Pittsfield Mayor Defends Record, Outlines Plans For Second Term
As the Pittsfield, Massachusetts mayoral race heats up, incumbent Linda Tyer is making her case for a second term.
Tyer is the first mayor in city history to serve a four-year term, and as she sits in her campaign headquarters in downtown Pittsfield, it’s clear that she’s eager to defend her record.
“I know there is some – a candidate in particular – who’s using a slogan that says ‘we’re not going to do things the way we’ve always done them,’" said the incumbent. "Well, I am the epitome of not doing things the way we’ve always done them.”
That’s a not so subtle nod to rival candidate and at-large city councilor Melissa Mazzeo, Tyer’s most outspoken critic in city hall. Mazzeo has made condemnation of Tyer’s leadership a top issue in her campaign.
“When I took office, we were confronted immediately by a budget crisis and a financial, fiscal constraint that was very detrimental to the city of Pittsfield if we didn’t deploy some very specific measures to stabilize the situation," said Tyer. "So we have done all kinds of things related to new policies around how we manage the city’s finances, a brand new budget document that’s more transparent, adopting a forecasting model that helps us be better at planning for the long term. So that is clearly not business as usual.”
Tyer says that as she’s traveled the community before the coming election, the feedback she hears makes her confident about her re-election chances.
“One of the things that we hear a lot about is job creation, the fact that we are bringing Wayfair to the city of Pittsfield and creating 300 new jobs in addition to the 113 jobs that we’ve created using city resources for small businesses – some new business on North Street, and some midsized businesses,” she told WAMC.
As far as one of the most controversial episodes of her tenure – the months-long battle to pass a multimillion dollar spending plan on a new city wastewater plant that simultaneously raised the city’s utility rates – Tyer said she had no doubts moving forward.
“People understand that it is important for us – if we are going to be responsible stewards of the environment – that we have to make investments in the infrastructure that we control," she said. "After all we have been through, in terms of General Electric polluting our river, the last thing I want to be doing is polluting the river with the city’s discharge. So I will stand strong on the investment in that infrastructure, and I will stand strong on having led a project that resulted in a lower bid than anticipated and a phased-in utility rate so that no one is hit extremely hard. We are phasing in the costs, and as we go through the construction project, we will continue to evaluate the impact on the rate.”
Tyer also addressed another challenge of her tenure – rising crime rates.
“There is no doubt that a great deal of our crime is related to drug culture, and I think that we have focused on interrupting gun culture," said the mayor. "And we have done that through the investment and the implementation of ShotSpotter, which has proven to be quite helpful in terms of speeding response time when a ShotSpotter alert arrives on a panel in the police cruiser, and we can get that information within 45 seconds of gunfire happening, and police go directly and precisely to the location. It saves lives, it gathers evidence, and it has the potential for making arrests in gun crimes, which are what I consider to be a serious threat in certain areas of our city.”
So what would another four years of the Tyer administration look like? For one, the mayor says she wants to continue to focus on job creation.
“We want to do a feasibility study to determine if the city of Pittsfield could become an internet service provider. A future proof, fiber optics internet service that will make us more competitive in the economy," she told WAMC. "And quite frankly, I’m tired of waiting for the utilities to see Pittsfield and the Berkshires as a market for their fiber optics and their state of the art, cutting edge internet service. So we’re going to do a feasibility study to determine if there’s an interest in this community for us taking the lead on providing an internet service that will make us more competitive in the economy. So that’s one thing.”
Tyer’s plans also include harnessing the outdoors as an economic engine and bolstering the city’s schools.
“We live in a beautiful environment, so I want to focus on advancing more initiatives around outdoor recreation as part of our economy," said the mayor. "We’ve got to have a serious conversation about our next school building project. We’ve got some schools – in particular, our under resourced neighborhoods that deserve our attention, and I think a serious conversation about that has to happen in the next four years.”
As far as crime is concerned, Tyer says she’s working on building up the city’s police force to 99 officers.
“And we’re also in the process right now of working with the rest of county on a designation that will provide us with additional resources," she said. "I’m not able to talk too much about it yet, because we’re still in the process of pulling together an application. But we’re working hard to make sure that we are being innovative and responsive to issues that might be arising in our city.”
In response to Mazzeo’s calls to examine overhauling how Pittsfield operates, Tyer says she couldn’t disagree more.
“I’m not interested in looking backwards, I am moving forward and my administration, under my leadership, has lead on innovation in a number of areas – not with in the way that we structure government and operate government, but the way that we build an economy. The Berkshire Innovation Center is the flagship of how we have come together to create opportunities for innovation in our city. We have a brand new Taconic High School. So I am moving forward," said Tyer. "I am thinking about the future, I do not see the point in relitigating GE’s consent decree, relitigating the wastewater treatment plant, we are moving on, we are moving forward, there is more work to do.”
The preliminary municipal election will be held on September 17th.
You can hear an interview with Tyer opponent Melissa Mazzeo here.