Saturday's Westside Community Day served as a reminder that this is a good section of Pittsfield with problems to address, not a troubled area with little going for it.
The neighborhood has been plagued with shootings in recent months, predominantly in the areas of Wahconah Street, Pecks Road, Dartmouth Street and Second Street. Drug arrests regularly make news. The latter means that the police are doing their jobs, but residents have a right to feel they are under siege from forces tearing apart their neighborhood.
On Saturday, families gathered at the Christian Center and enjoyed a barbecue sponsored by the Civitan group. It was an opportunity to have fun, show solidarity, and discuss ways to work together to confront common problems.
Residents who spoke to the Eagle (A-1 story, August 7) appeared encouraged by the strong police patrol presence in the neighborhood. Police officer Michael Ortega, who participated in the community day event, observed that the department is actively seeking minority members, which would be beneficial in neighborhoods like the Westside.
The easy access to guns is a problem in the Westside, which means it has much in common with neighborhoods in cities through the Northeast and nation. Massachusetts has strong gun laws, but the ease in which guns can be transported across state lines attests to the necessity of tougher federal gun laws, which will not happen as long as the NRA has so many congressmen in its pocket.
Providing kids with something to do so they don't fall in with gangs is critical in city neighborhoods, and Berkshire Health Systems community care coordinator Erica Garafalo, who was staffing a booth with a jump rope station, noted that sports is a great outlet. Providing buses, she added, so kids can get to and from practice, would increase participation, and those buses would constitute a great investment in young people.
The Westside has problems, but in working together with the city's help, it can confront them.