Look Ahead, Pittsfield: With bag ban and police advisory, council subcommittee looks to take lingering items off the shelf

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The City Council's Committee on Ordinances and Rules could take votes on heated issues this week that have lingered on the agenda for months, like a proposed police advisory board and a ban on single-use plastic bags.

On the agenda is also an updated solid waste ordinance, which comes on the heels of a yearlong review of the city's trash pickup program. The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. Monday in council chambers.

Because all of Pittsfield's legislative changes get vetted in Ordinances and Rules, some of the most contested issues can get bottlenecked in the council subcommittee. If councilors vote on any of these issues during their meeting, they will produce preliminary recommendations that require approval from the full council.

A proposed police advisory board will likely be among the night's top priorities. It would be a citizens panel that could serve as a sounding board for the police department on public issues, review complaints filed against the department upon the completion of an internal investigation, and make policy recommendations to the department based on that review.

In previous public meetings, councilors have sought to quantify the extent to which legal battles surrounding police accountability issues deal a financial blow to the city.

Some residents call on city officials to give the proposed board more overt power over disciplinary decisions involving officers, while others have cautioned against involving citizens in what become complicated matters — with city officials already bumping up against Civil Service Law and the union.

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Whatever form it takes, many in the city agree that public review of complaints against officers would help ease friction between the police department and the public.

Holiday happenings

The Beacon Cinema is scheduled to reopen on Friday with new owners and a facelift. Phoenix Theatres is footing the bill on the upgrades, which include heated seats, a new sound and projection system, as well as some general sprucing up of the place. Movie-goers can also expect cheaper tickets, longer hours and a doubled staff.

Need wrapping materials? You can bring your unwrapped gifts to a free eco-friendly wrapping party from 4 to 6 p.m. Monday in the auditorium of the Berkshire Athenaeum. The event, sponsored by Going Green in the Berkshires, makes use of recycled materials like newspaper to wrap holiday gifts.

Downtown parking is free all week, starting Monday. That said, time limits still apply for non-metered spaces with signs alerting visitors to time restrictions. Those who overstay time limits are subject to fines.

And thanks to last week's announcement about an impending Wayfair call center in Pittsfield — infusing the city with 300 new jobs — we can feel that we're buying local when finding holiday gifts from Wayfair.com.

What's up in Pittsfield? Tell me via email at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, or by phone at 413-496-6296. Follow me on Twitter @amandadrane.


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