While the Pittsfield City Council didn't pass a counterproductive residency requirement last week it missed an opportunity to squash the measure altogether.
The residents-only requirement for local boards and commissions was doomed by Tuesday's open microphone session when veterinarian Dr. John Reynolds of Richmond and Krista Wroldson Miller of Windsor, both members of the Animal Control Commission, pointed out the hazards of the plan. Dr. Reynolds owns Pittsfield Veterinary Hospital, has been on the commission for 20 years and asked councilors to consider him the face of what the requirement would mean if passed. Ms. Miller noted that her family moved to Windsor because they wanted more land than they could find in Pittsfield and she and her husband have continued to be active in the city.
Beyond the difficulty of finding enough Pittsfield residents to fill 360 seats on boards and commissions, a city that is often given to parochialism should not be banning those from outside who offer a fresh perspective and/or expertise. City Councilor Peter White observed that the city needs to become more inclusive, and that applies to all of the towns in Berkshire County, where a team approach is needed to address difficult problems that cannot easily be solved by one municipality on its own. This concept fuels various shared services initiatives.
Unfortunately, by a vote of 7-4, the City Council sent the proposal back to the Ordinances and Rules Committee for further tinkering. Whatever reemerges, however, will continue to be a solution in search of a problem. Berkshire residents who live outside of Pittsfield but work in Pittsfield, pay taxes to Pittsfield, support Pittsfield businesses and care deeply about the welfare of the county's biggest community have long served on Pittsfield boards. They should be welcomed, not banned.