Note: These interviews constitute an experiment in crowd sourcing election concerns from the public. Over a period of weeks, responses from the public were solicited as to what questions they would like to hear the two mayoral candidates answer. The questions were selected and distilled from among those received most frequently via email, Facebook, Twitter, and conversations with voters to be representative of some of the concerns respondents felt they had not heard not heard enough on candidates from.
Favorite Color: Green.
Favorite Sandwich: Spicy Italian from Subway
Endorsed by: United Educators of Pittsfield, The Berkshire Eagle, Mayor James Ruberto, City Council President Gerald Lee
There seems to be a lot of disagreement and animosity amongst Pittsfield residents, before and throughout the campaign season. Why do you believe you are best candidate to unify people as, to use your term, "One Pittsfield," and how would you reduce the animosity between those of different groups and interests?
In order to move forward, we have to unite. I believe my track record on the City Council speaks more of unification than of division. While getting all of the 45,000 people in Pittsfield to agree on something will never be realistically possible, I think I have demonstrated my skills for building concensus and establishing compromise, for instance in the rezoning of the Petricca property. One of the most important tasks of the mayor is to help make sure all parties realize what it is they're striving for, and then they find there is usually a lot that they agree on.
You have been called by some 'an extention of the Ruberto administration' — do you agree or disagree with that assessment, and why?
I think it's important to remember that I have served as a city cCouncilor under two mayors, and two City Council presidents, and have worked with all of them to set goals and advance agendas. There have been decisions [of Ruberto's] I have not been happy with, such as appointing himself to the PEDA board, and I have made those concerns known.
Also, I think that my leadership style is different. But I think the real question is, what are you afraid I'm an extension of? I intend to continue those policies which have been successful and improved life in Pittsfield, and I think my opponent would also agree that he is in favor of continuing the positive growth we've seen as well.
The immigrant population and ethnic diversity of Pittsfield is growing. How would you address the need to increase the racial diversity of teachers in our schools?
First of all, I think that all city government should reflect that kind of diversity, that it should be representative of the people it's serving. Having devoted so much of the last 7 years to the Morningside district, which is the most diverse in the city, I feel I am uniquely prepared to make strides in this area.
With Pittsfield receiving international attention for one of our most serious crimes in years and a wave of recent robberies, what do you think of the current state of crime in perception and reality, and what as mayor would you do to improve both?
There is crime, and obviously more needs to be done. Public safety services need funding. There's also an issue of perception vs reality, and its important to look at everyone's perception. I feel safe when I am walking around at night near our cultural outlets, but someone else might not, and if their perception is of being unsafe, then that's their reality and we need to do something about that. I want to have a permanent full-time police chief and work with them to reduce crime and increase the perception of safety in town. I want people to feel safe. We have had a terrible violent crime recently, and that's a tragic situation, but I think unfortunately it's lead to a perception that 'none of us are safe,' and I think it's important for people to remember that this was not a completely random act. The parties had an existing relationship with each other, they weren't strangers. There was an underlying issue, so it's not something that was a random act that might happen to any of us at any time.
You've indicated that continued cultural growth in Pittsfield is an issue of great importance to you. About a year ago, WBUR from Boston did a lot of coverage of the emerging arts and cultural scene here, and since then at least three of the establishments featured — Storefront Artist Project, Pittsfield Contemporary, and Emporium — are no longer open. This and the closing of shops such as Chapters Bookstore has some wondering if interest in cultural happenings is declining in Pittsfield, or if support for the cultural sector is lacking. What as mayor would you do to support and foster more growth?
First of all I would point out that stores like Chapters are foremost a business, and not a cultural attraction. Retail-oriented business is tough and there is only so much support the department of Cultural Development can do. I do think that the mayor needs to work with Megan Whilden to get more grant funding for the department to use in its efforts. I'm in favor of creating a full-time grant writing position for the city. But I think that if you look back to a few years ago, when you had Pittsfield with no major cultural venues, in the center of these communities with long-established attractions like Tanglewood, and now we have Colonial, we have Barrington Stage and the Beacon. We have people like Julianne Boyd and Kate McQuire and we have all these things going on. My opponent and some of his colleages voted against all that.
Springside Park, Pittsfield's largest and most historically controversial park, has had recurring differences of opinion about what projects and uses are appropriate. Do you have any particular vision or ideal for the future of this 200-acre area near downtown, and/or ideas or priorities for Pittsfield parks in general?
In order to look at really making much progress in doing anything at Springside Park, there needs to be an effort to connect the dots between all the people involved. There's about five different groups involved, you've got the Friends of Springside, the Arboretum, Morningside Initiative. It needs money, of course, but before you can really do a lot with it there needs to be a concensus and some connections cultivated between the groups. There's been some progress already, we've removed the outdated heating house there, Morningside Initiative is talking with Jim McGrath [parks manager] on the issue of restoring the pond. Generally I'd say priorities like preserving and restoring natural beauty and the Springside House come before a dog park, but again, we need to get everybody together and see where we agree and don't to move forward with this.
Pittsfield.com welcomes critical, respectful dialogue. Name-calling, personal attacks, libel, slander or foul language is not allowed. All comments are reviewed before posting and will be deleted or edited as necessary.
The state is holding a special election to fill the seat vacated by John F. Kerry, who has been confirmed as U.S. secretary of state.
The state primary is Tuesday, April 30. The last day to register to vote or to change party affiliation for the primary is Wednesday, April 10. Enrolled voters may only vote in their party primary; unenrolled voters may select a primary to vote in without changing their status.
The special election is scheduled for Tuesday, June 25. The last day to register to vote in the election is Wednesday, June 5.
To register to vote, one must be at least age 18 by the date of the election, a U.S. citizen and a resident of the municipality in which you are voting.