Area Democrats Ramping Up For November Statewide Election
By Andy McKeever On: 03:07AM / Tuesday August 26, 2014 ||
State Sen. Benjamin Downing is the chairman of the party's coordinated campaign aimed to rally voters to the polls in November.
RICHMOND, Mass. — County Democrats haven't forgotten the night Republican Scott Brown was elected to the U.S. Senate.
And they don't want anything similar to happen again.
"Scott Brown did nothing fancy in that campaign. He got 100 percent of the people who voted for John McCain and Sarah Palin to come out. One hundred percent of their vote showed up. Sixty percent of our vote came out and we lost," state Sen. Benjamin Downing told area Democrats on Sunday afternoon.
"We know that sinking feeling in the pit of our stomach where we lost an election and we know we could have done better."
It's a point Downing's been making as he traverses the state as chairman of the party's "coordinated campaign."
Downing says his role is twofold: communication and organization. The state Democratic Party learned its lesson from the Brown election and is starting early to rally Democratic voters to support whoever comes out of Sept. 9th's primary, he said. While the Democratic candidates are concentrating on primary turnout, the coordinated campaign is working on the next cycle.
"When we get our vote out here in Massachusetts, Democrats win. We've been able to get to 30,000 of those drop-off Democratic voters that generally only come out for a presidential election," Downing said.
On Sunday, Downing was at another Democratic rally, this one closer to home. The barbecue at Camp Russell was organized by the Berkshire state delegation, Register of Deeds Patsy Harris and the Pittsfield Democratic City Committee.
"The goal is to bring energy and awareness to the Democratic party. It is what the coordinated campaign has been doing all summer, Senator Downing has been the chair of that. It is part of the state party's effort to ensure that the grassroots and the Democratic ideals are energized in this big election coming up," said Pittsfield Democratic City Committee Chairman Kevin Sherman.
The gathering drew some 50 or so people for food and drinks, including the elected officials Downing, state Rep. Paul Mark, state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, and Sheriff Thomas Bowler. Representatives from Congressman Richard Neal's office were also in attendance.
Lieutenant governor candidates Leland Cheung and Steve Kerrigan and attorney general candidate Warren Tolman spoke to party members as they enter the final stretch before the primary.
"To me, the goal is to ensure Massachusetts Democrats don't take for granted what we have. We understand what we want. We understand our ideals. We understand what leaders we want in office. If we want that to continue, we can't take it for granted," Sherman said, calling the Brown election an "eye opener."
"If we don't organize. It we don't stay true to our virtues. If we don't campaign. If we don't work together, we lose the type of leaders we want or get leaders we don't want," Sherman said.
Some of the party's active volunteers, including Sheila Murray of the Berkshire Brigades at left, attended Sunday's event that was both a fundraiser for the party but also a rally for organizers to get out the vote.
Mitt Romney was a governor the party didn't want and Downing says if another Republican is elected to the office, the Democrats will be playing "defense" on every issue.
"We're going to make sure that voters across the commonwealth remember that we've had Republican governors before. We had them for 16 years and we know the result of having Republican governors.
"It leaves us 47th in the nation in job creation. We end up with a Big Dig financing scheme that gives us a billion deficit very single year in transportation investments.
"Beyond that deficit — because it would be one thing if we spent that money wisely but it ties it up in the Big Dig financing scheme that doesn't even help Boston out as much as it should. It certainly doesn't help outlying areas like this or the Cape that needs those investments to grow our economy," Downing said.
In Downing's role as chairman of the coordinated campaign, he says he is "reminding" voters about Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker's party affiliation and his previous stances on issues.
"He's running away from it. He's trying to hide from it. He doesn't want everything that comes with that label. He could run as an independent, nothing is stopping him. He's running as a Republican and he is going own that, every last bit of it," Downing said.
Meanwhile, Downing is organizing canvasses to reach out the voters and emphasizing the state's progress under Gov. Deval Patrick.
"Massachusetts is back in the leadership business again. We're first in the nation in energy efficiency. We're first in the nation in student achievement," Downing said. "We're first in the nation in health care coverage. We are first in the nation in veteran services at a time when we know our federal delegation — Congressman Neal and others — are trying to make sure the [Veterans Affairs] lives up to its promise. We are showing the way."
Coakley Asks Support In Final Campaign Push
By Joe Durwin On: 02:56AM / Monday August 25, 2014 ||
Berkshires native Martha Coakely was in Pittsfield on Thursday, making a swing into the county in the days leading to the primary.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Gubernatorial candidate Martha Coakley asked for votes and urged financial support as she visited 3rd Thursday and met with a smattering of the local cultural crowd at the Whitney Center for the Arts last week.
"It's always a privilege to come back to Berkshire County, said Coakley, a former North Adams resident and alum of Williams College.
Coakley, who as attorney general has had jurisdiction over utility rate regulation, said Massachusetts needs to build on current efforts toward greater energy efficiency.
"In the last eight years, we've seen some very interesting challenges and changes," said Coakley, touting her allegiance with Gov. Deval Patrick's administration.
Coakley also reiterated to local voters a revised position statement made earlier in the week in opposition to the proposed Northeast Energy Direct proposal to install a new fracked gas natural pipeline
"We need rich fuels, but I do not support the pipeline plan as proposed by Kinder Morgan," said Coakley. "We have to work to do, we have to get people to the table to meet our energy needs, but that doesn't seem to be the proposal to do it."
Regarding education, Coakley spoke of the importance of science and technology curriculum that also included arts and creativity, and of institutions like Berkshire Community College and the local vocational and technical high schools in economic development for the region.
"Developing that work force," is crucial, said Coakley, "and aligning what our future may look like with the curriculum we have, so that kids who are graduating have those skills."
Coakley also said she would like to increase the state's budgetary allocation for cultural funding.
"It's a tough economy, but we know that it's a good investment for so many reasons," she said. "It's a place where those dollars can be leveraged in so many ways."
"I'm also happy to have input from you all about other ways that a governor can be a good partner, so that we can structure our government and our cabinet accordingly."
Coakley promised aggressive reform on mental health and substance abuse issues, speaking candidly of the suicide of her younger brother, which she attributed to the stigma surrounding treatment for mental ailments.
"Eighteen years ago this afternoon, he took his own life," Coakley told supporters. "In 2015, we should be dealing with mental and behavioral problems the way we do with cardiac disease and diabetes. We can do that here in Massachusetts."
According to campaign staffers, Coakley will have a large push of television advertising beginning next week up to the Sept. 9 Democratic primary, and fundraising efforts throughout the state are critical. She will face off against Steven Grossman, the state treasurer, and Don Berwick, former federal Medicare administrator.
"We've had a fairly low-key campaign, but successful campaign because of the grass roots we've done," according to Coakley. "People are starting to really pay attention [to the election] now, and every dollar we raise now goes into voter contact."
Snoonian, Rice Cruise to Victory in Adams Election
By Jack Guerino On: 09:08PM / Monday May 05, 2014 ||
Supporters of candidates running for local office were parked along the sidewalk near the town garage on Monday.
ADAMS, Mass. — Veteran Selectman Michael Ouellette lost his seat on the board on Monday night to newcomer Jeffrey Snoonian.
The count was 711-450, or 61 percent of the vote.
Snoonian's a newcomer not only to politics but to much of Adams. A longtime visitor to the area, he grew up in the east end of the state and only recently moved permanently to the Mother Town.
Despite that, the construction contractor has grown deep enough roots in the community to rack up sizeable support from a number of longtime residents - and to sweep to victory with 261 votes.
Snoonian was not at the polling station at the town garage when the vote tallies were read and could not be immediately reached for comment.
"I am excited I love Adams and I think it has unlimited potential," said Snoonian, when reached on Tuesday. "I just think it needs someone to champion it a little more and to be out there and a little more aggressive an enthusiastic."
Ouellette had squeaked to victory three years ago with 22 votes over Richard Blanchard, who has since won a seat, but couldn't get enough to support this time around. He left the polling station as the vote counts were read off and it became apparent he wouldn't be returning to the board.
The former GE engineer first won a seat on the board in 2008, beating out two others to fill the seat being vacated by Myra Wilk.
Kelly Rice won the treasurer-collector's office over Melissa McGovern-Wandrei by 666-477. McGovern-Wandrei, the appointed treasurer-collector in Clarksburg, had hoped her experience would win the day but Rice, a 30-year resident of the town and a longtime employee in the public schools and Town Hall, easily won by 189 votes.
"I am ready to start at 8:30 tomorrow morning after I get sworn in," said Rice, who has been working in the office of community development.
She will serve out the two years left on the three-year treasurer-collector term.
In the only other race on the ballot, George Haddad handily beat out Dennis A. Gajda by a vote of 748-366 for the three-year seat on the Board of Assessors being vacated by Lynn D. Avery.
"I am glad to serve the town of Adams again and I will do everything I can," said the former selectman. "I really appreciate the voters."
All other offices were unopposed.
Town Clerk Haley Meczywor said 1,171 of the town's 5,861 registered votered made it to the polls, or about 20 percent. That's on par with last year's election at 1,182 voters.
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.
Economic Talk Dominates Williamstown Selectmen's Race
By Stephen Dravis On: 03:49AM / Monday April 21, 2014 ||
The four candidates for two seats on the Board of Selectmen focused on jobs at an election forum last week moderated by Anne Skinner.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The men who want a job with the Board of Selectmen think it's the job of that board to help bring jobs to the region.
If that sounds a little repetitive, then so was a candidates forum hosted Wednesday by the Williamstown League of Women Voters.
The four men vying for two open seats on the Board of Selectmen shared a platform built on economic development during air time on the town's community access television station.
The event, which ran for a little more than an hour and was moderated by chapter President Anne Skinner, focused almost entirely on how each of the candidates would help revive the local economy.
Hugh Daley, Gary Fuls, Andrew Hogeland and Jack Nogueira are on the ballot for the May 13 town election. Two of the four will win three-year terms on the five-person board.
Three of the candidates hit on the theme of economic development in their opening statement, and Skinner pressed them for more details about their ideas in that area with her first question of the night.
Hogeland suggested a collaborative approach that brings more voices from the town's business community and takes advantage of the successful strategies being employed in neighboring communities.
"We don't have a game plan for Williamstown at all to survive [population decline]," Hogeland said. "Anything we do has to be coordinated with our neighbors in North Adams and Pittsfield. I think if we do more branding, cross marketing, cooperative stuff throughout the area, we'll have a better chance."
Hogeland specifically identified the tourism and hospitality industries and talked about the town capitalizing on its two main assets: Williams College and the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute.
Daley agreed that tourism is a mainstay but argued there is a place for manufacturing in the town.
"Another Sprague Electric is not coming back," Daley said, referring to the North Adams industrial giant that was a mainstay of the local economy for generations. "But small niche manufacturing has a place. ... My company [Meehan Electronics in North Adams] is a small, 20-person shop working in the aerospace industry."
Daley said the Selectmen needs to start an economic development committee akin to other volunteer committees in town addressing specific issues, like agriculture and affordable housing.
"I would hope to be appointed to it," he said. "We have a ton of creative people in Williamstown. Everyone wants the same thing. We just have to tap into them and organize them."
Daley said the town needs to reach out to summer tourists and Williams alumni to try to get them to make Williamstown their home. He suggested the town partner with the college to promote economic opportunities in town in its alumni magazine.
"We are a company town," Daley said. "The company happens to be Williams College."
Fuls and Nogueira agreed the town needs to take a strategic approach and said it needs to look well beyond the town line to build the economic base.
"We need to come up with a marketing plan, an advertising plan not only for Williamstown but for Pittsfield, Lenox, North Adams and Adams to let people around the country know what we have to offer," Nogueira said. "If they come to Lenox, have them come a little further north and come see Williamstown."
"Right now, the Berkshire County Chamber of Commerce is working on bringing North County and South County together," Fuls said. "Again, you have to have a plan where if you have people coming to Lenox, you tell them, 'Hey, if you drive 40 minutes, you can go to the Clark or you can go see Williams College and walk around the campus.' "
Daley said the town has a strong potential partner in North Adams. Hogeland said Williamstown's neighbors to the east and south have the right idea.
"This town needs to spend more of its time and its personnel on economic development," he said. "You look at our neighbors, and they actually have people hired with job titles that have the words 'tourism' and 'development.'
"We need to put together a broad team of people from different disciplines. For me, that would be the prime initiative."
Part of that solution includes looking at ways to recruit "satellite businesses" that could partner with the town's two big non-profits, Hogeland said.
Even when Wednesday's forum turned to other topics, the conversation seemed to come back to jobs.
The closure of North Adams Regional Hospital and the uncertain future of health care in Northern Berkshire County is a hardship for town residents, the candidates agreed. But part of the solution may lie in creating new ways to access health care, some of the candidates said.
"I don't think we'll ever see a hospital in Williamstown ... but the town and the college needs to come together," Nogueira said. "They have a facility that serves their students. Maybe the town and the college should come together and put together something that serves the residents, too."
Fuls picked up on the idea and noted that new private practices or an urgent care clinic in North County would be, "another way to bring business here."
Likewise, the subject that has dominated the town's political conversation for the last two years — affordable housing — has an economic development dimension.
"We need to welcome people to come to Williamstown," Nogueira said. "I think this is what affordable housing is going to be doing ... allowing people who can't afford half-million dollar homes to come or the ones who are here and thinking of leaving Williamstown because they don't think there's anything here for them to stay."
Nogueira said Williamstown does not have enough space to develop a strong manufacturing base, but it should work with North Adams and Pittsfield as they grow their economies and create housing options in the Village Beautiful for those who take jobs in other Berkshire County municipalities.
And the future of Mount Greylock Regional School figures into the local economy, too.
"I've been thinking a lot about sustainability of the local economy and population changes," Daley said. "I believe we must focus on ways to stop the shrinking population and hopefully bring people back.
"That means creating an economy that has a job for them, a housing market that has a place for them to afford and an education system where they want to send their children."
If Mount Greylock goes ahead with a new or renovated building — or even if it doesn't — the cost of infrastructure at the school promises to be a challenge for whoever wins the Selectmen's races. That's a point not lost on Daley.
"At my core, I believe we should invest in schools, but we should balance that with the ability to pay," he said.
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Tuesday, Sept. 9
Voting is from 7 to 8 p.m.
Deadline to register or change party affiliation is Aug. 20; only unenrolled voters may select which primary to vote in. More information on registering can be found here.
Candidates on the ballot in a race for their party nomination; all others on the ballot are unopposed
• Governor: Charles D. Baker & Mark R. Fisher
• Governor: Donald M. Berwick, Martha Coakley & Steven Grossman
• Lieutenant governor: Leland Cheung, Stephen J. Kerrigan & Michael E. Lake
• Attorney general: Maura Healey & Warren E. Tolman
• Treasurer: Thomas P. Conroy, Barry R. Finegold & Deborah B. Goldberg
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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