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Beacon Hill Upholds Preliminary Election Results
Staff Reports On: 01:31PM / Monday October 24, 2011
Communication from the governor's office on Thursday, Oct. 27, 2011, timed at 11:24 a.m.: Governor Patrick just signed the North Adams election validation into law. It is now Chapter 141 of the Acts of 2011.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The state House of Representatives and Senate approved Monday validating the preliminary mayoral election results.

The special legislation now awaits Gov. Deval Patrick's approval in the next 10 days. The city adopted a homerule petition three weeks ago to accept the results as counted despite 460 votes being illegally cast.

The ballots instructed voters to pick two candidates and 460 voters did so. However, state law does not allow voters to choose more candidates than there are available seats.

The difference between the second highest vote-getter and the last vote-getter was more than the 460 illegal votes and, therefore, the results would still have narrowed the field to Ronald Boucher and Richard Alcombright. Instead of throwing out the votes, the City Council agreed to let the extra votes stand instead of holding a second election but that requires state approval.


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Boucher Shares Views on Mohawk Theater Development
Boucher Campaign On: 10:28AM / Saturday October 22, 2011
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — This is the second installment of mayoral candidate Ron Boucher sharing his views and ideas on important issues facing the city of North Adams. The below discussion focuses on the development of the Mohawk Theater.

"I believe the Mohawk Theater will play a significant role in the economic recovery of the city and also the revitalization of Main Street. Many of us remember what downtown used to be like growing up, with all the consumer foot traffic on Main Street, and re-engaging the Mohawk as an entertainment venue is key to this. I would move immediately to restart the renovation of the Mohawk which has been dormant the past two years under the current administration."

"Key to this initiative is to establish a for profit organization to access the $2.2 million in readily available historical tax credits which were awarded to the city during the prior administration. Once renovations are complete, the Mohawk can be sold to a for-profit organization of the city's choosing. Included in this sale would be stipulations that the Mohawk must be used for performances, shows, or movies, similar to the Colonial Theater in Pittsfield, which has revitalized that section of South Street. Also, selling the Mohawk to a for-profit organization would place the city in a position to continue to receive property taxes from a sought after location on our Main Street. Under the mayor's plan, he would turn the Mohawk over to the MCLA, which would make the property tax exempt and each year the city would lose a large amount of potential property taxes."

"Please remember, election day is Tuesday, Nov. 8. At this crucial point in time for our city, it is very important that all residents take the time to make their voices heard and vote."

The campaign to elect Ron Boucher Mayor of North Adams would like to extend an invitation to the public for Boucher's second Spaghetti Supper Fundraiser at the American Legion on Nov. 2, and also to stop by his new campaign headquarters at 107 Main St.

You can also learn more about Boucher, his campaign and views by visiting his website at www.VoteBoucher2011.com or emailing him at VoteBoucher2011@yahoo.com.


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Marchetti Campaign Plans Pancake Fundraiser
Marchetti Campaign On: 10:10AM / Saturday October 22, 2011
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The public is invited to attend a Pancake Breakfast Fundraiser for mayoral candidate Peter Marchetti to be held on Sunday, Oct. 30, from 9 to noon at the Polish Community Club on Linden Street.

Cost for the breakfast is a $7 donation. Kids eat free. Tickets may be purchased at the door, or reserved by calling 413443-1411.

Marchetti is currently in his eighth year on the Pittsfield City Council. He is the vice president, chairman of the council subcommittee on Finance and vice chairman of the Community and Economic Development subcommittee, and serves on the Public Health and Safety Council and as council representative to the Conservation Commission.

Marchetti's five-point plan for Pittsfield includes job creation, education, the arts, neighborhoods, and improved communication. He says he wants to see us write the next chapter in our history by building on the successes of the past and growing optimistically into the future. 

He has always been very active in the community, serving with the Morningside Initiative, the board of PCTV, state youth and adult bowling leagues, the Helen Berube Teen Parent Program, the Pittsfield Parade Committee, and many others.  

Marchetti Campaign Headquarters if at 766 Tyler St. Campaign volunteers and supporters are welcome to stop in and sign up to help.

For more information, visit the campaign website at www.petemarchetti.com, send an e-mail to pete@petemarchetti.com, or call headquarters at 413-443-1411 or 413-443-1220. 


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Alcombright, Boucher Talk Budget, Basics at Debate
By Tammy Daniels On: 11:22PM / Friday October 21, 2011

Incumbent Richard Alcombright, left, and challenger Ronald Boucher take questions on stage at the MCLA Church Street Center on Friday night. The debate can be heard here.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Spectators hoping for fireworks at Friday night's mayoral debate were likely disappointed as the candidates stuck to their scripts while landing a few light blows on each other.

Challenger Ronald Boucher said the city is not as attractive or lean as it could be and was failing to grow under a visionless leader with poor management. The incumbent, Richard Alcombright, ribbed Boucher for failing to see downtown improvements and thriving businesses or acknowledge the budgets cuts and savings made during his tenure.

The event at Massachusetts College of Liberal Art's Church Street Center was well attended, if not filling quite as many seats as last election's face-off that saw Alcombright elected. This time Boucher, the City Council president, is hoping to topple the incumbent.

The two took turns answering questions posed by North Adams Transcript Editor Michael Foster and Senior Reporter Jennifer Huberdeau. The debate was sponsored by the newspaper and the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce.

Boucher has taken issue in particular with Alcombright's description of the city's finances as "a little less than horrible" as quoted to a Boston Sunday Globe reporter in a story earlier this year.

"The image of a community, I think that plays a very big part in everything. It's how you sell your community outside this area," he said, chastising the mayor for not putting a more positive spin on the city and allowing it to be described as the poorest in the state. "I think that businesss and people outside the area reading that article would get the impression that, hey, 'why would I want to come to North Adams to start a business?' "

Alcombright said he wouldn't apologize for stating facts for describing the city's finances: "We are in horrible financial shape but we're getting better, we're getting better despite many things."

He said the structural deficit he inherited has been reduced through a combination of cuts and savings. "In the FY2010 budget it went $3.2 million to just about $422,000 in two short cycles, so we're getting better," he said, continuing that he'd saved thousands by restructuring debt, cleaning up the health insurance, taking over the city water treatment plant.

Boucher said he didn't believe there was any significant saving from taking over the plant because it hadn't taken into account the pensions and benefits of the workers; Alcombright said those had indeed been part of the savings analysis.

Alcombright said he would continue to look at ways for savings and raising revenue to balance the budget.

"I do not think we can do one without the other, that doesn't mean I'm a tax mogul," he said. "Last year was an anomaly [when the city taxed to the levy and instituted a sewer fee]. This year, we may see taxes go up 3-3 1/2 percent."

While Alcombright said he'd look at raising fees, Boucher responded that he'd already forced the Board of Health to back off a fee hike claiming it would be "political suicide."

Alcombright admitted he had after the new bills had gone out to restaurants and other businesses. He described the fees as doubling and tripling. "They were huge and they were wrong ... and I asked them to roll them back," he said.

"If you're going to empower boards to do their job, let them do their job," retorted Boucher.

Boucher also claimed there was "a lot of fat still there" in city governement and "we need to do more with less." Alcombright got a laugh when he claimed the only fat left in City Hall "is in the mayor's office."

The candidates agreed on a number of items, including supporting the arts, getting tourists downtown from Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Arts, community policing, and not quite knowing how to capitalize on the new MCLA science building yet.

They continued to differ on long-vacant Mohawk Theater, with Boucher insisting it should be sold to a for-profit venture as a way to generate tax revenue and bring people to the city for concerts, live-streamed events and plays. A for-profit would be able to tap into the $2.5 million historic tax credits available, he said.

Alcombright said he is working on a plan for MCLA to take over management of the theater to use it as a learning lab for its fine and performing arts department as a way to bring students and other into the downtown. His proposal, he said, would cut the estimated $12 million development in half, making the tax credits insignificant.

In a back and forth about the Fire Department, Boucher indicated he'd be open to changing the department's structure from full-time staff to a core staff with paid volunteers.

"There's a presumption out there I'm out to cut the Fire Department," he said. "That's not the truth."

However, he said the city's population had significantly dropped and it was worth looking at options that could be instituted "5 or 7 years down the road."

Alcombright said he remained committed to a fully staffed department because even if the population dropped, the aged buildings, and college, hospital and high-rise remained. He also objected that because the population had shrunk, it didn't mean it wouldn't rise again.

While Alcombright touted the relationships he's built with the local communities and regional organizations like the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission, Boucher said he'd keep the BRPC at arm's length, claiming it had sunk the Lowe's deal on Curran Highway with onerous environmental demands (a claim also made by the former mayor John Barrett III in a radio interview the day before).

"Lowe's might have been here if they hadn't gotten in the way," said Boucher, adding that recent news the home improvement chain has once again scaled back its store openings means the city will never see one.

Alcombright said he was more convinced it was the low traffic volume and economy that induced Lowe's to step back, not the BRPC. With the Super Walmart coming in, that may change, he said.

"What I'm hearing with a statement like that is 'back to basics' really means back to past practices," said Alcombright, taking a shot at the challenger's campaign motto.

"Again you're a fan of them, I'm not," said Boucher.

The 75-minute debate will be aired on Northern Berkshire Community Television, Channel 17, on Saturday at 5 and 9 p.m. and Sunday at 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. Check listings for further airings.



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Bianchi Lays Out His 'Plan For Pittsfield'
By Andy McKeever On: 07:13PM / Friday October 21, 2011

Dan Bianchi said he wants to review the city's charter and look for ways to restructure it to become more efficient.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Mayoral hopeful Daniel E. Bianchi's "Plan for Pittsfield" calls on as many citizens as possible to help run the city.

Bianchi laid out his plans to a large crowd at the GEAA on Wednesday, focusing on taxes, city services, education, economic development and job creation, expansion of open government and public safety.

"If you have a difference of opinion, you're marginalized. If you have an idea that doesn't match with the status quo, you are put down for it, you're marginalized," Bianchi said. "We've got to be a lot more open and a lot more inviting to people. I want everyone to be involved. You don't have to have a Ph.D.at the end of your name to serve on a board or a commission."

Bianchi said that if elected, he is committed to filling boards and commissions regular people, creating office hours for residents to just walk in and meet with him, host periodic ward meetings and upgrade the city website for residents to better interact with city government. Those plans are aimed to take the "politics" out of government operations.

"Far, far too often in our history we've seen a government that has been tied up and dominated by politics. It makes the operation of government inefficient," Bianchi said. "We're a 21st-century city with a 19th-century form of government."

Bianchi is calling for formation of a charter review committee to re-examine all aspects of the city's governmental structure, including the role of mayor. To help keep tax increases down, Bianchi is calling for another committee of retired professionals who will review the budget every year and look for ways to be more efficient and for annual  re-examination of the roles of retiring employees instead of automatically replacing those positions.

"You can't always reduce things but you can making things better," Bianchi said. "We have an opportunity every year to review positions as people retire. It shouldn't be an automatic 'well, Joe retired, we've got to replace them.'"

Bianchi said he wants to plan the city's capital expenditures years ahead of time so that residents are not surprised by the annual bill. All investments should be handled in a more "scientific way," said the city's former finance administrator.

While Bianchi told the crowd that he believes the city can be managed better, he promised that he will not take office and begin firing department heads or other employees.

"I think with good management there is no need for layoffs, especially in an economy where we've got large numbers of unemployment and underemployment. The last thing I want to do is to be mayor and make it worse," Bianchi said. "There will be plenty of firefighters and, if I have anything to do with it, all the stations will be open, all the guys will be employed. That goes to the police officers, too."

Open government and long-term management strategies will allow the city to invest in education and small businesses, he said.

"I think we are on the verge of redefining ourselves as a community from the old manufacturing to the new community of the 21st century and it's going to be an exciting place to be," Bianchi said. "We've got to do what we can to really encourage the growth of our small businesses in the city ... What I'd like to do is create a pool of dollars that will help small businesses."

The city could not only loan money to small businesses from the free cash account but Bianchi said he would also like to take between $500,000 and $750,000 from the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority and make it available for small business owners. Also to grow economic development, Bianchi said he wants to form a development advisory committee and designate some areas of the city as state-recognized business improvement districts to allow small-business owners to access additional state grants and loans.

While supporting local businesses is one goal, Bianchi said he wants to establish a marketing plan to attract businesses outside of the area — particularly in emerging green technologies.

"We need to always being thinking green. I would like us to be the green city that can actually attract from the green industry," Bianchi said.

Bianchi joked about the number of committees he'd like to form, throwing out an idea for a multi-unit homeowner commission to help examine the state of the city's housing. From code enforcement to light ordinances to even the amount of available affordable housing, the commission would discuss all aspects to improve housing for business that are interested in moving their operations to the city.

Encouraging businesses to move here will also mean improvements in the school system. Bianchi said the "uniqueness" of the schools needs to be emphasized so that students will start staying in Pittsfield schools instead of choosing other schools.

For the re-building of the schools, Bianchi said he supports a two-school system and said he will advocate the state of pay for renovations of both Pittsfield High School and Taconic High School. He said he will also encourage a significant study into vocational education to see if there could be a regional trade school. But whatever school system comes to fruition, Bianchi said he would support a debt-exclusion vote for the renovations.

Bianchi also said the schools need to look at sharing services, particularly with administration and technological support, and stressed shared services across the county.

"We've really got to start thinking beyond just the city of Pittsfield," Bianchi said. "I am confident that we can come up with shared services that will make sense and save money."

Bianchi said he would like to meet with boards of selectmen and find ways to help each other. For example, Bianchi said that both North Adams and Pittsfield have engineering departments and the two cities could find ways to split those costs. Once again, Bianchi called for retired businessmen and engineers to provide their own ideas of how to "streamline" services.

But it is not just the senior sector he wants involved in government;  he's also advocating for the the formation of a youth commission that can weigh in on city matters. The young people will not only have a say but he wants them to be voting members on boards and commissions.

Those plans also depend on fighting crime, he said, and he would like to work with Sheriff Thomas Bowler to establish citywide neighborhood watches and establish October as National Crime Prevention Month, which could help the city secure extra grant funding to put more police on the streets, he said.

"There are some things that we need to do. We need to have proper planning and that is why, after talking with many of you, after knocking on doors, I've gathered the opinions of a lot of people and put together with my own... that's how my plan was developed," Bianchi said, add as the meeting ended, "When I prevail, I'm going to have a lot of people ready to work... I'm encouraged with their commitment, not with my campaign, but to the city."


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Where to vote in Berkshire County

State Election
Tuesday, Nov. 4

Voting is from 7 to 8 p.m.
Deadline to register or change party affiliation is Oct.15.


Candidates on the ballot in races for state office; all others on the ballot are unopposed. Links will take you to their campaign websites.

U.S. Senator
Edward J. Markey, Democrat
Brian J. Herr, Republican

Governor/Lieutenant Governor
Charlie Baker & Karyn Polito, Republican
Martha Coakley & Stephen Kerrigan, Democrat
Evan Falchuk & Angus Jennings, United Independent Party
Scott Lively & Shelly Saunders, Independent
Jeff McCormick & Tracy Post, Independent 

Attorney General
Maura Healey, Democratic
John B. Miller, Republican

Secretary of State
William Francis Galvin, Democratic
David D'Arcangelo, Republican
Daniel L. Factor, Green-Rainbow

Treasurer
Deborah B. Goldberg, Democratic
Michael James Heffernan, Republican
Ian T. Jackson, Green-Rainbow

Auditor
Suzanne M. Bump, Democratic
Patricia S. Saint Aubin, Republican
MK Merelice, Green-Rainbow

Municipal Elections

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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