Bianchi has a tough assignment

Two important events in the timeline of our Berkshire politics have occurred: Dan Bianchi won the mayoral election in Pittsfield, and the Congressional lines have been redrawn.

Bianchi, who has been playing the part of the opposition, will now have to switch from the role of outsider to that of a responsible incumbent. Now he will be accountable for policy outcomes. He may find that’s not so easy. It’s always easy to kick down the barn, but putting one up is a bit harder.

The outgoing Jim Ruberto was a superb mayor. He was right not to run again. This hard worker gave it his all and he deserves everyone’s appreciation. He put Pittsfield on the map. Under his watch, the North Street revitalization and the Pittsfield arts renaissance have been nothing short of miraculous. As usual, the cowardly anonymous bloggers have done their best to bloody the man. The loss of his beautiful wife took its toll on him, and all we can do now is say “Thank you.”

As for Bianchi, he is right to target Pittsfield’s crime problem. The beautiful little city does have too much crime.

Bianchi has an opportunity to do for Pittsfield what Rudy Giuliani did in New York City. One idea he can borrow from New York is the monitoring of quality-of-life crimes. When arrests are made for even minor crimes, there seems to be an attendant drop in major crimes. The theory is that those who are doing non-violent crimes like graffiti and public urination are also the ones who do the bigger crimes.

One thing is for sure: When crooks of any stripe see that the powers-that-be are intent on apprehending and prosecuting wrongdoers, they will go to safer venues. It is quite clear that when the heat went up in New York City, some of the gang members and their allies started looking for safer climes.

If Bianchi can deliver, he’ll be a hero. He will win the hearts of the very neighborhoods that he is so fond of talking about. But if Bianchi starts to threaten the existence of the good theater and restaurant rejuvenation of North Street, he will be creating a base of opposition that will surely spell his political doom.

After years of speculation, the Legislature has finally come forth with its congressional redistricting plan. The bad news is that our current district is being split in two, with our cousins in Northampton and Amherst going to the Worcester district and the rest being attached to Springfield.

While that might have been horrifying if the Springfield Congressman was some bum, the good news is that we get the remarkable Richard “Richie” Neal, who is just about the best that Congress has to offer. He is bright, articulate, and a born teacher who knows how to communicate the issues.

Additionally, he’s an all-around great human being. He’s been a regular guest on WAMC’s Congressional Corner for years, and I am always blown away by the quality of the man’s mind. As long as Richie runs for Congress, our towns and Pittsfield will have great representation. I can guarantee you that he will come around and be a fixture in our communities.

Finally, earlier this week, the tiny Great Barrington Jewish congregation Ahavath Shalom filled the Founders Theatre at Shakespeare and Company in an anniversary commemoration of the Kristallnacht, the state-sanctioned Nazi pogrom considered by many to be the beginning of the Holocaust.

Four speakers, survivors, kept the huge interfaith crowd glued to their seats as they told of the unspeakable horrors that they, their families and their friends had to endure. To the question raised so often — “Can it happen again?” — let no one think that it can’t. The only answer is eternal vigilance. Congratulations to the little congregation that could.

Originally published in the Berkshire Eagle, 11/12/11

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