Attorney General Candidate Shares Views in Pittsfield |
By Andy McKeever On: 01:49PM / Tuesday May 06, 2014 ||
AG candidate Maura Healey met with voters on Saturday in Pittsfield.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Maura Healey has already overseen half of the attorney general's office. Now, she wants to take it all over.
With Attorney General Martha Coakley now seeking election as governor, Healey has launched a campaign to replace her.
Currently overseeing the attorney general's public protection and business and labor bureaus, the Democrat says she knows the "power and possibilities" the office has to make positive impacts in people's lives.
"I know how important it is for Massachusetts to have an attorney general's office that is nation leading, that leads the nation in standing up for civil rights and giving a voice to those who are vulnerable," Healey told members of the Berkshire Brigades on Saturday at Dottie's Coffee Lounge.
"And in leading the nation in protecting consumers and leading the nation in thinking about smart approaches to criminal justice reform, public safety and drug addiction."
Healey grew up in Hampton Falls, N.H., and moved to Massachusetts to attend Harvard, where she received her undergraduate degree in government. She is the oldest of five siblings with her mother being a school nurse and father a high school teacher.
After graduating, she went overseas to play professional basketball. She returned to Massachusetts and received her law degree from Northeastern University.
Healey worked for a federal judge overseeing the cleanup of Boston Harbor before becoming a litigator at a private law firm.
"I jumped at the chance seven years ago to take a 70 percent pay cut and join the attorney general's office as chief of the civil rights division. And I saw, over the last several years, that there is no office where you can have a greater impact on people's lives," she said.
One of her largest accomplishments in the office was successfully fighting against the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), she said. At the time, the president and U.S. Department of Justice were defending the law.
"To me it was a matter of fairness," she said, adding a story about how a couple wanted to be buried together in a state veterans cemetery but were being blocked by the government.
She also took on predatory lenders, putting together a litigation team to go after banks participating in those practices. Healey was the first in the nation to bring a civil rights case against a lender and she also started the Home Court program, which used settlement funds to help residents modify their mortgages.
One of her first issues she tackled in the attorney's general office was writing the buffer zone law regarding access for women to abortion clinics. That law survived supreme court challenges. She has challenged laws that allow physicians to deny contraceptive care to patients.
And she says there is a lot more she can do if elected. Healey wants to "really tackle" the issue of drug abuse, which has become an epidemic across the state. She says there is a real shortage of beds for mental health and addiction treatment programs.
State Sen. Benjamin Downing was on hand to hear about Healey's campaign.
"Using settlement proceeds from the office — when we sue pharmaceutical companies and others — I want those resources to go to beefing up services for those kind of treatments and care," she said.
From the office, she says she will also "bring people together" to do a better job at prescription drug monitoring.
That stance earned her the endorsements of the mayors of Holyoke and Northampton and Hampshire County Sheriff Robert Garvey on Tuesday.
She also vowed to go after the growing for-profit schools market that "pocket" federal student loans but do not provide an education that gives students the tools for jobs.
"It is predatory and it is wrong," she said.
Healey also wants to advocate for a revamping of the state's criminal justice system. She says the state needs to provide more job training, life skills training and counseling to those in jail so that they don't come back. Meanwhile, on "the front end," there needs to be more options than jail. She wants courts to identify individuals who are in danger of continually going through the court system and provide drug treatment and other programs to stop the slide.
"I think you have a real opportunity to convene and lead that conversation," she said.
Entering the race in October, when she resigned from the attorney general's office, Healey says she wants "to be the people's point guard."
"I've been in that office. I've seen the power and the possibility of that office. In my mind it was a very easy decision because I am so passionate about this and so committed to building on the success of that office," she said, and boasts of being the only candidate who has worked in the office. "I think Massachusetts can lead on all of these issues."
She has gained support from state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, D-Pittsfield.
"When it comes to equal rights, when it comes to consumer protection, when it comes to making sure everybody in the commonwealth is treated fairly, the office of attorney general really leads that fight. So it is important to pay attention to all of the offices that are being fought for this year," Farley-Bouvier said. "I'm supporting Maura because she's done the job. She is a lawyer. She has run about 50 percent of the attorney general's office for about seven years."
Healey is vying for the Democratic nomination with former state Sen. Warren Tolman of Watertown, an attorney and former gubernatorial candidate, and champion of the clean elections law.
John Miller of Winchester, an attorney and expert on construction law and public infrastructure contracting, is the Republican candidate.
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.
Downing Kicks Off Senate Re-election Campaign |
By Andy McKeever On: 09:17PM / Monday March 17, 2014 ||
State Sen. Benjamin B. Downing kicked off his re-election campaign Monday night at Spice Dragon with St. Patrick's Day flavor.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — At age 24, Benjamin B. Downing stood on the steps of City Hall with a speech he rehearsed dozens of times to announce his candidacy for the open state Senate seat.
Eight years later, and seeing yet another term come to an end, he looked back on that speech and focused on a Bill Clinton quote he had altered: "It it our job not only to build a bridge to the 21st century but make sure that every one in every corner of the Berkshires and the commonwealth has the opportunity to cross that bridge."
He thought of the $90 million broadband expansion, the new center for science and innovation at MCLA, upgraded downtowns and reforms to government to say the bridge is being built.
But, he also looked at a rising poverty rate and homelessness.
"No. No we can't say that everyone has as good of an opportunity that they should to make use of their God-given talents," Downing said Monday night as he kicked of his campaign to keep the seat he's had for eight years.
Downing kicked off another campaign as he has begun gathering signatures to be on the ballot. Among a room full of municipal, state, business and cultural leaders, Downing said his job on Beacon Hill isn't done.
"I am running for re-election because this community, Pittsfield, the Berkshires, Western Massachusetts has given me everything, every opportunity anyone could ever ask for," he said. "But until every single kid in every corner of the commonwealth from Boston to the Berkshires, from Provincetown to Pittsfield, from North Adams to North Attleboro can say the same thing, then our work is not done."
He boasted of making "government smarter and more efficient" to ensure that the tax dollars are going to programs and "not bureaucracy."
But child poverty has increased from 12 percent to 15 percent — with the Berkshires 20 percent higher — and 135,000 people are dependent on food banks and more than 20,000 people statewide homeless, Downing said.
While still seeing those numbers after eight years in office could make someone "cynical," Downing says he is "more hopeful" than ever. His job takes him to meet volunteers passing out Thanksgiving meals to the needy, teachers inspiring classrooms, community activists fighting for the environment and "decent hard-working people" in all 52 of his Senate district's communities, he said.
"Today, more so than any day since I took to those steps at City Hall, I am more hopeful today than ever before," said the Democratic senator. "I am hopeful because of all of you. Because of the good decent hard-working people that make up the 52 communities."
Downing said government still needs "new energy and new ideas to make decisions with future generations in mind and not future elections in mind." And he believes he can provide that.
"I am running for re-election because if the last two years have taught me anything is that we can take absolutely nothing in this life for granted. We don't know if the sun is going to come up tomorrow. We don't know if we will get to see it. But we do know that if we do everything in our time, everything in our power that whenever that last sunset comes, whenever we see it. .... whether we are 27 or 72, whether we are 107 or 12, we will be able to say we made the most of every opportunity that was given to us," Downing said.
Attorney Don Dubendorf and state Rep. Steve Kulik were among those in attendance.
"If you continue to give me the opportunity in the Senate, I may not be able to say that I am always be right. I won't. I may not be able to say that we will always agree. We won't. But you will be able to say that your state senator worked harder than anyone else, drove farther than anyone else, listened more than anyone else and was more committed to making sure that we ... we will be able to say we have done everything we could to make sure that everyone can cross that bridge."
Downing is still collecting signatures for the ballot and doesn't know if he'll have a competitor. The senator has run unopposed since 2008. He said he plans on running the campaign as if he does have an opponent.
"Whether there is another candidate or not, it is a great opportunity to get out and talk to people and make sure you are in touch with the municipal leaders and the voters," Downing said after his kickoff speech.
Besides poverty, which Downing has placed high on his priority list, he also expects substance abuse and treatment to become hot topic issues.
Besides being an incumbent, Downing also received support on Monday night from many county leaders and elected officials. Those in attendance included Sheriff Thomas Bowler, state Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli, state Rep. Paul Mark, state Rep. Gailanne Cariddi, state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, state Rep. Steve Kulik, District Attorney David Capeless, Adams Town Administrator Jonathan Butler, U.S. Rep. Richard Neal's representative Dan Johnson, Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan, City Councilor Jonathan Lothrop, and Register of Probate Court Francis Marinaro among an array of business and cultural leaders.
"He's done a fantastic job. We need to clone him. We need to get this guy tenured. Ben Downing's been a great friend to all of us and he's been a mentor to me," Pignatelli said.
Candidate Kayyem Talks Development With PEDA |
By Andy McKeever On: 03:41AM / Saturday March 15, 2014 ||
PEDA Executive Director Cory Thurston explained to Juliette Kayyem what has happened and what is in the plans for the William Stanley Business Park.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Following what she believes was a good response at Democratic caucuses across the state, gubernatorial candidate Juliette Kayyem is ramping up her campaign to show the party that she is the voice of a new generation and the best person to take on the Republican candidate in the general election.
"The true winner in the caucus was the undecided. That is a fabulous opportunity for a candidate like me," Kayyem said on Friday. "The core of my party did not feel ready to commit and that's an opportunity for me and an opportunity to provide and discuss with the Democratic base on where we go from here."
Kayyem carries an underdog mentality into the race for state's highest office, coming in as a virtually unknown.
She doesn't currently hold an office. But, she has a resume that spans from being a civil rights attorney to the assistant secretary for intergovernmental affairs in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. She was the state's first undersecretary for homeland security and served on the National Commission on Terrorism.
"We need a new generation of leadership, a new approach to how we view politics," she said.
Kayyem is one of five Democrats seeking to replace Deval Patrick, who is not running for re-election. On Friday, she continued a tour of the state' gateway cities to get a better understanding of the challenges each face. Those trips are helping her craft what she'll emphasize in policies if she is elected.
"Here some of the solutions are coming out of this park — that you take a filthy place, that is an eyesore, that is making people feel like Pittsfield is not attractive to live and work and you turn it around," Kayyem said, after meeting with Pittsfield Economic Development Authority Executive Director Corydon Thurston. "You use a lot of agencies, a lot of cutting across the boundaries of state and federal government, of public and private sector to invest and lure businesses here."
And she believes she can be the one to help with economic development for the city through funding and supporting best practices. She is a supporter of the Brownfields Redevelopment Fund, which PEDA accessed to remediate the former General Electric property that is now the William Stanley Business Park.
But she heard from Thurston that there is more than just that fund in which she can help if elected.
PEDA has been trying to redevelop the land. So far MountainOne Financial has built a center there and Western Mass Electric Co. has installed one of the largest solar arrays in the state. But there are 52 acres remaining for redevelopment.
Thurston said PEDA is making pitches to companies looking to apply for the multimillion state contract to construct new rail cars for the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority and has a $6.5 million earmark to build a life sciences center.
The biggest thing for Thurston is to create continuity among visions and not drastic changes in leadership.
"Things change, society changes, trends change. I don't know how you do it but it is very important," he said. "I think education from a standpoint of planning and a conceptual approach."
The planning to market the property needs to coincide with government officials' policies and they need to stick to it, Thurston said. Changes to opinions about development throws things off.
Juliette Kayyem is one of five Democrats seeking the office.
There has been a recent push for science and math education and that Thurston said needs to continue to reach an end goal.
Right now it is difficult to get young students interested in manufacturing, he said, because of the bitter taste in parents and grandparent's mouths from GE.
The state and the region need to stick with that push because the city is primed to reap benefits from a life science industry. Thurston said the business base needs to grow so the students can see the future of manufacturing.
"STEM has to go somewhere. It has to have continuity. We can't get to the edge of a cliff and then all of a sudden have it drop," he said.
Changes in opinion has created a nearly impossible situation when it comes to the property and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. GE and the EPA agreed to a cleanup of the land and a permit for a storm-water system was in place for when the property was redeveloped.
The land has switched to PEDA's hand at the approval of the EPA, but now that the storm-water permit is expired, the EPA wants a better system that could end up being a $6 million treatment center. PEDA is still working with the EPA on that issue.
"We haven't added to it and there is no ongoing industrial use," Thurston said. "That's tantamount to every dollar plus that we have for redevelopment purposes."
Thurston said there is an array of important initiatives put forth by Gov. Deval Patrick that the organization is "banking on." The primary one is the effort to expand broadband across the state.
"I see that as a huge opportunity for us and what we are doing at the park to seed new businesses. With that, you can basically be anywhere. We need that and we need access to it," he said.
The focus on transportation — both rail and public transportation — and the push for life sciences must continue with a new administration, Thurston said.
Many of those topics Kayyem has already taken a stand to support. She wants to continue those while using her experience at preparedness from Homeland Security to set forth long-term, sustainable growth for the state.
Friday was Kayyem's third trip to the Berkshire since entering the race.
Ex-Medicare Chief Mulling Run for Governor |
By Andy McKeever On: 11:01PM / Tuesday April 09, 2013 ||
Former Medicare chief Dr. Donald Berwick was in Pittsfield on Tuesday to introduce himself and listen to Berkshire Brigade members as he 'strongly considers' a run for governor.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Dr. Donald Berwick grew up in a small rural town where if someone's car was stalled on the side of the road, you didn't drive by.
You stopped to help.
It was a general idea that he grew up with, that "we're all together and we help each other." And it is that general idea that has now led him to "strongly considering" a run for governor.
His father was doctor, making house house calls miles away helping everyone he could and Berwick followed those footsteps.
He went off to Harvard Medical School and then went on to become a pediatrician. Meanwhile, public policy was an interest of his and he received his master of public policy degree from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.
While working in private practice, there were inefficiencies that hindered his ability to provide the best care — for example labs tests not being returned quickly.
"I got interested in quality. How do we do better?" Berwick said on Tuesday when he introduced himself to members of the Berkshire Brigades, the county's leading Democratic organization. "I became a student not just of health care but of improvement. I began studying on anything gets better."
He found the best organizations didn't "disrespect" the people working for it. But, like his younger days in Connecticut, worked together with motivated leaders in various disciplines using their own imagination and plans to work toward the common goal.
That management belief coupled with his drive to "make everything better" led him to start the nonprofit Institute for Healthcare Improvement, bringing health-care professionals from across the world together to optimize health-care delivery.
"I then started to grow a national and international organization to try to improve health and health-care worldwide. And that grew. It is now the largest and most significant of such an organization in the world," he said.
Meanwhile, he still saw patients but wanted to do more. While he could treat a virus and make the health systems better, he couldn't solve the root cause.
"What makes a kid sick is not just the germ ... it is poverty, something in the air that shouldn't be there, injustice, fear or just social circumstances," Berwick said, adding that health care extends far beyond medicine.
Berwick told a story of a child growing up in poverty who had to fight to get a bone marrow transplant. He finally received it to cure his leukemia only years later to be murdered because of his social circumstances.
He then got the taste of the public sector. In 2008, President Barack Obama selected him as a recess appointee as administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. He was called on to change the system after the passage of the Affordable Care Act.
He oversaw seven of the 10 provisions put in place by the act while leading the $820 billion health insurance agency. He led that organization by forming close relationships with other agencies.
"The first rule is that we have to run CMS in the way you want health care to be," Berwick said.
But on the legislative side, the environment was often "toxic" and elected officials weren't making decisions based on what "they feel in the heart" but rather "what they saw on TV," he said, and both parties in Congress were not working together and it was hurting the government's ability to work for the greater good of the people.
"That was entry into high level government," Berwick said, adding that he was excited with the direction the administration was going in universal health care.
His term ended after 17 months when he resigned because it was clear a Republicans would oppose a Senate confirmation for full appointment. He returned full time to his home with his wife, Ann, who is the chairman of the state Department of Public Utilities.
Berwick addressing the Berkshire Brigades.
Now, a year after his term ended in Washington, he is ready to dive back into the public sector with a run for governor.
"I want to stay in the public sector. What governments can do is phenomenally important if it is done right. By right I mean, well run and responsive to the public and in good partnership," he said. "I want to make the best possible community."
If he formally enters the race, he is planning to run on a platform aimed at improving the state's health care system, particularly lowering the costs by focusing on keeping patients healthy rather than "filling beds"; educating children; ending poverty, and solving economic problems the state faces by improving the energy policy.
"I would like to be governor to bring that kind of thinking about proper management, commitment to the poor, total commitment to children and continue swinging the bat at health care. I think I can do that and I'd like a chance to try," he said.
Berwick and Treasurer Stephen Grossman are the only two candidates so far who have indicated they may enter the 2014 race. Berwick hasn't yet announced but is going on a "listening tour" across the state to hear from the people.
Once news leaked out that he was considering a run, the Brigades invited him to speak. Grossman recently spoke at the Brigades' annual dinner.
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Cheshire: Election, May 5;
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
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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