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Merrigan Running for North Adams City Council
Campaign Statement On: 10:38AM / Thursday October 10, 2013

Statement from City Council candidate Kate Merrigan

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — I am running for North Adams City Council because I love this community and believe we all have something to contribute as well as a responsibility to use our abilities and our energy to make this great city even greater.

I have worked for years in both my professional role at the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition as well as through my volunteer service to strengthen our city and help others see our strength and our potential. As a candidate for City Council, I want to be a liaison between the residents of North Adams and city government. I know that together we can advance a shared vision of a community in which everyone feels safe, takes pride in where we live, and knows how to access the information, resources, and services we need to move forward as individuals and as a community.

My commitment to service reflects the examples my parents Frank (an English teacher at Drury High School for nearly 30 years) and Marcia (a nurse for many years) set for me and for my sisters. They raised us in the West End of the city, and sent us to North Adams public schools. After college, I returned to build my adult life in my hometown — peers questioned my choice to return to my hometown, but there was no place else I would rather have been.

In 2005, I landed my dream job working with the teenagers at the Coalition and have been with nbCC ever since. I also have been active in community organizations including Big Brothers Big Sisters, Mill City Productions, and the North Adams Youth Commission. Several years ago, I joined with friends to host the first NAMA Prom, which we established as an annual event to bring people together and demonstrate the rich social life that can and does exist in our rural community.

As a City Council candidate, I want to take everything I've learned, my passion for our city, and the many relationships I've developed and put them all to work to move our city forward. Among my many areas of interest are the following: youth engagement, advocacy, and empowerment; community conversation and action regarding substance abuse and its relationship with crime; civic engagement and developing and informed citizenry who know how government processes work and feel comfortable participating in them; and engendering a built environment that supports active living and healthy eating.

There is much that is strong about our community as well as work to be done. I want to help connect people to that work, and to share my love for North Adams through my service as a city councilor.

Please feel free to contact me at kate.merrigan@gmail.com or visit me on Facebook at facebook.com/kate.merrigan.council.
 



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Grossman Talks Manufacturing, Minimum Wage
By Andy McKeever On: 11:50PM / Wednesday October 09, 2013
Grossman spoke at the Berkshire Brigades office on Wednesday after filming a television show with the Democratic group.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Manufacturing is in the state's DNA so there is no reason why it can't continue to drive the economy, according to Treasurer and gubernatorial candidate Steven Grossman.

Grossman had an informal meeting with the Berkshire Brigades on Wednesday after filming a television show earlier in the day.

To the relatively small audience, Grossman pledged his support for the Brigades' efforts to place questions on raising the minimum wage and earned sick time on the ballot in 2014 while at the same time, asking for their support in his campaign for governor.

Grossman began a short talking portion by saying that requiring all workers be given earned sick time in case of illness is "long overdue."

The earned sick time question is one of two the coalition Raise Up, of which the Berkshire Brigades are a part, is trying to get on the ballot.

Grossman said, in the 35 years he ran his family's business, providing extra benefits made for better workers.

"You empower workers by providing benefits," Grossman said. "Earned sick time is one of the benefits people are provided in our company for 25 years and when people say to me 'I can't afford to do that and I won't support you as a small-business owner,' I say, 'you can't afford not to do it."

He said the family paper company has not gone to arbitration since the workers unionized in 1952 and that's because the owners provide those extra benefits and, in return, received better work.

"For me, fundamentally, the relationship between those who own companies and those who run companies is a symbiotic relationship. They fit together," Grossman said. "You can have a nice looking suit on and a nice looking car but if you walk into your place of business if you don't treat those who work in your company with grace and dignity, particularly when you are sitting across the table from them in a union negotiation, then they are not empowered. If you empower your workers, they give you flexibility, increased productivity."

Raise Up is also seeking an ballot initiative to raise the minimum wage, which Grossman says he supports because at $8 an hour currently, it isn't possible for a worker to be "self sufficient."

Besides giving a short speech, the treasurer spoke one-on-one with everyone who attended.

Meanwhile, Grossman is working to get his name on the ballot as well. As he harkened back to his business days to support those initiatives, he did the same Wednesday to explain why he is running for governor.

"I am running for a very simple reason. I believe the people in this commonwealth want a proven leader that will leave no one behind," he said.

As a businessman, he spoke with small businesses across the state about the "roadblocks" in the way of growth. He heard about the cost of health insurance and the need for technical assistance but even more importantly was the need for access to capital.

When he was elected treasurer he started the Small Business Banking Partnership, which took some of the state's reserves from overseas banks and transferred them into loans to businesses. Grossman said Starbase Technology, a Pittsfield molding company, was able to secure a loan through that fund and purchased three new pieces of equipment and added 17 jobs.

Across the state, Grossman says more than $308 million has been loaned to community banks specifically for local businesses while those loans are now worth more than $570 million.

He added that advanced manufacturing, life sciences and green technology jobs are high paying and are an opportunity for growth.

Grossman said he wants to continue to invest in education and rid the state of the waiting lists for early education programs and put more money into vocational programs. Locally, Grossman, who as treasurer is chairman of the Massachusetts School Building Authority, said he is fully supportive of building a new Taconic High School.

"That is the key to our economic future," he said. "There is no reason why manufacturing, which is in the bones, the DNA of this commonwealth for decades, generations — think Pittsfield, think Greenfield, think North Adams, think Chicopee, think Holyoke, think Fall River, think New Bedford — advanced and precision manufacturing. I've set a goal to create 50,000 new manufacturing jobs in this commonwealth in five years."

Overall, Grossman is hoping to pass on the values that were passed onto him. Grossman said his grandfather once told him that he only wanted four things in life — a healthy family, educated children, to own his own business and to give back to the community. And those four things are what Grossman said he wants all residents to have a chance to do.



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Pittsfield City Council Candidate Hosting Medical Marijuana Forum
Staff Reports On: 05:00PM / Tuesday October 08, 2013
PITTSFIELD, Mass. - City Council candidate Donna Todd Rivers is hosting a forum on medical marijuana.
 
On Wednesday, Nial DeMana and Julia Germaine of Manna Wellness will be answering questions about their plans to open a medical marijuana dispensary. The event will be at 5 p.m. at Dottie's Coffee Lounge.
 
The talk is one of three conversations the candidate has sponsored during the campaign. The event is free and refreshments will be served.
 
"I learned canvassing the city that residents have a lot of questions about the status of the medical marijuana dispensary applications and the impact they will have on public safety and other issues. The best way to address those concerns is to give the residents an opportunity to speak with Manna Wellness," River said in a prepared statement.


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Independent Candidate For Governor Campaigns In North Adams
By Andy McKeever On: 11:48PM / Monday October 07, 2013
Evan Falchuk shaking hands with voters as he marched in the Fall Foliage Parade in North Adams on Sunday.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Evan Falchuk has been keeping his boots on the ground in his campaign for governor.

On Sunday, that took him to the Fall Foliage Parade to meet Berkshire County voters.

Falchuk is heading an independent campaign as he looks to change state politics by ending partisan fights. The party he formed, United Independent, aims to build more consensus on issues instead of political bickering.
 
"The level of interest out there for an independent movement and independent party that I've created is really, really strong," Falchuk said. "People are really eager to see there be an organized way to bring practical, rational, reasonable dialogue to the political process."
 
Falchuk marched in the parade, weaving his way from side to side shaking hands and meeting voters. He isn't spending his time worrying about primaries or gaining the support of party officials,  but he is running a statewide campaign.
 
"I'm working seven days a week. Every weekend I am out in the cities and towns across the state," he said. "They go to activist meetings, the town party committees... As an independent I am running a statewide campaign with my team, all across the state and meeting people who are not political activists."
 
What he has been hearing is that the government is not doing what the people want.
 
"You hear it over and over again. You hear 'I'm dissatisfied with the process,'" he said. "People have, unfortunately, lost a lot of confidence and faith in state government and the reason is that the priorities that the elected leaders are pursuing is not matching up with what they feel are priorities."
 
In North Adams, the adage of politics being run out of Boston without a care for Berkshire County was what Falchuk heard. But, he said that is what he hears everywhere.
 
"I met a lot of voters who were surprised that a person from the eastern part of the state would come to North Adams," he said but added that happens everywhere and, "you hear that enough times and you start to think maybe no one is listening to begin with. It's not you. It's them."
 
Falchuk believes too often politicians vote for or against something based on if it helps their party at a particular time and not by what is good for the state as a whole. He wants to lead a change in politics by addressing issues at the core level with open and honest discussion.
 
For example, Falchuk says the state officials need to get together and look through the state budget line by line and reallocate any misused funds in a way that everyone can agree will address problems. 
 
He wants to see more investment in small to medium-sized businesses by creating programs to help entrepreneurs take the next step, change policies that encourage large factory-type businesses and instead put the priorities into the small and medium sized ones. 
 
He wants to lower the corporate tax rate, energy and health care costs to spur additional economic growth. He wants more job training so that the citizens can get those higher paying jobs and he hopes to break what he sees as nearly a monopoly in the health care system to lower costs there. 
 
"With the rates where they are, we put ourselves at a competitive disadvantage," Falchuk said of the corporate rates. "But it is not about just cut taxes, it is about saying what is the right mix of things we can do to spur job growth... we need to pay for the government we say we want."
 
Falchuk outside of the iBerkshires office after an interview.
With all of those goals, Falchuk isn't setting forth particular policies. He wants those policies to come from consensus building. 
 
"As country, we get stuck. Somebody proposes something and it immediately gets politicized. 'Oh, you want that, well I don't know care if it is a good idea or not, the fact that you want it, I am against it.' That's how you get stuck," Falchuk said.
 
The state's Tax Fairness Commission, which is taking a look at state tax policy, is an example of what Falchuk wants to see on all issues. That commission is looking at the entire tax code and will present findings to overhaul the entire system.
 
He knows that isn't easy to make such fundamental changes in politics, but it starts from the top down, he said. His election would symbolize a new era, he said, because by getting 3 percent of the vote, United Independent will be recognized as an official party and those who feel the way he does has an opportunity to run in elections across the state.
 
"This is something much bigger than one candidate in one election," he said. "I think people will look back on 2013, 2014 in American history and see it as something of a turning point in our politics."
 
He is running against two political parties with long histories of connections to voters and to donors. Falchuk has hired a finance director for fundraising and is focused on meeting voters outside of those networks  in hopes to get the 53 percent of independent voters in the state on his side instead of being swing voters.
 
"We're going to have enough money to compete in the general election," Falchuk said of the fundraising efforts.
 
He later said, "if this were easy, I'm sure there would be a lot of people doing it. I'm up against the party machines who have a long history of saying this is how things are to be done. What we have is that most voters want to see our politics move in this direction."
 
He pointed to the federal government shutdown not as a matter of which party is responsible but rather a lack of leadership.
 
"I really don't understand the level of leadership being shown. It is not responsible," Falchuk said. "It is their job to make this stuff work. They have one job, to fund the government and they can't do it."
 
Falchuk has two more visits to Berkshire County scheduled in the coming month. Meanwhile, six candidates have entered the field for Democrats while one Republic is in the race.


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Alcombright Rallies Supporters at Campaign Event
By Tammy Daniels On: 09:19PM / Tuesday October 01, 2013
Richard Alcombright 'energized' his campaign with a rally at Public on Tuesday.

NORTH ADAMS,  Mass. — The city's mayoral campaign is heating up as the incumbent fired back at his challenger to a packed Public restaurant on Tuesday night.

Richard Alcombright is running for a third two-year term in the corner office against Robert M. Moulton Jr., a former city councilor and local businessman.

"I have been waiting to hear his platform, to hear what is so bad, to try to wrap my arms around why he would run," said Alcombright about his former supporter, saying Moulton's kick off remarks more than a week ago "reeked of the past."

"My biggest disappointment with his announcement is that the same Bob Moulton supported me four years ago on the hope that past practices would be just that ... past practices."

Alcombright reiterated some of the highlights of his administration, including the cutting the city's deficit from $2.6 million to $335,000 this fiscal year through cuts and tax increases; the development of the Health and Human Services Center to keep critical state social services in North Adams and lobbying the state to ensure the courts and the Registry of Motor Vehicles stays here; the openings or expansions of at least 30 new businesses, from Public to the Walmart Supercenter to the retention of Crane's stationery division.

He singled out Moulton's comments about the downtown losing momentum and the need for an economic plan to help Main and Eagle streets. Moulton's family has operated Moulton's Spectacle Shoppe on Main Street and in Bennington, Vt., for years.

"He talks about downtown revitalization and that all I have done are benches and pocket parks and that I use social events to mask the problems in our business district," said Alcombright. "My guess then is that he works in Bennington way too much to have not realized that the vacancy rate in our downtown is the lowest it has been in two decades."

That comment and others received hoots and applause from the crowded room that included local officials and business owners, many from Main Street.

Councilors President Michael Bloom, Keith Bona, Jennifer Breen, David Bond, Nancy Bullett and Lisa Blackmer were in attendance along with former Pittsfield Mayor James Ruberto, city department heads and council hopefuls Kate Merrigan, Benjamin Lamb, Joshua Moran and David Robbins.

Alcombright promised further economic development with the long awaited proposal for Western Gateway Heritage State Park set to be announced on Wednesday afternoon. The privatization of the park has been in the works for nearly two years.

He also jabbed Moulton for implying the city's police force was not well trained and expanded on the efforts being made to combat crime and its sources — poverty and drug abuse — through task forces and partnerships with local service agencies.

"We are no longer blind to these realities and, as a community, we need to admit to and address these problems," he said, "and I have."

North Adams, he said, was still one of the most affordable communities to live in, ranking 330 out of state's 340 towns and cities in terms of most-taxed municipalities.

"We will be unveiling our master plan in the first quarter of next year, that plan when given to the community and driven by our recently hired planner under the direction of our community development director holds significant promise and will be our roadmap for the future," he said, dismissing his challenger's intent to use the 20-year-old Hyatt-Palma report.

Moulton has laid out an "action" plan he says will stick to basics and revitalize the city and accused Alcombright of having no plan and managing the city's finances poorly.

The fundraiser was designed to "energize" the Alcombright campaign, which has been fairly quiet since his announcement to run in late June. The two candidates are expected to have at least two debates before the November election.



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