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Adams Candidates Hold Forth at Maple Grove Forum
By Tammy Daniels On: 03:11AM / Monday April 14, 2014
Candidates attending Sunday's forum were, from left, Edward Driscoll, Melissa McGovern-Wandrei, George Haddad, Michael Ouellette, Barbara Ziemba, Kelley Rice and Jeffrey Snoonian; not pictured, Edmund St. John IV.

ADAMS, Mass. — Candidates for the town election pitched their platforms at the Maple Grove Civic Club on Sunday afternoon.

The club annually offers up one its monthly meetings at the PNA as an open election forum for any candidate wishing to attend.

Candidates running for selectman, Planning Board, town moderator, School Committee and treasurer/collector spoke this year.

Two-term incumbent Michael Ouellette is being challenged by newcomer Jeffrey Snoonian for a three-year seat on the Board of Selectmen.

Ouellette is a lifelong resident and property owner; Snoonian considers himself an "adopted son" who recently chose to settle here permanently after many years of visiting.

Ouellette has been active in a number of civic capacities, including 18 years as a town meeting member and currently as a delegate to the Metropolitan Planning Organization and member of the Berkshire Regional Transit Authority advisory committee.

A retired GE engineer, he's also worked in real estate development, including subdivisions in Adams and Lanesborough.

Michael Ouellette

"I'm a working selectman, I'm not a rubber stamp," he told club members. "I look at everything before I vote."

Oullette stressed that he does his research before casting a vote to ensure actions are in the best interest of the town.

He also said he's been very active in seeking tenants and developers for the Memorial Middle School and Greylock Glen, and in advocating with state and federal officials, including the governor, on behalf of town projects.

"I do my homework and I put my heart into it, trying to make the best decision I can," he said.

He thinks the town should divest itself of properties when it can, including the middle school, work with school officials to make school budgets educationally as well as fiscally sound, and promote the development of the Greylock Glen, and possibly a disc golf course at the glen.

"I want to drive for regionalization where ever it is in the best interests of the town," he said. "We need to look at each aspect of it. It can provide better services at a cheaper cost."

Snoonian is a native of Lawrence who attended the University of Massachusetts with an Adams roommate who introduced him to the town more than 20 years ago.

Jeffrey Snoonian

"When I decided I where was going to spend the rest of my life I chose Adams," he said.

He has not served on civic committees or boards but said he was "not afraid to talk" and expects to be an active member of the board. "I probably open my mouth too much," he said. "I have a plan for being called out of order."

His background is in construction, having owned one contracting business and been a partner in another one. That has given him experience in fiscal responsibility, he said, as well as union negotiations.

"Adams biggest asset is it's a nice place to raise a family," he said. "There's a ton of cheap real estate here. Once you fill them, then people start looking to fill businesses."

Snoonian said he sold off his businesses because he felt government was intruding enough to make it difficult to operate.

"People have told me Adams is really a quagmire to open a business," he said, hoping to make it more business-friendly.

He, too, believes the town owns too much property and the middle school should be sold, but said he did not know enough about what the current situation.

Kelly F. Rice and Melissa McGovern-Wandrei are both running to complete the two years left on treasurer/collector post being vacated by Holly Denault. Both said they would expand some evening hours to accommodate residents.

Kelly F. Rice

Rice currently works in the community development office and has worked as an administrative assistant in various capacities for the town for 14 years.

She has been a resident for 31 years and property owner for seven, and a town meeting member and member of the Events Planning Committee.

"I think I have the qualifications for a smooth transition," she said. Rice did, however, say she would need more learning and time in the post to become a certified treasurer, which can take several years.

She said she is acquainted with the town's financial procedures and accounting software, does the payroll and records the bank statements for grants, among other duties.

In response to questions, she said she was familiar with the town's issues with the IRS (over misfiled pension documents) and a large backlog of unpaid taxes.

"I am a town resident and I'm very concerned about that also as a taxpayer," Rice said, but added she has to follow the state process to foreclose, which can take years.

"I look forward to strengthening the town any way I can," she said.

McGovern-Wandrei was raised in Clarksburg and is currently the appointed treasurer/tax collector in Clarksburg and the president of the Berkshire County Collectors & Treasurers Association.

Melissa McGovern-Wandrei

She and her husband now live in Adams and their children attend the schools and they have been active with the football boosters.

McGovern-Wandrei was the elected tax collector for 15 years in Clarksburg; when several elected offices were in the process of changing to appointed, she worked as assistant treasurer in Lanesborough to begin certification in pursuit of the Clarksburg post.

She said the town could move quickly to collect delinquent taxes by placing liens at the beginning of the fiscal year to put pressure on homeowners and banks. It also prods homeowners into making repayment agreements.

"Put the lien in and explain that you won't act on the lien unless they don't make the payments you agree upon," McGovern-Wandrei. "Then you know if people really want to keep their house.

"We have a 3-5 percent collection rate in Clarksburg, which is very good."

She said there have been recording issues from the treasurer's office in Clarksburg predating her tenure that have been cleaned up.  

"I love Adams and I would love to come in and help you straighten this out," she said.

Dennis A. Gajda and George J. Haddad are running for the three-year seat on the Board of Assessors. Only Haddad attended Sunday's forum.

George Haddad
Barbara Ziemba

Haddad said he was approached by several people asking him to run and decided to after speaking with the town assessor about the commitment.

"I think I can handle what could be done," said the former six-term selectman and interim town administrator.

Haddad said he was willing to take whatever classes or seminars required. "Whatever we're supposed to do we will do," he said.

Running unopposed are Edward Driscoll for moderator, Barbara Ziemba for a five-year term on hte Planning Board and Edmund R. St. John IV as the Cheshire delegate to the Adams-Cheshire Regional School Committee.

Each spoke a little about their duties and answered questions. Ziemba, who's served as a planner for 27 years, said two other members of her board have been on a similar length of time.

"I do not doubt there would be some vacancies sooner or later," she said, urging "new blood" to run for office.

Maple Grove officer Jeffrey Lefebvre thanked the candidates and asked voters to turn out for the election.

"I hear a lot of people griping, but when you get 15-20 percent voting it seems 80 percent are content and I know 80 percent are not content," said Jeffrey Lefebvre.

The town election is 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Monday, May 5. The deadline to register to vote is by 8 p.m. on April 15 at Town Hall.

The forum was also recorded by Northern Berkshire Community Television; check the schedule for show times.



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State Senator Finegold Seeking Treasurer Post
By Andy McKeever On: 02:36PM / Saturday April 12, 2014
State Sen. Benjamin Downing with colleague Sen. Barry Finegold, who is now seeking the treasurer's office, at a meet and greet Friday.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — State Sen. Barry Finegold doesn't want the state's pension funds invested in fossil fuels.

Sure, he can support a bill to do that. But Finegold says he wanted to do even more with the pension system.

So he is running for treasurer.

"I want to make sure we are responsible and I want our pension funds to reflect our values. Instead of investing in companies like Exxon Mobile, we should invest in green tech and renewable companies," the Andover Democrat said on Friday, when he met with members of the Berkshire Brigades at Juice and Java on South Street.

After four years in the state Senate, Finegold is looking to fill the shoes of Treasurer Steve Grossman, who is running for governor. Finegold says through the office, he can make a bigger impact on the entire state.

"You have the ability of an office to do a lot for so many people. Whether it is financial literacy, whether it is School Building Authority, pension funds, abandoned property, Cultural Council, it is a very important position that has a lot of influence," Finegold said.

The treasurer also oversee things like the revenues from the Lottery system, which in turn get passed on to the cities and towns.

"It is a huge generator of revenue to local communities. It is a lot. Places like Pittsfield and the surrounding communities depend on local aid and the Lottery drives a lot of money back to the communities."

The treasurer chairs the School Building Authority and Finegold says he'll try to find ways to smooth the process for town's looking to build and advocate for even more funding.

"I want to have one of the most robust school building authorities in the country. The elementary school I went to is still in the same shape it was when I went there in the '70s. If we are serious about giving people 21st-century education, we have to have schools that are 21st century," he said.

He also wants to boost financial literacy across the state because "we have way too many people losing their houses to foreclosure and bankruptcy."

And Finegold believes he has the qualifications to truly make an impact on the job and do it well. He went from living in the Georgetown Housing Projects to Beacon Hill. His parents were living in the Hyde Park project when he was young and the family moved to Andover when his father took a job as a teacher at Northern Essex Community College. His mother was a special education teacher.

"My family moved out from the Georgetown Housing Projects so I tell people, I wasn't a rich kid. I wasn't a poor kid. I was truly middle class. I worked for everything I had and worked my way through college and law school," Finegold said.

From there he moved to Pennsylvania to attend Franklin & Marshall College. He returned to Massachusetts to earn his law degree at the Massachusetts School of Law.

Only a year after college, at age 29, he started a firm that has grown to employ 25 people.

In 1992, he heard former President Bill Clinton speak and it inspired him to get into politics. He was elected to the Andover Board of Selectmen. Shortly after, he was elected to the state House of Representatives. Four years ago, he was elected to the Senate. He later attended John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

"I think it is a position where you can do so much good for so many people," Finegold said of now seeking the treasurer position. "My background with the private sector and the public sector, I feel like I can do a great job."

In the Senate, Finegold spent a lot of time on environmental issues. He says he is a "big proponent of renewable energies" including solar, wind and thermal. He is currently chairing a committee seeking election reform, which he hopes will allow early voting and same-day registration.

In January, he launched his campaign for the treasurer and says he has receive a lot of support from mayors and state officials.

State Rep. Thomas Conroy is also seeking the Democratic nomination for the treasurer position. The Green Rainbow party will be putting Ian Jackson on the ballot for it.



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Green Rainbow Party Places 3 Candidates on Statewide Ballot
By Andy McKeever On: 10:11AM / Sunday April 06, 2014
Both Daniel Factor and Ian Jackson gave stump speeches at the meet and greet event.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Green Rainbow party is putting three candidates on the statewide ballot.

Last week, two of the three rallied party members at the Rainbow Restaurant, just a few weeks prior to when the campaign officially kicks off.

Attorney Daniel Factor of Acton is seeking election as the secretary of the commonwealth. Factor says he is running to spread ideas currently unheard under the current, mostly Democratic, government.

"We're at a point right now in Massachusetts where basically there is only one party running the show. But when we have conversations with people all over Massachusetts, there is a very wide diversity of views but those view don't end up being represented," he said.

Factor wants to shift the focus of elected officials and policies from catering to large corporate interests to focusing on human rights.

"I am against having a society and a commonwealth that is based on corporate greed. There are things we can do if we recognize that every person in Massachusetts has basic human dignity, respect and love."

One idea Factor poses is that the state ends foreclosures altogether by using eminent domain to take the properties from mortgage holders.

"We can take the real estate from the mortgage company and guarantee that everyone has the right to remain in their home. It is these types of ideas that people have that aren't reflected in our elected officials," Factor said.

Meanwhile, he says job creation needs to be a focus and workers need a "living wage." He calls for a creation of an "economic bill of rights" guaranteeing people have enough to live.

"One day there will be a state that eradicates poverty. I'm not talking about tolerating poverty or ameliorating it. What we need to do is talk about eradicating it," he said.

He supports a single-payer health insurance system, bans on fracking and nuclear power while moving toward more renewable energy, he opposes casinos and is calling for the creation of a "bank of the commonwealth." That bank will invest in creating more co-operative business ownership.

Daniel Factor of Acton is running for secretary of the commonwealth.

Further, from the secretary's office, he wants to change the way corporations are chartered by making any company prove they are working for the public good before earning the designation.

"Our policy has to be that people matter more than profits," Factor said.

Factor grew up in New York City before going to Northwestern University for his undergraduate degree in political science. He then went to Vermont Law School, where he earned his law degree with a focus on environmental law.

Ian Jackson, of Arlington, is hoping to win the treasurer's seat. His goal is to create a "bank of the commonwealth" focused making "investments we can be proud of."

He doesn't want the state to put their money into fossil fuels but rather invest in greener companies. He feels that won't just help with the environment but also makes "financial sense."

Jackson said he would also be pleading the case for a single-payer health care system to help save businesses and the state money. Further, he wants the state's money to be allocated in helping "the common man."

"We need people who will be for the common man and try to restore us to a commonwealth where we are trying to do for the common good," Jackson said.

The treasurer sits on the Massachusetts School Building Authority board and Jackson says he'd use that seat to help streamline the building of new schools.

Ian Jackson of Arlington is running for state treasurer.

"My town like many other towns are going through the process of building a school. I'm sure there are plenty out here in the Berkshires. Half of the schools go through the process more than once. Something is wrong with the process. I believe most school committees, when they get together are reasonable," Jackson said.

"I'm sure the superintendents have better things to do than filling out the application a second time."

He earned a business management degree from Clark University and then his master's degree from Northeastern in computer science. He currently works as a software engineer while also investing on the side.

Jackson opted to run for the seat after the Green Rainbow party helped his son. He is now lending his time in hopes to help the party.

His son, Frank, got involved with the party when he was working as a residential assistant at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

"He realized he was making less than minimum wage. When he brought that up to the administration, they wouldn't help him. Nor would the people in Boston," Jackson said. "He organized as a union with some of his fellow students and with the help of the Green Rainbow party candidates was able to get enough money so that the students could live."

M.K. Merelice is also running for auditor but she was not in attendance at the meet and greet.

The Green Rainbow party is still a small but growing sector of voters. Locally, L. Scott Laugenour, a member of the party's state committee and former Green Rainbow party candidate, says the party is growing.

When he first joined the party, only eight registered voters in Lenox were Green Rainbow. Now, there are 34 and as the warm weather comes, the party will be out there growing the membership even more.

Laugenour says people feel "disempowered" with politics and the Green Rainbow party is hoping to turn that around. He says everybody agrees that money and politics should be separate and the best way to send that message is to vote for the Green Rainbow party candidates, who do not take in corporate donations.

Having candidates on the ballot every year helps spread the word about the party as they seek to become larger players in state government.

"We like, as a party, having statewide candidates because it gives every voter in the commonwealth an opportunity to vote Green Rainbow and to think about 'hey, politics can be different,'" Laugenour said.



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Four Races on Cheshire Town Election Ballot
On: 10:45AM / Saturday March 22, 2014

CHESHIRE, Mass. — There several races on the ballot this year for the annual town election, set for Monday, May 5, at the Senior Center on School Street.

The town has two races for two seats on the Board of Selectmen this year, with three newcomers on the ballot for one of them, ensuring at least one new face on the board.

James M. Boyle of Daniels Terrace, Robert S. Ciskowski of South State Road and Karmen B. Field-Mitchell of West Mountain Road are vying for the one-year seat.

E. Richard Scholz, of Stafford Hill Road, will challenge longtime incumbent Paul F. Astorino of Meadview Drive for the three-year term.

There is also a race for the two-year term on the Board of Health between Michael J. Biagini Jr. of Richmond Street and James Geary of Meadowview Drive.

For Water Commission, Michael J. Biagini and Rick Gurney of Greylock Road will face off for a one-year term.  

Incumbents running for re-election are Moderator Edmund St. John IV, one year; Board of Health member Jeffrey B. Warner, one year; Cemetery Commissioner Neil W. Baker, three years; Water Commissioner Donald F. Rueger, three years; Planning Board member Christopher Walsh, five years; Planning Board member Daniel L. Speth, one year; and Adams-Cheshire Regional School Committee, Cheshire representative Edmund St. John IV and Adams representative Regina Hill, both for three years.



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Adams Voters to Decide Three Races on 2014 Ballot
Staff Reports On: 09:49AM / Wednesday March 19, 2014

ADAMS, Mass. — The town will see several races on this year's election ballot, including for the one selectman's seat.

Incumbent Michael Ouellette will vie for a third three-year term against newcomer Jeffrey Michael Snoonian of 1 Berkshire Square.

Ouellette, of Tramway Drive, was first elected in 2008 and won a narrow victory to retain his seat in 2011.

There will be a three-way race for treasurer/collector between the town's financial assistants Paula Schrade and Town Meeting Member Kelly F. Rice, and Melissa McGovern-Wandrei, currently the appointed treasurer/collector in Clarksburg.

The incumbent, Holly Denault, is retiring in May; the winner of the election will complete the two years left of Denault's term.

Dennis A. Gajda and George J. Haddad will vie for the one three-year seat on the Board of Assessors being vacated by Lynn D. Avery.

Incumbents Joseph F. Greenbush and David M. Strzepek are running for the two three-year library trustee seats; Jill Pompi, appointed to the trustees in December, is running for the two-year seat.

Jacob N. Schutz, an incumbent, and Scott E. Cernik are running for two three-year Park Comission seats.

Incumbents also running for re-election are Moderator Edward Driscoll, one year; Planning Board member Barbara Ziemba, five years; Housing Authority member, Mark Alan Covert, five years; McCann School Committee member Daniel J. Maloney Jr., three years, and Adams-Cheshire Regional School Committee member Regina A. Hill, representing Adams for three years.
 
No candidates submitted nomination papers for a five-year spot on the Redevelopment Authority or a three-year seat on the Cemetery Commission.

The election will be held Monday, May 5, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the town garage; the deadline to register to vote is April 15 by 8 p.m.



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