Friday, March 17, 2017
“Pittsfield Councilwoman Lisa Tully won't seek third term in 1st Ward seat”
The Berkshire Eagle, March 15, 2017
PITTSFIELD — City Councilwoman Lisa Tully has announced that she will not be seeking a third term representing Ward 1.
Tully, who was first elected to the council in 2013, said she hoped her early notice would enourage other candidates to step up to run for the seat in November's election.
"I want to see more young people get involved in city politics and the healthy debate of local issues during the upcoming election season for this very important position," she wrote in a media release. "It has been an honor to represent the residents of Ward 1 for two terms."
She cited the time constraints of public service.
"While the experience is very rewarding, being a city councilor is also very time consuming," she said. "At this moment in my life, I want to spend more time with my grandchildren while they are still young."
Tully, who is a charge nurse for the radiology/ cardiology department at Berkshire Medical Center, said she intended to remain active in the community.
"Although I will no longer be officially in public service, I will continue to serve the community as a volunteer. I will remain an advocate for the restoration of the house at Springside Park," she said. "I will continue to offer my services to the Morningside Initiative and assist with the annual cleanup. I also plan to get involved in other volunteer activities with the additional free time.
"I wish to thank all of my family, friends and neighbors who supported and encouraged me to put myself out in front of the public and seek a local office," she said. " Don't be surprised to see me return to city government when my nursing career winds down and my grandchildren are older."
"This is a great place to live and I want people to understand that." - Helen Haerhan Moon, candidate for Pittsfield City Council
“Pittsfield City Council: Candidate steps up for Ward 1”
Moon says she was inspired to serve after the election
By Dick Lindsay, email@example.com – The Berkshire Eagle, March 16, 2017
PITTSFIELD — Bullish about the city's future, Helen Haerhan Moon wants to represent Ward 1 on the City Council.
Moon announced Thursday morning she plans to take out nomination papers next month in hope of succeeding Lisa Tully in the citywide November election. The critical care registered nurse at Fairview Hospital in Great Barrington is the first Ward 1 candidate to emerge since Tully announced on Tuesday she wasn't seeking a third, 2-year term. The out-going incumbent has vowed to remain active in the community.
A native of South Korea, Moon relocated from Longmeadow eight years ago finding Pittsfield a great place to live.
"I'm running because I believe in the good of Pittsfield," she said in an Eagle interview. "I'm invested in making Pittsfield better."
Following the presidential election four months ago, Moon says she felt compelled to get more involved in her neighborhood, her ward, her city.
If elected, Moon plans to be part of the rejuvenation of the Tyler Street/Morningside area through the state-sponsored Transformative Development Initiative. The TDI project, through plenty of public input, looks to improve the housing, business and social opportunities in the Tyler Street area.
Moon also vows to push forward the restoration of the house at Springfield Park.
"Lisa has done a great job with Springside Park and I want to be an advocate for that," she said.
Moon realizes Pittsfield has issues with crime, drug addiction and other social ills, but she hopes to be part of the solutions to those issues. She also wants to be a voice for everyone in her ward and promises to improve the level of inclusiveness and diversity within the city.
"This is a great place to live and I want people to understand that," she said.
Reach staff writer Dick Lindsay at 413-496-6233.
Mark Tully: “At ceiling, Pittsfield confronts reality”
By Mark Tully, Op-Ed, The Berkshire Eagle, March 20, 2017
PITTSFIELD — There is a common misconception that I hear often. People have the impression that since the city is close to the Prop 2.5 ceiling, the voters will be asked repeatedly to pass overrides in order to increase our tax levy. Some people say that there is no way the citizenry will pass a property tax increase. Other people say that once deep service cuts are apparent, the people will pony up and pass an override.
To these people, I have bad news. Proposition 2.5 does not allow for a voter supported override.
A Proposition 2.5 override is not permitted to increase the tax levy beyond 2.5 percent of the "Full and Fair Cash Value" of the community's property. This is the levy ceiling which cannot be surpassed. The only way to increase our levy is to significantly increase the "Full and Fair Cash Value" of the community through growth.
Is there cause for concern? Yes, we must all become aware of the financial dilemma facing our city. At the joint City Council /School Committee meeting at the end of January, a five-year financial forecast was presented by the Collins Center for Public Management at UMass Boston. This study, paid for by a grant, forecasts conservatively what the city's spending will be for five years, based on historical trends and current contractual obligations. Of course, the inevitable increases in health care, salaries and retirement benefits are the main cost drivers. Then the study looks at revenues where property taxes account for over 50 percent with very little growth in sight.
The comparison of revenues to expenditures is shocking. Next fiscal year, we will be more than $3 million short. For FY 2019 we will be more than $7 million short, FY 2020 more than $10 million, FY 2021 more than $14 million and FY 2022 more than $18 million.
These figures represent our cost overruns of doing business in the same manner as we have been doing for last 14 years. Except now, because of the Proposition 2.5 ceiling, we are not allowed to raise our taxes and cannot continue "business as usual."
We must make smart reductions this year and every year in the future. If health care increases 5 percent, we need to either cut a service by the same amount or decrease the health care benefits to employees. If the school department is to receive a contractual $1 million in salary increases, then we need to cut more services in the city budget or discontinue popular but not required school programs. This is not hypothetical, it is our new reality.
An opposition argument I hear often is that we must increase our tax base to solve our revenue shortfall. Yes, increasing our tax base IS the only solution. However that is similar to me saying I need to win the Powerball lottery to plan my retirement. The forecasted spending would require Pittsfield to find second home owners to build 1,000 luxury condos each year. Or a project on the scale of the MGM Casino that Springfield is building. We need to understand that in order to increase our tax levy by $1 million, (which is only a fraction of the annual levy increase), Proposition 2.5 ceiling mandates that we build $40 million of new growth into our value. Growth on a scale of this magnitude is not possible.
Are there other communities in Massachusetts at or near their ceiling? Yes, Springfield is at its ceiling, but it hopes the MGM Casino project stimulates growth. In addition to Springfield, Avon and Holyoke are the only other communities that have been at their ceiling. Pittsfield is next in line, Holbrook and Longmeadow are close but can still increase their tax levies by 6 percent, staving off the inevitable for a few years.
Last year, I had the good fortune to tag along with my wife, [Ward 1 City Councilor] Lisa, to Holyoke. Lisa made an appointment to meet with the Holyoke treasurer and auditor to learn how they operate without being able to increase the tax levy. Holyoke has many challenges and its underperforming school system was a major problem. When the Holyoke school system was taken over by the state last year, ironically, it financially helped the city. This year, to meet budget constraints, Holyoke had to close a fire station; consolidate department personnel and reduce staff by not replacing retirees. These are just a few of the savings Holyoke has to implement each year.
Diet and exercise
So how does Pittsfield move forward in the face of such financial challenges? There isn't a quick solution, this is a way of life change. I think of a Type 2 diabetic when the only way to reverse the disease and regain a high quality of life is through diet and exercise. We must put ourselves on a strict diet, but not a starvation diet because we must also exercise. Any increase to a department's budget must be determined if it will help the city grow and any decrease must be judged on if it will cause the city's growth to shrink. For example, would foregoing school department raises create a negative impact to the city? Or, would foregoing popular school department programs to pay for the raises have a negative impact on our city?
These are the decisions now before us. We cannot have it all. The credit card is max'd out and the savings account is depleted. We are all affected by this and are all in it together.
In closing, when we concluded our interview with Holyoke, Lisa asked the auditor if there is a bright side to being at their tax ceiling. He responded: Yes, because it forces public officials to finally make the unpopular but prudent financial decisions that they should have been making all along.
Mark Tully is a resident of Pittsfield and sales manager for Kidde-Fenwal Controls, an electrical/electronics manufacturer.
iBerkshires.com - Letter to the Editor, February 17, 2017
To the Editor:
Congratulation to the nine all white male firefighter that Pittsfield just hired with federal funds and to the City's Equal Rights and Employment Commission for a job well done. It appears they have made lots of progress in the last few years. The city should be real proud.
“Pittsfield disregarded affirmative action”
Letter to the Editor of The Berkshire Eagle, March 18, 2017
To the editor:
Do we know racism, sexism and other "isms" when we see them or do we just say "Not here." Or do we give great speeches and write articles about the injustice of it all and and then call it a day.
I have to admit that I have been struggling with this issue. I grew up in Windsor, lived many years in Pittsfield and have now lived in Cheshire for many years. What caused me to write this letter was I read recently in The Eagle that Pittsfield appointed nine new firemen. Congratulations to them and to their families. I am sure they will serve the city well.
[The nine recruits are Kyle Bailey, Brandon Bailey, Nicholas Teti, Brendan Shank, Shawn Leary, Craig Eggleston, Michael Herman, Timothy Sayers and Stephen Papa.]
What my concern is that it appears that from the picture in The Eagle that the city appointed nine white, male candidates. Not one word has been said or written about this issue. I am not sure if we just choose to ignore this issue or with the emergence of Trump, this kind of action is condoned.
I have filed with the City Council a petition that calls for a review of theses appointments and the city's efforts to promote fair and equal treatment for all. I believe that the city and all of us can and should do better to insure better treatment and more opportunities for minorities. I urge everyone to write to federal and state officials, especially those in charge of grants to the city and urge them not to award them to the city until they show real progress in promoting affirmative action.
James M. Boyle,
The writer is a former School Committee chairperson and former city councilor.
Dennis Powell of the NAACP speaks during a press conference Wednesday morning regarding the City of Pittsfield’s hiring practices and diversity efforts throughout local government. From left are Fire Chief Robert Czerwinski, City Councilor Peter White, Mayor Linda Tyer, Dennis Powell, City Councilor John Krol and Superintendent Jason McCandless. Wednesday, March 22, 2017. Credit: Gillian Jones, The Berkshire Eagle.
From left, city officials including Maria Richardson, Michael Summers, Robert Czerwinski, and Peter White listen during a press conference Wednesday morning regarding the City of Pittsfield’s hiring practices and diversity efforts throughout local government. The news conference was held in response to a letter to the editor from a former city councilor published in the Berkshire Eagle. The author also filed a petition with the City Council to review the city’s hiring practices in regards to affirmative action. Credit: Gillian Jones, The Berkshire Eagle.
Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer, city officials and community leaders, hold a press conference Wednesday morning regarding the City of Pittsfield’s hiring practices and diversity efforts throughout local government. The news conference was held in response to a letter to the editor from a former city councilor published in the Berkshire Eagle. The author also filed a petition with the City Council to review the city’s hiring practices in regards to affirmative action. Credit: Gillian Jones, The Berkshire Eagle.
“Steps taken, steps needed: City examines diversity in workforce”
By Carrie Saldo, The Berkshire Eagle, March 22, 2017
PITTSFIELD — Work has been done, and there is still much work to do. That's what the president of the local NAACP had to say about the city's minority hiring practices.
Dennis Powell was among those who spoke during a news conference organized by Mayor Linda M. Tyer Wednesday. The event was held in response to a letter to the editor that stated the city disregarded affirmative action, and that leadership was not hiring enough non-white candidates.
Joined by nine community leaders, Tyer said the assertions made in the letter are false. Several of those gathered, including Powell, cited steps Tyer's administration had taken to increase diversity in both paid and appointed positions.
"Are we where we should be? No. Are we where we were? No," Powell said. "Progress has been made, but the process is a slow process because it was never practiced in years past."
Printed in Sunday's Eagle, a letter from James M. Boyle, a City Councilor in the 1990s and School Committee Chairman in the 1980s, pointed specifically to the hiring of nine white, male firefighters as proof city employment lacks diversity.
"I believe that the city and all of us can and should do better to insure better treatment and more opportunities for minorities," Boyle wrote.
In addition, he urged the public to write to federal and state officials, especially those who issue grants, and ask they be denied until the city demonstrates "real progress in promoting affirmative action."
Tyer said while its work to diversify city ranks is far from complete, it is ongoing and progress has been made.
"I just could not allow this false information to go unanswered," she said of her reason to call the news conference about the letter. "It is an absolutely unfair characterization of the city."
She vehemently disagreed with Boyle's call to action regarding grant funding.
She said grant funding supports work in numerous areas of city government including gang prevention, small business development, and a variety of housing programs. She specifically cited the Community Development department which she said received $45 million in grants over the past 12 years.
Boyle also filed a petition with the city that asked city councilors publically state their opposition to "racism and sexism" and should request updates from the mayor, department heads, and school leadership about efforts to diversify hiring.
City Council President Peter Marchetti said the petition would be referred to the mayor's office.
Personnel Director Michael Taylor described the city's hiring as fair, inclusive and added it focuses on "diversity and equality for all."
Taylor said, in an effort to reach a broader group of people, he has organized events to inform the public about qualifications needed for many of its jobs. In addition, its job openings are widely posted and also distributed by the local NAACP chapter.
While the majority of municipal government's approximately 480 employees are white, the workforce did become more diverse from 2015 to 2016.
The percent of African-Americans increased from 3.3 percent to 4.5 percent and Hispanics increased from 3.3 percent to 4.3 percent, according to statistics provided by Taylor. Asians and American Indians employed by the city still represent .2 percent of the workforce respectively.
Those figures do fall short of the broader population demographics.
Of Pittsfield's approximately 43,000 residents 85 percent are white, 5.4 percent are African American, 5.4 percent are Hispanic, 1.8 percent are Asian, and .2 percent are American Indian, according to 2015 information on city-data.com.
Powell pointed out that the local NAACP was instrumental in reviving an affirmative action policy and an advisory committee in 2013 under then Mayor James M. Ruberto. The committee had been dormant since the '90s.
Affirmative action policies typically dictate how an entity will work to improve opportunities for minority groups, which have historically been excluded.
He said the NAACP has been working to hold Tyer, and previous mayors, accountable for upholding its affirmative action policy.
"I see her on the right path," he said of Tyer. "Change starts with local government and I'm really pleased with the change I see occurring here locally."
He referenced the addition of Michael Summers and Yvonne West, both African-Americans, to the Board of Health as two steps in the right direction. Two people of color — Ty Allan Jackson, an African-American, and Helen Moon, an Asian-American — are running for City Council, which he cited as additional proof that a message of inclusion is being communicated to the public.
Powell also spoke highly of the on-going cultural competency training in the public schools and more recently among Tyer's senior staff.
Peter White, chairman of the city's Affirmative Action Advisory Committee, said it meets quarterly to discuss and debate ways to improve the treatment of minority groups, including members of the disabled community.
"We are making sure every effort is being put out there to hire diverse candidates," said White, also a member of City Council.
Among the attempts to increase diversity among its employees, the city may examine the Civil Service process. It requires candidates take an exam to determine eligibility for some jobs.
The test fee is $250 and testing is usually held outside of the Berkshires, both of which can be barriers for applicants, leaders said.
City fire and police departments use the Civil Service process to guide hiring. Results expire after two years and a candidate must pay to retake the exam if they were not hired and still want to be considered for a position.
Tyer said the city will continue to study the challenges of Civil Service hiring and that it would work with state leaders to try and improve the process.
She thanked Boyle for calling attention to the matter and said work on the issue would continue.
Reach staff writer Carrie Saldo at 413-496-6221 or firstname.lastname@example.org or @carriesaldo
Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer defends hiring practices during a press conference at city hall. Credit: JD Allen, WAMC.
"Pittsfield Defends Hiring Practices"
By JD Allen, WAMC, March 22, 2017
Pittsfield is promoting diverse hiring practices following allegations over several years that the western Massachusetts city does not conform to affirmative action standards.
Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer held a press conference Wednesday in response to a letter to the editor in The Berkshire Eagle that was critical of the city’s affirmative action policies. Tyer says the city has worked hard to improve diversity in its hiring practices.
“It is not about a quota," Mayor Tyer says. "It is not about meeting a quota. It is rather about addressing the barriers and creating an inclusive work environment.”
Pittsfield updated its affirmative action plan three years ago. Officials say the number of minority city employees has increased. Last year, Pittsfield employed 48 minorities out of 480 total workers.
The city also has promoted diversity training at public schools, city hall and public safety departments.
Note: The city employs about 480 people; the School Department, about 1,200.
Letter: “City should focus on residents, not on immigrants”
The Berkshire Eagle, March 23, 2017
To the editor:
This past November's election has taught us all many things. It has reminded us that the long shot should never be counted out and sometimes it ultimately prevails. Donald Trump is now our president, an upset to some and a relief to others.
I am of the latter. I am a huge Trump supporter. Why not build the wall and protect ourselves, and to help pay for it, he can start by taking money away from sanctuary cities. I am for veterans before immigrants. Love him or hate him, he is making a nation think about issues we have all taken for granted.
Which leads me to the anger I felt when the city of Pittsfield claimed that it will welcome immigrants with open arms. While working with state Sen. Hinds and Rep. Farley-Bouvier, Mayor Linda Tyer says we will give immigrants all the support possible. Shouldn't that have been a community discussion and not made by the great hierarchy of Western Massachusetts? They are supposed to represent one and all not just a minority of voters. I am sure the city will get some sort of payout for accepting the refugee resettlement community. The question is how much? And will the taxpayer see it? I doubt it. We just keep getting asked to pay more and more.
The mayor should be protecting who is already here. This city is in dire straights. Financially, we are a whisper away from economic failure. Plus there seems to be a spending problem going on even more so within the last few years. We need to make Pittsfield great again and the current administration isn't cutting it.
Getting the same type of people to run for office again won't fix the situation either. There have to be people who truly want change and who will vote for change regardless if the other members agree or not. We don't need more special interests. We need more strong-minded, opinionated people.
If a non-politician businessman can become president, then anything is possible. That includes improving the local government.
“Pittsfield Public Schools to see 'real and substantive cuts'”
By Carrie Saldo, email@example.com – The Berkshire Eagle, March 23, 2017
PITTSFIELD — Anticipating nearly $1.7 million in budget cuts, and the potential loss of 65 positions, the Pittsfield School Committee wants to give itself and the public additional time to mull over the difficult decisions it is facing in fiscal 2018.
Initially, the district had intended to present its line item budget on the same evening as a public hearing about the budget. Instead, the committee will hold separate meetings to release the $60.7 million proposal and then to hear public input on it.
District leaders continue to work toward what they say will be a level-funded budget. With the city at its levy ceiling, and with no potential for a Proposition 2 override, Mayor Linda M. Tyer has asked all areas of city government, including the school department, to deliver level-funded budgets.
Superintendent Jason "Jake" McCandless presented the committee with the second draft of the fiscal 2018 budget during its meeting Wednesday.
The version cuts 65.3 positions and $1,325,153 from what would be a level services budget. Even with those cuts, the $60,665,421 proposal is $349,083, above this fiscal year, or a 0.57 percent increase.
The draft budget presented earlier this month proposed cutting 57.3 positions — the district has about 1,200 employees — and carried a 0.91 percent increase.
Committee member Anthony Riello asked about jobs saved through attrition. McCandless said about one-third of the positions might be retained that way.
Cuts to the district's pre-kindergarten offerings and contributions to the Helen Berube Teen Parent Program are among the other cuts McCandless pointed out, explaining the district believes other community partners will be able to make up differences in those areas.
He said that does not lessen the blow of the challenges ahead for the district and the students it serves.
"These are very real and substantive cuts, McCandless said.
The budget presented April 5 will include line items and it will be level funded, he said. The district will hold the budget public hearing April 12 and plans to adopt a budget April 26, a few days ahead of the May 1 deadline.
The city cannot ask voters for a Proposition 2 override because there has not been enough new growth in the city's tax base to support that, officials have said.
And the city lost $129 million in property value over the past five years, McCandless said Matthew Kerwood, the city finance director, explained in a meeting last week.
Tyer pointed out Pittsfield is not alone in its struggle to grow.
She said several Massachusetts communities are at or near their levy ceilings. Because of that, she said there may be an opportunity for those communities to work together on a solution. She said perhaps those municipalities could lobby state leaders to rethink the formula surrounding how taxes may be levied.
Tyer also told the committee health insurance premiums are increasing at exorbitant rates and she wondered aloud what would happen if the city stopped offering insurance.
"We would never do that," but if communities did, would it put pressure on insurance companies to stop increasing their rates, she asked.
Despite challenges, Tyer said she is optimistic that some new growth may be identified when the city's three year property revaluation takes place later this year.
Reach staff writer Carrie Saldo at 413-496-6221 or @carriesaldo
Craig C. Gaetani
“Council candidate says he'll fight for taxpayers”
By Carrie Saldo , firstname.lastname@example.org – The Berkshire Eagle, March 24, 2017
PITTSFIELD — A champion of the taxpayer.
That is what Craig C. Gaetani said he'll be if elected to the at-large City Council seat up for grabs.
Gaetani is the second person to announce a run for the post being vacated by Kathleen Amuso.
When asked about his campaign priorities he said: "Taxpayers' dollars, taxpayer dollars, taxpayer dollars."
Those were also the priorities he touted during an unsuccessful run for mayor in 2015, a loss he attributes to "trumped up charges" and not being a part of the "good ol' boy" network.
Gaetani, 68, runs Gaetani, Wang Scientific and Engineering Consultants and has said he is an experienced corporate executive with a variety of managerial experience. He worked many years as a corporate biologist, physicist, chemist, and worldwide director of technical marketing for Krofta engineering corporation, Krofta Waters Inc.
He is a cum laude graduate of the former North Adams State College and Berkshire Community College and a Vietnam veteran.
"I know a lot about a lot of things and am reasonable," which he said will make him an "outstanding" member of the council.
Gaetani has consistently voiced his displeasure with past and present elected city leadership for failing to work in the best interests of taxpayers. He said he has filed more city petitions to the council "than all of the councilors combined."
"As city councilor at large, City Council meetings will be very interesting — as the true voice of the taxpayer will be on board — with one goal and that is to serve the taxpayers with every drop of [my] strength," Gaetani wrote in a statement.
Mayor Linda M. Tyer has requested department heads submit level funded budgets for fiscal 2018.
Gaetani said this is a dire mistake.
As a member of the council, he would call for a 7 percent reduction of the budget.
He said he believes the city's Other Post Employee Benefits, promised to all past and current employees, is short by as much as $416 million. He has referred to that account as "the sleeping giant" that will bankrupt the city, during public comment at City Council meetings.
He said he will push for telephone lines at City Hall to be recorded at all times to avoid miscommunication and so that a permanent record can be kept of those calls.
He said he will also petition for a change to council rules to allow any city resident to address the council for any length of time. Current rules limit public comments to 3 minutes and speakers must sign up prior to the meeting to address the council.
Gaetani was arrested and charged with disturbing the peace at a January council meeting after he attempted to address the council without signing up for public comment.
Prior to being arrested, he had asked City Council President Peter Marchetti for dispensation from those rules because he was delayed by poor weather conditions.
He objected to questions being raised by the Eagle about six criminal charges pending in Northern Berkshire District Court calling them an attempt to "dig up dirt."
"It is time to move on from that," he said. "The only thing that holds any water at the present moment is I have not been convicted at all."
He faces three jury trial dates on three separate sets of charges: May 11 for threatening to commit a crime — shooting a city employee — and harassing phone calls; June 13, for two counts of witness intimidation and breaking and entering into a motor vehicle and July 11, for disturbing the peace, according to information from Northern Berkshire District Court.
Gaetani said he will self-fund his campaign and does not have a campaign team.
"I'm a one-man show," he said. "I always have been."
He said he will use his weekly television program "The Gaetani Pittsfield News Hour," which airs on Pittsfield Community Television, to distribute his information to the public. In addition, he intends to submit written statements to the Eagle and other area publications.
Ty Allan Jackson, an author and entrepreneur, announced his intent to run for council in February.
Reach staff writer Carrie Saldo at 413-496-6221 or @carriesaldo.
- Jonathan Melle
- Amherst, NH, United States
- I am a citizen defending the people against corrupt Pols who only serve their Corporate Elite masters, not the people! / My 2 political enemies are Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr., nicknamed "Luciforo" and former Berkshire County Sheriff Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr. / I have also pasted many of my political essays on "The Berkshire Blog": berkshireeagle.blogspot.com / I AM THE ANTI-FRANK GUINTA! / Please contact me at email@example.com
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