I am running to become your city councilor at large because I believe the time has come for the phrase "moving Pittsfield forward" to become a call to action and not merely a statement of hope. It begins with our elected officials and requires focused and deliberate debate conducted with civility and a goal towards consensus. Our elected officials need to step up, put their differences aside, listen and work for the citizens. How we conduct a conversation is sometimes more important than the conversation itself.
During the campaign I provided a snapshot as to how I will work as a city councilor. I held several community conversations which I will continue after the election. Moving Pittsfield forward requires involvement and input from all our citizens. One prevalent issue emerged: JOBS. How we get there?: economic development and education.
A multi-faceted approach to economic development is essential to the successful pursuit of jobs. It requires that Pittsfield be able to support a variety of business enterprises from the development of the life sciences and advanced manufacturing at the PEDA site to knowledge-based technology and creative employment opportunities. We must re-evaluate how we market our industrial sites by pursuing investors with innovative and multi-faceted uses in mind. We must re-examine our zoning, land use and commercial/industrial development plans. We must continue to support our strong base of small businesses by thriving to be a city where citizens want to live, work and invest in the local commercial economy.
These goals require that we capitalize on our natural, cultural and historic resources that make Pittsfield unique. An essential piece is a vibrant downtown and strong commercial neighborhoods, not because it is good planning, but because it reflects the energy and character of the city. Another vital component is to ensure that our neighborhoods are safe with well-maintained streets and sidewalks and are supported by a diverse stock of good quality and affordable housing options for all our citizens. We must approach economic development as a series of actions to be taken with the goal of retaining and growing local businesses, producing jobs, raising the quality of life we enjoy and improving our neighborhoods. By doing so we will be protecting and expanding our tax base as a result. We start to increase our financial resources. Pittsfield moves forward.
It is time for the leaders and citizens of Pittsfield to come together and find common ground on education. We need to raise our expectations to focus on measurable outcomes and to continue to evaluate the success of our programs. Recent reports show that a majority of our schools are still functioning at levels below proficiency despite great strides. Providing a quality education is difficult when we must deal with social-economic realities that make academic success challenging.
Pittsfield must balance all these needs within our struggling financial capacity while remaining cognitive that there is a direct connect between the quality of our schools, school choice and the fiscal health of our city. We need to examine all expenditures and proposals more closely. I know that every time a project goes over budget, another program goes without or another initiative goes on hold. These challenges require collaborative effort amongst all those serving in city government.
Striving for excellence in our schools is imperative not because we need to meet regulatory standards but because we know in the pursuit for jobs a skilled work force ready to staff, lead and start businesses is essential to economic development. Strong schools anchor neighborhoods, encourage investment in homes and care of property, stability in residency, higher property values and ultimately further investment in our city. Further investment creates more economic development, more opportunities for jobs and higher paying, long term career options. Pittsfield moves forward.
I believe it is time to move Pittsfield forward not by chasing our past, but by pursuing our future. If you truly want to have the phrase "Move Pittsfield Forward" to be more than a hopeful statement I ask that you vote for Donna Todd Rivers on Nov. 5. Please follow the campaign at www.donnatoddrivers.com.
Donna Todd Rivers is a candidate for city councilor at large.