Independent Lt. Gov. Candidate Jennings Calls For Strong Local Partnerships
By Andy McKeever On: 03:21AM / Friday July 18, 2014 ||
Angus Jennings is helping to build a new political party in the United Independent Party.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Angus Jennings says even if he is elected to lieutenant governor, that won't stop him from being at local public hearings or sitting in with planning boards.
In fact, he says that is what is one of the things is missing from the state administration — a focus on the local governments.
"I think on a fundamental level, what we can bring to the voters is that some of the most important decisions are made in city and town hall. We have a recognition and a respect for the home-rule traditions that are not only embedded in our cultural but also embedded in our constitution," Jennings said.
"In my view, the current administration has viewed home rule as a stumbling block to economic development."
Jennings has partnered with Evan Falchuk
in forming a new independent political party — United Independent Party — and the two are hoping to lead the next administration. Falchuk is seeking the governor's seat while Jennings is on the ticket to be his lieutenant.
"We noticed an immediate uptick in press interest now that we can say definitively, Falchuk/Jennings is on the ticket," Jennings said of submitting the signatures needed to be on the ballot. "That's given us eight or nine weeks of lead time."
The party is seeking a new framework to operate. The two candidates say they want to increase the focus on local politics and bring more people into the fold.
"I've never been a party line kind of guy. I've always been an independent thinker. I don't fit clearly into either of the two boxes and I think a lot of people feel that way," Jennings said. "More than half of the voters in Massachusetts are unenrolled right now but 100 percent of the legislators are either Democrat or Republican."
Jennings' background is in municipal planning, and he spends quite a few of evenings in various town halls. As a consultant, his work even took him to Pittsfield City Hall to work on the zoning needed for the Rice Silk Mill renovation.
As lieutenant governor, his role would be partly to continue doing that — to continue helping towns plan out projects and implement them.
"I've always been focused on implementation," he said.
Fully implementing any project plan includes private capital, he said, and their administration would implement changes to help that. For example, he would push to revamp the way federal transportation dollars are allocated.
Currently regions have a Transportation Improvement Plan, which a regional board approves. Jennings said the process could be more "nimble" to help give private investors more confidence that a certain project will or will not move forward. The process, he says, would be more clear for the public to see as well.
"Those kinds of public investments, to maximize the value of these public dollars, you want a return in the form of private investment," he said.
The Metropolitan Planning Organization oversees those funds; the local MPO operates through the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission. Regional planning agencies are another area Jennings said he wants to "re-envision" and to give more responsibility.
Jennings also said his party is proposing to double the historic tax credits from $50 million to $100 million. This, too, will help developers have more confidence in the credits and wrap that into their funding packages. Jennings said this will help repurpose old buildings.
"There is no transparency in how those funds are allocated so the applicants who don't get the funding don't know why they didn't get it," he said.
Jennings said and Independent administration would also bring back the Office for Commonwealth Development, which oversaw housing, energy and environmental affairs, conservation and recreation and coordinated with the Department of Transportation.
"This administration got rid of it and there were a lot of people in my field that felt that didn't make any sense because that was a step in the right direction in breaking down the silos," Jennings said.
He is also calling for a "top to bottom" review of municipal mandates.
"If something is so important that it needs to be mandated, then there has to be resources to pay for it," Jennings said.
The party has been campaigning for more than a year as the two leaders try to build if from the ground up. Jennings said getting enough votes this year in the election will open the door for a independent candidates throughout the state at various levels of government.
However, not being attached to a party makes the two work even harder. While Democrats and Republicans have already built networks of people to help get their name out there, the independents don't have that.
"Our campaign staff has to work very hard and our volunteers have to be fully engaged," Jennings said.
Republican Herr To Challenge Markey for Senate
By Andy McKeever On: 06:08PM / Wednesday July 16, 2014 ||
Brian Herr says he'll represent the people of Massachusetts, not the party that put him on the ballot. His campaign site is here.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — In 2010, Brian Herr said what he was supposed to say. He did what he was told to do.
But, he still lost the race for U.S. Senate.
This time, Herr isn't going to let the political insiders and strategists run his campaign.
"When you declare and you are reasonably viable and credible as a candidate for U.S. Congress, a lot of people put their fingers into your campaign, in you. They try to control you and mold you and they try to steer you," Herr said.
"I let some of that go on in 2010 and I shouldn't have."
The Hopkinton Republican says he learned a valuable lesson as he again vies for a seat in Congress.
Herr is challenging Democrat Edward Markey, who won the U.S. Senate seat in a special election last year to replace now Secretary of State John Kerry.
"I learned what to do. I learned what not to do and we're applying those lessons to this race," Herr told the Berkshire County Republicans on Tuesday.
Herr says he'll be speaking from his own experience and beliefs as he builds a campaign. He says there is a new way to govern and he is the leader to do it.
"A lot of people in politics today will just tell you what is wrong with the other side. They'll complain and they'll always be looking in the rearview mirror," Herr said.
As a selectman in Hopkinton, Herr said his board implemented new rules when the town faced financial troubles. A hiring freeze put in place and a new procedure forcing department heads to justify their funding was put in place. That focus on not taxing the citizens turned into excess levy capacity, leading to an underride this past spring when voters reduced Hopkinton's levy capacity by $1.25 million.
As the economy turned around, Herr said there was a need for more firefighters, an increase in service voters were more willing to provide.
"I believe in government but only when it is managed well," Herr said.
It is that type of "running government like a business" that Herr says he'll bring to Washington, D.C. He has spent nearly 30 years in the private sector focused mostly on commercial construction. Most recently, he is an account executive at WESCO Distribution, a company supplying industrial electronics.
"I get the real world we are all in. I get what it is like to pay people. I know what it is like to hire," Herr said. "Jobs come from understanding the private sector."
The University of Pittsburgh graduate moved the Massachusetts after college to work at Westinghouse. He has a wife and five kids and is serving his second term as a Hopkinton selectman.
"We have partisan elections by law. So the three times I've been elected, it said Brian Herr and Republican next to my name. I've always run as a Republican in a small town here in Massachusetts and I've won. I've won by building a coalition of voters in the community," Herr said.
"You have to build a coalition to win. I've had success doing that and that's what I am doing in this campaign for U.S. Senate."
That strategy has given him optimism in this campaign. However, he has so far flown under the radar in the political sphere. Some reports say he lacks the signatures to get on the ballot. Herr says that is exactly how he wants it.
"We are the raging underdog. I get it, but I am not crazy. We can win it. We are building a foundation, an organization, a brand that post-Labor Day, we will catch fire," Herr said. "Don't worry about the fact that you've never heard my name. Don't panic. Don't think there is no chance because there is."
When the campaign does "catch fire" Herr told his fellow Republicans that even they won't like what he has to say all of the time. That is because he isn't following the party lines like he did before.
"When you hear my name and see reports in the media, you will scratch your head a couple of times and think 'why would he say that, that's not what I think. That is not necessarily how I feel.' It is what I believe as a person and not because there is someone telling me what to say," Herr said.
Herr met with local Republicans at Zucco's Restaurant in Pittsfield on Tuesday.
And that is also how Herr says he'll represent the people of Massachusetts.
"I don't believe in harsh partisan squabbles. I don't believe in behaving like a 2-year old. I don't blame the other side," Herr said. "I don't play the blame game.
"I will go to represent the people of Massachusetts, not the Republican party."
Particularly, he is looking at Washington as being full of "dysfunction" and wants to be elected to solve problems. One of the key issues Herr sees is repealing the federal Affordable Care Act in favor of states' making their own decisions.
"In Massachusetts, we had a process and a plan that we were working on and it got derailed," Herr said.
"We made the decision. You may not agree with it but we, collectively, made the decision a few years back for universal health care in Massachusetts. I support that. It is a Massachusetts issue, not a national one."
Immigration, too, is taking a heated role in the debates in Washington and Herr, whose parents emigrated to the States, says there needs to be a "reasonable" reform of the program. He said the "crisis of the moment" shouldn't dictate policy but reform should happen to give a path to citizenship while keeping illegal immigrants out.
"Today, the process manages the officials. It should be the exact opposite. In any organization — whether it be a media outlet, a business or General Dynamics — the management has to manage the process. The leaders have to manage the process. But right now, the situation with immigration in America, the situation is dictating what happens," Herr said.
Herr also says a balanced budget amendment and term limits would dramatically change the political landscape.
"I believe term limits will create a far different mindset for elected officials. If you know that you are going home in a few years to live in the world you are creating. If you know you are going home to operate a business that has to operate under the rules and regulations you are creating, you will probably think a little more about what you are doing," Herr said.
Herr is the only Republican in the race so far. He has partnered with Mass Victory, a Republican organization representing all of GOP campaigns, to lay down his campaign fundraising and organizing strategies.
Lake Focused on Collaboration in Lieutenant Governor Campaign
By Andy McKeever On: 03:18AM / Friday July 11, 2014 ||
Mike Lake was back in the Berkshires on Tuesday, meeting with residents at Dottie's Coffee Lounge.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Economic development doesn't adhere to borders.
If elected lieutenant governor, Mike Lake says he'll bring all communities together to work toward the common, regional goal.
Lake is the founder and CEO of Leading Cities, a nonprofit organization doing just that — bringing leaders from all over the globe together to solve problems.
Through summits and meeting, the organization identifies problems and shares solutions, focuses on spurring economic development such as trade agreements among municipalities and pushing for further intergovernmental cooperation.
"We partner with municipal governments, with institutions, private sector, and academia and non-profits, to get everybody in and tackle the problems of the 21st century. It is this experience that I see the real value in the lieutenant governor's office, to be a partner with our cities and towns," Lake said in an interview Tuesday morning at Dottie's Coffee Lounge.
"The challenges of the 21st century do not know man-made borders. They do not understand city limits and town lines. Our challenges transgress all of that and we need somebody who is working with our municipal leaders to tackle them."
After six years of growing that organization, Lake is hoping to do that on the statewide level. While all three lieutenant governor candidates are talking about experience, Lake say he has the "right experience" for "right now."
"I am running because everybody should have access to opportunities. I was the son of a single mother and had the opportunity of a public education, became the first of my family to go to college and then I was appointed to the White House," Lake said.
"Every opportunity I was given was because the community believed in me and gave me a chance. In part, it is about giving back and in part because I believe a kid in the Berkshires should have the same opportunities as Boston; that every corner of Massachusetts has jobs and is putting people back to work, has a safe community, has an education system to be proud of, and that we are supporting small businesses."
The Melrose native's interest in public service started in when he was elected to shadow the mayor in high school. Then he fielded a call from a women who needed a dentist appoint. He arranged the appointment. That's when he saw how the community had helped him and how he could help the community.
"A public servant is somebody in the community that anybody can come to at any time for any reason," Lake said.
Political science became one of five majors that Lake took at Northeastern University — finance, communications, entrepreneurship and information management rounded out his resume.
"My claim to fame is that I am the first person in Massachusetts history to complete five majors simultaneously, which is just a demonstration of how cheap I really am. I wanted to get every penny's worth and certainly did that," Lake said with a laugh.
At Northeastern, he met former Gov. Michael Dukakis, who became a mentor and who has now endorsed the campaign.
"He governed for all of Massachusetts. It wasn't just about investing in Boston," Lake said of Dukakis. "First and foremost, he is a role model. He's been a mentor and now I'd call him a political adviser. He has more experience and history than anybody else in the state at this point."
The biggest lesson he took was working collaboratively, Lake said. Dukakis pulled all the stakeholders together to find solutions to problem, he didn't just put policies in place, Lake said.
After graduation Lake was appointed by former President Bill Clinton as special assistant to White House operations, running the president's office.
"It gave me the opportunity to work with everybody and see how everything was working together. To have that type of insight at that age is something I'll never forget and it shaped me," he said.
After Clinton's term ended, Lake then was deputy finance director in the Midwest for John Kerry's presidential campaign. Then he was director of development for the United Way, where he focused on homelessness, before starting Leading Cities.
Leading Cities, he says, is "pioneering" the way governments work together. Together cities are sharing information with how to combat issues and developing agreements to help each other's economy — such as one he crafted with Catalonia, Spain, and Massachusetts.
"We need to think in a regional perspective. That is why the equity of all regions of the commonwealth is so important to me," Lake said. "Frankly, it is exactly the type of leadership we need in the 21st century."
If elected, Lake says he wants his first task to be heading a committee to review regulations. He pointed to laws on the books that prevent permits for hair salons to be ineffective for 30 days if sold or a recently reversed regulation on fishermen requiring them to count their catch twice as regulations that are out of date.
"We have the opportunity to make business a little easier for that small business owner. I would like the next governor to create and appoint me chair of a regulation review committee so we can work with the secretary of economic development and housing to identify regulations that need to be revisited," Lake said.
But it isn't just about making business easier; it is supporting the businesses as well.
"Three sawmills in Massachusetts shut down last year. For some communities, that is your economy, whether it is the mill itself or all of the businesses indirectly related. The fact of the matter is that of all the wood products we use in Massachusetts, only 2 percent of the wood is sourced in Massachusetts," Lake said. "We have a tremendous multiplier effect when we support local business."
He said doing procurement for the White House, he always focused on finding the local vendor and Massachusetts and those who contract with the state need to do the same thing.
Lake says he doesn't want to just create jobs, but rather jobs that pay a living wage. He supports the state raising the minimum wage to $11 an hour.
"As the minimum wage stood, it would take you almost four full-time minimum wage jobs to afford to live in Massachusetts. Nobody can work 160 out of 180 hours in a week," Lake said. "Twenty-nine percent of the 4,000 plus homeless families that we have in Massachusetts have a working adult. Your family should not be moving from shelter to shelter or living in a motel if you have a working parent."
He also supports a constitutional amendment to implement a progressive tax system.
Some of his other priorities include boosting the state's investment in education including implementing a universal preschool program. He wants to work with cities and towns on security issues and he believes the state needs to continue digging into what he calls a "backlog" of delayed infrastructure projects.
Lake says high speed rail in the Northeast is something he'd be advocating for and he would be able to work with the governor's of other states to sort it out.
"It is very difficult to get all of the Northeast governors on board because they have to manage the day-to-day operations of their state. So this is where the No. 2s can step in. We can work collaboratively on a proposal we can take to our governors to approve and then the federal government to make high speed rail a reality," he said.
Lake entered the campaign for lieutenant governor 18 months ago. He is seeking the seat left by Timothy Murray against Steve Kerrigan and Leland Cheung for the Democratic nomination. Lake is on the ballot after reeling in 35 percent of delegate votes at the Democratic Convention, which was just two percent shy of the leader Kerrigan.
"At this point, we got through the convention. We were outspent 4:1 and we emerged basically in a virtual tie. It was a huge victory for not just our campaign but or grassroots organizing," Lake said of the campaign.
Whichever candidate wins the primary will be partnered with the winning gubernatorial candidate on the Democratic ticket. Steve Grossman, Martha Coakley and Donald Berwick are the three candidates still in contention or that office on the Democratic side.
Evan Falchuk is running an independent campaign and named Angus Jennings as his running mate. Charlie Baker and Karyn Polito will be the Republican ticket.
The state primary is Tuesday, Sept. 9.
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.
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.
|Page 1 of 11|| 1 || 2 || 3 || 4 || 5 || 6 || 7 || 8 || 9 || 10 || 11 || ||
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.
2010 Special Senate Election Results
Election 2009 Stories
Election Day 2008