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In Mayoral Bid, Graves Says Pittsfield Needs Business-Friendly Overhaul

A man stands by a massive sign that reads Vote Graves For Mayor on the side of a building
Josh Landes
Scott Graves at the Rusty Anchor Marina

A Pittsfield, Massachusetts businessman is one of four candidates running for mayor in this year’s municipal election.

Scott Graves says his mayoral bid is an effort to save the city – its economy, its buildings, and its spirit.

“I just see so much frustration, and I see so many things being demolished, and being a building hugger I just can’t – I just don’t want it to happen anymore," said Graves. "I want growth. I just see too much, I see too many friends living, I see businesses getting discouraged or giving up and going somewhere else and opening and flourishing. And why can’t they do that here?”

Graves says he’s worked in everything from running a car dealership, construction, and property management to real estate, demolition, and running a boating club. He currently owns and operates the Rusty Anchor Marina on the shores of Pontoosuc Lake, a decrepit building he bought in 2012 and fully renovated himself. Graves – who describes his life as a rags-to-riches journey out of poverty into the middle class – is running on a pro-business platform.

“Back in the ‘90s, it seemed like there wasn’t so much red tape to do stuff like that," he told WAMC. "It seems like every year goes on, it gets harder and harder to do something. That’s my main reason, is I want to make things – if you want to help Pittsfield grow, I want to welcome you with open arms. I want to make the permitting process easy, because we’re burdening everyone around here with – demolishing is our greater number, and we need to make that our smaller number. Because now we’re assessing people, and re-assessing people, and a smaller number of us now have to maintain the city of Pittsfield. We need to flip flop that around, and we need to welcome people who want to build and grow their business and expand their business.”

Growth – and fast growth at that – is what Graves says Pittsfield needs.

“Whether it’s big business or someone who says hey, I’ve got some money, I want to open up a small business – where can I do it, or how can I do it," said the candidate. "And that’s kind of my specialty. I specialize in taking nothing and making it something. And I want to be able to help everyone, so that way I could actually become 100 people in an aspect if I have all these people willing or who want to do what I do or I did, and I can help them accomplish that, and we’re also accomplishing growth, we’re accomplishing a bigger tax base, and also less, because we’ve got too many old people on fixed incomes, we have other people who just work hard and can’t afford all the increases. We keep having increases. We have to figure out a way to stop that, maintain that, and get growth and get more people to chip in.”

Graves claims Pittsfielders like him feel “strangled” by a rising deficit, bureaucratic hurdles, and high taxes.

“For the last 20 something years, dealing with every department and feeling like [I’m] wrestling with an octopus trying to – it’s just not business friendly, it’s not user friendly," he said.

He wants to use a five-year plan to encourage new businesses.

“Businesses who only have X amount of money to open up, there are – depending on what gets triggered – sprinkler system, elevator, fire alarm system, monitoring systems, there’s so many things that people say ‘oh my god, I just can’t do all that, I have enough to open up the business, I just can’t do all that.’ So the government allows cities and towns, at their discretion, five years to become compliant. And every year you have to get a new certificate to reopen, so if you don’t do what is said on paper, then you can’t reopen," he explained.

Citing Balderdash Cellars in nearby Richmond, Graves says there is a precedent for that kind of plan in Berkshire County.

“I’ve heard Richmond, Mass. allowed a business to open up without a bathroom," said the businessman. "They had outhouses. That’s awesome. They allowed them to have a property that was residential and to open up a business, a business that they ran out of a barn during the summer and then they worked diligently on building the real building, but ultimately they gave them time to grow, and they are growing leaps and bounds instead of just trying to cripple someone within the first 30 days and then them realizing, I don’t have a quarter million dollars for all these items.”

Graves has his own idea about how to combat the city’s crime.

“I like the idea of other places doing what they do saturation, and that’s other departments – sheriff’s departments, state police, everybody chipping in and showing a huge presence,” he told WAMC.

He says he’ll bring the same hands-on attitude he brings to his businesses to the corner office in city hall, and promised to thoroughly document everything he would do as mayor on social media in real time.

“I want to be the mayor who is available seven days a week, who will take your issue as serious as you do, whether it’s a pothole that just keeps getting pushed off or if it’s a streetlight or you have an issue with crime in the neighborhood, I’m going to be available," said Graves. "A business that opened up and he doesn’t have all his signatures and it’s late Friday and he’s worried if he’s going to be able to open up on Monday – I’m going to respond to that.”

Graves, who prides himself on not being a politician, says he’s counting on his lived experience as a Pittsfielder to appeal to voters.

“My main thing is just being a regular guy, someone who’s been there, done that, wants to try and make it easier, knows some issues that have to be addressed soon, or we’re going to strangle ourselves,” he told WAMC.

The preliminary municipal election is September 17th.

You can hear interviews with first-term Mayor Linda Tyer and challengers Melissa Mazzeo and Karen Kalinowsky here, here, and here.

Josh Landes has been WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief since February 2018, following stints at WBGO Newark and WFMU East Orange. A passionate advocate for Western Massachusetts, Landes was raised in Pittsfield and attended Hampshire College in Amherst, receiving his bachelor's in Ethnomusicology and Radio Production. His free time is spent with his cat Harry, experimental electronic music, and exploring the woods.
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