Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
I turned 39 (2014)

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Israel's right-wing government adopts divisive nation-state law!

“Israel Adopts Divisive Jewish Nation-State Law”
Only Jews have the right of self-determination in the country now.
By Maayan Lubell

Jerusalem, July 19, 2018 (Reuters via The Huffington Post) - Israel passed a law on Thursday to declare that only Jews have the right of self-determination in the country, something members of the Arab minority called racist and verging on apartheid.

The “nation-state” law, backed by the right-wing government, passed by a vote of 62-55 and two abstentions in the 120-member parliament after months of political argument. Some Arab lawmakers shouted and ripped up papers after the vote.

“This is a defining moment in the annals of Zionism and the history of the state of Israel,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Knesset after the vote.

Largely symbolic, the law was enacted just after the 70th anniversary of the birth of the state of Israel. It stipulates that “Israel is the historic homeland of the Jewish people and they have an exclusive right to national self-determination in it.”

The bill also strips Arabic of its designation as an official language alongside Hebrew, downgrading it to a “special status” that enables its continued use within Israeli institutions.

Israel’s Arabs number some 1.8 million, about 20 percent of the 9 million population.

Early drafts of the legislation went further in what critics at home and abroad saw as discrimination towards Israel’s Arabs, who have long said they are treated as second-class citizens.

Clauses that were dropped in last-minute political wrangling - and after objections by Israel’s president and attorney-general - would have enshrined in law the establishment of Jewish-only communities, and instructed courts to rule according to Jewish ritual law when there were no relevant legal precedents.

Instead, a more vaguely-worded version was approved, which says: “The state views the development of Jewish settlement as a national value and will act to encourage and promote its establishment.”

Even after the changes, critics said the new law will deepen a sense of alienation within the Arab minority.

“I announce with shock and sorrow the death of democracy,” Ahmed Tibi, an Arab lawmaker, told reporters.

Netanyahu has defended the law. “We will keep ensuring civil rights in Israel’s democracy but the majority also has rights and the majority decides,” he said last week.

“An absolute majority wants to ensure our state’s Jewish character for generations to come.”

Israel’s Arab population is comprised mainly of descendants of the Palestinians who remained on their land during the conflict between Arabs and Jews that culminated in the war of 1948 surrounding the creation of the modern state of Israel. Hundreds of thousands were forced to leave their homes or fled.

Those who remained have full equal rights under the law but say they face constant discrimination, citing inferior services and unfair allocations for education, health and housing.

In Ma’alot-Tarshiha, a municipality in northern Israel which was created by linking the Jewish town of Ma’alot and the Arab town of Tarshiha, there was anger among Arab residents.

“I think this is racist legislation by a radical right-wing government that is creating radical laws, and is planting the seeds to create an apartheid state,” said physician Bassam Bisharah, 71.

“The purpose of this law is discrimination. They want to get rid of the Arabs totally,” said Yousef Faraj, 53, from the nearby Druze village of Yanuh. “The Israelis want to destroy all the religions of the Arabs.”

Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, called the law a bid to advance “ethnic superiority by promoting racist policies.”

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Letter: “All democracies must do better by minorities”
The Berkshire Eagle, July 25, 2018

To the editor:

The July 20 Eagle had an article about a new law in Israel that describes Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people. This new law may be redundant. Jews are 80 percent of the population of Israel, Hebrew is the primary national language and Jews run the government and most major public and private organizations. The law passed the Israeli parliament by only a slim majority. Some Israelis think this new law is necessary to re-affirm to the world that Israel is the homeland of the Jewish people, forever.

Israeli Arabs vote Arabs into the Israeli parliament, are doctors in Israeli hospitals and have thousands of students in Israeli universities. Israeli Arabs have a higher standard of living and higher literacy than Arabs living in majority Arab lands. Yet, as a minority in Israel, they do suffer some aspects of second class citizenship.

Minorities in most Western democracies, including our U.S., are subject to some forms of discrimination. Let's all work to improve the workings of democracies for ALL people.

Martin Silver, Lenox

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credit: Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP

CELEBRITY
“Natalie Portman Slams Israel’s Nation-State Law As ‘Racist,’ ‘Wrong’”
It’s not the first time the Jewish actress has criticized the Israeli government.
By Sara Boboltz, The Huffington Post, December 13, 2018

Jerusalem-born actress Natalie Portman has only harsh words for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s controversial “nation-state law” passed over the summer formally recognizing the country as a Jewish state despite its large population of non-Jewish Arabs.

“It’s racist and there’s nothing else to say about that,” Portman told the BBC in an interview posted online earlier this week.

“It’s wrong and I disagree with that [law],” the actress continued.

Called the “Basic Law,” the measure sets Hebrew as the national language and states that Israel’s Jews have a “unique” right to self-determination. It also defines Jerusalem as the “complete and united” capital of Israel, ignoring the fact that it’s occupied in part by Palestinians who wish to claim it as their capital.

Non-Jewish Arabs comprise around one-fifth of Israel’s population and the majority in the West Bank and Gaza. Israel has long stood accused of institutionalized discrimination and human rights abuses against non-Jews.

Portman told the BBC it’s “hard to be from a place” where laws like this are in place. “It’s like your family ― you love them the most and you also feel the most critical.”

Critics have likened the law to apartheid. Proponents say it marks a “defining moment” for Israel and have said criticism amounts to anti-Semitism.

Portman’s critique comes eight months after she backed out of a major Israeli award ceremony in Jerusalem where she was scheduled to receive a prestigious honor. The “Black Swan” actress explained in a statement that she did not want to appear to support Netanyahu, who would be at the event.

Her statement, released on Instagram, said, “Like many Israelis and Jews around the world, I can be critical of the leadership in Israel without wanting to boycott the entire nation.”

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Friday, April 20, 2018

Maura Sullivan NH Democrat for US Congress 2018

April 20, 2018

Hello Maura Sullivan,

I read your op-ed in the NH Union Leader online. I wish to thank you for your military service and strong commitment to Veterans. I don't live in your congressional district, but you have my endorsement for U.S. Congress 2018 to succeed Representative Carol Shea-Porter. I am a 100% service-connected disabled Veteran.

- Jonathan Melle

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Another View -- Maura Sullivan: “Inconsistent leadership has failed our veterans”
By Maura Sullivan, op-ed, NH Union Leader, April 19, 2018

Over the last five months of our campaign, I have met dozens of veterans statewide and the caregivers who serve them at the Manchester Veterans Affairs Medical Center. What I hear is frustration with the low quality of care — and how lacking resources and leadership at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs hamstrings local caregivers. Instability at the top, heightened in recent weeks by the replacement of former Secretary Dr. David Shulkin, only worsens local problems. I know because as a VA assistant secretary appointed by President Obama, I worked to improve veterans’ health care. What our veterans and the caregivers who serve them need — and need now — is reform, resources, and strong leadership that delivers the best care, not partisan politics and chaos. Without it, I expect we will hear more heartbreaking stories like these:

One veteran I met at an American Legion Post in Portsmouth said he must drive 45 minutes to the VA in Manchester, but often can’t get the care he needs. He wonders what the VA can do to bring care to him, as I’ve seen local VA hospitals do elsewhere for veterans residing more than 40 miles from the nearest center.

A VA caregiver I spoke with at Red Arrow Diner in Manchester said she sees with her own eyes the lack of resources, and it breaks her heart. She wonders where the federal dollars are to ensure we don’t fall short when it matters most for our veterans.

A veteran from Conway told me access to mental health care is difficult to access. He wonders how we can bring to Manchester the insights and expertise of top VA mental health care centers elsewhere in the VA system.

Unfortunately, crisis at the top of the VA is not new. Four years ago this spring, it came out that 40 veterans had died awaiting care at the VA hospital in Phoenix. Our system and our government failed them. As a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, I proudly joined the leadership team in 2014 that fought to fix the VA. Together, we worked to implement the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014. We initiated reforms like improving VA care for veterans who were on waitlists greater than 30 days and lived more than 40 miles from a hospital. “Choice,” as the bill is called, was imperfect, like many bills, but a helpful step forward. We were optimistic about the VA’s future.

Now, the VA will have its fourth secretary in less than four years. And our veterans and caregivers alike in Manchester and elsewhere district-wide suffer because of it.

And it’s not just Manchester. The VA is one of the largest agencies in the federal government — administering care for more than 9 million enrolled veterans, at more than 1,200 health care facilities nationwide, with a budget of over $180 billion. Imagine a business with four CEOs in four years — what is the impact? Likely a lot of frustration, minimal progress, and backsliding.

Augmenting the VA’s current care with private providers is necessary — we did it while I was at the VA to clear waitlist backlogs and put fewer veterans at risk. This is particularly important for specialties like mental health and routine care for veterans in more remote areas. However, private care is no panacea. We need public and private care. Most importantly, veterans want and need both.

Some would argue that choosing both is expensive. It is. But so is war. In so many ways, the Bush administration hid the true cost of the war in Iraq, a theater I served in and a war I saw firsthand become one of the worst foreign policy blunders of our lifetimes.

The federal government needs to invest in our veterans and their families with the same rigor we apply to nearly $700 billion in defense spending. It’s time Congress appoint a bipartisan commission to determine how best to improve our care for the brave men and women who serve our country.

Our country has some of the best health care capabilities in the world. But more than they should, our veterans struggle to access them. One out of 14 Americans has served in the military. They have earned easy access to the very best care we can offer. The answer to how we get there should be about resources and outcomes, not politics. Our veterans and their caregivers deserve nothing less.

Maura Sullivan, a former U.S. Marine Corps officer and Iraq veteran, is a Democratic candidate for New Hampshire’s First Congressional District.

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“Sullivan raises $475K in past 3 months for Congress race”
By Paul Steinhauser, news@seacoastonline.com - April 5, 2018

If elections were decided on campaign fundraising alone, then Maura Sullivan would be the overwhelming favorite to win the wide open race to succeed retiring four-term Democratic Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter.

Sullivan’s campaign reported early Thursday morning that the Democratic candidate raised more than $475,000 in the first quarter of this year.

The new fundraising figure follows an eye popping $430,000 that Sullivan brought in during the first nine weeks of her campaign for New Hampshire’s First Congressional District. The campaign highlighted that Sullivan’s raised over $910,000 since she announced her candidacy in late October. The new figures were first reported by Seacoastonline.

“I’m honored that so many people are supporting us, volunteering their time, resources, and energy to help strengthen our democracy and realize our vision of country over party and people over politics,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan, who moved to Portsmouth last July, is a U.S. Marine and Iraq War vet who later served at the Veterans Administration and the Pentagon under President Barack Obama.

Campaign cash figures are considered an important early barometer of a candidate’s clout and popularity, and of a campaign’s strength. Fundraising dollars can be used to pay for staff, voter outreach, and ads.

The Sullivan campaign highlighted that over half of the contributions were small dollar donations of $250 or less.

But it also acknowledged that only 20 percent of the first quarter haul consisted of “grassroots contributions from across the Granite State.”

The Sullivan campaign did not report how much money it spent in the January through March period, or how much cash it has on hand.

Sullivan appears to be the first of the 11 declared candidates in the First District race to reveal first quarter fundraising figures.

In the fourth quarter of last year, Sullivan greatly out raised all the other candidates in the race. Democratic Executive Councilor Chris Pappas of Manchester came in second, bring in nearly $220,000. No other candidate cracked $100,000 in contributions.

Sullivan’s campaign revealed their fundraising haul the morning after Pappas was backed by Sen. Maggie Hassan, the first major endorsement in the race for the Democratic nomination.

The First District is considered one of the most high-profile swing congressional districts in the country.

The district, which stretches from Manchester east to the Seacoast and north through the Lakes Region to White Mountains, has flip-flopped the past four elections between Shea-Porter and former GOP Congressman Frank Guinta. And the purple district in a purple state is also one of only 12 across the country controlled by Democrats that Donald Trump won in the 2016 presidential election.

The other Democrats in the race are state Rep. Mark Mackenzie of Manchester, a former fireman who served more than two decades as head of the state chapter of the AFL-CIO, retired Portsmouth trial lawyer Lincoln Soldati, a former Somersworth mayor who also spent 17 years as Strafford County attorney, state Rep. Mindi Messmer of Rye, an environmental scientist, Army and Iraq War veteran and current Rochester city attorney Terence O’Rourke, and technology executive and community activist Deaglan McEachern of Portsmouth.

Levi Sanders, the son of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, jumped into the Democratic nomination race in February. The legal services analyst lives in Claremont, which is in New Hampshire’s 2nd District.

There are three declared Republicans in the race. They are businessman and conservative state Sen. Andy Sanborn of Bedford, Eddie Edwards of Dover, a Navy veteran and former South Hampton police chief who also served as top law enforcement officer for the state’s liquor commission, and Mark Hounsell of Conway, a Carroll County commissioner and former state senator.

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Maura Sullivan, a former Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs and senior Pentagon official in the Obama Administration and Marine Corps Veteran will spend Wednesday in Carroll County on the campaign stump. (COURTESY PHOTO)

“Sullivan to stump in Carroll County on Wednesday”
conwaydailysun.com – Lloyd Jones – May 15, 2018

CONWAY — In 2006, Maura Sullivan went door-to-door around the Granite State campaigning for Carol Shea-Porter. Eight years later, she hopes to replace her in Washington as representative from the 1st Congressional District.

Shea-Porter (D-Rochester) announced last October she would not seek re-election.

Sullivan is viewed by some as the front-runner in a crowded Democrat Party field for the nomination. She has raised more money than any of the eight other Democrats and three Republican hopefuls.

The Portsmouth resident will spend Wednesday in Carroll County with stops scheduled for the Moose Mountain Democrats, meeting at the Poor People’s Pub in Sanbornville from noon-12:45 p.m.; and at The Conway Daily Sun for an editorial board from 2:30-3:30 p.m. She also will tour the Mt. Washington Economic Council office at Tech Village in Conway from 4-5 p.m.

Sullivan, 38, announced her candidacy last October. While she hasn’t run for office before, she has served her county. A former Marine Corps captain, Sullivan spent two years stationed in East Asia before deploying to Fallujah, Iraq," her website says, adding, "Maura was struck by how servicemen and women were paying the consequences for poor decisions made by out-of-touch leadership in Washington and resolved to do something about it.”

The Department of Defense website says that Sullivan's service included a deployment in Fallujah in 2005 with Combat Logistics Battalion 8, two years with the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing in Okinawa, Japan, and serving as the Deputy Officer-in-Charge of the 2nd Marine Logistics Group Re-organization team.

She earned the Navy Commendation Medal and a Navy/Marine Corps Achievement Medal with a Gold Star. According to the DoD website, she earned an MBA from the Harvard Business School and an MPA from the Harvard Kennedy School, where she was a John F. Kennedy Fellow and a George Fellow. She received a BA from Northwestern University, which she completed on a Marine Corps ROTC scholarship.

After her military service, Sullivan managed Frito Lay’s Central New England Zone business, and before that PepsiCo’s New England Franchise Bottling business.

Sullivan was appointed by President Barack Obama in 2010 as a commissioner on the American Battle Monuments Commission, where with her fellow commissioners she managed America’s overseas military cemeteries and memorials. She was later named the Assistant Secretary for the Office of Public & Intergovernmental Affairs at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Obama later appointed Sullivan as the assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs. Sullivan was "principal staff assistant and adviser to the Secretary and Deputy Secretary of Defense for communication, news media relations, public outreach, engagement, public affairs and visual information,” according to the DoD website.

Sullivan and her fiance, Marc Sorel, a Naval Reserve Officer, own a home in Portsmouth.

Nine other Democrats have filed for Shea-Porter's seat: Shea-Porter’s Chief of Staff Naomi Andrews of Epping; state Rep. Mark MacKenzie of Manchester; Deaglan McEachern of Portsmouth; state Rep. Mindi Messmer of Rye; Rochester City Attorney Terence O’Rourke; Executive Councilor Chris Pappas of Manchester; Levi Sanders, son of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont; and former Strafford County Attorney Lincoln Soldati of Portsmouth.

Vying for the GOP nomination are tech executive Bruce Crochetiere of Hampton Falls; former South Hampton Police Chief Eddie Edwards of Dover; perennial candidate Andy Martin of Manchester; and state Sen. Andy Sanborn of Bedford. Former state Sen. Mark Hounsell of Conway withdrew from the race last month.

The filing deadline is June 15, and the primary election takes place Sept. 11.

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Democratic candidate Maura Sullivan visits the Mount Washington Valley Economic Council at the Technology Village in Conway on Wednesday. (Jamie Gemmiti Photo)

“Maura Sullivan states her case for Congress”
By Daymond Steer, Reporter for The Conway Daily Sun, May 16, 2018, Updated May 18, 2018

CONWAY — Retired Marine and former Obama administration official Maura Sullivan told the Sun on Wednesday that if elected to Congress she will question authority and fight for affordable health care.

Sullivan, 38, is a Democrat from Portsmouth who is seeking the seat now held by Carol Shea-Porter (D-Rochester). As a Marine captain, she served in Fallujah, Iraq, in 2005.

Shea-Porter has said she is not seeking re-election from the 1st Congressional District.

Meeting with the Sun's editorial board, Sullivan discussed her time in Iraq serving alongside fellow Marines who were only 19 or 20 years old.

"What I saw when I was there was that leaders in Washington at the time, this was 2005, made a lot of decisions that got a lot of other peoples' kids killed," said Sullivan. "I felt members of Congress in both political parties didn't ask the right questions, didn't ask tough questions, and I didn't think that was right."

Sullivan said that first off, the U.S. should not have been in Iraq. She said troops didn't get the resources they needed, such as armor on vehicles.

If elected, Sullivan said she would make a case to be on the House Armed Services Committee, on which Shea-Porter sits now. She then would "stand up to the president on matters of national security."

One of her priorities is to make sure the president — any president — consults Congress before taking military action like bombing another country.

Another goal is to calm the "chaos" and "bitterness" in Washington.

As for domestic issues, Sullivan said access to affordable health care is an issue she has experience with.

"I was appointed by President (Barack) Obama to serve on the leadership team of (Veterans Affairs), which is the largest integrated health-care system in the country," said Sullivan, adding the country isn't doing enough for its vets and that it's disheartening the VA doesn't have a secretary right now.

She said during her time at the VA, she helped to implement the Veterans' Choice Act, which she says provides vets with better access to care.

She said not just veterans worry about the price of health care.

"I think we need a public option," said Sullivan.

She said people should be able to buy into Medicare, that Congress needs to explore lowering the age of Medicare and that Medicare should able to negotiate for lower drug prices. There also needs to be more transparency when it comes to health-care costs, she said. Patients have a hard time shopping around because the costs are "opaque." She added that insurance companies need to do more to provide mental health coverage.

She would try to prevent Congress from doing away with protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

Another domestic priority for her is curbing gun violence. She called for an assault weapon ban and universal background checks. She said AR-15s are not needed for hunting or personal protection. Arming teachers, she said, is a bad idea.

"Teachers are supposed to teach," she said. "I think it's absurd to even consider it."

During the meeting, she addressed criticisms that she is a "carpetbagger," a person who moved from out of state to run for office. She came to New Hampshire last summer.

A Midwesterner, Sullivan said she first came to New Hampshire at age 12 for skiing at Attitash.

"I fell in love with the White Mountains," she said, adding that she had hoped to attend Dartmouth College. When she didn't get in, she found a home in the Marine Corps instead.

During her time in the Marines, she lived in Japan, trained in Korea and served in Iraq. After retiring from the military she came to New England for graduate school.

Sullivan earned an MBA from Harvard Business School and an MPA from the Harvard Kennedy School, where she was a John F. Kennedy Fellow and a George Fellow. She received a BA from Northwestern University, which she completed on a Marine Corps ROTC scholarship.

In 2006, she campaigned for Shea-Porter and later in 2008 for Obama. Between 2006 and 2008 she said she would come to the state for hiking and skiing.

Sullivan and her fiance, Marc Sorel, a Naval Reserve Officer, bought a home in Portsmouth, where they originally intended to raise a family.

"That's what I thought I'd be doing for awhile until Carol said she wasn't running," said Sullivan. "I was going to help her get re-elected."

Asked if she would address news reports about military footage of UFOs, including a New York Times story from a retired Navy pilot who now lives in New Hampshire, Sullivan said she would look into it as part of her job on Armed Services Committee.

"I would be asking questions about digging deeper into the UFO issue," said Sullivan, who said she also would ask the Pentagon about its personnel and training budget because she is concerned about military accidents like the recent helicopter crash that killed a soldier from New Hampshire.

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“Tom Bergeron to star at Maura Sullivan for Congress event”
fosters.com – by Elizabeth Dinan – May 24, 2018

PORTSMOUTH — Democratic candidate for Congress Maura Sullivan announced television personality Tom Bergeron will appear at a Portsmouth house party and fundraiser for her campaign.

A Marine Corps veteran and former assistant secretary of Veterans Affairs in the Obama administration, Sullivan’s campaign said the public is invited to the June 12 event at a private home in Portsmouth.

Sullivan is a resident of the city’s West End and is running in a 10-person Democratic primary race for the First Congressional District seat being vacated by Democrat Carol Shea-Porter. Sullivan raised $480,000 during the first three months of the year, making her the top fundraiser in the race.

A Sullivan staffer told the Portsmouth Herald that Bergeron, host of “Dancing with the Stars” on ABC “is a big supporter” of Sullivan’s “commitment to service” and is making the unpaid appearance to support her campaign.

“As you know, Tom Bergeron proudly got his start in Portsmouth and I’m excited to have him back here in our neighborhood to support our campaign,” Sullivan said. “We’re looking forward to a really fun event and hoping he will inspire some memorable dance moves from our supporters here on the Seacoast.”

The address of the house party will be given to guests when they are confirmed by the campaign to attend. It will be from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., there is a $25 suggested contribution and RSVPs can be made by email to kaytlynn@maurafornh.com, or maurafornh.org/tom. Guests will be confirmed on a first-come, first-served basis and according to Sullivan’s campaign, there is a large back yard that can accommodate a good-sized crowd.

Before hosting “Dancing with the Stars” and “America’s Funniest Home Videos,” Bergeron cut his teeth as a disc jockey on Portsmouth’s WHEB radio. He’s also a frequent guest host of the New Hampshire Film Festival held annually in Portsmouth.

The “fun and conversation” event featuring Bergeron is being hosted by Seacoast residents Janet Prince and Peter Bergh, who, Sullivan’s campaign said, are supporters of New Hampshire Public Radio, New Hampshire Community Foundation and New Hampshire Charitable Foundation. Also hosting is Joanne Lamprey, former CEO of Lamprey Brothers, president of InterQual and a local leader in health care, energy, sustainability and business.

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“NH’s First Congressional Democratic Candidates Speak Out On Trump’s Family Separation Policy”
By NH Labor News, June 21, 2018

This week the world watched in horror as pictures, videos, and reporters descriptions of the Trump policy of ripping families apart at the border and placing children into "tent cities."

I reached out to all of the Democratic candidates running for Congress in the First Congressional District to see where they stand on this issue.

Maura Sullivan

“What is happening right now at our borders is un-American. Separating children from families is both cruel and immoral and is not consistent with our American values. This is not who we are as a country. We are a country of immigrants that protects families and opens our arms to those in need. President Trump should put an end to this immoral policy immediately. And Congress must act now to protect future families from this trauma and heartache.”

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“Maura Sullivan Is Bringing In Boatloads Of Out Of State Cash From Multiple Wall Street Companies”
By NH Labor News, July 10, 2018

Maura Sullivan raked in nearly $1 million dollars for her campaign in the first two quarters and very little is coming from New Hampshire

It is that time of the year again, the quarterly FEC reporting deadline. With so many people running for Congress in the First Congressional District (NH-01), I thought now would be a good time to take a look back at last quarter's FEC reports and see where the candidates started their fundraising, and where their money is coming from.

The big winner last quarter was: Maura Sullivan. She has raised 916,000 dollars in her campaign for Congress. The next closest in the Democratic Primary is Chris Pappas with $425,000 followed by Mark MacKenzie with $159,000. But looking closer we can see some serious differences between the fundraising being done by these candidates. It also gives a glimpse into who truly supports each candidate's run for Congress.

In her statement announcing the $475,000 she received in the first quarter of 2018, Maura Sullivan said, "Grassroots contributions from across the Granite State made up 20% of the campaign’s fundraising this quarter...Overall, over half of the campaign’s contributions were under $250."

A cursory glance at Open Secrets tells a very different story of Sullivan's fundraising. As of her first quarter filing, she had raised a total of $27, 573 from New Hampshire and another $3,150 that has "no state data." Her in-state donations (including "no state data") total less than four percent (4%) of her overall donations.

Compare that to the other Democratic and Republican campaigns in the first district. Pappas has 76% from in-state donations. Andy Sandborn has 86% in-state donations. Though Mindi Messmer has not raised a lot of money, what she has raised comes from New Hampshire with 89% in-state donations.

I should also point out that Deaglan McEachern also has some big outside investors. He raised $21,000 in-state and $92,000 from out of the state, with a large portion coming from Boston (where he went to school) and Chicago. At least McEachern has nearly 20% coming from New Hampshire.

Open Secrets also found that less than 15% of Sullivan's donations came from small donors who gave less than $200 dollars. So I guess it is possible that another 5% of her overall donations came in between $200 dollars and $250, but that seems unlikely as she has tons of donors who have maxed out contributions. That is $2,700 for the primary and $2,700 for the general election for a total of $5,400 dollars.

Here at the Labor News, we have discussed at length the corrupting influence of Money in Politics. We have also published numerous articles from Republicans and Democrats about how Wall Street funnels millions of dollars into our political system.

One of those companies is Bain Capital, the company that was at one time run by Mitt Romney before he left to become a full-time politician. The same company that made hostile takeovers a common phrase. The company that shuttered factories and shipped thousands of good paying union jobs to sweatshops overseas.

“Bain Capital, with Romney at its head, epitomizes the Gilded Age capitalism of the last decades, the casino finance that eventually brought the economy to its knees," wrote Bob Borosage at Campaign for America's Future in 2013.

Mother Jones wrote about how Bain Capital was spending millions lobbying and fighting for tax cuts that benefited the ultra-wealthy, like Bain's CEO Mitt Romney.

"In [2007], lobbying expenditures for the industry practically tripled. The spike was the result of an industry-wide effort to preserve a number of tax giveaways for the finance industry and its CEOs—including the carried interest rule, a tax loophole that allows Romney and other private equity mavens to reduce their taxes by millions of dollars."

In the first two filings by Sullivan, Bain Capital gave over $58,000 to her campaign.

From New Hampshire, Sullivan brought in $17,000 from 6 donors in the last quarter of 2017 and around $10,000 in the first quarter of 2018.

She has received more than twice the amount of money from Bain Capital than she has received from New Hampshire residents.

She also has a number of high powered donors from investment firms pushing tens of thousands of dollars into her campaign. Some include McKinsey & Co, Rally Ventures, Greylock Partners, Trident Capital, Bessemer Venture Partners, and Goldman Sachs.

So the real questions are: who is pushing Maura Sullivan to run and funding her campaign? And what are these wealthy donors looking for in return?

In our previous article, we highlighted the connection between Sullivan and Emily's List, the powerhouse DC fundraising group. But there is no way to know from FEC reports who is pushing these Big Money donors to Sullivan's campaign. All we know is that she is getting boatloads of cash like we have never seen in NH before.

There is no doubt that whoever is funneling money from Wall Street directly into Sullivan's campaign are expecting something in return. This is what our corrupt political system has become: ultra-wealthy elites funding candidates on both sides of the aisle to enrich themselves.

"People are sick and tired of thinking that our politicians only represent the big donors, and that our government doesn’t belong to the people anymore,” said Dan Weeks, then Executive Director of the NH Rebellion, during the 2016 Presidential Primary.

We have not heard any more news about Chris Pappas's "Homegrown Campaign Pledge" to limit outside money in the primary. All we know is what John Distaso reported last month: that Sullivan basically said "No" without actually saying it.

UPDATE: Will @maurasullivan take the 'Homegrown Campaign Pledge' proposed by @ChrisPappasNH ? Here's what she told us when asked... #nh01 #nhpolitics #WMUR https://t.co/BzmKi5uxl0 pic.twitter.com/1ELRu2JSZ0

— John DiStaso (@jdistaso) June 28, 2018

Weeks is a strong supporter of Pappas' efforts to limit outside money. He said, “Understanding that this is not going to be fixed overnight, I want to see candidates get creative and do as much as they can under the existing laws to demonstrate a commitment to being accountable to their own constituents and not folks across the country...”

We reached out to the Sullivan campaign, twice, to ask for a response to some of our questions about her fundraising in and out of the state. We asked about how much she received from Bain Capital and other investment firms.

We received no response to our questions.

What we did receive was a press statement that stated she raised another $600,000 dollars in this most recent quarter. The FEC reports aren't available yet, so she has yet to release the details on who or where the money came from. Her campaign did tell me that they would get back to me with details about the donations.

Read NH Labor News coverage of Bain Capital here: http://nhlabornews.com/tag/bain-capital/

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Opinion
“Protect our democracy, vote for Maura Sullivan for Congress”
Seacoastonline.com – July 24, 2018

July 23 -- To the Editor:

Our beloved democracy is on the slippery slope to an autocratic dictatorship shoved downhill by the American oligarchy. We will lose all the benefits of a democracy in the next two years if we do not stop the slide in the upcoming November elections. As a former chair of the Hampton Democrats, and a retired Navy officer who has served our country, I can tell you that Maura Sullivan is the best candidate to protect our country and our democracy.

We need to elect proven leaders with the experience to hit the ground running, employing their self-assurance and dedication to solve difficult issues. We need to elect strong-minded individuals who have the confidence and maturity required to work on national issues. We need to elect representatives who believe in bipartisanship. We need to elect a Congressperson with the National Security experience to fit immediately into the House Armed Services Committee chair occupied by retiring Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter. For all these reasons and more, we need to elect Maura Sullivan to represent New Hampshire’s first district in the US Congress.

Dick Desrosiers, CDR USN (ret)
Hampton

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“She moved to the state last year. Now she’s running for Congress. Can she win in N.H.?”
By James Pindell, The Boston Globe, August 13, 2018

Manchester, N.H. — On paper Maura Sullivan may be the perfect Democratic congressional candidate: Iraq War veteran, two Harvard degrees, and prominent roles in the Obama administration. She counts US Representative Seth Moulton and political adviser David Axelrod as allies, and she has raised more money than any other New Hampshire candidate for Congress in history.

There’s just one thing: Sullivan moved to the state three months before announcing her campaign, and she has almost zero ties to New Hampshire.

To be fair, when she moved to Portsmouth in July 2017 with her fiance, no one expected US Representative Carol Shea-Porter to announce her retirement. In fact, just a few months before Sullivan moved to New Hampshire,she was reportedly recruited to run for Congress in the Chicago suburbs where she grew up.

But if she pulls off a win in the Sept. 11 primary — something local political observers say is increasingly possible — she would further upend the state’s parochial political culture built on grass-roots activism. In the district that includes Manchester, the Seacoast, and the state’s Lakes Region, she faces 10 candidates, many of whom, unlike her, have been embedded in the state party ranks for decades.

“The defining narrative in this race has been about Sullivan, someone who came out of state and is raising all this out-of-state money,” said University of New Hampshire political science professor Dante Scala. “New Hampshire’s self image already took a huge hit when Donald Trump won the last Republican presidential primary without going through the traditional retail politics motions, but this could take it to another level.”

Among the others running for the nod in the First District are Shea-Porter’s chief of staff, Naomi Andrews; former Somersworth mayor and longtime county prosecutor Lincoln Soldati; the son of a two-time former nominee for governor, tech businessman Deaglan McEachern; the longtime head of the New Hampshire AFL-CIO, Mark MacKenzie; and state Representative Mindi Messmer. Also in the race: The son of US Senator Bernie Sanders, Levi Sanders, who lives in Claremont, which is more than an hour outside of the district.

But observers say the Democratic nomination will probably come down to two candidates: Sullivan and Executive Councilor Chris Pappas, both of whom are 38 years old.

Pappas hails from a well-known Manchester family who own the Puritan Backroom restaurant, a local haunt for politicos. Both of the state’s US senators have endorsed him, and he has benefited from some outside money, with interest groups such as Equality PAC hoping to make him the first openly gay person to win major office in the state history.

Sullivan and Pappas are the only candidates airing television ads and are far ahead of competitors when it comes to staffing and campaign infrastructure. There has not been any recent public polling in the race.

Last week offered a capsule into the race: Pappas held a press conference Tuesday with Senator Jeanne Shaheen, who officially endorsed him. At the same moment, Sullivan was holding campaign events with former US secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius. No other campaign held public events that day.

Pappas doesn’t directly refer to Sullivan’s loose ties to the district, but he does hint at them. For example, his campaign suggested in June that all candidates in the race take the “Homegrown Campaign Pledge,” in which they vow that a majority of campaign funds would come from the district.

According to The Center for Responsive Politics, only 2 percent of Sullivan’s $1.5 million in fund-raising comes from inside the district — compared with 53 percent for Pappas, who has brought in $665,800 so far.

Early in the race, every media interview with Sullivan included questions about her residency. Sullivan would reply she has fond memories of vacationing in the state as a kid and that she once knocked on doors for Shea-Porter in 2006 when she was at Harvard.

More recently, she dismisses the issue, saying it is not what voters care about. “The first chance my fiancé and I had to put down roots, we chose Portsmouth as our home,” she said in a statement to the Globe. “But what I hear from voters isn’t about how long I’ve lived here — what I hear is that our children are afraid to go to school because of gun violence, seniors and working families are worried about affording health care, women are concerned about their reproductive rights.”

New Hampshire voters have seen outsider candidates before. In 2014, Republicans nominated Scott Brown — a former US senator from Massachusetts — over three local candidates. That same year, Republicans picked as their candidate for governor Walt Havenstein, who barely survived a residency challenge to remove him from the ballot. (The only residency requirement for congressional candidates is to live in the state on Election Day.)

But there’s a key difference: Republicans, struggling for a strong contender to challenge Shaheen and then-governor Maggie Hassan four years ago, recruited Brown and Havenstein, whereas Democrats this year note there are plenty of local options for the First District.

‘The defining narrative in this race has been about [Maura] Sullivan, someone who came out of state and is raising all this out-of-state money.’

— Dante Scala, University of New Hampshire political science professor

The First District has been dubbed “the swingiest swing district” because it has switched party hands in every election since 2008. In 2016, both Trump and Shea-Porter, a Democrat, won the district.

James Pindell can be reached at james.pindell@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jamespindell or subscribe to his Ground Game newsletter on politics: http://pages.email.
bostonglobe.com/GroundGameSignUp.

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To the Editor: “Maura Sullivan will fight for us”
fosters.com - August 9, 2018

To the Editor:

On Sept. 11 I’m voting for Maura Sullivan for Congress in District 1 as the Democrat to replace Carol Shea Porter. Her stand on the issues that matter to me as a grandmother and senior in the Granite State align with my values on the key issues of Health Care, Education, economic growth and opportunity, gun violence prevention, protecting our environment, women's rights and how to deal with the opioid crisis.

Maura Sullivan recognizes the right to health care for all and supports a public option so people could buy into Medicare . She advocates for more job training and supports a $15/hour minimum wage, and paid family leave. She recognizes the national security threat of Climate Change. She advocates for rejoining the Paris Accord and recognizes the need for regulations to protect our clean air and water. She supports investing in our infrastructure, repairing our roads and bridges. I recommend attending an event to hear Maura speak in person. She’s a dynamic, energetic leader who will work for New Hampshire with the determination and loyalty of a Marine.

The issues our state faces are National in scope and impact, so we need to send a strong proven leader to represent us. I’m voting for Maura Sullivan so she can fight for me!

Mary Siudut, Durham

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“Maura Sullivan for Congress”
The NH Union Leader, Letter to the Editor, August 26. 2018

To the Editor: I am supporting Maura Sullivan because she has the federal experience and strength needed to fight for policies that will help strengthen the people of New Hampshire and the country as a whole.

Maura’s unwavering commitment to obtaining affordable health care for all, recognition of climate change as a national security priority, and work to gain paid family leave demonstrate only some of the ways she will continue to fight for high stakes issues once in Congress.

As a woman in college, I am astounded by our government and the current leaders in D.C. and look to Maura to bring reason and democratic leadership to Washington. I am not alone in perceiving Maura as the strongest candidate as several well-established organizations such as Emily’s List, New Politics, and VoteVets, to name a few, have whole-heartedly endorsed Maura. I know with Maura in Washington not only will there be a woman in the room, but someone who cares for all people, especially those of New Hampshire.

Una O’Brien-Taubman, Portsmouth

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Maura Sullivan makes an appearance at the Gibson Center for Senior Services in North Conway last week. (Jamie Gemmiti photo)

“Maura Sullivan challenged to produce her combat ribbon”
By Lloyd Jones, Editor,The Conway Daily Sun, August 27, 2018

Conway — The military record of former Marine Corps captain Maura Sullivan, who is seeking the Democratic nomination in the 1st Congressional District primary, has been called into question by fellow candidate and Army veteran Terence O’Rourke (D-Alton), a Bronze Star recipient for his service as a captain in Iraq and Afghanistan.

When confronted with those questions, Sullivan cried foul, accusing the Sun of sexism.

In an email sent out to news organizations last Wednesday, O'Rourke said “former Marine Corps Capt. Maura Sullivan has repeatedly and insistently stated that she ‘fought’ in the War in Iraq and that she is a ‘combat’ veteran."

In fact, a current TV spot paid for by Sullivan's campaign and approved by the candidate shows Sullivan holding what appears to be an assault rifle and saying: "This is a weapon I trained on in the Marines and carried in Fallujah, Iraq. It was a war zone. No child should face one of these in New Hampshire classrooms ..."

According to O'Rourke, "There is no record currently available to the public to justify those statements; in fact, statements made by her prior to running for office would indicate otherwise.

"As an officer with integrity, I have pointed out that while Ms. Sullivan performed honorable duty in Iraq, she did not ‘fight’ in combat. In response, Ms. Sullivan publicly launched a personal attack on my character in the hopes of minimizing my service and obfuscating the truth about her own. She even went so far as to claim gender discrimination," he said.

"Ms. Sullivan, who claims to be a champion of veterans, should know better. Over 400 female Marines have been awarded the CAR (Combat Action Ribbon) for their service in Iraq and Afghanistan, and over 9,000 female soldiers have received the CAB (Combat Action Badge) in the same conflicts."

O’Rourke has asked Sullivan to produce her CAR.

During an Aug. 22 editorial board, Sun staffers did the same.

In response, Sullivan said: “I served for a little more than five years on active duty in the Marines, fought in the Iraq War, was stationed in Japan and trained a lot in Korea and I’m really proud of my service. I’m not sure why someone would be attacking my service and speculating about it. It’s disappointing and strikes me as making assumptions that are sexist in nature and to do so somebody owes me an apology and owes an apology to any woman who has ever worn the uniform of the United States.”

Asked again if she had received a ribbon and been in combat, Sullivan replied: “I’m very proud of my service. Men and women have been serving this country, on the front lines, for many, many years now. I’m very proud of the men and women who served. There is a healthy disrespect among veterans — we don’t qualify or criticize one another’s service. For someone to criticize my service is to question the service of anyone who has worn the uniform.”

In another recent campaign ad, Sullivan mentions within the first 10 seconds, “I didn’t fight in Iraq to let the gun lobby …”

O’Rourke also shared a Harvard Kennedy School video profile on Sullivan while she studied there.

In it, Sullivan says: “It was my job a lot of times to coordinate missions and then send different Marines from battalions and various companies out into the city of Fallujah and the surrounding areas, but it wasn’t my job to accompany them.”

On Aug. 23, Sullivan spoke about her military service in the morning during the MWV Economic Council’s congressional candidate forum at the North Conway Grand Hotel. She and six other candidates shared the stage for 90 minutes.

"I fought in an unnecessary war,” Sullivan said of the war in Iraq, and later said, "I'm a United States Marine. I fought in the Iraq War.”

Sullivan came to New Hampshire in the fall of 2006 to support Carol Shea-Porter, who was protesting the Iraq War and running for Congress.

"We have gotten involved in way too many misadventures overseas that have cost thousands of American lives,” Sullivan said last Thursday, and later added: "I was in basic training when 9/11 happened, and we felt that (Afghanistan) would be over by the time we left basic training. Seventeen years on, we are still there."

Sullivan spent two years stationed in East Asia before deploying to Fallujah," her website says.

The Department of Defense website says Sullivan's service included a deployment in Fallujah in 2005 with Combat Logistics Battalion 8; two years with the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing in Okinawa, Japan; and serving as the Deputy Officer-in-Charge of the 2nd Marine Logistics Group reorganization team.

She earned the Navy Commendation Medal and a Navy/Marine Corps Achievement Medal with a Gold Star, the DoD website said.

If elected to Congress, Sullivan said she wants to get on the Armed Services committee to avoid unnecessary wars.

Sullivan was appointed by President Barack Obama in 2010 to serve on the American Battle Monuments Commission, where, with her fellow commissioners, she managed America’s overseas military cemeteries and memorials. She was later named the Assistant Secretary for the Office of Public & Intergovernmental Affairs at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Obama later appointed Sullivan as assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs. Sullivan was "principal staff assistant and adviser to the Secretary and Deputy Secretary of Defense for communication, news media relations, public outreach, engagement, public affairs and visual information,” according to the DoD website.

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August 30, 2018

Re: Trump canceled pay raise next year for federal civilian workers

I am a 100% disabled Veteran who relies on my VA and SSA monthly disability checks to financially survive. I saw on the news tonight that President Trump blocked federal civilian workers' pay raise next year. I am counting on my cost of living adjustment (cola) next year to stay financially solvent. Will Trump's decision to rescind federal workers' pay raise next year impact my cola to my VA and SSA disability checks? Do you have any say over any of these matters that financially impact federal civilian workers, disabled Veterans, and Social Security recipients? Please reply to my message; thank you.

- Jonathan Melle

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“Maura Sullivan will fight for us”
The NH Union Leader, August 30, 2018

To the Editor:

Michael Avenatti, everyone’s favorite lawyer to hate, recently said “Democrats have a tendency to bring nail clippers to a gunfight,” and while hilarious, it’s true. Don’t forget, apparently there’s a civil way we should be calling out bigotry, racism, and human rights violations.

It was 12:45 a.m. last Friday when I heard a startling ad on CNN: “This is a weapon similar to the one I trained on in the Marines. No child should face one of these in New Hampshire’s classrooms.” I was donating to Maura Sullivan’s campaign before the 30-second spot ended.

I cry with each school shooting, horrified that one day my 3-year-old daughter might face the same. I bet you do, too. Maura Sullivan won’t back down on common-sense gun control, because being civil isn’t her priority. She’s a fighter, and she didn’t get started with nail clippers. Some consider Maura an outsider. She didn’t get endorsements from the local political heroes. I get it.

But I have questions: Are those people fighting as hard as you’d like them to? Are they getting anywhere? Could they use an extra set of hands not preoccupied with being nice? Think long and hard about those answers. They matter.

What we don’t need is a yes man in Washington. We need a leader, a fighter, a voice, and someone who isn’t afraid to hold their ground. Maura Sullivan is that person.

Sara Locke, Goffstown

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Letter to the Editor: “Maura Sullivan and Chicago money”
fosters.com A service of seacoastonline.com – Opinion – September 7, 2018

To the Editor:

I read the news that Maura Sullivan moved here to New Hampshire in June 2017 to primary Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter with a mixture of amusement and disgust. Amusement because Carol is close to the Democrats in our district and counts them as her friends, and Maura obviously did not know that. The disgust is the more important reaction though.

I am disgusted because she was planning to run for Congress from Chicago, but she thought it would be too hard, so she went “district shopping” with the help of a Massachusetts congressman, who didn’t offer his district up — just ours.

Maura Sullivan showing up with money from Chicago and trying to break in and buy a seat after living here for just four months should offend all of us who treasure our state’s proud tradition of retail politics. I know about that tradition — I was Carol’s first campaign manager—and I do treasure it.

Granite Staters are proud that their politicians have a long campaign process that calls for attending house parties and dinners around our state, and talking to friends and neighbors and skeptical locals who want to know who they are, why they are running, and what they think about a variety of issues. They want to know if the candidate knows them.

Maura Sullivan does not know them. The first time she will ever vote in a federal election in NH will be when she votes for herself this Tuesday. She skipped voting in the 2016 presidential primary in DC, where she was working at the time, but she wants NH citizens to make the effort to go to the polls on Tuesday and vote for her, even though she has tried to up-end our retail politics tradition and replace it with raising money, almost all of it from out of state, to drown out the other ten candidates with constant television ads and mailers. This may not be illegal, but it is ugly. There is too much money coming into races around the country, but when 97% of your money is from out of state, this crosses the boundary of decency.

The first time Carol and I ever met Maura, she no longer had to primary Carol because Carol had announced she was not running again. But she fawned over Carol—then and every time after that—telling her and the groups gathered how much she admired Carol and how she had volunteered for her. Carol and I knew she had not volunteered, but we stayed quiet because it wasn’t important. But this is. District shopping is not illegal, but I wish it were. Because I believe Congressional seats should be for the people, by the people, of each state. And Maura Sullivan was not one of our people until 16 weeks before she announced her candidacy, when she moved here to primary our congresswoman.

There are many choices on Tuesday. Carol and I will be voting for Naomi Andrews. Please consider her or the other NH candidates who have lived and worked in NH.

Susan Mayer, Lee, Rep. Carol Shea-Porter’s 2006 Campaign Manager

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“Maura Sullivan’s smear tactics do not work in NH”
Seacoastonline.com - Opinion - September 5, 2018

To the Editor:

Three weeks ago I got a phone call, asking me to answer some survey questions about the primary election. It turned out the survey included some anonymous smears of Chris Pappas, who is also running. After each smear I was asked, did this make me more likely to vote for Maura Sullivan? The whole survey was about the two of them.

The next day I attended a gathering in Manchester, and a man I was talking to mentioned he had gotten this call. I said, me too! And about ten more people standing near us said they also had gotten that call.

I was concerned enough to attend a meeting with Chris Pappas a few days later. I asked him about one smear, that he was taking money from Big Energy and supporting Northern Pass. He looked stunned and blurted out, “But I appointed one of the five members of the Site Committee that turned Northern Pass down.” Pappas then went on to assure me of his environmental commitments.

Since then, I’ve gotten two more survey calls, each with different smears about Chris Pappas. And several people have told me that certain survey companies can be hired to conduct polls like this. They’re called ‘push polls.’

I looked up Maura Sullivan. Do you know she only moved here to N.H. in late 2017, in order to run for this Congressional seat?

And what does it mean to say she lives in Portsmouth now, when she works full time in D.C.? (She has been on the American Battle Monuments Commission for four years).

Yes, she was a Marine and I respect her service for the hardships she endured and the danger she faced, for the time she spent away from home and friends. But not for the rifle she looks at so lovingly in her newest TV ad, as she declares she used a gun like that in the Marines. I don’t believe killing people qualifies anyone to govern.

Maura Sullivan’s TV ads have given her a high profile. She has raised more than a million dollars from outside N.H., and most of it from Bain Capital. What kind of progressive Democrat takes big money from Mitt Romney’s old company? According to WMUR, Sullivan trails only Romney in donation dollars received from Bain.

And what kind of callousness of spirit does it take for Sullivan to sanction a survey to smear Pappas as financially indebted to big corporations, when her own campaign is almost entirely funded by Bain Capital?

Will Maura Sullivan be able to offer constituent services to the towns and cities of N.H., when she has hardly spent any time in N.H.? Does she even know the names of our towns?

We need a representative who can help get funding for bridge repairs, rehab centers, Medicaid Extension, and health care services. Sullivan campaigns on two issues only: veterans affairs and keeping guns out of schools. We need a representative who can work with elected officials all over N.H. Does Sullivan even know who they are?

I am appalled by her campaign tactics against Chris Pappas, and have decided to vote for him because he responded to my questions openly and honestly, because he cares about a wide range of issues and is informed about them, and because he has lived in N.H. all his life. He does, in fact, know his way around the state. And more than any other candidate, he has a chance of beating Maura Sullivan.

Let’s tell Maura Sullivan to pack her carpetbag and move somewhere else.

Rev. Nancy Rockwell

United Church of Christ NH

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“Maura Sullivan would be a disaster for New Hampshire Democrats”
Seacoastonline.com - September 9, 2018

To the Editor:

I am writing because the Union Leader report today (Sunday) about Maura Sullivans voting record was the last straw. The paper reports that Ms. Sullivan, 38 years old, did not vote in 2006 (she would have been 26), 2008, 2010 or 2014. She did not even vote in the critical 2016 primary.

A clear profile has emerged of an opportunistic candidate who sees 2018 as chance to capitalize on her resume as a female Marine but who seeks to replace local vetting with a prepackaged campaign.

Theres this great national network of PACs and individual high-dollar contributors ready to support Democratic women, veterans (Ms. Sullivan was a Marine logistics officer in Iraq), and former Obama appointees (Ms. Sullivan held 3 public affairs appointments in just a year and a half). Those networks are a wonderful asset but, in this case, it has led Ms. Sullivan to move to New Hampshire, a small state where those big dollars will go a long way in either primarying Carol Shea Porter or, as luck would have it, running for an open seat.

What we are seeing is a highly programmed candidate who knows little about New Hampshire, striving to override our retail campaigning style with a flood of well produced TV ads and highly structured public appearances.

At the WMUR debate last week, I was struck by the contrast between her tightly scripted statements and the authentic thoughtful responses of the other 10 candidates. After the debate, she steamed through the crowded lobby, led by her staffer, looking straight ahead in the posture of a VIP with somewhere else to be. It turned out, according to WMUR, that she was the only candidate to avoid the spin room opportunity talk with the press after the event.

Out of almost $2 million she has raise, less than $60,000 came from within New Hampshire. Thats a remarkably low figure. Either she is not getting out to introduce herself in house parties or she is failing to impress in living room close-ups.

Is this the approach she would take in our short general election campaign? We need to elect a Democrat but do not want to be stuck with a vulnerable candidate we dont even know and who may not know how to connect with New Hampshire general election voters.

Ms. Sullivan has had the hubris to imagine that, having seldom voted in her adult life, she can use carefully crafted words and a selective resume to ride the anti-Trump wave right into Congress.

My message to fellow Democratic primary voters is that there is no need to vote for Ms. Sullivan. I will vote for Chris Pappas, also 38, but who has served the State for half his life, with no such grandstanding. In addition to Chris Pappas there are 9 other committed, thoughtful candidates on the ballot, many of whom we have come to know over the years, because they show up to do the real work as well. And Ill bet it never would have occurred to them not to vote in an election.

Bill Duncan, New Castle

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“What we know about Sullivan”
fosters.com - September 8, 2018

To the Editor:

As I write this we are five days out from the election and here is what we know about Maura Sullivan:

1) She moved here from DC with millions in out-of-state dirty, dark money to primary Carol Shea-Porter, the first woman elected to Congress from New Hampshire and one of the nation’s leading progressive.

2) She has lied about why she moved here. She denied coming here just to run for Congress. Her former Professor at Harvard has confirmed that she is lying.

3) She has 97.6% of her money from outside of NH and has received nearly $1 million more in outside spending from DC Establishment outfits VoteVets, Emily’s List, and With Honor.

4) She is against Medicare for All.

5) She has exaggerated her service record in Iraq to a point that borders on Stolen Valor. When called out, she hurls baseless accusations of sexism.

6) She has never held a job in New Hampshire and has been unemployed since moving to Portsmouth in August, 2017.

7) She opposes the removal of statues honoring Confederate traitors.

8) I believe she lied about campaigning for Carol Shea-Porter in 2006.

9) She did not vote in the 2016 Democratic Primary.

10) The number one single source of individual contributions to her campaign are from employees of Bain Capital.

Simply put, Maura Sullivan is a fraud. Her candidacy is a direct attack on our state. Her and her financiers believe that the people of New Hampshire are rubes and that they can simply fool us into voting for her. If she wins the Democratic nomination, not only will Eddie Edwards be our next Congressman, but our state and party will suffer an embarrassment which will take years to get over.

What am I asking of you? Please ask everyone you know who intends to vote in the Democratic Primary on September 11th to vote for anyone but Maura Sullivan. Ask them to vote for real Democrats who support Medicare for All. Ask them to save us from this catastrophe. Ask them to save New Hampshire.

Terence O'Rourke (D), Congressional Candidate, 1st Congressional District, Alton

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“1st CD: Pappas earns Democratic nod from crowded field”
By Kevin Landrigan, New Hampshire Union Leader, September 11. 2018

Manchester - Executive Councilor Chris Pappas of Manchester was largely outspent but easily romped to victory in the crowded, 11-person Democratic primary Tuesday night.

Pappas, a three-term councilor, opened up a huge lead in his hometown winning nearly 70 percent of the vote. The second-place finisher, former Obama administration official Maura Sullivan of Portsmouth, finished a distance second there.

Sullivan outraised Pappas by more than 2-1 in the race but party leaders said Tuesday night Pappas' ground game was much better than Sullivan, who was barely known before the campaign began.

It became clear before 8 p.m. this was going to be Pappas' night when he won nearly twice the votes in one ward of Portsmouth, Sullivan's adopted home city.

Unofficially, Pappas won Manchester by nearly a 4-1 margin over Sullivan, 6,868 to 1,904.

He also won in wards in Dover along with the Seacoast towns of Rollinsford and Stratford.

With only 15 percent of the vote, Pappas had a huge lead, 56 to 23 percent.

The conference room across the parking lot from the Puritan Backroom Restaurant that Pappas owns filled up slowly as campaign workers filtered in.

But throughout the day, prominent Democrats were tweeting to their supporters to go out and vote for Pappas, including Sen. Maggie Hassan, her state director Pam Walsh and longtime lobbyist and Democratic operative Jim Demers of Concord.

All 11 candidates said they were liberal and vowed to support abortion rights, paid family and medical leave and to oppose the Trump tax cuts and his foreign policy.

Both Pappas and Sulllivan played it safe on some issues, failing to offer their support as some rivals did for a government-run single payer health care system.

U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, D-NH, surprised even longtime supporters with her stunning decision last fall that she would not be seeking a fifth term this fall.

Shea-Porter, 65, has not ruled out a future return to politics. Many political observers think the Rochester Democrat would seriously consider running for the U.S. Senate in 2020 if Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, decided to retire on her own.

Initially, Shea-Porter said she would stay out of this race and that touched off a flurry of candidates from across the district, which covers the eastern half of the state.

Many thought Executive Councilor Chris Pappas of Manchester was the early favorite given that he was able to win three times in the most Republican district on the Executive Council. Pappas had considered mounting a challenge to Shea-Porter in 2016 but decided instead to hold onto his seat.

Most of the political establishment was on board with Pappas, 38, including Sens. Maggie Hassan and Shaheen, former Gov. John Lynch, the State Employees Association and the two largest unions representing public school teachers.

But Pappas had an ambitious and well-financed rival in former Marine Capt. Maura Sullivan, 38, of Portsmouth.

Sullivan had lived in the state less than a year but said she had worked to help first elect Shea-Porter and was committed to staying here.

She worked in the Pentagon and the Department of Veterans Affairs and parlayed those relationships into an impressive financial juggernaut that raised nearly $2 million in campaign donations -- more than 90 percent of it outside the state.

If that wasn't enough, Sullivan had liberal special-interest groups bankrolling their own campaign ads for her, to the tune of $800,000 worth by the third week in August.

Groups backing veteran candidates, led by U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., and Emily's List, the liberal group supporting abortion rights, were big supporters.

Pappas did well financially -- raising about $825,000 -- but that still left him with half as much money as Sullivan, who swamped the airwaves with ads.

Former Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and ex-Navy Secretary Ray Mabus have come to campaign for her here and much of her money has come through the Obama/national Democratic network of donors.

Equality PAC, a group backing LGBTQ causes, spent $228,000 on ads for Pappas, who would become the first gay candidate to win nomination to a major office in New Hampshire.

The race attracted several other first-time candidates for major office.

State Rep. Mindi Messmer, 55, of Rye, said as an environmental scientist she's been able to get legislation passed through the Republican-dominated Legislature the past two years.

Rep. Mark MacKenzie, 66, of Manchester won his own State House seat after retiring as a city firefighter and longtime president of the New Hampshire AFL-CIO union.

Deaghlan McEachern, 35, of Portsmouth, helped create a technology startup and is the son of three-time candidate for governor Paul McEachern.

Naomi Andrews, 37, of Epping was the candidate Shea-Porter ended up endorsing as she had been her chief of staff and former campaign manager. Rochester City Attorney Terence O'Rourke, 40, is an Iraq War Army veteran and outspoken activist.

Lincoln Soldati, 69, of Somersworth, served as Strafford County attorney.

Levi Sanders, 49, lives in Claremont, which isn't in the 1st District, but he is the only son of Vt. independent Sen. Bernie Sanders who won the 2016 Democratic presidential primary here.

The other candidates who filed were small business owner Paul Cardinal of Merrimack and William Martin of Manchester.

Union Leader Correspondent Jason Schreiber contributed to this report.

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Saturday, April 7, 2018

Pittsfield politics 2018. The lovely Linda Tyer leads Pittsfield politics towards 2020.

“Tyer on shelter tiff: Animals' well-being 'a top priority'”
By Haven Orecchio-Egresitz , The Berkshire Eagle, April 7, 2018

PITTSFIELD — For the first time since the city terminated its contract with the Friends of Eleanor Sonsini Animal Shelter last month, Mayor Linda Tyer has addressed the matter in a public statement.

"The focus of this communication is to reassure you that the health and well-being of the animals in the city's care is a top priority," Tyer said in a written statement released late Friday. "As the news of the contract termination has evolved, I know that you and many in our community have questions. The Eleanor Sonsini Animal Shelter will remain open."

The shelter, a private nonprofit, has been under contract with the city to care for animals that are homeless or detained by the city throughout the mandatory seven-day holding period. The shelter then takes ownership of the animals and attempts to find homes for them.

The city gave the shelter 30 days' notice that it would be ending its contract March 30. That day, when two Pittsfield police officers arrived at the city-owned building, shelter staff refused to hand over the keys.

The staff has continued to operate the shelter as normal, despite the canceled contract.

On Thursday, the city and an attorney for the shelter came to an agreement, allowing the staff to continue working out of the building until April 30, at which point all the animals in possession of Sonsini staff must be removed from the building and the animals that are still in the mandatory seven-day holding period will remain.

"Once the city has taken back possession of the building, our Animal Control Officer will step in and manage the day-to-day operations of the shelter for a temporary period of time while we develop a plan for the long-term," Tyer said.

Until Friday, the city had declined to comment on its dispute with the shelter. The city has not confirmed why the contract was terminated.

Haven Orecchio-Egresitz can be reached at horecchio@berkshireeagle.com, @HavenEagle on Twitter and 413-770-6977.

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Letter: “Sonsini legacy, animals betrayed by shelter 'friends'”
The Berkshire Eagle, April 10, 2018

To the editor:

Eleanor Sonsini must be rolling in her grave.

Animals were her life, but chances are, the actors in the uber-drama playing out at the "Friends of the Eleanor Sonsini shelter" never got to meet her. Maybe if they had, they would show integrity rather than making a spectacle out of the nonprofit that bears her name. Unfortunately, it's the animals that are the pawns and are paying the price in this shameful reality show.

I witnessed Eleanor's undaunted dedication in the 1980s when I was a veterinary technician in Pittsfield. She would drive around rescuing stray dogs and cats, pay out of her pocket for their spay/neuter and vet care, and then find homes for them. Hers was a gallant mission; naming the shelter after her was befitting. But it now appears that over the last years, Friends of Sonsini's original intentions were superseded by politics, power plays and boards of directors who have spiraled things out of control.

Around 20 years ago, I interned at Pittsfield's municipal animal shelter as part of my BCC studies. Back then, it was a dingy dog pound that essentially warehoused unclaimed dogs and cats and was unknown to the average citizen. Dogs slept on hard plastic pallets, languished in bare cages and rarely got outdoor time; the cats were caged in a windowless broom closet. As in many city/town pounds, the animals' care was at the mercy of the animal control officers, and there were only a handful of volunteers who had to work around the ACO's schedule.

It was a profoundly heartbreaking place to be, as I saw things that bothered me to no end, and too often, my attempts to improve things for the animals were ignored. While the Humane Society across town had an endless array of volunteers and donors, the animals at the city shelter were largely forgotten.

So in 2006, when the city contracted with Friends of Sonsini, things looked promising for the animals, and the comfort of the animals improved greatly. But too many staff changes and a parade of board members with conflicting agendas over the years have undermined the nonprofit's mission.

It's time to remember that the animal shelter belongs to all of us who live here and pay our city taxes. I want to know that qualified people who truly care about the animals will be there to provide food, water, exercise/playtime, and TLC. It should not be left to the ACO, police, or any of the people embroiled in the current fiasco at the shelter. Why not hire the Humane Society to provide the care? Too many Friends of Sonsini staff and volunteers have been hired, and then fired. Too many dedicated volunteers are demoralized and worried about the animals there.

The mayor, city leaders and the embattled Sonsini board need to clean this mess up. They owe it to the memory and legacy of Eleanor Sonsini. But most of all, they owe it to the animals, who are now in the crosshairs.

Yvonne Borsody, Pittsfield

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“City streets gone to pot”
The Berkshire Eagle, Letters, April 10, 2018

To the editor:

Potholes are everywhere in Pittsfield and they are just plain awful. We're like a bunch of drunks weaving all over the place to avoid them. No one seems to care. Our ward councilor lives on one of the worst ones in our neighborhood and has done nothing either.

The tax dollars, which keep going up, that we pay for maintenance haven't produced anything. We've waited too long and need to call for immediate action.

Joe Anello, Pittsfield

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Letter: “Local history lost through art sale”
The Berkshire Eagle, April 10, 2018

To the editor:

Selling the two Norman Rockwell paintings is a travesty. These paintings are local history that can never be replaced. The art world has many paintings that are less localized. There will never be another artist like Norman Rockwell who so represents our community.

This sale of all the artwork is a tremendous loss for the children of Berkshire County who may never be exposed to such a varied collection.

Alice Nathan, Irving Marks, Lee

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Letter: “Museum supporter betrayed by sale”
The Berkshire Eagle, April 10, 2018

To the editor:

Many lengthy and articulate letters have expressed the outrage and incomprehensible shock at the callousness of the trustees of the Berkshire Museum. I can only say this: As a resident of the Berkshires since 1973 who moved to this wondrous area largely because of the plethora of wonderful cultural venues available and who until this time had much appreciation for our small but beautiful Berkshire Museum, I feel utterly betrayed by their fundraising decision to sell so many incredible works of art by renowned artists, especially our own Norman Rockwell. I truly believe it was the intention of the donors to keep these jewels in place right here in the Berkshires.

Maybe the trustees need to set their sights a tad lower, pull back on extending a lovely building, and find new ways to raise the monies necessary to continue to offer the residents and visitors a special glimpse of a variety of art and history.

They can, meanwhile, count me out!

Ann G. Spadafora, Becket

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“Berkshire Museum lists 13 works, including 2nd Rockwell, for May auction”
By Larry Parnass, The Berkshire Eagle, April 10, 2018

PITTSFIELD — Trustees of the Berkshire Museum say they hope to retain two-thirds of the works they can legally sell, acknowledging the "strong feelings" of those who oppose their financial rescue plan.

The museum Tuesday identified 13 works that will be offered at four May auctions at Sotheby's in New York City. The move came five days after the Supreme Judicial Court for Suffolk County granted the museum's petition to lift any restrictions and allow it to seek up to $55 million in proceeds under terms worked out with the state Attorney General's Office.

The list of works to be sold next month includes Norman Rockwell's "Shaftsbury Blacksmith Shop," meaning that both of the late Berkshire County artist's heralded scenic paintings — both given by Rockwell to the museum — will leave the Pittsfield museum's collection.

In a private transaction, the museum plans to sell Rockwell's "Shuffleton's Barbershop" to an unidentified nonprofit museum that pledges to keep it on public display.

And in a bid to encourage museums to bid on the 13 works now scheduled to come up at Sotheby's high-profile spring sales, the museum and auction house will allow such buyers special financing terms.

"We recognize the strong feelings of those opposed to any sale," Elizabeth McGraw, the trustees' president, said in a release. "We worked hard, particularly in the case of `Shuffleton's Barbershop,' to address their concerns and keep the painting in public view and even in the Berkshires for a time."

The sale agreement calls for "Shuffleton's" to be exhibited for up to 24 months at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge.

McGraw said the museum hopes that proceeds from the sale of the initial 14 works "will allow us to hold the remaining works that had been approved for deaccession."

For at least one opponent of the sales, that offer rang hollow Tuesday.

Tom Patti, a Pittsfield artist whose work hangs in the museum and in collections around the country, said he no longer trusts the museum to properly care for its collection, which he believes belongs to the public.

"All this work was removed from Pittsfield without the public's consent," he said. "It was unique that those paintings existed in our community."

Patti added, "I have no trust for anything they say — whether they sell one or all of them."

Patti was among nearly 10 plaintiffs in two civil actions who attempted to block the sales, at first with support from the office of Attorney General Maura Healey.

After the plaintiffs were found in November to lack legal standing, Healey's office intensified an investigation into the museum's plan to sell 40 works of art. On Feb. 9, Healey's office and the museum announced they had come to terms allowing the sale of up to 40 works, in several groups.

The museum plans to use most of the money to bulk up its endowment and draw off earnings to counter what it says has been a recurring yearly deficit of more than $1 million. It will also tap proceeds to fund renovations to address problems with its 39 South St. building, and in pursuit of a new approach to exhibits that emphasizes multimedia and interactive presentations.

Freed by ruling

Tuesday's announcement identified the first group of works to be sold, all of which were freed up for sale by Thursday's ruling from Justice David A. Lowy.

Lowy's decision came one day before a deadline to submit marketing materials for the May auctions, the museum said.

The ruling ended a months-long legal battle between the museum and community members, museum industry representatives and Rockwell family members who opposed the sale.

Other artists whose works are now listed for auction at Sotheby's include William Bouguereau, Alexander Calder and Frederic Edwin Church. The museum said it has notified the Attorney General's Office of the identity of the 13 works selected for auction, as required by the agreement reached in early February.

If the May auctions plus the private museum sale of "Shuffleton's" fetch $55 million, the sales would be halted, the museum said Tuesday.

That would mean that 26 other works that had been identified for sale, including Albert Bierstadt's "Giant Redwood Trees of California," Calder's "Dancing Torpedo Shape," and Thomas Moran's "The Last Arrow" would be returned by Sotheby's to Pittsfield.

The artworks headed to May sales include works previously valued by Sotheby's for sales last fall that were canceled when Healey's office won a preliminary injunction from the Massachusetts Appeals Court. That court halted sales that Judge John Agostini of Berkshire Superior Court had sanctioned in a November ruling, setting aside objections raised by the two plaintiff groups as well as Healey's office.

Five months later, with "Shuffleton's" already headed to another museum, Sotheby's and the local museum's trustees are taking steps to see if other works can remain accessible to the public.

To that end, Sotheby's and the museum will offer extended payment terms to public institutions that seek to bid. Sotheby's standard terms require full payment in 30 days.

In this case, it will allow installments over six months or longer to public institutions, the museum said.

In his decision last week, Justice Lowy urged the museum to consider ways to keep the art available to the public.

In her statement, McGraw said board members reviewed all the works that the court had approved for sale.

She said the goal was to retain works that could play a role as it retools its mission to focus on "bringing people together for experiences that spark creativity and innovative thinking by making inspiring educational connections among art, history, and natural science."

Based on initial bid ranges provided by Sotheby's, the 14 works now designated for sale could bring from a low of $42,220,000 to a high of $61,000,000.

While that does not include an additional 26 works first listed for sale, the 14 represent the lion's share of expected auction values.

The entire original group of works had been valued by Sotheby's at a low of $52,615,000 to a high of $76,180,000.

That means that, based on the high-bid range, the value of the 26 works that the museum says it hopes to retain is about $15 million.

David Peter Moser, a member of the Save the Art-Save the Museum group who has worked as a corporate art consultant, said he finds it hard to believe that the museum selected works to sell based on what it needed to retain for its educational mission.

A bigger factor, he said, would be the marketability of particular works and how they fit in with other pieces, from different sellers, on consignment at particular auctions.

The Calder work for sale, "Double Arc and Sphere," was likely chosen because it is "prettier."

"It's something that is more desirable to the public at large than the other piece," Moser said.

The work by Henry Moore that is to be sold, "Three Seated Women," might top its high-bid range of $600,000, he predicted, and Francis Picabia's "Force Comique" might as well.

"They're pretty exceptional works by those artists and are highly desirable," Moser said.

He applauded the steps the museum and Sotheby's have taken to make it easier for museums to finance purchases of the art.

"I think that it's an exceptional idea," Moser said. "It does seem like creative financing."

Like other sale opponents, Lynn Villency Cohen, an art historian, believes the museum should have allowed members of the public to know that financing for its New Vision depended on selling works. For that reason, she said Tuesday, she finds it hard to accept that the museum is acting in the public interest to keep 26 works.

"If a portion of the valuable art can be saved and adequately cared for, it's a start," Cohen said.

Sales plan

One of the works deemed not to be critical to the museum's mission is Picabia's "Force Comique."

Marilyn Patti, who joined her husband, Tom, in opposing any sales from the collection, said Tuesday she regrets that the work will go on the block.

"Picabia is one of the only pieces in the collection from that time period," she said, referring to the 1913 work by the French avant-garde artist. "We don't want any of them sold."

The Picabia will go to auction May 14 at Sotheby's "Impressionist & Modern Art Evening," along with Moore's "Three Seated Women."

Of the remaining works, the sales schedule is as follows:

- May 16, at the "Contemporary Art Evening," the museum will sell Calder's mobile "Double Arc and Sphere."

- May 22, at the "European Art" auction, the museum will sell: Bouguereau's "L'Agneau Nouveau-Ne" and the same artist's "Les deux soeurs (La Bourrique)," along Charles Francois Daubigny's "Paysans allant aux champs (Le Matin),"Adriaen Isenbrant's "The Flight into Egypt" and "The Temptation of Adam and Eve," and Alberto Pasini's "Faubourg de Constantinople."

- May 23, at the "American Art" auction, the museum will sell: Rockwell's "Blacksmith's Boy — Heel and Toe (Shaftsbury Blacksmith Shop)," Rembrandt Peale's "George Washington," Church's "Valley of Santa Isabel, New Granada" and John La Farge's "Magnolia."

'Secret' process

Tom Patti said he remains unsettled by what he sees as a secretive process.

When trustees announced plans to sell art last July, officials at first declined to identify which pieces would leave the collection.

"There was no need to keep that secret," he said. "Knowing that it was wrong, they kept it secret."

But in her statement, McGraw returned to a theme of necessity expressed by the museum repeatedly over the past three seasons.

"We are moving forward to secure the future of the Berkshire Museum," she said. "We now hope we can raise what the museum needs by offering for sale fewer than half of the works originally anticipated. That's good for the museum and the community we serve."

Larry Parnass can be reached at lparnass@berkshireeagle.com, at @larryparnass on Twitter and 413-496-6214.

On the block ...

The following works are listed for sale in May at Sotheby's:

May 14: Francis Picabia, "Force Comique"

May 14: Norman Rockwell, "Blacksmith's Boy - Heel and Toe (Shaftsbury Blacksmith Shop)"

May 14: Henry Moore, "Three Seated Women"

May 16: Alexander Calder, "Double Arc and Sphere"

May 22: William Bouguereau, "L'Agneau Nouveau-Ne"

May 22: William Bouguereau, "Les deux soeurs (La Bourrique)"

May 22: Charles Francois Daubigny, "Paysans allant aux champs (Le Matin)"

May 22: Adriaen Isenbrant, "The Flight into Egypt"

May 22: Adriaen Isenbrant, "The Temptation of Adam and Eve"

May 22: Alberto Pasini, "Faubourg de Constantinople"

May 23: John La Farge, "Magnolia"

May 23: Rembrandt Peale, "George Washington"

May 23: Frederic Edwin Church, "Valley of Santa Isabel, New Granada"

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The Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, currently under construction in Los Angeles, is the buyer of "Shuffleton's Barbershop," one of the Norman Rockwell paintings being sold from the collection of the Berkshire Museum. Image provided by Mad Architects.


“Lucas museum buys Rockwell's 'Shuffleton's Barbershop'”
By Larry Parnass, The Berkshire Eagle, April 11, 2018

PITTSFIELD — The future home of the devoted musicians depicted in "Shuffleton's Barbershop" will be a sleek, 300,000-square-foot museum now rising in Exposition Park in south Los Angeles.

When the Berkshire Museum said in February that an unidentified nonprofit museum would acquire Norman Rockwell's acclaimed painting, the list of prospective buyers was short.

On Wednesday, the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art made it official: It has acquired the painting. The museum, which broke ground March 14 and is expected to open in 2022, was co-founded by George Lucas, the famed movie director, and his spouse, Mellody Hobson.

In an interview last month with The New York Times, Don Bacigalupi, president of the Lucas museum, did not rule out his institution's interest in the 1950 Rockwell painting, given by the artist to the Berkshire Museum.

"There's nothing that I can say at this point," Bacigalupi told the newspaper.

That changed Wednesday, when Bacigalupi announced the acquisition, calling Rockwell "one of our nation's most important storytellers" and noting the importance of his work to the Berkshires and Massachusetts as a whole.

The Lucas museum, he said, is honored "to become the public steward of this major work."

"This cultural treasure will continue to be seen and enjoyed by the public in an American museum, where it will be a source of inspiration for generations to come," Bacigalupi said.

The museum did not reveal the sale price. The Pittsfield museum first planned to sell "Shuffleton's" at a Sotheby's auction. The bid range placed on the work at the time was $20 million to $30 million.

The painting will be loaned to the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge this year and be exhibited there into 2020, the California museum said. That timetable adheres to an agreement reached between the Pittsfield museum and the state attorney general in February after months of litigation.

The other possible buyer, in what turned out to be a private transaction handled by Sotheby's, was considered by most observers to be the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Ark., founded by Alice L. Walton. Though now working for Lucas as the California museum's founding president, Bacigalupi formerly served with the Arkansas museum.

Crystal Bridges and the new Lucas museum were seen as top candidates because both possess works by Rockwell — and have deep pockets.

"Shuffleton's Barbershop" is considered to be the Berkshire County artist's finest painting, lending another reason for high-profile collections to want to count it among their holdings.

But the Arkansas museum confirmed early Wednesday, before the Lucas museum announcement, that it is not the unnamed buyer.

"You can rule us out. It was not us," said Beth Bobbitt, the museum's public relations manager.

Laurie Norton Moffatt, director and CEO of the Stockbridge museum, expressed appreciation to the Lucas museum for keeping the painting available to the public, including the planned loan to her institution.

"It is especially meaningful for the people of Berkshire County who will have the opportunity to enjoy this masterpiece for a few more years," she said in remarks provided by the Lucas museum.

Rich in Rockwells

The Lucas museum's seed collection, gathered by the filmmaker, includes multiple works by Rockwell, and mentions the artist prominently in its promotional materials.

The collection includes 13 paintings by Rockwell and eight studies. Among the paintings are "The Gossips" (1948), "After the Prom" (1957), "River Pilot" (1940) and "Couple in Rumbleseat" (1935). Lucas was identified as the person who paid $46 million when another Rockwell work, "Saying Grace," came up for sale in 2013. That was the highest price paid to date for a Rockwell work.

According to MAD Architects, the Los Angeles museum's designer, the $1.5 billion project is meant to suggest that "a futuristic spaceship" has landed on its 11-acre site, located near other museums and the University of Southern California campus.

"People from all walks of life are welcome to feel and appreciate this cultural paradise," the architectural firm says of the future museum on its website. "The interior of the building has been designed as a huge bright and open cave."

At the groundbreaking last month, Lucas said his goal is to help spur imagination among museum visitors and "inspire them to dream beyond what is considered possible."

"Narrative art and storytelling stirs our emotions, shapes our aspirations as a society, and is the glue that binds us together around our common beliefs," he said in remarks provided by the museum.

One key to that, the museum says, is to present works where patrons engage "with art forms they may already recognize and love."

"Imagine a place where a fan of Norman Rockwell's familiar art makes a meaningful connection with a cutting edge 21st-century digital animator," the museum says on its website.

The Lucas family expects to provide at least a $400 million endowment for the museum. The collection will present works in three categories — narrative art, the art of the cinema (including outtakes from the filmmaker's projects, including "Star Wars") and digital art.

When the new museum was considering locating in San Francisco, a newspaper's art critic there got an early look at the collection. "The value of these materials goes beyond their rarity as objects ... they are the irreplaceable source of our view, literally, of the world," Charles Desmarais wrote for the San Francisco Chronicle.

Going nonprofit

Opposition to the sale, including by three of the late artist's sons, included concerns that a sale at auction might curtail public access to the painting.

The agreement announced Feb. 9 between the Berkshire Museum and Attorney General Maura Healey addressed that — and was hailed as a breakthrough after months of litigation.

Not only would the work be bought by another museum, rather than a private individual, the parties said, it would be loaned to the Norman Rockwell Museum for up to 24 months after the sale.

That timing led to additional speculation that the Lucas museum would acquire the painting, since it would not be able to show the work until its expected opening in 2022.

One other person known to collect works by Rockwell, the film director and producer Steven Spielberg, recently joined the board of the Lucas museum. The February agreement said the painting would be purchased by another museum, taking Spielberg out of contention.

Larry Parnass can be reached at lparnass@berkshireeagle.com, at @larryparnass on Twitter and 413-496-6214.

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Letter: “Museum decision frees barbarians to pillage”
The Berkshire Eagle, April 13, 2018

To the editor:

The New Vision at the Berkshire Museum is a victory for the barbarians; their intentions to demolish the interior makes them vandals. Every art collection in every museum in the country is now in play. Mark Gold and Van Shields might as well franchise their product.

Zenas Crane's noble vision means nothing to these ignoble savages because they know nothing about art, and they don't care. The Eagle covered Shields' history thoroughly. Gold provided the ideology for turning art into gold, a pot worth upward of $50 million. Elizabeth McGraw knew how to keep the board members on a tight leash with warnings that "loose lips sink ships." Sotheby's provided the upscale pirate's den where the plan was polished. Then came the astonishing failure of Attorney General Maura Healey to do her job. At first, she seemed to recognize the culpable negligence of the board, but without a word of explanation, she turned and became the museum's best friend in Justice Lowry's courtroom.

The failure of the board to do what every board of a nonprofit organization is required to do — raise money or step aside — was conveniently forgotten. Museums now can stop fundraising and sell their collection to keep the doors open, sell the treasures, which, above all, they have a duty to preserve.

Judge Agostini at least offered a limp apology for approving the sale. Lowry saw no problems anywhere and went into the weeds to invent a dizzy, complicated disposal plan for "Shuffleton's Barbershop," seemingly designed to enable a rich, unnamed individual (we now know it was George Lucas) in California to evade sales taxes by exhibiting the painting in the Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge for a few years (we now know the Lucas museum won't be finished for years).

The looting was legitimized with a stroke of Lowry's pen, just in time for Sotheby's next auction. The barbarians are now free to play their game without interference and the New Vision looks more and more like what it always was, vintage flim-flam updated for the way we live now. One day people will look back on the museum and also recall the Pittsfield train station that was demolished for no good reason and recognize both as victims of the same curse.

Jonas Dovydenas, Lenox

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Letter: “Loss of museum's art conflicts with cultural goals”
The Berkshire Eagle, April 16, 2018

To the editor:

On the front page of the April 15 [2018] edition of The Eagle was a marvelous story from the Sunday New York Times about people moving from New York City and the San Francisco Bay Area to the Berkshires for our unique mixture culture and the nature. No amount of money could buy that advertising. Turn to Page A2, however, and one found a full-page statement signed by more than a hundred Berkshire County residents decrying the sale of the major works of art in the collection of the Berkshire Museum. Young, vigorous, smart people are coming here for our culture, but that culture is fast leaving, at least from Pittsfield. What a sad contrast between forward and backward movement.

North Adams is about to get a new building by Frank Gehry, probably the most creative architect working in the world today. Pittsfield is about to spend a chunk of money from the sale of its paintings on a third-rate — at best — wrecking of its historical architecture. Many thousands will eagerly visit the future Extreme Railroad Museum in North Adams to see the Gehry building. No one will choose to visit the Berkshire Museum for its new "architecture." The new museums on the boards for North Adams will be the products of imagination, as well as skill and hard work at money raising. There is no evidence of any of those qualities from the management or trustees of the Berkshire Museum, whose only success at raising funds so far is the sale of a particularly fine work by Norman Rockwell who gave it to the museum for the people of Berkshire County to enjoy in perpetuity. One wants to weep.

How could those in charge of the Berkshire Museum be so totally out of touch with what is transforming our county into a more prosperous and lively setting for us all? This is not the time to rally around a truly bad plan. This is a time to stop and think hard about what the best, most timely course might be. The future of the Berkshire Museum belongs to all of us. It's not too late.

E. J. Johnson, Adams
The writer is the Amos Lawrence Professor of Art, emeritus, at Williams College.

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Our Opinion: “Fiber optics enhance bet on Berkshires”
The Berkshire Eagle, Editorial, April 16, 2018

Last week, The New York Times, arbiter of all things hip and trendy, bestowed its coveted seal of approval upon Berkshire County in the form of a lengthy article in its Real Estate section titled "Betting on the Berkshires" (reprinted in The Eagle, April 15 [2018]). The piece reported that those at the spear point of public taste have now deemed the Berkshires worthy of investment. It extolled the cultural virtues of North County with its world class cultural attractions and old mill buildings being converted into trendy restaurants and retail establishments, as well as South County's quaintness, charm, scenery, relaxed atmosphere and all the other attributes that make Berkshirites swell with pride.

The Times' rhapsodizing, however, didn't extend to the area in between, describing it as "the slightly scruffier central part of the county, including Pittsfield," which reduces the Shire City to the status of being a place visitors might wish to drive through to get from one attractive locale to another. Perhaps The Times would deign to advise Pittsfielders on ways to burnish their city's image to be less offensive to Gotham's sensibilities.

As reported in a couple of related stories in the same edition of The Eagle, a team of developers has renovated and repurposed old buildings at 47 Railroad Street in Great Barrington, citing a shortage of housing at all levels of affordability. The complex, which includes 13 high-end apartments along with retail, restaurant and office space, represents a $7.5-million investment in the town that resulted in the employment of approximately 85 mostly local tradespeople and subcontractors. Half the condos are already leased, and there is a waiting list for the rest. Already, the same developers are working on another equally ambitious project in Great Barrington.

It's refreshing to see more outside interest shown in what Berkshires residents have long known about their piece of heaven, but there is one requirement of the modern era that outweighs all the rustic charm, culture, physical beauty and laid-back atmosphere that would make a locale attractive to businesses and new residents — high-speed fiber-optic internet service. Fortunately, Great Barrington has access to this critical amenity. Without it, one of the new businesses setting up shop in offices in the 47 Railroad building never would have given the town a second glance. Warrior Trading, an online company that teaches clients how to trade stocks, relies on the speed of fiber-optic to be an effective player. As the business' owner, Ross Cameron, told The Eagle, "I trade stocks, and even though I'm 150 miles from New York, seconds matter."

Mr. Cameron's company has presences in Vermont and California, and due to the virtual nature of his business, he could have decided to establish his new offices anywhere in the country. Clearly, Great Barrington's attributes attracted him to the area, but he made it clear that fiber-optic internet access clinched the deal. Warrior Trading's occupying of the 47 Railroad office space encourages more investment activity, providing more employment for local construction workers and artisans. In other words, high-speed fiber-optic internet service has become not just a convenience but, when absent, a deterrent to economic development, slowing the expansion of home-grown businesses and discouraging businesses elsewhere from settling here.

Lately, there has been much talk of trains from metropolitan hubs whisking tourists to the county, but ensuring universal fiber-optic access must be an equally important priority if the county is going to develop sustained growth — both locally-generated and attracted from afar — and become truly vibrant. Without it, the Berkshires will remain just a nice place to visit.

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April 12, 2018

Pittsfield politics is a textbook case study of financial mismanagement! Every fiscal year, they raise municipal taxes by 5% and debts by tens of millions of dollars. It is fiscally unsustainable! The lovely Linda Tyer does not live in reality! The average Pittsfield taxpayer is financially constrained by their local tax bill. Pittsfield is one of the most economically unequal communities in the state and nation! There are no living wage jobs for the average worker in Pittsfield! GE left town, Sabic left town, among other past living wage employers. The only living wage jobs are public and non-profit employment positions. The rub is that you have to politically-connected to obtain and retain a plum or cushy job in Pittsfield. The Good Old Boys run the show! Over the past several decades in Pittsfield, thousands of people have moved out of the area. Moreover, almost all the good jobs vanished, too. The majority of residents who have been left behind in Pittsfield are part of the underclass. To illustrate, all K – 6 Pittsfield public school students are eligible for free school lunches. The Berkshire Eagle only reports propaganda about Pittsfield politics. The local daily rag supports higher local taxes, and the unfunded mandates by the EPA for Pittsfield’s waste-water upgrade. Meanwhile, the Housatonic River is still polluted with cancer-causing toxic/industrial waste chemicals called PCBs! The hypocrisy by the EPA is huge! The April 24th vote for the waste-water upgrade comes before municipal budget deliberations. It is only a matter of time before Pittsfield politics becomes fiscally insolvent and then bankrupt!

– Jonathan Melle

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State Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, background, and state Sen. Adam Hinds, foreground, each speak with someone during the 'speed-repping' event held at the Berkshire Athenaeum on Friday afternoon [4/13/2018]. Credit: Caroline Bonnivier Snyder – The Berkshire Eagle

Pittsfield’s Director of Administrative Services Roberta McCulloch-Dews listens during the ‘speed-repping’ event held at the Berkshire Athenaeum on Friday afternoon [4/13/2018]. Credit: Caroline Bonnivier Snyder – The Berkshire Eagle

Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer speaks with someone during the ‘speed-repping’ event held at the Berkshire Athenaeum on Friday afternoon [4/13/2018]. Credit: Caroline Bonnivier Snyder – The Berkshire Eagle

“At 'speed-repping,' citizens engage their representatives on 'more personal' level”
By Haven Orecchio-Egresitz , The Berkshire Eagle, April 13, 2018

PITTSFIELD — Berkshire residents got the rare opportunity Friday to get up close and personal with their local and state government representatives at the Berkshire Athenaeum first ever "speed-repping" event.

From 2 to 4 p.m. individuals spent five minutes of one-on-one time sharing concerns and ideas on topics like transportation, potholes and how to retain young people, with Mayor Linda Tyer, state Sen. Adam Hinds, state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, City Council President Peter Marchetti, Pittsfield Director of Administrative Services Roberta McCulloch-Dews, and School Committee member Dennis Powell.

"Libraries are the center of civic engagement," said Outreach Librarian Alex Geller, who's been organizing the event since January. "We're just so happy to have representatives that were not only willing, but excited to meet with their constituents in a transparent manner."

Geller got the idea for "speed-repping" through an "urban library" community online. A library in Memphis had pitched the idea and Geller decided to bring it to the Berkshires.

The event gave people an opportunity to meet with several of their representatives at the same time, but also to meet other residents with similar ideas and work together, Geller said.

On Friday, individuals signed up for time slots with the representatives of their choice and were able to chat with them, undisturbed.

Farley-Bouvier said that she heard from a senior citizen who lives downtown and relies on the Berkshire Regional Transit Authority.

The issue of transportation is particularly timely, Farley-Bouvier said, because she is currently advocating for an increased transportation budget at the statehouse.

One penny of every sales tax dollar collected in the Berkshires goes directly to the MBTA in Boston, which equals more than $30 million leaving the Berkshires each year, Farley-Bouvier said.

Most of Farley-Bouvier's constituents have never taken the T, she said.

The woman's comments reinforced the need for an increased transportation budget in the Berkshires, she said.

Transportation is also a way to retain young people in the county, which was also a concern of residents Friday, she said.

At least one resident expressed concern that the city might focus more on recruiting young professionals, but were less interested in other young people in the community.

Powell said that in addition to transportation, in order to maintain a population of young residents, they need to have a lively social scene.

"Young people want more than jobs," he said.

But the afternoon wasn't just about residents airing grievances, some came with fresh ideas for their representatives.

Tyer said she met with a woman who was passionate about recycling and suggested that it may have been "word choice" that deterred people from the city's plan to bring "toters" to the city.

Other regions in the country used phrases like "roller baby" to describe the city-issued 45-gallon tote for trash bins and a 96-gallon tote recycling. The woman also suggested that a blog about what can and can't be recycled could also assist in raising the recycling habits in the city, Tyer said.

Edward Hughes, of Pittsfield, has lived in the city since the 1950s and frequently engages with his representatives either at their office, at city hearings, or when he bumps into them in the community.

On Friday, he took the opportunity to chat with them all at once on a wide range of topics from Spectrum cable to marijuana legalization.

"I didn't come with only one thing in mind," he said. "I was more comfortable. This is more personal that when you see them on the street."

While individuals have the opportunity to drop in and see their government officials at their office, Hinds said events like these may save constituents an entire day of hopping from building to building.

McCulloch-Dews said Friday's event was representative of an average day at the mayor's office, where staff members find themselves addressing a wide array of issues each day.

Not only does her office try to address each individuals concerns, but staff also tries to identify opportunities for residents to become involved in community groups with similar missions, she said.

"We have to adapt on the fly. ... You're always changing hats," McCulloch-Dews said. "It's good. It makes you feel engaged and you're hearing what people really care about."

Geller intends to continue to host "speed-repping" at least annually, and expand it to include representatives from the police and fire departments.

Haven Orecchio-Egresitz can be reached at horecchio@berkshireeagle.com, @HavenEagle on Twitter and 413-770-6977.

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Letter: “School Committee should restore Columbus Day”
The Berkshire Eagle, April 16, 2018

To the editor:

Our Pittsfield School Committee has always had the students' interests at heart. However, I take exception to the way it has voted to eliminate Columbus Day to make it Indigenous People's Day on the school calendar. Not only will students miss out on the achievements of Columbus, this vote proves to be very insensitive to our community.

It would be to our schools' advantage to have an age-appropriate curriculum on Christopher Columbus that would teach students the power of persistence, and the use of knowledge and intellect with which to pursue their dreams. Columbus was an exceptional navigator and remarkable explorer. He bravely navigated across an unknown "Sea of Darkness" in the Age of Discovery and landed on the island of Hispaniola.

Recorded history of the Americas and Caribbean starts with Columbus which gives historical significance to his voyages. There was no written history about these continents before his arrival in 1492.

Within the curriculum students would be made aware of the power of writing, as Columbus kept a diary, and of his diligence in mapmaking skills and in charting routes across the Atlantic Ocean, which are still in use by sailors today.

Unfortunately, Columbus has been accused of genocide which is untrue since he was in the Americas such a short time. Other facts state the native population died from diseases because they lacked immunity. These diseases were not transmitted deliberately.

Columbus is said to have been a strict governor while ruling the Indies. These and other issues, such as the selling of slaves as prisoners to Spain, was the custom of explorers in 15th century Europe, and can be discussed and explained at appropriate age levels. However, Columbus never owned any slaves or brought any to the Western Hemisphere from Africa.

Our schools should focus on the achievements and accomplishments of Columbus and the fact that he introduced European culture, with its many contributions, to the New World.

I sincerely hope the Pittsfield School Committee will reconsider its vote to change the Columbus Day holiday to Indigenous People's Day on the school calendar and add a more fair and balanced curriculum about him to our schools that would show sensibility, as well as sensitivity, to our community.

Maryann T. Sherman, Pittsfield

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Letter: "City failing responsibility to shelter and its animals"
The Berkshire Eagle, April 20, 2018

To the editor:

Dogs on hard plastic pallets; cats in a windowless broom closet. This partly describes the conditions under which animals existed in the Pittsfield municipal animal shelter 20 years ago, brought to light by Yvonne Borsody in her riveting letter (Eagle, April 11).

Today, Pittsfield's municipal animal shelter is managed by the Friends of Eleanor Sonsini Animal Shelter, a nonprofit public charity. Staff and many volunteers give homeless, helpless creatures the love and daily care they cannot survive without. But at the end of the month, the city is abandoning its warm, loving home for animals in need. The contract expires, and our tax dollars will no longer support the shelter.

Does the city have a viable alternative? Joseph Chague, the city's animal control officer, said that starting May 1, "I will be feeding, watering and caring for the dogs, as we did years ago." Can he do singlehandedly what is now being accomplished by a number of people? This, in addition to his current duties?

Is this the way we want our homeless animals cared for? The way they were cared for years ago?

Edna Dugas, Pittsfield

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Letter: “Museum trustees, city will lose this war”
The Berkshire Eagle, April 23, 2018

To the editor:

There are many troubling aspects to the sale of art treasures by the Berkshire Museum. Lawsuits, protests and letters from those who care deeply about the sale sadly did not stop the juggernaut of the museum's trustees to do what they want to do with irreplaceable masterpieces. In order to raise what the trustees claim is money needed to maintain the museum and change it into something incompatible with its charter, they are charging full speed ahead with their secretive and dubious objective.

In pursuing their aim, the trustees slandered those who oppose the sale as elitists, while proving that they are the elitists by simultaneously alleging that Berkshire County schools provide a substandard science and technology education to our students. Only the Berkshire Museum can save these children, they said, to the tune of $55 million.

A word of caution is provided by a recent article in The Washington Post, which outlined the qualities that Amazon is looking for when it builds a second headquarters. To attract top-level talent, the company is valuing cultural amenities.

From the article: "Art museums — which these days are much more than just places to look at art — play an outsize role in satisfying (potential employees). Their prestige and prominence make them prime tourist destinations. Their health and quality are also tied up with civic pride, with what makes a city desirable to live in. Just ask the people of Detroit. They almost lost whole chunks of their art museum's world-renowned collection when the city declared bankruptcy a few years ago. The collection, owned by the city, was considered an asset that could be sold off to pay the pensions of city employees. That nightmare scenario was averted, thankfully; the blow to civic pride would have been irreparable, its cascading consequences immeasurable."

The Berkshire Museum trustees' obstinate determination to sell off its assets will not be forgotten. They have already made the museum a pariah in the eyes of other museums and cultural bodies. At least one book will be written about this titanic struggle, and case studies will be taught at graduate schools of law, business and arts administration.

In the end, "Pittsfield" will be linked to an obdurate pursuit of money at the expense of community. The trustees may think they've won a battle, but they've lost in every respect except their bank account.

Sally White, Williamstown

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Letter: “Pittsfield shouldn't return to days of chip seal mess”
The Berkshire Eagle, April 26, 2018

To the editor:

Have you ever met anyone who has fond memories of chip seal? I haven't! I grew up with chip seal, it's a thing of the 1950s and '60s and just maybe the Stone Age too. Chip seal should not be considered for street repair in Pittsfield, as it compromises the quality of life in neighborhoods. Roads are designed for people, not just cars.

I remember when the city chip-sealed Kittredge Road in the '60s and all the kids in the neighborhood got tar all over their legs, hands, shoes and clothes and tracked it into their homes, getting it on the rugs and wood floors. I remember riding our bikes and hitting loose stones to have the wheel slide out from under us, causing us to crash down and have the stones rip up our knees and elbows. I remember tar on my dad's car, chipped paint; cracked windshields and hearing the sound of cars coming that were kicking up stones. I remember hot summer days smelling the melting tar and seeing it ooze through the stones and in the winter the snowplows pushing the stones two feet onto everyone's lawns.

I am so disappointed that Pittsfield is regressing in time and bringing back a process that devalues our homes and our city and compromises the quality of life in our neighborhoods. Once again Kittredge Road is scheduled for chip seal, I say keep it, I'd rather go without than live through the mess of chip seal again.

Christine Yon, Pittsfield
The writer is a former Ward 1 city councilor.

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Our Opinion: “Responsible decision on wastewater treatment plant”
The Berkshire Eagle, Editorial, April 25, 2018

Pittsfield's wastewater treatment plant has been in need of an upgrade for a decade and Mayor Linda Tyer and the City Council can be proud that they are the leaders who have addressed it. With a strong push from the regional Environmental Protection Agency, Pittsfield will now bring a polluting, substandard facility up to speed.

By an 8-3 vote late Tuesday night, the City Council voted to authorize $74 million for the wastewater treatment plant upgrade. The authorization, which required a two-thirds vote in favor, failed by one vote in February, but Ward 5 City Councilor Donna Todd Rivers reversed her vote Tuesday night, stating that the looming EPA fines for non-compliance would burden taxpayers, and that after 10 years, the time for conversation was over. Along with Ms. Rivers, Council President Peter Marchetti, John Krol, Anthony Simonelli, Nicholas Caccamo, Earl Persip, III, Helen Moon and Peter White made difficult but necessary votes enabling Pittsfield to go forward with a compliant treatment plant.

Paying for the plant will result in a tripling of annual sewer bills over the next few years. However, as City Hall officials observed, the average two-toilet home now pays $248 a year in sewer bills, which is the lowest in the state (Eagle, April 25). Pittsfield will be catching up to other communities that have raised rates to address infrastructure needs.

In a recent visit to Pittsfield and The Berkshire Eagle, regional EPA Administrator Alexandra Dunn made it clear that federal EPA head Scott Pruitt wasn't going to personally let Pittsfield off the hook and that fines would be imminent if the city didn't have plans for an upgrade in place by August 1. To further kick the can down the road, exposing taxpayers to fines and the increased construction costs that accompany every delay, would have been irresponsible. It would also have been environmentally irresponsible as the plant is discharging aluminum, phosphorous and nitrogen into the Housatonic River in violation of EPA standards.

The authorization is a triumph for Mayor Tyer and her administration, including Finance Director Matt Kerwood. City Hall built a solid upgrade proposal, was transparent about its impact on residents, and continued to make a good case for the plan following the February City Council vote.

At Monday night's City Council Finance Committee meeting, councilors expressed concern that residents are confusing the two water infrastructure projects, the other being the $56 million upgrade for the city's drinking water plant (Eagle, April 25). The wastewater treatment plant upgrade was facing a deadline and had to be addressed first, but the drinking water plant upgrade is also of critical importance. We trust that city officials will face up to that reality as well.

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April 30, 2018

Re: Pittsfield politics is part of the problem

While I disagree with some of the lovely Linda Tyer's decisions, I still believe she has Pittsfield's best interests at heart.

Pittsfield is a post-industrial northeast community that has serious socioeconomic problems and issues. I believe Pittsfield politics is part of the problem because they don't represent the common people!

Many young adults move out of the Berkshires due to the harsh economy. The people who stay are either well off or are working taxpayer-funded jobs or are on disability/welfare.

When I was in my mid-20's 16-years ago, I looked for a job - any job - in Pittsfield for one whole year of my adult life without success. I came away thinking I had better odds winning the lottery jackpot than finding a job in the community I grew up in.

I understand that Pittsfield politics is ran by the Good Old Boys. They are a group of inbred local families that control the one political party system by fear and economic inequality. If you speak out against the G.O.B., they take away your job. If you continue to speak out against the G.O.B., they blacklist you and spread vicious rumors against you until you move out of Pittsfield.

Pittsfield politics is totally corrupt! Thousands of people have moved out of Pittsfield and the Berkshires. Thousands of jobs have been lost, too. All of the bad news only makes the G.O.B. more powerful! That is the sad reality about Pittsfield!

Good people have tried to make Pittsfield a better place to live and work, but the G.O.B. keeps running Pittsfield into the proverbial ditch!

- Jonathan Melle

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An aerial view of Pittsfield during one of its boom periods; a new group in the city wants growth again. Berkshire Eagle File Photo

“'Working City Wednesday': Pittsfield nonprofits put their heads together to shrink poverty, grow community”
By Haven Orecchio-Egresitz, The Berkshire Eagle, April 30, 2018

PITTSFIELD — One Wednesday every month, an intergenerational pool of ambitious residents get together over dinner to discuss their ideas on how to make the city a better, more inclusive, place.

The unique part about these "Working City Wednesday" meetings: those ideas often come to fruition.

"You don't have to have an idea, but you have to be willing to participate in someone else's idea," said Alisa Costa, initiative director of Working Cities Pittsfield.

In June 2016, the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston selected Pittsfield as one of eight cities in the state to be awarded $475,000 to pursue neighborhood revitalization, workforce development and improving access to economic opportunity.

The goal for the Pittsfield team, which is made up of representatives from nearly two dozen nonprofits and agencies, is to ensure that in 10 years the people in the lower tiers of income in Pittsfield will be more healthy, engaged in their community, and socially accepted; and that the number of people living in poverty will shrink.

As a part of the initiative's "community engagement" component, Costa put together the "Working Cities Wednesdays" meetings, during which members of the public get together at different venues and have two minutes to pitch their ideas for projects that can improve the city.

Individuals then split into groups for about 30 minutes and collaborate on how to make these ideas a reality, putting together a detailed strategy of the next steps to take.

At the end, everyone reconvenes and shares their goals for the next month.

"Everyone in this room is on the same level," Costa told a group of about 30 at the Gladys Allen Brigham Community Center on Wednesday, urging them to not introduce themselves with professional titles and to avoid using acronyms.

The results include nonprofits and residents from throughout the city teaming up to provide resources to accomplish common goals.

Projects that have come out of the meetings include the City Street Ride, organized by 25-year-old Nicholas Russo and Kate Lauzon of the Morningside Initiative, and the Rose & Cole's Co-op Transport, a startup focusing on providing affordable transportation in the city.

"Entrepreneurs are starting to come to this space sometimes to test and get ideas," Costa said.

At the most recent meeting, residents discussed how to bolster the city's community gardens and put together the history of the West Side neighborhood of Pittsfield.

Offering dinner and child care at every meeting ensures that all city residents, even those with young children, have an opportunity to be active in their city, Costa said.

When the group began meeting, Costa was using a more traditional meeting style, with a full agenda put together before each event, but the Working Cities team decided to restructure it in a way that encourages more people to become involved, she said.

Today, the Pittsfield meeting style is used as a model for other Working Cities groups in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island, according to Colleen Dawicki, Working Cities manager in the Boston Fed's Regional & Community Outreach department.

"One thing that stood out to us about the Pittsfield team was how enthusiastic the team was, but also how learning-oriented," Dawicki said. "The team was really willing to dig in in ways that really went above and beyond what we're looking for."

Dawicki said she is in touch with the Pittsfield team at least once a month to check in on their progress and accomplishments in the city.

One of the most important goals of Working Cities, which Pittsfield is succeeding in, is to change the culture within city leadership to make it more inclusive and collaborative, Dawicki said.

Costa and Central Berkshire Habitat for Humanities representative Carolyn Valli have been asked to present their work to newer teams in Connecticut and a team from Newport, Rhode Island recently took a bus to Pittsfield to observe a Wednesday meeting, Dawicki said.

"What I'm really excited about is the degree that we've been able to showcase the Pittsfield team as a model," she said.

The funding for Working Cities, including leadership training programs it offers outside of the Wednesday community meetings, spans through September of 2019, but the team is in the process of looking for ways to sustain the work through other means.

A lot of the work currently pursued by the team focuses on the Morning Side and West Side neighborhoods in the city, which currently have the highest poverty rates and lower rates of employment and civic engagement, Costa said.

Pittsfield and the Berkshires can't thrive unless those neighborhoods are also thriving, she said.

At a civil engagement conference at MCLA on Saturday, Costa spoke about flipping the culture of leadership.

A lot of the time, organizations look at neighborhoods in poverty and decide for them how to fix their problems, without ever reaching out to those communities, Costa said.

"People in poverty know what they need, we just haven't asked them for the most part," she said.

Working Cities is working to change that.

"I really do see the work here is very important because our destinies are all intertwined," Costa said. "All of us need to work together."

The next Working Cities Wednesday meeting will be from 5:30 to 7 p.m. May 23 and The Christian Center on Robbins Avenue.

Haven Orecchio-Egresitz can be reached at horecchio@berkshireeagle.com, @HavenEagle on Twitter and 413-770-6977.

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Our Opinion: “Working together to combat poverty”
The Berkshire Eagle, Editorial, April 30, 2018

The Working Cities Pittsfield coalition has only been around since June 2016, but it has created enough buzz that its approach to solving the complex and intractable problem of poverty is attracting attention from other cities. The nonprofit organization came to life after Pittsfield was selected by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston as one of eight cities to receive multi-year $475,000 grants to discover and develop ways to eliminate poverty. The motivating philosophy of the Working Cities program is that the overall health of a community depends upon all members participating working together as equals — both those doing the helping and those being helped.

Working Cities Pittsfield has an impressive roster of sponsoring companies and agencies willing to contribute resources — over two dozen, ranging from Berkshire Health Systems to Jacob's Pillow — which is impressive by itself, but what Working Cities Pittsfield does best is listen to people (Eagle, April 30). It meets on the fourth Wednesday of every month, and the meetings are characterized not by their top-down structure, but by their welcoming, cooperative attitude toward those the organization exists to help. It goes out of its way to make those meetings as accessible as possible — providing dinner, childcare and even a $20 stipend to those who take the trouble to attend. This forges a special working relationship precisely because it discards the traditional approach of civic leaders (those who belong to the class of "haves") deciding on their own what is best for the have-nots and imposing these solutions whether or not they are welcome, or even needed. The Working Cities model, wherein participants are discouraged from using titles or any kind of honorific that would distinguish one member from another, presupposes that those caught in the grip of a system that perpetuates poverty know what is required to free themselves.

At the meetings, any good idea is fair game. Participants come to pitch ideas, ranging from a couple of already-successful ride share companies that transport people to important appointments, to a free bus to bring Pittsfield children to Jacob's Pillow, to construction of an LGBTQUIA float for Pittsfield's Fourth of July Parade. Ideas are discussed, working groups developed, and nuts-and-bolts ways are devised to make them happen, along with providing specific goals and detailed strategies to be pursued before the next meeting.

Collaboration is the key to success for this group that now has Working Cities teams from other towns venturing to Pittsfield to learn its methodology. As Colleen Dawicki, Working Cities manager in the Boston Fed's Regional & Community Outreach department told The Eagle, what is really important is that the Pittsfield group has succeeded in changing the culture of city leadership to make it more inclusive and collaborative. Put simply, it's a matter of respect and an acknowledgment that every member of a community is deserving of dignity regardless of their income level. Once this barrier has been surmounted, the societal impediments that encourage generational poverty can be addressed with greater ease. It's what Working Cities Pittsfield is all about as it seeks to create a community whose members look out for each other.

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“Pittsfield City Council petition calls on Berkshire Medical Center to give payment in lieu of taxes”
By Amanda Drane, The Berkshire Eagle, May 3, 2018

PITTSFIELD — Two city councilors filed a petition Wednesday calling on the county's largest employer to do more to help the city during trying financial times.

Ward 1 Councilor Helen Moon and Ward 6 Councilor John Krol request Berkshire Medical Center, which is largely tax-exempt, to pay the city $1 million in a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes program. Though the hospital does pay some taxes for nonexempt properties, the councilors argue it would serve its mission to give more of its surplus back to the community.

"I don't think this is that controversial," Krol said, adding PILOT agreements exist in Springfield, Northampton, Worcester and Boston. "It's the right thing to do on behalf of the taxpayers."

If the organization were taxed as a commercial entity, the Pittsfield Assessor's Office confirmed, its annual tax bill would land around $4.8 million. BMC currently pays about $600,000 a year, making it the fourth-largest taxpayer in the city.

A spokesman for BMC said in a statement that the city has already explored PILOT programs and decided they weren't a good fit for Pittsfield.

"The Pittsfield PILOT Study Group concluded that such a program would be unwise for the city, in part because of the manner in which local charities already contribute to the city's financial well-being," said Michael Leary, director of media relations for Berkshire Health Systems. "Like other charitable hospitals in Massachusetts, Berkshire Health Systems annually makes substantial community benefit expenditures and publicly reports those expenditures to the Attorney General and the Internal Revenue Service. Each year, these expenditures have averaged in excess of $10 million a year."

From staff time for police and fire to infrastructure, councilors said the city provides BMC with valuable resources. Meantime, health insurance costs eat up an ever-increasing chunk of the municipal budget as the city struggles to cover essential services. This year that portion is about $24 million.

"Berkshire Health Systems is the ultimate recipient of a significant portion of what the City of Pittsfield pays for health insurance," the petition reads.

As the city feels the squeeze, councilors said, BMC enjoys annual revenues in excess of $40 million. And taxpayers are tapped, Moon said.

"BMC has the unique position of being a nonprofit but profiting a lot of money, " said Moon, who works as a nurse employed through BHS. "They are providing a necessary and valuable service, but they're also doing it at a premium."

Moon said she questions whether the city receives $4 million in services to justify the taxes BMC avoids.

"Should we be paying $24 million in health insurance premiums instead of funding school services?" she asked. "There has to be some give somewhere."

Krol and Moon both wanted to clarify that they have no interest in pursuing PILOT programs for other Pittsfield nonprofits. They said large hospitals like BMC are outliers in terms of excess revenues and the amount of city services they require.

"We wanted to make it extraordinarily clear we were not looking to tax a soup kitchen, or the Christian Center," Krol said. "They are completely different animals."

Moon said she makes this request with taxpayers in mind

"We are all part of one community, and can we work together to alleviate some of the burden that's on us as a city?" she said.

Amanda Drane can be contacted at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.

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Carole Diehl and Rosemary Starace: “Save the Art's questions for museum”
By Carol Diehl & Rosemary Starace, op-ed, The Berkshire Eagle, May 3, 2018

PITTSFIELD — Beginning with an agreement signed with Sotheby's auction house before announcing to the public its plans to sell the 40 most-prized artworks in its collection, the Berkshire Museum has operated behind a veil of secrecy not befitting a non-profit institution. While recent legal rulings from the attorney general and the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court allow the museum to proceed with its plans to sell up to $55 million of its art, as Linda Kaye-Moses wrote recently in The Eagle, "Judicial approval does not necessarily lead to judicious action."

Indeed, this sale sets a precedent that threatens all art and artifacts in the public trust held not only by museums, but libraries and historical societies as well. Therefore, the citizens' group SAVE THE ART—SAVE THE MUSEUM (STA) continues to ask the museum leadership to halt the sales, take advantage of unprecedented national attention to initiate vigorous fundraising, and embark on a mission that includes full fiscal transparency, community engagement and ethical museum practice.

Everyone desires a healing of the rift this dispute has caused in the community, yet the policy of secrecy that led to the unnecessary division remains. Museum leadership has steadfastly refused all requests from STA to participate in public forums and as recently as mid-April, following their court victory, declined to be interviewed by Carrie Saldo on WGBY Public Television for Western New England.

Community needs answers

Given that these are the community's artworks, the money derived also belongs to the community, which therefore deserves to know how it will be used. If the museum expects to restore any of its former trusted relationship with the public, the following questions must be answered:

— Who is covering the Museum's legal fees, estimated to be at least $1M?

— If Sotheby's is paying the legal fees, to what extent is the Museum beholden to the auction house? Is their agreement with that international corporation the reason the Museum has not responded to community pressure to pull the artworks from auction?

— If the museum is covering its own legal fees, are they drawing from the endowment they have already characterized as insufficient? Is this the kind of expenditure donors were led to believe they were funding when they contributed to the museum? The attorney general's office (AGO) has told STA that even they do not know who is paying the legal fees. If so, we must ask, how thorough was their investigation into the fiscal health of the Museum? Where is the AGO's report that explains its radical change of heart from strong indictment in mid-January to approval only weeks later?

— In place of direct contact with the public, the museum leadership has chosen to speak through professional public relations firms. What are these costs?

— What are the terms of the museum's agreement with George Lucas, whose Museum for Narrative Art is buying Norman Rockwell's painting, Shuffleton's Barbershop? How much did it sell for? Who brokered that sale? What was their fee? What are the net proceeds?

— In July, when the deaccession plans were announced, the museum reported an $8 million endowment. By December, it had been reduced to $6 million. What explains this difference?

Why the huge deficit?

— The museum says it has been operating with a $1 million yearly budget deficit for many years. What are the reasons for this shortfall? (The Albany Institute of History and Art, an institution of similar size and demographic, mounts exhibitions reviewed by the New York Times and employs two curators where the Berkshire Museum has none — on an annual budget of approximately $500,000 less.]

— How does the museum justify its need for a $40 million endowment, nearly 10 times that of other museums of its size and demographic? How, where, and by whom will this endowment be invested?

— What specific plans does the museum have for the proceeds from the sale? Where is the mission statement that informs its strategic plan for the next five years? What does it intend to accomplish and how it will be realized — not just financially but in terms of attendance and service to the community? Beyond the "New Vision," which appears to be geared to children, how will the museum's exhibitions and programming address the rest of the community?

— Has the museum revisited its original controversial architectural plans? How will the community's investment in preserving the historical integrity of the architecture be addressed?

The museum owes the community the answers to these questions.

Carol Diehl of Housatonic and Rosemary Starace of Pittsfield write for SAVE THE ART — SAVE THE MUSEUM.

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“Health care agreement will save Pittsfield $1.5 million”
By Amanda Drane, The Berkshire Eagle, May 4, 2018

PITTSFIELD — The city will save about $1.5 million in health insurance costs in the coming fiscal year under an agreement with a coalition of city employees, officials said.

The agreement, which shifts municipal employee costs from 15 percent to 20 percent over six years, was particularly important, given soaring health care costs and the city's tight financial situation, according to Finance Director Matt Kerwood.

Without the savings, he said, "there would have been reductions in other places in order to absorb that."

The Pittsfield Employee Committee represents all benefit-eligible city employees and retirees — 1,138 and 1,475, respectively — and the new contract begins July 1. Mayor Linda Tyer said the agreement is unprecedented, and it offers breathing room as she and her team prepare a budget for fiscal year 2019.

"The impact that that's having on our budget is, it's providing some relief to our levy ceiling constraints," Tyer said Thursday. "It means we are not seeing a reduction in force. It means we are able to implement a couple of new initiatives — a couple of low-cost but high-impact initiatives."

The preliminary budget will be public Friday, in time for an initial City Council review Tuesday. The PEC agreement was an important piece of that puzzle, Tyer said.

"Reaching this agreement reflects the shared responsibility that our employees accept and it signifies the good-faith collaboration that the city has with its employees," she said. "At each step of the way, there was give on both sides."

Brendan Sheran, chairman of the committee, said the union has been working on the agreement for nearly a year, and began formally bargaining in February.

He said six-year agreements are unusual, and this is a first for Pittsfield.

"I think that's a plus for everybody, because having a long-term agreement allows for more details and sustainability," he said. "By making some structural changes along the way, we can sort of mitigate the premium increases over the course of the six years."

The shift will only affect active employees, Kerwood and Sheran said. Retirees and Medicare recipients will continue to pay the same 15 percent cost share. The agreement also adds a low-premium, high-deductible option, accompanied by a tax-free savings account that employees can use to safeguard themselves against costs incurred before reaching the deductible.

"Any time you go into a negotiation, you want to come away with something you all can live with," Sheran said. "We thought the whole package ultimately worked for us."

Sheran called the agreement "a win," while acknowledging that union representatives were willing to take on more of the cost burden given the city's financial situation. He said the union wouldn't want the city to have to lay off more employees in order to get out from under mounting financial pressure.

He hailed the process as a positive one, noting "this isn't all puppies and rainbows in other cities and towns."

That said, swollen health care costs must be addressed at the system level, Sheran said.

"If we had a single-payer system," he said, "cities and towns would be a whole heck of a lot better off."

Kerwood said it's also important to emphasize overall health and personal wellness in light of the national health care debacle.

"If you have a healthier population, you have less claims," he said. "If you're not incurring claims, you're not paying claims."

Amanda Drane can be contacted at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.

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Letter: “State pushing too hard on marijuana sales”
The Berkshire Eagle, May 4, 2018

To the editor:

How many pot-selling and growing establishments do we need? We have a major drug epidemic going on and no one is taking the time to see how this new type of business is going to affect our minds and bodies.

When opioid pain pills were first introduced they also claimed they were not addictive, selling that notion to all the doctors that prescribe them. If pot is is a true medical treatment there is no reason to have all these pot-selling and growing places jumping up all over in every town in our county. They have news stories selling us this stupid notion that pot cures almost everything. The newest one being that it can help with drug addiction. This is a drug, it affects your mind. I would hope that someone limits the number of establishments that can operate in our county.

I smoked pot as a younger person and I am not against anyone smoking a couple of joints. Like everything, it can get out of hand. The government has legalized it for recreational use, but look whose pockets are getting filled with the legalization.

Whether it is used for medical or recreational use, it should be limited till we see the full effects it has on people. It is a drug.

Melissa Hassoun, Dalton

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“Tyer Releases Proposed FY19 Budget”
iBerkshires.com Staff Reports, May 5, 2018

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Mayor Linda Tyer has put forth an FY19 budget calling for a 1.8 percent increase in total expenditures.

On Friday, the mayor released her proposed $167.6 million spending plan. That reflects a $2.8 million increase from the current year. The City Council will be asked to raise and appropriate a total of $159.9 million of that.

"In FY19 we continue to be challenged in the form of a levy ceiling constraint. However, the FY19 budget renews our commitment to strategies that will foster increased property values and inspire new growth through private investment. Safe neighborhoods that are free from blighted conditions, competitive public schools that prepare our students for a global economy and engaged citizenship, and streamlining strategies for advancing economic growth are top priorities," Tyer wrote as a preface to the budget.

"The success of these initiatives is one of the key components to overcoming the constraints of the levy ceiling. We have witnessed the beginnings of an upward trend. The FY18 re-valuation showed an overall increase in property values across most categories and the city's real estate market is trending positively."

The proposed operating budget is requested to be $148,465,621, which is $3.4 million more than last year, and the enterprise account budgets are eyed to be $11,531,024, which is a $154,529 increase. Those account for the $159,996,645 the City Council needs to appropriate.

Meanwhile, other expenditures will be dropping from $8,331,641 last year to $7,656,831 this year - a decline of $674,810 or 8.1 percent. The other expenditures line consists of a number of items such as assessments, school choice, and other cherry sheet offsets to state aid. Typically these are items charged against the city's state aid prior to disbursement as well as retained earnings from the enterprise funds.

The city is seeing a $1.4 million boost in state aid, most of which is in the form of Chapter 70 school aid. Some $52.4 million is expected in state support and local receipts are expected to make up just short of $12 million. The mayor is also asking the City Council to use $1 million in free cash to offset the tax rate.

"This proposal includes increases in the following fixed costs: 1) a $525,000 increase in health insurance; 2) a $1,112,324 increase in retirement contribution; 3) a $1,285,809 in long-term debt payments, principal, and interest; and 4) a $94,787 increase is solid waste collection and disposal," the mayor wrote.

The largest driver of the operating budget is $60,492,869 for the School Department. That represents a $426,531 increase, which is specifically eyed to bolster the therapeutic program at the elementary school level and bring back paraprofessionals to the kindergarten classrooms, which were cut last year.

The school had asked for about a $900,000 increase but the mayor opted to shift about a $500,000 payment for school buses from the school budget and into the municipal side - thus equating for at least some of the increase in debt payments.

"This budget proposal supports staffing a full and comprehensive elementary therapeutic program. The therapeutic program of the Pittsfield Public Schools is a specialized program that services students with individualized education plans who will also benefit from specialized, focused social and emotional learning opportunities, both as individuals and within a group setting," Tyer wrote.

"This program will serve students in grades K-5 by providing a safe, personalized learning experience in a setting that includes school adjustment counselor support, licensed academic and special education teachers, paraprofessional support where needed, and an in-house director to case management students and to serve as a direct communication link among the school, outside agencies, and families."

The budget was significantly helped by a recent agreement between the Public Employees Committee and the city regarding health insurance. The city was looking at a $2 million increase in health insurance if no changed had been made to the health insurance plans during negotiations with all of the city's unions. The new six-year agreement is expected to save the city $1.5 million this upcoming year - thus mitigating the expected increase to around $500,000.

"Reaching this agreement reflects the shared responsibility, the deep commitment, and the good faith collaboration between the city and its employees. The anticipated savings over the six-year agreement will be vital to the long-term sustainability of the city's finances by gradually shifting more out-of-pocket costs for direct services, such as co-pays, to the employees," Tyer wrote.

The budget does not call for any reductions in staffing and Tyer said 11 departments are either level-funded or seeing a reduction.

The proposal isn't absent of all new initiatives. The mayor is asking for a new diversity and inclusion initiative in the Personnel Department.

"The mission of this initiative is to ensure that the city's workforce reflects the diversity of the city's citizens with a strategic focus on recruiting, retaining, and promoting diverse talent," Tyer wrote.

"Outstanding service in our citizens depends upon our organization's commitment to ensuring a diverse and inclusive workplace where all employees feel respected, valued, and empowered to maximize their skills and talents. This initiative includes marketing and advertising, an internship program, training and development, and inclusion practices."

That new line is proposed to be funded at $5,000 and even with that included, the Personnel Department will still be seeing about a $200,000 decrease. The biggest cutback on that departmental budget is $6,500 for assessment centers, which were used during this past year to fill the ranks of top positions in the Police Department. Now that those are filled, the city will need to run fewer assessment centers this coming year.

Looking forward, the mayor said her administration is looking to complete an efficiency study to implement increase operations and develop a home improvement initiative to help residents increase home values.

"I am optimistic that we can survive and thrive beyond these existing fiscal conditions through strategic action. The actions we take today will yield steady returns toward the city's long-term fiscal stability," Tyer wrote.

The City Council will hold a series of meetings throughout the rest of the month to debate the budget. The mayor's budget proposal is available below.

Link: http://www.iberkshires.com/story/57299/Tyer-Releases-Proposed-FY19-Budget.html

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Letter: “This is the reward for 'Crane's Finest'”
The Berkshire Eagle, May 6, 2018

To the editor:

In regard to Frank McDonald's letter (Eagle, May 1), I too am a Crane & Company retiree and also received the letter about termination of our life insurance. This was one of the benefits we planned on for our funeral expenses. I also called the insurance company and was told that, at 90 years old, they would not cover me.

Recently I made arrangements with a local funeral home for my burial. I thank them for their kindness and understanding. Please, God, let me live long enough to finish this commitment.

When you worked at Crane's you were considered part of their family. We worked hard and gave them our best. We were also ready to work overtime on short notice. I think we all helped to make Crane's what it is today.

Now, at a time when we are in our golden years and handicapped, we receive this unacceptable news. Too old to get more life insurance and we cannot expect our families to help. They are struggling to provide for their families and have everyday pressures.

When will the "other shoe" drop? What will be the next termination? Is this our reward for all those loyal years and sacrifice?

"Crane's Finest," we were.

Elaine Fox, Hinsdale

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“Councilors must listen to voters on chip sealing”
The Berkshire Eagle, May 9, 2018

To the editor:

We have been following the recent City Council debate on the petition to stop chip-sealing our city streets. What I find most interesting is that by the councilors' own admission their constituents do not want chip sealing. Councilors are elected to represent the wants and needs of the people. Our taxes continue to rise and what the citizens of Pittsfield are asking for is a very basic quality of life request in return for taxes paid, a decent street to live on, walk on, ride bikes on, and push baby carriages on. A street that gives value to their homes by increasing curb appeal, a street that does not destroy their pristine lawns they work hard to maintain, a street that does not deposit tar all over their cars, shoes and rugs.

People get angry when their taxes continue to rise and their very basic quality of life issues are not met. So I ask, please, councilors, do your job and represent your people.

Bernie and Eleanor Auge, Pittsfield

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"Council bans "chip seal" road work"
By Jonathan Levine, Editor & Publisher of the Pittsfield Gazette, May 10, 2018

Pittsfield is reverting to a policy of not “chip sealing” streets. Councilors voted 6 to 5 during a nearly five-hour meeting Tuesday to prohibit the city from using the low-cost “chip-seal” process on any “accepted” roadway. The action followed a “public microphone” session during which 12 residents voiced their dislike for chip sealing.” I have a big issue with the property being damaged with chip seal,” said Judith Ladd. Paul Durwin called chip sealing “a maintenance con job foisted on the residents.” Cher Eastwood said the practice is pennywise but pound foolish. “Think of the damage you’re doing, not money saving,” he stated. “It’s a very basic quality of life request,” said Chris Yon. The crowd turned out in response to a petition from ward one councilor Helen Moon, who sought a ban on the practice planned for six streets in her district. The full council had amended her petition to call for a prohibition on use of the “chip seal” process of loose stones on all streets. However the public works subcommittee, on which Moon sits, voted 2 to 3 to recommend that the petition not be approved. “I would like to see my streets in ward one milled and paved, not chip sealed,” emphasized Moon. She didn’t want the overall petition to be rejected, suggesting a compromise that would prohibit chip sealing on “accepted streets” or for “routine maintenance.” Moon’s modification caused further angst as the meaning of “routine maintenance” wasn’t clear. The chip seal ban had supportive colleagues. “There’s no doubt in my mind we have to put an end to chip sealing,” said at-large councilor Pete White. Even some opponents of the ban voiced distaste for chip sealing. “I don’t like chip sealing,” said ward 7 councilor Tony Simonelli. However he said for dirt roads and other streets otherwise receiving no service, chip sealing can be popular. There also were concerns that banning chip sealing would cause streets scheduled for work to end up with nothing. “This decision is going to change things,” said ward 5 councilor Donna Todd Rivers. Public works commissioner David Turocy will abide by any policy, but warned that only using pricier pavement work means he’ll ”slide some of that work off.” At-large councilor Melissa Mazzeo echoed that warning, saying “be careful what you wish for.” She said the city can’t afford to boost spending, so a chip seal ban means less roads get funded. Ultimately Moon was joined by Chris Connell, Pete White, John Krol, Peter Marchetti and Nick Caccamo in voting for the modified chip seal ban for accepted streets.

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May 15, 2018

Re: Pittsfield politics' economic inequality problem

The thing that bothers me most about Pittsfield politics is the high level of economic inequality, and that the G.O.B. uses fear and the harsh local economy to their advantage. I have read about Pittsfield's economic inequality in the news media on all levels: locally, statewide, and nationally. The reason why Pittsfield has so many poor or near poverty people is because there are no living wage jobs left. If you want a job in Pittsfield, you have to be politically-connected to the G.O.B., which is made up of inbred, interrelated, multigenerational families. My favorite example is Luciforo, whose late-father was a State Senator and Judge, his uncle as a Pittsfield State Representative, and his late-Aunt was Pittsfield's first woman Mayor, as well as a career BCC Professor. If you are Luciforo, Pittsfield will connect you with whatever you want, from being a political hack on Beacon Hill, to being a bureaucrat at the Pittsfield Registry of Deeds, to being a marijuana seller on Dalton Avenue. But, if you are someone like me, who dislikes Nuciforo and the G.O.B. that runs Pittsfield politics, you get to pound sand at the unemployment office on North Street. Indeed, when I lived in the Pittsfield area as a young man years ago, I had better odds winning the lottery jackpot than finding a living wage job. It is not just me, it is the sad reality for a majority of Pittsfield residents who would like to make $20/hour with benefits, but instead make $12/hour at 3 part-time jobs without benefits. To illustrate my point, it is a fact that all K - 6 Pittsfield public school students receive free school lunches due to the poverty and inequality. It has been over a generation since GE cut its job opportunities in Pittsfield. Since then, Pittsfield has raised taxes and public debts to high per capita levels, while thousands of people and jobs have been lost. The bottom line is that G.O.B. doesn't care and won't address the issues of poverty and inequality facing the people who live in Pittsfield.

- Jonathan Melle

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May 26, 2018

I am a disabled Veteran. Nashua is a nice city, but I live west of there in Amherst, New Hampshire.

My point is that Pittsfield is a place of great economic inequality. Pittsfield uses the excuse that GE left town, but that was over a generation ago. They have done nothing to provide employment opportunities to the working class in 3 decades. Instead, they raise taxes and drive out the middle class. It is a fact that thousands of people have had to move out of Pittsfield. It is also a fact that thousands of jobs have been lost in Pittsfield. Once jobs are lost, they ain't comin' back in our lifetime!

The only people who can afford Pittsfield are the wealthy and the poor. The only people who are well taken care of in Pittsfield are the Good Old Boys and the vested interests group.

I believe Pittsfield and North Adams are run on the economic concept of "perverse incentives"! To be clear, I believe the severe economic inequality in the Berkshires are by the design of the one political party system of G.O.B. political hacks who do nothing to bring living wage jobs to the poor people who could really use them. I detail my ordeal as a then young man living in the Pittsfield area years ago on my blog page:

http://jonathanmelleonpolitics.blogspot.com/2007/11/pittsfields-revitalization-via-perverse.html

I close by asking the following questions: "Why are there no living wage jobs in Pittsfield for the poor people who need them to get out of poverty?" "Why does Pittsfield's unequal economic model of "perverse incentives" continue decade after decade after decade?" "Is the one political party system of political hacks that important to the Good Old Boys' hold on power in an acutely economically unequal community?"

- Jonathan Melle

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June 1, 2018

Imagine a city ran by the Good Old Boys for the past 5 generations that saw thousands of people move away along with thousands of jobs lost, while taxes increased by 5% per fiscal year along with hundreds of millions of dollars in municipal debts, along with an empty business park called PEDA that is polluted with industrial chemicals called PCBs, that has severe rates of economic inequality, high per capita welfare caseloads, and violent crime, drugs, and gangs.

Pittsfield politics has been ran by the “Doyle debacle”, the “Hathaway hack”, the “Ruberto regime”, and the “Bianchi bust”!

I enjoy reading Dan Valenti’s blog about Pittsfield politics! I find it interesting how a dying town is still being ran by the Good Old Boys, while the people suffer with socioeconomic issues of high taxes, no living wage jobs, economic inequality, overpriced public schools, and other hardships. Why do the G.O.B.s still hold political power after Pittsfield ended up in the proverbial ditch? It makes no sense, but at lease Dan Valenti writes about it all.

- Jonathan Melle

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“Pittsfield City Council preliminarily approves $160M budget”
By Amanda Drane, The Berkshire Eagle, June 6, 2018

PITTSFIELD — Additional state revenue will likely spare the city from a power struggle that reared its head Tuesday evening between the City Council and Mayor Linda Tyer, she told The Eagle on Wednesday.

The council preliminarily approved a $159.98 million spending plan for the coming fiscal year during its final budget hearing, which stretched late into Tuesday night. The mayor's $1 million free cash appropriation request failed in an 8-3 vote by the council, putting into question whether or not the budget will balance, and in a split vote $4 million in water and sewer maintenance also failed to pass.

The preliminary budget passed by the council also includes $8.83 million in capital spending for projects like a new police station, demolition and resurfacing of the Columbus Avenue parking garage, and roadway resurfacing.

On Tuesday the City Council will make final decisions on the fiscal year 2019 budget, which takes effect July 1. Between now and Tuesday, Tyer said, she'll work to change council minds with regard to borrowing the $4 million in water and sewer funds, as well as track an additional $1 million in state reimbursements that could displace the need for the free cash order bucked by the council.

Though councilors voted to make slight reductions throughout the budget process — a $65,000 line item that would have replaced carpets at Pittsfield High School the largest among them — Tyer said she's happy with the final product.

"I'm really pleased that our budget has remained fairly intact," she said Wednesday. "I think that it is a responsible budget that takes into account our our fiscal constraints and community expectations about what our government should be doing."

Councilor Melissa Mazzeo said she rejected the water and sewer borrowing authorization because $74 million that the city is borrowing for wastewater upgrades, required by the Environmental Protection Agency, is already too much money to spend on wastewater over the next fiscal year. Ward 4 Councilor Chris Connell said he couldn't support borrowing more for water and sewer maintenance given his stance that the city should enter a public-private partnership to manage its wastewater operation.

Connell also moved to refer the free cash request back to Tyer, asking she increase the appropriation by $500,000. The increase would mean the city would take $500,000 more out of reserves to balance the budget rather than raising them in property taxes — a move that under a single tax rate would save taxpayers about $14 per $100,000 in property valuation during the next fiscal year, Finance Director Matt Kerwood said.

Connell successfully convinced his colleagues the move would provide some needed relief to taxpayers, in light of increased property valuations, tax rate increases and the promise of rising sewer bills.

"It was a double hit to all the taxpayers here in Pittsfield," Connell said Wednesday of property tax bills. "We've been hitting them too hard."

Connell, Mazzeo, Ward 7 Councilor Anthony Simonelli and Ward 2 Councilor Kevin Morandi argued for more cuts throughout the process but were not always successful.

"It was the best I could do," Connell said. "There were only of a few of us trying to make any changes in the budget."

Tyer said the free cash debate "was quite a surprise to me." She said councilors and auditors alike have in previous years pushed to store more free cash and stop relying on it to balance the budget.

"We've got to build our reserves," she said. "It's precisely why we built a budget around only using $1 million in free cash."

Still, she said, the debate may not need to continue given an additional $1 million in school reimbursements likely heading to Pittsfield, if state numbers hold. She said the additional revenue would reduce the amount of funds the city would need to raise to balance the budget.

If those funds fall through, she said, she could again ask the council to appropriate free cash funds at any time in order to make ends meet.

Amanda Drane can be contacted at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.

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June 7, 2018

Pittsfield politics is in frustration mode concerning the fiscal year 2019 municipal budget, which will be voted on at the City Council meeting on Tuesday evening, June 12th, 2018. Only the lovely Linda Tyer disagrees with the frustration that the City Councilors and hard-hit taxpayers feel. What is worse, City Council Prez Peter Marchetti wants to limit the time of the budget hearings by having editorial powers over City Councilors speech. Who the hell does Peter Marchetti think he is? The government belongs to the people who pay the tax bills for the government!

...."I am going to start a process of undertaking looking at how long each councilor has spoken and try to find a way to limit the amount of speaking that can take place at the meeting".... - Peter Marchetti

http://wamc.org/post/pittsfield-city-council-expresses-frustration-budget-hearings

- Jonathan Melle

Here is a follow-up news story on Peter Marchetti’s pledge to shorten City Council meetings.

http://wamc.org/post/pittsfield-city-council-president-pledges-shorten-meetings

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“Look Ahead, Pittsfield: Budget battle unfolds Tuesday night”
By Amanda Drane, The Berkshire Eagle, June 10, 2018

Keeping tabs on everything happening in Pittsfield is a full-time job. Mine, in fact.

From looming projects like the $74 million wastewater upgrade, to roadway chip sealing, mosquito spray and other important City Council considerations, this city in the woods can keep us all guessing. I like to keep a running notebook packed with Pittsfield issues so that I'm not caught off-guard — or less likely to be, anyway. Here's an inside look at things I have my eye on this week.

Budget battles

The budget is a big one. Approving the final product is arguably the most important municipal decision of the year, and it's happening this week during the City Council meeting, at 7 p.m. in the library of Pittsfield High School.

The budget process to date was wrought with power struggles between councilors and Mayor Linda Tyer, as in tight times, leaders worked to track a line between tightening our belts and holding the line on city services. Last week, the council rejected a $4 million borrowing plan for water and sewer maintenance, and they bucked a request from the mayor to appropriate $1 million in free cash to balance the budget for the coming fiscal year. If the council and the mayor do not resolve their differences on the free cash front, it's possible they will be voting on a deficit budget for the year beginning July 1.

The budget includes funds for a new police station, road resurfacing, and demolition of the Columbus Avenue parking garage.

Columbus Day or Indigenous Peoples Day?

During the last City Council meeting, we heard from several members of Italian heritage groups in Pittsfield angered by the School Committee's decision in January to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day in the school calendar. Ward 7 Councilor Tony Simonelli has filed a petition calling on his colleagues to join him and local Italians in opposing the School Committee's decision. That item also appears on Tuesday's meeting agenda.

PPD promotion

In a shift in command staffing at the Pittsfield Police Department, Michael Grady will be promoted to captain this week. He is a 23-year veteran of the department.

Marijuana outreach meeting

More marijuana movement is coming our way this week as another cultivation operation, which has not yet applied for city approvals, will host a community outreach meeting Wednesday at 11 a.m. at the Berkshire Athenaeum.

So far, the city approved four special permits for retail shops — Berkshire Roots on Dalton Avenue, Temescal Wellness on Callahan Drive, Kryppies on East Street and Colonial Cannabis on South Street — and OK'd two cultivation operations — Mass Yield behind the East Street shop and Commonwealth Cultivation on Downing Industrial Parkway. City planners say they've heard from interested parties who could soon apply for permits, including two marijuana manufacturers and a marijuana testing lab.

Utility info in the mail

Residents could also start seeing mailers this week reminding folks about another enrollment period in the residential aggregation program, which City Hall reports saved residents a combined total of $384,000 in utility costs over the first six months of the program.

Through this program, the city's electricity supply is locked in at a fixed rate of 0.09976 cents per kilowatt-hour through December 2020. Residents have until mid-July to opt out.

It's getting Chili's

And those eager for new dining options may be pleased to hear construction of a new Chili's Grill & Bar is scheduled to begin this week in place of the recently demolished Old Country Buffet at Berkshire Crossing, and the new restaurant is expected to open in October.

Keep an eye toward cultural calendars, too, because it's a hot month for downtown happenings. And don't forget to wish all your dads and fatherly figures a happy Fathers Day!

What's up in Pittsfield? Tell me via email at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, or by phone at 413-496-6296. Follow me on Twitter, @amandadrane

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“Pittsfield council OKs $160 million budget”
By Amanda Drane, The Berkshire Eagle, June 12, 2018

PITTSFIELD — The City Council approved a balanced budget Tuesday and rejected a petition that would have opposed the School Committee's controversial decision to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day.

The City Council unanimously approved the mayor's $160 million budget, as well as $8.8 million in borrowing toward capital projects like roadwork and resurfacing of the Columbus Avenue parking garage. It also reversed two of its preliminary votes, approving the mayor's request for $1 million in free cash appropriation, and a $1.6 million borrowing authorization for water and sewer maintenance.

Councilors had voted previously to leave room for an approximately $20 annual reduction in the average residential property tax bill, calling for the mayor to put forward a larger free cash request to reduce the tax burden. Mayor Linda Tyer said it's possible the city could get additional state reimbursements, and she would reconsider the free cash appropriation once state numbers firm up.

That promise won support with councilors, who voted 9-2 in favor of the appropriation, with Ward 4 Councilor Chris Connell and Ward 7 Councilor Anthony Simonelli in opposition.

Ward 5 Councilor Donna Todd Rivers said she decided to reverse her vote on the free cash issue to maintain the integrity of council requests from previous years to reduce the city's reliance on free cash — which, according to best practices, should be used as a reserve — to balance the budget.

"This administration has done a great job," she said. "This is the moment when we can all begin moving in the same direction."

Dozens of people again showed for the meeting to voice support and opposition for the School Committee's decision in January to rename Columbus Day as Indigenous Peoples Day, urging councilors to act on the issue. On the agenda was a petition from Simonelli calling on his colleagues to go on record opposing the School Committee decision.

Councilors turned down the petition on a 6-5 vote, with council President Peter Marchetti, Councilor At Large Melissa Mazzeo, Ward 2 Councilor Kevin Morandi, Todd Rivers and Simonelli voting in favor.

"People need to know about Columbus' achievements," Simonelli said. "He was a man living in different times than we are today."

But Ward 3 Councilor Nick Caccamo said Columbus can't be defended by saying many historical figures were guilty of atrocities.

"They all did the same thing, and it was all reprehensible," he said.

Councilors also noted how inaccurately they were taught in school that Christopher Columbus "discovered" America. Ward 1 Councilor Helen Moon said it's not about rewriting history, but about correcting it.

"History is oftentimes written by the people who are in power," she said. "I think that this is a moment where we can lead from the seat."

Councilor At Large Earl Persip III asked people in the community to stop drawing comparisons between Columbus and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., noting that hearing the names together "irks me."

"That creates a divide," he said. "We need to work together to come up with something that works for everybody."

School Committee Chairwoman Katherine Yon said the body would reconsider its previous decision during its July meeting.

Amanda Drane can be contacted at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.

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“Look ahead, Pittsfield: Closing chapters and deficits this week”
By Amanda Drane, The Berkshire Eagle, June 24, 2018

Pittsfield — The fiscal year winds to a close this week, bringing with it City Council decisions on deficit accounts, settling of contract negotiations with city teachers and important goodbyes at Taconic High School.

Halls of the existing school on Valentine Road hold many memories, which is why Superintendent Jason McCandless is offering public walkthroughs Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. He calls it a chance for alumni to see spaces they knew and loved before they give way to new athletic fields.

Contractors are busily putting final touches on the new $120 million Taconic High School, while the familiar one will be demolished this fall. And so another goodbye is in order: WTBR signs off for the final time Monday before its move to Pittsfield Community Television.

Taconic students launched the station, which broadcasts at 89.7 FM, out of a library closet in 1974. For decades the student-run station offered city youth an early window into the media world, as well as a sense of community and responsibility. But in recent decades, attention paid to the station dwindled amid shrinking school budgets.

PCTV is adopting the so-called "little station that could," relaunching it this fall as a full-fledged community radio station. John Krol will host the send-off edition of "Good Morning, Pittsfield," Monday from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., which will include visits from dignitaries and popular personalities.

Mosquitoes and deficits

On Tuesday, the City Council will again tackle mosquito control spray, as well as budgetary line items in the red as the fiscal year closes. The City Council Committee on Public Health and Safety decided earlier this month to amend a petition banning the spray to say instead that the program spray only when there's a demonstrated public health risk.

If the City Council and Board of Health OK the measure, the city may no longer honor requests from residents to spray their properties.

Notable city accounts in the red are those for snow and ice and police overtime, which the City Council will look to balance Tuesday. Those accounts are $1.2 million and $400,000 in the hole, respectively. The council will consider moving money from other areas to close the gaps.

Watch out for ...

On Wednesday the School Committee looks to approve a settlement agreement between the district and United Educators of Pittsfield and the Massachusetts Teachers Association.

Interested in an inside look at all things city government? The mayor's office is offering a first-ever Citizens Academy, a 10-week workshop that begins Sept. 6. The deadline to apply with mayoral aide Catherine VanBramer is this Friday.

What's up in Pittsfield? Tell me via email at adrane@berkshireeagle.com or by phone at 413-496-6296. Follow me on Twitter @amandadrane.

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The Berkshire Museum has announced plans to sell nine more artworks, including seven in private transactions and two in auctions. All of the newly listed items were included in the original list of 40 artworks the museum said it would sell last year. Eagle File

“Berkshire Museum plans to sell 9 more works, bringing total to 22”
By Larry Parnass, The Berkshire Eagle, June 25, 2018

PITTSFIELD — Nine more Berkshire Museum works will be sold in coming months, the institution said Monday, in a drive to reach the full $55 million in proceeds allowed by an April court ruling.

Seven of the works will be sold in private transactions rather than auctions in an attempt to place them with new owners who will preserve public access.

Two other pieces will be offered for sale at a September auction at Sotheby's in New York City, the museum said. All of the newly listed items were included in the original body of 40 artworks the museum announced it would sell to close a recurring budget deficit and help fund a building project.

The museum faced blowback nationally and locally over its plan. It fought off legal challenges and a monthslong inquiry by the state Attorney General's Office, eventually securing consent from Attorney General Maura Healey and authorization from a justice with the Supreme Judicial Court for Suffolk County.

To date, the museum has netted $47 million from sales in April and May. That means the nine additional works are expected to bring $8 million in net proceeds.

In earlier estimates of sale prices at auction, Sotheby's calculated that eight of the nine works would bring a low of $5,010,000 and a high of $7,670,000.

Those values were included in court papers filed during litigation brought by three sons of the late artist Norman Rockwell and a group of Berkshire County residents.

Those estimates do not include any estimated auction values for Alexander Calder's "Dancing Torpedo Shape," a mobile sculpture that the museum said it will sell. It sold the same artist's "Double Arc and Sphere" in May.

By selling through private transactions, the museum gains a measure of control over prices, but loses the possible high end, should competing bidders at auction drive values over estimates.

The citizens group Save the Art-Save the Museum criticized the works chosen for a second sale.
"In light of the Museum's recent call for healing and promises of transparency, it is distressing that they have chosen to sell the most important of the remaining art," the group said in a statement Monday night.

"This reflects the Board's disregard of a substantial segment of the community who respect the integrity of the Museum's original mission — the study of art, natural sciences and the culture of mankind. This is clearly a violation of the public trust."

The group called for people who disagree with the decision to sell additional artworks to speak out "and to continue to voice their objections."

The sale of a second group of works will leave 17 of the original 40 items that were listed for sale in the museum's collection.

If the second round of sales does not allow the museum to reach its $55 million goal, it has authority to put a third round of works on the market.

"The agreement between the museum and the AGO called for the museum to offer works for sale in groups or tranches, until raising the $55 million determined to be needed to secure the museum's future, including funding the endowment, needed repairs to the museum building and the interpretive approach to the collection," the statement said. As required by its February agreement with Healey, the museum said it has notified the Attorney General's Office June 15 of its plan for the second group of sales.

While the museum said it "aims" to place seven of the artworks with owners who will keep them on view, the statement did not say it will decline to sell to a private buyer, if that is the only option.

Carol Bosco Baumann, the museum's spokeswoman, said the institution hopes to keep as many works as possible accessible to the public.

"But our primary and fiduciary duty is to do what is best for Berkshire Museum," she said.

When asked how the nine works were chosen, Bosco Baumann said some were identified for sale because of the monetary value to ensure, she said, "that the Museum has sufficient funds to secure its future, provide necessary repairs to our facilities, and update our interpretive plan to be relevant to a 21st century audience."

Other works were selected for sale because their interpretive value was considered low for the museum's needs, including the Asian pieces.

"Also, many of these works were identified based on their relative likelihood of ending up in the public domain," she said, in response to questions from The Eagle.

Of the 17 works the museum will retain, none was valued in pre-auction estimates at more than $800,000.Two sculptures by Giulio Tadolini and Franklin Simmons were not valued. Of the 15 others, as a group they received total auction bid estimates ranging from $2,315,000 to $3,410,000, according to the court papers that contained Sotheby's calculations.

Larry Parnass can be reached at lparnass@berkshireeagle.com, at @larryparnass on Twitter and 413-496-6214.

Sale list

The new works to be sold privately include:


- Albert Bierstadt, "Giant Redwood Trees of California." The work, circa 1874, had been scheduled for auction last November, but the sale was canceled after an appeals court judge issued an injunction at the request of Healey's office. It was valued for that sale at $1.5 million to $2.5 million.

The oil-on-canvas painting was a gift from museum founder Zenas Crane. According to a 1903 press account about the museum's opening, the work was on display then.


- Alexander Calder, "Dancing Torpedo Shape" (a mobile sculpture). This 1932 wood, wire and aluminum piece was bought by Laura Bragg, a former museum director, in 1933, reportedly the first by the artist to be acquired by a museum. The work was featured in museums around the world, according to the court papers. Photo from Archive.org


- Thomas Wilmer Dewing, "Two Ladies in a Drawing Room/The White Dress." This 1921 oil-on-canvas work was a gift to the museum by Louise Crane and was to be sold at the November auction, at which time it had sale estimates of $600,000 to $800,000.


- George Henry Durrie, "Hunter in Winter Wood." This 1860 oil-on-canvas scene, believed to be the largest of the artist's paintings, was given to the museum in 1947 by the W. Murray Crane family and had been scheduled for the November sale. It was valued then at $400,000 to $600,000.


- Thomas Moran, "The Last Arrow." This 1867 oil-on-canvas work was given to the museum in 1915 by its founder. It had been listed for sale at the November auction but was pulled due to the injunction.

At the time, it carried sales estimates of $2 million to $3 million. The 1916 annual report of the Berkshire Athenaeum and Museum said it was one of 22 paintings on display in the gallery that year.


- Charles Wilson Peale, "Portrait of General David Forman." Painted around 1784, this oil-on-canvas portrait of the Revolutionary War military figure had been listed for the November sale and was valued before that date as carrying an auction range of $200,000 to $300,000.

Forman, a close ally of Gen. George Washington, was nicknamed "Devil David." The work was donated by Zenas Crane.


- Benjamin West, "Daniel Interpreting to Belshazzar the Handwriting on the Wall." The oldest work listed for sale, this 1775 oil-on-canvas painting was a gift from Zenas Crarne. The museum had planned to sell it in February, but litigation blocked that. An article in Antiques magazine in November 1982 notes that it departed from the "strict neoclassical style" of the artist's early works. It carried an auction sale range of $200,000 to $300,000.

The two works to be sold at Sotheby's "Asia Week" auction in September are:


- "A Ten-Panel Coromandel `Birthday' Screen, Qing Dynasty, Kangxi Period, Dated Jisi Year, Corresponding to 1689." It had been schedule for sale in March and carried an estimated bid range of $80,000 to $120,000.


- "A Large Blue and White `Dragon' Vase, Qing Dynasty, 18th / Early 19th Century." This work had also been scheduled for sale in March, with bids expected to fall between $30,000 and $50,000.

Note: Most Photos Provided by Sotheby's.

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“Berkshire Museum Seeks Private Sales in Next Round”
iBerkshires.com Staff Reports, June 25, 2018

Pittsfield, Mass. — The Berkshire Museum has selected nine more works of art to be sold toward its goal of $55 million that museum officials say is required to secure the institution's future.

Thirteen pieces have been sold by auction or private sale. Sotheby's will be working with the museum to find private sales for seven more works and will auction two in September.

The century-old museum's decision to deaccession parts of its 40,000-piece collection was announced almost a year ago to fund a $60 million plan to modernize and update the aging institution and develop an endowment to continue its operations. Without the funds, officials say the venerable museum is facing a financial catastrophe.

The announcement set off a firestorm of controversy that led to protests, lawsuits, condemnation from museum leaders across the nation and sanctions by the Association of Art Museum Directors. Working with the Office of the Attorney General, an agreement was reached and approved by the Supreme Judicial Court to set a goal of $55 million by selling 40 works in sections — once the top limit was reached, no further works would be deaccessioned.

So far, the museum has netted an estimated $13 million at auction, and more than $42 million total (not including Frederic Edwin Church's "Valley of Santa Isabel"), according to officials. The price for Norman Rockwell's "Shuffleton's Barbershop," acquired privately by George Lucas' Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, has not been disclosed although the work is estimated to be worth between $20 million and $30 million. The museum states on its website that it had "agreed to accept a significantly lower price through a private sale that keeps this important work in the public eye."

"Shuffleton's Barbershop" is currently on exhibit at the Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge as part of the sale agreement. "Valley of Santa Isabel" was acquired by the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts after failing to find a buyer at auction. The price is not being disclosed.

A second Rockwell, "Blacksmith's Boy, Heel and Toe," brought in the most at auction with a sale of $8.1 million at Sotheby's in May. Out of the 13 works auctioned, many underperformed and two failed to find immediate buyers.

Private sales are being pursued for Albert Bierstadt, "Giant Redwood Trees of California"; Alexander Calder, "Dancing Torpedo Shape"; Thomas Wilmer Dewing, "Two Ladies in a Drawing Room/The White Dress"; George Henry Durrie, "Hunter in Winter Wood"; Thomas Moran, "The Last Arrow"; Charles Wilson Peale, "Portrait of General David Forman"; Benjamin West, "Daniel Interpreting to Belshazzar the Handwriting on the Wall."

The hope is that agreements can be reached to keep these works on public display.

Sotheby's will offer two Qing Dynasty pieces during Asia Week auctions in September: A 10-panel coromandel "birthday" screen from the Kangxi Period, dated Jisi year, corresponding to 1689; and a large blue and white "dragon" vase from the 18th century or early 19th century.

Sold at auction by Sotheby's so far have been:

Impressionist & Modern Art Evening, May 14: Henry Moore, "Three Seated Women" ($300,000); Francis Picabia, "Force Comique" ($1,119,000).

Contemporary Art Evening, May 16: Alexander Calder, "Double Arc and Sphere" ($1,215,000).

European Art, May 22: William Bouguereau's "L'Agneau Nouveau-Né" ($975,000) and "Les deux soeurs (La Bourrique)" ($1,755,000); Charles François Daubigny, "Paysans allant aux champs (Le Matin)" ($68,750); Alberto Pasini, "Faubourg de Constantinople" (not sold, est. $700k-$1M);

Master Paintings, May 22: Adriaen Isenbrant's "The Flight into Egypt" ($759,000) and "The Temptation of Adam and Eve" ($325,000).

American Art, May 23: Frederic Edwin Church, "Valley of Santa Isabel, New Granada" (est. at $5-$7M, was sold privately); John La Farge, "Magnolia" ($262,500); Rembrandt Peale, "George Washington" ($225,000); Norman Rockwell, "Blacksmith's Boy – Heel and Toe" ($8,131,000).

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Van Shields, shown in February, has stepped down as executive director of the Berkshire Museum. Ben Garver - The Berkshire Eagle


Van Shields, shown in 2013, has stepped down as executive director of the Berkshire Museum. Ben Garver - The Berkshire Eagle


David W. Ellis has been named interim executive director of the Berkshire Museum. Van Shields, who headed the museum since September 2011, resigned effective Thursday, the museum said. Photo provided by The Berkshire Museum

“Van Shields, proponent of controversial art sales, bows out at Berkshire Museum”
By Larry Parnass, The Berkshire Eagle, June 28, 2018

PITTSFIELD — After taking the helm at the Berkshire Museum in 2011, Van Shields surprised his new colleagues by talking about "monetizing" the Pittsfield institution's collection.

It took six years, but talk brought results: The museum holds $47 million in proceeds from recent art sales, with another $8 million expected. It seems a "mission accomplished" moment for Shields — and on that note he'll bow out.

The museum's board president on Thursday said Shields has retired, and she thanked him for helping to "chart a course to secure the museum's future, true to our mission and responsible to our community."

Trustees named a consultant to run the museum on an interim basis. They plan a national search for a full-time replacement. Shields' resignation became effective Thursday and he is no longer listed on the museum's website.

Shields, who was paid $138,571 a year as executive director in 2017, declined to comment when reached by telephone.

"The news release speaks for itself and that's all I want to say," he told The Eagle.

Carol Bosco Baumann, the museum's spokeswoman, said Shields decided on his own to leave, not at the request of the board. She declined to say whether he received a retirement incentive package.

"The museum does not and will not discuss personnel matters," she said.

After announcing plans on July 12, 2017, to sell up to 40 works of art, Shields became a polarizing figure in the local and national museum community.

He's been lauded by some for taking bold steps to mend the museum's balance sheet, but pilloried by others who feel he and trustees looted the institution's heritage and violated ethical practices on collection management.

In a statement released by the museum, Shields, who lives in Pittsfield, thanked staff and trustees and praised "community partners who share our belief in the museum's power to transform lives."

"We have charted a course that will well serve the museum and this community," Shields said in the statement.

The museum said it has tapped consultant David W. Ellis of Cambridge, a trained chemist, to fill in as leader during the search. He will be assisted by Nina Garlington, the museum's current chief engagement officer, who will take a new position as chief of staff.

Garlington and Craig Langlois, the museum's chief experience officer, filled in as co-executive directors for two months last fall when Shields was on medical leave for treatment of a heart condition. An online directory lists his age as 68.

Legal fights

For much of the past year, the museum has been on the defensive, overcoming two lawsuits and responding to a blizzard of document and interview requests from the office of Attorney General Maura Healey.

While the museum eventually came to terms with Healey's office about art sales, Shields' critics had continued to call in published statements for his removal from the position.

The citizens group Save the Art-Save the Museum issued a statement Thursday asking trustees to postpone further art sales until a new permanent director is hired. The board said this week it plans to sell nine more works, seven in private transactions and two in a September auction at Sotheby's. The sales aim to bring total net proceeds from sales to the $55 million allowed in a Supreme Judicial Court ruling in April.

Save the Art said it welcomed word of Shields' retirement.

"This provides the museum with a new opportunity to engage the entire public and proceed with greater transparency as it seeks new leadership for this important regional institution," the statement said.

"Our grassroots efforts have successfully drawn attention to the mismanagement of the museum," the group said. "We continue to urge the museum to open up its planning process and to respect the substantial proportion of the community who wish to restore its original role as a multi-disciplinary cultural institution of art, science, and history."

Shields joined the museum Sept. 12, 2011, after spending 14 years running the Culture & Heritage Museums in Rock Hill, S.C.

County officials in South Carolina fired Shields that August. In a 2011 interview with The Eagle, Shields blamed conservative political opponents for not embracing his vision for a new $60 million museum project that had faltered.

Shannon A. Wiley, deputy general counsel for the South Carolina secretary of state, referred issues related to the museum project to that state's attorney general, citing various concerns. One was the fact that "a lot of money" had been spent without results," Wiley said in her referral letter. She also flagged possible conflicts of interest.

The AG's office closed the case without taking action.

Shields' leadership

The museum's plan to sell art from its collection received international attention even before two groups of plaintiffs and Healey's office stepped in to block it.

The museum maintained it was not legally bound to apply proceeds from art sales to the care of its collection. Nine months after announcing its plan, it secured permission from the Supreme Judicial Court to beef up its endowment so it could cover a deficit and to use other proceeds to pursue a "New Vision."

That programming shift is said to involve more interdisciplinary exhibits, a change the museum attributes in part to leadership by Shields.

In its statement Thursday, the museum said Shields notched successes in his tenure, including gains to make the museum more relevant to its community. He also introduced an early childhood education program called WeeMuse and expanded the museum's work with area schools.

"He played a key leadership role in developing the museum's master plan announced in July of 2017," the museum statement said. That proposal, developed over several years, called for creation of new exhibit space and a new emphasis on multimedia and interactive displays.

Through the course of litigation since October, the museum amplified the message that the loss of reliable large donors had left it financially vulnerable and that is was running a roughly $1 million-a-year deficit.

Unless its endowment grew by some $40 million, trustees said, the museum risked closing.

But Shields' critics continued to question whether the museum's financial situation was as dire as it claimed. They hold him responsible for the loss of some of the most prized works in the Pittsfield collection, including two paintings by Norman Rockwell that had been donated by the artist himself.

Lynn Villency Cohen, a part-time resident of Berkshire County with museum experience, said directors of institutions like the Berkshire Museum come and go and should be judged on how they embrace the past and care for collections.

"For over a hundred years of Berkshire Museum directors, the leadership and staff exhibited, protected, and cared for the art — the highly regarded, beautiful works — 22 of which are sold or are in the process of being sold," she said Thursday.

"Van Shields should be looked upon as an accomplice to the board and its destruction of a community's historical treasures," Cohen said. "His face will forever be the poster boy for the destruction of the art collection. That is his legacy in the Berkshires."

Carol Diehl, of Great Barrington, another critic of the art sales, takes Shields to task for what she views as flawed financial oversight, noting that in 2015 he was quoted in a news article as saying the museum was "in a good financial position."

Instead, Diehl argues, Shields pressed with board support for the art sales, in defiance of museum norms.

That quest, she said Thursday, "sold off its most tangible resources while dividing the community in a rift that will take decades to heal — a disaster that has made national and international headlines."

Attorney Mark S. Gold advised museum trustees on their ability to sell works from the collection. He contributed a chapter called "Monetizing the Collection: The Intersection of Law, Ethics, and Trustee Prerogative" to a 2015 book.

Shields provided a blurb comment for the back of the book, writing: "At last we have a practical and accessible resource to understand current and critical issues at the intersection of law and museums today, authored by thought leaders in the field."

Interim chief

Ellis, the museum consultant who will act as interim leader, said he welcomes the chance to bring stability to the South Street institution.

"I hopefully can help. I really care about these institutions," said Ellis, who at 82 is a veteran of other fill-in assignments and served as president of the Boston Museum of Science from 1990 to 2002. "I like people and challenges and putting it all together."

Bosco Baumann said Ellis is studying the museum's issues and meeting with staff and trustees.

Ellis said he plans to begin work in July by spending a day or several days at a time in Pittsfield, while consulting with Garlington, the new chief of staff. He said he expects to step up his involvement in August, though he advised trustees he has commitments for parts of September and October.

"I'll be fitting it around those," he said of his new assignment.

Though Ellis said trustees have not estimated how long their search for a new full-time director will take, he believes from his experience it could be six to nine months. Ellis has served as interim leader of the Boston Children's Museum and the Harvard Museum of Natural History.

In the next six months, trustees have said they will fine-tune how they will implement the New Vision plan regarding a new approach to exhibits.

Trustees have said they are considering whether that will include creation of atrium space through a major remodeling project.

"I think the board does have a lot on its plate," Ellis said in a phone interview Thursday.

Meantime, he said he is working his way through a stack of materials related to the museum's master plan, the process that resulted in the art sales approved by the SJC in April, in spite of community opposition.

Ellis said he has not been briefed by Shields on pending issues. When asked if he expected to meet the former director, he answered: "I would hope so, but I don't know when."

Ellis said he followed news reports about the museum's art sale, including the sanctions it received from museum groups. Ellis is a member of one trade group critical of the museum deaccession, the American Alliance of Museums.

"One has to be sensitive to the kinds of questions that have been asked," he said, when asked about any risk that the museum may become isolated from the wider arts community. "I'm not going to point fingers. I'm just going to look ahead."

Though he trained as a scientist, earning a doctorate in chemistry in 1962 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Ellis said his parents often took him to museums and taught him to appreciate culture and ideas.

Today, he believes museums play an important role in community-building.

"Museums have something really important to offer," he said. "Big medium or small I think these institutions provide very real services."

Larry Parnass can be reached at lparnass@berkshireeagle.com, at @larryparnass on Twitter and 413-496-6214.

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Members of the Massachusetts Nurses Association local voted Thursday to ratify a new pay pact with Berkshire Medical Center that runs through September 2021. The vote was 97 percent in favor of approving contract terms that cut short a planned second strike this month. Eagle File Photo

“Pittsfield RNs approve contract with Berkshire Medical Center”
By Larry Parnass, The Berkshire Eagle, June 28, 2018

Pittsfield — Registered nurses who bargained for 22 months on a new Berkshire Medical Center contract, and walked off the job last October, like their new offer.

Members of the Massachusetts Nurses Association local voted Thursday to ratify a new pay pact that runs through September 2021.

The vote was 97 percent in favor of approving contract terms that cut short a planned second strike this month.

In a statement Thursday night, the MNA called the contract "a huge success for patients, nurses and the community by improving staffing and patient care conditions."

The contract provides assurances from the hospital that workloads for RNs will not grow worse.

Though the MNA retreated from early calls for specific staffing grids, the new pact includes terms that, in certain cases, will keep supervisory "charge" nurses from patient assignments so they can assist other RNs when patient needs intensify.

The agreement also includes wage gains, as well as concessions by the union. The RNs agreed to pay higher premiums for individual health policies as of Jan. 1, bringing their costs up to those already paid by other hospital employees.

The contract also includes a pledge by BMC not to weaken the staffing levels already set in current grids, according to the union.

The union and hospital agreed to make the pact retroactive to Oct. 1, 2016, when the old contract lapsed.

The MNA represents about 800 RNs at the hospital, some of whom work at satellite facilities, including North Adams.

The two sides reached terms early June 15, after three days of intense bargaining, including 16 hours the final day. The breakthrough came three days before a planned one-day walkout by nurses that would have been followed by a four-day lockout that would have cost BMC $3 million to $4 million.

At the time of the agreement, BMC representatives called the agreement "fair and reasonable."

In the end, both sides gave up ground from initial bargaining positions to reach agreement, ending one of the most protracted recent health care labor disputes in Massachusetts.

Larry Parnass can be reached at lparnass@berkshireeagle.com, at @larryparnass on Twitter and 413-496-6214.

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I would go to this event wearing white and standing proudly with the lovely Linda Tyer to resist the Trump regime's mistreatment of immigrant women and children!

- Jonathan Melle

News Article -

“Hundreds expected at Pittsfield Families Belong Together march”
By Haven Orecchio-Egresitz, The Berkshire Eagle, June 29, 2018

Pittsfield — Hundreds of people, including local politicians and advocates, are expected to descend on Park Square at noon Saturday [June 30, 2018] to call for swift reunification of families separated at the Mexico border. The Families Belong Together march is in solidarity with more than 700 other events across the country, with the anchor event in Washington.

"We want to welcome everyone of every political affiliation. The standout is for decency and respect for human life," Four Freedoms organizer Frank Farkas said. "This is not the vision of America that we all cherish. We should not be demonizing immigrants; when they enter the country, they are as hardworking and law-abiding as anyone else, maybe even more so."

While the Trump administration recently has reversed it's "zero-tolerance" policy, which had separated thousands of children from adults who crossed the border illegally, and a federal judge issued an order to reunite immigrant families within a month, it has done little to snuff the outrage.

"Personally, for me, I think about the effect this has on those kids," march organizer Toni Buckley said. "If they were detained, in a situation like that, together with their family who can comfort them, it would be still awful, but the lasting effect on those kids would be totally different."

Buckley, of Pittsfield, grew up in Germany, but a majority of her family were native Syrians who fled as refugees.

"My cousins worked really hard on improving the lives of young refugees. The trauma they experienced, we don't know what it's going to mean for them," Buckley said.

"I see with my family how important it is. When you're asked to leave your home because your home isn't safe, your family is all you have."

Scheduled speaker Sopheap Nhim, who came to the United States as a refugee from Cambodia when she was 18 months old, will share the experience of her family.

At 5 and 6 years old, her brother and sister had been separated from the rest of the family to be put in Cambodian labor camps.

She was born in a labor camp, and her family underwent treacherous weeks of fleeing from the Cambodian countryside to a refugee camp in Thailand before being accepted as refugees to the U.S.

Despite being welcomed by the country, her traumatized siblings were met with extensive bullying within the community, she said in a recent interview.

"I think our family is a really good example of when you let refugees in," she said in the interview. "We all work. We all contribute to our community."

Nhim believes that what most refugees need when they enter the United States, which isn't often provided, is mental health counseling.

Other speakers will include Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer, the Rev. Joel Huntington of South Congregational Church, immigration attorney Donna Morelli, U.S. Rep. Richard Neal and retired pediatrician Eli Newberger.

Buckley said that a Spanish translator will be at the event and immigrants are encouraged to attend.

Buckley said she is not too concerned that a large presence of immigrants in the city center will draw Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.

"We didn't get any kind of impression that anyone would show up," she said. "Of course, we have to be aware of that risk, but I have not experienced anything like that in Pittsfield."

Those who attend are encouraged to wear white, in solidarity with other events across the country, and bring water in preparation for the extreme heat.

Haven Orecchio-Egresitz can be reached at horecchio@berkshireeagle.com, @HavenEagle on Twitter and 413-770-6977.

If you go:

What: Families Belong Together march

Where: Park Square, Pittsfield

When: Noon Saturday [June 30, 2018]

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Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer emphatically chants "Vote" after speaking to hundreds gathered Saturday in Pittsfield who rallied in solidarity with the Families Belong Together march in Washington. Stephanie Zollshan - The Berkshire Eagle


Carolyn Newberger draws images from the Pittsfield rally Saturday at Park Square held in solidarity with the Families Belong Together march in Washington. Stephanie Zollshan - The Berkshire Eagle


Surrounded by family, Sopheap Nhim, a childhood refugee from Cambodia, speaks about her experience as an immigrant, during a rally Saturday in Pittsfield in solidarity with the Families Belong Together march in Washington. Stephanie Zollshan - The Berkshire Eagle


Spencer-Mathias Reed sits among the hundreds gathered Saturday at Park Square in Pittsfield, during the rally showing solidarity with the Families Belong Together march in Washington. Stephanie Zollshan - The Berkshire Eagle

“At Pittsfield Families Belong Together rally, anger, frustration and hope”
By Haven Orecchio-Egresitz, The Berkshire Eagle, June 30, 2018

Pittsfield — With temperatures in the 90s, a scent of sunscreen drifted through Park Square on Saturday, where hundreds of men, women and children had gathered to call for the reunification of families at the Mexico border.

Young parents placed hats on the heads of infants strapped to their chests, seniors supported themselves on canes while sweat beads dripped like tears down their face, and a small boy sat at a woman's feet with a sign that read "I wouldn't want to be taken from my mommy."

"We are saying, 'Down with hate. Remove those kids from cages,'" community activist and cultural competence coach Shirley Edgerton shouted at the crowd at the start of the event, which was held in solidarity with the Families Belong Together march in Washington. "Children are our most precious possessions; I don't care what country you're in."

The Trump administration recently has reversed its separation policy, which had taken thousands of children from adults who crossed the border illegally, and a federal judge issued an order to reunite immigrant families within a month. Many continue to be concerned about whether the government will be able to successfully reunite the children with their parents, what effects the separation will have on the children's mental health, and what is next for families who might be seeking asylum at the border.

The city park was one of more than 700 sites across the country where those opposed to the separation of children from their guardians at the border gathered this weekend to protest the administration's "zero-tolerance" policy.

While anger and frustration were evident among many at the public greenspace Saturday, it was the hopeful sing-alongs and supporting honks from passing motorists that drowned out the few disparaging remarks and cuss words screamed at the crowd from passers-by.

"To me, it was important to be here, because it's 2018 and the administration brought back an executive order from 1946," said Leah Reed, vice president of the NAACP Berkshire County chapter, referring to the use of Japanese internment camps. "I would hope we can appeal to the humanity of the administration, but since we can't, we should appeal to the financial ramifications."

Reed expects that the long-term trauma done to the children of immigrants seeking asylum is something that will eventually be an expense to the United States.

An impassioned Mayor Linda Tyer welcomed residents from across the county and neighboring states to the "heart of the Berkshires."

"This is not a place where we do this to people. ... We do not separate families. We do not put children in cages," Tyer said of the policy. "This is a moment in American history where we will not be quiet. Quiet is consent, and I do not give consent."

U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, state Sen. Adams Hinds, immigration attorney Donna Morelli, the Rev. Joel Huntington of South Congregational Church and retired pediatrician Eli Newberger all spoke in support of immigrant families and the need for reform at the border.

Sopheap Nhim, who arrived in the U.S. as an 18-month-old refugee from Cambodia in 1979, said her family is an example of the good that can come out of being welcoming to families fleeing violence.

Flanked by her four children, husband and extended family, the board-certified behavior analyst told the story of how, after four years in labor camps, her family was able to reunite and come to America.

While they were met with racism and bullying from the community, they worked hard and were grateful for the second chance at life.

"If my family was turned around and sent back to Cambodia, we would be dead," she said. "Life was not always easy for us, but it was easier than (it is for) the refugees today. I know we are better off because of the opportunities we were given."

Haven Orecchio-Egresitz can be reached at horecchio@berkshireeagle.com, @HavenEagle on Twitter and 413-770-6977.

related link: http://www.iberkshires.com/story/57727/Hundreds-Gather-in-Pittsfield-to-Protest-Trump-s-Immigration-Policies.html

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“Hot topics on Pittsfield's burner in busy week at City Hall”
By Amanda Drane, The Berkshire Eagle, July 8, 2018

Pittsfield — Vacation calendars may be brimming but the City Hall docket is full this week with hot topics like the Police Department shooting range, a new police review board and the Columbus Day controversy.

The City Council and School Committee both meet this week for the only time this month, after all, meaning they'll attend to some important business before gearing up for getaways of their own.

Residents living along the southern stretch of Holmes Road got fired up in recent weeks as the Pittsfield Police Department completed a round of firearms training on city-owned land in their neighborhood. The controversy sparked a City Hall review, which found the shooting range violated city zoning, and led Police Chief Michael Wynn to close the range.

Mayor Linda Tyer said the department has used the property near the city's wastewater treatment plant for training since 1999. During Tuesday's meeting city councilors are scheduled to hear from Wynn on the matter, as well as Building Commissioner Gerald Garner and Rich Dohoney, the city's attorney.

Issues like the one surrounding the shooting range might find a new forum in a Police Advisory and Review Board, outlined in an ordinance Tyer filed last week. The City Council gets a first look Tuesday at the proposed board, whose members would serve as liaisons between the Police Department and the public. The board would also review complaints filed against the department, but only after the department's internal affairs investigation is complete — a point of contention between proponents of the board and the administration.

On Wednesday the School Committee will reconsider its January decision to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day in the school calendar in light of recent backlash from Italian-American groups in the area.

These meetings will resume their rightful place in City Hall — council chambers — as the elevator is up and running again at last.

Get outside

The Marilyn Hamilton Sports and Literacy Program, a free camp for city children based at Durant Park, begins Monday. Manny and Vannessa Slaughter started the program over 20 years ago, and this year are working to pass management off to the Christian Center.

The city's playground program also starts this week, offering free daytime activities for kids ages 6 to 13 at Clapp Park, The Common and Springside Park.

In business

Another hopeful marijuana retailer will host a community outreach meeting at 3 p.m. Monday in the Berkshire Athenaeum. Ken Crowley, of Herbal Pathways, looks to set up shop at 1317 East St.

The city has also landed $30,000 from MassDevelopment to help several Tyler Street businesses with an exterior facelift. The grant requires a City Hall match, for a project total of $60,000. Businesses applying funds include Hot Harry's, Panda Garden, Goodwill Industries, Quillard Brothers Garage, and a property at 147-149 Tyler St.

What's up in Pittsfield? Tell me via email at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, or by phone at 413-496-6296. Follow me on Twitter @amandadrane.

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Letter: “Questions of conflict at Berkshire Museum”
The Berkshire Eagle, July 12, 2018

To the editor:

The Berkshire Eagle and Larry Parnass have done a great job covering the debacle going on at the Berkshire Museum. With each story, more facts are revealed. And with each day, more questions arise. For example:

Why is a trustee making money for legal services at the Berkshire Museum while he is serving on the board? Is that a conflict of interest? Also, wasn't that same trustee an associate in a Pittsfield law firm with the monetizing lawyer who has been representing the museum? Does his vote for things like selling the art help his former law associate make money handling the transactions? Is that a conflict of interest? Have both been making money as attorneys off the museum as appears to be the case? Is that a conflict of interest?

What about the Berkshire Museum trustee who is also a trustee at The Norman Rockwell Museum. Is his loyalty to the Berkshire Museum or The Norman Rockwell Museum? Was his vote on the sale of Shuffleton's Barbershop, for example, and its subsequent display at the Rockwell Museum a conflict of interest? A requirement of a trustee of a non-profit in Massachusetts is absolute loyalty to the organization. Which one is his loyalty to when the two loyalties conflict?

Another possible conflict involves one of the trustees and a member of the staff whose husband appears to be an employee at a local company under said trustee. Does said trustee hold power over both their paychecks-husband's and wife's? Is this a conflict? I believe there is a question about this type of situation that is asked on the yearly filings. Did the museum disclose this relationship?

And what about the trustee who continues to make money for his company, hundreds of thousands of dollars over the last few years, while serving as a trustee? How is this not a gross conflict of interest?

Merriam-Webster defines the term conflict of interest as "1: a conflict between the private interests and the official or professional responsibilities of a person in a position of trust" and "2: a conflict between competing duties (as in an attorney's representation of clients with adverse interests)."

Berkshire Eagle and Mr. Parnass, maybe you can ask the Massachusetts attorney general and the head of the nonprofits division why this behavior is being tolerated and seems to continue unabated.

Linda Lykkebak, Orlando, Florida
The writer was born and grew up in the Berkshires.

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Letter: “City shouldn't stop with Columbus name change”
The Berkshire Eagle, July 13, 2018

To the editor:

In a city that is plagued by declining population, loss of businesses, increasing taxes and no new jobs, I am glad to see that Pittsfield city government has been able to find time to pass judgment on Columbus versus Indigenous Peoples Day.

Now that the holiday is being renamed the city needs to rename Columbus Avenue to Indigenous Peoples Avenue, and should adopt a resolution urging Columbia County in New York and the country of Colombia to change their names as well. Pittsfield should also adopt new names for Clinton Avenue (same name as a president accused of being a sexual predator), Oswald Avenue (a presidential assassin) and in particular North Street (the president of an organization that encourages the proliferation of guns despite concerns for school safety). Let's also ban the use of one- and two-dollar bills, quarters and nickels within the city as they depict presidents who were slave owners.

City Council and School Committee, keep up the good work, there's a long way to go!

C.J. Dziengiel, Pittsfield

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Photographer Gregory Crewdson pauses his crew while a test photograph is taken in Pittsfield, one of 16 photographs Crewdson plans to take over the summer in Pittsfield. Crewdson, head of graduate photography for Yale University whose art is displayed in some of the most prestigious art museums in the country, built a career on his Berkshires-based photography. Ben Garver - The Berkshire Eagle

“Pittsfield's postindustrial vibe clicks with noted cinematic photographer Crewdson”
By Amanda Drane, The Berkshire Eagle, July 14, 2018

Pittsfield — Norman Rockwell meets Norman Bates.

That's how Gregory Crewdson describes his cinematic photography in the Berkshires. He borrowed the line from a friend, he said, smiling.

While Crewdson's fictional realities strike a darker tone than Rockwell's, Crewdson said he feels a kinship with the iconic artist's desire to "make ordinary life beautiful."

Crewdson, head of graduate photography for Yale University whose art is displayed in some of the most prestigious art museums in the country, built a career on his Berkshires-based photography. He creates eerily beautiful images of spots he has driven by perhaps a thousand times since his family straddled Brooklyn and Becket in the 1960s and '70s.

Now a full-time Berkshires resident, Crewdson takes his work to Pittsfield this summer for a fresh series of shoots. If you find a road closed at twilight or what appears to be a movie set in the area of Silver Lake, Crewdson is likely to blame.

Keep an eye out for road closures on Kellogg Street on Tuesday, on Silver Lake Boulevard on Friday, and Fourth and Fenn streets July 22.

Mayor Linda Tyer said she's happy to work with artists like Crewdson, because "art leaves legacy." She said there's a sense of pride that comes with knowing that Pittsfield has a place in the international art scene.

"I think he creates magic," she said. "It's good for Pittsfield, because Crewdson photos have been exhibited all over the world in the most acclaimed museums."

The current series might be his darkest yet, he said. It's the first time he has photographed in the city since 2008, when he shot "Beneath the Roses." He long has been drawn to the city for the way it enjoins nature with industry, he says, and for the postindustrial vibe left in the wake of General Electric Co.

"GE stands as this blight," he said. "It motored this city and now stands as this monument in the background."

Plus, he said, "I love Silver Lake."

"There's some dark element to it because of its history," he said, alluding to PCB contamination at the lake near GE's former compound.

The city cleared the lake for recreation in 2014, after GE cleaned it.

Even though he lived in Brooklyn during the week as a kid, he considered the Berkshires home.

Crewdson's photos have an outside-of-time quality, which "probably has something to do with the coming of age in a small city."

The photos aren't period pieces, he said, but they simply lack token modernities that could serve to ground a viewer in the present day. For that reason, he doesn't use cellphones or modern vehicles in his shoots.

"It's supposed to feel just outside of time," he said, "but at the same time still relevant to the time we're in."

Some scenes, like an old taxi depot near Pleasant Street that he calls his "ground zero," tell a story all their own.

"There's a whole world, there," he said.

Crewdson remembers watching "Jaws" as a kid at the Capitol Theatre on North Street, and said time spent here growing up was enough to touch him to the core.

"For whatever reason, it became my aesthetic universe," he said.

Other photographers travel the world taking pictures, he said, "but I'm just interested in one place."

He said the architecture of the place, the natural beauty, continue to stir in him an urge to create scenes based on curious corners of the county.

Crewdson starts his artistic process with solo drives around the Berkshires. Like a mushroom hunter "has their spots," he said he has locations he'll regularly visit. While listening to cultural podcasts, he'll park and stare and begin visualizing the scene, sometimes getting out to take photos with his phone.

"I have these spots all over town that I check in on," he said.

He said certain locations just come to feel like there's something there, "and then I just sit with it for a while."

"It's all about the place to start with, and then it all becomes about art and color," he said.

Crewdson said he likes to cast local people for his shoots because they offer a sense of connection to the Berkshires and to the scene.

He also spends weeks preparing a scene.

For one Pittsfield photo, Crewdson recalls, "we literally had to wait for a snowstorm, close down North Street and get them not to plow."

Then, Crewdson makes heavy use of outside lighting to create a scene.

"In many ways, it's like making a movie," he said.

In fact, the series he is working on this summer spins off a movie he hopes to film with a star-studded cast.

"I'm actually going to use a lot of the locations I was going to use in the movie," he said.

He said the movie fell through because of budget disagreements, but he said he hoped that producers could come to terms with his stipulations.

Among them: The movie must be filmed in Pittsfield.

Amanda Drane can be contacted at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.


The current series of photographs being taken by Gregory Crewdson in Pittsfield might be his darkest yet, he said. It's the first time he has photographed in the city since 2008, when he shot "Beneath the Roses," above. "We literally had to wait for a snowstorm, close down North Street and get them not to plow," he said. Gregory Crewdon - courtesy Gagosian


A crew works around a motor home on a set off Oak Street in Pittsfield for a photograph by Gregory Crewdson, who works at dusk on much of his work. Ben Garver - The Berkshire Eagle


Gregory Crewdson examines the lighting on a monitor on the set of a photograph he is making in Pittsfield. Ben Garver - The Berkshire Eagle


Mike Bedard blows dust onto a motor home used in a photograph being made by Gregory Crewdson in Pittsfield. The sets are complex productions, like a movie set, lit with precision and planned with a strong narrative. Ben Garver - The Berkshire Eagle

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July 16, 2018

Re: Post-industrial Pittsfield viewpoints

If the Pittsfield area still had living wage, full-time jobs for the average workers, there would not be severe economic inequality! Pittsfield is a post-industrial community that still blames GE and the like former employers for its decreasing population, job loss, and ever-increasing municipal taxes. I know that I, Jonathan Melle, has and will never find a living wage, full-time job in Pittsfield! I believe I had and still have better odds winning the state lottery jackpot than earning an equitable living in Pittsfield. Those are terrible odds! Jimmy Ruberto said he had a "rolodex". The lovely Linda Tyer said young people are more interested in living in Pittsfield than earning a living where there are a scarcity of jobs. Gregory Crewdson has been exhibiting his large photographs of Pittsfield to the people of London, Manhattan, and L.A. This summer, he is doing another photo shoot of G.E.'s decaying buildings as a symbol of blight. Here is his recent quote: "GE stands as this blight," Crewdson said. "It motored this city and now stands as this monument in the background." Crewdson is not complimenting Pittsfield, but rather, he is showing the city in a Dickensian light. Blogger Dan Valenti bitches and moans about the low-life appeal of Pittsfield, such as the Pittsfield parade on Independence Day and the Dalton Circus. Myself, I dislike the China-like one political party rule of a rigged city government ran by the Good Old Boys club, who are made up of interrelated, multi-generational, inbred families, such as Luciforo, who is selling pot on Dalton Ave.

- Jonathan Melle

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Valerie Hamilton

Amanda Drane | Look ahead, Pittsfield: “Pittsfield loses passionate youth advocate; marijuana shops advance; spraying for West Nile”
By Amanda Drane, The Berkshire Eagle, July 15, 2018

The city lost a fiery voice in Valerie Hamilton, and many in the community will feel that loss this week and for many weeks to come.

Hamilton, 61, passed away after a brief illness during a time of the year she normally spends hosting a summer basketball league for city teens.

The West Side native made fighting for Pittsfield youths her life's work. She was a lead organizer of the Stop the Violence walk, and founded the Dunk Out Violence program for children.

Most recently, she was behind a growing movement to place a youth center in the city's West Side.

"We have to get involved," she once said to a crowd just before a march against violence. "It only takes a raindrop to start a waterfall."

Marijuana front

Three marijuana shops are going for city approvals this week. The hopeful retailers — Bloom Brothers of Merrill Road, Berkshire Cannabis Co. of Bank Row and Temescal Wellness of Callahan Drive — plan to seek site plan approvals from the Community Development Board on Tuesday and special permit approvals from the Zoning Board of Appeals on Wednesday.

Temescal Wellness already has a medical license.

Berkshire Roots on Dalton Avenue, Kryppies of East Street and Green Biz of South Street got municipal green lights and await state approvals for recreational sale.

Ken Crowley, of Herbal Pathways, filed an application last week with City Hall for another shop on East Street. It remains unclear when the Berkshires will see its first recreational marijuana sales.

Mosquito spray

To the dismay of many and to the delight of others, the Berkshire Mosquito Control Project will spray from 10 p.m. to midnight Monday in the area of Elm and Williams streets. The mosquito-mitigation measure comes because West Nile showed up in regular sampling of mosquitoes in the area.

It will be the first spray since a vocal contingent rallied against it this spring, voicing concern for the effects that chemicals in the fog might have on children, wildlife and bees. The city discontinued its residential spray-upon-request program as a result of the outcry, but maintained that spraying is necessary in times of demonstrated health risk.

Got tech?

City residents with old electronics kicking around can register this week to dispose of them through the Electronics Recycling and Sustainability Fair. Registration is free for everything except cathode ray tube televisions and monitors, which carry a $15 fee. Register online via the city website, at the Department of Public Utilities at 10 Fenn St., or on Saturday at the Downtown Pittsfield Farmers Market.

Pittsfield also has Third Thursday to look forward to this week, and on Saturday the Pittsfield Piston Poppers will host a car show on The Common.

What's up in Pittsfield? Tell me via email at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, or by phone at 413-496-6296. Follow me on Twitter @amandadrane.

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July 20, 2018

Re: Pittsfield politics’ G.O.B.s

In response to Thomas Marini’s letter about Pittsfield politics’ Good Old Boys club, I believe Pittsfield has it in spades compared to other areas or locales. In Pittsfield, you have a group of interrelated families who go back generations who run the show. If you are not part of this insider group, you are disadvantaged in running for political office or finding a public sector position in Pittsfield. If you are part of the G.O.B., you are given the red carpet treatment!

I have been criticized for speaking out against Pittsfield politician’s with Italian-American last names, despite the fact that I am from Pittsfield and I have an Italian-American last name. I, along with my family, have been mistreated by Nuciforo and Carmen Massimiano, Jr. They expect loyalty, obedience and silence no matter what they do or who they hurt. If you speak out against top-down political hacks like Nuciforo and Carmen Massimiano, they will retaliate against you by blacklisting you from employment, intimidating you, and spreading vicious rumors against you. Despite the unfair stereotype against Italian-Americans, it is almost like the Good Old Boys run Pittsfield politics like their own mafia!

The sad reality of the Good Old Boys dominance in Pittsfield politics over the past couple of generations is that Pittsfield is in a downward-spiral of population loss, job loss, and one political party rule where a majority of residents don't vote in state and local “elections”. I believe that the worse the outcomes for Pittsfield, the more powerful the Good Old Boys club has over the local political system. I also believe that Pittsfield politics will never change!

- Jonathan Melle

Letter: “'Good old boys club' and the race for DA”
The Berkshire Eagle, July 20, 2018

To the editor:

Those of you who are interested know there is a Democratic primary coming up at the beginning of September. Let's talk about the race for district attorney. Let us suppose there is a political power machine in this town. Let's call it the "good old boys' club."

We all know there are good old boys' clubs/political power machines all over the nation. It is the nature of politics. Those people have power to do whatever they want. They want to keep that power. They want more power. The more power they get, the less power we have. What about the democratic process? That's irrelevant to them. Did the Berkshire good old boys club tell Gov. Baker to appoint its candidate as acting DA way back in March?

Some people of Italian heritage seem to be loyal to the good old boys' club. Does having an Italian last name qualify a candidate to be a good district attorney? Does voting for the candidate with the Italian last name give more power to the good old boys' club? Never mind what the people want.

As you can see, the author of this letter has an Italian last name. He has Italian heritage on both sides of his family. The author would never vote for a candidate just because he or she has an Italian last name.

It is up to you. No matter what candidate you vote for, go out and vote Sept. 4. Make sure you are registered to vote now! If you want our democratic process to work, you have to work with the process. you have to participate. By voting, you are using your power. If you don't vote, you lose your power.

Thomas Marini, Pittsfield

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“Distressed Berkshires tracts may be in line for Trump tax bump”
By Larry Parnass, The Berkshire Eagle, July 21, 2018

The legislative grab bag that became the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 contains an obscure provision that might spur investment in Berkshire County's poorest areas.

No money is flowing yet, but economic development advocates in the region are hopeful that a law panned by some as a giveaway to rich Republican donors might, in time, bring benefits to distressed communities.

The law allows investors to avoid paying capital gains taxes for 10 years or longer if they steer money into new "opportunity zones." Capital gains are taxable profits captured from sales of investments like stocks or other properties, including real estate.

States were able under the law to nominate zones to the Treasury Department. In Massachusetts, 138 were accepted, including six from Berkshire County: two each in Adams, North Adams and Pittsfield.

"On the surface, it seems like it could be a pretty good way to bring money into these opportunity zones for economic development," said Thomas Matuszko, executive director of the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission.

But planners are waiting for the Treasury Department to issue guidelines that go beyond the "frequently asked questions" on its website.

Deanna L. Ruffer, Pittsfield's director of community development, said the zones could attract investment into areas marked by high rates of poverty and joblessness.

"We're very hopeful about it," she said in an interview. "We've been very intrigued by and excited by the opportunity that may come."

But she cautioned that the preferential tax treatment offered under the new law still must prove attractive to investors.

"How that all happens and who becomes interested in setting up funds is in the evolutionary phase," Ruffer said.

Little notice

A statement on the White House website says that the creation of the incentive zone is the first of its kind since the Clinton administration.

The measure, it said, provides "an opportunity for mainstream private investors to support businesses and distressed communities with the creation of Opportunity Zones."

The inclusion of the zones won little notice in coverage of the act, which passed without any Democratic Party backing in Congress amid concerns by congressional budget analysts that the law would add $1 trillion to the federal deficit over 10 years. The law reduced the maximum corporate tax rate to 21 percent and doubled the estate tax exemption from $5.6 million to $11.2 million — among many other features.

The roughly 500-page document passed with amendments drafted by lobbyists, according to press accounts.

President Donald Trump said after the measure's passage Dec. 22 that the law would likely hurt him personally, declaring, "This is going to cost me a fortune, this thing, believe me."

An analysis by The New York Times found that, if passed in 2005, the year for which a partial Trump income tax return is available, the current president would have saved $11 million in taxes.

The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, a venture of the Urban Institute and Brookings Institution, said that in general under the new law, "higher income households receive larger average tax cuts as a percentage of after-tax income, with the largest cuts as a share of income going to taxpayers in the 95th to 99th percentiles of the income distribution."

A separate Brookings report June 14 concluded that the law will cut federal revenues by "significant amounts, even after allowing for the impact on economic growth. It will make the distribution of after-tax income more unequal."

When it comes to the new opportunity zones, people of wealth gain a new way to shelter capital gains earnings from taxation.

Steering investment

But at the same time, that tax avoidance becomes a means of steering investment into poor areas.

The eligible zones are census tracts that are home to stubborn economic disadvantage. Each of the three communities eligible for tax-sheltered investment lead the county in rates of poverty. For the 2011-15 period, the Census Bureau's American Community Survey data show overall poverty rates in Adams of 9.8 percent; in North Adams of 18.5 percent; and in Pittsfield of 17.2 percent.

Poverty rates in the specific census tracts accepted as opportunity zones are higher locally and nationally: over 32 percent, compared with an average of 17 percent. Median family incomes in qualified tracts are 37 percent below area or state averages, according to the Treasury Department.

In his first State of the City address in February, North Adams Mayor Thomas Bernard said he planned to seek an opportunity zone designation. He got two.

"This new federal program promotes investment in low-income communities by providing tax incentives for the reinvestment of capital gains in housing and economic development projects," Bernard said at the time.

Investor action

Investors can create partnerships or corporations for the purpose of steering untaxed capital gains into the new zones, the first of which were listed in April.

Such investments must be reported on tax returns as having been made in a "qualified opportunity fund."

No approval or action is needed by the IRS, according to the Treasury Department.

An investor "self certifies" that the untaxed gain was channeled into a business venture in one of the allowed zones, Treasury rules say.

In a statement on the Treasury Department website, Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin suggests that opportunity zones were not an afterthought in the legislation.

Instead, he called them one of the "most significant" provisions of the law.

Investments kept in place for the 10-year life of the zones are eligible for further tax savings.

Ruffer, the Pittsfield director of community development, said the zones affected in her city include parts of downtown and the Tyler Street area. Projects that could benefit from the incentive include community developments as well as strictly private efforts.

"We're poised to help investors consider real estate and business investments in those two zones," Ruffer said.

Larry Parnass can be reached at lparnass@berkshireeagle.com, at @larryparnass on Twitter and 413-496-6214.

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Letter: “Pittsfield needs to hear from EPA chief Dunn”
The Berkshire Eagle, July 22, 2018

To the editor:

I frequently write letters to the editor to inform city residents of what is going on in city government, and in many instances what is not going on but should be.

City councilors Melissa Mazzeo, Kevin Morandi, Chris Connell and I have sent a letter to EPA Regional Director Alexandra Dunn requesting that she come to Pittsfield to answer questions from the full City Council and the concerned public regarding the $74 million upgrade to Pittsfield's sewage treatment plant. In April, Mayor Linda Tyer and Council President Peter Marchetti met with Ms. Dunn. The meeting should have included the full City Council and the public, and this is what I and Councilors Mazzeo, Morandi and Connell want to occur ASAP. The other councilors are all rubber-stamps for the mayor.

The Clean Water Act was suspended by the EPA in January and new standards for private industry and municipalities like Pittsfield will be drawn up. Two years from now, Pittsfield will know what standards must be met. Given this fact, it is financially irresponsible by Tyer and her council allies to have approved the $74 million expenditure.

I saved the city over $100 million when I and my partners Dr. Milos Krofta and Lawrence K. Wang build the cit's two water plants in the 1980s. I know that as much as $40 to $50 million in savings can now be realized. Unfortunately, the mayor and the incompetent eight city councilors will not do the right thing on their own and we must all put maximum pressure on them to put on ice the $74 million in unnecessary upgrades to the water plant.

Our city could be one of the best small cities in America. The quickest way to achieve this goal would be to elect competent people to every elected position. The city is rife with political hacks, good old boy networks and special interest groups which are breaking the backs of taxpayers.

I follow politics carefully and participate fully and I can tell you what the major problem is in Pittsfield politics — the passivity of the voting public. When you do not participate, the government that we have today is what you get.

Craig Gaetani, Pittsfield

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Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer has posted to Facebook that she married Barry Clairmont, a certified public accountant and former city councilor, on Sunday, July 22, 2018. Credit: The lovely Linda Tyer’s Facebook page.

“Pittsfield’s Mayor Linda Tyer gets married”
By Amanda Drane, The Berkshire Eagle, July 24, 2018

Pittsfield — Mayor Linda Tyer has married her "sweetheart."

Tyer posted to Facebook that she married Barry Clairmont, a certified public accountant and former city councilor. He also serves on the board of the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority.

Tyer, who also has served as city clerk and as a city councilor, has found someone who shares her flair for public service. The two married Sunday, at The Mount, Tyer told The Eagle, "surrounded by the love of our dearest family and friends."

Tyer said in the post that they took a two-day honeymoon enjoying “the all-star cast of the Berkshires.” The couple bought their wedding attire at Deidre’s and Steven Valenti’s, and followed up the ceremony with trips to The Clark and Barrington Stage.

"Barry and I spent time in Lenox, Pittsfield, North Adams, and Williamstown," she wrote in her Facebook Post. "It has been magical filled with happy memories that we will cherish forever."

Amanda Drane can be contacted at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.

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Working Cities Pittsfield celebrated its two-year anniversary Wednesday [July 25, 2018] with a community cookout in the Christian Center. Participants ate and talked about what they've accomplished, and looked to the future. Credit: Gillian Jones - The Berkshire Eagle

“'We're all just Pittsfielders': Working Cities Pittsfield celebrates two years”
By Amanda Drane, The Berkshire Eagle, July 25, 2018

Pittsfield — Hop on any local online comment board and you'll find no shortage of people bashing the city of Pittsfield.

For these people, Alisa Costa has a message: Come to Working Cities Wednesdays.

Every fourth Wednesday, from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., community members gather to brainstorm solutions to city problems and ways to realize them. Tearing down Pittsfield on Facebook isn't the best way to fix things, Costa said.

"We're not communicating in ways that are productive for the city," she said. "Everyone has gifts to give. We all care about the places we live."

Working Cities Pittsfield is a platform for community aspirations, said Costa, the initiative's director. It's geared to bolstering Pittsfield, especially the West Side and Morningside neighborhoods, with money from the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. The initiative celebrated its two-year anniversary Wednesday.

Costa said the grant program stems from research suggesting that of postindustrial cities across the country, the ones that most successfully "bounced back" were those with stronger community connections.

Costa said residents participating in Working Cities have created several projects, such as a Pittsfield bike-ride program, a Berkshire flash mob and a group working together to tackle street safety issues in West Side.

The initiative also launched a program called Getting Ahead, an eight-week course on financial literacy and understanding how certain systems perpetuate the cycle of poverty.

Sherrie McGregor said the program changed the way she thought about her finances.

"I just wanted to find a way to get myself back on track again," she said. "I learned how to budget. I got more creative with my finances. It helped me a lot."

McGregor said she learned how stay on top of her finances, and has since been able to improve her credit. She said she learned "I didn't have to be stuck in my situation." She said she had gotten sick, and her finances went into a downward spiral.

"I had gotten into such a rut," she said.

Now, McGregor is working for Working Cities as a community navigator.

Costa said the idea behind Working Cities is to break down barriers for people, and connect those in the city who have needs with resources that are in place to help them.

"Poverty can be isolating," she said. "When you don't have enough resources, you need a lot more people in your sphere."

Carolyn Valli, executive director of Central Berkshire Habitat for Humanity, said the initial grant for Working Cities Pittsfield was for $480,000 over three years, which the initiative has used to hire community navigators like McGregor and to support residents in their pursuit of a better quality of life. She said Working Cities just landed an additional $280,000 from Habitat for Humanity International to continue the work.

She said the community navigators are going door to door and asking neighbors what they'd like to see, and helping them connect with resources.

"There's a whole lot of things happening in the Berkshires," Valli said. "Not everybody knows about it."

Valli said her organization is in no way leading this effort, but rather providing peripheral support.

"It's really important that the community owns this work and not any agency," she said.

People from all types of organizations and walks of life participate in the monthly brainstorming sessions, but Costa said there are no titles allowed.

Here, she said, "we're all just Pittsfielders."

Amanda Drane can be contacted at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, @amandadrane on Twitter,and 413-496-6296.

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“DA debate, money management and business developments this week in Pittsfield”
By Amanda Drane, The Berkshire Eagle, July 29, 2018

Candidates for Berkshire District Attorney mulled for months over their plans for the office, and now they'll square off this week in a debate hosted by the NAACP.

The event happens at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Conte Community School, and it offers a chance for the public to push past rhetoric and rumor and hear from candidates directly, in real time. They're vying for a singularly important job, and they deserve our careful attention as they do so.

We're not all lucky enough to have jobs, and even those of who do could use some expert advice from time to time when it comes to managing money. Greylock Federal Credit Union will offer a free budget-building workshop at the Berkshire Athenaeum at 11 a.m. Thursday, directed by one of its financial counselors, Lynn Wallace. She'll help participants track spending, devise a strategy and prepare for unexpected hardships.

The event will be followed by a financial literacy program, which runs from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesdays from Aug. 7 through Aug. 21. Job-readiness trainers will be on-hand at the library to offer skills for landing and keeping jobs. The series is free and open to the public. To register, call the library's reference desk at 413-499-9480, ext. 202.

BUSINESS DEVELOPMENTS

Restaurant plans will come into view this week as several appear before the city's Licensing Board. Otto's owner Luke Marion aims to take over the former Regions space in the Crawford Square building, and during the meeting at 3:30 p.m. Monday he's applying for the wine and malt liquor license for the premises. In late June, he and Lindsay Marion filed a new corporation for the space, Uncorked Wine and Beer Lounge.

The board is also asking for an update from Jae's Grille management regarding the 7 Winter St. premises, from Barcelona Tapas regarding their all-alcohol liquor license at 87 Wahconah St. and also management from Methuselah and Hangar Pub & Grill to discuss possible violations.

A large-scale solar project proposed for Pecks Road at Onota Street by C-TEC Solar makes its first public appearance this week in a Conservation Commission meeting at 6 p.m. in Council Chambers. The planned 1.69 megawatt facility, slated to have 6 acres of paneling, requires approval from the Conservation Commission and Zoning Board of Appeal because of surrounding wetlands.

Another proposed marijuana cultivation facility at 370 Cloverdale St., West County Collective, makes a public debut during a community outreach meeting at 3 p.m. Wednesday at the Berkshire Athenaeum. The city is also processing a new proposal from Heka, which wants to demolish the old Kentucky Fried Chicken building at 1745 East St. and put in a marijuana retail operation. Heka previously had plans for a medical dispensary on Dalton Avenue before going back to the drawing board.

STAY TUNED

The School Department is busily preparing the new Taconic High School for students, and public officials plan to scope out what needs to happen over the coming month in a Monday tour.

Cinematic photographer Gregory Crewdson is still staging photoshoots in Pittsfield into August, so if you see what looks like a movie set, that's likely what's happening. You can stay on top of Crewdson-related road closures via the city's Facebook page.

Pittsfield residents with old electronic items to get rid of can still register with the mayor's office or via the city's website for the Electronics Recycling and Sustainability Fair on Saturday. The event features two components: electronics collection at from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at the Guardian Life headquarters, 700 South St., and an educational fair at the Pittsfield Farmers Market on The First Street Common.

What's up in Pittsfield? Tell me via email at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, and by phone at 413-496-6296. Follow me on Twitter @amandadrane.

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July 29, 2018

Here are some topics the Eagle could cover:
* Pittsfield's economic inequality! Pittsfield and the Berkshires are one of the most economically unequal community/region in the state and nation because there are no living wage jobs for the average worker. Pittsfield has neighborhoods (West-side and Morning-side) with acute poverty that has even attracted the attention of the Federal Reserve in Boston. At one point in time, teen pregnancies and welfare caseloads in Pittsfield doubled the statewide average.
* Pittsfield's loss of population! Thousands of people have had to move away from Pittsfield/Berkshires due to job loss.
* Pittsfield's one political party domination of government. If you are not a Good Old Boy "Democrat" political hack, you have no real voice in Pittsfield politics. Moreover, a majority of residents do not bother to vote in "elections". If you speak out about Pittsfield's issues/problems, you lose your job and get blacklisted from employment. If you really speak out, you are targeted by vicious rumors.
* Pittsfield's PCBs! The Consent Decree capped most of the industrial chemicals in Pittsfield. The problem is that caps are finite and become ineffective as time passes by. That means local residents, such as Hill 78 abutting Allendale Elementary School will spread PCBs in a matter of time.
* Pittsfield's unsustainable public finances! Pittsfield politics raises local taxes by 5% per year for decades, it has hundreds of millions of dollars in debts, and it has major projects such as the new Taconic High School and Waste-water treatment plant

- Jonathan Melle

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August 14, 2018

It is a shakedown and everyone knows it! The Berkshire Museum unethically sells its most valuable art pieces for tens of millions of dollars, and the usual politically connected interests are licking their chops and salivating over the big bucks they want to get their corrupt hands on. Please call every financial done deal by Pittsfield politics one big smelly $hakedown!
I understand the pure ideals of politics is to collect taxpayer dollars to invest in the people, who are the most valuable asset in a community. BUT, in Pittsfield politics, the people get screwed every which way be the Good Old Boys and other Oligarchs! In fact, Pittsfield is one of the most economically unequal communities in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the Nation. The gap between the Haves and Have Nots in Pittsfield grows wider and wider every year. The G.O.B.'s blame "GE", but that was 28.5-years ago! The real reason why the Berkshire Museum and the G.O.B.'s do the public business of Pittsfield politics is the shakedown whoever they can to fill their own coffers! In closing, Pittsfield politics is totally corrupt, and everyone knows it!

- Jonathan Melle

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August 14, 2018

Tricia Farley Bouvier is a political pawn of the Good Old Boy network who empowered the WHEN group 15 years ago in 2003. Back then, Mayor Sara Hathaway beat Jimmy Ruberto in 2001, after the Gerry Doyle debacle. The G.O.B. found a group of women who swore their political loyalty to Ruberto's quest to run Pittsfield politics. Two of these "WHEN" political hacks were Tricia Farley Bouvier and the lovely Linda Tyer. As time passed, Mayor Ruberto named Linda Tyer as the City Clerk and groomed her for Mayor after he retired. Also, Ruberto made Tricia Farley Bouvier his Chief of Staff. One hand scratched the other's back, and after Ruberto, Linda Tyer, and Tricia Farley Bouvier won, "WHEN" was disbanded. After "WHEN", the new political group was the "Berkshire Brigades". The outcome was the Ruberto and his G.O.B. group get to run Pittsfield politics, while the "Berkshire Brigades" get the rest of Berkshire County's political spoils. That means that the average citizen has no say in state and local politics if they don't ascribe to Jimmy Ruberto's G.O.B.'s and the "Berkshire Brigades". In the D.A. race, Ruberto's G.O.B.'s support Andrea Harrington, while the "Berkshire Brigades" support Judith Knight. I predict Andrea Harrington will receive the most votes in Pittsfield, but not in the other 31 municipalities the make up Berkshire County.

- Jonathan Melle

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Nala spends her time in an outdoor pen at the former Sonsini Animal Shelter. The city took over caring for stray animals at its municipal shelter on the Downing Industrial Parkway after ending its contract with Sonsini earlier this year. The city is now being criticized for its upkeep at the municipal shelter. Eagle File Photo

“Tyer defends treatment of dogs at city-run shelter”
By Haven Orecchio-Egresitz , The Berkshire Eagle, August 22, 2018

Pittsfield — In response to a video blog criticizing the care of impounded dogs at the city-run shelter, Mayor Linda Tyer took to Facebook on Monday to "set the record straight" on the issue.

"Regardless of the duration of time spent at the shelter, all dogs are appropriately and thoughtfully cared for," Tyer wrote in her Facebook post. "State law requires that the City of Pittsfield have an animal shelter, and we are conducting our shelter in accordance with state law."

The city took control of the municipal shelter on Downing Industrial Parkway in May after ending its contract with the Friends of Eleanor Sonsini Animal Shelter, a nonprofit group that had been operating it for years.

Since then, stray dogs found in the Pittsfield or detained by the city have been in the care of the city's animal control officer, Joseph Chague. State law requires that stray dogs be held by a municipality for seven days before they are free to rehome them.

Over the weekend, a group of volunteers, including two city councilors, went to the city shelter to remove fencing owned by the nonprofit group, which is now temporarily located in its own facility on Crane Avenue.

Mike Daly, of a local video blog "It's Pittsfield Tonight," posted back-to-back video commentary, critiquing the care of the animals being held at the shelter and maintenance of the city property.

Those videos, which alleged infrequent care of the animals, fueled ongoing online discourse that began during the monthslong dispute between the city and their former tenants, the Eleanor Sonsini nonprofit group.

Until her public Facebook post on Monday, Tyer has remained mostly silent about the city's new day-to-day care of the animals. In the post, however, she outlined the care that the 32 dogs that have been impounded since May have received.

"The hours of operation for the animal shelter are 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday," Tyer wrote. "During this time, the Animal Control Officer (ACO) goes into the shelter to clean, feed, water, and exercise the animals at least two to three times a day, with the latter depending on the call volume of the day."

Pittsfield has recently hired a second animal control officer to assist with the care of impounds, Tyer said. The officer will take on a 4 to 9:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday shift once she completes her training, she said.

Tyer also acknowledged that on weekends, holidays or scheduled days off, the animal control officer stops in to the shelter only twice a day — once in the morning and then in the afternoon. When Chague is not available, other officers will check on the animals.

"It should be noted that the city averages one to two dogs a day at the shelter," she wrote. "Currently, we have three dogs, two of which we are currently waiting for the owners to claim."

Of those dogs, 13 spent less than 24 hours at the shelter, 11 dogs less than 48 hours, three dogs stayed two days, and one dog stayed for three days, Tyer said. Four dogs stayed for the complete seven days and were then transferred to the Berkshire Humane Society, she said.

The recent accusations against the shelter prompted Chague to reach out to the state's Department of Agricultural Resources, which has jurisdiction over shelters, to request a visit, but the agency declined, Tyer said.

Cleaning up the property

Addressing criticism about the exterior conditions of the shelter, which appears unkempt, Tyer attributed the visible debris to property that the Eleanor Sonsini group left behind.

"City staff is conducting a cleanup of the property that includes mowing, raking and trash removal," she said.

Pittsfield City Councilor Christopher Connell, one of the volunteers removing fencing this weekend, refuted the mayor's claim that the former tenants were responsible for the condition of the property.

"The outside of the building is deplorable ... There is no way that all that growth occurred before they moved out," he said. "I'm 6 feet, 1 inch, and the weeds were almost as tall as me out in the run. It's obvious that (the dogs) weren't out in the runs."

The shelter isn't in Connell's ward, but he heard about the volunteer effort to remove the fencing and, being a "dog person," decided to assist.

Connell said he is concerned about the heat inside the building where the animals are kept. "It looked like an abandoned building," he said.

Berkshire Humane Society Director John Perreault said the handful of dogs that have been turned over to his shelter since the city took control of it have been in good condition.

"He's brought me in a few very nice dogs, and we've found homes for them," he said.

Perreault said he doesn't know how long that Chague is spending at the city shelter during his visits, but that the visits should be about "quality over quantity."

If the dogs have to be left alone for long periods of time, it is better for their caretaker to spend two- or three-hour visits with them, then several more very short visits, Perreault said.

"I'm not saying I don't support what the city is doing, or that I do support it," he made clear.

As for the conditions of the city shelter, Perreault echoed Tyer's statement that the conditions can, at least partly, be attributed to the Eleanor Sonsini group's departure.

The group turned over kennels and damaged property that Perreault believes was vindictive toward the city.

"They totally trashed the place," he said, adding that he was in the building shortly after the organization staff was made to leave. "I was appalled at the condition the building was left in."

The most recent accusations against the city's treatment of its impounds comes only a few weeks after people took to Facebook to criticize the Sonsini group for having dogs outside in hot, humid weather.

The president of the nonprofit and its attorney responded to the allegations of neglect by saying the animals are rotated in and outside throughout the day, allowing staff to sanitize indoor kennels and dogs to go to relieve themselves.

Friends of Sonsini board Chairwoman and President Krista Wroldson-Miller was one of several people who responded to Tyer's post on Monday.

"Only one question Linda M. Tyer, IF your story is true, why have we not seen ANYONE down there caring for the animals this weekend?" Wroldson-Miller wrote in a Facebook post. "Perhaps your INTENT was to provide care two-three times a day (not that I believe that's enough), but that DID NOT happen this weekend."

When reached by phone Tuesday, Wroldson-Miller declined to comment on the issue.

"The City's priority is, and will continue to be, the animals who find their way to the shelter," Tyer said in her post.

The city's animal control office is assembling a volunteer program to assist at the shelter. Those who would like to volunteer are encouraged to call animal control at 413-448-9750.

Haven Orecchio-Egresitz can be reached at horecchio@berkshireeagle.com, @HavenEagle on Twitter and 413-770-6977.

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August 24, 2018

I am not a gob-sig! I detest the way public business is done in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. In order to be a gob-sig in Pittsfield, you have to be politically connected. When I was a then young man living in the Pittsfield area many years ago, I could not find a job for one whole year of my adult life. I felt I had better odds winning the state lottery jackpot than earning a low-wage job in Pittsfield. I felt that the gob-sig mocked and laughed at me when I lived in Pittsfield.

I have a Master of Public Administration, and the one thing I learned above all else is that the people are the most valuable resource in a community. Why? Because they own homes/rent, work, live, and pay taxes. A healthy community would treat its people as very valuable customers who receive prime-rate public investments so they will in turn invest in their homes, local businesses, and government.

Pittsfield politics does the opposite with its people! The long-list of lousy Mayors have done nothing but raised taxes, increased debts, and saw thousands of people move out of the area, hundreds of living wage jobs disappear, and countless businesses shutter their doors. All that matters in Pittsfield politics is the shakedown of taxpayers! To be clear, Pittsfield has been a place of divestment instead of investment!

If I was a gob-sig, would I write my criticisms of Pittsfield politics?

- Jonathan Melle

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Letter: “Won't be intimidated from seeking police accountability”
The Berkshire Eagle, August 24, 2018

To the editor:

Pittsfield police union officials are right about one thing: victims of police misconduct do have a personal agenda and a bias. ("Letter: Critic of Pittsfield PD shows clear bias," Aug. 20.) The personal agenda is to make sure that what happened to us won't happen to someone else, and the bias is knowing how easily it can, based on our experiences with the Pittsfield Police Department.

I admit I'm still sore that their union brothers invaded my family's home late in the evening without a warrant, court order or a solid rationale to remove my child for an unjustified psychiatric evaluation. They came because my son shared a common medical diagnosis with a school shooter and because, years earlier, he had made an anodyne internet joke no sane person could interpret as a threat.

When I politely inquired about my rights, one officer yelled at me about being a bad parent in front of my child and threatened him with arrest. And when they had the facts that should have sent them on their way after an apology, police plainly stated that their job security required them to remove my child from our home "just in case."

After this outrage, I was so irredeemably biased that I naively filed a civilian complaint and spent a couple of hours discussing it with a senior officer, who privately acknowledged its veracity while formally whitewashing it as "could not be corroborated."

And then I was so mad that I waited years for the police chief to follow through on his promise to consider changes in procedure. When it became clear nothing had changed, I gathered a group of respected and like-minded community leaders in an attempt to quietly and respectfully engage the mayor and the police chief in a discussion about police oversight based on successful models long used in other Massachusetts cities.

That's how mad and biased I was. As for using national statistics showing a welcome and clear long-term trend toward fewer officer deaths in the line of duty, they're a slap in the face only to those exploiting recent tragedies as a shield from legitimate criticism.

It's crystal clear what's going on here: by singling me out, union officials hope to intimidate me from further activism. They also hope you'll forget that the campaign for meaningful police oversight has won support from city councilors, leadership of the Human Rights Commission, the local chapter of the NAACP and many respected members of this community.

The authors of this intemperate attack should, to borrow the motto of some true professionals, do their job. They should make sure their colleagues secure their service weapons in their homes. They should make sure no one else is able to embezzle hundreds of thousands of dollars in their union members' dues over a three-year period.

They might also want to figure out why some "well-being checks" lead to unprovoked assault on the very people whose well-being is the alleged concern of the police, as happened to Pittsfield resident Liz Calkins, while another such check, conducted by one of the letter's authors, can miss a dead girl's body inside an apartment.

Having done all that, the police union officials can brush up on the matter of just who in our community can discuss important law enforcement issues. Hint: it's everyone.

Igor Greenwald, Pittsfield

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Letter: “Eight city councilors block effort on plants”
The Berkshire Eagle, September 4, 2018

To the editor:

Every month I write a letter to the editor to keep city residents updated on information that is important to you. As you probably know by now, I was the co-inventor, designer and builder of the city's two drinking water plants, along with my partners, Drs. Miles Krofta and Lawrence W. Wang in the mid-1980s.

Today the city is looking to perform updates at the city's sewer plant and the water plants which have a price tag of $150 million that you will be solely responsible for via your water and sewer rates. This cost will raise your sewer rates by a factor of eight.

I petitioned the City Council to allow me to give a presentation of my marketing methods which saved the city over $100 million when we built the two Krofta plants. Councilors Moon, White, Rivers, Krol, Marchetti, Caccamo, Persip and Simonelli denied me the opportunity to show them how I could save you the taxpayer perhaps between $50 and $60 million on the sewer plant. Councilors Mazzeo, Connell and Morandi supported my petition but the attempt failed because of the councilors mentioned above.

Additionally, Councilors Mazzeo, Connell, Morandi and I sent a letter to Alexandra Dunn, Region 1 director of the EPA, who met on April 3 with Council President Marchetti and Mayor Tyer. This meeting should have been held before the full City Council so all councilors could participate in a question and answer session.

I filed a petition asking the group of eight if they would add their names to the request that Ms. Dunn come to the city to see if they were interested in perhaps saving $50-$60 million, but they chose not to, and the petition failed 8-3. Why do they and the mayor not want to hear about ways to save the taxpayers money?

We may not ever find out why, and that is why we must vote out of office the incompetent individuals who have no concern for those who pay the city's bills — the taxpayers. If you would like to find out other things I am doing for the city that you are probably not aware of you can tune into my TV show Wednesdays at 6 p.m. on PCTV, Channel 1301.

I consider it an honor to represent you the taxpayers in an unofficial capacity.

Craig Gaetani, Pittsfield

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Look Ahead, Pittsfield: “Innovative ground and conversations, new and old”
By Amanda Drane, The Berkshire Eagle, September 23, 2018

The Berkshire Innovation Center is scheduled to break ground this week after years of hiccups and funding gaps. The ceremonial turning of the dirt signifies the impending realization of a long-touted vision: an equipment and training hub to shepherd the next generation of advanced manufacturing the Berkshires.

The City Council will get another audience with Spectrum on Tuesday before councilors deliberate, during the 7 p.m. meeting in council chambers, on whether or not to approve the cable company's annual report. Councilors previously took issue with the contents of the report, arguing it was not informative enough and taking it as an opportunity to ask pointed questions about the type of service the company provides.

Council President Peter Marchetti has said Spectrum has been responsive via email to councilors' questions, and he remains unclear on what would happen if the council rejects the annual report.

The City Council will also consider reinstating the city's Committee for the Homeless, a measure that received unanimous support from the council's Ordinances and Rules Committee.

On Monday, the council's Committee on Public Health and Safety will begin its annual review of Building 71 and Hill 78, two city landfills where General Electric Co. put polluted sediments during its Housatonic River cleanup. Residents have long feared the effects the contaminated soils could have if left unchecked. The subcommittee meeting happens at 7 p.m. in council chambers.

Several liquor license holders in the city will face the Licensing Board on Monday afternoon for possible violations, including Methuselah Bar and Lounge, and Hangar Pub and Grill.

Five new police officers will join the ranks this week, and a new coffee kiosk kicks off at the First Street Common.

Faith and ethics

A new Berkshire Eagle conversation series kicks off at 7 p.m. Thursday at Barrington Stage Company with three former Berkshire County journalists whose careers evolved along religious lines. The topic is "faith, civility and ethics in the current national political atmosphere."

Executive Editor Kevin Moran will moderate the talk, which features R. Gustav Niebuhr, director of programs in religion and media at Syracuse University, author and former reporter for The Berkshire Eagle, Wall Street Journal, New York Times and Washington Post; the Rev. Jerome Day, assistant professor of English at St. Anselm College and pastor of St. Raphael's Parish in Manchester, N.H.; and Alan Cooperman, director of religion research at the Pew Research Center, former editor at The Associated Press and Washington Post, and former Eagle reporter.

Heads up

Want to fix or avoid credit issues? Greylock Federal Credit Union is offering a workshop on the subject at 11 a.m. Thursday in the Berkshire Athenaeum. Call the library's reference desk if you're interested, at 413-499-9480.

Watch out for single-lane closures on Crofut Street, McKay Street and Maplewood Avenue as city crews continue roadway reconstruction.

What's up in Pittsfield? Tell me via email at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.

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Letter: “Despite community efforts, homeless problem persists”
The Berkshire Eagle, September 23, 2018

To the editor:

I began my third year in retirement on Sept. 1. I live in a quiet part of town. Young families have been moving into the neighborhood, filling the days with the sound of happy children playing. Most days I get to go and sit in my backyard and enjoy the antics of the fowl and fauna.

With the spring came the desire to be out and about among people my own age. The first place I checked out was the senior center. What a great facility. "The Ralph J. Froio Senior Center is a handicapped accessible facility that is within walking distance of several housing projects and is available by bus. The facility is 15,000 square feet in total area and consists of four floors." A great place for us old folks. Cool in the summer, warm in the winter: a safe place right in the center of town.

On my way to and from the senior center I encountered another segment of the city's population. My acquaintance with this group began with simple, polite requests: "Do you have $2 for bus fare?" "I just need seven more dollars to buy a pair of shoes so that I can go to work. Can you help me out?" "I need $35 to get my Mass. ID so I can apply for housing. Can you help me out?" Normally I don't carry any cash around, but fortuitously, this summer, every time I was approached I had money on me. I know — but all I saw were people in debasing circumstances reaching out for a hand up.

Paying closer attention, I discovered that our community has a fledgling response to the homeless problem: The downtown churches, the Salvation Army and the Christian Center are providing hot meals every day of the week save Saturday. A place to shower is provided every day but Saturday. Food pantries and clothes closets are available. The homeless find daily respite from the elements at the Berkshire Athenaeum and the Intermodal Center, but they have no permanent place to sleep.

I don't know how much the homeless cost our community. Other communities find it cost effective to provide supervised housing. I do know: "There but for the grace of God go I."

Stephen N. Taglieri, Pittsfield

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Look Ahead, Pittsfield: “Justice, old wounds and new leadership”
By Amanda Drane, The Berkshire Eagle, October 7, 2018

Those accused of killing Asiyanna Jones are scheduled for pretrial hearings on Wednesday, and for her family that brings hope for justice.

Last week, those who loved Jones marked the year since — during an October 2017 shootout — a bullet pierced the windshield of the car the 22-year-old was sitting in on Dewey Avenue, and struck her in the head.

Long-buried toxic materials are back on the City Council's radar this week, as councilors consider approving an annual report from General Electric Co. The report, which covers landfills Building 71 and Hill 78, includes elevated levels of hazardous chemicals known as TCE and PCE. Councilors plan to ask the Environmental Protection Agency for answers surrounding chemical thresholds, and how tolerant they should be of the chemicals seeping into groundwater near the plant. The council meeting happens at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Council Chambers.

This week the city's Human Rights Commission could consider arranging a public presentation on the late Bernard Baran, a gay man unfairly convicted of molesting children at the Pittsfield day care he worked at during the 1980s. He served 21 years in prison before a state appeals court ruled in 2006 that the original trial was unfair.

We can expect to hear news regarding leadership of Pittsfield Municipal Airport this week, after the previous airport manager left in June. We can also expect an announcement from Berkshire Community College regarding new leadership of its nursing program, which is under state review for issues the college describes as "housekeeping" violations.

And Mayor Linda Tyer will request that the City Council approve John Herrera as the city's new veterans services director during the Tuesday City Council meeting.

With regard to the upcoming state vote on transgender rights, Superintendent Jason McCandless will recommend the School Committee approve a resolution this week supporting a "yes" vote on Question 3. A "yes" vote would affirm the legally protected civil rights of trans people in the state of Massachusetts.

BerkshireWorks relaunches this week under the new statewide brand, MassHire. The new name links the career center with the statewide workforce initiative under Gov. Charlie Baker.

Heads up

Fall foliage is taking a quick turn toward colorful, and so it's a good time to get out and about.

The 11th annual Berktoberfest happens from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday in the McKay Street parking lot. This year's annual beerfest for charity benefits Ty Allan Jackson's Read Or Else initiative.

The annual Pyrapalooza, a festival celebrating the fluffy canines known as Great Pyrenees, runs from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the 4H Club on Utility Drive.

The Jazz Prodigy Concert, a part of Pittsfield's City Jazz Festival, will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Berkshire Athenaeum. The concert features Gabriel Severn, a 13-year-old electric bassist, accompanied by Eugene Uman on piano and Conor Meehan on drums.

This week the library is also hosting a teen book giveaway — one free item per teen — from Tuesday through Saturday.

What's up in Pittsfield? Tell me via email at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, or by phone at 413-496-6296. Follow me on Twitter @amandadrane.

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Letter: “Pittsfield not fair to elderly taxpayers”
The Berkshire Eagle, October 9, 2018

To the editor:

The City of Pittsfield does not work with property owners to be fair when they are elderly and live on Social Security as their only income. When you've fallen behind on your property taxes they expect you to come up with a big chunk of cash to even be considered for a payment plan. If I had the the money I would have paid them when they were due. Instead, the city tacks on astronomical interest. The city needs to look at the owners' ages and income level before threatening.

Linda Davis, Pittsfield

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“Pittsfield City Council approves tax cut”
By Amanda Drane, The Berkshire Eagle, November 13, 2018

Pittsfield — City councilors Tuesday approved a tax cut proposed by Mayor Linda Tyer, but not without a few jabs.

"Yes, we are going down," Ward 4 Councilor Chris Connell said of the modest tax reduction. "But in reality, it's almost a wash."

Connell's comment refers to the phenomenon that some property owners find themselves in as the value of their property increases while tax rates decrease. But the city's assessor, Paula King, said tax bills will drop for the majority of the community when property tax bills go out next month. And that hasn't happened since 1993.

With the council's approval Tuesday, the rates dropped from $20.01 to $19.42 on the residential side, and the commercial tax rate dropped from from $39.98 to $39.94.

In savings, that translates to about $9.48 annually for the average home valued at $186,600, and $367 annually for a commercial property valued at $189,000.

Tyer said last week that the decrease comes because the city's financial outlook is improving, and that signifies "a pretty remarkable turnaround." The city has seen $51.8 million in new growth over the past year, equating to $1.97 million in tax revenue, which is more new growth than the city has seen in over a decade, King told councilors.

New growth helped raise the city's tax ceiling from $86.96 million to $89.53 million. Of that tax capacity, King told councilors, the city will pull $86.38 million to balance the budget for this fiscal year. About $82.14 million will come from receipts and other revenue sources.

Ward 6 Councilor John Krol said city officials, councilors included, deserve to be congratulated for the decline in property tax rates. He said it might not have happened had the city moved forward with Tyer's proposal to move trash collection to a $1.5 million tote-based system.

"We avoided the toter tax," he said, noting that the process that landed them here was "a team game."

Still, Connell argued that the city should be taking advantage of more opportunities to save taxpayers money, citing what he sees as a need to put more services out to bid. By not looking for these opportunities, he said, the city is pushing out seniors on fixed incomes.

"We really need to come together as a council for the benefit of the citizens," he said.

Councilor at Large Earl Persip told his fellow councilors to focus on the victory.

"I think it's important to take the small wins when we can," he said.

Amanda Drane can be contacted at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.

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Representatives of a Michigan-based theater company have promised fierce commitment to the Beacon Theatre in downtown Pittsfield. Eagle File Photo

“Council subcommittee unanimously favors debt forgiveness for Beacon Cinema”
By Amanda Drane, The Berkshire Eagle, November 21, 2018

Pittsfield — The Beacon Cinema is what the name suggests, councilors agreed Tuesday: "a bright spot."

That's how Ward 1 Councilor Helen Moon described it during a meeting of the City Council subcommittee.

The City Council Committee on Community and Economic Development voted unanimously to support a plan that would forgive $2.55 million in debt the theater owes to the city in order to save it. The proposal now moves to the full City Council for final approval.

A Michigan-based small-theater chain, Phoenix Theatres, has agreed to buy the property and assets for $644,000 — if the city forgives the debt.

The theater opened in 2009 with the help of a series of grants awarded in the form of a loan to the Beacon's redevelopment project. Banks moved to foreclose on the property in September, and almost everyone in the council chambers Tuesday agreed that is something to avoid.

Phoenix representatives present at the Tuesday meeting promised fierce commitment to the downtown theater, which city leaders called an important piece of their downtown redevelopment plan.

"When I visit with other gateway city mayors," Mayor Linda Tyer said, "they're envious of what we've been able to accomplish. They're especially envious that we have an independent movie theater in our downtown."

Proponents of the arrangement repeatedly pointed out that no local tax dollars have gone to the Beacon, and this type of grant package would typically be issued as a forgiveable loan.

City money for the cinema's redevelopment came in the form of $1.5 million from the city's Economic Development Fund, born out of PCB cleanup negotiations with General Electric Corp. for the specific purposes of spurring economic development. Through the fund, city leaders have similarly awarded financial support to companies like Covanta and LTI Smart Glass.

Two additional grants were funneled through the city in order to support the project: $50,000 in Community Development Block Grant funds, and a $1 million grant from the state.

If the full council approves the proposal, state and federal grants used for the project would be immediately forgiven. The $1.5 million awarded through the city's Economic Development Fund would be forgiven in stages over the next 10 years, under the condition that the cinema remain open.

Deanna Ruffer, the city's community development director, said all incentives from the fund since 2006 have been forgivable in the same fashion. She said she city uniquely structured the financial package as a loan in order to capitalize on new tax credits available at the time.

And in response to persistent questions on the matter, she emphasized that money from the fund cannot be used to lower the tax rate.

Attorney Michael MacDonald, representing Beacon owner Richard Stanley, said the redevelopment project was community-spirited from the beginning.

"From the standpoint of community input, this project had everything we could have asked," he said, noting that it's "an important part of what attracts people to our downtown."

If they hadn't have come along, Ruffer said, the city could still be contending with a deteriorating building on North Street. Or worse, she said it could be an empty hole.

MacDonald said the project was originally estimated to cost $8.3 million, which snowballed into an eventual $22.1 million. The amount spent on redeveloping the property exceeded the value of the building and the assets, he said, but those behind the project knew it would be invaluable for the city of Pittsfield.

The building's "sooted and soiled and broken" terra cotta facade cost $1.5 million alone to repair.

"This was an essential part of the revitalization of our downtown, and we stuck with it," he said.

MacDonald said they met further obstacles, beyond the significant costs associated with redeveloping the slouching downtown property. They finished construction at the height of the Great Recession to find KB Toys empty and "a glut of office space in our downtown," which meant revenues expected from the commercial space they had developed in the upper floors underperformed.

Then, he said, the movie industry changed in light of evolving home entertainment technology. On that point, he said, "It didn't fall down; it just fell short of what we anticipated."

Stanley got none of the expected development fee out of the arrangement, MacDonald said, and put $1.2 million of his own money into the project — "money that he loses in this transaction."

MacDonald called the mayor's debt restructuring proposal "to right-size" mounting debt against the historic property.

"This is really the next step in seeing the success of our downtown continue," he said.

Councilors on the subcomittee took turns questioning the potential new owners during the nearly four-hour meeting.

Cory Jacobson, owner of Phoenix Theaters, said his company redeveloped a similar theater in Wayne, Mich., in 2012, and so the Beacon struck a familiar chord for him. The company also already had a relationship with Stanley, he said, after he came to Pittsfield two years ago to analyze the company and the market.

At that time, he said, he was the one to suggest lowering ticket rates and building in reclining seats. If his company takes ownership of the building and its assets — at a price of $644,000 — Jacobson said he also plans to extend hours at the theater and double the staff because "you can't sell tickets and popcorn with the door closed," and implement his strategic movie-booking strategy.

He said his efforts will bring more people into the theater and into neighboring restaurants.

Braden Alan, chief financial officer for Phoenix, said the company has a history of reinvesting into its theaters, and the Beacon would be no different. He said the company will soon hire local contractors to "spruce the place up," keep it clean and respond to deferred maintenance in the building.

"We have our own recipe for our own cake," Jacobson said. "We know that this has worked over and over and over again."

He said he anticipates about 100,000 more people a year coming through the theater's doors.

Company leaders said they're practiced at handling corporate competitors and are skilled at market research in a way that maximizes the number of people they can draw into small theaters.

Jacobson watches box office statistics like some watch horse racing, he said, and he already has been regularly reviewing Berkshire theater stats for years.

"There's fish in the water you have to catch," Jacobson said.

Although Phoenix Theaters is based in Detroit, its leaders said they'd be here in Pittsfield for several months to start, and then after that on a monthly basis at least.

Pressed by councilors on the concern of home entertainment eating into revenues, Jacobson said there's still a place for dinner and a movie.

"People have a kitchen in their house and they still go out to eat," he said.

Councilor At Large Pete White said supporting the cinema achieves two goals set for him by his constituents. Those are to support business in the city and to provide activities for people.

Yes, there's a cinema one town over. But, he said, "this is a business that is in walking distance of our population base."

"We're doing this for all of Pittsfield," he said. "This is our city's theater."

Ruffer said the cinema is paying $45,000 in property taxes this fiscal year, and has helped boost downtown property values 21.5 percent since its arrival. It triggered more development, including 120 units of market-rate downtown housing.

"And we've seen the vibrancy that that brings with it," Ruffer said.

Perhaps those questioning the city's original investment in the theater have lost sight "of how tough things were," she said.

MacDonald said the banks have asked new owners to close the sale by Dec. 31.

Still, Councilor At Large Melissa Mazzeo spoke from the audience when she asked councilors to pump the brakes.

"We can't keep helping subsidize a private business, in my personal opinion," she said.

In public comment, two residents sided with Mazzeo on that point, arguing that it's time for the city to cut its losses with the Beacon and allow the capitalist system to play out.

People working in economic development, like Downtown Pittsfield Inc. President Jesse Cook-Dubin and 1Berkshire's Jonathan Butler, said the Beacon did and continues to send an important message about the rise of Pittsfield's downtown.

Others, like Kate Lauzon, said the cinema is about more than its financial outlook; it's a community gathering place.

"The Beacon means more than just numbers," she said.

Amanda Drane can be contacted at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.

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“Pittsfield mayor details impending increases to water and sewer bills”
By Amanda Drane, The Berkshire Eagle, November 20, 2018

Pittsfield — The typical Pittsfield homeowner could see their water and sewer bills rise by about $43 in their next quarterly bill.

Mayor Linda Tyer told reporters on Tuesday that her administration is proposing rate increases to cover costs associated with necessary upgrades to the city's aging infrastructure. She called the meeting to combat "misguided speculation, inaccuracies and fear tactics" used by some in public meetings.

"We're going to set the record straight," she said.

Currently, a homeowner with a two-toilet home sees a typical quarterly bill of $131.48. Under the new rate structure, that homeowner's bill would increase to $174.04, a hike of about 32 percent. If approved by the City Council, the rates will take effect in January.

The city is facing a January deadline to begin a $74 million upgrade of its wastewater plant to comply with standards, revised a decade ago by the Environmental Protection Agency, that limit the amounts of aluminum and phosphorus that may be discharged into rivers. Existing equipment at the city's plant on Holmes Road near the Housatonic River cannot accommodate the revised effluent limits.

Tyer said her administration inherited the wastewater project, and "it came without a plan." She said her team has worked hard to plan for its ripple effects and save taxpayer dollars in a number of ways.

She applied for a series of low-interest loans to pay for the project, she said, and has so far received a $50 million loan from the state's Clean Water Trust with hope for more in the next funding cycle. Some of that, she said, could end up in the form of a no-interest loan.

Earlier this year, her team negotiated a health insurance policy with the Pittsfield Employee Committee that saved the city over $1 million. More recently, she noted, she lowered taxes.

And through the city's municipal aggregation program, Tyer said her administration has saved the city's electricity ratepayers a combined total of about $565,000 in the past year.

"We're hard at work all the time, looking for ways to save money and ease the impact," she said.

Tyer and her team said they built a seven-year plan to increase water and sewer rates in stages to meet the costs of the improvements.

Those stages would begin with a 50 percent increase in fiscal 2019, and then they'd remain flat until fiscal 2021, when they would rise by another 15 percent. Fiscal year 2022 would carry no increase, and then the final increase in the plan would be 12 percent in fiscal 2023.

Owners of a single-family, unmetered home with two toilets currently pay a flat rate of about $248 annually in sewage costs. That number would increase to about $467 after seven years. For two-toilet homeowners with meters, sewer rates would increase in stages from the current $1.91 per gallon to $3.69 per gallon.

Finance Director Matt Kerwood said a rate study conducted by Russell Consulting found the increases would bring in enough to cover operations of the city's wastewater treatment plant, costs associated with the upgrade, regular maintenance and would build reserves for future wastewater expenses.

Public Services Commissioner David Turocy said officials decided to frontload the increase in the first year to offset initial costs stemming from the wastewater project.

"We're going to be hit with these constructions relatively soon," he said.

While most councilors have acknowledged the project as a necessarily pill to swallow in order to safeguard the city against EPA fines, some have continued to push back and suggested exploring alternative ways of upgrading the plant.

But Kerwood said too much time and money has been spent for that to be viable.

"We are well on our way toward the project as originally designed," he said, "and are in no position to entertain an alternative design at this point."

Tyer and her team suggested homeowners contract a plumber and install meters in their homes as a way to offset the increases.

"It is cheaper to have a meter," Kerwood said.

Tyer said water rates, which are factored into the same quarterly bill as the sewer rates, will also increase "but not by this magnitude." They haven't yet done the same level of planning with regard to possible water infrastructure projects, she said, and so proposed increases the city's water rate are more fluid.

Still, she's proposing the water rate increase by 20 percent in January — an increase she factored into the estimated combined bill of $174.04 per quarter.

Even with the increases, Tyer said water and sewer bills will still fall below state averages "and we'll have done the right thing" by the Housatonic River.

Amanda Drane can be contacted at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.

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11/21/2018

Mayor Linda Tyer said her administration inherited the wastewater project, and "it came without a plan."

That is true! It is also true that Pittsfield doesn't effectively plan. Rather, Pittsfield just taxes and spends whenever problems occur. To be clear, Pittsfield is always reacting instead of planning. Pittsfield always hits the proverbial iceberg instead of steering around it!

So she's proposing the water rate increase by 20 percent in January, while she's giving the average residential homeowner a 2.5-cents per day tax savings.

That means she is saving the average residential taxpayer 2.5-cents per day on their property taxes, while increasing their water rate by 20%.

- Jonathan Melle

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"City wrong to forgive Beacon Cinema debt"
The Berkshire Eagle, Letter, November 23, 2018

To the editor:

I am a movie lover but can't understand how the city of Pittsfield can forgive the $2.55 million debt that the Beacon Theatre owes it. Especially after the city recently raised sewer and water fees on its taxpayers.

The current owner of the Beacon Cinema invested around 7 percent of the total funds used to renovate the building with the rest funded by taxpayers and grant and PEDA money. The PEDA money could have been used to bring good manufacturing jobs to the PEDA site.

John DiTomasso, Peru

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Look Ahead, Pittsfield: “A public-private entanglement - with interest”
By Amanda Drane, The Berkshire Eagle, November 25, 2018

How much should the city chip in when it comes to private sector endeavors?

That question seems to lie at the heart of recent pushback against a proposal from Mayor Linda Tyer, which would forgive $2.55 million in loans awarded to the Beacon Cinema redevelopment project a decade ago. That proposal comes this Tuesday before the City Council, whose subcommittee unanimously favored the measure during a meeting last week.

Councilors behind the proposal argue that with the building in foreclosure, it's unlikely the city will see the money repaid either way. In debt forgiveness they see an opportunity to usher in new ownership and avoid seeing the lights go out on what for the past decade stood as a symbol of the downtown revitalization effort.

Others, however, argue the city can only do so much to support private businesses. The city has similarly granted money from its Economic Development Fund, built up with reparations money from General Electric Corp., to the Colonial Theatre, Barrington Stage, Covanta and LTI Smart Glass — without expecting repayment.

The issue lands as the city stares down a $74 million upgrade to its wastewater treatment plant. Construction must begin in January, the Environmental Protection Agency says, and councilors will be asked during their Tuesday meeting to approve water and sewer rate increases in order to pay for it.

Tyer's administration will additionally ask the council to approve $125,000 in earmarked state housing funds to support redevelopment of the former St. Mary the Morning Star Church on Tyler Street. The state money will fuel water line upgrades and repairs to the terra cotta roofs on the buildings, which are slated to hold 29 market-rate apartments.

The City Council meeting will begin at 7 p.m. Tuesday in council chambers.

Also on the council docket is a revised trash ordinance that cleans up language while making no substantive changes to the city's existing trash practices. Still, councilors could end up debating how detailed the city code should get when it comes to defining acceptable curbside practices.

This week the School Committee will consider a resolution in support of a video message from Superintendent Jason McCandless that was posted to social media earlier this month. In it he sent a firm message to families about a dozen fights so far this year in city schools.

Wintry happenings

The newly instated Homeless Prevention Committee will hold its first meeting at 10 a.m. Monday in City Hall room 203. With the cold weather season upon us, committee members will elect the new body's leadership and set toward helping some of the city's most vulnerable residents during the most critical time of the year.

Winter parking hours begin on Saturday, meaning parking is prohibited on city streets between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., under penalty of a $50 fine.

Also Monday, the city will hold a conference for human services providers seeking support from the city in the form of Community Development Block Grants. Last year's process resulted in 24 human service programs receiving a total of $223,500 from the city. The conference is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. in City Hall room 203.

You can catch local creators in the act during a live art-making session at 6 p.m. Friday at the Lichtenstein Center for the Arts, and with the holiday tree now in its rightful place in Park Square, the downtown community is also gearing up for its annual Festive Frolic on Friday. From 4 to 8 p.m. there will be holiday-themed activities, from cookie decorating at Dottie's to free hot cider at Marketplace and a lighting ceremony around the tree.

What's up in Pittsfield? Tell me via email at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, or by phone at 413-496-6296. Follow me on Twitter @amandadrane.

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November 26, 2018

I would trust a used car salesman over Jimmy Ruberto! He once said he would work with Jim Bouton to redo Wahconah Park. That tanked! He said he would revitalize downtown Pittsfield and create a cultural renaissance. That cost millions of dollars from GE's settlement fund for "economic development". Downtown Pittsfield is still dangerous, as it ranks #5 in all of Massachusetts for violent crime!

During Mayor Ruberto's reign, Pittsfield lost thousands of residents and hundreds of living wage jobs. Mayor Ruberto raised taxes, increased municipal debts, and spent other public money like a drunken sailor. Jim Ruberto even said he had a "rolodex", but it proved to only consist of Angelo Stracuzzi and Carmen Massimiano and other useless Good Old Boys.

I strongly believe that Jimmy Ruberto was the worst thing to happen to Pittsfield! He represents everything that is wrong with local government! He left Pittsfield with a sad legacy of population loss, job loss, high taxes, huge municipal debts, and wasteful spending on so-called "economic development" projects like the Beacon Cinema bailout. The Beacon Cinema is top heavy with millions of dollars of debts. It will collapse under its own weight.

Also, the lovely Linda Tyer is proposing a 20% fee increase to the water and sewer enterprise fund beginning on January 1st, 2019. In essence, she is asking the local taxpayers to again bailout an out of town millionaire Richard Stanley, while hiking their fee to use water and sewer services. Moreover, Mayor Linda Tyer's 2.5-cent per day residential tax cut is a joke, which will be paid back with higher taxes after she may be re-elected next year of 2019.

- Jonathan Melle

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“City to forgive $2.55M debt for Beacon Cinema”
By Amanda Drane, The Berkshire Eagle, November 27, 2018

Pittsfield — The city will forgive the Beacon Cinema's debt after a City Council vote Tuesday.

The proposal from Mayor Linda Tyer will forgive $2.55 million in loans awarded to the Beacon's redevelopment project. Tyer and councilors behind the proposal argued that, with the building in foreclosure, it's unlikely that the city will see the money repaid either way. In debt forgiveness, they see an opportunity to usher in new ownership and avoid seeing the lights go out on what, for the past decade, stood as a symbol of the downtown revitalization effort.

Others argued that it's time for the city to cut its losses when it comes to the Beacon and stick to its guns in hopes for repayment. The city has similarly granted money from its Economic Development Fund — it was built up with cleanup money from General Electric Co. — to the Colonial Theatre, Barrington Stage, Covanta and LTI Smart Glass — without expecting repayment.

The theater opened in 2009, with help from a series of grants. Banks moved to foreclose on the property in September. A Michigan-based small-theater chain, Phoenix Theatres, has agreed to buy the property and assets for $644,000 — if the city forgives the debt.

Some argue that the cinema's owner, Richard Stanley, has enjoyed excessive support from the public sector, but officials say the cinema is no freeloader. Under a tax increment financing incentive, which phases in redevelopment investments, the cinema is paying $45,098 in real estate taxes and $18,354 for personal property during this fiscal year alone. City money for the cinema came in the form of $1.5 million from the Economic Development Fund.

Two additional grants were funneled through the city in order to support the project: $50,000 in Community Development Block Grant money, and a $1 million grant from the state. Under the proposal, state and federal grants used for the project are to be immediately forgiven.

The $1.5 million awarded through the city's Economic Development Fund will be forgiven in stages over the next 10 years, under the condition that the cinema remain open. If the Beacon closed, the money would be returned to the Economic Development Fund, where officials could use it for economic development incentives. According to Council Rule 38, councilors are to consider disbursements from the city's Economic Development Fund based on potential job creation, capacity to generate further investments and overall public benefit.

"Everyone's kind of confused about exactly what's happening here," said Ward 5 Councilor Donna Todd Rivers. Councilor At Large Melissa Mazzeo said she wanted to take more time on the decision, and hoped for more out of the situation — "a goodwill gesture" from the buyers to remove "the sour taste" for the public. She suggested forgiving some of the loan, but not all of it.

"We need to make this more palatable," she said. Jonathan Butler, president of 1Berkshire, called the cinema a "critical anchor property" in the city's downtown.

Nick Russo, who lives in a newly renovated apartment across from the Beacon, said he likely wouldn't have moved back to Pittsfield if that section of North Street were still blighted and without the Beacon. So, to forgo the money, he said, "is not a loss."

Jesse Cook-Dubin, president of Downtown Pittsfield Inc., gestured to downtown business owners packing the house to support a future that includes the Beacon. Cheryl Mirer, executive director of Downtown Pittsfield Inc., said the cinema acts as "the glue" holding downtown together.

To that point, an owner of The Marketplace Cafe said it was the Beacon that inspired the company to open a second cafe in downtown Pittsfield. Steven Valenti has been in business on North Street since 1965, and he said his customers are spending more in Pittsfield now that there's the Beacon, Barrington Stage and the Colonial Theatre.

"I fear that without the Beacon we will fall back in time," Mirer said.

Amanda Drane can be contacted at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.

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The seats at the Beacon Cinema in Pittsfield are inviting for patrons. Leaders of Phoenix Theatres, which is set to purchase the Beacon, say Phoenix was one of the first companies in the country to install reclining cinema seats. Ben Garver - The Berkshire Eagle

Alex Horton works the register at the Beacon Cinema in Pittsfield. When it comes to running a successful small theater, Phoenix Theatres owner Cory Jacobson said the main elements include booking the right movies in the right number of theaters, beefing up concession stand offerings, keeping the theater clean and keeping ticket prices low. Ben Garver - The Berkshire Eagle

Patrons of the Beacon Cinema in Pittsfield enjoy a movie Thursday. Once Phoenix Theatres purchases the Beacon - the company plans to close on the property Dec. 10 - its owner, Cory Jacobson, plans to lower ticket prices soon afterward "so the customers are immediately saving money." Ben Garver - The Berkshire Eagle

“Phoenix Theatres aims to buy Beacon Cinema by early December”
By Amanda Drane, The Berkshire Eagle, November 29, 2018

Pittsfield — Phoenix Theatres owner Cory Jacobson made his first purchase Thursday for the Beacon Cinema: an auto-playing baby grand piano.

He'll place it in the front window area of the North Street business, he said, as a symbol that going to the movies these days is about ambiance and fun. His company plans to close on the property Dec. 10.

After a conference call Thursday with Beacon owner Richard Stanley, Jacobson said the next two weeks will be a matter of paperwork before Phoenix can take over.

"We are generally in agreement on everything that needs to happen, so we're in good shape," he said of the call with Stanley.

Residents heatedly debated a City Council measure that forgave the cinema's $2.55 million debt with the city and cleared the way for new ownership, but that all came to a close Tuesday, with an 8-2 vote from the council.

Council President Peter Marchetti recused himself from the vote because his role at Pittsfield Cooperative Bank poses a conflict of interest.

Councilor At Large Melissa Mazzeo and Ward 2 Councilor Kevin Morandi voted against forgiveness.

City money for the cinema came in the form of $1.5 million from the Economic Development Fund. Two additional grants were funneled through the city in order to support the project: $50,000 in Community Development Block Grant money and a $1 million grant from the state. Under the proposal, state and federal grants used for the project are to be immediately forgiven.

Mazzeo asked for more skin in the game, and Morandi doubted whether the cinema industry could ever be successful, in light of at-home entertainment technology.

To that point, Jacobson said he remembered sitting at a boardroom table in 1979 and hearing "there's a new invention called the VCR," and that it would mean death for cinema. But just like people with kitchens still go out to eat, he said people still go to cinemas for the experience.

Phoenix plans to keep the name and the character, Phoenix leaders said, and to spruce it up.

That'll go a long way, Jacobson said, because right now "it feels like a business that's just limping along."

Morandi also pointed to the current owners' struggle to fill commercial space in the building's upper floors. Jacobson said he plans to put money into the building in short order and address deferred maintenance. He said dysfunctional amenities in the upper floors work against the goal of retaining tenants.

When the first signs of financial trouble arrived at Berkshire Bank's doorsteps two year ago, the bank commissioned an analysis by Phoenix Theatres, which its leaders say was one of the first companies in the country to install reclining cinema seats.

They said they saw the writing on the wall during that analysis and since then, during their Monday meetings, have reviewed box office sales for the Berkshires market each week.

Jacobson said he plans to lower ticket prices soon after closing on the property "so the customers are immediately saving money."

"We don't want moviegoing to be an event," he said, like a concert or a baseball game. "Our goal is to increase moviegoing."

Meantime, he said the company leans increasingly on concessions for profits.

When it comes to running a successful small theater, Jacobson said, there's no secret, but rather a perfect compilation of ingredients. He said the main elements include booking the right movies in the right number of theaters, beefing up concession stand offerings, keeping the theater clean and keeping ticket prices low.

He said he also plans to double the staff and extend the hours.

Downtown past and future

The conversation about the Beacon has been tinged with questions about how the city ended up in this position and whether it was the right move in the first place to support the downtown cinema.

The consensus was that there was no way the city was going to see its $2.55 million either way — the city is last on a list of creditors involved in the $21 million project — but the path that got the city there was harder to swallow.

"We obviously are looking at a problem," Mazzeo said of the private-public entanglement. "I don't want to make these mistakes again."

Mazzeo and Ward 4 Councilor Chris Connell asked for amendments that would forgive less money or would require the cinema to pitch in to the city's Economic Development Fund, but Mayor Linda Tyer said she'd rather see the new ownership put its money into the downtown business, and declined to make the adjustments Mazzeo and Connell asked for.

Tyer said that when she sat down with owners of the Beacon and Phoenix, they wanted the loan forgiven outright. Instead, she said she pushed for a phased approach that would forgive the cinema's debt over a 10-year period, but only if the doors stay open for 10 years.

Braden Alan, chief financial officer for Phoenix, said taking on the forgivable $1.5 million in debt was an easy decision, because the company is so confident its in Pittsfield for the long haul and the debt will be erased.

"We're out here to win," Jacobson said.

Most councilors thought that the $1.5 million in city money used toward the project was comparable to other economic development awards through the General Electric Co. Economic Development Fund, and that it wrought a decade's worth of downtown growth — with more to come.

"We'd rather not be here," Councilor At Large Earl Persip said of the forgiveness package, but the cinema bolsters other downtown businesses and "we have to think about them."

One surprise element elicited gasps from councilors, who discovered during the Tuesday meeting that Phoenix will be paying Stanley for the cinema's new seats over the next six years. Last year, Stanley spent more than $570,000 installing luxury seating in the seating.

But city booster and Stanley attorney Michael MacDonald said Stanley still loses $1.3 million in this deal. It would be more cost-effective for foreclosure to continue, he said, and to that point, Phoenix owners agreed.

Alan said Phoenix could buy the property in foreclosure for about $150,000, versus the $644,000 they're paying. Still, Jacobson said foreclosures generate chaos, and there's value in avoiding chaos in the name of continuity and in generating confidence for the cinema's new leadership.

MacDonald said Stanley didn't take on the massive redevelopment project enthusiastically. He did it because downtown advocates like MacDonald, who was then part of Downtown Pittsfield Inc., asked him three times. The community needed something to light the way for downtown's redevelopment, he said.

And that's exactly what it did, Community Development Director Deanna Ruffer said. She said downtown property values grew 21.5 percent since the Beacon came to town.

The project was first conceived by Downtown Pittsfield Inc. in 1999. Stanley then agreed to develop the cinema four years later. The final design was completed in 2004.

Restaurants like the Marketplace Cafe and Flavours of Malaysia moved downtown to capitalize on the cinema crowd in 2009, and more downtown redevelopment projects followed.

Tyer wasn't in her current office at the time the decade-old funds were awarded, but she said she stands by the support.

"This was the right decision then, and it's still the right decision now," she said.

Amanda Drane can be contacted at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.

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Look Ahead, Pittsfield: “Water and sewer rate hikes and a Tyler Street facelift in the making”
By Amanda Drane, The Berkshire Eagle, December 2, 2018

Some of the best restaurants in town are on Tyler Street, and the central city corridor seems to be on the rise.

More businesses are cropping up as developers eye housing developments in the neighborhood, which sits between two of the city's largest employers — Berkshire Medical Center and General Dynamics.

Now, the city aims to double down on those private dollars with investments into the streetscape. Three years of planning by the Community Development Department yielded several street improvement scenarios, which planners will present during a hearing 6 p.m. Thursday at Morningside Community School. They're looking to hear from residents about where bike lanes, parking spaces and sidewalk widths rank among their priorities, before finalizing the plans.

The city aims to implement the upgrades within the next two years.

The full City Council will vet proposed water and sewer rate hikes in the pipeline with a special meeting of the Committee of the Whole, 7 p.m. Tuesday in Council Chambers.

As proposed, the typical Pittsfield homeowner could see their water and sewer bills rise by about $43 in their next quarterly bill. Mayor Linda Tyer is proposing the rise in rates as a means to pay for a $74 million upgrade of the city's wastewater plant, as required by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Some councilors have continued to buck the costly project out of concerns for ratepayers, and so there will likely be some debate during the meeting about the path forward.

On Monday more than 100 community leaders and residents will gather for a sold-out Bridges Out of Poverty Workshop at Zion Lutheran Church. Participants will receive training from a national facilitator, who will teach them how to better communicate with each other in order to alleviate poverty in the Berkshires.

On Tuesday the city's Community Development Board will consider amendments to city regulations surrounding wireless communications facilities with the impending arrival of 5G wireless in Pittsfield. Because the transmitters can be so large and unsightly, city planners are looking to set ground rules regarding where they can go and how they can look.

Watch out for city inspectors this week, as the city is kicking off a monthslong project to perform inspections at properties that haven't been inspected in the last 10 years. Inspectors will be carrying their city-issued identification cards.

Holiday happenings

The downtown community is gearing up for its annual Festive Frolic on Friday from 4 to 8 p.m., when there will be holiday-themed activities, from cookie decorating at Dottie's to free hot cider at Marketplace and a lighting ceremony around the tree.

This weekend at Shire City Sanctuary the annual Holiday Shindy sets up shop. The craft fair boasts live music, food and drink. It runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, with $3 admission for attendees over the age of 12.

What's up in Pittsfield? Tell me via email at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, or by phone at 413-496-6296. Follow me on Twitter @amandadrane.

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“Hotel on North seeks to be in sync with Pittsfield’s regeneration”
By Anthony Flint, The Boston Globe, November 28, 2018

Some may ask why anyone traveling to the Berkshires, dreamlike with luxury resort properties including Blantyre and Canyon Ranch, would stay in this gritty post-industrial city at the New York border. But a visit here is to witness a small metropolis on the brink of transformation.

There is also now a really cool place to stay. Hotel on North, in renovated space formerly occupied by a department store, might as well be in SoHo, from the art gallery displays to the local craft beer on tap in the tastefully tattooed barroom. If pastoral retreat is part of your aim, the countryside is minutes away.

Pittsfield, like many similar small cities in New England, had manufacturing running through its veins, from wool to paper to the giant electrical transformers invented by resident William Stanley and built by thousands working for General Electric, the single largest employer in the region for many decades.

When the company withdrew from the town, the inevitable hard times came, with jobs and population loss and little sign of a new raison d’etre. All around, the visitor economy flourished, in southern Berkshire County at Stockbridge, Great Barrington, and Lenox, with assets from Jacob’s Pillow to Tanglewood to the Norman Rockwell Museum; even similarly challenged North Adams put itself on the map with Mass MoCA. Pittsfield, though home for many years to some great minor league baseball, never quite got a piece of the action.

Enter David and Laurie Tierney, born and raised in the area, and heirs to a local family construction and development business. They bought the two 19th-century three- and four-story buildings that for years housed the legendary menswear and sporting good emporium, Besse-Clark. The property, across from the YMCA and around the corner from the former home of The Berkshire Eagle, was in recent years the site of restaurants that opened and promptly closed.

In making a go of it, the Tierneys sought to make sure the hotel was part and parcel of the community. The 45 rooms were remodeled and furnished using local artisans like Philip Bastow, who created the bathroom vanities. Amid the exposed brick and tin ceilings, antique maps of the Pittsfield of old and various salvaged items share space with a rotating exhibition of art, sculpture, photography, and other curated pieces. In collaboration with leading Berkshire gallerists, the work of Michael Rousseau, Marita O’Dea Glodt, Peggy Rivers, and many more has been showcased.

Guests are connected to the city in other ways: through a program that allows them to walk dogs from a nearby shelter, for example, or a weekly 2-mile jaunt around town with members of the Berkshire Running Center. Hotel and city, making a go of it, hand in hand.

“We are a part of them and they are a part of us,” said Noel Henebury, sales manager at Hotel on North, who is settling in after moving to Pittsfield initially to be involved in the theater.

The net result is a property that feels like it’s always been there, though the opening was in 2015. The restaurant and bar are well populated; among what appeared to be business meetings over breakfast, an earnest conversation about wind power was overheard. The guest rooms (starting at $149), especially in the north building, are a delightful retreat, lean and elegant, modern meets Shaker. Everyone gets a locally baked night-time snack, and pre-measured coffee grounds for the morning. The crown jewel is the Library Suite, where the built-ins are so well back-lit they seem to make the literature glow.

Out the front door, boarded-up storefronts are giving way to cafes and an electric scooter store. Around the corner from the Barrington Theater Company, the nightspot Methusela is so popular the local authorities got concerned about overcrowding. In the other direction, at Park Square, District Kitchen was heavily populated well past midnight on a recent night, with craft bourbon being raised to bearded lips.

Henebury, also a board member of Downtown Pittsfield Inc., is helping to keep the momentum going, following in the steps of other smaller legacy cities by shoring up the arts, whether cutting-edge displays of LED lights on buildings and statues around town, to a campaign to paint squat, ugly utility boxes in colorful hues.

When asked to describe the current situation, she described the city as “honest, authentic, and determined.” From the way Hotel on North has settled into the stressed urban fabric, that sounds about right.

Anthony Flint, a fellow at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, can be reached at anthony.flint@gmail.com.

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December 10, 2018

Re: Berkshire Eagle Editors are wrong about Pittsfield and North Adams leaders!

Dear Berkshire Eagle Editors,

I totally disagree with your editorial that the Mayors of Pittsfield and North Adams vision of a “bright future” shows them to be true leaders! Pittsfield and North Adams are extremely economically unequal communities because there are scarce full time living wage jobs there. Over the past couple of generations, Pittsfield and North Adams have lost thousands in population and many hundreds of living wage jobs. Over this time of the past 30 years, the so-called leaders have done nothing to about it, and matters got worse and worse.

The Eagle touts Berkshire County’s cultural institutions, but it is only an economic benefit for tourism, which is mostly from Spring through Fall. Moreover, tourism mostly provides low-income, part-time work. I understand tourism is better than nothing, but the arts and culture is not an equitable economy for the average working class family.

The Eagle touts all of the not-for-profit institutions in Pittsfield and North Adams, but they all mostly rely on public or taxpayer dollars, and they don’t pay property taxes. The not-for-profits provide caring services to people in need, but they don’t employ enough local workers.

When I lived in Pittsfield and North Adams decades ago, I knew and believed that you had to be politically connected to get a good job there. If you had powerful people who didn’t like you, then you were blacklisted from employment. I also felt that the tight local economy in the Berkshires made the powerbrokers even more powerful. If you spoke out or opposed the corrupt way public business operated, you would lose your job in a New York minute! It was all conspiratorial in favor of the entrenched political establishment. To be clear, it was always the same group of insiders who pulled the same crap against outsiders year after year in Pittsfield and North Adams.

The question Mayor Linda Tyer and Mayor Tom Bernard should be answering is: “Would the average middle class family or small business want to invest in our community?” When the FBI states year after year that North Adams is #1 in violent crime, while Pittsfield is in the top 10 in violent crime, no rational person would say yes! People want to live in safe communities where they will be treated fairly by their politicians and public institutions. Families want their children to have better economic opportunities than their parents by having good public schools and living wage jobs.

- Jonathan Melle

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Our Opinion: “The importance of vision in determining our cities' future”
The Berkshire Eagle, December 10, 2018

Depending on the lens through which one chooses to view it, Berkshire County is a dormant powerhouse or a perennially depressed decaying backwater. At an Eagle-sponsored forum on Thursday night at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts — the third in its Conversation Series — the mayors of Pittsfield and North Adams strove to focus that lens on the former option. In the process, they demonstrated why a city mayor needs to be not just a bureaucratic administrator but also a leader who can inspire others to share their vision. Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer and her North Adams counterpart, Thomas Bernard, helped listeners understand that while the Berkshires' two post-industrial-era cities have been going through a painful transition period, there is no reason to believe it should be any more than that — a transition.

Both mayors drew attention to the varied assets that can contribute to a more prosperous future for Berkshirites, among those being the region's natural beauty and cultural venues like Mass MoCA and the Berkshire Museum. The two cities' proximity to two major metropolitan centers, New York City and Boston, make visiting easy. Pittsfield's and North Adams' housing stock presents a bargain to would-be residents from metropolitan areas.

Mayor Bernard refused to dwell on the loss of major North Adams institutions like the Sprague Electric Co., North Adams Regional Hospital or the North Adams Transcript newspaper, asserting that such thinking impedes the ability to move forward. He is right: In one shining example, the disused buildings comprising the former Sprague plant became Mass MoCA, a world-class museum that has become a "must" on every contemporary art lover's list.

Knowingly or unknowingly, Mayor Bernard touched on what constitutes the true — if not objectively measurable — wealth the two cities possess: that being their population's sense of community, industriousness, cohesion, willingness to help one another and put shoulders to the wheel in making civic dreams a reality.

As small, relatively isolated Massachusetts cities, both North Adams and Pittsfield historically have had to rely on themselves to pull through tough times, just as all their citizens benefited when their economies hummed. That interdependent ethos lives on today in each city, a fact demonstrated by the number of nonprofit and volunteer aid organizations that exist to address a panoply of civic ills. It constitutes a rich resource pool — one that doesn't show up in dry, comparative statistical tables. Mayors Tyer and Bernard get it: If that energy can be harnessed and focused in a coherent way, seemingly insurmountable obstacles can be overcome and create the conditions for a bright future. That kind of focus true leadership ability, and both mayors appear to possess it.

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“Pittsfield council raises water and sewer rates”
By Amanda Drane, The Berkshire Eagle, December 11, 2018

Pittsfield — City councilors approved water and sewer rate hikes Tuesday, but not before rejecting a measure that would have paused a $74 million wastewater project in the pipeline.

The project, required by the Environmental Protection Agency under a January deadline, is what precipitated a proposal from Mayor Linda Tyer to increase water and sewer rates. According to the proposal, the typical homeowner's next quarterly water and sewer bill will rise by about $43.

The council voted 9-2 to increase water rates by 10 percent over the next year and voted 7-4 to increase sewer rates by 50 percent over that same period.

Councilor At Large Melissa Mazzeo and Ward 2 Councilor Kevin Morandi cast dissenting votes on the water rate. On the sewer issue, dissenting voices were Morandi, Ward 4 Councilor Chris Connell, Mazzeo and Ward 5 Councilor Donna Todd Rivers.

In hopes of addressing the root cause of the proposal to raise rates, Connell called for the council to hear an alternative wastewater plan from Craig Gaetani, who played a role in the city's previous wastewater upgrade. Gaetani is working with engineer Justin Lis of Prescott Clean Water on a plan they say could save the city millions of dollars.

But, in order to come up with a detailed project plan to satisfy questions from councilors, they said they would need time.

"We're just asking for some time to dot the i's and cross the t's," Lis told councilors.

Councilors declined the measure 8-3, with Connell, Mazzeo and Morandi voting in favor.

While some councilors were intrigued by the prospect of an emerging cost-saving technology presented Monday, councilors did not feel confident enough in the last-minute proposal to ask the mayor to halt the existing project at the Holmes Road facility.

Ward 7 Councilor Tony Simonelli said he is interested in saving money, but "I didn't hear anything last night that convinced me of that."

Tyer said the city has been fighting against the EPA to upgrade the plant for 10 years, and it's time to move forward.

"We have an obligation and a responsibility to make sure we uphold the laws of the commonwealth and the laws of the United States " she told councilors. "I think it's time we get going."

Mazzeo said she doesn't understand why the city wouldn't want to take this opportunity to allow Lis to take another look at the project. Even if it costs the city $1 million more to push off the January deadline, she said Gaetani and Lis could come up with alternative plans that save the city millions more.

"That's a trade-off that I'm willing to take," she said.

Gaetani and two supporters urged councilors to set aside biases while considering the proposal.

"You have fiduciary duty to us to disregard your emotions and personal feelings," said Alex Blumin of Pittsfield.

Councilors noted during the discussion that the town of Dalton is on the hook for 19.3 percent of costs associated with the project because of its usage contract with the city.

Amanda Drane can be contacted at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.

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In the coming year, Wayfair plans to hire 188 people for a new sales and service center in Pittsfield, then add 112 more positions by 2021. The online home goods retailer says it will start its hourly employees at $16 an hour. That will be 33 percent more than the state's minimum wage, which rises from $11 an hour to $12 an hour Jan. 1.

“Wayfair call center expected to influence Berkshire job scene”
By Larry Parnass, The Berkshire Eagle, December 15, 2018

Pittsfield — By paying a hefty premium over a rising minimum wage, a new Wayfair call center could help lift earnings for working people across Berkshire County, a local expert says, as existing employers compete to fill jobs in a tight market.

In the coming year, Wayfair LLC plans to hire 188 people for a new sales and service center in Pittsfield, then add 112 more positions by 2021.

The online home goods retailer says it will start its hourly employees at $16 an hour. That will be 33 percent more than the state's minimum wage, which rises from $11 an hour to $12 an hour Jan. 1.

Heather Boulger, executive director of the MassHire Berkshire Workforce Board, said Wayfair's pay scale in Pittsfield might, out of necessity, lead other companies to improve entry-level pay.

Wayfair will arrive on the scene at a time when employers complain that they have trouble recruiting workers to lower-wage jobs.

Boulger praised Wayfair for bringing not only a large number of jobs to the area, but for offering competitive wages. "Companies such as Wayfair are stepping up to make that happen," she said of upward pressure on pay.

In time, legislated increases will get all employers close to paying $16 an hour. The minimum wage rises to $15 an hour in Massachusetts in 2023.

Beyond the dollars themselves, Boulger said Wayfair, as a rising e-commerce player, will bring a new kind of corporate culture to the area, one infused with ambitions to compete in the global economy.

"We're looking forward to having Wayfair's culture as part of the community," Boulger said.

The Pittsfield call center will be part of Wayfair's rapid expansion, as it competes with other retailers — Amazon in particular — to secure relationships with customers in the relatively new area of online furniture and home goods sales. The company this week landed $31.3 million in state tax incentives to expand in its home state; along with the 300 jobs in Pittsfield, the company said it will add 3,000 positions in the Boston area, where it is based.

Wayfair told the state it plans to invest $2.8 million to build out space in a Pittsfield location "to be determined."

The Eagle reported Saturday that the Clock Tower Business Center is one of the sites under consideration.

Like Amazon in its early years, Wayfair, co-founded in 2002 by Pittsfield native Niraj Shah, isn't yet showing a profit, despite billions of dollars in sales.

The company's total net revenue for the nine months that ended Sept. 30 was $4.7 billion, up 45 percent from revenue for the same period in 2017, according to a recent Securities and Exchange Commission filing. Wayfair announced this fall that it had done business with 13.9 million customers as of the end of September, a 35 percent increase over the previous year.

Still, Wayfair reported a loss of $151.7 million in the third quarter.

Call centers are seen as a key piece of the puzzle, as Wayfair, like all major online retailers, seeks to connect customers with a nearly bottomless supply of products.

Wayfair claims to offer more than 10 million home goods products available to its customers from over 10,000 suppliers.

Last month, Fortune magazine listed Wayfair at 13th in its ranking of "The 20 Best Workplaces in Retail 2018."

The citation quoted a Wayfair employee as saying the company "provides you the opportunity to grow and push yourself to new heights. You're handed a lot of responsibility early on and given the road map to succeed and rise up in rank. If you have an idea you can back it up with fact, and give it a shot."

According to Fortune magazine, the rating was based on 1,471 employee surveys, producing a margin of error of less than 2 percent. More than 90 percent of those polled hailed the company for having "great" bosses and a sense of community, as well as offering "great" challenges, atmosphere and sense of pride.

Training push

To help ensure that Wayfair has a ready pool of candidates, local job-training providers say they will roll into action in the coming months.

State Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli, D-Lenox, said Taconic High School in Pittsfield and Berkshire Community College should seize the moment.

"They need to be all over this," Pignatelli said, suggesting that the schools devise special short training courses on call center operations.

"And, bam, when they open up the doors, they're open for business," he said of Wayfair.

Boulger said she expects that her group's customary training partners, including vocational schools and the community college, will indeed roll into action.

Wayfair's center might be the first of its kind in the region, Boulger said.

In terms of skill sets, she said Wayfair will be looking for "positive and dynamic" people with a feeling for customer service.

"Your enthusiasm and your attitude and your motivation" will count, Boulger said of job candidates.

Given Wayfair's global footprint and continuing expansion, Boulger believes that the jobs in Pittsfield represent a solid opportunity for applicants.

"It's a good way to get your foot in the door," she said. "This is a great way to start 2019."

Michael Coakley, Pittsfield's business development manager, said Wayfair representatives looked closely at the area's labor force and other factors related to setting up shop in the city.

Coakley said Wayfair should be able to attract people from within the Berkshires who have experience in the tourism and hospitality sectors.

"These jobs at Wayfair can easily transfer to them," he said of people with experience in those fields.

He believes that the company might also be able to draw applicants who have lost jobs at bricks-and-mortar retailers, both inside and outside the county.

"They feel very comfortable with 300 employees as the number," Coakley said of the Wayfair expansion team that scouted Pittsfield.

The Pittsfield center comes on the heels of a new Wayfair operation 235 miles away, in New York state — in an area where headlines have tended to report job loss, not job creation.

Emma Miran, director of the Community Development department for the city of Elmira, N.Y., said the recent opening of a Wayfair call center in her county is spurring hopes of economic revival.

Miran said Elmira, like Pittsfield and Berkshire County, faces population declines, and the slow and familiar unwinding of Rust Belt communities.

Wayfair's new center in the Chemung County town of Big Flats brought 450 jobs and the promise of a $20 million annual payroll. A ribbon cutting was held a few weeks ago, just nine months after the expansion plan was announced.

"For this area, that's a lot," Miran said of the jobs. "There's a sense within the community that things can start coming back. It will be very impactful."

Current job openings at Wayfair's Big Flats operation: director of service, head of customer service, senior customer service manager, customer service manager, site director and inbound sales consultant.

Challenges ahead

Wayfair's expansion is part of what Shah, a 1991 Pittsfield High School graduate, has called his company's effort to scale up operations in a way that allows revenues to outpace rising expenses.

Though the company's stock price has climbed dramatically from its initial public offering four years ago, analysts caution that in the home furnishings market, in which purchases tend to be high-cost, customers shop for them far less often than other goods.

In a recent SEC filing, the company said it is investing to push its growth.

"Because of the large market opportunity we see in front of us, we are currently investing across our business, including investments to expand our international business, to build our proprietary logistics network and to continue developing various product categories," the company said.

The Pittsfield call center will bring Wayfair close to having 10 such operations. The company's footprint includes operations in California, Kentucky, Maine, New Jersey, North Carolina, Texas and Utah.

Wayfair reports that the cost of goods it delivers is pushed up, in part, by high freight expenses. Wayfair provides free shipping. While that offer is driving company growth, the cost is significant.

Here's how Wayfair described the issue in one SEC disclosure: "The increase in cost of goods sold is primarily driven by growth in orders delivered, the mix of the product available for sale on our sites and transportation costs related to delivering orders to our customers."

Another major cost is advertising — an expense that is helping expand its customer base.

Wayfair spent more than half a billion dollars on advertising — $541 million — in the first nine months of this year, up 41 percent from the same period last year.

Larry Parnass can be reached at lparnass@berkshireeagle.com, at @larryparnass on Twitter and 413-496-6214.

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Our Opinion: “Wayfair's choice of the Berkshires a benefit to all”
The Berkshire Eagle, December 15, 2018

Normally, hometown ties are grist for poetry, prose and song. In a thrilling development for Pittsfield and the Berkshires, however, they are also partially responsible for 300 solid new jobs and fresh hopes that the area may be witnessing the birth of a new era as an internet support hub.

Pittsfield native son Niraj Shah is a living example of "local boy makes good," having founded the internet home furnishings giant Wayfair, which all of Massachusetts points to with pride as a home-grown company. Shah, a 1991 Pittsfield High School alumnus and CEO of the company he founded with a college friend in 2002, now lives in Boston, the location of Wayfair's corporate headquarters. The company has fared so well of late — by grossing more than $5 billion per year (though Wayfair has yet to turn a profit) — that it needs to expand. Wayfair will be adding 3,000 jobs in the Boston area — increasing its employment footprint there to 10,000, which is understandable considering Boston's reputation as a tech hub.

Pittsfield, however, may have benefited not just from Mr. Shah's personal connection and a $31 million tax incentive granted by the commonwealth and other local sweeteners, but also from a factor that has hobbled it in the past — its relative isolation from the economic mainstream. As Tom Hopcroft, chief executive of the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council told The Boston Globe in a story focusing on the capital city's difficulty in landing "trophy class" expansions of tech companies, talent is the number one obstacle to growth. "The labor market is so tight, you have to pay a premium to get talent here," he said, adding that tech wages are the highest in Boston after California and Washington State. That very success leads to soaring real estate prices and a high cost of living that in turn discourages companies from relocating there.

Wayfair's entry into the Pittsfield labor market, on the other hand, benefits both the company and the city. Wayfair doesn't need tech-savvy employees so much as customer support, sales, research, parcel support and data analysis personnel. The wages at entry-level begin at $16 to $19 per hour, with salaried positions at $40,000 to $55,000 with benefits. These, while attractive to Berkshirites, would elicit little more than scorn in Boston. Thanks to the presence of such training facilities as Taconic High School and Berkshire Community College that can tailor their instruction to help provide a competent workforce — as well as a culturally-ingrained Berkshire work ethic — such non-geographically dependent jobs are a perfect match for willing area employees.

This development could not have been possible without a coordinated and coherent effort on the part of Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer, the Pittsfield Economic Development Council and its manager Michael Coakley, 1Berkshire's CEO Jonathan Butler, Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Jay Ash and a host of others who have labored since spring to bring the project home to the Berkshires. It is exactly the kind of pump-primer the region needs, and its importance as a catalyst for future growth in this sector cannot be overstated. If the move turns out to be a winner for Wayfair, it may compel other similar enterprises to take a closer look at the Berkshires' many quality-of-life advantages, among them its natural beauty and cultural attractions. proximity to two major cities and excellent housing values.

The Wayfair move is a promising beginning. If all parties involved continue to pull together as they did in this case, and local educational facilities work in concert to provide the needed workforce training, it could be the dawn of a sunnier day for the Berkshires economy.

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“Wayfair accepting online job applications for Pittsfield call center”
By Haven Orecchio-Egresitz, The Berkshire Eagle, December 15, 2018

Pittsfield — Days after announcing its plan to bring a call center to the city, Wayfair has begun accepting job applications for a variety of positions.

The company is expected to bring 300 jobs to Pittsfield.

The online application, which is available on the home furnishing company's website, said that jobs are available for staff "at all skill levels." At present, the company is hiring full-time leadership, senior leadership and support staff, according to the posting. More jobs will become available closer to the call center's opening date, it states.

"The ideal candidate is an energetic team player who understands how to effectively drive results in a fast-paced and rapidly growing company," the job posting states. "We look for those who have an interest in innovating to solve business problems creatively, a willingness to immediately tackle key challenges, thrive in a fast-paced environment, and can adapt to change quickly."

The short application process at wayfaircareers.com (type "Pittsfield" in the box next to "Find Jobs") asks candidates to do little more than answer a few identity questions and attach their resumes.

Haven Orecchio-Egresitz can be reached at horecchio@berkshireeagle.com, @HavenEagle on Twitter and 413-770-6977.

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The Clock Tower Business Center in Pittsfield is expected to be the home of a Wayfair sales and service center announced on Thursday. The online home furnishings company plans to create 300 new jobs in Pittsfield.

“Clock Tower complex likely site of Wayfair call center in Pittsfield”
By Larry Parnass, The Berkshire Eagle, December 14, 2018

Pittsfield — The online home furnishings retailer setting up shop in Pittsfield may pick a landmark building that once made clocks and paper.

Wayfair LLC said Thursday it will open a sales and service center that will eventually employ 300 people in Pittsfield. While the location was not disclosed, the Clock Tower Business Center, at 75 South Church St., is a leading contender.

"That's what I was told," said state Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli, D-Lenox, on Friday.

Michael Coakley, Pittsfield's business development manager, said Wayfair representatives toured a half-dozen prospective locations earlier this year. As of Friday, a few remained in the running, as negotiations continued.

"We have to be a little careful yet on the location because it hasn't been finalized," Coakley said.

David G. Carver, a member of the Clock Tower ownership group, told a representative of The Eagle that he has been asked not to speak about Wayfair's move.

Jane Carpenter, a Wayfair communications representative in Boston, could not be reached for comment on the status of the company's location decision.

In its successful application for $31.3 million in state tax benefits, Wayfair says it plans to invest $2.8 million to build out space in a location in Pittsfield "to be determined."

The state incentive was granted based on Wayfair's plan to expand its Boston area workforce by 3,000, as well as add 300 jobs in Pittsfield. The company did not seek local tax incentives from the city of Pittsfield, according to the application it filed with the state Economic Assistance Coordinating Council.

In its application, Wayfair said it planned to make a private investment of $33.9 million in Boston and Pittsfield. Based on that, it was awarded tax incentives by the council. That body authorized investment tax credits for which Wayfair will be able to apply as it pursues its expansion in those cities.

Coakley said that when a group of Wayfair representatives visited in June, they stayed at the Hotel on North in Pittsfield and said they wanted to get a sense of what it's like to live in the city.

"They really wanted to find out what the quality of life is," he said.

Several other locations in Western Massachusetts were in contention for the call center, before Pittsfield was selected.

In its application for state tax incentives, Wayfair said it planned to invest $2,870,000 in its Pittsfield expansion. It listed the bulk of that as "new building construction," though it is reportedly considering leasehold renovations.

Coakley said Wayfair has also considered having a new building erected for its operations in Berkshire County. The company was told that new structure could be put up inside the 2019 calendar year.

In terms of wages, the company says it plans to start hourly workers at $16. (A lower figure appeared in Friday's story in The Eagle.)

According to the application Wayfair submitted in pursuit of tax incentives, it would hire 188 people in Pittsfield in 2019, then add 70 employees in 2020 and 42 in 2021.

Of those jobs, 30 would be listed as management positions paying an average annual salary of $55,000. Another five management posts would pay an average of $90,000 a year.

But the bulk of the jobs would be hourly, with most new hires (225) earning an average of $16 an hour. Another 30 would be eligible for rates of $18.50 an hour and another 10 at $19 an hour.

All of the positions would include health care benefits and access to a retirement plan, the company says.

In its new Pittsfield quarters, Wayfair said it expects to lease 40,000 square feet of space.

The company's estimate of a $2.8 million investment in Pittsfield refers to "improvements/build out of the space" (estimated at $2.4 million) as well as $470,000 spent on furniture and fixtures, according to papers filed with the state.

Clock Tower site

The 165,203-square-foot Clock Tower Business Center is home to several dozen companies, including The Berkshire Eagle.

Clock Tower Partners LLC of North Adams bought the building for $1 million in 2016 from MediaNews Group, the former owner of The Eagle. The LLC's parent company is Scarafoni Associates of North Adams.

At the time of the sale, Berkshire Bank, which provided financing, said the Clock Tower would be run by CT Management Group, led by Carver and Peter Ticconi.

The building complex once housed the Terry Clock Co., in the late 19th century, as well as the Eaton Paper Co. The complex was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1990.

Larry Parnass can be reached at lparnass@berkshireeagle.com, at @larryparnass on Twitter and 413-496-6214.

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“A look at basic math on Wayfair tax break for Pittsfield call center”
By Larry Parnass, The Berkshire Eagle, December 17, 2018

Pittsfield — The eight-figure tax break that online retailer Wayfair LLC secured last week was reached through a simple calculation.

Create one job, save $9,500 in future state taxes.

That is the basic math the Economic Assistance Coordinating Council uses for applications like the one Wayfair submitted this year to expand its Massachusetts workforce.

On Thursday, the council, part of the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development, granted Wayfair $31,350,000 worth of investment tax credits to add jobs in Boston and Pittsfield. It provided similar incentives to three other companies, including TOG Manufacturing Co. of North Adams.

In all, the council allotted $33,635,000 in tax breaks to four companies that, along with local tax credits approved in the towns of Northbridge and Southbridge, will entice $82 million in private investment, create 3,703 net new jobs and retain 4,313 positions, it reported.

The 300 jobs the home goods retailer will create in Pittsfield over three years earned it $2,850,000 of the company's overall award — or $9,500 per job.

The bulk of the investment tax credit will stem from Wayfair's plan to add 3,000 jobs in Boston.

Wayfair said in its application for the tax credits that it will hire 188 people in Pittsfield in 2019, then add 112 more positions by 2021. Hourly workers will start at $16 an hour.

Of the 300 new jobs, 10 percent of them will be management positions that pay more. In its application for state tax credits, Wayfair said 30 management posts will pay an average annual salary of $55,000. Another five administrative jobs will provide an average salary of $90,000 a year.

In its application, Wayfair said it would top the value of the state tax credits with its own private investment of $33.9 million.

Gov. Charlie Baker said last week that credits are a proven means of expanding business in the state. Since taking office in January 2015, Baker's administration has granted state investment tax breaks for 210 job-growth projects.

Separately, the council last week awarded $285,000 in investment tax credits to TOG Manufacturing Co. The firm, bought this year by Stanley Black & Decker, will add 28 workers as it absorbs work from a plant in South Carolina, the council said.

On its own, the city of North Adams has approved a five-year tax break for TOG Manufacturing worth $297,646.

Wayfair is not in line for similar municipal tax breaks from the city of Pittsfield.

The company has not yet announced its choice for a Pittsfield location. A top contender is the Clock Tower Business Center at 75 South Church St., owned by Clock Tower Partners LLC of North Adams.

That group bought the building for $1 million in 2016 from MediaNews Group, the former owner of The Eagle.

Larry Parnass can be reached at lparnass@berkshireeagle.com, at @larryparnass on Twitter and 413-496-6214.

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Letter: “Afraid to move home because of high rents”
The Berkshire Eagle, December 29, 2018

To the editor:

I read Kristin Palpini's Dec. 2 article regarding affordable housing and found it to be very well-composed. I'm looking to return to Pittsfield after over 20 years, and am horrified at rents I see for places (advertised on nation-wide websites) that appear to be dirty, needing repairs, barely habitable, and at $700-$900/month for studios and one-bedroom apartments.

To put it into perspective, let me break down how a rent like this affects a lower-income household of one. If someone worked 40 hrs/week at $10/hr, their paycheck would be $1,600/month before taxes. Generally, 30 percent comes out for taxes and insurance. Take-home pay would be $1,120/month. Assuming rent of $700/month, that leaves $420 to pay for food, gas, electric, phone, and gasoline and insurance for a car. During hot/cold months, gas/electric could easily be $150/month or more, leaving $270 for everything else.

I don't know about anyone else, but from these figures alone, one person is going to need another job. There's simply not enough money to pay bills and eat because rent alone took 63.5 pecent of their take-home paycheck. 63.5 percent.

Someone else, making $40,000/year would likely take home $28,000/year ($2,333/month) — $700/month rent is 30 percent of their monthly income, leaving them with about $1,600/month for everything else. Lower income families cannot afford this. Even the middle-class would need to budget. And this is just for a one-person household. I can't fathom how families can find anything for housing.

If you want more people to move to Pittsfield (and make more tax money to improve the city), rents need to come down to something reasonable. No wonder so many people need help with food stamps and Section 8 housing even when they are working. Perhaps that's why rent is so high — property owners who make housing available for Section 8 stillget paid, regardless of where the money comes from. If there's no cheaper housing left and someone needs housing, it gets paid for. Resources set aside for Section 8 are bled dry a lot faster, and fewer people get helped.

The more I look at what's available for rent and the prices, the more afraid I am to return home. There are still many sections of the city that are unsafe to live in. They're even less safe for females, which narrows choices of where to live even more

So, what can be done? I know I'm sure looking for ideas and solutions.

Michele Stevens, Havre, MT.

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“Tyer To Deliver Her Third State of The City Address”
iBerkshires.com Staff Reports, December 29, 2018

Pittsfield, Massachusetts — Mayor Linda Tyer's "state of the city" address will be held on Monday, January 7, 2019.

The annual mayoral address will start at 5:30 p.m. at Taconic High School. It is free and open to the public.

It will be Tyer's third state of the city. The first year she spoke at the Colonial Theatre and last year at Zion Lutheran Church.

Each address has tended to last about an hour and has highlighted successes from the year before and introduces new initiatives in the works for the upcoming year.

Following the presentation, there will be refreshments and tours of the new high school.

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Letter: “Ethnical landlords face tough challenges”
The Berkshire Eagle, January 2, 2019

To the editor:

The majority of rental property owners are local folks who purchase a property as a long-term investment. Typically, the rental income just covers the property overhead costs with the hope that it will assist them with their retirement later in life. Most also work full-time jobs, myself included, and are just trying to make a living. In fact, I know quite a few landlords who work as waitresses, cashiers, teachers, firemen and tradesmen.

Owning and maintaining a rental property is not for the faint of heart. It's a lot of work, headaches and sleepless nights, especially when a tenancy goes bad and the landlord is faced with an eviction process, cleaning out the apartment, repairs, painting, replacing carpet, flooring, damaged appliances, etc., all without any rental income to help offset the costs. While at the same time having to continue paying the many increasing costs associated with running and maintaining their properties, such as mortgage payments, insurance, real estate tax, water/sewer tax, utility bills, etc.

Along with these increasing costs are capital improvements such as new heating systems, roof, de-leading, windows, siding, just to name a few. Most tenants see these improvements as just one-time costs, but don't realize that it can take years for an owner to repay these improvements by way of added loans and second mortgages.

When property owners don't have the funds or resources to adequately maintain their property than the downward spiral begins. They may still try to rent an apartment that isn't adequate or face foreclosure.

Other issues that affect rental property owners are the areas of the city that are prone to higher crime rates, which makes them more difficult to rent out and lowers the rent ability of the apartments despite having the above-mentioned costs and again leads to a lower grade unit.

The rental rates in this area are generally lower than other areas across Massachusetts which is reflective of our local economy. According to HUD (Section 8), the current fair market rent for Pittsfield is $817 for one bedroom, $1,000 for two bedrooms, $1,254 for three.

I'm not defending all landlords. I realize there are some out there who just don't care. But they are not the majority.

As president of RHABC (Rental Housing Association of Berkshire County), myself and many others are constantly trying to help educate and assist other landlords, which benefits both the landlord and tenants.

James Stockley, Pittsfield

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Look Ahead, Pittsfield: “Mayor Tyer to deliver last State of the City address of her term”
By Amanda Drane, The Berkshire Eagle, January 6, 2019

From new developments to job creation, Mayor Linda Tyer has some things under her hat that she's proud of.

She'll air them during the annual State of the City address, which kicks off 5:30 p.m. Monday at Taconic High School. The traditional January address will be her last before the mayoral election season heats up later this year.

Surely to be highlighted in the presentation: the red carpet her administration laid out for Wayfair, which will soon bring 300 jobs into the city.

The City Council could take a final vote this week on the issue of a police advisory board, during the council's regularly scheduled meeting 7 p.m. Tuesday in Council Chambers. A proposal from Tyer to form the new board, as amended both by councilors and by the local branch of the NAACP's social justice action committee, won support last month from the City Council Committee on Ordinances and Rules, signaling what could be a close to months of debate on the issue of police accountability.

The Pittsfield Police Department will host a recruitment event at Taconic High School at 4 p.m. Tuesday. Members of the department will be on hand to demonstrate equipment and discuss the functions of various units within the department, and at 6 p.m. they'll give a presentation on the process of becoming a police officer.

The department has struggled for years to beef up its ranks and stay ahead of attrition, which leaders have argued would reduce the amount of stress placed on officers and money spent on police overtime. The department had 87 officers as of November, while Police Chief Michael Wynn says best practices say the department should have about 120 officers.

Countdown to cannabis

Marijuana retailers at Temescal Wellness in Pittsfield and Theory Wellness in Great Barrington are preparing for a recreational launch that could come any day now. Both await a final nod from the state to commence sales, and are the only two in the county to have received final licenses.

While the county awaits initial sales, the Pittsfield marijuana market is growing. Pure Botanicals is looking to set up a cannabis cultivation and retail operation at 239 West St., and on Tuesday will ask the city's Community Development Board to approve a site plan for the property. The board will also review a site plan for Pittsfield Investment Group, which aims to put a marijuana retail facility at 531 Dalton Ave. The meeting will take place at 6 p.m. in City Hall room 203.

Both proposals would require final approval from the Zoning Board of Appeals. If granted, they would join seven other Pittsfield marijuana shops in the making.

Heads up

Bridges Out of Poverty, a training program that aims to help community partners better understand cycles of economic instability, reconvenes this week — this time with an eye toward mitigating poverty from an institutional standpoint. The workshop runs from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Thursday at the Country Club of Pittsfield, and those who wish to attend can register online at eventbrite.com.

Don't forget to place your Christmas trees curbside this week if your trash day is Monday or Friday. Residents with other pickup days may have to wait until next week, or take them directly to Covanta or to local farms accepting them. Hungry goats at Hokaneh Farm in Housatonic and Mountain Girl Farm in North Adams would also love to have them.

What's up in Pittsfield? Tell me via email at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, or by phone at 413-496-6296. Follow me on Twitter @amandadrane.

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“Gateway City challenges: Pittsfield mayor asks lawmakers for help aiding neighborhoods”
By Larry Parnass, The Berkshire Eagle, January 14, 2019

Pittsfield — Next month, Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer expects to roll out a new approach to revitalizing her city's struggling neighborhoods. But in Boston last week, the mayor was playing the long game.

In remarks at the Statehouse, Tyer urged lawmakers who represent fellow "Gateway" cities to shape tools that can help blighted neighborhoods undermined by economic declines and population losses.

Tyer joined with the nonpartisan MassInc research group to highlight recommendations in a new report, "Building Communities of Promise and Possibility."

The study depicts a worsening picture for housing in the state's 11 Gateway Cities — a designation given a decade ago to mid-sized communities that face "stubborn social and economic challenges." Without new investments, the report says, neighborhoods risk further decay in their housing that can bring further declines.

While Boston's prospects continue to rise, spurring job growth and improved housing stocks, municipal leaders in places like Pittsfield, Holyoke and Fall River are fighting to prevent neighborhood declines.

"We are all struggling with the exact same problem," Tyer said Monday, "trying to find a variety of ways to help us stabilize our neighborhoods, so we don't see further declines."

At a breakfast meeting Wednesday, Tyer highlighted recommendations from the MassInc report that seek to give local leaders new tools to combat blight.

One is to establish a commission that would look at less costly ways to bring old structures up to code. Another is to redefine a state law — Chapter 121A — to enable municipalities to overcome legal and other hurdles that get in the way of fixing distressed properties.

The overall goal is to save failing neighborhoods — in a region where winters can quickly destroy unheated, vacant wood-frame houses. And do that before it's too late.

"I said to the legislators, `We need your help. We're counting on you to help us to design new methods,'" Tyer said.

Ben Forman, MassInc's research director, credits Tyer with helping early on to identify the issues that went on to be explored in the report released last week. Tyer and Deanna L. Ruffer, Pittsfield's director of community development, served on the study's working group.

"Pittsfield has played a really big role in this," Forman said.

Among other things, the study found a growing economic divide in the state. While Boston prospers, vacancy rates are rising in many Gateway Cities.

Pittsfield is one of several communities where more than one in 10 housing units are empty. The city's vacancy rate rose from 8 percent in 2000 to 11 percent in 2017. At the same time, the median price per square foot for housing fell 10 percent in Pittsfield between 2006 and 2018.

Meantime, the number of state residents living in Census tracts where poverty rates top 40 percent has doubled since 2000, the report says. In Pittsfield, that describes life for 3,423 people as of 2017.

At the same time, local leaders who seek to revitalize neighborhoods have lost more than $100 million a year in federal Community Development Block Grants. That setback comes on top of the state's tax-limiting law and declines in non-school state aid. According to the study, Gateway Cities are left to patch budgets together with scant money available to invest in neighborhood renewal.

The report, co-produced with the Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporations, identifies steps that can be taken to stabilize areas and head off the emergence of "zombie" houses that fall into ruin and drag down neighborhoods.

"If we don't improve them, the market gets weaker," Forman said. "The mayors are right to try to preserve that housing stock as much as they can."

Forman said he believes Pittsfield is on a path to improvements. "I think the city's really working hard on that and I think we'll get there," he said.

But for representatives and leaders of Gateway Cities as a whole, it will take a concerted push to secure new tools, he predicts. "The whole thing is a political problem and [involves] drawing needs to outside of Boston."

Larry Parnass can be reached at lparnass@berkshireeagle.com, at @larryparnass on Twitter and 413-496-6214.

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Letter: “Feeling unsafe in a dangerous city”
The Berkshire Eagle, January 18, 2019

To the editor:

In the summer of 2011 I made a very foolish decision to go walking on North Street at about 10 at night. As I was walking near the bus station on Columbus Ave. I was jumped by five or six teenagers .I was thrown to the ground as these cowards punched me in the head and kicked me in my rib section. I went to the hospital to find out that two of my ribs had been broken. For close to three weeks I was in tremendous pain and had trouble sleeping because of my injuries.

I am bringing up this story now because it is 7 1/2 years later and the crime problem in the city of Pittsfield has gotten even worse. I live a few streets away from North Street and it is less than a 10-minute walk to Morningside Elementary School. As readers of this newspaper are aware, this a dangerous place to live. There are a large number of drug addicts who live in my neighborhood. I do not really care if someone one wants to throw their life away on heroin or other opioids as long as I am not in peril of being robbed because some random drug abuser decides he needs to rob me of my money to get his next high.

Now, to be safe, I no longer carry cash in with me ever and I carry pepper spray in case someone tries to jump me again. I also avoid walking the streets after dark because I try to avoid making the same mistake twice. In my opinion there are many neighborhoods in this town where it is unsafe to be walking the streets, which is a huge problem for me because I can no longer drive a car due to my many anxiety disorders.

I do not see the poor and dangerous areas of Pittsfield changing anytime soon. Since I am living on Social Security I cannot afford to move a safer area of this city or move to another area in Berkshire County. Obviously no one wants to struggle with money but everyone should have the right to have a real sense of being safe and secure in their neighborhood.

Bram Hurvitz, Pittsfield

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“One man killed in Pittsfield shooting”
By The Berkshire Eagle, January 20, 2019

Pittsfield — One man was killed early this morning in a shooting on Edward Avenue.

The man's name was not released, pending notification of family.

According to a news release from the Pittsfield Police Department, at around 2:13 a.m. authorities received a report of a possible gunshot victim outside a location on Edward Avenue. Police found a man who appeared to have suffered at least one gunshot wound. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

"At this time the Pittsfield Police Department does not believe that there is a threat to the general public," the release said.

Anyone who has information about the shooting is asked to call the Pittsfield Police Department Detective Bureau at 413-448-9705. Information can also be provided anonymously via the Drug Tips hotline at 413-448-9708, or by texting PITTIP and your message to TIP411 (847411).

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“Victim rushed to hospital after Pittsfield stabbing”
By Bob Dunn, The Berkshire Eagle, January 21, 2019

Pittsfield — A person was rushed to Berkshire Medical Center on Monday with apparent stab wounds, according to police.

The victim was found on Madison Avenue just west of North Street about 10:45 a.m. It was unclear how serious their injuries were.

The area was cordoned off with police tape, and the state police Crime Scene Services unit was en route.

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“Woman charged with stabbing man multiple times in chest”
By Bob Dunn, The Berkshire Eagle, January 21, 2019

Pittsfield — A woman is facing assault charges after she allegedly stabbed a man in the chest Monday morning, just steps from North Street, according to Pittsfield police.

The incident came barely a day after two shooting incidents, including the city's first homicide of the year.

About 10:40 a.m. Monday, police found a 34-year-old male on Madison Avenue with multiple stab wounds, according to a news release. A knife also was found and seized as evidence.

The victim, whose name has not been released, was taken to Berkshire Medical Center, where he was listed in stable condition.

The woman who was with him, Nakesha Peltier-Tarrance, 27, was arrested after a brief investigation. Police said there was no risk to public safety.

Peltier-Tarrance is being held on $10,000 bail, and likely will be arraigned Tuesday. She is facing one count of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon.

Fatal shooting

Authorities continue to investigate the fatal shooting of a man about 2:13 a.m. Sunday at a home on Edward Avenue.

City police issued a statement Sunday stating the department does not believe the shooting represents a threat to the general public.

Identification of the victim was being withheld pending notification of his family. Police referred questions regarding the shooting to the Berkshire District Attorney's Office.

Attempts to solicit more information from the DA's Office were unsuccessful.

Police also responded to reports that a house on Maple Street was hit by gunfire shortly before midnight Sunday. Multiple rounds were fired, but no injuries were reported.

Sunday's slaying appears to the the first in the county in 2019, and follows two recent homicides toward the end of 2018: the shooting death of David Green in early November and the stabbing death of William Catalano in mid-October.

Three men — Jason Sefton, Bruce Romano and Anthony Boone — have been charged in Catalano's death; all are being held without bail.

Lance Burke, of The Bronx, N.Y., has been charged with Green's death. He, too, is being held without bail.

In her recent State of the City address, Mayor Linda Tyer said the city is working to address the issue of violence, citing a community police center in progress on Columbus Avenue.

Carolyn Valli, executive director of Central Berkshire Habitat for Humanity, whose space on Columbus Avenue will be used by Pittsfield Police Department for the center, said her team is still actively recruiting volunteers to help staff the police hub.

She said Monday that she asks volunteers signing up to attend next week's meeting of the West Side Neighborhood Initiative in order to coordinate training times for incoming volunteers.

Before the center can open, Valli said, "we have to have all the volunteers in place."

Sunday's fatal shooting occurred near Elm Street in the city's east side, and the stabbing Monday was downtown.

Anyone with information in the open matters is asked to contact Pittsfield Police's Detective Bureau at 413-448-9705. Information can also be provided via the department's tip hotline at 413-448-9708.

Staff writer Amanda Drane contributed to this report.

Bob Dunn can be reached at bdunn@berkshireeagle.com, at @BobDunn413 on Twitter and 413-496-6249.

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Look Ahead, Pittsfield: “The state of the city's finances in spotlight”
By Amanda Drane , The Berkshire Eagle, January 27, 2019

Has the city brought in new tax dollars over the past year? Has Pittsfield hit any financial snags or windfalls that could shift upcoming budgets?

We're already seven months into the fiscal year, which means budget season is just around the corner. City leaders will take the temperature of the city's financial condition this week with a meeting that sets the tone surrounding impending spending plans.

During the meeting 7 p.m. Wednesday in Council Chambers, Finance Director Matt Kerwood will present the city's financial outlook to members of the City Council and School Committee. A representative from Scanlon & Associates, the city's auditor, will also give a brief progress report regarding. Last year, Tom Scanlon urged leaders to build up reserves and beef up the city's tax levy capacity.

On Monday, members of the Berkshire legislative delegation will present their legislative agenda for the coming months and hear feedback from residents. The event, presented by Indivisible Pittsfield and the Central Berkshire League of Women Voters, happens at 5:30 p.m. in the auditorium of the Berkshire Athenaeum. State Sen. Adam Hinds and state Reps. Smitty Pignatelli and Tricia Farley-Bouvier are scheduled to present.

Officials will also mark a new construction milestone at the Berkshire Innovation Center on Tuesday, at which time we can expect a more detailed progress update on the $13.8 million project currently slated for autumn completion.

City meetings and meetups

A push to put a police hub in the city's West Side will take another step forward during a meeting of the West Side Neighborhood Initiative, 5:30 p.m. Monday at Conte Community School. The group hopes to set up a training schedule for volunteers who signed up to staff the new Columbus Avenue center.

There could be more going on at a few local establishments after a License Commission meeting this week, 3:30 p.m. Monday in Council Chambers.

Ken's Bowl and the newly opened Chili's Grill and Bar will ask the License Commission for entertainment licenses, while the newly sold Beacon Theatre will ask for both an entertainment license and an all-alcohol license. During the meeting, the commission will also ask for updates about liquor licenses held by Crowne Plaza and Home Plate.

The city's Conservation Commission will consider this week whether a solar farm is eligible to apply for approval at 1115 Churchill St., located within a wetland buffer zone. The proposed location is not far from a now-defunct solar proposal at Pontoosuc Lake Country Club, which caused a neighborhood uproar — an issue that underscored the need for more systematic regulations for solar projects. An ordinance to that effect is now making its way through city boards.

That conservation hearing happens 6 p.m. Thursday in Council Chambers.

On Tuesday, 1Berkshire will host an entrepreneurial meetup at Otto's from 8 to 10 a.m.

Get out this weekend

Local photographers will be in the limelight this week during First Fridays Artswalk, from 5 to 8 p.m. The Lichtenstein Center for the Arts will feature 10 area photographers in the "The Ten Spot Photography Show."

The 28th annual Pittsfield Rotary Auction kicks off 5 p.m. Saturday with a cocktail preview hour at the Crowne Plaza. The theme is Margaritaville and tickets cost $10.

There's a restorative yoga with CBD workshop Saturday at Radiance Yoga, happening 3 p.m. at the North Street studio. (CBD is a nonpsychoactive cannabis compound with medicinal benefits.) Attendees will be invited to use CBD oils and salves during restorative poses.

Tickets cost $30 for those who register online, which is advised since the hosts say it will likely sell out.

Want to know whose paws left those prints? There's an animal tracking workshop 9 a.m. Saturday at Canoe Meadows on Holmes Road. Call 413-637-0320 to reserve a spot, which costs between $6 and $10.

What's up in Pittsfield? Tell me via email at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, or by phone at 413-496-6296. Follow me on Twitter @amandadrane.

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“Pittsfield city coffers are on the up and up”
By Amanda Drane, The Berkshire Eagle, January 30, 2019

Pittsfield — Things are looking up for the city of Pittsfield.

State aid is up by nearly $4 million heading into the budget season for fiscal year 2020, and the city's overall property valuation is up by about 3 percent.

And the books never have looked better, said Thomas Scanlon, the city's certified public accountant, during a joint meeting of the City Council and School Committee on Wednesday. The joint meeting happens annually and offers a look at what the city has to work with heading into budget season.

When Mayor Linda Tyer took office in 2016, she said after the meeting, she inherited quite a financial predicament. Now "we have been able to stabilize the situation," she said.

"It really is a hallmark of some really hard work," she said. And, "it's gotta continue."

Adding wind to the city's sails is a $3.7 million increase in Chapter 70 funding, the state's mechanism for doling out school funding. The state also is kicking in an additional $241,035 in unrestricted aid, Finance Director Matt Kerwood told city leaders.

Councilor At Large Melissa Mazzeo wondered if this influx was "a one-time shot in the arm," but Kerwood said he didn't think so.

"My reading of the tea leaves would indicate there will be some action on Chapter 70," referencing legislative momentum around revisiting the state's school funding formula.

Pittsfield Public Schools Superintendent Jason McCandless said the current formula hasn't kept up with increased costs associated with educating students receiving special education services and those coming from economically disadvantaged households, as well as soaring health care costs. He said he believed that the city is seeing increases in state aid for its schools because Pittsfield has more of a load to bear in those areas.

School Committee Chairwoman Kathy Yon said Gov. Charlie Baker is responding to the heat he's feeling from school leaders and advocates, and that's something he should continue to feel.

"Keep the pressure on, and keep the voices loud," she said.

All told, Kerwood said, revenues are up $6.4 million over last year's numbers. But the expense side remains unclear.

The city's total valuation, a cumulative sum of the city's total property value, rose to $3.58 billion over the past year, reflecting an increase of about 3 percent.

"That's pretty significant," Paula King, the city's assessor, told officials.

Scanlon pointed to increases in property tax revenue as a positive sign, as well as a tax levy capacity on the rebound — the city's ability to tax increased by $3.2 million over the past fiscal year, to a maximum of $91.3 million that the city can raise through taxation in fiscal year 2020.

Still, Kerwood said the city is among a handful of others statewide that are at the levy ceiling, and now comes the time when city departments put together their budget requests. Departmental budgets are due Feb. 15.

One question looming, Kerwood noted, is what to do with some of the city's aging buildings.

"We have a multitude of buildings, and many of them are tired," he said.

Tyer said after the meeting that she's proud of progress to date on the state of the city's finances, but there's more work to do.

"It's not as dire as it once was " she said. "But it requires us to stay alert."

Amanda Drane can be contacted at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.

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Letter: “Independent opinion needed on plant”
The Berkshire Eagle, February 1, 2019

To the editor:

In the 1980s, Pittsfield was prepared to build a water treatment plant proposed by then DPW Commissioner Gerald Doyle Sr. and city consultants Metcalf & Eddy for $150 million. I tried to get them to at least give the sandfloat technology of myself and my partners Dr. Miles Krofta and Dr. Lawrence W. Wang a look, as we calculated that we could building the water facility for $16 million. They wouldn't give us the time of day.

Fortunately, we had just finished building the world's first sandfloat facility on Lenox Mountain, which Dr. Krofta paid for. I brought Pittsfield Mayor Charles Smith to the Lenox plant, to Krofta Engineering world headquarters in Lenox and to the Lenox Institute of Research. We convinced him we could build the plant for $16 million. The dilemma he found himself facing was who should he believe — we at Krofta or Doyle and the consultants.

We decided to hire an independent scientific and engineering review consultant, CEM Reviewers, to give the mayor his answer. The consultants chose Krofta and the rest is history.

Krofta built the facility for $32 million, double our proposed cost, because regulatory authorities forced us to build in 100 percent backup capabilities. Regardless, we saved the city $118 million in capital investment costs and another $50 million in reduced water and sewer rates over the past 36 years.

Let's fast forward to today. The AECOM consulting firm proposes mitigating the phosphorus problem at the city's sewer plant for $74 million. I say it can be solved for between $18 and $21 million. Please review my Jan. 23 news program on PCTV, Channel 1301. I am going to rerun this show many times so everyone in the city who is concerned about their water and sewer rates will be knowledgeable and have the information they need before going into the voting vooth to vote out city officials in the November election this year.

At the Jan. 22 City Council meeting, I proposed that the city hire an independent scientific and engineering review consulting firm to compare my $18 million to $21 million cost to mitigate our phosphorus problem to the consultant's $74 million plan. My fellow taxpayers: the difference between our proposals is $53 million, that you are going to pay. What do you think we should do? Tell the mayor and your city councilors.

Craig C. Gaetani, Pittsfield

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Look Ahead, Pittsfield: “City Council to vet bag ban, pot taxes toward roads”
By Amanda Drane, The Berkshire Eagle, February 3, 2019

A plastic bag ban batted around by city councilors over the last year could see a resolution this week during a meeting of the Ordinances and Rules Committee.

Councilors have debated whether to make exceptions for certain types of single-use plastic bags, like those used for meats and newspapers, and whether to allow the use of biodegradable bags.

Environmental advocates say single-use plastic bags live on for decades, befouling natural resources, while business managers worry about the costs associated with the switch. The city's Green Commission originally filed the drafted ordinance in 2013.

The committee could take a preliminary vote during its meeting, 7 p.m. Monday in Council Chambers. The ban would then go to the full council for consideration.

The committee will also consider bumping up city salaries to account for cost of living increases. Personnel Director Michael Taylor has made it a mission to periodically increase city salaries as a means to stay competitive with other government jobs across the commonwealth, but that initiative has met resistance from councilors who point to private sector positions that also haven't kept up with cost of living increases.

What about setting aside half of incoming marijuana taxes for deteriorating roads? The City Council's Finance Committee will start hashing out that proposal during its meeting 7 p.m. Thursday in Council Chambers.

Other city committees

The Airport Commission, which meets 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Pittsfield Municipal Airport, has been working on several agreements that could increase revenues. Those discussions include a solar deal that had been projected to net $13 million for city coffers over the next 30 years, but the project hit a snag over placement of the solar panels. A revised proposal from the developer could land in the commission's lap this week, and with it hope of saving the arrangement.

The city's newly formed Homeless Prevention Committee meets 10 a.m. Monday amid a challenging time for the area's homeless advocates. The county's largest homeless shelter, Barton's Crossing, needs a new building. And frigid temperatures are putting additional pressure on the community to bring homeless people in from the cold — a homeless couple died in their Greenfield tent last month on a night when temperatures dropped into the single digits.

And the Human Rights Commission might get a little existential this week with a discussion about its mission and functions. The commission meets 6 p.m. Thursday in Council Chambers.

Heads up

Newly elected Berkshire District Attorney Andrea Harrington will discuss priorities for her first year during the Berkshire County branch of the NAACP's monthly meeting, 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Berkshire Athenaeum. Mayor Linda Tyer plans to help the Pittsfield VFW Post 448 award scholarships to area high schoolers this week, 6:45 p.m. Wednesday at the American Legion on Wendell Avenue. This year, VFW leaders asked applicants to submit essays about why their votes matter.

On Thursday, Berkshire bakeries will compete in the fifth annual Cupcake Wars, a fundraiser for the local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. That event kicks off at 5:30 p.m. at the Berkshire Hills Country Club. There are two community outreach meetings scheduled this week for proposed marijuana facilities, including one brought forward by Heka Inc. for a retail shop at 745 East St., the former Tailored Events space. The other is a cultivation facility proposed for 34 Laurel St. Both meetings will be held 6 p.m. Tuesday, with the East Street shop aired in the Berkshire Athenaeum and the other at the Laurel Street site.

Flavours will ring in the Chinese New Year with a buffet celebration on Wednesday. Tickets are $35 per person, and diners will get their pick of appetizers, entrees and desserts. Call 443-3188 to reserve a seat during one of the evening's two seatings, at 5:30 and 7:30 p.m.

What's up in Pittsfield? Tell me via email at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, or by phone at 413-496--6296. Follow me on Twitter @amandadrane.

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Dave Pill: “Pittsfield must become envy of neighboring towns”
By Dave Pill, op-ed, The Berkshire Eagle, February 5, 2019

Pittsfield — I recently watched Mayor Tyer's State of the City address on PCTV. Full of accomplishments and platitudes, it seems like a kick off to a potential run for re-election.

One statement that caught my attention was that Pittsfield is "the envy of the other Gateway Cities" because we have an independent, downtown movie theater. That was a nod to the recent controversy about the GE fund monies that were restructured. The only folks who didn't agree with that move are those who didn't understand that the transaction was going to happen anyway, and by approving the restructuring, the city bought some time to influence something that has helped other downtown businesses by driving traffic after the time when downtown used to roll up the carpet for the night. Basically, it was a ginned up controversy by a few folks who have made it their job to say no to everything because they dislike the mayor or are sore that their candidate lost. They then convinced others that the money was recoverable when in fact it wasn't. I think Phoenix will operate the theater well, and hope they succeed. Money spent 10 years ago did its job and now we should move on.

The part of that statement that makes me nervous, however, is that I do not care if we are the envy of Holyoke, Fitchburg, Lynn, or even Barnstable. Those cities, along with 20+ others including Pittsfield, are unfortunately cities that have seen their best days, in part because the lion's share of the state's investments and actions to attract good jobs and a strong economy are devoted to Boston, which is home to just 10 percent of the state's population. In allowing this decline, I have watched crime creep into neighborhoods which have been immune because Pittsfield is not attracting the best new residents. We are attracting those who have no other alternatives — and if they are troubled, their trouble comes with them.

Rather than be the envy of Holyoke or Springfield because we have one driver that makes a downtown a more vibrant place (something that is necessary), I would prefer that we are the envy of Lanesborough, Lenox, Richmond or Dalton — the communities where many folks choose to live rather than Pittsfield — despite Pittsfield having some great neighborhoods, and is often the place where residents of those communities work. I work in Lenox and I meet folks who wouldn't live in Pittsfield for any reason — and in fact, tolerate being bounced out of their rented homes each year so that the owner can rent to the Tanglewood trade. In other words, they would rather live in their cars or bunk up with several friends in Lenox before moving to a nicer (and less expensive) place in Pittsfield. And there are those who move from nice homes in Pittsfield to either Lenox or Richmond so that they can enroll their kids in their schools at a large financial burden.

Despite the cheerleading I watch at School Committee meetings, I have met many folks who won't enroll their kids in the city's schools and have a litany of reasons why the schools here won't meet their kids' needs. Oddly enough when I query where they hear the bad stories they always cite friends and families who teach in the city's schools. In other words, if we think the schools are a war zone, it only takes employees of the district to confirm it for these folks.

I would have much preferred a plan to make Pittsfield a safer city, where we don't attract all the folks who grow up in Dalton or Lanseborough or elsewhere nearby and become the folks robbing, killing, beating, and doing other bad things on our streets and neighborhood, Rather, we attract those new General Dynamics or BMC employees who now decide they will only take the job here if they can live affordably outside the city. Once we are an acceptable choice for people to live here rather than just work and shop here, this city will be the envy of not only other Gateway City mayors but our own residents who at the moment, are wondering how in four short years we went from bad to worse and what is the leadership doing to reverse the tide.

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Letter: “Discarded pot containers adding to city mess”
The Berkshire Eagle, February 16, 2019

To the editor:

The most troublesome aspect of the new recreational marijuana dispensaries are the sterile, hospital-like, locked-down environments the marijuana is purchased in and the plastic chem-lab manufactured throw away containers the dried herb is being taken out of the store in.

The mini-plastic chem-lab marijuana containers now join the millions of mini-plastic, chem-lab liquor bottles littered along the grass beside the roadways all around town. Drivers, not able to delay consuming their tonics to dispose of trash which if discovered in use in their vehiclescould lead to legal problems, toss out of car windows the bottles and containers, making most sidewalks and roadways in the city a sad, disturbing, frustrating sight.

If Big Brother exists I suggest he follow the heat trail from every bottle, every container, every piece of trash on the side of the road to the hand that threw it out a car window to a street address where a plea for change can be mailed.

Katherine Gundelfinger, Pittsfield

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Look Ahead, Pittsfield: “PCB contamination, parking problems and fireworks on display”
By Amanda Drane, The Berkshire Eagle, February 17, 2019

This week kicks off with a Monday holiday and winds down with a bang.

In other words, Presidents Day on Monday means a day off from work (for many) and also free downtown parking. And on Saturday, there's going to be 10 minutes of fireworks starting 6 p.m. at The Common.

On the City Hall side of things, here are some things to look out for.

The City Council's Committee on Public Health and Safety is scheduled to review air and groundwater samplings from the area surrounding Building 71 and Hill 78, two landfills near Allendale Elementary School that contain PCB-contaminated soils from the General Electric Co. Elevated groundwater samples stirred council fears in September, but officials with the Environmental Protection Agency have said the contamination is not close enough to occupied buildings to pose a threat.

That meeting is set for 7 p.m. Tuesday in Council Chambers.

A new restaurant on Pontoosuc Lake, The Proprietor's Lodge, will ask the Community Development Board this week to approve a parking waiver allowing for continued development of the site. The ownership plans to add a lakeside wedding platform.

Neighbors are already unhappy about new traffic in the area, and so the city considers the parking waiver against that backdrop. The meeting is set for 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Ralph J. Froio Senior Center.

The board also will consider new regulations that would prevent large-scale solar developments from moving into residential neighborhoods. City Hall proposed the new ordinance to ward off the kind of controversy that surrounded a now-defunct solar development proposed for Pontoosuc Lake Country Club.

The Conservation Commission will be asked this week to approve a drawdown along the West Branch of the Housatonic River to buoy progress on the Mill Street Dam. The aging piece of infrastructure, also known as the Tel-Electric Dam, is slated for removal this summer.

On the marijuana front

A marijuana retailer will seek a special permit this week from the Zoning Board of Appeals. The retailer, operating under the corporate name Pittsfield Investment Group, is looking to open for recreational marijuana sales at 531 Dalton Ave.

If approved, the shop would be the ninth cannabis store to get a green light from the city. The city's first shop opened last month, and another is scheduled to open doors to the adult public within the next few weeks.

Heads up

We can expect Mayor Linda Tyer to make an announcement this week about a new program she's launching to support homeowners looking to perk up slouching residences.

Speaking of sprucing — have ideas for how to make Tyler Street Lab more inviting and functional as a community space? The lab is accepting creative submissions this week.

The 10x10 Upstreet Arts Festival continues this week, as well, bringing art and performances to venues around the city, including the Saturday fireworks display. For a full schedule of events, visit discoverpittsfield.com.

A new group called Pittsfield Prospers is launching this week, 4 p.m. Wednesday at The Proprietor's Lodge. The aim of the organization is to promote positive messaging about our city in the woods.

What's up in Pittsfield? Ping me via email at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, or by phone at 413-496-6296. Catch me on Twitter @amandadrane.

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To: Contact@PittsfieldProspers.com
From: jonathan_a_melle@yahoo.com
Date: February 18, 2019 11:00 P.M.
Re: Please add me to your email list

Message: Good luck in making Pittsfield a nicer community!

Notes: The official launch of "Pittsfield Prospers" is scheduled for 4 p.m. Wednesday [February 20th] at the Proprietor’s Lodge on the banks of Pontoosuc Lake.

www.pittsfieldprospers.com

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Letter: “Pittsfield must do more to help low-income residents”
The Berkshire Eagle, February 23, 2019

To the editor:

As an almost decade-long resident of Pittsfield who grew up in Williamstown, I have noticed an abundance of people who are of noticeably low income walking the streets in Pittsfield in addition to those obviously of a higher socioeconomic status. The question is, how does the city of Pittsfield serve its more low-income constituents and help them get their heads above financial waters?

I feel that the prototypical, oft-promised American Dream of financial wealth and prosperity should be available to anyone, and I feel that perhaps the Pittsfield government should attend to these citizens more often by perhaps, say, mandating that they see one of the job placement specialists at the Brien Center for Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services so that they can raise their income level in a way that supports their growth as Americans and as human beings.

A salary of at least $24,000 a year should be available to anyone, no matter what their educational level or mental health experiences. Then, perhaps the gap between the rich and the poor will recede in this diverse, small city and a more stable middle class will emerge.

Jennifer Gorson, Pittsfield

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Letter: “Bring BCC downtown”
The Berkshire Eagle, March 13, 2019

To the editor:

There are more than 2,000 students and staff that frequent Berkshire Community College's West Street campus in Pittsfield. Imagine what downtown Pittsfield would look like with 2,000 more people on the street? Think about what it would it mean for our local businesses, for our downtown neighborhoods, and for the students and staff who have to travel outside their community to get to a community college. Bringing BCC (back) downtown is the best community development plan our city can implement.

A downtown BCC is accessible: There is only one infrequent bus route to BCC's West Street campus and it doesn't run the length of the school's class schedule. With 96 percent of their students coming from within the county, a central BCC, within walking distance of the intermodal center, and thousands of affordable housing instantly becomes accessible. Access to a car should not be a requirement for access to education.

A downtown BCC is good for business: Downtown businesses are the lifeblood of our city, not because they are nostalgic or hip, but because they inarguably provide the most revenue back to our city. The Greystone building (Dottie's coffee shop), provides 14 times the tax revenue per acre as the Allendale shopping plaza. Additionally, the majority of our downtown real estate and businesses are locally owned (not so for Berkshire Crossing). Two thousand people eating lunch, shopping and working downtown is a huge economic win for the city.

A downtown BCC is good for the neighborhood: It's an outrage that the two neighborhoods abutting our downtown, Morningside and the West Side, were neglected by the city and state for decades. Mayor Tyer's administration, to her credit, has led a push to change this. Bringing BCC downtown would be a giant leap in the right direction for neighborhood improvement. By clustering jobs and education in our central business district, we can continue to breathe new life into our oldest neighborhoods.

Mike Bloomberg, Pittsfield

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“Financial woes could sink Pittsfield's Fourth of July Parade”
By Amanda Drane, The Berkshire Eagle, March 15, 2019

Pittsfield — The city's Fourth of July Parade has marched along North Street for nearly two centuries. Rain or shine.

But volunteers say that without a groundswell of community support this year, the beloved celebration could wind to a close.

"There's a very good chance this is the very last Fourth of July Parade," Parade Committee President Peter Marchetti said of this year's event.

Tens of thousands from the Berkshires and beyond flock each year to the parade, which has long been hailed as one of the largest in the region. The parade has been running since 1824, Marchetti said.

This year's parade is estimated to cost $70,000, and the parade committee has only $12,399 in the bank, according to documents provided by committee members.

The parade started losing money in 2010, but the biggest blow came in 2015, when the committee lost more than $15,000 — fundraising brought in $60,223 and costs came to $75,624. Expenses also surpassed fundraising by more than $10,000 each year over the past two years.

Organizers say that if the community stands behind the parade, then they're happy to help keep it going, but they are also at peace with letting it become a thing of the past, if need be.

"Sometimes things change," said Sue Rock, secretary for the Parade Committee. "And sometimes things can't be fixed."

The committee has launched its fundraising campaign for this year, with the goal of raising $85,000 — that would pay for this year's event and put about $15,000 back into parade reserves. This year's parade theme will be "The Berkshires — Past, Present and Future."

In order to secure the parade's future, Marchetti said, "we need to have a really good year financially."

The parade is known for its giant balloons and marching bands. Scores of city residents past and present revisit the same viewing spots each year.

Meeting the same level of expectation has been a challenge as costs incrementally rose, organizers say. Helium costs went up 80 percent. As have postage costs, insurance, the musical acts and the travel expenses to bring them here.

"It's a huge operation we'd like to keep it going," said Parade Committee Vice President Jeff Hunt. "It's just getting a little concerning."

The weather also has been a factor, they said, as they've sometimes paid as much as $7,000 for musicians to perform, only to have their act canceled because of rain.

Organizers are calling all parade lovers in hopes that they'll donate or volunteer.

"I think we've been crying out for help every year," Marchetti said. "We don't want it to die. We need your help."

Amanda Drane can be contacted at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.

How to help

Anyone wishing to donate to the parade can send a check payable to "The Pittsfield Parade Committee Inc." to P.O. Box 1738, Pittsfield MA 01202.

For information or to volunteer, call 413-447-7763, or email pittsfieldparade@aol.com or info@pittsfieldparade.com.

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Look Ahead, Pittsfield: “Spring, budgets and election announcements”
By Amanda Drane, The Berkshire Eagle, March 17, 2019

Spring arrives this week, bringing with it budget season and a sneak peek at the city's upcoming election season.

Pittsfield's departmental budget process kicked off with a bang last week when school Superintendent Jason McCandless announced his aim to beef up the educational ranks to the tune of $3.45 million, an increase that mirrors a new wave in state support. This week, the city's department heads will gather internally for the annual budget summit as Mayor Linda Tyer works to develop her spending plan for fiscal year 2020.

And which city councilors are running for reelection, and which aren't? Election energy got percolating last week when Ward 7 City Councilor Tony Simonelli announced he wouldn't seek another term in the November election. We might find out more this week about how the campaign field could end up looking.

Tyer's housing rehab loan program wasn't exactly a hit last week with the City Council, and so this week she continues her work reshaping it in a way that passes muster in Council chambers.

On the green front

Members of the Green Commission think the city's climate action plan has grown a tad out of date, and this week they'll discuss what role the body can play in sprucing it up.

There's also a climate cafe meeting at J. Allen's at 5:15 p.m. Tuesday, during which climate-minded folks will gather and talk green over drinks.

In news about another kind of green, two more marijuana retailers are looking to set up shop on Dalton Avenue, and the Zoning Board of Appeals is scheduled to make the final municipal call on Wednesday. If approved, they would bring the city's pot shop count to 10.

While it's not feeling warm yet, it's coming. That's why the city's Parks Commission is reviewing warm-weather happenings this week, including new lightscape designs for Park Square, reflecting a collaboration between Berkshire Lightscapes and City Hall.

The commission also plans to review canoe access at Wahconah Park and a proposal for adult basketball and flag football at Durant Park.

Heads up

A community space on Tyler Street, Tyler Street Lab, will be ready on Saturday to show off its new look. Several city organizations, including the Morningside Neighborhood Initiative, Youth Alive and the Berkshire NAACP are making use of the newly refurbished space donated by Goodwill Industries.

Have thoughts on things like cycling lanes and sidewalks? The city has some plans drawn up for possible grant funding under the state's Complete Streets program, and wants to hear from you before submitting it. Comments can be sent by Friday via email to City Engineer Ricardo Morales at rmorales@cityofpittsfield.org.

What's up in Pittsfield next week? Talk to me via email at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, or by phone at 413-496-6296. Follow me on Twitter @amandadrane.

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Letter: “Tyer's housing program is sound policy"
The Berkshire Eagle, March 21, 2019

To the editor:

At Greylock Federal Credit Union we seek to promote financial inclusion, and we wish to applaud The Eagle for supporting Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer's housing improvement plan (At Home in Pittsfield), that recently went before the City Council. (Editorial, March 16 "Poor case against mayor's housing plan.")

The project was rejected by the City Council on two points. The first point centered on the source of the funds. It is not our prerogative to decide how to fund municipal projects, but we respectfully disagree with the argument that a housing improvement project cannot qualify as a job creating activity. We believe this project is well supported by economic development best practices.

We are grateful that The Eagle was willing to call out the second point: our community's struggle with marginalization through poverty. If we ignore our community's inequalities, we cannot evolve into a truly prosperous region with the capacity to embrace economic opportunities of the future. From our vantage point, steering resources specifically to the Morningside and West Side neighborhoods is entirely fair, not to mention a responsible use of limited resources.

Sound economic policy would suggest employing our limited resources toward uses with the greatest potential for growth and impact. Improving the quality of Pittsfield's older housing stock and rental units — much of it concentrated in these neighborhoods — is necessary to elevate living standards for residents, and to attract and maintain the workforce that potential employers require to compete in this area.

There is strong logic to steering more investment now to neighborhoods which have received less investment in the past. We support the At Home in Pittsfield program and the sound economic and social policy it demonstrates. The financial professionals at Greylock stand ready to implement the program, and we urge the City Council to reconsider its position.

John L. Bissell, Pittsfield
The writer is president & CEO, Greylock Federal Credit Union.

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Letter: “Fix huge potholes, not house exteriors”
The Berkshire Eagle, March 21, 2019

To the editor:

Dear city of Pittsfield:

Let's take the money you want to give to give homeowners to fix up their houses' exteriors and instead use it to fix the many huge potholes all over our roads. Then please get the streets swept ASAP. I had to pay for my roof and house painting all on my own.

It soon will be bike riding season and I want all the bike riders to be safe while enjoying a beautiful spring road-ride. Spring is here. Is it safe to take that turn?

Holly Brouker, Pittsfield

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“City must address water system parasite”
The Berkshire Eagle, March 22, 2019

To the editor:

I have done my best to convince Mayor Tyer and the Pittsfield City Council that the $74 million sewer update project is so overpriced that those with knowledge of kind of projects find it laughable. I had a counter offer of $46 to $50 million that the mayor and eight councilors never took seriously.

I went before the City Council recently to tell them that the technology the DPW commissioner and the consultants recommend is not a proprietary process and any individual with even minimum scientific and engineering knowledge could do better. I proposed that is could mitigate the phosphorous problem in the city's sewers for between $18 and $21 million. Again, my proposal was ignored even though taxpayers and ratepayers of the city could save more than $50 million.

The city of Milwaukee found a deadly parasite, cryptosporidium, in both their sewage treatment plant and their drinking water filtration plant. This deadly parasite claimed 104 lives and serious sickened more than 4,000 residents. It has no known cure and impacts the young and elderly and those with compromised immune systems. The only known method of destroying it is ozonation technology, which the city build into its municipal plants.

I proposed that the city use ozonation to mitigate the phosphorous problem rather than the balasted floculation system recommended by the DPW head and consultants. This would save $50 million and also provide protection against cryptosporidium, which will soon be a requirement of the EPA. I filed three petitions asking the city to do so. If the mayor and City Council do not do so, they will be personally responsible if any resident dies from this parasite or becomes seriously ill. If they fail to do as asked to protect the health of residents I will have no choice but to sue the city in federal court.

I will be speaking at the City Council meeting of March 26 about protecting your life and health. I suggest that anyone who is concerned about eliminating cryptosporidium from both our water plants to contact the mayor and city councilors and demand that they halt the ballasted floculation process and switch to ozonation technology.

Craig Gaetani, Pittsfield

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Edward M. Reilly was Pittsfield's mayor from 1992 to 1998.

“Edward Reilly, former Pittsfield mayor, dies at 69”
By Tony Dobrowolski, The Berkshire Eagle, March 22, 2019

Pittsfield — Edward M. Reilly, who served three terms as Pittsfield mayor in the 1990s and was known for his love of politics and dedication to the city, has died at age 69, city officials confirmed Friday.

The cause of death was not immediately clear.

Reilly, the city's 33rd mayor, occupied the corner office from 1992 to 1998. A lawyer, he also served as a city solicitor. Reilly was appointed to that position by then-Mayor Charles M. Smith in 1983, the year after he graduated from the Western New England College School of Law.

During his last term as mayor, Reilly decided to run for state Senate but later dropped out of the race, citing his mother's illness and his own back problems. He ran for mayor again as one of 10 candidates in 2001, but was defeated in the preliminary election.

After leaving politics, Reilly served as town counsel for several Berkshire municipalities as a member of the Boston-based municipal law firm Kopelman & Paige.

"Certainly on behalf of myself and the city of Pittsfield, I extend to Mayor Reilly's family our sincere condolences," said Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer. "While I didn't know him well, I respect and admire all the mayors who came before me."

Pittsfield attorney P. Keyburn Hollister served as city solicitor before Reilly was appointed to the position. Reilly interned under Hollister in the city solicitor's office during his final year in law school.

"He loved politics," Hollister said.

She remembered Reilly as a friendly, outgoing person.

"He was dedicated to the city," Hollister said.

Reilly, a Pittsfield native, was the son of Dorothy Dow Reilly and William Reilly, who ran a variety store at North and Wahconah streets for 33 years before his father died in 1968. Reilly's father had seven brothers, four of them priests.

Reilly graduated from the former St. Joseph's Central High School, where he was a member of the debate team. He received an associates degree with honors from Berkshire Community College in 1970 and then graduated from the University of Massachusetts two years later with a bachelor's degree in history.

Lacking the money to go directly to law school, he originally enrolled in graduate school at UMass to study sociology, but dropped out after one year.

"Sociology wasn't concrete enough for me," Reilly told The Eagle in 1983. "It was too theoretical."

Reilly then managed a package store for eight years before being appointed contract manager for the city of Pittsfield's Community Development Office in September 1982.

In 1978, he began going to law school three nights a week at Western New England in Springfield. Due to that pace, it took him four years of night school and two summers to earn his law degree cum laude.

According to Eagle archives, during his three terms as mayor, Reilly was known as a micromanager who paid close attention to the minute details of city business. A number of projects began under his administration, including the renovation of the Central Block on North Street, which was completed during the first term of his successor, former Mayor Gerald S. Doyle Jr.

Other highlights during his tenure included the purchase of the former England Brothers building on North Street, which now serves as the headquarters of Berkshire Bank's Pittsfield operations, the construction of the plaza outside City Hall and the construction of the Ralph J. Froio Senior Center.

During his administration, Reilly also formed the first Citizens Advisory Committee, established as a means of easing tension between the police and Pittsfield's black community, according to the NAACP's Berkshire branch.

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“Pittsfield reveals $143,000 settlement over woman's botched arrest”
By Bob Dunn, The Berkshire Eagle, March 25, 2019

Pittsfield — The city of Pittsfield has settled — for nearly $143,000 — a civil suit with a woman who claimed she was roughed up during a botched 2015 arrest after officers showed up at the wrong address.

For months, the city claimed that information was exempt from public disclosure. The Secretary of State's Office disagrees.

Correspondence between that office, Pittsfield officials and city resident Igor Greenwald, obtained by The Eagle, detail a five-month process to compel the city to release the information regarding the settlement.

Those documents show the city's insurance policy required the payment of a $7,500 deductible, which appears to be the only direct cost to the city. The rest was paid by the city's insurance carrier.

The settlement stems from the June 25, 2015, arrest of Phyllis Stankiewicz, who was 88 at the time, by two Pittsfield Police officers who had been sent to an incorrect address for a report of a disturbance involving a man with a bat.

The officers were informed of the error, but still took Stankiewicz into custody, injuring her in the process.

Her attorney, David E. Belfort, filed a demand letter with the city seeking up to $225,000 in damages.

"Although the officers did not have probable cause to detain or arrest Mrs. Stankiewicz, they insisted on lingering in the residence and blocked Mrs. Stankiewicz from safely exiting or walking past them," Belfort said in the letter.

"Roughly thirty-five minutes after these officers arrived ... Mrs. Stankiewicz was bruised, bleeding, handcuffed and terrified because she had just been roughed up and arrested at her own home," the letter reads.

News of the settlement came by way of that demand letter, which was included in an unrelated and still-open discrimination suit against the city, and was documented in an August 2018 Berkshire Eagle story. The discrimination suit was filed by Jennifer Brueckmann, one of the officers involved in the Stankiewicz arrest.

Greenwald, the founder of Civil Liberties Pittsfield, made a public records request to the city Sept. 19, 2018, seeking information, including an itemized list of payments made by the city or its insurer related to any claims of misconduct by its police officers.

The request cited a 2015 state Supreme Judicial Court decision that said legal settlements are not exempt from public disclosure solely based on confidentially clauses in those settlements.

By law, public records requests must be responded to in writing within 10 business days.

By December 2018, the city had not yet responded to Greenwald's request, prompting him to appeal to the Secretary of State's Office on Dec. 10.

The city responded two days later, claiming the requested materials were exempt from being publicly disclosed.

On Feb. 13, 2019, Greenwald filed a second appeal with the Secretary of State's Office, which, 12 days later, informed Pittsfield that the requested information was not exempt from being made public.

"The Public Records Law strongly favors disclosure by creating a presumption that all governmental records are public records," reads the letter from Rebecca S. Murray, the supervisor of records for the Secretary of State's Office.

In order to claim an exemption, Murray said, not only must the specific exemption be cited, but it must also be stated why that exemption applies to the information being sought.

On March 7, the city provided Greenwald a copy of the invoice from its insurance carrier, Woburn-based MIIA Property and Casualty Group, detailing the $142,489,50 settlement and the $7,500 deductible charged to the city.

The Eagle reached out to the office of Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer to explain why it did not respond to Greenwald's first public records request.

In response, Pittsfield City Solicitor Stephen N. Pagnotta sent the following statement via email, "The City provided Mr. Greenwald with all public records that were responsive to his requests."

Greenwald, who said he filed the request because civilian oversight of police is "vital to our democracy," pledged continued vigilance on behalf of city residents.

"The city's obstructionism in response to these and other legitimate public records requests highlights the glaring lack of transparency and sincerity from the Tyer administration on the crucial progressive issue of police accountability," he said. "Pittsfield's troubled police department deserves and will receive further scrutiny no matter how much the mayor, the police chief and police union officials dodge and weave."

Bob Dunn can be reached at bdunn@berkshireeagle.com, at @BobDunn413 on Twitter and 413-496-6249.

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Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer announced Thursday her intent to run for a second term at Framework on North Street. Tyer is Pittsfield's first mayor to be elected to a four-year term. Ben Garver - The Berkshire Eagle

“Pittsfield Mayor Tyer, `an optimistic champion,' announces bid for 2nd term”
By Amanda Drane, The Berkshire Eagle, March 28, 2019

Pittsfield — Mayor Linda Tyer rose to power four years ago under a united vision, said her campaign manager, Tom Sakshaug, and "we're not done yet."

Pittsfield's first four-year mayor highlighted strides in economic development, financial planning and the fight against blight as she announced her bid for a second term on Thursday. She did so while standing inside Framework, a chic coworking space on North Street that "wasn't here when I took the oath of office in 2016."

Surrounded by dozens of her supporters, Tyer ticked off her accomplishments.

Under her leadership, she said, the city fought to keep Covanta in the city, saving Pittsfield $462,000 a year in waste management costs. She cited new energy in streetscape work, noting that momentum now extends to Tyler Street.

She said she worked to strengthen the city's relationship with MassDevelopment, through which the state funnels development support. Her team has secured $17 million in outside grant funding since she took office, she said — from agencies and foundations "who believe in our city."

People are investing in Pittsfield, and that "cannot be denied."

"I'm an optimistic champion for our city," she said.

Since she took office, she said her team has resurfaced 41 miles of roads and created 113 private-sector jobs. She helped secure community support for the ShotSpotter system, which alerts the Pittsfield Police Department to shots fired, and rolled out the red-carpet team to welcome new businesses like Wayfair, slated to bring 300 new jobs into the city.

Development projects underway like the Berkshire Innovation Center and the Morningstar complex on Tyler Street stand as examples of incoming assets to which she's lent her support.

"I walk this road with many," she said. "There's so much more that we need to do for our beloved city."

And the average homeowner saw their tax bill go down for the first time since 1993, she said.

To combat blight, she has led the city to demolish a handful of slouching homes each year. And with the aim of helping homeowners avoid the conditions that lead to these demolitions, Tyer is workshopping her At Home in Pittsfield initiative, which would give residents zero-interest loans to spruce up the exterior of their homes.

But the fight against crime continues, she said while answering questions from the media. The underlying issues are complex, she said, citing addiction and mental illness, and "we are working at it."

"We are doing what we can with the resources that we have to try to address this issue," she said.

Tyer said she's gearing up for a busy summer.

"I'm going to work hard, as I always do, and win this election," she said. "One vote at a time."

She's past the learning curve, she told The Eagle after her speech. And now she's rolling up her sleeves.

"I am expecting competition," she said. "We're going to be ready for anything."

Amanda Drane can be contacted at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.

related link: https://www.iberkshires.com/story/59602/Tyer-Announces-Re-election-Bid.html


photo credit: Josh Landes / WAMC

related link: https://www.wamc.org/post/tyer-bullish-pittsfield-s-progress-bid-second-term

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March 30, 2019

The following news article outlines policy prescriptions for post-industrial, struggling, and stagnating cities, including Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Aaron Renn believes economically disadvantaged communities like Pittsfield needs to move away from failed subsidies and towards good governance.

- Jonathan Melle

“How to Bring Back Struggling Cities”
By Aaron Renn, City Lab, March 28, 2019

Post-Industrial Pittsfield is part of the Northeastern Rust Belt

The truly left behind and most forgotten cities are smaller places, many of which are little-known: Danville, Illinois; Johnstown, Pennsylvania; Michigan City, Indiana; Pittsfield, Massachusetts; and Youngstown, Ohio.

These metropolitan areas often have several strikes against them, including population loss, weak job markets, low value economies, a low share of adults with college degrees, and a central municipality that is financially distressed. They also have very few if any high value assets to rebuild their economies around.

Massachusetts included Pittsfield in its list of proposed Amazon HQ2 sites…. But decades of subsidies haven’t worked and won’t work.

Instead, deeply challenged smaller post-industrial cities should do the basics: Local governments must address their often huge unfunded liabilities and get to structurally balanced budgets. They should reform their governance where necessary, especially by eliminating corruption. And, they need to start rebuilding core public services, especially public safety but also parks, etc. Make no mistake, this will require help from federal and state governments, and may involve painful steps like bankruptcy and prosecutions.

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March 30, 2019

Re: Pittsfield used perverse incentives instead of economic equality

My theory about Pittsfield’s depressed local economy centers on the economics theory “Perverse Incentives”. What I mean is the more poverty, crime, social issues, economic inequality, and the like, means more federal and state dollars for the city government, not-for-profits, social services agencies, and the Pittsfield Jail. To be clear, I do not believe Pittsfield wants to have economic equality with a strong middle class. Year after year, Pittsfield is becoming a sister version of North Adams without its Mass MoCA museum.

I grew up in Pittsfield (Mass.), and I lived in the Pittsfield area for over a decade as an adult. I witnessed the losses in population, businesses, and jobs in Pittsfield. I read that Pittsfield is one of the most economically unequal communities in the state and nation. I don’t believe it happened by mere coincidences. Rather, I believe Pittsfield purposefully profits off of all the public funds it receives from the economic misery of the many disadvantaged people who live there.

For decades, state and local politicians pointed out the socioeconomic realities of GE leaving town, but they did not do anything of substance to provide living wage jobs to the common working people. Instead, Pittsfield’s real economic growth was in the underclass. To illustrate, in Pittsfield, teen pregnancies double the statewide average with low quality pre-natal pregnancy healthcare. Moreover, Pittsfield is number one in all of Massachusetts for poor pregnant mothers who smoke cigarettes.

Pittsfield has a high concentration of social services and not-for-profit agencies. Pittsfield (and North Adams) is known as the welfare capital(s) of the Berkshire region. I ask myself why doesn’t Pittsfield change? But I know the real answer to my question, which is Pittsfield wants the public funds instead of living wage jobs.

I have a Master of Public Administration degree. I studied the functions of local government. The key to a prosperous community is to invest in its people by keeping them safe from violent crime, educating them in good public schools, and ensuring economic opportunities for living wage employment. The people are to be treated like gold. The people are the most valuable asset to a community because they live, work, and invest in their government and small businesses. That also means politicians should serve the people instead of their own Good Old Boys club and its vested interests!

I liken public administration to George Bailey in the classic movie “It’s a Wonderful Life”. George Bailey used his building and loans firm to invest in common people and the community. If his suicidal wish to never exist came true, he saw the opposite vision than his good will towards humankind. He realized he wanted to live again, and when he returned home to his loving family, the common people saved his small business.

In conclusion, Pittsfield fell into the wrong hands for many decades. The Good Old Boys club of political hacks invested in themselves and their vested interests instead of the common people. The politicians used perverse incentives to enrich themselves through the economic pain of others. They did nothing for decades to bring living wage jobs to the common people.

- Jonathan Melle

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Christopher Connell Eagle file photo

“Connell running for another term on Pittsfield City Council”
By Dick Lindsay, The Berkshire Eagle, April 8, 2019

Pittsfield — Veteran city councilor Christopher Connell wants to represent Ward 4 for another two years.

Connell has taken out nomination papers in an effort to land on the Nov. 5 ballot and win a fifth term. He joins Ward 3 Councilor Nick Caccamo as the only other City Council incumbent to take out papers.

Ward 6 Councilor John Krol announced two weeks ago he was done after 10 years on the 11-member panel.

Mayor Linda Tyer and City Clerk Michele Benjamin are among the other Pittsfield elected officials again seeking voter approval in November.

Connell says he's most concerned about the affordability of living in Pittsfield.

"I spoke with a veteran real estate agent who said this has been the busiest winter in 25 years. People are moving out. They can't afford the water/sewer rates and property taxes," he said.

All candidates must collect signatures and return their paperwork to the city clerk by 5 p.m. July 19.

Mayoral hopefuls must gather 300 valid signatures of registered voters, councilors at large and School Committee members need 150, and ward seats require 50 signatures.

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April 9, 2019

I am frustrated with Pittsfield politics because the state and local political hacks are the only ones who understand why people are moving away from Pittsfield due to its high municipal taxes, fees, and debts, which was recently noted by City Councilor Chris Connell in the Berkshire Eagle. The political hacks are the ones who created the problems that drove thousands of people to move out of Pittsfield!

What ever happened to "investing in people" instead of shaking them down? A good public servant would see money as a means to an end instead of the end goal. He or she would see the people as the community's most valuable resource because they work, live, and pay the bills to make the community prosperous.

Instead, Pittsfield politics' response to everything is to raise municipal taxes, fees, and debts to unsustainable levels, which forces the people to move away. The only people who stay have no other alternative. They are dependent on welfare, social services, and work low wage, part time jobs. These poor people don't understand the stakes and are part of the growing underclass, who mostly don't vote or care about civic matters.

- Jonathan Melle

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Officials listen as state Rep. Paul Mark speaks during Monday's announcement for the upcoming 2020 U. S. Census at Pittsfield City Hall. Pictured, from left, are Mark Maloy of the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission, state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer, New York Regional Census Center Supervisory Partnership Specialist Georgia Lowe and state Sen. Adam Hinds. Ben Garver - The Berkshire Eagle

State Rep. Paul Mark, chairman of the House Committee on Redistricting, hosts an announcement Monday at Pittsfield City Hall for the upcoming 2020 U.S. census with Georgia Lowe of the New York Regional Census Center, Senator Adam Hinds, Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer, Representative Tricia Farley-Bouvier and Mark Maloy of the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission. Ben Garver - The Berkshire Eagle

State Rep. Paul Mark, chairman of the House Committee on Redistricting, speaks Monday as New York Regional Census Center supervisory partnership specialist Georgia Lowe listens before delivering her own remarks on the upcoming 2020 U.S. census. Ben Garver - The Berkshire Eagle

New York Regional Census Center supervisory partnership specialist Georgia Lowe speaks at Monday's announcement at Pittsfield City Hall for the upcoming 2020 U. S. census. Ben Garver - The Berkshire Eagle

“'Shape your future': Berkshire leaders seek to make every effort count for 2020 census”
By Dick Lindsay, The Berkshire Eagle, April 8, 2019

Pittsfield — With legislative representation and federal funding at stake, Berkshire residents need to stand up and be counted next year.

Local, state and federal officials at City Hall delivered that important message on Monday to county inhabitants — be included in the 2020 U.S. Census.

"The goal is simple; count everyone once, only once and in the right place," said Georgia Lowe, representing the U.S. Census Bureau regional office.

The head count of every man, woman and child may be a year away, but Lowe joined state Rep. Paul Mark, D-Peru, Mayor Linda Tyer and others to get a head start on making residents aware of why an accurate count is crucial to their community and state. The federal government has chosen April 1, 2020, as the day to be officially counted.

Mark says residency affects how many U.S. House of Representatives seats each state gets, as well as the shape of state representative and senatorial districts.

"If we count accurately, we shouldn't lose a House seat like we did after 2010," said Mark, who is chairman of the Massachusetts House Committee on Redistricting. He was referring to Western Massachusetts losing a Congressional seat due to declining population and other states growing at a faster pace than Massachusetts a decade ago.

Tyer cited the slogan for the 2020 census, "Shape your future," in urging Pittsfield residents to answer the census questionnaire that will be available next March.

"Our [federal] Community Development Block Grant is tied to our population; completing the census is critical for us," she said.

While Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin in December announced the commonwealth's population is nearing the 7 million mark, an increase of 5.4% from 2010, the Berkshires' population decline of the last 50 years is expected to continue. Since the county's population peaked at 149,402 in 1970, the figure has gradually dropped to 131,294 in 2010. By next year, the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission has projected 126,490 residents in the 32 cities and towns, down another 3.6%.

As the facilitator of the county's Complete Count Committee, BRPC data and technology manager Mark Maloy says work will soon begin on marketing the census to households and especially finding census takers. The nearest Massachusetts census office to the Berkshires will be in Worcester.

"Hiring for canvassing our local communities, that's going to be a challenge," Maloy said. "Maybe we can have training in the Berkshires or bus people to Worcester."

Lowe said her agency can train the enumerators in the Berkshires, with hiring expected later this summer.

For the first time, the Census Bureau is allowing people to file an online census form and it will be available in 12 languages in addition to English. Census questions can also be answered by phone or filling out the form mailed to 95 percent of American households. The rest of the households will have a form dropped off at their physical address or be counted in person by a census taker.

Lowe said federal law prevents the Census Bureau and census takers from sharing personal information, including with other federal agencies.

Local and state officials realize the immigrant population may be the most hesitant to participate in the census, especially with President Donald Trump calling for a citizenship question on the form that must be finalized this summer. Three federal judges have already ruled against the Trump administration.

Mark says ignoring the census, for whatever reason, isn't an option.

"If we screw it up, we're stuck [with the count] for the next 10 years, so let's get it right," he said.

Dick Lindsay can be reached at rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com and 413-496-6233.

DECADES OF DECLINE

Berkshire County population trends since 1970 U.S. Census:

Year Total pop. +/- % +/-

2020 126,490 -4,729 -3.60 **

2010 131,294 -8,058 -5.78

2000 134,751 -4,601 -3.30

1990 139,352 -5,758 -3.97

1980 145,110 -4,292 -2.87

1970 149,402 7,267 5.11

SOURCES: U.S. Census Bureau, **Berkshire Regional Planning Commission estimate

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Blue flags in front of the Elizabeth Freeman Center - 354 in all - represent the number of cases of domestic violence the nonprofit organization in Pittsfield responded to last year. Ben Garver - The Berkshire Eagle

Berkshire District Attorney Andrea Harrington on Tuesday announces the formation of the Berkshire County Domestic and Sexual Violence Task Force, at the Elizabeth Freeman Center in Pittsfield. The team will work to prevent domestic and sexual violence, as well as identify signs of human trafficking. Ben Garver - The Berkshire Eagle

“Berkshire DA launches 'transformative' effort to combat domestic violence”
By Heather BellowThe Berkshire Eagle, April 9, 2019

Pittsfield — Declaring that domestic and sexual violence have reached a "crisis point" in Berkshire County, the Berkshire District Attorney's Office on Tuesday announced an aggressive new strategy to combat crimes that occur with "alarming and heartbreaking frequency."

Flanked by members of law enforcement, advocates and other officials, District Attorney Andrea Harrington made the announcement at the headquarters of the Elizabeth Freeman Center, a nonprofit organization that serves victims of domestic and sexual abuse with multiple offices, a shelter, and a 24/7 hotline and services.

Harrington said her office plans to take on perpetrators, past and present, and work to identify victims of sex trafficking.

She also has convened a Berkshire County Domestic and Sexual Violence Task Force and an 18-member steering committee that includes local and state officials, including state Sen. Adam Hinds, D-Pittsfield, Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer and North Adams Mayor Thomas Bernard.

Janis Broderick, executive director of the Freeman Center, said rates of abuse in the county have skyrocketed, and protection order filings were 36% higher than the state average last year.

The center receives about 800 referrals every year from the Pittsfield Police Department alone, she added.

Across the county, the center works with 2,000 survivors and their families every year.

"We're always very busy," Broderick told reporters.

The local statistics are alarming, say advocates and officials.

Broderick said that in 2017, Stockbridge ranked first in the county for the highest rate of reported rape in the state by population, according to FBI data. Adams ranked third, Pittsfield fifth and North Adams sixth.

With 50 reported rapes in 2017, Pittsfield had nearly four times the state average that year.

Broderick attributes this countywide problem, in part, to rural isolation, poverty and lack of transportation.

"Though it's hidden down in homes and down long country roads where it's silenced by shame, we in the Berkshires should know that violence happens here — that it happens a lot," she said.

Her voice breaking, she added that six county women were murdered by their husbands or former boyfriends in the past four years.

And Harrington said later that she also classifies last month's apparent murder-suicide in Sheffield as a "domestic violence homicide." Her office believes it is likely that Luke Karpinksi killed his wife and three children before killing himself.

The incident remains under investigation.

Apart from the murders and the hike in reported rapes, the 15% rise in restraining order filings since 2015 also has heightened alarm.

In 2018, 1,107 orders were filed in the county.

Harrington, who pledged during her campaign last year to take on domestic violence, termed the new initiative "transformative."

"My team at the District Attorney's Office is committed to prosecuting abusers and is working to create a culture where victims are believed," she said.

Among other new policies, sexual assault cases will now be tracked when a complaint is made, rather than only when charges are filed, she said.

She also will provide training for law enforcement and advocates to help them identify signs of sex trafficking and other sexual exploitation in victims. For prevention, she also wants to educate communities to recognize signs of domestic abuse so people can intervene before an escalation into violence.

Harrington also has created a team that will investigate unindicted sexual assault cases from the past, with the intention of prosecution.

She said the team would review 15 years of cases, starting from the initial complaint. When asked how many of these cases exist, she said, "There's a lot."

There are more than 200 cases that were dismissed or where prosecution was ceased, she said, noting that the statute of limitations is 15 years.

"That's just those, and we want to start with cases that have never even been brought to court," Harrington added.

She said the inspiration for this is conversations with communities, and the sense that cases were not prosecuted aggressively enough, "in particular where the victim was under the influence [of drugs or alcohol]."

Local and state officials, including Attorney General Maura Healey, applauded the initiative.

"These traumas can't be ignored," Tyer said in a prepared statement.

Broderick said this new initiative will fortify those on the front lines.

"For all of us who do this work, this is a very good morning," Broderick said.

Heather Bellow can be reached at hbellow@berkshireeagle.com or on Twitter @BE_hbellow and 413-329-6871.

related link: https://www.iberkshires.com/story/59673/Harrington-Launches-Plan-to-Address-Domestic-Sexual-Violence.html

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“Tyer updates Pittsfield City Council on plans for pot taxes, school buildings and trash”
By Amanda Drane, The Berkshire Eagle, April 9, 2019

Pittsfield — Recreational cannabis is brand new, and so is the revenue stream that comes with it.

That's why, city officials said Tuesday, they will take the next six months to examine revenue trends before deciding how to spend the money marijuana brings to Pittsfield. Mayor Linda Tyer and city councilors also fleshed out new details on possible school consolidation, a backup plan for waste management and a year-old business development position at City Hall.

The conversation around marijuana taxes stems from a petition filed in February by Councilors Chris Connell and Melissa Mazzeo, who suggested setting aside 50 percent of the revenue stream for annual road work. Usually, the city ends up borrowing about $2 million a year to maintain city streets.

But after a meeting between Tyer, Connell and Finance Director Matt Kerwood, officials agree it's appropriate to take more time with the decision.

Tyer proposed a "six-month pause" on the conversation, allowing her team time to monitor marijuana tax revenue trends through September and then submit a collection report to councilors for further discussion.

Schools and solid waste

Councilors are interested in talking about what needs to happen with Pittsfield's aging school buildings, but Tyer told them construction remains ongoing at the new Taconic High School. Tyer said contractors are doubling back and fixing minor issues, like repairing improperly installed doors and incomplete baseboards.

Deciding what to do about three of the city's elementary schools are her next priority, she and Superintendent Jason McCandless said in a formal response to Ward 6 Councilor John Krol's call for an update on school building needs. Issues are most pressing at Crosby Elementary School, Conte Community School and Morningside Community School, Tyer told councilors.

"I think that these three schools in particular have been neglected for a long time," she said.

While acknowledging "deplorable" conditions in at least one of those elementary schools, Krol said he hoped the city could take a broader view, including the infrastructure issues at Pittsfield High School and the countywide school enrollment decline.

"I think in Pittsfield we can walk and chew gum at the same time," he said.

Connell said he'd like to talk more often about school buildings, especially given the opportunity for consolidation.

"I'd like to see that brought up on a more regular basis," he said.

Ward 2 Councilor Kevin Morandi had separately requested an update from Tyer about what the city would do if Covanta closed and was no longer able to process the city's trash.

The city faced this dilemma in 2016 and worked with the state to offer incentives that helped the company keep their Pittsfield doors open. Those efforts protected the plant from closure through January 2021.

Now, Tyer said, she's confident in the plant's ability to meet the city's needs in the future and that it remains a viable business.

But if Covanta decides to close or leave Pittsfield, she said in a letter to councilors, the city would have little choice but to pay an estimated $462,000 a year to truck city trash to an outside processing facility.

"We would certainly turn to our state partners for assistance ... ," Tyer said during the Tuesday meeting, if "in this predicament again."

In business

In response to a petition from Ward 2 Councilor Kevin Morandi, the city's Business Development Manager Michael Coakley also took time during the meeting to give councilors a presentation about his work over the last year.

Ushering Wayfair into Pittsfield was his "biggest accomplishment" to date, he said, noting the 300 jobs it plans to bring to Pittsfield over the coming years.

He told the council that his job revolves around fielding inquiries from companies looking to relocate or expand into Pittsfield, as well as stirring up more interest around doing business in the city. Conversations along these lines have resulted in dozens of meetings around the state, he said.

He said he's also convened the "red carpet team" — a group Tyer put together to welcome new business — at least 10 times.

"Each one of these opportunities remain in play," he said of ongoing talks with companies.

In response to a question from Krol, Coakley said challenges to attracting companies include both a lack of housing options and a skilled workforce.

The Pittsfield Economic Development Authority and the Pittsfield Economic Revitalization Corp. also contribute resources toward Coakley's work marketing Pittsfield.

Morandi said he's happy Coakley is working to get the word out about Pittsfield, that "we're here; we've got a lot happening and we'd like you to come here."

Amanda Drane can be contacted at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.

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Jim Ramondetta, the owner of Berkshire Nautilus, is upset at the city of Pittsfield for planning to put metered parking in place of the demolished Columbus Avenue parking garage, essentially adding a user fee to membership costs at the fitness facility. Ben Garver - The Berkshire Eagle

The city parking garage between Columbus Avenue and Summer Street in Pittsfield is nearly gone as crews from J.H. Maxymillian. dismantle the structure. A downtown business owner and a Pittsfield city councilor filed a petition last week calling for a review of the city's plans for meters at the lot that will replace the structure. Ben Garver - The Berkshire Eagle

“Plan for metered parking in Pittsfield ruffles feathers at Berkshire Nautilus”
By Amanda Drane, The Berkshire Eagle, April 12, 2019

Pittsfield — Jim Ramondetta said he couldn't sleep after learning of the city's plans for parking meters in the lot formerly known as the Columbus Avenue garage.

The owner of Berkshire Nautilus said the move unfairly hurts his business.

"This is a user fee on my membership," he said during an interview upstairs at his Summer Street gym. "It effectively doubles my membership costs."

Ramondetta and Ward 6 Councilor John Krol filed a petition last week calling for a review of the plans for meters at the lot that stretches between Columbus Avenue and Summer Street. Before construction began last month, Ramondetta's customers enjoyed free three-hour parking.

The project involves demolishing the slouching parking structure and paving the area into a surface lot.

On Tuesday, Ramondetta gave an impassioned statement to the City Council, talking loudly beyond his three-minute allotment and hitting the podium with a thud as he finished.

Meters are his main concern.

"No one up to this point in any conversation with me had mentioned the "m" word," he told councilors. "It appears now that this was the plan all along. I felt deceived."

Ramondetta later told The Eagle that he hadn't realized there was a time limit to public comment.

But Mayor Linda Tyer didn't take kindly to the criticism, sending councilors a response letter Thursday that called Ramondetta's remarks disingenuous. She said members of her team have communicated with Ramondetta and his representatives multiple times over the past several months.

To say that hasn't happened besmirches the hard work of her team, she said.

"I understand that not everyone is going to agree with all of the decisions that are made, even if they're made in what I consider to be the best interest of the most people," Tyer told The Eagle. "But what's not acceptable is false claims that are presented as the truth."

"In spite of everything," she said she's committed to working with Ramondetta toward a solution. She said she'll respond more formally to the petition during the next City Council meeting.

Ramondetta said he has 800 to 1,000 members, depending on the season, and about 200 people a day come through the establishment who rely on the free three-hour parking. He estimated that the average workout time is over an hour.

"It's not a secret that Nautilus has been struggling for quite some time," he said, citing growing competition.

Tyer said she's working to implement the parking plan — an initiative that she said began before she took office. It's important, she said, to implement it equitably "to not just his business, but to all businesses."

She said it's also important to ensure that the city has money to support parking construction and maintenance work in the city — an elevator is down at the McKay Street Garage, for example — and money earned via parking meters goes directly to that work.

"It's still necessary for us to have a source of revenue to be able to take care of our parking facilities," she said.

Under the parking plan approved in 2016, parking is free before 8 a.m. and after 4 p.m. During the day, North Street parking costs $1 an hour and the first 30 minutes are free. For city lots, parking is 50 cents an hour, with the first 30 minutes free.

That's the plan, Tyer said, but the city is deploying it in phases. The lot near Nautilus moves into metered parking as the city revamps the lot, as did the First Street lot before that.

But Krol notes that the Melville Street lot remains free for three-hour parking, and maybe it's not a bad idea to leave some spaces that way.

Asked if the city plans to also place meters at the Melville Street lot, Tyer's answer referred attention back to Columbus Avenue.

"The intention has always been to phase in the parking management plan," she said. "At this moment, we are solely focused on the Columbus Avenue lot."

Middle ground

Ramondetta said that last week he attended an abutters' meeting, where he was joined by representatives of Hotel on North, Barrington Stage and the Berkshire Regional Transit Authority. City employees talked about the project's time frame and traffic impacts, and he said it became clear that he's the only one with a vested interest in the move to paid parking.

It was there, he said, that he first learned about the meters.

Ramondetta bought the gym in 1995 and moved it to Summer Street in 2001, after putting about $1.2 million into the space, he said. He moved the gym ahead of a long-since-defunct plan to put a stadium in the area of the gym's former site, now occupied by Miller Supply.

The city needed the space, he said, and former Mayor Gerald Doyle was "getting all the ducks in order to get the stadium."

So, Ramondetta said he planned the move preemptively, in support of the planned stadium.

"I was willing to support the city and the downtown," he said.

He describes himself as an early investor in what was once a slow section of downtown.

"With an investment of well over $1 million, we were one of the first early risk takers in the revitalization effort for downtown Pittsfield," he told councilors.

Now, he said, he's asking the city to return the favor.

Meters make sense for North Street, he said, but not for the Columbus Avenue lot.

"You have to make people feel like you want 'em downtown," he said. "I don't think it's inviting."

Tyer said Ramondetta already won city support in the form of a five-year tax incentive after his move downtown.

On-street parking along Summer Street also remains free for three hours, she said. And Ramondetta already owns his own lot next to the gym — "an asset not available to most downtown businesses."

Meantime, the city is working with Downtown Pittsfield Inc. to mitigate impacts of the Columbus Avenue project on nearby businesses, but Tyer said no one from Nautilus came to a City Hall meeting in March that was convened by the downtown nonprofit.

She said her office has reached out regularly to abutters, responding to requests about noise reduction and traffic concerns.

Talks with abutters remain ongoing, Tyer said in her letter to councilors.

Krol says Tyer should listen to Ramondetta and take another look at the plan. When he moved, he said, he did it for the good of the city.

"It doesn't entitle him to free parking," he said. "But I think it's something that we need to consider."

Amanda Drane can be contacted at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.

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Letter: “Metered parking unfair to Nautilus”
By Jim Ramondetta, April 11, 2019

Pittsfield — Let me open by saying we are excited at the realization that finally there will be a new parking lot on Summer Street. We are also very grateful that the schedule has strong incentives for early completion and also financial penalties for late completion of the project. I think the 60 day time table is important to all concerned, downtown businesses and visitors alike.

Despite a two-page letter written and submitted to Mayor Tyer on Jan. 10 as well as a follow-up letter submitted March 5 to the ward councilor outlining my questions and concerns about the process, timetable, and plans for alternative parking during demolition and reconstruction of the Summer Street lot, I was never contacted directly in reply to my letters by the mayor's office, community development department, or my city councilor regarding any of these concerns.

Unrelated to these letters, I was contacted in late March by [Community Development official] Laura Mick, who through this entire process has been most helpful, and was told that all these issues and others were to be discussed at an abutters meeting with city officials on April 3 (three days after the start of the project). It was there and then I learned the plan for the Summer Street lot.

I was stunned to learn, for the first time, at this meeting, that not only would there be no additional free three-hour public parking spaces created with the reconstruction, but more alarmingly, all of the free three-hour public spaces that my clients have come to depend on were being removed. No more free three-hour public parking at all, despite the fact that I had been led to believe that these spaces would remain both free and three-hour. It was then made clear to me, again I add, for the first time, that these currently existing three-hour free parking spaces would now all be metered. No one up to this point in any conversation with me had mentioned the "m" word.

It appears now, that this was the plan all along. I felt deceived. As the owner of the building directly across from the parking garage, a building housing Berkshire Nautilus, which directly depends on this free public parking for the service of its members, as well as other building tenants, who also depend on the current downtown free public parking covenant, how is it that I was not made aware of this plan until now? It would seem that I was intentionally left in the dark, despite all of the city's informational newspaper articles. even those mentioning the mayor's rental car plans for the new lot, but yet not one word on the plan for metered parking.

The negative impact to Berkshire Nautilus as a result of metered parking cannot be overstated. Our clients are not the typical downtown visitors or eatery diners who may shop or dine once a week, once a month, or even a couple of times a week, using the parking lot facilities. Some of our clients (between 150 to 200 persons daily) come in more than once a day, and most of them come in every day. Charging for parking, however minimal it may seem, represents an unfair user fee, in effect, a surtax, on our membership. It effectively doubles our membership cost and puts us at an unfair disadvantage to our big box, non-downtown, competitors.

Some 20 years back when Berkshire Nautilus sought a new home in support of the city's plan for the then proposed downtown stadium, we purchased the Yon building, then in disrepair, and with an investment of well over $1 million we were one of the first early risk-takers in the revitalization effort for downtown Pittsfield, even before notable downtown pioneers Larry Rosenthal and Joyce Bernstein.

Central to Berkshire Nautilus' rationale for our move to Summer Street was the parking availability for our membership, as we were leaving more than ample parking on West Street for a smaller private lot and were promised an expansive free public lot for our growing membership. So it was in the past that our partnership with the city began with our support for its downtown growth. Now, we would like the city of Pittsfield to do its part by showing its support for Berkshire Nautilus and its members.

We are appealing to the city to recognize the parking difficulties in downtown Pittsfield, and rather than make the existing economic climate worse for downtown businesses, help us out by making visits to downtown Pittsfield less problematic for both the public and its downtown businesses. We all want a vibrant downtown. Let us together not move backward, but rather move forward toward that goal.

Jim Ramondetta, Pittsfield
The writer, the owner of Berkshire Nautilus, read this letter to the Pittsfield City Council on Tuesday.

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Our Opinion: “Seeking a Nautilus, City Hall compromise”
The Berkshire Eagle, April 16, 2019

The heated dispute between Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer and Berkshire Nautilus owner Jim Ramondetta over metered parking in the lot that will replace the Columbus Avenue garage has been centered around who knew what when. That is of less significance than what happens going forward.

Mr. Ramondetta went before the City Council last Tuesday to complain that City Hall had not informed him that the new lot will include parking meters. He is concerned that the meters will chase away customers who have come to rely on the free three-hour parking in the deteriorating garage. The mayor counters that her office has communicated with the Berkshire Nautilus owner and his representatives about the metered parking and she is determined to implement the downtown metered parking plan fairly to all businesses and assure that it generates the revenue needed to pay for parking construction and maintenance work. (Eagle, April 13). What was said and not said among the parties will never be resolved and is at this point irrelevant.

Mr. Ramondetta describes himself as an "early investor" in the revitalization of downtown who deserves a break from City Hall as his business faces growing competition. He moved his business from the site that was to become part of the footprint of a new downtown baseball park, a plan rejected by voters at a referendum, to Summer Street in 2001, putting about $1.2 million into the space. The mayor points out that Berkshire Nautilus received a five-year tax incentive following the move.

Berkshire Nautilus has its own parking lot and there is some free three-hour parking available on Summer Street. Mr. Ramondetta counters that with about 200 people a day coming to his business and availing themselves of the garage parking there won't be enough free parking available once the garage is replaced by a lot containing metered parking.

Mayor Tyer says she will be pursue a solution before the next City Council meeting and there would seem to be room for compromise. Would be it possible, for example, for the city to in effect "sell" some spots in the parking lot to Mr. Ramondetta, who could distribute placards to customers to place on their dashboards attesting that they are in paid parking? This would be a concession to a valuable downtown business without losing revenue generated by parking meters.

The city's paid parking meter program continues to have its skeptics. The parking APP is advertised as a device that makes the process simple but it is doubtful that everyone with the APP knows that city is divided into sections for the purposes of parking and that a section number must be punched in when using the parking APP. A small sign by the parking meter designates the section number, which is undoubtedly known to downtown business owners, workers, and regular customers, but it is unlikely that a visitor from out of town is aware of it. Getting a parking ticket after using the parking APP might persuade a shopper to permanently avoid downtown and its retailers. City Hall needs to expand its parking education program and it should regularly inform residents not only of how much revenue is generated by the meters but how much it pays a meter person to check for miscreants and to maintain the meters in good working order.

We look forward to the reaching of an agreement that City Hall and Berkshire Nautilus can live with. We also look forward to an ambitious effort to inform both residents and visitors of the workings of the meters and the value of their presence.

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Great Barrington and Pittsfield have received their first checks from the state's Department of Revenue - $185,807 for Great Barrington and $10,532 for Pittsfield - reflecting taxes earned on cannabis sales from Jan. 1 through March 31 [2019]. The earnings cast a first light down a new avenue for the Berkshires in the age of legal pot. Eagle file photo

“A windfall in shades of green for county's cannabis retailers, town coffers”
By Heather Bellow and Amanda Drane, The Berkshire Eagle, April 17, 2019

Great Barrington — Results are in, and the picture is, well, very green.

Early earnings from the county's first two marijuana retailers show signs of a blossoming industry capable of sending millions into the community each year, though revenues trickled in more slowly in Pittsfield than in Great Barrington.

The two municipalities have received their first checks from the state's Department of Revenue — $185,807 for Great Barrington and $10,532 for Pittsfield — reflecting taxes earned on cannabis sales from Jan. 1 through March 31. The earnings cast a first light down a new avenue for the Berkshires in the age of legal pot.

The county's first recreational retailer, Theory Wellness, grossed more than $6 million in sales in less than three months, banking $185,807 in sales tax for Great Barrington coffers and an additional $185,807 in donations for the town's nonprofits in the form of a community impact fee.

The Great Barrington medical dispensary opened for recreational business Jan. 11.

"We're trying to keep up with demand," Theory spokesman Thomas Winstanley said Wednesday afternoon, when the line outside was about 45 people deep — a short line by Theory standards, and getting shorter every day as the company has hired more staff and boosted preorders that can be picked up later.

The parking lot was awash in New York license plates. Inside, it was like opening day all over again, with good, aromatic cheer and a Grateful Dead soundtrack coursing through the party.

In its first-quarter report to the state Department of Revenue, the company reported $6,193,574 in sales, according to CEO Brandon Pollock.

Of the state's 20% sales tax on marijuana products, both municipalities get a 3% cut. Great Barrington imposes a community impact fee, meaning that an additional 3% goes to nonprofits in the town.

Pittsfield doesn't impose a community impact fee, but instead charges flat annual community host fees on a graduating scale, beginning at $60,0000 annually and increasing to $200,000 annually for the fourth and fifth years.

Statewide, gross sales hit $76.8 million as of the first week in April, reflecting the statewide total since retail sales came online in November.

And while towns and cities across the state have struggled with regulating this new industry since voters approved legalization in 2016, there is a different kind of high to be had from seeing the tax revenue numbers.

"We keep talking about economic development," said Great Barrington Select Board Vice Chairman Ed Abrahams. "For better or for worse, this is some."

Abrahams pointed to local businesses also reaping the green with a hand from Theory.

"I have anecdotal reports that people are coming into town and spending money," he said.

Robin Helfand of Robin's Candy said she is seeing an uptick in business from cannabis customers. She helps it along by handing out candy and coupons to shoppers waiting in Theory's line.

Pittsfield numbers

The city collected $10,532 over the third quarter, which began Jan. 1 and ended March 31. Temescal Wellness, which opened Jan. 15, was the only open recreational cannabis retailer in Pittsfield during that time.

A 3% sales tax goes to city coffers, meaning that the first $10,532 check from the state's Department of Revenue puts Temescal's sales for that period at about $351,067.

Brandon Morphew, marketing director at Temescal, said revenues were in line with expectations.

"It's a new market, and we're happy with where we're at," he said, noting the company is working to introduce new products.

Berkshire Roots on Dalton Avenue has since come online, becoming the third recreational cannabis retailer in the Berkshires — and the first retailer to also grow and manufacture its products in the county — when it opened this month.

Matt Kerwood, the city's finance director, said he deposited half of the money into the city's stabilization account and the rest into the general fund.

The city does not impose a percentage-based community impact fee like Great Barrington does, he said, but rather charges flat annual community host fees on a graduating scale.

He said that each retailer is contractually obligated, per host agreement, to pay the city $60,000 for the first year in operation, $100,000 for the second year, $150,000 for the third year, and $200,000 each for the fourth and fifth years of the contract.

Host agreements are five-year contracts, he said, as required by state statute.

"The clock starts ticking the day they begin operations," he said, noting that bills will come biannually.

Companies operating in both the medical and recreational realm must have host agreements with the city for each side of their business, doubling those annual community host fees for companies like Temescal Wellness and Berkshire Roots.

More Berkshire buzz

In Great Barrington, four more pot retailers are awaiting state licenses. If approved, the town will have a total of five stores, including three downtown. There are at least eight cannabis retailers in the Pittsfield pipeline, two of which are open and five of which await state licenses.

Silver Therapeutics in Williamstown has a license but awaits a final nod from the state before it can open.

Abrahams said the competition might temper the revenue stream, as would legalization in Connecticut and New York, whose borders are close by.

"We shouldn't get used to this, but it's definitely a windfall that's coming," he added, noting that if Theory's sales were to continue at this rate, it would mean that more than $1 million would be pumped into the community every year, and half of that into town coffers.

Winstanley said that Theory, which will host a local food truck Saturday for 420, is ready to stay on top of the market, noting "tens of thousands" of shoppers have come here since the shop opened. He declined to give an exact number.

It is so busy here that the shop menu has to be changed daily, according to inventory shifts. Shipments come several times a week.

The store now has 30 to 35 employees just to keep up, and with preorders, is now able to move 80 people through in an hour. When Theory opened, it was moving 20 shoppers an hour.

"We're still very new at this," Winstanley said, explaining that the company is always poised for adjustments in a business that draws from a wide range of demographics, ranging from the schoolteacher with trouble sleeping to the veteran trying to treat his post-traumatic stress disorder.

Theory also is expanding into outdoor growing to supplement its indoor facility. It now has a provisional license to grow in Sheffield, where company leaders plan to partner with Equinox Farms owner Ted Dobson.

With an extract wax called Schnazzleberry, and flower called Blackfire, it's no wonder that sales are so brisk, and why each new customer needs help from the enthusiastic young staff to interpret the offerings.

"The menu can be overwhelming," he said.

Heather Bellow can be reached at hbellow@berkshireeagle.com, @BE_hbellow on Twitter, and 413-329-6871.

Amanda Drane can be contacted at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.

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Letter: “At Home program will benefit Pittsfield”
The Berkshire Eagle, April 18, 2019

To the editor:

I am writing to urge our City Council to show support for Mayor Tyer's At Home program.

As a lifelong resident of Pittsfield I have come to learn that in the long run what is good for portions of our city benefits our city as a whole. While I am not a resident of either the Morningside or the Westside neighborhoods, I certainly recognize the need for assistance with improvements within these neighborhoods. By applying the limited amount of funding that is available to the areas that need the most improvement, we increase the overall impact of these funds and therefore maximize the benefit to the city. Please contact your city councilor and ask him or her to support the mayor's proposal.

Karen M. Roche, Pittsfield

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Letter: “Pittsfield's Pickleball Service a Fault”
iBerkshires.com – Letter to the Editor, April 18, 2019

To the Editor:

I am deeply concerned with the city of Pittsfield's plan to install a $350,000 pickleball facility in Springside Park.

The 2018 Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA) Pickleball Participant Report reveals that there are approximately 3.1 million pickleball players in the United States out of a total population of 327.2 million people. If one applies the same participation rate to the city of Pittsfield, with its population 42,591, one can reasonably conclude that the total population of pickleball players in the city amounts to approximately 404.

A 2016 SFIA Pickleball Participation Report found that only 37 percent of players are "core" players (defined as playing 8 or more times per year). From our citywide population of 404 players, we can reasonably conclude that approximately 151 are core players. Additionally, 75 percent of those "core" players are at least 55 years old.

In The Berkshire Eagle article, Mr. McGrath claims that pickleball is "huge" and that it is "not a single demographic sport" but the numbers tell a different story. The numbers tell us that regular participation in the sport is quite low and that the vast majority of regular participants do indeed come from a single demographic.

As of this writing, 442 people have signed the petition to support the Springside Park Master Plan.

The fact that the city of Pittsfield is prepared to disburse $350,000 in support of a project for just 151 citizens seems irresponsible enough. That there is no plan for maintenance when park maintenance in our city is already an issue shows a lack of planning and foresight. That the Springside Park conservancy – the group of citizens most concerned with the development and maintenance of Springside Park see it as being fundamentally opposed to the interests of the park is at least concerning. It is quite obvious that more discussion about this plan is warranted and necessary.

I urge those in City Hall — Mayor Tyer, the Community Preservation Committee, and City Council among them — to listen to the 442 citizens who have raised their concern. I urge them to listen to the Springside Park Conservancy, the group that was entrusted with planning, protecting, and executing the Springside Park Master Plan. I urge them to trust their citizens, to trust the Conservancy, and ultimately to table the execution of this plan until a plan that is beneficial to all citizens of Pittsfield exists.

Ken Gibson, Pittsfield, Mass.

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April 24, 2019

When you look up conspiratorial politics in the encyclopedia, you see a picture of Pittsfield (Mass.) City Hall! Pittsfield politics is ran by an incestuous group of interrelated Good Old Boys who concentrate and centralize their power over state and local government. They stopped any and all economic development in Pittsfield, including the bypass, the downtown mall, the downtown community college, the downtown minor league baseball park, and the like. Meanwhile, they supported PEDA, the Consent Decree, tax breaks for out of town millionaires, GE fund grants to failed businesses, and the like.

– Jonathan Melle

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Letter: “Pittsfield city employees do their employer proud”
The Berkshire Eagle, April 24, 2019

To the editor:

Over the past year I have had occasion to contact and deal with many different City of Pittsfield departments and their employees: assessors, tax collector, voter registration, health department, city clerk, the fire department and the mayor's office. To a person, everyone I dealt with was pleasant, professional, knowledgeable and helpful. Even the poor folks listening to complaints about parking tickets and kiosks remain calm and polite in the face of considerable abuse.

Special mention must be made of Catherine in the mayor's office and Stephanie in the health department. Both women have been exceptionally helpful.

Thank you to all. You do our city proud!

Nancy Sommer, Pittsfield

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Letter: “Pittsfield should step in and take over carousel”
The Berkshire Eagle, April 24, 2019

To the editor:

The Berkshire Carousel is a wonderful, beautiful work of art that Jim and Jackie Shulman have worked hard to create. I know they spent a lot of money and time to achieve this beautiful memory. Most of us remember the merry-go-round at the lake. So many wonderful childhood memories!

The City of Pittsfield needs to take over the responsibilities of the carousel so the children of today can have those same memories. Kudos to Jim, Jackie and all the volunteers for all their hard work. Time for the city to take over. Make Pittsfield great again!

Kathy Brassard, Palmetto, Fla.

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Melissa Mazzeo greets an employee at Pittsfield City Hall on Thursday as she takes out papers to run for mayor. See was accompanied by friends and family. Ben Garver - The Berkshire Eagle

“Longtime City Councilor Melissa Mazzeo launches bid to unseat mayor”
By Amanda Drane, The Berkshire Eagle, April 25, 2019

Pittsfield — Melissa Mazzeo has spent a decade on the City Council, and now she's setting her sights on City Hall's corner office.

Mazzeo formally announced her candidacy on Thursday, flanked by close family and friends, at City Hall. She promised to start going door to door the same night.

The councilor at large got her start on the council in 2009, when she ran in a special election for the Ward 3 seat formerly occupied by now-Mayor Linda Tyer, who had resigned from the council to assume the role of city clerk.

Mazzeo was the top vote-getter in her at large race in 2014, and was elected to a two-year run as council president.

Tyer announced her intention to run for re-election last month; retired Pittsfield police officer Karen Kalinowsky, Craig Gaetani and Scott Graves also are running for mayor.

Under Tyer's administration, Mazzeo has been a strong dissenting voice on the council. That trend came to a head on Tuesday when a heated debate between the two gave way to a no vote on spending for Tyer's housing loan program.

Mazzeo said she's learned a lot about city government since she first took office, and now she's ready to do things her own way. "I need to switch seats," she said, smiling.

She cited crime, issues with roads, and the need to drive the job market as her priorities heading into campaign season. Joan DiMartino will serve as her campaign manager.

"I would like to pull my papers for mayor, please," Mazzeo told clerks in the city's office of the registrar of voters on Thursday morning.

In an adjacent office, Mazzeo asked City Clerk Michele Benjamin questions about requirements and deadlines associated with a thick stack of papers in her hand.

Mazzeo held the front door open as her family members filed onto City Hall's front steps.

"The first thing I'm going to do is change these doors," Mazzeo said, laughing. "They're so heavy!"

When asked why she's running, she pointed to a letter to the editor she penned in 2015, when Tyer ran for her first term. The letter was titled, "Pittsfield can't afford Tyer as its mayor."

"While Tyer has a lot to say about what she will build, implement and create once she becomes mayor, she hasn't said a word about jobs," Mazzeo wrote. "Which is what this city needs way more than another community center, riverwalk, or hiking tour with her recruitment team."

Reached Thursday, Tyer said her “track record of accomplishments since taking office speaks to our ability to stabilize the economy.”

She said she lowered taxes, brought in $17 million in grants and developed a strategy that has created 113 new jobs among existing city businesses, and has helped draw 300 new jobs to the city with the incoming Wayfair call center.

“I am the first mayor in decades to bring a major employer to the city of Pittsfield,” she said.

Amanda Drane can be contacted at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.

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April 25, 2019

I support the lovely Linda Tyer for reelection for Mayor of Pittsfield in 2019! She is the best Mayor of Pittsfield EVER! She stands for everything in politics that I believe in. She is a wonderful person and politician! Go Linda!

– Jonathan Melle

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“Pittsfield School Committee OKs $63.5M school budget request”
By Amanda Drane, The Berkshire Eagle, April 24, 2019

Pittsfield — The School Committee approved a $63.5 million budget request for the coming fiscal year during its meeting on Tuesday.

The spending plan, which requires City Council approval during the city budget process next month, reflects an increase of about $3 million over the current year — a rise of about five percent.

The state is poised to give the city more than ever in school reimbursements, which lands amid a larger conversation about the commonwealth's school funding formula. Superintendent Jason McCandless had originally planned to use about $500,000 more of the cash infusion, but decided to rein in spending after talks with Mayor Linda Tyer.

The city expects a $3.7 million increase to its state reimbursement, and the revised proposal leaves about $700,000 for the city to use toward school building maintenance and health insurance costs for school employees.

Though multiple School Committee members had expressed disappointment in saving funds for administrative and capital needs during the last meeting, the Tuesday vote was unanimous and involved little discussion.

In order to achieve the savings McCandless presented earlier this month, he nixed a plan to add 14 paraprofessionals to the city's elementary schools. Those additions would have allowed teachers much-anticipated down time for common planning.

Achieving that goal is "still a work in progress," Assistant Superintendent for Business and Finance Kristen Behnke said after the meeting.

Still, McCandless has said the influx in state funds allows him to make unprecedented additions to the city's schools

They include:

- School safety and security improvements totaling $250,000.

- Curriculum exploration to the tune of $250,000.

- Four academic interventionist teachers to some of the city's elementary schools: one each at Morningside Community School, Egremont Elementary School, Williams Elementary School, and one split between Capeless and Stearns Elementary schools.

- Five special education coordinators. The plan is to add a full-time special education instruction and accountability coordinator each at Crosby and Egremont Elementary schools, and split three others among the district's other six elementary schools.

- Two special education instruction and accountability coordinators, stationed at the city's high schools.

- Five new teachers at Taconic to fill new programs and respond to a boost in enrollment. The full-time teachers would cover math, electrical, horticulture, early education and auto body.

- A full-time reading teacher for Taconic High School's Read 180 program. That program is intended to help students make quick gains in their reading levels.

- A consultant to help implement restorative justice practices. This is needed because "we think the stakes are so high," McCandless said.

- A $50,000 spending budget for the district's cultural competency coach.

- One intervention teacher for Crosby's therapeutic program.

- One teacher of deportment for Crosby's therapeutic program.

Amanda Drane can be contacted at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.

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Letter: “Accommodate Nautilus with free parking spots”
The Berkshire Eagle, May 2, 2019

To the editor:

As a member of Berkshire Nautilus, I am very concerned about the coming metered parking in the new lot. Is the city going to lose a lot of money by letting Nautilus keep its previously free spots? No, I don't think so. Yes, Nautilus has a parking lot, but it certainly is not adequate for hundreds of members and the several offices on the second and third floors of the Nautilus building.

The employees and the clients of these offices need parking places also, which leaves only a small number of 90-minute spaces near Nautilus. The three-hour spaces are not located near Nautilus but further down Summer Street. The YMCA and Boys and Girls Club have free parking on Melville Street. Why not accommodate Nautilus also by letting it keep its free parking spaces also? Is this too much to ask of our city? I hope not!

Bernice Roy, Pittsfield

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Letter: “Funding compromise for At Home program”
The Berkshire Eagle, May 2, 2019

To the editor:

I have observed that our city, much like our country, is split into two seemingly intractable groups that have trouble working together.

That division can't be seen any more clearly than in the recent deliberations for the Exterior Home Improvement Loan Program, AKA the At Home in Pittsfield Program, a beneficial and well-received program that everybody seems to favor. However, it failed to pass the City Council, something I think a little teamwork, creative thinking and extra effort might have changed.

If indeed the real issue is not the program but its funding, I believe the city can find the financing to enact this program. If that is not the case, then my suggestion will be of no help.

First of all, many councilors seem to be constrained by the opinion of the auditor that general funds could not be used. A closer reading of that opinion seems that it is somewhat equivocal. Notwithstanding that, there is case law in the analogous field of eminent domain that broadly interprets what is a "public purpose."

Second, I would've sought the assistance of the city solicitor for further clarification of the issue of "public purpose." There are some very technical considerations but courts have given significant deference to a legislative body in their determination that a public purpose is being served.

Finally, if the general funds are restricted as the auditor presently states then there are creative ways around this if people are legitimately interested in solving this problem. My suggestion is to fund this program with two funding votes as follows: Appropriate $250,000 from the general fund to the Economic Development Fund (GE Fund) for the purposes of supporting the economic development work that is being done and appropriate $250,000 from the Economic Development Fund (GE) to Exterior Home Improvement Loan Program for the purposes of supporting the economic development work that is being done. This essentially accomplishes the goal that everybody states that they support.

Please don't get stuck if the specifics of my suggestions may not be workable. I am sure there are other alternatives that the city officials could substitute. If the direct general appropriation to the GE Fund is problematic then maybe the appropriation can be specifically tailored to go to one of the unexpended projects, freeing up the $250,000 portion for this project.

Other alternatives could be using the same transfer arrangement with Community Development Block Grant Funds. For example, the city could pay for sidewalk repair work directly out of general funds, freeing up those funds for availability for this program.

I implore everyone to revisit the issue and work together for this important program and I have petitioned the City Council to consider alternatives.

Kenneth G. Warren Jr., Pittsfield

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“City eyes providing internet service”
By Amanda Drane, The Berkshire Eagle, May 17, 2019

Pittsfield — Should Pittsfield go into the internet business?

That's the question behind a feasibility study that the city plans to embark on this summer, after Mayor Linda Tyer and state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, D-Pittsfield, say they successfully secured an exploratory $75,000 in the state budget.

They say the funds will fuel a feasibility study looking at whether the city should become its own internet service provider — an idea that could provide faster, cheaper and more reliable internet to Pittsfield customers.

Assuming Gov. Charlie Baker signs off on the budget, the study will investigate the demand for such a move and the cost associated with it.

Farley-Bouvier said Tyer asked for her support on the initiative in March, after hearing from the city's Chief Information Officer Mike Steben about the promise it could hold for the city. She pointed to Westfield as an example of a nearby community that has become its own internet provider in the interest of providing stronger internet service to its people.

In Westfield, consumers pay about two-thirds of the commercial rate for internet, Farley-Bouvier said.

She said the move would protect consumers from Spectrum's rising prices and lack of commitment to the city.

"We know the costs are really high; the customer service is poor," she said. "Because there's little-to-no competition here, they can continue to do that."

A spokesperson for Spectrum did not return a phone call Friday evening.

Steben said the prevailing copper wires, which transfer data via electricity, can only transfer so much data. He said fiber optic cables are made of glass strands and transmit data with light, and that's what the city needs more of.

"Consumer and business bandwidth requirements are going up and up," he said. "It is no longer a fair statement to say cable internet is good enough."

He said it's important that Pittsfield is able to provide a platform for innovation.

"We can't rely on large corporate [internet service providers] to decide whether they're going to invest in us or not," he said. "We really need to understand that; we need to get in front of this as a city."

In order to ensure the city has a foot in the modern world, officials said, the city might need to take control of the infrastructure.

"By doing this we would future-proof Pittsfield," Farley-Bouvier said, noting the prevailing corporate providers tend to leave behind small- to-mid-sized markets. "We don't have any confidence that Charter Spectrum would continue to invest in Pittsfield."


If after the study the city decides to move forward with building the infrastructure, Farley-Bouvier said it would likely need to bond the investment — at a cost likely to land upward of $100 million.

"Although the city of Pittsfield has not traditionally been underserved by corporate Internet providers, we recognize that we could be better served, and we must look to the future," Tyer said in a Thursday news release. "We are pleased to have the advocacy and support of Representative Farley-Bouvier and our state partners toward securing funding for this important and transformational initiative in Pittsfield."

Jesse Cook-Dubin, president of the board at Downtown Pittsfield Inc., said fiber optic cables run down North and South streets, but outside of that he called the service spotty. For businesses that want a direct connection, he said he's heard it can take months to set up.

There are important redevelopment areas for which there is no high-speed service, like at the William Stanley Business Park.

"Obviously it's tough to put in an advanced manufacturing business without fiber optic internet," he said.

And because businesses rely increasingly on data stored in the cloud to perform day-to-day functions, he said "the stability of fiber is as important as the speed."

The competition the city would provide would be a healthy infusion, said John Sinopoli, CEO at the Pittsfield-based IT company, Synagex. He said it's notable how low the city's fiber penetration is, and that there is virtually no residential fiber.

"In Pittsfield we've been pretty limited in our options," he said.

Spectrum has started to slowly spread fiber optic service, he said, but the infrastructure just isn't there.

"Somebody's gotta build it, and I think that's really the big nut," he said.

If the city doesn't step up to do it, he said, "we put ourselves at the mercy of Spectrum."

He said more companies are converting their phone systems to voiceover internet protocol systems and buying cloud-based systems, and so the need for more bandwidth is growing.

As a result, Sinopoli said he's had to ask local carriers to get creative about alternative ways to boost internet power, like via wireless internet, satellite and DSL.

"Basically these are workarounds that we have to come up with because we don't have access to things like fiber," he said.

For all these reasons, Sinopoli said he's excited to hear the city is thinking about providing internet.

"If places like Pittsfield wanna be a hub for innovation — if we wanna be a home for new businesses — these are the sorts of infrastructures that have to be in place," he said.

And it's not just the business connections that are important for economic growth, he said, as young professionals often launch startups from their homes.

Years ago Berkshire advocates thought the city needed access to a highway in order to stay relevant, developer David Carver said, but things have changed.

"We need high-speed internet," he said. "Not a high-speed highway."

Amanda Drane can be contacted at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.

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Letter: “Three strikes and out for city businesses?”
The Berkshire Eagle, May 20, 2019

To the editor:

After living in Pittsfield for many years, I am currently a resident of Hinsdale. However, I still make it a point to visit the fine establishments in downtown Pittsfield whenever it makes sense to do so. What I am finding on a daily basis is that it is becoming more and more difficult to justify driving into the city from a location to the east.

This difficulty stems from the following three sources. The cost of gasoline is significant and rising. The condition of the roads is poor and is causing significant wear and tear on my vehicle. Even the main route to downtown from Allendale (Dalton Avenue westbound and Tyler Street) is a trial. And finally the lack of access to parking on Summer Street and metered parking on North Street is a major turnoff.

I had been assuming that completion of the Summer Street parking lot would return a measure of free parking to the area. Of the three drawbacks I identified, the parking issue is the easiest to remedy and the only one directly under the control of the current Pittsfield administration. After listening to remarks made by the mayor, I was disappointed at the apparent lack empathy for the affected businesses, especially those dependent on daily visits by their clients like Berkshire Nautilus, the YMCA and others.

Hopefully, further review will change current plans and restore free three hour parking at the Summer Street lot. If not, I am concerned that many of the fine businesses in the downtown area will not be able to offer enough extra to offset these three disadvantages, and these "three strikes" will eventually put them out of business.

Richard Roussin, Hinsdale

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“Mayor Tyer presents $175.5M operating budget to Pittsfield City Council”
By Amanda Drane, The Berkshire Eagle, May 21, 2019

Pittsfield — Mayor Linda Tyer presented her $175.5 million operating budget to city councilors on Tuesday in the first budget hearing of the season.

The proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year includes $63.5 million for city schools, $25.4 million in health insurance for municipal employees and $19.3 million for police and fire services.

It reflects an increase of 3 percent over the current fiscal year.

Tyer's spending plan would maintain level services, she said, and in some cases restores cuts made in previous budget rounds.

Making a budget entails tough decisions, she told councilors.

"Many of these are not easy issues," she said. "But I'm proud of the service we provide to our citizens."

Councilors will pick apart the proposed budget through a series of hearings over the coming weeks. Councilors must approve a municipal spending plan next month.

Councilors also preliminarily approved Tyer's five-year $10.8 million capital improvement plan, which includes $2 million for a reconstruction of Tyler Street, as well as a separate $1.2 million for construction at the troublesome intersection of Dalton and Woodlawn avenues and Tyler Street.

Tyer said the city's financial outlook looks significantly better than it did when she took control of the ship in 2016. "Those were very difficult, dark days," she said.

Now, she said, "our successes are accumulating." To that point, she cited $2 million in new tax revenue that is boosting city coffers.

Still, she said "we must be conscious stewards of our finite resources."

Tyer said she began the budget process in January by working with department heads on her team's priorities.

"This evening is the culmination of all that work," she said.

Amanda Drane can be contacted at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.

related link: https://www.iberkshires.com/story/60001/Pittsfield-Budget-Review-Day-1-Nine-of-10-Budgets-Approved-As-Is.html

related link: https://www.iberkshires.com/story/60001/Pittsfield-Budget-Review-Day-2-RSVP-Budget-Sparks-Discussion.html

related link: https://www.iberkshires.com/story/60001/Pittsfield-Budget-Review-Day-3-State-Aid-Bolsters-School-Budget.html

related link: https://www.iberkshires.com/story/60001/Pittsfield-Budget-Final-Review-Day-4-Council-Cuts-50-000.html

related link: https://www.cityofpittsfield.org/city_hall/finance_and_treasurer/uploads/Pittsfield%20FY2020%20Budget%20FINAL-web%20version.pdf

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“Due diligence done, Pittsfield councilors to take final budget votes Tuesday”
By Amanda Drane, The Berkshire Eagle, June 8, 2019

Pittsfield — With a detailed once-over in the books, the City Council is scheduled to take a final vote Tuesday on city spending for the upcoming fiscal year.

During their Tuesday meeting, councilors will take a last look at $166.6 million in operational spending, as well as $10.7 million in borrowing for capital improvement projects. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. in the council chambers.

The $166.6 million appropriation reflects a portion of the overall operating budget — it's the portion the City Council has purview over — while the city plans to spend a total of $175.5 million over fiscal year 2020. Capital budget borrowing falls outside the operating budget.

The final votes follow a series of budget hearings, during which councilors had heated debates over some of the spending. They preliminarily approved each budget item, making a few adjustments.

One significant adjustment came this week, when councilors voted to remove $52,500 from the capital budget for a pickleball facility at Springside Park.

The motion to cut it out of the capital budget came from Ward 1 Councilor Helen Moon, who said she had "a lot of reservations" about the city's choice to put the facility in Springside Park.

A lot of the pickleball players pushing for the court live outside Pittsfield, she said, and "we haven't reached a critical mass of pickleball players."

Councilor at Large Earl Persip agreed, saying residents have made it clear that Springside is not the right location.

"I think the city got this one wrong," he said.

When the city tried to put a dog park in Springside, he said, advocates bucked it for the same reason — it doesn't align with the park's purpose as a passive-use park.

Ward 2 Councilor Kevin Morandi said he doesn't want to spend the money on a new pickleball court when existing city parks aren't taken care of properly.

"For me, it's about priorities," he said.

Moon's motion passed 7-4, with Councilors Chris Connell, Peter Marchetti, Tony Simonelli and Melissa Mazzeo voting against.

Mazzeo said she doesn't think the pickleball court's location near Doyle Field would be an imposition. "I think you'll find it's not going to be a detriment," she said.

Councilors also will be asked to approve $35,272 in Community Preservation Act spending for the project later this month.

Police spending

Police Chief Michael Wynn fielded questions from councilors this week about the department's planned spending increases, amounting to $866,389 over the current year's budget.

There's new spending in the budget for ShotSpotter, Wynn and Mayor Linda Tyer told councilors this week, as they haven't yet been able to line up private funding partners.

"I had to account for it somewhere, so we put it in the budget," Wynn said.

The technology is worth it, he said, since 25 percent of the city's shootings go unreported by residents. For that "25 percent of the time," he said, "if we didn't have it, we wouldn't be responding."

He said ShotSpotter alerts officers to the precise location of a gunshot, so it also helps officers locate ballistic evidence.

If no private partners come forward, Tyer said the next three years of service will cost the city $600,000 from its operating budget.

"We're committed to ShotSpotter," Tyer said. "We believe in it."

The budget under review includes $240,000 for the technology.

There's also $12,500 in new funding for community outreach, since Wynn said officers have been taking on more responsibilities along those lines, a $100,000 increase in scheduled overtime and a $150,000 increase in contractual allowances.

Wynn said some increases stem from contractual obligations, and to that point, salary lines are up by about $200,000. Councilors unanimously approved the budget during its first reading.

Public services

When questioned by councilors about increases in winter spending, Public Services Commissioner David Turocy said the sand and salt item was the biggest culprit.

Mazzeo said she doesn't understand why the city spends more than private businesses.

"I really have a hard time every time this comes down," she said.

Turocy said the winter season was riddled with early morning nuisance storms that private companies often can avoid dealing with since they land outside business hours.

"We can't do that," he said. "We have to make sure the streets are good at 6 a.m. in the morning."

Yes, it was a mild winter — "I was expecting it to be lower, too," he said about the cost of sand and salt — but the little storms add up.

Councilors also pressed Turocy about the state of the city's roads.

"The roads are deplorable in the city of Pittsfield," Morandi said.

To that point, Ward 5 Councilor Donna Todd Rivers agreed. She said there's only one thing to do about that: Spend more on public services.

"It seems to me we're just not staffing it or funding it appropriately," she said.

If budgets are policy documents, she said, "then this document says that we're not listening."

Rivers made a motion to refer the public services department's budget back to the mayor for an increase. While her measure won philosophical support among several councilors, most agreed that there's nowhere from which to pull additional money.

"I'm frustrated with looking at some of these numbers, too," Councilor at Large Pete White said. "[But] the money's just not there."

The department's $8 million budget won preliminary approval from councilors, with Rivers and Connell voting in opposition.

Amanda Drane can be contacted at adrane@berskhireeagle.com, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.

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“Pittsfield council preliminarily approves $63.5 million schools budget”
By Amanda Drane, The Berkshire Eagle, May 30, 2019

Pittsfield — The City Council preliminarily approved a $63.5 million budget for city schools Thursday, but first came a heated exchange about whether the city was leaving new state funding on the table.

The vote was 10 to 1, with Ward 7 Councilor Tony Simonelli voting against.

Ward 6 Councilor John Krol said he feared that because the city was not planning to use all of the expected $3.7 million increase in state school reimbursements for students, it meant that it's not making good on its end of the bargain.

To that, Superintendent Jason McCandless said "we share that concern."

The planned $3.7 million influx for the coming fiscal year is unprecedented, officials say, and it reflects an effort at the state level to overhaul how the commonwealth's public schools are funded. McCandless originally had planned to use all of the historic increase for investments in schools, but Mayor Linda Tyer and her team urged him to pull back his spending plan, saving about $500,000 to apply to health insurance for school employees — an expense that comes from the city's general fund rather that the departmental budget.

But because the state budget is not yet finalized, some argued that there could be an even larger windfall in the wings.

State Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, D-Pittsfield, told councilors they should use the state House budget as the floor; the governor's budget is typically referred to as the lowest possible reimbursement for planning purposes. And while she knows health insurance is a "budget buster," she said legislators warring over whose students deserve more funding will be watching how Pittsfield uses this new money.

"This is a battle in the Statehouse right now," she said.

Krol said investing that hard-won money into schools is "the least we can do." He moved to refer the budget back to the mayor, under the premise that all of the expected influx be applied to students.

"For me, there's nothing more important than the schools," he said.

Tyer promised to work with McCandless to possibly appropriate more money for schools if the state sees fit to dole out more than the expected $3.7 million increase. Still, she said, the city should move cautiously into this uncharted territory.

"I would emphasize this is a brand new formula " she said. "I think we have to be conservative here."

Other councilors argued that money spent on health insurance was still money spent on schools, and Krol's motion failed 9-2, with Krol and Ward 2 Councilor Helen Moon voting in favor.

Simonelli went the opposite direction, moving to ask Tyer and McCandless to reduce the budget $280,000. He said the city has pressing issues — like crime and deteriorating roads — and the department hasn't successfully made the case for the spending increase.

"This, to me, feels slightly mean-spirited, to be honest with you," McCandless told councilors, telling them that all of the items included in his budget are, indeed, needs, and not wants.

But other councilors argued that it was counterproductive to the issue of crime to take money away from city schools.

"Taking away from the schools budget is, I think, going to contribute to the increased crime rate," Moon said.

Simonelli's motion failed 10 to 1.

McCandless told The Eagle in an earlier interview that this is the first budget he has worked on for the city that includes no pink slips, or layoffs.

Jennifer Stokes, special education director for the district, said school principals in Pittsfield asked for help around reading and math interventions, and so funding will be used to support that request. That means hiring new academic intervention teachers, as well as ensuring that each of the schools has access to the same level of intervention materials.

The district plans to add five intervention teachers, as well as at least five special education instruction and accountability coordinators.

These coordinators are intended to serve as a point of contact for families of students with individualized education plans, or IEPs, and they will oversee those plans even as students move beyond their current level.

"They are the measurer of the goals," McCandless told councilors.

Their existence allows special education teachers more time and energy to teach.

The budget also includes a $250,000 increase for curriculum upgrades, and a $250,000 increase for school security revisions.

McCandless said more school shootings mean schools everywhere need to bolster their security measures.

"Clearly, the lessons of the last 20 years in America suggest this is a good investment," he told The Eagle.

He said he plans to hire a restorative justice consultant, and the budget also includes a $50,000 budget for the district's cultural competency coach.

Amanda Drane can be contacted at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, @amandadranr on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.

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“Pittsfield City Council approves $166.6M budget request”
By Amanda Drane, The Berkshire Eagle, June 11, 2019

Pittsfield — The City Council approved $166.6 million in spending for the coming fiscal year during its regularly scheduled Tuesday meeting.

The spending plan passed 8-3, with councilors Kevin Morandi, John Krol and Tony Simonelli in opposition. Each said they voted against the budget because it didn't reflect what they felt should be the city's priorities.

The $166.6 million appropriation reflects a portion of the overall operating budget — it's the portion the City Council has purview over — while the city plans to spend a total of $175.5 million over fiscal year 2020. The council also unanimously approved $10.7 million in capital borrowing.

Krol said he couldn't stand behind the city's plan to take a piece of school reimbursement funds, expected from the state as part of its school funding review, to use toward health insurance. By doing so, he said the city is using hard-fought funding to balance the operating budget on the backs of the city's schools.

"That's just too glaring for me accept," he said.

During the earlier budget hearing for the Pittsfield Public Schools, Krol made a failed motion to refer the school spending plan back to the mayor for an increase.

Alternatively, Simonelli had moved to refer the same budget back to the mayor for a $200,000 reduction. He said the issues he hears most about from his constituents are crime and the deplorable state of the city's roads, so he had hoped to divert funding from the schools to address those two issues.

Simonelli said after the Tuesday meeting that he spent more than three decades working in the city's schools and "I'm not anti-education."

"As a city councilor, we have to look at the whole city," he said.

Morandi said he couldn't abide by the state of the city's roads and he felt the budget didn't properly address public services.

"Hopefully we can do a better job and this will send a message," he said.

Ward 4 Councilor Chris Connell said that he voted yes on the budget despite feeling that money should have been shaved and redistributed into the city's Department of Public Services.

He and Ward 5 Councilor Donna Todd Rivers were met with resistance last week when she proposed referring the department's budget back to the mayor for additional spending. Other councilors had said there was no money to pull from.

"The reason why we don't have any money is because we didn't make any cuts," Connell said during the Tuesday meeting.

Before councilors approved the $10.7 million in capital borrowing, Councilor at Large Melissa Mazzeo attempted to add controversial pickleball funds back into the spending plan. Council President Peter Marchetti told her councilors don't have the power to amend a mayoral order.

Mazzeo then asked Mayor Linda Tyer why her capital budget order didn't include funds toward a pickleball court. The council voted last week to remove the $52,500 in pickleball spending, but Mazzeo told her "you could have vetoed that."

"I could have " Tyer said. "But I would have risked losing the entire capital budget."

Tyer said that while she supports the pickleball facility and its intended location, she chose to honor the vote of the City Council when issuing her order.

Mazzeo said the whole pickleball ordeal "boggles my mind." With that proposal, Mazzeo said "we were not affecting the integrity of Springside Park one iota."

Fire hydrants and a port-a-potty

Connell also filed a fresh petition during the meeting to install a port-a-potty at Kirvin Park. He said the popular park needs a bathroom for people to use.

"We don't want people using woodsy facilities ...," he said while smiling, "which could very well happen if there's nothing there."

But Public Services Commissioner David Turocy said he didn't want to approve a port-a-potty at Kirvin Park exclusively without taking a comprehensive look at the entire park system. "It's never just one," he said.

And Morandi filed a new petition calling on the city to compile a list of the city's fire hydrants, documenting the functionality of each one. He previously told The Eagle he was concerned about the city's fire hydrants after they've failed to work during a series of Morningside fires, most recently with a large blaze on Tyler Street.

Amanda Drane can be contacted at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.

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“Pittsfield Council OKs $175M Operating Budget, $11M Capital Plan”
By Andy McKeever, iBerkshires Staff, June 14, 2019

Pittsfield, Mass. — The City Council approved both the operating budget and the capital budget on Tuesday, June 11, but not before one more match of pickleball.

The City Council had voted against borrowing $52,500 to support the construction of new pickleball courts at Springside Park. The mayor returned with a $10.7 million capital order that did not include that — the only change requested by the council.

Councilor at Large Melissa Mazzeo, however, pressed Mayor Linda Tyer on why she didn't pursue it anyway. Mazzeo feels that the council's discussion may have changed the tenor among constituents who perhaps were unsure of the exact location before.

"So many people I heard from were so confused on where this pickleball court was going," Mazzeo said.

While many were against using the park for the site of the new courts, Mazzeo had emphasized that the location by the Doyle Softball Complex on Benedict Road was ideal. She said that didn't interfere with other uses in the park and the location is already for active use.

Tyer responded that she, too, supported that location, hence why she put forth the proposal. But, she "honored the vote of the City Council." Had she not pulled that from the proposal, there was a risk that the council would vote down the entire order, thus leaving the numerous other projects in the plan unfunded.

"I could have sent it back to you with it with the pickleball line item in there but I would have risked losing the entire capital budget," Tyer said.

Ward 4 Councilor Christopher Connell had voted in favor of pickleball at the time. But he was also on the council a handful of years ago when former Mayor Daniel Bianchi and the council fought over a fire truck in the capital budget. In the end, the council did not approve the order and some projects ultimately were delayed.

"I didn't want to take out the funding for pickleball courts, there were some other things I was concerned about. But we were on this path five years ago when the capital budget did not get approved and basically there was a standstill," Connell said before voting in favor of the capital budget.

Tyer said there could be potential further discussion about moving forward with a project, and that could mean finding a new location. Another capital order could be brought before the council in the future.

"I support pickleball, I support the location. That's why I proposed it," Tyer said.

Councilor at Large Earl Persip said the location is the only problem and bemoaned that the council was yet again discussing the proposal after a lengthy debate about it already.

"You might have an 11-0 vote for pickleball if we moved it from Springside Park, why are we stuck on Springside Park?" Persip said.

But Ward 2 Councilor Kevin Morandi said that was not true because he won't be voting for it anywhere. Morandi believes the city has enough parks that it can't maintain to add more.

"Until those needs are met, I can't see spending that money on a new facility we have to maintain," he said.

In the end the council approved the capital order.

The council also picked through the operating budget and approved an amended appropriation of $166,599,139. During the budget hearings, the council reduced the water and the wastewater enterprise accounts by $25,000 each. The city solicitor's budget was increased by $2,039.

The budget overall is increasing by just short of $7 million.

The budget is broken down into $154,167,742 for the municipal and school operations, and $12,431,397 for the enterprise accounts, for a total of $166,599,139 on total appropriations from the council. Also on the books is another $8,838,314 for other charges, particularly offsets to state aid like school choice and various assessments.

The mayor's overall spending plan calls for a $175,437,453 operating budget, which is about 3.9 percent more than the current year. The revenues would come from about $57 million in state aid, $12 million in local receipts, $12 million in enterprise fees, $1.8 million in other revenues collected, $750,000 in free cash, and $91 million in property taxes, according to Director of Finance Matthew Kerwood.

The schools are seeing an increase of $2.9 million in the budget in response to the state being expected to release an additional $3.7 million in support. Council Vice President John Krol voted against the budget for the first time in his career as a councilor because he felt more of that aid should have been directed to where it was intended — the schools. He said a lot of people fought hard to get increased support for schools and now, quoting fellow Councilor Helen Moon, the city is "balancing the rest of the budget on the backs of the school."

"In 10 years I've never voted against a budget. There have been things I haven't liked from time but not enough to vote against it," he said.

Councilors Anthony Simonelli and Morandi also voted against the budget but for different reasons. All three councilors, however, didn't feel the proposal correctly prioritized certain aspects of operations.

Connell voted in favor of the budget but said some of the lines that councilors felt were underfunded were so because the council failed to make enough cuts in other places of the budget to reallocate.

"The reason why we don't have the money is because we didn't make any cuts," Connell said. "There was money. Some of us were trying to find it but unfortunately, it didn't get the votes."

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6/15/2019

Facts:

$175,437,453 operating budget

$10,700,000 million capital budget

The budget overall is increasing by just short of $7,000,000 million, which is about a 3.9 percent increase over fiscal year 2019’s budget. The schools are seeing an increase of $2,900,000 million in the budget.

Opinion:

While I fully support the lovely Linda Tyer, who I believe is the best Mayor of Pittsfield EVER, I disagree with her fiscal year 2020 budget. The reason I dissent is that no one’s pay goes up by 3.9 percent in one year. I believe a realistic budget would increase by no more than 2 percent.

I have followed Pittsfield politics for decades, and it is always the same outcomes. Municipal taxes always go up by around 5 percent per fiscal year. Pittsfield has an excessively high debt load, too. The tax base always shrinks due to chronic and recurring losses in population and jobs. Pittsfield is one of the most economically unequal communities in the state and nation. There are many people who live in or near poverty. Pittsfield is a distressed economy ran by political hacks!

- Jonathan Melle

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Letter: “Pittsfield must support qualified candidates”
The Berkshire Eagle, May 27, 2019

To the editor:

We have city elections coming up this fall. I would remind all voters to study the candidates carefully and choose those who are qualified for the position they are hoping to win. For too long, elections in Pittsfield have been popularity contests in which the most competent candidates have no chance in beating a Good Old Boy/Special Interest Group (GOB/SIG)-backed candidate. Once they have elected their stooge, the cycle continues with city budgets soaring to the stratosphere.

The GOB/SIGs have their hands in every election. Look at the present mayor, who was the favorite candidate of the GOB/SIGs. She was the least competent of the four candidates, but the GOB/SIGs backed her and the string of failures continues.

The SIGs are the school department, police department, fire department, DPW and city workers, and they are all good people who do their jobs well. But they and their friends and relatives equal a voting bloc that determines all elections in Pittsfield. I urge the many registered voters in Pittsfield who do not vote in city elections to realize that if you get involved and vote only for competent candidates we can end this cycle of electing incompetent, unqualified candidates such as Linda Tyer and eight of the current city councilors: Helen Moon, Donna Todd Rivers, Peter White, John Krol, Peter Marchetti, Nicholas Caccamo, Earl Persip and Anthony Simonelli, all of whom are rubber stamps for the mayor.

Let's look at perhaps the greatest blunder by Tyer and her minions. They decided to spend $74 million of taxpayer money on upgrades at the city's sewer plant that could have been done for $21 million. I am one of the inventors of the city's two drinking water plants and saved the city $116 million in capital investment costs in the 1980s and another $50 million in reduced water and sewer rates over the past 34 years and they completely ignored me.

I have taken out papers to run for mayor, city councilor at large and Ward 6 city councilor. I will decide which position to run for based on the most people that I can help.

I am a lifelong city resident, a decorated Vietnam veteran, and am an honors graduate of BCC and MCLA. My areas of study were in biology, chemistry and physics. I taught these disciplines as a high school teacher for more than 10 years and was an adjunct professor of chemical and biological mechanics and environmentalism at the graduate level. I was former worldwide director of technical marketing for Krofta Engineering and have built five water plants in the U.S., including three in the Berkshires.

I believe city government is too big and too costly. City budgets under my control if I become mayor will be reduced from current levels. Will there be reductions in personnel? I am honest enough to say yes. That's where big savings will come from. I hope to reduce positions through attrition if possible. I will not be pandering to the GOB/SIGs but they will be out to defeat me. I hope the voters who stayed away from past elections will support me. I urge you to watch my TV show on PCTV Channel 1301 and invite other candidates to join me on my show.

Let's all put the election dates on our calendar and vote for the most qualified candidates.

Craig Gaetani, Pittsfield

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Letter: “Tyer has brought needed change to city”
The Berkshire Eagle, May 27, 2019

To the editor:

I live in Lee, so I can't vote in the election for Pittsfield mayor, but if could I would vote for Mayor Linda Tyer.

I have subscribed to The Berkshire Eagle since 2016 and have seen the amazing changes she has brought to Pittsfield. She listened and understood what was needed to help our youth, elderly, and less advantaged citizens. She has worked tirelessly to address problems and issues that impact Pittsfield and will continue to do so.

I urge Pittsfield voters to let Mayor Tyer continue her productive efforts.

Nancy Stuart, Lee

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Our Opinion: “Keep election season out of city politics”
The Berkshire Eagle, Editorial, May 30, 2019

Pittsfield's has lost its respected building commissioner, Gerald Garner, to Adams, where he will make more money and undoubtedly have less aggravation.

Meanwhile, Pittsfield's search for a replacement is dragging along, beset perhaps, by the politics that Mr. Garner apparently found burdensome.

Mr. Gardner, who made $67,600 in Pittsfield, is earning $75,200 annually for a similar job in Adams. In a frank interview with The Eagle's Amanda Drane (May 25), Mr. Garner, who was the city's building commissioner for 10 years, said, "Money has always been a lingering issue with that place," in reference to Pittsfield. His requests for a raise were unavailing, aside from one during the administration of Mayor Daniel Bianchi.

The city has been without a building commissioner for two months, which Mayor Linda Tyer told the City Council has put "quite a strain on the department." We don't doubt that, as the commissioner's duties are many. Mr. Garner supervised building inspectors, enforced state codes and zoning regulations and assured that structures are safe, among other responsibilities. This is a particularly important position in a city with an aging infrastructure.

Mayor Tyer has expressed the desire for some flexibility on the building commissioner's salary as she seeks a replacement and budgeted the line item at $70,000. Mr. Gerard told The Eagle it will be difficult for the city to find a capable replacement without raising the salary. Nonetheless, there was push among city councilors to actually reduce the salary line item, which was defeated by a narrow 6-to-4 vote. Lowering the salary may have assured that the city would not be able to find a replacement of the caliber needed for the position.

In outlining the skills needed for the job to The Eagle, Mr. Garner noted that his replacement should be politically savvy, adding that the building commissioner's role in Adams is less political than it is in Pittsfield. He didn't amplify, but anyone who reads The Eagle or watches City Council meetings on PCTV knows that city government is heavily politicized and that the ongoing battles between rival camps impacts many aspects of city business.

This goes double in an election year and that can be doubled again in this particular election year, which features a race for mayor that includes the incumbent and at-large city councilor Melissa Mazzeo. They represent two rival forces that have long battled in Pittsfield, perhaps most notably during the years of mayors James Ruberto and Daniel Bianchi. Their differing philosophies will be on display during this year's mayoral campaign and it will be good for the city to have that debate.

Politics should stay in the political arena, however, and the vote to lower the line item for the building commissioner's salary after losing a veteran building commissioner to another Berkshire town was so illogical it appears obvious that politics was behind it. It is not the first vote in recent months that has that taint. This is the recipe for the kind of polarization that paralyzes our federal government.

Pittsfield looks forward to a vigorous political campaign. And let's keep it out of City Council chambers.

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Letter: “Paid off-street parking will hurt businesses”
The Berkshire Eagle, May 31, 2019

To the editor:

The parking plan for the lot replacing the Summer Street garage in Pittsfield needs more thought and, we believe, revision.

One might argue that businesses are not people, but the businesses in this community are owned and operated by people, the businesses in this community are here for the benefit of us, the people who live in this community, and we, the people, patronize these businesses.

The Summer Street garage used to offer a lot of free parking, with three-hour free parking on the street. There was also free diagonal parking behind the North Street shops that border on the garage. Many of us in this community will be affected by the loss of free, three-hour parking spaces, as were available both in the former garage and behind the shops.

Which people who will be negatively affected? The people who will be hurt by metered, off-street parking include:

— The merchants on that block of North Street, some of whose patrons chose to park out back, next to the garage, because it was free.

— The owners of Berkshire Nautilus and the numerous, mostly medical offices on the second and third floors of the Nautilus building.

— Barrington Stage, especially during matinee hours, when patrons and volunteers frequently parked in the former garage.

— The patrons of the North Street shops, Berkshire Nautilus, the medical offices, and patrons and volunteers of Barrington Stage.

With the advent of legalized marijuana, the city will experience new revenues. Please don't hurt the merchants, owners and patrons outlined above by penalizing them with new parking fees, especially in off-street areas.

We all want to see upstreet (our downtown) flourish! We need to encourage new businesses, new professional offices, shops, restaurants, etc. Charging for off-street parking in our dwindling community is not the way to stimulate revitalization!

Stuart Masters, Harvey Zimbler, Pittsfield

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Donna Todd Rivers

“Pittsfield Councilor Donna Todd Rivers drops reelection bid”
By Amanda Drane, The Berkshire Eagle, June 10, 2019

Pittsfield — Ward 5 Councilor Donna Todd Rivers has announced that she no longer aims to keep her seat.

After "much thought and soul searching," the two-term councilor said she fears increasing demands in her personal life will take from her ability to serve constituents.

She made the announcement Friday evening via an email to her colleagues on the City Council, as well as in a letter to the editor at this paper. She is so far the only person to pull nomination papers in Ward 5.

Anyone interested in running in her place has until July 19 to gather 50 signatures from within the ward and submit them to City Hall for verification.

Rivers, who had pulled nomination papers for the seat, cited increasing professional and familial obligations in her letter, and "I fear in time these would lead to a decrease in the level of service and responsiveness that you have come to expect and deserve."

Her mother is ailing and lives four hours away, she told The Eagle.

"Looking into the future, if things changed in my life I just needed to be able to be there for her," she said.

She's also very busy with her work in planning and development for Elder Services of Berkshire County, she said.

"There are so many issues that are facing our elders," she said. "Our community is aging."

While she's bowing out of the reelection bid, she said she will serve out the rest of her term, which lasts through the end of the year. Meantime, she said she plans to work on issues facing the ward and the city, especially the poor state of the city's roads and sidewalks — an issue that she said affects quality of life in the neighborhoods and takes away from the city's ability to attract new people.

She said she also is willing to help a newly elected councilor fill her shoes. "Because when I stepped in, I had nothing," she said.

The decision to drop out of the race was a difficult one, she said. She said she's confident that she'll step back into politics at some point.

"It's in my system," she said. "It's part of who I am."

And just because she won't be on the City Council next year doesn't mean you won't hear from her as an advocate and involved citizen, she said.

"I think you get more done sometimes as a community advocate than you do as an elected official," she said, adding "you'll never quiet me."

Amanda Drane can be contacted at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.

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Yuki Cohen

“Cohen pulls papers for Pittsfield council; Lothrop eyes former Ward 5 seat”
By Amanda Drane, The Berkshire Eagle, June 14, 2019

Pittsfield — Yuki Cohen, owner of the popular Methuselah Bar and Lounge, pulled nomination papers Friday for a citywide seat on the City Council.

The bar owner and financial adviser is going big for her first council run, setting her sights on an at-large seat to focus on education and small-business development in Pittsfield.

Cohen, who also sits on the board at Jacob's Pillow, said Pittsfield's artistic caliber and breathtaking landscape position it well for growth.

"I am running for council because I would love an opportunity to participate in further unfolding the great potential of this bright city," she said in a release.

Cohen's candidacy and others announced throughout the week came about a month away from the city's nomination deadline. Nominees have until July 19 to collect signatures and submit them at City Hall.

Nominees for the council's at-large seats must collect 150 citywide signatures, while ward candidates must collect 50 signatures from within their neighborhood.

Longtime Councilor Melissa Mazzeo's mayoral bid cleared the way for new blood in the council's at-large race. Cohen joins incumbent councilors Peter Marchetti, Earl Persip and Pete White, as well as Craig Gaetani, Alex Blumin, Jay Hamling and Auron Stark, in the field for four seats.

Also, former City Councilor Jonathan Lothrop announced this week his potential return to council politics. Lothrop, who serves on the city's Conservation Commission, seeks to reclaim the Ward 5 seat, which he held for 12 years through 2015.

During that time, he said, he worked on everything from potholes and street repairs to the airport, the new Taconic school building project, city parks and downtown revitalization.

"I have a record of delivering results for the residents of Ward 5," he said.

Lothrop was one of three to pull papers this week, after incumbent Ward 5 Councilor Donna Todd Rivers pulled out of her reelection bid. He joins Pittsfield political newcomers Patrick Kavey and Eugene Maselli.

Contested council races also have developed in Wards 4, 6 and 7.

Incumbent Ward 4 Councilor Chris Connell will face off against Michael Merriam, who sits on the city's Traffic Commission. And the Ward 7 race is now a three-way field among John Daniels Jr., Jeffrey Ferrin and Anthony Maffuccio.

In Ward 6, Homeless Prevention Committee Chairman Edward Carmel will square off against Dina Guiel Lampiasi, operations chief for the Berkshire District Attorney's Office, as well as Gaetani and Joseph C. Nichols.

Incumbent ward councilors Helen Moon, Kevin Morandi and Nick Caccamo remain uncontested in their bids for Ward 1, Ward 2 and Ward 3, respectively.

Amanda Drane can be contacted at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.

related link: https://www.wamc.org/post/yuki-cohen-announces-bid-pittsfield-city-council

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Laurie Tierney: “Drop gloom and excuses - explore city's downtown”
By Laurie Tierney, op-ed, The Berkshire Eagle, June 23, 2019

Pittsfield — I've been reading the recent headlines about malls around the country and their slow, steady death and demise. I hear people who come into my store lament "Oh no, what happened to the Berkshire Mall?" It baffles me that people seem surprised at this turn of events.

This cannot be a surprise to anyone who has visited the mall in the past five years. Slowly, but surely, this has been the obvious direction. The quality and quantity of stores has diminished; bookstores and restaurants vanished years ago and the parking lot has become more and more vacant.

I urge all locals to stop mourning the malls and insisting that the only thing left to do is shop online. Don't get me wrong, I am guilty of typing in Amazon.com when I need something and I have no idea where to find it. But I would like to throw out a crazy idea — a challenge if you will, for the summer months.

A DOUBLE DARE

Take a day, it can be during the week or the weekend. Park your car somewhere on North Street (the new parking lot is open with unparalleled views of the mountains). Oh, I know, I can hear you all now; "metered parking...have to pay to park...nothing worth seeing on North Street...etc." To all of that, I say — I dare you to park and I double dare you to say there is nothing downtown.

First of all, your first half hour is free; after 4 p.m. is free; weekends are free. I hear people say, "I don't always have change on me" So, use a debit or credit card — easiest option ever. "I don't know my license plate number." For goodness sake, take a photo with your phone, put it in your phone notes or on a piece of paper in your wallet. This is something that you should memorize or have on you anyway!

Then there is the best excuse of all — "There's nothing worth seeing or doing downtown." It may not be the heyday of the '60s but it isn't the dismal '80s either. There is a downtown revitalization and all those excuses are holding you back from enjoying North Street.

From Carr Hardware to the Colonial Theater, there is so much to see, do and discover in downtown. Let's start with Carr Hardware. Sure, you can drive to Berkshire Crossing, go to Home Depot and give your business to a chain store with mediocre products or you can see if you can find what you need at a family-owned business where the owner himself is often there to greet you and ask what you need. A no-brainer, and there is free parking.

WEALTH OF CHOICES

Heading south from Carr's are so many businesses worth visiting and supporting: Dottie's Coffee Lounge, West Side Clock Shop, The Lantern, Barrington Stage — both stages (our own Broadway right here), Mission Bar and Tapas (you are missing out if you are not enjoying a glass of Spanish wine outside in the summer); Funky Phoenix, Township Four (I know many of you are saying "What's that?" Exactly — get in there!), Kidding Around Consignment, Clark's Vintage Lighting, Methuselah, Circa, Frameworks for rentable events and office space, Dory & Ginger (my personal favorite), Eat on North (best wings and burgers ever), Paul Rich (drool worthy), Steven Valenti (men's and women's clothing), House of India (get the rice pudding), The Garden, RJ Stohr (Rick and Norm are the best), The Beacon Cinema (who needs Regal at the mall when you've got the Beacon Theater?!), Brooklyn's Best, Shiro, Marketplace Cafe, Hot Harry's, Pancho's, Museum Facsimiles, The Berkshire Museum and the Museum Shop (often overlooked by museum goers, but always impresses), window gaze at the Wolfson Center to see some of the fabulous costumes from Barrington Stage plays, Radiance Yoga for classes and massages, take a side step and enjoy a beer at Thistle and Mirth, a bite at District, an Italian meal with fabulous decor at Trattoria Rustica, a tasty bite at Flavours, or a Philly cheese steak at Big Daddy's.

I apologize for any places I have missed and promise to get myself into each and every business, but there is a point in this rant. We talk about local — shop local, hire local, eat local — well, downtown is coming back and you can all be a part of that positive energy. Support the city; support our downtown; forget malls and chains. These business owners are your neighbors, relatives, friends and they are investing their time, energy and finances trying to make our downtown alive again.

So, park the car, pay the meter and take a stroll. Join me in my mantra: first downtown, then Pittsfield, then Berkshire County.

Laurie Tierney is co-owner of Hotel On North and Dory & Ginger.

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Letter: “No C of O for Taconic puts city at risk”
The Berkshire Eagle, June 23, 2019

To the editor:

I find it outrageous that the administration of the city of Pittsfield would choose to risk major liabilities by operating Taconic High School without a Certificate of Occupancy (Eagle, June 7.) This dangerous decision could have left this city in a perilous situation. Heaven forbid if any kind of disaster had happened, this administration would have exposed our city to major litigation.

A C of O is a legal document issued by the building department upon final inspection of an addition, new house, or a $120 million school. It is only issued when all the trades involved, wiring, plumbing, HVAC, fire protection and so on have been inspected and signed off by the appropriate inspector. That means all work meets all state codes and the inspector has approved the quality of work "up to codes." Then and only then does the building commissioner issue a C of O.

A temporary C of O is used when someone wants a C of O but does not comply. You either meet the criteria or you don't. Anyone who has had a problem obtaining a C of O knows the hoops you must do go thru to satisfy the inspectors.

The decision to operate Taconic without a C of O did not come from the building dept. Our building inspectors have too much integrity to jeopardize their reputation on such a foolish decision. The fact that the building maintenance director and the school superintendent say the school is safe carries no legal weight. The fact that three temporary C of Os were issued indicates many problems still exist. I can only wonder how happy the school and city insurance carriers are to know that this administration chose to put the city's students, teachers and faculty at risk by occupying a new school without the proper legally required documentation. These are the same tactics the mayor and the Office of Community Development are using with the Proprietors Lodge. Issuing temporary C of Os for areas that do not meet requirements for occupancy so Proprietors can open for a wedding without meeting the standards for a C of O is not acceptable.

It is wrong for the current administration to interfere with the operation of the building dept. at Taconic and at Proprietors Lodge.

Robert Snell, Pittsfield
The writer is a member of Concerned Citizens for Ethical Government.

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Letter: “Parking meters aren't friendly to elderly”
The Berkshire Eagle, June 24, 2019

To the editor:

As an elderly person, I am not open to learning how to use digital parking meters and entering my license plate number into the meter. This is especially true on a blustery day when it is cold, snowing or raining.

It is easier to shop at a shopping center where the parking is free and there is a good assortment of stores.

Now the Columbus Street parking lot will be metered. What a disappointment.

Carolyn J. Swegel, Pittsfield

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July 1, 2019

Pittsfield has been on a more than 4 decade long downward spiral of high taxes, huge debts, population loss, job loss, political corruption, Good Old Boys, 21 years (& counting) of PEDA problems, overpriced and underperforming public schools, economic inequality, and the sad list goes on and on!

Conclusion: Blame Linda Tyer for it all! The lovely Linda Tyer didn't change how Pittsfield does its business. She continues to raise taxes and increase debts, and worse of all, she is part of Jimmy Ruberto's G.O.B. network of corrupt insiders.

It is all her fault! If it wasn't for Mayor Linda Tyer, Pittsfield would be a utopia of low taxes and debts, PEDA would have at least 10 fortune 500 companies, there would be substantial gains in population and jobs, the public schools would produce the best performance results, there wouldn't be economic inequality, and the Good Old Boys would be a footnote in the sad history of Pittsfield politics.

- Jonathan Melle

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Letter: “Carousel was destined to fail”
The Berkshire Eagle, July 10, 2019

To the editor:

The Berkshire Carousel is a true work of art. It is everything that it was promised to be, plus some. And I hate to say "I told you so" but unfortunately the carousel promoters still are not listening.

When it opened, I said it would be closed within two years. Anyone who has taken time to go down to the remote location that turned out to be Door #4 for this perfect drawing card will probably agree that location is the primary reason that such a work of art has failed miserably, but it is not the sole reason.

My childhood memories of the "merry-go-round" are of a wide open, outdoor, sunlit experience. Surrounded by waving and smiling people, many that were only there to enjoy the colorful animals, the music, and to watch children enjoying themselves. When I saw the building being erected, I assumed that the outer walls were easily removable or possibly able to be raised up and out to provide shade for onlookers. It never dawned on me that this would not allow people to enjoy the sights without paying admission. After all of the public support both vocally and financially, I am surprised that no one is allowed to even observe the carousel without paying an admission fee. Perhaps the current state of affairs is the result of that policy.

I don't believe the carousel is a "destination." More like an attraction at a destination.

I have some tongue-in-cheek suggestions for an alternative location. But first... "tear down those walls!"

# 1. The vacant property that is for sale at the entrance to Wahconah Park between Adrian's and Tahiti Takeout.

# 2. The Berkshire Common on First Street. (Yes, I know all about that fiasco )

# 3. Maybe somewhere close to Mass. MoCA.

Let's face it, the carousel is a failure. Great intentions, great effort, sad results.

Richard Daly, Sr., Pittsfield

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“Mayoral candidate says schools, roads need attention”
The Berkshire Eagle, July 12, 2019

To the editor:

How many flat tires, broken axles and damaged vehicles will it take before our streets become a priority in Pittsfield?

Lily Tomlin once said, "The road to success is always under construction." However, many of the roads in Pittsfield haven't seen construction in well over a decade. So how will our city and citizens such as ourselves find success if many of our streets look like meteors hit them?

How many parents must send their children to out-of-district schools before the city recognizes and fixes the issues facing our school system? Underperforming schools, high numbers of students entering middle school unable to read at a fifth-grade level, out-of-control students disrupting classes, teachers assaulted by students, lack of consistent follow-through in regards to the breaking of rules by students, lack of support of teachers by some administrators.

These are just a few of the issues our schools are facing.

I have lived in Pittsfield my entire life and spent over 30 years as a Pittsfield police officer patrolling our streets and working in our schools. I believe it's time our city streets get the well-deserved work our taxes have been paying for, and our children get the education they deserve.

I grew up on Henry Avenue along with my 12 sisters and three brothers. My dad worked hard to support our family working as an auto parts manager. When my youngest sister went to school, my mom volunteered in the city schools and later became a paraprofessional until her retirement.

After attending college, I worked multiple jobs including McDonald's, Pittsfield Veterinary Hospital and Samale's package store before becoming a Pittsfield police officer. I am married and have three wonderful sons who also grew up locally and went to our schools.

In the early 1990s I was one of the first community policing officers working in our downtown area, when open drug dealing, open drinking and shoplifting were an issue.

I helped get the drug dealers and people openly drinking alcohol off North Street. Plus, I helped store owners in preventing shoplifting. I also taught DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) in our local schools, as well as working and then helping run our city's summer DARE camp.

I became a school resource officer at Reid Middle School at a time when the school was out of control and helped the new administrators bring the school back to a place where kids could safely learn.

I became an instructor in the ALICE (Alert Lockdown Inform Counter Evacuate) program training teachers throughout the city, as well as the students at Reid, on what to do if an armed intruder was in the building.

During my 13 years as a resource officer I saw many things that worked well and things the schools need to improve upon in order to keep our school environment safe for learning.

I worked tirelessly to make positive changes and better the lives of adults and children in our city.

If I am elected mayor I will work just as hard and tirelessly to improve our city streets, better our schools and make our city a positive place to live. You can contact me by email at bkkalinowsky@yahoo.com or on Facebook, with suggestions or support.

Karen Kalinowsky, Pittsfield
The writer is a candidate for mayor.

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About Me

My photo
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 jonathan_a_melle@yahoo.com

50th Anniversary - 2009

50th Anniversary - 2009
The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Columbus Avenue in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Pittsfield Politics: Capitanio, Mazzeo agree on budget cuts, public safety

Pittsfield Politics: Capitanio, Mazzeo agree on budget cuts, public safety
Paul Capitanio, left, speaks during Monday night's Ward 3 City Council debate with fellow candidate Melissa Mazzeo at Pittsfield Community Television's studio. The special election (3/31/2009) will be held a week from today (3/24/2009). The local issues ranged from economic development and cleaning up blighted areas in Ward 3 to public education and the continued remediation of PCB's.

Red Sox v Yankees

Red Sox v Yankees
Go Red Sox!

Outrage swells in Congress!

Outrage swells in Congress!
Senate Banking Committee Chairman Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., left, and the committee's ranking Republican Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., listen during a hearing on modernizing insurance regulations, Tuesday, March 17, 2009, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh). - http://news.yahoo.com/s/politico/20090318/pl_politico/30833

Beacon Hill's $pecial Interest Tax Raisers & $PENDERS!

Beacon Hill's $pecial Interest Tax Raisers & $PENDERS!
Photo Gallery: www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2009/03/15/St_Patricks_Day_Boston/

The path away from Wall Street ...

The path away from Wall Street ...
...Employers in the finance sector - traditionally a prime landing spot for college seniors, particularly in the Northeast - expect to have 71 percent fewer jobs to offer this year's (2009) graduates.

Economic collapse puts graduates on unforeseen paths: Enrollment in public service jobs rising...

Economic collapse puts graduates on unforeseen paths: Enrollment in public service jobs rising...
www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2009/03/14/economic_collapse_puts_graduates_on_unforeseen_paths/

Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis

Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis
Should he be fired? As Bank of America's Stock Plummets, CEO Resists Some Calls That He Step Down.

Hookers for Jesus

Hookers for Jesus
Annie Lobert is the founder of "Hookers for Jesus" - www.hookersforjesus.net/home.cfm - Saving Sin City: Las Vegas, Nevada?

Forever personalized stamped envelope

Forever personalized stamped envelope
The Forever stamp will continue to cover the price of a first-class letter. The USPS will also introduce Forever personalized, stamped envelopes. The envelopes will be preprinted with a Forever stamp, the sender's name and return address, and an optional personal message.

Purple Heart

Purple Heart
First issued in 2003, the Purple heart stamp will continue to honor the men and women wounded while serving in the US military. The Purple Heart stamp covers the cost of 44 cents for first-class, one-ounce mail.

Dolphin

Dolphin
The bottlenose is just one of the new animals set to appear on the price-change stamps. It will serve as a 64-cent stamp for odd shaped envelopes.

2009 price-change stamps

2009 price-change stamps
www.boston.com/business/gallery/2009pircechangestamps/ -&- www.boston.com/news/nation/washington/articles/2009/02/27/new_stamps_set_for_rate_increase_in_may/

Red Sox v Yankees

Red Sox v Yankees
Go Red Sox!

President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama
AP photo v Shepard Fairey

Rush Limbaugh lackeys

Rush Limbaugh lackeys
Posted by Dan Wasserman of the Boston Globe on March 3, 2009.

Honest Abe

Honest Abe
A 2007 US Penny

Dog race

Dog race
Sledding for dogs

The Capital of the Constitution State

The Capital of the Constitution State
Hartford, once the wealthiest city in the United States but now the poorest in Connecticut, is facing an uphill battle.

Brady, Bundchen married

Brady, Bundchen married
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and model Gisele Bundchen wed Feb. 26, 2009 in a Catholic ceremony in Los Angeles. www.boston.com/ae/celebrity/gallery/tom_gisele/

Mayor Jimmy Ruberto

Mayor Jimmy Ruberto
Tanked Pittsfield's local economy while helping his fellow insider political hacks and business campaign contributors!

Journalist Andrew Manuse

Journalist Andrew Manuse
www.manuse.com

New Hampshire Supreme Court Building

New Hampshire Supreme Court Building
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Hampshire_Supreme_Court

Economic State of the Union

Economic State of the Union
A look at some of the economic conditions the Obama administration faces and what resources have already been pledged to help. 2/24/2009

President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama
The president addresses the nation's governors during a dinner in the State Dinning Room, Sunday, Feb. 22, 2009, at the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari).

The Oscars - 2/22/2009.

The Oscars - 2/22/2009.
Hugh Jackman and Beyoncé Knowles teamed up for a musical medley during the show.

The 81st Academy Awards - Oscars - 2009

The 81st Academy Awards - Oscars - 2009
Hugh Jackman pulled actress Anne Hathaway on stage to accompany him during his opening musical number.

Rachel Maddow

Rachel Maddow
A Progressive News Commentator

$500,000 per year

$500,000 per year
That is chump change for the corporate elite!

THE CORPORATE ELITE...

THE CORPORATE ELITE...
Jeffrey R. Immelt, chairman and chief executive of General Electric

The Presidents' Club

The Presidents' Club
Bush, Obama, Bush Jr, Clinton & Carter.

5 Presidents: Bush, Obama, Bush Jr, Clinton, & Carter!

5 Presidents: Bush, Obama, Bush Jr, Clinton, & Carter!
White House Event: January 7, 2009.

Bank Bailout!

Bank Bailout!
v taxpayer

Actress Elizabeth Banks

Actress Elizabeth Banks
She will present an award to her hometown (Pittsfield) at the Massachusetts State House next month (1/2009). She recently starred in "W" and "Zack and Miri Make a Porno," and just signed a $1 million annual contract to be a spokesmodel for Paris.

Joanna Lipper

Joanna Lipper
Her award-winning 1999 documentary, "Growing Up Fast," about teenaged mothers in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

Happy Holidays...

Happy Holidays...
...from "Star Wars"

Massachusetts "poor" economy

Massachusetts "poor" economy
Massachusetts is one of the wealthiest states, but it is also very inequitable. For example, it boasts the nation's most lucrative lottery, which is just a system of regressive taxation so that the corporate elite get to pay less in taxes!

Reese Witherspoon

Reese Witherspoon
Hollywood Actress

Peter G. Arlos.

Peter G. Arlos.
Arlos is shown in his Pittsfield office in early 2000.

Turnpike OK's hefty toll hikes

Turnpike OK's hefty toll hikes
Big Dig - East-west commuters take hit; Fees at tunnels would double. 11/15/2008.

The Pink Panther 2

The Pink Panther 2
Starring Steve Martin

Police ABUSE

Police ABUSE
I was a victim of Manchester Police Officer John Cunningham's ILLEGAL USES of FORCE! John Cunningham was reprimanded by the Chief of Police for disrespecting me. John Cunningham yelled at a witness: "I don't care if he (Jonathan Melle) is disabled!"

Barack Obama

Barack Obama
The 44th US President!

Vote

Vote
Elections

The Bailout & the economic stimulus check

The Bailout & the economic stimulus check
A political cartoon by Dan Wasserman

A rainbow over Boston

A rainbow over Boston
"Rainbows galore" 10/2/2008

Our nation's leaders!

Our nation's leaders!
President Bush with both John McCain & Barack Obama - 9/25/2008.

Massachusetts & Big Dig: Big hike in tolls for Pike looming (9/26/2008).

Massachusetts & Big Dig: Big hike in tolls for Pike looming (9/26/2008).
$5 rise at tunnels is one possibility $1 jump posed for elsewhere.

Mary E Carey

Mary E Carey
My FAVORITE Journalist EVER!

9/11/2008 - A Show of Unity!

9/11/2008 - A Show of Unity!
John McCain and Barack Obama appeared together at ground zero in New York City - September 11, 2008.

John McCain...

John McCain...
...has all but abandoned the positions on taxes, torture and immigration. (A cartoon by Dan Wasserman. September 2008).

Dan Wasserman

Dan Wasserman
The deregulated chickens come home to roost... in all our pocketbooks. September 2008.

Sarah Palin's phobia

Sarah Palin's phobia
A scripted candidate! (A cartoon by Dan Wasserman).

Dan Wasserman

Dan Wasserman
Family FInances - September, 2008.

Mark E. Roy

Mark E. Roy
Ward 1 Alderman for Manchester, NH (2008).

Theodore “Ted” L. Gatsas

Theodore “Ted” L. Gatsas
Ward 2 Alderman (& NH State Senator) for Manchester, NH (2008).

Peter M. Sullivan

Peter M. Sullivan
Ward 3 (downtown) Alderman for Manchester, NH (2008).

Jim Roy

Jim Roy
Ward 4 Alderman for Manchester, NH (2008).

Ed Osborne

Ed Osborne
Ward 5 Alderman for Manchester, NH (2008).

Real R. Pinard

Real R. Pinard
Ward 6 Alderman for Manchester, NH (2008).

William P. Shea

William P. Shea
Ward 7 Alderman for Manchester, NH (2008).

Betsi DeVries

Betsi DeVries
Ward 8 Alder-woman (& NH State Senator) for Manchester, NH (2008).

Michael Garrity

Michael Garrity
Ward 9 Alderman for Manchester, NH (2008).

George Smith

George Smith
Ward 10 Alderman for Manchester, NH (2008).

Russ Ouellette

Russ Ouellette
Ward 11 Alderman for Manchester, NH (2008).

Kelleigh (Domaingue) Murphy

Kelleigh (Domaingue) Murphy
Ward 12 Alder-woman for Manchester, NH (2008).

“Mike” Lopez

“Mike” Lopez
At-Large Alderman for Manchester, NH. (2008).

Daniel P. O’Neil

Daniel P. O’Neil
At-Large Alderman for Manchester, NH (2008).

Sarah Palin for Vice President.

Sarah Palin for Vice President.
Republican John McCain made the surprise pick of Alaska's governor Sarah Palin as his running mate today, August 29, 2008.

U.S. Representative John Olver, D-Amherst, Massachusetts.

U.S. Representative John Olver, D-Amherst, Massachusetts.
Congressman Olver said the country has spent well over a half-trillion dollars on the war in Iraq while the situation in Afghanistan continues to deteriorate. 8/25/08.

Ed O'Reilly for US Senate in Massachusetts!

Ed O'Reilly for US Senate in Massachusetts!
John Kerry's 9/2008 challenger in the Democratic Primary.

Shays' Rebellion

Shays' Rebellion
In a tax revolt, Massachusetts farmers fought back during Shays' Rebellion in the mid-1780s after The American Revolutionary War.

Julianne Moore

Julianne Moore
Actress. "The Big Lebowski" is one of my favorite movies. I also like "The Fugitive", too.

Rinaldo Del Gallo III & "Superman"

Rinaldo Del Gallo III & "Superman"
Go to: http://www.berkshirefatherhood.com/index.php?mact=News,cntnt01,detail,0&cntnt01articleid=699&cntnt01returnid=69

"Income chasm widening in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts"

"Income chasm widening in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts"
The gap between rich and poor has widened substantially in Massachusetts over the past two decades. (8/15/2008).

Dan "Bureaucrat" Bosley

Dan "Bureaucrat" Bosley
"The Bosley Amendment": To create tax loopholes for the wealthiest corporate interests in Massachusetts!

John Edwards and...

John Edwards and...
...Rielle Hunter. WHO CARES?!

Rep. Edward J. Markey

Rep. Edward J. Markey
He wants online-privacy legislation. Some Web Firms Say They Track Behavior Without Explicit Consent.

Cindy Sheehan

Cindy Sheehan
She gained fame with her antiwar vigil outside the Bush ranch.

Olympics kick off in Beijing

Olympics kick off in Beijing
Go USA!

Exxon Mobil 2Q profit sets US record, shares fall

Exxon Mobil 2Q profit sets US record, shares fall
In this May 1, 2008, file photo, a customer pumps gas at an Exxon station in Middleton, Mass. Exxon Mobil Corp. reported second-quarter earnings of $11.68 billion Thursday, July 31, the biggest quarterly profit ever by any U.S. corporation, but the results were well short of Wall Street expectations and its shares fell as markets opened. (AP Photo/Lisa Poole, File) 7/31/2008.

Onota Lake 'Sea Serpent'

Onota Lake 'Sea Serpent'
Some kind of monster on Onota Lake. Five-year-old Tyler Smith rides a 'sea serpent' on Onota Lake in Pittsfield, Mass. The 'monster,' fashioned by Smith's grandfather, first appeared over July 4 weekend. (Photo courtesy of Ron Smith). 7/30/2008.

Al Gore, Jr.

Al Gore, Jr.
Al Gore issues challenge on energy

The Norman Rockwell Museum

The Norman Rockwell Museum
Stockbridge, Massachusetts

"Big Dig"

"Big Dig"
Boston's financially wasteful pork barrel project!

"Big Dig"

"Big Dig"
Boston's pork barrel public works project cost 50 times more than the original price!

Mary E Carey

Mary E Carey
My favorite journalist EVER!

U.S. Rep. John Olver, state Sen. Stan Rosenberg and Selectwomen Stephanie O'Keeffe and Alisa Brewer

U.S. Rep. John Olver, state Sen. Stan Rosenberg and Selectwomen Stephanie O'Keeffe and Alisa Brewer
Note: Photo from Mary E Carey's Blog.

Tanglewood

Tanglewood
Boston Symphony Orchestra music director James Levine.

Google

Google
Chagall

Jimmy Ruberto

Jimmy Ruberto
Faces multiple persecutions under the Massachusetts "Ethics" conflict of interest laws.

Barack Obama

Barack Obama
Obama vows $500m in faith-based aid.

John McCain

John McCain
He is with his wife, Cindy, who were both met by Colombian President Alvaro Uribe (right) upon arriving in Cartagena.

Daniel Duquette

Daniel Duquette
Sold Mayor James M. Ruberto of Pittsfield two tickets to the 2004 World Series at face value.

Hillary & Barack in Unity, NH - 6/27/2008

Hillary & Barack in Unity, NH - 6/27/2008
Clinton tells Obama, crowd in Unity, N.H.: 'We are one party'

John Forbes Kerry

John Forbes Kerry
Wanna-be Prez?

WALL-E

WALL-E
"out of this World"

Crisis in the Congo - Ben Affleck

Crisis in the Congo - Ben Affleck
http://abcnews.go.com/Nightline/popup?id=5057139&contentIndex=1&page=1&start=false - http://abcnews.go.com/Nightline/story?id=5234555&page=1

Jeanne Shaheen

Jeanne Shaheen
NH's Democratic returning candidate for U.S. Senate

"Wall-E"

"Wall-E"
a cool robot

Ed O'Reilly

Ed O'Reilly
www.edoreilly.com

Go Celtics!

Go Celtics!
World Champions - 2008

Go Red Sox!

Go Red Sox!
J.D. Drew gets the same welcome whenever he visits the City of Brotherly Love: "Booooooo!"; Drew has been vilified in Philadelphia since refusing to sign with the Phillies after they drafted him in 1997...

Joe Kelly Levasseur & Joe Briggs

Joe Kelly Levasseur & Joe Briggs
www.2joes.org

NH Union Leader

NH Union Leader
Editorial Cartoon

Celtics - World Champions!

Celtics - World Champions!
www.boston.com/sports/basketball/celtics/gallery/06_18_08_front_pages/ - www.boston.com/sports/basketball/celtics/gallery/06_17_08_finals_game_6/ - www.boston.com/sports/basketball/celtics/gallery/06_17_08_celebration/ - www.boston.com/sports/basketball/celtics/gallery/06_15_08_celtics_championships/

"The Nation"

"The Nation"
A "Liberal" weekly political news magazine. Katrina vanden Heuvel.

TV - PBS: NOW

TV - PBS: NOW
http://www.pbs.org/now

The Twilight Zone

The Twilight Zone
List of Twilight Zone episodes - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Twilight_Zone_episodes

Equality for ALL Marriages

Equality for ALL Marriages
I, Jonathan Melle, am a supporter of same sex marriages.

Kobe Bryant leads his time to a Game 5 victory.

Kobe Bryant leads his time to a Game 5 victory.
L.A. Lakers holds on for the win to force Game 6 at Boston

Mohawk Trail

Mohawk Trail
The 'Hail to the Sunrise' statue in Charlemont is a well-known and easily recognized landmark on the Mohawk Trail. The trail once boasted several souvenir shops, some with motels and restaurants. Now only four remain. (Caroline Bonnivier / Berkshire Eagle Staff).

NASA - June 14, 2008

NASA - June 14, 2008
Space Shuttle Discovery returns to Earth.

Go Celtics! Game # 4 of the 2008 NBA Finals.

Go Celtics! Game # 4 of the 2008 NBA Finals.
Boston took a 20-second timeout, and the Celtics ran off four more points (including this incredible Erving-esque layup from Ray Allen) to build the lead to five points with just 2:10 remaining. Reeling, the Lakers took a full timeout to try to regain their momentum.

Sal DiMasi

Sal DiMasi
Speaker of the Massachusetts State House of Representatives

Kelly Ayotte - Attorney General of New Hampshire

Kelly Ayotte - Attorney General of New Hampshire
http://doj.nh.gov/

John Kerry

John Kerry
He does not like grassroots democracy & being challenged in the 2008 Massachusetts Democratic Party Primary for re-election.

Tim Murray

Tim Murray
Corrupt Lt. Gov. of Massachusetts, 2007 - 2013.

North Adams, Massachusetts

North Adams, Massachusetts
downtown

Howie Carr

Howie Carr
Political Satirist on Massachusetts Corruption/Politics

Polar Bear

Polar Bear
Global Warming

Elizabeth Warren - Web-Site Links

Elizabeth Warren - Web-Site Links
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_Warren & http://www.creditslips.org/creditslips/WarrenAuthor.html

Elizabeth Warren

Elizabeth Warren
Consumer Crusader

Leon Powe

Leon Powe
Celtics forward Leon Powe finished a fast break with a dunk.

Kevin Garnett

Kevin Garnett
Kevin Garnett reacted during the game.

Rajon Rondo

Rajon Rondo
Rajon Rondo finished a first half fast break with a dunk.

Teamwork

Teamwork
Los Angeles Lakers teammates help Pau Gasol (16) from the floor in the second quarter.

Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bryant took a shot in the first half of Game 2.

Kendrick Perkins

Kendrick Perkins
Kendrick Perkins (right) backed down Lamar Odom (left) during first half action.

Go Celtics!

Go Celtics!
The Boston Symphony Orchestra performed the national anthem prior to Game 2.

K.G.!

K.G.!
Garnett reacted to a hard dunk in the first quarter.

Paul Pierce

Paul Pierce
Paul Pierce reacted after hitting a three upon his return to the game since leaving with an injury.

Go Celtics!

Go Celtics!
Kobe Bryant (left) and Paul Pierce (right) squared off in the second half of the game.

James Taylor

James Taylor
Sings National Anthem at Celtics Game.

John Forbes Kerry & Deval Patrick

John Forbes Kerry & Deval Patrick
Attended Celtics Game.

Greats of the NBA: Dr. J, Bill Russell, & Kareem!

Greats of the NBA: Dr. J, Bill Russell, & Kareem!
Attend Game 1 of the 2008 NBA Finals.

Bruce Willis

Bruce Willis
The actor (left) and his date were in the crowd before the Celtics game.

John Kerry

John Kerry
Golddigger attends Celtics game

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton
Ends her 2008 bid for Democratic Party nomination

Nonnie Burnes

Nonnie Burnes
Massachusetts Insurance Commish & former Judge

Jones Library

Jones Library
Amherst, Massachusetts

Barack Obama & Hillary Clinton

Barack Obama & Hillary Clinton
2008 Democratic Primary

"US vs Exxon and Halliburton"

"US vs Exxon and Halliburton"
U.S. Senator John Sununu took more than $220,000 from big oil.

Jeanne Shaheen

Jeanne Shaheen
4- U.S. Senate - 2008

William Pignatelli

William Pignatelli
Hack Rep. "Smitty" with Lynne Blake

Ben Bernanke

Ben Bernanke
Federal Reserve Chairman

Gazettenet.com

Gazettenet.com
www.gazettenet.com/beta/

Boys' & Girls' Club

Boys' & Girls' Club
Melville Street, Pittsfield, Massachusetts

Denis Guyer

Denis Guyer
Dalton State Representative

The Berkshire Eagle

The Berkshire Eagle
Pittsfield, Massachusetts

Carmen Massimiano

Carmen Massimiano
Williams College - May 2008

Larry Bird & Magic Johnson

Larry Bird & Magic Johnson
www.boston.com/lifestyle/gallery/when_the_celtics_were_cool/

Regressive Taxation! via State Lotteries

Regressive Taxation! via State Lotteries
New Massachusetts state lottery game hits $600 million in sales!

Andrea Nuciforo

Andrea Nuciforo
"Luciforo"

John Barrett III

John Barrett III
Long-time Mayor of North Adams Massachusetts

Shine On

Shine On

Elmo

Elmo
cool!

Paul Pierce

Paul Pierce
Paul Pierce kissed the Eastern Conference trophy. 5/30/2008. AP Photo.

Kevin Garnett & Richard Hamilton

Kevin Garnett & Richard Hamilton
Kevin Garnett (left) talked to Pistons guard Richard Hamilton (right) after the Celtics' victory in Game 6. 5/30/2008. Reuters Photo.

Paul Pierce

Paul Pierce
Paul Pierce showed his team colors as the Celtics closed out the Pistons in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals. 5/30/2008. Globe Staff Photo / Jim Davis.

Joseph Kelly Levasseur

Joseph Kelly Levasseur
One of my favorite politicians!

Mary E Carey

Mary E Carey
In the Big Apple: NYC! She is the coolest!

Guyer & Kerry

Guyer & Kerry
My 2nd least favorite picture EVER!

Mary Carey

Mary Carey
My favorite journalist EVER!

Nuciforo & Ruberto

Nuciforo & Ruberto
My least favorite picture EVER!

Jeanne Shaheen

Jeanne Shaheen
U.S. Senate - 2008

NH Fisher Cats

NH Fisher Cats
AA Baseball - Toronto Blue Jays affiliate

Manchester, NH

Manchester, NH
Police Patch

Michael Briggs

Michael Briggs
#83 - We will never forget

Michael "Stix" Addison

Michael "Stix" Addison
http://unionleader.com/channel.aspx/News?channel=2af17ff4-f73b-4c44-9f51-092e828e1131

Charlie Gibson

Charlie Gibson
ABC News anchor

Scott McClellan

Scott McClellan
http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/m/scott_mcclellan/index.html?inline=nyt-per

Boise, Idaho

Boise, Idaho
Downtown Boise Idaho

John Forbes Kerry

John Forbes Kerry
Legislative Hearing in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, BCC, on Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson
My favorite classical U.S. President!

NH Governor John Lynch

NH Governor John Lynch
Higher Taxes, Higher Tolls

Paul Hodes

Paul Hodes
My favorite Congressman!

Portland Sea Dogs

Portland Sea Dogs
AA Red Sox

New York

New York
Magnet

Massachusetts

Massachusetts
Magnet

New Hampshire

New Hampshire
Magnet

New Hampshire

New Hampshire
Button

Carmen Massimiano

Carmen Massimiano
"Luciforo" tried to send me to Carmen's Jail during the Spring & Summer of 1998.

Kay Khan - Massachusetts State Representative

Kay Khan - Massachusetts State Representative
www.openmass.org/members/show/174

Luciforo

Luciforo
Andrea F Nuciforo II

B-Eagle

B-Eagle
Pittsfield's monopoly/only daily newspaper

Jon Lester - Go Red Sox!

Jon Lester - Go Red Sox!
A Red Sox No Hitter on 5/19/2008!

Go Red Sox!

Go Red Sox!
Dustin Pedroia & Manny Ramirez

U.S. Flag

U.S. Flag
God Bless America!

Jonathan Melle's Blog

Jonathan Melle's Blog
Hello, Everyone!

Molly Bish

Molly Bish
We will never forget!

Go Celtics!

Go Celtics!
Celtics guard Rajon Rondo listens to some advice from Celtics head coach Doc Rivers in the first half.

Go Celtics!

Go Celtics!
Celtics forward Kevin Garnett and Pistons forward Rasheed Wallace embrace at the end of the game.

Go Red Sox!

Go Red Sox!
Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon calls for the ball as he charges toward first base. Papelbon made the out en route to picking up his 14th save of the season.

Go Red Sox!

Go Red Sox!
Red Sox starting pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka throws to Royals David DeJesus during the first inning.

Go Red Sox!

Go Red Sox!
Red Sox pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka delivers a pitch to Royals second baseman Mark Grudzielanek during the second inning.

Go Red Sox!

Go Red Sox!
Red Sox right fielder J.D. Drew is welcomed to home plate by teammates Mike Lowell (left), Kevin Youkilis (2nd left) and Manny Ramirez after he hit a grand slam in the second inning.

Go Red Sox!

Go Red Sox!
Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell crosses the plate after hitting a grand slam during the sixth inning. Teammates Manny Ramirez and Jacoby Ellsbury scored on the play. The Red Sox went on to win 11-8 to complete a four-game sweep and perfect homestand.

JD Drew - Go Red Sox

JD Drew - Go Red Sox
www.boston.com/sports/baseball/redsox/gallery/05_22_08_sox_royals/

Thank you for serving; God Bless America!

Thank you for serving; God Bless America!
Master Sgt. Kara B. Stackpole, of Westfield, holds her daughter, Samantha, upon her return today to Westover Air Reserve Base in Chicopee. She is one of the 38 members of the 439th Aeromedical Staging Squadron who returned after a 4-month deployment in Iraq. Photo by Dave Roback / The Republican.

Kathi-Anne Reinstein

Kathi-Anne Reinstein
www.openmass.org/members/show/175

Ted Kennedy

Ted Kennedy
Tragic diagnosis: Get well Senator!

Google doodle - Jonathan Melle Internet search

Google doodle - Jonathan Melle Internet search
http://blogsearch.google.com/blogsearch?hl=en&q=jonathan+melle+blogurl:http://jonathanmelleonpolitics.blogspot.com/&ie=UTF-8

John Forbes Kerry

John Forbes Kerry
Billionaire U.S. Senator gives address to MCLA graduates in North Adams, Massachusetts in mid-May 2008

Andrea Nuciforo

Andrea Nuciforo
"Luciforo"

A Red Sox Fan in Paris, France

A Red Sox Fan in Paris, France
Go Red Sox!

Rinaldo Del Gallo III

Rinaldo Del Gallo III
Interviewed on local TV

Andrea Nuciforo

Andrea Nuciforo
Luciforo!

John Adams

John Adams
#2 U.S. President

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
I stood under a tree on the afternoon of May 9, 2008, on the foregrounds of the NH State House - www.websitetoolbox.com/tool/post/nhinsider/vpost?id=2967773

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
Inside the front lobby of the NH State House

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
Bill Clinton campaign memorabilia

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
Liberty Bell & NH State House

Jon Keller

Jon Keller
Boston based political analyst

Jon Keller

Jon Keller
Boston based political analyst

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
Franklin Pierce Statue #14 U.S. President

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
NH State House

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
Stop the War NOW!

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
"Mr. Melle, tear down this Blog!"

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
I stood next to a JFK photo

Jonathan Levine, Publisher

Jonathan Levine, Publisher
The Pittsfield Gazette Online

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
I made rabbit ears with John & George

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
I made antenna ears with John & George

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
I impersonated Howard Dean

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
mock-voting

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
pretty ladies -/- Go to: http://www.wgir.com/cc-common/cc_photopop20.html?eventID=28541&pagecontent=&pagenum=4 - Go to: http://current.com/items/88807921_veterans_should_come_first_not_last# - http://www.mcam23.com/cgi-bin/cutter.cgi?c_function=STREAM?c_feature=EDIT?dir_catagory=10MorningRadio?dir_folder=2JoesClips?dir_file=JonathanMelle-090308? -

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
Go Red Sox! Me at Fenway Park

Mary E. Carey

Mary E. Carey
My favorite journalist! Her voice sings for the Voiceless. -/- Go to: http://aboutamherst.blogspot.com/search?q=melle -/- Go to: http://ongeicocaveman.blogspot.com/search?q=melle

Velvet Jesus

Velvet Jesus
Mary Carey blogs about my political writings. This is a picture of Jesus from her childhood home in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. -//- "How Can I Keep From Singing" : My life goes on in endless song / Above Earth's lamentations, / I hear the real, though far-off hymn / That hails a new creation. / / Through all the tumult and the strife / I hear its music ringing, / It sounds an echo in my soul. / How can I keep from singing? / / Whey tyrants tremble in their fear / And hear their death knell ringing, / When friends rejoice both far and near / How can I keep from singing? / / In prison cell and dungeon vile / Our thoughts to them are winging / When friends by shame are undefiled / How can I keep from singing?

www.truthdig.com

www.truthdig.com
www.truthdig.com

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
Concord NH

The Huffington Post

The Huffington Post
http://fundrace.huffingtonpost.com/neighbors.php?type=loc&newest=1&addr=&zip=01201&search=Search

Barack Obama

Barack Obama
smiles & beer

Jonathan Lothrop

Jonathan Lothrop
A Pittsfield City Councilor

Michael L. Ward

Michael L. Ward
A Pittsfield City Councilor

Peter Marchetti - Pittsfield's City Councilor at Large

Peter Marchetti - Pittsfield's City Councilor at Large
Pete always sides with the wealthy's political interests.

Gerald Lee - Pittsfield's City Council Prez

Gerald Lee - Pittsfield's City Council Prez
Gerald Lee told me that I am a Social Problem; Lee executes a top-down system of governance.

Matt Kerwood - Pittsfield's Councilor at Large

Matt Kerwood - Pittsfield's Councilor at Large
Kerwood poured coffee drinks for Jane Swift

Louis Costi

Louis Costi
Pittsfield City Councilor

Lewis Markham

Lewis Markham
Pittsfield City Councilor

Kevin Sherman - Pittsfield City Councilor

Kevin Sherman - Pittsfield City Councilor
Sherman ran for Southern Berkshire State Rep against Smitty Pignatelli; Sherman is a good guy.

Anthony Maffuccio

Anthony Maffuccio
Pittsfield City Councilor

Linda Tyer

Linda Tyer
Pittsfield City Councilor

Daniel Bianchi

Daniel Bianchi
A Pittsfield City Councilor

The Democratic Donkey

The Democratic Donkey
Democratic Party Symbol

Paramount

Paramount
What is Paramount to you?

NH's Congresswoman

NH's Congresswoman
Carol Shea-Porter, Democrat

Sam Adams Beer

Sam Adams Beer
Boston Lager

Ratatouille

Ratatouille
Disney Animation

Ruberto Details Plans for Success - January 07, 2008

Ruberto Details Plans for Success - January 07, 2008
"Luciforo" swears in Mayor Ruberto. Pittsfield Politics at its very worst: 2 INSIDER POWERBROKERS! Where is Carmen Massimiano? He must be off to the side.

Abe

Abe
Lincoln

Optimus Prime

Optimus Prime
Leader of the Autobots

Optimus Prime

Optimus Prime
1984 Autobot Transformer Leader

Cleanup Agreements - GE & Pittsfield's PCBs toxic waste sites

Cleanup Agreements - GE & Pittsfield's PCBs toxic waste sites
www.epa.gov/region1/ge/cleanupagreement.html

GE/Housatonic River Site: Introduction

GE/Housatonic River Site: Introduction
www.epa.gov/region1/ge/

GE/Housatonic River Site - Reports

GE/Housatonic River Site - Reports
www.epa.gov/region1/ge/thesite/opca-reports.html

US EPA - Contact - Pittsfield's PCBs toxic waste sites

US EPA - Contact -  Pittsfield's PCBs toxic waste sites
www.epa.gov/region1/ge/contactinfo.html

GE Corporate Logo - Pittsfield's PCBs toxic waste sites

GE Corporate Logo - Pittsfield's PCBs toxic waste sites
www.epa.gov/region1/ge/index.html

Commonwealth Connector

Commonwealth Connector
Commonwealth Care

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts
Healthcare Reform

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts
Healthcare Reform

Network Health Forward - A Commonwealth Care Plan

Network Health Forward - A Commonwealth Care Plan
Massachusetts Health Reform

Network Health Together: A MassHealth Plan - Commonwealth Care

Network Health Together: A MassHealth Plan - Commonwealth Care
Massachusetts Health Reform

www.network-health.org

www.network-health.org
Massachusetts Health Reform

Neighborhood Health Plan - Commonwealth Care

Neighborhood Health Plan - Commonwealth Care
Massachusetts Health Reform

Fallon Community Health Plan - Commonwealth Care

Fallon Community Health Plan - Commonwealth Care
Massachusetts Health Reform

BMC HealthNet Plan

BMC HealthNet Plan
Massachusetts Health Reform

Massachusetts Health Reform

Massachusetts Health Reform
Eligibility Chart: 2007

Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare

Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare
Massachusetts Health Reform

Business Peaks

Business Peaks
Voodoo Economics

Laffer Curve - Corporate Elite

Laffer Curve - Corporate Elite
Reagonomics: Supply Side

Corporate Elite Propaganda

Corporate Elite Propaganda
Mock Liberal Democratic Socialism Thinking

Real Estate Blues

Real Estate Blues
www.boston.com/bostonglobe/magazine/2008/0316/

PEACE

PEACE
End ALL Wars!

Freedom of Speech

Freedom of Speech
Norman Rockwell's World War II artwork depicting America's values

Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln
A young Abe Lincoln

RACHEL KAPRIELIAN

RACHEL KAPRIELIAN
www.openmass.org/members/show/218 - www.rachelkaprielian.com

Jennifer M. Callahan - Massachusetts State Representative

Jennifer M. Callahan - Massachusetts State Representative
www.openmass.org/members/show/164 - www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2008/05/04/legislator_describes_threat_as_unnerving/

Human Rights for ALL Peoples!

Human Rights for ALL Peoples!
My #1 Political Belief!

Anne Frank

Anne Frank
Amsterdam, Netherlands, Europe

A young woman Hillary supporter

A young woman Hillary supporter
This excellent picture captures a youth's excitement

Hillary Clinton with Natalie Portman

Hillary Clinton with Natalie Portman
My favorite Actress!

Alan Chartock

Alan Chartock
WAMC public radio in Albany, NY; Political columnist who writes about Berkshire County area politics; Strong supporter for Human Rights for ALL Peoples

OpenCongress.Org

OpenCongress.Org
This web-site uses some of my Blog postings

OpenMass.org

OpenMass.org
This web-site uses some of my blog postings!

Shannon O'Brien

Shannon O'Brien
One of my favorite politicians! She stands for the People first!

The Massachusetts State House

The Massachusetts State House
"The Almighty Golden Dome" - www.masslegislature.tv -

Sara Hathaway

Sara Hathaway
Former Mayor of Pittsfield, Massachusetts

Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr.

Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr.
A corrupt Pol who tried to put me in Jail

Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr.

Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr.
Another view of Pittsfield's inbred, multigenerational political prince. Luciforo!

Luciforo

Luciforo
Nuciforo's nickname

"Andy" Nuciforo

"Andy" Nuciforo
Luciforo!

Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr., Berkshire County Sheriff (Jailer)

Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr., Berkshire County Sheriff (Jailer)
Nuciforo's henchman! Nuciforo tried to send me to Carmen's Jail

Andrea Nuciforo Jr

Andrea Nuciforo Jr
Shhh! Luciforo's other job is working as a private attorney defending wealthy Boston-area corporate insurance companies

Berkshire County Sheriff (Jailer) Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr.

Berkshire County Sheriff (Jailer) Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr.
Nuciforo tried to send me to Carmen's Jail! Carmen sits with the Congressman, John Olver

Congressman John Olver

Congressman John Olver
Nuciforo's envy

The Dome of the U.S. Capitol

The Dome of the U.S. Capitol
Our Beacon of American Democracy

Nuciforo's architect

Nuciforo's architect
Mary O'Brien in red with scarf

Sara Hathaway (www.brynmawr.edu)

Sara Hathaway (www.brynmawr.edu)
Former-Mayor of Pittsfield, Massachusetts; Nuciforo intimidated her, along with another woman, from running in a democratic state election in the Spring of 2006!

Andrea F. Nuciforo II

Andrea F. Nuciforo II
Pittsfield Politics

Berkshire County Republican Association

Berkshire County Republican Association
Go to: www.fcgop.blogspot.com

Denis Guyer

Denis Guyer
Dalton State Representative

John Forbes Kerry & Denis Guyer

John Forbes Kerry & Denis Guyer
U.S. Senator & State Representative

John Kerry

John Kerry
Endorses Barack Obama for Prez then visits Berkshire County

Dan Bosley

Dan Bosley
A Bureaucrat impostering as a Legislator!

Ben Downing

Ben Downing
Berkshire State Senator

Christopher N Speranzo

Christopher N Speranzo
Pittsfield's ANOINTED State Representative

Peter J. Larkin

Peter J. Larkin
Corrupt Lobbyist

GE - Peter Larkin's best friend!

GE - Peter Larkin's best friend!
GE's FRAUDULENT Consent Decree with Pittsfield, Massachusetts, will end up KILLING many innocent school children & other local residents!

GE's CEO Jack Welch

GE's CEO Jack Welch
The Corporate System's Corporate Elite's King

Economics: Where Supply meets Demand

Economics: Where Supply meets Demand
Equilibrium

GE & Pittsfield, Massachusetts

GE & Pittsfield, Massachusetts
In 2007, GE sold its Plastics Division to a Saudi company. Now all that is left over by GE are its toxic PCB pollutants that cause cancer in many Pittsfield residents.

Mayor James M Ruberto

Mayor James M Ruberto
A small-time pol chooses to serve the corporate elite & other elites over the people.

Governor Deval Patrick

Governor Deval Patrick
Deval shakes hands with Mayors in Berkshire County

Deval Patrick

Deval Patrick
Governor of Massachusetts

Pittsfield High School

Pittsfield High School
Pittsfield, Massachusetts

Sara Hathaway

Sara Hathaway
Pittsfield's former Mayor

Rinaldo Del Gallo III

Rinaldo Del Gallo III
Pittsfield Attorney focusing on Father's Rights Probate Court Legal Issues, & Local Politician and Political Observer

Rinaldo Del Gallo III

Rinaldo Del Gallo III
Very Intelligent Political Activists in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Rinaldo Del Gallo, III, Esq. is the spokesperson of the Berkshire Fatherhood Coalition. He has been practicing family law and has been a member of the Massachusetts bar since 1996.

Mayor Ed Reilly

Mayor Ed Reilly
He supports Mayor Ruberto & works as a municipal Attorney. As Mayor, he backed Bill Weld for Governor in 1994, despite being a Democrat. He was joined by Carmen Massimiano & John Barrett III, the long-standing Mayor of North Adams.

Manchester, NH Mayor Frank Guinta

Manchester, NH Mayor Frank Guinta
Cuts Dental Care for Public School Children-in-Need

Manchester, NH City Hall

Manchester, NH City Hall
My new hometown - view from Hanover St. intersection with Elm St.

Manchester NH City Democrats

Manchester NH City Democrats
Go Dems!

2008 Democratic Candidates for U.S. Prez

2008 Democratic Candidates for U.S. Prez
Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Mike Gravel, Dennis Kucinich, John Edwards

NH State House Dome

NH State House Dome
Concord, NH

Donna Walto

Donna Walto
Pittsfield Politician -- She strongly opposes Mayor Jim Ruberto's elitist tenure.

Elmo

Elmo
Who doesn't LOVE Elmo?

Hillary Clinton for U.S. President!

Hillary Clinton for U.S. President!
Hillary is for Children. She is my choice in 2008.

The White House in 1800

The White House in 1800
Home of our Presidents of the United States

John Adams

John Adams
2nd President of the USA

Hillary Clinton stands with John Edwards and Joe Biden

Hillary Clinton stands with John Edwards and Joe Biden
Hillary is my choice for U.S. President!

Bill Clinton

Bill Clinton
Former President Bill Clinton speaks at the Radisson in Manchester NH 11/16/2007

Barack Obama

Barack Obama
U.S. Senator & Candidate for President

Pittsfield's 3 Women City Councillors - 2004

Pittsfield's 3 Women City Councillors - 2004
Linda Tyer, Pam Malumphy, Tricia Farley-Bouvier

Wahconah Park in Pittsfield, Massachusetts

Wahconah Park in Pittsfield, Massachusetts
My friend Brian Merzbach reviews baseball parks around the nation.

The Corporate Elite: Rational Incentives for only the wealthy

The Corporate Elite: Rational Incentives for only the wealthy
The Elites double their $ every 6 to 8 years, while the "have-nots" double their $ every generation (or 24 years). Good bye Middle Class!

George Will

George Will
The human satellite voice for the Corporate Elite

Elizabeth Warren

Elizabeth Warren
The Anti-George Will; Harvard Law School Professor; The Corporate Elite's Worst Nightmare

The Flag of The Commonwealth of Massachusetts

The Flag of The Commonwealth of Massachusetts
I was born and raised in Pittsfield, Massachusetts

State Senator Stan Rosenberg

State Senator Stan Rosenberg
Democratic State Senator from Amherst, Massachusetts -/- Anti-Stan Rosenberg Blog: rosenbergwatch.blogspot.com

Ellen Story

Ellen Story
Amherst Massachusetts' State Representative

Teen Pregnancy in Pittsfield, Mass.

Teen Pregnancy in Pittsfield, Mass.
Books are being written on Pittsfield's high teen pregancy rates! What some intellectuals do NOT understand about the issue is that TEEN PREGNANCIES in Pittsfield double the statewide average by design - Perverse Incentives!

NH Governor John Lynch

NH Governor John Lynch
Supports $30 Scratch Tickets and other forms of regressive taxation. Another Pol that only serves his Corporate Elite Masters instead of the People!

U.S. Congresswoman Carol Shea Porter

U.S. Congresswoman Carol Shea Porter
The first woman whom the People of New Hampshire have voted in to serve in U.S. Congress

U.S. Congressman Paul Hodes

U.S. Congressman Paul Hodes
A good man who wants to bring progressive changes to Capitol Hill!

Paul Hodes for U.S. Congress

Paul Hodes for U.S. Congress
New Hampshire's finest!

Darth Vader

Darth Vader
Star Wars

Dick Cheney & George W. Bush

Dick Cheney & George W. Bush
The Gruesome Two-some! Stop the Neo-Cons' fascism! End the Iraq War NOW!

WAROPOLY

WAROPOLY
The Inequity of Globalism

Bushopoly!

Bushopoly!
The Corporate Elite have redesigned "The System" to enrich themselves at the expense of the people, masses, have-nots, poor & middle-class families

George W. Bush with Karl Rove

George W. Bush with Karl Rove
Rove was a political strategist with extraordinary influence within the Bush II White House

2008's Republican Prez-field

2008's Republican Prez-field
John McCain, Alan Keyes, Rudy Guiliani, Duncan Hunter, Mike Huckabee, WILLARD Mitt Romney, Fred Thompson, Ron Paul

Fall in New England

Fall in New England
Autumn is my favorite season

Picturing America

Picturing America
picturingamerica.neh.gov

Winter Weather Map

Winter Weather Map
3:45PM EST 3-Dec-07

Norman Rockwell Painting

Norman Rockwell Painting
Thanksgiving

Norman Rockwell Painting

Norman Rockwell Painting
Depiction of American Values in mid-20th Century America

Larry Bird #33

Larry Bird #33
My favorite basketball player of my childhood

Boston Celtics Basketball - 2007-2008

Boston Celtics Basketball - 2007-2008
Kevin Garnett hugs James Posey

Paul Pierce

Paul Pierce
All heart! Awesome basketball star for The Boston Celtics.

Tom Brady

Tom Brady
Go Patriots!

Rupert Murdoch

Rupert Murdoch
Owner of Fox News - CORPORATE ELITE!

George Stephanopolous

George Stephanopolous
A Corporate Elite Political News Analyst

Robert Redford

Robert Redford
Starred in the movie "Lions for Lambs"

Meryl Streep

Meryl Streep
Plays a jaded journalist with integrity in the movie "Lions for Lambs"

Tom Cruise

Tom Cruise
Tom Cruise plays the Neo-Con D.C. Pol purely indoctrinated by the Corporate Elite's political agenda in the Middle East

CHARLIZE THERON

CHARLIZE THERON
"I want to say I've never been surrounded by so many fake breasts, but I went to the Academy Awards."

Amherst Town Library

Amherst Town Library
Amherst, NH - www.amherstlibrary.org

Manchester NH Library

Manchester NH Library
I use the library's automated timed 1-hour-per-day Internet computers to post on my Blog - www.manchester.lib.nh.us

Manchester NH's Palace Theater

Manchester NH's Palace Theater
Manchester NH decided to restore its Palace Theater

Pittsfield's Palace Theater

Pittsfield's Palace Theater
Pittsfield tore down this landmark on North Street in favor of a parking lot

Pleasant Street Theater

Pleasant Street Theater
Amherst, Massachusetts

William "Shitty" Pignatelli

William "Shitty" Pignatelli
A top down & banal State House Pol from Lenox Massachusetts -- A GOOD MAN!

The CIA & Mind Control

The CIA & Mind Control
Did the CIA murder people by proxy assassins?

Skull & Bones

Skull & Bones
Yale's Elite

ImpeachBush.org

ImpeachBush.org
I believe President Bush should be IMPEACHED because he is waging an illegal and immoral war against Iraq!

Bob Feuer drumming for U.S. Congress v John Olver in 2008

Bob Feuer drumming for U.S. Congress v John Olver in 2008
www.blog.bobfeuer.us

Abe Lincoln

Abe Lincoln
The 16th President of the USA

Power

Power
Peace

Global Warming Mock Giant Thermometer

Global Warming Mock Giant Thermometer
A member of Green Peace activist sets up a giant thermometer as a symbol of global warming during their campaign in Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2007. World leaders launch marathon negotiations Monday on how to fight global warming, which left unchecked could cause devastating sea level rises, send millions further into poverty and lead to the mass extinction of plants and animals.

combat global warming...

combat global warming...
...or risk economic and environmental disaster caused by rising temperatures

www.climatecrisiscoalition.org

www.climatecrisiscoalition.org
P.O. Box 125, South Lee, MA 01260, (413) 243-5665, tstokes@kyotoandbeyond.org, www.kyotoandbeyond.org

3 Democratic presidentional candidates

3 Democratic presidentional candidates
Democratic presidential candidates former senator John Edwards (from right) and Senators Joe Biden and Chris Dodd before the National Public Radio debate yesterday (12/4/2007).

The UN Seal

The UN Seal
An archaic & bureaucratic post WW2 top-down, non-democratic institution that also stands for some good governance values

Superman

Superman
One of my favorite childhood heroes and movies

Web-Site on toxic toys

Web-Site on toxic toys
www.healthytoys.org

Batman

Batman
One of my favorite super-heroes

Deval Patrick & Denis Guyer

Deval Patrick & Denis Guyer
Massachusetts' Governor stands with Dalton's State Rep. Denis E. Guyer.

Bill Cosby & Denis Guyer

Bill Cosby & Denis Guyer
TV Star Bill Cosby stands with Denis E. Guyer

Denis Guyer with his supporters

Denis Guyer with his supporters
Dalton State Representative

Denis Guyer goes to college

Denis Guyer goes to college
Dalton State Representative

Peter Marchetti

Peter Marchetti
He is my second cousin. Pete Marchetti favors MONEY, not fairness!

Matt Barron & Denis Guyer with couple

Matt Barron & Denis Guyer with couple
Matt Barron plays DIRTY politics against his opponents!

Nat Karns

Nat Karns
Top-Down Executive Director of the ELITIST Berkshire Regional Planning Commission

Human Rights for All Peoples & people

Human Rights for All Peoples & people
Stop Anti-Semitism

Massachusetts State Treasurer Tim Cahill

Massachusetts State Treasurer Tim Cahill
State House, Room 227, Boston, MA 02133, 617-367-6900, www.mass.gov/treasury/

Massachusetts State Attorney General Martha Coakley

Massachusetts State Attorney General Martha Coakley
1350 Main Street, Springfield, MA 01103, 413-784-1240 / McCormick Building, One Asburton Place, Boston, MA 02108, 617-727-4765 / marthacoakley.com / www.ago.state.ma.us

Bush v. Gore: December 12, 2007, was the seventh anniversary, the 5-4 Supreme Court decision...

Bush v. Gore: December 12, 2007, was the seventh anniversary, the 5-4 Supreme Court decision...
www.takebackthecourt.org - A political billboard near my downtown apartment in Manchester, NH

Marc Murgo

Marc Murgo
An old friend of mine from Pittsfield

Downtown Manchester, NH

Downtown Manchester, NH
www.newhampshire.com/nh-towns/manchester.aspx

Marisa Tomei

Marisa Tomei
Movie Actress

Massachusetts Coalition for Healthy Communities (MCHC)

Massachusetts Coalition for Healthy Communities (MCHC)
www.masschc.org/issue.php

Mike Firestone & Anna Weisfeiler

Mike Firestone & Anna Weisfeiler
Mike Firestone works in Manchester NH for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign

James Pindell

James Pindell
Covers NH Primary Politcs for The Boston Globe

U.S. History - Declaration

U.S. History - Declaration
A 19th century engraving shows Benjamin Franklin, left, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Philip Livingston and Roger Sherman at work on the Declaration of Independence.

Boston Globe Photos of the Week - www.boston.com/bostonglobe/gallery/

Boston Globe Photos of the Week - www.boston.com/bostonglobe/gallery/
Sybregje Palenstijn (left), who plays Sarah Godbertson at Plimouth Plantation, taught visitors how to roast a turkey on a spit. The plantation often sees a large influx of visitors during the holiday season.

Chris Hodgkins

Chris Hodgkins
Another special interest Berkshire Pol who could not hold his "WATER" on Beacon Hill's State House!

The Big Dig - 15 tons of concrete fell from a tunnel ceiling onto Milena Del Valle's car.

The Big Dig - 15 tons of concrete fell from a tunnel ceiling onto Milena Del Valle's car.
Most of Boston's Big Dig highway remains closed, after a woman was crushed when 15 tons of concrete fell from a tunnel ceiling onto her car. (ABC News)

Jane Swift

Jane Swift
Former Acting Governor of Massachusetts & Berkshire State Senator

Paul Cellucci

Paul Cellucci
Former Massachusetts Governor

William Floyd Weld

William Floyd Weld
$80 Million Trust Fund Former Governor of Massachusetts

Mike Dukakis

Mike Dukakis
Former Governor of Massachusetts

Mary E. Carey

Mary E. Carey
Amherst, Massachusetts, Journalist and Blogger

Caveman

Caveman
www.ongeicocaveman.blogspot.com

Peter G. Arlos

Peter G. Arlos
"The biggest challenge Pittsfield faces is putting its fiscal house in order. The problem is that doing so requires structural changes in local government, many of which I have advocated for years, but which officials do not have the will to implement. Fiscal responsibility requires more than shifting funds from one department to another. Raising taxes and fees and cutting services are not the answer. Structural changes in the way services are delivered and greater productivity are the answer, and without these changes the city's fiscal crisis will not be solved."

James M. Ruberto

James M. Ruberto
"Pittsfield's biggest challenge is to find common ground for a better future. The city is at a crossroads. On one hand, our quality of life is challenged. On the other hand, some important building blocks are in place that could be a strong foundation for our community. Pittsfield needs to unite for the good of its future. The city needs an experienced businessman and a consensus builder who will invite the people to hold him accountable."

Matt Kerwood

Matt Kerwood
Pittsfield's Councilor-At-Large. Go to: extras.berkshireeagle.com/NeBe/profiles/12.htm

Gerald M. Lee

Gerald M. Lee
Pittsfield's City Council Prez. Top-down governance of the first order!

Mary Carey

Mary Carey
Mary with student

Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox
Jonathan Papelbon celebrates with Jason Varitek

Free Bernard Baran!

Free Bernard Baran!
www.freebaran.org

Political Intelligence

Political Intelligence
Capitol Hill

Sherwood Guernsey II

Sherwood Guernsey II
Wealthy Williamstown Political Activist & Pittsfield Attorney

Mary Carey 2

Mary Carey 2
California Pol & porn star

Pittsfield's Good Old Boy Network - Political Machine!

Pittsfield's Good Old Boy Network - Political Machine!
Andy "Luciforo" swears in Jimmy Ruberto for the returning Mayor's 3rd term