The four candidates competing in this fall’s Pittsfield, Massachusetts mayoral election debated for the first time Monday night.
Mayor Linda Tyer sat on the Berkshire Community College stage as she wraps up the first four-year mayoral term in city history.
Three challengers, eager to attack her record, want to keep her from a second one.
“I’m very frustrated after being on the council for so long with our lack of leadership. And let me just say very clearly – if elected, I will be a four-year mayor,” said Melissa Mazzeo.
At-large city councilor Mazzeo kicked off repeated criticism of Tyer by claiming the mayor had dragged her feet and only enacted policies later in her term as part of her re-election campaign.
“This is the first time as I’m knocking on the door asking for support as being a mayor that I’ve actually heard from a number of people who are looking for change because they’re disappointed," she said. "They’re disappointed because they were promised blight being cleaned up, they’re disappointed because they were promised that crime was going to be reduced.”
For his part, businessman Scott Graves said the city is inhospitable for much-needed new investment.
“I tried to open up another business on North Street, and myself, my lawyer, we sat with community development and within half an hour – ‘well, I’m sorry, this property on North Street, even though there’s businesses around it, there’s only three things that you can do, sell something small that somebody can take from this property’ – instead of doing what I wanted to do,” he said.
A question about the condition of city streets opened the door for another candidate.
“The city has not been allotting its fund toward the street very well in the last four years," said retired Pittsfield police officer Karen Kalinowsky. She told WAMC earlier in August that the condition of her street – Shaker Lane – and her frustrating efforts to get it repaired inspired her run.
“This last year, yes," she said. "And I’ve even heard it from the city workers that are doing the streets – they’ve never done as many streets as in this year, which is the election year.”
Mazzeo tagged on to this in her response.
“Well it’s not just the roads that are getting paved this year, that it’s an election, year, there’s a lot of things happening,” added the councilor.
In her next answer, Tyer fought back.
“Now, I’d like to just respond to this claim that it’s only in this year that projects are happening. It’s just baloney," she said to applause. "The city council has been taking votes for four years on proposals that I have put forward.”
She pointed to three examples of projects that she took on early in her tenure, which began in 2016.
“The creation of the red carpet team and the hiring of the city’s business development manager. That has been key to our success in energizing our economy. The Berkshire Innovation Center was also voted upon in the early part of my term. We’ve also made significant investments in public safety in the early part of my term," said the incumbent. "I’m going to promise you one thing – I’m going to work hard in year one, year two, year three, and in year four, even though it is an election year.”
The first real test for the four candidates will be a preliminary election September 17th. The top two finishers continue on to the November 5th general election.
To read WAMC’s live-tweeting log of the event, click here.
You can listen to the full debate below.