PITTSFIELD -- Since both candidates for the Ward 6 City Council seat have council experience, there may be some apples to compare to apples.
Incumbent John Krol, of Trova Terrace, is facing a challenge from former Ward 7 Councilor Joseph Nichols, of Cascade Street, who has moved since the 2011 election cycle.
Krol, 35, has cited several issues on which he and Nichols voted differently as councilors. Krol opposed the city leaving the Berkshire County Mosquito Control Project two years ago and supported the municipal airport expansion project, having a city charter review, having Pittsfield join the Green Communities program and establishing a skateboard park.
He said Nichols was on the opposite side of those issues.
Nichols said Krol is attempting to paint him as negative, but he said that misrepresents his term on the council. He said he simply believes, for instance, that the airport expansion was unneeded in Pittsfield and the Green Communities program has added a layer of regulation that could hamper improvement of the city's housing stock.
Although he disliked former Mayor James M. Ruberto's managerial style -- and often opposed him -- Nichols said he still worked to secure infrastructure work in the Pecks Road area, a new fire truck and other initiatives during that administration. He also voted against the mosquito program at the request of Ruberto, based on complaints about the spraying which were later addressed.
Nichols, 49, said he is a better candidate to move the city forward. "I will be a councilor that represents all of the ward, wealthy and poor, equally, and I will return all phone calls while handling the large issues in the same expedient manner as the everyday smaller issues."
He said he's heard that "Mr. Krol has not been responsive to everyone in the ward," adding, "Responsiveness is one reason to vote for Joe Nichols."
Krol denied he has been unresponsive, saying he has been available to constituents by email, phone and through his website, social media and his radio show, "Good Morning Pittsfield," which also is shown on a local cable channel.
The close council vote to retain the mosquito control program when the Ruberto administration sought to have the city leave it in 2011 showed how he can be effective, Krol said. "I advocated for my position, lobbied fellow councilors and garnered enough votes to save the program," he said.
Nichols, meanwhile, said Krol has sometimes become embroiled in what some observers believe is council opposition to Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi's initiatives regardless of the issue.
He called Bianchi "a compassionate leader," adding, "some are just against him." The mayor has publicly supported Nichols in the ward race.
Nichols said he feels "confident that after this election there will be a council more conducive" to working with the mayor on issues.
Krol asserted that, while he has disagreed with Bianchi, he also has supported him on issues. He said he maintained an independent voice as well under former Mayor Ruberto, in whose administration he served as city public affairs coordinator during 2005-07.
He said he strives to be a "thoughtful, independent voice on the council. Sometimes that means going against the grain."
Krol added he doesn't believe saying "no" on an issue is enough: "Instead, you need to be able to propose a better solution," he said.
He also cited a number of infrastructure and street improvements in the ward as examples of his ability to work with the administration to produce results for residents.
Concerning a proposed large retail plan for the William Stanley Business Park, Nichols said he would oppose retail in the park, which was envisioned for industrial uses. "I am adamant about waiting," he said, adding that he would "not settle for low-paying jobs in the retail sector."
Krol said, "Retail can be a smaller component of a strategic mixed-use, but only after we've made progress in realizing our collective vision for the site as a home of core jobs."
Concerning the downtown shopping district, Krol said he and other councilors successfully argued for a partial shift of focus from development projects to more emphasis on marketing of the downtown. He also advocates a more coordinated downtown parking plan, as does Nichols.
Nichols said he wants the city to explore "a floating overlay [zoning] district" that would allow the opportunity of limited business uses in residential areas. "It might be great for the West Side," he said, but added, "it would need to be vetted" by city planning officials to determine its feasibility in Pittsfield.
Nichols said he will vote for the revised city charter proposal, adding that while he has some questions, changes could be made after it is adopted, but the 80-year-old charter is overdue for an update.
Krol said: "I am leaning in favor of the charter proposal, but I encourage all residents to inform themselves and to make their own educated decision."
Nichols also promised to focus on expanding the tax base to lessen the burden on taxpayers.
He was Ward 7 councilor during 2010-12 and ran for mayor in 2011, losing in the preliminary election. Nichols owns The Cove bakery, diner and pizzeria on Pecks Road.
Krol, the Ward 6 councilor since 2010, is president of OneEighty Media, a marketing firm. He is a former board president of Pittsfield Community Television and a member of Pittsfield's School Building Needs Commission. He serves on the Council's Ordinance and Rules and Community Development committees.
To reach Jim Therrien:
or (413) 496-6247
On Twitter: @BE_therrien