Neal Sharing Campaign Offices With Warren, Downing
While both offices belong to Neal, Elizabeth Warren's campaign for U.S. Senate, the Massachusetts Democratic Party and Benjamin B. Downing's campaign for state Senate will operate out of Neal's headquarters.
"As we have seen in the past, Democrats are successful when we work together to achieve common goals," said Neal, currently the representative for the 2nd Mass District. "Once I established the locations for my regional campaign headquarters I knew offering Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts Democratic Party, and Senator Downing the opportunity to join my Springfield and Pittsfield offices would be beneficial to Democrats of the First Congressional District. I look forward to working closely with Elizabeth and continuing the close relationship I have shared with Ben and the Massachusetts Democratic Party."
Neal is running for the Democratic nomination for representative. Part of his current district will be merged with the 1st Mass Distrit beginning in January 2013. Warren is challenging the sitting Republican incumbent for the Senate seat. Downing is running for his fourth term in the state Senate representing communities in Western Massachusetts.
"I'm excited to be opening offices in Springfield and Pittsfield and to continue meeting people throughout Western Massachusetts," said Warren. "I look forward to working with Congressman Neal to address the unique challenges facing the region and to level the playing field for middle class families across the commonwealth."
"It's great to see the grassroots excitement and organizing that Democrats are committed to across Massachusetts," said Downing, who previously served as an intern in Neal's Washington congressional office. "I'm looking forward to working with the Mass Democratic Party, Congressman Neal, and Elizabeth Warren to make sure the Berkshires help elect leaders committed to fighting for the middle class."
Neal's regional campaign headquarters are both situated in residential areas with high traffic. While the Pittsfield office is a short distance from the downtown business district, the Springfield office is located in the heart of the East Forest Park neighborhood that was decimated during last year's June 1st tornado.
"Winning campaigns are fueled by volunteers with the buzz and excitement created through an active headquarters," Neal said. "We are fortunate to have campaign offices in prime locations that will enable our volunteers to mobilize and organize effectively."
Holyoke Chief Backs Bill Gunn
Candidate Bill Gunn, left, and Holyoke Police Chief Anthony Scott at a campaign social event at the Monte Carlo Restaurant in West Springfield last Thursday.
WEST SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — Holyoke Police Chief Anthony Scott has endorsed Bill Gunn for U.S. representative in the 1st Massachusetts District.
The chief formally endorsed Gunn at the Holyoke Republican City Committee's annual event.
"Mr. Gunn supports the pollicies and principles that I know will put our communities and country back on right track towards prosperity and security," said Scott. "Mr. Gunn will have my vote in November."
Scott's letter of endorsement can be found at www.billgunnforcongress.com.
1,2,3: Just Say No
"A jug of wine, a loaf of bread, and thou beside." So goes the famous stanza (or at least one translation of it) from Omar Khayyam's the "Rubaiyat" celebrating the simple necessities of life. There was a time, perhaps, when alcoholic beverages were a necessity. Stored properly, they could last for years — a plus in the pre-refrigeration and soda pop days.
But is it a necessity now? Should it be lumped in with that loaf of bread — or gallon of milk — and be exempt from the state sales tax? We don't think so.
Question 1 on Tuesday's ballot is asking voters to exempt the retail sale of alcoholic beverages from the 6.25 percent sales tax. The petition question has the support of the Massachusetts Package Store Association, which says the sales tax is an example of double-dipping since an excise tax is paid at the wholesale level.
The imposition of the sales tax on alcoholic beverage sales last year has hurt mom-and-pop stores, especially those along the New Hampshire border, the organization says. Opponents say allowing the exemption will cost $110 million in state revenue, all of it targeted toward treatment programs for kids and adults. These critical services help keep people out of jail, out of the hospital and out of trouble — all of which could cost the state far more in the long term.
The revenues are critical and we think the negative effects not quite so bad — the no-sales-tax boogeyman of New Hampshire rings hollow out here in the northwest corner. Our neighboring states have taxes comparable or higher. Massachusetts' excise tax on both beer and wine is less than the national average; distilled spirits is a bit higher. It comes out to about 10 or 15 cents on bottle of wine — no matter the quality.
This is not the time to be giving out exemptions for package-store purchases. We say vote no on Question 1
Question 2 would repeal the state's so-called 40B law that allows nonprofit organizations to build affordable housing under a single comprehensive permit.
Proponents say the law has provided incentives to construct mixed housing with both market rate and affordable units. Opponents say the law hasn't provided housing for the people who need it and has cost citizens in taxes and infrastructure.
The arguments for each side are extensive; Wicked Local has an excellent article on the subject here.
We say vote no on repealing the law. While not perfect, we believe it would be better to review how well it's worked and amend it, rather than toss it out altogether.
This citizen's petition would roll back the 6.25 percent sales tax to 3 percent. The measure would save consumers a few bucks at the register and devastate the budgets of towns and cities and throw the state into a budget crisis.
According to the Massachusetts Municipal Association, making up the estimated $1billion in lost revenue this year could mean drastic cuts in local aid this year, and more next year. North Adams alone could lose nearly $1.75 million in city and school funding.
Proponents say halving the sales tax would save families about $1,000 a year and boost job growth. They say it wouldn't affect local aid, though it's hard to see how. The cost of keeping city and town services would still fall to the taxpayers in each town through rising property taxes and fees.
We don't like taxes either but at least the sales tax is one we have more control over through our spending habits. Right now, it's at $6.25 for every $100; Question 3 would drop it to $3 per $100. That loss in sales tax will wipe out gains the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce has been in encouraging in its "Buy in the Berkshires" campaign, says chamber CEO Michael Supranowicz.
"I think it's very important for the business community to understand that if we roll the sales tax back 3 percent ... fees and increases in real estate will affect us all in our pocketbooks one way or another," he told chamber members last week.
We agree. Think of it as the price of a fancy coffee for every $100 you spend; the few dollars you save here and there isn't worth the massive cuts that would affect all of us.
Vote no on Question 3.
|Tags: tax cuts, ballot questions|
Auditor Candidates Trade Jabs
Candidates for auditor Suzanne Bump, Mary Z. Connaughton and Nathanael Fortune debated at BCC on Monday night.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The two major party candidates for the state auditor's job spent Monday night trading jabs over negative campaigning and past scandals, leaving the Green-Rainbow candidate to position himself as outside the fray — and of business as usual.
The debate was sponsored by The Pittsfield Gazette and Pittsfield Community Television and hosted at Berkshire Community College. One of the candidates, Suzanne Bump, 54, is a resident of Great Barrington, (which she confirmed again on Monday).
Best quote of the night: Fortune on whether he's a spoiler in the race. 'If electing a Democrat to office would make a difference, we'd already be living in Nirvana.'
The Democrat and former labor official for Gov. Deval Patrick is seeking the position against Republican candidate Mary Z. Connaughton, 50, of Framingham, former director of the Massachusetts Turnpike and a certified public accountant, and Green-Rainbow candidate Nathanael Fortune, 49, a Smith College physics professor and Whately School Committee chairman.
Moderator Daniel Valenti, local writer and political commentator, prefers a free-form style of debate that allows give and take between the candidates. "We will encourage dialogue among the three candidates and we would prefer them to interact with each other rather than me," he said at the beginning of the hourlong debate.
He didn't have to worry about dialogue: Bump and Connaughton breezily clashed in a practiced performance — it was, after all, about the 10th time they'd debated — prompting Fortune to quip, "I did offer to sit between these two."
Bump started the day in Boston on a "Donut Fund Express" to the Berkshires, making stops at independent doughnut shops along the way to highlight recent stories about fiscal mismanagement at the State Lottery in 1990s — some of which occurred during Connaughton's tenure there as chief financial officer. Money was routed to a so-called "doughnut" fund to hide expenses for parties, entertainment and promotional events.
"Yes, these practices were going on for decades before I got there; they ended under my watch," said Connaughton, who claimed she had done much to put in place "culture-changing moves" within six months of joining the Lottery. "I fixed it; I was hired to clean up a mess and I did it."
The Romney appointee waved an endorsement from the liberal-leaning Berkshire Eagle on Bump's turf and noted she is the first CPA to ever run for the post. Bump waved a state auditor's report and attacked Connaughton's performance in dealing with abandoned properties she said cost the state $16 million. Connaughton said it was about eliminating a sweetheart deal with one contractor to ensure competition and getting the money into the taxpayers' pockets, not the state's general fund.
"Suzanne, you just don't get it, you just don't get it," said Connaughton, which elicited some applause from the audience left from the earlier debate for the 2nd Berkshire District.
Bump dismissed her opponent's "soaring rhetoric," "it's her failure to take responsibility that's the most disturbing thing."
Valenti questioned Bump on the recent flap over where her primary residence is. She and her husband had filed for property tax exemptions on both their Great Barrington home and South Boston condo. Bump said Boston had changed the rules without informing them.
All three candidates said they would be advocates for the public and take a more aggressive stand on looking at not just expenditures but outcomes to see if public money was being spent wisely. They all said they would bring in an independent auditor to review the office, which hasn't been done in 20 years. Bump and Fortune said the division's 300 employees and $17 million budget were enough. Connaughton said she'd have employees reapply for their jobs as way to review staffing and qualifications
Bump and Connaughton try to get their points across at the same time.
Fortune tried to keep his comments to the role of the auditor ("it's hard to be a candidate if your mother has trained you if you don't have anything nice to say ...") and said he would be an advocate for the public. He noted his role in reducing energy costs in his own school district through analysis and research and recognition by the state school committees association for his analysis of state and local education funding.
"The three of us have been to enough debates that to some extent we can say each other's points. The most common from Suzanne is you should be a bureaucrat to be this and, from Mary, you should be an accountant or an auditor," he said. "Both those skills are valuable in being a state auditor but neither of them are essential."
Politics and lobbying "distorts the priorities," he said; if public dollars paid only for public services, it would free up $1 billion. "You have to follow the money."
Bump said her experience in state government, during which she oversaw teams of auditors and researchers in investigating spending and outcomes for various work-force programs to "go beyond simply how much money did we spend, but what did we get for it and how can we do it better."
"You need somebody who can set priorities and be a leader and that's what I have done when I was a legislator and as a cabinet secretary," she said, agreeing "somewhat" with Fortune. "We do have billions of dollars in tax exemptions, and tax credits and tax incentives and few of those individual programs have mechanisms to determine if the taxpayers are really getting the benefits they're supposed to get."
Connaughton touted that fact that she is the only CPA who has ever run for auditor and her experience working in the state treasurer's office and the former MassPike. She pledged to run a professional department and bring "lots of sunshine" to Beacon Hill.
"I do not need on-the-job training at the taxpayer's expense. [The auditor] is the people's eyes on Beacon Hill, it's their voice on Beacon Hill to make sure our tax dollars are being spent properly," said Connaughton. "I will manage this office in an extremely professional way ... politics has nothing to do with the state auditor's race."
Toward the end of the debate, Connaughton tried to get a pledge from Bump not to engage in negative campaigning when her television ads hit the air on Wednesday. Bump said it depended on what Connaughton meant by negative campaigning.
"They are going to contain positive things about my candidancy," said Bump and, in response to questions, confirmed "Mary's name will be in it."
Fortune said he'd be happy to take the pledge. "I'm not running any ads at all. I think I'm running a very frugal campaign ... I'm setting a good example for state auditor."
The debate will be rebroadcast on PCTV. We will try to have audio up later Tuesday.
|Tags: auditor, debate|
Patrick Plans Pittsfield Rally
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Gov. Deval Patrick will host a campaign rally on Friday at Itam Lodge, 93 Waubeek Road, on Friday, Oct. 22, beginning at 5:30.
Patrick, who has a home in Richmond, is running for a second term in office. The Pittsfield rally will allow residents from throughout the Berkshires to have a conversation with Patrick about the issues at stake in the election.
This event is free open to the public.
"Policy only matters at the point where it touches people, and politics is most meaningful at the grassroots," said Patrick in a statement. "That's why [Lt. Gov.] Tim Murray and I are out talking with people every day about the choices before us as a commonwealth, and building a grassroots network stronger than ever."
The campaign says it's gaining momentum continues to gain grassroots momentum as Election Day approaches. Patrick and Murray have criss-crossed the state in recent months, meeting with voters. At a rally with President Obama this past Saturday, more than 7,500 volunteers committed to helping the Patrick–Murray team "get-out-the-vote" on Election Day — and volunteers are working everyday in the campaign’s 25 coordinated field offices, making phone calls and knocking on doors to reach voters about the decision they have on Election Day.