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Tyer, Mazzeo Spar In Televised Debate A Month Before Pittsfield Vote

The Pittsfield city seal
The City of Pittsfield, Massachusetts
City of Pittsfield

The two remaining candidates for mayor in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, debated Friday on WGBY television.

Carrie Saldo hosted the conversation on the “Connecting Point” program. First-term Mayor Linda Tyer went back and forth with challenger and 10-year city council veteran Melissa Mazzeo.

Topics ranged from crime, the city’s elderly population, and racial disparity in the city’s poverty rates to re-litigation of one of the rivals’ hardest fought public battles.

A conversation about infrastructure allowed Tyer to return to the bruising fight she waged in the city council chambers – in no small part against Mazzeo, who led a vocal minority opposition – to pass a $74 million spending plan on an EPA mandated upgrade to the city’s utilities.

“I would like to pivot and talk about the wastewater treatment plant, which is an important infrastructure project for the city of Pittsfield," said the mayor. "I support the Clean Water Act. Melissa applauded President Trump’s reckless efforts on environmental deregulation policies, and saw this as a way for us to avoid the city’s responsibilities. I support the Clean Water Act, this is an important infrastructure project for our community. I believe what we need to do – and what I’ve done as mayor – is to access the Massachusetts Clean Water Trust to insure that we have a low interest loan.”

“I didn’t applaud Trump’s wastewater – or, Clean Water Act taking back," said Mazzeo. “What I said is there’s been a huge mix-up, deregulation in the EPA. The mandate that’s coming down to the city that that we’re working on a permit that is almost 10 years old, I wanted to put the brakes on it and have a conversation with the EPA about what we really need to do if we’re going to do this plan. The mayor called the Mass DEP and wanted to just know what we get fined if we haven’t done it. We haven’t been fined in 10 years while we’re working on a plan, and this plan is enforced right now – but we don’t even know what permit we’re working for.”

The spending plan ultimately passed just months before an EPA deadline for the city set a decade earlier.

Another topic the pair sparred on involved the use of solar energy in the city.

“We don’t have solar even on our municipal buildings like we should be utilizing so we can get the cost savings for that," said Mazzeo. "At the same time, the administration brought forward to eliminate large and medium ground mounted solar systems in neighborhoods, and we have multiple neighborhoods in the Berkshires that are hundreds of acres of land with a five acre solar field in the middle of it to generate taxes to the city because they’re paying nothing now because it’s agricultural, and to generate electricity, which is what the state wants us to do. We’ve just banned this in the city of Pittsfield.”

“I will stand strongly behind neighborhoods that do not want commercialized solar arrays behind their properties or in their neighborhoods," Tyer responded. "There are plenty of other ways that we can advance solar in our community, and we are way ahead of the curve of every other community in the commonwealth. So it’s OK for us to say not on agricultural land and not in neighborhoods.”

Tyer and Mazzeo debate again October 15th at Pittsfield High School.

Pittsfield’s general municipal election is November 5th. Polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

You can watch the full debate below.

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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