PITTSFIELD -- The Ward 1 City Council candidates have staked out different approaches on some of the city's hot-button issues this fall.
Incumbent Councilor Christine Yon, seeking a third term, and challenger Lisa Tully differ on whether a retail business should be allowed in the William Stanley Business Park, over a proposed four-year term for mayors, and in general about recent council dealings with Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi's agenda.
"Ward 1 deserves a public servant and not a politician," Tully said. "Our council admits that they are divided. A ward councilor is not effective if one is divisive."
Yon said that, while she has differed with the mayor on some issues, "I have also supported him. We don't always agree. But that is how government is set up -- you are supposed to have 11 different points of view [on the council]."
The incumbent added, "She [Tully] says we're divided and divisive, but I think there are issues when you need to stand your ground for what is right."
One of those issues, she said, was when she clashed with the administration over the proposed location of a methadone clinic on Stoddard Avenue, which was scrapped. That was followed by a related dispute over how the city solicitor and administration had handled a lawsuit filed against the city by the clinic operator, which was settled and allowed a clinic on Summer Street.
In October 2012, Yon proposed a vote of no confidence in Solicitor Kathleen Degnan, but she withdrew her petition after a two-hour debate before the council on the issues, saying her concerns had been aired.
Tully said that dispute was reflective of council dysfunction over the past two years, resulting in "an opposition party" battling the mayor on almost every issue -- including during a recent debate over a mayoral request to join a group of five towns to negotiate with GE during an expected environmental cleanup along 10 miles of the Housatonic River.
"The Kathy Degnan story: Another poor use of our tax dollars," Tully said, adding that, considering the recent vote on the river cleanup process, "it's not going to end."
The candidates also disagree on a proposed large retail project for the business park, which has been planned for industrial uses on the former GE property off East Street. With no industrial firms on the horizon, an unnamed retail company has put forth a plan that is being considered for the largest parcel in the park.
"I want to make sure the former GE site is used for industry, as intended," Tully said, adding, "Our tax base is expanded exponentially when higher-wage manufacturing jobs are brought into the community."
Yon said she would prefer to see industry at the site, but would consider supporting a mix of uses. Before supporting the proposed project, she would want to learn the identity of the company and other details. She said many residents who spoke in favor of allowing retail uses at a public meeting on the subject were from the Morningside area, and the Tyler Street business group has supported it.
The issue is, she said, "How long are we going to wait?"
Tully, 48, of Oak Hill Road, is making her first bid for elective office. But she said that in her job as a registered nurse at Berkshire Medical Center, specializing in cardiology and interventional radiology and as a charge nurse, she's shown herself to be hard worker.
"I am willing to work nonstop, and I can get a lot done," she said.
Yon, 60, of Kittredge Road, stressed both her experience on the council and the fact she does not have to work and can work full-time on city issues. She previously was a dental hygienist for 27 years and a small-business owner with her husband for several years.
"I'm effective and experienced," Yon said. "I care, and I am full time."
On the proposed new city charter, which is on the Nov. 5 ballot, Tully said she supports the charter changes as proposed and a four-year term for the mayor. She said the language clarifications and other revisions to the 80-year-old charter more than justify voting for it.
Yon said: "I don't think I can vote for the charter because of the four-year mayor and the two-year council [terms]." In off-year elections without a mayor's contest on the ballot, she said turnout might be too low -- in the range of 10 percent of the electorate.
Other goals, Yon said, are to continue to push for reuse of the Springside House, which she has backed, and for extension of the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail from Lanesborough into Coltsville.
The Northeastern University graduate has been an active communicant of St. Charles Church and helped begin the Tyler Street business group. She is a member of the Democratic City Committee and a three-time delegate to the state Democratic Convention.
On the council, Yon is chairwoman of the Community and Economic Development Committee and a member of the Public Works and Safety Committee
Tully has been a volunteer with several groups, including Downtown Inc., and she wants to help expand the role of the neighborhood initiative groups and neighborhood watch organizations.
After being active in a grassroots effort five years ago, she organized a "neighborhood party," which she continues to help coordinate annually and has drawn as many as 200 residents. She said she would have regular ward meetings as a councilor.
To reach Jim Therrien:
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