Pittsfield Board of Health member Dominica D'Avella is rightly curious about the proposed residency requirement for members of city boards. That curiosity should be shared by many.
The health board is being pressured by several city councilors to ease tobacco regulations, including a relaxing of the cap on new tobacco sales permits. Ms. D'Avella, a longtime resident of Pittsfield now living in Lanesborough, observed at Wednesday's board meeting that "it was curious" that two months after her March reappointment to the board, the City Council's Ordinance and Rules Committee began debating a residency requirement. Passage of such a measure would also mean the five-member board would lose a medical professional in Dr. Cynthia Geyer.
With many Berkshire communities wisely exploring shared services, Pittsfield should not be walling itself in. Board and committee members from neighboring towns help dilute the parochialism that has afflicted Pittsfield.
The argument that bringing in more convenience stores selling tobacco products will benefit the city economy only makes sense if the smoking population is increasing also. This is something the Board of Health is rightly trying to prevent given the deadly and costly diseases resulting from smoking addiction. More stores selling tobacco only dilutes the market, hurting existing businesses that sell cigarettes. As Ms. D'Avella pointed out, the city already has a high ratio of sales outlets to adults compared to communities around the state.
Raising the cap on tobacco sales licenses is a bad idea on a variety of levels. The Board of Health should hold firm. And whatever the motivation for the residency requirement proposal, the City Council should trash it.