4th Berkshire District candidates disagree in final debate
At their final debate in the race for the 4th Berkshire District seat, state Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli, D-Lenox, and Green-Rainbow Party candidate Scott Laugenour disagreed on just about everything on Wednesday, including medicinal marijuana, education and even the proper way to end a debate.
About 30 people filled seats set up in Lenox Library for the debate, which lasted just over an hour, during which time the two men sparred on topics presented from a trio of panelists.
"We've actually met twice as much than Romney and Obama," Pignatelli joked, referring to the presidential race between former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama.
The debate began on the issue of medicinal marijuana, which will appear as Question Three on next week's ballot.
It's been "the most popular question" in the past, according to Laugenour, who's in favor of it.
"It's not even close to full legalization," he said. "I'm perfectly fine with patients having a consultations and doctors making recommendations. It's really a question for the voters."
Pignatelli, who opposes the measure, called it "very poorly written." He said he considers marijuana a "gateway drug," and that medicinal marijuana "sends the wrong message."
"There's a lot of very am biguous language, and some loopholes I'm worried about. There's not even an age limit," he said
Pignatelli called upon his credentials as a representative during the discussion of infrastructure problems.
He said that there have been some good investments made to Berkshire roads and bridges.
"My track record speaks for itself, especially in Lenox," Pignatelli said. "We're starting to make good investments, but after the new year we'll start making some serious transportation investments."
Laugenour's definition of infrastructure was a bit more broad, saying a community built from "healthy, educated people that are enterprising" will inherently build a stronger infrastructure.
The most heated exchanges came from Laugenour's accusations of Pignatelli, and Pignatelli strongly defending himself. Pignatelli said it was "embarrassing" to have to defend himself from an accusation about taking away collective bargaining rights from people in the Berkshires.
"We didn't take anyone's collective bargaining rights away," Pignatelli said. "All we hear from town managers and selectmen is,
‘give us the tools we need in our chest.' "
Areas that saw some room for agreement was education and small businesses.
"If we're not investing into educating, then we're not cultivating investments to build our company," Laugenour said.
When topics turned to Housatonic cleanup and natural resources, it took up the last 20 minutes of the debate, yielding mostly agreement. Both are against the wind siting bill.
The debate continued to run late after Pignatelli closed the debate on points about his support of gay marriage and Laugenour's lack of correspondence, and Laugenour pushed for one last opportunity to speak.
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