|Pittsfield Candidates Debate Needs of Ward 5|
|By Tammy Daniels, iBerkshires Staff |
03:34AM / Tuesday, August 20, 2019
|Jonathan Lothrop, Eugene Maselli, and Patrick Kavey ready for Monday night's debate moderated by Larry Kratka. |
Moderator Larry Kratka asks questions at BCC.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The three candidates running to represent Ward 5 sought to differentiate themselves in the first debate of the 2019 election season on Monday night.
Jonathan Lothrop, Eugene Maselli, and Patrick Kavey — seated in the order their names will appear on the ballot — took questions in Room K-111 at Berkshire Community College. The debate, moderated by radio host Larry Kratka, was sponsored by the Pittsfield Gazette and hosted by BCC; Pittsfield Community Television broadcast the debate live.
The three candidates are running at this point to earn one of two spots on the general election ballot. The Ward 5 seat is being left vacant by Donna Todd Rivers, who decided not to run for a third term.
But while the seat may be open, Monday's debate had more the flavor of incumbent and challengers as Lothrop demonstrated his depth of knowledge of the ward he represented for a dozen years before standing down in 2015. Maselli and Kavey countered that they could bring a new and different perspective that would benefit the residents of a ward that stretches from the downtown south across Wild Acres and the airport to Richmond Pond.
Lothrop said he wasn't planning on running again but his phone "blew up with calls and texts and Facebook messages" when it learned that Rivers wouldn't run.
"I certainly have 12 years of experience of responsiveness in government getting things done, not just talking about things but actually accomplishing them."
Maselli said he was running because he didn't like the way the city was going. "There's no transparency," he said, referencing his work on the Building Needs Committee when it oversaw the major rehabilitation of five of the city's schools.
"You are not an island, you're not one city councilor, you're a group of people trying to get this city to get going," Maselli said.
Kavey, whose experience and education is in business management, said he has "big ideas" for the city and for Ward 5 but hadn't been sure if he could bring them to fruition through corporate investment, social activism and arts or politics.
"I feel that right now, the right direction is politics," Kavey said. "There's a lot of momentum building underneath the surface of the city. I believe we are headed in the right direction. But to get from where we are now to where our vision is we need the right leadership. We need to come together as a community and be the positive change we wish to see.
"We need new voices, we need new ideas, we need new perspectives."
Both Lothrop and Kavey said they would support a proposal for agricultural marijuana on a plot on off Barker Road with Lothrop saying it was isolated from residents and would create jobs and Kavey pointing to the potential taxes; Maselli is adamantly against marijuana.
But they all agreed that solar is worth investing in but not arrays in residential areas.
All three also agreed that the streets in Ward 5 and the city at large require more work. Maselli said reclaimed blacktop was suddenly being put down although he'd asked why it wasn't done before.
"Yes, it's getting fixed now, election year everything gets done," he said. "You can't keep letting it go because it comes with a major price tag on it. ... I don't like it. I think it is time for a big change in the whole mayor and City Council."
Kavey said he noted that there seemed to be a lot of washing out — rocks and gravel — during rainstorms and had brainstormed how funds could be allocated toward roads, such as using marijuana taxes.
"If we can trim the fat and some other departments, we could realistically reallocate some funds toward our roads that do need to be improved," he said.
The main roads had been done during the time Lothrop was last in office, he said. "But we have to look at how we are allocating the dollars."
A recent study had found that Pittsfield should be investing $5 million a year into its roads rather than the couple million out of its $150 million budget.
"I think that's a number that I personally would like to see us strive closer to get toward because I think it will address a lot of the day-to-day complaints that people have when they drive over that pothole every single day," Lothrop said. He also sees opportunity in reassessing the Department of Public Services with the departure of the current commissioner.
"I think there's some opportunities there to look at how we function in public works," he said. "It's generally been underfunded, undermanned, and frankly, understaffed."
All three also agreed that the city needs to be age-friendly.
Kavey said he'd want to make sure that the city's parks and recreational facilities were accessible to seniors and dismissed the idea of forcing older citizens to lug trash cans to the curb. But he also thought maintaining a younger population would be a great benefit.
"We have an aging population and we really need to do our best to kind of stop our population from going down and having a sustainable growth again so that we can maintain basically the services we give them now and hopefully in the future," he said.
Maselli had worked at the Ralph Froio Senior Center, which he says does a lot for older citizens in the city.
"They're the nicest people in the world, asking what you do, we asked them what they did," he said. "It's fantastic what you hear, what they can tell you, what they can teach the young. They can teach a lot."
Lothrop also spoke to the "wisdom and knowledge" within the senior community. He recalled his grandmother had been aided by her neighbors for many years in her town before having to go into a nursing home.
"I think Pittsfield is that kind of caring community," he said. "I think there's a lot of heart in this community. And I think that what we need to do is just connect with each other and not get isolated. And I think isolation is really the breeding ground for a lot of problems in our community."
Each candidate also offered what they had learned were priorities of their potential constituents.
Lothrop said it was public safety and good schools and quality services for the taxes they pay.
"It's always a balance between trying to allocate enough resources to deliver those essential services," he said, adding that Pittsfield's taxes are not excessive compared to neighboring communities. "Those services that the city has have been the accumulation of 150 years of investment and it's our job as city councilors to push it forward into to the next generation."
Maselli agreed that there were always going to be taxes but pointed out that the city also has Taconic High School, "what has to be the greatest school in Berkshire County."
But he also didn't hear a lot of good and ran because he was "teed off at what's going on." "We got to use common sense in this city," he said. "We got to have a change."
Kavey said it had been interesting knocking on doors and that he heard a lot about education, how to improve the school system, the tax burden and how to stop the population decline.
"I've heard a lot about trash, a lot about conserving our natural resources," he said. "People seem to be OK with our neighborhoods, but when we talk about crime, they don't want crime coming into the outskirts of Ward 5."
The debate is available to watch on PCTV. The preliminary election is Tuesday, Sept. 17, with polls open from 8 a.m to 8 p.m.