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Look Ahead, Pittsfield: As debate schedule ramps up, city opening up applications to fill two leadership positions

PITTSFIELD — Last week, the City Council signed off on the creation of several important city positions, OK’ing nearly six-figure salaries for the future head of the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and city manager of American Rescue Plan money. This week, many of those same councilors will come before the public in one of two debates scheduled for PCTV.

A double feature of debates

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Incumbent Ward 6 Councilor Dina Lampiasi and Ed Carmel are once again matched in a City Council race. Carmel used Thursday night's debate as an opportunity to question Lampiasi's responsiveness to residents in Ward 6.

Last week PCTV and iBerkshires.com cohosted the first of three debates for the City Council and School Committee races. That debate, filmed Oct. 14, presented four, 30-minute debates between the candidates for the contested Wards 1, 2, 4 and 6 races. While each candidate responded to issues unique to their potential constituents, the field was generally united in calling for street, sidewalk and broadband improvements across the city.

On Monday at 7 p.m., candidates for the six positions on the School Committee will get a chance to convince voters of their vision for the Pittsfield Public Schools during a debate at the Berkshire Athenaeum.

Members of the Pittsfield Federation of School Employees — the union that represents paraprofessionals, educational secretaries, custodians, cafeteria workers and bus drivers in the district — are hoping a coinciding rally during the debate will force candidates to take a stand on the union’s push for a living wage for their members. PFSE leadership has asked for an immediate $3 an hour raise for all support staff.

On Tuesday at 7 p.m., candidates for the four at large City Councilor seats on the City Council will meet at the Berkshire Athenaeum. Incumbents Yuki Cohen, Earl Persip III, Pete White and council president Peter Marchetti will go up against challengers Craig Benoit and Karen Kalinowsky in a 90-minute debate.

This week’s debates will air live on PCTV and all three debates will be re-aired several times on the channel ahead of the Nov. 2 election.

New chief DEI officer, ARPA manager wanted

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Ward 1 Councilor Helen Moon pushed back against City Council members who questioned the need for the new Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion officer position during the Oct. 12 council meeting. Moon said the position is dearly needed and should be paid more than the city is proposing for a salary range.

A new job positing went live Oct. 13 on the city’s website for a Chief Diversity Officer. Candidates have until Friday, Nov. 12 to apply to lead the city’s newly formed Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. The city is offering candidates a salary between about $70,000 and $91,000 to put diversity, equity and inclusion at the forefront of city business.

“I would like to see this position moved up in the pay scale because I think it’s that important and that valuable,” Ward 1 Councilor Helen Moon said ahead of a council vote to approve the position. “If we’re wanting to incorporate these policies and practices into every aspect of city governance...that position needs some kind of oomf.”

ARPA hearing (copy) (copy)

Mayor Linda Tyer is proposing the creation of a new position to "quarterback" of the American Rescue Plan Act money heading to the city. 

The council also approved the creation of a special projects manager, a position Mayor Linda Tyer has called the city’s “quarterback” for directing the more than $40.6 million in American Rescue Plan money coming to Pittsfield. The position will be “oversee the selection, design, implementation, and evaluation of programs and projects funded by ARPA,” according to the job description.

The job represents the first city allocation of ARPA funds, as the manager’s salary will come entirely from the federal money. The new ARPA czar comes with a salary range between about $85,000 to $110,000 and will be hired on to work through the spending deadline for the federal money on Dec. 31, 2026.

Heads-upThe Berkshire Historical Society will present a free virtual lecture with Bonney Hartley of the Stockbridge-Munsee Community on Friday, Oct. 22.

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Bonney Hartley is the tribal historic preservation manager for the Stockbridge-Munsee Mohican Nation. She is leading a free virtual lecture on Oct. 22.

Hartley’s lecture, which begins at 7 p.m. on Zoom, will center on the community’s experiences with repatriation efforts in the Berkshires and the ways that museums are shifting their understanding of Tribal stewardship when it comes to ancestral remains and cultural heirlooms.

For further event details and a link to the Zoom event, email melville@berkshirehistory.org.

Meg Britton-Mehlisch can be reached at mbritton@berkshireeagle.com or 413- 496-6149.

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