Crime and road conditions at center of Pittsfield mayoral forum

The four contenders for Pittsfield mayor - from left, Rusty Anchor owner Scott Graves, incumbent Mayor Linda Tyer, retired Pittsfield police officer Karen Kalinowsky and longtime Councilor at Large Melissa Mazzeo - take turns speaking on the issues during Monday night's candidates forum at Berkshire Community College.

PITTSFIELD — Incumbent Mayor Linda Tyer marched to the beat of her accomplishments during a mayoral forum on Monday, while her three challengers argued for a change in tune.

The city's roads are a disgrace and crime has gone in the wrong direction under Tyer's leadership, they said.

But Tyer painted the picture of a Pittsfield on the move, touting some $17 million in grants the city has received under her leadership, as well as the creation of more than 400 jobs.

"We actually have one of the hottest housing markets in Berkshire County right now," she said.

The first mayoral forum packed the house at Berkshire Community College's Koussevitzky Arts Center, with dozens of onlookers spilling out into the hallway, where a television gave them a view of the candidates.

The four-candidate field — including Rusty Anchor owner Scott Graves, retired Pittsfield police officer Karen Kalinowsky, longtime Councilor at Large Melissa Mazzeo and Tyer — heads to a preliminary election Sept. 17. Voters must register by 8 p.m. Wednesday in order to cast a preliminary ballot. After that, the top two vote-getters advance to the general election Nov. 5.

Mazzeo said residents are finding flagging city services and unfulfilled promises.

"They're starting to feel a bit disillusioned," she said.

And the city's failure to address crime doubles as a financial one.

"That is a part of economic development," she said.

Graves also made a dig at Tyer's Red Carpet Team, which launched in 2017 as a way for the city to welcome new businesses into the community. He said he never saw that sense of welcome.

"It was pulled out from under my feet," he said.

Kalinowsky said the city's success is undermined by poor road conditions — "everybody talks about it" — as well as shootings and drugs.

She said the city needs to have more police officers walking the beat, and she seemed to disparage new diversion directives coming from Berkshire District Attorney Andrea Harrington.

"You can't just tap `em on the hand and let `em go ...," she said. "It's not working and the city's getting worse."

Graves echoed the sentiment, saying that as a police academy graduate he can understand how frustrating it can be for police officers to make arrests and then see nothing done in court.

Graves also said the city needs to do more to help businesses and encourage rebuilding rather than demolishing. "We need to listen to the people," he said repeatedly.

Mazzeo said that while Pittsfield's officers "do a phenomenal job," there appears to be something missing.

"Somewhere along the way there's a disconnect," she said.

Tyer cited initiatives like the new West Side police hub, the West Side Community Outreach Post, and the newly formed Police Advisory and Review Board as examples of her work to unite the police department with residents.

"I have created just the right kind of network that's needed to build relationships between police officers and the community," she said.

At another mention of the city's roads, Tyer smiled.

"This is a hot topic, isn't it?" she said.

She said the city has paved 41 miles of roadway, "so we're getting there."

"The pothole challenge is like taxes," she said. "We're always going to have potholes."

Kalinowsky said the city has seemed to do more roadwork this year, "which is an election year," than in previous years. That line drew a low rumble from the crowd.

When Tyer's next turn came, she took the opportunity to address that claim.

"It's just baloney," she said.

Mazzeo said the roadwork done this year is not enough, citing unused equipment and services left undone.

"Our potholes have been out of control," she said.

Graves said he will be an accessible mayor — not the kind you can't catch for a meeting.

"That will never happen with me," he said.

The city is failing to educate its children, fight crime and fix its streetside holes, Kalinowsky said.

"It shows in the streets of Pittsfield," she said.

Crime has spiked, Mazzeo agreed.

"This is something that we have got to get a hold of," she said, promising "I will be an extremely active mayor."

Tyer told residents they need some continuity in City Hall's corner office to ensure current progress carries on.

"Pittsfield needs four more years of proven leadership," she said.

Amanda Drane can be contacted at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.