Mayor John Barrett III and Democratic state Senate candidate Benjamin B. Downing meet in the corner office of City Hall on Thursday. Barrett formally endorsed Downing, joining Mayor James Ruberto of Pittsfield and members of the Berkshire Legislative Delegation, among others in showing support for the 25-year-old Pittsfield native. Photo by Jennifer Huberdeau/North Adams Transcript
Friday, November 3
NORTH ADAMS — Mayor John Barrett III joined the ranks of local officials endorsing Democratic state Senate candidate Benjamin B. Downing, expressing his support for the Pittsfield native early Thursday morning.
"I am not endorsing him because he is a Democrat, but because I believe he is the best candidate for the job," Barrett said during a press conference in his office. "His opponent wants to roll back the state income tax, which would give back about $50 a year to the residents of this city, while losing the state between $700 million and $800 million a year in revenues. At the same time, it will increase property taxes."
Property taxes in every community have been on the rise over the last four years, the mayor said, costing residents much more than the average Proposition 2 1/2 override would. Cities and towns are being forced to raise property taxes to cover shortfalls in education spending and infrastructure upkeep caused by dropping income tax revenues and a lack of state funding.
"When people take a step back and see fees from the state have raised and costing municipalities to the tune of $700 million a year it starts to sink in," Barrett said. "People
are seeing it everywhere — car registration fees are going up, as well as fees when you take out a mortgage. We need to have someone in office with the type of mentality that fees don't need to go up. I think the residents of Hampshire and Franklin counties feel the same way."
Downing will face Republican candidate Matthew Kinnaman of Lee and Green-Rainbow candidate Dion Robbins-Zust of Richmond in Tuesday's election. He received the endorsement of Mayor James Ruberto of Pittsfield earlier this week, along with the endorsement of outgoing state Sen. Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr., D-Pittsfield, on Wednesday.
State Rep. Daniel E. Bosley, D-North Adams, who was on hand for the endorsement, officially gave his support to Downing at a press conference in Pittsfield on Thursday afternoon, along with the three other members of the Berkshire Legislative Delegation.
"I think it is a real privilege and honor to receive the support of Mayor Barrett," Downing said. "We share a lot of the same ideals. Whoever wins the state Senate seat isn't going to be reinventing the wheel. When I become state senator, I want to continue to revitalization that has been happening here in the city of North Adams."
Barrett, who endorsed former state Rep. Christopher Hodgkins during the primary, said he liked Downing's reasons for entering the race.
"Christopher Hodgkins is a longtime friend and supporter, who I lent my support," he said. "If I could have had a second choice in the primary, it would have been Ben. He is entering politics for the right reason — to make better the lives of the citizens in this district. He does not see this position as a stepping stone."
He also noted that in the short time between the primary and the state election, Downing has won the respect of many local politicians and has established a rapport with the members of the Berkshire Legislative Delegation.
"He has built a strong relationship with the Berkshire delegation, which is very important," Barrett said. "The delegation has established a tremendous working relationship and we need someone who will fit into that. One only has to think about the $35 million for Mass MoCA or the success in Pittsfield with the millions of dollars brought back for the Colonial theater to see the importance of the relationship."
In addition to continuing to support the city's revitalization efforts in the Senate, Downing said he will continue the push to bring high quality broad band access to Western Massachusetts.
"It's a hindrance to the economic growth in this area and absolutely ridiculous this area is without it," he said. "I think one of the great things about the Berkshires, is that we've been able to put aside partisan views and work for a single vision."
Barrett said he is confident that Downing will continue understand the region's dependence on public money, which has helped to spur an interest from the private sector.
"We don't have a strong economic base of business. Public funding helps us drive our economy," the mayor said. "Public funding has helped put in place Mass MoCA, the Route 2 corridor, and played a role in the revitalization of the downtown. In turn it has brought in private investors and companies."
He said Downing has the same understanding as his predecessors, and shares his views for the city's future.
"We have been very fortunate in Berkshire County for the last 30 years — we have continuously had excellent Senators, including two Republicans," Barrett said. "It's not about partisanship, it's about who can do the best job for my community."