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Caccaviello, Harrington Campaigns Take Aim at Each Other

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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Two of the three district attorney candidates, Paul Caccaviello and Andrea Harrington, have taken aim at each other over the last few weeks.
 
Last week, Caccaviello challenged Harrington's fitness for office, saying she doesn't have the "basic qualifications" needed. Harrington countered by calling Caccaviello, the incumbent, the candidate of "the old guard."
 
"In my 30 years of working in the office of the district attorney, and handling over 5,000 criminal prosecutions myself, prosecuting multiple murder trials, as well as other cases ranging from minor misdemeanors to serious felonies, I have found the community outreach portion of my role deeply satisfying, and I know it makes a real difference in improving community conditions," Caccaviello wrote in a statement released to the media on July 2. "Given that we have over 6,000 cases active at all times, I have learned that you need to spend a great deal of time on investigations and case preparation for criminal prosecution in court," 
 
"Andrea Harrington has zero experience in these areas and apparently no knowledge of how the office functions on a daily basis. In particular, I have heard her claim extensive criminal defense litigation experience. She has offered no specifics on that point, even when directly pressed for an answer about her experience."
 
Caccaviello said many of Harrington's ideas aren't new, but things the office currently does such as having an on-call prosecutor for major cases. He then went after Harrington's suggestion to hire the "best and brightest to do the work."
 
"If you have not done the work and are going to rely on 'hiring the best and the brightest' to do the work, you are left with the inexperienced leading the inexperienced. Finally, since she has not done the work, and because she appears intent on cleaning house of the existing talented staff, the county would be engaging in a high-risk experiment, with the inexperienced leading the inexperienced." 
 
He claims she has only tried seven cases in Berkshire County, four of which were operating under the influence charges.
 
Harrington wasted no time to respond, accusing Caccaviello of making "false" claims. 
 
"My opponent, the old guard candidate, Mr. Caccaviello, would like to pick and choose my experience to fit his false narrative by falsely claiming that I have little courtroom experience. In fact, my entire 15 years as an attorney has been in the state, federal, trial, and appellate courts representing clients in criminal and civil litigation matters and is broader and more relevant to lead the district attorney's office into the future," Harrington wrote in response the very next day.  
 
"I have represented innumerable clients in cases ranging from traffic tickets to death row appeals, from sexual harassment to domestic violence restraining orders, and consumer protection class actions suits. I did this while raising two children and building my own law practice. Then, when I realized the limits of working one case at a time, I decided it was time to run for office to change the system that is simply not working for our community."
 
She said she has no plans to "clean house" as Caccaviello said.
 
"On the issue of staffing at the DA's office, Mr. Caccaviello has carelessly suggested that I would, in his words, 'clean house.' The truth is I am confident that the dedicated staff of the DA's office today will be excited to be part of a newly invigorated office with a sense of mission and purpose to make Berkshire County a safer community where people from all walks have the opportunity to thrive," Harrington wrote.
 
"People want to work for an organization that is doing great things for the community. That's what leadership is all about. I will provide the leadership that will allow the staff of the DA's office to fully meet their potential in serving the Berkshire community. "
 
Caccaviello, she said, is the one lacking the right kind of experience. 
 
"My opponent has spent his entire career in one office doing the same thing. It is his experience that is lacking. I have worked at solving tough problems for people, understanding the challenges of the residents of our region, and how the system is just not working for them. I understand where change is needed. My opponent believes no change is needed," Harrington wrote.
 
Since starting the race, Harrington has been critical of Caccaviello -- particularly when it comes to the way he was given the job. Former District Attorney David Capeless resigned early to give his longtime first assistant an advantage in the race. Harrington has made numerous statements in opposition to that practice.
 
Previously, Harrington also criticized Caccaviello and his office for failing to prioritize domestic violence. In June, she wrote that domestic violence "has not been adequately addressed in the Berkshires as the county's domestic violence rates far outpace the rate across Massachusetts."
 
"One in three homicides in Berkshire County over the past decade were domestic violence murders and our rate of domestic violence restraining orders is 23 percent higher than the rest of the state," Harrington wrote.
 
"This is unacceptable and requires real leadership from the District Attorney's Office. I will establish a Domestic Violence High Risk Prevention Program to ensure effective, evidence-based prevention measures and determined prosecution of domestic abusers." 
 
Harrington has put forth her idea of establishing a team made up of representatives from law enforcement, probation, dispatchers, the Department of Children and Family, health care professionals, and victim advocates to create a comprehensive and coordinated response. Those will all know the signs of identifying individuals as high-risk and provide services to protect the potential victim.
 
It would be similar to efforts in Hampden and Franklin counties where, she said, there hasn't been a domestic abuse homicide in five years. Caccaviello pounced on that statement this Wednesday when he released his own statement regarding domestic abuse and cited a current domestic homicide case in Franklin County. 
 
"No community is completely immune from the effects of domestic violence, whether that be Berkshire, Hampden, Franklin or Hampshire Counties. Domestic violence has unquestionably touched all communities in Massachusetts. Sadly, just from 2017 through today, deaths from domestic violence has, in fact, even touched all of the counties in Western Massachusetts. This again includes Hampden County, Berkshire County, and even Franklin and Hampshire Counties, where District Attorney Sullivan and his office are currently prosecuting a person accused of murdering his domestic partner in 2017. This person is awaiting trial," Caccaviello wrote.
 
Lewis Starkey III is on trial in Franklin County for a suspected homicide last year. Caccaviello said he has "teamed up with District Attorneys Anthony Gulluni and David Sullivan to combat this issue."
 
"Within the last few months, the three of us, along with Attorney General Maura Healy, were on hand to celebrate the opening of the Massachusetts Office for Victim Assistance (MOVA) Western Massachusetts office," Caccaviello wrote.
 
Again, the incumbent doubled-down on experience, referring to case a decade ago when he was able to get a conviction of first-degree murder.
 
"It takes real action to prevent even one more senseless death. It also takes real experience in cases such as the one I mentioned above to create and implement new ways of treating Domestic Violence cases. That case helped to inform my work and vision going forward," Caccaviello wrote.
 
"That is why I have put into motion the creation of a specialized Domestic Violence Unit within the District Attorney's office. This unit will focus on crimes involving domestic violence and animal cruelty. National studies support the presence of what experts call the 'link' between spousal, child, elder, and animal abuse."
 
His plan is to assign one prosecutor and one victim witness advocate to follow high-risk cases from beginning to end. They will work with victims in safety planning and do thorough reviews of abuse prevention orders. He said that builds on the work the office currently does with probation, law enforcement, and victim advocates.
 
More recently, Harrington put forth the concept of a veterans court. She said the court would be designed to handled issues with post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, and military sexual traumas. It would work with community partners to do so.
 
"We need a Veterans Treatment Court in Berkshire County to fulfill the promise made to our Veterans by the VALOR Act. As District Attorney, I will support effective programming that makes our communities safer and provides an important support system for Veterans dealing with trauma. The same old approach to criminal justice has not been working, and we need to ensure that advocacy for victims, treatment, and rehabilitation plays a larger role in our public safety process -- especially in the DA's office," Harrington wrote.
 
Caccaviello hasn't yet responded to that.
 
Meanwhile, Judith Knight has stayed mostly out of the fray between Harrington and Caccaviello. The three are all seeking the Democratic nomination, which will essentially determine the winner, on Sept. 4. 
 
iBerkshires interviewed all three candidates regarding their platforms. You can find those here: Caccaviello, Harrington, Knight.

Tags: Democratic Party,   district attorney,   election 2018,   primary,   


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Letter: Problematic Proposed Lenox Short-Term Rental Bylaw

Letter to the Editor

To the Editor:

Under the proposed short-term rental Lenox bylaw, "up to two bedrooms in a dwelling unit may be rented year-round by right provided that the owner or tenant is occupying the dwelling unit at the time of the rental."

Presumably, bedrooms may not be rented at all if the owner or tenant is not occupying the dwelling unit.

In other words, literally, the very same use is allowed by one type of owner (an owner occupying the dwelling unit), but not another type of owner (one who does not occupy the dwelling unit where bedrooms are being rented). Because there is identical use and intensity and the only thing that differs is the type of owner or renter; it is hard to view this as mere regulation of use and not ownership.

The other provision suffers from the same problem. Suppose there is a duplex or land with two houses on it (perhaps an old robber-baron estate) but with separate owners for each dwelling unit. Under the rule regarding "dwelling units being rented in their entirety," "an entire dwelling unit maybe rented up to 75 days per calendar year by right," and "an entire dwelling unit may be rented for an additional 35 days (up to 110 days) per calendar year by Special Permit."

But then suppose there is unity of ownership and one person owns the entire duplex or both houses. In that case, "the above totals apply to the entire parcel" and "the day limits defined above shall be apportioned among those dwelling units."

A town can regulate the number of days a short-term rental may be utilized under the newly passed statute: but this additional restriction based on who owns the premises is a regulation of ownership and not use.

The same is instinct through other parts as well. Of course, Lenox residents or their guest can park in the street. But if you are renting a short-term rental, "All overnight parking must be within the property's driveway or garage." If you own or rent property, so long as you get the right permits, you may entertain on your property. But if you are a short-term renter, "events that include tents or amplified music or which would customarily require a license or permit are not allowed."

Since 1905, when Home Rules was put into the [Massachusetts] Constitution, towns could pass their own bylaws, so long as there was no regulation of a civil relationship unless it was an incident to a legitimate municipal power. This meant, among other things, zoning laws had to regulate use and not ownership. It is now a fundamental principle of Massachusetts zoning that it deals basically with the use, without regard to the ownership of the property involved, or who may be the operator of the use. This bylaw appears to violate this fundamental tenet.

By way of example of the you-may-regulate-use-but-not-ownership rule, it has been held that a city did not have authority under the Massachusetts Constitution to pass an ordinance that affected the civil relationship between tenants and their landlord, who wished to convert their rental units to condominiums. In another case, a municipal ordinance which restricted a landlord's ability to terminate a lease and remove his property from the rental market in order to sell it was invalid.

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