Sheriff Candidates Press Issues at Debate
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The two candidates hoping to rope the job of Berkshire County sheriff came out swinging on Monday night in their second debate. The 90-minute face-off at Conte Community School drew cheers and a few jeers from the crowd of more than 100 as the two Democrats tried to convince voters what a sheriff should be made of.
Thomas N. Bowler and Daniel E. Bosley last met in June in the first of four scheduled forums before the Sept. 14 primary. The candidates covered familiar ground on Monday night, hitting hard on the themes they've developed over the past few months. But it's been clear from the start that voters will be deciding what kind of sheriff they want — a public safety official or a law enforcement official.
"After 32 years, with the same sheriff, a lot of people aren't clear what the sheriff does," said Bosley, a 24-year state representative, describing that role as "the crux of the issue." "This is a human services job ... it's not a law enforcement job."
It was muggy in the Conte Community School gym and those on stage quickly doffed their jackets; it got more heated as the evening wore on.
Bowler, a Pittsfield detective with more than 20 years in law enforcement, disagreed strongly.
"If you were on a school committee, and you were going to hire a new superintendent for your schools, would you hire somebody who did not have a background in education?" he asked. "If you had a hospital administrator you were looking to hire, would hire somebody that does not have any health care experience — absolutely not."
The debate was sponsored by the Morningside and West Side neighborhood initiatives and moderated by Berkshire Eagle Executive Editor Tim Farkas, who noted the importance of electing the "first new Berkshire County sheriff since 1978." The candidates each were allowed opening and closing statements. Bosley took the first question by coin toss; the second candidate then was given a chance for response before it went back to the first candidate for rebuttal.
The two men did agree on a few things, including support for the revival of inmates growing produce for themselves and continuing to provide academic and trade skills education, working closely with local human service organizations and law enforcement agencies and alternative sentencing for juveniles, depending on their crimes.
In relation to the Morningside neighborhood, both said they would not consider selling off the property near Morningside School because of its current use for teaching trades and potential for further programs.
But they disagree heartily on three main issues — the role of sheriff, the need for a regional lockup and the expansion of programs beyond the House of Correction.
Bosley has called for a regional lockup similar that of Hampshire County. Located in the House of Correction, it would free up local police from transporting and guarding suspects and bring in much-needed revenue to the jail, he said. He estimated the cost for Pittsfield at about $35,000 a year that would translate into more police on the street.
"It makes fiscal sense for the town, it makes fiscal sense for the jail," said Bosley.
Bowler called the idea "completely irresponsible" and a waste of money at a time with the sheriff's budget is already pinched. "From my expereince, my 24 years, I can't remember at any point in time when all the 32 towns and cities had to lock up anyone at the same time."
But the sheriff has to come up with innovative ways to bring in revenue streams to expand programs, said Bosley, who called for the sheriff's department to take on a greater role integrating former inmates into the community after they were released.
"I think we need to be better coordinated to create a 'continuum of services' that would save money and help people to not re-offend," he said. Bosley frequently pointed to Northern Berkshire Community Coalition, which he helped found, as a model for working at the neighborhood level. "We need to follow them out into the community."
Bowler, who spent more than a year working in the House of Correction as a supervisor, said it was important for the department to work with community organizations, and be involved with the schools and Boys' and Girls' Clubs to forge bonds with youth. But there were already good programs in the House of Correction and no need to expand them; rather, the effort should be made through community outreach programs.
"There are adequate programs in education and trades," he said. "I'd talk to inmates and get their input into how we can make it better."
In response to question on the budget, the detective said he'd call for an audit and an assessment by the department's finance staff before making any decisions. The representative quickly responded, "I'm not going to rely on somebody else I'm going to look at the budget myself."
The debate got heated toward the end, with some boos from the back following Bosley's statement that Bowler "is very good at what he does and I think he should stay there." He later chastised the Bowler supporters for catcalls: "This is the way you've conducted this campaign." (The June forum also turned testy when a Bowler supporter tried to debate Bosley.)
Bowler retorted that "This is a true professional versus a politician." Bosley countered, "I prefer to think of myself as an elected official."
The candidates will meet again tonight, Tuesday, at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts' Church Street Center. A final debate is planned for early September on WUPE/WNAW.
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Sheriff, 1st Berkshire Debates This Week
Voters in Pittsfield and North County will have several chances to hear from candidates for sheriff and representative over the next few days.
Both races will essentially be decided in the September primary just a month away because all the candidates for the two offices are Democrats.
The debates begin tonight, Monday, at Conte Community School in Pittsfield as Thomas N. Bowler and Daniel E. Bosley face off for a second time in their pursuit to become Berkshire County sheriff. The candidates met in June in a forum hosted by the Williamstown Democratic Committee at Town Hall.
Monday's debate is being hosted by the West Side and Morningside neighborhood initiatives in collaboration with The Berkshire Eagle and broadcast on Pittsfield Community Television. The debate runs from 6:30 to 8 p.m.
Bosley, currently the state representative for the 1st Berkshire District, and Bowler, a 20-year detective with the Pittsfield Police Department, will be questioned about countywide issues as well as those of interest to residents of the city's West Side and Morningside neighborhoods. They will also be posed questions selected from the audience.
(The sheriff candidates will meet once more in early September for a "Last Word" debate on WNAW/WUPE in which iBerkshires will be participating.)
On Tuesday, the sheriff's candidates will meet again at the Church Street Center at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. They will be joined by the three candidates for the 1st Berkshire District seat being vacated by Bosley.
The representative candidates are Gailanne Cariddi, a local businesswoman and North Adams city councilor; David Bissaillon, vice president of a local insurance agency and former president of the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce; and Edward MacDonald, town administrator for Chester and a former Adams selectman. This is also the second time the representatives will meet, having participated in a forum in Florida in June.
The event is being hosted by the Williamstown League of Women Voters and its president, Anne Skinner, will moderate. The event begins at 7 p.m. and is expected to last two hours. The audience will be allowed to ask questions.
The representative candidates will also speak to the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday morning beginning at 7:45 at the Williams Inn in Williamstown. The candidates have been invited to address issues relevant to the local business community.
The cost for nonmembers to attend the Good News Business Salute breakfast is $35; members' price is $25. Those planning to attend should contact the chamber at 413-499-4000, Ext. 26, at email@example.com, or at www.berkshirechamber.com.
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Pittsfield Neighborhoods Host Sheriff Debate
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The West Side Neighborhood Initiative and Morningside Neighborhood Initiative, in collaboration with The Berkshire Eagle, are sponsoring a debate between the two Berkshire County sheriff candidates on Monday, Aug. 16, from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m. at Conte Community School.
Daniel E. Bosley, outgoing state representative for the 1st Berkshire District, and Thomas N. Bowler, a 20-year Pittsfield Police detective, will discuss issues that are particularly relevant to the city's two urban neighborhoods, but will also debate questions that are important to the entire Berkshire region. The debate will be moderated by The Berkshire Eagle's Chief Editor Timothy Farkas.
"Our goal is to encourage more specific answers to important questions to help voters in our neighborhoods, the city of Pittsfield, and Berkshire County understand the differences between these two candidates," said Dominick Villane, chairman of the Neighborhood Initiatives Debate subcommittee. "We encourage the community to attend this important event and offer their input during the public portion of the debate."
The event will covered by local news and radio and broadcast on Pittsfield Community Television. iBerkshires.com will also be covering and plans to post audio from the debate.
Debate questions are being provided by members of the neighborhood initiatives. The final portion of the debate will be comprised of seleced questions from the audience. Those attending the debate will have the opportunity to provide questions to be considered. Each candidate will be offered time for opening and closing remarks.
Bosley and Bowler are running to replace Berkshire County Sheriff Carmen C. Massimiano, who is retiring after 32 years in the post. Both candidates are Democrats so the race will essentially be decided in the Sept. 14 primary.
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Candidates Forum Scheduled for Aug 17
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The nonpartisan League of Women of Williamstown is sponsoring a public forum for the candidates running in the Democratic primary elections for the offices of the Sheriff of Berkshire County and State Representative from the Berkshire 1st District.
The forum will be held on Tuesday, Aug. 17, from 7 to 9 p.m. on the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts campus, in the auditorium on the second floor of the Church Street Center. League President Anne Skinner will moderate. Each candidate will make opening and closing statements, and members of the audience will have the opportunity to ask questions.
According to the League, all of the campaigns have indicated that their candidates will be attending. The Democratic candidates for the office of sheriff are Daniel E. Bosley and Tom Bowler. The Democratic candidates for the office of Berkshire 1st District representative are David Bissaillon, Gailanne Cariddi and Edward MacDonald. (There are no Republican candidates for these offices).
WUPE/WNAW radio is also planning an on-air debate for the sheriff' candidates in early September that iBerkshires has agreed to participate in. More information will be released when the date and time as been confirmed.
The primary election will be held on Tuesday, Sept. 14. Because of the dearth of Republican and independent candidates for sheriff and the 1st district, the primary will essentially decide the winners for the two positions.
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Bosley, Bowler Differ on Definition of Sheriff
Tom Bowler, left, Town Democratic Committee Chairman James E. Mahon Jr. and Daniel E. Bosley at Wednesday's forum.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — It became clear during Wednesday night's forum that the primary difference between the two candidates for sheriff was their definition of the job: Law enforcement or public safety.
The disparity in perception can be immediately traced to the backgrounds of the two men who hope to become Berkshire County sheriff, a seat that's open for the first time in more than 30 years.
Tom Bowler, a 24-year police officer and detective in the Pittsfield Police Department, says the job is everything to do with law enforcement; Daniel E. Bosley, a 26-year legislator representing the 1st Berkshire District, says it's public safety.
"I submit this election is going to be about whether people agree that it's law enforcement job or whether it's a public safety or administrative job," said Bosley, after a verbal tussle with an apparent Bowler supporter at the end of the 90-minute session.
It was standing room only in the Selectmen's Room as supporters from Williamstown, Adams, North Adams, Lanesborough and Pittsfield packed into the chamber to hear their candidate. More than a few were clad in blue Bowler T-shirts to declare their support for the detective.
Both candidates fielded questions from the audience, ranging from mangement style to health care costs.
The forum was hosted by the Williamstown Democratic Town Committee and moderated by its Chairman James E. Mahon Jr. It was broadcast live on WilliNet and will be available later on the WilliNet website and is expected to be broadcast on Northern Berkshire Community Television.
The two Democrats are seeking to fill the seat being left vacant by retiring Sheriff Carmen C. Massimiano Jr., who has held the position since 1978. With no independent or Republican candidate, the election will essentially be decided in the Sept. 14 primary.
During the forum, the candidates took questions from the audience and, in large part, agreed on the broader needs of the job, including that the sheriff has role to play as a social service provider for inmates in terms of rehabilitation and substance-abuse services.
"I firmly believe that the individual, you have to understand their behavior," said Bowler. "Not every person is a bad individual; they've made bad decisions."
As a police officer, he said, not only are you there to take care of the situation, you help families understand how they can get help. "What we like to do is educate families, show them they can make their lives better."
Bosley said he believed 75 percent of the state's sheriffs were social workers, pointing to Hampden County Sheriff Michael J. Ashe as an example.
On average, Houses of Correction have an inmate for nine months, inmates who have substance abuse problems, come from single-parent homes, poverty ... , he said, and facilities need to find ways to work with existing programs inside and outside the jails. "We need to find a way to be more seamless with the programs we have."
Both advocated more training programs, particularly vocational programs, to help inmates integrate back into the community and as a way to bring revenue to the jail — either by wages (for restitution) or selling items they created.
Bosley touted his ability as a representative to bring money into the county, including funding for the nearly decade-old House of Correction. His contacts in Boston and Washington, D.C., would help tap into federal and state monies, he said.
Bowler said he would look for innovative funding, such as private foundation grants as well as government monies, to aid with training programs and equipment.
For Bowler, election to sheriff would be the culmination of his career in law enforcement. "I feel everything I've done in the last 24 years has led me to that position."
He stressed his time as an investigator covering some of the most "horrific crimes" in Berkshire County, his understanding of the inmate population, the area's drug and gang problems, and his yearlong stint as assistant deputy superintendent overseeing security during the move into the new House of Correction facility.
"I want to work collaboratively," said Bowler, both as an administrator with the jail's staff and with local law enforcement. "There's the tremendous amount of information inside that jail. I've been able to extract that information and solve crimes ... I think I have a lot to offer as a public servant, not as a politician."
Bosley said he would ensure "bright lines of authority" and would assess performance and delegate authority as needed. "You have to let people do their jobs."
"I'm proud of the fact I'm a politician. A good politician is a statesman," he said, adding he accomplished nearly everything he'd set out to do, including several landmark legislative actions, and now wanted to focus on the county. He said he was familiar with the workings of the state's correctional facilities, including the Houses of Correction and stated "The sheriff has the opportunity to affect people's lives."
But where they disagreed was on the definition of the job, a point stressed by one of the audience members, who proceeded to engage with Bosley over the authorities given by the state to the deputy force and by Bowler's description of how he'd handled a potential uprising by 50 inmates some years ago. Deputies were law enforcement, insisted the man.
(Massimiano worked for the North Adams Housing Authority and in the probation office when he was elected sheriff.)
"I don't intend to run the [jail] that way," said Bosley of using the deputies to make arrests or back up local police. "It's tough enough to be a correctional officer within the House and our budget is stretched enough without giving people additional duties for jobs that other people do and do very well."
When the individual started giving "what if" scenarios, Bosley said he wasn't going to debate him and Bowler, too.
Bowler said he wanted to make clear that "I have no intention of putting roving patrols of officers patrolling Berkshire County. ... If [an inmate] escapes then we will work on a collaborative effort with every law enforcement authority in the county, as we have in the past."
The websites for both candidates can be found on the blog's siderail.
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