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Pittsfield Council Speaks Against School Committee Age Requirement
By Brittany Polito, iBerkshires Staff
05:22PM / Wednesday, May 24, 2023
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Nineteen-year-old William Garrity, a candidate for School Committee, speaks against an ordinance that would limit service on the committee to those 30 and older.

Ward 5 Councilor Patrick Kavey, elected at the age of 26, describes the attempts to limit democratic participation as 'backward' and 'extremely inappropriate.'

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Ward 2 Councilor Charles Kronick's attempt to impose a minimum 30-year age requirement on School Committee candidates and a one-year "cooling off" period for elected officials did not fare well with the City Council.

On Tuesday, a majority of the councilors and some community members spoke against Kronick's proposed charter modifications that he wanted referred to the review committee for consideration before Ward 1 Councilor Kenneth Warren called a charter objection.

Most of the opposition was centered around a proposed age specification for School Committee members. For this year's election, only five candidates have taken out papers for the six-seat board, one of whom is 19-year-old William Garrity.

"I chose the age of 30 because I believe that a School Committee member to serve on that body actually does have to accumulate life experience," Kronick said.

"They have to get out of school, high school, go through higher education possibly if they so choose, or not, but they have to see how people are out there in the real world. They have to have jobs, they have to maybe have children, families, families and children to see what schools are doing. They also have to have financial responsibility."

He said the age is "probably too low" and later joked that it should be to the tune of 75 years old because people "did things so much better" back in the day.  

Ward 5 Councilor Patrick Kavey objected that conditions like this are "extremely inappropriate."

"I just think it's so backward, the idea that we keep having meetings where we hear about how we should disenfranchise different groups of people whether it's diversity, equity inclusion, whether it's age, whether it's being a woman, whatever it is. I just think it's extremely inappropriate, and it goes against everything that Pittsfield stands for," said Kavey, who was elected at 26 and had considered a bid for School Committee.

"So I would really hope that no one up here would ever support something that would be so restrictive as to make it so people like me who got involved and are so happy I got involved and want to continue to help this community would potentially not do what I'm doing right now. I am 30 now. I am hoping that more young people get involved and run for City Council, run for School Committee, run for another office."

Most of the councilors said they did not want the petition referred because it suggests that they support the age restriction.

"I really feel strongly about this one that it shouldn't be put forward because it's not good government," Councilor at Large Peter White said.

Ward 6 Councilor Dina Lampiasi pointed out that people can lose their life for their country at age 18, become a physician in their mid- to late 20s, and become a nurse even younger. She also highlighted the lived experience of immigrants.

"Going between 30 and up to 50 years old would put us on par really with none internationally," she said.

"In my quick search, I couldn't find a single country that requires even a president to be 50 years old and if they do, that doesn't sound like the kind of country that I personally want to live in."

Garrity said young people are leaving and the city should be attracting them to return.

"By putting an age limit for office, the city would be implying that it does not care about the voices of young people like me in the city," he said.

"How would this implicit statement help to keep and attract young people to the city in a time where it's very much needed for our future?"

Warren called the charter objection, shutting off debate until the next meeting, because, he said, despite his opposition to the petition, he feels that it needs to be aired out and not rushed into judgment.

"I do not favor this petition but I do not favor us killing it," he said.

During the meeting, Kronick indicated that he is dropping out of the race for re-election. Resident Soncere Marie Williams recently took out papers to run for the ward seat.

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