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Gubernatorial Candidate Berwick Meets With Voters
By Andy McKeever On: 07:24PM / Friday October 11, 2013
Berwick, at the head of the table, talks with residents at Bagels Too on Friday.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Dr. Donald Berwick says the state did a great thing by recognizing that health care is a "human right" but the system is broken.

The doctor says he is the one with the remedy.

Berwick, who boasts being responsible for implementing 70 percent of the federal Affordable Care Act on the national level, is running to be the Democratic nominee for governor. 
 
On Friday, he visited with voters at Bagels Too. After recapping his background as a medical doctor to starting his own nonprofit to being a presidential recess appointee as administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Berwick told potential supportors that he can lead health care reform — not just health insurance reform.
 
"We said health care is a human right but we have a health system that is broken," Berwick said. "It isn't designed to have the patient at the center and therefore it is more costly and it lets us down... We need health-care reform, not just health insurance reform."
 
Health care is very expensive in Massachusetts because of the way the system is designed, he said. 
 
"Hospitals are trained to keep the beds full and specialist are to keep busy," he said, but it doesn't have to be that way. Berwick says redesigning the system to have patient care drive the industry — rather than pay for service — would lower costs overall.
 
However, that is not going to be easy because of the long-standing procedures the system has operated on and disputes within the Legislature. With his industry background, Berwick say he can "lean on the health care world" and tell them that "it is a new game."
 
Meanwhile, the state needs to continue improving the infrastructure, transportation and education system, he said, and reducing poverty.
 
"My interest in improvement is the mainstay. I've worked in large systems and small all over the world trying to make complicated things better — things like health care but also education and transportation," Berwick said. "The same principals will apply to the things this community cares about. I feel I have the skills and the knowledge to do that."
 
Donald Berwick spoke at the meet and greet and outlined his believes on health care reform.
Those who met him on Friday told him that transportation, environment and high-speed Internet along with health care were of concerns in the Berkshires. But what really took Berwick back was the level of pride he felt from those out here.
 
"There is a pride in the community here that is really quite moving. It is not that people are proud elsewhere but out here it seems that these communities know they are in this together and there is a sense of we and not just me," he said. 
 
Berwick is one of the lesser-known names in the race for governor next year. He says Democrats Martha Coakley, current attorney general, and Treasurer Steven Grossman have much more notoriety because of their political histories. So he is focused on running a campaign that will get his name out there.
 
"It's a grass-roots campaign and I need to be all over the state and talk to all of the stakeholders who really care. We try to be in as many communities as we can," Berwick said. "I'm not from inside. I am coming in with experience and knowledge and contacts that come when you work in the greater community — in my case all over the world."
 
And he says the effort has been going "really, really well" and he has been getting good responses from thos he meets. Friday was his second trip during the campaign to the Berkshires. He filmed a television show with the Berkshire Brigades prior to holding the meet and greet at Bagels Too.
 
The Democratic field currently consists of Berwick, Grossman, Coakley, Joseph Avellone and Juliette Kayyem. Independent Evan Falchuk and Republican Charles Barker Jr. are also running for the seat. All but Kayyem and Barker have so far visited the Berkshires.


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Two Seeking Lanesborough Selectman Seat
By Andy McKeever On: 08:33PM / Thursday October 10, 2013
Selectman candidate Barbara Hassan and Tim O'Brien, who moderated the forum at Town Hall on Wednesday. Candidate Henry Sayers was unable to attend the forum.

LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — Two local business owners are vying for the open seat on the Board of Selectmen.

Henry Sayers, owner of Sayers Auto Wrecking, and Barbara Hassan, owner of Barb Hassan Real Estate, are both running in next week's special election.

The seat is open after Robert Barton resigned to run for School Committee. His resignation was too late to fill the seat at the annual election this past spring.

A candidate forum was scheduled on Wednesday but Sayers was unable to attend. However, Hassan fielded questions for a half hour segment while a letter from Sayers was read.

When asked why residents should vote for her, Hassan said one word kept coming to mind — qualified.

Her job as a real estate agent over the past 25 years requires her to be up to date with the issues, Hassan said, and have a wide range of contacts in business and politics.

"I can seamlessly take on the responsibility left by the previous selectman because I've stayed current on the issues facing the town of Lanesborough," Hassan said, adding that she has increased the number of government meetings she has attended so if she is elected, she can hit the ground running.

She has been an active in politics but hasn't run for an elected office before. When the town hired a full-time administrator, she said it created a much more businesslike environment and she is seeking election to continue the transition.

"There has been a huge transition since the new town administrator came on and more transparency and accountability," Hassan said. "I really like that it is a businesslike environment."

She said she has a "business mindset" and the connections that come with it. When asked about improving commercial buildings, she said she has resources across the country she can ask for advice on, for example, a brownfields project.

Hassan said she has a strong relationship with the Berkshire delegation and the mayors of the the two cities — all of whom said they would be available to help in a situation.

"I am humble enough to ask for help all day long on any subject I don't know about," she said.

She said she has met with Mount Greylock Regional Superintendent Rose Ellis about the impending school project and is comfortable that the town and herself will receive plenty of information about that project as it moves along.

Hassan would like to merge various town departments into one, a move she says will create efficiencies. She has already put a year's worth of effort as a member of a committee researching that possibility and she hopes to complete it.

Sayers, in his letter, boasts similar experience in business. His letter focused on trying to control spending while expanding the tax base.

"Young families do not want to move into Lanesborough because of the high tax rate. Some of the committees are looking at current spending habits and ways we could save money. We have to continue to find ways to stretch dollars," the letter reads.

Meanwhile, attention needs to be paid to the town's infrastructure, Sayers' wrote, and that he would place priority on finding grants or bonds to improve the road systems.

"I believe I can work well with other board members and other departments by bringing common sense to issues as well as thinking outside of the box when needed," the letter reads.

The letter continues to say he would like to make town hall "more user friendly" and would work to resolve problems before they grow to become "major issues." He said he would be "fair" and "listen to everyone that has something to say."

The election is on Tuesday, Oct. 15.



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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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