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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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1,2,3: Just Say No
By: Editorial On: 04:44PM / Monday November 01, 2010

Question 1

"A jug of wine, a loaf of bread, and thou beside." So goes the famous stanza (or at least one translation of it) from Omar Khayyam's the "Rubaiyat" celebrating the simple necessities of life. There was a time, perhaps, when alcoholic beverages were a necessity. Stored properly, they could last for years — a plus in the pre-refrigeration and soda pop days.

But is it a necessity now? Should it be lumped in with that loaf of bread — or gallon of milk — and be exempt from the state sales tax? We don't think so.

Question 1 on Tuesday's ballot is asking voters to exempt the retail sale of alcoholic beverages from the 6.25 percent sales tax. The petition question has the support of the Massachusetts Package Store Association, which says the sales tax is an example of double-dipping since an excise tax is paid at the wholesale level.

The imposition of the sales tax on alcoholic beverage sales last year has hurt mom-and-pop stores, especially those along the New Hampshire border, the organization says. Opponents say allowing the exemption will cost $110 million in state revenue, all of it targeted toward treatment programs for kids and adults. These critical services help keep people out of jail, out of the hospital and out of trouble — all of which could cost the state far more in the long term.

The revenues are critical and we think the negative effects not quite so bad — the no-sales-tax boogeyman of New Hampshire rings hollow out here in the northwest corner. Our neighboring states have taxes comparable or higher. Massachusetts' excise tax on both beer and wine is less than the national average; distilled spirits is a bit higher. It comes out to about 10 or 15 cents on bottle of wine — no matter the quality.

This is not the time to be giving out exemptions for package-store purchases. We say vote no on Question 1

Question 2

Question 2 would repeal the state's so-called 40B law that allows nonprofit organizations to build affordable housing under a single comprehensive permit.

Proponents say the law has provided incentives to construct mixed housing with both market rate and affordable units. Opponents say the law hasn't provided housing for the people who need it and has cost citizens in taxes and infrastructure.

The arguments for each side are extensive; Wicked Local has an excellent article on the subject here.

We say vote no on repealing the law. While not perfect, we believe it would be better to review how well it's worked and amend it, rather than toss it out altogether.

Question 3

This citizen's petition would roll back the 6.25 percent sales tax to 3 percent. The measure would save consumers a few bucks at the register and devastate the budgets of towns and cities and throw the state into a budget crisis.

According to the Massachusetts Municipal Association, making up the estimated $1billion in lost revenue this year could mean drastic cuts in local aid this year, and more next year. North Adams alone could lose nearly $1.75 million in city and school funding.

Proponents say halving the sales tax would save families about $1,000 a year and boost job growth. They say it wouldn't affect local aid, though it's hard to see how. The cost of keeping city and town services would still fall to the taxpayers in each town through rising property taxes and fees.

We don't like taxes either but at least the sales tax is one we have more control over through our spending habits. Right now, it's at $6.25 for every $100; Question 3 would drop it to $3 per $100. That loss in sales tax will wipe out gains the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce has been in encouraging in its "Buy in the Berkshires" campaign, says chamber CEO Michael Supranowicz.

"I think it's very important for the business community to understand that if we roll the sales tax back 3 percent ... fees and increases in real estate will affect us all in our pocketbooks one way or another," he told chamber members last week.

We agree. Think of it as the price of a fancy coffee for every $100 you spend; the few dollars you save here and there isn't worth the massive cuts that would affect all of us.

Vote no on Question 3.

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Community Leaders Urge 'No' Vote on Question 3
By: Staff Reports On: 11:44AM / Thursday October 28, 2010

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Mayor Richard Alcombright, state Rep. Dan Bosley,  state Sen. Benjamin Downing, D-Pittsfield, Adams Town Administrator Jonathan Butler, Clarksburg Town Administrator Michael Canales, Florida Town Administrator Christine Dobbert and Williamstown Town Manager Peter Fohlin, have come out against what they say would be the "devastating fiscal impact to all North Berkshire communities" if ballot Question 3  is passed.

Question 3, to be voted on in next week's election, proposes a reduction of the state’s sales tax from 6.25 percent to 3 percent.

According to a statement released by Alcombright's office on Oct. 28, at the Oct. 20 Massachusetts Mayors meeting attended by Alcombright, Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation speaker Andy Bagley described Question 3 as “heading over the cliff." 

The state already faces a $2 billion dollar shortfall in the upcoming fiscal 2012 budget, which would jump to $4.5 billion if the voters approve Question 3. According to MTF,  the resulting massive spending cuts would eliminate or erode a wide range of services from education and public safety to health care and human services.

“Our communities would be devastated by the loss of revenue in FY2012 and passage of Question 3 would additionally assure deep and chaotic cuts right after the first of the year.  It is projected that the City of North Adams would be cut by as much as $2.1 million dollars in FY2012 if Question 3 passes and we would certainly see significant revenue reductions in this current fiscal year.  Overall, the FY2012 impact on municipal and school budgets in North Berkshire from Question 3 alone would be over $4.6 million dollars in addition to the already projected cuts of up to 15 percent  on both municipal and school aid.  All in all, with the passage of Question 3 and anticipated FY2012 cuts, North Berkshire could lose close to $8.8 million dollars in state aid,” Alcombright said in the statement.

Fohlin added, “Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation projects Williamstown and Mount Greylock Regional School District will lose over $400,000 if Question 3 passes. The effect on education, public safety, and public works would be devastating. I can’t imagine asking Williamstown property owners to fill such a huge gap.”

The state has cut municipal and school funding by more than 18 percent over the past three years and the passage of Question 3 would assure reductions in funding of over 20 percent next year. These massive reductions in revenue would mandate deep and painful cuts to all segments of municipal and school budgets for all communities in North Berkshire County, the statement concluded. 

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Outsiders Up for the Challenge
By: By Nichole Dupont On: 12:19AM / Thursday October 28, 2010

SHEFFIELD, Mass. — In a state that sees only blue and red, it ain't easy being green. But Lee Scott Laugenour, the Green-rainbow candidate for state representative for the 4th Berkshire District, is up for the challenge. In fact, he said, he "wouldn't do it any other way."

"Every campaign has its challenges, it's hard work," he said in a phone interview. "You have to really enjoy the hard work. And I think campaigns such as mine that are outside of the big money paradigm are sometimes a little easier in the rural towns."

The party platform for the Green-Rainbow party is based on the "10 Key Values." Among them are grassroots democracy, ecological wisdom and decentralization, issues that, according to Laugenour, are very relevant to Berkshires residents and business owners who have fallen on hard economic times.

"People are telling me that finding out about my campaign is refreshing," said Laugenour, who took to his bicycle to campaign. "Basically right now we have a one party system so debate doesn't occur. No one is arguing on Beacon Hill. The checks that they cash are not free. Money isn't free. We are going to be the ones who don’t cash the check."

Jobs, tax and debt and health care are foremost on Laugenour's list of issues he hopes to tackle in Boston. He is not alone. Mark C. Miller, also a Green-Rainbow candidate, is campaigning for state representative for the 3rd Berkshire District and the party has candidates for governor (Jill Stein) and auditor (Nat Fortune). Miller said he "just gave up on Democrats" after they abandoned the single-payer proposal for state health insurance.

"You would think we are a progressive state but we're not," he said. "There's a lot of distrust and anger at both major parties, so they love the idea of a person who is neither. People are fed up and desperate and frustrated."

Both Laugenour and Miller have seen that frustration play out time and again while on the campaign trail.

"People have so many worries, they're just trying to scramble," Miller said. "They don't believe in politics, they have no interest in politics; they're alienated. When I've gone door-to-door there are definitely folks who say they're not going to vote, who say 'that's not for me baby.'"

Kenny Butler, campaign manager for independent candidate Stefan Racsz in the 2nd Berkshire District, said that he has also come up against cynicism among voters.

"Both major parties are very entrenched and powerful," he said. "People are getting tired of bailing out big businesses, it's so anti-democratic. These are not big towns; not like Boston. You know what you're paying in taxes."

Mark Miller is hoping to gain traction in his hometown of  Pittsfield; Stefan Racz is positioning himself as an alternative to his major party opponents.


Yet, despite the voter disgust and apathy, or perhaps because of, Butler said people are drawn to the grassroots appeal of Racsz's campaign.

"This campaign is a small business," he said. "This is all about the individual. People think for themselves. They look at themselves and they decide for themselves. I don't think we've been given choices until recently. If voters have the choice, they'll make the choice."

Whether that choice is in favor of the blue the red or the green, Miller is heartened by what he sees as an organic reaction in favor of major political change. He cited Transition Town, a community group that has gained attention in Great Barrington and North Adams, as evidence of that change.

"That's happening just automatically," he said. "Berkshire County is ahead of the curve. A lot of people have been loyal Democrats all of their lives but they see that disintegrating. The problem is getting people's attention."

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Democrats Rallied for Final Election Push
By: Tammy Daniels On: 08:33PM / Wednesday October 27, 2010

Deval Patrick does some baby-kissing at Friday's Democratic rally at Itam Lodge.

We didn't make Gov. Deval Patrick's meet and greet at Richmond Consolidated School on Wednesday night, but we were there for a rally at the Itam Lodge in Pittsfield on Friday night. More than 100 Democrats were at the event to cheer Patrick on to a second term.

Patrick's been keeping a slim lead in the polls against his closest opponent, Republican Charlie Baker; independent Tim Cahill and Green-Rainbow candidate Jill Stein have been trailing in the single digits.

Local Democrats running for office were on hand, although Gailanne Cariddi will have an easy victory in the 1st District on Nov. 2 (she's the only one on the ballot).
Baker isn't likely to be much of a threat in the blue Berkshires, where many believe Patrick's kept his pledge to be "governor of the entire state." "I don't take any part of it or any voters of it for granted," said Patrick. He's held two campaign stops here in the last week.

Pittsfield Mayor James Ruberto, one of Patrick's biggest cheerleaders, challenged party members to turn out 80 percent for the former Clinton administration official.

Patrick, meanwhile, pointed to pension and ethics reform he's pushed; consolidation of the state's transportation departments and investments in education, life sciences and green technology. But his administration has been overshadowed by sinking revenues as the state dealt with the global financial crisis. The recession has cost jobs and cut billions from the state budget affecting programs and departments.

Recent news on the jobs front was mixed — the state gained jobs or lost them, depending on the report — but the Democratic incumbent said the news was hopeful. "The point is we still have a lot of people who need a way forward in this economy," he said. "We're climbing out this hole faster than the rest of the country."

The way to do it isn't to create more unemployment, he said, taking a swipe at Baker's proposal to cut 5,000 state workers. Rather, he said, the best path was continued investment in innovation, education and infrastructure. "Because we've invested in growth, our revenue is returning in step."

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