Our Opinion: Endorsements for councilors at-large
Eight candidates are vying for four at-large seats on the Pittsfield City Council, three of them incumbents. The decision of at-large city councilor Melissa Mazzeo to run for mayor means that at least one of the five newcomers will earn a seat on the Council.
Peter Marchetti, who is seeking a seventh term as an at-large city councilor, is the current council president. In the latter role, Mr. Marchetti has been an effective arbiter during heated debates among councilors and he has for the most part applied the reins to argumentative open mic speakers.
During his tenure, Mr. Marchetti has been a consistently progressive voice, helping to steer promising initiatives off the drawing board and into reality. He points to the vote authorizing improvements to the city's wastewater treatment plant as an example of the City Council biting the bullet on a tough issue. He says that the role of the City Council in shifting the city's health insurance plan to the less expensive state GIC plan some years ago was proof of the value of a strong Council.
Mr. Marchetti is active with a variety of city organizations, most notably in the often thankless role of head of the Fourth of July Parade Committee. As a councilor, his efforts to combat city problems have been accompanied by a realism about the complex nature of issues like crime, poverty and jobs that elude many in and out of Pittsfield city government. He also possesses a wry sense of humor that is welcome at City Council meetings as they stretch well into the evening.
The Eagle endorses PETER MARCHETTI for a seventh term on the City Council and ideally another term as Council president.
Peter White is in a sense the Great Communicator of the City Council, in part because of his active presence on social media and also because of his regular attendance at neighborhood meetings and other activities around the city. He began as a ward councilor and his diligence and close attention to detail make him in effect a ward councilor for the city.
Mr. White has been a consistent supporter of new ideas and new programs to move the city forward. He has also been an effective collaborator, working across the lines that divide political factions in the city to find an effective compromise.
The Eagle endorses PETER WHITE for re-election to the City Council.
In just one term on the City Council, Earl Persip III has made his presence known, largely because of his skill at getting a meandering debate back on track with a pointed remark or observation.
As the only African-American councilor, he is a strong advocate. As someone who grew up on the West Side he has a unique perspective on the crime issue there, and having worked for many years at a nonprofit, the Berkshire Family YMCA, he also has insight into the difficulties confronting many parents and children in the city. He is always well-informed and asks tough questions of those appearing before the Council without being negative or confrontational.
The Eagle endorses EARL PERSIP III for another term as city councilor at-large.
Three intriguing newcomers have emerged in this year's election campaign, and regardless of what voters decide on Tuesday we urge them to stay involved in city government.
Jay Hamling has been a regular presence at City Council and committee meetings which attests to his interest in city government and desire to play a role in it. He sees himself as an independent voice on the council who will not be aligned with any faction but will collaborate with anyone seeking a positive outcome.
Mr. Hamling, who does volunteer work in the community, is employed as a nurse-manger at Williams Common and worked as a nurse for other Berkshire organizations that serve the less fortunate. This gives him a perspective on the problems facing so many in the community who are largely in the shadows that will be valuable on the City Council. We believe him when he promises to be accessible and accountable if elected. If he is not, we expect that he will continue to contribute to Pittsfield.
The Eagle endorses JAY HAMLING for City Council.
As a native of South Korea who made her way to Pittsfield through Brazil and New York City, and a downtown businesswoman who owns Methuselah Bar and Lounge, Yuki Cohen would bring both outsider and insider perspectives to the City Council. As a former investment counselor, she would contribute financial skills, and she would add further diversity to the City Council.
If elected to an at-large seat, she would add much to the City Council. If not, we hope she will continue to be engaged in politics and with service groups throughout the city.
The same can be said of Auron Stark, who lived for years on the West Coast but has family roots in Pittsfield. Interestingly, he describes Pittsfield as one of the safest places he has seen.
Mr. Stark has been homeless and has fought drug addition, which gives him a hard-earned perspective on societal issues that are hardly unknown to Pittsfield. He has worked with the homeless and maintains that if government does more to help them they could become contributing members of the community. He believes his links with downtrodden members of the community would help forge necessary links to city government.
A bartender at Uncorked which he is in the process of buying, Mr. Stark suggests that biofuel development or the growing hemp industry could provide avenues for economic growth in Pittsfield. Whether as a city councilor or as a player in other groups or committees in the city, Mr. Stark has much to contribute.
Alex Blumin would bring a business background to the City Council and argues that the city should be run as a business. In many ways it should be, but a city also has responsibilities to low-income, elderly and ailing residents who cannot be fired or laid off, and city government answers to state and federal regulations that can be costly to implement but are necessary to fulfill. For many years, Mr. Blumin has complained at City Council open mic sessions about government overspending, especially by the School Department, but has not offered specific examples of waste or explained how government can function if draconian budget cuts are made.
Richard Latura promises to be blunt and outspoken if elected to the City Council and there is no reason to doubt him. However, his dismissive assessment of the city's growing arts and culture community as wasting city money while "chasing butterflies" is ill-informed and destructive. The get tough on crime approach that Mr. Latura advocates is unaffordable and unrealistic, not to mention of dubious legality.
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