Pittsfield Mayor Bianchi gets free ride to second term

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PITTSFIELD -- Some local political observers are OK with Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi running unopposed for a second term -- others not so much.

As the deadline for submitting nomination papers for the fall city election passed on Tuesday, a range of opinions about the uncontested race emerged during an informal survey by The Eagle.

"I personally thought the race would be a bit more exciting," said former City Councilor Peter Marchetti, who lost the 2011 mayoral election to Bianchi by 106 votes. "I'm voting for blank."

Referring to the mayor's comment in Sunday's Eagle that some former political opponents have told him they think he's doing a good job, Marchetti said he "definitely" is not among those.

Speaking to those who urged him to run again this year, Marchetti said he wants to make it clear he "didn't choose not to run because I thought [Bianchi] was doing a good job. I chose not to run to focus on my career."

A Bianchi supporter in 2011, Councilor at large Melissa Mazzeo said the non-race for mayor "kind of shows the people are satisfied with the way things are going so far." She added, "If people are really dissatisfied with the mayor, I didn't see it."

Councilor at large Barry Clairmont, who has clashed with the mayor on several issues, said he was "deeply disappointed we didn't get a mayor's race. I think there's been a lack of measurable economic development with this administration and a failure to have a progressive vision for the city."

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Clairmont said he also worries voter turnout will be low with no mayor's race on the ballot, as voters also are expected to act on a proposed new city charter in November.

Former Mayor Edward M. Reilly, who served in the office for six years and ran unopposed in 1993, said, "I think it's an indication the mayor is working very hard. Usually, this happens after the first term. The people are patient."

After a second term, Reilly said, voters are more likely to demand a choice, even if they aren't ready to elect a new mayor.

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Another former mayor, Anne Everest Wojtkowski, for whom Bianchi served as chief financial officer, said she normally prefers a race to bring out a vigorous debate. But she added, "If anyone is going to be unopposed, I'm glad it was Dan."

His years of experience in city government and intelligence make Bianchi a superior candidate, Wojtkowski said.

Alfred E. "Alf" Barbalunga, who is not seeking re-election to the School Committee, said, "It's disheartening to see these posts uncontested, but it gives the feeling that Mayor Bianchi is doing a good job."

Barbalunga said he would concur, although he didn't vote for the mayor in 2011.

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Council President Kevin Sherman, who also is not seeking re-election, said, "I think it's a good thing to have multiple candidates and a wide-ranging debate, but these things go in cycles. Timing is everything in life."

Ward 2 Councilor Kevin Morandi, who is unopposed, said his only concern about the mayor's office is that he wants to work with whoever is there to represent his constituents. "If he continues to be the mayor, I will work with him," Morandi said.

Ward 6 council candidate Joseph Nichols said he was surprised more people didn't run, which he said could indicate voter apathy. "But onward and upward," he said. "We'll see how it goes."

His opponent, Ward 6 Councilor John Krol, said he was disappointed not to have a debate at the mayor's level, "because that is where the agenda of the city is set."

Krol said an overriding issue he's heard raised concerns the difference between the "progressive" administration of former Mayor James M. Ruberto said the Bianchi administration, which he described as "more conservative."

Bianchi will be the first mayor re-elected unopposed since Gerald S. Doyle Jr. in 1999. Reilly in 1993 and Robert T. Capeless in 1951 were the only other mayors to win re-election unopposed since Pittsfield began electing mayors in 1890.

To reach Jim Therrien:
jtherrien@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6247
On Twitter: @BE_therrien


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