Editor’s Note: The Berkshire Eagle will bring readers candidate and campaign updates ahead of the September 6 primary election.
Berkshire District Attorney
Berkshire District Attorney candidate Timothy Shugrue calls on current DA Andrea Harrington to stop ‘dodging debate’, in a statement released this week.
Shugrue alleges that Holder intentionally refused to accept invitations to debate-type events and is “taking the easy way out.”
“Berkshire County voters deserve to hear from both of us, in a fair forum,” Shugrue said in the statement. “I have accepted at least six invitations from grassroots institutions in the Berkshires like the [Berkshire] Eagle. I urge my opponent (…) to accept these debates and face the voters.
Harrington’s campaign responded in turn.
“In the last days of [Shugrue’s] in the absence of a campaign, he claims to be interested in engaging on issues,” the statement read in part. “District Attorney Harrington is excited to participate in many forums and debates leading up to the primary, including the NAACP forum this coming week. She is seeking the Democratic nomination and will not participate in forums held by the right.”
The campaign did not publicly specify who the “right-wingers” were.
Candidates will meet in a virtual forum hosted by the local branch of the NAACP, local branches of the League of Women Voters and the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts. The event is scheduled for Wednesday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. via Zoom, and requires prior registration on tinyurl.com/y56snnv8.
Meanwhile, Harrington’s campaign touted a list of new North County endorsements.
At a campaign event in Harrington on July 25, the DA received endorsements from North Adams Councilors Marie Harpin and Michael Obasohan, Adams Councilor Howard Rosenberg, Adams School Committee Member Erin Grady Milne, McCann School Committee Member Diane Parsons and Williamstown Select Board Member Randy Fippinger and Planning Council Member Stephanie Boyd.
The group also included local community leaders Dr. Frances Jones-Sneed, Bilal Ansari, Wendy Penner, Jessica Dils and former Williamstown Select Board member Anne O’Connor.
Berkshire County Sheriff
Candidates for Berkshire County sheriff faced off in head-to-head press releases this week over the use of drug treatment for substance use disorders.
In a prepared statement Tuesday, a spokesman for Sheriff Hope Alfred E. “Alf” Barbalunga accused Sheriff Thomas Bowler of “wast[ing] nearly a full decade before accepting Medication Assist Therapy (MAT) for inmates struggling with substance abuse.
Spokeswoman Kathy Yon said Bowler “dragged his feet and openly spoke out against such programs.” She linked to an article that quoted Bowler in 2012 asking Spectrum Health Systems officials how they would ensure a methadone clinic didn’t attract unwanted wanderers.
“How are you going to program this,” Bowler asked, according to iBerkshires, “so that we don’t have a place that has a huge amount of addicted lower-class people hanging out in these people’s residential areas or in similar places?”
“Tragically, for nearly a decade of resisting MAT data and guidance, Bowler has left opioid-dependent Berkshire inmates without access to medication-assist treatment,” Barbalunga said in the press release, “just Bowler’s notion of abstinence”.
A spokesperson for Bowler, in a statement responding to Barbalunga, said it was no secret that Bowler “wasn’t immediately sold on MAT.”
“In my own conversations with inmates,” Bowler said in the prepared statement, “some wanted the opportunity while incarcerated to get clean and not become beholden to another everyday drug.”
“They didn’t want a drug – a drug to replace a drug,” he added. “To them, it felt like an endless cycle of drug use.”
Bowler’s spokeswoman, Donna Mattoon, said he and other Massachusetts sheriffs “have received more training and guidance on the matter,” and that, as a result, Bowler’s “attitude has changed. “.
Mattoon said MAT was piloted by sheriffs in 2018, and before that “only one of thirteen sheriff’s offices offered full MAT services.”
Following a ruling in a federal court case the following year, MAT treatment became mandatory, and “the Berkshire County Sheriff’s Office immediately began tackling the legal procedures required to administer methadone outside of an approved clinic”.
“The result was that the Berkshire County Sheriff’s Office became one of the first non-pilot programs to achieve full certification as an approved treatment facility by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health,” a- she declared.