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GOP Gubernatorial Candidate Baker Visits Pittsfield

Charles D. Baker Jr.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Republican candidate for governor Charles D. Baker Jr. will visit Pittsfield on Tuesday, Jan. 21, to appear on a local access show and meet with voters.  

Baker will be the guest on Berkshire GOP's television program "Out Front TV." The monthly cable program is broadcast throughout the Berkshires and in the Western Massachusetts cities of Greenfield, Northampton and Westfield. Jim Bronson, chairman of the Berkshire County Republican Association, hosts the television program.

"We are thrilled Charlie is coming back to the Berkshires," said Bronson. "We look forward to his appearance on our show; he's a terrific candidate and will surely be a terrific television guest."

Baker has served as the state's secretary of finance and administration and health and human services. He has spent the past decade as chief executive officer of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care. He ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2010.

"Out Front TV" issues commentary and features political guests such as former Sen. Scott Brown, former Gov. Jane Swift, Mary Z. Connaughton, Baker's running mate for lieutenant governor Karyn Polito, Don Humason, Michele McPhee, Jim Wallace and William Sturgeon.

Baker will address supporters at Zucco's Family Restaurant, 451 Dalton Ave., at 6 p.m. The public is invited.

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Democratic Treasurer Candidate Conroy Talks Economics

By Andy McKeever
iBerkshires Staff
Mary O'Brien, former Berkshire County register of deeds, talks with treasurer candidate Thomas Conroy at Dottie's on Sunday.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Thomas Conroy is seeking a "statewide stage" to fight for economic justice.

The Wayland state representative is running for treasurer and was at Dottie's Coffee Lounge on Sunday to meet with prospective voters. This is Conroy's second statewide campaign after running for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate in 2011, dropping out as Elizabeth Warren became the clear front-runner.

"When I started that journey three years ago, I found that in the gateway cities in the state, I found there wasn't that kind of opportunity and there wasn't the economic justice that I want to see in the commonwealth of Massachusetts," Conroy said of that campaign when he walked across the state including stops in Berkshire County.

The current chairman of the house Labor and Workforce Development said creating economic opportunities is a "passion" for him because his family didn't have much growing up. He said when he was two years old he got sick and his mother had to knock on doors asking for money to train fare to get him to the hospital.

A few years after that, he remembers his father returning from Vietnam with "no savings, no job and no income." But, the family was able to get by and he ended up taking out student loans to earn his business and economics degrees. With that education, he entered the private sector and worked for various businesses.

One company he worked for started to outsource jobs and cut pay. When he "stood up" for his fellow workers because of his experience growing up, he said it nearly cost him his job.

"I've learned a lot of decisions that are made in businesses and how they treat employees — what good business practices are and what predatory, less-than-good business practices are," Conroy said.

After 16 years in business, he went to the public sector in hopes to help spread economic opportunity. Currently, he said he is pushing to raise the state's minimum wage to become the "highest in the country." People should not have to work full time and still be in poverty, he said, and that is what is happening with the current minimum wage.
 

Conroy says he wants the position to help the entire state. Behind him is state Rep. Paul Mark, who helped bring Conroy to the Berkshires on Sunday.

But representing just one district in the state House of Representatives, he can only do so much. He is eyeing the treasurer's office — which is being vacated by Steven Grossman who is running for governor — so he can push for "economic justice" on the "statewide stage."

"I am someone who wants to continue this journey and run for state treasurer so I can reach out to communities throughout the state of Massachusetts," Conroy said.

During the hourlong event Sunday, he pledged to fight economic injustice through the office by building schools through his seat on the Massachusetts School Building Authority, expanding the state's student loan program, lending municipalities money to fix water systems and continuing the Small Business Banking Partnership, which loans state resources to businesses through community banks.

Education is what was gave him the opportunity to come out of the economic hardships his family faced and he wants to use the office to give more people that chance. He said he wants universal early education and wants to expand the MSBA's authority to include building early education facilities.

"Why shouldn't we expand the focus of the treasurer's office from K-12? Let's start earlier. Let's have early education classrooms. Let's build new buildings. Let's put people back to work. Let's put some carpenters and iron fitters and union folks back to work creating classrooms so we can have pre-K kids so every child has an equal chance to succeed," he said.

When it comes to higher education, Conroy said the state has a trust fund from which it issues low-interest student loans. But "the problem is, it is too small. I want to increase it a thousandfold."

Also through the treasurer's office, Conroy said he wants to help towns improve their aging water and sewer systems. He said it will cost $300 million each year for the next decade to fix the state's water infrastructure. The current Water Pollution Abatement Trust Fund has $50 million, which is not nearly enough to solve the issues, he said.

"We have ancient water infrastructure in the state. It's out of sight, out of mind. It's underground and we're not paying attention to it," Conroy said. "It's 100 years old. We've had massive pipes burst in places like Weston and Wayland and all over the state because our water infrastructure is broken."

He wants to "double or triple" that trust fund and loan towns money to improve their systems.

Meanwhile, he wants to continue placing the state's short-term reserves into community banks — rather than have them sitting in foreign bank accounts. The Small Business Banking Partnership increases a community bank's ability to issue loans to help businesses grow.

After providing a short speech on his intentions, Conroy field questions from about a dozen voters. The meet and greet was put on by state Reps. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, D-Pittsfield, and Paul Mark, D-Peru. Many of those in the audience were members of the Berkshire Brigades.

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Kerrigan Touts Political Work in Lieutenant Governor Bid

By Andy McKeever
iBerkshires Staff
Steve Kerrigan was in Pittsfield earlier this month to talk with the Berkshire Brigades.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Lieutenant governor candidate Stephen Kerrigan doesn't care if he has the nicest office.

He just wants to work the hardest.

Kerrigan is running for the seat after years of behind-the-scenes work with the late U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy, running two non-profits and being chairman of the Democratic National Convention and Presidential Inaugural Committees.

He was in Pittsfield recently to meet with the Berkshire Brigades, the countywide Democratic organization.

Kerrigan has been active in politics starting with the finance committee in his hometown of Lancaster when he was 24 years old. He had an internship in Kennedy'soffice and worked his way up to become a political aide. He later became the CEO of the 2012 Democratic National Convention and both the 2008 and 2012 inaugural committee.

It was in June 2012 when Kerrigan became jaded with politics. Politics had become focused on bickering, partisanship and meanwhile, it seemed no one in Washington was focusing on making things better for the towns and the communities, he said.

His hometown of Lancaster was still not back to the way it used to be when he was growing up — teachers had been laid off and streetlights shut off to save energy costs — and Kerrigan couldn't understand why people in Washington were doing what they were doing.

"I understood the frustration people had with Washington ... I decided to walk away from politics altogether. I was at peace with it because I understood why people were frustrated. They are frustrated because nobody is listening to them," Kerrigan said.

But then, he thought what his long-term mentor, Kennedy, would do. Knowing Kennedy the way he did, he knew the longtime senator would tell him to "go home, have a glass of wine, come in tomorrow and get back to work." Kerrigan decided that he wasn't going to give up but instead take a lead in changing things.

"I didn't want to just stay in politics but I wanted to put myself on the line," Kerrigan said, as to why he is now seeking the lieutenant governor seat.

With so much of his work history being behind the scenes, Kerrigan recognized that he wouldn't have a chance to win a gubernatorial bid. But, at the same time, he did have the qualifications to be a "good No. 2." He sees the lieutenant governor position as his way of influencing state government to become better.

"I want to get the job done. For me, it isn't about being in the nicest office in the corner of the building and being called governor. I want to be the person who works the hardest every day to get the job done," Kerrigan said.

If elected, Kerrigan says he wants his first task to be a complete review of the state's assets — the budget, tax programs and capital. He wants to bring in universities to analyze every aspect of the state's financial situation to find ways to be efficient because "we're at a point where we can't do this anymore."

"Before we go back to the taxpayers and ask for another nickle, we need to make sure our house is in order," Kerrigan said.

For example, tax incentives to help businesses grow are not carefully monitored to see how successful they are, he said, and some of that money could be repositioned toward infrastructure of other programs. Showing people that their resources are being used wisely and at "peak levels" is the first step toward regaining the people's trust in government, he said.

"I've seen government incredibly well, I've seen government work incredibly horrible," Kerrigan said, adding that it is his work with communities that has shown him that government can "fill in the gap."

Alongside Kennedy, he fought the General Electric closure and then with the company and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to make sure the city wasn't left "high and dry" when it came to the cleanup of the Housatonic River.

His work in the Berkshires and his own background coming from Central Massachusetts gives him a better understanding of the entire state, he said.

"I think it is important for the people of Massachusetts to have someone as lieutenant governor or governor who understands the entire commonwealth," Kerrigan said. "Yes, Boston is a huge economic engine but a huge chunk of what makes Massachusetts the amazing place that it is, that draws so many people here is what happens outside of Route 128."

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Gubernatorial Candidate Berwick Meets With Voters

By Andy McKeever
iBerkshires Staff
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 to 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.
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Grossman Talks Manufacturing, Minimum Wage

By Andy McKeever
iBerkshires Staff
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.

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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

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

Auditor
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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