Our Opinion: Residency rule wrong for Pittsfield

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The city of Pittsfield should not be building up walls between its neighbors, and that is what a residency requirement for boards and commissions would constitute.

A divided Ordinance and Rules Committee of the City Council considered such a requirement Monday before tabling it to seek more information on its potential impact. There was sentiment on the board for such a requirement, but the committee went in circles trying to determine which bodies should be granted waivers from it before tabling the measure.

It is unwise for a small city like Pittsfield to reduce its pool of qualified potential applicants to boards and commissions. If someone from outside Pittsfield is chosen to serve on one of those bodies that person will gain sufficient knowledge of the issues involved comparable to residents of the city. It is particularly unwise to lower the applicant pool for boards that must include a doctor or a lawyer, and rather than try to draw up a variety of exceptions to the residency requirement the councilors should abandon the concept of a residency requirement altogether.

After too many years of trying to go it alone, Berkshire communities are increasingly working together on common problems. A residency requirement in Pittsfield would constitute a major step backward from this welcome trend.

We're all in this together in the Berkshires, and while Pittsfield, as the county's most populous community, faces challenges of a different magnitude than its neighbors, those challenges are not so unique that only residents are qualified to handle them. City officials should be reaching out to their neighbors for people capable of helping a community whose successes and failures impact every Berkshire town, not coming up with counterproductive rules to prevent this interaction.


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