Pittsfield’s Ward Contests Take Center Stage At City Council Debates
The candidates running for Pittsfield, Massachusetts city council seats in five wards met at Berkshire Community College Tuesday night for a series of debates.
Former City Councilor James Arpante moderated the conversations in conjunction with Pittsfield Community Television and the Pittsfield Gazette.
Former Councilor Kenneth J. Warren Jr. drew a bead on incumbent Ward 1 councilor Helen Moon’s employment at the Berkshire County District Attorney’s Office, where she serves as director of special projects.
“I will not have to worry about my employment potentially conflicting with my review of important police issues," said Warren. "I will not have to have any issues with having to deal with confidential communications from constituents concerning public safety where they might be worried I have to report it.”
First term councilor Moon, who is also a registered nurse, responded.
“I want to be very clear," said the councilor. "I am beholden to no one other than the voters who have elected me. And I serve them to the extent that they allow me to advocate and provide critical care to the community that I love. But, my ability to collaborate with all the constituencies goes hand in hand with my capacity to create change for the better.”
“My opponent and I both support our schools, police, and fire departments, as well as the city in general," he said. "But that’s where the similarity ends. It comes down to two basic things – promises and solutions. He promises but has no record of accomplishing these goals. My votes on the council during the last eight years prove that I have worked tirelessly on solutions for the city and supporting our most vital departments.”
Merriam, a supporter of Mayor Linda Tyer and her bid for a second term, connected Connell to his support of mayoral candidate and at-large city councilor Melissa Mazzeo.
“My opponent was at a campaign rally for one of the mayoral candidates and she said in introducing him, and I quote, ‘that I want to thank Chris for running because I literally had to drag and beg him to run again.’ I will say this – no one had to drag and beg me to run," said Merriam. "I want to be part of the solution to help move Pittsfield forward in a positive direction.”
In Ward 5, political vet Jonathan Lothrop is facing newcomer Patrick Kavey for his old seat, which is being vacated by Donna Todd Rivers at the end of the year.
“I had the privilege of being your Ward 5 city councilor for 12 years," said Lothrop. "I barely had a chance today to talk about many of the things I had a chance to do, which included changing the arc of the nature of politics in the city. We used to have a series of done deals that were done before the residents even knew about it. I changed that narrative with the airport, with the compromise at the airport.”
Kavey topped Lothrop in the preliminary election.
“So we were all new once, and I’m asking you to give me a chance," he asked the crowd. "As you know, I went neighborhood by neighborhood, street by street, door by door. I’ve knocked on 1,845 doors. I’ve listened to you, and you know that I’m ready to work for you by the conversations that we’ve had.”
In Ward 6, former Ward 7 councilor Joe Nichols hit opponent Dina Guiel Lampiasi, noting that he’d lived in the community for over eight years.
“In contrast, my opponent has lived in the ward for barely a year and doesn’t know the ward’s history," claimed Nichols. "As a Ward 6 resident, I am troubled by the fact that my opponent works for the District Attorney’s office and sits on the Pittsfield licensing board. If she is elected to the city council, conflict of interest issues will arise and require her to abstain from voting. This will leave Ward 6 residents without a voice on important agenda issues.”
“Well I think it’s very unfortunate that my opponent is running on a campaign of fear tactics and misinformation," said Guiel Lampiasi, who serves as Director of Operations for the Berkshire County DA. “And if that’s not the case, then he just doesn’t understand the role of the district attorney’s office, nor does he understand that a member of the licensing board cannot sit on the city council, so I would be resigning anyway. So there will be no conflict of interest.”
She also criticized Nichols for his comments to WAMC in September, when he said name recognition alone did not require him to “work too hard to place second or first” in the preliminary municipal election.
“I don’t think that’s appropriate, and I don’t think the residents of Ward 6 deserve a candidate or representative who doesn’t believe in work ethic,” said Guiel Lampiasi.
Current Ward 6 councilor John Krol is stepping down at the end of this term.
In Ward 7, former councilor Anthony Maffuccio is running against former post office employee J. David Pope, a Vietnam vet who describes himself as a Bernie Sanders Democrat.
“I had served on the city council from 2006 until 2010," said Maffuccio. "I have sat back for about a decade now watching our city end up with a stale government and unprofessional conduct and a city that has been failing for over the years because there has been no proper leadership nor proper council for respecting each other.”
Pope recalled the city he visited as a youth from Lenox.
“I have dreams of Pittsfield becoming that city once again. I grew up coming to Pittsfield – the Boys Club and the YMCA – in the 60’s and the 50’s, and North Street at that time – from Liggett’s, Sammy Vincent, Newbury’s, England Brothers – it was a great spot to be,” he said.
Incumbent Ward 7 councilor Anthony Simonelli is not seeking re-election.
Pittsfield voters will determine the city council makeup on November 5th, when polls are open for the municipal election from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
You can hear all the debates below.