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Marchetti cites management skills, experience in bid for 8th Pittsfield City Council term

A white man wearing a suit with silvery hair and glasses smiles into the camera
City of Pittsfield
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https://www.cityofpittsfield.org/government/city_council/index.php
Peter Marchetti.

Peter Marchetti is one of the most enduring politicians in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. He is now seeking his eighth nonconsecutive term on the city council. The at-large representative is also the three-term president of the 11-member body.

In his last race in 2019, he netted almost 8,500 votes in a field of eight at-large candidates – over 70% of the ballots cast. That was the most dominant performance in a competitive race, with almost 800 votes separating him from the second-place finisher. The same year, Mayor Linda Tyer received around 6,200 votes in her successful bid for re-election. Marchetti was also the top vote getter overall in the election before that.

As Pittsfield continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and debates how to spend over $32 million in federal relief from the American Rescue Plan Act, Marchetti says he’s the right person to continue leading the city council as voters prepare for the November 2nd election. Marchetti spoke with WAMC.

MARCHETTI: At this time, in Pittsfield’s path, we need experience and leadership. And after everything that we've been through with the last 18 months, which has probably been the hardest time of any elected official, we were able to keep city government open and running and still making progress. And I'm asking the voters to allow me the opportunity to make Pittsfield turn the corner, and make improvements that we can, now that we know that we've made it through a good part of the COVID pandemic and we're now receiving federal monies to move forward.

WAMC: So you're saying that your experience and your management ability, that's going to help the city best spend that money?

Correct.

From your vantage point right now, from what you've heard from the community, what exactly is the solution to that do you think? What are you going to propose to the city and voters that the money should be used for?

Well, I think there's a couple of different things that it needs to be used for. One is closing the gap of lost revenue that we know is something that we can do. I would not on my own start saying exactly what. I want to see the results from the survey that should be coming out shortly as well as the results from the four community meetings that the administration held to get a better feel for what the public thinks. I mean, on my top of the head, is wherever we could spend the money in terms of infrastructure and housing would be the most important places, as well as making sure that we can give whatever business assistance we need to.

Whatever happens in this election, we're going to see some significant turnover with some long standing members of the council departing. What does that mean for the body to see some seats that have, for the last 10 years, have been held by certain figures replaced?

Well, I think that it allows for new opportunities and new voices. I also think it goes back to something that I did two years ago that I was highly criticized for, and that was trying to groom the next generation of leaders by changing committee assignments and committee chairs. If a council president only allows those with seniority to fill the roles of committee chairs and vice chairs, then when the opportunity arises for those long term members to leave, you've done no training and no bench building, if you will, to give people the experience that they need to step up to the next level.

If you're reelected, Pete, do you anticipate running again to be council president?

If I'm reelected, I will run for council president.

Now going into a new term, there's always ways to fine-tune or better plot out what a year will look like. There were conversations over the course of this term about meeting length, about the tenor of meetings, about the manner in which debate is conducted. Going into a new term with some fresh faces, do you at this point, should you return to this position you're currently in, would you try to set up new guidelines for how the council operates for a new term?

Well, I think I would continue in what we have just recently done. I think that there are some folks who believe that everything needs to be done during a city council meeting, and we have a committee structure for a purpose. I also think that there are certain petitions that don't really need to be debated, and can be referred off either to a subcommittee where they get plenty of debate and solution or if we're looking for a response from a department head, we could send it off and get the response. And I think too many times we want to debate then refer then debate, then refer back, then debate. So I think there's opportunity to streamline without cutting off people's opportunity to be involved in debate. And some petitions, where, “I want to stop sign” on a – stop sign is a bad example, but, “I want a yield sign here.” Does that need to go to [the traffic subcommittee]? Or is that something that the commissioner of public utilities can decide on his own and put up? So, are we spending time at meetings, doing things that a simple email or phone request could take care of? And we need to look at that and see. And I understand that in some instances, folks feel that they're not being listened to, and so they resort to putting in the petitions and so, what can I do to facilitate a better environment there so people feel like they're getting the responses and we're not cluttering our agenda with issues that could be taken care of through a phone call or an email.

Now, ongoing recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and the use of federal relief funding are the obvious big things coming into 2022. Beyond that, what do you see as the next big conversation the council will have to take on in the coming year?

Well, I still think an unpopular conversation will be how are we going to handle trash collection. I think that we've got a couple different options out there. And I think in some cases, one or two of them are the solution, but they need to be married together so they fit properly. I also think now's the perfect time with utilizing the some of the federal funding if we can, is, we saw a lot of influx of homeowners moving to the Berkshires or relocating to the Berkshires because they felt it was a safer place. And I think the world has changed, and we need to be prepared to be able to say that you can work remotely from the Berkshires or from Pittsfield and kind of help build our tax base.

Now there's relatively little competition for the at-large seats. At this point, are you losing a lot of sleep in the weeks leading up to the election? Or do you feel somewhat confident in returning to the body?

I would tell you that I have learned the hard way that when you're overconfident and you take things for granted, you lose. And I think my record shows that. So, we have not changed anything that we would do when we campaign. Our signs went up on Labor Day weekend like they would normally do, and we're starting our door-to-door lit dropping and reaching out to voters to ensure that they understand that I want to be reelected. I'm not going to sit back and take it for granted and say that, you know, maybe there's not enough competition or, you know, I'm already a winner. I hear from folks all the time that “I don't know why you're worried, you're a shoe-in.” And those are the elections, from past experience, where I have found myself on the losing end on election night. So I won't take anything for granted and I'll work through the coming weeks to ask the voters to please, reelect me.

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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