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Ward 5 Candidates Spar Over 2005 Strip-Club Permit

By Joe DurwinSpecial to iBerkshires
Ward 5 candidates Jonathan Lothrop and J.Joseph Breault have traded jabs over the extent of Breault's involvement with a proposed strip club six years ago.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A failed attempt to open a strip club in Pittsfield six years ago has sparked complaints of "false accusation" in the Ward 5 race.

The controversy began at the Oct. 24 debate at Berkshire Community College. Incumbent Ward 5 Councilor Jonathan Lothrop, in his closing remarks, said he was "disappointed" in what he described as opponent J. Joseph Breault's proposal to open a strip club at the site of the former Munchies Pub.

The debate closed on that, leaving no time for Breault to respond to this, and the candidates were seen exchanging tense words during the post-debate handshake.

In a letter to the editor printed in Wednesday's Berkshire Eagle, Breault fired back, accusing Lothrop of launching "a low blow and a false accusation." He said that at the time, he had been entertaining possible buyers for the restaurant, and it was they, not he, who had sought to open the adult establishment. 

"I had no interest in bringing a strip club to the former restaurant," Breault said in his letter.

In response, Lothrop issued a statement Thursday defending his remarks. "In Mr. Breault's letter to the Berkshire Eagle of November 2, 2011, he attacked my integrity for bringing up this issue. If these facts were not true, I never would have raised it as an issue.

"Mr. Breault admits his role in attempting to sell the property to someone who wanted to open a strip club, in his letter to the Eagle. Mr. Breault's statement that, 'I had no interest in bringing a strip club to the former restaurant,' is itself a false statement."

To support his claim, Lothrop pointed to records from the Zoning Board of Appeals that feature Mr. Breault's name and signature, as the owner of the property, on the application for an Adult Entertainment Permit.

"I think it is more than fair to say that Mr. Breault was in favor of his own application."
Documents obtained by iBerkshires include a 2005 application to the zoning Board of Appeals to construct a new facility at 1525 West Housatonic Street "to offer adult entertainment," specifically "live nude dancing from Noon to 2 A.M." The primary applicant is listed as Michael Brisbois, MJB Management, of Springfield, and includes his signature as applicant as well as that of J.Joseph Breault as the property owner. According to information provided in the Board of Appeals' report on the application hearing, under the business proposal being submitted the property was to be purchased by Finch LLC from Mr. Breault, and leased to MJB Management who would have operated the club.

At the June 1, 2005, hearing, attorney Daniel Kelly of Springfield presented a presentation of the proposal at a hearing before the Zoning Board of Appeals. Two area residents, Ron Blaszak of Lenox and Steve Fillio of Pittsfield, spoke in favor of the application, while Councilors Tricia Farley-Bouvier, Dan Bianchi, Pamela Malumphy, Lou Costi, Linda Tyer, and Lothrop, along with administrators from nearby Hancock Shaker Village and the Ramada Inn, and numerous other neighbors in Ward 5 spoke against it.

In the ZBA's ruling to deny the permit, one problem cited in the report was that "The applicant does not own the property. The application is signed by Michael Brisbois as the the applicant and Joseph Breault as owner. No information is provided regarding the current relationship between the applicant and owner."

Board members John Fitzgerald, Sylvia Stein, Ben Kaplan, Hank Ervin, and Albert A. Igegni III voted unanimously to deny the Special Permit request.

Pittsfield Ward 4 Candidates Offer Experience, New Ideas

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Ward 4 race is a choice between experience or innovative thinking, say the candidates.

Ozias "Chuck" Vincelette and Christopher J. Connell faced off last Monday in one of a series of debates for candidates sponsored by The Pittsfield Gazette and Pittsfield Community Television, and hosted at Berkshire Community College. The moderator was David Cachat of PCTV.

They are vying to replace outgoing Ward 4 Councilor Michael Ward. Connell lead Vincelette by less than 100 votes in September's preliminary, which left third-place candidate James Brosnan out of the running. Connell failed to best Ward two years ago; Vincelette is seeking a return to the council after being defeated by Ward in 2005.

Connell said he had learned a lot since his defeat in 2009 about safety, taxes and PCB issues, and touted his current involvement in the city. The property manager has served on the Traffic Commission and on local boards like the Pittsfield Family YMCA and participation in fundraisers for local organizations. He moved to the city nine years ago.

Vincelette touted his 40 years living in the ward and his prior service representing it, and pointed to his years as a math teacher at Pittsfield High and in local banking. He upbraided Connell for a candidate's statement on PCTV that claimed Vincelette had done nothing to contribute to the city in the past six years. "I take exception, strong exception" to that statement, he said. "Because it is simply not true."

Ozias 'Chuck' Vincelette is seeking to return to the council to represent Ward 4; Christopher J. Connell is mounting his second attempt for the seat. 
The candidates differed mostly by degree on the issues. Both men believed that better enforcement was necessary to slow down speeders on the newly paved — and faster — Holmes Road.

Vincelette said the problem goes back a decade and is further complicated by the several different speed limits along the road. "It all has to do with enforcement," he said, suggesting that "police officers on their time off come in and write citations ... They would get paid based on the number of citations they write."  

Connell claimed he'd mentioned hiring enforcement officers at a prior debate "to not only monitor Holmes Road and Ward 4 but the other hotspots in the city." Rather than overtime, he said the city should hire a traffic officer and that the revenue "for wirting tickets would more than pay for the salary, the vehicle, and whatnot for this type of officer." Using electronic enforcement might also work, Connell said.

Neither really supported the plan proffered by the state for remediating the polychlorinated biphenyls from the so-called "Rest of the River," which includes dredging Woods Pond.

"I would personally like to see all the PCBs taken out but there are things to consider, for example the ecosystem ... and the property values," said Connell. "If we go to bank-to-bank remediation, the property values for those homes on the river are going to go down dramatically and people are going to be trapped because they won't be able to sell their houses."

He held out hope that advances in technology would allow a less invasive cleanup.

Vincelette said the city hadn't actually seen the plan yet, that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency would decide the course in conjunction with the state. Of concern was the fact that city no longer had an official voice in the issue becuase of the consent agreement. 

"All we can do is accept the decision. There's only one dog in this fight and it's the EPA," he said. "We're all wiating to find out what is the final decision."

They both supported continued municipal trash pickup, with Vincelette saying its a service that works well for citizens and Connell advocating for more education to increase recycling and reduce costs.

Both believed the city needs to change its budget review process.

"The process we have now starts only a month before the budget has to be approved and certified," said Connell. "Starting earlier will give us more in-depth perception of what's actually in the line items. ... what areas we could tweak a little bit."

Vincelette thought the current processs "is an excerise in futility" that has failed to rein in spending. "We tried to cut the capital budget but we actually raised it by $450,000," he said, suggesting a "select subcommittee" do a separate review and report back to the entire council. "You'll never get six people to agree to a cut.

Both also came down against replacing the school bus fleet at this point. The buses were purchased five years ago with the pledge to set aside money for replacements.

Vincelette said the school system had promised to do that for years with no results. "It's never going to be set aside yet we still have the problem of bringing our kids to school," he said, adding the city needed to explore other options including reviewing routes that appeared to have to few children riding.

Connell said the city should to look into leasing. "The bottom line is, we bought a new fleet, the money was supposed to be put aside every year to purchase a new fleet and it wasn't now we have to deal with it," he said. "We have to weigh all the costs, all the options and pick the best one."

In closing, Vincelette said it was "time to talk turkey" and laid out his credentials and experience within the ward and community. "Living a life of honest work, civic engagement and straight talk; this is the experience and traits I want to bring to the council table."

Connell called for new ideas. "We need new and innovative ideas to press forward in this difficult times," he said, adding he'd have a website and other social media to keep in contact with constituents. "The ways of the past just don't work anymore ... we're in the 21st century."


North Adams Mayoral Debate Video

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Mayoral candidates Richard Alcombright and Ronald Boucher met in a feisty forum about economic growth, school building options, transparency and whether visions trump plans and vice versa.

The hourlong debate was filmed at Northern Berkshire Community Television and can be seen at various times through Monday. The full debate is here, in four parts.


Boucher Shares Economic Views

Boucher Campaign
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — This is the third installment of mayoral candidate Ron Boucher sharing his views and ideas on important issues facing the city of North Adams. The below discussion focuses on the economic development for the city.

"North Adams has been faced with reduced population, increased taxes and fees, and reduced services and educational cutbacks. This leads to a vicious circle leading to a downward spiral into economic disaster. Long-term, this economic model cannot be sustained. Real economic development is the only model which offers the promise of sustained economic growth. The MoCA-based artist community is a nice addition, and can help, but offers little for most residents in terms of good-paying, non-service-related careers. My plans for economic development should be consistent with the blue-collar work ethic of the city, as well as accepting input from the community. 

I propose the following:

Offer tax incentives for industrial development keyed to real job creation. Create an economic development zone. Consider medium-term tax abatements.

Make subsidized commercial space available to existing and new businesses on a quid-pro-quo basis.  No giveaways, subsidies should be based on countable new jobs created over a medium-term time period. The program needs to be carefully monitored to avoid abuse.

Partner with Northern Berkshire HealthCare to create medical related jobs.

Use the natural resources of the area:
  • Water
  • Railroad: A valuable asset, currently falling into disuse and neglected
  • Forest Products
  • Eco-tourism, which can bring publicity to the area
  • Air Quality
  • Quality of Life
  • Partner with schools. MCLA, obviously, and possibly Williams College. There are public spirited academics with real expertise who are willing to help on a volunteer basis.
Critical housing problem. Much existing housing is derelict and beyond useful economic life, and should be razed. Housing which is still viable should be turned to productive uses and returned to tax rolls.

Marketing. Create a regional and national marketing program to attract viable, economically sensible industry. Foreign investment is also a possibility which should be researched.

Approach investment bankers and private equity firms in Boson and New York for potential interest and/or assistance

"Please remember, Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 8.  I would like to take this time to ask for your vote, to assist in bringing real economic development back to this city.”

The campaign to elect Ron Boucher Mayor of North Adams would like to extend an invitation to the public for Ron's 2nd Spaghetti Supper Fundraiser at the American Legion on Nov. 2, and also to stop by his new campaign headquarters at 107 Main St. 

You can also learn more about Ron Boucher, his campaign and views by visiting his website at www.VoteBoucher2011.com or emailing him at VoteBoucher2011@yahoo.com

Alcombright Pledges City Will 'Move Forward'

Alcombright Campaign
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Richard Alcombright, who is running for a second term as mayor, said in a statement that this election "might just boil down to campaign slogans":

"In my previous communications, I outlined many of the positive things that have happened since I took office in January 2010.

"My slogan is 'Together We Move Forward.' Now this is a pretty basic statement but it says quite a bit. Simply stated, they are words that take us from where we are and continue to allow us to focus on where we want to go. My candidacy, my re-election, another term in office can only be successful through an inclusionary process that allows public input most specifically as it relates to the future of our fine city. We can only do this together. 

"To hold on to our momentum, we must continue to involve many people in processes that push us to new limits as we focus on growth and economic recovery. This is what we need to do to move.

"Finally, I have worked tirelessly over the past 22 months to begin to move our city in the right direction. I have done this with the support of many at times and with very little support in other cases. My first two years have not been easy but they have displayed courage and progress at many levels. I will not compromise my mission nor the intent of my slogan if elected to this next term, and will continue to look forward.

"I and many others have worked too hard to look back. The city of North Adams deserves the opportunity to recognize its potential and we will, over time. With few monetary resources, it will take every ounce of human capital to help us reach our full potential. I have said that there are many things that make us look much bigger than we truly are: MCLA, Mass MoCA, North Adams Regional Hospital, our airport and our natural beauty and amenities. Couple those with a growing diversity within our populace, the will of our residents, the willingness of people to be involved and an open and accessible government and I think we have a great recipe for success.

"I have been blessed to have had the opportunity to be your mayor for the past 22 months. I fully intend to continue to do what I think is right and will make decisions based on well thought out and fully vetted processes. While I have provided sound fiscal management, proven that I can make difficult decisions, upheld my promise to be transparent and accessible, I need to do more.

"I need to do more in the way of economic development, I need to do more with our decaying infrastructure, I need to do more to clean up neighborhoods and I need to do more to control costs and promote efficiencies. I will work hard to accomplish these goals in my continued efforts to move us forward ... together."
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Where to vote in Berkshire County

State Election
Tuesday, Nov. 4

Voting is from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Deadline to register or change party affiliation was Oct.15.

Candidates on the ballot in races for state office; all others on the ballot are unopposed. Links will take you to their campaign websites.

U.S. Senator
Edward J. Markey, Democrat
Brian J. Herr, Republican

Governor/Lieutenant Governor
Charlie Baker & Karyn Polito, Republican
Martha Coakley & Stephen Kerrigan, Democrat
Evan Falchuk & Angus Jennings, United Independent Party
Scott Lively & Shelly Saunders, Independent
Jeff McCormick & Tracy Post, Independent 

Attorney General
Maura Healey, Democratic
John B. Miller, Republican

Secretary of State
William Francis Galvin, Democratic
David D'Arcangelo, Republican
Daniel L. Factor, Green-Rainbow

Deborah B. Goldberg, Democratic
Michael James Heffernan, Republican
Ian T. Jackson, Green-Rainbow

Suzanne M. Bump, Democratic
Patricia S. Saint Aubin, Republican
MK Merelice, Green-Rainbow

Municipal Elections

The cities of Pittsfield and North Adams will hold municipal elections for mayor, city council and school committee in 2015

You may vote absentee: if you will be absent from your town or city on election day, have a physical disability that prevents you from voting at the polls or cannot vote at the polls because to religious beliefs.

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