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Pittsfield Council's Budget Recommendations Survive Charter Objection
By Brittany Polito, iBerkshires Staff
10:36PM / Tuesday, June 28, 2022
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Ward 2 resident Alex Blumin defends Kronick's during open mic.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The City Council got a second chance to vote on its fiscal 2023 budget recommendations after a charter objection by Ward 2 Councilor Charles Kronick halted the discussion at its last meeting.

The $116,000 in recommended increases were sent to Mayor Linda Tyer on Tuesday in a 7-4 vote with Councilor at Large Karen Kalinowsky, Ward 1 Councilor Kenneth Warren, Kronick, and Ward 7 Councilor Anthony Maffuccio opposing.  

Last week, Tyer confirmed that she would apply the recommendations to the $188,589,144 that was adopted by default.

This includes an additional $1,000 to the Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP,) $65,000 for school maintenance, $50,000 to the building inspector's department, and a recommendation for the Pittsfield Police Department to earmark up to $250,000 in grant money to have additional clinicians as co-responders.

A correction to the finance department that increased the budget by nearly $117,000 was also included.

With the amendments, the budget totals $188,822,018.

Maffuccio said Pittsfield is a poor community with many elderly residents, low-income families, struggling working-class people with families, and homeless people who cannot afford the budget increases that fall back on taxpayers.

"The mayor is out of touch with the average citizen of this community," he said. "I think she forgot what kind of community she's dealing with here."

After some back and forth with City Solicitor Stephen Pagnotta questioning the legality of this vote — which Pagnotta confirmed was legal — Kronick said the budget did not prepare the city for a recession and high inflation.

He told the story of a constituent, on a fixed income, who could not pay his bills because the city reportedly continues to tax him on a pool he has not used in 30 years.

"He grew up in his house, he owns it now, and now the city basically is on the verge of owning it, and there it goes. His American dream, right down the trash toilet," Kronick said. 

"... And that's because we are asking too much money of these people. We are building our grid, growing our government beyond the means of our people who support it, and are not getting what they need back in order for them to be able to pay their bills back to the city to get this done. I think that's immoral."

Kalinowsky pointed out that she recommended adding $65,000 to the school building maintenance department but wanted to see reductions in other line items.

"I was disappointed to see that there was no reduction in any of the line items. That should have been reduced because we are not being fiscally responsible in this budget," she said. "We are not putting the money where it needs to be and where the economy's going.  I just can't encourage this budget."

Councilor at Large Earl Persip III highlighted the accomplishments of the budget and advocated for the panel's right to vote on it. Persip said all 11 councilors were elected their rights shouldn't be taken away by two councilors.

"You can sit up here and tell us that you felt more things should be subtracted, but you would have to convince six other people that's the case," he said. "We're also elected by the citizens of Pittsfield."

Councilor at Large Peter White said starving the budget is not the solution to issues within the city.

"I'll admit we have issues in the city that need to be solved. The way to solve those is to continue to improve the city," he said.

"It's not to underfund the budget or to pass budgets that don't have the resources in them to do what we need to do."

Kronick took the stand during open microphone to address the media's reporting of his charter objection. He spoke of being called "transphobic and homophobic" by a city official after he said trans people go against his religious beliefs during a budget deliberation on the office of Diversity Equity and Inclusion in May.

During open microphone Tuesday, Kronick cited parts of the Bible that he thought the use of "pronoun training" violated.  He said that it discriminated against those of the Jewish and Christian faith.

"I recently witnessed modeling gender identity language to the first-graders and older at Morningside Elementary School and that's a regular, ongoing thing," Kronick added. "So now the faithful have to teach their children to violate the fifth commandment."

He said the criticism of his comments was anti-Semitism. WAMC transcribed his full comments here.

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