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New England News

Pittsfield City Councilor Moon Will Not Seek Re-election

A headshot of an Asian American woman with black hair in front of a grey backdrop
City of Pittsfield, Massachusetts
Helen Moon.

Pittsfield, Massachusetts City Councilor Helen Moon says she won’t seek a third two-year term in this fall’s municipal election.

Moon, 38, says it comes down to taking a much needed breath.

“It has felt like I am not in the space to give as much as I can to this role and capacity," she told WAMC. "And that really hurts me. I'm somebody I think that really wants to do my best in everything that I try to do. And so not being able to do my best is disappointing and it's unfair to my constituents, and I want to spend some time and really get my professional life in order and work on my mental and physical and emotional wellbeing.”

First elected in 2017, the Ward 1 councilor says she’s spent her time on the council trying to expand its role.

“People call me for things like potholes, and for trees that they want cut down," said Moon. "And that's all good and well, and important work, because that improves our quality of life. But we are also voting on plans for how the city operates, and how we want our future to look like. And so I think that that's what I tried to do and what I'm proud of doing. It's not like I was like, I'm going to take up this issue. But when things come forward, I try to think of things through a lens of equity. And I try to think through, you know, like, how have things been done in the past? And how is this going to affect our future? And does it include all sides, all people? And will we all benefit from this?”

Moon points to her work to implement alternate side parking as an intersection of a day-to-day issue with broader equity concerns.

“My residents came forward saying that they have nowhere to park during the winter months when the plows are out, and they're getting penalized for having nowhere to park because there's no off street parking, and we're taking a highly dense area that has a lot of apartments and penalizing them without giving them a solution," she explained. "We were taxing poor people for being poor.”

Moon has frequently questioned how the city spends its resources on policing, especially after the Black Lives Matter movement entered municipal budget hearings nationwide last year.

“I got a lot of feedback, I continue to get a lot of feedback and pushback about questioning the police budget, because people are scared of crime," she told WAMC. "And my question is, does increased policing, decrease crime? Or is it a response to crime? Because if it's a response to crime, and that's how I understand it, even Shotspotter- Shotspotter is responding to a shot, or random sound, that has already occurred. It does not prevent it from happening. So if we want to prevent crime, what are the resources that we need to start thinking about, what other services and support do we need to start building up so that those things that lead to crime can be addressed? And those are things like mental health. Those are things like housing insecurity, those are things like education and substance use disorder treatment, thinking really a little further down the stream about how do we how do we think in a way that lays the foundation for a future so that we can decrease crime and we can have safety without having more police officers on the street and without having some people feeling like they can't feel safe because we have increased policing.”

As one of Berkshire County’s few elected people of color, Moon says a great deal of work remains to make it a more equitable community.

“The more that I am becoming vocal, the more it feels like that vocal-ness is not wanted," said the city councilor. "You know, I think that that happens in a lot of different workplaces. And we need to start thinking about like, is it just diversity we're looking for? Or are we actually looking for equity and inclusion? Are we actually looking for a way to incorporate these different experiences and to think about structures and changing systems so that it benefits truly everybody? Because if we're just wanting the right kinds of voices, or if we're just wanting some very specific type of voice, then that's not truly diversity, and that's not truly inclusion.”

Moon joins Ward 2 councilor Kevin Morandi, Ward 3 councilor Nick Caccamo and Ward 4 councilor Christopher Connell in not seeking re-election this year.

Andrea Christeen Wilson and Kenneth G. Warren Jr. are declared candidates for Moon’s Ward 1 council seat in the fall election.

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