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.
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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.
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Debates Slated for Sheriff, 2nd Berkshire Candidates
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Berkshire Community College, in collaboration with the Pittsfield Gazette and Pittsfield Community Television, will host the following debates Monday evening, Aug. 30, in K-111 on BCC's main campus. Seating is first-come, first-served and voters are invited to attend one or all three debates
The first event will begin at 6 p.m. with a debate between Democratic candidates Paul W. Mark, Noreen P. Suriner and Thomas S. Szczepaniak, who are vying for the nomination for representative for the 2nd Berkshire District.
Michael F. Case and Rosanne M. Frieri, the Republican candidates for the 2nd Berkshire District, will begin their debate at 7.
Jenn Smith, reporter for The Berkshire Eagle, will moderate both debates.
Daniel E. Bosley and Thomas N. Bowler, who are running to replace retiring Berkshire County Sheriff Carmen C. Massimiano, will debate at 8 p.m. Clarence Fanto, freelance newspaper and radio journalist, will moderate this debate.
The debates will be telecast live on CityLink, the government channel of PCTV, and through streaming at www.pittsfieldtv.org. The event will also be rebroadcast on PCTV several times prior to the Sept. 14 primary elections.
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Local Radio Hosts State Rep Forums
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Vox Radio is teaming with veteran journalists Clarence Fanto and Dan Valenti to present three live radio forums involving candidates for the two state representative seats in contention on Sept. 14, primary day.
Valenti, a broadcaster and writer, will moderate the events. Fanto will serve on the panel with Vox news director Larry Kratka, who is hosting. Fanto is a freelance writer and columnist for the Berkshire Eagle. He is the Eagle’s former managing editor.
The forum schedule is as follows:
• Aug. 31, 11 to noon, from WBEC studios, 1420-AM, 2nd Berkshire District Democrats Thomas Szczepaniak of Dalton, Paul Mark of Hancock and Noreen Suriner of Middlefield.
• Sept. 1, 11 to noon, also from WBEC, 2nd Berkshire District Republican candidates Michael Case of Washington and Rosanne Frieri of Richmond.
• Sept. 2, 9 to 10 a.m., from WNAW studios in North Adams, 1230-AM, 1st Berkshire District Democrats David Bissaillon of Adams, Gailanne Cariddi of North Adams and Edward McDonald of Adams.
The format will allow for candidates to engage in dialogue and argumentation with each other in addition to responding to questions from the panel.
Candidates will not be allowed to have notes. There will be no timed answers. Valenti said the format, which he devised with Fanto and Kratka, is designed to feature maximum interaction between and among candidates as well as testing their ability to think "on the fly."
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1st District Candidates Discuss Jobs, Experience
Anne Skinner, left, moderated the League of Women Voters debate between the candidates for 1st Berkshire District.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The three candidates for the 1st Berkshire District fielded questions on jobs, school funding and environmental concerns for an hour on Tuesday night in the muggy confines of the Church Street Center.
David Bissaillon of Adams, Gailanne Cariddi of North Adams and Edward MacDonald of Adams, all Democrats, are seeking to replace outgoing Rep. Daniel E. Bosley in the State House. Each stressed his or her background in government and business and how that would translate into the best representative for the 12-town district in the far northwest corner of the state.
The forum was sponsored by the Williamstown League of Women Voters and moderated by league President Anne Skinner, who posed questions from the league. This was the second time the three candidates have met in a public forum and comes just a month before the Sept. 14 primary that will essentially determine the winner.
The main focus was on jobs, not surprising considering the current economy. Bissaillon, a former president of the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce, said the main thing he'd been hearing over the months has been concerns about employment.
"Business owners want a state government that supports small business, both new and existing, and a government that allows all businesses an opportunity to provide jobs for others," he said, suggesting the Berkshires had to do it the "old-fashioned way" by helping many small businesses grow a little rather than expecting another GE or Sprague to boost the economy. "If we can help 25 companies grow two jobs, that's like creating a mid-sized company."
Bissaillon was president of the Chamber of Commerce.
Bissaillon said he would champion ways to increase energy efficiencies, develop green jobs and other new industries, and collaborations between Berkshire Community College and Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts to prepare a better-educated work force for the needs of the area's more technology-driven companies.
Cariddi, a North Adams city councilor who runs a family business, said she's already been working on such matchups between educational institutions and business as a member of the Berkshire Regional Employment Board. She would work on legislation to support innovation and entrepreneurs and would lobby for seats on committees important to the area.
"I've been saying for months that we need to need to have a seat on the Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development Committee," said Cariddi, so that the Berkshires will have a voice in one of its more important economic drivers. She would also try for the seat on the Natural Resources and Agricultural Committee currently held by outgoing Rep. Denis E. Guyer of Dalton, to ensure Berkshire farmers were represented. "We need to bring our collective wisdom back to Boston."
MacDonald, the town administrator for Chester and a former Adams selectman, said, "Our priorities right now is small industry, [small-business] jobs because that generates 40 percent of the gross revenue in Massachusetts."
Cariddi is a longtime city councilor recognized for her environmental advocacy.
He said he would support a state bank that would back higher-risk loans to help business move forward, incubator programs, and allow small business to spread their losses over three years according to the federal model. MacDonald said representatives have to be more aware of how legislation affects all sectors of the economy, for example the recently passed measure that allows small businesses to team up for better health insurance rates. While good for them, it's being paid for by mid-sized and larger companies.
He pointed to his experience working on legislative issues in both Boston and Albany, N.Y. "I know who's there; I know how to get things done."
In how the area's natural resources play into development, Cariddi, long a supporter of green and environmental initiatives, said "commonsense standards are needed."
MacDonald said town boards working together under the state's permitting laws can aid in development while protecting resources.
"I think there always remains a healthy tension between the economic concerns and development concerns," said Bissaillon. "It wouldn't be the Berkshires if we didn't have those ongoing discussions."
With gaming on the horizon, all three said they would fight for the interests of the county should a casino be built in Palmer. Cariddi said she would prefer it not be a self-contained facility such as in Connecticut but a gaming center that wouldn't compete with local venues.
"I don't think it will be a big moneymaker for the state but I think the community should be allowed to vote because it is going to tremendously impact them," she said, adding surrounding communities should also have a voice.
MacDonald said the expected $300 million to $400 million in revenue would help reduce next year's $1.2 billion deficit in the state budget. "It enhances the state to be competitive; what casino gambling does is give us money for education, to take care of seniors." A third of that money should go to back to the cities and towns, and another third to education, he said.
Bissaillon said he'd heard for years that $500 million to $1 billion in revenue was leaving the state for Connecticut casinos. "Casino gambling is coming to Massachusetts," he said. "What I will do is make sure we protect our interests as much as possible as it relates to the 1st District."
All three also agreed that the state needed to step up its commitment to regional school transportation and, in response to questions from Skinner, said they supported abortion rights and the Transgender Civil Rights bill in the Legislatures. Bissaillon and Cariddi said they were against the death penalty; MacDonald said that while he did not believe it prevented crime, he would support in cases of murder of a public servant or particularly heinous crime.
MacDonald has worked in state and local government.
The candidates expressed their hopes for votes on Sept. 14 and each stated their preparation for the job.
"They need to hear people with real-life experience because small business is the economic driver of our economy," said Cariddi. She noted her 20 years as councilor, and participation on numerous boards and commission. "I have been a responsible and trusted voice for over 20 years and I will be that voice in Boston."
"When necessary, I will get up my Irish dander, that I inherited from my mother and fight like hell for what we need. Fight to make sure those in Boston do not ignore us here in the 1st Berkshire District," said Bissaillon, a vice president of Coakley, Pierpan, Dolan & Collins Insurance Agency with a long history of community volunteerism. "I am the right choice at the right time."
MacDonald, whose loss against Bosley in 1988 for the post spurred him on to college and graduate school, said he had the experience for the Legislature.
"I know how government works because I do it every day. I will be your voice," he said. "And I will work hard every day. No one will work harder than me."
The debate was shown on Northern Berkshire Community Television; it will be repeated later this week and on WilliNet. We'll update with times when we get them.
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