This year, Dina Lampiasi is running for a third term as the city councilor of Ward 6 in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. She faces a challenge from Craig Gaetani, who is also running for mayor. Ward 6 includes much of the West Side neighborhood – a community that suffers from decades of redlining in the form of higher crime rates and dilapidated infrastructure. Lampiasi spoke with WAMC.
LAMPIASI: I tend to look at this from the micro and the macro. There are the big conversations that take place on social media. The newspaper may cover them more. And those are going to be, North Street, we’ve talked a lot about that. Homelessness has been a big conversation. And then when we get down to like the smaller, you know, within the ward, we’ve been talking a lot about safety on the streets, neighborhood configuration, things like that.
WAMC: So, with that in mind, if you had to point to accomplishments from your last term that indicate good examples of your leadership and a good pitch to voters, what do you think stand out as good examples of the actions you’ve taken as a Ward 6 rep?
You know, I’m really proud to say that I show my leadership through action and not being afraid to take difficult votes. I take every vote very seriously, and sometimes I don’t even like the way the facts fall out, right? But when you look at the data of whatever topic it is, I feel confident that I make the decision that’s best for the ward, but also for the city. And I think another area of my leadership is really proactively communicating with my constituents and bringing their issues back to the council.
So, with that in mind, what are some good examples of that granular stuff? And then what are some examples of things you’ve heard from your constituents that you’ve brought to a higher tier of governance?
Something that’s fresh on my mind right now is the neighborhood stuff. In a couple of different areas of the city – Ward 6, I should say – we’re looking at safety. So, one of those is down on West Street. That’s been an area that I’ve been looking at since, honestly, since I was first running, and I talked about that during that election. And we’re at a place now where the city is able to reconfigure lower West Street. And I think another area of leadership would really be delivering on those constituent services. And that’s a win. It’s the small stuff. It’s getting the tree stump ground, it’s getting a sidewalk repaired, it’s fixing a drain issue. It’s that stuff.
Now, with the West Street thing, obviously, there was a tragedy that took place where a pedestrian was killed in an accident on West Street that led up to some of the safety precautions being taken. When you look back over that time, do you think there’s anything that could have happened prior to that to prevent that sort of accident?
I am a firm believer that we have many areas in our city, and specifically in Ward 6, that need to be reconfigured. And as somebody who travels that street every single day, it should have been done not five years ago, not 10 years ago, it should have been reconfigured probably longer. We need to have traffic calming measures, we need to narrow the street, we need to make it so that micromobility is expected on the street and also built in to how people and vehicles use the street. The tragedy that happened, in my view, it could have- It was avoidable. It was an incident that happened because of the surrounding atmosphere.
Now you’ve talked about sort of reactive stances in some things about Ward 6, like hearing from constituents, elevating those concerns. When you think about a grand vision for Ward 6, which is a very unique part of Pittsfield, a lot of the West Side is covered by Ward 6, what are your thoughts on the long-term vision of that community?
Absolutely. And this is the same as when I first ran- It’s making sure that we’re representing the entire ward, and that every single neighborhood is getting the same city resources. I want kids that are walking to school on the West Side to have smooth sidewalks, to have safe shoulders if there is no sidewalk, I want them to have to clean streets, I want sanitation to be there. And that’s something that I focused a lot on, and I’ve spent a considerable amount of time working in those areas. And for me, when I look at the grand vision of Ward 6 and where I want to see us go, it’s not being able to tell the difference of if you’re in 6A or if you’re in 6B, and for residents to know that they have a city government that’s there for them. Another thing that I’ve been thinking a lot about too is, how do we better connect all of the different parts of the West Side? We have so many different groups that are sort of doing the day-to-day grunt work of bringing their community together and serving the community, but bringing them together so that we’re more unified. That’s something that I think a lot about.
Over the course of your time on the council a lot has happened in Pittsfield, obviously, including renewed calls for police reform and oversight following the killing of Miguel Estrella last year. We’ve heard from some activists and members of the Estrella family a sense of frustration maybe that since folks banded around conversations in public in 2020 around Black Lives Matter and the promises made from elected officials at that time- Some folks feel like those promises have not been delivered on by the council. Any thoughts on that? Do you think the council has done enough to address those concerns?
I understand the frustration. And, I’ve like I touched on earlier, I’ve taken all of these votes incredibly seriously. And the reality is, the council has done what we said we would do. We said we would get more mental health clinicians, we advocated for that. That is something I pushed for, that is something I voted for. And I want to see more. I’m a firm believer that with the issues that we see in our city, we’re not dissimilar to other communities, right, where what we are experiencing is happening nationally. But how we address it is up to us. I believe that we need to funnel more resources into the community and to preventing mental health crises from happening and getting people to help that they need. We need to make sure that we have the right trained professionals on the scene. And that’s a change that I’m fully committed to continuing to work toward.
On the macro scale of Pittsfield politics, it’s of course a mayoral election. We have City Council President Peter Marchetti, and his main opponent in the race is former Ward 6 city councilor John Krol. He’s had both my job as a WAMC Berkshire Bureau Chief and your job as a Ward 6 representative. What are your thoughts in this contest, Dina? Are you going to endorse in this race?
I have no intention of endorsing. We have two candidates before us – as of now, who knows, maybe we’ll get more – but two people who have shown what they can do for the city of Pittsfield and the type of leadership they can provide. And what I’m most looking forward to is, really, what I hope to see is a fruitful dialogue between them. I hope that the campaigns are positive and thought provoking. I think the next four years are going to be pivotal for the city.
With that in mind, obviously, it’s the end of an era after eight years of Mayor Linda Tyer. What do you think needs to be at the forefront of those fruitful conversations as we get closer to election day in September and then November?
We all know what we’ve seen happen in the city since the pandemic. We have a lot to build back. I want to see real conversation about how we’re going to do that and what the economic future of Pittsfield looks like. And in addition to that, you know, for me, I’m thinking a lot about national economic uncertainty, and how do we build a Pittsfield that is resilient in that situation. And along with that, our schools are really important to me and infrastructure. We need to have an infrastructure that is going to support our growth, that is going to attract families to our city, that’s going to retain people in our city, and really, that’s not going to cost us more money down the line.