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1st Berkshire Candidates Talk Regional Issues

Kathy Keeser

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."

Tags: Florida      

Williamstown Candidate Statements

WilliNet

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — All 17 candidates on the May 11 town election ballot were offered free television time to introduce themselves to voters and say why they are running for positions ranging from library trustee to town moderator to selectman. 

WilliNet, Community Access TV for Williamstown, invited the candidates to videotape a short statement of up to five minutes in length. Over the course of three days, 12 of the 17 candidates taped their message in the Spring Street studio. They were combined for broadcast as "The Candidates Speak."

"'The Candidates Speak' offers voters the opportunity to put a face with the name on the ballot and acknowledges the efforts of the individual candidates, especially in the uncontested races," said WilliNet Executive Director Deb Dane. 

"The Candidates Speak" airs on WilliNet's Channel 17 and at willinet.org through May 10 or can be watched below.

 

Tags: Williamstown, television      

Williamstown School Candidates Say They'll Listen

Tammy Daniels

Williamstown School Committee candidates Huff Templeton, left, and Valerie Hall; moderator Anne Skinner; McCann School Committee candidates James R. Gazzaniga Sr. and Daniel H. Collyer.

 WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Candidates hoping to represent voters on two school boards pledged to do their best to maintain their school's excellence and listen the community.

Four of the candidates spoke at Wednesday's forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters; the fifth, Williamstown School Committee incumbent Margaret A. McComish, was represented by her husband, Magnus Bernhardsson.

McComish is running for re-election to one of two three-year seats on the Williamstown School Committee against newcomers Huff T. Templeton III and Valerie A. Hall.

McComish, who works in the Williams College Development Office, was away at a conference she'd committed to sometime before. Bernhardsson read a statement from her that expressed her desire to run for a second term and some of major events that had occurred during her past term, such as allowing the Youth Center to build on school land and the merger of Williamstown and Lanesborough into a new school union.

Daniel H. Collyer

James R. Gazzaniga

Valerie Hall

Margaret McComish

Huff Templeton

She has two children in the school, a third-grader and a sixth-grader, is currently vice chairman of the committee and served on the supervisory union, endowment and long-range planning committees. She and her family moved to Williamstown in 2003.

As former financial attorney, she stated, "I believe I am well equipped to continue to plan strategically for the future and to tackle the current challenges facing the school, such as declining revenues, declining enrollment and increasing costs."

Bernhardsson said McComish was looking forward to the opportunity of serving three more years. Any questions on her stance on issues can be sent to mam1@williams.edu.

Templeton is a local entrepreneur and owner of Ephporium on Spring Street and a health club in Bennington, Vt. He has two children in the school, a fourth-grader and a sixth-grader and moved to Williamstown in 2002. He has served on the long-range planning committee and as president of the Parental Advisory Council.

He said his two degrees in business and background in creating a volunteer organization and his two years developing computer-based training in the 1990s would be valuable to the committee.

"I've grown to really love Williamstown Elementary School and I've been impressed with everyone I've met there," he said. "My motivation for running is really to help improve it from where we are and have an opportunity to not only be a great elementary, which we already are, but be a world class elementary school."

Valerie Hall is currently a stay-at-home mom, also with two children in the school, who moved here with her family in 2001. She holds bachelor's and master's degrees in engineering and formerly designed communications satellites.

A member of the PTO, she served as president and vice president. She has volunteered with a number of school activities, including the sixth-grade yearbook, and regularly volunteers in her children's classrooms.

"I am devoted to keeping our school on the right track while facing these tough budget times. Our enrollment has been declining, our budget is level-funded, while fixed costs are increasing," she said. "The school as a community needs to be flexible and work together to control expenditures but hold the high standards and the essential character of our school."

Running for a 11th three-year term on the Northern Berkshire Vocational Regional School Committee (McCann Technical School) is James R. Gazzinaga Sr. He is being challenged by Daniel H. Collyer.

Gazzaniga is a retired Mount Greylock Regional High School guidance counselor who has resided in Williamstown for 51 years. He began his teaching career in the Williamstown schools in 1953, spent two years active duty in the Navy, then became a guidance counselor in 1961. He retired in 1990.

He's long been a strong believer in the opportunities offered by McCann's combined academic and technical curriculum and ran successfully for one of the town's two seats on the 14-person board in 1980.

"My greatest concern over the years has been the disappointing number of enrolled students from Williamstown. Currently we have 14 students attending McCann," he said. "There is one major factor contributing to this lack of interest: there is a serious misperception among adults and students regarding the strength of the academic and technical course offerings."

Collyer was on the McCann faculty for 19 years. He holds two postgraduate degrees and was special education director for the former School Union 69 and taught vocational teachers how to create programs for students with special needs. Semi-retired, he currently is a learning specialist at Berkshire Community College.

He agreed with Gazzaniga that McCann's academic strength is too often underrated. He is running to "keep an eye on these austere times of the budget and how it affects Williamstown residents."

As special education director, he said he was active in working with the school committee and the superintendent. "I believe that experience has more weight ... not only with parents but with community members in preserving what I call one of the jewels of Berkshire County."

In response to questions, the Williamstown candidates had no answers on how to stem declining enrollment.

"In my opinion, this is going to be a natural phase and will level out," Hall said, noting the reduction of teachers from four a grade to three had also meant a drop in the number of school-choice slots. "I don't think there's anything the School Committee can do about it."

Templeton thought that because of the decline, school choice should be looked at for more revenue. "We could always introduce a fourth teacher."

All the candidates agreed that the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System is here to stay.

MCAS is a very good tool, said Gazzaniga, "we shouldn't fear evaluation." Collyer said it had its uses but should not be the only measure of learning. Hall and Templeton said the concern was that too much pressure was being put on the younger children. Templeton also said there was a need to ensure that all the kids were progressing and not just passing.

In terms of curriculum, Hall thought the elementary school offers a broad curriculum but math should be reviewed, as well as continuity going into the middle grades. "We need better integration of languages," she said. "A school of the future should be offering language during the day."

Templeton said he was not convinced that high-achieving pupils were being challenged enough, and that language and technology were lacking.

"They should be exposed to comptuers every day not every third day," he said. "Multicultural communications should be added into the curriculum. That can be taught at a young age."

All four said they would listen to their constituents but noted in some cases, their and their committees' ability to effect change was limited.

"The only role [we have] is to hire and fire the superintendent, but we can give suggestions, said Gazzaniga. "But our role is greatly diminished."

"If I am on the School Committee I'd certainly be open to suggestions," said Templeton. "The climate is a bit contentious ... We're a community. We have to think like a commmunity, have to put the ideas forward no matter whose they are."

"I'm willing to listen to all sorts of opinions," said Hall, adding Facebook would be one way she'd communicate with residents. However, she said, "the board could be better articulating the answers they give."

"I think it's the job of the representative, the role of the school committee member, to get that input and give it to the whole committee body," said Collyer.

The election is set for Monday, May 11, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Williamstown Elementary School.

Tags: Williamstown      

1st Berkshire Candidates Meeting at Forum

Staff Reports

FLORIDA, Mass. — Daniel E. Bosley's boyhood mountain home will be the setting for the first forum between Democratic candidates vying to replace him.

North Adams City Councilor Gailanne Cariddi; David Bissaillon, former president of the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce, and Chester Town Administrator Edward MacDonald, a former Adams selectman, will appear at the Florida Senior Center on Route 2 on Friday, April 30, at 7 p.m.

The forum is sponsored by the Florida Council on Aging and the Williamstown League of Women Voters. The moderator will be Williamstown Selectwoman Jane Allen. The public is encouraged to attend and to come prepared with questions.

Bosley is stepping down after 12 terms representing the 1st Berkshire District in the State House to run for sheriff.

With no Republican or independent candidate in sight, the winner of the September primary will likely be North County's new representative.

The 1st Berkshire seat covers Adams, Clarksburg, Florida, North Adams, Savoy and Williamstown, and Charlemont, Hawley, Heath, Monroe and Rowe in Franklin County. The candidates all hail from Berkshire County; Cariddi is a North Adams native and both Bissaillon and MacDonald are from Adams.

iBerkshires hopes to post audio of the forum by early next week.
 

Tags: Cariddi, Bissaillon, MacDonald, League of Women Voters      

Williamstown Moderator Race Could Set Fiscal Policy

Tammy Daniels

Candidates Richard Haley Jr., left, Ronald Turbin, moderator Anne Skinner, Frederick S. Leber and Mark S. Gold at Tuesday's candidate forum. Thomas Costley is seated at far right.

 WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The voters will have a clear choice between financial philosophies this election when they vote for moderator.

Frederick S. Leber wants an aggressive Finance Committee; Mark S. Gold wants a balanced, thoughtful one.

Thomas Costley

Mark S. Gold

Richard Haley Jr.

Frederick S. Leber

Ronald Turbin

Williamstown is one of a few towns in the state that put the composition of the Finance Committee in the hands of the town moderator. With the position now a three-year term, the winner of this year's election will have the ability to reconstitute the panel.

The two men aired their different views of the moderator's role on Wednesday night at a candidates' forum sponsored by the Williamstown League of Women Voters at Town Hall and moderated by league President Anne Skinner. Also speaking were the three candidates for the two selectmen's seats up this year: incumbents Thomas Costley and Ronald Turbin, and challenger Richard Haley Jr.

Leber and Gold are vying to fill the seat being vacated by longtime Moderator Stan Parese.

Gold, a corporate attorney with Grinnell Smitt LLP who's lived in Williamstown since 1979, sees the position as requiring a grasp of parliamentary procedure and patience to ensure that town meeting runs smoothly and efficiently. It's a tradition, he said, that previous moderators have hewed to.

"I think the moderator should be scrupulous in maintaining his or her neutrality," he said. Appointments to the Finance Committee should be "highly skilled and work diligently to be fair."

Leber, however, said he'd "appoint a Finance Committe that would be much more aggressive and confrontational than the Finance Committee has been."

"If what the town wants is a moderator who'll stand up at the next town meeting and say what a wonderful job everyone's been doing, they should not vote for me," said Leber, who also has a legal background, in finance, but came to Williamstown 10 years ago as founder of an Internet startup, Orbis Vox. He currently operates a small livery service.

He wants a Finance Committee that will not rubber-stamp budgets but will do due diligence in questioning spending, particularly spending on administrative and legal costs for the schools over instruction, set priorities and set standards of disclosure.

Gold, a former chairman of the Mount Greylock Regional School Committee, said, he'd had to go before the Finance Committee for 10 years. "I still have scars. If that was a rubber stamp they hit it pretty hard." 

Both men agreed that the schools were important town functions that should be properly funded. 

Among the selectmen's candidates, Costley and Turbin, both elected in 2007, said they'd learned a great deal in their three years and wanted to continue with initiatives. Haley said he wanted to represent the taxpayers and vowed he wasn't going anywhere.

"I love being a selectman," said Costley, owner of Overland, which offers adventure trips for adolescent. "It's not easy and I'm not always great at it ... But I will work hard."

He said wished he done more early on to better understand how the actions of the selectmen affect the town. He also wants to have more time to work on changing zoning to allow greater density in the commercial downtown district while preserving open space.

Turbin, retired from the New York attorney general's office, said he enjoyed working on various committees because he gets a broader perspective on the many divergent issues that town faces. "We make sure we have a very polite debate and everyone's view get heard."

Haley, a local farmer and contractor whose roots go deep in Williamstown, said he had no issues with how the others had served. Rather, he was concerned about the town's finances and their affect on taxpayers.

"We've got a monster in this town and we're feeding the monster all this money. People can't afford to live here," he said, adding the town should put a freeze on hiring and salaries. If Costley wanted more open space, then taxpayers had to get a break on their taxes, he said, or it wouldn't remain open space.

Turbin said "there are no easy answers to the commercial problems we're having" but the town manager and treasurer had "done a fine job of cutting to the bone" without sacrificing services. "We have to keep at it."

Costley said no one at Town Hall had gotten raises the year before, and very small ones this year. "Overall,  the increase in the tax rate is less than 2.5 percent. ... I know there are people in town where every dollar hurts."

Haley said that wasn't enough. "I want to challenge the town to save money."

Tags: Williamstown, moderator      
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