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Pittsfield’s Ward 2 Will Have New City Councilor After A Decade

An empty street stretches out under a blue sky
Josh Landes

With a longtime incumbent stepping down at the end of the year, two candidates are vying for the Ward 2 city council seat in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

Kevin Morandi has represented Ward 2 on the Pittsfield City Council since he was first elected in 2011. Now, with his decision to not seek reelection, the door is open to new leadership.

“Ward 2 is very diverse," said Matthew Kudlate. "It's probably the most diverse in the city as far as just income wise. We have a lot of different neighborhoods between 2A and 2B. There's a lot of businesses in 2B. Of course, half of North Street is in Ward 2A. And we've got all the Tyler Street businesses. Got a couple of schools here in Ward 2.”

Kudlate, 36, is a retired Pittsfield firefighter and business owner.

“I own Berkshire Graveside Services," he told WAMC. "It's a company that I started in 2015. It originally started as a grave restoration business- So, older gravestones, we would clean and repair. And we have expanded that over the years to a funeral product line that allows people that have lost family members to have more affordable options for the things that they need to memorialize loved ones.”

He’s running against Charles Ivar Kronick, 52, who does bookkeeping and purchasing for Vermont Violins.

“The company actually is a manufacturer of violins," said Kronick. "They trademarked just this year, and they went into full production of a proprietary line of the Richelieu, as in the Cardinal Richelieu of the Three Musketeers. But otherwise we sell and rent commercial violins. Eastman, mostly.”

Both are running for office for the first time.

“I've been in Pittsfield my entire life," said Kudlate. "I've been born and raised here. I've got three children, two of them are in school. You know, Ward 2 school, Allendale here, and one starting next year, I run my business here in Ward 2, or in Pittsfield in general. And, you know, I own two houses in this ward. So I have a lot of investment in Pittsfield, and I just want to make the best decisions possible for the ward.”

“Living in Pittsfield for 10 years, I've gotten quite feel a good strong feel for what the city has gone through, where it's been where and where it can go,” said Kronick.

Both candidates say they’re supporters of Morandi and agree with his fiscally conservative outlook. Kudlate says he wants to find ways for the city to cut its spending.

“People feel like we're being, we are taxed to the limit," he told WAMC. "You can't raise the taxes anymore. Clearly, we have more money going out than coming in. So we do have to find ways to save, save taxpayer money.”

“I don't see myself as conservative in fiscal so much as I really stand for the principles of accountability and transparency and respect for the residents that tends to lead, I believe, to what you would call a, someone might describe as conservative fiscally. Which is to say, before we spend the money, something who's going to benefit from it? Where's that money going to come from? Is that money being really well spent?” said Kronick. “The people of Ward 2 are mostly very, very poor. And a lot of them don't vote because they move around from apartment to apartment. They're not fixed in their location and live on the threshold of existence. I would say a lot of people I've talked to are almost trapped in their apartments due to disabilities. So when it comes to spending money, I want the money we spend to really benefit those people. I don't call it, myself, conservative. But I really would like to see our tax rate kept stable so our rents and our property value taxes are affordable. And that when repairs and work is done on the city, it is done really efficiently.”

Kudlate says he disagrees with the administration of Mayor Linda Tyer on a recent redesign of the city’s major downtown thoroughfare, North Street.

“The bike lanes, clearly, there's a lot of people that do not support the bike lanes going into North Street and all of the changes that have taken place, and I have a hard time understanding the bike lanes myself," he told WAMC. "So yeah, North Street is, I think we're going to have to take a look at the way they've laid that out and see if we can make some changes in the future.”

Kronick has a laundry list of issues he wants the city to better address.

“We have PCBs behind Allendale School and Hill 78 that's been there for as long as GE dumped them there, and they're oozing to the surface," he told WAMC. "That’s an intractable looking problem. We've got a declining business presence on North Street. We have crime that is grown substantially since Dan Bianchi left office, and we have a drug crisis that’s killing people every day. It's not really well reported. It's probably hard to report due to lots of laws, there's no criticism there, but is a real problem, it’s claiming a lot of lives in Pittsfield on a weekly daily basis. I don't know about daily, but definitely weekly. And there's open prostitution in center in the center of town and the in residential neighborhoods right off of North Street.”

Kronick says Pittsfield lacks consensus and unity in its efforts to move forward. Despite that, he wants to project a sense of optimism.

“You talk to people, and the sense is that it can't be fixed," he said. "But my answer to that, is that anything can be fixed. But we have to try and try and work every day. You have to try things that won't work and try things that will work and hope to find the ones that do work.”

For Kudlate, the election is an opportunity to serve a community he says he’s deeply invested in.

“It’s my neighborhood too," he said. "Every decision that I make is going to directly affect me as well and my neighbors. So my promise to everybody is that I will be accessible. I listened to [what] everybody has to say. They can call me, message me on Facebook or email me, text me, anyway they want. And I will take a collective approach to everything that I do. Every decision that I make was based on what everybody wants and what's best for the ward.”

Pittsfielders head to the polls on November 2nd.

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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