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Green-Rainbow Statewide Candidates Launch 'Listening' Tour
Staff Reports On: 10:37PM / Tuesday April 22, 2014
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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Bump Gains Endorsements
By: Bump Campaign On: 04:54PM / Monday November 01, 2010

BOSTON — Suzanne Bump, Democratic candidate for state auditor, has received endorsements from two Latino community organizations, two women's advocacy groups and three LGTB organizations.

MassEquality, the Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus, and Bay State Stonewall Democrats have all endorsed her candidacy.

"This election is critical and we need candidates in office like Suzanne Bump who understand the importance of watching out for all citizens of the commonwealth, including LGBT citizens," said MassEquality Executive Director Kara Suffredini. "Suzanne Bump is someone who, from early in her career, has been very supportive of LGBT people and MassEquality enthusiastically endorses her for state auditor."

Massachusetts Women's Political Caucus and NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts have endorsed Bump's candidacy.

"We believe that Suzanne Bump's background and experience make her uniquely qualified to be Massachusetts' next state auditor. She has a strong track record of support for working families and we can count on her to protect the interests of the taxpayer," said MWPC Executive Director Priti Rao. "As former secretary of labor for the commonwealth, she demonstrated that commitment by developing and streamlining programs that resulted in minimized costs and maximized opportunities for workforce and small business development. In this very challenging economy, Suzanne's experience will be an invaluable asset in her role as the state's fiscal watchdog. We proudly support Suzanne Bump for state auditor."

¿Oíste?, a statwide political organization consisting of six regional councils that advances the political, social and economic standing of Latinos and Latinas, and La Semana News, a leading Spanish-language community newspaper in the Boston metro area, have also both endorsed Bump.

Bump has also received the endorsement of the Massachusetts Coalition for New Americans.

"Suzanne Bump has a long history of supporting civil rights and the programs that help all Massachusetts citizens, including immigrants and their families," said Eva Millona, the coalition's executive director.



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Bump Would Audit Publicly Funded Criminal Defense System
By: Bump Campaign On: 11:02AM / Wednesday October 20, 2010

QUINCY, Mass. — Suzanne Bump, Democratic nominee for state auditor, said she would conduct a thorough audit of the performance of the Committee for Public Counsel Service and the Bar Advocate programs.
 
“The state’s district attorneys have raised an important issue. There may be a problem with the way the public’s money is being spent on criminal defense,” said Bump in a statement issued Oct. 14. “Defendants have rights, but taxpayers do too, and they shouldn’t be abused.”
 
The Massachusetts District Attorneys Association issued a statement last week pointing out that defense counsel budgets have received substantial increases year after year while the district attorneys have not received comparable resources. One of their proposed solutions is to increase the DAs' budgets. Supporters of defense counsel have countered that their compensation is appropriate.

“So far, this debate has generated a lot of angry words and several ideas about how the state can spend more money in this area,” said Bump. “It has not generated any ideas or proposals about how we can deliver these services more effectively and save the taxpayers’ money.  There is a natural role here for the state auditor,” she said.

“I’ve talked about performance audits since I started this campaign. The issue raised by the District Attorneys perfectly illustrates my point,” Bump continued.  “As state auditor I will look at the way we spend taxpayer dollars to provide constitutionally required counsel to criminal defendants, determine whether the system is being abused, and identify changes to be made to save taxpayers money and deliver better services.”

“Through a thorough performance audit we can discover why the budget for defense counsel rises astronomically every year while the crime rate has remained essentially flat. If caseloads are the same, then why do defense costs keep increasing?” Bump asked.

Bump outlined some possible solutions, including reducing reliance on private attorneys in favor of having more public defenders, building better controls into the programs to ensure that attorneys are billing their cases consistent with reasonable defense practices, and exploring ways of resolving cases without excessive and costly litigation while protecting public safety.

“We need to get to the proper resolution of cases in the most cost-effective manner,” said Bump. “When we do that, we will save money for taxpayers and free up the resources to invest in programs that reduce crime and enhance public safety.”



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MassEquality Endorses Bump for Auditor
By: Bump Campaign On: 11:14AM / Tuesday October 12, 2010

QUINCY, Mass. — Suzanne Bump, the Democratic candidate for Massachusetts State Auditor, has been endorsed by MassEquality, a grassroots organization working to achieve full equality for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. Bump is the first candidate for state auditor to have received an endorsement from MassEquality.

“This election is critical and we need candidates in office like Suzanne Bump who understand the importance of watching out for all citizens of the Commonwealth, including LGBT citizens,” said Kara Suffredini, executive director of MassEquality. “Bump’s opponent signed a petition that sought to take away the rights of LGBT people to marry in Massachusetts. But Suzanne Bump is someone who, from early in her career, has been very supportive of LGBT people and MassEquality enthusiastically endorses her for state auditor.”

Bump, who won the Democratic nomination in a three-way primary on Sept. 14 with 50 percent of the vote, is the former Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development and is a former House Chairman of Commerce and Labor.

“Since 1985 I have been vigorously advocating on behalf of the LGBT community. I’m very grateful for MassEquality’s endorsement and their mission of equal civil rights has always been a major element of my own personal values,” said Bump. “My opponent, Mary Connaughton has chosen not to speak about her personal values, but as I see it, they have been clearly demonstrated through her actions. By signing anti-gay marriage petitions, Connaughton paints a fairly clear picture of her values.“

MassEquality’s endorsement is the latest in a series of statements of support for Bump from LGBT rights organizations, including the Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus and the Bay Windows newspaper.



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