Today, the department has added ten sworn personnel to their ranks, with an additional eight student officers currently in the academy.In addition to these staff enhancements, our city’s law enforcement efforts will be further strengthened with state-of-the-art technology called ShotSpotter. This initiative was made possible thanks to a very generous gift from Berkshire Health Systems and their willing collaboration to preserve the quality of life for all in our city. ShotSpotter is a gunshot detection, acoustic surveillance technology that uses sophisticated sensors to detect, locate, and alert police rapidly and precisely to gunfire incidents in real time. With this technology, we are giving police and prosecutors an edge over gun violence. The increased manpower and technology will go a long way in fighting crime; but our police department is also fully invested in building relationships in our community. Last year, officers volunteered their time to rebuild a neighborhood basketball court at Dower Square, engaged with children and their families during “Copsicle” at the First Street Common, fostered leadership skills at D.A.R.E camp, and raised thousands of dollars for Special Olympics through Cops on Top. There are countless other examples of our dedicated men and women in blue strengthening relationships throughout our city. Bravery, courage, and selflessness – that’s what members of the Pittsfield Fire Department show each day when they risk their lives to save others. 7,068 – that’s the number of service calls taken in 2016. Whether it is fighting a fire, responding to medical calls and accidents, or inspecting smoke detectors and other safety measures, they are always busy making sure our homes, businesses, and neighborhoods remain safe. The department added nine new hires to its ranks and through a federal SAFER grant will hire eight more firefighter this year. Our work to bolster the fire department includes critical investments in equipment. Two pumper trucks were added to the fleet this past spring. This year we’re on a mission to add a new ladder truck and to replace 35 year old equipment commonly known as the “jaws of life.” With all that we do, we recognize that this vital work cannot be done without advocacy and support from those in Boston. In addition to Lt. Gov. Polito, we welcomed visits from Hodari Cail, Governor Baker’s Community Affairs Director; Daniel Bennett, Secretary of the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security; Jay Ash, Secretary of Housing and Economic Development; Alice Bonner, Secretary of Elder Affairs, Labor and Workforce Development leaders; Michael Knapik, Governor Baker’s Western Mass Representative, Marty Jones, President and CEO of MassDevelopment. Boston is paying attention to Pittsfield! Every day Pittsfield relies on our state senator, Adam Hinds, and state representatives Tricia Farley-Bouvier and Paul Mark to help us navigate every opportunity to partner with state agencies. I am grateful for their leadership and commitment to Pittsfield. Before we look ahead I must take a moment to recognize the city employees who retired this year. There are a thousand and one details that go into the day-to-day operation of city government. Employees are the heart and soul of every endeavor and when they retire we want to thank them for their dedicated service and wish them well in their next great adventure.So what’s up for 2017 and beyond? That vision has most definitely been informed by this past years’ engagement with city and school professionals and the community at large. When I imagine our future I see Millennials and young progressives choosing Pittsfield as their place to LIVE. That’s right I said LIVE rather than WORK.I recently had a conversation with my good friend and leadership partner Dr. McCandless, our superintendent of schools, that brought this vision into clear and sharp focus. Like all of us Dr. McCandless spent time with family during these past holidays. He relayed to me a story of his niece and her husband. Both are well-educated and on their way to building professional careers in nursing and technology. They’ve decided to move to Denver. When Dr. McCandless asked them about their jobs in Denver their response awoke in me a reality that we must embrace. They said “we don’t have jobs – Denver is where we want to LIVE. We’ll find jobs when we get there.” So I say let’s get busy creating a place where people want to LIVE. And since we’re about busting myths today let’s bust another. This is the one that convinces us that there are no jobs. That is simply not true! Here are the facts: In January 2016 Pittsfield’s unemployment rate was 6.6%. Ten months later, by November 2016, the unemployment rate dropped to 3.3%.There are jobs in Pittsfield and throughout Berkshire County – 1,264 jobs! 45 percent are full-time, professional jobs, 55 percent are entry-level or seasonal. In 2016, we saw strengthened workforce relationships and developed innovative training programs: the workforce system generated $1.8 million dollars in training fund that helped train 1,250 people in healthcare, advanced manufacturing, STEM, finance, and customer service, with a placement rate of 70 percent. Doesn’t that make you proud, lift your spirits, give you confidence in our job opportunities!So let’s pivot from our past narrative that we need to create jobs first and then recruit the next generation to those newly created jobs. Let’s do the kind of work that makes our city a vibrant, dynamic, interesting place to live so that the next generation chooses us. There are high-quality jobs here already. Research shows that Millennials prefer to first find a place to live and then create their job opportunity. We must turn our attention to this reality. Abraham Lincoln once said “the best way to predict the future is to create it.” How do we create our future and build a place where people want to LIVE? We capitalize on the ever-growing art, culture, and entertainment economy, we maximize the asset of our spectacular natural environment by updating our open space and recreation plan and then get serious about building an outdoor recreation economy. We invest in our housing stock and we safeguard our educational institutions. We’ll earn the state’s Complete Streets designation which will give us access to funding sources for adding bike lanes, pedestrian friendly and accessible environments. We will build an innovation center. We will support small and mid-sized businesses and their aspirations for growth in new markets. We will make Tyler Street the hip, urban, multi-cultural neighborhood that it deserves to be. And we’ll do all of this for the people who live here and now for the future generations that will call Pittsfield HOME.
— Copyright © 2017 The Pittsfield Gazette, Inc.