Senator Elizabeth Warren generates optimism in trip to Pittsfield


It's safe to say newly sworn in U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren felt some of the enthusiasm her election has generated in the Berkshires during a brief tour of downtown Pittsfield Tuesday afternoon.

Local and state officials, along with a number of supporters and city residents Warren encountered during a walking tour, expressed high hopes for her term in the U.S. Senate -- sometimes in gushing tones.

"I'm so glad you won!" -- "We were rooting so much for you!" were among comments the senator heard while walking with Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi, area and state lawmakers, supporters and other officials. She was stopped often and asked to pose for photographs with supporters and admirers.

The officials -- like Warren, mostly Democrats -- seemed no less enthusiastic. State Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier of Pittsfield said the endless "fiscal cliff" deadlines, which she termed "a manmade problem," was one she was confident Warren would tackle.

"Please help us fix what is so broken," she said.

North Adams Mayor Richard Alcombright said at one point, "I am so glad to call you our senator."

During a brief meeting at City Hall, Warren, who rose to national prominence as a consumer advocate and critic of the financial industry abuses of large banks that precipitated the Great Recession, said her goals coincide with those of the Berkshire officials -- improving education and training, addressing infrastructure needs, and economic development that would benefit the middle class.

Bianchi and Alcombright both expressed a need for infrastructure and education funding, and for economic development and job creation. They said support for the fledgling life sciences industry at the William Stanley Business Park and at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts Center for Science and Innovation, and in general for "manufacturing for the 21st century" is critical to Berkshire County's economic future.

State Rep. Gailanne M. Cariddi, D-North Adams, also mentioned the need to bolster the life sciences connection at MCLA and other issues, adding, "I have every confidence you can do that."

State Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, D-Pittsfield, stressed the need for greater Internet broadband access in many areas of the county, and for upgrading the power grid. He said there is a great deal of interest in solar power generation here, but the electricity grid is so old projects take far longer to get up and running than in more urban areas.

"We are all in this together," Warren stressed several times, pledging to keep abreast of the needs of constituents while calling on them to help work toward common goals.

It also is important "to be ready" to take advantage of funding and other opportunities through prior planning, she said, and to "to make our own opportunities as well."

At the request of Bianchi and Berkshire County Sheriff Thomas N. Bowler, she promised to seek funding sources for a new police headquarters building in Pittsfield to replace the cramped and aging Allen Street facility. No obvious sources of grant funding are available at this time, Bianchi said.

Warren also said she would make education a priority and lobby for infrastructure improvements such as water and sewer plant upgrades, and said she is a "big supporter" of the life sciences industry.

Leaving City Hall, the officials walked to Crawford Square on North Street, stopping at Pateez Boutique and Brenda & Co., then south to Park Square, where they visited Deidre's and Warren talked to a young woman being fitted for a bridal gown, and finally on to the Berkshire Museum and later the Colonial Theatre.

Earlier Tuesday, Warren, U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield, and dozens of supporters opened her new regional office at 1550 Main St. in Springfield. She said in Pittsfield that her staff will continue grassroots-style efforts developed during her election campaign in the form of outreach to all parts of the state to keep in touch with voters and hear their concerns.

"I want this to be a two-way street," she said.

Warren said Jeremiah Thompson will serve as the regional director on her staff, and Everett Handford also will work full time in Western Massachusetts.


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