Mark Proposes Initiatives to Promote District's Needs, Provide Service
DALTON, Mass. — Paul Mark, Democratic candidate for state representative in the 2nd Berkshire District, has proposed a pair of initiatives aimed at drawing greater attention to Western Mass and providing highly personalized constituent services.
The first is Mark's "Better Know A District" initiative, in which he vows to invite eastern Massachusetts legislators to his district during his first term. Mark contends that, rather than simply exclaiming that eastern Massachusetts forgets about the western part of the state, "I will be proactive about educating my Statehouse colleagues about our way of life."
Mark has indicated several places he wishes to host colleagues to discuss the district's often-forgotten needs, including: farms throughout the district, Crane Paper Company in Dalton, tourist attractions in Shelburne Falls, the Schell Bridge in Northfield and meetings with local school officials to examine regional school concerns.
“For example, when it comes time to reauthorize the Dairy Farm Revitalization Act, I’ll be able to remind my colleagues about the time they visited a dairy farm with me.”
Paul Mark's other proposed program is his "Constituent Canvass" which he will run next summer, if elected. Mark has said he will canvass door-to-door and "bring his office straight to the voters." Given the size of his rural district – the largest in the state – Mark feels that
having one single district office is inadequate to serve constituents. "No matter where a district office might be placed, it would still take other constituents at least an hour to drive there," Mark
"Holding roving office hours throughout the district makes sense in the winter," said campaign spokesperson Steve Hoeschele, "but in the warmer months, Paul wants to provide superior constituent service at the door, in addition to holding roving office hours. This would help
reach out to people who might be shy or unsure of the process of talking with public officials."
"On campaigns, the candidates are always asking voters for help: asking for votes, to put up lawn signs, to contribute money. But if I'm elected as state rep, I want to show up at constituents' doors and ask them how I can help them." Mark will hire an aide with the
intention of performing such outreach as well.
Mark chalks up his "Constituent Canvass" idea to his dedication to being present in all parts of his district. "I'm very used to putting in long hours and driving, so this large district is absolutely cut out for me," he said. Mark commuted from Hancock on the New York border to Amherst and Boston to earn his college degrees, while working full time.
"I'm not going to rest easy if I get elected," Mark added. "That's when the real work starts."
Mark Picks Up Endorsement from Professional Firefighters
DALTON, Mass. — Paul Mark, Democratic candidate for state representative in the 2nd Berkshire District, picked up the endorsement of the Professional Firefighters of Massachusetts last week. The association boasts 12,000 members across 200 local outfits of the International Association of Firefighters.
“The Professional Firefighters of Massachusetts endorsement demonstrates that my vow to fully fund local aid is vital to ensuring the safety of our communities,” said Mark upon receiving the Firefighters’ endorsement.
The PFFM’s backing rounds out Mark’s endorsements from other public safety trade groups that represent police officers and ambulance workers.
“I’m proud that the public safety professionals who lay themselves on the line every day are also lining up to back me,” Mark added.
Mark has earned more political endorsements than all his opponents combined. A full list of his endorsements is available at www.votepaulmark.com.
|Tags: Mark, firefighters|
Franklin County Sheriff Backs Szczepaniak for 2nd Berkshire Seat
DALTON, Mass. — Franklin County Sheriff Frederick B. Macdonald endorsed Tom Szczepaniak on Tuesday for the 2nd Berkshire District state representative seat being vacated by Rep. Denis E. Guyer.
Szczepaniak is running for the Democratic nomination in the representative race.
"Having met Tom numerous times along the campaign trail, I am impressed with his deep level of local government experience and how he has turned his life around," Macdonald said of the Dalton selectman.
Macdonald said that while Szczepaniak has acknowledged problems of alcohol abuse during his youth, his commitment to helping inmates at the Berkshire County House of Correction deal with recovery issues speaks to his compassionate and caring nature.
"Tom is a living model of how people can rehabilitate themselves after tough and trying times and become productive and contributing members of society. His ability to build a thriving small business and to top the ticket on Dalton's municipal ballots for selectman speak to the kind of drive and determination Tom has, qualities which will serve him well on Beacon Hill," Macdonald said.
"Tom's contributions to the mentoring program at BCHC and his willingness to hire ex-offenders and residents of Pittsfield’s homeless shelter for his business help reduce the rate of recidivism and ease the burden and costs on our law enforcement system."
GOP Candidates Detail Goals for 2nd District
The Republican candidates for the 2nd District debated Monday night at Berkshire Community College.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Republican candidates for the 2nd Berkshire District debated before a lighter audience but differed more sharply on several issues than their Democratic counterparts.
Michael F. Case of Washington called for a Western Massachusetts caucus while Rosanne Frieri of Richmond suggested hiking the sales tax at the second of three debates held Monday night at Berkshire Community College.
The debates, which also included one for Berkshire County sheriff, were sponsored by The Pittsfield Gazette and hosted by BCC. Jenn Smith of The Berkshire Eagle was the moderator.
Case and Frieri are both veterans. Case did two tours in Vietnam with the Air Force, joined the National Guard and served with peacekeeping forces in Bosnia and a year in Iraq. Frieri is a 20-year veteran of the 104th Air National Guard and veteran's service officer for Pittsfield.
Michael F. Case
Both pointed to their military careers as proof of their leadership capabilities. Case is also retired Pittsfield Police officer and holds a master's degree from American International College. Frieri said she overseees a $600,000 budget in the veterans office and ran a photography business for more than two decades while working in GE corporate.
Frieri said property tax reform is an imperative, along with developing answers to high utility rates. "We have lost business and jobs because of high energy costs." She also advocated for more transparency in government, limiting lobbying and ensuring the state's laws apply to lawmakers as well as citizens.
Case said he push for a Western Mass caucus if elected. "Boston has an inordinate amount of influence over policy; we need a bigger voice." He also said he would lobby for the Federal Communications Commission to change the region's placement in the Albany, N.Y., market to get more channels and more news about what's happening in Boston.
Case said the state needed raise revenue but on the backs of businesses. It should start cutting from the top to field more police, fire and inspectors, he said. "The head of the BRTA makes $450,000 a year — that's more than the president of the United States."
"The business climate is terrible out there," Case continued. "Everybody wants to tax business, tax business, tax business; business is not going to expand and hire people by increasing their taxes."
Frieri said residents and commercial operations would both benefit from property tax reform. While not going into to detail, she's taken up the cause of Williamsburg attorney Patricia Quintilian who has spearheaded a group of homeowners fighting what they says is illegal overassessments.
"We have to look at our property taxes and really hold small-town assessors accountable," said Frieri. "If we could take the property tax and level or reform it and boost our sales tax, I think we'd have more opportunity for small business and getting them to come here."
But while Frieri suggested the sales tax was more equitable, citing the example of North Carolina, Case was adamantly opposed.
"I think we need to reduce the sales tax. We're making it much easier for our citizens to go out of state and buy products in New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, and even Connecticut," said Case. "We need to reduce the sales tax so our business can be competitive against our neighbors."
Rosanne M. Frieri
Both agreed that it was important for the state to encourage small business, particularly niche businesses, in the region. They also supported casino gambling in Western Massachusetts but didn't think it would be a "good fit" for the Berkshires region, and broadband expansion as an economic driver.
In response to if they would support a comprehensive, single-payer health care plan (a group in 2nd District is gathering signatures in support of that issue), Case said he wasn't a fan of single-payer but said the state had to do a better job in controlling costs.
"We're subsidizing people whom we really shouldn't be subsidizing," he said. "I think everybody deserves the right to emergency care but that's where it should stop."
Frieri said costs even for affordable plans were out of control. "I think we really have to take a real hard look at our health care," she said. "I think we need to cross state lines and be more competitive and I would support that legislation."
The primary is set for Sept. 14. The Republican winner will take on the Democratic primary winner and independent Stefan G. Racz, a Buckland selectman, in the November election.
The debates were televised by Pittsfield Community Television; check the schedule for repeat showings.
|Tags: Case, Frieri|
Democrats Talks Job Creation For 2nd District
The Democratic candidates for the 2nd Berkshire District met Monday night at Berkshire Community College.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Democratic candidates for representative for the 2nd Berkshire District tried to distinguish themselves for voters before the Sept. 14 primary.
In two debates held Monday night, candidates for the nomination in both parties talked jobs, health are and broadband at Berkshire Community College. Jenn Smith of The Berkshire Eagle was the moderator for both representative debates, sponsored by the Pittsfield Gazette and hosted by BCC. The candidates are seeking to replace outgoing Rep. Denis E. Guyer, D-Dalton.
Thomas S. Szczepaniak
In the first debate, Democrats Paul W. Mark, Noreen P. Suriner and Thomas S. Sczczepaniak agreed in substance that the state needed to do more to aid small business and took aim at Verizon for failing to deliver broadband.
"The best thing the state can do is to start funding new opportunities for new jobs like high-speed rail, like green-energy jobs and by bringing high-speed Internet to Western Massachusetts," said Mark, of Hancock. He'd like to see more effort put into bringing broadband into the region to aid small business and promotion of green jobs.
The region's hope could be the return of high-speed rail, said Mark, which would boost the toursim industry and reduce emissions along with creating jobs. "I think it's something realistic that needs to happen."
Sczczepaniak, a three-term selectman in Dalton, was more down to earth, believing wood by-products had the best chance of success in the heavily rural district. The development of a biomass industry would not only provide alternative heat and electricity, "it gets all the junk wood out of the woods ... It's like a garden; we need to get all the weeds out so the forest can breathe."
"It's a win-win situation all around," he contined. The owner of a local trucking company, Sczczcepaniak said small business would also benefit from relief from red tape and mandates from Boston.
Suriner, a Middlefield selectman, Episcopal priest and a teacher, agreed with both but added agriculture as an important element in the development of small business in the district. "We've been blessed because we've gotten some of the stimulus money that has prevented job loss ..." she said. "We're in relatively decent shape but the state has much to do in job creation and to deal with the unemployment issue."
Noreen P. Suriner
Farmers should have direct access to the market as well as have easier access to the school lunch programs, she said, adding that Guyer's recent announcment of a "production kitchen" for agricultural concerns in a planned mixed-use development "might be an incubator for the creation of new jobs."
All three strongly supported broadband expansion in Western Mass. "It's a job creator ... not only to the installation but for the telecommunicating for people who want to raise their children here," said Suriner, who represents her town on the WiredWest broadband collaborative. She took a swipe at Verizon, saying its mandate was "to create a profit."
Mark, an attorney and former Verizon technician, was also harsh on the telecommunications giant, referring to his own town's woes. "I'm the only one who knows the difference between the 'last mile,' the 'middle mile' and any other mile."
Sczczepaniak said he would "support any and all" broadband initiatives.
All three also agreed that more consolidation wouldn't serve the district's school systems and that education funding would be a priority. The forum was generally lively but low-key, until the closing statements, when Mark took issue with Suriner's claim that she would focus all her attention on the district and not be distracted running a business like her opponents. "I don't know where that's coming from," said Mark, who added he would quit his job.
Paul W. Mark
The candidates tiptoed around recent revelations about Szczepaniak's past troubles with the law, including jail time for drunken driving, some 20 years ago. Mark's campaign has denied allegations of spreading the old news.
"The things we've been reading about the last week is a distraction," said Mark. "It's the reason why people don't like politics."
Suriner said many families are affected by substance abuse. "I think we want to focus on the issues and not on personal lives."
For his part, Szczepaniak said he's not the man he was back then. "You look at the person and what's he's done and what is he doing for the community," he said, to loud applause.
The winner of the Democratic nomination will face off against the Republican primary winner and independent Stefan G. Racz, a Buckland selectman.
The debates were televised by Pittsfield Community Television; check the schedule for repeat showings.
|Tags: Suriner, Mark, Szczepaniak|