Pittsfield City Council subcommittee wants to shelf ban on out-of-town board members

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PITTSFIELD — A City Council subcommittee wants to place on the back burner a proposal to require those serving on city boards and commissions to be city residents.

The Committee on Ordinance and Rules has unanimously recommended the full council place David Pill's citizen petition on file, which would effectively kill the measure that in recent weeks has split both the subcommittee and all 11 councilors.

David Pill formerly petitioned the council in April to consider the requirement. Ordinance and Rules took up the proposal in May, twice tabling it before voting 3-2 to support the residents-only necessity.

Last month the entire council voted 7-4 vote to kick the petition back to the subcommittee level, believing it needed to be tweaked, in part, so as not to penalize those roughly 40 out-of-towners currently serving on 40 active municipal boards and commissions. Currently, 18 of those 360 seats are vacant.

However, the majority of the council at its Sept. 13 meeting seemed opposed to an outright ban on nonresidents being appointed by the mayor, and in most cases, approved by the council.

On behalf of Pill, Ward 3 Councilor Nicholas Caccamo asked his Ordinance and Rules Committee colleagues at Monday night's meeting to end discussion as Pill realized the council was at an impasse on how best to craft the ordinance. Through emails to Caccamo, Pill said he appreciated the healthy debate of a measure that the councilor supported.

"This move was a philosophical idea rather than to remove some current board members," Caccamo said.

Since several boards, by statute, require people with certain qualifications, the residency requirement could force some nonresidents to resign, according to opposing councilors.

For example, animal control must have a veterinarian; currently that's Dr. John Reynolds of Richmond. The Affirmative Action Advisory Committee includes the public schools' personnel director, who lives in the Albany, N.Y., area, and the Resource Recovery Committee has Jamie Cahillane, who lives in Lenox.

Pill has said municipal boards are one way to get residents more involved in the city. Councilor at large Melissa Mazzeo, chairwoman of Ordinance and Rules, hopes the locals paid close attention to the residency requirement debate.

"It makes people listening to this say maybe they should volunteer," she said.

Mazzeo believes the proposed ordinance is worth revisiting in the future, noting how other communities adopted measures that weren't a total ban on nonresidents. She cited such exceptions as allowing a nonresident if no one else is available or supporting an out-of-towner if he/she is in the best interest of the city.

"I do think we should keep this in the back of our minds," she said.

Contact Dick Lindsay at 413-496-6233.


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