|Kalinowsky Seeks Improved Public Safety for Pittsfield|
|By Brittany Polito, iBerkshires Staff |
02:55PM / Tuesday, September 14, 2021
|Retired police officer Karen Kalinowsky is seeking one of the four at-large seats on the City Council this November. |
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Karen Kalinowsky is seeking an at-large seat on the City Council with a focus on ensuring that the city where she grew up, worked, and raised a family is a safe place for all.
"I have been trying to get back into public service because I don't like what's going on in our city," she said. "And I'm trying to see if I can make a change."
Kalinowsky was with the Pittsfield Police Department for almost 32 years and was a student resource officer at Reid Middle School for 13 of them.
After retiring three years ago, she ran in Pittsfied's 2019 mayoral race but lost in the four-way preliminary election.
Kalinowsky said she "figured she would start at the top."
"I just want to be there for the people, I know people say that but that's really why I'm doing this," she asserted.
"To be the voice of the people because it doesn't seem like we're being heard, or there's not enough of us to be heard that are willing to come forward to be heard, because I do see that that's how things get done, by there being lots of people coming together."
Her main focus is on improving public safety within the city. Earlier this summer, there were 13 shooting incidents over a period of about a month, most of them happening in the West Side.
"It's a mess up there," she said about North Street.
Kalinowsky was a beat cop nearly 30 years ago, patrolling the downtown corridor to address issues that plague the area today such as substance abuse.
"Back in the early '90s I was one of the first community policing officers for North Street and our whole philosophy was, get to know the store owners, the people that hang on North Street," she said. "It was interacting and seeing how we could help with everything that was going on and it was, at that time very open drug selling, and me and my partner cleaned it up."
Though helpful, she said a police presence isn't enough, as all entities involved in prosecution have to be on the same page.
"Unfortunately, the officers out there isn't enough. I'm going to go outside the realm of just city government, our local DA is not prosecuting any type of minor crime so if they arrest somebody for drinking in public, or anything like that she dismisses them," she said.
"To really fix the crime area here in the city, we have to have the Police Department, the district attorney, the courts, all on the same board, you know you can't just keep slapping people on the hand and send them out."
Kalinowsky added that access to mental health care is also an important aspect of addressing issues within the city.
Her other campaign focus is ensuring that even unaccepted streets are in good condition.
Pittsfield has about 24 miles of unaccepted streets and Kalinowsky lives on one of them, which she has tried to get repaired for three years now.
In preparation for her mayoral race, she spoke to the Lanesborough Board of Selectmen to gain insight into how the town handles streets like her own.
"I spoke for selectmen in Lanesborough about how they accept unaccepted streets, they have it surveyed, they don't have a city council so they bring it in front of the people that live in Lanesborough, ask them if they want to accept these streets, and if they vote yes on them, they send them to Boston," she said.
"And they said Boston has never turned them down, sent them back, they're now accepted streets and so now the [town] gets to Chapter 90 money, which is used to fix our roads."
With Kalinowsky's long history working directly with students at Reid, she wants to see improved authority in the public school system. She reportedly toyed with the idea of running for School Committee but wanted to be able to reach the whole city.
"It's sad that we have underperforming schools in our city," she said. "We have a lot of good teachers in our city. What I see is, the problem is lack of rules and follow-through by administrative."
Kalinowsky believes that Reid was a "model school" when it was equipped with resources such as an adjustment counselor and a mediator. Another important aspect, she said, was the rules and consequences of wrongdoings.
With her former hands-on roles in the community, Kalinowsky thinks she will be a comprehensive problem solver on the council.
"In law enforcement, we arrive at a scene, and a lot of times we're listening to an issue that somebody is having, multiple people are having, and we have to help them fix it," she said.
"So, I became very good at just sitting back and listening to what people have to say and basing a decision on what I hear."
Kalinowsky is on the ballot for councilor at large with four incumbents — Peter Marchetti, Earl Persip III, Peter White, and Yuki Cohen — and Hot Dog Ranch owner Craig Benoit. The top four vote-getters will be seated on the council.
Kalinowsky can be found on her campaign website and on Facebook.