Sunday, April 3, 2016
2016 Berkshire State Senator campaign features Rinaldo Del Gallo III, Andrea Harrington, Adam Hinds, and Christine Canning
Sen. John Keenan (left), Adam Hinds, Sen. James Welch (right) take the oath of office in the State Senate Wednesday, January 4, 2017. credit: Antonio Caban - State House News Service.
Rinaldo Del Gallo, III
Adam Hinds (Photo by Jim Levulis, WAMC)
Christine Canning (Facebook: Christine Canning-Wilson)
"More Contenders In Western Mass. Senate Race"
By Jim Levulis, WAMC, March 31, 2016
Two more potential contenders for a western Massachusetts senate seat have emerged.
Another Democrat and the first Republican candidate appear to be eyeing a bid for the senate seat held by Ben Downing. The Pittsfield Democrat announced in January that he was retiring after 10 years. Pittsfield attorney Rinaldo Del Gallo has taken out nominating papers, but is holding back on a full-out campaign citing the potential costs of running. Seeking the Democratic nomination, Del Gallo says he is for a $15 minimum wage, universal pre-K and single-payer healthcare along with tuition-free state and debt-free college.
“Berkshire County is a very, very progressive community by in large,” Del Gallo said. “They need a progressive leader. I am that Bernie Sanders progressive. That’s why, if I run, that’s why I’d be in the race.”
Del Gallo has been vocal on a number of environmental issues in the area, including leading the charge for a Styrofoam ban in Pittsfield. He says combating economic despair in the region is his number one issue.
“In terms of economic development, for a very long time now I’ve been talking about trying to make the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority something that works with tax incentives and to streamline regulations, not eliminate regulation, but at least streamline it so people aren’t trying to get permits forever,” he said. “If you look at Ft. Devens or Albany — the nano-technology area — it’s worked. It’s not a new idea at all. It’s a time-tested idea, but we haven’t tried it here.”
Christine Canning of Lanesborough is reportedly the first Republican to take out nominating papers for the seat. She could not be reached in time for broadcast.
Adam Hinds and Andrea Harrington announced their bids for the Democratic nod in February and March, respectively.
On the major regional issues — all three Democrats are opposed to the proposed Northeast Energy Direct natural gas pipeline that would cut through the region.
Meanwhile, some in the northern Berkshires have continued to call for the restoration of a full-service hospital two years after North Adams Regional Hospital closed. Harrington, an attorney from Richmond, says she does not know if a full-service hospital is viable in the region, but adds that if it is, it should be pursued. Still, Harrington says she understands the concerns, such as the lack of a maternity center.
“In my conversations with Representative [Gailanne] Cariddi, she was interested in exploring having a birthing center in North County which might make sense and it would give people more options as far as where to go to have a baby,” said Harrington.
Hinds, who heads the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition, says the region has a rare opportunity to rebuild its healthcare system from the ground up. He says the main focus is the area’s acute health challenges.
“We’re seven or eight primary care physicians short of what a population of this size and need should have,” Hinds said. “Berkshire Health Systems and Community Health [Programs] have worked to fill that gap. Let’s look at what are the major reasons that people are visiting hospitals in the first place. That often relates to conditions related to smoking, pre-diabetes, hypertension and falls among our older population. We’ve been working with the health systems to put together a community health worker program that gets ahead of some of these big issues.”
Del Gallo says he is concerned there may not be enough healthcare options in the northern Berkshires.
With declining enrollments, Harrington says regionalizing administrative positions in K-12 schools is key to the future of the area’s educational system.
“But we do need to look at the number of schools that have,” Harrington said. “In Berkshire County, we need to take a Berkshire County-wide approach, to planning for how many schools that we really need given the number of students that we have. But, I don’t want to lose sight of the importance of kids receiving individualized attention.”
For his part, Hinds says in the short-term, state funding formulas and reimbursements for public schools need to be reworked. The former United Nations conflict mediator says he supports the ongoing work of the Berkshire County Education Task Force.
“It’s a quality of education question,” Hinds said. “Do we make sure that we protect some of the identity that we have around schools? If we’re going to increase our efficiencies, at what cost? In terms of how long a child would have to stay on a bus for example. That’s the starting point.”
Harrington, Hinds and Del Gallo would face off in a September primary.
Adam Hinds: “Why I am running for state Senate”
By Adam Hinds, Op-Ed, The Berkshire Eagle, 4/3/2016
PITTSFIELD - This district is my home, and running for state Senate is a privilege.
I grew up in the district, in the small town of Buckland. My father, a Vietnam veteran, operated three small businesses before going back to school at 51. He became a teacher in my high school and retired two years ago. My mother was a nursery school teacher and then a part-time librarian in the high school.
I didn't know it then, but at times my parents quietly struggled to make ends meet. Their daily sacrifices and hopes for my sister and me were our stability. To me, my parents represent the values and commitments we hold dear here in Western Massachusetts. We sacrifice so the next generation can reach for their dreams. We stand up to protect opportunity so our hard work pays off.
Thanks to my parents' sacrifice and belief in me, an unlikely path led me from Buckland to Washington D.C. and then to the Middle East as a negotiator for the United Nations. But this district was always home, and I returned because I want to make a difference where I grew up. With the experience I gained in politics, conflict resolution and coalition building, I am eager to represent the people and region that means so much to me; the region to which I am committed.
I am running to ensure every child in this district has the same sense of possibility that I was lucky enough to feel. I am running to ensure every working family can rest in the knowledge they can find a quality job and create a future that is secure.
Our region's potential is extraordinary: we have world-class cultural institutions, vibrant cities, welcoming small towns, fertile farms and unequaled access to nature. Our proud manufacturing legacy continues to bring cutting-edge technology to the world.
But right now, too many working families struggle to make a living wage, or to meet basic expenses. The median household income in Berkshire County is nearly $20,000 below state levels. The poverty rate is above the state average.
Tolerating barriers created by poverty, low wages, or excessive college costs is not in line with our commitment to opportunity or the prosperity of our region. We need to do something about it.
To fulfill our district's potential it is urgent we come together to create quality jobs in our region, strengthen our education by addressing flawed state funding formulas, accelerate efforts to lower energy costs while investing in renewable energy, and fight the scourge of heroin.
Expanding the economy means supporting small- to medium-sized business so they can grow. It means improving critical infrastructure. It is unacceptable that finalizing last-mile broadband has taken so long, or that conversations about developing an effective transportation system persist.
PATHWAY TO WORK
Real growth also requires training the workforce businesses need to expand here in Western Mass. That is one reason I am leading a community effort in northern Berkshire County called "Employ North Berkshire". It creates a pathway to work that removes obstacles to sustained employment.
To attract or keep businesses and employees we need strong schools. But funding mechanisms do not recognize challenges specific to rural districts or those with declining populations. As a result, our schools struggle to cover fixed costs and the curriculum suffers as a result. I know the difficulties of our schools firsthand, not only because I was a student in the district, but because it was often the conversation around our family dinner table.
To support our families I am also focused on strengthening the system of rural health and creating a strategy to confront the heroin epidemic. I started and continue involvement in a program in Pittsfield that ensures high-risk youth experience hope through educational support, the discipline of a regular job, and help from a solid mentor. Together we can do more.
In my work in our communities I have been blessed by strong support and good relationships. I will similarly work with business and clean-energy leaders to accelerate the growth of the commonwealth's clean-energy sector. Through collaboration and creativity — two qualities I believe are essential for good leadership — we can secure lower energy costs while meeting our commitment to develop renewable energy sources.
I spent nearly 10 years working for the United Nations, most of it based in the Middle East. I have negotiated with local, regional and world leaders in Iraq, Jerusalem, and Syria. But my intention was always to come home.
My experience gave me the courage to fight for our common interests and the skills to bring people together to get things done, in the district and in Boston. It showed me we are stronger when we work together. That will always be my starting point, and that is how I intend to work as state senator.
I will ensure Massachusetts remains a leader on progressive issues while focusing on local challenges. I will remain shoulder to shoulder with residents in neighborhoods throughout the district working for economic and social justice.
In Western Massachusetts we know what it means to stand side by side to tackle common challenges, protect fairness and opportunity for everyone, and protect our environment. Those are our ideals, and that is why I am running.
The author is a candidate for state Senate in the Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin & Hampden district. To reach Adam Hinds email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit adamhinds.org for more information or to volunteer.
Andrea Harrington: “Why I am running for state Senate”
By Andrea Harrington, Op-Ed, The Berkshire Eagle, 4/3/2016
RICHMOND - I am running for state Senate because our district needs a state senator who is invested in this district; who has experienced the triumphs and the challenges of raising a family in this community; and who is committed to serving this district through more than just a few elections.
I am a small business owner, a parent, and an attorney. These experiences have inspired me to advocate for solutions to our district's most pressing problems.
I grew up in the Berkshires. My family has been in the Berkshires for generations — as employees at Sprague Electric and GE, and as farmers, carpenters, and housekeepers. In my family, you simply worked hard.
Thanks to my parents' hard work, I have had opportunities that they did not enjoy. I graduated from Pittsfield public schools and became the first person in my family to graduate from college. Then, I became the first person in my family to go to law school.
When my husband and I moved back to Berkshire County 10 years ago, we grappled with the challenge of supporting our family in a region that was experiencing population loss, so we purchased a small business — the Public Market on Main Street in West Stockbridge. While we have amazing customers and dedicated employees, running a small business is a tremendous challenge.
We struggle with finding employees. The BRTA doesn't serve our little downtown in West Stockbridge, so our employees need a car just to get to work. Talking with folks across the district, staffing and transportation are universal challenges for our local businesses. For example, General Dynamics is hiring 190 workers. As a senator, I would mobilize to ensure that those positions are filled — we cannot afford to lose anymore jobs.
We also struggle with energy. This is the Public Market's biggest monthly expense. I see the promise of investing in renewable energy and green jobs both as an opportunity for economic development and a long-term solution to global warming. We need to make this a priority for our local businesses to stay competitive and so that we can attract new business.
I joined Berkshares, Inc., an organization developing innovative ways to support local businesses, focusing on keeping more dollars here. We teach young people about entrepreneurship, and we are partnering with local banks to create a micro-lending program. Identifying products that businesses in our area can manufacture locally led to the creation of the "Community Supported Industry" program.
My husband and I returned to the Berkshires to raise our children here. Their education is of utmost importance to us. We are concerned by the stress that our teachers, administrators and students are under and we see the decline in population affecting our schools.
As parents we want all of our students to receive high quality, individualized instruction and we worry about the effects of high-stakes testing. I have advocated for a district-wide approach to providing all of our children with the very best education from preschool through college, including high quality after-school, mentoring and vocational programs for our students.
COURTS OFFER INSIGHT
I have spent the last 10 years representing indigent criminal defendants and families across the county and state. As an attorney, I am one of the many people on the front lines of our region's opioid epidemic. Attorneys, police officers, therapists, nurses, and doctors are doing their work without fanfare. There are no awards for convincing a client to take a plea that includes essential treatment instead of going to trial.
My work in the courts has given me insight into the cycle of poverty and addiction afflicting our communities. For example, I noticed a theme among my legal clients — many lived in their grandmother's homes. In many families, that was the last generation with the financial security to buy a home. Substance abuse and crime is a symptom of a larger problem — it is the effect of a long-term economic decline.
My experience has taught me that with a fighting spirit and by working together, we can solve our most difficult problems. It is that spirit — that there is a solution to the effects of long-term economic decline — which I bring to my work every day.
As a senator, I pledge to:
* Bring a drug court to Berkshire County with the goal of shifting funds from incarcerating people to treating them;
* Invest in our transportation infrastructure, high speed Internet, and education so that we all have access to opportunity;
* Support the Berkshire Innovation Center in Pittsfield, to grow the life sciences sector and high tech manufacturing;
* Organize and advocate for state-wide and local approaches to support our local farmers, specialty-foods producers, artists, and entrepreneurs;
* Protect our environment by opposing the pipeline and pushing the state-wide effort to expand alternative energy sources, create more green jobs, and to protect human health from toxic waste in our communities; and,
* Bring more resources to our district through the budgeting process and by equalizing the taxes paid by people earning over a million dollars per year.
I am running because I am the passionate, practical, progressive leader that the four counties need to serve them in the state Senate, and I ask for your vote in the Democratic primary on Sept. 8.
Please contact me to join my campaign and to join me in building a district where all of our children can return to be part of a vibrant, prosperous community.
The author is a candidate for state Senate in the Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin & Hampden district. To reach Andrea Harrington email email@example.com or visit www.andreaforsenate.com for more information or to volunteer.
April 4, 2016
Re: My new blog page following the Berkshire State Senator race + Pittsfield political phonies
I took out nomination papers to run for Berkshire State Senator in 1998 and 2004, but I never actually ran (against my enemy #1 named Luciforo). I have a new blog page following the Berkshire State Senator race.
Some "Democrats" in Pittsfield politics only say they are "Democrats" because that is where the power is in Massachusetts politics.
If the power structure favored "Republicans", these same phonies would call themselves "Republicans" in Pittsfield politics.
My point is that they don't give "2 cents" about party politics, but rather, they only care about being in favor with the powerful.
My #1 example is one Peter J. Larkin, who is as Republican as Republican can be, but he has always called himself a Democrat. Lobbyist Larkin gets paid very well to do GE's bidding in Pittsfield politics, while thousands of local people continue to suffer from GE's cancer causing PCBs.
My #2 example is Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr., who is not as Republican as Peter Larkin, but he is a Republican fiscal conservative in favor of Boston area big banks and especially wealthy insurance companies, which he continues to represent as a corporate Attorney in Boston.
As much as I like Rinaldo Del Gallo, III, and I wish him well in his campaign for Berkshire State Senator, his legal writings come across as Republican, especially on social issues dealing with probate and family law. Rinaldo Del Gallo has an unfavorable view of women in family conflict when he supports shared parenting. Like Nuciforo, Rinaldo has a long family history rooted in Pittsfield politics.
- Jonathan Melle
“State Senate seat contest heating up: Downing’s 52-community district up for grabs includes eight Franklin County towns”
By Richie Davis, Recorder Staff, April 4, 2016
There’s nothing like a vacant seat to attract candidates for election.
And so the only regional campaign that is beginning to heat up is for the state Senate seat being vacated by Benjamin B. Downing of Pittsfield. The 52-community district includes Conway, Shelburne, Buckland, Charlemont, Hawley, Heath, Rowe and Monroe as well as cities and towns in Berkshire, Hampshire and Hampden counties.
There do not yet appear to be challenges for incumbent members of the Franklin County legislative delegation seeking re-election. The deadline for submitting nomination papers to local town clerks is May 3.
In addition to a three-way Democratic race for the Berkshire Senate seat, a Republican candidate is circulating nomination papers, pointing to the likelihood of a general election contest in November.
Pittsfield attorney Rinaldo Del Gallo III has joined Shelburne Falls native Adam Hinds of Pittsfield and Richmond attorney Andrea Harrington in gathering signatures for the Democratic nomination.
Christine Canning of Lanesborough, who owns two educational consulting businesses, Boston Manhattan Group Inc. and New England Global Network LLC, is circulating nomination papers as a Republican.
Hinds and Harrington have both announced their candidacies. Hinds heads the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition and was founding director of Pittsfield Community Connection, emphasizing youth and gang-violence prevention programs.
Harrington is a board member of Berkshares local business and entrepreneurship programs, and is also a Richmond Affordable Housing Committee member.
Del Gallo has not yet formally announced his candidacy. He has been in Berkshire Fatherhood Coalition as a spokesman for the fathers’ rights group and has worked on animal rights and environmental issues, including successfully getting adopted a plastic foam ban in Berkshire County and a Pittsfield farm-animal rights ordinance.
Canning, who has been an education specialist for the U.S. State Department and has worked for the Springfield, Holyoke and Pittsfield public schools, is a doctoral candidate in educational policy and research at the University of Massachusetts.
Democrat Jim White of Templeton, who had sought unsuccesfully to unseat former Rep. Denise Andrews in 2012, said he had seriously considered challenging first-term Rep. Susannah Whipps Lee, D-Athol, in the the Second Franklin House District, but has decided against a run.
The only other legislative district for which there is a contest is for the seat being vacated by Rep. Ellen Story, D-Amherst, with papers being circulated by former Massachusetts Broadband Institute Executive Director Eric T. Nakajima, Viraphanh Douangmany, Solomon Goldstein-Rose, Sarah la Cour, Bonnie MacCracken and Lawrence O’Brien, all of Amherst.
You can reach Richie Davis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 413-772-0261, ext. 269.
Christine Canning, of Lanesborough, promises to shake up the political establishment in Boston if elected to the seat now held by Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, D-Pittsfield, who is not seeking a sixth term. (Jim Therrien — The Berkshire Eagle)
"GOP candidate for Berkshire-area Senate seat promises shakeup in Boston"
By Jim Therrien, The Berkshire Eagle, April 5, 2016
LANESBOROUGH — A Lanesborough woman with a background in education and a history of advocating against wasteful school spending is seeking the Republican nomination for the Berkshire-region Senate district.
Christine Canning, of Noppet Road, also promises to shake up the political establishment in Boston if elected to the seat now held by Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, D-Pittsfield, who is not seeking a sixth term.
"I am running for a multitude of reasons," Canning said in an interview. "No. 1, I see a need for the counties I am representing to improve their educational systems. Right now, I see a lot of corrupt, incestuous and job-embedded practices, where our schools are at Level 3 [in state rankings], some possibly going to Level 4. I see what taxpayers are paying, and I don't feel they are getting value for their money."
Canning said she has been a whistleblower against fraud or regulatory violations concerning funding earmarked for students such as those in English Language Learner or special education programs. She took on the Pittsfield Public Schools while an English teacher at Taconic High School and later reported alleged problems in the Holyoke schools, where she also worked, and in North Adams schools concerning use of ELL funding.
Speaking of the situation in Holyoke, Canning said, "My goal is and always will be as an advocate for children, and when I saw that these people were taking money and promoting their own careers at the expense of these kids who could afford it the least, I couldn't take it. I just started reporting it; just started documenting and reporting. ... And now the state has corrected it."
In Pittsfield, Canning, was a former chairwoman of the Taconic High School English Department when she filed suit against the city and some school officials in 2006, claiming she was improperly fired for repeatedly bringing to the attention of administrators concerns about discrimination, drug use and violence among students.
In 2009, her suit against the city and school officials was settled on the second day of a civil trial in Superior Court.
Of the settlement, Canning said: "I can't discuss a lot of that," but she said her complaints focused on the legal protections for "the health, welfare and safety" of children. She added, "And a lot of people, if you notice, stepped down or were removed."
"In one sense, all of these cases brought me up to realizing how taxpayer money is wasted," she said. "It is not utilized. The levels and practices of corruption, using loopholes, and our inability to check the system. And also because of the nepotism and the good old boy circle that I have found. ... I really felt I am not afraid to take them on, I am not afraid of exposure, and I believe in transparency. And I also think you can do more with less.
"And because I have lived with these loopholes, I know exactly where to look," Canning said. "When you have experienced it yourself, you know exactly how people beat the system."
"I also am very pro-business," she said. "But in order to bring business back into Berkshire County, you need someone who is not just going to say they will listen, but someone who is going to do. And I have a proven track record of doing things."
Canning said that when she realized some state education-related contracts were going to vendors in other states, she decided, "This is crazy."
She said she went to Sen. Downing and suggested what later became the Massachusetts Uniform Procurement Act, which stipulates, "If a Massachusetts company can do the same work as an out of state company, then we have to give them preference."
"I showed him [Downing] what we lost in tax dollars because of this," she said.
Noting the level of poverty and drug use in the region, Canning said, "Because of that, I think if we don't save ourselves now, and go with someone like me who is proven to change things, proven to stand up to people that no one else wants to deal with, then I think Berkshire County really can't hope for more."
The reality today, she said, is that the region is ignored in Boston and "being taken advantage of" by corporate entities like Kinder Morgan, which plans a natural gas pipeline across the county.
"I have worked with people who think the state ends at Worcester," Canning said. "It does not."
She likened the state's allocation of resources to a Monopoly board game in which "you give 90 percent of the properties to from Worcester to Boston and leave us with the other 10 percent, and you see Worcester to Boston getting richer and richer and the rest of the state getting poorer and poorer."
She said of a Kinder Morgan compensation proposal in dealing with property owners along its proposed pipeline route, "They are treating us like the Beverly Hillbillies."
Canning comes by her interest in education naturally. Both her mother and father, John and Kathleen Canning, now retired, had long careers in the field in Berkshire County. Her mother taught languages at St. Joseph High School for many years, and her father is a former principal at Monument Mountain Regional High School in Great Barrington.
Today, she is CEO of New England Global Network, LLC, an education consulting firm, and develops curriculum and educational training manuals, books and other materials, often under state or federal contracts, including for the State Department involving foreign nations.
Canning is a widow. She married Douglas Wilson, a native of Scotland, who died of leukemia in 2003. She said they met while she was working as an English instructor in United Arab Emirates University in 1999, and they were married the following year.
The couple's two children now attend Mount Greylock Regional High School, Canning said.
Canning is completing a doctorate at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst in Educational Policy and Research. She is licensed as a superintendent and holds four professional teaching licenses.
"So I can really work the gamut of where I want in this field," she said.
The 1987 St. Joseph High School graduate said she was Catholic Youth Organization volunteer of the year and won a Rotary Service Above Self Award and was otherwise active in the community.
She holds an English degree from UMass and a master's from West Virginia University in foreign language and linguistics. She also studied at the University of Cambridge, England, Oxford University, England, and Salzburg College in Austria.
Canning said she has been meeting with Berkshire GOP officials as she prepares her campaign and will have a formal announcement in the near future.
Others having announced for the Senate seat, which represents 52 communities in four western counties, are Adam Hinds and Rinaldo Del Gallo of Pittsfield and Andrea Harrington of Richmond. All are seeking the Democratic nomination for the office.
Contact Jim Therrien at 413-496-6347. email@example.com @BE_therrien on Twitter.
State Senate candidate Christine M. Canning meets with supporters following her campaign kick-off event Wednesday at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 448 on Wendell Avenue in Pittsfield. (Gillian Jones — The Berkshire Eagle | photos.berkshireeagle.com)
“Lanesborough Republican Canning launches campaign for Massachusetts Senate”
By Phil Demers, The Berkshire Eagle, May 4, 2016
PITTSFIELD - Christine M. Canning called herself a "pit bull but with lipstick" and a "new tributary" who would freshen the waters of Berkshire politics.
Canning, a Lanesborough Republican, formally announced her campaign for the Berkshire-region Senate district at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 448 on Wednesday.
To an audience of dozens, the candidate touted her tirelessness in fighting for equality of opportunity and sensible policy, her extensive education and knowledge of foreign languages; experience living in the Middle East and her whistleblowing past.
"I have a vision; I want to bring jobs," Canning said. "I've worked around the world, in multiple countries. I've seen growth. For the last 24 years, we've been run by Democrats, and now, we are the 21st poorest county in the United States. That is not acceptable in my mind."
She added, "I will bend over backwards. I don't quit."
USA Today reported Berkshire County as the 21st poorest county in the United States in January 2015, based on median household income and the poverty and unemployment rates.
Canning, 46, also pitched herself as a crossover candidate who Democrats could comfortably vote for — a "doer," not a party follower, more concerned with getting things done than political grandstanding.
"I will guarantee you this: I have a lot of integrity, and if I say I'm going to go in and do it, I will do it," she said. "I'm never tired. People say to me, 'You're like the Energizer Bunny; you keep going and going.' The reason is, I believe in people, and I believe I'm here to serve people.
Canning added, "We have Democrats here tonight."
Naming legislative committees she would seek to work on, Canning identified her areas of expertise: Ways and Means, the Joint Committee on Education, the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security, and the Committee on Ethics and Rules.
Brash and gregarious in style, Canning seemed to fit the part she seeks to play. She spoke out against a Democratic bill up for consideration by the Joint Committee on Transportation, seeking to grant illegal immigrants Massachusetts driver's licenses, potentially opening these individuals up to other state services.
Canning said it should not be passed when many veterans remain homeless and in need of services.
State Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, D-Pittsfield, and state Sen. Patricia Jehlen, D-Somerville, filed the bill.
Peter C. Giftos, former executive director of Berkshire County Republican Association, who attended the announcement, called Canning "almost too good to be true."
"She has that rare gumption that I like to see in the political process," Giftos said. "What I like about her, is if she sees something wrong, she'll go after it like a tiger."
Canning, a former Taconic High School teacher, went after Pittsfield Public Schools on racial discrimination issues and later did the same in Holyoke schools.
"If you shut up [about issues], the problems continue," Canning said. "You cannot deny people opportunity."
Also in her career, Canning taught in colleges in the United Arab Emirates and Dubai for 14 years.
What she termed runaway corruption and nepotism in Massachusetts — from small towns to state government — would also be a focus, Canning said.
Canning is CEO of New England Global Network, LLC, an education consulting firm, and develops curriculum and educational training manuals, books and other materials, often under state or federal contracts, including for the State Department involving foreign nations.
Canning's late husband Douglas Wilson died of leukemia in 2003. Canning is raising the couple's two children.
Giftos also identified Canning as "one of those rare Republicans" who can win in liberal Massachusetts, because of her personality, emphasis on accomplishing things and focus on corruption.
"We've had one-party government in Massachusetts for so damn long, that's where the corruption comes from," Giftos said. "If you look at the history of the country, you find that every state that had one-party government has gone bananas, has gone bad."
Canning holds an English degree from UMass and a master's from West Virginia University in foreign language and linguistics. She also studied at the University of Cambridge, England, Oxford University, England, and Salzburg College in Austria.
Those announcing their candidacy for the Democratic nomination for the Senate seat — potentially to become Canning's opponent in November — include Adam Hinds and Rinaldo Del Gallo of Pittsfield and Andrea Harrington of Richmond.
The three could face of in a primary election in September.
Contact Phil Demers at 413-496-6214. firstname.lastname@example.org @BE_PhilD on Twitter.
21. Berkshire County, Massachusetts
* County median household income, 2009-2013: $48,450
* State median household income, 2009-2013: $66,866
* Poverty rate, 2009-2013: 12.8%
* Unemployment, 2013: 7.1%
Massachusetts residents are some of the nation's wealthiest. Between 2009 and 2013, the state's poorest county had a median annual household income of $48,450, not especially poor compared to other counties reviewed. As in the rest of the state, Berkshire County residents benefited from exceptionally high health insurance coverage. Just 3.3% of residents did not have health insurance over the five years through 2013, one of the best rates nationwide.
Source: "The poorest county in each state" By Thomas C. Frohlich, 24/7 Wall St. via USA Today (online) January 10, 2015.
"Attorney Andrea Harrington of Richmond to announce candidacy for state Senate seat"
Daily Hampshire Gazette, March 8, 2016
RICHMOND — Attorney Andrea Harrington of Richmond is scheduled to announce her candidacy Tuesday for the state Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, D-Pittsfield.
Harrington, a Democrat, is scheduled to announce her candidacy at 10 a.m. at the Public Market in West Stockbridge. The Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin and Hampden district is made up of 52 towns, including Chesterfield, Cummington, Goshen, Huntington, Middlefield, Plainfield, Westhampton, Williamsburg and Worthington.
“I am running for State Senate because our district needs a leader who understands the challenges facing our communities and will build on the opportunities we have to create jobs and protect our children,” Harrington said in a statement Monday. “I am running to expand the bright spots in our regional economy — in court I have seen too many lives impacted by financial hardship.”
A board member of Berkshares, a local currency for Berkshire County, Harrington’s work with the organization focuses on supporting local business, growing entrepreneurship and the new community-supported industry program.
A mother of two, Harrington also volunteers with programs to provide expanded educational opportunities for young people in Berkshire County — the Railroad Street Youth Project, the Crocus Fund and the Berkshire Academies’ Mentors.
Shelburne Falls native Adam Hinds of Pittsfield also is a candidate for the seat being vacated by Downing after 10 years.
Adam Hinds of Pittsfield and Andrea Harrington of Richmond are Democratic candidates for the state Senate seat being vacated by Benjamin Downing. (Campaign Photos)
"Two Democrats vying for Benjamin Downing's Senate seat field questions at Goshen forum"
By Mary Serreze | Special to The (Springfield) Republican, May 12, 2016
GOSHEN — Two Democratic candidates for a seat on the Massachusetts Senate squared off Wednesday night at the Congregational Church in Goshen, fielding questions about education funding, rural broadband, marijuana, and more.
Andrea Harrington and Adam Hinds are vying for the Senate seat being vacated by Benjamin B. Downing of Pittsfield. The Berkshire, Franklin, Hampshire and Hampden district comprises 52 communities in the three western counties.
A declared Republican candidate, Christine Canning of Lanesborough, was not part of the event, hosted by Hilltown Democratic Coalition.
Harrington, 41, is an attorney who lives in Richmond with her husband and children. "I want my kids to be be able to return and live in an area that's prosperous," she said. "I'm a practical, passionate, and progressive leader." The Taconic High School graduate practiced law in Florida before she and her husband, who now owns the Public Market in West Stockbridge, returned to the Berkshires "to make an investment in the community." She emphasized her strong work ethic, and said representing a range of clients in her law practice has given her a valuable perspective.
Hinds, 39, of Pittsfield, grew up in Buckland and attended Mohawk Trail Regional High School, where his father was a teacher and his mother a librarian. He spoke of his decade in the Middle East working for the United Nations as a negotiator in Syria, Jerusalem, and Iraq. "We need a negotiator on Beacon Hill," said Hinds, a graduate of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. Hinds, who founded a program to help at-risk youth in Pittsfield, is now executive director of the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition in North Adams.
Both emphasized the importance of public education, and said state funding formulas put rural, regional school districts at a disadvantage. Hinds said the Hampshire Regional School District loses $200,000 a year because of inadequate transportation reimbursements from the state. "We desperately need Chapter 70 reform," he said, referring to the state school aid program. "I'm passionate about this, coming from an education family."
Harrington said small towns are at a crisis point, struggling to fund education with constrained budgets. "Town and school health care costs are a major factor," she said. "I would support a single-payer system." She said Chapter 70 aid should be "cost-based instead of seat-based" because sprawling rural school districts have high fixed costs per student, including regional transportation.
On the topic of rural broadband, Hinds said stalled deployment by the state is "unacceptable." The state "should focus on what the towns want, and the two sides should not criticize each other's business plan in the press." Hinds was referring to a public conflict that erupted late last year between the Massachusetts Broadband Institute and WiredWest, a cooperative that hopes to own and operate a taxpayer-funded regional fiber network in the hilltowns.
Harrington said broadband is essential in today's world, and that by failing to get behind WiredWest, Governor Charlie Baker "has shown that he does not support coops." She said while some towns have decided to reject WiredWest membership and "go their own way" in building town-owned networks with state support, "the cooperative model makes sense" and "that's what the towns approved."
Neither Harrington nor Hinds expressed support for legalizing marijuana, with each saying drug use at an early age can have long-term adverse affects. Harrington said minorities are over-represented in marijuana-related arrests, and noted that possession is now decriminalized in Massachusetts, but said that a proposed ballot question to tax and legalize marijuana "is a different issue." She said there is no clear way for police to determine if a driver is high on marijuana, and that parents smoking at home could send the wrong message to youth. "We need further study. At this point, I'm opposed," she said.
Hinds said that in his work as a mentor to at-risk youth, he has seen the adverse impact of marijuana. "I have no problem with adults smoking in the privacy of their homes," he said. "But we need to prevent substance use at a young age."
Both expressed an interest in energy issues, with Harrington saying high costs are an impediment to economic development. She said Onyx Specialty Papers in Lee spends $2 million per year on energy, and that "the costs are prohibitive" to new manufacturers looking at the region.
Both said they would support the growth of green jobs and the creative economy.
Downing announced in January that he would not seek a sixth term.
The event was originally slated to be held at Goshen Town Hall, but was moved across the road to the church because a lead paint removal project began May 9 at the municipal building.
Also participating were Patrick J. Cahillane and Kavern Lewis, candidates for Hampshire County Sheriff; and Mary E. Hurley and Jeffrey S. Morneau; Democratic candidates for 8th District Governor's Council.
"With no statewide races this year, these down-ballot contests for open seats will be critical for many voters of the Hilltowns and western Massachusetts," said Elizabeth Bell-Perkins, chair of the Goshen Democratic Town Committee.
"Senate candidate left out of debate in race to replace Downing"
(Greenfield) Recorder Staff, May 17, 2016
PITTSFIELD — One of three Democratic hopefuls for a state Senate vacancy says he is angry at being left out of a candidate’s forum last week.
Rinaldo Del Gallo III of Pittsfield said he wasn’t even aware of the May 11 debate in Goshen, sponsored by the Hilltown Democratic Coalition, until being called by a newspaper reporter. The other two candidates — Adam Hinds of Pittsfield and Andrea Harrington of Richmond — took part in the forum without Del Gallo, who has not yet officially announced his candidacy.
The district, now represented by Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, who is not seeing re-election, includes Ashfield, Conway, Shelburne, Buckland, Charlemont, Hawley, Heath, Rowe and Monroe as well as communities in Berkshire, Hampshire and Hampden counties.
Hilltown Democratic Coalition Matthew Barron said only announced candidates were invited to the forum at Goshen Congregational Church.
“I think it is unconscionable to host a Democratic debate fully knowing that I would almost certainly be a candidate,” said Del Gallo in a written statement. “Anyone with even a modicum of knowledge of knows that the ‘formal announcement’ is a media event with much fanfare that no candidate would do without.”
Letter: "Comprehensive response to Pittsfield shootings"
The Berkshire Eagle, 5/26/2016
To the editor:
The escalation in shootings in Pittsfield is deeply disturbing. There have been 30 shooting incidents in the first five months of 2016; the same number for all of last year. I worked to address youth violence in Pittsfield, and getting ahead of this will take comprehensive action from us all.
First, law enforcement must have the resources necessary to get ahead of this. Mayor Tyer's plan for more officers is critical, as is intelligence-sharing and collaboration among regional law enforcement actors.
At the same time, robust community work must be a parallel track. During my time starting the city's Pittsfield Community Connection (PCC) program, we focused on creating effective alternatives to violence. That means mentors, jobs and counseling. During previous shooting incidents, PCC outreach workers, sometimes former gang members themselves, stepped in to try to reduce chances of retaliation. Action on the ground by those with access remains vital.
One of my last actions with PCC was to work with the Pittsfield Police Department to secure the Safe and Successful Youth Initiative grant. It is a grant that will bring almost $5 million in state funds to Pittsfield over 10 years. The program is just starting and works with police and the sheriff's office to target young men aged 17-24 with a history of violence. Participants get mental and behavioral health counseling, a job subsidized by the grant, education assistance and regular contact by PCC outreach workers.
There appears to be a nasty mix of growing drug markets, gangs and available weapons. As state senator, I would work to ensure that communities in the district have the resources they need to keep our streets safe and to preserve the healthy development of all residents.
Adam Hinds, Pittsfield
The writer is a Democratic candidate for state Senate.
Letter: “Hinds understands, will work for region”
The Berkshire Eagle, 5/27/2016
To the editor:
This September, voters in the Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin and Hampden districts can make an outstanding choice in supporting Adam Hinds for state Senate.
Recently, Hinds released his plan to create and support a strong regional economy, aimed at helping and encouraging small and medium-sized businesses in our area.
Hinds has a deep understanding of the challenges faced by employers in Western Massachusetts, and he plans to focus on issues essential to attracting and retaining good jobs and great companies, such as last mile broadband and supporting our area's creative sector.
Importantly, he also recognizes that valuable jobs and a healthy economy relate to raising up our schools while keeping down energy costs, and promoting affordable housing while protecting our natural assets. This appreciative and encompassing view of what makes our region great is part of what makes Hinds an incredible choice for the state Senate.
Adam lives right here in Pittsfield and calls the Berkshires his home. He feels passionately about this area and will work hard to make sure our city has a representative in Boston and a strong voice.
I encourage you to visit Adams' website at adamhinds.org to read through his story and proposals. In electing him, we'll not only be getting a qualified senator, but a compelling, experienced, and relatable advocate who is well-prepared to secure Beacon Hill support for our beloved area and its economy. He has my complete support.
Vote for Adam Hinds in the Democratic state primary on Sept. 8.
Laurie Tierney, Pittsfield
"Four candidates for Sen. Ben Downing's Senate seat qualify for ballot"
By Mary Serreze | Special to The Republican | May 27, 2016
Three Democrats and one Republican candidate for state Senate in the sprawling Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin and Hampden District have qualified for the ballot, the office of Secretary of State William Galvin confirmed on Friday.
The deadline to submit 300 certified signatures to the secretary of state's elections division is Tuesday, May 31. Candidates must also submit financial interest statements to the State Ethics Commission, and have been enrolled in their respective parties for at least 90 days.
The Senate seat has been held for 10 years by Sen. Benjamin Downing, D-Pittsfield, who announced in January he would not run for re-election.
The Democrats who have qualified for the ballot are attorney Andrea Harrington of Richmond, nonprofit director Adam Hinds of Pittsfield and lawyer Rinaldo Del Gallo III, also of Pittsfield. Christine Canning of Lanesborough, a Republican who runs an education consulting firm, has also qualified.
A fourth Democrat, Thomas Whickam of Lee, has pulled nomination papers but has not yet returned 300 certified signatures, according to Galvin's office.
Harrington and Hinds squared off at a Goshen debate earlier this month, and Del Gallo, a fathers' rights activist who describes himself as a "Bernie Sanders progressive," cried foul because he had not been invited. Debate organizers said Del Gallo was excluded because he had not yet declared his candidacy. Del Gallo later said he plans to formally announce his campaign in Pittsfield on May 31.
Downing was just 24 when entered his first Senate race in 2006, after Sen. Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr., D-Pittsfield, said he would not run again. Downing narrowly defeated former state Rep. Christopher Hodgkins of Lee in the primary, then went on to win the general election in a landslide. Since then, Downing has not faced a competitive election.
Downing chairs the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy and the Senate Committee on Redistricting; vice chairs committees on tourism and on audit and oversight; and is a member of the influential Ways and Means Committee.
The district, geographically the largest in the Massachusetts Senate, comprises 52 communities in the four western counties.
Mary Serreze can be reached at email@example.com.
"Rinaldo Del Gallo running for Senate as a 'Sanders progressive'"
Running as a 'Bernie Sanders progressive'
By Jim Therrien, The Berkshire Eagle, May 30, 2016
PITTSFIELD — Democratic primary candidate Rinaldo Del Gallo III wants to make it clear from the start what kind of campaign he will run for the state Senate seat representing Berkshire County.
"My general theme is, I am running as a Bernie Sanders progressive," he said during an interview. "It was one of the first decisions I made. I wanted people to be able to know in an instant what type of platform that I had."
Del Gallo added, "There has been a lot of discussion about what is going to happen with that [Sanders] revolution. It has to be a political revolution, so to speak, that happens throughout our government at the federal and state levels."
The movement of wealth toward the higher-income levels in recent decades is a trend that must be reversed, Del Gallo said, to stabilize the middle class and the poor and revive a sluggish U.S. economy.
"Wages have gone flat. Almost all wealth has gone to the top," he said, citing statistics on income and wealth disparities noted by Sanders in his presidential campaign.
"It is an absolute rigging of our system that is causing the decay of our country, that is causing the collapse of the middle class, which is causing the ranks of the poor to swell and the ranks of the middle class to just disappear," Del Gallo said, adding that crime, drug addiction, infrastructure neglect and other problems are related to a lack of economic opportunity for many.
Del Gallo, 53, of Lenox, is an attorney who grew up in Pittsfield where his uncle, Remo Del Gallo, served as mayor during the 1960s. He is seeking the Democratic nomination for the seat now held by Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, D-Pittsfield, who is stepping down at the close of his fifth term in January.
In the Democratic primary Sept. 8, Del Gallo will face Adam Hinds of Pittsfield and Andrea Harrington of Richmond. Christine Canning of Lanesborough is the lone Republican candidate in her party's primary.
At the state level, Del Gallo said, one focus for him would be promoting a taxing system tilted more toward the middle class. He also would advocate for a $15 minimum wage, solar and wind power generation and other environmental issues; support family leave and universal pre-kindergarten and would strive to be "the most pro-labor person" in the Legislature.
Right now, he said, 33 states have a graduated state income tax, which, like the federal government, has different rates depending on the level of income. "I would like Massachusetts to be the 34th state," he said.
The state now has only one tax rate, "basically a flat tax," he said. The candidate said he believes there are "different types of income that would be taxed differently with different types of approaches," saying that he would research tax issues more before making specific proposals.
Del Gallo contends that, at the federal level, the 1950s and 1960s saw high nominal rates and, "I would submit that those were some of the most economically prosperous times in our county."
Del Gallo said it seems "clear to me that we are going to have to amend our tax policies so that those who are super-affluent, those with the ability to pay, pay. We need a very fundamental change."
Without that level of taxation, he said, "We haven't been able to finance infrastructure, or public education ... But the good thing, at least in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, is that this is a taxing opportunity; it is there for us."
He also argues that "government clearly can create wealth," which he said is a basic difference between Democrats and Republicans, who believe the private sector should create wealth and drive the economy. "Then they hop in their car and drive home on a [public] road and pretend that isn't wealth," he said.
Expanding tax revenue sources could help repair crumbling infrastructure, fund education and promote green industries, he said, adding, "But we have been talking about this for decades."
The Obama administration's economic stimulus package was a good idea but "far too small," he said.
"We need money," he said. "We need some return on this enormous amount of wealth and capital that exists in this country ... A lot of people would think this is pie in the sky stuff, but there is a lot of wealth out there that could be reasonably taxed, and in the past when we have done so we have had fantastic economies,"
Raising the minimum wage also would spur the economy, he said, as it would give people more money to spend. Opponents of hiking the wage, "try to pretend progressives are wrong on minimum wage impact, but Harry Truman doubled the minimum wage in 1950s, and we had a booming economy. They want to pretend that the progressives don't know what they are talking about; well, they are just wrong. These are eminently doable things."
Like Sanders, Del Gallo would push for tuition-free college for state residents, arguing that European nations have shown this too is realistic.
Such tax changes would be "saving them [the wealthy] from themselves," he said. "Basically, they are drying up all the wealth. We cannot continue to decimate the middle class ... It's like overfishing a [prime fishing hole]."
Del Gallo said he also is proud of his record on the environment, having sponsored a polystyrene foam container ban ordinance that passed in Pittsfield and proposed a plastic bag ban, which is pending.
He received a Hero of the Ocean award from the state Senate for his efforts on the polystyrene ban.
On economic development, he said the area should continue to push to create industrial employment, along with a creative economy, which he said is not large enough to carry the regional economy alone.
He also called for more optimism that something approaching the days of large-scale GE employment are not gone forever. "We have been far to negative, defeatist," he said, adding that other regions, such as around Albany, N.Y., offer a blueprint for success.
Contact Jim Therrien at 413-496-6247. firstname.lastname@example.org @BE_therrien on Twitter.
Rinaldo Del Gallo announces his candidacy for state Senate on Tuesday at Shire City Sanctuary in Pittsfield. (Jim Therrien — The Berkshire Eagle)
"Senate candidate Del Gallo makes formal announcement"
By Jim Therrien, The Berkshire Eagle, 5/31/2016
PITTSFIELD - State Senate candidate Rinaldo Del Gallo held a formal campaign announcement Tuesday at Shire City Sanctuary, promising a progressive agenda in the Legislature and contending his name recognition could give him an edge in the Democratic primary.
Del Gallo faces Adam Hinds of Pittsfield and Andrea Harrington of Richmond for the Democratic nomination. A lone Republican, Christine Canning of Lanesborough, is seeking her party's nomination.
Several supporters attending the evening event praised Del Gallo, 53, a city native and attorney, for his work on behalf of progressive causes — often performing hours of pro bono legal work.
Brad Verter said, "I was inspired by Rinaldo Del Gallo," when Verter began pushing for bans on polystyrene foam containers and shopping bags in Williamstown, both of which were enacted.
Del Gallo's proposal for similar bans in Pittsfield spurred his own, Verter said, adding that he previously hadn't realized such changes could be enacted, before he saw a Del Gallo column on his citywide effort in The Berkshire Eagle.
"He held my hand through the entire process [in Williamstown]," Verter said.
Since then, he said, he has launched MassGreen.org, which assists communities around the state in similar environmental protection efforts.
Jim Martin, who said he has known Del Gallo for many years, said the attorney worked pro bono for numerous hours on a probate court issue for him.
"He has always been more concerned about helping people than making money," Martin said.
Speaking later, Del Gallo estimated he has done "a fantastic amount of pro bono work" over the years in numerous causes.
Martin also praised the candidate for "being the first against the [Kinder Morgan natural gas] pipeline in this county."
Grier Horner, a retired Berkshire Eagle editor and artist, said Del Gallo helped rescue his neighborhood when a developer planned a 375-unit timeshare development nearby. Not seeking any compensation, Del Gallo "knocked the [legal] footing out from under the developers," Horner said.
He also praised the candidate, who has promised to run "as a Bernie Sanders progressive," for his positions on taxation, the environment and many other issues. Through changes in the state and federal tax structures, Del Gallo wants to "ease the stranglehold" wealthy interests have obtained, Horner said.
"We need more candidates like Bernie Sanders and Rinaldo Del Gallo," he said.
Del Gallo stressed his progressive platform, which includes creating a tax structure favorable to the middle class and poor and asks more in taxes from the wealthy. Quoting Sanders during his presidential campaign, he cited statistics showing that the nation had a robust economy in past decades when the tax rates on high earners and wealth were much higher.
"Today, we don't have the money to fund government anymore," he said, later adding, "We can't keep putting it on the [government] credit card."
He also called for a $15 minimum wage and other changes to boost lower-income workers and the poor, contending that would enhance the entire economy as it did during the post-World War II decades.
He also supports tuition-free public higher education and affordable health care for all.
And the candidate said he has shown over the years a willingness to be among the first to take sometimes unpopular views and persevere until others adopt them as well.
He said that was true of his early stand in favor of decriminalizing marijuana and fighting for the rights of fathers with the Berkshire Fatherhood Coalition, and on transgender rights to use public restrooms.
"I think I have a chance in this race," Del Gallo said.
He said he has a long track record of activism and other work in the Berkshires that could give him a name-recognition advantage over his Democratic rivals in the Sept. 8 primary.
Del Gallo said he favors an approach to economic development similar to the stimulus efforts in New York in creating a Nanotechnology Institute in the Albany area.
Del Gallo also talked about growing up in Pittsfield where his uncle, Remo Del Gallo, served as mayor during the 1960s. The elder Del Gallo was among about 30 supporters in attendance Tuesday.
Contact Jim Therrien at 413-496-6247. email@example.com @BE_therrien on Twitter.
Rinaldo Del Gallo made his announcement in front of 35 or so supporters at Shire City Sanctuary.
"Del Gallo Launches Bid For State Senate Seat"
By Andy McKeever, iBerkshires Staff, June 1, 2016
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Jim Martin had his daughter taken away from him and he didn't have the money to fight for custody in the courts.
Rinaldo Del Gallo offered his legal services pro-bono and put more than 100 hours into the legal representation.
"He is more concerned about justice than he is money," Martin said on Tuesday when Del Gallo formally announced his campaign for the state Senate seat being vacated by Benjamin Downing.
Mark Delmyer has a similar story about Del Gallo helping to fight off developers looking to divvy up his family farm into subdivisions.
"The farm now is still in the midst of being determined but the good news is we have somebody to help," Delmyer said.
Grier Horner told a similar story of when Del Gallo defeated a timeshare project eyed for the Ponterill property. And Brad Verter credited Del Gallo with being his inspiration for the ban of polystyrene and plastic bags in Williamstown, after which Del Gallo lead the successful ban in Pittsfield.
"He held my hand through the entire process," Verter said, adding that he motivated him to ultimately start the statewide Mass Green Network.
There are dozens of stories of Del Gallo's work and his message in the campaign is "you know me."
The attorney has been active in a number of different political and social issues in the area since he returned here in 2000. He started the Berkshire Fatherhood Coalition. He ushered through the ban on polystyrene food containers in Pittsfield, and inspired and worked with other communities to do the same.
"I stuck with it, it took three years and in 2015, the city of Pittsfield banned Styrofoam," Del Gallo said.
He cited a number of small legislative items he got through the Pittsfield City Council and his ongoing petition to ban single-use plastic bags. He's previously filed a petition to support transgender rights.
"So far, I seem to be the only talking about this. I believe transgendered people should have equal rights," Del Gallo said. "If elected to the Senate, I will fight for the rights of transgendered people."
He represented First Amendment cases, including a 2012 suit against local blogger Dan Valenti. And he said he's always had the courage to speak out against such things as supporting the decriminalization of marijuana in 2008 when most officials were opposing it and the Bernard Baran case. Through countless columns and opinion pieces submitted to newspapers, Del Gallo says he has the name recognition and the platform to win the Senate seat.
Dubbing himself a "Bernie Sanders progressive," his primary focus is on income inequality.
"We want to keep the revolution going on the local level," he said.
Crediting Sanders' speeches, he said the top 1/10 of the top 1 percent of the wealthiest Americans have as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent and that the richest 20 people have more wealth than the bottom 150 million people.
That's where the money is to support a number of projects that were never completed, he said, such as high-speed rail to Boston and New York from the Berkshires or a more robust public transportation system or providing tuition-free college.
"I want to introduce a graduated income tax system," Del Gallo said, adding he'd go after making the amendment in the state Constitution to join the 33 other states with such a system.
He also supports raising the minimum wage, adding a millionaire tax, and a wealth tax. That will pave the way for universal preschool and single-payer health insurance.
"This isn't pie in the sky stuff, it's being done all over the world," Del Gallo said.
He also supports GMO labeling, bioremediation of the Housatonic River, opposing the Kinder Morgan pipeline in Otis and Sandisfield, and using the William Stanley Business Park as a place to grow nanotechnology industry as has been done in Albany, N.Y.
"This is just talk unless we can get some of this wealth," Del Gallo said.
He went on to oppose the war on drugs and incarceration — instead calling for more rehabilitation.
Del Gallo took a few shots at his opponents in the Democratic primary, saying Adam Hinds has only been in the Berkshires for a small period of time compared to him and that Andrea Harrington has been "quiet" while he's been active in the community. Del Gallo hopes to defeat those two in the September primary to win the Democratic nomination. From there he'd be up against Christine Canning, of Lanesborough, who is the Republican candidate.
Del Gallo is a Pittsfield native and his uncle Remo Del Gallo was Pittsfield's mayor in the 1960s. His father was a cost engineer at General Electric. Rinaldo Del Gallo got his law degree from George Washington University.
Grier Horner voiced support for Del Gallo not just because of his local work but also because of the national and state issues in which the two share the same views.
"Third Democrat [Rinaldo Del Gallo III] announces formally for Downing’s Senate seat"
By Richie Davis, Recorder Staff, June 2, 2016
A third Democratic hopeful seeking a Berkshire County-based state Senate seat has formally announced his candidacy.
Rinaldo Del Gallo III, who is an attorney, is seeking the Senate seat being vacated by Democrat Benjamin Downing of Pittsfield, and faces a three-way Democratic primary on Sept. 8 in the district that includes Ashfield, Conway, Shelburne, Buckland, Charlemont, Hawley, Heath, Rowe and Monroe, along with communities in Berkshire, Hampshire and Hampden counties.
Del Gallo, who describes himself as “a Bernie Sanders progressive,” is the last of the three Democrats to formally announce, and was critical of being left out of a May 11 debate the Hilltown Democratic Coalition held in Goshen, although organizers said it was only for announced candidates. Democrats Adam Hinds of Pittsfield and Andrea Harrington of Richmond took part.
A graduate of George Washington University Law School and Northeastern University, Del Gallo has been spokesman for the Berkshire Fatherhood Coalition since 2002 and has worked on animal rights and environmental issues, including successfully getting adopted a plastic foam ban in Berkshire County and a Pittsfield farm-animal rights ordinance. Del Gallo says we would support a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags and plastic foam products like Styrofoam.
He has filed a petition in Pittsfield to guarantee the rights of transgendered people and, as a lawyer, wrote a legal opinion that helped prevent time-share housing from being allowed in residential zones in the city.
Del Gallo supports “tuition-free and debt-free” state higher education as well as universal pre-kindergarten, to be sponsored by a millionaire’s tax now being considered as a state constitutional amendment. He also supports decriminalization of marijuana, a $15 minimum wage and labeling of genetically modified organisms.
He has a been an op-ed contributor to the Berkshire Eagle on a wide variety of subject and has written a My Turn column on Styrofoam for The Recorder.
You can reach Richie Davis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 413-772-0261, ext. 269.
Christine Canning: “Why I am running for state Senate”
By Christine Canning, Op-Ed, The Berkshire Eagle, 6/12/2016
LANESBOROUGH - I was born and raised in Berkshire County but have either lived or worked in Hampden, Hampshire and Franklin counties over the years. I understand our area, its people, and our needs. I am highly educated, personable, demonstrate common sense, and address adversity without blinking an eye.
I am running because I can no longer watch us spiral deeper down with the nepotism, corruption, retribution and retaliation of "good old boys" networks that centralize the power at our people's expense. I am a strong person who is known for her follow through, commitment to causes, and determination to do what is correct, even at the expense of myself. If you wish to discuss my platform more in depth, contact me and I will discuss issues with your organization or group.
We live in a world where private companies play a pivotal role in economic growth and expansion. I want to encourage tax free zones because of the profits that result in other areas of the markets. During my years in the United Arab Emirates, I watched a desert turn green from open-minded innovation. I saw how businesses were invited into the region after the turnover of Hong Kong from British rule to China's. I saw Dubai grow, and the people become richer through "free zones" with the money made off of tax breaks.
I firmly believe that private companies grow the economy. As I have owned an LLC and a corporation in the commonwealth with SDO certification that have earned government contracts, I understand first hand the constraints. This is why I worked with Sen. Downing to pass an Amended Procurement Act after I realized we were losing our tax dollars to out-of-state companies.
If elected senator, I would use guerrilla marketing tactics to make our region a destination, and not just a place to visit. My work around the world has afforded me first-hand opportunities to see what can work on even the smallest of resources and budgets.
I like reading cutting edge research, trends, and being ahead of the game. The new wave will be artificial intelligence, and I'd like to make it lucrative for companies to make their base in our four-county district. I advocate resilience coupled with reinventions, so we are utilizing what is available to us by law, regulation and funding in this digital age.
Good enough is never good enough with me, because the world is constantly changing, and to keep up at a global level towns either decide to be flexible or face the consequences. You would not wear your 1970s clothes today, yet we are willing to live in a world that no longer exists.
If elected, I am going to work for a much-needed makeover by being candid, engaging in deep and rich discussions, and tweaking laws so that equity rules and not corruption. With my advanced degrees, I am able to deconstruct data to reshape areas that need improvement. Looking at successful models, I am able to make educated comparisons, and will work toward getting our people retrained in fields that offer better salaries and benefits.
In our modern world, each of us bares witness to new ideas, accelerated change, but it is difficult when our areas don't have the tools. This is why I will fight for broadband, and be bold enough to look at technologies that may surpass this service so that we stay ahead of the game as a future flagship to replicate. I want to reshape the area so we can have a business without borders, and emerge stronger by meeting the demands of supply opportunities.
As a professionally licensed teacher in four areas who is also a licensed superintendent of schools, I won't be pontificating from theories but from first-hand practice. Until our schools are up to par, property values will not rise. Many people buy at higher rates in areas with better schools. As I understand formulas, am finishing a doctorate in leadership and policy with a focus in compliance law to better equity, I will hold the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and its vendors accountable.
I will work to change our current standardized testing practice with new alternatives which meet federal mandates and cut back on the $125 million-plus payouts to testing vendors and third parties. Education has become a business, and the only one losing are the students. I have taken on different school districts to protect the health, welfare, and safety of children, and I won't stop, until I see improvements.
Lastly, my work has afforded me to live with the Taliban in Saniya, to go to the 38th parallel, train militaries and work with agents in international law enforcement through language-based opportunities. I have not been protected, or sheltered, but instead immersed myself in the cultures. I have also filed cases with our immigration system and other federal agencies, only to realize how broken the system is and where the loopholes lay. My first-hand knowledge alone in these areas make me a valuable servant for the public.
As a previous winner of the DAR, volunteer awards, service above self, and prestigious grants, I would be an excellent senator to serve on our state's committees for education, ways and means and Public Safety. I hope that Berkshire, Franklin, Hampden and Hampshire counties elect me as the incoming state senator this November.
Christine Canning is a Republican candidate for state senator.
Rinaldo Del Gallo, III: “Open challenges to candidates for state Senate”
By Rinaldo Del Gallo, III, Op-Ed, The Berkshire Eagle, 6/22/2016
PITTSFIELD - In the first week of April, I sent my fellow candidates for state Senate an e-mail asking them to agree to voluntary spending limits. Many progressives I have spoken to feel it is an excellent idea. I herein resubmit an open proposal on the subjects of spending limits, debates and columns in local papers. This offer, previously submitted in early April, I offer for 10 days after publication of this column by The Eagle.
I have been told that state Senator Ben Downing spent $100,000 to get elected when he first ran for office in 2006. I also confirmed that former state Senator Andrea Nuciforo spent a similar amount.
Please ponder that colossal dollar figure — $100,000. It is this daunting amount of money that caused me to hesitate about throwing my hat into the ring.
There are several problems with raising such an astronomical sum to run for office.
First, potentially good candidates are not entering the race. Second, when we raise such vast amounts of money, we owe people favors. Politics becomes less about people and more about campaign donors, especially large campaign donors. We all want to represent the poor and the diminishing middle class — not just people that can make campaign donations.
I am campaigning as a "Bernie Sanders progressive." Bernie has talked at great length about the evils of money and politics. It is my hope that getting money out of politics is something that all of us as Democrats can agree is not only a laudable goal but is essential to the body politic. If our government is going to be what Lincoln described as being "of the people, by the people, for the people," we need to get money out of politics. This is especially true of a state Senate race that should be all about personal conversations, debates, and expression of views in local media.
Third, I want to spend from now until Thursday, Sept. 8, looking voters in the eye and having real conversations, not raising campaign donations. It represents too much of a theft of time. Politics should be about time with people, not raising money.
I propose a limit of around $20,000 but would entertain and even prefer lower amounts. I would entertain higher ones if my fellow candidates would not agree to a $20,000 campaign spending limit. But I want to know if you will agree to any campaign spending limits of any kind or nature. It is the first policy decision you will have to make.
Here would be the parameters:
* Democratic state Senate candidates Adam Hinds and Andrea Harrington, would have to agree for this proposal to apply to the Democratic primary.
* There would be a limit on campaign contributions, but there would also be a limit on "independent" expenditures. Good faith efforts would have to be made to discourage such expenditures. The purpose would be to remove hard money and soft money.
* We could agree to raise funds for the general campaign should the Republican challenger, Christine Canning, not agree to this agreement. If the Republican does not agree to these terms, it would enhance the Democrats' chance at victory, since we would not expend money fighting each other in our primary.
* If I can get all other candidates on board that could appear in the general election, this agreement of spending limits would apply to the general election as well.
I believe that we as Democrats can make history and return democracy (with the little "d") to the people. Please join me in what could be a historic moment for democracy and its return to the people.
I would like to have debates or forums once per week until the election. There are numerous local organizations that would like to sponsor such debates and forums, and I am sure the media would cover them. I ask the other candidates to agree to this offer.
We would agree to ask to have local newspapers carry columns by all of us.
While I believe that we have a good pair of Democratic candidates in Hinds and Harrington, this open letter is extended to the Republican challenger, Canning.
Please accept this challenge in the respectful and positive manner in which it is made. Let us change the face of democracy and give it back to the people.
Rinaldo Del Gallo, III is a candidate for state Senate for the Western district comprising 52 towns.
Letter: “Improving education critical to region”
The Berkshire Eagle, 7/6/2016
To the editor:
I come from a family of educators. My father was a public school teacher and my mother a librarian in the public high school I attended. Public education prepared me for the world, and I am running for state Senate to protect that opportunity for every child in the Western Mass. district.
Towns now finalize budgets in challenging financial circumstances, forcing difficult choices related to school budgets. This past week I released my education priorities with a focus on bolstering schools by fixing funding.
First, update the Chapter 70 funding formula. In Western Mass, we face declining populations and aging infrastructure. So while "dollars follow the student" in the current funding formula, districts with declining populations still must care for aging school buildings, retiree health insurance, and other essential costs. The current formula is woefully outdated and underfunds retiree benefits and special education. I will go to Beacon Hill to fight for a fair solution for our region.
Second, even if we fix the school funding formula, we face the reality of declining populations and dwindling tax dollars. We can expand our high-quality education by allowing neighboring districts to partner and pool knowledge and resources. I will ensure necessary resources are available, and prioritize facilitating and working with all stakeholders to find sensible collaboration in the district.
Third, fully fund regional school transportation. Boston broke its promise to reimburse regional school transportation costs. Limited funds to educate our children now pay for buses.
Governor Baker's proposed FY17 budget only reimburses 68% of the cost. This unfairly impacts school districts in western Massachusetts. I will work tirelessly to get full reimbursement for regional school transportation.
Besides funding priorities, we must ensure our system of education serves everyone. I will work for universal pre-K to address the achievement gap.
Connecting schools to regional workforce needs is another priority. It includes the training needs of local businesses and pre-apprenticeship programs to bring non-traditional workers to the trades. Finally, schools increasingly need the tools to address student emotional and behavioral issues.
Education is at the center of who we are: it reflects our investment in the next generation. Successful pre-K-12 education is central to workforce development and retaining and attracting residents. As state senator, strengthening education will be central to my work.
Adam Hinds, Pittsfield
Adam Hinds is a candidate for state Senate in the Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin & Hampden district.
“Impressed by Hinds' focus on education”
The Berkshire Eagle, Letter to the Editor, 7/10/2016
To the editor:
I find Adam Hinds' approach to educational reform enlightening, from his early approach for Pre-K students to his addressing the social and emotional needs of youth. As a School Committee member, I support Adam because of his forward thinking and strong interest in our students' future.
Adam is in tune with the education needs of the districts he is looking to serve. He has many proactive approaches to assist districts as Western Massachusetts faces a declining student population and aging infrastructure. The area needs Chapter 70 formula revisions so the districts receive reimbursements that are equitable and necessary to sustain programs. Regional school transportation formulas need revamping because the districts cannot sustain their costs on 68-70 percent reimbursement at best.
Collaboration will be a tool that educators in Western Massachusetts must look at to become more efficient and sustain services. Workforce programs and funding will be needed to prepare students who are not college bound. Our students today live complicated lives that include peer relationships, social media and pressure to exceed expectations and perform at a high academic level. Partnerships need to be formed and stakeholders need to work together with a leader like Hinds.
The schools cannot do this alone, they need someone who is proactive and believes in our students and providing quality education to our students. Please join me in support of Adam Hinds for state senator.
Regina A. Hill, Adams
Letter: "Hinds' platform on education is impressive"
The Berkshire Eagle, 7/12/2016
To the editor:
I hold education very close to my heart. It's what we all have in common, and has the greatest potential to make the greatest impact on who our children grow up to become.
Adam Hinds' platform on education impresses me, and this is why I support him. He doesn't simply speak in generic phrases and buzzwords we've all heard; he tries to help all people understand, and that's what we need. He knows that part of the state isn't treated equally on Beacon Hill and the antiquated funding formulas don't look upon our school districts fairly, which is why he wants to update the formulas to fit our communities better in western Massachusetts.
Adam believes that the next state Senator should work to coordinate among districts to save money on some types of costly services and by doing so, our dollars spent on education can become even more effective. He believes every young child is entitled to pre-kindergarten, which research shows is particularly important to adolescent development.
What has impressed me the most is that Adam always stresses the need for our education programs to lead to well-paying jobs. Every student should have the chance to attend college if they wish, but not every student wants to take that path. That's okay. What every student deserves is an opportunity for gainful employment.
Our next state Senator will have to work with the Legislatures to find the funds we need to support our school districts, teachers and para-professionals. Adam has the experience and ideas necessary to follow through and make it happen!
I hope everyone will vote for Adams Hinds in the primary on Sept. 8.
On the trail: Berkshire campaigns in brief
The Berkshire Eagle, 7/9/2016
“Harrington campaign kicks off 'House Party Tour'”
RICHMOND - Andrea Harrington, a Democratic candidate for state Senate, has is planning a "Four County House Party Tour," beginning Tuesday in Great Barrington.
Harrington is running for Senate in the Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin and Hampden District being vacated by Sen. Benjamin B. Downing.
The tour will consist of 30 individual campaign house parties and meet and greets across the four counties.
"I'm proud of the true district-wide campaign we are running. From Williamstown to Westhampton and Pittsfield to Peru, we are talking to voters and doing grassroots organizing in every corner of the district," Harrington said.
She added, "I am running for state Senate to be a bold, progressive voice for Western Massachusetts, and I look forward to working with residents across the district on the issues that matter to us. I will be a tireless advocate for our communities as we work to combat the opioid epidemic, invest in public education, and develop comprehensive strategies to promote environmental sustainability and create jobs for our region."
Harrington grew up in Richmond where she lives with her husband, Tim, and their two sons. Harrington is an attorney and owns a small business in West Stockbridge.
If interested in attending a house party near you, email email@example.com.
Letter: “Andrea Harrington will fight for Senate district”
The Berkshire Eagle, 8/4/2016
To the editor:
If you have not heard of Andrea Harrington, you soon will. She is running for state senator for the 52-community Berkshire-Franklin-Hampshire-Hampden district and she deserves your vote.
I had the opportunity to get to know Attorney Harrington as she represented a beloved family member of mine with a troubling legal matter. Despite her diminutive appearance, we soon learned that this mother of two from Richmond was a spirited fighter.
Andrea provided the strength of professional resolve along with an unwavering action plan, all the while tempered with bundles of warm-hearted optimism. Unselfishly working for little more than goodwill, Attorney Harrington delivered a successful outcome.
Andrea has and continues to serve her family and community tirelessly. She has said that she is running because our district needs a state senator who is invested in this district. Certainly, deep local roots and strong family values define her character.
Much like our brave military men and women, Andrea Harrington seeks to serve to help fulfill those goals. Indeed, as our senator, we can be assured of her unflappable loyalty and determination.
Creating positive change for the western district will take time and energy, but I strongly believe that Andrea is the right person to fulfill the Senate position. She has a proven record of success. She is committed, enthusiastic, professional and a person of integrity, honor, and grace.
On Sept. 8, I strongly encourage you to vote for Andrea Harrington in the Democratic primary. I believe she has earned the opportunity to serve and represent our interests.
Gene DiNicola, Dalton
Rinaldo Del Gallo, III: “The race's true progressive”
By Rinaldo Del Gallo, III, Op-Ed, The Berkshire Eagle, 8/7/2016
PITTSFIELD - I am running for state senator as a Bernie Sanders progressive. Whenever you hear Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren or I speak at length, our speeches invariably start on the subject of wealth disparity. It is the first issue on Sanders' website. By contrast, I have never heard my two Democratic opponents use the term "wealth disparity," "wealth inequality," or otherwise significantly address the topic.
America is not a poor country. Nor is Massachusetts a poor state. When our friends and neighbors who are barely keeping their heads above water surround us, it creates the illusion of scarcity. It is just that, an illusion. The reality is that we actually live in one of the wealthiest countries in world history. The belief in this reality of grotesque wealth disparity is one of the most fundamental premises of the Sanders revolution — that the rich are becoming richer under a rigged system, and the middle class are joining the ranks of the poor in a period of unprecedented superabundance. Many places throughout the district, by way of example Pittsfield, North Adams and Adams, have seen staggering economic decline in the last 35 years.
As Sanders points out, in America, the top 1/10 of the top 1 percent of the population has as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent. The top 20 people in our country own more wealth than the bottom 150 million Americans, almost ½ of our population. Despite having the most productive workers in the world, our wages have gone flat while almost all new economic growth is siphoned off by the wealthiest.
My opponents would rather remain "on topic" and discuss things like the economy and funding education. They fail to see the incredible nexus. The most prosperous years in America history were the 1950s and early 1960s. Yet, during those years, the highest federal nominal income tax rate was 91 percent! (Go to DelGalloForStateSenate.com for a greater breakdown.) Today, the highest nominal tax rate is only 39.6 percent.
The data are clear: high taxes on the super rich not only do not correspond to economic collapse, but also actually correspond to economic prosperity. Why? Because in the halcyon '50s and early '60s, we were able to make major investments in infrastructure and fund education through taxes on the wealthy. Many do not know that higher education at state schools was once quite affordable because government had the revenue to pay most of the tab.
I am running on a platform of single-payer health care; universal pre-K; tuition free and debt-free state higher education; investment in green energy to replace fossil fuels and creating jobs in the Berkshires around that technology; investing in high speed rail from the Berkshires to New York and Boston and improved public transportation to get us out of cars; improving our infrastructure; investing in a technological center like the Albany Nanotech Institute that performed economic wonders, and getting that "last mile" of high speed internet in the hill towns.
Many politicians in the past have campaigned on many of these proposals, yet we never seem to have the money to fund them. This underscores the basic need to have systemic change in our tax system so that we can access this great concentrated wealth to make these programs possible.
My two opponents are not progressive enough. Both started their campaigns by being undecided (when asked by WAMC) about the proposed pipelines that would carry fracked gas through the Berkshires, and only became opposed after I entered the race.
To their credit, both say they support a $15 minimum wage and the "fair share amendment" (which would tack on another 4 percent income tax for incomes over a million dollars.) But one hopped in the race in early February, the other in early March, and yet to the best of my recollection neither said they supported a $15 minimum wage or the fair share amendment until we met in a forum on June 21 and they had to respond to a question. That's after campaigning for four to five months.
My opponents refused to agree to my call for voluntary campaign spending limits. They do not see how good people are becoming discouraged from running for office as fundraising becomes a preoccupation of races, and creates the opportunity for undue influence. They say they are for campaign finance reform, just not in their race.
As a Bernie Sanders progressive, I have been unequivocal in my opposition to the pipelines, I support voluntary spending limits and real campaign finance reform, and the central premise of my campaign is addressing wealth inequality to finance progressive change.
Rinaldo Del Gallo, III is a Democratic candidate for state Senate from the Western District.
August 7, 2016
Open letter to Rinaldo
I read your most recent op-ed about being a true economic/financial progressive in your campaign for Berkshire County State Senator. Your fiscal positions match those of the populist leaders U.S. Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
In my years of studying and trying to understand economics and finance, there are two significant points to building an equitable society for poor, working and middle class families. The first point is for someone like you who is running for political office is to get the public and private sectors to “Invest in people”. The second point is bring transformation or real change to “the vested interests” that shape the political agenda in local, state, and federal government.
Point 1: The people are the most important resource to a community, state, and nation. The only way to build this resource is for business and government entities to use part of their financial resources to invest in their citizens or customers.
It is not enough to change the tax code from a regressive to a progressive one. It is not enough to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour. It is not enough to have a single-payer healthcare insurance system, which our nation does not yet have. Those are all good ideas!
We need to do more than change a few public policies. We need to ensure that the poor, working and middle class people are given the resources to achieve an opportunity for financial success via a fair political system that funds programs that invest in their lives. We need middle class and affordable housing, quality public schools in all communities (rich or poor), healthcare insurance that everyone can access, safe streets free of violent crime, financial security through living wage jobs, safe retirement accounts, and the solid foundations of Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security.
Point 2: Changing the vested interests that set the political agenda is the tougher of the two points to bring an equitable society for the common person. Usually in business and politics, the vested interests always win, while the masses usually lose. The reason is that the vested interests control the government that is supposed to represent the people.
In Massachusetts, and New England, the financial institutions dominate the region’s economy. When U.S. Senator John Forbes Kerry ran against U.S. President George Walker Bush in 2004, I read that it was really big banks versus big oil, but either way “Skull and Bones” would be represented in the White House for the next 4 years.
The irony for Berkshire County and many other areas of Massachusetts is that Boston’s big banks and wealthy insurance companies are not part of these communities. Pittsfield already had a Berkshire State Senator working both for the state government and the financial institutions, but Nuciforo had to step down from the State Senate one decade ago for his corrupt and illegal conflicts of interest.
Changing the vested interests’ political agenda in Massachusetts politics could actually help places like Berkshire County. The vested interests could go from advocating for their business interests to funding programs that invest in people.
Good luck! I am rooting for you, as I did in 2003 when I lived in Pittsfield and listened to you run for local political office 13 years ago. Back then, I believed that your platform of bringing living wage jobs to Pittsfield instead of the WHEN movement that failed Pittsfield’s tanked local economy would have helped matters.
"Three Democratic candidates for Downing's seat try to separate themselves ahead of primary"
By Derek Gentile, The Berkshire Eagle, 8/7/2016
LENOX — The three candidates for an open state Senator's seat spent Sunday morning in front of about 40 voters trying to create separation between each other at a "debate" at the Lenox Town Hall.
The event was sponsored by the Lenox Chamber of Commerce and the Lenox Democratic Committee.
The three Democrats are Rinaldo Del Gallo and Adam Hinds both of Pittsfield, and Andrea Harrington of West Stockbridge.
State Representative William "Smitty" Pignatelli moderated.
Pignatelli pointed out that, with the decision by incumbent state Sen. Benjamin Downing not to run for re-election, "this is the first time in 10 years that this seat is open."
Pignatelli added that while there is considerable emphasis on the national election in November, "you have a decision to make in six weeks. The Democratic primary is Sept. 8, a Thursday. And that's an important date."
The district which Downing represents is the largest in Massachusetts, said Pignatelli, encompassing 52 cities and towns.
The event was less a debate than a discussion. The candidates were all asked the same questions and asked to respond. They were also each allowed a preliminary statement and a post-discussion statement.
In overall philosophy, the three candidates were similar. There was some nuance to each response, certainly. Del Gallo emphasized several times that he was a Progressive and follower of former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.
Harrington said she would work to move the state in a more Progressive direction, while Hinds seemed more moderate.
All emphasized, for example, that they favored a thorough cleanup of the Housatonic River by General Electric.
All three also agreed that broadband access was crucial to the Berkshires, and Hinds and Harrington both noted that the delay in funding a broadband initiative was "shameful."
Del Gallo did not disagree, but pointed out that outlying towns would probably do better to fund at least a portion of the cost of initiating broadband infrastructure themselves than waiting for the state to do so.
The three candidates were all opposed to introducing more charter schools in the area.
"No one," said Harrington, "is clamoring for charter schools."
"We have school districts struggling for funding," said Hinds. He added that the state's "one size fits all" funding formula did not serve school districts in Western Massachusetts.
Del Gallo was not opposed to lifting a cap on the number of area charter schools, but emphasized he would also request that if a cap were lifted, that local school districts should decide whether to add charter schools.
The candidates supported Attorney General Maura Healey's recent decision to ban "copycat" assault weapons.
"I feel obligated to protect our children and ourselves," said Harrington. "It's not about taking away guns from sportsmen."
"These are weapons of war," said Hinds.
Del Gallo said he believed Healy did a "wise thing" in banning the weapons.
Regarding the opioid epidemic, Hinds opined that more resources were needed to deal with intervention, treatment and harm reduction. Harrington agreed, emphasizing that the district has not been granted the funds to deal with the epidemic.
Del Gallo believed that "the state has a lousy attitude toward relapse" believing that more money should be allocated to that effort.
Contact Derek Gentile at 413-496-6251. firstname.lastname@example.org @DerekGentile on Twitter.
"Democratic House and Senate hopefuls face off in Berkshire Brigades debates"
By Jim Therrien, The Berkshire Eagle, 8/12/2016
PITTSFIELD — The five Democratic candidates seeking legislative nominations in the Sept. 8 primary participated in wide-ranging candidate debates Thursday evening at Berkshire Community College.
The Senate debate, moderated by former Judge Fredric Rutberg, president of The Berkshire Eagle, included numerous questions, follow-up questions and candidate-to-candidate questions.
Del Gallo claimed the "Bernie Sanders progressive" mantle, saying he is running a Sanders-style campaign and stressing strong measures to close the income gap with tax reform to shift the burden more toward the wealthy.
He also several times asserted that he was the first of the three candidates out front on such issues as opposition to the proposed Kinder Morgan natural gas pipeline project that was dropped amid strong opposition, and to support a $15 minimum wage.
Harrington and Hinds disputed that claim, saying they also early on took the progressive stand on those issues.
Del Gallo also asserted that he has been "a visible member of the community for 15 years," advocating for causes like a ban on polystyrene in Pittsfield and writing numerous newspaper columns on a range of progressive subjects. He added that Hinds only recently returned to the area to accept a position in Pittsfield and Harrington has not been "visible" on the political scene.
Hinds, a Buckland native, said he has been directly working in the community and tackling tough issues like gang violence and drugs as the founder of the grant-funded Pittsfield Community Connection program for at-risk youth and later as the executive director of the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition in North Adams.
He also cited his work with the U.N. in the Middle East where he said he learned to work with communities toward collaboration while also encountering negotiators "with some tough actors."
Harrington described herself as someone who has "always been for the underdog" and said she'd be a tireless advocate for working families, which she said are increasingly unable to afford to live in the Berkshires and get ahead.
She promised to pursue "a progressive agenda" in the Senate and added, "I am not a politically connected person, but what I am is a fighter. Don't let my size or my gender fool you," said Harrington, who is slight of build.
The candidate said her work as an attorney and her experiences growing up in a working class family in Pittsfield have given her the ability to forge collaborations but also the insight to know when to stand up strongly in opposition.
Hinds said the Senate position "needs someone to be effective in pushing an agenda," saying his experiences growing up in a family that stressed education, his local work with youth the low-income residents, with the U.N. and working for former U.S. Rep. John Olver, D-Amherst, has prepared him for the job.
Del Gallo said in his closing remarks that "I am the anti-establishment candidate, no doubt about it." But he asserted that more than his opponents he has been out in the community and active for more than a decade and he would fight hard against income disparity, which he said is at the root of many other problems.
"You need someone with fire in his gut," he said.
In November, the winner will face Christine Canning of Lanesborough, who is running unopposed as the Republican candidate.
The debates were held in the Koussevitzky Arts Center at BCC and were recorded by Pittsfield Community Television. Rutberg noted prior the Senate debate that despite a Red Sox-Yankees game and the Olympics on TV, the room was packed, indicating that democracy was alive and well.
Contact Jim Therrien at 413-496-6247.
Letter: “Hinds shows strength on energy issues”
The Berkshire Eagle, 8/12/2016
To the editor:
The Eagle provides the best coverage in the state on energy and environment issues generally, the policy debates specific to Massachusetts and legislation on Beacon Hill. Beyond the excellence of reporting, one reason may be our region has a gerrymandered division of electric utility territories and high service costs. Another is our intimate knowledge of the costs to the environment from PCBs used in electricity distribution equipment.
Certainly one long ongoing story is that the Berkshires with neighboring hill towns of Franklin and Hampshire counties have long been the state's nursery for clean energy policy and environmental advocacy. The current slate of legislators and those who have represented the region over the last three decades have supported and often created progressive programs and regulation.
As a clean energy employer located in Adams, Berkshire Photovoltaic Services has seen close-up how policy details affect job creation and security. We will miss the steadfast vision of state Sen. Downing on clean energy programs such as those that support internships from BCC and MCLA, and his granular attention to obscure regulations such as those that now ensure fair net metering for early adopters of solar PV systems and owners of small PV systems.
All the state Senate candidates on the Democratic side have expressed support for clean energy and they all should be commended for their interest in public service.
We are urging our customers and your readers to support Adam Hinds on Sept. 8. He is ready to put in the long hours being the First District's state senator require, and he has shown in reaching out to our business and others a command of the complex details on our energy mix. He understands the true costs of a heavy reliance on fossil fuels, the benefits of encouraging renewables and demonstrates the wisdom to achieve the balanced results Sen. Downing has worked hard to preserve and improve.
Christopher Derby Kilfoyle, Adams
The writer is president, Berkshire Photovoltaic Services.
Adam Hinds: “A vision for Western Massachusetts”
By Adam Hinds, Op-Ed, The Berkshire Eagle, 7/31/2016
PITTSFIELD - Six months ago I began a campaign to be your next state senator because I believe in the extraordinary potential of this region. I remain inspired by our amazing story here in the Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin and Hampden district. We come from a strong manufacturing legacy that has brought, and continues to bring, critical infrastructure and cutting edge technology to the rest of the world. We have world-class cultural institutions, vibrant cities, welcoming small towns, and unequaled access to nature.
People throughout the district share the character and concerns of the people who surrounded me as I grew up in the small town of Buckland. We believe in basic fairness and are eager to work hard to ensure a bright future for our families.
That is what this campaign is about. It is about ensuring every working family feels secure about the future because they have a quality job in a strong economy, and their child has a first rate education. It is about overcoming decades of wage stagnation and population decline by working toward a vision for the region that inspires others to join.
As your next state senator, my top priority will be to ensure economic growth by supporting existing businesses while advocating for an environment where entrepreneurship thrives. To do this, we must improve our transportation systems and ensure access to high speed internet in every corner of the district. It is unacceptable that finalizing last mile broadband has taken this long.
We must also support our educational institutions and workforce training programs so they can meet the changing needs of our business community. With over 2,000 unfilled jobs in this region, this link puts people to work.
As the son of two public school educators, I grew up understanding the importance of a quality education. I was lucky to receive that just over the hill in the Mohawk Trail Regional School district, where both my parents worked. In Boston, I will fight for an education system that is responsibly funded across the commonwealth, not just in Boston.
I will prioritize closing the opportunity gap by supporting universal Pre-K and full-day kindergarten to help students read proficiently by third grade — a significant measure of future success. I will be a tireless advocate for changing broken funding mechanisms that fail to recognize the challenges of our rural region. It will also be my guiding mission to ensure a college education is available to all who desire one. We cannot allow the cost of higher education to deter anyone from continuing to learn and grow.
SERIOUS ON ENERGY
I will work in the trenches with business and energy leaders, and then with Senate colleagues, to find real solutions to meet clean energy and greenhouse gas reduction mandates while also reducing the burden of rising costs. We have to get serious about deploying new energy solutions. Utility bills should not hinder business growth. We should set an example by pushing forward the clean energy solutions that will make us a leader in protecting the environment and in the green energy industry.
The heroin epidemic requires a comprehensive strategy that includes prevention, intervention and treatment. I will be a fierce proponent for ensuring our prescription drug monitoring practices are strengthened, our first responders are equipped to treat overdose victims, our criminal justice system embraces mental and behavioral health services, and treatment and recovery is accessible.
Our economy, education system, energy and environmental challenges have a common link. They can contribute to a declining population that results in a smaller tax base for municipalities and a difficult environment for maintaining quality schools. Yet challenges can be viewed as opportunities to secure an even deeper connection to this place for the next generation and for more individuals today. To honor the place we love, we must create a path forward that inspires.
I have spent my career working as a convener and a problem solver from Buckland to Baghdad to the Berkshires. In each of these places I always found a way to get people to the table with a willingness to work toward solutions. No matter how difficult the issue or the individual, I stood strong for the greater good. I will bring that determination with me to Beacon Hill.
If I am fortunate enough to have your vote on Thursday, Sept. 8, I promise to tackle head on the challenges that impact our daily lives in the Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin and Hampden district.
Adam Hinds is a Democratic candidate for state Senate.
Chris Canning: “Show us the money, says GOP candidate”
By Chris Canning, Op-Ed, The Berkshire Eagle, 7/31/2016
PITTSFIELD - I am the Republican candidate for state senator for Western Mass. in November and I have a strong bipartisan following because I represent hope for real change. Due to my extensive background in business and education, coupled with my experience in life, I understand what it means to lose a job, find a job, be a victim of a system, to overcome adversity, and to empathize with my constituents. I know how to reinvent, use creativity, expose corruption, and mend broken systems.
My primary goal is to create a clear economic vision and strategy which encourages sustainable economic growth. My economic goal is to build a stronger and more vibrant area. My priority is to bring professional, mid-level, skilled and unskilled jobs back to our counties by encouraging vocational education, academic training, and incentives to entice the business community to think of our area in terms of commerce.
I want our small businesses to become Supplier Diversity Office (SDO) certified so that they can be eligible for state contracts awarded with grants under executive order 390. After finding a loophole that cost our county a $14 million contract, I worked with Sen. Downing to change the law. A uniform procurement amendment was put into legislation requiring state agencies to give purchasing preference to Massachusetts-based corporations.
From owning companies, I speak from firsthand knowledge of the vicissitudes associated with seeking contracts. If elected, I want to repurpose agriculture, reinvent our infrastructure and renew our economic growth.
I will aggressively entice federal agencies to contract with our counties. Using my experiences from Dubai to Hong Kong, I will work to match the modern economy and global practices, such as promoting tax-free zones.
As your next senator, I want our communities to be part of an innovation train that goes beyond just sustainability. My goal is to rethink, repurpose, reinvent, and stabilize our sketchy economy. We need to encourage R & D, think tanks, and other institutions with deep financial pockets to look at our area as a game changer for investment.
If I am elected your next senator, my goal is to project more transparency, to gain financial trust, to find incentives that are reward-based, to use technology for better accountability, conduct independent analysis of payoffs on investment, and to recognize the work ethic potential of our people. Education and training are key to investment. To be vibrant we must attract potential businesses that can stimulate growth and attract like-minded businesses.
I want to promote regulatory reform. I want to coordinate better local and state rules that overlap. In the current budget system, trust line items and federal line items have the potential to be reallocated, but state line items do not have that flexibility.
As senator, I will set criteria for local investment to match our strategies and anticipated needs by supporting existing business sectors while planning for emerging sectors. I will identify priority areas for economic regeneration, infrastructure provision and environmental enhancement. Look beyond the party labels, and realize I am the best candidate to serve our areas, as my past has shown, my integrity, work ethic, ability to face adversity, and willingness to think outside the box for viable solutions.
With my experience, expertise, and education, I hope you recognize that I am a sound investment as your next public servant. Let me be what Republican U.S. Rep. Silvio Conte once was to our people. I will work to curb taxes and look at best practices so that we can have equitable growth.
I am the only candidate guaranteed to be on the November ballot as the other party has a primary runoff. Start early and prepare. Know before going into the voting booth that you want to go beyond labels. You want the best candidate available, and that is why you your vote should be for Chris Canning as the next state senator of Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin, and Hampden counties.
Andrea Harrington: “Public service goals rooted in Berkshires”
By Andrea Harrington, Op-Ed, The Berkshire Eagle, 8/9/2016
GREAT BARRINGTON - For the past decade, we have had tremendous leadership in the Massachusetts state Senate. Ben Downing has been an outstanding advocate for our region, leading on issues impacting Western Massachusetts. When Ben announced that he would not seek re-election this fall, I decided to run for Senate to continue this tireless advocacy for the 52 towns and cities in the district.
This election will have major ramifications on our communities, so I want to take this opportunity to tell you a little about who I am, where I come from, and how my background and life experiences have shaped my approach to public service and advocacy.
I am running for state Senate because Western Massachusetts needs a bold, progressive leader who has lived and understands the triumphs and challenges of our region. As a small business owner, a parent, and someone who grew up here, I have the unique experience and perspective to make a meaningful impact in office.
My approach to public service is deeply rooted in where I'm from and how I was raised. I grew up in the Berkshires. My dad was a carpenter and my mom cleaned houses for a living, while my grandparents and great grandparents worked at General Electric and Sprague. Hard work was a virtue in our home, and I started working alongside my mom when I was old enough to lend a hand.
Thanks to the hard work and strong values of my parents and grandparents, I have had opportunities that they did not enjoy. I graduated from Pittsfield public schools (Taconic High School) and became the first person in my family to graduate from college, and then law school.
After law school, I worked as an attorney focused on overturning death penalty cases. Since then, I have continued to practice law in Pittsfield and my husband and I own a small business — The Public Market in West Stockbridge.
We are raising our two boys in the small town where I grew up. There is no better place than the Berkshires to raise a family, but we constantly see the impacts of population decline and lack of jobs and opportunity.
As state senator, I will make growing good jobs and economic opportunity my top priorities. As a small business owner, I have seen real, tangible investments that can grow jobs in the Berkshires. My Economic Investment Plan includes proven strategies to create not just jobs, but careers, for Western Massachusetts. This ranges from investment in job training programs, modernizing vocational education for a 21st century economy, expanding broadband internet, creating regional partnerships and fostering greater collaboration throughout all sectors of business and our colleges and universities, and working to make the Berkshires a national leader in both the green and cultural economy.
I also support key investments in our public schools. I am a proud public school parent and have been active in the school site council for my boys. The student funding formula is not working for Western Massachusetts, and I will be a strong advocate to ensure that our PUBLIC schools, students, and teachers are receiving the resources they need to continue the great education that they provide for our kids.
NO DUMPS, FRACKING
Last week, I released a detailed environmental agenda, because I believe that protecting the natural beauty of the Berkshires and making Massachusetts more sustainable are important priorities. That is why I have been an outspoken opponent of the proposed PCB dumps in the Berkshires and the proposed fracked gas pipeline.
Finally, we have seen the opioid epidemic claim the lives of our friends and family members. I applaud the work of all those fighting this public health crisis every day, and it was important to see government come together in a bipartisan way to pass meaningful legislation this spring. We must continue to increase access to recovery beds and prioritize treatment over incarceration for non-violent drug offenders and expand the use of drug courts.
It has been incredible meeting thousands of our neighbors in the Berkshires since we launched our campaign this spring. I will continue to work hard to earn your vote, and I encourage you to read more about my plans and priorities at www.andreaforsenate.com.
Andrea Harrington is a candidate for state Senate from the Western District.
"Senate hopeful Harrington aims to expand opportunity, fight income disparity"
By Richie Davis, Recorder Staff, August 17, 2016
PITTSFIELD — When state Senate candidate Andrea Harrington returned to southern Berkshire County in 2009 after attending school in Seattle and Washington D.C. and working in criminal law in Florida, she found that the economic landscape had changed.
Harrington, one of three Democrats running for the state Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Benjamin Downing, had gone to Pittsfield public schools, and her family has lived in the Berkshires for generations, many of them working in factory jobs that have now vanished at Sprague Electric and General Electric.
“We had a lot more of those good manufacturing jobs, (but) over time, we’ve seen an increase in service jobs, and there really is dependency on the tourist economy and servicing second-home owners, particularly in south county,” said the Richmond attorney, who watched her family shift from well-paying manufacturing work to servicing the second-home economy: her father moved to carpentering, her mother started a house-cleaning business. Harrington attended the University of Washington and American University’s Washington College of Law.
“In my work, I see a lot of young people who are really struggling, a lot of families in family and probate court who struggle to make ends meet,” said the 41-year-old mother of two, whose husband owns the Public Market in West Stockbridge. “There are two major groups of people: the people who make a living somewhere else and the people who have to earn a living from the people who live here.”
Doing criminal defense as well as divorce and family law, she said, “I see a lot of those people, all the time: They need my help, and can’t afford to hire me.”
She said she’s running for the seat in the 52-community district “because our district needs a leader who understands the challenges facing our communities and will build on the opportunities we have to create jobs and protect our children. … I am running to expand the bright spots in our regional economy. In court I have seen too many lives impacted by financial hardship. … I believe we need to expand economic opportunity in this region.
A board member of Berkshares, a local currency for Berkshire County, Harrington’s work with the organization focuses on supporting local business, growing entrepreneurship, and the new community-supported industry program. She also volunteers with programs to provide expanded educational opportunities for young people in Berkshire County: the Railroad Street Youth Project, the Crocus Fund and the Berkshire Academies’ Mentors.
And she serves on the Affordable Housing Committee in her southern Berkshire County town.
Harrington has been endorsed by the Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus and a host of labor organizations, including the National Association of Social Workers, Western Massachusetts Carpenters Union Local 108, SEIU Local 888, and the Massachusetts Organization of State Engineers and Scientists.
Harrington says she loves her work, but confesses, “I feel if I’m going to work this hard, I want my work to have a bigger impact. … I really know what people here in our district are going through. And I have the skills to go and be our voice in Boston and to work for state policies that are going to work better for people here. I’ve been working for the past 13 years as an advocate for my clients every day.”
Among her priorities are to advocate for more education funding and job training money from the state in order to attract and keep better jobs in the region.
“I work with a lot of young people who just don’t have the job skills that they need to support their families,” she says. “Supporting our local businesses is something I’m very passionate about.”
Harrington wants to lower energy costs to make the state more attractive to potential employers. She opposes construction of new gas pipelines in the state and the proposed surcharges to pay for them, while supporting lifting the solar net-metering cap to create green jobs and expand renewable energy sources.
Harrington said she’s intrigued by the Pioneer Valley’s Co-Op Power model of community-owned and controlled energy as “hugely empowering,” especially for people who don’t own their own homes or who can’t afford to invest in rooftop solar.
She favors closing corporate tax loopholes and supports a proposed “millionaire’s tax” amendment to help pay for increased workforce development and improving the quality of education.
She points to problems with funding formulas for rural schools and with an overemphasis on testing rather than on learning holistically.
“In Massachusetts, we have one of the most aggressive innovation economies in the country, second only to Silicon Valley,” she said. “I want to pull those opportunities west and make more connections with businesses here in the western part of the state. … I don’t think this is a situation in which Boston’s going to save us; it’s something we’re going to have to do for ourselves, working together. But certainly we need a strong advocate who’s going to fight for us to build those connections between western Mass. businesses and eastern Mass. businesses, and to get the funding, and also a leader to help the district to work together in a coordinated way on expanding economic opportunity.”
Businesses that are already here need help filling jobs by improving the skills of their workers and improving transportation.
“Absolutely having a living wage is key, particularly in this area, where a lot of jobs are service jobs,” Harrington said. “I am a strong proponent of unions. And I see having strong policies for working families, including a $15 wage as being essential to people’s ability to support themselves — and as a way to prevent further income inequality.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Three Democrats will compete in the primary election Thursday, Nov. 8 for the Berkshire Hampshire Franklin Hampden Senate seat being vacated after 10 years by Sen. Benjamin Downing, D-Pittsfield. The elected Democrat will run against Republican candidate Christine Canning of Lanesborough, who has no primary opponent. This is the second of three candidate profiles.)
August 22, 2016
Re: Dan Valenti is unfairly negative against Andrea Harrington for Berkshire State Senator
Like Andrea Harrington, I graduated in 1993, but I went to Pittsfield High School instead of Taconic High School. She has accomplished a lot in her life. She has a law degree, professional experience, runs a small family business, is married with children, and she is invested in the community. She has a positive vision for Berkshire County when the local economy is at its lowest point in decades. She stands for progressive causes, including public education and economic development. She is not the hand-picked candidate that Adam Hinds is by the Pittsfield political machine. She does not have the name recognition that Rinaldo Del Gallo III has in Pittsfield politics. Rinaldo's uncle Remo Del Gallo is a former Pittsfield Mayor who has been involved in Massachusetts state and local politics for many decades. I am friends with Rinaldo and I respect the long standing leadership of his uncle Remo Del Gallo. Andrea Harrington is a long shot in this year's race for Berkshire State Senator. She will probably finish in third place. I don't believe it is fair for Dan Valenti to predict she is running a pseudo-campaign to be a spoiler to split Rinaldo's vote tally in favor of Adam Hinds so she can be set up for a political plum sinecure. Isn't that what Chris Speranzo did? He is the lifelong Pittsfield Clerk of Courts making a 6-figure yearly salary + lucrative state government benefits that will give him a big state government pension in his old age. What about Peter Larkin? He also makes a 6-figure salary as a GE lobbyist who ensures that Pittsfield remain polluted with cancer-causing PCBs! What about William "Smitty" Pignatelli running unopposed for his 8th term as Lenox State Representative? How many terms will this political hack, career politician serve? I predict at least 2 more decades so he can collect a big state government pension in his old age. It is more than fair to point one's finger at Pols like Speranzo, Larkin, and Pignatelli than it is to pass judgment of one's prediction on a qualified candidate with ideals named Andrea Harrington who is running a long-shot campaign for Berkshire State Senator in 2016.
- Jonathan Melle
"State Senate Candidates Focus On Economics In 5th Debate"
By Andy McKeever, iBerkshires Staff, August 24, 2016
PITTSFIELD, Massachusetts — As director of the Pittsfield Community Connection Adam Hinds reeled in a $5 million grant to fight crime an violence in the city.
Over the next 10 years, the grant will supplement salaries to put at-risk youth in jobs, provide job training, get them counseling, and employed outreach workers who had been in gangs or jail and can show the youth that that lifestyle doesn't work.
The crime numbers overlapped with the three most impoverished census blocks and the program targeted those areas.
"It was with the city and it was saying what are we going to do about the 14- to 24-year-olds who are pulling the trigger?" Hinds said. "It is a very strategic, very deliberate process."
That use of state funds is exactly what Hinds said he will bring to the table if elected to the state Senate during a forum at First United Methodist Church of Pittsfield. The forum was put on by the Independent Voters Committee, a project of the Berkshire County Workers Benefit Council.
The question Hinds was answering was one posed by a member of the audience of more than 50 people.
Rinaldo Del Gallo used his time to disagree with Mayor Linda Tyer's approach by adding more police officers. Del Gallo says what is driving crime isn't a lack of police but rather a poor economy. He says most of his policies he'd take to the Senate focus on economic development. He even cited Portugal which legalized drugs and put money into treatment instead and the numbers decreased.
For Del Gallo, fighting crime isn't about spending more money on police and judges but rather providing economic opportunity.
"If we don't improve our local economy, if we don't have more hope, we are going to have more crime," Del Gallo said.
Andrea Harrington spoke of her time as a defense attorney where she stood in courtrooms with those involved in the system. What she sees is a "school to prison" pipeline and a lack of education, job training, and untreated mental health issues. There is a growing drug problem, she said, but the way to tackle that isn't by just simply arresting drug dealers because another one will takes it place but instead "we need to do something about demand."
The three are all vying for the state Senate seat being vacated by Benjamin Downing, who opted not to run for re-election. But first, one of the three will need to win the Democratic primary on Sept. 8. The winner will then proceed to the general election against Republican Christine Canning-Wilson. Tuesday's debate was the fifth time the three candidates shared the stage to debate the issues but had a more focused issue "workers and poverty."
Harrington says 70 percent of people receiving state SNAP benefits are working and 30 percent of those are working two jobs. To support workers and the economy, there needs to be jobs will living wages, universal preschool, working force development, and training for high-tech jobs.
"It boggles the mind that we don't have it because all of the studies have shown that it is essential for kids to start out with a good life," she said of universal preschool.
As it relates to issues of crime in impoverished areas, often policies are built in to punish people and not support, as one of the questions asserts, and Harrington received a loud applause when she called for criminal justice reform that stops the cycle of judges "shaking down" those in the court system for court costs and fees and instead shift money from putting poor people in jail but to help them from falling into that cycle.
"It is insane and it needs to change," Harrington said.
Del Gallo says he is against "mass incarceration" and instead wants to focus his attention on a $15 minimum wage across the board to raise people out of poverty and to create tuition- and debt-free college. By not focusing on those the poor will get poorer and the middle class will dwindle.
"If we don't invest in our roads, our bridges, our educational institution, and have single-payer, I think the poor will continue to be poor," Del Gallo said.
Del Gallo, who calls himself as a "Bernie Sanders progressive," wants the state to emulate the Nordic socioeconomic model employed in counties like Finland Denmark. In those countries, the policies are a mix between capitalism and socialism.
"You can't get really, really rich, but time after time they do studies, they are the happiest people in the world," Del Gallo said, adding that they are happier because all of the stress and nervousness that comes will being poor is eradicated and in its place more opportunity and hope.
Adam Hinds worked for the United Nations for 10 years. The U.N. has adopted a resolution for 2030 with an array of goals including ending hunger, poverty, improving health, and education. When asked about that resolution, Hinds said the plan is that every county who signed onto it which monitor and report on its individual progress toward those goals.
"We can do better than that here in Massachusetts. We can take each of those elements and go further," Hinds said.
Hinds again cited his work there, with the Pittsfield Community Connection and then with the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition for showing the ability to bring large groups of people together to tackle many goals.
Back to the question of working families, Hinds voiced his support for universal preschool, citing the "30 million word gap." The gap he refers to is that someone from an impoverished area will hear 30 million fewer works by the time the student reaches elementary school.
As for crime, he is opposed increased incarceration and instead calls for investing in reducing recidivism.
When it comes to achieving the 2030 goals outlined by the U.N., Harrington said on the local level it all comes back to income inequality. She said there needs to be a focused effort on bringing better paying jobs to the region.
"We need to work together to build a vision of what we want our economy to be, that supports local people, and keeps money in our economy," Harrington said.
Harrington would like to see more green jobs and a more localized economy where agriculture and food companies can service the county instead of having goods shipped in from other areas. She sat on the board for BerkShares, which was one program to help keep the dollars in the county.
From a panel asking the questions, the Rev. Keith Evans cited the lose of SABIC, North Adams Regional Hospital, Best Buy, Macy's, Old Country Buffet, and Price Chopper and asked the candidates what will they do to bring high-quality jobs to the district.
"I always talk about the $15 minimum wage at tremendous length. This is a very big deal," Del Gallo said.
Del Gallo said he not only supports a $15 minimum wage across the board but also support for family medical leave as ways to improve the value of the jobs in Berkshire County. He took shots at Hinds' stance on the minimum wage, claiming Hinds has been inconsistent with his approach.
Hinds responded by saying he supports the minimum wage but believes it should be done on an incremental approach to protect small businesses.
"I actually do support the $15 minimum wage," Hinds said. "The minimum wage right now is a poverty wage. It is $10 an hour and if you work 40 hours you are still below the federal poverty line."
His approach to attracting more jobs comes on a couple levels. One, support the Berkshire Innovation Center to allow the current manufacturing companies to grow, invest in and work with Berkshire Community College, McCann Technical School, and Taconic High School on workforce development to provide the skilled workers companies need and struggle to find around here, and tackle the "digital divide" where areas of the county do not have access to high speed internet.
Harrington calls for a "systematic" and "regionwide" approach to economic development and promised to fight for resources to support local businesses here now and bringing specialty manufacturing to the county. Harrington also said she wants more focused on agriculture and food products.
Harrington said she knows the struggles of small businesses first hand and when asked about electricity costs, she said she can relate. She said the store her husband owns in West Stockbridge carries a $2,000 a month electricity bill, which jumped during a spike in 2014 and 2015 to $5,000.
"I do get the power of the electric companies for sure and the urgency to create power that is locally controlled," Harrington said. "I don't think the answer is more pipelines or more pollution with oil and gas. I think the answer is looking at ways to bring power within the control of the local community."
She said solar is a "class issue" because "I can't afford to put panels on my house and many other people can't either." She'd be an advocate for more tax credits for solar to make it more affordable. She also calls for a cooperative model, such has been created in Greenfield, where customers own the power generation system.
Hinds said the spike in 2014 and 2015 was somewhat caused by a poorly executed electricity choice program. The utility companies added a recalculation fee to the bills because of changes to the power producers, which had been somewhat rebated since then. But, that was only a temporary fix.
He said the state's energy bill does not go far in enough in expanding the state's portfolio and is calling for a more diverse mix of energy sources.
"I would advocate for investing in energy storage," Hinds said.
Del Gallo is calling for programs to place solar panels on public housing units. He says there needs to be a massive investment in energy infrastructure, which will create jobs, lower heating costs, and lower greenhouse emissions.
When it comes to the power of utility companies, Del Gallo is calling for regulation that will disallow electric companies from being able to deny turning on service if an old debt has not been paid. Del Gallo says the utility companies should have to go after debts through the court system like other debts, than refusing to provide such a vital service.
What Del Gallo doesn't believe in for the economy is focusing so much on arts. Del Gallo said he someone who attends arts events and "loves the arts" but shouldn't be the centerpiece of the economic future.
"We can't have a society of symphonies. We need real work," Del Gallo said. "We need to have industry and high-tech to come back. We need educational institution."
Hinds said the arts is only one part of the economic picture, but "it is a huge piece." He said the arts have shown the ability to revitalize downtowns and in North Adams and Williamstown the creation of a cultural corridor is leading to a Mass MoCA expansion, new museums, and new hotels.
"The more we add to this, the more likely someone will come to Berkshire County and spend the night," Hinds said.
The more people coming from out of town and spending money helps support the local businesses, he said.
Harrington said for every $1 invested in the arts, $7 comes back through tourism. Local businesses depend on those visitors, she said.
But, the issue with those industries are that it doesn't always pay enough to support families.
"Our economy depends on that sector. But, yes we need to add better paying jobs," she said.
North Adams lost hundreds of high-paying jobs with the closure of North Adams Regional Hospital. But the city also lost access to a number of health services needed in that region.
Harrington said the hospital didn't close because it wasn't financially viable and she would work with Berkshire Health Systems to try to restore a full-service hospital.
"Going to Berkshire Medical Center for critical care is really problematic for people in North Adams," Harrington said. "There are people choosing to leave the hospital against medical advice because it was so far from their families."
Hinds said the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition has been focused on dealing with the factors surrounding the lose of the hospital. He said even before the hospital was closed there was a shortage of primary care physicians and he'd work to address that. He'd also like to see more community health workers to address causes of health problems such as smoking for hypertension.
"We need to elevate the health of the community in the first place," Hinds said.
Del Gallo simply said he'd build a new hospital.
"My solution to this is to actually build a hospital, use an existing facility and build a public hospital," he said, doubling down on his support for a single-payer health care system.
The forum was moderated by Rev. Quinton Chin.
Letter: "Harrington is dedicated, qualified for state Senate"
The Berkshire Eagle, 8/25/2016
To the editor:
Andrea Harrington is the best Democratic candidate for state Senate and is, by far, the best person to replace our out-going Sen. Ben Downing for a host of reasons.
Her qualifications are superb and her dedication to her clients is supreme. Andrea will represent each and everyone one of us with the same zeal that she represents her clients because that is the nature of her experience and talents.
First and foremost, Andrea is a Berkshire county native. She hails from a working class family from Pittsfield, whose fortunes ebbed and flowed just like the rest of the folks in the country. She will work tirelessly to bring new green, technological jobs that will launch a new round of prosperity in the district.
Andrea came back to the Berkshires so her two sons could attend Berkshire public schools just like she did. She is personally invested in making the district's schools the very best possible.
Andrea's day job — if running a small business and raising children isn't enough — is as an attorney. Andrea represents real people, families, and children who need help in dealing with legal issues. She is devoted to zealously representing all of her clients, male or female, young or old, black or white, LBGT, often without regard to the ability to pay.
The importance of Andrea's career representing real persons is that she will represent each and every person in the district with the same zeal and personal commitment that she has demonstrated with client after client.
Andrea is committed to preserving our beautiful scenic environment. Andrea intends to keep it that way. She will insure that environmentally unsound practices that threaten this beauty will not invade the Berkshires.
In addition to the long list of reasons why Andrea is the best candidate for state Senate, (you can read many more at www.andreaforsenate.com) there is one more reason why Andrea's election is so important. Not only is she the best qualified, but she will also shatter the glass ceiling that has prevented extraordinarily competent women from obtaining high public office.
Andrea Harrington is a very competent, capable, talented woman ready to lead all of us in to a new world of equality and prosperity. I urge you to vote for Andrea Harrington on Sept. 8.
Al Harper, Lenox
Letter: “Harrington is prepared to be state senator”
The Berkshire Eagle, 8/23/2016
To the editor:
I am writing to encourage you to vote for Andrea Harrington in the Democratic primary for state Senate on Thursday, Sept. 8.
I have known Andrea for about 10 years, since I was asked to serve as her mentor on her first criminal appellate cases. I worked closely with her on those cases, and I saw, first hand, how devoted she was to her clients. All of these clients are indigent, in trouble with the law, and many have no experience with or understanding of criminal procedure or criminal law. Andrea's commitment to people with few resources and with tremendous needs was so admirable. She fought tirelessly for their constitutional rights in every single case.
Representing people — regardless of social status, income, or advantage — is exactly what a state senator does. Like a public defender who speaks for those without a voice, a senator advocates for the needs of those in her district. Like an attorney for those who require social services or mental health placements or foster care, a senator must know where resources are available and how to implement programs if resources are lacking. Andrea Harrington has spent every day of her career doing exactly that.
During the years when I was Andrea's mentor, I observed her keen intellect, her understanding of the law, and her deep appreciation for the constitutional principles upon which our codes of law are founded. Andrea's legal training and experience have taught her to parse a statute to understand its meaning and to look to its legislative history for an appreciation of the statute's significance. That is exactly what legislators do.
Andrea has the perfect background, training, and intelligence to excel at the job of legislating. There is no other Democratic candidate for state Senate with Andrea Harrington's upbringing, credentials, compassion, and commitment.
Janet Hetherwick Pumphrey, Lenox
Letter: Hinds' moral character make him ideal choice
The Berkshire Eagle
POSTED: 08/23/2016 12:54:32 PM EDT
Hinds' moral character make him ideal choice
To the editor:
Adam Hinds' dedication to problem-solving through complex negotiations amongst opposing parties and his lifetime spent striving to make his fellow Berkshire residents lives better, especially those most at risk, make him the perfect and only choice for state senator.
When someone of his moral character enters public service, it's an opportunity we can't pass up. Finally, a "politician" we can truly be proud of!
Jeff Snoonian, Adams
The writer is chairman of the Adams Board of Selectmen. He is writing for himself, not the select board.
Alan Chartock | I, Publius: “State Senate primary candidates should be judged on merits”
By Alan Chartock, Op-Ed, The Berkshire Eagle, 8/26/2016
GREAT BARRINGTON - Here comes the Sept. 8 state senatorial primary.
And since the victorious Democrat likely will win the election — a Republican candidate winning in the Berkshires seems far-fetched — the three way race is big news.
I love this one because it shows that there are times when democracy really works. Three candidates, Andrea Harrington, Adam Hinds and Rinaldo Del Gallo, are running.
The winner will face Republican candidate Christine Canning in November.
Hinds is an attractive candidate. When you meet him you can't help but like him. Despite a very impressive educational background he just makes you feel that he is a regular guy.
His resume is extraordinarily impressive. His list of endorsements is incredible, ranging from former U.S. Rep. John Olver to a series of impressive unions.
The man has worked like a dog to win. He went to Wesleyan and studied at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts. His father was a Vietnam vet, his mother a school teacher. He is the real thing. He seeks to replace Sen. Benjamin B. Downing and what's remarkable is how alike the two men look. Hinds speaks extremely well and is clearly the leading candidate in this election.
Andrea Harrington is a wonderful, smart (even brilliant) woman who goes out of her way to help people. She and her husband own one of my favorite Berkshire establishments, the Public Market in West Stockbridge. Harrington has a number of things going for her including the fact that she is a young woman and we certainly need a lot more women in politics.
She is skilled attorney, a partner in a good Berkshire law firm and has earned her liberal credentials by playing a big part in the Florida effort to overturn the death penalty. She's local, too.
In case you haven't looked, criminal justice reform is at the top of almost every center left liberal's bucket list. Like Hinds, Harrington has worked extraordinarily hard. Her signs are all over the place.
Also like Hinds, she spends a lot of time going door to door and this young mother would bring a perspective of youth and motherhood to a Senate that needs a lot more like her. If you talk to her for 5 minutes you realize that she's tough enough for the job.
Rinaldo Del Gallo considers himself a liberal Democrat, a spokesman for fathers in custody battles and a sometimes journalist who writes columns for this and other papers.
A member of the Massachusetts bar since 1996, he went to Pittsfield High School and Northeastern University in Boston. His name is surely familiar as an early supporter of Bernie Sanders campaign for the presidency. He is in favor of the $15 minimum wage.
Del Gallo has been active in civic matters in Pittsfield and Berkshire County, and he was instrumental in helping Pittsfield draft its prohibition on polystyrene food containers. He currently is working with the city's Green Committee to expand that prohibition to single-use plastic shopping bags.
He has a law practice and often represents clients in family law matters, and he is the spokesperson for the Berkshire Fatherhood Coalition.
But against the other two candidates, a lifetime in this business tells me that he's a long shot.
This is one of those elections in which you just wish there could be more than one winner.
Ben Downing should be the model for his successor. Let me just say that this is one tough job. Because of the number of bodies who are registered to vote, the covered area is huge.
If you come home to the district nightly, you have a two-hour commute. Everyone wants something from you and you have to listen to each supplicant. Plus you have to keep looking for money, a process that never stops.
Harrington, who has small children, understands the balance that is needed. Some people do not.
This is the worst kind of sexist trap. I have a wife who worked all her life and we got through it. Much of one salary went for child care and Roselle was able to get a doctorate at UMass, a herculean commute, and that after all her work at Monument Mountain.
My own mother did the same thing, working full time in our schools, teaching at Hunter at night, and while her twins undoubtedly have the same difficulties everyone else does, we both did OK.
My point is that both Hinds and Harrington are great candidates and should be judged by what they have accomplished. I just want to make sure that credentials and the ability to do the job come first and that extraneous, sexist issues are not allowed to distract.
This is a good election and it gives us the opportunity to vote for someone good, as opposed to the lesser of two evils.
Alan Chartock, a Great Barrington resident, is president and CEO of WAMC Northeast Public Radio and a professor emeritus of communications at SUNY-Albany. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of The Berkshire Eagle.
Letter: "Harrington dedicated to welfare of others"
The Berkshire Eagle, 8/26/2016
To the editor:
On Thursday, Sept. 8, voters will go to the polls for the primary election. In the state Senate race, I will proudly cast my vote for Andrea Harrington, who I believe has the skills and values to be the most effective legislator for our district.
Ms. Harrington is a stalwart advocate for working families. She understands that when employees are respectfully treated and properly compensated, we all win. Employees making fair wages have the ability to support the local community, thus benefiting small businesses and the local tax base. Harrington clearly understands the connection between labor and the business, between our government and its citizens.
Ms. Harrington has devoted much of her legal career to working with those individuals that many would rather forget. Her experience working to overturn death penalty convictions in Florida testifies to her commitment to social justice. Her work as a bar advocate is a local example of her willingness to stand with people in need. Those with law degrees have many options available to them; only a few like Ms. Harrington choose to use their training to benefit the most vulnerable among us. Clearly, Ms. Harrington will be a strong advocate for all of us the district no matter who we are.
Andrea Harrington will also stand for our children. As the candidate who has been against charter schools since before entering the race, she understands the financial drain these institutions place on our community school budgets. She is a public school parent who cares about the education of all of our children.
She also supports a strong public college and university system, allowing all of our citizens a chance to earn a degree or certificate. Ms. Harrington also believes in the value of a strong vocational education path, knowing that the future economy will need people with skills in many, many occupational areas to flourish.
On primary day, I will give my vote to Andrea Harrington. Her positive attitude, devotion to all citizens, proven ability to work for the vulnerable and with people across the district informed my decision. I hope you will join me in supporting the best person to be part of the local legislative team — Andrea Harrington.
Liz Recko-Morrison, Pittsfield
Letter: "Harrington will lead on progressive issues"
The Berkshire Eagle, 8/26/2016
To the editor:
Andrea Harrington is smart, tough and committed to representing the working families of the Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin and Hampden state Senate District.
I first met Ms. Harrington when she came to the Lanesborough Democratic Town Committee Caucus in March. She introduced herself and I handed her a short questionnaire which she filled out in five minutes. I was impressed that she wrote what she thought without being "political."
It didn't hurt that she mostly agreed with me. I was delighted that she supported public education by opposing the expansion of the number of charter schools which are taking $400 million from the commonwealth's public schools, including $2 million from Pittsfield. She knows we need more funds for public education, not less, which is why she supported the "millionaire's tax."
The next time I met Andrea is when she came to the Old Forge in Lanesborough to join us when we celebrated the fact that the proposed Northeast Energy Direct pipeline of fracked gas would not be built through our water system and through the middle of our town. I was delighted to see that she would be with us.
Andrea is a progressive who will represent us in Boston, now and In the future. She has my vote.
Russell Freedman, Lanesborough
Letter: "Hinds will be advocate for wide spectrum of voters"
The Berkshire Eagle, 8/26/2016
To the editor:
Adam Hinds will be a fine state senator representing the 52 towns of western Massachusetts, and here are some reasons I will be voting for him in the primary.
As a retired teacher and active parent, I know Adam comes from a public education background, and places high value on offering quality opportunity to all children. We have discussed the need for examining the school funding formulas to maximize resources available to students and teachers.
He is also aware of the tremendous job skilled educators continue to do with our kids from infancy on up, and promotes recognition and pay equity for professionals and non-professionals working with children. He has worked with at-risk youth in communities in Pittsfield and North Adams. This is why Adam has earned the endorsement of thousands of workers, including the Massachusetts Teachers Association, and the SEIU, which represents those in health care.
As a Select Board member in Monterey, I know Adam recognizes the importance of small towns in our region. He has met with citizens of our town and heard their concerns. He comes from a small town in Western Massachusetts, and Adam understands that we play more than a supporting role in economic development throughout the region. We deserve real, effective assistance in making our voices heard in the Statehouse when it comes to critical issues including internet access, transportation, environment, and the arts and culture, and Adam will stand with us.
As a senior, I know Adam respects and pays attention to the needs and concerns of our growing senior community in the Berkshires. He has joined us at Age-Friendly Berkshires meetings to listen, learn and begin to address those needs so more seniors can comfortably and safely age in place in our homes and home towns.
Adam Hinds is an energetic, involved listener, experienced leader and thoughtful problem solver who will devote himself to serving the spectrum of people throughout our Senate district. Please join me in voting for Adam Hinds in the Sept. 8 primary, and in the November election.
Carol Lewis Edelman, Egremont
Letter: "Harrington will bring principled toughness"
The Berkshire Eagle, 8/29/2016
To the editor:
On Thursday, Sept. 8, I'll proudly cast my vote for Andrea Harrington to represent us in the state Senate.
Her energetic campaign has demonstrated that she'll bring a powerful, progressive and independent voice to issues that matter: Creating opportunity for working families by building a locally based, sustainable, fair economy; making necessary investments in public education and health care; reform of our criminal-justice system, and protecting public health and our environment by standing up to corporate polluters and the fossil-fuel industry.
It's a rare opportunity. Too often, elections offer more of the same: Safe, tired, nonspecific rhetoric from candidates more interested in ingratiating themselves with the powers-that-be than boldly standing up and speaking out for their constituents. But this year we can elect a state senator with experience, ideas, courage and vision that will make a real difference.
I'm certain that Andrea Harrington's principled toughness will earn respect and cooperation from her colleagues in Boston while also putting vested interests on notice: Her knowledge, passion, and compassion will be deployed forcefully every day on behalf of her constituents, and she won't allow the money and politics-as-usual power of status-quo interests to get in her — or our — way.
Bill Shein, Alford
Letter: "Andrea Harrington is true progressive in race"
The Berkshire Eagle, 8/29/2016
To the editor:
I enthusiastically support Andrea Harrington as our next state senator. Harrington is the true progressive in this race who will fight for working families. Harrington understands our needs in North Berkshire.
Many of us are still reeling from the trauma of losing North Adams Regional Hospital. Not only did we lose over 500 jobs in just a matter of days, we lost the heart of our community. Her opponent, Adams Hinds, does not advocate restoring a full hospital. Great Barrington, a community of the same size, but with much more wealth (which means they get heard), still has its hospital.
We need our elected officials working for us again. Hinds does not support a $15 minimum wage across the board, but Harrington does. He has gone back and forth on raising the cap on charter schools, while the state Democratic Party recently voted to support keeping the cap and voting no on Question 2.
During the Senate debate at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, Hinds was called out for taking fund-raising money from Kinder Morgan backers and from Berkshire Health Systems. And, it's important to note that Harrington has not dodged questions like Hinds has in previous debates and she has been consistent with her progressive stances. To break it down, Hinds is a clearly a politician, while Harrington is representing us.
During the primary, I logged many hours making phone calls and knocking on doors to help nominate Bernie Sanders as the nominee for the Democratic Party. Bernie took the mask off of the party to reveal how corporate interests run this country and why so little gets done in Congress for working families. We need to get big money out of politics and Harrington has made this a crucial part of her fight. She understands that until this happens, politics will not work for us.
Please join me in voting for Andrea Harrington on Sept. 8. She will represent all of the counties, even the ones without a strong voice (or a big wallet).
Dawn Klein, Adams, The writer is a parent and public school teacher.
Letter: "Hinds will confront challenges, embrace opportunities"
The Berkshire Eagle, 8/29/2016
To the editor:
Rarely in this region do we find ourselves at such an important change in our regional leaders as we look to elect our next state senator. Locally, we are faced with challenges impacting many places: decreasing population, needed infrastructure improvements, challenges with opioid addiction and abuse, and gaps in our economy that magnify socioeconomic difficulties and unemployment rates.
To tackle these issues, we need someone with a strong voice and significant, intimate knowledge. We need someone who can frame solutions and activate them through regional and state collaborations. On top of that, we need someone who will actually hear the public to better understand how they perceive and are impacted by these challenges from the individual, household, and community levels. We need someone who values the stakeholders, and will represent them with strength and diligence. That someone is Adam Hinds.
On the other end of the spectrum, we are an area on the verge. We're a place that the world is starting to see for what many of us have always known; there is greatness here. This comes in the form of regional cultural development, grass-roots initiatives, economic investment, a heritage of hard work, and a place of community pride. It comes from all types, from the concerned lifelong citizen working to preserve our history, to the newcomer looking to create the next "big thing," to the cities and towns working to do their best for the greater good.
This palpable energy is something that our next leadership can't just observe from a distance, but is something they need to embrace and enhance by rallying support to amplify the impact. We need someone who will take this great opportunity and potential and help push it past the verge and into reality. That someone is Adam Hinds.
As a North Adams city councilor, I firmly believe we need Adam Hinds for both the good days and the bad, the challenges and the opportunities. He is someone with the skills, experiences, passion, and drive to be our next step toward a bright future as a region, and he is the person I believe should be our next state senator.
Benjamin Lamb, North Adams
Letter: "For many reasons, Harrington is best choice for state Senate"
The Berkshire Eagle, 8/30/2016
To the editor:
I am writing to endorse Andrea Harrington in the Democratic primary for state Senator on Thursday, Sept. 8.
There are many, many reasons why Andrea is the most qualified candidate. She grew up in the Berkshires, went to school in Pittsfield, is from a working class family, was the first person in her family to attend college, is a successful lawyer whose practice is representing "the little guy," runs a small business with her husband, has two children in Berkshire schools, and understands all of the issues affecting the district.
Andrea is very qualified because she is a woman whose entire life has involved meeting and overcoming challenges. Her endorsement by the Massachusetts Women's Political Caucus speaks volumes. On its web site, the caucus cites a study that demonstrated that women legislators spend more of their efforts and time advocating for issues that are important to women and families: health, education, affordable and accessible day care, and issues pertaining to the well-being of children. In addition, women legislators bring more resources back to their home districts, are more likely to work across the aisle, and sponsor and co-sponsor more pieces of legislation than their male counterparts do.
In the words of Hillary Clinton, "If fighting for women's health care and paid family leave and equal pay is playing the woman card, then deal me in."
Andrea Harrington is the BEST choice for state senator on Sept. 8.
P. Keyburn Hollister, Pittsfield
Letter: "Hinds is impressive on veterans' issues"
The Berkshire Eagle, 8/30/2016
To the editor:
I have never seen myself as a political person nor someone who has been civically active in my community. I don't vote often because I have never really felt like it mattered because they never cared about people like me.
However, I have had the distinct honor and privilege to serve in the U.S. Air Force Reserve for 13 years and been deployed twice to Afghanistan. I found myself interested in this state Senate race when I had the opportunity to speak with Adam Hinds about his experiences in the Middle East.
I did not feel like I was talking to a politician. He told me how grateful he was to the men and women of the armed forces for protecting him, and he will never forget it.
He then asked me how he could help, which meant the world to me. He did not tell me what he was going to do for me but wanted to understand the needs of veterans. I was amazed to see my thoughts used to help create his statement on veterans and PTSD. He actually heard what I said!
Adam is the only candidate running for state Senate who has shown any interest in helping the veteran community. That is why I will be voting for Adam Hinds on Thursday, Sept. 8. Berkshire County and Massachusetts need more politicians like Adam who want to bring us together and help average people like me.
Carmen Provenzano Ostrander, Great Barrington
Letter: "Harrington is truly a candidate for our times"
The Berkshire Eagle, 8/30/2016
To the editor:
As a resident of the Berkshires since 1948 who has been involved in local, national and international politics for many years — I knew and collaborated with Silvio Conte back when! — I have been thrilled to watch another Berkshire citizen, a young woman with deep roots in the community, pledge herself to public service and a run for the state Senate.
Andrea Harrington is truly a candidate for our times: from the community, yet with a perspective embracing the interdependence of our region with the state, the nation and the world. Not a "player" in Boston, but a vital presence here with a deep understanding of the economic challenges facing Western New England.
Harrington also has an appreciation of the promise of this community — from young women and men seeking jobs and an education, to cultural institutions devoted not just to summer tourists but to the welfare of our communities year-round.
I know Andrea Harrington makes no special argument for her role as a candidate who is a woman, but permit me to make that argument: I have watched how women like Elizabeth Warren and Kirsten Gillibrand, and Hillary Clinton too, have brought a leadership inflected by empathy and compassion to our politics, and have challenged the paradigm of (excuse the expression) testosterone-charged patriarchal politics of the kind represented by presidential candidate Donald Trump. Andrea combines the articulate smarts of an attorney with the capacity to listen of a mature woman who is raising a family, lending support to a husband running a small business, and thinking about the needs of her fellow citizens.
That is the person we need to represent us in the state Senate and help renew our ever more challenged democracy.
Benjamin R. Barber, Richmond
From left, Rinaldo DelGallo and Andrea Harrington listen to Adam Hinds speaks during a State Senate debate at Berkshire Community College on Monday, August 29, 2016. Gillian Jones — The Berkshire Eagle | photos.berkshireeagle.com
“Beacon Hill hopefuls trade barbs at Berkshire Community College debate ahead of Democratic primary”
By Dick Lindsay, The Berkshire Eagle, 8/29/2016
PITTSFIELD — Later in the evening, the three people vying for the Democratic nod in the 1st Berkshire District Senate seat: Rinaldo Del Gallo and Adam Hinds of Pittsfield and Andrea Harrington from West Stockbridge took part in another 60-minute question and answer session. The victor goes head-to-head against Lanesborough Republican Christine Canning in November, the winner succeeding Benjamin Downing who opted against another re-election bid.
Charter schools, recreational marijuana and a proposed mileage tax highlighted some of the issues the three Democratic senatorial candidates debated.
Hinds and Harrington oppose Question 2 to lift the cap on charter schools, claiming they are a financial drain on public education
"Charter schools take too much money from public school and they lack accountability," Harrington said.
Del Gallo criticize his opponents for failing to say they would support the wishes of voters if they approve Question 2.
As for the ballot question legalizing recreational marijuana use, Del Gallo supports the measure saying using police resources to arrest pot users is a waste of money.
Hinds is more concerned about the medical impacts of recreational use by young people.
"We've seen the brain doesn't stop developing until at 24 or 25 years of age," he said. "[The law] would need to have protections in place."
Approval of recreational pot use would follow the voters mandate of four years ago backing medical marijuana use, something the state has been slow to implement, according to Harrington.
All three did agree taxing the number of miles people drive as an alternative to a gasoline tax would hurt Western Massachusetts drivers. The so-called Mileage Tax is considered a better way to raise more money to repair bridges and roads.
Del Gallo disagreed, saying "I hate flat taxes on everyone because they affect the poor."
Contact Dick Lindsay at 413-496-6233. email@example.com @BE_DLindsay on Twitter.
Letter: "Talented Harrington will help bring balance to Legislature"
The Berkshire Eagle, 8/31/2016
To the editor:
As a 74-year seasoned citizen, I strongly support our next state senator, Attorney Andrea Harrington, and cannot wait to vote for her on Thursday, Sept. 8.
She will have my vote because she is exceptional and has already proven herself to be a great public servant. And make no doubt about it, women must continue to be exceptional to even entertain running for elective office.
Attorney Harrington cares about, will support, represent, and fight for all the constituents in our Senate district. Her legal background, knowledge and experience dealing with the very real and crucial problems facing our neighborhoods and country have fully prepared her. She completely understands the needs of the most vulnerable, all of which demonstrate that she truly believes in the rule of law and justice for all.
Women are underrepresented in all of our legislative bodies, unconscionable at this time in our history, and that disparity in inequality must be addressed and remedied.
Having run for office twice in Bridgeport, Conn., in 1984 and again in 2000, I know how hard it is for anyone to run for office, especially a woman. Because of threats in 1984, I had to have a bodyguard on either side of me throughout the day of the primary.
As a law school administrator in Bridgeport, I know the trials of women trying to break the glass ceiling. Nearly every position I held in my paid working life was either a hostile work environment or I was sexually or verbally harassed at a time when the men I was working with were making four, five or more times my wages or salary!
It is truly a joy to support a talented, knowledgeable, creative, seriously thoughtful and solutions-focused individual who listens to each person's very real concerns and plans to address each and every one of those concerns when elected to office.
Please join me on Thursday, Sept. 8, to vote for Andrea Harrington for state senator in the Democratic primary.
Rachel I. Branch, North Adams
Letter: "Harrington will be a warrior for Western Massachusetts"
The Berkshire Eagle, 9/1/2016
To the editor:
Tough. Talented. Tenacious. Timely. That's Andrea Harrington and these are just a few of the reasons I'm supporting her bid in the Democratic primary to fill the seat vacated by our beloved Sen. Ben Downing.
I live in Middlefield, one of the 52 towns in District 1. Andrea visited us here and talked about herself and her campaign, but more than that she asked good questions about our issues and both encouraged and listened to our answers.
One of the things she spoke of is the power of the voice of the people. At a recent debate, when asked what could be done to solve our problems, she mentioned the long history of grass-roots activists in the Berkshires and pointed to a recent example of success — opposition to the Kinder-Morgan pipeline. As history and Bernie Sanders have reminded us, real change doesn't happen from the top down, but from the bottom up.
Hundreds of area folks recently turned out to see Elizabeth Warren at BCC. As I listened to our great warrior of a U.S. senator I thought about how much Andrea, too, believes in people and place and in government that is accountable to both.
While we have two very good Democratic candidates running for this office, I believe Andrea is the right choice for these times. She is a new face in politics — a warrior like Ben Downing and Elizabeth Warren in working for funding our schools, creating good jobs, developing small businesses, providing housing families can afford, ensuring a healthy environment and building a promising future. She is also a fierce advocate for working together, from the bottom up, with all voices welcome, which is the very essence of the Berkshires and of good government.
I strongly support Andrea Harrington to represent Western Mass. I welcome having her fresh, young and female voice in the state Senate.
Cathy Roth, Middlefield
Letter: "Harrington provides an excellent example"
The Berkshire Eagle, 9/1/2016
To the editor:
I am writing to encourage you to vote for Andrea Harrington for state senator on Sept. 8.
While Andrea has legal training, intellect and experience as a lawyer, there is more. She is a positive example, of which our community and children can be proud! She is well-spoken, respectful and determined, thus able to communicate, influence and persuade.
Contrast the current presidential election, a carnival sideshow! That alone is sad, but the trickle-down effect is worse on our communities and children. The barbaric, mudslinging nature of our presidential race doesn't resemble civilization. Help put the civil back in civilization!
Anchored through generations of family, Andrea cares. Andrea and her husband, Tim, are business people. Her extended family is absolutely incredible, hard-working, self-made, working class and humble. When your reasons are driven by heart, love and positive example, you are a winner because you have access to greater power. As a mother of two incredible children, Andrea understands that the resolution of problems comes from the drive behind love and peace.
The presidential election is driven by ego, blame, denial and lies — bad examples for our communities and children to absorb. Poor communication builds barriers that distract from accomplishment. Respect and understanding open doors. When you speak with clarity, you will communicate more effectively.
Andrea communicates with respect and grace, listening and understanding the whole situation. Andrea is a positive role model with a history of actions of which she can be proud! We have the power on Sept. 8. Choose Andrea Harrington for state Senate.
Bernie Fallon, West Stockbridge
Letter: "Hinds understands roots of opioid epidemic"
The Berkshire Eagle, 9/1/2016
To the editor:
As communities continue to battle the scourge of the heroin epidemic, I look to those who truly understand the crisis. As the executive director of the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition, Adam Hinds has been working closely with North Adams Mayor Richard Alcombright and other elected and community officials to help those overcome addiction to this terrible drug.
Adam understands that, at its core, this is a public health crisis, and treating it that way is the only path to overcoming it. I agree that what we need more then ever is better access for addicts to treatment facilities.
While we need to continue strong drug enforcement, we need to better understand who may need to be incarcerated and those who need treatment. Too often we simply throw addicts into jail. This does nothing but exacerbate the problem. Adam has a thoughtful plan to attack this epidemic and hopefully see it to its end.
As we move closer to the state primary on Thursday, Sept. 8, I urge you to get out and vote. My vote for state senator will be with Adam Hinds.
Brian Miksic, North Adams
Letter: "Harrington will be an advocate for Berkshires"
The Berkshire Eagle, 9/2/2016
To the editor:
State Senate candidate Andrea Harrington will advocate for workers' rights and collective bargaining rights. She will fight against tax breaks for the rich and corporations that ship our jobs overseas.
Andrea will be advocate for a full service hospital in North Adams and one standard of care for the entire county. She will advocate for a renewable locally controlled energy policy, and for community supported agriculture and industry. Andrea will advocate for universal Pre-K for our children.
Andrea Harrington will be a strong advocate for us in Boston on these issues and others. She is the best of three good candidates. Vote for Harrington on Thursday, Sept. 8.
Richard Dassatti, North Adams
Letter: "Del Gallo has helped many, will help more in Boston"
The Berkshire Eagle, 9/2/2016
To the editor:
I am writing to endorse Rinaldo Del Gallo III for the Massachusetts state Senate.
Readers of The Eagle will be familiar with Rinaldo from his many interesting and informative op-eds, as well as coverage of his career as a lawyer, representation of the Berkshire Fatherhood Coalition and now as a Bernie Sanders progressive Democrat running for state Senate. Some of his other activities include gaining a ban on Styrofoam cups in Pittsfield as well as bringing the designs of pipeline advocates to the attention of the public in this campaign.
I am a witness to his humanity and concern for justice which has led him to represent many county residents in court pro bono. In my own case, Rinaldo has represented me in a contested post-divorce decree case, as well as representing my daughter when she became an assault victim. He also represented me when DCF assumed custody of my daughter when I brought her to a hospital in Springfield for tests not available in this county for concussion victims under the age of 18. It was three weeks before, due to his able representation I was able to learn what her diagnosis and treatment was.
During the same three weeks, DCF and/or the hospital allowed my daughter to believe I had abandoned her at the hospital. Needless to say, both my daughter and I appreciated his efforts on our behalf, which he spent a lot of time on, without any pay, due to his concern to see that justice was done.
I am not the first or last person to benefit from his able representation. I believe if we support Rinaldo to be our senator he will be able to help even more people. We couldn't have a better representative in the Senate, where his intelligence, judgment and concern for the working class will provide us with an able voice. I encourage others to attend the debates and forums with the other Democratic candidates for this important position and am convinced that the majority of those who do will also support and vote for him in the Sept. 8 primary.
James A. Martin, Pittsfield
Letter: "Harrington prepared to be state senator"
The Berkshire Eagle, 9/2/2016
To the editor:
Andrea Harrington embodies confidence, knowledge, expertise and integrity! She is compassionate and has insight to the root causes of the social ills that are plaguing our communities. Andrea's life journey has prepared her for this moment at this: H time. She truly understands the diverse needs of Western Massachusetts.
Andrea not only has read books on poverty, substance abuse, domestic violence, education, access to health care, business and the criminal justice system, she has experienced many of them personally and professionally.
My candidate for state Senate was born and educated in Berkshire public schools, and is a first generation college graduate, an attorney who has served some of the most marginalized communities in our country. Representing those on death row gave her a deep grasp of the impact of poverty on individuals, families and society.
She is ready to join other legislators in addressing the opioid epidemic, ensure families' economic, educational and health needs are met in Pittsfield and Western Massachusetts.
We are fortunate to have such a candidate in our midst who has the ability to lead us into the future. We need someone with the skills to embrace the demographic and economic shifts that are occurring in the Berkshires. These times need such a leader as Andrea Harrington, Democrat for state Senate. Please join me in voting for her on Thursday, Sept. 8.
Shirley Edgerton. Pittsfield
Letter: "Hinds will help forge a brighter future"
The Berkshire Eagle, 9/2/2016
To the editor:
I have lived in the Berkshires for 20 years. I was born and raised here, and while I attend Brandeis University during the school months, my Berkshire pride never falters.
This Sept. 8, I am driving from school to cast a vote for Adam Hinds for state Senate because I know who he is and I believe that he is uniquely qualified to represent our entire community in Boston, alongside the rest of our tireless Berkshire delegation.
As a young person with a love for the place where I grew up, I think often on the question of what our region needs to cement a bright future. The Berkshires have incredible beauty, and even better people. But for what we have in character, we lack in many critical services. That is why this election is so important.
Since meeting Adam at a community gathering three years ago, I have gotten to know him not only as a selfless individual with a passion for our community, but as a friend. When I heard that he was running for state Senate, I knew I wanted to help his campaign. Since then, I have worked many hours to support his candidacy, and have learned some things.
When confronted with an issue, Adam does not simply say what sounds best; he does his homework. Adam consults experts locally, conducts research, and considers the unique features of our district. A good example of this is that he will not simply declare: "We need broadband" and leave it at that. He describes, in detail, the ways by which high-speed internet can be most effectively brought to each town, and what he can do as senator to make that happen more easily. Adam does not sweat the small stuff; he embraces it. That is a quality we both need and deserve from our elected officials.
No matter who it is for, I ask you to vote on Sept. 8. But if I am to make a recommendation, I ask for you to vote for the detail-oriented, kind, and extraordinarily-qualified community member who will set out a bright path for our future: Adam Hinds.
Jacob Edelman, Monterey
“Campaigns spar over finance reports”
Money related to charter schools, climate change spark criticism
By Jim Therrien, The Berkshire Eagle, 9/2/2016
PITTSFIELD - Both legislative races in Berkshire County are producing campaign finance-related disputes as the House and Senate contests move closer to the Sept. 8 primary election.
Senate candidate Andrea Harrington sent a release critical of opponent Adam Hinds, calling on him to "return campaign contributions from Boston and out of state lobbyists representing large energy companies and big oil."
In her release, Harrington said of some of the contributions Hinds has received "came from lobbyists and top officials representing companies including ExxonMobil, the New England Power Generators Association, and Berkshire Gas."
She later cited two $100 contributions from employees of O'Neill & Associates, of Boston, which represents companies in the energy industry.
Hinds' campaign manager, Jason Ostrander, responded Friday that the campaign was not initially aware of the firm's link to the industry.
Harrington added, "I am deeply troubled that Adam Hinds has been raising money from Boston and out of state lobbyists representing big fossil fuel conglomerates. Our next state Senator needs to be prepared to stand up to these special interests and protect our environment and the natural beauty of our region."
In addition, Harrington stated, Hinds has "explicitly stated that he signed a pledge not to accept money from big energy ... It is concerning that he hasn't stuck to his word, and I hope that he will return these contributions immediately."
Hinds responded in an email: "A friend of mine works for Exxon-Mobil in Australia. This person is not a top official in the company. He was a grad school classmate of mine and we were in Baghdad together as well when I worked for the UN. He contributed to my campaign in March 2016 (not in his professional capacity, but because he is my friend and wanted to help from afar). This past Monday, August 29th, I proudly took a pledge with 350-Massachusetts to not accept money from big fossil fuel companies. I reviewed our donor list at that time and saw the potential conflict and returned my personal friend's money that day. The reporting period ended August 21st and therefore this action is not reflected in this report."
Hinds added, "Regarding a donation from an employee of Berkshire Gas, this is an individual who paid $50 to come to an event. It was unsolicited and he came in his personal capacity. I have been clear with him regarding my opposition to the [Kinder Morgan] pipeline as I have been with all voters consistently on this campaign.
What's important is I am serious about tackling climate change and accelerating the transition to renewable energy. That's why I signed the 350-Mass pledge and why I have made energy and the environment a central part of my campaign."
The two Democratic Senate candidates also are opposed by Rinaldo Del Gallo in the Sept. 8 primary.
Contact Jim Therrien at 413-496-6247. firstname.lastname@example.org @BE_therrien on Twitter.
"State Senate races highlight otherwise low-key primary"
Thursday primary a departure from traditional voting day
By Bob Salsberg, The Associated Press via The Berkshire Eagle, 9/3/2016
BOSTON - Contests to fill the seats of three departing Democratic state senators are among the highlights of an unusual Thursday primary election in Massachusetts that has generated scant attention, largely because there are no statewide or other high-profile races.
None of the nine members of the state's all-Democratic U.S. House delegation face challenges within their own party, and Republicans are fielding candidates in only four districts. U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey are not up for re-election this year and Republican Gov. Charlie Baker along with the state's other constitutional officers have more than two years remaining in their current terms.
Turnout for the Thursday primary could be further dampened by confusion over the election being held on Thursday, as Massachusetts voters are accustomed to going to the polls on a Tuesday. Secretary of State William Galvin did not want to schedule the election on Sept. 6, the day after Labor Day when many schools are reopening, and said moving the primary later into September would complicate absentee deadlines.
All 200 seats in the Legislature are up for grabs but many incumbents seeking re-election face little or no competition. Democrats should easily maintain their veto-proof majorities in both chambers for the next legislative session.
The most spirited races include those to succeed the departing Senate Democrats.
Sen. Brian Joyce leaves under a cloud after reports that he was being investigated for improperly using his legislative position to boost his private law practice. The Milton Democrat, who has denied wrongdoing, had his law office raided by federal agents in February.
State Rep. Walter Timilty and Nora Harrington, the chief operating officer of a behavioral health practice, are vying for the Democratic nomination to succeed Joyce. Both are from Milton. There are no Republican contenders, but the Democratic primary winner will face independent Jon Lott of Stoughton in November.
Three Democrats are vying for their party's nomination to fill the Berkshires Senate seat now held by Benjamin Downing: Rinaldo Del Gallo, a Pittsfield attorney; Andrea Harrington, an attorney from Richmond; and Adam Hinds, a community organizer and one-time aide to former U.S. Rep. John Olver.
The sole Republican candidate, Christine Canning, of Lanesborough, will face the Democratic winner in November.
Considered a rising star within the Democratic party, Downing surprised Beacon Hill with his decision to leave the Senate and pursue other interests.
Democratic and Republican contests will also be held Thursday in the Senate district that includes Cape Cod and the Islands. Sen. Dan Wolf, the co-founder of Cape Air, is leaving after three terms but hasn't ruled out a run for governor in 2018.
The Democratic contenders are: state Rep. Brian Mannal, of Barnstable; Julian Cyr, a former state public health official from Truro; and Sheila Lyons, a Barnstable County Commissioner from Wellfleet. Jim Crocker, a businessman from Barnstable and Anthony Schiavi, a retired U.S. Air Force brigadier general from Harwich, vie for the GOP nod.
A handful of House incumbents are also calling it quits, including long-time Democratic Rep. Benjamin Swan, of Springfield. His son, Benjamin Swan Jr., is one of four Springfield Democrats running for the seat. The others are City Councilor Bud Williams, former civic center commissioner Ken Barnett and Larry Lawson, who has run unsuccessfully for the seat in the past.
The state's lone congressional primary on Thursday is in the Ninth District, where Republicans Mark Alliegro, a scientist from Falmouth and Thomas O'Malley, a former U.S. Navy commander from Marshfield, are competing for their party's nomination and the opportunity to challenge incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. William Keating in November.
The most crowded primary field is in the race for sheriff of Essex County, where five Democrats and six Republicans are vying for the fall ballot and a chance to succeed Republican Sheriff Frank Cousins, who is retiring.
Rinaldo Del Gallo, III
“State senate candidates come at progressive agenda via different routes”
By Jim Therrien, The Berkshire Eagle, 9/4/2016
PITTSFIELD - For the first time in a decade, Benjamin Downing's name will not be on the ballot for state Senate in the district that includes Berkshire County.
The Pittsfield Democrat did not seek re-election after five terms, but other Democrats and a Republican are vying to replace him. The Democrats — Rinaldo Del Gallo, of Lenox; Andrea Harrington, of Richmond; and Adam Hinds, of Pittsfield — are battling for their party's nomination in Thursday's primary.
Christine Canning, of Lanesborough, is unopposed for her party's nomination and will meet the Democratic winner in the Nov. 8 general election.
In the Democratic primary race, the three candidates have all stressed progressive views on the issues facing the district and the state — at times trying to claim the mantle of "the most progressive" in the race.
The candidates, who are profiled below, are seeking to represent a massive 52-community district that includes all of Berkshire County and towns in Franklin, Hampshire and Hampden counties.
RINALDO DEL GALLO III
Rinaldo Del Gallo III says it right out: "I am the anti-establishment candidate, no doubt about it," as he stated during a debate for the three Democratic candidates seeking to replace Downing.
The Lenox attorney, 53, also has stressed throughout his campaign, "My general theme is, I am running as a Bernie Sanders progressive ... It was one of the first decisions I made."
Although both his Democratic Primary opponents — Andrea Harrington and Adam Hinds — share similar progressive views of most major issues, Del Gallo asserts he has been out front first on those issues, and has never been shy about taking on the establishment view.
Often, he said, as with the push for a $15 minimum hourly wage, the fight against a Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. plan for a cross-state natural gas line, and efforts to ban polystyrene foam containers and plastic shopping bags, decriminalize marijuana, push fatherhood rights and shared parenting, and transgender rights to use public restrooms, his views have become mainstream over time.
The Pittsfield native also has asserted that he's been a public figure in the Berkshires for 15 years, while he said Hinds was primarily working out of the Berkshires, and sometimes out of the country, and Harrington, also an attorney, hasn't been "visible" in the political limelight and has been largely absent from battles over major issues.
Del Gallo also touts his many newspaper columns, published in The Berkshire Eagle and other papers in the state as evidence that he is not afraid to take a public stand or push for change.
The candidate, who supported Sanders, the Vermont senator, in his run for the Democratic presidential nomination, said he believes the political revolution that movement began will now continue at the local and state levels and in Congress.
Like Sanders, Del Gallo said income disparity and the shift in recent decades of a disproportionate percentage of wealth toward the upper income levels, are at the base of other issues facing Massachusetts — including opioid addiction, poverty, a decline in spending on public education, and wage levels that do not support a chance at a middle class lifestyle.
He said he favors a graduated income tax — which 33 other states have — and the so-called "millionaire's tax" amendment proposal, or a higher rate for those with high incomes; a $15 an hour minimum wage and support for unions as they seek higher wages and benefits from employers.
Higher wages would give workers the disposable income to make purchases that would lead to more robust economic development, he said, noting that the 1950s through 1970s featured a more egalitarian economy in terms of the distribution of wealth and also strong growth, despite much higher tax rates on the wealthy and on corporations.
"I would submit that those were some of the most economically prosperous times in our county," Del Gallo said during an interview.
In addition, he supports a single-payer health care system; universal pre-K; tuition-free and debt-free state higher education; investment in green energy to replace fossil fuels and creating jobs in the Berkshires around that technology; investing in high-speed rail from the Berkshires to New York and Boston and improved public transportation; improving infrastructure, and the rapid expansion of high-speed internet in the smaller towns of the 52-community Berkshire-Franklin-Hampshire-Hampden Senate district.
On the environment, Del Gallo lists as accomplishments his proposals for a foam polystyrene food container ban in Pittsfield, which was passed as an ordinance, and for a ban on single-use plastic bags, which city officials are now reviewing. He received a Hero of the Ocean award from the state Senate for his efforts on the city's polystyrene ban.
For information, visit statesenate.rinaldodelgallo.com.
Senate candidate Andrea Harrington, of Richmond, concedes she hasn't been as politically active as some others running for statewide office, but she tells voters: "There is really no one in this race who brings the kind of experience that I bring to this position."
That, she said, "is based on my experience of growing up here, seeing what our economy has gone through, coming from a working class family, having kids in the public schools, running a small business, and really advocating on behalf of my clients in the courts here every day I know I have the skills to be effective for the district in Boston."
Harrington is an attorney whose husband, Timothy Walsh, owns the Public Market in West Stockbridge; and she is a mother of two who says residents can count on her to fight to improve the lives of working people and families in Berkshire County.
Harrington advised potential constituents during one debate "not to let my size fool you," saying, "I am a fighter."
Until recently, voters were not as focused on Thursday's Democratic primary. Her campaign initially had been "a process of educating people," she said, "but I think people are starting to tune in now, and I am really, really happy with the response that I am getting."
In a 52-community Senate district, encompassing all or part of four counties, Harrington said it "definitely is a challenge. You can't knock on doors in every community." She said she's taking advantage of community or political events, especially in all the rural communities, not to mention meeting potential voters at transfer stations, "which is a good place to meet people."
Asked what she would like her legacy to be if elected, Harrington responded, "In 10 years or 20 years, when I look back and judge my performance as a state senator, I will judge it based on what did I do to stop the population decline and to turn that around, and what did I do to expand economic opportunity here in this district. Those are the biggest challenges, the most pressing issues and those feed into everything else."
She added that she doesn't believe "we have taken a districtwide or a countywide approach to economic development. But I see people starting to work toward that. I would like to take a systematic approach to economic development assess our strengths and weaknesses."
She said, "I would like to come up with a vision for economic development — what do we want the economy to look like in 10 years? And then take the steps to get there."
Her work with the board of BerkShares in South County "really influenced my thinking on the economy," she said of the organization, which tries to maximize the circulation of goods, services and capital within the region to bolster the local economy.
Like Downing, Harrington said she has a strong interest in promotion of sustainable energy. Education also is one of her top priorities, she said, "and my No. 1 legislative priority is universal preschool. It solves a host of problems."
Harrington said she represents many families in court and she see the effects of an inadequate education and many people who had negative experiences while in school.
Other key issues, she said, include moving to a $15 minimum wage and funding more treatment and support options in fighting opioid addiction. Harrington said she would push for a full-service hospital in North Adams and to preserve medical facilities in South County.
The Senate district is "the most progressive district in the state," she said. "I see the seat as an opportunity to really push the state in a progressive agenda."
Harrington grew up in Richmond and graduated from Taconic High School in Pittsfield in 1993. She is a 2003 graduate of American University's Washington College of Law, who returned to the area in 2007 after practicing in Florida.
For information, visit www.andreaforsenate.com.
Adam Hinds believes his experience, growing up in Franklin County, working in Berkshire County's two cities and in the Middle East with the United Nations makes him the best qualified candidate to succeed Downing.
Hinds, 39, said during an interview that as a native of the Buckland-Shelburne area who has served in recent years as organizer and director of the Pittsfield Community Connection program to combat youth violence and gang influences, and as executive director of the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition, he has developed "a real understanding of the issues and the challenges" facing the district.
The candidate also cited as valuable experiences his work on the campaigns for former U.S. Rep. John Olver, and on U.S. Sen. John Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign, as well as his work with the U.N. for eight years prior to his return to Western Massachusetts to lead the Shannon grant-funded Pittsfield youth program in 2013-14.
Experience helping to negotiate power-sharing, cease-fire, boundary and other agreements between various groups or factions in the Middle East after the Iraq War will help him in working with political factions and issue stakeholders toward positive solutions, Hinds said.
He said he was told by supporters who urged him to run for the Senate seat, "We like that you have been very proactive in ensuring that all the various aspects of the population have been involved" in trying to address youth violence, addiction, poverty and other issues.
"That has been my model," he said, "ensuring that people understand the narrative and helping to define the narrative and proactively working with folks across the spectrum and to demonstrate action. That's what we have done and what I've done since I came back, and pretty much what I've done in my career."
On legislative and social issues facing Massachusetts, Hinds said "the top issue is jobs, jobs, jobs," to which he would add "energy and the environment, education, and basic infrastructure and transportation."
Closing "the digital divide" separating rural towns in the region from other areas of the state in terms of broadband access has to be a priority, he said, along with ensuring a fair share of funding for transportation infrastructure projects in the region.
Those issues, along with education funding — including vocational education and workforce training — directly impact the local economy, Hinds said, and the ability to attract new businesses and other development.
He said he would push for changes in the state aid formulas for Chapter 70 aid to school districts. Hinds said he opposes the November ballot question seeking to expand the charter school system.
Workforce training funding is key to filling many of the more than 1,000 jobs in the region that are open at a given time, he said.
On energy, Hinds said he favors greater efforts to diversify the region's energy sources, specifically lowering its reliance on natural gas in favor of renewable energy.
Hinds said his work with youth and low-income residents also has given him an understanding of the opioid addiction crisis that is devastating communities across the state.
"It's true there is no shortage of challenges," he said, "but I also think there is an endless stream of opportunity."
Hinds is a 1998 graduate of Wesleyan University and of the Tufts University Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.
For information, visit www.adamhinds.org.
Contact Jim Therrien at 413-496-6247. email@example.com @BE_therrien on Twitter.
Republican State Senate candidate Chris Canning introduces herself. The event was hosted by the Rainbow Seniors organization at the Berkshire Athenaeum in Pittsfield. September 4, 2016.
Candidates for the state Senate and state Representative offices gather to introduce themselves and meet members of the LGBTQ and senior communities. September 4, 2016.
Our Opinion: “Hinds is choice in key Senate race”
The Berkshire Eagle, Editorial, 9/4/2016
Much of Western Massachusetts, including the Berkshires, will suffer a blow when effective and influential state Senator Ben Downing steps down. The important process of replacing him begins September 8.
Adam Hinds, Andrea Harrington and Rinaldo Del Gallo, III will vie for the Democratic nomination that day. The winner will face Republican Christine Canning in November.
A native of Buckland, Mr. Hinds came to the attention of Berkshire residents when he formed the Pittsfield Community Connection, a program to get to at-risk youth before gangs do. His work as director of the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition put him on the front lines of issues related to jobs and the county's opioid addiction problem.
A Berkshire attorney and Richmond native, Ms. Harrington has deep family roots in the Berkshires. Her experience representing indigent criminal defendants in the county and state should make her a progressive voice on Beacon Hill for low- and middle-income individuals and families. Ms. Harrington and her husband own the Public Market in West Stockbridge, which gives her additional insight into economic issues affecting small businesses.
Mr. Del Gallo, a Pittsfield-based attorney, has been active in the county on progressive issues, such as bans on polystyrene foam containers. He is running as a "Bernie Sanders progressive," and as such is advocating middle class issues like raising the minimum wage. Like Senator Sanders, however, he has advocated simplistic, unrealistic wealth distribution arguments that apply only indirectly to the district.
Mr. Hinds came to the Berkshires following 10 years with the United Nations working for progress toward peace in Middle Eastern hot spots. That kind of problem-solving experience should translate to success in the Legislature, where the ability to work through an often Byzantine process is critical. His activism on educational and young adult issues in the Berkshires speaks to his concern for the region and his knowledge of important issues.
All the candidates would advocate traditional Democratic issues, but the variety of Mr. Hinds' experiences are unique. He would seem to have the best chance of evolving into a state senator along the lines of Senator Downing, who has shown versatility in taking the lead in Boston on a variety of issues important to the region. The Eagle endorses Adam Hinds for the Democratic nomination for state Senate from Western Massachusetts.
Christine Canning: “It is your voice and your vote”
By Christine Canning, Op-Ed, The Berkshire Eagle, 9/2/2016
LANESBOROUGH - As your next state senator, I am about business, education, jobs, health care, and growing this economy. Hands down, any opponent from the party who wins Sept. 8 cannot touch my credentials, expertise, education or work experience.
As I am a straight shooter, we need to have a rich and deep discussion about our economy. We need stimulus to attract work and jobs, and this is my goal. Together we will be proactive in repurposing and remarketing our infrastructure.
In conjunction with an economist, I derived a 15-point action plan to stimulate tax dollars back into our area with long-term, sustainable goals that will attract professional, mid-level, skilled and unskilled employment. Our plan has depth. We are Tax-achusetts, but we don't have to be. Our tax system is actually crippling our economy.
Local Democrat legislators have been so good at creating "benefits" that people from other states come over the borders to take advantage of our wonderful packages. Our elderly, veterans, and others have trouble getting affordable health care, but an illegal immigrant in Massachusetts has an avenue of protection. That is absurd, and I have a laundry list of changes to benefit taxpayers ready to put into action.
Those who pay into our tax system are taxed to the fullest. Those who pay in the bare minimum are rewarded with $5,000 back from the commonwealth. We've lost common sense. We are led by people who don't have real plans for our area. Every day, under the current leadership, it feels like a Band-aid being plastered on a gushing wound.
Change needs to start with me and you. Easily and effortlessly, you can vote me into office. I will fix this mess. I understand that those benefits are supposed to help people during a difficult period. They were never meant to supplant working. Our "Tax-achusetts" system should be offering a hand up and not a hand out.
Taxes are too numerous and are too high. Taxes penalize and decentivize the critical economic activity that can make Massachusetts viable and competitive again. To keep critical services funded and ease tax burdens on the citizens of Massachusetts the primary goal must be to eliminate unnecessary taxes that penalize select individuals and groups. I firmly believe that the key to reviving the state economy is to introduce the concept of tax competition within the state.
Similar to competition in the marketplace for goods and services, tax competition incentivizes the individual municipalities to keep the tax burdens low lest they lose businesses and residents. Local options to tax certain things must be preserved, but many statewide taxes must be eliminated.
This means revising the "personal income" and "fiduciary income tax," specifically net capital gains, dividends and interest. The federal government already taxes corporate incomes, and then it taxes the dividends and the capital gains on the shares of stock.
By engaging in triple taxation (the federal government taxation of dividends and capital gains being held as the second layer) of these assets, the state is crippling itself in a race against states that do not impose such measures. The punitive measures on the needed capital to get the economy moving again must end.
Another scenario that falls clearly under those constraints is our current resident and non-resident estate tax. To attract and maintain long-term residents, we must not penalize the life's work of productive citizens. A third party, in this case Massachusetts, should not be heir to the fortunes of those who work for their family's well-being and future. As the tax stands, it is one more reason to move out of the state during your golden years.
For our working poor who have nothing left to give "Tax-achusetts," we need to revisit taxes on alcohol and cigarettes. If the disaster of the National Prohibition Act taught us anything, it is that people are going to drink regardless of what the law says. The idea of using excise taxes to dissuade consumption of alcohol is the modern descendent of the XVIII Amendment. All this adds to the lives of citizens is higher prices and more complications for the producers and sellers.
The key to dissuasion to drink is to educate people on the dangers of intoxication and enforcing personal responsibility by punishing those who are intoxicated, not higher prices and red tape. Taxes on cigarettes tend to incentivize crime. Butt-legging is a practice where a person will go to a state with lower taxes on cigarettes (like New Hampshire) and buy cartons there, transport them back to Massachusetts and either sell them illegally on their own.
Your vote is your voice. Elect me, the proven voice of change. With your vote I will become the next state senator from Western Massachusetts.
Christine Canning is a Republican candidate for state senator.
Andrea Harrington: “An independent senator for Berkshires”
By Andrea Harrington, Op-Ed, The Berkshire Eagle, 9/4/2016
RICHMOND - In a few days, residents of 52 cities and towns in Western Massachusetts have an important decision to make as they elect their Democratic nominee for the state Senate. This election will have major implications on our region and there are clear differences between the three candidates running.
I am asking for your vote because I have the experience and background to be a bold, independent voice for working families and seniors in the Berkshires. As your state senator, you will always be able count on me to put our residents and our communities first.
Since announcing my candidacy in March, I have knocked on thousands of doors and run a true grassroots campaign across four counties in the largest state Senate district in Massachusetts. Here, I've met countless people who share the same struggles and triumphs that my family and I have encountered.
I grew up in a working family — my mom was a housekeeper from Pittsfield and my dad a carpenter from a small town in the Berkshires. My parents raised me to work and study hard and gave me opportunities that they never had. I graduated from Taconic High School and went on to become the first person in my family to go to college and then law school.
After working to overturn death penalty cases, I returned to the town where I grew up to raise a family with my husband, Tim. I started my own local law practice and Tim and I started a small business in West Stockbridge.
For more than a decade, I've been working on behalf of families as an attorney in the Berkshires. As good jobs have been leaving our region, I have seen firsthand the challenges caused by population decline, a shrinking middle class, seniors struggling to stay in their homes, and a devastating opiate crisis impacting thousands of our friends, family, and neighbors.
INVESTED IN BERKSHIRES
My experience is right here in the Berkshires working on issues that matter to Western Massachusetts. In addition to running a small business, I've served on the school council for my local school district, the affordable housing commission in my town, as delegate to the Democratic state convention, and as a board member of local non-profit organizations. I am not running for office as a stepping-stone for higher office. I'm running because I am deeply invested in the Berkshires, and I feel an obligation to do more for our region.
I have outlined a detailed platform and list of my priorities for how I think we can strengthen our communities and our region to provide greater opportunities for residents. I hope you'll take a moment to read this on my website at www.andreaforsenate.com or on the flyer I mailed out to Berkshire voters this week.
In addition to having the right priorities and the experience, I believe that I am the candidate with the independence to always put our people first. Sadly, outside money has been pouring into politics from SuperPACs, lobbyists, and Beacon Hill insiders. These special interests have made it clear that I am not their candidate.
The same goes for supporters of the Kinder-Morgan pipeline and executives at Berkshire Health Systems — they are raising money for another candidate in this campaign. That's fine by me!
In the current political culture, too many people feel disconnected because they can't make big political contributions or don't know the right people to call. I'm running for State Senate, because I want to be a voice for our residents who do the real work to enhance and support our communities every day. I want to be an advocate for working families, single parents raising their children here, and seniors who have invested decades building and giving back to our communities.
I want to stand up for those who coach youth sports, volunteer at senior centers, and serve on local boards and commissions. I want to work to create jobs and opportunity for those who can't find work in our region. I want to increase access to treatment beds for those struggling with addiction. And, I want to stand up to protect the natural beauty of Western Massachusetts from gas pipelines and toxic waste dumps.
On Thursday, I hope to earn your vote. I can assure you that there is no one who will harder for you in the Massachusetts state Senate.
Andrea Harrington is a Democratic candidate for state senator from Western Massachusetts.
Rinaldo Del Gallo, III: “A true progressive for state Senate”
By Rinaldo Del Gallo, III, Op-Ed, The Berkshire Eagle, 9/5/2016
PITTSFIELD - I differ from my opponents for state Senate as follows:
I am running as a "Bernie Sanders progressive." They declined to say whether they voted for Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton when asked by a debate moderator. They figure you are not entitled to know how they fall on the political spectrum.
They were initially undecided about whether to oppose the pipelines. This shows that they had reservations about upsetting the pipelines' advocates. They only opposed the pipelines after I jumped in the race and opposed the pipelines from the start.
To fight against global warming, which could literally cause the cataclysmic end of mankind, I am for having wind energy here in the Berkshires (and the rest of the district) by having windmills on our mountain ranges. They are opposed to such Berkshire windmills. In 2008 I wrote a column supporting the Wind Sitting Reform Act in this newspaper, streamlining the permitting process for windmills. The Eagle agreed in an editorial.
My opponents are progressive, but not as progressive as I am. They do not claim to want to follow the Nordic Model, which is the economic and social policies of the Nordic countries where homelessness and poverty is almost unknown. I am for tuition-free and debt-free state universities and colleges: they have never voiced support for such programs.
I favor legalizing marijuana to which they have repeatedly said they oppose. While to their credit both have said they want to expand opioid treatment, neither have gone to the extent that I have and declared the war on drugs a failure and call for a 100 percent focus on treatment instead of enforcement.
Andrea Harrington and I both favor an immediate and across the board $15 minimum wage. Adam Hinds initially supported this when at a forum in Becket, but at a forum at MCLA said he was for a $15 minimum wage "eventually" and there would be "lots of exceptions." Andrea and I both maintain he flip-flopped.
We have vastly different views on direct democracy. Whether it is legalizing marijuana or lifting the cap on charter schools or any other ballot initiative, I have said I would honor the will of the people no matter how the vote turns out. Despite countless opportunities to say they will support the will of the people however any initiative vote turns out, and despite my open challenge in a debate that they pledge to support the will of the people no matter the vote, they refused.
On the issue of crime, both my opponents immediately called for more spending on police after a rash of shooting in Pittsfield. I did not — I would rather the money be spent on creating hope and opportunity for our youth to keep them from going criminal in the first place.
While Hinds and Harrington spoke against money in politics, both refused to agree to my challenge to voluntary spending limits. Lately, both the media and Harrington have been questioning many of Hinds' campaign donors which the public should look into.
Opposed to Walmart plan
We all want high speed internet in the hill towns, but I am the only one calling on the government to do what the private sector will not: I liken the problem to that of rural electricity. On the issue of Walmart at PEDA, my opponents have observed that Walmart is not a great employer and wreaks economic devastation on municipalities, yet fail to criticize the city of Pittsfield for welcoming Walmart to PEDA. I am opposed to Walmart at PEDA.
On the question of shared parenting legislation, which is a legal presumption that there would be joint legal and physical custody of children in child custody cases, which may be rebutted by showing that one of the parents is unfit or it unworkable through no fault of the parents, Hinds declined to answer the question at a debate. Harrington said she is in favor of a "maternal preference," whereby fathers and mothers would not be treated equally before the eyes of the court, but instead favor mothers over fathers. The public should know that virtually nobody in the legal profession supports this position (even opponents to shared parenting legislation), and that most states have ruled that such a maternal preference violates Equal Protection and that father and mother must be treated equally.
While after 4-5 months my opponents finally supported the Fair Share Amendment, none have supported amending the state Constitution to call for taxes on the super rich with regard to capital gains, wealth accumulation, and estates. Currently, the top 1/10 of 1 percent has as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent. I call on changing this to finance education, infrastructure, green energy and health care.
Rinaldo Del Gallo, III is a candidate for state Senate from Western Massachusetts.
Letter: “Attacks on Hinds are dirty politics”
The Berkshire Eagle, 9/5/2016
To the editor:
I recently received a robocall from state Senate candidate Andrea Harrington, a Democrat running in the Sept. 8 primary. Harrington claims Adam Hinds is accepting big corporate energy money from Boston lobbyists, out-of-state lobbyists and top officials representing companies such as Exxon Mobil.
Let's take a closer look. Mr. Hinds did receive a personal, not corporate, donation from a friend who now happens to work for Exxon Mobil in Australia. Years ago they worked together for the U.N. in Baghdad. The two are graduate school classmates and longtime friends. That donation has been returned to avoid any appearance of impropriety.
Hinds did have $50 come into his campaign fund from an employee of Berkshire Gas. This was the cost of a specific Hinds campaign event. It was unsolicited and came from the personal, not corporate, account of that employee of Berkshire Gas. Adam has always been clear with this person regarding his opposition to the pipeline.
I believe the robocall from Harrington is dirty politics late in the campaign. I have followed this campaign very closely. To witness Harrington going negative this late in the race is a disservice to everyone including herself. She had months to make such charges but she waited until it is so late in the game that there is no time to fairly respond to such accusations.
Hinds has clearly shown himself to be head and shoulders above his two opponents. He has earned and will receive my vote in the primary for state Senate on Thursday.
Jim Edelman, Monterey
Letter: “Hinds is a product of Pittsfield machine”
The Berkshire Eagle, 9/5/2016
To the editor:
I support Andrea Harrington for state senator. There are many reasons why, but here are some of them.
Adam Hinds is part of the political machine of Pittsfield. He worked for Rep. Olver and Sen. Kerry, which means he is also part of the political machine of Washington, D.C.
So it is not surprising that he accepted money from Exxon Mobil, Berkshire Gas, Kinder-Morgan, the New England Power Generator Assoc. and out-of-state lobbyists representing fossil fuel conglomerates.
Hinds has only been here for a few years and has only worked for Berkshire political machine organizations. He has no stake in the welfare of Berkshire residents. He will do what the lobbyists tell him to do.
Harrington has lived here for decades. She has children in school here. She is an accomplished lawyer. She has served on committees and other groups that have benefitted Berkshire residents for many years.
On Thursday, let us break the political machine of Pittsfield. Oil and coal power generating companies may control Washington, D.C., but they do not control us!
Thomas Marini, Pittsfield
Letter: “Harrington is committed for the long haul”
The Berkshire Eagle, 9/5/2016
To the editor:
On Thursday, Democrats face an important choice in the state Senatorial primary race. Of the three candidates on the primary ballot — and I have seen, heard, and spoken with all three several times — Andrea Harrington is the one with whom I am most impressed, feeling confident that she would represent our district boldly and most effectively — and would do so long enough to make a difference.
Of the other two Democratic candidates, I am most concerned about Mr. Hinds, whose recent jobs in Central and North County have been of very brief tenure. Yes, he grew up in the district (Buckland), but his earliest work, according to his publicity, has been pretty far afield. If he spent most of his first 10 working years with the United Nations in the Middle East, I wonder how long he'd remain in the state Senate once the office of U.S. representative opens up.
As for Mr. Del Gallo, I have seen him, until recently, as a fathers' rights spokesperson — a rather narrow focus.
Yes, we are fortunate to have these choices to replace Sen. Downing, who has served this district so well I don't need to stress how important this post is to this western-most region in the state.
As a former public official and political activist, I will cast my vote for Andrea Harrington, who speaks clearly on the issues facing this district, whose values and priorities match my own, and who would likely serve long enough to make a real difference for this district in the state Senate.
Since we are conditioned to vote on Tuesday, I hope folks will join me on Thursday, to vote for Andrea Harrington for state Senate.
Diane M. Gallese-Parsons, North Adams
Letter: “Hinds has necessary skills, experience”
The Berkshire Eagle, 9/6/2016
To the editor:
Ben Downing has been a great state Senator. Among other things, he knew what to focus on and what it took to get things done.
For a Democrat, it is important to be a strong advocate for progressive issues like workers' rights, job development, a higher minimum wage, progressive taxation, better public school funding, environmental protection, pro-choice, expanded broadband, small business relief, and so much more.
Only one candidate has the experience and organizing skills necessary to get things done for the Berkshires: Adam Hinds.
A graduate of Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, Adam studied the critical work skills he would need to get things done. He then practiced those skills in the toughest region of the world to do so: in the Middle East with the UN. Then he returned to the Berkshires to start the Pittsfield Community Connection, a program designed to engage at-risk youth before their exposure to and engagement in violence and crime and worked with Pittsfield City officials to win a grant that "will bring up to $5 million to Pittsfield to move young men engaged in illegal activities towards education, jobs, and counseling."
When Adam moved on to take the position of executive director of the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition, he immediately started building a coalition of business leaders, community advocates, job development agencies and our local colleges. The goal: to bring men and women who are struggling to get a job into the workforce. "Employ North Berkshire" will be a template for use throughout the county.
I have worked with Adam. Only Adam can be another Ben Downing. Only Adam has the skills, abilities and experience to bring meaningful change and progress to our Berkshires.
Showing a lack of experience, one of his opponents recently accused Adam of taking money from big corporate lobbyists. As it turns out, she was terribly misleading.
One donor of $250 was a college classmate who donated as a friend (not a lobbyist) and because he works for Exxon Mobil, Adam had returned the contribution before his opponent's complaint. Another contribution came from someone who attended a community meet and greet and works for Berkshire Gas — the amount: $50. To suggest that Adam is therefore in the pockets of the energy industry is absurd and desperate.
Vote for Adam Hinds: a community builder, a change agent, a workhorse for us all.
Sherwood Guernsey, Williamstown
The writer is a former state legislator.
Letter: “Harrington will speak for those who need help”
The Berkshire Eagle, 9/6/2016
To the editor:
The state Senate race reminds me of the lyrics to an old spiritual song I love: "I'm just a nobody; trying to tell everybody; about somebody; who's about helping everybody!" Which is why I will be casting my vote Thursday for Andrea Harrington.
I believe Andrea is the right person to represent Western Mass. and the Berkshires specifically. Andrea will be that voice that speaks for all because she knows what it is like to struggle; to grow up with limited resources, much like so many of us in this community.
As a small business owner, Andrea understands that it is the small business owner that keeps the economy of our communities strong and people working. As a mom she has been active in her local school council, and she understands how important a quality education is for all youth. She knows that it is cheaper to educate, than it is to incarcerate.
I attended Andrea's state Senate campaign launch event. It was there that I learned of the work that she had done here and in Florida as an attorney. Andrea has a clear track record of commitment to social justice. She is no "Johnny-Come-Lately" motivated by access to power and looking to make a name for herself. Andrea is a woman who knows how to practice what she preaches.
I also respect the fact that she is an independent candidate, unfettered by political alliances and special interests, which have been such a destructive force for our community. She will be a free independent voice for all citizens. We need this now more than ever.
Dennis L. Powell, Pittsfield
Letter: “Hinds addresses issues in collaborative fashion”
The Berkshire Eagle, 9/6/2016
To the editor:
Not long after Adam Hinds became the director of the Pittsfield Community Connection working with Pittsfield's at risk youth, we ran into each other at a Berkshire Democratic Party BBQ. We reminisced about campaigns we had both worked on including re-elections for Rep. Olver and Sen. Kerry's presidential run. After this we started running into each other often and all over Berkshire County. We had discussions on workforce development and challenges, arts, culture, the opioid epidemic and numerous other topics. Every one of these discussions showed me Adam's grasp of how each is impacting our area.
During Adam's time with the Pittsfield Community Connection I was impressed with how he connected with people in our community and how they rallied around the work that he was facilitating and his leadership style. He was able to recruit a team and launch a program that is still helping Pittsfield today.
When Adam was chosen to be the executive director of the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition I was able to see him build relationships and have a positive effect, same as he did in Pittsfield. With both organizations I witnessed him facilitate meetings on difficult topics and have people leave feeling hopeful that they could affect change by working together. This is what I want to see in our next state senator, someone who has proven to be able to bring people together to solve problems.
As an at Large Pittsfield city councilor, a proud union member and lifelong Berkshire County resident, I want Adam Hinds on the team representing us in Boston. He understands the issues facing our district because he has been working with us for years. Please join me in voting for Adam Hinds on Thursday in the Democratic primary.
Pete White, Pittsfield
The writer is an at large city councilor.
Letter: “Harrington an example of a hard-working mom”
The Berkshire Eagle, 9/6/2016
To the editor:
Andrea Harrington is a colleague and a friend, and I encourage everyone reading this to vote for her, especially working moms like Andrea.
I have peripherally watched campaign covered in the local media and thought it all pretty standard until I read that an opponent said she's been "invisible." I know Andrea as a fierce and brilliant litigator, community volunteer, but most importantly, as a mother of two boys. I have seen her in action at work and with her family.
I am not a huge feminist, but I do run a law practice and I have been an elected official in the Berkshires and quickly noted the subtle sexism in calling a female candidate "invisible." Women of Berkshire County, please take note that your work as a mother and employee makes you "invisible" to Andrea's opponent. You are not invisible. How many of us working moms get up early to get our children ready for school or day care and prepare their lunches while attempting to get ready for work ourselves? We work all day and come home to prepare dinner, do homework, give baths, play games, and do a bedtime routine. If Andrea were a male candidate, she would have been lauded for her successful law practice while being a "family man."
Andrea does not attend gratuitous political events, and maybe that is why she was deemed "invisible." Working mothers do not have time for nonsense, hand-shaking, back-slapping or pointless exercises in local politics. Working mothers work. Andrea works at everything she does and she's a success. She's a phenomenal attorney, a smart businesswoman, and a great mother and wife.
If you want a poised, brilliant, family-oriented, and driven leader in Boston, vote for Andrea Harrington.
Jennifer M. Breen, North Adams
The writer is an attorney and former North Adams city councilor.
After learning of his Democratic State Senate primary win, Adam Hinds celebrates with his supporters at Hotel on North in Pittsfield on Thursday. (Stephanie Zollshan — The Berkshire Eagle | photos.berkshireeagle.com)
“Hinds wins Democratic spot on ticket”
State Senate: Will face Republican Canning in general election as he fights to wins former Sen. Downing's seat
By Jim Therrien, The Berkshire Eagle, 9/8/2016
PITTSFIELD - In the state Senate race, Adam Hinds built a solid early lead in the three-way Democratic Primary and handily defeated his two challengers.
Hinds, of Pittsfield, defeated attorney Andrea Harrington of Richmond, who finished second, and attorney Rinaldo Del Gallo of Lenox, who was a distant third.
In Berkshire County, Hinds received 6,695 votes to 5,024 for Harrington and 901 for Del Gallo.
Hinds now will face Republican Christine Canning in the Nov. 8 general election. Canning, of Lanesborough, was unopposed in that party's primary.
Incumbent Sen. Ben Downing, D-Pittsfield, did not seek re-election after five terms.
"It feels great," said Hinds, during his post-election party Thursday night at Hotel on North. "A lot of hard work got us across the finish line."
Hinds said Harrington had called him to congratulate him on his victory in the primary.
"I am thrilled that we have the opportunity to continue sending a strong message in Western Mass. for working families, energy and [other issues]," Hinds said. "We also want to do politics differently and stick to our message. I want to be defined by bringing people together to get things done, in contrast to the divisiveness on the national level."
At his boisterous election party, Hinds said there were "a lot of people here who worked a lot of hours and they deserve to have some fun."
Hinds has been on leave from his job as executive director of the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition in North Adams. He said he now is considering his first weekend off after seven months of campaigning.
The Democratic nominee built an early and eventually insurmountable lead over Harrington as the vote was slowly counted in the massive 52-community Senate district. After a boost from his hometown of Pittsfield, Hinds maintained about 55 percent of the total vote as the results trickled in throughout the night.
Harrington hovered at about 38 to 39 percent, with Del Gallo trailing with about 7 to 8 percent.
In Pittsfield, Hinds received 2,878 votes to 1,924 for Harrington and 434 for Del Gallo.
The Senate district includes all of Berkshire County's 32 communities and towns in Franklin, Hampshire and Hampden counties.
Hinds won Pittsfield, the district's largest community, with a solid but not overwhelming margin, winning in every precinct with about 55 percent of the city vote. He also won in North Adams, while Harrington was strongest in several towns in South County, such as Great Barrington, Lee, Richmond and West Stockbridge.
Hinds, 40, said during the race that as a native of the Buckland-Shelburne area who has served in recent years as organizer of the Pittsfield Community Connection program to combat youth violence and gang influences, and as executive director of the NBCC, he has developed "a real understanding of the issues and the challenges" facing the district.
He had grown up in Franklin County, worked recently in Berkshire County's two cities and had earlier worked in the Middle East with the United Nations. That combination of experiences made him the best qualified to succeed Downing, Hinds contended.
The candidate also cited his experience in helping to negotiate power-sharing, cease-fire and other agreements between factions in the Middle East after the Iraq War, saying that would help him in working with political factions toward positive solutions.
"That has been my model," the candidate said during an interview, "ensuring that people understand the narrative and helping to define the narrative and proactively working with folks across the spectrum and to demonstrate action. That's what we have done and what I've done since I came back, and pretty much what I've done in my career."
Harrington is an attorney whose husband, Timothy Walsh, owns the Public Market in West Stockbridge. Harrington said she wanted to fight to improve the lives of working people and families in Berkshire County.
She grew up in Richmond and graduated from Taconic High School in Pittsfield in 1993. Harrington is a 2003 graduate of American University's Washington College of Law, who returned to the area in 2007 after practicing in Florida.
In the primary race, which included more than a half-dozen debates, all three candidates stressed progressive views on the issues facing the district and the state. Del Gallo in many instances drove the debate topics, saying he wanted to run as a Bernie Sanders progressive and asserting that he has been out front first on those issues.
Contact Jim Therrien at 413-496-6247. firstname.lastname@example.org @BE_therrien on Twitter.
“Challengers present choices: ....; Republican Canning running against Hinds”
By Jim Therrien, The Berkshire Eagle, 9/10/2016
PITTSFIELD - With the dust settling from the Democratic primary races for state House and Senate, independent 3rd District House candidate Christopher Connell and Republican Senate candidate Christine Canning are gearing up for the final push to the Nov. 8 election.
Canning, of Lanesborough, is facing Democratic primary winner Adam Hinds of Pittsfield for the Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Ben Downing.
Canning has expressed frustration at feeling somewhat left out during the primary campaign season, when she was unopposed for the GOP nomination and Democratic races hogged the spotlight. But she kept busy meeting with small groups, public officials and individuals around the 52-community Senate district to explain her self-described "moderate views" and lack of a hardline philosophical bent on issues.
The Republican nominee acknowledged she faces a "David and Goliath" situation in running against the Democrat Hinds, who she said already is outspending her by more than 10 to 1. Her expenditures to date are around $3,400, she said.
"Personally, I think it's a machine," she said of the Democrats supporting Hinds. "I don't believe in machines."
Canning said she will instead count on the support she's found among voters from across the political spectrum, which she attributed to her practical approach to solving problems by searching for the best and most efficient solutions.
"My team has some socialists," she said. "Some are on the right; lots of them are Democrats and many are libertarians."
Ultimately, she said, "I'm very moderate; I'm not philosophical on party; I'm all about human beings."
Noting some of her positions on issues, Canning said she supports gay rights, is "pro children and education," would fight age discrimination and calls for more effort to combat domestic abuse." She also is pro-life on abortion and supports gun owner rights against the efforts by Attorney General Maura Healey to strictly enforce the state's ban on assault-style firearms.
She also favors some form of legalization of marijuana for adults, in part because that could boost the production of hemp, which Canning believes could be an important agricultural product in Western Massachusetts. And she favors more flexibility on inheritance requirements for the transfer to the next generation of farm properties that are under a conservation restriction barring development.
Canning said she also is someone who has pointed out mismanagement or regulatory lapses while working in public education positions in the region and is good at analyzing funding systems and other government programs with an eye toward improving them.
"I go after fraud," she said, "and I don't back down."
Among areas where Canning said the state is wasting or misspending tax revenue are in the MassHealth, or state Medicaid program, where she said it is not difficult enough for out-of-state residents who sign up for benefits in Massachusetts, and where unnecessary trips to the emergency room, rather than a less expensive care facility, remain a costly problem.
The candidate also opposes the current public student testing system, which she said could be replaced with a portfolio-based system at less cost, and allow more funding for teacher salaries; and she calls for budgeting changes at the state government level to allow bonuses for department heads who find ways to hold down spending in specific line items, while not necessarily reducing their budgets for the next fiscal year.
Communities, especially cities like North Adams and Pittsfield within the Senate district are "near bankruptcy," Canning said, and in dire need of economic development and a state aid formula that provides more assistance and also operates more efficiently.
Canning said she is finishing a 15-point economic development plan that will be posted on her website, canning4senate.com, which is expected to launch over the coming week.
She added that she has spoken with Hinds and both agreed to keep the campaign's tone at a high level and not slip into a "he said, she said" debate.
Canning is CEO of New England Global Network LLC, an education consulting firm, and develops curriculum and educational training manuals, books and other materials, often under state or federal contracts, including for the State Department involving foreign nations.
Contact Jim Therrien at 413-496-6247. email@example.com @BE_therrien on Twitter.
Letter: “Troubled by Canning's opinions on issues”
The Berkshire Eagle, Letter to the Editor, 9/12/2016
To the editor:
I read Christine Canning's Sept. 2 op-ed column as to why we in Western Massachusetts should elect her to serve as our state senator. I was troubled by several issues that she discusses, which I believe to be either inaccurate or exaggerated.
For example, referring to Massachusetts as Taxachusetts. I did some research and found there are seven states with higher per capita taxes than Massachusetts. They are in order of highest: New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, California, Wisconsin, Rhode Island and Minnesota, followed by Massachusetts, Maine and Pennsylvania.
Most of the states with the lowest tax burden such as Alaska, Wyoming, North Dakota and others, receive much of their revenue from what is considered out-of-state revenue. For example taxes on energy companies.
In addition I would ask Ms. Canning if she has checked the quality of the education systems in states with a low tax burden? Many of those states have some of the poorest rated school districts in the country, whereas Massachusetts has some of the highest rated school districts and as a state is at or near the top.
I do not like to say this, but some of her statements have some similarity to Donald Trump. Ms. Canning states what she believes is wrong in our commonwealth (and I do not disagree with her on some issues), however she does not lay out a specific plan to address the issues. She states she will fix it! Sound familiar? And for better or worse she will be working with a Democratic majority of senators who may or may not chose to listen to her ideas, although would I hope there can be a "reaching across the aisle."
I disagree with her position against taxing liquor and cigarettes. The use of these items is a choice made by individuals. If individuals choose to use either or both it is a choice. No one is forcing one to smoke or drink alcoholic beverages. Cigarettes are a known cause of cancer and heart attacks. This is known and people still continue to smoke, and over use of alcohol has its own set of health issues. I do not smoke, but I am more than willing to pay taxes for my glass of wine!
Susan Wismer, Pittsfield
Letter: "Hinds is an inspiring choice for state Senate"
The Berkshire Eagle, 9/30/2016
To the editor:
Western Massachusetts is at a critical moment. The path to the middle class that older generations could rely upon — a solid factory job with good benefits and a plan for retirement — is harder to come by now.
At the same time, we have incredible potential to bring the Berkshires into the future, but we must work together to be successful. Now is the time for a leader with vision and the background for bringing people together. That's why I'm supporting Adam Hinds for state Senate.
Adam worked on negotiations in the Middle East for 10 years; and decided to bring these skills back home to work with at-risk kids and to craft strategies to fight the heroin epidemic.
Adam's background isn't typical for state senators, and that is his strength. It is refreshing, given the disturbing national political scene, that we can choose a form of politics here that is positive and based on getting things done.
Join me in voting for Adam Hinds for state Senate on Nov. 8 if you believe politics can be inspiring.
Jason Ostrander, Great Barrington
Letter: "Hinds is ideal choice for state senator"
The Berkshire Eagle, 10/10/2016
To the editor:
I have known Adam Hinds for less than one year, and in that short time I have found him to be intelligent, kind and sincere based on his work with at risk youth, programs to combat crime, strategies to improve rural health care, and much more.
Adam treats everyone with the same kindness and respect. He makes people feel good about themselves and always has a smile for everyone! I helped a bit on his primary campaign and got to know him. I know and love state Sen. Ben Downing and there's only one person who can come close to filling his shoes. That is Adam Hinds.
Shirley A. Davis, North Adams
Former U.S. Rep. John Olver is one of the many elected officials to endorse Hinds.
State Senator Benjamin Downing endorsed Hinds on Friday to follow in his footsteps.
"Downing, Rosenberg, Olver, Rally Support For Hinds Senate Campaign"
By Andy McKeever, iBerkshires Staff, October 8, 2016
PITTSFIELD, Massachusetts — The common theme Friday night, when Adam Hinds relaunched his campaign for state Senate, was unity.
Hinds won the Democratic nomination for the state Senate seat being vacated by Benjamin Downing. Hinds now takes on Republican Christine Canning-Wilson in the Nov. 8 general election.
On Friday, Hinds held a kickoff for the general election campaign featuring Downing, former U.S. Rep. John Olver, and Senate President Stanley Rosenberg. To a crowd full of elected officials and local leaders, the three rallied support for Hinds around the concept of unity.
"Leaders in any part of our community, in one form or another, they are all bridge builders. It is incredibly easy to try and tear something down. It is incredibly easy to be the person who just points out what is wrong. It is easy to offer a seductively simple solution to a problem and then say somebody else ought to do it," Downing said. "What is far more difficult is to be the person who rolls up their sleeves and says 'how do we actually make this real? How do we begin to solve this problem.'"
For Downing, Hinds has shown that ability. Hinds first got into politics by working for Olver's election campaign and he returned to manage a second Olver campaign. He later worked for the United Nations in the Middle East and returned to Pittsfield to head the Pittsfield Community Connection. Most recently, he headed the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition, taking leave to run for Downing's seat.
"I've seen it in Adams Hinds as well. I've seen it in the work he's done here in Pittsfield, to roll up his sleeves and tackle problems, to try to work with anyone and listen to everyone, who is willing to be part of the solution, who wanted to make this community a safer place," Downing said.
All of the speakers praised Hinds ability to build coalitions to solve problems and Hinds himself echoed his commitment to do that.
"When the next developer wants to come into town or we have a ballot initiative or we are talking about gun control versus gun rights, the intuition of a lot of folks is to retreat into my corner, the group I feel comfortable with, and lob an attack over my shoulder and hope for the best. My experience has shown me that is the exact wrong approach. We're going to be better off when we figure out how to work together," Hinds said.
"If we are talking about how we are going to spur our economy in this district, it means making sure you have not only the employers who are looking for the workforce but have the workers themselves, the ones looking for a job. You better have them all in the room if you are going to fulfill that goal of workforce development. Similarly, addressing energy costs and accelerating to renewable energy, you better have everybody in the room and you are going to get there. We are all going to get there much quicker if we are going to work together."
Hinds said his grandfather moved from England to America at the age of 17. He worked sweeping floors for the Boy's Club of America and 55 years later retired as national president. But, that hope is fading now, he said, and many people don't feel they have those same opportunities.
"I often think this district is at a bit of a crossroads as well. It is hard to follow that path my grandfather did, knowing that if you work hard you can rest in the security that you are going to have a job for the rest of your life, good retirement, and your kids are going to be safe too. That's not as easy these days," Hinds said.
He said there needs to be focus on the economics, infrastructure such as broadband, and an emphasis on tackling the population lose situation. Hinds said his focus isn't on the national scale of these issues but instead "income inequality right here, concentrations of poverty right here." He believes the way to do that is to be inspiring and bring together all players.
"We know we have so much potential here if we can come together and realize it," Hinds said. "That's part of who I am. That is my belief."
In the State House, that ability means even more, said Rosenberg. The Senate president said the Western Massachusetts delegates need to come together to support each other in order to accomplish anything because the eastern part of the state vastly outnumbers the rest.
"We here in Western Massachusetts have to build coalitions and work together across these four western counties and even extending into Worcester County to really have our voices heard in Boston. There are more legislators that represent the city of Boston than the entire western counties of Massachusetts. If we don't work together and learn each other's strengths and capacities, form teams, and push hard together then we don't get what we need out here," Rosenberg said.
He said his job to find the skills each senator possess and put them to the best use on Beacon Hill.
"You will bring some very unique talents and experience to the Senate, in particular I am really looking forward to figuring out how to use the skills and talents of a guy who worked in the United Nations trying to get nations to work together as we try to get people in this legislature and this government working together," Rosenberg said.
Downing said that is the only way to "start" on solving problems. He said the issues facing Western Massachusetts are complicated and the first step is gaining trust and finding common ground among all of the players and start making progress — in being willing to be part of solutions. He said there are a lot of people frustrated with the way things are going in the district but that there is hope if people can rally together to tackle the problems.
"You could offer people simple solutions that doesn't solve the problem at all but might make them feel good in the short term, or you can deal with people honestly and with a straightforward manner. You can listen to them and you can respect them, invite them to be part of the process, engage them and ask them to be citizens in their communities and be part of the solution," Downing said.
"The thing that excites me the most about Adam Hinds being our next state senator, the reason I am excited to support him, is that in every role he has been in from his time serving our country in the UN to his time serving Pittsfield to serving his role at the head of the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition, in every one of those roles, it has been about bringing people together. It has been about building bridges."
Olver was one of Hinds' first major endorsements during the primary campaign. Now retired, Olver doesn't come out to Pittsfield as often but made the trip Friday to support the campaign.
"He has served this country well. He was also a staff member in my campaign for two different campaigns. I know the kind of work he can do. I know that he has served us all in the United Nations in difficult times in Iraq and then in less difficult times in New York City. That will serve him exceedingly well," Olver said.
"I am convinced he will serve you very, very well."
When it comes to serving the district Hinds said he will serve whichever role he needs to solve the problems - whether that means being a facilitator, convening groups together, bringing resources, or simply getting out of the way.
"Join me if you think politics can be inspiring. Join me if it is characterized by working together to take on the big issues that we face right here. Join me if it is about doing what is right and putting together an agenda for the region that we can really put our shoulders into," Hinds said.
The audience featured multiple elected officials including state Reps. William "Smitty" Pignatelli, Tricia Farley-Bouvier, Paul Mark, Gailanne Cariddi, Stephen Kulik, Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer, North Adams Mayor Richard Alcombright, Register of Deeds Patsy Harris, Sheriff Thomas Bowler, former state Rep. Sherwood Guernsey, Pittsfield City Councilors Donna Todd Rivers, Nicholas Caccamo, Peter White, Anthony Simonelli, North Adams City Councilor Lisa Blackmer, and Lenox Selectman Channing Gibson. Andrea Harrington, who lost the primary to Hinds, and Michael Bloomberg, who lost a primary for state representative Farley-Bouvier, were also both in the audience.
Stan Rosenberg, Downing, and Hinds all worked for Olver at some point.
"State Senate candidates differ on ballot questions, aging, guns"
By Richie Davis, The Recorder, 10/14/2016
ASHFIELD - When state Senate candidates met Thursday night in their first debate they differed on some key issues facing voters.
Republican Christine M. Canning and Democrat Adam G. Hinds took different views on ballot questions on whether to legalize recreational use of marijuana and lift the cap on charter schools, on state spending to support an aging population and on Attorney General Maura Healey's ruling on copycat assault weapons.
The candidates squared off in Ashfield Town Hall for an audience of about 40 people.
Canning, 47, is an educational consultant from Lanesborough, and Adam Hinds, 40, of Pittsfield, is executive director of Northern Berkshire Community Coalition in North Adams. They are vying for the Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Benjamin Downing, D-Pittsfield, who is stepping in December after 10 years. Both have backgrounds working abroad, particularly in the Middle East.
Hinds said he opposes the marijuana measure — Question 4, citing concerns about impaired driving, edible products and the effect on developing brains.
Canning spoke in favor of legalization, in part as an economic development tool. She pointed to the benefit to agriculture if marijuana and hemp could be grown legally for the pharmaceutical cosmetic industry.
Hinds said he opposes ballot Question 2 because he feels it would hurt public schools in the largely rural district. Canning said she was "divided" on the question, in part because more charter schools are needed in Eastern Massachusetts where some public school systems are failing.
They differed also in emphasis over how to deal with an aging population in the district, a much-discussed topic in the Berkshires.
Hinds highlighted the need to ensure affordable housing, better transportation and helping lower prescription drug costs. Canning pointed to what she said is waste in the state budget, which could be redirected to providing for seniors.
They also differed on the copycat assault weapons ruling. Canning, a member of the National Rifle Association and Gun Owners Action League, accusing Healey of "overstepping her reach."
Hinds, who said he supports the public's right to have weapons, said, "It should be a deliberate conversation." However, he said he believes the attorney general should have "taken a more deliberate public process and worked with the Legislature. ... You can make sure she's working through the context in which cops are not shot in Massachusetts."
Asked how they would turn their personal passions into legislative priorities, Canning, who has been a whistleblower in the Pittsfield and Holyoke schools, said she would work on anti-discrimination, added domestic violence protection and a reform measure to hold teachers or school committee members responsible if they cover up wrongs that hurt a child's health or safety.
Hinds said he would favor educational reform and educational funding reform measures as well as fighting poverty through criminal justice reform and other measures.
Both candidates agreed on supporting the Fair Share Amendment, or "millionaire's tax," which encourages renewable energy development and opposes natural gas pipelines. They favored a $15 minimum wage as something to "work toward," and agreed on encouraging agriculture and the importance of getting broadband to towns in the district.
They agreed on a need to change the public school funding formula and to get full regional school transportation reimbursements.
And both said they were in support of a single-payer health care, would encourage communities to work together on regional solutions and favor taking steps to see that doctors and insurance companies help the state deal with the opioid crisis through more careful monitoring of prescriptions and reducing delays and shortened stays for treatment, respectively.
The 52-community district includes all of Berkshire County, and parts of Franklin, Hampden and Hampshire counties.
Canning, who is completing an educational policy doctorate from the University of Massachusetts, owns two educational consulting businesses — Boston Manhattan Group and New England Global Network — and has taught in the Pittsfield, Springfield and Holyoke public schools as well as in the United Arab Emirates.
Hinds, who grew up in Buckland and graduated from Mohawk Trail Regional High School as well as from Wesleyan University and Tufts University's Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, has worked for the United Nations as a negotiator in the Mideast. He has also administered a Pittsfield gang-prevention program targeting at-risk youth before being hired to head the North Adams-based coalition providing family and child support services.
Thursday's two-hour forum, moderated by Ashfield Town Moderator Buz Eisenberg, an ACLU lawyer who has represented prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay and professor at Greenfield Community College, included questions fielded by four panelists as well as questions from the audience.
Falls Cable TV, which recorded Thursday's debate, plans to make it available for viewing on many formats, including at www.recorder.com.
It was sponsored by the Ashfield Council on Aging, the Northampton Area League of Women Voters, Falls Cable TV, WHMP, The Recorder and Daily Hampshire Gazette.
Future debates are scheduled in Pittsfield, Great Barrington and Adams.
Letter: "Independent Canning will bring new ideas"
The Berkshire Eagle, 10/20/2016
To the editor:
For those of you looking for a candidate who does not take big money, in fact has run for state senator with less than $3,000, does not have a paid staff or paid consultants and is not beholden to anyone but the citizens of her district and not big business, the one percenters, or even has to play party politics. Christine Canning is running a true grass roots campaign.
She has a fantastic resume, strong on education, owns her own business, and as a widow raises her two children. She has new ideas on helping the economy and education and believes the Berkshires have been ignored too long. She is a true outsider with new ideas.
The Berkshire delegation we have now has watched the population decrease, businesses, factories and paper mills leave the county [and] school costs go up, and yet when we don't get enough money from Boston to fix our roads it pushes for a local gas tax and mileage tax while still keeping our tax dollars.
The delegation has forgotten what made the Berkshires great and don't seem to care that our young people have to leave to make a living and a decent life. What we have now is not working for the working class, middle class, elderly or the young.
So what do we have to lose by voting for Christine Canning? She brings us hope, new ideas and hasn't been bought off with big money.
When you drive by the closed stores, businesses, factories and for sale signs in front of houses, think about what we have and who represents us right now. If you want to see Berkshire County move forward positively again think about Christine Canning, a true grass roots candidate for state Senate and a positive change for our future.
Patrick Fennell, Great Barrington
Letter: "Hinds is prepared for state Senate"
The Berkshire Eagle, 10/20/2016
To the editor:
I hope you join me in voting for Adam Hinds for state Senate.
I am voting for Adam because I believe in most of the same things he does. I share his values, his visions and admire his collaborative approach to problem-solving.
As important as that, I believe Adam will hit the ground in Boston on the run. Unlike most new legislators who need months to learn the skills necessary to be effective in the state Senate, Adam already has those skills. During his years working for U.S. Rep. John Olver, he learned the district with its distinctive and diverse issues and how to navigate the complexities of state government.
His work with the United Nations and his very successful work since returning to Massachusetts, prove his ability to make things happen.
A vote for Adam Hinds is a positive vote for a better Massachusetts.
Susan Gordon, Pittsfield
"Supports Adam Hinds for state Senate"
The Daily Hampshire Gazette, Letter to the Editor, October, 20, 2016
I am writing to wholeheartedly endorse the candidacy of Adam Hinds for state Senate in the Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin and Hampden District.
I’ve known Adam since 1998 when I managed then-Congressman John Olver’s re-election campaign and I hired him as our field director. As a son of Buckland, Adam knows the challenges facing our small towns and will be a forceful and effective advocate for us on Beacon Hill.
Adam will work tirelessly to secure “last-mile” broadband for our unserved rural towns and to protect and enhance the working landscapes that make the Hilltowns special. He is fully committed to fighting for full funding of critical state budget line items such as regional school transportation reimbursements and payments in-lieu of taxes on state-owned lands. As a member of the Democratic majority, he will assume a committee chairmanship and will use that gavel to help enact strong public policy.
Adam enjoys bringing people together and solving problems and he will use his skills at mediation and coalition-building to provide excellent constituent services to resolve issues that district residents have with state government. I have full confidence that he will continue the accessibility and visibility of Sen. Benjamin Downing across all 52 communities.
Please join me in electing a new champion for rural Massachusetts on Nov. 8 by voting for Adam Hinds.
Matt L. Barron, Chesterfield
Adam Hinds speaks during a State Senate debate with Christine Canning in the Koussevitsky Arts Center at Berkshire Community College on Monday. (photos by Gillian Jones — The Berkshire Eagle)
Members of the audience listen to a State Senate debate with Adam Hinds and Christine Canning in the Koussevitsky Arts Center at Berkshire Community College on Monday.
"Canning vs. Hinds: BCC hosts debate for state Senate hopefuls"
Debate: Hinds vs. Canning for Sen. Downing's seat
By Dick Lindsay, The Berkshire Eagle, October 24, 2016
PITTSFIELD - Two weeks left in their campaigns, candidates for Berkshire state senator ramped up their political platforms Monday night during a debate at Berkshire Community College.
The economy, state wide ballot questions and their philosophy of how to represent the constituency highlighted each 50- minute, televised event.
Voters in the 52-community 1st Berkshire State Senate district must decide between Democrat Adam Hinds and Republican Christine Canning to succeed outgoing state Sen. Benjamin B. Downing. The two square off again tonight, 7:30 p.m. at Monument Mountain Regional High School in Great Barrington.
The evening began with Hinds and Canning pontificating on the two most talked about state-wide referendums: Increasing the number of charter schools and legalizing recreational marijuana use.
Question 2 calls for lifting the cap on the number of publicly funded schools intended to give students an alternative to traditional public education. Both agree the drain on state funding from the host school district to the charter school is hurting public education.
"When the child goes to a charter school, the money goes with [him/her] — in full," Canning said.
"We need to get the financing part right, before we expand charter schools," Hinds noted.
As for Question 3, both senatorial candidates had no problem with someone of legal age using pot at home.
"I have no problem with adult use of marijuana ... the war on drugs has been a failure," Hinds said.
Canning figured it's better to buy state-regulated weed than on the streets.
"We take this and tax it so people buy the clean stuff," she said.
When the question of job creation was posed to each senate hopeful, they took different paths to bolstering the economy.
Canning blames the state's system of taxation she says hurts business growth and feels the commonwealth should be more like Texas and cut state business taxes.
"We need to lower our taxes to support small business — small business attracts jobs," she said.
Hinds offered a comprehensive plan of expanded broadband internet service, workforce development, better transportation and improved public schools as a way to match up the unemployed with employers.
"There's 2,000 jobs available every day in Berkshire County and we still have people looking for work," he said.
Hinds vowed to collaborate to get things done on Beacon Hill, taking the high road to being an effective legislator.
"I don't want to do politics as usual," he said. "I don't want to be negative."
Although a Republican, Canning says she has Democrats and independents as well as Republicans backing her, believing touting the party way is a thing of the past.
"Party lines have sailed," she said. "I am not Donald Trump. I have little in common with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.
firstname.lastname@example.org @BE_DLindsay on Twitter.
Christine Canning Wilson: "A proven advocate for change"
By Chris Canning Wilson, Op-Ed, The Berkshire Eagle, 10/26/2016
RICHMOND - For 25 years, the same "political machine" has made the same promises to you — and failed. If the Democrats could have made our area better, Berkshire, Hampshire, Hamden, and Franklin would have seen real results by now. In fact, some of our towns and cities are near bankruptcy.
My campaign is bustling with new people on a daily basis who realize that party loyalty has sailed. I think our community members are fed up with the nonsense. They know they need the best candidate and they have been joining my campaign as voters for change.
People realize that my education, expertise, and work/life experience trumps that of my opponent. Unlike him, I am not going to name drop and bamboozle you into thinking that Ben Downing and I are the same person. Instead, I am me. I am one of us.
My proven track record of being a voice for the voiceless has built my reputation. A reputation that has gained me contracts with a Middle Eastern presidential court, American embassies, ministries of education and finance, the Department of State and publishing giants, such as McGraw Hill. Organizations have hired me to train government agencies, KGB, DCA agents, MVD, foreign police under INL, military departments, and write targeted materials against human trafficking because my work is of top quality.
Moreover, despite earning numerous degrees (including my upcoming completion of a doctorate in educational policy), I am kind, approachable, and open to all people. I have fought for the limited English proficient, children of color, women in developing countries, and other voiceless people, and won. Let me win for you. Let's work together to make real change that helps our children, elderly, and individuals facing work-based discrimination based on issues such as national origin, age, gender, or preference.
So what if I am Republican? It's I who will stand up for your rights and work for true social justice. My track record shows how much pro bono work that I have done outside of the parameters of my positions.
TAKE ON 'MACHINE'
I will utilize my business skills to make sure you are financially protected with solid economic policies, consumer protection laws, and freer market practices. I plan to increase public safety, tweak laws that are ineffective, and hold those accountable who use illegal methods to obtain gain. My platforms cross parties because they are steeped in equity. Together, under my leadership, we will repair the challenges left for us by a "political machine" that promoted their "good thing" at your expense.
The little (R) after my name will benefit you. As our area is saturated with the letter (D), electing my name, with its (R) affiliation, is like picking the winning "Powerball" ticket. Why? Statistically, I can represent you almost three times more on committees, as I am in the minority party.
Finally, you will have a real voice making your needs heard in Boston. I will use solid evidence that is based in research to make cases, negotiate transparent deals, and work in bipartisan fashion with my colleagues to achieve results. This fighter won't stop until our people's needs are met, laws are fixed, and problems are rectified with acceptable solutions. These aren't false promises, but a reality of my winning track record.
By giving change a chance you will see what a difference my education, expertise and work/life experience, and numerous licenses, certifications, publications and presentations, can do for you. I Our veterans, elderly, children, and people shall no longer be subject to discriminatory practices based on gender, preference, disabilities, creed, national origin and age. I will promote business without borders, e-commerce, and fight for livable wages based in a permanent job structure.
You need me in the Senate, because my skill set matches what you need in the areas of the Public Safety, Ethics, Ways and Means and Opioid Addiction committees. I will make sure that loopholes are closed, gaps are bridged, and you are protected. If you want real change for K-12 and higher education, then you need someone like me who is licensed, certified, and taught in these environments over the past three decades.
I ask for your vote. Please, help me, help you. Thank you for your support and vote on Nov. 8.
Christine Canning Wilson is the Republican candidate for state Senate from the Western district.
Adam Hinds: "Solving region's problems together"
By Adam Hinds, Op-Ed, The Berkshire Eagle, 10/26/2016
PITTSFIELD - My grandfather came to America from England at 17. He swept the floors at his local Boys Club when he arrived. When he retired 53 years later, he was the national president of the Boys Club of America. It's a great story of the promise of this land.
His son, my uncle, went on to create an organization aimed at fighting for social justice. In the early 1970s civil rights legislation had just passed and he made sure local institutions implemented it. Our country was at a crossroad and he stood for what was right.
This district remains at a crossroad as well. It's hard to take the path my grandfather did, knowing that if you work hard you will have a good job and your children's future is secure. Our rich manufacturing legacy has shifted, and economic uncertainty persists. We struggle to halt population decline, expand basic infrastructure like high speed Internet, and strengthen workforce development.
At the same time, we know we have incredible potential if we can only come together to realize it. We all want to move to a place where we can grow and be proud of who we are. United in our collective prosperity.
I am running for office now because we cannot solve the challenges of our time, in this district, unless we solve them together. This belief comes from who I am.
I worked for the United Nations on negotiations in Iraq, Jerusalem and Syria. I have worked with kids in Pittsfield overcoming obstacles to development, and worked to develop strategies to expand access to health and to fight the heroin epidemic in Northern Berkshire.
United by our hopes
Mine isn't the most conventional path to running for state Senate, but it has convinced me we are better off working together. We may have different regions, different stories and sometimes different priorities. But we have similar hopes, and we truly need each other if we are to succeed. It may not be perfect, but it's like a family to be from Western Mass.
To overcome a declining industrial base, fix our infrastructure by finalizing high speed internet and create an inclusive economy we have to stand together. If we are to solve school funding challenges we need to encourage ongoing conversations across school districts. To address energy costs, protect the environment, and confront the threat of climate change we must resist the urge to retreat into silos. If we are to confront the heroin epidemic then we cannot belittle those whose experiences differ from our own.
This is the process that we can and must achieve here. In the context of a chaotic national political scene we can do better in western Massachusetts. By drawing on my negotiation background we can genuinely work together for our highest ideals, because we have to.
When I started this campaign nine months ago it was with the determination to take on the big issues to ensure everyone in the district gets a fair shot. It was based on standing for what is right, taking a stand against things like income inequality, and collectively creating a vision for the future.
We have worked very hard to keep this campaign positive and focused on the issues. I have proactively outlined policy priorities related to economic development, education, energy and the environment, addiction, and supporting our small towns. To learn more go to adamhinds.org.
I have deep roots in Western Mass. and I have already been involved in confronting many of the challenges we face. My background in the Middle East meant standing up to some tough individuals and taking on big challenges. I will not be intimidated by anyone on Beacon Hill as a result.
We need a strong voice for Western Mass. Join me Nov. 8 if you believe politics can be inspiring, based on working together to bring real change, and moving toward a vision that inspires others to join.
Adam Hinds is the Democratic candidate for state Senate from the Western district.
Our Opinion: “Farley-Bouvier, Hinds, for state Legislature”
The Berkshire Eagle, Editorial, 10/27/2016
Contested races for the state Legislature are relatively rare in the Berkshires, and voters have benefited from the issue-oriented dialogue triggered by campaigns for state representative and state senator.
Like Ms. Farley-Bouvier, Adam Hinds came through a beneficial testing process in the Democratic primary campaign for state Senate. With his formation of the Pittsfield Community Connection, which helps at-risk youth, and his work as director of the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition dealing with poverty and addiction issues, Mr. Hinds showed a passion for progressive causes, leadership, and the ability to team with others, all of which prepared him for the Legislature.
Christine Canning has run as a traditional Massachusetts Republican, focused on economic development, lower taxes, in particular on businesses, and constituent services. She wisely disassociated herself with rogue Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.
While we don't doubt Ms. Canning's willingness to work across party lines, if elected she would be one of only a handful of Republicans in the state Senate, putting her from the power center. The Western Mass. district is losing Democratic senator Ben Downing, a seasoned and influential legislator from Pittsfield who gave the district a voice out of proportion to its population (if not its geographic size.) Realistically, as a Democrat, Mr. Hinds will have more impact with leadership as a first-timer than would a minority Republican. The Eagle endorses Adam Hinds for state Senate.
Republican Christine Canning and Democrat Adam Hinds are seeking to succeed state Sen. Benjamin Downing.
THE BERKSHIRE, HAMPSHIRE, FRANKLIN, AND HAMPDEN STATE SENATE DISTRICT
“Canning, Hinds square off to succeed Downing”
By Dick Lindsay, email@example.com – The Berkshire Eagle, November 5, 2016
PITTSFIELD - An area the size of Rhode Island, the Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin, and Hampden State Senate District will test the mettle of Benjamin B. Downing's successor.
Republican Christine Canning and Democrat Adam Hinds are vying for Downing's seat as the Pittsfield Democrat surprised many political observers earlier this year announcing he wouldn't seek a sixth, two-year term.
The winner on Tuesday will represent all of Berkshire County and parts of Franklin, Hampshire and Hampden counties - in all 52 cities and towns.
Political party affiliation aside, the two candidates differ significantly on the tone of their campaign and their approach to the issues. The similarities: both are seeking elected state office for the first time and the winner can expect to rack up frequent driving miles within the district and to and from Beacon Hill.
Canning has been proud to tout she's a Republican - just don't call her a Donald Trump Republican.
She cites her education, expertise and life experience as key reasons voters should mark her name on the ballot on Tuesday.
A licensed school administrator and certified teacher seeking her doctorate in education policy, the Lanesborough woman is opposed to MCAS testing claiming it costs the state's taxpayers $150 million each year.
She is primarily concerned about too much government regulation when it comes to gun owners rights and economic growth. Canning also believes excessive taxation is hurting the average working person as well as the business community.
Endorsed by the Gun Owner's Action league and National Rifle Association, Canning, if elected, wants to stand up to the Democratic-controlled state Legislature and attorney general she says are making gun-control decisions that flies in the face of the Second Amendment.
She also views the state has being too controlling when it comes to business expansion and job growth.
"Government should be smaller, smarter and more efficient," she said.
With neighboring states offering better tax incentives, Massachusetts needs to gain the competitive edge.
"Through deregulating industries we can seek greater competition, so that issues in transportation, technology (broadband), banking and energy offer use more viable options," she noted.
Canning also is calling for eliminating certain corporate taxes to entice businesses to relocate to the Berkshires and across the state. And she wants to lower the estate tax, putting more inheritance in the pockets of heirs.
"You worked hard to earn it and it should go to your beneficiaries and not serve the random welfare programs of the commonwealth," she said.
Canning vows to fight for a better energy plan for the state, living wages that will allow senior citizens to "retire with dignity" and boost the local agricultural industry and make local working farms more profitable.
In the area of transportation, Canning wants a "better connection" between Exits 2 &3 on the Massachusetts Turnpike and faster shipping and transportation routes that encourage business competition.
As for law and order, Canning said she will push to fund body camera for police, increase penalties for drug dealers and other tougher law enforcement measures to improve the quality of life.
"This in turn will ... increase tourism and encourage a healthier nightlife," she said.
A native of Buckland, Hinds has reveled in letting his supporters and the rest of the electorate know his family was big on education and giving back to the community.
His father was a high school teacher and mother was a nursery school teacher and a high school librarian.
"Thanks to my parents' constant sacrifice, strong core values and unwavering belief in their kids, I've been able to follow my passion for public service and have been blessed with amazing opportunities," he said.
Hinds has worked for former U.S. Rep. John Olver and Secretary of State John Kerry when he was a U.S. senator from Massachusetts.
Locally, Hinds is on leave from his position as executive director for the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition and was once part of the Pittsfield Community Connection, both organizations dedicated to improving the quality of life in their service areas.
Hinds says he's about the working family, and he will work to find people better quality jobs in order to secure a better future.
Right now, he finds many in the district unable to make a living wage.
"Our region's potential is extraordinary: we have welcoming small towns, fertile farms, vibrant cities, world-class cultural and educational institutions, and unequaled access to nature," he said. "Our proud legacy of manufacturing continues to bring cutting-edge technology to the world."
In order to create a better paying workforce, the area needs better transportation, expanded high speed Internet to rural areas and above all, job training to meet the needs of existing employers and those wishing to move to the Berkshires.
"There are nearly 2,000 jobs available right now in Berkshire County that can't be filled because we don't always have local workers with the proper training to fill them," he said. "In my work with the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition, I've led a startup effort called Employ North Berkshire to give job seekers access to coaches and other tools to guide them on the path to new opportunities."
That begins with the local public schools and colleges, according to Hinds. he vows to seek changes in the education funding formal he claims is unfair and short-changing local school districts.
"I'll [also] push for programs like universal pre-kindergarten so that low-income students and English language learners will all have a better chance for success," he added.
If elected, Hinds will seek more clean-energy options for home and businesses owners to counter the high cost of electricity and other fossil fuels the region depends on heavily.
Going greener can be a catalyst for job growth as well, he said.
"Massachusetts is leading the way in energy technologies, which can be leveraged to create new jobs, make a healthier environment for our families, and secure lower energy costs for homes and businesses," he said.
As for the epidemic of drug overdoses of both illegal and prescription narcotics, Hinds says he'll make it a personal challenge to bolster prevention and seek more treatment for those fighting drug addictions.
"I know people who have died from this stuff - there were 35 opioid-related overdose deaths in Berkshire County last year," he said.
Christine Canning, candidate for State Senate.
Adam Hinds, candidate for State Senate.
Adam Hinds celebrates his election into office for state senator at J. Allen's Clubhouse Grill in Pittsfield. Tuesday, November 8, 2016. Stephanie Zollshan - The Berkshire Eagle.
"Hinds headed to state Senate to replace Downing"
By Dick Lindsay, The Berkshire Eagle, November 8, 2016
PITTSFIELD - Adam Hinds has gone from state senate candidate to senator-elect.
With a substantial and likely insurmountable 70-30 percent lead in voter margin late Tuesday night, the Pittsfield Democrat was expected to easily defeat Republican challenger Christine Canning from Lanesborough to succeed outgoing state Sen. Benjamin B. Downing. Earlier in the year, Downing announced he would not seek another two-year term representing all of Berkshire County and parts of Hampden, Hampshire and Franklin counties - in all 52 cities and towns.
While Canning hadn't formally conceded three hours after the polls closed, she told The Eagle she didn't expect the voter margin to change much once all the ballots were counted.
Around 9:30 p.m., a confident Hinds strolled into J Allen's Clubhouse Grille on North Street, greeted by applause, hugs and handshakes from family, friends and campaign supporters.
"We have the numbers, we're feeling pretty good," he told local media at the victory party.. "After nine months, I want to put the campaign behind me and do the real work."
Hinds post-election plan includes working with Downing to get prepared for his first legislative session in January.
"I want to double-down on the economy, work on broadband, school funding and creating jobs," he said.
Hinds also vowed to cover every square mile of the commonwealth's most western senatorial district that's the size of Rhode Island.
"I'm going to have one day a week in different parts of the district," he said.
Despite the loss, Canning was upbeat about her showing and vowed to make another run at the state senate senate in 2018.
"Now that I know all the tricks of the trade, you'll see me in two years," she told an Eagle reporter at her North Street campaign headquarters.
Since Republicans are political minorities in Massachusetts, Canning realizes she has to campaign harder and longer than her Democratic opponent.
"I need to do fundraising earlier, the problem is I don't like taking money from people," she said.
Hinds also had a huge head start in campaign publicity, fending off two opponents in a three-way Democratic primary, while Canning lacked a GOP primary in order to grab the electorate's and media's attention.
As the newest member of the Berkshire legislative delegation, Hinds gets to work with four veteran state representatives, including the newly re-elected Tricia Farley-Bouvier, D-Pittsfield. On Tuesday, Farley-Bouvier fought of a challenge from Pittsfield Ward 4 Councilor Christopher Connell, to keep her 3rd Berkshire District seat.
"We have a great team in the delegation, I really look forward to working with her," he said.
Contact Dick Lindsay at 413-496-6233. Dick Lindsay, firstname.lastname@example.org
“Have questions for your state senator? Hinds hosting meetings for constituents”
By Dick Lindsay, The Berkshire Eagle, December 7, 2016
PITTSFIELD — As Adam Hinds prepares for his rookie year on Beacon Hill, the state senator-elect wants his constituents' input on what most concerns them entering the new year.
The Pittsfield Democrat has scheduled a community dialogue series next week titled "Speak-Up Western Mass." Hinds expects the three meetings in Great Barrington, Pittsfield and North Adams will be vital in forming an agenda for the 2017 legislative session that begins in January focused on areas of concern for local residents, along with district and regional priorities.
"We need to shrink the distance between working families and Boston," he said in an Eagle phone interview on Wednesday. "These meetings demonstrate from the state I will be inclusive."
Hinds defeated Republican Christine Canning of Lanesborough in the Nov. 8 election, filling the seat being vacated by Sen. Benjamin B. Downing who chose against running for another two-year term. Hinds inherits the state's largest senatorial district representing all of Berkshire County and parts of Hampshire, Hampden and Franklin counties — in all 52 cities and towns.
Since Election Day, Hinds has found from people he's heard from that keeping and creating jobs and the protection of individual rights remain high priorities they want carried over from the campaign to the Legislature.
The euphoria of Hinds victory last month was tempered this week when Gov. Charlie Baker announced potential budget cuts due to state revenues lagging behind projections. This despite the lowest Massachusetts unemployment rate in 15 years and consumer and business confidence high, The Boston Globe reported on Tuesday.
Baker has announced a mid-fiscal year reduction of $98 million to cover a shortfall in the commonwealth's nearly $40 billion spending plan.
"I think this is a premature step the governor has taken," Hinds said.
Contact Dick Lindsay at 413-496-6233.
“Speak up, Western Mass., and define our agenda”
By Adam Hinds, Op-Ed, The Berkshire Eagle, December 5, 2016
PITTSFIELD - As the presidential campaign moved from summer to fall, it was clear the outcome would be negative regardless of who won. Across the political spectrum too many people felt alienated. Our national political process was broken, and everyone knew it. It is time to change our public discourse and approach to political action, and I am asking for your participation.
What we choose to do at this critical moment matters. Now more than ever we need local communication and community engagement. It means resisting the urge to retreat to respective corners. Instead we must stand together to protect civil rights and address the indignity of economic stagnation, while confronting underlying division so it does not grow.
Can't go backward
National political rhetoric has elevated hateful speech. Locally we have seen personal insults and increased incidents of intolerance in schools.
It is unacceptable that anyone feels unsafe because of the color of their skin, their gender, their religion, or who they love. In this environment we must be clear: we have come too far in the fight against discrimination and we will not go backward.
We also see that many have felt another pressure. Job insecurity is real, and dignity is threatened by an inability to provide for one's family. Too often, policies cater to the nation's elite while it is harder than ever for the rest to just get by. It is unacceptable that wages have stagnated and workers and small towns are not prioritized. In this environment it is easy to trigger scapegoating or calls for an unprecedented shift in leadership.
Regardless of who you voted for, we should all be concerned when neighbors feel unsafe, forgotten or disregarded. We cannot forget that what makes us special in this region and this great country is the bonds that keep us together.
Protecting our collective values is what deserves our attention in this moment. That all men and women are created equal, that everyone can live and work with respect and dignity, and proud support of tolerance and freedom. It includes the right of my immigrant grandfather to come here to seek a life full of promise, which led to my father growing up to fight for this country in the Navy.
We also have shared responsibilities to one another. That means standing up for fundamental civil rights here in the commonwealth.
It means looking out for each other and safeguarding things like good paying jobs or quality affordable education from Pre-K to college. It means fighting together for our post-industrial cities, for workers, and for our suffering small towns so we can thrive and be proud of who we are.
Now is the time to work toward an agenda that tackles our biggest concerns and creates shared opportunity.
Direct community involvement in the governing process is one way to do that, and I invite you to be a part of the new two-year legislative session in Massachusetts that begins in January 2017.
I am hosting a series of community dialogues called "Speak-Up Western Mass". All are welcome and the goal is to advance an inclusive agenda that works for you and the region.
I will continue the dialogue through regular virtual town halls on social media, local office hours and by building a proactive, responsive and engaged Senate team.
This process aims to ensure working families have a voice while we collectively develop a form of politics we can believe in and a vision for the region that accelerates growth. Throughout this campaign I argued that if we are to address the biggest challenges of our time, in this district, then we cannot afford to be divided.
The first gatherings are: Pittsfield; Dec. 14, 6 p.m., Berkshire Athenaeum, 1 Wendell Avenue; North Adams; Dec. 15, 6 p.m., American Legion, 91 American Legion Drive: Great Barrington; Dec. 12, 6 p.m., Berkshire South Community Center, 15 Crissey Road. More will follow.
We have an amazing region with tremendous individual, built and natural assets. We will fight the pessimism of regional decline and focus on the many paths to rejuvenation. It is time to work arm-in-arm to create the region and political process that we can believe in and I hope you will be a part of it.
Adam Hinds is the state senator-elect for the Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin & Hampden District.
Karen McNulty talks with State Senator-elect Adam Hinds at the Berkshire Athenaeum in Pittsfield before the start of one in Hinds' series of open forums called "Speak-Up Western Mass." Hinds is hosting the series throughout the Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin, and Hampden counties to learn what issues his constituents care about. Wednesday, December 14, 2016.
Stephanie Zollshan — The Berkshire Eagle.
State Senator-elect Adam Hinds learns about the issues his constituents care about at the Berkshire Athenaeum in Pittsfield in a series of open forums called "Speak-Up Western Mass" that he is hosting throughout the Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin, and Hampden Counties. Wednesday, December 14, 2016. Stephanie Zollshan — The Berkshire Eagle.
“Senator-elect Hinds hears constituents' concerns in stop along 'Speak Up' tour”
By Eoin Higgins, email@example.com – The Berkshire Eagle, December 15, 2016
PITTSFIELD — Adam Hinds told a crowd of around 50 at the Berkshire Athanaeum on Wednesday [December 14, 2016] that he wants their input as he prepares to begin his first term working for the region as state Senator.
"Doing this is sending the message to the public that governing has to be an inclusive process," he said.
Hinds, of Pittsfield, was at the Pittsfield library to listen to members of the community as part of his "Speak Up Western Mass" listening tour. Hinds visited Great Barrington on Monday and will head to the American Legion in North Adams at 6 p.m. Thursday. Hinds conceived of the program as a way to hear constituents' concerns before he is sworn in on Jan. 4.
Hinds won election to the Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin and Hampden District Senate seat in November. State Sen. Benjamin Downing didn't run for re-election and is heading into the private sector after 10 years in office.
The challenges facing the district won't wait for Jan. 4, said Hinds.
"I'm concerned about the `tale of two states,'" he said. "Boston is improving economically, but here we're seeing a declining population and a median household income about $20,000 below the state average."
After a short introduction, Hinds passed the microphone off to the crowd. They provided Hinds with a list of their concerns for the region.
High-speed internet and attracting young people to the region were recurring themes, as were infrastructure repairs and increased funding for public transportation. As the evening went on, the list grew to include tax policy, regulations, the opioid epidemic and unemployment benefits.
Green energy was also a popular topic.
"We need to be innovators in the field of renewable energy," said John Seakwood of Hancock. "We can't backtrack on this."
Seakwood also mentioned Texas energy company Kinder-Morgan's pipeline in Sandisfield. The pipeline will route through an old growth forest in the Otis State Forest. The route is due to a Berkshire Superior Court finding that federal regulations supersede the state's Article 97 of the Massachusetts Constitution, which guarantees the right to a clean environment for the public.
"That's pretty appalling," agreed Hinds.
The crowd also mentioned concerns about racial and social justice.
Helen Moon of Pittsfield noted that she was the only person of color in the room and said she believed it was endemic of a greater problem in the area.
"We need to commit more to our community's diversity," said Moon.
And Drew Herzig, also of Pittsfield, issued a challenge to the incoming senator.
"I'm an elderly gay man," he said. "I feel in the cross-hairs after the election; my civil rights, my Social Security, they could be taken from me. How ready are you to fight for us?"
Hinds took the microphone back and looked around the room.
"I'm extremely ready," he said.
Reach staff writer Eoin Higgins at 413-496-6236 or @BE_EoinHiggins.
STEPHANIE ZOLLSHAN - THE BERKSHIRE EAGLE. Newly sworn-in state Sen. Adam Hinds talks about some of the issues he will focus on as he begins his term at his temporary office in Pittsfield.
“'A tale of 2 states': Sen. Hinds discusses plans to make Beacon Hill work for Western Mass.”
By Patricia LeBoeuf, firstname.lastname@example.org – The Berkshire Eagle, January 15, 2017
Only 138 miles separate Boston from Pittsfield, but to Adam Hinds, Western Massachusetts is a world apart from the eastern part of the state.
And as a state senator, Hinds wants to bring those worlds together.
"If there's one concern I have right now, it's this: there's a tale of two states emerging," Hinds said.
Hinds, a Democrat, was sworn in last week to succeed state Sen. Benjamin B. Downing. He represents an area about the size of Rhode Island — all of Berkshire County and parts of Hampshire, Franklin and Hampden counties.
Alleviating inequality — the "tale of two states" — between Eastern and Western Massachusetts is top on Hinds' agenda. Much of Eastern Massachusetts is prospering, but Western Massachusetts is largely struggling, burdened by population decline and a lack of basic infrastructure necessary to attract — or retain — small- and medium-sized businesses necessary for growth.
Berkshire County had the highest percentage of population decline in the state between 2014 and 2015, according to annual estimates of resident population from the U.S. Census Bureau. Franklin County had the second-highest. Suffolk County — encompassing the city of Boston — was the fastest-growing county in that same time period, with an estimated population increase of 1.1 percent.
Legislators need to take strong action to ensure Western Massachusetts continues to provide opportunities for residents, he said.
Part of that action includes investing in basic infrastructure like broadband and transportation, he said. Investments in these areas will motivate businesses to remain in the area, create a path to employment opportunities and reverse the slide in population and economic growth.
"A lot of work is around making sure those basics are in place," he said. "I feel like we're at an exciting moment. When we get some of these fundamentals in place — whether it's high-speed internet, transportation, bolstering schools — we're going to start turning around those indicators we've viewed as challenges."
Hinds refined his agenda by talking with community members, including those who attended his recent "Speak Up Western MA" listening tour.
Residents have identified school funding and supporting families as major concerns.
"If there's one thing that came out of this election, it's that working families need to be at the center of any agenda," he said. "The distance between workers and Boston has gotten too big. This is where the rubber meets the road."
Poverty and income inequality are also important issues in Western Massachusetts, he said. Income inequality takes away opportunity from society as a whole, he said.
Hinds pointed to the recent statewide minimum wage increase to $11 an hour as a step in the right direction. But it isn't enough.
"We're doing well, but even our minimum wage is not a living wage," he said. "There are a lot of serious implications for families when that is the case, and so there's a lot of work to be done. It's absolutely critical that we don't take our foot off the gas on [poverty]," he said.
Hinds plans to continue many of Downing's former priorities, particularly his leadership on broadband efforts, clean energy and poverty issues.
Despite the turnout for his listening tour, Hinds said there's still a lack of participation in the political process. He said his role is to make sure government is relevant by taking on big issues that matter to residents' daily lives.
Hinds said he's also concerned with an element of the national election that's filtered down to local communities — the rhetoric of President-elect Donald Trump.
"There is a real disconnect at times between political rhetoric and the needs of everyday citizens," he said. "I have been concerned about [Trump's] rhetoric as well and what it means for strong, inclusive communities."
The new presidential administration could also impact one of the biggest legislative priorities: the state budget. The Trump administration has signaled potential changes in large programs like Medicaid, which could have implications in the billions of dollars for Massachusetts, he said.
Hinds hasn't worked directly in politics since 2004, when he worked for U.S. Sen. John Kerry, now the outgoing secretary of state. He was most recently the executive director of the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition. He also worked for the United Nations on negotiations in Jerusalem, Iraq and Syria.
Hinds, 40, was raised in Buckland in Franklin County.
He said he's committed to meeting with his new senate colleagues one-on-one to prepare for his first term as a legislator. He's also met with Downing previously.
He chose to retain some of Downing's staff, including Bethann Steiner, Downing's former chief of staff, who has extensive political experience and a network of contacts on Beacon Hill.
Keeping some of the same staff ensures stability for municipal leaders, who tend to interact with staff members for most of their questions and concerns, said North Adams Mayor Richard Alcombright.
"They know their constituent base. I think they'll be very helpful to [Hinds]," said Alcombright, who supported Hinds in his campaign. "I just hope that [Hinds] can continue to carry the ball in a real strong and effective way."
Representing Western Massachusetts comes with challenges some districts don't face, said Downing, who represented the district for 10 years. It's difficult to strike a necessary balance between time spent far away at the statehouse in Boston and time meeting with constituents locally, he said.
Freshman legislators also have to learn how to manage their time to achieve various goals. Legislators address issues on their agendas in different ways that require strategy and planning, he said.
"As much as you've talked about issues in a campaign, not all of those are addressed in the same way," he said. "That's the biggest challenge you face — managing your time."
Hinds said he plans to spend Mondays, Fridays and weekends in his district, and Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays in Boston.
Legislators accomplish their work primarily as part of a team, and Hinds is joining a great team of area politicians, Downing said.
"It's all about teamwork, especially in a small region like ours," he said. "I'm excited for him. It's a learning process, it's a challenge, but it's just an incredible honor."
Hinds said he looks forward to sharing the story of his district with the larger community.
"The bottom line is, this is an amazing part of the state and the country, and I'm excited to be a part of the process of ensuring it takes off," Hinds said. "We have a special place here."
Reach staff writer Patricia LeBoeuf at 413-496-6247 or @BE_pleboeuf.
State Sen. Adam G. Hinds, D-Pittsfield, has assembled a staff that will help serve residents, businesses, local officials and communities within his Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin and Hampden District in three office locations.
His team will be led by Bethann Steiner, who will serve as chief of staff - the same role she held with Hinds' predecessor, Benjamin B. Downing, beginning in 2007. Steiner has more than 16 years of public service in the Legislature, the executive branch and, most recently, at the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative (Mass Tech), a quasi-public state economic development agency.
Other members include Christopher Dunne, legislative and budget director; Vasundhra Sangar, legislative aide; Alfred "A.J." Enchill Jr., district aide; and Jon Gould, hilltown community liaison.
"This is a team that is proactive, responsive and engaged," Hinds said in a prepared release. "I made sure the team is accessible, we have three office locations and plans for regular office hours in all regions of the district."
Hinds' primary district office is located at 100 North St., Suite 410, in Pittsfield. It is open Monday through Friday during normal business hours. Appointments are encouraged but walk-ins are welcome. The phone number 413-344-4561.
A second district staff office will be located at 16 Main St. in Williamsburg, at Commons Co-working. Hinds' part-time Hilltown Community Liaison will work from this space on Wednesdays and Fridays.
Letter: “Skeptical of latest Democrat-for-life”
The Berkshire Eagle, January 19, 2017
To the editor:
The interview with newly elected state Sen. Adam Hinds on Jan. 16 was a must-read for every voter in Berkshire County. It discussed the tale of two states caused by the inequality between eastern and western Massachusetts, the burden of Western Massachusetts due to population decline and the lack of basic infrastructure necessary to attract or retain small- and medium-sized businesses necessary for growth.
The percentage of population decline information was very interesting, not only in the statistics that cannot be refuted, but in the way it was presented. Berkshire County had the highest decline (no percentage), Franklin County had the second highest (no percentage), and Suffolk County, it was noted, had 1.1 percent growth, was included (which sounds low to minimize the real numbers). It seemed as if the percentages were omitted because Berkshire County was so much worse than the second highest.
Without offering specifics, Sen. Hinds said the right things to be a career politician in Berkshire County: "High-speed internet, transportation, bolstering schools," and used the right catch phrases to be a career politician in Berkshire County: "This is where the rubber meets the road," "There's a lot of work to be done," and so on. He has a big D come election time, and maybe it is time to realize that the reason Boston thinks that the western part of Massachusetts ends at Springfield is that this area will vote Democrat by at least 75-25 every election regardless of who the candidates are. We get our cultural grant scraps and we think all is grand.
The photos of Sen. Hinds in The Eagle smiling ear to ear looks like a guy who just hit the Berkshire County Democrat-for-life scratch ticket, not someone who thinks about the dire situation he portrays for our area. I will give Sen. Hinds a chance to prove he will be different than what I am used to in this area and judge him on his actions, I hope he gives the same respect to our new President-elect Donald J. Trump!
“All but 1 area legislator support measure to hike pay for top lawmakers”
By Jack Suntrup @JackSuntrup – The Daily Hampshire Gazette, January 26, 2017
NORTHAMPTON — There is never a good time for lawmakers to vote in pay raises for themselves, says Massachusetts Senate President Stanley Rosenberg, but that doesn’t mean it never happens.
On Thursday, the Senate sent Gov. Charlie Baker a package of proposed raises that would boost the pay of legislative leadership, judges, the governor and other elected officials like the attorney general and state treasurer.
Republicans pounced, saying the timing and rushed nature of the legislation showed the Legislature’s priorities are out-of-whack with the public’s. This was the first major piece of legislation to make it to the governor’s desk this year.
The package breezed through the House Wednesday 115-44 and through the Senate Thursday 31-9. Republicans voted in lockstep against the changes; a handful of Democrats broke ranks to oppose them.
All but one area legislator, Sen. Donald Humason, R-Westfield, voted for the pay increases.
“There is just no public support at any time under any circumstances for adjusting compensation for legislators,” Rosenberg, an Amherst Democrat, said Thursday. He and House Speaker Robert DeLeo would see a $45,000 increase this year, to $142,000 in total compensation.
In a statement, Baker said he and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito had no plans to accept any salary increases. He said he would veto the proposal.
If current tallies hold, the Legislature would have the two-thirds majority necessary to override Baker’s veto.
The bill doesn’t change the $62,547 annual base pay for lawmakers, but does increase additional stipends paid to Democratic and Republican leaders and to the chairs of key legislative committees.
The heads of the House and Senate Ways and Means Committees would get a $35,000 raise.
The bill also would increase Baker’s annual salary from $151,800 to $185,000, and for the first time provide the governor a $65,000 housing allowance.
Other constitutional officers, including the attorney general and state treasurer, would also see substantial raises, and annual salaries for judges would increase by $25,000.
Humason, R-Westfield, opposed the raises because of the timing of the proposal and the process by which it was passed.
“We felt like it sends the wrong signal that the first thing the Legislature takes up in the new year” are pay raises for members, he said. “So timing is a horrible thing.”
“Process in a lot of our opinions was very poor,” Humason added. “There wasn’t a lot of time for the public to weigh in on this issue, for the public to consider what their legislators were voting on.”
Not so fast, Rosenberg said. On the surface, the raises may not look good. But though the legislation was first presented this week, stipend raises for top officeholders have been put off for years — even after an independent commission in 2014 recommended the raises.
Rosenberg and other proponents’ arguments go like this:
Leadership has not received a stipend increase since 1982. Based on inflation since that year, the 2014 commission recommended an $86,000 increase. DeLeo and Rosenberg cut the raise about in half.
To attract talent, and to make running for the Legislature feasible for lower-income citizens, increased pay is necessary.
As far as the fast-paced movement of the bill, it was necessary to do so before committee chairs are named, so members don’t know beforehand if they stand to see a significant pay boost.
Pay for lawmakers comes out of existing personnel budgets, so money isn’t coming out of other revenue streams. That’s not the case for other officials such as judges.
Local legislator support
Rep. Peter Kocot, D-Northampton, said the raises are not a “spur of the moment” thing, referring back to the 2014 commission, and that lawmakers should be compensated for their efforts to be “on their toes and to be well-informed.”
Sen. Adam Hinds, D-Pittsfield, said “it was not an easy vote,” and Hinds didn’t want to give the impression that he, a first-term senator, deserved a raise. But he said he voted in favor because of the lack of a stipend increase since 1982 and the fact that the Legislature should attract the best talent for the job.
Rep. Solomon Goldstein-Rose, D-Amherst, said another aspect of the legislation, doing away with the old per diem expense payments and instead boosting office expense accounts, is the only part of the new law that would affect him.
The freshman lawmaker said he would see an increase of between $2,000 and $5,000 this year, and wrote in a Facebook post: “I’m going to use the extra money this year to help start a fund to support other young candidates in running for office.”
Rep. John Scibak, D-South Hadley, supported the raises. He had this prediction: “I suspect that the Republicans as well as the Democrats who voted against this will take the money.”
Jack Suntrup can be reached at email@example.com. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Letter: “Lawmakers duck public in approving pay hikes”
The Berkshire Eagle, February 1, 2017
To the editor:
Congratulations, Adam Hinds. A few months on the job as state senator and you have already voted for a pay raise. Maybe you and your colleagues in the House and Senate deserve a pay raise but preventing the voters from having a say in the matter was completely underhanded.
Leadership and members were worried about a potential 2018 citizen repeal effort of the pay increase. To prevent this from happening, they included in their package raises for judges. The state Constitution bars any ballot referendum on judicial salaries. Potential problem solved. The annual cost of the package is $18 million, rushed through without allowing voters to weigh in and foreclosing any possible voter action in the future.
A special shout-out to Rep. Tricia Farley Bouvier who proposed an amendment to increase office expenses for legislators living 100 miles from Boston from the proposed $20,000 to $25,000.
State Senate President Stanley Rosenberg, D-Amherst, is among the leaders who will receive a pay raise after the Legislature on Thursday overrode the governor’s veto. Gazette File Photo.
Editorial: “Pay raise windfall for Legislature”
The Daily Hampshire Gazette, February 2, 2017
The Massachusetts Legislature couldn’t have written a worse script for good governance than the way it rammed through pay raises for its leaders, statewide elected officials and judges.
Senate President Stanley Rosenberg, of Amherst, and House Speaker Robert DeLeo, of Winthrop, led the charge on the first major legislation of the 2017 session. Rosenberg and DeLeo are among the chief beneficiaries of the pay hikes, with their annual salaries increasing by $45,000, to $142,547 — a 46 percent boost.
The House and Senate on Thursday overrode the governor’s veto of the $18 million pay package, little more than two weeks after Rosenberg and DeLeo put the bill on the fast track to approval. That’s in contrast to the plodding pace of most other legislation, which involves months of public hearings and debate in committees before votes are scheduled.
We don’t doubt that the Legislature’s leaders deserve some increase in their stipends, which are bonuses for the extra work that goes with their positions. Those leadership bonuses have not been increased since 1982.
But lawmakers created a public relations fiasco with the heavy-handed way in which they hustled the hefty raises through the Legislature without a full public airing of the details or justification of increases that are far larger than what most of the state’s workers see in their paychecks from year to year.
Adding insult to injury, the Legislature added $25,000 pay increases for judges to the bill which has the effect of ensuring that lawmakers’ raises can’t be repealed by voters in a 2018 referendum. The state Constitution prohibits a ballot referendum adjusting judicial pay.
The pay hikes for legislative leaders, including the many committee chairs and vice chairs, take effect immediately. At the very least, increases in bonuses should be delayed to the next two-year session so legislators must stand for re-election before collecting the fatter paychecks they wrote themselves.
To his credit, Republican Gov. Charlie Baker vetoed the pay package, even though it contains more money for him as well — boosting his salary from $151,800 to $185,000 a year, and adding a new $65,000 housing allowance. Baker, who lives in Swampscott in a house valued at more than $1 million, has said he will turn down the raise and the housing stipend.
That housing allowance is among the questionable expenses in the package. It was recommended in 2014 by a special commission which studied compensation of state officials, even though the lack of state-provided housing has not been an issue for recent governors. In the last half-century, every governor except one, Jane Swift of North Adams, has lived within a reasonable commute to Boston.
In announcing the veto, Baker said the pay package is “fiscally irresponsible” and resulted from “a hasty process that included little substantive debate or time for public comment.” He also cited the impact on the state’s pension liabilities resulting from such massive raises. State pensions are based on the three highest-salaried years.
The package also includes raises for the state’s other constitutional officers — the lieutenant governor, attorney general, treasurer, auditor and secretary of state — as well as court clerks. Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, Attorney General Maura Healey and Treasurer Deb Goldberg plan to decline the raises.
The timing is particularly bad because the same Democratic legislative leaders now getting big bonuses decided last summer to skip the traditional sales tax “holiday” because the state could not afford to forgo the estimated $26 million in revenue that would have been lost. It was only the second year since 2004 that consumers did not benefit from the tax holiday.
The package given final approval Thursday does not affect the base pay of legislators, which have been tied to the state’s median household income since a constitutional amendment was adopted in 1998. For the first time in eight years, the legislators’ base salary was increased from $60,032 to $62,547 beginning in January.
The bonus pay for leadership positions is added to that. Stipends for most committee chairs are doubling from $15,000 to $30,000. Even the largely honorary positions of Senate president pro tempore and House speaker pro tempore are getting a hefty raise with their bonuses increasing from $15,000 to $50,000.
We have no argument with granting reasonable raises to legislators who work long hours for the public’s good. But there was nothing public-spirited or good about this self-delivered windfall. Lawmakers should be ashamed.
“Legislative pay increases require raising revenue”
The Daily Hampshire Gazette, Letter to the Editor, February 3, 2017
I have no doubt that Senator Rosenberg and most other legislators deserve proper compensation for the work they do.
Still, so far I have not seen any indication of just where this money might come from. That is the question Stan Rosenberg sensibly asks when constituents request particular expenditures or actions to be taken.
I support increasing taxes so that (1) budgets are sufficient to protect against the erosion of state agency positions, and (2) revenue can be earmarked to increase legislators’ salaries.
However, I oppose allowing agency budgets and personnel decreases, additional budget cuts, and simultaneously increasing legislators’ salaries.
I know state agency personnel in environmental agencies who are doing the work two or three people once did. This is because vacancies are not being filled to save money. These folks work hard to protect the public health and safety by enforcing, inspecting and upholding the good laws we have, but they are often underpaid and overworked.
If the Legislature declines to attempt to increase taxes, what is the proposed revenue source? What will have to be cut from an already tight budget? Why isn’t raising taxes under consideration?
Rosenberg asks (“Pay boost mulled for top officials,” Jan. 24) that the public “keep an open mind” and then, “Who works for the same amount 33 years later?”
Well, some of us do. Some of us have volunteered as unpaid government officials to keep our towns’ conservation commissions, planning boards, select boards, zoning boards, etc., working under ever-increasing workloads provided us by the Legislature in the form of mandates for record-keeping, meeting notices, and requirements for procedure, compensation, forms to file – behavior of all sorts that take time and money.
I am very proud to have Stan Rosenberg represent me and respect the good work he does, but I think that increasing leaders’ salaries is only justified if revenue is simultaneously increased so that agencies are adequately staffed to carry out their obligations under our existing laws.
February 10, 2017
The following news article is a must read! Massachusetts State Senators can receive up to 3 leadership stipends on top of their base salary of $62,500, plus their other benefits. That means some State Senators will receive over $50,000 in pay raises this year of 2017. Moreover, some State Senators also have private sector jobs.
- Jonathan Melle
“Lawmakers may collect multiple bonuses”
By Frank Phillips, Boston Globe Staff, February 9, 2017
Not only are House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Stan Rosenberg getting 45 percent pay raises, but a slew of legislators are also set for a potential financial bonanza, thanks to little-noticed language in the legislative pay bill — and Senate rules.
The new rules increase the number of leadership stipends lawmakers can receive for extra-paying positions. Legislators can potentially take two — and even three — stipends in addition to their $62,500 base salary.
The complicated, 18-page compensation bill says legislators can take extra compensation for two positions “whether as a member of the leadership or chair, vice chair or ranking members of a committee.”
But the Senate seems to think it can push to three positions. A new addition to its rules state: “... no member of the Senate shall be compensated for service in more than 3 positions, whether as a member of leadership or as chair, vice chair, or ranking member of a committee.”
If that is true, some senators stand to make a killing if, as expected in many cases, they keep their same leadership and committee positions in this new legislative session. Those assignments are expected to be announced shortly.
Here are some examples:
Marc Pacheco, the Taunton Democrat, could get a $55,000 raise from additional stipends. As the Senate’s president pro tempore, Pacheco’s stipend will go from $15,000 to $50,000. That $15,000 was his only extra pay in recent years. But with the new rule, he can also now get a $15,000 bonus as chair of the Committee on Global Warming and Climate Change. And with the new law adding a stipend for the vice chair of the Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy, he would get another $5,200.
If he holds onto the same leadership positions he had last session, Mark Montigny, the veteran New Bedford Democrat, could see his stipend for being an assistant majority leader go from $15,000 to $35,000. And his stipends for chairing the Senate Rules Committee and Senate Joint Rules Committee would each go from $7,500 to $15,000. That would add $50,000 to his pay check.
Jennifer Flanagan, a Democrat from Leominster, has chaired two committees: Mental Health and Substance Abuse; and Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities — positions that now each pay $7,500. The pay bill doubles her total committee chair stipends from $15,000 to $30,000. Before the Senate rule, she could collect only one stipend. She could also pick up another $5,200, the new stipend added to the position as Senate vice-chair of the joint public health committee.
Frank Phillips can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Adam Hinds: “Undermining American values, principles”
The Berkshire Eagle, By Adam Hinds, Op-Ed, January 31, 2017
BOSTON — In the fight against groups like ISIS, we must pursue specific targets, bolster allies, and weaken extremists. President Trump's executive order last week on refugees and immigration undermines all three. I spent seven years working on Syria and Iraq for the United Nations. I saw firsthand the devastation that people are fleeing, and how U.S. policy can undercut stated objectives.
The executive order targets the wrong people, complicates an already extreme vetting process that works, and damages our relationship with allies all while giving a new recruiting tool to extremists.
Like generations before them, today's refugees are escaping destroyed communities and livelihoods. They come to the United States for a better future for themselves and their children.
Take one Iraqi colleague of mine. He came to work one day in Baghdad grasping a bloodstained piece of paper pierced by a clean bullet hole. Through his tears he explained it was in the chest pocket of his son when he was shot. He was killed simply because he lived in a besieged neighborhood and belonged to the wrong religious sect. That is the violence that creates refugees.
In Iraq, 3 million people have been displaced since ISIS took Mosul in 2014. Fighting in Syria has created 4.9 million refugees and displaced 6.3 million Syrians internally. They aren't the bad guys and we can include a small number in our communities as we all work to stay safe and confront radicalism, together.
America has the ability and the experience to help in crisis. Since 1980 the US has taken in over 1.8 million refugees. We have safely welcomed many to our land in the past, and we can do so today.
Security should always be a top priority and many rightly have concerns about a thorough vetting process. That is why refugees are the most intensely vetted group of individuals entering our country. They go through a process that often takes two years, and includes tools like biometric data, interviews, and background checks conducted by the National Counterterrorism Center, FBI, and State Department. The Trump order complicates and seemingly seeks to end the process, rather than strengthen it.
Moreover, such broad actions against an entire religion make it difficult for leaders in Muslim majority countries to work with the United States. As public opinion of the U.S. declines after an order like this allies must choose between weakening their own political standing and foregoing resources needed in the fight against extremists. Either way cooperation declines. Our troops and personnel in the region become less safe at the same time. Iraq demonstrated this when the parliament called on the prime minister to exclude entry by Americans in response to the executive order.
Extremists use orders like this as propaganda to attract recruits, including those living in the West. We know the argument to prospective fighters is "your countries are not standing up for Muslims, join the fight." President Trump's religious test for entry into the country is dangerously close to the argument used by ISIS: that Muslims cannot peacefully coexist in the West. It is precisely the wrong message to send.
This is personal to me for many reasons. While I was in Iraq my Iraqi translator and I traveled throughout the country together. We were in a vehicle together when a roadside explosion hit it. We lived through life-changing and harrowing experiences side by side and his dedication to the mission never wavered. Yet my country now tells him he is not worthy of entry.
Rarely in the course of an individual life do we have the opportunity to act on the central principles of our country. But it means being brave enough to accept refugees and immigrants in their time of need after they have cleared extensive vetting. It is time for us to show that we can still be a generation of proud Americans who act on principle rather than fear. These are the values that make us great.
Adam Hinds is state senator representing the Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin & Hampden district. He worked for the United Nations for nearly 10 years in Iraq, Syria and Jerusalem.
"Hinds' early work unveils platform of social, economic issues"
By Patricia LeBoeuf, email@example.com - The Berkshire Eagle, February 18, 2017
PITTSFIELD — The four tightly-packed pages of priorities span 10 categories ranging from the economy to veterans services.
State Sen. Adam Hinds, D-Pittsfield, has distilled months of feedback from constituents into a guide to organizing his priorities as a freshman senator.
"As we're deciding where to put our time and energy and how to prioritize ... it was important to me that we had a framework for action," said Hinds, senator for the Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin and Hampden senate district.
Hinds took office in January after winning the seat held for 10 years by former state Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, who declined to seek re-election in November.
The agenda makes it easier to identify actions to take and bills to file or support, he said.
And prioritizing is key. Hinds has received more than 800 calls, letters and emails from constituents identifying bills that they support or oppose, according to a press release from Hinds' office.
Western Massachusetts has specific challenges to handle during this 2017-18 legislative session, including population decline, a lack of infrastructure in the areas of transportation and broadband, and a need for economic growth, Hinds said.
"I view it as my job, making sure that [everyone] is abundantly clear that we are confronting a unique set of challenges in the western part of the commonwealth," he said. "It is in everybody's interest to rectify those."
Since taking office, Hinds has filed eight bills. Of the eight, Hinds drafted four, and four were sponsored by Downing in previous legislative sessions. The deadline for legislators to submit "timely" bills for consideration was Jan. 20.
Hinds also co-sponsored 77 proposals filed by legislators in both the Senate and the House of Representatives, according to the release. These largely relate to two of his major priorities: supporting working families and addressing income inequality, he said.
The state Legislature is poised to tackle school funding, the state opioid epidemic and potentially criminal justice reform this session, he said.
One of the bills Hinds drafted relates to criminal justice in particular. The bill would mandate that offenses that have been pardoned be expunged from Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) reports, which consist of an individual's records relating to criminal charges, arrests, judicial proceedings and other such elements of the legal system.
The other bills concern school bus safety, income-eligible child care and LGBTQ representation in the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination.
Hinds filed "An Act relative to income eligible child care," to help eliminate the "benefits cliff" for working families, he said. Current state Early Education and Care regulations allow households to receive a child care subsidy if they make at or below 50 percent of the state median income, and maintain that voucher until they make over 85 percent of the state median income at reassessment. The bill would increase the upper limit to 90 percent of state median income to help upwardly mobile working families who depend on financial assistance for safe and quality child care.
Hinds' bill regarding school bus safety was filed in response to an incident in Hampshire County last year in which a child was killed after getting caught in a school bus door and dragged.
Hinds' bill would require school buses to be equipped with a device to ensure riders have fully cleared the passenger side door before it shuts.
He also refiled Downing's prior bill regarding volunteer ambulance service. The law requires two EMTs to respond to calls, which can delay response times in small towns with volunteer ambulance services, Hinds said. The bill would adjust this requirement to allow volunteer ambulance service providers performing basic life support to staff an ambulance with one EMT and one EMS first responder.
Hinds also refiled bills that direct the state to study the availability of vocational education, allow licensed farmer-distillers to sell their products at farmers markets in the state, and require insurance adjusters working for any insurer in the state to be licensed.
In addition to all the correspondence his office has handled from constituents thus far, Hinds will continue his "Speak Up Western Mass" public forums across the district. He plans to host at least 10 public forums in rotating locations each year.
The next forum will be from 2 to 4 p.m. Feb. 27 at the Lanesborough Public Library.
Inclusive political conversations like these public forums are important in light of the current nationwide political climate, Hinds said.
"The political process is increasingly contentious and divisive," he said. "A genuine public discourse is one that happens face-to-face with people who may not agree with you all the time."
Reach staff writer Patricia LeBoeuf at 413-496-6247 or @BE_pleboeuf.
More information ...
State Sen. Adam Hinds' Agenda for Western Mass is available at facebook.com/SenatorAdamHinds
View text of bills Hinds has sponsored or co-sponsored and track the bills' progress through the Legislature at https://malegislature.gov/Legislators/Profile/AGH0
Contact information ...
24 Beacon St.
Room 413-F, East Wing (temporary assignment)
Primary District Office
100 North St.
Appointments encouraged, but walk-ins welcome. The office is open Monday through Friday during normal business hours.
Second District Office:
16 Main St. (at Commons Co-working)
Hilltown Community Liaison Jon Gould works from this space Wednesdays and Fridays. He can be reached at 413-768-2373. Appointments are necessary.
On the web ...
“Hinds takes leadership positions on committees for arts and tourism, economic development and technology”
By Patricia LeBoeuf, firstname.lastname@example.org - The Berkshire Eagle, February 18, 2017
PITTSFIELD — State Sen. Adam Hinds, D-Pittsfield, will act as senate chair for a joint committee on tourism, arts and culture and senate vice-chair for a committee on economic development and technology, according to a Thursday press release from Hinds' office.
"These committees are critical for building our economy and creating jobs," Hinds said in the release. "Attracting more people to the region means doubling down on tourism, culture and economic development. In this role I will be focused on strengthening existing businesses, attracting others and increasing incomes for working families."
The Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development has jurisdiction over all legislation concerning tourism, arts and cultural development in the state. Sen. Julian Cyr, D-Truro, will serve as the committee's vice chairman.
Tourism is a significant part of the economy in Hinds' district. The 2015 economic impact of travel in Berkshire County was estimated at $412.6 million, according to a 2016 study prepared for the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism. Travelers to Massachusetts generated $20.2 billion in direct spending in 2015, mainly on transportation, lodging, food services, retail sales and entertainment and recreation, according to the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism.
The Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies, now chaired by Sen. Eric Lesser, D-Longmeadow, oversees such topics as science and technology, research and development, the internet, workforce training and environmental technologies, according to the release.
In addition to these assignments, Hinds will serve on these other policy committees: the Joint Committee on Higher Education, the Joint Committee on Housing, the Joint Committee on Mental Health, Substance Abuse and Recovery, the Joint Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government and the Senate Standing Committee on Intergovernmental Affairs, according to the release. He is also senate co-chairman of the Rural Caucus.
Democrats in the Massachusetts senate are nominated for committee assignments and chairmanships by Senate President Stan Rosenberg, D-Amherst. Those decisions are then ratified by the members.
Reach staff writer Patricia LeBoeuf at 413-496-6247 or @BE_pleboeuf.
Virginia O'Leary listens during Senator Adams Hinds' Speak Up Western Mass forum at the Lanesborough Public Library on Monday, February 27, 2017. Gillian Jones - The Berkshire Eagle.
“Citizens press Hinds on local jobs, internet commerce competition, rail service”
By Dick Lindsay, email@example.com – The Berkshire Eagle, February 27, 2017
LANESBOROUGH — The 20 Central Berkshire residents gathered at Lanesborough Town Hall were on the same page as Adam Hinds on Monday — even before the state lawmaker arrived for a constituent forum.
Hinds was about 45 minutes late for the latest installment of his Speak Up Western Mass. series as he was touring the tornado damage in Conway. The Franklin County town is one of 52 municipalities the rookie state senator represents in the Berkshire Senate District — nearly the size of Rhode Island.
Hinds apologized for being late, but with his legislative aide initially leading the group discussion, the concerned citizens had already started a spirited debate about a top shared priority: jobs, jobs, jobs.
"For 45 years I have watched the job base disappear and housing get poorer and poorer," said Gary Lopenzina, of Pittsfield. "The senator and the mayors need to get off their duffs ... and do their homework to get companies here."
After the apology, Hinds briefly touched on his first-year agenda headlined by job creation and economic development that would include boosting tourism.
"The stats show us that the cultural economy continues to grow and impact our downtowns," he said.
Hinds' priorities also include education and helping working families. The Democrat said he based his legislative agenda one what he heard on the campaign trail last fall and his first round of Speak Up sessions held throughout the district following his victory over Republican Christine Canning in November to succeed former state Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, who didn't seek re-election.
The group of mainly retirees, business people and public officials realize small businesses will be the backbone of boosting employment in the Berkshires. Leslie Reed, of Windsor, a vendor for area independent retail stores, said her biggest concern is online competition.
"The biggest challenge my stores have is competing with the internet," she said. "It's getting so big, people are now having groceries delivered to their homes."
For many consumers, its cheaper buying with a click of the mouse, according to Ellie Goerlach, of Lanesborough.
"Locally, things are a little more expensive than online," she noted.
An economic development resurgence should not only include high-speed internet service for the rural Berkshire communities, but more access to passenger rail service, according to Williams Kolis, a frequent train traveler.
"There are 13 trains out of Grand Central [Terminal] to Albany," the Adams resident said. "There's only one train from Albany to Boston."
Hinds says he's on board with linking the Berkshires — even if indirectly — to more passenger rail service.
"We may need to be creative on how we look at rail that may involve buses and vans," he said.
Briefly discussed, but just as important were topics such as the continued push for public school projects amid flat or declining enrollment in local school districts; shared services and public administrators; the need for state laws to help homeowners get off call lists of phone solicitors.
Since Berkshire County government was eliminated nearly 20 years ago, Kolis believes the Berkshires aren't getting the state's attention to help the county with its economic, educational and other issues.
"It's going to be up to us to develop a political voice," he said. "We have to start speaking for ourselves and be identified. If we don't say something, it's going to be a fait accompli."
Reach staff writer Dick Lindsay at 413-496-6233.
Contact Information ...
There are a number of ways to reach out to state Sen. Adam Hinds:
24 Beacon St.
Room 413-F, East Wing (temporary assignment)
Primary District Office:
100 North St.
Appointments encouraged, but walk-ins welcome. The office is open Monday through Friday during normal business hours.
Second District Office:
16 Main St. (at Commons Co-working)
Hilltown Community Liaison Jon Gould works from this space Wednesdays and Fridays. He can be reached at 413-768-2373. Appointments are necessary.
On the web ...
Letter: “Legislators must focus on school funding”
The Berkshire Eagle, March 5, 2017
To the editor:
After attending the recent Adams-Cheshire school closing forum, it's clear that state funding being cut has greatly contributed to this perilous situation. I find it odd that we haven't seen or heard from our elected state officials. It's concerning to me that the politicians can find taxpayer money to fix private landowner's toxic properties or green energy subsidies for companies that they end up working for but we can't find money for our schools.
It now appears our new state senator is more concerned about refugees than he is his own constituents. He says there is plenty of money to go around. Maybe if he bothered to show up at the spirited forum, he would see that's not the case.
We need to start holding our elected officials feet to the fire. If they won't fight for us in Boston, then we need to vote them out. Even if that means voting — gasp! — Republican.
State Senator Adam Hinds, D-Pittsfield, visits The Berkshire Eagle for an editorial board meeting on Tuesday. Credit: Ben Garver – The Berkshire Eagle.
“Hinds opposes Eversource rate hike request”
By Tony Dobrowolski, firstname.lastname@example.org – The Berkshire Eagle, March 7, 2017
PITTSFIELD — State Sen. Adams Hinds has publicly joined the voices opposing Eversource Energy's recent rate hike request on Tuesday, referring to the proposal as "unacceptable" and "an absolute potential killer."
In a meeting with The Eagle's editorial board, the Pittsfield Democrat said the requested rate hike, which could raise electric bills for Eversource's Western Massachusetts customers by 10 percent next year, exposes the "deep concern of inequality" between the eastern and western parts of the state.
"You're going to hear a lot more from me on this," said Hinds, referring to state energy costs in general.
Referring specifically to Eversource's most recent request, which the utility announced in January, Hinds said, "We've seen this movie before 10 years ago — rate increases in the range of 55 percent for big commercial and industrial companies. We saw three paper mills (in the Berkshires) go out of business resulting in 400 jobs lost."
The $96 million increase, which would affect Eversource's residential, commercial and industrial customers, will be considered by the state Department of Public Utilities. If approved, it would not go into effect until Jan. 1, 2018.
Hinds isn't the only elected official who has spoken out against the increase. Attorney General Maura Healey also has vowed to challenge the measure. It would add $11.64 to the average monthly bill for Western Massachusetts customers and $8.45 for customers in Eastern Massachusetts.
That discrepancy in how the increase would affect customers in different regions of the state provides "a glimpse" into the differences between the eastern and western parts of Massachusetts, Hinds said.
"It's saying that we'll raise $60 million from the eastern part of our districts and $35 million from our western customers," Hinds said. "The problem is they're raising $60 million from 1.2 million customers and $35 million from 215,000."
"This is absolutely unacceptable," Hinds said. "We're going to be mobilizing around this, especially working with the Attorney General's Office, which is advocating for ratepayers. It speaks to this deep concern of inequality within the state."
Another example of this regional discrepancy exists in the final rollout of access to high-speed broadband service, which continues to lag behind the rest of the state in Western Massachusetts — including parts of Berkshire County.
"It doesn't take long to look at the internet process and how we've now gone far too long in saying, 'OK. it's all right if part of our state doesn't have the ability to keep up with the economy, let alone in the region,' "Hinds said.
Several funding options are currently being presented to Berkshire County municipalities that don't have access to high-speed broadband, but Hinds said the issue shouldn't come down to which towns can afford to pay for the service and which towns can't.
"This is critical stuff," he said.
Hinds said he was pleased with the Massachusetts Broadband Institute's decision to provide enhanced chances to those who still want internet service by providing millions of dollars that were slated for "professional services" in the form of direct grants to towns who want to build and own their own systems. But he said the MBI's gesture won't completely resolve the issue.
"We still have a problem, even in that scenario, with several towns that wouldn't be able to afford that," Hinds said. "So I think more money is needed, and I think we need to accelerate the process so we don't miss out on the construction season."
Reach Business Editor Tony Dobrowolski at (413) 496-6224.
Our Opinion: “Eversource rates and the east-west divide”
The Berkshire Eagle, Editorial, March 8, 2017
Eversource Energy's rate hike request would be punishing for the Berkshires if approved. Beyond this specific issue, however, the request provides an example of the imbalance between Eastern and Western Massachusetts interests that penalizes the economically challenged western region.
These related issues were discussed by state Senator Adam Hinds, a Pittsfield Democrat, during an editorial board meeting at The Eagle on Tuesday (Eagle, March 8). In describing the proposed hike as "an absolute potential killer," the senator pointed out how Eversource's proposed 10 percent increase is actually weighted against Western Massachusetts.
Eversource says its will raise $60 million in rate revenue from the eastern end of the state and $35 million from the west, which on the surface appears to strike a fair balance. But as Mr. Hinds observed Tuesday, Eversource would be raising that $60 million from 1.2 million customers in the heavily populated section of the state and $35 million from just 215,000 customers in the west, which is, as the senator said, "uacceptable." Attorney General Maura Healey, who has urged the state Public Utility Commission to reject the requested hike, which if approved would begin next January, says the hike would add $11.64 to the bill of an average customer in Western Massachusetts and $8.45 to the bill of an average customer in Eastern Massachusetts.
The rollout of high-speed broadband service in the state is another example of this divide. U.S. News & World Report, in its recent ranking of states, gave Massachusetts the highest ranking for Internet service in the country, and we have no doubt that broadband connections are state-of-the-art inside the Route 128 belt. Boston and vicinity, with wealthy towns and many influential businesses and universities, have advantages the rural hill towns of Western Massachusetts that comprise much of Mr. Hinds' sprawling district do not. The senator observed that reliable broadband service is critical to the ability of these communities to build their economics and keep and attract young residents.
In urging rejection of Eversource's rate hike request, the state senator added that continued expansion of green energy is necessary in Massachusetts to lower prices by expanding the energy grid. Senator Hinds praised the Massachusetts Broadband Institute for pushing the stalled broadband expansion forward in recent months by providing more flexibility to towns in setting up their broadband systems, but he also pointed out the obvious — the state must increase funding through the MBI to small towns that can't build Internet connections without it.
Taking on the east-wide imbalance is an ongoing task for the Berkshires' legislative delegation that is at the foundation of many of the individual issues the delegation confronts (state funding for tourism is another example beyond energy costs and broadband). It's a battle for not only the region's fair share but to assure the region is not burdened with an unfair share.
Boston: “Hinds updates contact information”
The Berkshire Eagle, March 21, 2017
BOSTON — State Sen. Adam G. Hinds, D-Pittsfield, and his team have moved into their permanent office space in the Massachusetts State House for the 2017-2018 legislative session.
His updated contact information in Boston and in the district follows:
- Boston: State House, Room 309, Boston, MA 02133; phone 617-722-1625; fax 617-722-1523.
The State House office is open Monday through Friday during normal business hours. Walk-ins are welcome to see staff; appointments are encouraged to see the senator. This office handles budget and policy matters, media inquiries and scheduling.
- Pittsfield: 100 North St., Suite 410, Pittsfield, MA 01201; phone 413-344-4561.
The Pittsfield office is open Monday through Friday during normal business hours. Walk-ins are welcome to see staff; appointments are encouraged to see the senator. This office handles casework and community matters for Berkshire County.
- Hilltowns: Commons Coworking, 16 Main St., Williamsburg, MA 01096; phone 413-768-2373.
This office is open Wednesday and Friday and staffed by the senator's Hilltown Community Liaison. Appointments are necessary. This is the primary point of contact for casework and community matters for Franklin, Hampshire and Hampden Counties.
Hinds is also available via email at Adam.Hinds@masenate.gov;
Facebook.com/SenatorAdamHinds; Twitter: @adamghinds; and Instagram: hinds.adam.
“In Sen. Hinds forum, Cheshire poses tough questions, with few bright answers”
By Adam Shanks, email@example.com – The Berkshire Eagle, April 24, 2017
Editor's note: This article was updated on Tuesday, April 25, 2017, to reflect that Edmund St. John IV is a candidate for the Cheshire Select Board.
CHESHIRE — Less than four months into his first term as a State Senator, Adam Hinds faced a small room of Cheshire residents dismayed with the impending closure of the town's elementary school.
He had no easy answers.
Hinds, D-Pittsfield, did not sugarcoat his response when asked about the possibility of a state bailout of the Adams-Cheshire Regional School District, which voted to close Cheshire Elementary School next year to avoid further cuts.
"I wouldn't hold your breath," Hinds said. "This is a local decision...we're not trying to second-guess what the school committee has been doing. They've had a really challenging set of circumstances."
The senator fielded questions from constituents in an informal public forum at the Cheshire Community Center on Monday as part of his "Speak Up Western Mass" tour. He's previously held events in Lanesborough, Huntington, and Williamsburg.
Though Monday's discussion mostly centered on the impending school closure — and ways to possibly avoid it — residents also asked about the long-term future of the community and how the state is working to stave off decline.
Hinds said that state leaders had looked into, if asked by the school committee and towns, what pots of money would be available to assist the district.
"The budget cycle and the budget problems that the state is in means it's even harder now for us to go there," Hinds said. "The bottom line is this crisis is underscoring the need to problem solve as a community."
Hinds said one of his priorities is the funding of Chapter 70 school aid, which Gov. Charlie Baker set at $20 per student in his proposal but the House of Representatives has increased to $30.
Ed St. John IV, an outgoing school committee member and Select Board candidate, said at first he asked why the state couldn't chip in more Chapter 70 funding. Then, he learned that "we're one of the communities that receive the highest percentage of their budget from Chapter 70 monies."
"It falls on local communities to pick up the difference," St. John said.
The senator also acknowledged that the state has failed to live up to its promise to fully reimburse regional school districts on education costs, a consistent gripe of the Adams-Cheshire School Committee as they face annual budget constraints.
"That has an implication in some districts of a few hundred thousand dollars," Hinds said.
But fixing these issues won't be simple; as the budget is taken up at the state level, it "doesn't look good."
"The decision by the school committee to close Cheshire is literally just the latest in a line that is unfortunately growing," Hinds said, noting other schools in his district that have closed or could close imminently.
Multiple residents wondered what closing the town's school means for its long-term outlook and ability to attract new residents.
"What they're saying is, `We're going to consolidate because the economy's not going to change," said Misty Sarkis. "So we're giving up."
Reach staff writer Adam Shanks at 413-496-6376 or @EagleAdamShanks
“Senate president coming to town”
By Carrie Saldo, The Berkshire Eagle, May 19, 2017
Tag team with the Senate president
Have your voice heard by one of the three major leaders in state government.
State Sen. Adam Hinds, D- Pittsfield, is hosting Senate President Stan Rosenberg, D- Amherst. Together they will hold a series of meetings and events in downtown Pittsfield on June 2.
"We face unique challenges, alongside tremendous assets, here in the Berkshires," Hinds said in a written statement. "Bringing the Senate president here means he can see our priorities firsthand, which is part of our effort to ensure the rest of the state understands our needs."
A community forum, open to the public, is at the Berkshire Athenaeum from 3:30 to 5 p.m.
Questions, concerns, ideas and priorities will be welcomed.
"I look forward to learning more from residents about the creative economy, municipal issues, and how the Massachusetts Senate can implement policies that will help the region," Rosenberg said.
Earlier in the day, current barriers to the innovation economy will be discussed during a roundtable conversation at 1Berkshire boardroom.
Patrick Larkin, a Pittsfield resident and director of the Innovation Institute at MassTech, will lead the session.
Speaking to business leaders as well as economic development, labor and workforce development officials, he will discuss recent efforts to draw new companies to the Berkshires and to strengthen existing workforce development opportunities.
Carrie Saldo's reporting includes Pittsfield government, education and politics. Reach her at 413-496-6221 or @carriesaldo
State Sen. Adam Hinds met with BRPC on Thursday to discuss his work and hear the commission's concerns.
“Hinds Gives BRPC Updates From the State House”
By Andy McKeever, iBerkshires Staff, May 20, 2017
LENOX, Mass. — Local organizations have great long-term plans for the future of Berkshire County. But, state Sen. Adam Hinds said the state needs to get the "fundamentals right" before that can take hold.
Hinds spoke with the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission on Thursday and reviewed the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy. He said 1Berkshire also has a similar blueprint with how to revitalize the Berkshire economy. But, both plans are still two or more years away, he said.
"In the interim, we need to double down on getting high-speed internet right and double down on education," Hinds said.
The Pittsfield Democrat said population loss is straining municipal and school budgets and the county's median household income is trending well below state average. The lack of high-speed internet is making business development difficult.
"Unfortunately it is easier and easier to make the case that there is more need for investment in the western part of the state," Hinds said.
When it comes to broadband, Hinds said the Massachusetts Broadband Institute's push to bring broadband to all corners of the commonwealth only gets the county "to the starting line, not the finish line." He said the Senate has asked for a full accounting of the program and has requested town-by-town updates on a regular basis.
Once that is done, "then we can start talking about what are going to be our regional strategies."
When it comes to broadband, BRPC's Mount Washington representative Jim Lovejoy is concerned with the quality of the service. Last year, the state loosened up the requirements for a private company to provide internet. The state is now incentivizing companies like Charter to expand services.
But Lovejoy said those offered services may not be as good of quality for businesses.
"It seems we are setting our sights too low," Lovejoy said. "If we are talking about economic development we need the infrastructure."
BRPC Executive Director Nathaniel Karns said there are federal regulations in place because of the Charter's merger with Time Warner Cable to upgrade 80 percent of the "legacy systems" across the nation. But, Karns is concerned that Berkshire County could end up being part of that 20 percent that is not upgraded.
Sheffield BRPC representative Rene Wood said Charter recently pulled the Springfield news station WWLP, cutting a tie to Boston and state coverage. She said if Massachusetts is going to provide the money for a rollout, then the company should have to provide Massachusetts programming and not lump the Berkshires in with the Albany, N.Y.
Hinds said he's not happy with the decision to pull the channel either but, changing the region the county is in for television service is a federal thing. He's hoping U.S. Rep. Richard Neal will help with that.
"I'm hugely disappointed that a major tool of communicating with constituents is being torn away," Hinds said.
Another concern of Hinds is Eversource's proposed rate hike. Hinds said the last time such an increase was approved, three Berkshire mills were shut down. He believes if the rate hike is approved, it could be devastating to Western Massachusetts.
Hinds also discussed the ongoing budget. Next week the Senate will start deliberations on the Senate Ways and Means budget.
"I've pretty happy with the senate version of the budget. When it comes to education, it takes steps toward early education and the foundation budget," Hinds said.
But, the state is facing a $462 million revenue shortfall so, "this is not the budget year or the revenue year to take on major investments."
Nonetheless, increases to the foundation budget for education funding is "putting a flag in the ground and saying this is something we need to get serious about as a state."
Hinds said Massachusetts looks really good on paper in a number of ways but there is a disconnect, a disconnect he said leading to the state failure to balance a budget.
"It shouldn't come as a surprise that we can't balance the budget because our economy is out of balance," Hinds said.
He used the workforce figures as an example. On paper, the state is ahead in job growth. The same number of jobs were created from 1995 to 2000 as were from 2010 to 2015. However, the income increases for the more recent five-year period is half that of the previous period.
"Employment has shifted from higher-paying sectors to lower-paying sectors," Hinds said.
He is also calling for changes to the tax code, particularly with what's known as the Fair Share Amendment, to help generate revenue. He estimates the current tax code is missing out on $3.5 billion in revenue.
Wood raised additional concerns because a number of programs BRPC provides to rural towns had been cut in the Senate's budget — particularly the District Local Technical Aid program. Small towns rely on BRPC's technical assistance with municipal projects because many cannot afford to pay full-time staff.
"We depend on Berkshire Regional Planning Commission to have that money to help us," Wood said.
The funds for BRPC's help on such planning projects had been "zeroed out," Karns said. Meanwhile, Pittsfield City Planner CJ Hoss said the state is considering major overhauls to zoning regulations, which will require a heavy amount of work with no state funds to help pay for it.
Hinds said those funds are in negotiation currently. As for unfunded mandates like Hoss mentioned, Hinds said there is a bill under consideration that will require any such new laws be coupled with a financial study to make it clear to lawmakers the impact it will have on towns. He hopes that will help contain some of those issues.
“Hinds' amendment to create a 'workforce alignment czar' added to state budget”
By Patricia LeBoeuf, The Berkshire Eagle, May 24, 2017
Call it a good first start.
In his maiden speech on the Senate floor on Wednesday, state Senator Adam Hinds, D-Pittsfield, made a pitch for funding in the state budget to create a new position to help link businesses to workers in Western Massachusetts.
The amendment, which was adopted by voice vote, earmarks $75,000 for the Berkshire County Regional Employment Board to fund a workforce alignment czar.
The position is designed to help connect the large number of people looking for work in a region with the large numbers of available jobs.
“I hear it on both sides – the frustration of folks who say they’re not sure what jobs they could take, and the employers who come to me every day and say they’re having difficulty [filling] open positions,” Hinds told The Eagle shortly after the vote. “I’m constantly confronted with the reality that we have 1,500 to 2,000 available jobs [in Berkshire County] every single day.”
An in ability to fill jobs can also cause businesses to not pursue opportunities for expansion, he said.
“We’re talking about missed opportunities,” he said.
The czar would be an employee of the employment board, tasked with pulling together resources, working closely with the business community to understand their needs and open positions and getting that information out to the general public.
The czar also would work with the employment board to gather insight about what specific job opportunities are going unfulfilled for longer periods of time, said Heather Boulger, executive director of the Berkshire County Regional Employment Board.
Whoever fills the position would also be in touch with with community organizations to help connect job-seekers to applicable training programs and employment opportunities, Boulger said.
"This is the one person that's going to pull all the pieces together," she said.
Hinds, who was elected in November and took office in January, met with Boulger about a month ago to discuss the board's recent work.
She told him that the board had trouble connecting people in the area with jobs.
"There's just a false perception that there are no opportunities in the Berkshires," she said. "And we want to change that."
On Wednesday, over 1,800 jobs in Berkshire County were listed on one particular database — Jobquest, she said.
When people believe in a lack of opportunity in the Berkshires, they tend to leave the region “never to return” or drop out of the labor market altogether, she said.
The employment board tries to help change this mentality, but can only do so much as a small office, she said.
"Having another person will certainly help to reverse this trend," she said.
The czar will also augment the employment board's work by developing long-term relationships with employers and marketing various jobs and training programs.
"None of us have enough resources to really go out into the community to do that," she said.
The amendment is subject to potential change or removal by a six-member conference committee that negotiates the final budget.
If the amendment survives the budget process, the funding for the position would be for fiscal 2018, which begins July 1, 2017, Boulger said. The employment board plans to aggressively pursue funding opportunities to extend the position into future years.
"Once we can show success, the funding should be easier to come by," she said. "[Hinds] is providing us an opportunity to help plant [a] seed."
Reach staff writer Patricia LeBoeuf at 413-496-6247 or @BE_pleboeuf.
“Hinds Hosts Senate President Rosenberg In Pittsfield”
By JD Allen, WAMC, June 2, 2017
Massachusetts State Senator Adam Hinds is hosting Senate President Stan Rosenberg of Amherst Friday in Pittsfield for a day of events.
The Democrats are scheduled to meet with representatives of the local creative economy, business leaders, municipal officials and residents.
A roundtable conversation at 1Berkshire Friday afternoon focuses on barriers to the Massachusetts Innovation Economy program.
They will host a community forum, open to the public, at 3:30 at the Berkshire Athenaeum. It’s part of Hinds’ Speak Up Western Mass tour.
Senate President Stanley Rosenberg, D-Amherst, visits 1Berkshire for a roundtable conversation on the challenges to the innovation economy. State Sen. Adam Hinds, right, toured city business organizations with Rosenberg Friday. Ben Garver - The Berkshire Eagle.
State Senate President Stan Rosenberg visits the Berkshire Athenaeum with State Senator Adam Hinds for a public forum on Friday. Clean energy was a prime topic of concern. Ben Garver - The Berkshire Eagle.
“Bridging gaps in Berkshire biz strategy: Senate President Rosenberg hears about needs, challenges from area entrepreneurs”
By Tony Dobrowolski, firstname.lastname@example.org – The Berkshire Eagle, June 2, 2017
PITTSFIELD — Chris Kapiloff opened his briefcase, retrieved a small piece of safety glass that was pockmarked with bullet holes, and placed it in front of him on a conference table.
It was an example of the latest high-tech glass product created by the LTI Group of Pittsfield, a worldwide leader in security, architectural glass and laminates that are used in schools, embassies, prisons and by law enforcement agencies.
LTI recently sold 7,000 of these new glass panels to a police department that Kapiloff declined to name, and he wants to make more, but the company needs to expand its plant on Federico Drive in order to do so.
The high costs of doing business in the Berkshires are hampering this effort, he said. He's received several low cost offers from other states.
"This is my home here and I don't want to move," Kapiloff said. "But if I don't get help, the next 7,000 of these are going to be made someplace else. I can't do it if I have to pay three times as much for electricity."
Kapiloff's concerns were heard by state Senate President Stanley Rosenberg, who met with Berkshire business leaders at 1Berkshire on Friday to discuss challenges to the local innovation economy. It was one of several events featuring the Amherst Democrat on Friday that were hosted by state Sen. Adam Hinds, D-Pittsfield.
"The innovation economy is taking off in the east," said Hinds, referring to eastern Massachusetts, where the biotech and pharmaceutical industries are booming. "We have to look at out own strategies."
Pittsfield native Patrick Larkin, the director of the Innovation Institute at the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, said regions like the Berkshires need to concentrate on their "indigenous strengths" if they want to compete with the rest of the state.
"We believe every region of the country and the state has nodes of innovation," Larkin said. "The question is how do we strengthen those nodes?"
Larkin said the Berkshires must create a network with regional and national entities to better market the region's strategic assets.
"There's a lot going on in this state but because of our proximity or our lack of awareness we don't exploit it." he said.
Jeffrey Thomas, the executive director of Lever of North Adams, which leverages local assets to help create and grow Berkshire enterprises, said the most urgent needs in this region are operating capital, deal flow and investment capital.
"We're finding lots of raw talent here," Thomas said, referring to startup entrepreneurs. "There's private capital available for those interested in investing in the region, but we have to identify the opportunities."
Steven Ray, the president of the Berkshire County Board of Realtors, said a similar organization in New Bedford recently received an $80,000 grant from the National Association of Realtors to help bring an increased rail presence to that area of the state.
"We're working to see if we can partner up with that organization to see if we can get a grant like New Bedford's," Ray said.
Berkshire Community College President Ellen Kennedy said BCC has created "pipeline" partnerships with Taconic High School and the McCann Technical School in North Adams.
1Berkshire Chairman Don Dubendorf said business leaders are currently updating the 10-year-old Berkshire Blueprint, a guide to regional economic activity, that he referred to as "Blueprint 2.0."
"We will revisit the blueprint," he said. "This is not a redo."
One of the biggest problems that Berkshire businesses experience is isolation.
"We taken comfort in our silos," Dubendorf said. He said it's critical that "the right people are talking to each other at the right times.
"Whining is not politics," he said. "We do some of that out here. Because of our geography, we don't network the way we should."
Rosenberg said investments in education and transportation are needed to make the state's rural areas more competitive with the rest of the state.
"If we don't deal with transportation and education, we're not going to continue to grow," he said.
The current revenue system needs overhauling, he added.
"We have a 20th century tax system to support a 21st century economy," he added.
Rosenberg thanked those in attendance for their input.
"Thank you for giving me a sense that you have a vision for moving to the next level," Rosenberg said.
Contact Business Editor Tony Dobrowolski at 413 496-6224.
Adam Hinds and Dan Hodge: “Reassess growth across the state”
By Adam Hinds and Dan Hodge, Op-Ed, The Berkshire Eagle, June 3, 2017
PITTSFIELD — The Massachusetts budget process demonstrates economic progress does not always create revenue for the commonwealth. Total employment is eclipsing previous highs, unemployment rates are below four percent, and per capita state GDP is strong. Yet the state's budget is difficult to balance and news stories about revenue shortfalls feel like waking up in Groundhog Day.
Balancing the budget in an imbalanced economy with limited income growth, regional disparities and outdated tax codes will always be difficult. Health care costs and other non-discretionary budget items pose central expenditure challenges that we must address. But underperforming revenue statewide and regionally also requires serious attention.
To start, job growth has not resulted in income growth. Comparing job growth between 1995 to 2000, when there was an economic boom (driven by "dot-coms"), to the five years between 2010 and 2015, is telling. Statewide job growth from 1995 to 2000 was 11.5 percent, only slightly above our job growth of 10.3 percent from 2010 to 2015.
Yet according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, from 1995 to 2000 personal income expanded by 43 percent. In stark contrast, personal income increased by just 22 percent from 2010 to 2015, about half the rate of income growth of the earlier five-year period. Put another way, the economy of today is not generating the revenue of yesterday. Too many people are not earning enough income.
Moreover, expanded personal income growth may not lead to more state revenue. Three major changes to the state tax code during the last 20 years cost the state $3.8 billion per year. That includes the ballot initiative in 2000 to lower the income tax rate from 5.85 percent to the tax rate today of 5.1 percent. While sensible for many reasons, these rate reductions dampen our revenue collections.
From a regional economic perspective, a dangerous divide has emerged. Income, education attainment, and population growth differ substantially within the state. For example, median household income in Franklin ($55,221) and Berkshire ($49,956) counties is much lower than Greater Boston counties like Middlesex ($85,118) and Norfolk ($88,262). Towns in these Western counties have far fewer adults with bachelor's degrees and face declining populations, impacting their ability to pay for schools and basic services. Disparate opportunity is unacceptable, and underperforming economic regions means lower state tax revenue.
Three actions could start to address these challenges.
First, workforce development policies and investments must remain laser-focused on creating higher-wage jobs. The strong correlation between education attainment and wages means placing more emphasis on training lower- to middle-skilled workers for the jobs of tomorrow. Economic development initiatives must generate and retain the full spectrum of jobs in every region of the state, not just recognized hotbeds of innovation like Boston's waterfront and Kendall Square.
Promising N.Y. model
Second, action-oriented strategies must address the unique "economic dampeners" that limit growth in each region. Incentives for strong regional partnerships could turn municipal competition into links that encourage mutual growth. Imagine businesses in regions with housing shortages linking with regions with affordable housing and abundant workers.
One model to incentivize regional partnerships is the Upstate Revitalization Initiative in New York that recently awarded strategic investment grants to three regions in a competitive process based on the strength of regional economic strategies and partnerships. Economic progress created by a focus on incentives for Gateway Cities should now expand and include smaller cities and rural communities. It is time to create a statewide small town agenda so that all 351 communities in Massachusetts receive the tools they need to thrive.
It also means investing in infrastructure. In Western Massachusetts, nearly 40 communities are still not served by high-speed Internet. Recent progress is positive, but the lack of high-speed Internet limits small business growth, opportunities to work from home, and new home purchases in economically depressed areas.
Transportation systems still keep portions of our state from major regional economic centers. Linking Pittsfield, Springfield, Worcester, and Boston by expanding east-west rail should be a priority. Connecting regional economic centers would also take pressure off of areas with tight housing markets as people spread across the commonwealth.
Third, a regional ballot initiative bill (S. 1551) is being considered by the Legislature. It allows regional votes to create revenue streams for local transportation projects. Throughout the country, transportation improvements (highways, bridges, transit) are partly funded by local option taxes, such as a small increase in the sales tax. It is time to create 21st century transportation infrastructure and local preference and resources can be a big part of the process.
The area we call home — Western Massachusetts — has world-class higher education institutions and arts and culture, as well as unequaled access to nature and competitive business sectors. A strategic regional approach to economic vitality will ensure equal opportunity for residents wherever they live, and help solve our structural deficit in revenue generation.
Adam Hinds is the Massachusetts state senator for the Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin & Hampden District. Dan Hodge is principal of Hodge Economic Consulting in Northampton and the former director of economic and public policy research at the University of Massachusetts' Donahue Institute.
Letter: “Legislature must stop ignoring hydropower”
The Berkshire Eagle, June 23, 2017
To the editor:
Isn't it ironic that state Sens. Hinds and Pacheco toured the Blue Q business to see the commendable effort Blue Q has taken to power itself with solar PV, yet within walking distance is the company-owned former hydroelectric dam that a state agency plans to tear down at a cost of $1 million or more?
When I spoke with one of the owners some time ago he said that Blue Q investigated restoring the hydro because the dam is not structurally deficient, but the onerous and incredible financial cost for just the regulatory compliance stopped this effort. It was said that the solar installation powers the whole building. Well, hydro can do the same thing, as that is what this dam was built to do.
Later, during the Clean Energy Future Tour hearing, it was reported that Sen. Pacheco said "Your senator and I do not need to be convinced that we need to do everything we need to do to move forward on climate change as quickly as possible." Is destroying a powerful renewable asset like the Mill Street dam and other local dams "doing everything...to move forward on climate change"?
The Legislature needs to stop its energy bigotry and promote the development of all our local renewables.
Democrat Andrea Harrington formally launched her campaign for State Senate at the Public Market in West Stockbridge, Tuesday, March 8, 2016. Ben Garver – The Berkshire Eagle – photos.berkshireeagle.com
“Berkshire County Women's Political Caucus hopes to close political gender gap”
By Carrie Saldo, email@example.com – The Berkshire Eagle, June 25, 2017
PITTSFIELD — Andrea Harrington felt shut out.
Despite longstanding ties to the Berkshires, Harrington said she found it difficult to gain traction in the political sphere last year when she was running for a state Senate seat.
And founders of the newly established Berkshire County Women's Political Caucus want to make sure that does not happen again.
Harrington, Barbara S. Goldberg and Amy Diamond co-founded the caucus, an affiliated chapter of the Massachusetts Women's Political Caucus, which recruits and provides a range of support to candidates.
"I think a number of us were not aware, before the [2016 presidential] election, how few women were in politics and how under-represented we were as a gender," Diamond said. "We have to make sure that we have men and women who are getting mentored by the existing politicians. And putting in their pipelines just as many women as men."
While campaigning for the Democratic state Senate primary, Harrington said she quickly learned that political seats were primarily held by men.
Harrington was endorsed by the state caucus when she ran against then-candidate Adam Hinds last fall.
"I found it to be very empowering to be connected with women who really wanted to support me. But they were in Boston," she said. "I was trying to build that network here and it was just more work than I could accomplish by myself and in that amount of time."
She lost the primary and Hinds went on to win the seat representing the Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin, and Hampden district in the state Senate.
The nonpartisan caucus works to get women elected to public office and appointed to public policy positions. It will also endorse candidates in Western Massachusetts on behalf of the statewide chapter, Harrington said.
Thus far, the caucus has met with five would-be city councilors, four in Pittsfield and one in Springfield. The endorsements will be announced later this summer.
They said the caucus also will appeal to young women to get involved in the political process and offer them support.
"If you want to intern on a campaign, we will help you," Diamond said. "If you want to work for a public policy group, we will help you. You need a pathway."
The caucus held monthly meetings during the winter but is taking a break from events for the summer. It is seeking new members, candidate or not, in the interim, Goldberg said.
The group has a fundraiser planned for Aug. 22 at The Mount.
The women, both Berkshire County transplants, said they researched a number of organizations before settling on the caucus because of its nonpartisan approach.
"The idea of gender parity in politics it is a radical idea that transcends party," Harrington said.
Diamond, a longtime Republican, now is registered as Independent; she said she avoided politics until the 2016 election.
Goldberg, also an Independent, began working with the New Jersey Women's Political Caucus when she lived there in the '90s. She was also national caucus vice president.
The women said they were frustrated by Donald Trump's win over Hillary Clinton in November, which motivated them to take action.
"They were both flawed candidates," Diamond said. "But she was so much more qualified on so many levels."
Harrington said government isn't working. She pointed to families who can no longer live comfortably on a minimum wage salary.
"That effect comes from government that is not representative of the people," she said. "It is full of this old boys club and we are getting really bad results."
She said grassroots efforts, like the caucus, can help bring parity to the system.
A retired investment banker, Diamond is a numbers person. She pointed out women hold just 19 percent of elected offices at the federal level.
"At this rate it will be 500 years before there are equal men and women," she said. "There is no reason we have to be the only developed country with so few women" in office.
Until the recent death of state Rep. Gailanne Cariddi, women held two of the five Berkshire County seats in the state Legislature. And even fewer women hold elected posts locally.
"Recruit. Train. Elect." That's the stated goal of the statewide caucus. But Diamond said she has a different idea for the Berkshire County chapter.
"Empowerment, action and results is what I would really like to see," she said. "I would like to see us get to 50 percent at every level."
Reach staff writer Carrie Saldo at 413-496-6221 or @carriesaldo
On the web …
For information about The Berkshire County Women’s Political Caucus, visit mwpc.org/berkshire-chapter
Our Opinion: “Women's caucus will energize Berkshire politics”
The Berkshire Eagle, Editorial, June 27, 2017
Why don't more women run for local political office? The answer is far more complex that one might think. Of course, there's residual bias from a time when men did all the leading in public and private life. The way local politics are structured, "gatekeepers" comprising longtime political operatives, retired politicians, incumbents and fundraisers, still decide who will make the best candidates for local office. They just naturally think of men for the job.
In recent decades, women politicians have made some inroads into the traditionally male bastions of government. Yet, the relative numbers remain far out of balance. According to the Center for American Progress, women hold fewer than 25 percent of state legislative positions, 10 percent of governorships and 19 percent of mayoral posts in cities with populations over 30,000.
It's also about self-esteem and simply convincing women that they are as capable and suitable for a political career as men, according to Andrea Harrington, a Richmond attorney who last year lost a race for a state Senate seat to Adam Hinds. "(Women) face higher standards throughout their lives, and have lower levels of self confidence as a result," she said. "They're critiqued more." Men, she added, are more likely to think of politics as a career move, while women have to be convinced that they are worthy.
To address this discrepancy in attitudes, two months ago Ms. Harrington and two other local women, Barbara S. Goldberg and Amy Diamond, co-founded the Berkshire County Women's Political Caucus, a nonpartisan organization whose goal is to promote, support and encourage women candidates for public office (Eagle, June 25). The group already boasts approximately 40 members.
The women stress the term "nonpartisan," because the issues they want to emphasize, such as early child education, support for working families, health care, and other social topics are universal. "How do you say they belong in the women's realm?" said Ms. Goldberg. "They belong to everybody."
More women in legislative bodies, according to Ms. Harrington, would provide the diversity that leads to a better product. "Women should have a seat at the table and be decision makers, because we need their perspective on the larger issues of economic development. The economy in Berkshire County is tough, and that affects everybody. It's our number one issue, creating more and better jobs. We need them for everybody — women, men, (those of) every sexual orientation and gender."
And then there is the way women tend to approach problem solving, which is particularly useful at a time when the country is so politically fractured. "It's win-win. They work in a more collaborative style," said Ms. Goldberg.
In fact, Ms. Goldberg stressed that, far from being anti-male, the BCWPC welcomes the support of men for both their organization and the candidates they encourage to run for office. "They just can't join," she said, laughing.
Any grassroots organization that encourages greater civic involvement, regardless of its particular focus, is to be celebrated in an era when the current nature of politics has alienated so much of the electorate. The BCWPC is therefore a welcome, and needed, addition to Berkshire County's political scene.
June 28, 2017
Is it discriminatory or sexist that the new Berkshire County Women's Political Caucus will not allow men to join their political organization?
Would it be O.K. if a new "Berkshire County Men's Political Caucus" did not allow women to join their would be political organization?
What about if their was a black, white, hispanic, asian, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, or "other" political group that did not allow any other ethnicities or religious groups to joining their new political organization?
Why are there still double standards in politics?
No one should be racist, sexist, or discriminatory anymore!
- Jonathan Melle
“1st Berkshire District: Christine Canning is first Republican to announce run”
By Adam Shanks , firstname.lastname@example.org – The Berkshire Eagle, July 23, 2017
NORTH ADAMS — The race for state representative has its first Republican candidate.
Though Christine Canning will be on the GOP ticket, Canning said she puts politics over party and has campaign support from a broad political spectrum.
"I don't care what your political beliefs are as long as you can get the job done," Canning said.
Canning operates education consulting firm New England Global Network LLC, but now has her sights set on the Statehouse.
"I really don't care about power and prestige," Canning said, describing herself as a candidate who will bring change and new blood into Berkshire County politics without being afraid to take a strong stance on an issue.
A special election will be held in November to replace former state Rep. Gailanne Cariddi, who died in June.
In her race for state Senate last year, which she lost to Sen. Adam Hinds, Canning developed a 15-point plan for economic development in Berkshire County that she will adapt to the Northern Berkshires for her 1st Berkshire District campaign.
Citing her professional experience, Canning believes she can help the Northern Berkshires by launching new programs, providing tax cuts to business owners, supporting the arts and reducing unfunded mandates on schools.
Canning hasn't always toed the party line, supporting efforts like single-payer health care, legalized recreational marijuana and staunchly defending lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights.
Where she aligns often with her party is when the government steps in to regulate an industry or sector. Canning said she is a strong proponent of the Second Amendment, which articulates the right to bear arms, and of free speech.
Canning supported legalizing recreational marijuana as an economic opportunity. Now she is warning that the Legislature could make Massachusetts less competitive by overtaxing it.
A strong supporter of the liberal arts and of workforce development, Canning wants to tap into the resources of Williams College and the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts to help facilitate and encourage the development of both in the Northern Berkshires.
Canning, who was vastly outspent in the state Senate election last year, has no plans for major efforts to raise campaign funds.
"If people donate that's great, but I'm not going to go out for it," Canning said. "I never want anyone to say they bought my vote."
And despite the disparity in campaign funds, Canning notes that she won nearly 30 percent of the vote in the Senate election.
"That shows, number one that people believe in me," Canning said.
A Lanesborough resident, Canning lives with her two children, Alex, 14, and Katherine, 16, attend Mount Greylock Regional High School.
Canning plans to launch a campaign website and Facebook page in the coming days.
Thus far, Canning is the only Republican candidate to announce a candidacy for state representative. If necessary, a primary would be scheduled on October 10.
The special election will be held on Nov. 7.
Reach staff writer Adam Shanks at 413-496-6376 or @EagleAdamShanks on Twitter
Letter: “Cynical austerity claims are crippling schools”
The Berkshire Eagle, August 24, 2017
To the editor:
I experienced whiplash reading the "B" section of The Eagle last Sunday, August 20. On page B1, I read Clarence Fanto's column in which he described the efforts of the Berkshire County Education Task Force to chart a course for our county's schools that would be financially sustainable. On page B7, I read the article headlined "Economic boom puts pressure on housing costs." We've got schools starved for funds in Berkshire County, hospitals closing, and towns sharing equipment and services, yet the Massachusetts economic boom is driving up housing costs, especially in the eastern part of our state around Boston. What gives?
The problem here is "austerity," a political concept that's used as a rhetorical cudgel and debate-ender by politicians, civic leaders, and others who would like to see public services starved of resources so that private, profit-making entities can make their owners and shareholders rich. According to the proponents of austerity, we as a commonwealth don't have enough money or resources to do right by our children, our elderly, our disabled, or our communities. "We wish we could do better, but we can't," say the proponents of austerity. "There's not enough money."
The obvious flaw in the deeply cynical austerity argument is that there is enough money — more than enough, in fact — and Massachusetts voters know it. Charter schools are an excellent example. There's nothing wrong with Massachusetts public schools that money couldn't fix. Massachusetts voters have been overwhelmingly skeptical of expanding the misguided charter schools effort for this very reason.
Massachusetts is among the richest states in the union. The real problem here is not the lack of resources but the lack of political will to tax wealth properly and direct it toward communally beneficial ends. Our Berkshire County schools are being starved for funds because politicians refuse to properly tax our wealthiest citizens, domiciled corporations, and LLCs.
Christine Canning: “Making the argument for District 1 candidacy”
The Berkshire Eagle, August 25, 2017
To the editor:
I am running for representative from the 1st Berkshire District because I believe our area can be doing better than its current state, and I am a person with the will to implement, execute and deliver that plan to help our people. In the primary, people vote for their party, but in the main election the opponent from the other side will run against me. Easily and effortlessly, we can work together as a community to make the necessary work that needs to be done come to fruition.
We need a refinement of more positive movement toward the next decades if we want to poise North County for more constant sources of revenue, gainful employment with real benefits, and financial success. Engaging our community in excellent opportunities is my goal as the next state representative. I want consistent growth, where all people regardless of political party work together to make sustainable change happen.
In terms of the process of increasing and developing our area, I want to see more qualification for HubZone, 8(a), WOSB, VBE federal dollars. I want to use my education, expertise and world-wide experience to increase the arts, academic and workplace opportunities, and to expand our agricultural areas into more profitable ventures. Again, there are alternatives to higher taxes, business without borders, and responsible governance.
We need to move past nepotism, corruption and the fronting of puppet politicians who are used by people behind the scenes to push self-serving agendas. My goal is to be an actual public servant who aggressively seeks to protect the health, welfare and safety of my constituents. I want to establish networks that connect people, take into consideration various points of view and seek to build upon the great foundations already set by my predecessor, the late Rep. Gail Carriddi.
When I am elected, the decision will allow us more representation in the Statehouse because of my minority party status. During my run for state Senate last year, my opponent made promises which haven't been implemented. That is the difference. If I say I am going to do something, come hell or high water, I don't sleep until its done. Nothing gets in my way, especially if it benefits people.
I support many bipartisan issues that protect our amendment rights, civil rights and environment. We need better education funding. We need someone who actually understands the linguistics of third readings, so that we are not denied funding through embedded phrases and loopholes. We have to attract industry, look at the future of manufacturing, support our vets and foster relationships that grow small business.
Anyone who knows me is well aware that I go the distance, even at my own expense in the name of what is the moral and ethical option that best benefits the greater good. This is what has always separated me from others who want a job in name — I am there to do what needs to be done because it's my work ethic and duty.
Christine Canning, Lanesborough
Letter to the editor: “Cut consumers in”
The Boston Herald, August 31, 2017
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is expected to collect umpteen million in taxes from the recent Powerball jackpot of $758.7 million, given that the winning ticket was sold in Chicopee (“Everyone has advice for newly minted millionaire,” Aug. 25).
So here’s a question for our Beacon Hill legislators: May we please have a sales tax-free weekend now?
Laughter and “fat chance,” I imagine is the response — but it was worth a shot.
— Mike Rice, Wellfleet
Christine Canning is the Republican candidate for state representative in the 1st Berkshire District. Although Canning is on the left when it comes to social issues, she said she is on the right when it comes to finances. Photo credit: Adam Shanks - The Berkshire Eagle
“For 1st Berkshire District candidate Canning, it's about 'getting these people what they need'”
By Adam Shanks , email@example.com – The Berkshire Eagle, November 3, 2017
NORTH ADAMS — Christine Canning is the Republican candidate for state representative, but says it's not her party affiliation that's important.
"I think I'm pretty moderate. For me, it's getting the job done," Canning said.
Canning sat with Berkshire Eagle editors and reporters recently to discuss why she's running for the 1st Berkshire District seat vacated by Democrat Gailanne Cariddi, who died in June.
After running unopposed in the Republican primary, Canning moved on to face former North Adams Mayor John Barrett III in the November special election. The winner will serve the remaining year of Cariddi's term.
Canning, of Lanesborough, ran for state Senate last year and lost to Sen. Adam Hinds.
Canning said the Berkshires are rife with corruption and nepotism, among other issues.
"The health, welfare and safety of people comes first, and my track record shows it," Canning said.
On social issues, Canning said that because she is a Republican, people assume she is racist.
But she contends that she has served with the NAACP and advocated for equality in the public school system.
Canning said she has worked in developing countries and has seen what universal health care can do to help people. Her husband died of cancer while they were living overseas.
"I don't know what I would have done at the point [without insurance]. You can't be fighting with insurance companies when that happens," Canning said.
Although Canning is on the left when it comes to social issues, she said she is on the right when it comes to finances.
"I can't stand fraud," Canning said. "I have absolutely no problem taking people to task."
Canning said she wants to serve on the House's committee for technology, and she would advocate for "business without borders." She wants to get local businesses certified as Disadvantaged Business Enterprises, or DBE's, to improve their ability to receive government contracts.
She also proposed legislation that would allow towns to forgo taxing certain business, instead charging a single licensing fee.
"Let's say we take the town of North Adams or Adams. We [would] say, if you're willing to invest in Adams, we want to remove the local taxes from you. Instead, you would pay a fee," Canning said.
Canning also advocated for new workforce development programs, citing programs that are available at the New York City Public Library.
"When they talk about workforce development, a lot of the programs that are being offered now are outdated," Canning said. "We need stuff that's updated."
Canning said the area has to position itself for the future economy.
"Why are we not having workforce development on 2035, where we know robots are going to be taking over robots? We just saw that today, I think it was a large phenomenal amount that's being paid into languages for training robots. Could you imagine? They have right now people who are training robots on how to act just like you or me. With the cast of characters in this county, we could have a real diverse population of that," Canning said.
"We need to learn the dark web. If I go out, I feel like jaywalking and saying to them, what do you think about the bitcoin? That shouldn't be, because you're not globally competitive," Canning added.
At 23 years old, Canning worked for the United Arab Emirates government and worked in the Middle East for more than a decade. She is the CEO of New England Global Network LLC, an education consulting firm, and has an English degree from the University of Massachusetts and a master's degree from West Virginia University in foreign language and linguistics.
As for education, Canning advocated for sharing services between districts while still educating those with special needs at a high level.
"I would look at their budgets and I would rethink how they spend their money," Canning said. "I think you need consolidated services."
Canning believes she can draw support from both major parties, and claimed that 30 percent of her team during last year's Senate run were Democrats.
"I even had a guy from the Communist Party," Canning said. "Now I'm doing this a second time around based on my notes of what worked and what didn't work."
Canning said she does not accept "financial endorsements" and will not allow her vote to be bought.
Instead, she said she's reaching out directly to voters to see what they need.
"It's about working bipartisan and getting these people what they need," Canning said.
Reach staff writer Adam Shanks at 413-496-6376 or @EagleAdamShanks on Twitter
Adam Hinds: “A new social contract on public safety”
By Adam Hinds, op-ed, The Berkshire Eagle, November 17, 2017
PITTSFIELD — The Massachusetts Senate recently passed a comprehensive criminal justice reform bill. It aims to improve public safety while reducing the size and cost of the prison system. More importantly, the bill is an opportunity for a new social contract related to public safety.
I started a program working with youth at risk of gang violence in Pittsfield in 2014. At times in that effort law enforcement and communities impacted by crime and poverty worked closely to address the problem. In other moments dangerous gaps emerged. Understanding that divide — and finding ways to close it — is critical for our Commonwealth and the country.
Everyone agreed the criminal justice system needed help. Three-quarters of people going to jail have already been there and a majority experience behavioral and mental health issues. Both sides agreed drugs were destroying neighborhoods and police presence can create space for kids to be kids. Common concern focused on generational poverty and the limited hope that made crime more appealing.
Yet the program revealed disparities in perspective. Community members felt others lacked appreciation for the fact that government policies exacerbated poverty in communities of color. Decades of federal policies kept African-American families from accessing federal mortgages and black business owners from loans. It was difficult to get recognition of the direct link between the challenges faced today in neighborhoods with high crime rates and the generations without wealth transfers, de facto segregation in schools, and a war on drugs that disrupted families.
At the same time, police felt others did not appreciate the massive increase in guns encountered on the street and youth willing to use them. They have watched social problems expand and aggressively confront them. They are on the front lines confronting an addiction epidemic and the implications of poverty, and wonder why they are expected to solve all those problems. Theirs is an admirable profession — guardians of the community — but just getting home safely to their families feels harder and harder each day.
Bargain not met
A new social contract is required. The classic social contract is a trade-off: an individual gives up certain freedoms in exchange for the state protecting the rest. You don't commit crimes and your freedom, safety and opportunity are guaranteed.
But we have not upheld this bargain for either side. Instead safety and opportunity too often depend on circumstance. Crime is concentrated geographically. The wealth of parents determines life long earnings and education attainment. Addiction and mental health interventions lag behind.
Genuine public safety will be achieved when all sides come together to understand and address underlying drivers of crime and work together to stop serious criminals. There are four ways to do this in the criminal justice system.
First, signal the war on drugs as we knew it is over. Repealing mandatory minimum sentences for low-level drug offenses is a key first step. The Senate bill moves away from trying to arrest our way out of addiction and tries to move low-level sellers out of the drug economy. It gets individuals help to confront addiction or on the path to opportunity, while allowing for individualized justice based on the discretion of the judge.
Second, end the war on people experiencing poverty. The Senate bill works to reduce the long-term entanglement in the criminal justice system because you can't pay. It eases or eliminates things like parole and counsel fees, allows more fines to be worked off, and limits use of incarceration to collect fees and fines. The bill creates a trust fund that invests money saved through reform into neighborhoods disproportionately impacted by crime and the war on drugs.
Third, don't make an encounter with the criminal justice system a life sentence. For example, this bill allows juveniles to seal records within one year and expunge misdemeanors all together. It increases opportunities for housing and employment by limiting CORI access. It expands use of diversion so treatment or services get to those in need. The system should not keep people from getting on their feet; that is exactly what we want them to do.
In exchange, fourth, it means remaining focused on fighting serious criminals. Law enforcement has sought stronger penalties on solicitation of murder, intimidation of witnesses, and other tools. These are also included in the bill.
Opponents will say this sounds like being soft on crime. But in fact "red states" are taking the lead on repealing mandatory minimums and bail reform in an effort to cut costs. Most police confirm the best approach to crime and prevention is socioeconomic, or a focus on mental health and ensuring individuals get support putting their life together after jail.
The House passed meaningful criminal justice reform bill this week, and the two chambers will now work to craft a final bill. This is a once in a generation opportunity to build the most effective criminal justice system possible. What is required now is thoughtful policy changes, strong partnerships between law enforcement and communities, and leadership throughout the Commonwealth.
Adam Hinds, a Pittsfield Democrat, is state senator for the Berkshires and Western Massachusetts. This column first ran in Commonwealth Magazine.
Letter: “Where is compromise on museum plan?”
The Berkshire Eagle, November 26, 2017
To the editor:
State Senator Adam Hinds' offer to play a role in ending the dispute between the trustees of the Berkshire Museum and the opponents of the art auction seems both naive and self-serving (Eagle, Nov. 22.) What would a "compromise" look like? That the museum could sell some of the 40 works of art, but not all of them? That Executive Director Van Shields should be forced to resign, as he was in South Carolina, along with Jeff Noble, the board member who is being investigated by the attorney general for conflict of interest (Eagle Nov. 19) but that the other board members can keep their seats? And that some of the parties who filed suit to prevent the sale should also be invited to serve on the board?
What would be more interesting than watching Hinds spin his wheels would be to have state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, who sides with the Berkshire Museum board, debate another politician who sides with the plaintiffs in this case. Meanwhile, my thanks go to the attorney ceneral for weighing in on this affair. She did the right thing!
Michel Paul Richard, New Marlborough
Letter: “Museum board should accept Hinds’ overture”
The Berkshire Eagle, December 7, 2017
To the editor:
I am down on my knees begging the Berkshire Museum leaders and board of trustees to accept state Senator Adam Hinds’ offer to help oversee a coming together of both sides of the Berkshire Museum mess.
Let’s begin an attempt to hammer out a path forward. We all treasure the museum, we all want the best for the children of this county, we all value both art and science. Even with our differences, even with the venom spewed, we have enough in common to begin to talk.
Finally and thankfully, a politician has stepped forward and offered to help resolve this sorry situation. Speaking for those who oppose the “new vision” and possible art sale, we stand ready. Join us in the sunlight and let’s proceed.
The 100th anniversary of Zenas Crane’s death is December 17. Let’s honor the founder of the museum we all cherish and start talking that day.
Karen Chase, Lenox
“Hinds appointed to Senate Committee of Ways & Means”
By Haven Orecchio-Egresitz, The Berkshire Eagle, January 24, 2018
BOSTON — On the same day that Gov. Charlie Baker's 2019 budget proposal was released, state Sen. Adam G. Hinds was appointed to the very Senate committee that will allow him to weigh in on state spending.
Acting Senate President Harriette L. Chandler on Wednesday appointed Hinds, D-Pittsfield, to the prominent Senate Committee of Ways & Means, announcing her decision during the Democratic Caucus at the Statehouse.
While the appointment took Hinds by surprise, he said he is looking forward to the opportunity to be "an even louder voice" representing Western Massachusetts.
"The big news, of course, is the budget process for this year," Hinds said shortly after the governor's budget proposal arrived at his office. "It's a very timely appointment."
The Senate Committee on Ways & Means reviews all matters relating to the state's finances, including the drafting of the Senate budget.
The committee also is the last stop for all bills and proposals before they are debated on the Senate floor. Hinds is filling a seat left vacant by former state Sen.Thomas McGee, who was elected as mayor of Lynn in November.
"I am honored to appoint Senator Adam Hinds to the Committee on Ways & Means. He will make a great addition to the Ways and Means team," Chandler said in a prepared statement. "He has impressed me with his dedication and hard work, and I think that it is especially important that he brings even more western Massachusetts representation to the Committee."
"It was an honor to be considered," Hinds told The Eagle.
Budget items instrumental to the success of Western Massachusetts include infrastructure like internet and transportation, workforce development and education, according to Hinds.
"I talk about it as a three-legged stool," Hinds said. "There's a lot of work to be done on the opioid epidemic as well."
Hinds said he will ensure that the small, rural communities of Western Massachusetts are represented during Ways and Means deliberations.
The committee is led by Chairwoman Karen Spilka, D-Ashland.
"Senator Hinds is a smart, passionate, effective advocate who has already had a significant impact on the Senate in his first term," she said in a prepared statement. "Whether he is fighting for issues important to his region or engaging young people in local and state government, Adam brings creativity, energy, and openness to his work in the Senate. I look forward to having his voice — another strong voice from western Massachusetts — at the table as we undergo the very vital process of crafting a budget for the Commonwealth."
The House and Senate Committees on Ways & Means will convene for a series of budget hearings across the state as the two committees prepare for their own deliberations. The committees each typically hold budget debates in the spring, with the new fiscal year beginning July 1.
Hinds joins fellow Western Massachusetts Sens. James T. Welch, D-West Springfield, and Donald F. Humason Jr., R-Westfield, on the committee.
Haven Orecchio-Egresitz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, @HavenEagle on Twitter and 413-770-6977.
“Attorney, former Senate candidate to challenge new Berkshire DA”
By Bob Dunn, The Berkshire Eagle, March 20, 2018
PITTSFIELD — Less than a week after Berkshire County's new district attorney was sworn in, he has a potential challenger.
Andrea Harrington, an attorney and former state Senate candidate, on Tuesday announced her decision to take on Berkshire District Attorney Paul Caccaviello in the Democratic primary.
"I'm excited to announce my candidacy for Berkshire County District Attorney," Harrington said in prepared remarks. "I want to bring a fresh approach to the DA's office focused on real solutions to combating the opioid epidemic, preventing crime through effective social programs and community engagement, and focusing on recovery and reentry services to reduce recidivism."
Harrington said she pulled nomination papers from the Secretary of State's Office in Springfield on Tuesday morning. Her campaign will officially kick off in the coming weeks.
Former Berkshire District Attorney David F. Capeless announced March 1 his intention to retire after 14 years in the post, and said Caccaviello, the first assistant district attorney, would be appointed to replace him March 15. That drew criticism from some, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, which felt that the move gives him a leg up on any potential opponents in the upcoming election.
Harrington's statement called the transition "controversial," describing Caccaviello as a political ally of Capeless.
She said she wants to prioritize treatment over incarceration for nonviolent drug offenders and increase access to treatment beds for those trying to recover from addiction.
"Every day, countless Berkshire residents are working to fight this public health crisis, but we need leadership in the District Attorney's Office that supports the work of our first responders and public health workers," Harrington said.
"Through my work as an attorney, I have seen the effectiveness of drug courts, and I support their expansion in the region," she said. "I've seen how critical youth outreach and educational programs are for crime prevention. And through my advocacy work here in our communities, I know that investing in effective programming will make our cities and towns safer and healthier places to live.
"This campaign is about keeping our communities safe through an effective approach to prevention and rehabilitation," she said.
Harrington is an attorney at Connor & Morneau LLP and has been practicing law for more than 15 years.
She grew up in Richmond, where she and her husband, Tim, are raising their two sons.
She has been actively involved in the region, serving as a member of her local Affordable Housing Committee, School Council and as an advisory board member of the regional nonprofit BerkShares Inc.
Harrington is a graduate of Taconic High School in Pittsfield, the University of Washington and American University's Washington College of Law.
She is a Richmond School Committee member and co-founder of the Berkshire Committee of the Massachusetts Women's Political Caucus. Harrington also is a member of the Berkshire Bar Association and Hampden County Bar Association, and has extensive experience in criminal law and civil litigation.
In 2016, Harrington ran an unsuccessful bid for the state Senate seat previously held by Benjamin B. Downing, who did not seek re-election. She lost in the primary to Adam Hinds, who went on to win the seat.
The state primary is scheduled for Sept. 4; the general election will be held Nov. 6.
Bob Dunn can be reached at email@example.com, at @BobDunn413 on Twitter and 413-496-6249.
Adam Hinds: “Jump on board the Berkshire Flyer”
By Adam Hinds, op-ed, The Berkshire Eagle, April 1, 2018
PITTSFIELD — Connecting Berkshire County to New York City by passenger rail would spur the economy and start to reverse population decline. While the benefits have been clear for years, implementation has been a challenge. Yet, last week a Working Group led by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) determined a test run service connecting the Berkshires to New York by train, dubbed the Berkshire Flyer, could start in 2019 or 2020.
To date, the biggest barrier to reestablishing such service has been expensive track construction or upgrades, leading to lengthy timelines. To overcome both, I filed an amendment in last year's budget forming a Working Group to explore the feasibility of using existing passenger rail from New York, entering Berkshire County from the west. The report is in, and the results are promising.
Best option clear
First, the Berkshire Flyer route requires no new capital infrastructure investments. The proposed route utilizes tracks currently used by Amtrak for passenger rail and uses existing service from New York City to Albany/ Rensselaer station before continuing on to Berkshire County. The service would be a "one seat" ride that could take 3 hours and 50 minutes, with amenities like Wi-Fi internet and food/drink service.
The Working Group considered many possibilities, including building a short connecting track of 3,000 feet between the Pittsfield line and existing rail south Albany to reduce mileage. But terrain made this challenging: it added at least $17 million to construction costs due to geography, and would only save 20 minutes of travel time. An express train from New York City to Albany and Pittsfield was also explored. But that was complicated by scheduling with other trains on the track and a costly new train set.
Second, Amtrak indicates operating costs of the service would be $235,000, after factoring in $185,000 in revenue from ticket sales. This estimate is for the seasonal weekend pilot service operating 20 weeks per year, from the Memorial Day holiday weekend until Columbus Day. The proposed service includes one train from New York City to the Berkshires on Friday afternoon, returning to the city on Sunday evening. A public-private partnership could be envisioned to cover operational costs of the pilot.
Third, the track travels through West Stockbridge, where I envision adding a Berkshire Flyer stop in the long-term — critical for South County accessibility. Some hope MassDOT will resuscitate a stalled proposal to restore passenger service along the Housatonic Line, which travels through Connecticut to New York. That project is on hold due to Connecticut's current lack of interest and a large price tag for necessary capital upgrades. Interestingly, the southernmost station identified in that proposal is located in Great Barrington — only 10 miles, or 15 minutes, from the future West Stockbridge stop on the Berkshire Flyer route.
It is true that even with a West Stockbridge stop residents of the four or five southernmost towns in Berkshire County may choose to drive to Wassaic, New York to ride Metro North into New York City. But the Berkshire Flyer Working Group found that 70 percent of the 4,100 people living in metropolitan New York with second homes in the Berkshires live from Great Barrington north in the county.
Tourists are another target for use of the service, particularly those without cars. There are nearly 600,000 households in Manhattan alone without a vehicle. They are most likely to travel where a car is not required, and the option to land in Berkshire County improves the attractiveness of the county.
Wassaic has limited transportation options for this group. A key next step for advancing the Berkshire Flyer service is establishing local transportation options for people getting off the train in the Berkshires. Enhancing nearby rental car options, on demand services like Uber and Lyft, courtesy shuttles provided by hotels and attractions, and the BRTA are all envisioned as viable and attractive transportation solutions for these travelers.
We should continue to explore an agreement with Connecticut to reinvest in the Housatonic Line and identify efficient transportation options to and from Wassaic, such as regular buses. But our task is to identify rail transportation options deemed affordable in regional capitals, beneficial throughout the county, and timely in implementation. The Housatonic Line to NYC and the Berkshire Flyer both take nearly four hours. However the Flyer requires no capital costs and could start running next summer. The Housatonic Line faces an unknown timeframe with MassDOT estimating required track upgrades as high as $200 million in Connecticut and $100 million in Massachusetts, as well as the purchase of new rail cars and locomotives.
Come long way fast
Ten months ago the Berkshire Flyer was an idea. In less than one year we have secured legislative endorsement, the approval of the governor, convened a Working Group and determined the concept to be feasible and beneficial to the regional economy. I have only been in the Senate for 15 months, but I have learned government bureaucracy isn't designed to move quickly. To come so far so fast means this initiative clearly resonates.
I view the Berkshire Flyer's seasonal weekend service as a first step on the path to daily year round coverage that would bring even more economic benefits to the Berkshires. But first, we need your help to demonstrate demand for the service and support for further growth.
Sen. Adam G. Hinds represents 52 Massachusetts communities in the Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin & Hampden District. He is Senate chair of the Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts & Cultural Development, vice-chair of the Joint Committee on Economic Development & Emerging Technologies and a member of the Senate Committee on Ways & Means.
“Hinds' push for more money for rural Berkshires education gains traction”
By Haven Orecchio-Egresitz, The Berkshire Eagle, May 24, 2018
BOSTON — The state Senate on Wednesday passed a budget amendment that, if finalized, would allocate $1.5 million in aid to rural schools in fiscal year 2019, including to nine Berkshire County districts.
Sen. Adam Hinds, D-Pittsfield, proposed the amendment, with the support of other legislators, in response to concern about the fiscal conditions of schools in rural areas like Western Massachusetts.
"The thing that's really noteworthy is that this is a brand new line item [and] it's not taking out of the existing education budget," Hinds told The Eagle in a phone interview Thursday.
Hinds began work on the amendment soon after being sworn in last year, first securing a mandate in the fiscal year 2018 budget directing the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) to conduct a feasibility study relative to establishing a formula for aid to be distributed to rural school districts.
That report, which was filed in January and identifies rural districts as those with fewer than 21 students per square mile, found that, over the past 10 years, enrollment declined in rural districts while it remained flat, on average, across the rest of the state.
In addition, rural districts employ more teachers and paraprofessionals per 100 students than other districts, and average per-pupil costs grew more quickly in rural districts, because of declining enrollment and rising costs, according to the report.
Rural districts spend $18,678 per in-district student, up from $14,224 in fiscal year 2008, compared with $16,692 in nonrural districts, up from $13,138, according to the report.
Hinds worked with school officials to craft the amendment, which, if finalized in the budget, would make school districts with fewer than 10 students living per square mile eligible to receive an additional $100 in Rural School Aid per student in the coming fiscal year.
A total of 34 districts across the state would be eligible for the aid in fiscal year 2019, with $372,900 available for Berkshire County schools.
Hinds hopes to expand the rural school aid program in the future.
If the program is funded at $3 million, 22 additional school districts that have 10 to 20 students per square mile would be eligible to receive an additional $75 per student, according to a statement from Hinds' office.
The proposal is not in the House budget, so if it were to be finalized, it would need to be part of a conference committee budget agreement, Hinds said.
"We have to focus on the conference committee," he said.
Michael A. Buoniconti, superintendent at Mohawk Trail Regional School District and Hawlemont Regional School District in Franklin County, was the at the forefront of advocating for rural school aid, Hinds said.
In 2016, after years of facing challenges of declining enrollment and increasing expenses, Buoniconti formed the Massachusetts Rural School Coalition.
The group of superintendents, mostly from Central and Western Massachusetts, meets regularly, with the goal of achieving two things: establishing rural school aid and creating a way to share services between districts in order to operate more efficiently, he said.
Their proposal for rural school aid has framed the detail for the budget amendment, Buoniconti said Thursday.
"We realized we couldn't fix ourselves," he said of the rural school districts.
Southern Berkshire Regional School District Superintendent Beth Regulbuto said that she is grateful that the "rural factor" is being acknowledged at the state level. Her district would be eligible for about $72,500 in aid, according to Hinds' office.
In addition to declining enrollment, the cost of resources, like professional development, is more expensive for rural schools.
"Everything is that much more for people to come out here and provide those services," she said.
Rural school aid would allow districts in these areas to put more money into the actual education of their students, she said.
Mohawk Trail Regional School District would be eligible for $95,000 to $100,000 a year, according to Buoniconti.
"It doesn't save the day for us, but we're trying to be realistic about this, and it's definitely a step in the right direction," he said. "In the end, what we're trying to accomplish here is equity for rural students. That equity, right now, does not exist."
Haven Orecchio-Egresitz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, @HavenEagle on Twitter and 413-770-6977.
At a glance
Berkshire schools that would be eligible for Rural School Aid:
Central Berkshire Regional: $162,000
Farmington River Regional: $11,400
Mount Greylock Regional: $56,200
Southern Berkshire Regional: $72,500
Aid amounts are estimated based on total students enrolled in the 2016-17 school year
- Jonathan Melle
- Amherst, NH, United States
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