Berkshire Elected Officials Support Grossman Campaign
By Andy McKeever On: 08:39PM / Thursday August 28, 2014 ||
Sheriff Thomas Bowler, state Rep. William 'Smitty' Pignatelli and Treasurer and gubernatorial candidate Steve Grossman toured Apex Resource Technologies on Thursday.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Just slightly more than a week before the primary, Steven Grossman was in town to announce the endorsements of Sheriff Thomas Bowler, City Council President Melissa Mazzeo and Mayor Daniel Bianchi in his bid for governor.
The three local endorsements build on strong support across the county from elected officials. Grossman announced the additional endorsements but also, as has been part of his campaign for more than a year, toured one of the city's businesses.
All of the county's House delegates have thrown their support behind the candidate — including Gailanne Cariddi, a high school classmate of front-runner and Berkshire native Martha Coakley.
Coakley, Grossman and Donald Berwick are vying for the Democratic nomination to be the party's candidate in the general election against presumed Republican candidate Charlie Baker, who is facing off in the primary against Mark Fisher.
"Every one of the elected officials who have chosen to support me, whether it is Gailanne or Paul Mark or Smitty or the mayor, the sheriff, the council president, they all have people who respect them. They are credible people," Grossman said after touring Apex Resource Technologies.
"To have support from Martha's hometown says 'there is a guy on the ballot, another person, who can get the job done for North Adams.' "
Cariddi said North Adams can't lose if it comes down to Grossman or Coakley. But, her first choice is Grossman because of his background in business and his work as chairman of the Massachusetts School Building Authority.
"I have great respect for him as an individual. He comes from almost the same background that I do in that he grew up in a family business. He grew up into position of leadership. His family business was a lot bigger than Cariddi Sales and was better for their family," Cariddi said. "They were a really good employer, a progressive employer."
Cariddi says education is a key priority and her district has been the most active in the county when it comes to building or renovating schools. Cariddi has worked with Grossman on three local projects.
"I have seen him in action in those meetings. We've had several school issues in this district. We finished up the Adams-Cheshire school under his leadership. We are in the middle of Colegrove [Park] School under his leadership. And we are just beginning discussions with the School Building Authority with the Mount Greylock Regional High School," Cariddi said.
His chairmanship on the MSBA has also won over the vote of state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier. She credits Grossman with "keeping his word" and moving the Taconic High School project along in the process.
"He has kept his word and more than one time he has had to intervene and say 'we told Pittsfield they would get their school and we're not going to let this get stuck anymore.' I have a great appreciation for that," Farley-Bouvier said in a recent interview.
On Thursday, Grossman reiterated his support for Taconic High School. He remembers the debate over how many schools the city needs. He says he sees importance in the school because it could be a "gamechanger" for the region.
"One of the things that will characterize Berkshire County over the next one, three, five, 10 years is a potential explosion of advanced and precision manufacturing," Grossman said.
He later added, "one of the problems the Berkshires has is that there are more jobs available than there are people to fill the jobs. If that's the case, let's do everything we can to recruit, train and retain the next generation of tool makers and advanced manufacturers."
Having a focus in manufacturing is what brought him to Apex. Grossman says he wanted to see Apex because it is a model of the advanced manufacturing he hopes will define the area.
And that starts with a renovated high school. Grossman says every day a new high school isn't built, the more young people the area loses to the eastern part of the state. That's the value he saw as chairman and he says he helped keep the focus on it.
General Manager Tony Liporace showed Grossman around the Downing Industrial Park business.
"It was obvious to everybody that Taconic needed to be rebuilt or renovated. It was obvious that if we could do it more quickly, consistent with the local community and with the validation of the curriculum, this was good for the community. Every day that we don't have a new school is a day we lose somebody," Grossman said.
For Mark, Grossman stood out because of the educational focus — particularly a plan to freeze college tuition. Mark is part of the house's higher education committee and recently headed a subcommittee looking to curb student debt — identifying rising tuition and fees as a cause.
"Treasurer Grossman's proposal to freeze fees and tuition at our public colleges and universities for the next four years is an initiative I support wholeheartedly," said Mark in a statement released by the Grossman campaign. "Access to a college education is essential to leveling the playing field for young people across Massachusetts."
Bowler cited the candidate's focus on substance abuse and mental health as lead issues as why he support Grossman.
Both Mazzeo and Bianchi released statements backing Grossman, saying they feel he is the candidate that would work the best with them. Bianchi cited his "commitment" as treasurer to the county.
The representatives said they, too, feel like Grossman work best with the Legislature. For Grossman, that support is what is giving him confidence as the polls show the race tightening.
"If the mayor of Pittsfield says Steve Grossman is somebody who believes deeply in Pittsfield and is going to invest and be my partner. And the president of the City Council says she is going to be our partner. And the sheriff says he is working with me on the opioid crisis that we've got and I've got some idea for that. If your top leaders are all saying this is somebody who gets the Berkshires, who understands it, who spends an enormous amount of time here, he's spent all his life out here working with his dad. That's the kind of thing that sends the message to people who say, I'm going to give Steve Grossman a vote because he is a proven jobs creator," Grossman said.
While he may have won the most votes at the Democratic State Convention in June, he has been trailing Coakley since. But, he says it isn't until the final two weeks before the race that people make up their minds so he is confident he'll be the party's candidate.
"I think this is going to come down to the wire," Grossman said.
Grossman Talks Manufacturing, Minimum Wage
10-09-2013 - Grossman spoke at the Berkshire Brigades office on Wednesday after filming a television show with the Democratic group. PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Manufacturing is in the state's DNA so...
Independent Candidate Falchuk Tours Pittsfield Business
By Andy McKeever On: 05:00PM / Wednesday August 06, 2014 ||
Starbase founder Burton Francis, on the right, gives Evan Falchuk a tour of the Peck's Road building on Tuesday.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — One by one, Burton Francis introduced Evan Falchuk to his employees on Tuesday, telling them that Falchuk is challenging the establishment.
And one by one, the Starbase Technologies employees made sure they got their opinion heard — from welfare reform to gun control to business to putting their kids through college.
They've met plenty of politicians before but when Francis explained that Falchuk is an independent running for governor, many perked up a bit.
"The impasse in government is so bad that we really need to change out the Republicans and the Democrats and get some new, basic people running the show," Francis said.
Francis started Starbase more than 25 years ago, manufacturing molds for an array of products from pens to laundry detergent caps to airplane parts. His business has grown to employ about 50 people at his Peck's Road location.
But he says he is concerned with the costs associated with doing business, and he hasn't seen much help from those in leadership positions.
"It is nice to be able to know the person who can make sure laws don't get passed that could hurt my employees, hurt my tax rate. The cost of doing business in Massachusetts and keeping cost down will help not just me but every manufacturer in Massachusetts," Francis said.
Francis typically votes Republican but says that doesn't matter now because neither party listens to the common, everyday people. When a close family friend began working for Falchuk, Francis started hearing about the independent campaign and was intrigued.
"We need change going right to the top," Francis said.
Falchuk says guys like Francis and the Starbase employees represent exactly what his campaign is about. The Newton candidate formed the United Independent Party and wants to remodel how government operates.
"What you hear so often is people feeling the political process isn't representing their interest anymore," Falchuk said.
That's led to to only about a quarter of registered voters making it to the polls, he said, because the residents are "dispirited" about government.
"We have a system that is not taking people seriously. If you want to make people mad, don't take them seriously, ignore them and treat them as if they don't matter. That is what our government has done," Falchuk said.
Falchuk says he isn't "dispirited" though. He sees people's frustration as an opportunity to start something new.
"Voters don't have to be tied into the establishment. It doesn't have to be Democrat or Republican. We can build a new future that is not tied to those structures that have caused many of the problems we face," Falchuk said.
The issues brought up by the Starbase employees is what Falchuk says he hears across the state in his campaign. The campaign began last year and Falchuk is focused on meeting as many people as he can - whether that means walking down the street at Third Thursday in Pittsfield or at the Fall Foliage Parade in North Adams to visits to businesses like Tuesday.
He tells voters that lowering the cost of living will help not only individuals but also businesses.
Health care, for example, Falchuk says is causing a tremendous strain on everybody. The system is based on people getting sick and it shouldn't be, he said.
Nearly every employee shared their opinions with Falchuk as he toured the molding company.
Falchuk says the state needs to limit consolidation of hospitals and to implement payment fee schedules for health-care providers to show exactly how much they are getting in revenue day to day. He says if the state can curb health care costs 5 percent, that translates to billions of dollars back to residents.
"This is a problem that we need to get ahead of. It shouldn't happen that a city as important as North Adams doesn't have a hospital in it," Falchuk said. "The reality is that the high cost of health care is what is driving these problems and it affects business."
He also says housing costs are too high and it is because the state hasn't done enough to build more, driving the cost down. Falchuk's lieutenant governor candidate Angus Jennings, for example, worked on the zoning that allowed the Rice Silk Mill housing complex. That zoning calls for mixed use of housing and business to drive "vibrancy" in downtown areas, Falchuk said.
Another way to lower costs is to simply bring more people in. In the Berkshires, Falchuk says the creative economy is a major driver of not only bringing tourism dollars to the area but can also attract new residents.
As for future generations, Falchuk left Starbase after seeing another example of thriving manufacturing — a business type that so many people have cast in a negative light, he said.
"I think it is really important that this kind of manufacturing work is seen for young people as an opportunity, seen as a craft, a trade, as something to be proud of," Falchuk said. "That's honorable, good work. The state should be funding job training programs to support this."
The election for governor is starting to heat up following the Democrat and Republican conventions and should pick up more steam after the primary on Sept. 9. Once the Democrats pick a candidate — Donald Berwick, Martha Coakley or Steven Grossman — the election will gather even more attention. The Republicans have already chosen Charlie Baker as their candidate.
When that happens, Falchuk says he will be in the thick of it. He says in the last year he has raised enough to last through the election as well as the start of funds for other candidates in 2016 if United Independent becomes an official party.
"We will be outspent. We will be outspent from the party organizations. That is the big loophole nobody likes to talk about. Both the Democrats and Republicans, their state and federal parties are able to channel unlimited amounts of money to support their candidates. I think it is possible to run and win a really good statewide race for $3 million or $4 million. They're going to spend a heck of a lot more than that and we'll spend about that," Falchuk said.
Gubernatorial Candidate Falchuk Picks Running Mate
By Andy McKeever On: 09:14AM / Wednesday May 21, 2014 ||
Evan Falchuk and Angus Jennings are launching a new, independent party and campaign for governor.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Angus Jennings has spent most of his career in town and city halls across the state.
As a municipal planner and consultant, he has heard all of the great ideas and plans to revitalize downtrodden towns. He has seen the problems with transportation, economic development, infrastructure and housing.
But, there always seems to be a gap when it comes to the state's support to getting projects completed.
Last year, he met Evan Falchuk, who formed the United Independent Party. The party's goal is to cut through all of the political bickering to tackle the issues cities and towns face. Instead of passing bills that only make small progress on major topics, Falchuk is calling for fully revamping the political process to address the issues head on.
"It is going to be Democrats versus Republicans. It will be small progress on issues that really matter," Falchuk said on Thursday, as he walked around downtown Pittsfield.
Falchuk is running for governor with a focus on bringing leadership that can cut through the minutia. He picked Jennings to run with him as lieutenant governor.
"It is a very brave decision that he's made personally and what he had already done, which was to create the united independent party, was some thing very, very inspiring to me as a voter," Jennings said.
"I, like so many other people, felt like the system has not been responsive in not only doing what ought to be done but also not talking about what could be done. The decision making process on Beacon Hill is so insular."
Jennings, who grew up in Wilbraham, has consulted with more than 35 towns throughout the state in planning. In 2006, he was hired by the city of Pittsfield to work on zoning changes.
Partly of his work, the Rice Silk Mill apartments were renovated on brownfields property, providing housing aimed to gentrify the Tyler Street area.
His expertise in housing is one of the major aspects he brings to the campaign. One of the major issues the Falchuk campaign is focusing on is ways to lower the cost of living across the state.
Further, Jennings' experience with planning boards, city councils and the particular efforts of various towns for revitalization would help align leadership with the priorities of the communities, he said.
Jennings pointed to the Beacon Cinema on North Street as an example of something that requires a lot of work to make happen but yields a high reward in the city's downtown.
"I see that as evidence of what Pittsfield has done right. And Pittsfield has done a lot right with North Street. You see it with the activity and the investment," Jennings said. "That movie theater that might not stand out to some people. But to me, it stands out because I know how much work goes into making that happen."
He says people on the local level know the specific needs when it comes to housing, economic growth and transportation. They have the ideas that would streamline the solutions. But, those ideas aren't finding their way to Beacon Hill, he said.
Falchuk pointed to the closure of North Adams Regional Hospital as an example of how the state isn't aligning its leadership with citizens. He says it is a "real crisis" that the eastern part of the state knows and cares little about.
"They're seeing state leadership that doesn't seem to pay attention to the issues out here," he said.
And since launching his campaign last fall, he says he is finding a lot of people who agree with him that the dynamics of the political conversation needs to change.
"The campaign has grown a lot. We've got a dozen full-time people, we've got hundreds of volunteers across the commonwealth. Our message of smart, brave reform and the need to have a new framework to bring about meaningful change is really resonating with people," he said.
As the election start gets closer and the party primaries creep up, Falchuk said more people will be paying attention and more people will start seeing the same political bickering.
"I sit on these panels with the gubernatorial candidates and you hear them say these nice sounding, vague things that don't mean a lot," Falchuk said.
He says his campaign will be focused on "getting more into the substance" of issues.
But first, they have to collect 10,000 signatures to be on the ballot. Falchuk says he hopes to submit 20,000.
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.
Republican Candidate For Governor Baker Stumps In Pittsfield
By Andy McKeever On: 03:38AM / Wednesday January 22, 2014 ||
Charlie Baker, on the right, meets with the Berkshire County Republicans on Tuesday night after taping a show on PCTV.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Charlie Baker says that in order to get the best results, you have to "have both teams on the field."
Baker met with the Berkshire County Republicans on Tuesday at Zucco's Family Restaurant.
He is one of two GOP candidates after Mark Fisher of Shrewsbury announced his intention to run in December.
Baker told the local committee that he wants to use his 25 years of experience in the public and private sectors to improve the state's economy and school systems.
"We haven't created a single net new job in 13 years. We have the same number of people working that we had in 2000. How can that be? How can a state that brings everything we bring to the table lag when it comes to growing and creating jobs and economic opportunity?" Baker said.
"The answer is pretty simple. We are wicked smart but we finished 48th or 49th in every single survey that has to do with the cost of almost everything."
Baker boasted of his tenure as CEO of Harvard Pilgrim — taking the job when the company was going into receivership. While nobody thought the company could make a financial turnaround, Baker said he "set the bar high" to turn it around. He said the company is thriving, and he left in 2009 to bring his ideas for success to state government.
In 2010, Baker ran for the governor's office but lost to Deval Patrick, who was running for a second term. But in that race, he learned a lot about the concerns of municipalities around the state. In this campaign, Baker says he won't be spending time just learning the issues but instead focusing his conversations on how to solve them.
What he is hearing is that voters "want is a hands-on governor who can get stuff done" and he cited his time working under former Govs. William Weld and Paul Cellucci as being able to work with a Democratic House and Senate to better the state.
"We saw problems. We got stuff done. We made government work and we put people back to work," Baker said, particularly pointing to education reform as leading to rising to SAT scores, to workers' compensation reform and to the jobless rate going from being the worst in the country to one of the best.
But since the 1990s, Baker said the state "lost its fastball." Economic development as his No. 1 priority, with closing the achievement gaps in schools and working with municipalities to create economic strategies being the focus.
His belief is that the state needs a Republican in office to help bring the best ideas to the table — not just one, Democratic viewpoint. And that theory dates back to his childhood dinner table when his Republican father and Democratic mother debated issues. His parents would debate the "means" while trying to achieve the same "ends."
Baker gave a 15-minute speech before fielding questions from the audience.
"What my parents showed me all that time when I was a kid was, in fact, true. You do get a better product when you have both teams on the field," Baker said. "You do get a better result when you have two teams competing. You get a better government and better process when you have more than one set of ideas engaged."
The solutions to the state's problems aren't complicated, he said, because the answers are there. It is just finding the best solutions and "replicating" them.
"I know how to set the bar high. I know how to build teams. I know how to hold people accountable and help them get over the bar," he said.
One thing he'd like to implement if elected is a massive regulatory review. He said government adds regulations to businesses but seldom cleans up prior ones, allowing them to pile up. Now there are cases where complying with one state agency can lead a business to be out of compliance with another.
"The state needs to speak with one voice on this," he said.
He is calling for legislators to do a full review of the regulations every couple of years and debate the need and effectiveness of them. He is also calling for standing committees that will work with those who will are being regulated because "some of the best ideas" will come from them.
Overall, Baker described his leadership as one that "dreams big" and "sets the bar high." He wants the state to work hard and for the taxpayers to get value out of the money they put into the system.
"I don't want Massachusetts to be great just here, here and here. I want Massachusetts to be great everywhere," Baker said.
After a 15-minute speech Baker fielded questions regarding issues of senior care, homelessness, business, veterans and transportation. Baker was also a guest on Berkshire GOP's television program "Out Front TV" on PCTV.
Baker is the most recent of the gubernatorial field to visit the Berkshires; Fisher is expected to visit the region in the coming weeks. On the Democratic side, Martha Coakley, Joseph Avellone, Donald Berwick, Steven Grossman and Juliette Kayyem have all held at least one campaign event (Coakley, Grossman and Berwick have held two) in the Berkshires. Independent Evan Falchuk was in the Berkshires twice.
While this was Baker's first trip since entering the race in September, he told the crowd that it won't be his last.
Correction: An earlier version failed to note that Republican Mark Fisher had entered the race for governor. iBerkshires regrets the error.
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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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