With the Democratic primary for Congress coming up on Sept. 6, here are my top four reasons for voting for Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr.: 1. Nuciforo supports the cultural economy in the Berkshires. The best (but not only) example of his work is his steadfast support of the Colonial Theatre restoration. At a time when downtown Pittsfield needed true believers, Nuciforo secured $6 million in state support for the nascent effort to restore the Colonial. And he didn't quit there. After securing that funding, he joined the board of the Colonial, and contributed his time, money and energy to assure its success. His service stands in sharp contrast to the claims of his opponent, Richard Neal of Springfield, who has scrambled to take credit for the Colonial's success. While speaking on the floor of the U.S. Congress on Dec. 15, 2011, in a video available on youtube. com, Neal claimed that a program he voted for in 2000 provided new market tax credit financing of $16.7 million to the Colonial Theatre. The following day, in an interview with The Eagle, Neal again claimed that the tax credit covered $16.7 million - that's 80 percent - of the $21 million renovation cost. The Eagle reported that "Neal said it could be argued that The Colonial never would have reopened without the tax credit."
Berkshire residents know that Congressman Neal's claims are patently false. According to documents available through the Massachusetts Housing Investment Corp., the restoration cost $21.3 million. State support totaled more than $6 million, the city of Pittsfield provided $1.1 million , and private support equaled $5.3 million. New market tax credit financing represented $4.2 million, not the $16.7 million suggested by Congressman Neal.
Congressman Neal's attempt to take credit for the Colonial's restoration may be typical Washington politics. But the truth is that the Pittsfield community, with help from taxpayers, businesses and Berkshire elected officials like Nuciforo, restored the Colonial Theatre. Congressman Neal had nothing to do with it. Nuciforo came through when we needed him in Boston, and he'll be there when we need him in Washington.
2. When it comes to financial services and consumer protection, our nation would be lucky to have Nuciforo working alongside Elizabeth Warren in Washington. While in the Massachusetts state Senate, Nuciforo fought for consumers on everything from mortgage lending to auto insurance. Massachusetts borrowers enjoy the protection of a tough, pro-consumer mortgage lending law because of Nuciforo's leadership.
From 1994 through 2000, Rep. Neal consistently supported the deregulation of Wall Street and the erosion of consumer protections, siding with banks and insurers over consumers on five separate occasions. Warren is fighting to restore the very same regulations that Rep. Neal worked so hard to repeal.
3. Nuciforo will protect Social Security beneficiaries. As retirement gets closer for me, I want a congressman with the guts to protect social security. With Nuciforo in Washington, I trust that we will have a strong Democrat willing to advocate for those that are on social security now, or will be within the next few years. Congressman Neal, however, failed to deliver when seniors needed him most. In 2009 and 2010, for the first time in history, Social Security recipients got a 0 percent COLA. In those two years, inflation was 2.7 and 1.5 percent. Several congressmen filed bills to address this problem. Sponsors included Reps. McCarthy ( D- NY), Kennedy (D-RI), and Tsongas (D-MA), but not Congressman Neal. It was disappointing to see him stand idly by while beneficiaries lost Social Security buying power. But it was worse to see those bills die in House Ways & Means, the very committee on which Rep Neal serves. (H.R. 3536; H.R. 3672; H.R. 4429).
4. Nuciforo has a strong record on a woman's right to choose; Neal's record is mixed. In 2009, Neal joined pro-lifers in voting for the Stupak Amendment which would have banned federal funding for abortion. On this issue, the choice is clear. Berkshire voters know Nuciforo's record in favor of a woman's right to choose, just as Springfield voters know Congressman Neal's long-time opposition to that right. At a time when women's health care access is under unprecedented attack, this issue should be a litmus test for Democratic women.
The simple truth is that Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr. is a good fit for Democratic voters in the new 1st District. He's one of us. I'm voting for him. You should too.