By Andy McKeever On: 09:14AM / Wednesday May 21, 2014
Evan Falchuk and Angus Jennings are launching a new, independent party and campaign for governor.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Angus Jennings has spent most of his career in town and city halls across the state.
As a municipal planner and consultant, he has heard all of the great ideas and plans to revitalize downtrodden towns. He has seen the problems with transportation, economic development, infrastructure and housing.
But, there always seems to be a gap when it comes to the state's support to getting projects completed.
Last year, he met Evan Falchuk, who formed the United Independent Party. The party's goal is to cut through all of the political bickering to tackle the issues cities and towns face. Instead of passing bills that only make small progress on major topics, Falchuk is calling for fully revamping the political process to address the issues head on.
"It is going to be Democrats versus Republicans. It will be small progress on issues that really matter," Falchuk said on Thursday, as he walked around downtown Pittsfield.
Falchuk is running for governor with a focus on bringing leadership that can cut through the minutia. He picked Jennings to run with him as lieutenant governor.
"It is a very brave decision that he's made personally and what he had already done, which was to create the united independent party, was some thing very, very inspiring to me as a voter," Jennings said.
"I, like so many other people, felt like the system has not been responsive in not only doing what ought to be done but also not talking about what could be done. The decision making process on Beacon Hill is so insular."
Jennings, who grew up in Wilbraham, has consulted with more than 35 towns throughout the state in planning. In 2006, he was hired by the city of Pittsfield to work on zoning changes.
Partly of his work, the Rice Silk Mill apartments were renovated on brownfields property, providing housing aimed to gentrify the Tyler Street area.
His expertise in housing is one of the major aspects he brings to the campaign. One of the major issues the Falchuk campaign is focusing on is ways to lower the cost of living across the state.
Further, Jennings' experience with planning boards, city councils and the particular efforts of various towns for revitalization would help align leadership with the priorities of the communities, he said.
Jennings pointed to the Beacon Cinema on North Street as an example of something that requires a lot of work to make happen but yields a high reward in the city's downtown.
"I see that as evidence of what Pittsfield has done right. And Pittsfield has done a lot right with North Street. You see it with the activity and the investment," Jennings said. "That movie theater that might not stand out to some people. But to me, it stands out because I know how much work goes into making that happen."
He says people on the local level know the specific needs when it comes to housing, economic growth and transportation. They have the ideas that would streamline the solutions. But, those ideas aren't finding their way to Beacon Hill, he said.
Falchuk pointed to the closure of North Adams Regional Hospital as an example of how the state isn't aligning its leadership with citizens. He says it is a "real crisis" that the eastern part of the state knows and cares little about.
"They're seeing state leadership that doesn't seem to pay attention to the issues out here," he said.
And since launching his campaign last fall, he says he is finding a lot of people who agree with him that the dynamics of the political conversation needs to change.
"The campaign has grown a lot. We've got a dozen full-time people, we've got hundreds of volunteers across the commonwealth. Our message of smart, brave reform and the need to have a new framework to bring about meaningful change is really resonating with people," he said.
As the election start gets closer and the party primaries creep up, Falchuk said more people will be paying attention and more people will start seeing the same political bickering.
"I sit on these panels with the gubernatorial candidates and you hear them say these nice sounding, vague things that don't mean a lot," Falchuk said.
He says his campaign will be focused on "getting more into the substance" of issues.
But first, they have to collect 10,000 signatures to be on the ballot. Falchuk says he hopes to submit 20,000.
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Clarksburg: Election, May 27, noon to 7; town meeting, June 18
Williamstown: Election, May 13, 7-8; town meeting, May 20, 7 p.m.
The cities of Pittsfield and North Adams will hold municipal elections for mayor, city council and school committee in 2015
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