Statewide Candidates Queried on Mandates, Hospitals |
By Andy McKeever On: 05:49PM / Sunday January 26, 2014 ||
Candidates for lieutenant governor and governor attended Sunday's forum.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Candidates running for the Democratic nominations for lieutenant governor and governor fielded questions from the audience on Sunday as part of a forum hosted by the Berkshire Brigades.
The local Democratic organizing arm had invited the candidates to introduce themselves in the run up to the local caucuses and the state Democratic Party Convention in June. The primary election is in September.
The candidates were first allowed 5 to 10 minutes to talk about themselves and their platforms, after an address to the group by U.S. Sen. Edward Markey, and later mingled with the crowd.
Read by Brigade member Lee Harrison, the lieutenant governor candidates were asked about their relationship with whoever is elected governor while the gubernatorial candidates were asked about access to physicians and unfunded mandates.
All of the gubernatorial candidates said any state mandates on municipalities should be coupled with dollars to fund them.
Joseph Avellone said mandates dig into unrestricted aid, which is aimed to help towns reduce their property tax burdens on residents.
"The state has a very important role in helping to fund local government because of our property tax set up. But it can't come with a lot of unfunded mandates," Avellone said of unrestricted, local aid.
Donald Berwick called the mandates "unfair" and said "the responsibility should lie with those who pass the mandates." He called for a "realistic revenue policy" that includes lowering health-care costs, closing tax loopholes and switching to a progressive tax.
"We've got to look at this as a whole," he said.
Martha Coakley simply said any mandate requiring funds must be supplemented by the state or not done at all.
"I don't like them. I think they should end. If the state is going to mandate something — and I'll add the caviad on that costs money, some mandates don't but most have a pricetag attached — the state either has to provide ways to supplement that or not do it," Coakley said.
Steven Grossman particularly said circuit breaker accounts for special education need to be fully funded. It isn't just mandates, he said, it is issues like road infrastructure that burden towns as well.
"That may not be an unfunded mandate but it is a requirement that we fix the roads and bridges. As governor, I would make sure we provided at least the $300 million the Legislature decided to do and all of the money would be released by April 1 so the cities can bid them out."
Juliette Kayyem said unfunded mandates signal a lack of transparency in government. She also called for towns to work cooperatively and invest in regional planning and investments.
"I think they are wrong generally unless they have a separate revenue source," she said of the mandates.
As for access to hospitals, Kayyem, a security expert, said she would "give a little tough love" as governor to increase safety. She also said she would invest in first responders and medical staff. Further, she called for changes to zoning bylaws to protect individuals from natural disasters, which was part of a two-part question of hospital safety.
Grossman said he'd implement a program to send new medical school graduates to so-called Gateway Cities and rural areas for a few years and, in turn, the state would forgive their loans.
Berkshire Brigades President Sheila Murray introduces the candidates.
Coakley expanded on access to health care, citing its particular importantance to Berkshire County, saying she wants to use case managers for people and families facing chronic health issues. That should brought into the schools as well, she said.
Berwick began his career in rural areas as a doctor and says he knows the issue well. The solution is to strengthen the overall system and "re-engineer" to one that is focused on patient outcomes instead of pay-for-service. The rural areas are in a better position to make that switch, he said.
Avellone agreed with medical loan forgiveness programs but also added that there needs to be more opportunities for residencies. He also said loan forgiveness would be extended to other practitioners and not just doctors.
As for the relationship with the governor, the lieutenant governor candidates all said they would form a team with the elected leader.
"What we've seen with the Patrick-Murray administration when the lieutenant governor was still serving was a partnership," Lake said, referring to former Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray who resigned nearly a year ago. "You need that level of partnership and commitment."
James Arena-DeRosa said the lieutenant governor role would be to bring together public and private sectors for long-term planning.
"Too often politics is about the next election," he said.
Jonathan Edwards said the role would be to help roll out and implement policies the governor crafts. Knowing the issues in all of the towns, the lieutenant governor can help to "sell" the plan.
"I'm nothing but a wingman. I'm a leader but also a wingman," Edwards said.
Steven Kerrigan, too, said he would be a partner with the governor in helping to make sure that the government is "efficient and effective." He says the role would also be building trust between the administration and the voters.
"We can work on job No. 1, which is building back a gap in trust between the voters and the government," Kerrigan said.
7 Make Case For Pittsfield At-Large Council Seats |
By Joe Durwin On: 10:58PM / Wednesday October 30, 2013 ||
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Three incumbents and four challengers outlined accomplishments, experience and positions as they compete for four at-large seats on the City Council, to be chosen by voters of all seven of Pittsfield's wards next Tuesday.
Incumbents Barry Clairmont, Churchill Cotton and Melissa Mazzeo laid out their records and positions against those of hopefuls Kathleen Amuso, James Conant, Mark Miller and Donna Rivers in a debate held at Berkshire Community College on Monday, ranging over issues such as school budget, new business development, and the future of some city buildings.
In statements, each sought to distinguish themselves from the rest of the field of candidates, all of whom are well-known figures in local politics.
"I think I've had life experiences that give me a different perspective from most of the other panel members," said Cotton, who said he was seeking re-election "So that everyone has an opportunity to be represented at City Hall."
"I hope you all take the time to think about what is important to you, your family, and your community," said Mazzeo, who highlighted herself as being without ulterior agendas, in contrast to others on the City Council. "And ask if we really have been doing our job, or if it's time for a change."
"I have proven results," said Amuso, who pointed to a 12 percent increase in graduation rates during her tenure as chairman of the PIttsfield School Committee as an example. "Being a member of the City Council will give me an opportunity to use my expertise and knowledge to work collaboratively to move Pittsfield forward."
"I have the experience and working knowledge of city government, as I have served on board and committees in Pittsfield for the past then years," offered Conant, a former parks commissioner who currently serves on the School Committee and as chairman of the Conservation Commission.
"I'm the outsider in this race," said Miller, a longtime newsman and 2011 state representative candidate, who highlighted his knowledge and extensive education in political science, journalism and management against the others' governmental experience.
"I'm running because I believe it is time for us to embrace a new way of looking at old problems," said Rivers, a local business owner and radio personality. "I'm running because a lifetime of experiences has lead me to this very moment."
Candidates offered varying takes on a currently controversial proposal to develop big box retail
at the quasi-public-owned Williams Stanley Business Park.
Cotton suggested it was premature to say categorically there should be no retail at the former General Electric site, while Mazzeo and Amuso spoke strongly against the current proposal, and Conant said retail should only be considered after all other possibilities have been exhausted. Miller proposed that regular tours to showcase the mostly vacant, fenced-off industrial park be held by the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority that oversees it.
Opinions also differed on another hot-button issue over the past term, that of the City Council's handling of school budget issues
. Cotton said the council's responsibility was the same as within any budget: "To review, ask questions and then accept or reject it. But to try and pick and choose which things should be taken out I don't think is our responsibility."
"The School Committee and the superintendent should be allowed to do their job," answered Rivers.
"Expecting accountability is not opposition," said Clairmont, "It is unreasonable to expect an unquestioned budget."
Opinions were also polled on what should be done with regard to two dormant city-owned buildings, the former Hibbard School and Springside House
, which just began a process of assessment through a recent grant from the state.
Several candidates favored rehab of the Newell Street school to return it to an educational purpose. Conant strongly emphasized the need to return it to use as an alternative high school for students who would not succeed in the mainstream high schools, with which Miller voiced agreement. Rivers suggested that it could be looked at as a home for the Adult Learning Center, whose relocation last year
was a matter of considerable municipal debate.
Clairmont, Cotton, Rivers and Amuso all spoke fervently in favor of restoration of the Springside House for its value as a potential historic and educational asset to the city. Conant expressed skepticism about its condition and said the study of the house needs to be completed before any further funds are invested. Miller believed restoration of the house should not be a priority for any major funds, suggesting instead that a new more modern building could be constructed there to enhance use of Springside Park.
The seven contenders will appear on ballots in all seven wards in Pittsfield's citywide election on Tuesday, Nov. 5. The four top vote recipients will become the at-large members of the 11-member City Council for the upcoming two-year term beginning in January.
North Adams Candidate Forums, Debates Scheduled |
Staff Reports On: 11:25AM / Wednesday October 16, 2013 ||
Please check back as schedules will be added and/or updated through the next few weeks.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — iBerkshires is hosting a City Council candidate forum on Thursday, Oct. 17, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at Mingo's Sports Bar & Grill at Greylock Bowl & Golf.
At least nine candidates have confirmed their attendance at the forum, which will include opening and closing comments and a conversation on city topics. Editor Tammy Daniels will moderate and those in attendance will be able to submit questions in writing as time allows.
The forum is open to the public and will be recorded for later broadcast on NBCTV.
The forum is the first of a series of debates and sessions planned for the candidates ahead of the Nov. 5 election.
The first debate is being sponsored by the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, Oct. 23, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at McCann Technical School. Local media, including iBerkshires, will ask questions through the moderator of the candidates, who will have two minutes each to respond with opportunity for rebuttal. The public may bring in questions on note cards and, if time permits, some of those questions may be asked. It will also be taped by NBCTV and televised several times before the election.
The debate will be business-focused and moderated by Paul Hutchinson, retired Adams town clerk. Questions have been developed by the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce and representatives from the media, including the North Adams Transcript, iBerkshires, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts' student newspaper the Beacon and WNAW.
"The Berkshire Chamber is pleased coordinate and host the only public mayoral debate in North Adams this election season," said Michael Supranowicz, president and CEO of the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce. "It is extremely important that the community has a chance to become well informed. We encourage businesses to send representatives from their organizations to this event, as there will be business-specific questions asked."
The second mayoral debate will be held at the WNAW radio station for live broadcast on Wednesday, Oct. 30, from 9 to 10. iBerkshires will also participate in this debate with media partner Berkshire News Network as well as in the half-hour morning forums with council candidates to be aired live beginning Thursday, Oct. 24, at 8:30. The radio sessions are usually rebroadcast the weekend prior to the election.
The schedule for the radio council forums, as of Oct. 16, are as follows:
• Thursday, Oct 24, 8:30 a.m.: Blackmer and Bona
• Friday, Oct 25, 8 a.m.: Breen and Bullet
• Monday, Oct 28, 8:30 a.m.: Buddington and Cardimino
• Tuesday, Oct 29, 8:30 a.m.: Hernandez and Lamb
• Thursday, Oct 31, 8:30 a.m.: Merrigan and Moran
• Friday, Nov. 1, 8:30 a.m.: Wilkinson
A set of candidate forums for councilors may also be in works at Northern Berkshire Community Television; a schedule will be posted as soon as that is confirmed.
Informal meet-and-greets with council candidates have also been held at Luma's Muffin and Mug
and other venues around the city.
A final "meet the candidates breakfast" is being sponsored by the North Adams Elks at the hall at 100 Eagle St., on Sunday, Nov. 3, from 8 to 11 a.m.
We have linked to the Facebook fan pages we found and profile pages being used for the campaign; candidates who have FB pages or websites we missed should send us the links at email@example.com.
Two Seeking Lanesborough Selectman Seat |
By Andy McKeever On: 08:33PM / Thursday October 10, 2013 ||
Selectman candidate Barbara Hassan and Tim O'Brien, who moderated the forum at Town Hall on Wednesday. Candidate Henry Sayers was unable to attend the forum.
LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — Two local business owners are vying for the open seat on the Board of Selectmen.
Henry Sayers, owner of Sayers Auto Wrecking, and Barbara Hassan, owner of Barb Hassan Real Estate, are both running in next week's special election.
The seat is open after Robert Barton resigned to run for School Committee. His resignation was too late to fill the seat at the annual election this past spring.
A candidate forum was scheduled on Wednesday but Sayers was unable to attend. However, Hassan fielded questions for a half hour segment while a letter from Sayers was read.
When asked why residents should vote for her, Hassan said one word kept coming to mind — qualified.
Her job as a real estate agent over the past 25 years requires her to be up to date with the issues, Hassan said, and have a wide range of contacts in business and politics.
"I can seamlessly take on the responsibility left by the previous selectman because I've stayed current on the issues facing the town of Lanesborough," Hassan said, adding that she has increased the number of government meetings she has attended so if she is elected, she can hit the ground running.
She has been an active in politics but hasn't run for an elected office before. When the town hired a full-time administrator, she said it created a much more businesslike environment and she is seeking election to continue the transition.
"There has been a huge transition since the new town administrator came on and more transparency and accountability," Hassan said. "I really like that it is a businesslike environment."
She said she has a "business mindset" and the connections that come with it. When asked about improving commercial buildings, she said she has resources across the country she can ask for advice on, for example, a brownfields project.
Hassan said she has a strong relationship with the Berkshire delegation and the mayors of the the two cities — all of whom said they would be available to help in a situation.
"I am humble enough to ask for help all day long on any subject I don't know about," she said.
She said she has met with Mount Greylock Regional Superintendent Rose Ellis about the impending school project and is comfortable that the town and herself will receive plenty of information about that project as it moves along.
Hassan would like to merge various town departments into one, a move she says will create efficiencies. She has already put a year's worth of effort as a member of a committee researching that possibility and she hopes to complete it.
Sayers, in his letter, boasts similar experience in business. His letter focused on trying to control spending while expanding the tax base.
"Young families do not want to move into Lanesborough because of the high tax rate. Some of the committees are looking at current spending habits and ways we could save money. We have to continue to find ways to stretch dollars," the letter reads.
Meanwhile, attention needs to be paid to the town's infrastructure, Sayers' wrote, and that he would place priority on finding grants or bonds to improve the road systems.
"I believe I can work well with other board members and other departments by bringing common sense to issues as well as thinking outside of the box when needed," the letter reads.
The letter continues to say he would like to make town hall "more user friendly" and would work to resolve problems before they grow to become "major issues." He said he would be "fair" and "listen to everyone that has something to say."
The election is on Tuesday, Oct. 15.
Ward 3 Hopefuls Outline Platforms in Pittsfield Debate |
By Joe Durwin On: 03:02PM / Tuesday September 17, 2013 ||
Nicholas Caccamo, left, Thomas Wells, Richard Latura and Jeffrey Germann express their ideas for Ward 3 at Berkshire Community College.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Four contenders for an open seat in Pittsfield's Ward 3 laid out their priorities and concerns in a debate held Monday, in advance of a preliminary election that will narrow the race next Tuesday.
Nicholas Caccamo, Jeffrey Germann, Richard Latura and Thomas Wells expressed their diverse opinions on issues ranging from traffic and commerce to more neighborhood concerns about the disposition of the Hibbard school and the conversion of a former church into a day care.
The debate sponsored by the Pittsfield Gazette and Pittsfield Community Television at Berkshire Community College was broadcast live. Moderator was Dan Dillon.
The four are vying for an open ward seat. Two will be chosen in the preliminary to proceed to the November election; the only other preliminary race is in Ward 1.
Perspectives among the candidates varied somewhat on the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority and an emerging proposal for a big-box store at the William Stanley Business Park, which straddles the border of Wards 2 and 3.
Wells voiced the most enthusiasm for the proposal, expressing disappointment with the rate of progress of PEDA in attracting industrial or technology business to the former GE property. "I think we should explore other uses, whether it's retail or something to that effect," he said.
"I think PEDA is doing a good job," Germann espoused, suggesting Pittsfield "wait it out" for a better possibility. "I don't agree with another box store."
"I don't agree with putting retail into it," said Latura, "I do agree that [the process] has dragged, and dragged, and dragged."
Caccamo expressed some skepticism about the viability of developing the site for retail, but also emphasized that challenges to attracting major manufacturing operations may be even more daunting. "It may mean 50 or 60 jobs here and there," he said, "but I don't think it's going to be the manufacturing hub it once was."
The Ward 4 hopefuls also offered their ideas on the future possibilities for the former Hibbard Alternative High School building on Newell Street, which was closed in 2009 because of facility inadequacies and worsening building conditions.
Latura suggested that if financially feasible, the building could perhaps become a secondary fire station or house additional city offices, but voiced staunch opposition to it being sold for commercial purposes.
Caccamo questioned the educational impact of re-absorbing the program and students at Hibbard into its other high schools: "Maybe it should return to that use."
Germann agreed that this was a strong option that should be examined. Wells also believed the building still had potential for educational uses, potentially as a site for the Adult Learning Center, whose relocation to a rented North Street retail site last year proved controversial.
The candidates were evenly divided on a plan by the Building Blocks day-care center to reuse the former All Souls Mission on Pembroke Avenue.
Wells and Caccamo both thought the day-care operation (currently located on Dalton Avenue) would make an ideal use of the vacant property if concerns of abutting neighbors can be addressed; Latura and Germann staunchly opposed a change in use that they believe will create major traffic and parking issues at that location.
The four contenders outlined differing priorities and perspectives in what they hope to bring to the role of councilor for Ward 3, for which two candidates will emerge next Tuesday to run in the general election in November.
"I think we need to better monitor taking care of our properties," indicated Wells, calling for an improved building maintenance plan. Wells said he believed he could bring business experience and "new ideas" to representing Ward 3.
"Residents want to see projects that enhance the city, past Ward 3," said Caccamo, who pointed to his experience attending council meetings following unsuccessful runs for mayor and at-large councilor. "I think most importantly being accessible to constituents, returning phone calls and emails and getting the information back to them, that requires a good deal of organization and that's all going to be part of making sound votes and improving the infrastructure and well being citywide."
"We need to start making our neighborhoods safe," said Latura, who repeatedly emphasized public safety issues such as crime and traffic. "Then we can concentrate on the arts and entertainment, and we can get back to everything else. First we need to make our neighborhoods safe, and the rest of the city will follow."
Germann cited road repairs as one of his highest priority issues, and also urged for refurbishing of Goodrich Pond.
"We've got to fix the roads and sidewalks first. when I'm elected, I will work hard to make sure your issues are addressed in a timely manner," he said.
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North Adams: Candidate forums are being broadcast live by WNAW at 8:30 a.m. daily Oct. 28 to Nov. 1 except Wednesday, when mayoral candidates Richard Alcombright, the incumbent, and challenger Robet Moulton debate live from 9 to 10.
Meet the candidates at the Elks Lodge breakfast on Sunday, Nov. 3.
Below are the webcasts of the North Adams forums:
- Oct 25 Council Candidate Forum 3
- Oct 25 Council Candidate Forum 2
- Oct 25 Council Candidate Forum 1
- Oct 23 Mayoral Debate
- Oct 18 Candidates Forum
The cities of Pittsfield and North Adams will hold municipal elections for mayor, city council and school committee on Tuesday, Nov. 5.
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.
Absentee ballots are available at city clerk offices until noon on Nov. 4.
Voter registration: The deadline to register or change in voter information for the November election is Wednesday, Oct. 16.
The North Adams city clerk's office will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Oct. 16.
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