Hinds Launches Re-election Bid for State Senate
And that starts with his election bid in 2018. The Pittsfield Democrat won election in 2016 to fill the seat being vacated by Benjamin Downing and has now launched his first re-election bid just over a year of serving in office.
"The whole objective for the last year has been based on addressing the concerning trends we have in the county — our population decline and the impact it has on municipal budgets and education budgets, and the fact that we often have health outcomes below the rest of the state, educational attainment below the rest of the state," Hinds said.
"We've been very deliberate in saying, what do we need to do to turn that corner? Because there is a lot of promise here and we are well located and we have a lot that is going right. But on those trends, we have to do something."
Joined by supporters at Hotel on North, Hinds outlined three pillars of his work over the last year — infrastructure, workforce development, and education.
For infrastructure, Hinds highlighted his work in helping to secure $45 million more to continue the rollout of broadband internet access to Western Massachusetts and the recent feasibility determination to pilot bringing trains from New York City to the Berkshires and back.
"By the end of 2019 and 2020, we should have every town lit up. That's what we're committing to, it is what we are trying to get done. It is critical," Hinds said.
The Berkshire Flyer feasibility study was just recently reported from the state Department of Transportation to be a possibility. The plan calls for a train to operate on the weekends during the summer from New York City on Fridays and then back on Sundays, fueling the tourism and visitor economy.
There are still many steps and financial to work out on that, but the report from MassDOT showed that it is feasible and the next step would be to pilot it.
"The flyer is feasible and it could happen in the next year or two. They said not earlier than 2019, I'm saying not later than 2020. By 2020 we think we will have a train from New York City to the Berkshires and back," Hinds said.
For economic development, he praised the closing of a $3 million funding gap for the Berkshire Innovation Center. The center will be a research and development facilities for area advanced manufacturing companies to test new products and for educational institutions to work closely with those employers to develop specific training programs to match the available jobs. The hope is that it will close a long documented gap between the jobs available and the skill level of the workers.
"Now we have the internet coming by 2020, hopefully, a train by 2020, the BIC is going to be hopefully done by the third quarter of 2019, up and running by 2020. Things are looking good," Hinds said.
Hinds was also able to secure funds for a "workforce czar" who would work closely with the area agencies in connecting job seekers with open positions.
The BIC was announced with the governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of housing and economic development, and a number of other state officials. Hillcrest Educational President Gerard Burke said he was particularly taken by Hinds' interactions with those in state leadership. He saw the banter and the joking between the senator and the executive leaders.
"This wasn't just political relations, this was personal, this was respect," Burke said. "You can't teach that. That is about respect,"
Burke said he talked to many in Boston who have reported similar compliments about Hinds. And Burke said Hinds' ability to grow relationships, be hard working and inclusive, is a style that has led him to become effective as the chair of tourism arts and culture, vice chair of economic development, and to later get the call to be on ways and means as a freshman senator.
"That is really an incredible statement about the confidence they have and the skills he brings to the table. It really is remarkable," Burke said.
Hinds said the work isn't quite done. He said progress has been made in education, specifically in the funding formula. He was part of the effort to have the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education take a deep look at the formulas to find out why the funding "is so mismatched in our rural parts of the state."
He said there was an event two weeks ago in which DESE officials were in Western Massachusetts hearing about the issues firsthand. And now, Hinds said he is working on a strategy to address those funding formulas.
"Our approach has been very deliberate," Hinds said, saying he and his staff — whom he introduced to the supporters one by one and praised for their efforts — strategize by setting a goal, plotting out how to get there, and developing the relationships to make it happen.
"Things are looking good. The narrative is not always in line with that in the county and in western Mass. But when you look at where we are headed and what's on track right now for 2020, it looks good that we are going to have internet by then, it looks good that we are going to have a train coming to the region, it looks good that we will have the Berkshire Innovation Center. There are many other things that will be online. Hopefully, we will have education funding so our schools are strong and on and on," Hinds said.
Hinds also cited his work on passing criminal justice reform, a massive effort to revamp how the state handles incarcerations and punishment. The bill puts a focus on giving resources to keep those coming out of jail from ending up back in, reform bail, and creates diversion programs for those with mental health and substance abuse programs.
"Something isn't right when so many folks in jail have mental health issues, something isn't right in cases where people of color are disproportionably impacted when communities of color experiencing poverty are disproportionably impacted," Hinds said.
With all of that, Burke said he still remember the worry he and others had when Downing announced he'd not seek another term. He remembers wondering who could fill those shoes. And with Hinds, he said he got more than just filling the shoes.
"We sent somebody down to represent us, to be our voice, be our voice about the Berkshires, be our voice about the issues we face, to be our voice day in and day out. We didn't know where that would all go and we were wondering how it would be filled from what was. Tonight, I think we all agree that not only have those shoes been filled, now that man is walking in his own pair of shoes," Burke said.
Do you like this post?