Our Opinion: A realistic look at Pittsfield in 2019
Mayor Linda Tyer's annual State of the City address Monday kicks off the Pittsfield election season. The mayor, who will presumably seek a second four-year term this fall, portrayed a city that under her watch has successfully tackled long-standing problems and is moving optimistically into the future. (Eagle, Jan. 8)
The small- and mid-sized cities of New England and the Northeast face so many challenges on so many fronts that progress must be measured incrementally. Pittsfield is a good example. It took Pittsfield longer than it should have to accept that an equivalent of General Electric was not going to parachute in to save the day but that acceptance appears to have been achieved. Today, the prospect of Wayfair bringing jobs into the city is to be celebrated. That is not a cure-all but there are no cure-alls, and accepting that reality is part of the city's ongoing recovery from tough times made tougher by unrealistic expectations.
It's difficult to get excited about upgrades to the city's wastewater treatment plant that will cost ratepayers money but that is a cause for satisfaction if not celebration. This can was kicked down the road for years until the regional office of the Environmental Protection Agency insisted that the city finally take action. That fell upon Mayor Tyer's watch and her administration came up with a plan that a majority of the City Council supported. The $13 million reduction to the project's cost the mayor spoke of Monday is certainly a victory but the larger victory was approval of a plan that will have long-term benefits for the city and the environment.
The auditorium at the new Taconic High School was an appropriate place for the speech and not just because the modern day vocationally oriented school should help prepare students for employment in a modern day workplace. It demonstrated Pittsfield's willingness to invest, with the assistance of the state, in itself, and show residents, businesses and potential new residents and businesses that the city is determined to aggressively better itself.
The other side or the coin of the Taconic good news, however, is the city's ongoing crime problem, which defies relatively simple solutions like financial investments. The mayor said crime keeps her up at night and we're sure mayors across the state have similarly sleepless nights. Solutions like community police centers and high visibility patrols are welcome, but crime is a deeply complex socio-economic and cultural problem that washes over old industrial cities like a tsunami, leaving them to set out pails as best they can.
It is difficult to take credit for problems that don't happen, but Pittsfield has stopped regularly shooting itself in the foot, for which the mayor earns some credit. City Hall hasn't been bogged down in turf wars and petty squabbles, which enables it to focus on the many tasks at hand. And the mayor has fought against those whose defeatist argument is that the city can't financially afford to do anything to help itself and should hunker down until good times arrive again at some future date. Waiting won't bring those times back but action may, and it may involve taking a few calculated risks. Pittsfield, by virtue of its location in the Berkshires, its strong community roots and its rich heritage, is a place worth wagering on in the form of investments.
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