Pittsfielders to choose two candidates for November general election in Wards 2 and 7 Tuesday
Pittsfield, Massachusetts voters will narrow down the field of candidates in two ward races for open city council seats in Tuesday’s preliminary election.
The vote will winnow down the Ward 2 and Ward 7 contests, where three candidates apiece are running for two-year terms on the 11-member city council.
Anthony Maffuccio is defending his seat in Ward 7, where he’s served two terms after a previous stint on the council from 2004 to 2010. He told WAMC in May that he’s ready for another go in council chambers after missing a series of meetings due to health issues this term.
“I’m back to 100% now, and I don't foresee anything that would come between me and my constituents," said Maffuccio. "And even when I missed those council meetings, I was still tending to my constituent phone calls and going out to see my constituents when I had the energy to do so and was able to do it. So, I still did the on-hands part. I just didn't do the council meeting parts.”
Challenger Rhonda Serre – who unsuccessfully ran for State Representative in 2004 and the Ward 7 seat in 2017 – told WAMC this month that she doesn’t think her vision for the community is being met by current leaders.
“The city council is the legislative body of this city, and I think we've lost sight of that," said Serre. "The city council is responsible for setting the rules that govern the behavior of the administrative and executive. So, if we want to see certain change in our new mayor, the city council has an incredible amount of power in setting the standards on how the mayor operates and how city hall operates.”
The third candidate, Jonathan Morey, echoed Serre’s claim that Ward 7 constituents want more responsive leadership. The baker and business owner is running as an outsider.
“[I’m] not a politician, but a peopletician. I want to do what I'm supposed to do and serve the people and listen to what they have to say and bring that and try to get things done the way that people want them done. Not just how a few decide amongst themselves.”
In Ward 2, the race is on to fill the seat left vacant by one-term city councilor Charles Kronick, who gave WAMC the exclusive that he would not seek a second term in June.
He’s endorsed Alex Blumin, a landlord and outspoken conservative.
“I emigrated from Ukraine in 1994," said Blumin. "I bought my house on Hamlin Street in 2005. Next year, I bought another house. I'm running a rental business for low-income disabled tenants. The reason I decided to run is obvious. We have extreme property taxes, we have water and sewer rising each and every year, and on the top of that we have absolutely unsustainable city budget, which is $205 million.”
Social worker Soncere Williams says she would elevate the concerns of the unheard to the city council.
“So, for the ones that are, I would say, are not necessarily represented are probably going to be a lot of the disadvantaged groups that face a lot of barriers and challenges every day," she told WAMC. "Not just in the city, but in systems in general. I think those who maybe don't have a very high income, those who have experienced any sort of community violence, domestic violence, childhood trauma, mental health, substance use. I think that we're starting to bring those voices forward, we're starting to talk about it. But I think that there's a lot more that these individuals have to say and a lot more ideas that they have for helping our city improve that doesn't necessarily get brought to the table.”
Attorney Brittany Bandani, who moved to Pittsfield in 2021, said she would bring fresh blood to the council. At a PCTV debate in early September, she endorsed Pittsfield exploring alternate emergency services for responding to people experiencing a mental health crisis.
“When it comes to Pittsfield PD, we have to figure out, in a situation like that, are they the ones that should be handling it?" said Bandani. "And if someone's in the midst of a mental health crisis that could turn violent, what other alternate emergency services can we utilize? So, my response to that is, instead of relying solely on Pittsfield PD, we need more social workers, we need more people who are trained in social services to step in and provide crisis intervention.”
22-year-old Miguel Estrella was shot to death by a Pittsfield PD officer in March 2022 during one such mental health crisis, setting off calls for reform from community members.
Polls are open for Pittsfield’s preliminary municipal election from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday.