1st Berkshire Candidates Talk Regional Issues
Candidates Gailanne Cariddi, left, Edward MacDonald, moderator Joyce Wrend and David Bissaillon at the first candidate session for the 1st Berkshire distir
FLORIDA, Mass. — Florida is first — first for snow, as one candidate noted, and first when it came to scrutinizing the potential replacement for its native son in the 1st Berkshire seat.
About 30 people were in attendance at the Florida Senior Center, an appropriate place to kick off the race since Florida is the hometown of Daniel E. Bosley who will be stepping down after 26 years as state representative. Joyce Wrend of the League of Women Voters, moderator for the forum, started things off with a few comments including joking she was from "South Florida" — North Adams.
The candidates are North Adams City Councilor Gailanne Cariddi, former Berkshire Chamber of Commerce President David Bissaillon and Chester Town Manager Edward MacDonald. All three are Democrats, like Bosley, and will vie in a September primary for placement on the November ballot. The primary will essentially settle the election.
Citing his experience with the chamber, as a member of the business community, volunteer leader in many nonprofits and as longtime youth athletic coach, Bissaillon said, "the distinctions that I bring to this race are that my perspective has always been a regional one. My track record has been built on collaboration and I already have in place the strong professional relationships across the district that are necessary for success."
He listed his key issues as are the evolving regional economy (creating and sustaining job opportunities), education (local schools and colleges), and the infrastructure (more than roads and bridges).
Cariddi pointed to her experience in business, legislative and public policy as manager of a small family wholesale business in North Adams (Cariddi Sales), her more than 20 years of experience as a city councilor, and as a lifelong community volunteer.
Bringing up ideas for more openness in government, Cariddi said, "the concept of open and accessible government has become a quaint relic of the past on Beacon Hill. I will be inclusive of our diversity, build bridges across any divides, and be truly in touch with each of our communities. I am committed to using my skills as a listener and facilitator to bring our collective wisdom to Boston."
MacDonald, a former Adams selectman, said he brings a "unique personality with a background that is very diversified." McDonald emphasized his 20 years of public service in the state of New York, on a school committee and, in particular, as Chester's town manager.
"We have been through $400,000 cuts in a million-dollar budget and can still keep the town going, we are not looking at a tax increase next year," he said. "We were able to hold the line for next year in our taxes."
His three priorities are to "Keep the [North Adams Regional] Hospital the way the hospital should be instead of as a secondary-care unit, taxes and that people have a job they can go to and be proud of."
Regarding regional development, McDonald brought up a need for "seed money to provide economic development for small business, because that is the foundation of our society, and we haven't given enough tax credits. I think it should be $15,000 to 25,000 for small businesses."
Cariddi mentioned the importance of working on access to broadband Internet, incuding how people would receive communications (computers and cell phones) and ensuring the decommissioning of the Yankee Rowe nuclear plant continues safely. She is already working on those issues, she said, but stressed it is not just the issue, but also researching, talking to all the people involved and trying to bring together a focus that everyone can agree on.
"Jobs know no boundaries," said Bissaillon. "What is important that we have a process in place to help people find jobs."
Bissaillon said he would match state resources to programs like the new 1 Berkshire (which brings the region's bigger players together for economic development) and Berkshire Compact. "It is the role of a state rep to find resources in the state to support good projects that are under way."
In response to question about the qualities of state representative, Bissaillon said it was important to have someone you can trust and "who cares more about the district than he cares about his own career."
Cariddi said it was important to develop trust, to have passion for the work, and have a desire to bring the constituents what they need. She said it is also important to know what the priorities are in general for your district and to have the ability to bring people together with one focus.
MacDonald said it is important to be able to listen to constituents, take care of the constituents and do what they need. But the bottom dollar was to "bring home the bacon."
In answer to how he would make cuts to the state budget, MacDonald focused on the need to look at and cut down the budgets of the state Legislature, calling them slush funds that are spent on things like meals.
Cariddi agreed that this was a good place to start: "Line items for legislators should be an open process. Right now it is a secret how they spend their funds. ... Taxpayers want value for what is spent for their tax dollars." She would also scrutinize line items and ask questions about why things like Tufts University's Veterinary School receive funding.
Bissaillon stated that he would start by asking what are core areas that are most important to the voter. "Make sure to take care of kids in school, whatever we can for cities and towns, do as much as we can for infrastructure — those are the things that we just can't play budget games with, those are the things that are important every year — what I would focus on."