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With Sherman stepping down, Costa to run for open Ward 3 seat on Pittsfield city council

Alisa Costa.
Alisa Costa
Alisa Costa.

A candidate has emerged for the Ward 3 seat on the Pittsfield, Massachusetts city council.

Ward 3 is a largely residential neighborhood on Pittsfield’s east side.

With current seat holder Kevin Sherman not seeking re-election, Alisa Costa is throwing her hat in the ring for this year’s election.

“I'm currently a community engagement consultant," she told WAMC. "My organization is Engaged Communities, and I work across New England helping organizations to engage with their communities, their employees, to build systems that empower people.”

She says she’s got the experience to be a worthy representative of Ward 3.

“I have a 25-year career in nonprofit and government public policy and community organizing, and I spent a lot of that time working on social justice issues like health care and food security," said Costa. "And when I moved to the Berkshires, I was running the Working Cities Pittsfield initiative, which is a cross sector initiative meant to build prosperity by building connections across sectors and helping people work toward common goals. So, those things have been really grounding for me in understanding how communities work and seeing over the years how Pittsfield has worked. And I want to start the conversation, or better yet, continue the conversation more deeply between government and people so that we can build a better Pittsfield together.”

Costa is a graduate of Pittsfield’s Citizens Academy, a multi-week program aimed at increasing engagement with local government.

“I think the city at large has some challenges related to the typical things we're talking about lately: Housing, income inequality, infrastructure issues," said the candidate. "We are an under-resourced community in a lot of ways. But I think we also have a lot of assets that we can be focusing on together to strengthen our community, and Ward 3 is no different than other parts of the community where we have challenges with infrastructure, and we have challenges in building connections with government to make sure that we're getting the services that we need.”

Costa acknowledges that the council’s reputation is more for thorny and at times rancorous debate than sanguine conversation between elected officials.

“I've had a lot of people say to me, why on earth would you want to go there?" she laughed. "And I'm honestly really excited at the prospect. I am more likely to run toward conflict in some cases, because I believe in finding common ground. It doesn't happen all the time, but there are certainly ways that we can bring the city council together toward common goals that the current focus doesn't allow for.”

It’s also a uniquely challenging time to take up the mantle of public office for many reasons.

“I think the COVID pandemic has changed our community in several different ways that we have to rise to the challenge, whether it's around housing, or healthcare, or policing, and how we as individuals interact with those systems is really going to be important as we move forward," said Costa. "I do believe that choosing the police chief is going to be a big political issue next year. That will definitely be something I would be advocating for after listening as much as possible to constituents and other people in the community. And we have some things like that to tackle. Energy is also a big issue and cost of living I know is very challenging for folks, including myself, moving forward and there are things that the city can do and advocate for together on a broader scale of state and federal government and that we should be doing for our constituents.”

WAMC asked about a recent council hot topic: the bike lanes in Pittsfield’s major downtown corridor.

“It's a tough issue, because change is often difficult," said Costa. "If you've been driving down North Street for 20 years, or 10 years, and it's pretty much been the same, and then there's a drastic change that you didn't know was coming, it can be unsettling, and I totally get that. But we do need to move forward with things like Complete Streets.”

Costa’s message to voters is one of optimism.

“I love this city," she told WAMC. "I see it full of so much opportunity, and I want to improve the conversation between government and people. Too much of politics is listening to the loudest and most resourced individuals. And I'm planning to use my skills as a community organizer to make sure we hear from the broadest spectrum of people on important issues. We need to better understand how policies impact everyone, and that starts with a conversation.”

Pittsfield’s preliminary election is September 19th. The general election is November 7th.

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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