Sunday October 16, 2011

Residents of the 3rd Berkshire District need a state representative who is open and accessible, aware of the particular needs of Pittsfield, knowledgeable about government and willing to fight for the interests of the city and Berkshires as a whole in the Statehouse. All four candidates in Tuesday's special elections have their strengths, but on balance, Democratic candidate Tricia Farley-Bouvier is the best choice for this important position.

For the past nine years, since she got involved in city politics with the Save Our Schools program, Ms. Farley-Bouvier has not only worked hard for Pittsfield she has worked hard with others, and the latter quality will benefit her as a state legislator from a western district. As a city councilor, she was a stalwart proponent of the downtown projects whose success is a key to Pittsfield's resurgence, and she continued those efforts as public affairs coordinator for Mayor James Ruberto. Her six years with the School Building Needs Commission have given her insight that will be valuable for her as a state representative as Pittsfield works with the state to determine the future of its high schools.

Independent candidate Pam Malumphy has criticized Ms. Farley-Bouvier because she and her husband send two of their three children to public schools in Lenox, but we see this as a personal issue and one that does not reflect poorly on Ms. Farley-Bouvier's opinion of and dedication to the Pittsfield public school system. Ms. Malumphy has also drawn attention to her opponent's social conservatism, and indeed, Ms. Farley-Bouvier's opposition to the right to abortion is not a mainstream Democratic view. The Eagle editorial page is pro-choice, but we take Ms. Farley-Bouvier's word that she will not go to Boston as an anti-abortion crusader and that she will support funding for relevant social programs like those dedicated to reducing teen pregnancy. This election is essentially about the economy and education, and we regard Ms. Farley-Bouvier as the strongest candidate overall on these issues.

Ms. Malumphy, who was regional director for the Mass. Office of Business and Development for Western Massachusetts, brings strong economic credentials to the table. She has worked with area businesses and would serve as an effective spokesperson for them in Boston. As a city councilor and a member of the School Building Needs Commission, she gained insight into the issues specific to Pittsfield, including those involving education.

We believe, however, that Ms. Farley-Bouvier has been more effective at working with other officials in bringing goals to fruition. Ms. Malumphy was a Democrat before taking unenrolled status 21 2 years ago and has expressed a desire to caucus with majority Democrats in the House. There is no guarantee, however, that this will happen. What has been going on in Boston regarding casino legislation is a textbook example of the perils of one-party rule, and all of the candidates have justly criticized Democrats for operating behind closed doors. Pragmatically, however, Pittsfield must have a presence behind those closed doors and Ms. Farley-Bouvier is the only candidate of the four who can guarantee it.

Republican candidate Mark Jester says he will be a mediator and conciliator in Boston, and with 15 years under his belt as president of the Berkshire County League of Sportsmen, a group that includes a wide variety of interests, we believe him. He promises to go beyond party labels to pursue what is best for the district.

Mr. Jester, however, is not nearly as knowledgeable on specific issues as are Ms. Farley-Bouvier and Ms. Malumphy. In a meeting with Eagle editors, he proposed lowering the sales tax to 5 percent but could not say how that lost revenue would be made up, or what programs would be cut because of that lost revenue. Everyone wants their taxes cut, but that is the easy part. Mr. Jester needed to better flesh out his stances during the campaign.

Mark Miller, who ran for this seat a year ago, was again an enthusiastic advocate for the positions of the Green-Rainbow Party. He was less effective at explaining how he would be a better representative for Pittsfield than his opponents. His victory would indeed be a landmark for his party, but that is of no interest to Pittsfield, and most or many of the positions advocated by the Green-Rainbow Party are supported by the Democratic Party. Mr. Miller said he would be an independent figure in the Statehouse, but that independence could also lead to isolation, which Pittsfield and Berkshire County, with its four House seats, cannot afford.

We thank all four candidates for giving the district the campaign it didn't get last fall when incumbent and now departed state representative Christopher Speranzo spent his time ducking Mr. Miller. We believe Ms. Farley-Bouvier will be the open and accessible representative her predecessor was not, and will be a wise and effective advocate for the city and region. The Eagle endorses Tricia Farley-Bouvier for election as state representative from the 3rd Berkshire District.