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Pittsfield city council candidate Costa explains switch from Ward 3 race to city-wide, at-large contest

Alisa Costa.
Alisa Costa
Alisa Costa.

When WAMC first spoke with Pittsfield, Massachusetts city council candidate Alisa Costa in March, she was running for the open Ward 3 seat on the 11-member body. Since then, Costa has shifted her focus from the ward level to city-wide, opting to throw her hat in the ring for an at-large seat in the November 7th election. Costa is now part of a seven-way race for four slots that also includes incumbents Pete White and Earl Persip, as well as fellow challengers Lucas Marion, Kathy Amuso, Craig Benoit, and Daniel Miraglia, When Costa first moved to the Berkshires, it was to run the Working Cities Pittsfield Initiative — which describes itself as a “resident-driven initiative focused on building economic opportunity for all regardless of background.” She spoke with WAMC.

COSTA: Well, it really comes down to conversations. I had a lot of people coming up to me, saying that I should run at-large, that the work that I did with Working Cities was a city-wide perspective and then I might serve the city better that way. I also met with Matthew Wrinn, who was running for Ward 3 as well, and I think he'd make a great ward councilor. So, I chose to take from the people and run at-large.

WAMC: Now, looking at the city from that bird's eye view of the at-large position, what do you see as the major issues at stake in this election?

I think there's two things going on. One is that residents really do not feel seen, heard, or connected with government in a lot of places in our city, and I'd like to commit to improving that relationship. And two, part of that is because of our high poverty rates, and poverty is such a root cause of many of our challenges here in the city. I really think my experience in economic development will help guide the city and help us focus on those areas.

What do you think is an under discussed issue in this election that you want to see get more airtime?

I do think the way we do economic development needs to change. It needs to be focused on what residents and neighborhoods need and want, and they need to be brought into the conversation. And that goes back to poverty and disconnection, and I'd like us to have a laser focus on investing in our struggling neighborhoods. If we don't improve the quality of life, the infrastructure, and the opportunity for people who are struggling in our community, the whole city will suffer. Property taxes will remain a problem. We have to be focused if we're going to make an impact.

Now, earlier you mentioned your endorsement of Matthew Wrinn in the Ward 3 race- Are you endorsing in the mayoral race between Peter Marchetti and John Krol? 

I am not.

And just out of interest, why are you not endorsing between the two candidates?

I have worked with both mayoral candidates, I can work with both mayoral candidates, and I don't think that it has any bearing on the at-large race.

One big conversation has been about panhandling in Pittsfield. It's been a, sort of a persistent theme throughout this year. From your perspective, what are your thoughts on that conversation and the various ways that folks are trying to address that in Pittsfield?

Many people trying to solve these challenges downtown have limited experiences, including myself. I do not have experience needing to panhandle, having housing instability, and struggling in those ways. And so, I can't know personally what's going to help best. We need a cross-sector solution that involves people with lived experience, and I don't see that happening. If we don't get to the root cause of the problem, we will continue to try to fix it with band aids, and we're not going to see the results that we want. It takes longer, it's a little bit messier, but we need real results over time.

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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