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Pittsfield Voters To Choose Who Will Serve First Four-Year Mayoral Term

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

Voters in Berkshire County’s largest city will decide tomorrow who they want to serve Pittsfield’s first-ever four-year mayoral term.Two years after skating through an uncontested election, Pittsfield Mayor Dan Bianchi has faced a long campaign season this year. On the last day of March, City Clerk Linda Tyer announced on the steps of City Hall that she was challenging the two-term mayor.

“Right now there is an absence of leadership and it has costly consequences,” Tyer said to the crowd. “Directionless, divided and wasting time. I will not be distracted by outside interests. Pittsfield will have my undivided attention.”

The “undivided attention” promise has become a consistent theme for Tyer, hinting at Bianchi’s work for an energy company that he’s continued as mayor. Bianchi says it amounts to six hours a week on the weekends. Having beaten Peter Marchetti in a tight election in 2011, Bianchi said after Tyer’s announcement that he welcomed a challenge.

“As I said I felt a little bit cheated last time by not having any competition,” Bianchi said. “This will give me the opportunity to get out there and campaign and get out and talk about some of the great accomplishments we’ve had and my vision for the city of Pittsfield.”

Craig Gaetani, a vocal critic of city government, and Donna Walto joined the preliminary race. Just 19 percent of the city’s 27,000 registered voters went to the polls in September, granting Tyer a preliminary victory with 55 percent of the vote. Bianchi took 39 percent, eliminating Gaetani and Walto.

The very date of the preliminary election became a campaign issue as Bianchi asked Tyer, as clerk, to change the September 22nd date, since it fell on the start of Yom Kippur. In response, Rabbi David Weiner at Knesset Israel said Tyer had reached out to him and another city rabbi about the date earlier in the year and together they agreed to keep the date since many Jewish holidays fell on Tuesdays this fall.

Since then, the candidates have sparred during debates, particularly over crime and public safety. Tyer says she will increase the number of police officers, create a traffic bureau and review the structure of an anti-gang unit. She questioned the crime analyst position Bianchi fostered.

“Seems like it isn’t exactly working because we continue to have violence, shootings, death and young men and women at high-risk,” said Tyer.

Bianchi has attacked the cost and feasibility of Tyer’s proposals to bring a Cure Violence program to the city and open another community center, saying the existing Pittsfield Community Connection is the best way to create social change among at-risk youth.

“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.

As for economic growth, Bianchi points to the anticipated Berkshire Innovation Center and new Taconic High School, designed to focus heavily on vocational education. Tyer wants to create a recruitment program for young professionals, expand broadband access to business parks and remove the mayor’s seat from the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority board, which has driven the innovation center project.

“We simply can’t go it alone,” Tyer said. “We need to go out for a competitive process where we could attract a business park developer who has experience and a proven track record in building out a park. It’s going to have to be mixed use if we’re going to succeed.”

As a board member, Bianchi has said his insistence that the William Stanley Business Park be preserved for the innovation center and not a box store, as was considered, was the right move.

“I want to have opportunities for the young kids that are going through the Conte and Morningside schools,” Bianchi said. “I want them to have opportunities not to stock shelves, but to be the scientists and engineers of the future working in those companies.”

Polls are open in Pittsfield from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

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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