The Democratic candidates for the 2nd Berkshire District met Monday night at Berkshire Community College.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Democratic candidates for representative for the 2nd Berkshire District tried to distinguish themselves for voters before the Sept. 14 primary.
In two debates held Monday night, candidates for the nomination in both parties talked jobs, health are and broadband at Berkshire Community College. Jenn Smith of The Berkshire Eagle was the moderator for both representative debates, sponsored by the Pittsfield Gazette and hosted by BCC. The candidates are seeking to replace outgoing Rep. Denis E. Guyer, D-Dalton.
Thomas S. Szczepaniak
In the first debate, Democrats Paul W. Mark, Noreen P. Suriner and Thomas S. Sczczepaniak agreed in substance that the state needed to do more to aid small business and took aim at Verizon for failing to deliver broadband.
"The best thing the state can do is to start funding new opportunities for new jobs like high-speed rail, like green-energy jobs and by bringing high-speed Internet to Western Massachusetts," said Mark, of Hancock. He'd like to see more effort put into bringing broadband into the region to aid small business and promotion of green jobs.
The region's hope could be the return of high-speed rail, said Mark, which would boost the toursim industry and reduce emissions along with creating jobs. "I think it's something realistic that needs to happen."
Sczczepaniak, a three-term selectman in Dalton, was more down to earth, believing wood by-products had the best chance of success in the heavily rural district. The development of a biomass industry would not only provide alternative heat and electricity, "it gets all the junk wood out of the woods ... It's like a garden; we need to get all the weeds out so the forest can breathe."
"It's a win-win situation all around," he contined. The owner of a local trucking company, Sczczcepaniak said small business would also benefit from relief from red tape and mandates from Boston.
Suriner, a Middlefield selectman, Episcopal priest and a teacher, agreed with both but added agriculture as an important element in the development of small business in the district. "We've been blessed because we've gotten some of the stimulus money that has prevented job loss ..." she said. "We're in relatively decent shape but the state has much to do in job creation and to deal with the unemployment issue."
Noreen P. Suriner
Farmers should have direct access to the market as well as have easier access to the school lunch programs, she said, adding that Guyer's recent announcment of a "production kitchen" for agricultural concerns in a planned mixed-use development "might be an incubator for the creation of new jobs."
All three strongly supported broadband expansion in Western Mass. "It's a job creator ... not only to the installation but for the telecommunicating for people who want to raise their children here," said Suriner, who represents her town on the WiredWest broadband collaborative. She took a swipe at Verizon, saying its mandate was "to create a profit."
Mark, an attorney and former Verizon technician, was also harsh on the telecommunications giant, referring to his own town's woes. "I'm the only one who knows the difference between the 'last mile,' the 'middle mile' and any other mile."
Sczczepaniak said he would "support any and all" broadband initiatives.
All three also agreed that more consolidation wouldn't serve the district's school systems and that education funding would be a priority. The forum was generally lively but low-key, until the closing statements, when Mark took issue with Suriner's claim that she would focus all her attention on the district and not be distracted running a business like her opponents. "I don't know where that's coming from," said Mark, who added he would quit his job.
Paul W. Mark
The candidates tiptoed around recent revelations about Szczepaniak's past troubles with the law, including jail time for drunken driving, some 20 years ago. Mark's campaign has denied allegations of spreading the old news.
"The things we've been reading about the last week is a distraction," said Mark. "It's the reason why people don't like politics."
Suriner said many families are affected by substance abuse. "I think we want to focus on the issues and not on personal lives."
For his part, Szczepaniak said he's not the man he was back then. "You look at the person and what's he's done and what is he doing for the community," he said, to loud applause.
The winner of the Democratic nomination will face off against the Republican primary winner and independent Stefan G. Racz, a Buckland selectman.
The debates were televised by Pittsfield Community Television; check the schedule for repeat showings.
NorthAdams.com welcomes critical, respectful dialogue. Name-calling, personal attacks, libel, slander or foul language is not allowed. All comments are reviewed before posting and will be deleted or edited as necessary.
I was at the debate last night. Candidate Paul Markís work in the telecommunications industry raises serious questions for me as to whether he would be a good successor to Rep. Guyer in the 2nd Berkshire District.
Mark touts his work at Verizon Communications as a big plus but Verizonís corporate citizenship locally and regionally has left a bad taste in many mouths.
Markís campaign literature says ďI will work to bring the dozens of communities currently without broadband up to high speed,Ē but Verizon canít even maintain their 100-year old highly degraded copper wire network for basic landline phone service. As residents of Hancock, Middlefield and other rural towns can attest, Verizon has such a poor track record here that Attorney General Martha Coakley and the state Department of Telecommunications and Energy have opened full-scale investigations into the quality of Verizonís basic phone service in the four western counties.
Verizon made more than $107 million last year but in 2008 they cut 120 jobs at eight facilities across the state. And in June 2006, Verizon paid a $49 million fine to 12,326 current and former female employees as part of a landmark class-action lawsuit over the largest pregnancy discrimination settlement in the history of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The case covered women in 13 states (including Massachusetts) and the District of Columbia.
Mark has pledged to seek a seat on the Legislatureís Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy. This should give all voters pause as historically this panel is dominated by industry lobbyists and should he be elected, Mark would be an easy mark for their attention.
Mr. Mark should stick to repairing the phones instead of helping to make our laws.
As an IBEW union member Mark has fought hard against Verizon management to provide fair treatment for his coworkers.
As the next 2nd Berkshire State Rep Mark will fight hard with Verizon to provide fair services for his constituency.
The idea that because Mark has been employed by Verizon as a laborer means he is going to be influenced by Verizon corporate is invalid. As a Hancock resident and a telephone repairman, he knows the problems with telecomm that Berkshire county residents are facing better than anyone.
That was a very clever attempt at painting Paul Mark as some kind of industry insider.
And I'm guessing by its thoroughness of statistics, that it was written by Szczepaniak's opposition researcher, Matt Barron.
But the fact of the matter is that Paul Mark is a longtime payphone repairman. In contrast to the Verizon executives that have been slashing jobs, Paul has fought with his working class colleagues to preserve jobs and benefits.
Using the logic that Paul, as a payphone repairman, is responsible for Verizon's corporate decisions... is like accusing enlisted Air Force veteran candidate Rosanne Frieri of mishandling the Iraq War. There's a serious discrepancy of responsibility in the accusation.
If we want to examine a candidate's business connections, let's open the books on businessman Tom Szczepaniak's "million dollar" company Variety Trucking, and see what kinds of government contracts he receives. Szczepaniak also told the Eagle that he wouldn't disclose his tax forms. Why not?
I too attended the debates last night. Toward the end of the Democratic debate, Paul Mark stated "we need to raise revenue."
What he did not tell voters is that he wants to raise the income tax rate back up to 5.95% (where it was in 1999) from the 5.3% now. Ouch!
Mark said yes to raising the income tax on two questionnaires from special interest groups, Mass Alliance and the Massachusetts Teachers Assn. that subsequently endorsed his candidacy.
I guess when you earn more than $97,000 like Mr. Mark did last year you don't worry that much about paying taxes. No wonder our Verizon phone bills are so high if this is what they pay linemen.
The fact is that the 2nd Berkshire District is not a wealthy corner of the state. We donít have high-tech, biotech or financial services sector jobs like they do in eastern Mass. This is not Weston or Wellesley. Folks here are hurting and trying to survive in this economy and the last thing they need is a tax increase.
According to data from the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average weekly wage in Berkshire County for the second quarter of 2009 was $730. Only Barnstable and Franklin counties were lower. This is how out of touch Mark is with the people he seeks to represent. Mark makes way more than double the average annual salary of a Berkshire County resident ($38,960) and he wants to raise our taxes even higher!
I watched that debate, and what the text doesn't show is that Tom doesn't know what he's talking about most of the time. He kept rambling on about how the animals need room to move around, so that's why we need to log the forests. He doesn't make sense.
And he also said there are 51 other states besides Massachusetts. What??
Anyone who watches the debate will shudder at the idea of tom getting up on the floor at the statehouse and delivering a speech. He'll make our district the laughing stock of beacon hill.
'Out of touch' has it wrong again. And again, given that the writer has read the questionnaires for Mass Alliance and the Massachusetts Teachers Assn, I've got to assume the writer is Szczepaniak's opposition researcher Matt Barron.
Again, the Szczepaniak camp is casting some controversial first stones against a payphone repairman, given Tom's million dollar demolition business.
So, since Barron has all the facts and figures, tell us all how much Tom Szczepaniak makes in a year.
And again, given that the writer has read the questionnaires for Mass Alliance and the Massachusetts Teachers Assn, I've got to assume the writer is Szczepaniak's opposition researcher Matt Barron.
You know what they say about assuming don't you? One would think you would have learned by now that your stirring up trouble once again isn't helping your candidate. The teachers are watching your under handed tactics & are paying very close attention to how you are running their candidate into the ground. Never assume.
Steven Hoeschele (Steven H) was the campaign manager in 2004 for Peter Vickery in his campaign for governor's councilor. Mr. Hoeschele used the same underhanded tactics against Mike Bissonnette in that race that he now employs against Szczepaniak, spreading information about Bissonnette's past problems with alcohol. The Vickery campaign used the Internet to slam Bissonnette under the radar so it should come as no surprise that the Mark campaign is the source of the dime dropping on Szczepaniak.
Steven H. must be pretty stupid or very lazy. Every candidate for the state legislature must file a Statement of Financial Interest form with the State Ethics Commission to make the ballot. These filings are public information. Go look it up.
Actually, Matt, I wasn't Peter Vickery's campaign manager. I was his field organizer--so I was responsible for getting volunteers in the door to talk with voters, not anything dealing with the media or painting the opposition in a certain color. That's what you do as an opposition researcher, Matt. So if you're going to try and use me as a pawn in this race, at least get your facts straight.
And I think you'll recall that Peter beat Mike in that race.
I really could care less what any of them make to be honest with you. That is not going to make a difference when one of them go to Boston to represent our district! Each and every one have them have said it will be a full time job for them, Surnier doesn't have a job, Mark says he is quitting verizon & Szcepaniak says he has his business covered by valuable staffing. So let's stick to the issues and please stop with the petty postings.
Isn't Matt Barron the guy who lost to Peter Arlos for the state committee? Arlos was on his last leg, hadn't been to a meeting in ages, but was still picked by the voters as a better choice than sleazy Barron.
Actually it was Arlos who was the sleazy one. In May 2006, Arlos paid a fine of $2,200 to settle allegations that he violated the state conflict of interest law by voting in favor of his own 3 percent pay raise on June 21, 2000 while a member of the Berkshire County Retirement Board.
I was at the debate last night. All I can say is that Tom couldn't give one specific bit of information on the ISSUES! "The animals need room." "Step up to the plate." "Be a real man." Tom belongs in the REPUBLICAN race.
Suriner hails herself as a former educator, but she couldn't even get the Teacher's endorsement?????? Also, I can understand that she believes that Tom's business will benefit heavily from a victory, BUT WHAT DOES PAUL MARK HAVE TO GAIN? HE REPAIRS TELEPHONES?! She is the ONLY one who was slinging mud last night, could she have sent in the info?
Paul Mark knew the issues, the specifics, and the point he made about being knowledgeable in the Telecom industry will be crucial in the implementation of high speed internet to our district.
EACH Candidate was all for the implementation of high speed internet access coming to our district.
You sound so angry, maybe you should try some yoga classes, they are very uplifting & beneficial to the body & soul.
Calm down, take a big deep breath & vote for your man. I wish you the best of luck.
I agree with your entire post "Mark his own words" very well put. I watched all the debates last night.
I would like to touch on one thing here that I felt showed bad character and add my old well educated thoughts for all those who are paying attention to this post.
Mr. Mark at the beginning of his speech brags about buying a house at the age of 24 & getting 3 degree's owing it all to the great company he works for. Verizon.
This shows all of us that they are exceptionally very good to their employee's! After all, if he was able to do all of that by the young age of 31 that is a lot to brag about! He's a lucky man.
Mr. Mark then turned around and slammed that very same company in this debate!
I don't know about all of you, but I do know one thing for sure, I was always taught that you NEVER bite the hand that feeds you!
Mr. Mark's is young, he is arrogant, he carries an entitlement attitude, it is coming out with out a doubt. I for one will not be voting for him at the primaries.
What I saw was an eager and energetic man who just wants to do good in the world. Just looking at him and listening to how he speaks you can tell how excited he is that regular people like him could have the chance to succeed. I don't blame him one bit for trying to fight to hold onto great jobs like that, we have been racing to the bottom for too long and it needs to stop. We need more people like Paul Mark running for office, people who have sacrificed to try to make the world a better place. Mr. Mark, if you read this, don't let the sleaze mongers discourage you from trying to help.
I think you missed the point on this one. Mark's fortunate job and benefits are not a result of the executives' at Verizon benevolence. It's a result of him and his coworkers cooperating together to negotiate a fair contract with the company.
I was also at this debate/forum last evening because I had not made my decision who to vote for. For what it's worth, here's my take.
Ms. Suriner sounded like she was giving a sermon, and was mistaken in some of her assumptions. While she is very well educated, it didn't sound like she has any experience in this arena.
Mr. Mark sounded pompous and arrogant. He went on, and on, and on, and on about his education. While he should be proud of his education, it does not qualify him for this job. I was also digusted with the way he harshly reprimanded Ms. Suriner for assuming that she was the only candidate who could be in Boston full-time. The man simply has no manners.
Mr. Szczepaniak, while not the best speaker present, calmly and decisively discussed the issues facing the vast majority of us. I would much rather have this down-to-earth man who has been serving the public for years representing me. So, Mr. Szczepaniak, you have my vote.
I was leaning Szczepaniak before watching the debate. But the guy just doesn't make any sense. He talks too much nonsense and he just doesn't have what it takes down in the state house. They would eat him alive. He's much better off sticking around in Dalton for everybody's sake.
So what? Szczepaniak might win this. Give that man two years and the state ethics commissions are gonna throw him for a whirl. He can get away with his BS in Dalton MA, to get away with that in Boston you actually have to be somebody important. They're gonna see town contracts awarded to his business, they're gonna see his taxes he refuses to show to everyone. I'm voting for Mike Case because he's the only one who actually sounded down to Earth last night.
haha, Tom says he's a "real-man" perfect way to gain the votes of people who have no idea what the issues are. When Mike Case was 27, he was serving our country... not on his way to prison.
Your statement & I will quote you; "They're gonna see town contracts awarded to his business, they're gonna see his taxes he refuses to show to everyone."
This post my fellow blogger just proves that you have no idea what you are talking about! "Whatever" is completely clueless & most of us with half a brain can see your just another nasty, uneducated blogger.
Your statement is not even close to being factual on Town contracts to his business' records, he has nothing to hide. Nice try Whatever!
knowledge of how our government works & are embarrassing yourself here.
I'm curious, Whatever is clueless, how does our state government work?
What I referring to, W.I.C., is that the state ethics commission has a little more brains than Dalton. Sal DiMasi got busted for getting state and local contracts awarded to his business friends. Now, imagine if Tom kept getting contracts through Dalton while he was in office. All that stuff will be reported, especially if he looks to make a profit from it. Since I'm so clueless, maybe you know all about the new ethics laws passed in Massachusetts?
It is, in fact, you who have no idea how our government works. Tom, if you're reading this, you cannot keep getting town contracts as a legislator, it's considered unethical. You will be back in prison in no time. Maybe getting contracts as a selectman is fine because, well, nobody cares about a good old boy getting kick backs from his buddies, but this is not the Dalton select board, this is a job with a responsibility to the state, one that most people who do serve have at the least have a college degree. Tom, you're out of your league.
For that matter so is Noreen this isn't a church service where everyone just "gets along" you need to get funding for our district and be mean about it sometimes. Paul at least has a brain but maybe government isn't for him, he's got his head in the clouds. He'd do better as a professor at some liberal arts college. Hey, maybe he could teach Tom a thing or two, like how to read.
How can you write this crap? Why can't people just decide based on what they see and the candidates positions on the issues. Why try to twist everything around by appealing to anger and hate instead of letting people form their own opinions?
I attended the debate last night with Stefan Racz, candidate for the 2nd Berkshire District, to see and hear his potential opponents discuss issues and answer questions. I felt it was more a forum than an actual debate; while there were some clear differences of opinions, the focus was on telling the voters about themselves.
Because the candidates are representing the same party it isn't unusual to hear many of the same opinions, but we hope to hear more debate on the issues when a party candidate winner emerges after the primaries. We look forward to vigorously discussing and debating the issues rather than focusing on the personal lives of candidates.
Campaign Manager - Stefan Racz for State Representative 2nd Berkshire District
I find it interesting that the "Agree" and "Disagree" voting on this blog favor's Paul Mark & negative posts about Mr. Szczepaniak.
Does this not prove to anyone who is paying attention here that it is the Mark campaign doing the majority of the dirty work here?
What I am seeing is the Mark campaign has been hard at work trying to control this forum. OR is it a republican or even the independent trying to make the democrats look like fools? Either way you can Agree or disagree all you want, the people's voices will be heard on September 14th. Best of luck to all the candidates.
watching that szscepaniak guy was like watching one of those bad skits from SNL. everything he said was laughworthy. laughing AT him.
"he's got his boots on", except he wasn't wearing boots.
he's a jailbird and an ignoramus.
the only position he could hold in the State House is Fool. and I bet he couldn't even pull that off without trying to cover up his past.
It's a good thing Szczepaniak did not win, let me tell you a little bit about why; He lied through out the whole campaign, not only to his constituents but most importantly to his family. He also lied to his AA friends, the prisoners at the county jail that he supposedly has helped and to his close friends. Sip, sip, sniff, sniff, toke, toke, smoke, smoke! Mr. Szczepaniak was using throughout the whole campaign and fooled them all!
Beware of the wolf in sheep skin.
The 2nd Berkshire District was handed a very good deal when Mr. Mark won this race.
let's not forget his employee's. some of us are finally catching on to his out of control behavior but for now we have no choice but to support our families, the economy is horrible and he always takes good care of us one way or another. family comes first so some of us feel stuck between a rock and a hard spot
The state is holding a special election to fill the seat vacated by John F. Kerry, who has been confirmed as U.S. secretary of state.
The state primary is Tuesday, April 30. The last day to register to vote or to change party affiliation for the primary is Wednesday, April 10. Enrolled voters may only vote in their party primary; unenrolled voters may select a primary to vote in without changing their status.
The special election is scheduled for Tuesday, June 25. The last day to register to vote in the election is Wednesday, June 5.
To register to vote, one must be at least age 18 by the date of the election, a U.S. citizen and a resident of the municipality in which you are voting.