Our Opinion: Peter Marchetti for Pittsfield mayor
When considering who will lead Pittsfield from the mayor’s office for the next four years, voters should consider public service experience, leadership style and personal integrity. The Eagle editorial board feels that Peter Marchetti is the obvious choice across all three of those domains in a heated mayoral race that will conclude Tuesday.
Mr. Marchetti is a longtime productive and orderly presence on the City Council who has led the council as president for the last eight years. His opponent, John Krol, is a former council colleague who served alongside Mr. Marchetti as the council’s vice president and a representative of Ward 6. Both have considerable community connections and public service records in Pittsfield. Those records warrant careful examination and comparison, especially given the fact that the two mayoral hopefuls align on many general policy priorities, from economic development goals and easing the city’s housing crunch to boosting North Street’s potential and mitigating public safety concerns.
As neither candidate is an incumbent, this campaign has featured repeated diagnoses of the city’s biggest problems with promises and policies addressed at correcting the mistakes or building on the progress of past administrations. To us, the key distinction is that Mr. Marchetti can point to a record of not just flagging issues in front of the cameras and microphones but putting his head down and doing the work to solve them.
It’s likely that the city’s celebrated Fourth of July Parade, for example, would not be what it is today and might not exist at all if Mr. Marchetti didn’t put his managerial and organization skills to work when the city needed them.
When the City Council has been sidetracked or derailed by personal disagreements and unproductive antics, Mr. Marchetti has been a stabilizing force as president, putting the city’s priorities over personality. After two other councilors’ bumbling and ill-timed charter objections undermined the council’s ability to weigh in on the city’s budget last year, Mr. Marchetti worked diligently with the mayor’s office to ensure council priorities still made it into the annual spending plan.
Meanwhile, his deep experience in the financial world from decades with Pittsfield Cooperative Bank gives him the skillset needed to manage a city with unique fiscal challenges and a hunger for growth and business investment. And since any Pittsfield mayor will have to collaborate with state and regional partners on the most stubborn systemic issues, endorsements and praise for Mr. Marchetti matter when they come from figures like state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, who represents Pittsfield in the state House, and Gov. Maura Healey.
Now compare Mr. Marchetti’s record of walking the walk with his opponent’s demonstrated ability to talk the talk. Mr. Krol is a gifted, trained political communicator. He pronounces many priorities we care about, from courting business investment to increasing economic activity and safety on North Street. But the record and substance isn’t there, and the mayor’s office needs more than a sloganeer.
When Mr. Krol speaks of “boots on the ground” regarding his proposal to increase downtown police presence, there is not only a lack of explanation as to how this snappy sounding policy addressed the deeper social issues plaguing some Pittsfield neighborhoods. There’s also an unanswered question of how a Krol administration would pay for it when Pittsfield Police Department budget constraints would complicate such a plan.
In calling for transparency — a value we believe in that Mr. Krol has failed to exemplify in his own campaign — Mr. Krol has made his pitch for an “internal auditor” a key plank in his platform. Yet in doing so, he either misconstrues or misunderstands what an auditor’s role is, suggesting that a Krol administration would allow an auditor to affect budgetary or spending decisions. Like any mayoral administration, Mr. Krol’s could choose his finance director, although conflating that role with an auditor’s suggests an unfamiliarity with financial basics that should be concerning for someone running to be chief executive of a city with a $200 million budget.
This only adds to the concerns raised by the revelations that Mr. Krol directed at least nine payments from a nonprofit whose account he was overseeing to his credit card and business tax bills over the course of three years. Animal Dreams executive director Stacey Carver spoke up about the years-long issue when she realized Mr. Krol might become mayor. Mr. Krol blamed the bank for giving him an incorrect “router number” (presumably referring to a bank’s routing number), Ms. Carver for raising the issue and The Eagle for reporting on it. Essentially, Mr. Krol blamed everyone but himself, and he failed to live up to his campaign’s repeated mantra of “transparency” by blocking The Eagle from trying to obtain evidence that could have corroborated some or all of his side of the story. Instead, he refused to discuss the issue with us further. Mr. Krol denies that he has a problem here and that it should even be an issue. But it is extremely serious, and it would loom over a Krol administration.
Months after that scandal rocked Mr. Krol’s campaign, another scandal has rocked Marchetti’s in the final stretch of this race. This week, it was revealed that a former Pittsfield Cooperative Bank employee had filed a harassment lawsuit against the bank, naming three of its executives as defendants — including Mr. Marchetti. Mr. Marchetti disputes the allegations, as does the bank, which claims that it had responded to an internal complaint from the suit’s plaintiff earlier this year by hiring an “outside investigator” who concluded that the complaints against Mr. Marchetti and others were “unsubstantiated.” Follow-up Eagle reporting revealed that one of the few specific factual allegations in the complaint — that another woman who worked at the bank allegedly was forced to leave due to a hostile work environment — was directly contradicted by the woman in question.
If the allegations in this lawsuit are true, they would be deeply concerning, regardless of Mr. Marchetti’s political ambitions. “If” is the key word, though, and we don’t have the information to adjudicate the suit’s charges. We would caution those who are tempted to equate the mayoral candidates’ respective scandals that one of them is a lawsuit whose claims require as-yet provided substantiation, while the other is an incidence of repeated, long-term financial mismanagement whose ground facts — that Mr. Krol repeatedly misused a nonprofit’s finances to the benefit of his personal accounts — are not in dispute.
By our lights, city voters face a choice of empty style versus proven substance in hiring the city’s next mayor. Addressing Pittsfield’s problems and multiplying its strengths are not superficial concerns, and so we urge voters to back the candidate with a proven track record and the most substantive platform.
The Eagle endorses Peter Marchetti for mayor of Pittsfield.