Democratic Treasurer Candidate Conroy Talks Economics
|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
|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 Kayyem Focuses on Future
|Juliette Kayyem talked with the Berkshire Brigades on Wednesday.|
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Juliette Kayyem doesn't do luck. She does preparedness.
After being called on three times to lend her hand to the government in the wake of tragedy, she is trying to get out in front by running for governor to make sure Massachusetts is prepared for the future.
"We need to solve the problems of today and there are many. But, we need to solve the problems in a way that is sustainable in the future," the Democratic candidate said at a meet and greet on Wednesday with the Berkshire Brigades.
Kayyem's career began as a civil rights attorney before she moved into homeland security. She served on the National Commission on Terrorism and later was appointed by Gov. Deval Patrick as the state's first undersecretary for Homeland Security, leading the state's push for security planning.
She moved back to the federal level as President Barack Obama's appointment for assistant secretary for intergovernmental affairs. There, she coordinated responses to major tragedies such as the BP oil spill and the H1N1 flu outbreak while also planning on issues such as immigration.
"Two presidents and a governor have asked me to make government work when it matters the most but it matters most all of the time and that's the way I would think of it as governor," said Kayyem, who also adds lecturer at Harvard, former Boston Globe columnist and mother of three to her resume.
Kayyem said her task in those roles was not just focused on terrorism but all of the factors that contribute to safety and security — such as gun control or climate change.
"I know people hear homeland security and they think terrorism. But, it is not that. Homeland security is as much about the homeland as it is security," she said.
Her views on climate change is one example of how she would prepare the state for the future. While Kayyem believes the state should reduce carbon emissions, she also believes it should build infrastructure to reduce the effects. She said it was only a few miles and low tides that kept the state from being significantly impacted by last year's Hurricane Sandy. Since the state can't solve the problem alone, Massachusetts needs to be prepared for the changes.
Another way the state needs to prepare is economically, because she doesn't believe the state's revenue projects are correct — particularly with the amount expected from the tech tax that was repealed and income from casinos. Nor does she believes the current tax system will provide the needed revenue for the future.
"We're not sure what we can expect from that," Kayyem said. "It is the obligation of the next governor, you need to figure out what does the budget look like and what is realistic and unrealistic sources of revenue."
She is calling for a complete overhaul of the tax system, reforming the criminal justice system, and finding where to reduce expenses.
|Kayyem's career has been focused on public safety but she wants to do more for the people of Massachusetts.|
"I think we're going to have to start talking about a new tax system that is fair for everyone and gives the state a source of revenue not just for today but in the future," she said.
And as with other democrats, she is calling for investment in infrastructure and education — saying those are ways the state can best prepare for the future.
She said the state shouldn't be backing down from economic competition with other states or countries but push to make the state the best.
"All of us on the Democratic side are going to talk to you about jobs, education and infrastructure. And that's good. I'm going to talk about raising the minimum wage and that's right. And paid sick leave and that's right. That's the bare minimum. What we need to prepare for is a stronger, resilient state in the future," Kayyem said.
Kayyem said the state needs to have a vision of what it wants to be in the future and set a path to together. There are jobs in transportation, life sciences, technology and biotechnology, she said, and government needs to cut through the minutiae to get to the solutions. Government can't just look for a quick solution, she said.
"One of the good things about being a new politician is you can see the challenges of politics," she said.
For example, Kayyem said while officials debate charter schools, they should instead be discussion how the children are currently learning and how the state can prepare them for those future jobs.
Kayyem says the government's job is to be progressive and work for everybody in the state.
"Government has the capacity to do good for people every and also that government can always do better. There is no finish line," she said. "Government's job is to open doors and make sure everyone belongs."
Kayyem joined the race for governor in August and is vying for the Democratic nomination along with Martha Coakley, Joseph Avellone, Donald Berwick and Steven Grossman. Also seeking the corner office is independent candidate Evan Falchuk and Republican Charles Baker.
Kayyem says she brings a "new kind of leadership," which sets her apart from the other candidates.
"I represent a new kind of leadership, a new generation that we saw represented in Boston race, where people like me, who have different skills — I know government but maybe politics is new to me — can actually provide a vision and a way of moving forward that is different and something people want to hear," she said.
More information at www.juliettekayyem.com.
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North Adams & Pittsfield Election 2013 Results
|City Council (top 9) unofficial results|
|Name||Ward 1||Ward 2||Ward 3||Ward 4||Ward 5||Total|
|Kate H. Merrigan||552||472||350||619||524||2,517|
|North Adams School Committee||McCann School Committee|
North Adams City Council unofficials results, in order, were Kate Hanley Merrigan, Benjamin Lamb, Nancy Bullett, Keith Bona, Lisa Blackmer, Joshua Moran, Jennifer Breen, Wayne Wilkinson and Eric Buddington elected, with David Robbins, Robert Cardimino and Michael Hernandez rounding out the field.
Winning re-election on the School Committee were H. Putnam Boulger, John Hockridge and Mark P. Moulton, with newcomer Michele Vareschi out of the running.
Both incumbents Paul Gigliotti and Gary Rivers ran unopposed for the Northern Berkshire Vocational District School Committee.
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Tully Upsets Yon In Pittsfield Election
Lisa Tully ousted incumbent Christine Yon.
|Voters took to the polls on Tuesday to choose a new City Council and School Committee.|
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Turnout has been low so far in the city election Tuesday.
Voters are electing a new City Council and School Committee. There are three ward races, seven vying for four at-large City Council seats and seven seeking six positions on the School Committee.
Tuesday saw supporters and candidates at the polling locations holding signs to rally last minute support. But, the number of people casting votes has been low — somewhat expected because there is no mayoral race.
At 1 p.m. in Ward 4B only 320 made it to the polls with 3A and 6A showing similar numbers with 291 and 376. By 2 p.m. in Ward 1A and 1B, a total of only 521 votes were cast.
"I'm feeling there is a low voter turnout but I'm very optimistic," said Joseph Nichols, who was outside of Columbus Arms on Columbus Street rallying voters in his race against incumbent John Krol for Ward 6.
Nichols said this is the first time he sought election against an incumbent, raising the difficulty of winning. But, on Tuesday afternoon he was feeling good about his support.
"It's been a great experience going door to door and meeting the Ward 6 residents," Nichols said of the campaign. "It's a lot of hard work but I'm happy to be a candidate."
His competitor, Krol, said he did what he could do to drive a higher turnout. He said he is happy with the number of his supports he saw at the polls.
"I knew we wouldn't have additional momentum to drive turnout. [But] I think we've had a steady flow," Krol said, also outside of Columbus Arms. "I think I did everything I could."
This is only the second time Krol has faced competition for the seat and Nichols is no stranger to campaigns after representing Ward 7 previously and launching a bid for mayor in 2011.
In Ward 1, Lisa Tully, who is vying for the seat against incumbent Christine Yon, was feeling good about her first campaign. Tully was outside of Reid Middle School where both Ward 1 precincts are polling.
"I think I made it a personal campaign and let's hope it works," Tully said, adding that he focus was on meeting every voter face to face and sending handwritten letters asking for support. "If worst comes to worst, I've had a great experience."
Yon also spent the morning campaigning outside of Reid Middle School but she was not there at the time iBerkshires stopped by.
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