The $141 million city and school operating budget approved Tuesday night by the Pittsfield City Council is reasonable and responsible, and no city councilor made a case otherwise. Two ward councilors voted against the budget, but a "no" vote without a reinforcing argument rings hollow.
Ward 1 Councilor Lisa Tully and Ward 2 Councilor Kevin Morandi said they voted against the budget for the new fiscal year in response to phone calls from unhappy constituents, but there is more to being a voice for beleaguered taxpayers than making a speech in front of the TV cameras and casting a "no" vote. It involves making specific proposals and defending them, which neither councilor managed to do.
Repeating statements he has in essence made before, Mr. Morandi said the council should have cut or consolidated "some things," but as Councilor at large Barry Clairmont observed, the time to take that action was during the budget-making process, not when the budget was a done deal. Mr. Morandi grandstanded by suggesting that the budget vote be delayed, which Mayor Daniel Bianchi accurately said would be "irresponsible" given the lack of a proposal for specific cuts, "which you [Morandi] haven’t done at this point."
The responsible councilors were those who were fully engaged in the budget process and voted in favor of the result, which was a sound budget accord reached by the Council and the Bianchi administration that will result in an anticipated tax hike of about 4.7 percent. Pittsfield is not the only municipality where voters demand tax cuts while also opposing program cuts and insisting on expanded services, but the expectation for the impossible is certainly pronounced here. If the impossible can be made possible a year from now, let’s hear exactly how this can be accomplished and skip the hand-wringing when it comes time to vote yay or nay.