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Pittsfield city councilor president says new term will “dig deep” on homelessness, ARPA funds, long-awaited trash talk

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.

In November, Pittsfield, Massachusetts at-large city councilor Peter Marchetti won his eighth non-consecutive two-year term. He followed up that victory on Monday by winning the support of the council to serve a fourth term as president. On Tuesday, the six incumbents, two returning councilors, and three newcomers will hold their first meeting of the 2022-2023 term. WAMC spoke to Marchetti about what he wants to accomplish over the next two years, as well as his reaction to Mayor Linda Tyer’s state of the city address delivered Monday.

MARCHETTI: So next week, the committee assignments for the councilors will be on the docket, as well as the appointment of the committee clerks. I have talked to two out of three of the committee clerks and both, so far two out of three are willing to serve again. So from that aspect, I think that's the biggest thing that you're going to see from me on the docket. I know that my plans quickly in the beginning of 2022 will be to call a Committee of the Whole meeting to have that wonderful conversation regarding trash that has been lingering for a very long time. And I hope we can come up with a solution, whether it's some form of pay-as-you-throw, or whether we revisit the Toter concept. I know that the ordinance that [former Ward 2] Councilor [Kevin] Morandi had put forward where we actually limit the amount of trash to 64 gallons per household is also an option.

WAMC: Can you unpack for listeners why figuring out the trash question in Pittsfield has proved to be such a persistent issue over the years?

So I think it's just a difficult conversation and decision to make because people are used to what they're used to- And people in Pittsfield are used to unlimited curbside trash collection. And we have seen over the years, the rising cost of our solid waste collection disposal and we need to come up with some form of solution or just recognize that we're willing to accept that increase. And that increase means cuts in other areas or rises in property taxes.

Now, when it comes to handing out committee assignments next week, you lost a lot of veteran councilors with the end of the term in 2021. You do have some returning councilors like Kenny Warren of Ward 1 and Kevin Sherman of Ward 3 who have some past experience- But what criteria are you looking at from councilors when it comes to giving out leadership titles on the body?

So one of the things that I attempted to do two years ago, that was not received very well, but that was to put people in committee assignments to give the next generation of councilors the opportunity to learn and to expand their knowledge. And I'm glad that I did that, because two years ago, I would not have been able to foresee the fact that we were going to lose a large number of long-term serving councilors. And so I think my plan of two years ago actually was well thought out and put into place. And so some of those folks that moved into some of the bigger committee assignments last year will be getting committee chairs or vice chairs this year.

As far as the tenor of the new collection of representatives here in Pittsfield, certainly over the course of the last term, it seemed that patience wore thin between you and some long serving members who are now gone. Heading into this new round of the council being up and running, what's your sense of what the back and forth is like already with incoming counselors like, say, at-large Councilor Karen Kalinowsky or Charles Kronick in Ward 2- You know, newcomers to the political scene here in Pittsfield?

During, I think, two terms ago, [at-large] Councilor [Earl] Persip and [former Ward 1] Councilor [Helen] Moon put in a petition looking for the city council president to do some form of new counselor orientation, which we held in the beginning of December of last year. We went through everything that a councilor could kind of expect from. They got an introduction to department heads. The conversation that I had with each of them is that regardless of, since it was pre-inauguration Day, whether or not I was reelected as council president or not, my door would be open to help them. We did how to do petitions, we went through the whole process. And one of the things that I asked the entire body was, both department heads, the mayor, and myself and the new counselors, was that we all may have preconceived notions or we may have been told something about somebody else. Come in with a clean slate and learn for yourself. My doors open, I’m willing to help. So far, I would think if you asked Councilor Kronick if I had been helpful, the answer should be yes. And that's the attitude that I'm going in with this. As I mentioned yesterday, I'm confident that we can come in and be unified and productive.

Any reactions to Mayor Linda Tyer’s State of the City address on Monday? She laid out quite the list of priorities for Pittsfield, ranging from actually dispersing ARPA money to setting up the next round of funding from the windfall federal relief fund source. Anything that she said particularly stand out to you? Any reactions what we heard from the mayor?

I think my reaction was more taking the time to understand where we've been the last two years, which is challenging at best with COVID and the pandemic and all the things that we need to do differently. But what really resonated with me is it's really time to get to work. And we have, you know, a one-time opportunity with the ARPA monies to put them to work in the best places. And we don't have any time to waste. The plans need to be solidified within a two-year period of time, and it's less than two years now, and spent within a four-year period of time. So I think, you know, it's time to get to work and put the money to work for what's best for Pittsfield as we move forward.

What do you see from that list of projects as the most important for Pittsfield? Certain big ticket things come to mind, like, putting money behind the first the First United Methodist Church homeless shelter downtown, that certainly would be a game changer for Pittsfield. You hear about the vast sidewalk plans for the West Side and Morningside- What stands out to you as among those projects as being sort of the biggest one?

Well, I think that the homeless issue is one of the biggest ones. And I think part of it is, just providing a shelter is not going to solve our problems. We need we know that we need much more resources, we need counseling, we need professional services to help folks if they're having mental illness or if they're having drug addiction or if they need to find a career path. We need to make sure that all those are in place. And so I think taking a holistic approach at the homeless issue and issues in general where we now have the opportunity to dig deep and provide real solutions, not just a Band-Aid approach.

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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