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Green-Rainbow Statewide Candidates Launch 'Listening' Tour
Staff Reports On: 10:37PM / Tuesday April 22, 2014

M.K. Merelice and Danny Factor speak about the closure of North Adams Regional.

Factor, Ian Jackson and Merelice.

The candidates speak with Kelly's Package Store owner John Kelly about the bottle bill.

Robert Malnati of the BRTA, left, explains transportation issues in the Berkshires.


Local Green-Party activist L. Scott Laugenour, center, accompanied candidates Danny Factor, left, and Ian Jackson to submit their nomination sheets at Pittsfield City Hall.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A trio of Green-Rainbow Party state candidates toured the Berkshires on Tuesday, meeting with citizens and filing their papers at Pittsfield City Hall.

The group kicked off the day in front of the closed North Adams Regional Hospital to press a focal point of the party's platform: Universal health care.

"Health care is a human right," said Danny Factor of Acton, who is running for secretary of the commonwealth. If the government can bail out a corporation, it can find funds to secure a deal to reopen a critical medical facility, he said.

"There's a lot the government can do in that and it can look into other options, such as taking it by eminent domain."

Auditor candidate M.K. Merelice of Brookline, an "occasional Franklin County resident," said North Berkshire's position was similar to that of the "forgotten county" of Franklin with its pockets of poverty.

"It does seem to me that this has as much to do with classism as anything else," she said. "If this hospital was located in the Southern Berkshires rather than the Northern Berkshires this would not be allowed to happen."

She said if elected, she would determine what type of medical services the community needed.

The candidates, including Ian Jackson, running for treasurer, called for more transparency and information regarding the closure, and a possibly publicly operated system with greater accountability to the people.

"People did pay for medical care, [that money] didn't just evaporate," said Jackson, who called for a different payment structure to make it easier for lawmakers to understand what happened.

After North Adams, the three candidates traveled to Kelly's Package Store in Dalton to discuss the long-pending bottle bill. That bill would expand the 5-cent deposit on soda and beer bottles and cans to other packaging — such as water or sports drinks.

Kelly's Package Store owner John Kelly recently testified in favor of the bill, saying recyclables is becoming a "secondary economy." The store collects and recycles bottles as an additional source of income.

"We felt like the expansion of the bottle bill would raise the recycling rate in the average household from 33 percent to 88 percent," Kelly told the candidates.

He added that those deposits help community groups raising money through bottle drives while there are individuals who collect bottles from the side of the road for extra income.

The candidates say that bill is long overdue.

"Just having a small deposit make sure it is going to the right place instead of going into a landfill," said Jackson.

But, it is more than that too, said Merelice, adding that the bottle bill is just one small step in turning the state's economy into a more environmentally-friendly one.

"It is a tiny step of what a future economy looks like," she said. "This may seem like a little thing, but when you look at the environment as a whole ... ."

Factor said there is a "culture" that needs changing when it comes to being environmentally friendly and encouraging more recyclables through the bill would help make that change. The bill will help push environmental consciousness into people's minds, which can lead to even more environmentally friendly practices.

Merelice added, "part of auditing is recognizing that the commonwealth's resources are no confined to finances. Part of the resources are people and the environment."

Following Kelly's the group went to Berkshire Organics to discuss the labeling of genetically modified organisms. Berkshire Organics focused on organic, high-quality foods, which the Green Rainbow Party supports. The party wants to push the labeling bill and no cracking under the pressure of major corporate suppliers who oppose it.

The three candidates rode the Berkshire Regional Transit Authority bus from Lenox to Pittsfield's Intermodal Transportation Center, where they heard from BRTA Assistant Administrator Robert Malnati on the region's public transportation.

The candidates set up outside North Adams Regional Hospital to kick off their tour.

A strong demand for increased evening and weekday service remain among the ongoing challenges for which the agency has had insufficient funding, Malnati said.  

"Sixty-five percent of the population that we serve don't have a vehicle," Malnati told them, saying limitations in transportation availability was an obstacle to an economic development in an area increasingly dominated by jobs in the service industry.

Candidates expressed concerns about regional equality in transportation, as with health-care issues seen in their earlier NARH visit, and stressed that Berkshire residents must remain organized in order to effectively advocate for their needs.

"There's a saying that the quickest way that people give up their power is thinking they don't have any," said Merelice.

Green-Rainbow hopefuls said Berkshire County, which has seen high showings for their party in recent elections, is an important part of the upcoming election.

"We love this area," said Merelice. "It's important to identify your base."

Candidates said while the Green Rainbow party does have an overarching platform of core beliefs, they are touring the commonwealth to hear about each region's specific needs.

"Right now there's no candidate from the Berkshires running in our races, so it's important to come out and see what the Berkshires want and need," said Jackson.

The tour of the Berkshires led them to Pittsfield City Hall, where they submitted their nomination sheets to be on the ballot.

"We're calling this a listening launch," Merelise said of the daylong trip.

iBerkshires writers Tammy Daniels, Andy McKeever and Joe Durwin compiled this report.



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Where to vote in Berkshire County

State Primary
Tuesday, Sept. 9

Voting is from 7 to 8 p.m.
Deadline to register or change party affiliation is Aug. 20; only unenrolled voters may select which primary to vote in. More information on registering can be found here.

Candidates on the ballot in a race for their party nomination; all others on the ballot are unopposed

Republican
  Governor: Charles D. Baker & Mark R. Fisher

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  Lieutenant governor: Leland Cheung, Stephen J. Kerrigan & Michael E. Lake
  Attorney general: Maura Healey & Warren E. Tolman
  Treasurer: Thomas P. Conroy, Barry R. Finegold & Deborah B. Goldberg
 

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The cities of Pittsfield and North Adams will hold municipal elections for mayor, city council and school committee in 2015

You may vote absentee: if you will be absent from your town or city on election day, have a physical disability that prevents you from voting at the polls or cannot vote at the polls because to religious beliefs.

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