Independent Candidate For U.S. Senate Walks Into Pittsfield
The systems dynamics engineer is running for Congress in an effort to start pushing money out of politics.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Bruce Skarin specializes in understanding the dynamics of mechanical systems over time.
After the terrorist attacks of 2001, he adapted that model to understand the dynamics of political systems — revealing that the attacks were in the making for a long time and could have been prevented and predicted if the "big picture" had been carefully analyzed.
"It was that day when a lot of things were turned upside down for me. I wanted to see what I could do with these new skills I had in trying to take on big problems. I did a model on terrorism and I was able to simulate the 10 years leading up to September 11," Skarin said last week as he walked through downtown meeting with residents and collecting signatures for a run for the U.S. Senate.
"I was able to simulate how things were building up and how different pieces of the problem were trying to prevent terrorism from happening and how other pieces were reinforcing the likelihood."
Now, in 2014, he says the government system is setting the wrong course. Instead of complaining about the influence of money in politics, the lack of environmental protections and a poor education system, Skarin has already announced his intention to challenge U.S. Sen. Edward Markey.
"Two years ago, when my second son was born, I was getting increasingly concerned with the future we're creating right now," he said. "As a simulation scientist, I understand how much inertia problems like national debt, climate change, a stagnant economy have. They have huge amounts of inertia that when the problems are starting to brew, it might not seem so bad. But by the time the really bad stuff starts happening, it is really hard to change."
Basically, Skarin believes Congress isn't moving fast enough the address coming issues. And, the main reason behind that is because of the influence large companies have over the elected officials.
"I'm independent because I believe both parties are blowing it. Neither one of them understand what the daily challenges are for most people," Skarin said. "I think the Washington elites are very much disconnected to the people they are supposed to represent."
For example, when it comes to global warming, he says Congress depends so much on the campaign donations from energy companies that it prevents any energy policy that will curb the issue.
Another example Skarin used is that in the future, vehicles and transportation will move to automatic systems — cutting down on car accidents. However, the insurance and health care industries benefit greatly from them. Instead of seeing he issue before it arises and starting to plan a future around those changes, Congress is swayed by the businesses that donate.
"I'd say that is the first issue. Until we can effectively deal with that, which is why I am running a citizen funded campaign and why I want to spend more of my time and energy connecting with people as opposed to raising money," he said.
In the current trajectory, money is growing in influence over public policy, he said. He wants to work toward removing that influence and said that then that economic markets can compete fairly, boosting the economy.
"It has gotten more and more expensive to run elections because people have gotten less and less interested in what's going on. They don't buy it anymore," he said. "It is reinforcing because the more money they raise, the more disgusted people get. The more disgusted people get, the more they tune out. The more they tune out, the more they have to spend to hit those prime time slots."
Skarin is walking eight to 20 miles a day through Massachusetts towns. He's meeting people, talking politics and having face-to-face conversations.
"I feel this is the right way to do it. I won't raise as much money as Markey. But he can't get out here and do this," Skarin said. "It isn't supposed to be about the money or running attack ads."
The 37-year-old Milbury man characterizes his political believes as taking the "best parts" of Republican Democratic platforms. While he sides with Republicans when it comes to fiscal conservative and individual responsibility principals, he sides with the Democrats when it comes to social justice issues.
"They're heart is in the right place but they don't really understand how to create sustainable solutions," he said of Democrats, taking the minimum wage debate as an example of a temporary fix and then the U.S. debt as unsustainable.
He also is placing a high priority on revamping the national education system to prepare for the advancement of technology.
"We can have a very forward thinking strategy," he said.
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Clarksburg Elects Two New Selectmen
CLARKSBURG, Mass. — The town has a new Board of Selectmen.
Linda Reardon, running as a write-in candidate, handily defeated former Chairwoman Debora Lefave in Tuesday's annual town election, 169-67.
The two women were running to replace outgoing Selectwoman Lily Kuzia, who decided not to run for re-election.
Reardon is currently principal of Clarksburg School but had already announced her retirement by the beginning of the next school year.
William G. Schrade Jr. also won a seat, running unopposed to garner 222 votes. He will finish out the two years left on the term of former Selectman Carl McKinney, who resigned to apply for the town administrator's post.
Schrade is an employee of the North Adams Housing Authority and former North Adams School Committee member.
The results of Tuesday's election give education a particular influence on the Selectmen, with a former and current school committee member and an elementary school principal.
All other incumbents were returned unopposed with a turnout of 23 percent, or 246 of the town's 1,062 voters casting ballots.
The hope is that the election will end an impasse that has left the town without a town administrator since the retirement of Thomas Webb more than three months ago.
Kuzia and Selectman Jeffery Levanos, who also was re-elected as a School Committee member Tuesday, had been at loggerheads after their initial selection for town administrator withdrew.
Neither could agree on a secondary choice and the board agreed to hold off on a decision until a third member could be elected to act as tie-breaker.
The town has been suffering without a full-time administrator as it works through a difficult budget season. It was a fact that was raised at Tuesday's Finance Committee meeting as both the committee and Selectmen noted the town had no one to lobby on its behalf or to write or coordinate grants.
The new board will convene on Tuesday, June 3, at 5 p.m.
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State Representative Mark Running For Re-election
|State Reps. William 'Smitty' Pignatelli, Paul Mark and Steve Kulik at the Mill Town Tavern on Thursday night for Mark's annual gathering and fundraiser.|
DALTON, Mass. — The "check Mark" campaign has begun.
State Rep. Paul Mark will be seeking election for a third term. The 2nd Berkshire District representative says he has learned the ropes over the last four years and now his influence on Beacon Hill and leadership roles are expanding.
He is hoping to continue that growth and advocate for the Berkshire and Franklin County towns he represents.
So far, there's no one challenging him.
"I think I've been able to do a lot of great things in the legislature and I feel like just four years in, I am really starting to get a feel for how things work. I'm really starting to get a voice heard," Mark said.
"That first freshman term is tough. While you are down there advocating for your district, you are also learning the job. No matter what job you had before, you can only be so prepared."
This year, he was appointed vice chairman of a joint subcommittee researching student loans and debt, a rare opportunity for someone in just a second term, Mark said.
"The biggest thing I've been pleased with is the student loan and debt subcommittee. To be given that opportunity and that responsibility at a relatively new point in a legislative career, it really meant a lot to me," he said.
"I really tried to take full advantage of it. We held hearings all over the state; we got an amazing response; we've brought a lot of attention to the issue. And now we've been able to do good things related to higher ed in the budget."
On Thursday, Mark held his annual get-together with supporters. With an election upcoming, Thursday's gathering doubled as a fundraiser for the upcoming campaign.
"Every year I like to get together with supporters and friends and we do an event that falls around my birthday and we get the team back together and they come and ask me about a lot of issues going on,." Mark said. "I've been lucky in that every year that I do this, more people come. So, I think that is a good sign. I think it means people are happy with what they are seeing, that they appreciate the work that I am doing and that they feel they are being listened to."
Mark was first elected four years ago and almost immediately his district was changed — and he, too, moved to Peru accommodate the changes. The redistricting process changed the district to one that covers both Franklin and Berkshire towns, the largest being Greenfield.
"It was a positive impact. I was sad to lose some of those towns but I stayed connected with the people. Even though they call a new representative, a lot of people stay in contact with me as well." Mark said. "We work as a region so it is not like there is a fence around the towns."
Now in both counties, Mark said he has had some successes for the region and there are still things he'd like to accomplish.
"I still think there is a lot of work to do when we talk about broadband. We've been able to finish the middle mile but there is a lot more work to do with the last mile," Mark said. "As the only the legislator in the entire state that actually lives in a house where there is no high-speed internet service, no cell phone service, no cable TV, it is a very important priority for me."
He also has is proposing an employee stock ownership bill that encourages employees to have the ability to own the company they work for instead of having it be sold to an international buyer. The bill has just been released from committee and he is hoping to push it through before the end of this term.
Thursday's event coincided with Mark's recent birthday and is a chance for him to discuss issues with supporters.
He also also finished a genetically modified food labeling bill through his role on the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture he hopes to finish. Meanwhile, his work on the Joint Committee on Higher Education is ongoing and through the subcommittee, an array of new bills are expected to be filed next session based on the recommendations.
In this year's budget process, Mark said he has been successful in advocating for higher education funding and hopes to continue pushing bills to freeze tuition and fees at state schools.
He added that he is still pushing for Chapter 70, local aid, and regional school transportation in the budget — all areas in which there are proposals for significant increases.
He also filed an amendment in the capital bond bill to build a pre-release housing center on the Berkshire County House of Correction campus as well as reverse a proposed cut to the Berkshire County sheriff's office in the budget.
Mark doesn't know how many of the bills he is pushing will get passed this year but whatever is remaining will be on his list of priorities for a second term.
Thursday's gathering at the Mill Town Tavern saw representatives from an array of agencies — from cultural and business organizations to elected officials.
"I appreciate the support of everyone who was here tonight and everyone who stood by me for four years now. It is has been an amazing opportunity and amazing experience," Mark said. "I really enjoy having the chance to work so hard in making sure we are being listened to in Boston. It is so important."
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Gubernatorial Candidate Falchuk Picks Running Mate
|Evan Falchuk and Angus Jennings are launching a new, independent party and campaign for governor.|
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Angus Jennings has spent most of his career in town and city halls across the state.
As a municipal planner and consultant, he has heard all of the great ideas and plans to revitalize downtrodden towns. He has seen the problems with transportation, economic development, infrastructure and housing.
But, there always seems to be a gap when it comes to the state's support to getting projects completed.
Last year, he met Evan Falchuk, who formed the United Independent Party. The party's goal is to cut through all of the political bickering to tackle the issues cities and towns face. Instead of passing bills that only make small progress on major topics, Falchuk is calling for fully revamping the political process to address the issues head on.
"It is going to be Democrats versus Republicans. It will be small progress on issues that really matter," Falchuk said on Thursday, as he walked around downtown Pittsfield.
Falchuk is running for governor with a focus on bringing leadership that can cut through the minutia. He picked Jennings to run with him as lieutenant governor.
"It is a very brave decision that he's made personally and what he had already done, which was to create the united independent party, was some thing very, very inspiring to me as a voter," Jennings said.
"I, like so many other people, felt like the system has not been responsive in not only doing what ought to be done but also not talking about what could be done. The decision making process on Beacon Hill is so insular."
Jennings, who grew up in Wilbraham, has consulted with more than 35 towns throughout the state in planning. In 2006, he was hired by the city of Pittsfield to work on zoning changes.
Partly of his work, the Rice Silk Mill apartments were renovated on brownfields property, providing housing aimed to gentrify the Tyler Street area.
His expertise in housing is one of the major aspects he brings to the campaign. One of the major issues the Falchuk campaign is focusing on is ways to lower the cost of living across the state.
Further, Jennings' experience with planning boards, city councils and the particular efforts of various towns for revitalization would help align leadership with the priorities of the communities, he said.
Jennings pointed to the Beacon Cinema on North Street as an example of something that requires a lot of work to make happen but yields a high reward in the city's downtown.
"I see that as evidence of what Pittsfield has done right. And Pittsfield has done a lot right with North Street. You see it with the activity and the investment," Jennings said. "That movie theater that might not stand out to some people. But to me, it stands out because I know how much work goes into making that happen."
He says people on the local level know the specific needs when it comes to housing, economic growth and transportation. They have the ideas that would streamline the solutions. But, those ideas aren't finding their way to Beacon Hill, he said.
Falchuk pointed to the closure of North Adams Regional Hospital as an example of how the state isn't aligning its leadership with citizens. He says it is a "real crisis" that the eastern part of the state knows and cares little about.
"They're seeing state leadership that doesn't seem to pay attention to the issues out here," he said.
And since launching his campaign last fall, he says he is finding a lot of people who agree with him that the dynamics of the political conversation needs to change.
"The campaign has grown a lot. We've got a dozen full-time people, we've got hundreds of volunteers across the commonwealth. Our message of smart, brave reform and the need to have a new framework to bring about meaningful change is really resonating with people," he said.
As the election start gets closer and the party primaries creep up, Falchuk said more people will be paying attention and more people will start seeing the same political bickering.
"I sit on these panels with the gubernatorial candidates and you hear them say these nice sounding, vague things that don't mean a lot," Falchuk said.
He says his campaign will be focused on "getting more into the substance" of issues.
But first, they have to collect 10,000 signatures to be on the ballot. Falchuk says he hopes to submit 20,000.
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Hogeland, Daley Win Williamstown Selectmen Posts
|Williamstown selectmen winners Andrew Hogeland, left, and Hugh Daley, earlier on Tuesday with fellow candidates Jack Nogueira and Gary Fuls.|
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