3rd District Democrats Support Verizon Strikers
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — In an early demonstration of unity, the three Democratic candidates for state representative for the 3rd Berkshire District, Peter White, Ryan Scago and Tricia Farley-Bouvier, on Tuesday joined striking Verizon workers on the picket line and issued the following statement:
We support without reservation the members of the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers who are now on strike at Verizon Communications in Pittsfield and throughout the vommonwealth.
We are troubled by the attack on middle-class workers as exemplified by Verizon's demands for a pension freeze, fewer sick days, and far higher employee health contributions. Meanwhile, Verizon is making unprecedented profits with its CEO Ivan Seidenberg earning more than $18 million in total compensation in 2010 – roughly $49,000 every day. Sound economic policy requires us to stabilize our economy and one factor in that is greater pay equity between workers and executives.
The Verizon workers have not asked for increases in their wages and benefits in their contract negotiations, they simply do not want their benefits slashed and their job security put in jeopardy. We appreciate that the company returned to the table and we request that the corporate executives bargain in good faith for a fair contract for working families.
It is our hope that a united front based on the values of the democratic party will bring much needed awareness from the community to the struggle of these workers for a fair contract.
Tricia Farley-Bouvier, Ryan Scago and Peter White
Democratic Candidates for State Representative, 3rd Berkshire District
|Tags: Verizon, Democrats|
Miller Submits Papers for State House Seat
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Mark Miller, Green-Rainbow candidate for the 3rd Berkshire District, has filed his nomination papers with the state Elections Office in Springfield.
This is Miller's second bid for the House seat; he lost last fall to incumbent Christopher N. Speranzo, who has since quit to become clerk-magistrate of the Central Berkshire District Court.
A left, Miller, former editor of The Berkshire Eagle, signs his paperwork in Springfield in this submitted photo.
Bouvier, Malumphy Return Papers For State House Bids
Tricia Farley-Bouvier joins Mark Miller, Peter White and Pam Malumphy in the upcoming race for state representative.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Tricia Farley-Bouvier announced her candidacy for state representative on Monday by turning in her nomination papers at City Hall and resigning from her city post.
Bouvier, a city native and former city councilor, said she will focus her campaign on "bridging the communication gap between Pittsfield and Beacon Hill, enhance workforce development, improve K-16 education and strong public safety."
She boasts years of being educator — in classroom and in administration — working with a wide variety of students. She then became the public affairs coordinator for current Mayor James Ruberto and promoted to director of administration.
"My breadth of experience has prepared me well to represent Pittsfield," Bouvier said in an press release Monday. "I would like to be the voice of Pittsfield families on Beacon Hill. I will advocating for and partnering with community agencies, public safety officials and municipal government that serve our families and seniors."
Malumphy, also a former city councilor, became the first candidate to turn in her nomination paperwork on Thursday — hand delivering the voters' signatures to the secretary of state's Springfield office.
"Getting on the ballot is always the first hurdle of a campaign and I was really proud to get people’s support in gathering signatures and having them certified by the city and then the state," Malumphy said in an email.
Malumphy's background includes teaching, marketing, business development and fundraising. Recently she was the regional director of the state Office of Business Development.
In 2009, Malumphy made a bid for mayor but didn't make it past the preliminary election. She will be running as an independent.
"I became unenrolled over two years ago. Although I still vote heavily Democratic, I like having the option of looking at individual candidates, where they stand on issues, and their message," she said.
Both Bouvier and Malumphy came to prominence in 2003, winning at-large seats on the City Council as candidates endorsed by local political action group WHEN (Women Helping Empower Neighborhoods).
The election will be held on Oct. 18 and candidates must have returned nomination papers by Aug. 9. The special election is to fill the seat of Rep. Christopher Speranzo who was appointed to be the clerk-magistrate at Central Berkshire District Court.
|Tags: special election|
Outsiders Up for the Challenge
SHEFFIELD, Mass. — In a state that sees only blue and red, it ain't easy being green. But Lee Scott Laugenour, the Green-rainbow candidate for state representative for the 4th Berkshire District, is up for the challenge. In fact, he said, he "wouldn't do it any other way."
"Every campaign has its challenges, it's hard work," he said in a phone interview. "You have to really enjoy the hard work. And I think campaigns such as mine that are outside of the big money paradigm are sometimes a little easier in the rural towns."
The party platform for the Green-Rainbow party is based on the "10 Key Values." Among them are grassroots democracy, ecological wisdom and decentralization, issues that, according to Laugenour, are very relevant to Berkshires residents and business owners who have fallen on hard economic times.
"People are telling me that finding out about my campaign is refreshing," said Laugenour, who took to his bicycle to campaign. "Basically right now we have a one party system so debate doesn't occur. No one is arguing on Beacon Hill. The checks that they cash are not free. Money isn't free. We are going to be the ones who don’t cash the check."
Jobs, tax and debt and health care are foremost on Laugenour's list of issues he hopes to tackle in Boston. He is not alone. Mark C. Miller, also a Green-Rainbow candidate, is campaigning for state representative for the 3rd Berkshire District and the party has candidates for governor (Jill Stein) and auditor (Nat Fortune). Miller said he "just gave up on Democrats" after they abandoned the single-payer proposal for state health insurance.
"You would think we are a progressive state but we're not," he said. "There's a lot of distrust and anger at both major parties, so they love the idea of a person who is neither. People are fed up and desperate and frustrated."
Both Laugenour and Miller have seen that frustration play out time and again while on the campaign trail.
"People have so many worries, they're just trying to scramble," Miller said. "They don't believe in politics, they have no interest in politics; they're alienated. When I've gone door-to-door there are definitely folks who say they're not going to vote, who say 'that's not for me baby.'"
Kenny Butler, campaign manager for independent candidate Stefan Racsz in the 2nd Berkshire District, said that he has also come up against cynicism among voters.
"Both major parties are very entrenched and powerful," he said. "People are getting tired of bailing out big businesses, it's so anti-democratic. These are not big towns; not like Boston. You know what you're paying in taxes."
Mark Miller is hoping to gain traction in his hometown of Pittsfield; Stefan Racz is positioning himself as an alternative to his major party opponents.
Yet, despite the voter disgust and apathy, or perhaps because of, Butler said people are drawn to the grassroots appeal of Racsz's campaign.
"This campaign is a small business," he said. "This is all about the individual. People think for themselves. They look at themselves and they decide for themselves. I don't think we've been given choices until recently. If voters have the choice, they'll make the choice."
Whether that choice is in favor of the blue the red or the green, Miller is heartened by what he sees as an organic reaction in favor of major political change. He cited Transition Town, a community group that has gained attention in Great Barrington and North Adams, as evidence of that change.
"That's happening just automatically," he said. "Berkshire County is ahead of the curve. A lot of people have been loyal Democrats all of their lives but they see that disintegrating. The problem is getting people's attention."
|Tags: independent, Green-Rainbow|
Green-Rainbow Candidates Chance to Shine
David Cachat of PCTV interviewed, rather than moderating.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The incumbents didn't show but their challengers were more than happy to take the spotlight on Monday night for the state representative debates on Pittsfield Community Television.
Rather than a back and forth between the Democrats and the Green-Rainbow Party nominees, David Cachat, coordinator for PCTV's Citylink, spent a half-hour each interviewing tbe Green-Rainbow candidates for the 3rd and 4th Berkshire districts.
It was a rare chance for a third party whose gubernatorial candidate, Jill Stein, has had to battle to be included in debates.
The debates were organized by PCTV and The Pittsfield Gazette in September. Fourth District incumbent William "Smitty" Pignatelli of Lenox had begged off citing calendar confusion (another debate has been proposed for next Monday) but Christopher N. Speranzo of Pittsfield, running for a third full term in the 3rd District, bowed out on Friday.
"I'm running for representative for the 3rd Berkshire District because I want the job. I want it so much that I plan to serve the entire two-year term," said Mark C. Miller, taking a swipe at Speranzo in his opening statement of what would have been the 3rd Berkshire debate.
Speranzo's come in for criticism for reportedly going after the lifetime job of clerk-magistrate in the Central Berkshire District Court while also running for another term as representative. If he wins and then gets the court job, a special election will have to be held to fill his seat. More than one political pundit has pointed out that's exactly how Speranzo came to office after his predecessor Peter Larkin quit for the private sector only days after being sworn in.
"I don't know whether he's a victim of terrible timing or what, but he's got a decision to make," said Miller, who speculated Speranzo expected to be elected anyway just by running as a Democrat. "If I'm elected all that will be moot ... but I am disappointed we can't have a dialogue."
Miller's comments evoked applause from what audience showed up for the two debates. Both he and fellow Green-Rainbow Lee Scott Laugenour are running against the expectation that Democrats — or Republicans for that matter — are safe bets.
Miller, longtime journalist and former editor of The Berkshire Eagle, said it was time to change government. The Democratic-controlled Legislature "works in the shadows," he said, and needs legislators willing to buck the system. "They won't miss one Democrat from Pittsfield; what they might not miss is a challenge by an independent legislator."
Laugenour had raised the same theme in his earlier interview. A longtime executive with Marriott Hotels in the Northeast, he said his position had given him an inside look at the power and influence-peddling behind the scenes in both parties. "There was a lot of secrecy behind that thick curtain."
Both believe the electorate is ready for a change, noting that the majority of voters in Massachusetts aren't enrolled in either party. Where some are turning toward tea party conservatism, the Green-Rainbow Party is offering an option for progressives.
"People are ready for a new kind of government a new kind of Legislature," said Laugenour. "It's time for legislators to arrive on Beacon Hill whose only debts are [to] the people whose hand they've shaken in their district, not to the affiliations of power brokering that goes on right now.
"Once people have a taste for it, they're going to like it."
Lee Scott Laugenour, whose image refused to be captured.
The candidates were asked similar questions during their interviews. What follows is summing up of their stands on the issues.
Both candidates said the current system is regressive and hurting middle and lower-income citizens. Miller said he wouldn't have voted for last year's increase in sales tax but would not support the current effort to cut it in half: "That would be absolutely disastrous."
Miller said the state constitution prevents a progressive tax system; however, he suggests raising the income tax across the board while providing exemptions targeting middle and lower-income earners. "That would level the playing field a little and bring in a billion or a billion and half more in revenue."
Laugenour, who also would not have voted for the sales tax increase, said it was in the Legislature's power to change to a graduated tax. Its failure to act has put greater pressure on municipalities to use property taxes for services. "The overreliance on property tax revenue has been building for at least the last 10 years that the Legislature has reduced local aid."
The candidates had harsh words for the state and federal health insurance reform. "It's just unaffordable and it's second rate," said Miller. "These are boondoggles for the private insurance industry." Both advocated for a single-payer plan that Miller said was abandoned by the Democrats and the issue that led him to leave the party. Laugenour said health care should be considered as infrastructure.
"It's pretty well proven a publicly funded health insurance system costs less money than ours," said Laugenour, who added he'd experienced such plans while living overseas. "We don't have it right now because we have a lot of insurance industries that purchase influence from the leaders of both parties ... we need people in the Legislature who don't take this money."
"Casinos take more jobs and projects out of the community than they bring in," said Laugenour, who referred to a New Hampshire study that found for every job created by casinos, 1 1/2 jobs were lost.
"It preys on addiction so I tend to be against it for an economic development tool," said Miller. "If you're in an economic low like we are now, it's hard to be against something ... but lot of what they make goes right out of the state."
Both support funding for education at all levels but admitted the difficulty in how to do it. Miller said he was not in favor of charter schools because they tend to siphon not only funds but more motivated students from the public schools. Laugenour said it was important to find ways to provide an equal educational experience not reliant on where you lived. The state had been the first to introduce a public education, he said, and should be able to find a way to improve it.
Miller said he was in favor of alternative energy but didn't think the answer was only in megaprojects like Cape Wind that may well in increase the cost of electricity. Rather, he said, it would be more efficient and cost effective to encourage local activity, such as wind or solar panels on homes and businesses.
"This is decentralized and everyone could take part," he said. "Think of the green jobs that could be developed from this."
Laugenour, who sits on the Berkshire Regional Transit Authority board, is an outspoken advocate for public transportation as a key part of instrastructure. He's made biking around the 18 towns in the 4th District a centerpiece of his campaign (he said he'll take the bus to Boston). He doesn't support the Pittsfield Municipal Airport expansion on environmental and economic grounds, feeling the results won't be worth the cost. Putting the money into expanding bus transportation would have a higher pay off, he said.
"It's because the Legislature does not fund public transportation the way it should," he said. "I'll get a lot more business leaders around the issue of public transportation on evenings and weekends than I ever will to get them to support the airport expansion."
The interviews will be rebroadcast on PCTV and are available on the website (where I watched them.)