Coakley, Back in Berkshires, Says Economy Priority
Gubernatorial candidate Martha Coakley met with the Berkshire Brigades on Wednesday afternoon in her second trip to the Berkshires since announcing her candidacy.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Martha Coakley returned to the Berkshires on Wednesday and spoke to potential supporters about why she believes she is the best candidate for the governor's office.
The attorney general announced last month that she would be seeking election in 2014. This is her second visit to the Berkshires since announcing; she was to receive the Northern Berkshire Business and Professional Women's Woman of Achievement Award in the evening.
On Wednesday afternoon, the Berkshire native met with members of the Berkshire Brigades to ask for support and answer questions about her candidacy.
"I'm asking people to look at my record, what my vision is and what we've be able to do in terms of promoting a healthy economy in the attorney general's office, tackling problems, getting results and working for people in Massachusetts," Coakley said.
The campaign is still relatively green: Her staff is still recruiting volunteers and setting up office space. But, she has been meeting with active Democratic groups and "just walking into diners and meeting people."
"It's been a busy four weeks and I've gotten a great reaction from people who feel optimistic that the economy is getting a little better but they understand that we still need more work around it," Coakley said. "I think a lot of people feel it is time for a good woman in the office and I think people have been impressed with what we've been able to do in the attorney general's office."
Coakley says what she's heard from voters is that the economy is of most concern. She said people are working "twice as hard to be where they used to be" and the opportunities are not there.
"People want to move here and stay here so when we keep our health care costs down, our energy costs down, we will be successful in making this economy turn around and make sure it is for everybody," she said.
She says the economy can turn around and she has already worked with high levels of government on promoting economic activity. Coakley said the state level of government needs to work together for the people of Massachusetts.
Coakley says she's been meeting with people around the state to hear their concerns.
"Policies are great, implementation is great but there is a reason we have government — because we want it to be there for everybody," she said. "We work to solve problems and the next governor of this state needs to make sure we continue that economic turnaround for everybody."
Part of turning the economy around is having a good education system, she said.
Coakley says she supports longer school days and years and bringing together nonprofits and businesses to create job training programs for those who need new or different skills to return to the workforce.
"I know that we have wonderful system where we let the kids out just in time for the spring planting and we bring them back after the fall harvest. But, it is 2013 and our kids need to compete in the global marketplace," Coakley said. "I believe we need longer school days. We need better education for everyone and we need to look at how the school year is structured."
Coakley also lent her support to the Raise Up campaign of which the Berkshire Brigades are part. That campaign is gathering signatures to place questions on the ballot of raising the minimum wage and requiring all workers be given earned sick time.
"I support both of these. To me, those are no brainers," she said, adding that everybody can agree that a worker cannot live on the current minimum wage.
Coakley is the third Democratic candidate to meet with local voters in the past week: Dr. Donald Berwick and Steven Grossman, state treasurer, were here last week. Also, third-party candidate Evan Falchuk was at the Fall Foliage Parade.
Gubernatorial Candidate Berwick Meets With Voters
Berwick, at the head of the table, talks with residents at Bagels Too on Friday.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Dr. Donald Berwick says the state did a great thing by recognizing that health care is a "human right" but the system is broken.
The doctor says he is the one with the remedy.
Berwick, who boasts being responsible for implementing 70 percent of the federal Affordable Care Act on the national level, is running to be the Democratic nominee for governor.
On Friday, he visited with voters at Bagels Too. After recapping his background as a medical doctor to starting his own nonprofit to being a presidential recess appointee as administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Berwick told potential supportors that he can lead health care reform — not just health insurance reform.
"We said health care is a human right but we have a health system that is broken," Berwick said. "It isn't designed to have the patient at the center and therefore it is more costly and it lets us down... We need health-care reform, not just health insurance reform."
Health care is very expensive in Massachusetts because of the way the system is designed, he said.
"Hospitals are trained to keep the beds full and specialist are to keep busy," he said, but it doesn't have to be that way. Berwick says redesigning the system to have patient care drive the industry — rather than pay for service — would lower costs overall.
However, that is not going to be easy because of the long-standing procedures the system has operated on and disputes within the Legislature. With his industry background, Berwick say he can "lean on the health care world" and tell them that "it is a new game."
Meanwhile, the state needs to continue improving the infrastructure, transportation and education system, he said, and reducing poverty.
"My interest in improvement is the mainstay. I've worked in large systems and small all over the world trying to make complicated things better — things like health care but also education and transportation," Berwick said. "The same principals will apply to the things this community cares about. I feel I have the skills and the knowledge to do that."
Donald Berwick spoke at the meet and greet and outlined his believes on health care reform.
Those who met him on Friday told him that transportation, environment and high-speed Internet along with health care were of concerns in the Berkshires. But what really took Berwick back was the level of pride he felt from those out here.
"There is a pride in the community here that is really quite moving. It is not that people are proud elsewhere but out here it seems that these communities know they are in this together and there is a sense of we and not just me," he said.
Berwick is one of the lesser-known names in the race for governor next year. He says Democrats Martha Coakley, current attorney general, and Treasurer Steven Grossman have much more notoriety because of their political histories. So he is focused on running a campaign that will get his name out there.
"It's a grass-roots campaign and I need to be all over the state and talk to all of the stakeholders who really care. We try to be in as many communities as we can," Berwick said. "I'm not from inside. I am coming in with experience and knowledge and contacts that come when you work in the greater community — in my case all over the world."
And he says the effort has been going "really, really well" and he has been getting good responses from thos he meets. Friday was his second trip during the campaign t
o the Berkshires. He filmed a television show with the Berkshire Brigades prior to holding the meet and greet at Bagels Too.
The Democratic field currently consists of Berwick, Grossman
, Coakley, Joseph Avellone
and Juliette Kayyem. Independent Evan Falchuk
and Republican Charles Barker Jr. are also running for the seat. All but Kayyem and Barker have so far visited the Berkshires.
Grossman Talks Manufacturing, Minimum Wage
Grossman spoke at the Berkshire Brigades office on Wednesday after filming a television show with the Democratic group.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Manufacturing is in the state's DNA so there is no reason why it can't continue to drive the economy, according to Treasurer and gubernatorial candidate Steven Grossman.
Grossman had an informal meeting with the Berkshire Brigades on Wednesday after filming a television show earlier in the day.
To the relatively small audience, Grossman pledged his support for the Brigades' efforts to place questions on raising the minimum wage and earned sick time on the ballot in 2014 while at the same time, asking for their support in his campaign for governor.
Grossman began a short talking portion by saying that requiring all workers be given earned sick time in case of illness is "long overdue."
The earned sick time question is one of two the coalition Raise Up, of which the Berkshire Brigades are a part, is trying to get on the ballot.
Grossman said, in the 35 years he ran his family's business, providing extra benefits made for better workers.
"You empower workers by providing benefits," Grossman said. "Earned sick time is one of the benefits people are provided in our company for 25 years and when people say to me 'I can't afford to do that and I won't support you as a small-business owner,' I say, 'you can't afford not to do it."
He said the family paper company has not gone to arbitration since the workers unionized in 1952 and that's because the owners provide those extra benefits and, in return, received better work.
"For me, fundamentally, the relationship between those who own companies and those who run companies is a symbiotic relationship. They fit together," Grossman said. "You can have a nice looking suit on and a nice looking car but if you walk into your place of business if you don't treat those who work in your company with grace and dignity, particularly when you are sitting across the table from them in a union negotiation, then they are not empowered. If you empower your workers, they give you flexibility, increased productivity."
Raise Up is also seeking an ballot initiative to raise the minimum wage, which Grossman says he supports because at $8 an hour currently, it isn't possible for a worker to be "self sufficient."
Besides giving a short speech, the treasurer spoke one-on-one with everyone who attended.
Meanwhile, Grossman is working to get his name on the ballot as well. As he harkened back to his business days to support those initiatives, he did the same Wednesday to explain why he is running for governor.
"I am running for a very simple reason. I believe the people in this commonwealth want a proven leader that will leave no one behind," he said.
As a businessman, he spoke with small businesses across the state about the "roadblocks" in the way of growth. He heard about the cost of health insurance and the need for technical assistance but even more importantly was the need for access to capital.
When he was elected treasurer he started the Small Business Banking Partnership, which took some of the state's reserves from overseas banks and transferred them into loans to businesses. Grossman said Starbase Technology, a Pittsfield molding company, was able to secure a loan through that fund and purchased three new pieces of equipment and added 17 jobs.
Across the state, Grossman says more than $308 million has been loaned to community banks specifically for local businesses while those loans are now worth more than $570 million.
He added that advanced manufacturing, life sciences and green technology jobs are high paying and are an opportunity for growth.
Grossman said he wants to continue to invest in education and rid the state of the waiting lists for early education programs and put more money into vocational programs. Locally, Grossman, who as treasurer is chairman of the Massachusetts School Building Authority, said he is fully supportive of building a new Taconic High School.
"That is the key to our economic future," he said. "There is no reason why manufacturing, which is in the bones, the DNA of this commonwealth for decades, generations — think Pittsfield, think Greenfield, think North Adams, think Chicopee, think Holyoke, think Fall River, think New Bedford — advanced and precision manufacturing. I've set a goal to create 50,000 new manufacturing jobs in this commonwealth in five years."
Overall, Grossman is hoping to pass on the values that were passed onto him. Grossman said his grandfather once told him that he only wanted four things in life — a healthy family, educated children, to own his own business and to give back to the community. And those four things are what Grossman said he wants all residents to have a chance to do.
Independent Candidate For Governor Campaigns In North Adams
Evan Falchuk shaking hands with voters as he marched in the Fall Foliage Parade in North Adams on Sunday.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Evan Falchuk has been keeping his boots on the ground in his campaign for governor.
On Sunday, that took him to the Fall Foliage Parade to meet Berkshire County voters.
Falchuk is heading an independent campaign as he looks to change state politics
by ending partisan fights. The party he formed, United Independent, aims to build more consensus on issues instead of political bickering.
"The level of interest out there for an independent movement and independent party that I've created is really, really strong," Falchuk said. "People are really eager to see there be an organized way to bring practical, rational, reasonable dialogue to the political process."
Falchuk marched in the parade, weaving his way from side to side shaking hands and meeting voters. He isn't spending his time worrying about primaries or gaining the support of party officials, but he is running a statewide campaign.
"I'm working seven days a week. Every weekend I am out in the cities and towns across the state," he said. "They go to activist meetings, the town party committees... As an independent I am running a statewide campaign with my team, all across the state and meeting people who are not political activists."
What he has been hearing is that the government is not doing what the people want.
"You hear it over and over again. You hear 'I'm dissatisfied with the process,'" he said. "People have, unfortunately, lost a lot of confidence and faith in state government and the reason is that the priorities that the elected leaders are pursuing is not matching up with what they feel are priorities."
In North Adams, the adage of politics being run out of Boston without a care for Berkshire County was what Falchuk heard. But, he said that is what he hears everywhere.
"I met a lot of voters who were surprised that a person from the eastern part of the state would come to North Adams," he said but added that happens everywhere and, "you hear that enough times and you start to think maybe no one is listening to begin with. It's not you. It's them."
Falchuk believes too often politicians vote for or against something based on if it helps their party at a particular time and not by what is good for the state as a whole. He wants to lead a change in politics by addressing issues at the core level with open and honest discussion.
For example, Falchuk says the state officials need to get together and look through the state budget line by line and reallocate any misused funds in a way that everyone can agree will address problems.
He wants to see more investment in small to medium-sized businesses by creating programs to help entrepreneurs take the next step, change policies that encourage large factory-type businesses and instead put the priorities into the small and medium sized ones.
He wants to lower the corporate tax rate, energy and health care costs to spur additional economic growth. He wants more job training so that the citizens can get those higher paying jobs and he hopes to break what he sees as nearly a monopoly in the health care system to lower costs there.
"With the rates where they are, we put ourselves at a competitive disadvantage," Falchuk said of the corporate rates. "But it is not about just cut taxes, it is about saying what is the right mix of things we can do to spur job growth... we need to pay for the government we say we want."
Falchuk outside of the iBerkshires office after an interview.
With all of those goals, Falchuk isn't setting forth particular policies. He wants those policies to come from consensus building.
"As country, we get stuck. Somebody proposes something and it immediately gets politicized. 'Oh, you want that, well I don't know care if it is a good idea or not, the fact that you want it, I am against it.' That's how you get stuck," Falchuk said.
The state's Tax Fairness Commission, which is taking a look at state tax policy, is an example of what Falchuk wants to see on all issues. That commission is looking at the entire tax code and will present findings to overhaul the entire system.
He knows that isn't easy to make such fundamental changes in politics, but it starts from the top down, he said. His election would symbolize a new era, he said, because by getting 3 percent of the vote, United Independent will be recognized as an official party and those who feel the way he does has an opportunity to run in elections across the state.
"This is something much bigger than one candidate in one election," he said. "I think people will look back on 2013, 2014 in American history and see it as something of a turning point in our politics."
He is running against two political parties with long histories of connections to voters and to donors. Falchuk has hired a finance director for fundraising and is focused on meeting voters outside of those networks in hopes to get the 53 percent of independent voters in the state on his side instead of being swing voters.
"We're going to have enough money to compete in the general election," Falchuk said of the fundraising efforts.
He later said, "if this were easy, I'm sure there would be a lot of people doing it. I'm up against the party machines who have a long history of saying this is how things are to be done. What we have is that most voters want to see our politics move in this direction."
He pointed to the federal government shutdown not as a matter of which party is responsible but rather a lack of leadership.
"I really don't understand the level of leadership being shown. It is not responsible," Falchuk said. "It is their job to make this stuff work. They have one job, to fund the government and they can't do it."
Falchuk has two more visits to Berkshire County scheduled in the coming month. Meanwhile, six candidates have entered the field for Democrats while one Republic is in the race.
Coakley Talks Education, Economy in Campaign Swing
Attorney General Martha Coakley meets with voters in Pittsfield and North Adams during a campaign swing in the Berkshires to announce her run for governor.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The self-described "Berkshires Girl" was back in the county on Tuesday seeking support for another run at office.
This time Attorney General Martha Coakley has her eye on the governor's office next year, and she's hoping the Berkshires will once again back her as it has overwhelmingly in the past.
The North Adams native swung through the Berkshires as part of her three-day "barnstorming" across the state to announce her candidacy, focusing on the twin themes economic recovery and education. She knows that when the economy sinks, it sinks even further in Berkshire County.
"I grew up here, my father owned a business in Berkshire County," said Coakley. "I know some of the issues but I know some have changed but I want to stay involved."
Tuesday brought her to an impromptu stop in Lee before Pittsfield and eventually to her home city of North Adams. At Dottie's, there wasn't a big stump speech — it was just coffee shop chatter, chatter she hopes to hear throughout the campaign and beyond.
"Certainly as governor one of things I want to do is to make sure we are able to have this economy turn around not just for some but for everybody," Coakley said after meeting more than a dozen voters during the afternoon stop in Pittsfield that that included District Attorney David Capeless, Berkshire Brigades leader Sheila Murray, Middle Berkshire Register of Deeds Patsy Harris and Edith "Kit" Dobelle, former U.S. Chief of Protocol. "And that means for regions like Berkshire County, north and south, taking into account what our strengths and weaknesses are, working with our local businesses and our local folks here and our not-for-profits."
Those experiences include going after bank mortgage practices, lowering the cost of health care and lowering the energy costs. But there is more she feels she can do. To kick start the economy, Coakley says the education system needs to be improved for both children and adults.
"I hear a lot of the same theme, about people feel a little more optimistic about the economy but they're still struggling," she said in North Adams. "One of the reasons I'm running for governor is to make sure we continue progress in Massachusetts on the economic front but that we do it for everybody, not just for a wealthy few, and that we make sure that we modernize our education."
She wants to focus on economic development, infrastructure and education but the details will be parsed out during the campaign. But her skills and experience is what drove her into the race, calling it a "critical time" for Massachusetts.
"I'm really excited about my chance to work with and for the people of Massachusetts."
Coakley will have set herself apart from what's becoming a crowded field of Democratic candidates, which so far includes early favorite Treasurer Steven Grossman, two former Obama administration executives and at least one entrepreneur, with a couple of high-profile candidate still on the fence.
What she won't have to do is fight for recognition in a region that's heavily backed her in the past, including her unsuccessful Senate race three years ago. In North County in particular, everyone knows her name.
"In that room right now are several classmates from high school, my trigonometry high school teacher, Mr. Cove, who I haven't seen for a long time but who I just remember fondly," said the Williams College graduate. She's spent most of her life outside the Berkshires, building a legal career as Middlesex district attorney before running for state office. But she came back in 2007 to be sworn in as attorney general at Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Arts.
I appreciate that I made some mistakes in that race and my biggest regret is that people think I didn't work hard. I certainly regret that but I went right back to work in the attorney general's office, going back to work for the people in Massachusetts.
on the 2010 U.S. Senate campaign
Coakley moved around the Freight Yard Pub introducing herself and her husband, Thomas F. O'Connor Jr., but the connections were already there in many cases — they'd gone to school with one of her sisters, they'd known her father, they'd sat beside her in class — they connected somewhere in the myriad relationships found in a small town.
The gathering wasn't large but a number of community leaders were on hand, including Mayor Richard Alcombright, City Councilors Marie Harpin, President Michael Bloom, Jennifer Breen and Lisa Blackmer; a contingent from Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts including President Mary Grant; Berkshire Community College President Ellen Kennedy and attorney John DeRosa, and Adams Selectman Joseph Nowak.
Kristen Gilman and Joy DeMayo, teachers at Sullivan Elementary School, were having supper before orientation in the evening. They hadn't realized that Coakley was going to be there but they chatted with her for several minutes about the school and teaching.
If they'd had a chance to consider, what would they have said Coakley or another gubernatorial candidate?
DeMayo's was straightforward: "Our youth is the future." Gilman's more on process: "I just want her to come to Sullivan to see what's going on up there, dealing with what we have to deal with all day. The reality of it."
Coakley's looking for that input.
"I would love to have the help and support of Berkshire County voters during the campaign. I want your ideas, I want your suggestions about how we in Boston — I know that is how we think about state government — can be more engaged and involved in what you care about, what we care about," she said. "I'll be out here not just for the campaign but more importantly as governor."
Before she headed back toward Boston for another day of campaign stops, a woman came out of the pub to shake her hand.
"I love you as attorney general and you got my vote," she said.
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