan Bianchi and City Clerk Linda Tyer met for a final mayoral debate before Election Day last night.The candidates battled each other on experience, spending priorities and commitment to the job during what was a mix between a debate and an open conversation. The hour-long program was hosted by Pittsfield Community Television and moderated by area blogger and TV personality Dan Valenti. When pressed by Valenti on executive experience, Tyer conceded Bianchi ranks higher in that regard, but says she has qualities that will make for a good leader.

“The right temperament of building collaborations and partnerships is an important qualification,” Tyer said. “Being well-connected to the community and understanding and listening to the needs of the people of Pittsfield.”

Tyer has worked for law firms in Boston and Pittsfield as well as for Lenox Public Schools. She served as a ward councilor in Pittsfield and has been city clerk since 2009. Bianchi has been mayor for the past four years, running unopposed in 2013. Prior to that, he served as a ward councilor and as Pittsfield’s director of administration and finance, along with spending 30 years in the energy industry.

“You’re talking about an executive of an organization…you don’t have that experience,” Bianchi said. “You know municipal government has become so complex. We’re talking about a $145 million budget and hundreds of employees.”

As mayor, Bianchi has admitted that he continues to spend roughly six hours a week reviewing contracts for an energy company on the weekends. Tyer says a mayor should honor the privilege granted by voters and not be distracted by other jobs.

“As Mayor Bianchi stated earlier municipal government is complex,” Tyer said. “There are many, many things that need to be managed on a day-to-day basis. I do believe strongly that in this day and age of complex municipal government that the person who is in the position of mayor should be full-time.”

The Berkshire Eagle has endorsed Tyer, while Bianchi has the support of Congressman Richard Neal and local labor groups. When questioned about the city budget, Tyer says Pittsfield doesn’t have a spending problem. But she believes there must be different priorities.

“We didn’t need to spend $100,000 to repair City Hall floors,” Tyer said. “We could have used that money to hire police officers to address the needs of our city. We didn’t have to move people out of City Hall where we had a fixed expense. We could have invested money in improving the condition of City Hall and kept our employees all together right in our building.”

“Linda, we don’t run a Sophie’s Choice game here,” Bianchi responded. “Good service to people who invest millions of dollars in our community is something that we talk about, but we don’t do. That was a wise investment.”

Bianchi pressed Tyer on the cost and effectiveness of her program proposals such as the idea of bringing a Cure Violence initiative to Pittsfield. The organization takes the stance that violence is a health issue, a model used by more than 50 cities and groups in the U.S. along with places like Syria and South Africa. 

“When you start adding all those up, I can only conclude that you’re doing it either for votes or you don’t really have a plan,” said Bianchi.

“We can create a robust plan for how we can address public safety in a very real way,” Tyer said. “Law enforcement is one aspect of it. Addressing the underlying conditions is the other aspect. We need to get real about crime and poverty.”

“That’s true we do need to get real,” Bianchi interjected.

Bianchi says the city already has a youth and gang violence prevention program in the Pittsfield Community Connection funded through the state’s Shannon Grant. Voters will decide on November 3rd which candidate will serve Pittsfield’s first four-year mayoral term.

Jim is WAMC’s Associate 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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