Below is a video of John’s campaign kickoff speech on September 12, 2013:
Let me talk a little about some of what we’ve accomplished.
In regard to infrastructure, no area of the city has seen more road improvements than Ward 6 – from the long overdue reconstructions of Valentine Road, Meadow Ridge Drive, Mountain View Drive and the overlay of several portions of West Street, to the complete reconstruction during my tenure of many formerly overlooked streets in the West Side Neighborhood, including Robbins Avenue, Circular Avenue, Francis Avenue and more. Much-needed sidewalk improvements on much of Columbus Avenue, essential for the safety of our children, families and particularly our seniors and physically-challenged to
With the cooperation of our former director of Maintenance, and current director, Greg Yon – in the past two years – we’ve made some significant improvements to Crosby Elementary School and Conte Community School. This includes recent water line and drainage repairs, playground improvements, gymnasium refurbishments at Crosby, and the replacement of the long-closed pedestrian bridge and long-sought traffic signal at the corner of West Union and Onota Streets benefiting Conte School and the entire neighborhood.
In the case of that controversial traffic signal, I kept my promise to vigorously stand-up for the West Side neighborhood and its initiative – in the face of opposition from several councilors who tried to remove that item from the capital budget.
Speaking of the neighborhood, in response to the desires of many in the West Side, I helped spear-head the ongoing project to build a unique and vibrant community center in the neighborhood. This is something you’ll be hearing more about in the months and years ahead.
As Chairman of the Green Commission, I have helped lead the way for Pittsfield to be recognized region-wide as hub for renewable energy – specifically solar and hydro-power — and a significant amount of savings to make taxpayer dollars go further. Today, we’re rolling out a program called Powering Pittsfield, a model for the entire state that will better link you – our residents – with the specific incentives available to help you find greater energy efficiency and savings during these challenging fiscal times.
I fought for Pittsfield to become one of the commonwealth’s first Green Communities, which included the passage of the Stretch Code for new buildings in Pittsfield. It was a close 6-5 vote on the council, but because of it, Pittsfield’s homes will be more efficient for years to come, and we’re also benefiting from state dollars to improve our energy infrastructure. It was the right thing to do.
I’ll fight for you – even when it doesn’t seem very popular.
Take mosquito control.
When the Mayor and the Board of Health wanted to squash the Berkshire Mosquito Control Project after early missteps – I wouldn’t accept it. I knew that Pittsfield could work with the new leadership of the program to develop a plan that would make sense for Pittsfield.
I was able to sway the council to a narrow 6-5 victory to keep the program – and you – the people of Pittsfield – have benefited from that decision. The comprehensive and tailored approach for the unique needs of Pittsfield greatly reduced the mosquito population this year, and will for years to come.
One more note about mosquito control. Much of the work done in the past several months has improved drainage throughout the city. Ditch digging, cleaning of culverts, and removing obstructions, like beaver dams from our water system by Berkshire Mosquito Control made a significant difference. In particular cases, we know that major flooding and damage was averted during and after Tropical Storm Irene. It may have saved many homeowners tens of thousands of dollars or more. So, I’ll tell you today that our investment in the mosquito control project has more than paid itself off in the first year alone. Again, the right thing to do.
On these and other issues, I am happy to share my record, and my decision-making on each and every vote on the council – and on initiatives I’ve championed.
In fact, as you decide on candidates for all the races, I hope you will take the time to understand the record of all the candidates before deciding on who to vote for.
And we’ve voted on some big issues.
For instance, after more than a decade of negotiated compromises with neighbors, approvals by all state and federal environmental and planning organizations, and more than 20 million federal dollars on the way for construction jobs to improve the safety and viability of our municipal airport – I proudly voted in favor of moving forward with the airport construction project.
In a constant battle to improve the quality of neighborhoods and protect homeowners’ investments throughout the city, I voted in favor of stronger regulations to take irresponsible landlords to task on blighted property.
There is nothing that touches more aspects of our lives in Pittsfield than public education. The quality of education in Pittsfield has a direct impact on the value of your property. Public education is at the top of the list of what businesses and potential residents evaluate when they consider making Pittsfield home. And our educational system must meet the needs of the economy now and in the future.
When I first ran for council four years ago, I suggested that Pittsfield, “Can grow together” – our families, our young people, our seniors – we have so much more in common than otherwise.
While councilors do not always agree on the issues, nor should we, the last several years have been marked by a high level of respect, professionalism, and decorum on the City Council. Along with that has come progress.
As opposed to collective failures like the baseball stadium effort a decade ago – in the past eight years we’ve seen compromise and success – such as a complex airport project moving forward, a newly revitalized downtown with public-private partnerships breathing life into the Colonial Theatre, Beacon Cinema and Barrington Stage Company, and millions in private investment that has followed, including hundreds of new, quality jobs at General Dynamics and others who have grown in recent years. We also have a city that is respected state-wide for our ability to band-together and progressively act on behalf of its citizens. This includes everything from becoming a Green Community helping our city and citizens find greater energy efficiencies, saving millions of taxpayer dollars, to earning state and federal grants to improve our roads and parks – and enhance our quality of life.
While we have seen so much progress, we cannot let up.
The City Council is a group that represents you. For businesses considering Pittsfield as a location to grow, for those deciding to make Pittsfield home, and for you, who deserves representation based on solid decision-making. Let’s have a city council that is professional, level-headed, with members who can disagree on the issues, but continue on with civility. Because in the end, it’s all about what is right for Pittsfield and for you,the people of Pittsfield – and not about politics.
My wife, Ali and I, are proud to call Pittsfield our home and have a chance to make it an even better place for the next generation of young people, our seniors, and everyone in between. Today, with our son Arden, who will be one-year old in September, our focus on building bright future is even that much more keen. While we have faced challenging times in the economy, our city has been through tough times before, and because of our character and our vast supply of optimism, I know we’ll succeed.
I thank you for your continued support, and I ask for your vote on November 5th.
Ward 6 City Councilor
Campaign Kick-off Speech
August 24, 2009
It’s wonderful to see so many friends and leaders in our community who share a common goal of making our City a better place to build our lives, careers and families. And there’s no better way to kick-off a campaign that’s rooted in our community, founded in family, and is based in a positive vision for the future of Ward 6 and the City of Pittsfield. Because in so many ways – Ward 6 is a microcosm of the entire City. And when we make progress on the issues in this ward – we can show the way in tackling the challenges that we see throughout the City of Pittsfield.
In Ward 6 we have just about everything – from the Barrington Stage to the Christian Center, from Berkshire Community College to the new downtown cinema center; Our schools, both public and parochial, to the state forest and Onota Lake. And all the neighborhoods in between.
We have had the great honor and pleasure to go from neighborhood to neighborhood, and residence to residence, meeting people – of all backgrounds and circumstances – seniors and retirees, young couples, young families with children in the schools, teachers, police officers, firefighters, business owners and many, many others.
We have listened carefully and we have taken note. I’ve been responding already by addressing some constituent issues right on the trail. Because that’s what it’s all about: responding to the needs of the residents. As a ward councilor, my number one goal will be to effectively and efficiently respond to constituent issues and to serve as a strong voice for Ward 6 on the City Council.
And you do that with excellent communication and a whole lot of energy….
My profession is communications. In my days in City Hall, I took pride in working with city staff and department heads and constituents to address issues, small and large.
In Ward 6 we have an opportunity to better communicate, particularly with today’s technology, our website is up and running with an ability to directly get in touch with me, we’ll be rolling out a newsletter and other ways for constituents to voice their views to me and for residents to be more informed on what’s happening in city government. Or you can just pick up the phone and give me a call.
This is an accessibility that I have provided during this campaign and I will continue to offer when I’m Ward 6 Councilor.
A quick and thorough response is what our residents should expect and what they deserve.
On our trail across the ward, we have been listening and listening, and we have heard an array of issues of concern – ranging from crime, the quality of our schools, and taxes to the winter plowing issues with sidewalks or the excessive speed of the cars on some of our streets. We’ve heard all of those and so much in between.
So, let’s talk about some of those issues.
Crime: I credit the current city council for bolstering our police department at a time when it is fiscally difficult. I will also support our police and hope to make our police presence stronger and more visible.
But, when we talk about crime and drugs, the police can only do so much.
I believe we need to better understand the underlying issues that create an atmosphere where crime and drugs can take hold.
Housing is one of those issues. We have to support those who are investing in our neighborhoods and we need to put the pressure on those who are neglectful and contribute to an atmosphere that encourages crime and drugs.
We’ve heard about Education.
I am a product of the Pittsfield Public Schools – from Kindergarten to high school graduation – and there is no one more proud of our school system.
In Ward 6, we certainly have our share of the school system – with Crosby Elementary, Conte Community School and Taconic High School.
Superintendent Dr. Eberwein is an excellent leader for our schools and he is focused on important areas of improvement, including the graduation rate and wider participation in co-curricular activities.
As a member of the School Building Needs Commission, I will represent the views of Ward 6 on the future of education with a focus on preparing our children for the jobs of the 21st Century economy
We’ve heard about taxes.
Property taxes are the most regressive form of taxation available. It punishes people for investing in their homes. It increases their taxes for adding value to their properties and improving our housing stock. We should be encouraging people to invest.
But unfortunately it’s the city’s only major way to raise revenue at a time when the state has continued to make cuts forced by the fiscal crisis.
So, we need to continue to aggressively seek out other forms of revenue to supplement property taxes, while building the foundation that will ultimately increase the tax base – through new business and greater investment across the city.
We need to support the Green Economy for some of that growth.
As Chairman of the Green Commission, we’ve put Pittsfield in front of most, if not all, other communities in Massachusetts in a race for millions of dollars for green energy projects, and the potential jobs that go with them.
We’ve heard about our youth, We’ve shown our energy.
My wife and I chose to invest as homeowners here, for what Pittsfield is today and what we’re working for Pittsfield to be in the future. And our parents were thrilled when we made Pittsfield our home. We want more parents and grandparents to experience that joy when a family is intact in that way.
When we create an atmosphere that is more attractive to younger people, Pittsfield is more attractive for businesses to relocate, and entrepreneurs to plant roots because of an enhanced and unmatched quality of life.
It’s not only revitalization in the downtown, but how that revitalization has synergized with our neighborhoods spread throughout Pittsfield.
This is an essential piece of increasing our tax base and addressing a part of the economic development challenges throughout Berkshire County.
We’ve heard about how a councilor should approach his role on city council.
As Ward 6 councilor, I will work effectively and efficiently with all city officials to make our community a better, safer place to live. Working together for the betterment of the entire city is critically important for progress.
However, I promise you that I will not compromise the needs and desires of the constituents of Ward 6.
And, over the next two years there will be differences. And sometimes when we have those differences, it’s easy to separate ourselves, divide, and turn away.
In Ward 6 and in Pittsfield, our differences don’t have to set us back.
In Ward 6, where we have the greatest diversity, socio-economically, ethnically, all different generations – that diversity makes us stronger. And we’re going to need that strength.
Because I believe that we can grow.
And I believe that we can grow together.
We can grow together by ensuring that all the parents of Ward 6 can feel comfort and trust that their children will receive the finest education within the public schools right in their neighborhood, right down the street, and they don’t need to go across town, or out of town for schooling.
We can grow together by creating an atmosphere where our children and grandchildren will want to return to here in Pittsfield, because of the quality of life. It’s not a nicety, it’s a necessity – not only for our tax base, but for economic development throughout Berkshire County. We need to be serious about recruiting and retaining our young talent.
We can grow together by making Pittsfield the first Green Community under the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ new Green Community Act, putting us first in line for a part of $10 million annual dollars set aside by the state for green energy projects.
We can grow together by facing up to the crime in Pittsfield, not only by supporting public safety, but by beginning to address the underlying issues that allow the criminal element to persist – issues like housing, code enforcement, taking irresponsible landlords to task, and supporting those who are investing in a positive way here in the city.
We can grow together by working in our community to provide consistent after-school programs for kids in our neighborhoods. I have heard your call and this will be a top priority as Ward 6 City Councilor.
And we can grow together by contributing to a spirit of civility on the City Council and in City Government that is essential to Pittsfield moving forward. Checks and balances are important, but the approach needs to focus on areas of common ground as well as our differences.
I believe we can grow together. I will bring that energy to the Ward 6 Council position.
So, today, I thank you for your support, I ask for your vote, and I ask you to tell your friends and family to give me their vote on November 3rd.