Our Opinion: A promising start for Pittsfield in 2018

On Tuesday, the newly-constituted Pittsfield City Council was sworn in, observing a hallowed tradition followed by their predecessors for 127 years. As is characteristic of such kickoff ceremonies, this one was full of hope, resolve and dedication — what one might call the calm before the inevitable storm of getting down to the business of running a municipality facing serious challenges.

Councilor At Large Peter Marchetti unanimously won re-election by his colleagues to the council president's seat. He has long been a progressive force in the city and has proven to be a steady leader at the helm of the council. Newcomers Helen Moon and Earl Persip III add not only new blood and a fresh perspective to deliberations, they also provide much-needed diversity to the city's governing body — strengthening the council's legitimacy while underscoring the fact that Pittsfield in these times must embrace and inspire all its citizens if it is going to move forward and prosper.

If one were to think of Pittsfield as a ship of state, its mayor and councilors are the crew chosen by fellow passengers to man the engine room, shovel the coal and steer the vessel into — well, that's for the mayor and City Council to decide, with the benefit of constituent input. While setting the course in the wheelhouse, they must also tend to the day-to-day details that, if left unaddressed, might cause that ship to founder.

A case in point is an issue that might seem trivial to outsiders but sits astride the top rung of city business: the upcoming question of garbage totes. This will be a good program, one that is taking root in other communities, but city councilors will have a selling job ahead to skeptical neighbors. As Mayor Tyer said last year, "This will take leadership."

Another priority is making tough calls on which industries should be supported with public incentive money; in her inaugural speech, Mayor Tyer referred to Pittsfield's material encouragement to companies like LTI SmartGlass, Fire Cider and Red Apple Butcher — all of them job-providers that, by their presence in Pittsfield, help to strengthen its core economic muscles. However, Pittsfield has learned the hard way that economic incentives must include clawback provisions if recipients don't provide promised jobs or necessary economic stimulus.

Tuesday's organizational meeting/swearing in was an encouraging start for this council. Pittsfielders can hope that the goodwill engendered Tuesday will spill over into future decision-making that benefits every city resident. Respectful disputes are to be expected and are quite often necessary in a representative democracy, but if acrimony rears its head it would be helpful for the mayor and councilors to remember that the oath they took was to the people of their city; not to their own self interest or aggrandizement. City Hall and the City Council are coming off a productive two years that were for the most part absent needless politically motivated battles, and we look forward to more of the same in the two years ahead.


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