Earlier this year, I filed a petition before the Pittsfield City Council to ban Styrofoam (polystyrene), as Great Barrington did in 1990. Emboldened by Great Barrington's recent vote to ban plastic shopping bags, I filed a petition in Pittsfield to ban plastic shopping bags. I thought it would be a good idea to get the positions of all candidates in contested Pittsfield City Council races on both proposed bans. All responded.
Mark Miller (at-large) and Lisa Tully (Ward 1) were the only candidates that unequivocally stated they plan to vote for both the ban on Styrofoam and the ban on plastic shopping bags. Ward 3 Candidate Nicholas Caccamo was the only other candidate who indicated he would definitely support a ban on Styrofoam. All the rest were undecided on both issues. No interviewed candidate said they would definitely vote against either petition. However, some seemed to lean toward opposing both bans, while others leaned to a "yes" vote.
Tully noted that most businesses don't use Styrofoam, and she is right. Tully recently participated in a clean-up of Springside Park, when she observed the most prevalent litter was from plastic shopping bags. Tully's Ward 1 opponent, City Councilor Christine Yon, stated that she supports green initiatives and that "we should be able to find a better solution to Styrofoam and plastic bags." However, since both petitions were referred to the Green Commission; Christine Yon thinks a "yes" or "no" on either petition is premature.
Both Miller and Ward 3 candidate Nick Caccamo are current members of the Green Commission and expressed concern that the commission has not met for quite some time. City Clerk Linda Tyer sent a letter to Green Commission Chair Joseph LaRoche on June 28 referring the petition to ban Styrofoam, and on August 16 the petition to ban plastic shopping bags. Unfortunately, as of Oct. 23, the Green Commission still has not met. Numerous city councilors that have expressed the position that they are waiting on the recommendation of the Green Commission, to whom they are relying for detailed analysis on the merits of both petitions.
All the at-large candidates except Miller (Melissa Mazzeo, Kathleen Amuso, Churchill Cotton, Barry Clairmont, James Conant, and Donna Todd Rivers), are undecided on both issues, but there are leanings. Both Rivers and Amuso worry about what they believe might be adverse effects on the economy. Rivers uses plastic bags in her North Street store, Bisque, Beads, and Beyond, and if she had to vote today she would vote "no" on both bans, but stressed the need for additional study. Clairmont said he "needs more information." Conant says that while he has not "contemplated it much," his "first swipe at both measures is positive." But Conant qualified that with the statement that there needs to be a "better outreach component before an outright ban" by "rewarding businesses that recycle." I have had numerous conversations with Mazzeo, who wants to take a closer look at the science.
Ward 6 Candidate John Krol (incumbent) and Joe Nichols (who was a Ward 7 councilor) are undecided, but both have indicated their inclinations. John Krol sits on Ordinance and Rules which heard a great deal of testimony on the Styrofoam ban. Krol said, "I am basing my decision on [the environmental impact versus paper cups] not on the economics and cost of Styrofoam and paper products," and added, "If it's confirmed that Styrofoam is worse for the environment [than paper cups and containers], you have my vote." Krol also questioned the Styrofoam industry representative who showed up at an Ordinance and Rules informal public hearing, saying he was a biased source. Nichols, conversely, maintained the current Great Barrington ban on Styrofoam "is unfair because it targets restaurants" who "are the least abusers as compared to grocery stores."
In Ward 3, Caccamo believes Styrofoam "is an outdated material" and he is "hard pressed to see places that still use it." But as for the ban on plastic shopping bags, Caccamo is "right in the middle" and "can go either way." Ward 3 opponent Richard Latura said he is "strongly inclined to vote for both petitions," but would vote the other way if there is "overwhelming opposition in the ward."
The good news is that a majority of the candidates seemed to be positive about voting green.
Rinaldo Del Gallo III is an occasional Eagle contributor.