On Tuesday, Pittsfield voters will decide who will represent them in the State House and whether they want an additional tax surcharge to fund historical conservation efforts.
Tricia Farley-Bouvier is seeking her third full two-year term as Pittsfield’s State Representative. For the first time since winning a 2011 special election, she’s being challenged in the general election. The Democrat already fended off a primary challenge from Mike Bloomberg. Bloomberg and the former New York City mayor of the same name are first cousins once removed. Farley-Bouvier received 54 percent of September’s vote.
“I think it was really clear that the people of Pittsfield are looking to have an experienced progressive legislator represent them in Boston,” said Farley-Bouvier.
Running as an independent, Pittsfield City Councilor Chris Connell is challenging Farley-Bouvier. He announced his candidacy on the steps of Pittsfield City Hall in January, saying if elected to the State House he would continue serving as city councilor.
“That is my intention and the reason why is I want to provide a direct link from local government to state government,” Connell said. “I want a local voice in the State House.”
Farley-Bouvier, who served on the Pittsfield City Council from 2004 to 2008, doesn’t believe juggling both duties can be done effectively. As a resident of Ward 4, which Connell represents, Farley-Bouvier says she was surprised by Connell’s intentions.
“It is indeed legal to collect both those paychecks, but when you represent someplace in the Berkshires it’s not possible to do both those jobs well,” Farley-Bouvier said. “So he’s either fooling himself or he’s fooling the voters.”
She’s also bashed Connell’s decision to run as an independent.
“I’m as clear as clear can be that somebody running outside of a party in the state of Massachusetts for the state legislature, there’s just no path for victory there,” Farley-Bouvier said. “Once somebody gets into the State House there’s really no role for them there without being in a party.
Connell is in his third term as a city councilor and has experience as a regional manager with Cumberland Farms and in area real estate.
“This city needs more funding for infrastructure repairs and for our educational needs such as alternative schooling and adjustment counselors,” Connell said during his campaign launch. “We also need to explore options of regionalization with neighboring communities due to shrinking populations and increasing costs.”
Farley-Bouvier and Connell have not taken firm positions on the proposal to build a Walmart Supercenter at the William Stanley Business Park, the site of a once-thriving General Electric facility. Farley-Bouvier says she will not weigh in on it, but will listen to and ask questions for the community. Connell says the $30 million project, which includes $12 million for site remediation, is more appealing than earlier retail proposals for the business park.
“I’m seriously considering it this time around,” Connell said. “I was leaning towards saying ‘no’ in the past because I did want to wait to find out if we could get a tenant such as light industry or manufacturing, but knowing the costs that a firm like that is not going to pick and now they’re willing to do it…it seems like a good proposal.”
Also on Election Day, Pittsfield voters will decide whether they want to adopt the Community Preservation Act. It would place a 1 percent surcharge on tax bills with some exemptions to support local citizen-driven preservation and restoration projects. Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer is supporting the ballot question. Joe Durwin of Preserve Pittsfield says there are a number of worthy projects.
“It’s about capital projects and improvements, but it’s also about the activities and programming that get families and children out into our parks, which is really the lifeblood of the whole parks and recreation system,” said Durwin.
Area voters will also fill an open state senate seat. Democrat Adam Hinds and Republican Christine Canning are running to replace retiring State Senator Ben Downing, a Democrat. Democratic State Representative Paul Mark, who represents a small slice of Pittsfield, is running unopposed.