DALTON, Mass. — Gubernatorial candidate Geoff Diehl visited the American Legion Post 155 on Thursday for a meet and greet as part of a Berkshire tour that started with breakfast at Joe's Diner in Lee.
The small group of 10 discussed regional and statewide issues with Diehl in a casual format.
iBerkshires sat down with the Republican candidate to discuss issues ranging from housing to recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and advocacy for the western side of the state.
"As governor, once I'm in office, I'll make sure that we commit to and keep our promises on the bridge repairs, the road construction I hear that's needed," he said about the infrastructure deficiencies in Western Massachusetts.
"North Adams, they felt for a long time, for example, that they've been the ones who had to carry the load on keeping the roads in good shape, I want that best foot forward for Western Massachusetts so that again, everybody entering the state from this side from this side says, 'You know what, Massachusettes is doing things right.'"
Diehl, who resides in the town of Whitman, is a former state representative for the 7th Plymouth District from 2011 to 2019 and unsuccessfully challenged U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren in the 2018.
Last fall, former President Donald Trump endorsed Diehl's candidacy.
His campaign points include working on behalf of Massachusetts taxpayers and having perspective as a small business owner, husband, and father.
"I think what I can build on is not just my time in, in the state Legislature, but also my experience as a small-business owner and as a father," Diehl said.
"I think my wife is taking a more active role in this campaign because she really thinks it's very important to make sure that families know that another family is listening to them and wants to help serve them."
He was inspired to run for governor after seeing firsthand the pandemic's impact on education and small businesses. As the owner of a performing art school, his family saw both of these effects at the same time.
With the American Rescue Plan Act funds, Diehl wishes that small businesses received relief in the form of unemployment insurance refunding, speculating that employees were incentivized to not return to work with higher unemployment funds.
"We're coming out of a pandemic where I think a lot of people felt like government had a big hand in sort of controlling their lives, whether their businesses were shut down if they own them, or if their businesses were shut down where they worked," Diehl said.
"They felt very panicked, I think about that, I think there was disappointment, I know my family was with two daughters, disappointment with the way education sort of collapsed at the end of 2020, the final three months really felt like there was nothing there and we saw that the public school system was really unprepared to handle shifting to remote education and so we learned some lessons that we can build on."
He added that parents were also concerned about how late the state decided to remove the school mask mandate and with the curriculum.
This, Diehl said, caused a nationwide awakening where people wanted to get more involved in what was going on in their lives through government.
"A lot of that sort of got me to thinking about making a run again for elected office," he said. "I wasn't sure after  I would do it but it feels like we're looking for leadership in the state that's accountable."
In 2014, Diehl lead an initiative that created a ballot question to appeal a 2013 decision by the Legislature that links the Massachusetts gas tax to inflation. The question was approved and he credits this act for saving state residents over $2 billion in gas taxes.
Diehl is also in opposition to the Transportation Climate Initiative (TCI) gas tax that is part of an effort to reduce emissions from the transportation sector to combat global warming.
Though, he expressed a great deal of support for public transportation, citing his time living in New York City, and identified the east-west passenger rail as an important component to spreading resources across the state.
"I'm a big believer in public transportation," he added.
With proper transportation and infrastructure development, Diehl believes that businesses will be incentivized to the western part of the state.
He spoke to the overdevelopment of Boston and its housing crisis that is driving people to move out of the city.
"We've gentrified Boston to the point where we're pushing a lot of people out of that city, in South Boston where all the police lived, they lived in triple-deckers, every floor of a triple-decker in Southie now is a million dollars, I mean, who can live in Boston?" Diehl said.
"So how does that translate out here? Well, you're pushing more people out of the city and Boston, so they're trying to find housing there and so the state's been having to really focus on how to help get those people housing and they haven't cast their eye far enough west, so I think what we have to do is again, make sure that with transportation and with infrastructure development, like roads and broadband, we can get we can draw some of those businesses that may currently be on the east coast of Massachusetts, convinced them and maybe incentivize them to move themselves out here."
A fiscal conservative, he is not in support of the proposed Fair Share Amendment that imposes a 4 percent surtax on annual income over the first $1 million to fund education and infrastructure and feels it will hurt the state in the long run. The measure is projected to bring in $2 billion annually.
"First of all, the million dollars tax level is sort of an arbitrary number, a million dollars, I hate to say it is not what a million dollars used to be," Diehl said, adding that rule would not be fair for S-corporations and could trigger taxpayers to leave the state to avoid it."
The candidate would rather see the surtax money going back into the economy, going into the stock market, and bolstering 401K's for retirement.
Diehl will face off against Wrentham businessman Chris Doughty for the Republican nomination on Sept. 6. They are the only declared Republican candidates so far in the wake of Gov. Charlie Baker's decision not to run for a third term.
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Berkshire County Regional Employment Board Awarded State Grant
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Healey-Driscoll Administration announced $16.3 million in Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund (WCTF) grants awarded to nine organizations to upskill 1,860 individuals for careers in high-demand occupations in healthcare and behavioral health sectors across Massachusetts.
The funding will support initiatives to train and hire unemployed and underemployed individuals while providing current employees with the skills to meet the needs of Massachusetts employers for roles such as Emergency Medical Technician, Certified Nurse Assistant, and Mental Health Peer Support Specialist.
"Industries across the state are experiencing workforce challenges, but the need is particularly great in behavioral health care, as we need enough trained workers to provide the care that our residents need and deserve," said Governor Maura Healey. "These grants will help address these challenges by hiring and training new talent and upskilling existing talent."
In Berkshire County, the Berkshire County Regional Employment Board, Inc. was awarded $2,227,173.
Berkshire County Regional Employment Board will provide training and placement services to prepare 510 unemployed and underemployed participants for Medical Assistant, Certified Nurse Assistant, Acute Care Nurse Assistant, and Registered Behavioral Technician positions. They will partner with Community Health Programs, The Brien Center, Berkshire Health Systems, and Integritus Healthcare.
This partnership also aims to assess the demand and develop programming opportunities for Licensed Practical Nurses, career pathways for Licensed Practical Nurses to Registered Nurses, and provide career advancement training for incumbent Behavioral Health workers.
The Workforce Competitive Trust Fund Program grants, administered by Commonwealth Corporation on behalf of the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development, are part of the Healey-Driscoll Administration's strategic investment to retain and upskill existing talent in Massachusetts' current workforce. The Healthcare/Behavioral Health Hub Grants announced today support investments in collaborative efforts focused on addressing healthcare and behavioral health workforce needs in regions across the Commonwealth.
Owner Neil Davis wanted a place to “put my foot down in the community” while making social connections. Partner Ashley Marie handles the kitchen and menu curating, focusing on breakfast and lunch favorites. click for more
Superintendent Joseph Curtis on Wednesday presented the details of a potential SOI to the Massachusetts School Building Authority for the elementary school that would combine Conte Community School and Crosby onto one campus with two buildings and shared facilities.
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