PITTSFIELD -- The three Ward 1 candidates competing in the Sept. 24 preliminary election staked out positions Monday in a forum at Berkshire Community College, sponsored by the Pittsfield Gazette and Pittsfield Community Television.
The hot-button issues in Ward 1, they said, include crime, traffic, school spending and communication between constituents, City Hall and the ward councilor.
Two-term incumbent Christine Yon faces Tammy Ives and Lisa Tully in the preliminary. Voters in Ward 1 and Ward 3 will go to the polls next Tuesday to chose two finalists in each race to be on the Nov. 5 ballot. Voting Sept. 24 will be from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. in Wards 1 and 3 only.
Ives said her top issue is that "a lot of issues in the ward are not being addressed." She said her interest in city politics stems from beginning a petition drive to address a parking issue in her neighborhood after she felt residents were being ignored by the city.
"Crime is a major issue," Tully said, adding that she heard that mentioned often while campaigning. All three candidates agreed on that point.
Yon said her experience allows her to work with department heads, other councilors and the mayor to work toward a consensus on issues. Concerning crime, she said the council recently approved a new crime analyst position Police Chief Michael Wynn saw as the one thing he could add this year to better deal with crime issues.
One reason residents cite crime as a top issue, Ives said, is because they see a lack of communication with the department and City Hall over policing issues.
Tully advocated greater promotion of neighborhood watch groups and citizen involvement in all local issues.
Concerning school spending, Ives said "the school budget itself is not really well worked," adding that she believes there is overspending in some areas but was unsure in which accounts.
Tully said councilors have to look carefully at budgets prepared by the School Department, saying she thought the fuel accounts might be overbudgeted when asked to cite a specific line item.
"We have to balance the needs of the taxpayers and the needs of the government," Yon said. She added that having a consultant look at the school budgets for possible savings.
Yon and Tully said issues surrounding a proposed new high school or major renovation project should be decided by a consensus of all parties including the public, city and school officials. Ives said the final decision should be put to the voters.
In concluding statements, Tully said, "I don't want city politics to become paralyzed," adding that she could work well with the council, the mayor's office and others in government toward solving problems.
Ives acknowledged she is "not politically savvy in Pittsfield," but believes she can improve communications among all parties involved and work hard for Ward 1 residents.
Yon said her motto over four years in office has been "how can we?" She said her experience allows her to work effectively with all parties to make "a positive difference."
David Cachat, CityLink coordinator at PCTV, served as moderator for the forum.
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