PITTSFIELD -- With no incumbent in the race for Ward 3 representative on the City Council, Nicholas Caccamo of Parkside Avenue and Richard Latura of Dorchester Avenue are vying to replace Paul Capitanio, who did not seek re-election.
A "data coach" support staff member at Pittsfield High School, Caccamo, 27, said his job would be a plus for the council, which "could benefit from a source in the schools; I have good insights to what is happening within the school system."
That could prove valuable, he said, when the council takes up school funding issues.
Latura, however, contends that Caccamo's school system job would pose a significant problem if he is elected to the council.
"I consider it a huge issue," Latura said. "The ward will not be represented 100 percent of the time."
Caccamo said he believes he would have a conflict only if he votes on the final school budget request when it comes before the council. He also would have a conflict if he were paid, but he intends to serve without the part-time pay councilors receive.
Caccamo said he wants to be "a pragmatic voice" as Ward 3 representative and do the hard subcommittee and outreach work required. He would place a strong emphasis on resident concerns about street and sidewalk repair, plowing, trash collection and safety issues, including crime and speeding.
He said he would employ his education and skills to organize a comprehensive approach to communicating with constituents that includes emails, blogging and phone communication, along with attendance at public events and meetings.
Latura, 48, said his top issue is public safety, and he would back hiring more police officers and firefighters, even if it costs more in taxes.
He added, "How can we revitalize North Street if people are afraid to walk there at night?"
Caccamo said the area is culturally rich, and that could be a draw -- along with an improving educational system -- for luring new business activity.
Caccamo said he is "totally against retail at the PEDA site," referring to a proposal for a large retail project in the William Stanley Business Park that now is before the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority. Waiting for manufacturing firms to locate there would provide greater economic benefit to Pittsfield, he said, and would tie into proposed expansion of the vocational education programs at Taconic High School.
Latura has said he also opposes retail uses for the PEDA site. He added that he is personally interested in working to bring new solar and wind turbine lighting technology to the city, not only to provide brighter LED street lighting but to foster a new manufacturing business here. The systems have been used elsewhere, Latura said, and could both save the city money and eventually provide employment.
Both candidates said they favor defusing divisiveness of recent council debates.
"There has been too much bickering," Latura said, adding, "We have to put petty issues aside."
"I think you have to work with all parties, including the mayor," Caccamo said. "I don't have anything against him. People are elected to serve the city as a whole."
Concerning the proposed city charter revision, which also is on the Nov. 5 ballot, Latura said he is leaning toward voting against it. He said he opposes a four-year term for mayor unless councilors also serve four years and he opposes pay for School Committee members, which would be allowed under the new charter but would need approval by the mayor and council.
Caccamo said he favors the charter revision and a four-year mayoral term, along with an increase in pay for committee members from $2,000 to $4,000 a year.
He also said he favors establishing bicycle safety lanes on city streets and a food truck ordinance that is fair to the truck owners and to downtown merchants.
Latura is a master locksmith and safe technician with J&J Lock and an Army veteran who served as a squad leader.
Caccamo has served on the Green Commission since 2008 and would like to continue with that board if elected to the council. He mounted an unsuccessful run for mayor in 2009 and for councilor at large in 2011.
To reach Jim Therrien:
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