|Pittsfield's Ward 6 Candidates Vow to Serve Constituents|
|By Tammy Daniels, iBerkshires Staff |
02:08AM / Wednesday, August 21, 2019
|Edward Carmel, Craig Gaetani and Dina Guiel Lampiasi prepare to take questions from moderator Larry Kratka on Monday. |
Only three of the four candidates for the preliminary showed for Monday's debate. Missing is Joseph Nichols.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The candidates seeking to represent Ward 6 on the City Council expressed how much they cared — sometimes passionately — about their neighborhood and its residents at Monday's debate.
Four names will be on the preliminary ballot but only three candidates showed for the debate held by the Pittsfield Gazette and hosted at Berkshire Community College. The moderator was radio host Larry Kratka and Pittsfield Community Television aired the event.
Edward Carmel, Craig Gaetani and Dina Guiel Lampiasi took their seats immediately following the Ward 5 debate; missing was Joseph Nichols. Only two will move forward to the general election to vie for council seat being vacated by John Krol.
All three candidates have run unsuccessfully for City Council in the past; Nichols is a former councilor for Ward 7.
Carmel and Gaetani delivered sometimes lengthy answers to the questions posed by Kratka while Lampiasi generally kept her responses short and to the point.
Carmel was perhaps the most expansive, becoming somewhat emotional at one point and pledging to end homelessness and bring a community center to the West Side. Gaetani hammered on his experience as a corporate businessman who'd saved the city millions in the past and Lampiasi stressed the need to work collaboratively across city departments to ensure voters got the best value for their tax dollars.
The debate was generally friendly although Lampiasi asked to respond to Carmel's second assertion at the end of the debate that he was not beholden to special interests.
"There is some people in this election who work for special interest groups," he said, referencing the mayor and district attorney (both of whom were in the audience) for a second time. Lampiasi is director of operations for the district attorney's office.
"Those who have worked with me on the boards and committees and other areas of the city, know my character," said Lampiasi, who has served on the Licensing Board and Human Services Advisory Commission. "They know that I come from three generations of small-business owners, and I'm not owned by anybody. I'm an independent thinker. And I wouldn't be up here tonight if I didn't want to work for the voters."
"Working for the voters" was a consistent theme throughout the 50 or minutes. Carmel said he'd lived in Pittsfield for 50 years, the last five or six in Ward 6.
"I can tell you, I know the cracks on the street like the back of my hand," he said. "So I'm here to tell the people in Ward 6 that I will work diligently for them, only for them."
Gaetani, a frequent petitioner and commentator at council meetings, said, "my sole goal is to represent the people in Ward 6 ... what I'm trying to tell you is Ward 6 needs me. ... . if you have been watching my TV show you would know I'm trying to save you."
Kratka asked their opinions on malfunctioning fire hydrants — two hydrants had been shut off by a contractor on Tyler Street earlier this summer forcing firefighters and volunteers to run hoses a significant distance. There also is no plan to replace deteriorating water lines that are beginning to affect hydrants.
Carmel said he did a lot research on some of the tragedies and near tragedies the city has had and had spoken to residents and to officials in the Water Department. Residents had told him they didn't believe their hydrants were being flushed or pressure checked. He vowed to get the "right answers."
"I will get to the bottom of this in Ward 6," he said, adding "there should never ever ever be a hydrant that doesn't work."
Gaetani, who brought up the water treatment plant he'd "invented, designed and built" in Pittsfield some decades go, said the responsibility of checking the hydrants fell on the mayor and commissioner of public services. "They should be coming to council to tell what the story is," he said. "It's totally deplorable that that hydrant wasn't working."
He also took aim at the departing commissioner, saying he should have been fired and that he "wrapped an $84 million sewer project" around the city's neck.
Working with officials to form a plan on how to address the problem is the best way, said Lampiasi.
"We need to make sure that our residents are receiving fair value for the taxes they pay, they deserve to feel safe in their homes, no matter what ward they live in," she said. "And that includes knowing the fire hydrant outside of their houses is in working condition."
All three agreed that street conditions could be better, with Carmel stating that a large part of the problem was poor plowing practices.
"If you do it right it doesn't cost that much money and I can prove it," he said.
"The streets in Pittsfield and in Ward 6, really, when you look at other communities, there are areas that are in far worse condition," Lampiasi said. "But that doesn't mean that we don't have work to be done." She suggested following the strategic paving plan.
Gaetani said he'd put in numerous petitions just to get a pothole fixed. "This is a situation that can be taken care of but we have to go to a new method with the roads," he said, such as putting down hot tar in September to help prevent water penetration and heaving.
He also claimed the city was on edge because of crime and the lack of policing.
"The major problem we have in Ward 6, is that down on the lower West Side, things are very, very, very deplorable," he said. "I put together many, many petitions to the City Council asking for boots on the ground and body cameras on every police officer in this city."
Carmel said he'd talked to residents of a cul de sac in the uppper West Side who are also worried about crime. He called for more officers and better training for them.
"If you can't get the administration to do this, you have to look at it in other ways," he said. "It's unfortunate people are getting killed around here," he said. "It's all because of drugs and domestic violence."
Lampiasi and Gaetani disagreed about the effectiveness of the new police advisory board and the satellite police station at Central Berkshire Habitat for Humanity on Columbus Avenue, both of which Gaetani called "shams."
"I believe that we form better relationships between our community and law enforcement by providing the opportunity and the space for the two to get together," Lampiasi said. "You know, with the new station on the West Side, contrary to Mr. Gaetani's position, I actually believe it's been quite effective. The residents there that I've spoken to, that live in the neighborhood, feel really supported by having the station there. ... In addition to this general community policing and what we need to have happen, we need to provide the space for the conversations to happen.
"So that when residents, whether it be old or young interface with law enforcement, it's not only at moments that quite possibly are the worst moments of their life, but at moments that they'll remember positively when they walk away."
In reference the long controversy over the parking meters, Lampiasi believes that the council should look at the parking plan as a whole, rather than trying to tweak it piecemeal. The council has recently discussed adding 90-minute free parking to certain areas.
"We should look at the lots we want 90 minutes collectively," she said. "We need to do it in a uniform way that would positively impact the entire downtown ... I'm not completely against parking meters, I will say that, but I do believe that our strategy needs to be done in a way that will make North Street more accessible to the elderly and to those even with children. I think there is a way for it to become more user friendly."
Dina Guiel Lampiasi
Carmel thought parking should be all free or all paid. People have too much trouble trying to understand how the kiosks work and it is difficult for the elderly. Some businesses have been keeping jars of quarters to help their customers, he said.
"There's other things we can do in this city to make more revenue," he said.
"I think if you want to bring it back, go free parking, like I said, trim one assistant superintendent in the School Department, and you will have the revenue that you've lost right there," declared Gaetani.
A surprised Lampiasi said his idea was "absurd," to which Gaetani responded with the idea of cutting two assistant supers.
There was also a bit of "who loves Ward 6 most" between Gaetani and Carmel after Gaetani said he thought the upper West Side could take of care itself and expressed his love for Robbins Avenue where his family home is. Carmel said he'd take care of every individual in Ward 6.
"I'm not a politician I'm a person who cares," Carmel said.
Lampiasi said she'd learned from knocking on doors that upper or lower, most residents were concerned about three things: safety, education and economic opportunities. "The people in Ward 6 are counting on us to act on these three issues," she said.
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.