Pittsfield, like many Massachusetts cities, faces genuine economic challenges, but it isn't Lawrence or Springfield. One way to become Lawrence or Springfield is for elected officials to talk constantly about how bad-off the city is and then vote to make the city worse. In this way the claim becomes self-fulfilling.

Tuesday's City Council vote defeating a $2.7 million bond to buy a fleet of new school buses, which failed because it did not get the eight votes necessary for a supermajority, was bad enough on its merits. It is worse because the argument that the city can't afford projects like this one, when in fact it can't afford not to do them, creates an image of Pittsfield as a poor city that has quit on itself.

Opponents of the bond appear to be punishing the School Department for actions related to the funding of the current bus fleet a decade ago. This is a new School Department, led by a new superintendent who argued persuasively for the bond on Tuesday night. Replacing the buses a few at a time only postpones the inevitable while the costs of maintaining the aging buses rises.

While Pittsfield is not a poor city, it is one that wants to improve itself economically, and to do so it needs to attract businesses and employees, including, ideally, young people with children. Snubbing the School Department and going cheap on school buses, of all things, is the equivalent of putting up a "Keep out" sign on the border. Businesses and families don't have to look too far around the Berkshires to find welcome signs.

Pittsfield can be its own worst enemy, tearing itself down rather than building itself up, finding ways to avoid doing things rather than doing them. It broke that behavior pattern in recent years but appears to be regressing. That is the road to the worst of self-fulfilling prophecies.