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Look Ahead, Pittsfield: Voters to make mark on city this week

EARLYVOTING-2.jpg (copy)

Voting booths at a Pittsfield polling location. On Tuesday, voters in Berkshire County's two cities, Pittsfield and North Adams, will head to the polls to decide on who will hold key municipal leadership positions in their respective communities.

PITTSFIELD — The upcoming week holds the promise of a lot of news as residents head to the polls on Tuesday to choose the makeup of the next City Council and School Committee.

Then on Wednesday alone there’s two important meetings to keep an eye on: one is the Homelessness Advisory Committee, which will meet at 11 a.m. via Zoom, and the other is the in-person Board of Health meeting set for 6 p.m.

On the groups’ agendas, respectively, is a rare opportunity for data on student homelessness rates in the city and a discussion of a citywide mask mandate.

To the voting boothPittsfield had 28,499 registered voters as of February. While a portion of those voters — those living in Wards 3, 5, and 7 — have uncontested candidates for the position of ward councilor, every voter will have the opportunity to select the four at large councilors who will represent the entire city and six school committee members who will lead district-based decision making over the next two years.

For any voters looking for some last-minute guidance on where candidates in both races stand, last week The Eagle published the results of a multi-question survey given to each candidate about some of the biggest issues facing the city. You can find each candidate’s answers on our website berkshireeagle.com.

6 important questions for Pittsfield City Council candidates about housing, policing, taxes

The at large and school committee fields are far from crowded. In the at large race there are six candidates for four positions and in the school committee race the number of candidates is down to eight for committee’s six positions.

Worried about your child's education? Know what Pittsfield School Committee candidates have to say on the issues

With so few newcomers and so many incumbents back on the ballot, it seems unlikely that Tuesday’s results will result in any major shift in the direction of the council or committee. But it’s not out of the range of possibility, as several vocal contingencies of residents have disputed their representatives’ decisions around traffic patterns on North Street, the city’s response to homelessness, school resource officers and teacher pay in Pittsfield.

Keep your eyes peeled Tuesday night to The Eagle’s website and Wednesday print edition for election coverage and to see which way voters ultimately decide to steer the city.

To mask or not to maskSpeaking of Wednesday, the Board of Health is set to use a portion of its meeting that evening to discuss whether the city should pursue a mask mandate.

Josh Bloom and daughters before Pittsfield BOH seeking mask mandate

Josh Bloom, of Lee, with his daughters, Lola, 7, and Goldie, 5, urge the Pittsfield Board of Health at its Wednesday meeting to institute a mask mandate that covers children's indoor activities. The girls want to return to a city dance studio, but the business won't require masks, since they are not mandated.

For months the former Health Department Director Gina Armstrong and now the Interim Director Andy Cambi have refrained from weighing in on whether or not the city should mandate masking, and have instead said they trust residents to follow the health and safety guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the state.

But a recent increase in coronavirus cases and a public appeal from a local Lee man may have forced the item on to the Board of Health’s upcoming agenda. Cambi told City Councilors in an update last week that the city had two covid-related deaths over the last two weeks and that city’s sewage monitoring program indicated a likely increase in cases this week as the presence of the virus in the city’s wastewater spiked up again.

By the numbersThe Homelessness Advisory Committee is set to hear from Pittsfield Public Schools Interim Deputy Superintendent Henry Duval over the number of homeless students in the district. The presentation by Duval, who’s also the principal at Pittsfield High School, will offer a rare look at Pittsfield-specific number of homeless children.

Why is this data so hard to find? Much of the data that’s easily available to the public is aggregated across large regions or is delayed data from over a year or more.

The Three County Continuum of Care — the regional group responsible for monitoring and working with homeless people in Berkshire, Franklin and Hampshire counties — has annual reports on the number of homeless families identified (last year it was 135) during a point-in-time count. Those counts are the national metric for identifying homeless populations but only give you an idea of the people counted on a single night in January.

States are also required to report the number of public school students that are living in shelters, transitional housing, hotels, doubled-up with other families or unsheltered each school year.

That data is collected by the National Center for Homeless Education. But the last data available from the NCHE for Massachusetts is for the 2018-19 school year (when about 24,600 students were identified) — and that data is only available for the overall number of homeless students in the state, not by city or county.

Heads-up

At first EPA forum, Berkshire residents bemoan plan for local PCB disposal (copy)

A sign at Woods Pond in Lenox attests to the impact of PCB contamination in the Housatonic River stemming from the General Electric Co.'s former Pittsfield plant. 

The Berkshire Mountain Comedy Arts Festival hopes to use comedy to stop a move to locate a PCB dump in Lee.

On Saturday, Nov. 6 the festival group is hosting comedians Dan Perlman, Kevin Bartini, J-L Cauvin and Jordan Carlos at the Henry Zukowski Auditorium in Lee. Organizers say they’ll use the proceeds from ticket sales to “support the ongoing fight to save our town.”

The event starts 7:30 p.m. and tickets can be purchased for $30 through Eventbrite by searching “No PCB Dump Comedy Fundraiser.”

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

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