Ward 6 candidates set sights on Pittsfield's West Side
PITTSFIELD — The race is on for representation in the city's westernmost ward.
Candidates for Ward 6 councilor include Edward Carmel, Craig Gaetani, Dina Guiel Lampiasi and Joseph Nichols. The four candidates are vying to replace outgoing City Councilor John Krol, who announced his departure earlier this year. They head to a preliminary election Sept. 17. After that, the top two vote-getters advance to the general election Nov. 5.
Carmel, 64, of Columbus Avenue, wants to make life simpler for the residents of Ward 6.
The registered Democrat serves as chairman of the city's Homeless Prevention Committee and as a board member for the Pittsfield Housing Authority.
He says his "rough and tumble" ward in the West Side needs to be comforted and supported.
In these uncertain times, he said people need straightforward, hard-working leaders.
"The people in Pittsfield deserve more," he said. "They deserve to hear what they should hear, and not secrets."
Carmel grew up in Hinsdale and is a three-year army veteran. He's retired now for health reasons, he said, but has worked in carpentry, with demo crews, on a ranch and in retail.
"I've had like 75 jobs in the past 40 years," he said.
His life has led him on a roundabout path, he said — "most people go on a straight path, and I went left" — and he spent three homeless years in the city until 2013, when he lived under bridges, in forests and in cemeteries.
"I've seen things that would make the average person run — in this city," he said.
He's seen that the police need more training, he said.
"The connection between the police and the public is in danger," he said.
He said he'd like to help bridge gaps between the Pittsfield Police Department and the community, and would push the department for answers.
"I will bring the chief of police to the stand and drill him and drill him and drill him and ask him why," he said.
Carmel got his first window into local politics when his father served on the Hinsdale Select Board. Through that, he said, he learned that if you're doing it right, the job wears a person out.
"I do guarantee that I will be at your house within 24 hours after you've called me," he said.
He said his mission is to rid the city of homelessness. To accomplish that, he'd like to redevelop a downtown city building and use it to house homeless people.
"You need to know how to talk to homeless [people]," he said. "You need to tell `em special things. You need to ask `em what they need and not what we can give `em."
He said there's a certain stigma around homelessness in Pittsfield.
"People won't accept homeless people in their city," he said. "And I will change the perception of this if I have a chance to."
As a city councilor, he said he would work to spend money more wisely.
"We're right down to the last penny of the money we have to work things out," he said.
He wants to bring a community center to the West Side and to create programming that keeps young people active and healthy.
"The government needs to speed up," he said. "It needs to go faster, because things are left behind."
Gaetani, 71, of West Street, has said that his background in wastewater treatment would serve the city at an important time for Pittsfield's infrastructure.
Multiple calls made to Gaetani were not returned, and so he was not interviewed for this story.
He worked for many years for the engineering corporation Krofta Waters. Meantime, the city is in the middle of a $61.4 million overhaul of the wastewater treatment plant on Holmes Road, and even more work on the city's water treatment infrastructure looms down the pipeline.
He is a Vietnam veteran and has promised to be a champion of the taxpayer.
He has said that the city's administrative staff is bloated at the top, and he is in favor of cutting back on manpower. During last month's debate he said the city could save money by eliminating a superintendent.
Gaetani said he's long pushed for the city's police officers to have body cameras and more boots on the ground. He said people in the West Side are hurting.
"They're being shortchanged," he said during the debate.
Gaetani also said the Police Advisory and Review Board should be given more power to hold police officers accountable.
Dina Guiel Lampiasi
Guiel Lampiasi, 35, of Trova Terrace, wants to use her public policy skills to help Pittsfield in an important time of transition.
A Democrat, she works as the chief of operations at the Berkshire District Attorney's Office.
She grew up in West Springfield and moved to Pittsfield in 2007.
She and her wife recently bought a home in Ward 6 and that played into her decision to run, she said.
"I have real skin in the game," she said.
Guiel Lampiasi said she aims to give voice to those who don't feel heard at this important moment for the city.
"Pittsfield is at a real crucial point, in my mind," she said. "We've seen a few years of growth and I want to see that growth continue."
She has a master's degree in public administration and public policy analysis. She said she would like to use her skills and her perspective to bring about more collaboration on the City Council.
"I think that regardless of what mayor we have, it's the mayor's and the city council's responsibility to work together," she said. "There's this tendency to disparage. I don't believe that's how we get things done; I don't believe that's how we capitalize on our best assets."
Guiel Lampiasi wants to help Pittsfield draw in young professionals and at the same time make the city more senior-friendly. As the older generations move on from home ownership, she said younger ones need to step in and buy property in order to build the tax base.
"We're at a point now where we have to attract young families," she said.
Leaders must market Pittsfield for the special place that it is, she said — where families can take their kids for a weekend away.
"Where they'll want to come back next year," she said.
Then, hopefully they'll like it so much that they decide to stay.
"We want them to be out and socializing and experiencing the recreation that we have, and each other," she said.
Jobs are an important piece of the puzzle in attracting new families, she said. While it might be easy for one spouse to find work in a specialty field with available jobs in the Berkshires, it can be hard for the second spouse to also find work.
Pittsfield's strong sense of community is its greatest strength, she said.
"Here, that really is our character," she said.
Nichols, 55, of Cascade Street, is a former city councilor who would like to help the city lay the foundation for growth.
He is the former owner of since-closed Cove Bakery and Deli on Pecks Road. He said he owned it for 10 years before shutting it down two years ago. He currently works as kitchen manager and chef for the Village Inn in Lenox.
He served a two-year term serving is the Ward 7 city councilor starting in 2010. His party affiliation is unenrolled.
Why run? "I just believe that serving your community is something worth doing," he said.
"I found it very rewarding as Ward 7 councilor. And basically I have ideas that I want to help the city grow, so that parents hopefully have a chance to keep their children around."
He said it's difficult for young people to find work in Pittsfield.
"Many have had to leave the area to find work," he said. "I believe that Berkshire County can turn that trend around."
As a city councilor, Nichols said, he proposed expanding commercial zones to make the city more marketable to outside companies, though the plans have not been acted upon by City Hall.
"Zoning is spotty," he said. "In order to find somewhere to invest in, you're hard-pressed."
His plans included a commercial zoning expansion into the West Side and Morningside neighborhoods, he said. Under the plan, properties would be converted to commercial zoning upon sale, "so you're basically laying the foundation for growth for the next 100 years."
Nichols grew up in the city's north end and has deep family roots in the city. He said his grandfather founded Harry's Variety in 1914, and the store later evolved into Harry's Supermarket.
He's inspired to again serve on the City Council "because I love helping people."
"I haven't seen a real push to lay the groundwork for growth in Pittsfield," he said. "Otherwise I believe Pittsfield is a wonderful place, and I really wouldn't like to change anything wonderful about it."
Whenever he travels with his wife, Nichols said, they're always happy to come home to the beautiful city they call home.
"This is a special place," he said.
Amanda Drane can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.
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