1st Berkshire State Rep. hopefuls gather to flex policy, positions at Adams forum

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ADAMS — The five candidates for state representative laid out their platforms and offered a glimpse into their priorities on Monday during a public forum in Adams.

Though often echoing each other's goals — like adjusting the state funding mechanism for local schools — the candidates diverged in the nuance of how to achieve them.

Eschewing a typical debate format, event host ProAdams instead allotted each of the five 1st Berkshire District candidates 10 minutes to illustrate his or her platform.

"Our idea was just to let the candidates speak tonight," said David Bissaillon of ProAdams.

The host asked only that candidates touch on the topics of economic development, education and community growth.

"We were saddened with the passing of [state Rep. Gailanne] Cariddi, and this is an important position for us," Bissaillon "These are challenging times, but there are also a lot of good things going on."

In the Democratic primary, the contest will be between John Barrett III, Lisa Blackmer, Stephanie Bosley, and Kevin Towle. Christine Canning is uncontested on as a Republican.

The Democratic Primary is scheduled for Oct. 10 and the special election will be held on Nov. 7.

The winner will serve the final year of Cariddi's term.

The lone Republican candidate, Canning expressed a willingness to work on both sides of the aisle and to not be afraid to cross party lines.

She highlighted a professional background in education and her ability to secure grants and state funding.

Canning, who lost a state Senate election to Sen. Adam Hinds last year, carried over her 15-point economic development plan from that campaign.

She advocated for stronger job training programs and described herself as a "straight-shooter."

"It may not always make me popular, but it is what it is," Canning said.

Bosley did not shy from her family history — her father Daniel Bosley served as the district's representative for 24 years until 2011 — and the "many policy discussions at the dinner table" that came as a result of it.

But she also highlighted her years of experience professionally, including working for the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition and American Cancer Society.

Bosley advocated for creating a three-tiered state funding formula for local schools, with different formulas for urban, suburban, and rural districts — "so that we're not competing with urban education systems to receive funding," Bosley said.

She also advocated for increased funding for adult basic education, creation of a state-funded housing rehabilitation program, and increased access to high-speed broadband internet throughout the district.

Blackmer leaned on her years of experience as a North Adams City Councilor, past President of the Massachusetts Municipal Association, and as current treasurer and collector for the town of Buckland to illustrate her career.

"All of this experience has brought me to the conclusion that cities and towns are on the front line of providing services to our communities," Blackmer said.

Blackmer has voiced support of improved special education funding and regional transportation funding for school districts, which she believes could be paid for by the millionaires tax.

"Our schools should be as exceptional and as diverse as our community," Blackmer said.

Blackmer also supports a single-payer healthcare system and investment in high-speed rail infrastructure.

Kevin Towle spent nearly a year working as an aide to Cariddi prior to her death.

In that time, and in the months manning her office since then, Towle argued he has forged the connections and gained experience that make him a qualified candidate for the position.

Towle — who noted he has released a 12-page economic development plan — has advocated for free in-state tuition at state colleges for families earning less than $250,000, but said it's important to expand public education at all levels.

"Expanding public education provides an opportunity for all," Towle said.

Towle has also come out in support of single-payer healthcare, which he said is supported by economists. He also believes in the implementation of paid family leave.

John Barrett III served as the mayor of North Adams for 26 years and now sits on the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts' Board of Trustees.

"I've felt the area could benefit with the experience I've attained," Barrett said.

Barrett spent much of his time highlighting the Greylock Glen redevelopment project, and advocated for the continued funding of the project from the state. While it would not be a cure-all, the redevelopment plan in Adams would be a "catalyst" for growth, Barrett argued.

Barrett also castigated the state for its education funding formula, which he argued disproportionately harms districts like those in the Northern Berkshires.

"We have to do something about the educational system," Barrett said.

Barrett, who served nearly three years at the helm of BerkshireWorks, also advocated for improved job training and workforce development programs.

Reach staff writer Adam Shanks at 413-496-6376 or @EagleAdamShanks on Twitter


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