Our Opinion: Ward endorsements for election to the Pittsfield City Council

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Pittsfield has City Council races in five of its seven wards, three of which are open seats without incumbents. These are obviously important elections for the respective wards but also for the city, as ward councilors advocate for and against proposals brought before the council and vote on them.

In Ward 1, Helen Moon earned good marks for constituent services in her first two years on the job, particularly in challenging the practice of chip-sealing roads to cut refurbishing costs. She has been a consistently progressive voice on citywide issues, backing the mandated wastewater project and the successful effort to keep the Beacon Cinema open downtown. She is active in a variety of community organizations, among them the Elizabeth Freeman Center and the Berkshire Immigrant Center.

Her opponent, Kenneth Warren, brings experience from his tenure as a member of the City Council and School Committee and as a Berkshire County Commissioner in the 1980s and early 1990s. He asserts that she is inexperienced in comparison and believes that inexperience has emerged in a couple of her decisions. We believe, however, that Ms. Moon proved to be a fast learner and see no reason why she should be turned out of office after two years. Ms. Moon has also brought needed diversity to a City Council that should reflect the changing demographic of the city.

The Eagle endorses Helen Moon for re-election as Ward 1 city councilor.

The race in Ward 4 pits veteran incumbent Chris Connell against challenger Michael Merriam. Mr. Connell quickly adopted the role of watchdog on the City Council, employing his extensive business background and financial acumen to advocate for fiscal integrity. He prides himself on his responsiveness to his ward's residents, particularly on issues of road infrastructure and traffic that have extended past his ward to the city as a whole.

Mr. Merriam, a strong advocate of arts and culture in the city, promises if elected to bring a more positive, team-oriented approach to the City Council. This addresses a weakness of Mr. Connell's that has emerged over the past two years as he has shifted from watchdog to fault-finder on sound city initiatives. This is not to suggest that Mr. Connell or any other city councilor may be a "yes" man or woman, but should he be re-elected we hope that Mr. Connell will be more a supportive critic who points out weaknesses in initiatives and finds and advocates ways of addressing them.

Mr. Merriam, who serves on the Traffic Commission, doesn't have the incumbent's wealth of experience but we do believe he would be a more progressive voice for a City Council that needs to be open to change and new ideas. The Eagle endorses Michael Merriam for election in Ward 4.

The open seat in Ward 5 has triggered an intriguing race between an accomplished veteran in Jonathan Lothrop and a promising newcomer in Patrick Kavey.

In his 12 prior years as a ward councilor, Mr. Lothrop was a diligent advocate for his ward and a supporter of new initiatives during years marked by positive accomplishments for the city. He is rightly proud of his leadership role in moving the city to the state GIC health insurance system, resulting in significant cost reductions. His many years as a social worker give him an insider's perspective on many of the societal problems confronting the city and its government in areas like crime, poverty and education.

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Mr. Kavey finished first in the popular vote in the Ward 5 preliminary election with a positive campaign focused on the need to find ways to keep young people like him in the city and attract others from outside the area. That should be a priority for city government and Mr. Kavey would bring a welcome youthful perspective to the City Council.

If he is not elected to the City Council on Tuesday, we hope Mr. Kavey will remain active in the city and acquire the kind of experience gained by Mr. Lothrop, who serves on the Conservation Commission and is active on other city groups. By virtue of his City Council experience and accomplishments, and long involvement in the city as a whole, The Eagle endorses Jonathan Lothrop in Ward 5.

Dina Guiel Lampiasi, one of two contenders of the open seat in Ward 6, moved to Pittsfield ready to serve in government. Holder of a master's in public administration from Northeastern University and with the establishment of a mentoring program in Springfield and Holyoke on her resume, she was a welcome addition to the city's political scene.

Although a relative newcomer to her ward, Mr. Guiel Lampiasi has shown in the campaign that she is well-versed in both ward and city issues. Like Helen Moon, she would bring diversity and a fresh perspective to the City Council.

Her opponent, Joseph Nichols, has experience as a ward councilor, although not in Ward 6. During his time on the City Councilh Mr. Nichols was not among those pushing the city forward with advocacy of downtown projects or upgrades in education and we see no indication that he would be if he is returned to the City Council.

The Eagle endorses Dina Guiel Lampiasi for election in Ward 6.

The open seat in Ward 7 is being contested by former Ward 7 city councilor Anthony Maffuccio and J. David Pope. Mr. Maffuccio was ward councilor from 2004 to 2010, a time in which he supported projects like the Colonial Theatre and Beacon Cinema that helped revitalize the city. He maintains that a lack of collaboration has resulted in staleness in city government and promises to encourage the collaborative approach seen during his tenure on the City Council.

Mr. Pope, who is now retired from the Pittsfield Post Office, says he has wanted to help people throughout his life and wants to continue to do so in public office. His enthusiasm is welcome, but he doesn't have Mr. Maffuccio's experience or track record in government.

The Eagle endorses Anthony Maffuccio for Ward 7 city councilor.

On Tuesday, we urge residents of the five wards with contested elections to turn out and vote — for the sake of their wards and the city as a whole.


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