close up photo of a man, Michael Lavery, candidate for State Representative, Berkshire County Third District.
Michael Lavery, candidate for State Representative, Berkshire County Third District; submitted photo.

Top Left Corner #158 — NTRVW: Michael Lavery to challenge Pignatelli for State Rep.

Editor’s Note: The Greylock Glass pays to have rough transcripts of interviews produced. We attempt to remain as faithful as possible to the speakers’ original meaning, and apologize for any errors of transcription. That said, even the imperfect transcription we perform is costly. Please support us financially by becoming a member or making a one-time contribution to help us continue to provide this service.

Hey, Greylock Nation!

Today is Saturday, May 21, 2022, and this is episode 158 of the Top Left Corner. I’m your host, Jay Velázquez, and, as always, I thank you for tuning in.

We have a great show today, because friend of the show Michael Lavery is on as our guest, candidate Michael Lavery. That’s right, Michael Lavery is running as the Green-Rainbow Party Candidate for State Representative, Berkshire County Third District, challenging incumbent William “Smitty” Pignatelli, who has run unopposed in the general election every race since Lee Laugenour, also from the Green Party, challenged the seat in 2012.

Many have wondered that no Republican has gone up against Pignatelli since James J. Bashour’s 2004 attempt that fell short by a spread of more than 45 points. Williams College Professor of Political Science, Jim Mahon, explained to the Williams Record in 2020 that candidates who may have identified as moderate Republicans in previous years are now Democrats. Comparing Pignatelli to Berkshire 1st District Representative John Barrett, he said that Pignatelli is “…pretty conservative on a lot of stuff, but he knows well that he is more conservative than the district.”

Pignatelli has held the same seat since his predecesor, Christopher Hodgkins, chose not to attempt to extend his own 20-year occupation of the office.

We’ll get to our conversation with Michael Lavery in a moment, but first I’d like to express our thanks to all of our supporters who make our work possible — both our much loved individual contributors and our small batch of advertisers, like Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, Massachusetts, celebrating its 45th season of unparalleled regional theatre.

This show also has some casual organizational friends, like the Billsville House Concerts, presenting Allison de Groot and Tatiana Hargreaves at The Coffee Bar in Bennington, Vermont tonight at 8 p.m. A few tickets are still available, and we’ve provided a link in the shownotes.

I fell so hard in love with the sound of de Groot and Hargreaves, that I contacted them to set up an interview for The Cornbread Cafe. I wasn’t able to get it scheduled before their show, but the duo was kind enough to offer me a song to play for you on this show to wet your whistle, so right now, let’s listen to “Hurricane Clarice” Allison de Groot and Tatiana Hargreaves right now on the Top Left Corner.

Allison de Groot & Tatiana Hargreaves

Performing 8:00 p.m. Saturday, May 21, 2022 at The Coffee Bar, in Bennington, Vert.
New album, Hurricane Clarice, available from Free Dirt Records.

Tatiana Hargreaves & Allison de Groot; photo by Tasha Miller.

Traditional music is not static; it shifts with the times, uncovering new meanings in old words, new ways of talking about the communal pathways that led us to where we are today. For master musicians Allison de Groot & Tatiana Hargreaves, traditional stringband music is a way to interpret our uncertain times, to draw artistic inspiration and power from the sources of meaning in their lives. History, family, literature, live performance, and environmental instability all manifest in the sounds, feelings, and sensations that permeate their new album, Hurricane Clarice (coming March 25 from Free Dirt Records). Recording last year in the midst of a global pandemic and during an unprecedented heat wave that saw the city of Portland, Oregon burning under 120 degree heat, these two master musicians found themselves turning to their own communities, to their families, to bring that support into the music. In fact, it was producer Phil Cook (Megafaun, Hiss Golden Messenger) who suggested the two weave their own family histories into the project by including audio recordings of each of their own grandmothers. The album became a direct infusion of centuries of matrilineal folk wisdom, a fiery breath of apocalyptic grandmother energy. And yet the beauty of Allison de Groot & Tatiana Hargreaves’ music is that they’re using these old sounds to speak to something new, to speak to a dying world.

[AUDIO: Hurricane , by Hurricane Clarice” Allison de Groot and Tatiana Hargreaves]

Michael Lavery

Michael Lavery is 51 years old and is married with two children who attend Becket/Washington School in Becket, MA. The Laverys have enjoyed living in the Berkshires since 2011 when they moved to Becket from Springfield, MA. Michael has worked in the Albany, NY area since 2011 as a Systems Administrator and Operations Manager. He currently works for PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) in the Tax Division. He has been working remotely since the current Covid pandemic started in March of 2020. He is also an elected official serving the Town of Becket as a Select Board member since his election in 2017 and reelection in 2020.

Jay: Amazing. That’s all I can say. A limited number of tix are still available, so click that link in the show notes and snatch them up.

If you haven’t heard of Billsville House Concerts, by the way,
they have brought outstanding live music performances like the one at the Coffee Bar in Bennington tonight to intimate settings in the area for many years. I don’t know if there’s ever an exception, but Billsville generally books artists in the American Roots vein who they themselves want to see, give them a great spot to play in a great part of the county, a fine helping of their vegetarian cooking, a place to stay for the night – and 100% of the proceeds.

That’s a commitment to independent music very few people can boast.

Right now, let’s turn to our conversation with Michael Lavery, candidate for State Representative for Berkshire County Third District.

NTRVW with Michael Lavery

Top Left Corner: Michael Lavery, thanks so much for being on the Top Left Corner. How are how are you today?

Michael Lavery: [00:01:38] Doing well J. Thanks. And how’s your Friday going so far?

Top Left Corner: [00:01:41] My Friday is okay. It’s been just kind of raw, though. It’s been chilly. I’m getting I shouldn’t complain. I know that we could be California, for example, or the Southwest, but I’m just I’m I’m tired of the raw weather we’re having.

Michael Lavery: [00:01:59] Well, it is kind of odd to not have more sun in May in New England even. But I suppose with all the changes to the climate, it’s going to have unexpected weather patterns.

Top Left Corner: [00:02:14] It’s going.

Michael Lavery: [00:02:14] To have. Yeah, yeah.

Top Left Corner: [00:02:16] Until we finally.

Michael Lavery: [00:02:17] Do something different.

Top Left Corner: [00:02:18] Do something different, pull some carbon out of the atmosphere. I don’t know. I don’t know what we’re going to do about it. But but yeah, definitely we’re, we’re seeing different, different climate. And this was somewhat predicted, but not exactly. I remember listening to a fellow described New England’s weather patterns around now, but this was 25 years ago. He said New England’s weather, you know, in the first quarter of the 20th century will shift. The 21st century will shift to more of that of the sea, the Appalachian, Tennessee, North Carolina sort of climate, which is, you know, not not so cold, not so snowy winters, but more raw and rainy. And we’re getting there. That’s definitely happening. And we can talk about it. Go ahead. Yeah, I want to talk about climate, too, because that’s going to be a big part of your bailiwick, I think. Should you be successful in your bid for state representative against Smitty Pignatelli first before? Because, you know, he’s he’s talked a good talk ago about climate. But but we’ll get into that. First of all, you I think the last we had you on a show officially had you won your seat on the Beckett select board.

Michael Lavery: [00:03:52] Yes, I’m in my second term. I started running in 2017 and had to reach. Run. I guess you’d put it in T20. I ran unopposed. There were some write in candidates, but nothing to speak of.

Top Left Corner: [00:04:11] So. Yeah.

Michael Lavery: [00:04:13] I’m happy with two terms and I don’t think I’m seeking a third term. And I announced that to my select board compatriots in Beckett. So this run for Senate, if it’s successful, I would start in January on the 4th of January 2023 and I’d have a couple more months of Selectboard duty. So I’d probably have to resign my position as of January for the three months until May of 2023, when when I would have to run again.

Top Left Corner: [00:04:49] So let’s talk a little bit about what what’s your background is and then eventually lead into how you decided to run for the select board. What what’s your occupation know? What do you do? Bye bye. You know, betrayed and what’s your background?

Michael Lavery: [00:05:09] So I’ve got a degree in computer science from Connecticut State College, Eastern Connecticut in Willimantic, and that’s from 1992. I’m a 51 year old. I’ve been living in Berkshire County for 12 or 13 years, most of it in Beckett. We built our house in 2011, and my background in politics is, well, you asked my day job. I’m a currently in computer science, as I mentioned, was my degree choice. And I’ve been doing sort of Linux systems administration and website maintenance for four big Fortune 100 companies. Currently, I’m with one of the Big Four accounting firms, PricewaterhouseCoopers in Albany, but I haven’t commuted to the office in over two years, as many people can attest, due to the pandemic. So I’m working from Battle station Lavery Hacienda in Beckett.

Top Left Corner: [00:06:16] Well, I’ll tell you, I suppose there are a number of gigs that that that’s possible. And I’m guessing the computer world as a whole, you know, just as I was a Twitter, nobody was working from off from from the office. They were all working from home for the last I don’t know how long, but the the question that that is on my mind is, is really what propelled you to think that politics was an interest, a passion or or just a call to duty?

Michael Lavery: [00:06:56] Yeah. I’ve been involved in small town and small sort of collegiate government. I was a member of my student senate body and head accolades there. I let let it go for a while. And sort of only did volunteer work after the unsuccessful campaign of Mr. Sanders, our senator from north of us in Vermont. In 2016. He he lost. But he said at the end, Leo, this is you. This is your campaign. And you you have to go out and represent and do locally what I tried to do. So I took that to heart and ran. And I had just finished a master’s online for public relations and I said, I’ll put this to good use. And it worked. I ran against a third generation townee, so to speak. His father had been in town government and his mother had been town clerk in Beckett, so the chances of me winning were pretty slim, according to most pundits, political wonks in town. And what I did when it was by mandate, you know, over 25 percentage points. So that’s.

Top Left Corner: [00:08:14] Big.

Michael Lavery: [00:08:16] Yeah, that was unheard of. And I got a lot of emails and calls the next day and said, Well, I’ve never seen that. I didn’t think that would happen, but we had a good ground game and I did all the things that I hope I can mirror here. I know it’s a bigger chunk of real estate, you know, 18 towns in southern Berkshires and one of the towns is new. Smitty and I are not known to these people in Dalton at least. You know, people in Dalton hadn’t had him as their rep. So John Barrett’s not or I don’t know if it’s John Barrett or Paul Mark, but with due to the redistricting last year and the census results, people are leaving the Berkshires at least full time residents. And maybe that’ll change with the pandemic. I know a lot of people have moved into country homes and gotten out of the city, so it could have just been a timing. With the census and the COVID people still consider themselves residents of their their other house or their their apartment. But so that was what propelled me into the local politics and why I chose to run against somebody for state rep i. I want to either make this a full time job or get out entirely for the near term. My kids are at that age where they’re going to be going to piano lessons and going to soccer games and things. So I didn’t want to have a full time job. And the Selectboard thing, it’s a lot of extra hours.

Top Left Corner: [00:09:54] So sure, you’re looking to to make a difference, but you’re not looking to to stretch yourself so thin that you’re going to miss some of the best the best times. I hear you. Right. Well, and it’s it’s difficult raising a family is is not easy for anybody these days, any days. And it’s definitely not easy for somebody who’s going to be in the public eye and potentially traveling, doing a lot of traveling. I mean, you’ll be hitting the road, visiting these these towns that are represented. You’ll be going back and forth to Beacon Hill. Do you what do you think? What do you think your level of preparedness is for the just the sheer stamina that you’ll need to to to to really conquer that position.

Michael Lavery: [00:10:52] Well, I’ve had jobs that were almost as far away. I made the commute from Beckett to upstate New York for four jobs at GE. And I would think that this would be a longer than that to over 2 hours. I do have an electric vehicle and it’s got the modern Bluetooth and things conveniences so I could listen to podcasts and things. I have relatives and in-laws in Melrose, Mass. So I think at the near term I would have a place to say they have a duplex. That’s the second side of. It’s unused.

Top Left Corner: [00:11:30] That’s right.

Michael Lavery: [00:11:31] That that would be convenient. Yeah. I could stay in town for a few days and then come back to the Berkshires. I think most of these representatives and senators have a regional office that they are at a couple of days a week and they’re not always in in Beacon Hill. Yeah, but I’m not really sure. And am I ready for it? I think so, yeah. I want to do more. I want to bring my experience of small town hill town life to to the eastern mass folks who may think that Western Mass stops in Worcester.

Top Left Corner: [00:12:08] Yeah, I’m glad you say that. It’s it’s a very common oh, it’s sort of like a lot of people think that Connecticut stops in Manchester, but it’s going the other way. Right? There’s nothing there’s nothing beyond, say, Manchester or. Once that sort of hoity toity community near their.

Michael Lavery: [00:12:38] Com well or.

Top Left Corner: [00:12:40] No? I can’t recall. Well, it doesn’t matter.

Michael Lavery: [00:12:45] Middletown.

Top Left Corner: [00:12:47] No, no, no, no. It’ll come to me. It’ll just. It’s been a long time. I still live in Connecticut, so.

Michael Lavery: [00:12:53] Yeah, I spent a lot of time there too.

Top Left Corner: [00:12:56] So I don’t ask the question because I have any doubt in your physical, you know, fitness for the job. But it does occur to me, as I am just a couple of years older than you are, and it occurs to me that there are considerations that I wouldn’t have thought of even ten years ago. And one of those considerations is the amount of sort of toll that it’ll take. And I noticed that a lot of you know, a lot of, you know, politicians, they make a big deal out of their say, their fitness and health regime regimen. And and there’s a reason for that. I think it’s probably because of they you just have to be on your game and you have to be physically fit to to put up with that kind of stress. I don’t know that it has always been expected that the politicians would be as mobile as they are. But these days, yeah, it is expected that you show up regularly in each of these towns, which, you know, you think 100 years ago, 120 years ago, it just wasn’t going to happen. You were you know, you maybe do it once, do your horse and buggy tour or you do a whistle stop tour on the on the train. Everybody would come and see you. But it.

Michael Lavery: [00:14:22] Was dangerous. It was, you know, life threatening with the world, the wilds of western Massachusetts. I’ve read some history books of priests and folks who had to travel, and there was definitely scary moments on the trails back then.

Top Left Corner: [00:14:37] But I have no doubt. Can you.

Michael Lavery: [00:14:39] Imagine?

Top Left Corner: [00:14:40] Yeah, I have no doubt that it must have been pretty, pretty hairy. In fact, just some of the roads you could get you could get bogged down in the mud for, you know, a week if you’re not careful.

Michael Lavery: [00:14:53] So let’s it in modern times.

Top Left Corner: [00:14:57] Yeah, well, I wasn’t going to say, but. Yeah, I know. So, so that’s that’s something that I haven’t asked before of anybody. But maybe it’s just something this week and the like I said, I’m complaining about the cold and the, and the bitterness and maybe that’s telling me something that I should probably invest in a home in Arizona or or Florida for the winter or something. Anyway, so you are. You are not. You are not without a political sort of identity. You’re not without some pretty strong ideas about what’s up, what’s wrong with this country and probably the state. Obviously, you wouldn’t be running against Minnie Pignatelli, who is fairly entrenched as an incumbent unless you had some pretty strong ideas. What made you think that this was the next step for you?

Michael Lavery: [00:16:11] Thanks, Jay. I think that we’re at a critical time in our. Culture and. The whole history of civilization. We live in an amazing time and we’ve had tremendous modern conveniences and we’ve grown accustomed to, like you said, people have to travel all the time now. And it’s just a matter of course, we we’re not in horse and buggy days and that’s all through hydrocarbons. And we’re flooding the zone with terrible emissions. And carbon is just one of them, you know, CO2, gas and methane and things. So climate change is real and it’s human caused. We’ve entered what some folks, you know, we think in geologic terms in epochs, they’re calling this epoch Anthropocene and Anthro, of course, is Greek for humanity. So we’ve really put ourselves here after the industrial age. It’s considered the Anthropocene epoch. So it’s caused by what we’ve put in the atmosphere. And I think even if the United States and other countries, the G8 or G7, depending on if you include Russia, if we honored the Paris Accord and did those things, it still wouldn’t be enough. There’s countries coming online that want to have what we had for the last 30 years, like India and China.

Michael Lavery: [00:17:46] And who’s to say they can’t get their middle class up and use the technology and engines and gasoline powered vehicles and things? So it’s going to be tough and I don’t know that we’re going to mitigate it. So we might have to realize that we’ll have to do things differently and the pandemic put a big spotlight on it. Shipping things across the world doesn’t make a lot of sense. And if the logistics of those transportation pieces don’t fall into place, then we’re out of luck and our shelves and our grocery stores and our local convenience stores. So there’s got to be a new look at things and living locally and going back to that feudal kind of where towns had farms and and, you know, people traded goods and services. And that might be a way to do things. I don’t know how to put policies around that, but I just want to bring that attention as almost like a homeland security thing, like we have to start planning disaster recovery and and putting things into place so that we have a road map for it. If if things go south.

Top Left Corner: [00:19:09] Well, money is money is policy, right? I mean, that’s that’s the fact where you put your money is where you’re putting your policy. And we have a strong network of farmers markets in the region. We have agricultural organizations, not just one, but but a few that have been around for a long time. Some actually. There’s a couple of new ones. And it seems to me that if we had the will, we could decentralize and we could localize rather quickly if we needed to. The the challenge, of course, being that there’s land that is being chopped up and turned into little estates with little McMansions on them. And that’s a that’s a problem, I think, because as a is a talk, I mean, this becomes an almost every conversation I have about public policy is that during the Depression, during the Dust Bowl, it was New England and California and Oregon that fed the country because we lost the breadbasket. It blew away. And the wind, the topsoil was, you know, was so thin and it there was a drought and now.

Michael Lavery: [00:20:28] Yeah, Grapes of Wrath and all all of that.

Top Left Corner: [00:20:32] And now the problem is that we’re having the same sorts of threats, whether threats, climate threats, droughts and fires, except that California isn’t being spared. California is burning as is even Oregon.

Michael Lavery: [00:20:48] So every summer there’s five different major weather crises going on across the entire country. If you if they put it up on a map and it’s different, it changes every week.

Top Left Corner: [00:21:01] Yeah. So New England is one of the few places that, you know, love it for four or, you know, love it or hate it for some of its its eccentricities. But it’s one of the few places where you can still dependably grow food. We have a shorter. Growing season in western Massachusetts than in some places. But we do still have, you know, temperatures below 100 degrees most of the time. We still have an adequate amount of rain, groundwater. And if we needed to feed the country, we probably could could do along with the rest of the East Coast. We probably could, but not if we are not, as you said, putting some mitigation strategies, you know, out there right away. What? What do you think the. The appetite is locally or even across the Commonwealth for this sort of, you know, all hands on deck engagement.

Michael Lavery: [00:22:12] Well, I’d say the Commonwealth is doing better than some states and that’s because we’ve got a plan for 2050 with E-Vehicles and changing the fleet out. I think there’s a Senate bill. I haven’t read it completely that increases that timeline or narrows it down to 2035. I even think it might have passed the Senate by now, but I have to look into that. I think the Commonwealth is ready, more ready than other places, but we haven’t explored other great options that we have. Being right on the coast which wind turbines offshore and the technology’s gotten a lot better than the distance from the actual land can be increased since the Mass Wind project or Cape Wind that was shot down by the Kennedys who didn’t want to see the turbines from their McMansion or their compound on Cape Cod. But. Things like that need to be explored. You can’t outsource wind turbines to China. You have to maintain them by folks sitting in the seats in in Massachusetts. And a lot of these Gloucester men who can’t fish anymore because the lobster, if they moved to Nova Scotia, can refit their rigs and get out on their boats or whatever to climb up in a turbine and check it or all a blade out there. So these are things that people in the Commonwealth can gain experience with in greening the economy, so to speak, by using renewables and. Yes. Some of these things are dug up by young children like the lithium mines for the batteries. But it’s a lot less dangerous than uranium. And I don’t want to put up a new nuclear power plant when we’ve got sun and wind and in abundance.

Top Left Corner: [00:24:17] Yeah. That that is rears its ugly head every time there’s a threat to the to the, you know, the fossil fuel industry. There’s always this well, you know, if you people would just accept nuclear, it’s clean energy. Well, it’s clean until you have to figure out what to do with the with the spent, you know, you know, rods and whatnot. And then all of a sudden, you have things like, you know, these these cooling pools that that leak, as they did over in New Hampshire.

Michael Lavery: [00:24:59] There’s no perfect solution, even digging a hole in Utah or Nevada somewhere. And people living out there don’t want it, like the people in LA Mess don’t want a PCB warehouse from GE in their town. So nuclear isn’t the stopgap that people want it to be. There is this storage problem with wind and solar, but I think we can use things like flywheels and other forms of storage. Usually wind and solar go hand in hand. When it’s raining out it it’s windy. And likewise when it’s a sunny day, yeah, there’s there’s less wind. So using the two in conjunction, we have a lot of hydro we can use in mass to I don’t want to dam up rivers. That’s not good either.

Top Left Corner: [00:25:52] But do you know what they’re doing in Europe right now? They’re testing they’re testing out storm storm drain and storm pipes and even sewage pipe. Turbines. So yeah, as the water flows because it’s all flowing, right? It’s all going somewhere all the time. And most of the the, you know, the stuff that’s going through sewer pipes is, is liquid. And there’s some really clever designs that are sort of separating out the solids from the liquids and using the liquid channel as, as a, as a turbine. And since it’s always running, you know, so it’s like.

Michael Lavery: [00:26:39] These three foot means that we could have power off of while we’re sending pressurized water downhill or whatever. It’s just.

Top Left Corner: [00:26:48] Well, just. Yeah.

Michael Lavery: [00:26:49] Untapped energy.

Top Left Corner: [00:26:50] You know, in the Berkshires. Stick your ear next to a storm drain almost any day of the year, and you’re going to hear water flowing through it, even in even in the summertime. That’s just, you know, springs and runoff and all that. And it’s water that that you you know, it’s already in the system. You don’t have to capture it. It’s there. So that’s my little soapbox for the day. Now, your opponent, Smitty Pignatelli. I don’t remember how long he’s been in in. In office.

Michael Lavery: [00:27:25] He ran in 2002 and his first day was 2003. So.

Top Left Corner: [00:27:30] Okay. So 20 years? Yeah. 20 years. He is. What is he now? He is the. He’s on the. He’s the chair of the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture. You would think that he’d be really on his game when it comes to this. I actually had a question about some bills a couple of years ago, and his office declined to return my calls and emails about it. And it was actually going to be, of course. Yeah, it was actually a fairly you know, I don’t want to say a puff piece because it was far from that. But there was no I mean, there was no like gotcha. It was I’m just calling to get to get a quote. So.

Michael Lavery: [00:28:20] You know, that’s part of the problem. These these folks even chairs and even if the sponsor a bill or co-sponsor it, that doesn’t mean that they’re voting for it positively when it comes up. And we don’t know because the constituents in mass don’t get to see the vote unless they stand up and say we need a roll call and it’s very hard to do so. It doesn’t happen very often. So a lot of times we don’t know how our senators and representatives are voting on these issues unless there’s a roll call.

Top Left Corner: [00:28:58] So you could you could actually be a sponsor of something so that it looks good back home, but then shoot it down and in committee so that it never goes anywhere.

Michael Lavery: [00:29:08] Not even get it anywhere. Right. So that’s one of my biggest planks is transparency and I’ve signed the pledge from en masse dot org and stated that if I win office I will definitely make that one of my priorities to change. We’re fourth from the bottom in transparency in the country and we were one of the first democracies in the in the whole country. So that just smacks of insincerity.

Top Left Corner: [00:29:35] Yeah.

Michael Lavery: [00:29:36] The speaker controls how much these guys are making guys and gals because I guess depending on what committee you’re on, actually increases your salary. So the speaker can say can nix things right from the bully pulpit. They hold a lot of power.

Top Left Corner: [00:29:55] That’s really it’s really frightening.

Michael Lavery: [00:29:58] Same day voting. That’s a no brainer, right? Like it’s a it’s a totally blue Senate and House. And same day, voting is a big Democratic issue. Right? It didn’t pass. None of the Berkshire delegations voted for same day voting. And I couldn’t believe it. I would definitely vote for same day voting.

Top Left Corner: [00:30:17] Yeah it’s know there’s there’s there’s no reason this is 2022. We have the technology to find out if you’re registered or rather to get you registered and have you voting. At the same time, we have the technology to find out if you are a if you are a resident. These are not this is not mystical, arcane stuff that we have to, you know, blow off some dusty ledger. And, no, it’s it’s easy to find out.

Michael Lavery: [00:30:44] And the technology goes for the same thing about knowing who voted where they have buttons on their desk. That’s that’s a yes or no irony. And and it’s recorded immediately, electronically. So it’s not like we don’t know how or we can’t do it. It’s already there. So transparency. Yeah, it’s a big piece.

Top Left Corner: [00:31:07] So really it’s when you don’t have the transparency, what you have is a situation where you don’t even know what questions to ask. Right? You don’t know, for example, to ask the question, well, wait a minute, are you actually in the pocket of so-and-so? I mean, you can’t even ask that because you don’t know what they did. You know, you can have a pretty good idea. You can have a pretty good idea of which lobbying groups, which institutions and industries would be trying to kill a bill. But if you don’t know how your representatives and senators voted on it, you can’t know whether or not they’re taking the side of you know, they can go back to the constituents. Well, gosh, you know, I supported it. I was the sponsor of the co-sponsor of the bill. And by gum, I was hoping that it would pass and then just nothing but those records.

Michael Lavery: [00:32:00] Since.

Top Left Corner: [00:32:01] The.

Michael Lavery: [00:32:01] Good the police. Yeah take for instance the police reform bill in the first iteration of it, Pignatelli voted against it. And when a group of his constituents concerned citizens to call them up and had a conference call with him, he said, I didn’t vote for it because I didn’t see the contents of the bill. In enough time. I only had 24 hours, whatever it was at the time. So you would think when the Act on Mask Bill came in through the committee that he would vote for that because one of the elements of the bill was a guaranteed 72 hour period when any bill before them would need to be reviewed. Well, wouldn’t you know somebody voted against that, too? So you can’t have it both ways. Mr.. Mr.. Representative.

Top Left Corner: [00:32:52] I just yeah. And that’s that’s amazing. That’s amazing. So basically, you’re voting you’re shooting down something so that you’ll always have an excuse.

Michael Lavery: [00:33:02] It seems so out here that a lot of people are interested in politics. But you can look some of this stuff up online and find out, you know, the Green Party has four pillars, the environment which we’ve spoken about and voter access, I think we just touched on. But social justice, I’m for drug decriminalization. A lot of the people in jail right now are prisoners just because they had low level nonviolent drug crimes that, you know, personal use. I’m not talking about decriminalizing drug lords and cartels and things amounts, but if you’re just in your house or on the street and and not causing problems otherwise, it’s just a moral issue at that point. It’s not drugs. The war on drugs we’ve lost long ago. It’s it’s just got to stop. We’ve got too many people of color and minorities and poor folks in jail for for relatively minor things.

Top Left Corner: [00:34:05] Yeah. Yeah, it’s it’s it’s staggering the number of people that are languishing still for, you know, very nonviolent, minimal impact situations here. And and there are other things, you know, people are talking about that.

Michael Lavery: [00:34:26] Poor fellow, Miguel Estrada, was not violent. He would have maybe been harming himself. But there were discrepancies even in the police stories early on from when they filed their official report about whether Mr. Estrada in Pittsfield was distraught that night. And his girlfriend even said later that the police reports changed. So the VA has to investigate that and have an independent report come out.

Top Left Corner: [00:34:55] Yeah, I know that Andrea Harrington’s office is investigating, I think, and I haven’t spoken with their office, so I don’t know. But I’m guessing that they probably were not thrilled that the police came up with their own finding so quickly. That unsurprisingly said, Oh, no, we actually acted completely within the confines of our of the operating, you know, manual there. It’s you know, I wasn’t surprised. I well, I should say I wanted to be surprised because I wanted to think that here in this day and age, you know, after after George Floyd, after after everything, after, you know, Philip Castillo out in Minnesota. Just that there would be a a serious and and public and fairly transparent. An investigation by the police that lasted more than a couple of weeks. I don’t know how I don’t know how you expect to be taken seriously when you release your your findings that quickly and they exonerate the police officers? No, I don’t know. I wasn’t there, so I can’t be sure what happened.

Michael Lavery: [00:36:24] Body cams. We have body cams that these folks were in big cities. We have. It should be a county wide.

Top Left Corner: [00:36:34] Should it be a statewide thing? I mean, that’s that’s a that’s a bit a that’s a bit of legislation that you could sponsor that you could author that. Definitely across the state. Now, there are some people who are against body cams saying that they end up being used against communities more than they end up protecting communities against police misconduct. I don’t know enough about the subject to know how that works. I would think that more. I would think that more video would be better. But I think it has to do with the fact that police get away with accidentally shutting off their cameras or accidentally forgetting to turn them on at certain points in time, whereas they never forget.

Michael Lavery: [00:37:20] Recording gets lost.

Top Left Corner: [00:37:21] Yeah, the recordings. Yeah, the recordings never get lost when they’re capturing somebody’s committing a crime so that, you know, that’s always kind of suss. Okay, so let’s talk about some other issues. We’ve talked climate, we’ve talked policing and transparency. We have some other big issues in this state. We’ve got the the the the. Fair Share Act, which is going to be on the ballot as well. And we’ve got issues of really gross wealth disparities here in the Commonwealth. What? What do you think that we need to know about that? And what do you propose we do to start addressing that?

Michael Lavery: [00:38:19] Well, it is a big issue. It’s a big issue countrywide. And the 1% owns more wealth than the bottom 40%. And stats like that. I think in the Commonwealth we have a number of millionaires and the fair share tax would. Would benefit us greatly to the tune of $1,000,000,000. I don’t know the numbers, but I definitely.

Top Left Corner: [00:38:44] So 2 billion a year, I think I think it’s about two. I think it’s 2 billion a year. Yeah.

Michael Lavery: [00:38:49] Yeah. So it came through the millionaire’s tax and maybe the wording on that smacked some people the wrong way. So fair share sounds, you know, that’s a good way to put it because. People who are benefiting more by virtue of the society we have here and politically protected or policing protects these businesses. And you can’t say. The way that we’re structured where businesses can flourish. It’s not like a third world country where even driving your products down the streets in Mogadishu or whatever, you have to provide your own security. We don’t have to do that in America. So people who have big businesses do benefit and they historically pay less in taxes because they have good accountants.

Top Left Corner: [00:39:44] So yeah, we’ve seen we’ve seen some really great stories coming out of The Intercept and other places that show how this is just recent, how if you make above a certain amount, you’re almost guaranteed not to be paying any taxes because they use what is a very clever method of borrowing to to finance their living expenses. So by by investing in their companies and then borrowing money. Then they always have this tax write off that the, you know, the interest that they’re paying on. On borrowing money. So it’s a really clever, clever scheme. And I would argue with you, actually. But push back anyway. You said a little while ago that the that there’s not as much interest in politics in out here in western Mass, in the Berkshires. I think it’s actually that there is a lot of interest in the things being exactly the way they are. I think I think that there’s a tremendous issue in politics as long as they remain exactly the same.

Michael Lavery: [00:40:57] That could be. Yeah, I agree with you.

Top Left Corner: [00:41:01] I mean, it’s it’s not so much that I you know, look, I, you know, I’m doing a piece right now on on. The hypocrisy of the, you know, the sort of white ally, you know, Black Lives Matter, you know, movement here in the Berkshires. And if you go through various businesses, websites, you look and you realize that. Most of the Berkshires only hires white people to any kind of management position. There’s almost there are almost no people of color in management in the Berkshires. There are some there are some exceptions. But in general, the folks who are running the show are typically white. They’re typically very often Protestant, although there’s there’s a certain amount of Catholic as well, the source of a lot of Italian and Irish influence here in, say, Pittsfield. But there’s a tremendous amount of sort of elitist, you know, classist and racist hiring practices. I could give you some I’m not going to because I don’t want to go spilling my my, you know, story here. But there are some businesses who, you know, they have been in business for a long time. And there isn’t not just in the upper management, but there isn’t a single person of color working there at all. We’re talking places that have, you know, 30 and more employees. Oftentimes, they don’t have to because if they have under 50, they pretty much escape any notice at all. But it’s it’s really I think it’s the case that there’s a lot of folks, especially out here in Western Mass, that want things to remain exactly the same. And again, that’s my second time up on the soapbox. I probably should stop and we should ask. I get I just get I just get so disappointed in some of the. Well, good.

Michael Lavery: [00:43:24] Yeah. I don’t I don’t see it all over the place. But I know Becket in particular, it’s like a 98% white population and I’m sure a lot of other small towns are similar. So it’s it’s troubling, but I don’t know legislatively what to do about it. I think we have to just make our towns more compassionate. And Becket has signed a compassionate agreement. We voted on it in town meeting one year. It has no teeth to it, but it definitely says, you know, to folks who are looking at this town as a possible place to live. The Selectboard, as a group, signed the Multicultural Bridge Pledge called Not in Our Town, and it’s about not allowing prejudice or racial or any type of sexual orientation or gender bias happen in the town. So those are things that you can do.

Top Left Corner: [00:44:24] I think that there are some things that people can do. I think that I think that because there are so many nonprofit organizations, especially arts organizations in the Berkshires, there are some things that you can legislate. For example, if I own a construction company and I get a job from to work for the state doing say, you know, asphalt or a bit of road or whatever, I get some state job, I win a contract. I am required to try to to make sure that I am hiring a certain percentage of people of color and women, and that if I am getting any supplies, I have to I have to look for vendors of color and women.

Michael Lavery: [00:45:18] So it can be done. I work for GWC and it’s very proactive in diversity and they do things in HR where they look at the number of people of color, Asian folks and women in the higher levels of the echelons. And they say, look, it’s not about a quota system, but it’s bringing to the attention of the executive officers and saying, we did this, increased it this year, but we could do better. Sure. I always interview folks like the Nflx has this policy of always having a person of color on the coaching staff when they look for new people. But that may have been a farce, as we’ve seen with the whole Patriot scandal.

Top Left Corner: [00:46:03] Yeah.

Michael Lavery: [00:46:04] Calling the wrong guy and saying, Oh, you got the job. Oh, you’re the black guy. I meant they call the white guy who didn’t get who got.

Top Left Corner: [00:46:12] Yeah, well it was I think that no, that was a scandal. And I think but you know, obviously there was there was some thought given to at least acknowledging that that they got a problem. But what I’m talking about is the nonprofit organizations that are getting millions and millions of dollars from taxpayer money through the Mass Cultural Commission, and they are not held to any standard. There is nothing that tells that says that they have to do their their supplier. You know, they don’t have to sdo supplier diversity. They have to go they don’t have to go through the SDO programs. That’s the Supplier Diversity Office. They don’t have to seek out people of color, business of color as contractors. You know, for example, if they if they do some architectural work or they do some contracting to whatever and whatever, put in a new plumbing system, they don’t have to do anything to try to comply with the same things that that construction companies, for example, have to do. Now, construction companies are. They are providing a service that is tangible that you can see, for example, a road that you can drive over. Right? Whereas some of these arts organizations are providing services that are taken advantage primarily by the extremely wealthy, and they don’t have to give anything back. There is no requirements that they do that. So that’s the second little bit of legislation that I would recommend that, you know, you think about because this is, as I said, come out here to the Berkshires, millions of dollars worth of taxpayer money that’s coming with no strings attached, or at least no racial, you know, minority women, LGBT. I mean, there’s no there’s none of those strings attached that there would be for for other businesses.

Michael Lavery: [00:48:17] So thank you, Jay. That’s food for thought. We are considered like the cultural hub out here, especially in the summer months with the BSO coming out to Tanglewood and Mass, MOCA and various venues. Even Jacob’s Pillow here in Beckett had an incident, a lady, a person of color with, you know, sort of dreadlocks and the cornrow type hair had some people sitting behind her. They were both audience members, you know, dressed to the nines for an outdoor event. And they were just touching her head without asking permission. And it was like, what the heck even is going on? So to pay close attention. And they took immediate action. It was nothing against the pillow, but they just it was like a spectacle. It was treating people like like characters in a carnival or something. It was terrible. I am sure it’s still out there even in 2020 or 2022. You know, we say we’ve come so far. We had a black president, our multiracial president and first lady, and people thought that was it. We were done, we accomplished it, but it’s gotten back backwards again a little bit with our orange person, the Cheeto himself.

Top Left Corner: [00:49:41] Hmm. Well, I think it hasn’t gotten a lot better under our President Biden. I think the challenge that I have with this president here is that he has been responsible for so many things over his over his decades of public service. I mean, he is responsible for Clarence Thomas being. The Supreme Court justice in office.

Michael Lavery: [00:50:08] Yeah. Yeah. Oh, I remember I was in college and watching the hearings, like Clarence Thomas and that lady who spoke against him. And it seemed like he wasn’t going to get into the Supreme Court role. Now, look, 20 years on, 30 years on, he’s still there.

Top Left Corner: [00:50:27] Well, I think it makes a big difference. And and I think that it’s similar. Well, look, this is Anita Hill, professor. And, you know.

Michael Lavery: [00:50:35] I couldn’t remember her name.

Top Left Corner: [00:50:36] And she and, you know, they were asking all manner of inappropriate questions that had to do with her personal life. There were designed to shame her and to to cast doubt upon her character. The questions were never about, you know, you know, can you explain, you know, it was it was never about Clarence Thomas. It was about destroying Anita Hill. In fact, there were other women who claimed that they had also been assaulted by Thomas and they weren’t allowed to speak. And the person who made that decision. Was Joe Biden. He was the one who decided ultimately that no one else could testify against now Chief Justice Clarence Thomas. And why it matters is because there is a Roe v Wade challenge that is before the court right now that apparently has already been decided since there was a leaked document. That was the leaked decision that was written to overturning Roe v Wade before the arguments had even begun. And this is a situation where the chickens come home to roost and.

Michael Lavery: [00:51:56] Well, the two party system is complicit in that. The Democrats have had ample opportunity when they were in power to make this a an issue decided in Congress and codify it into law. And they wanted to make it a political football so that they could raise funds on abortion rights. And I think that’s part of why the third party or the fourth party or however many parties need a seat at the table. And, you know, this might be a watershed event that this whole decision that was leaked here for a third party option.

Top Left Corner: [00:52:29] Do you do you think. Now, obviously, we’ve had some luck in the past getting interest both in the Green Party, Green, Massachusetts, Green Rainbow Party. And we have had some interest in, say, the Berkshires DSA, Democratic Socialists of America, of which I’m a member. And I yeah. And I think that there is the opportunity for people to, to, to start realizing. That the two party system is not the way to go. A lot of people are hoping that there’s going to be this national level, you know, sort of take down of the two party system. Most people realize that it really happens over a long period of time and it starts at the local level as you’re doing right as you’re doing right now. Tell me about your hopes for for getting people interested in a different way.

Michael Lavery: [00:53:40] Look, I’m going to be honest. And Green Party hasn’t won a state office, I think, nationally. So there are people who serve in Green Party and they were elected in a different party, but they changed to Green Party. So I might be the first and that would be great. But I just want to move the needle and start the discussion and expand the conversation and talk about issues like we’ve just been speaking about for a little while here. And I think that’s what we need as a country. We’ve got to start locally. The federal government is a mess. The two party system. It’s like a wrestling match where one is the shoe, as it’s called, the wrestling term for the evil character. And then the other guy is is the hero. And it’s like those old timey railroad stories with the Snidely Whiplash twirling his mustache. And the hero comes and they don’t actually get anything done. They just rescue the princess. And these issues that are top, front and center news for the mainstream media, it’s a show we have to sort of get back to the old way of doing things and get to the issues that we can all agree on. And I think climate change is a huge part of that. There’s other issues like gun control, 70 or 80%, both parties doing surveys on the street. Just regular people want some form of gun control like sensible reform. The other thing, abortion, too. I mean, these decisions the Supreme Court are making are are the minority. 20% or less of people want abortion to be illegal. And the Supreme Court has gotten into this representing the. The political class. It’s it’s no longer a democracy for and for the people. It’s largely an oligarchy. Yeah. And we’re getting close to almost an autocracy.

Top Left Corner: [00:55:44] Well, that’s the thing. If we don’t if look. And that never ends well and I think this is one of those things that the oligarchs never seemed to remember. It doesn’t ever end well for them. Right. I mean, in fact, having a blatant, in-your-face autocracy, autocracy is one of the most dangerous places for it to be if you happen to be one of them. I mean, you know, you know, we just have to look back to, you know, France in 1787 or. Or, you know, some place like, oh, when they overthrew Slobodan Milosevic, that was in. Was that in Yugoslavia?

Michael Lavery: [00:56:36] Certain glasnost or in my history.

Top Left Corner: [00:56:40] I’m going I’m I’m struggling here. But the case is people eventually say it’s not worth it. It is the only thing we can do is is make sure we put an end to this by any means necessary. And I would say that this is really the wrong America for that to for that to take place, because if the poor are not allowed a seat at the table, if minorities are not allowed the seat of the table, if people who are just generally, you know, disenfranchized because of their position, say, as labor. I mean, we haven’t even talked about, you know, the labor issues of the day. We certainly could. Is there any other main issue that that we didn’t get to that you wanted to address, at least briefly?

Michael Lavery: [00:58:01] No. I think we’ve covered most everything that I had on my plank. The. The website’s up on Michael Avery for issues and contact info. I do want to say that I want to bring things to more transparent and Beacon Hill and and climate change is real and we’ve got to do more for a future of our children. We’ve been robbing Peter to pay Paul. And Peter in this case is our kids. And they’re going to be handed a bill that that we made for them when when they grow up. So we’ve got to change our ways. And thanks.

Top Left Corner: [00:58:42] Do you have any do you have any events coming up in like meet and greets or I guess I guess people can hit your website for that and we’ll put a link to that in the show notes.

Michael Lavery: [00:58:52] Yeah, there’s page on there. I should put up an events page on June 18th, so I’m opening up a trail here in Beckett and it won’t kind of be a campaign event, but people can see what I’ve kind of done in office. And this trail is something the town was just holding on to and land that was unused. But I got a grant in place and we’ve put some new trails down and and it’s going to be great. A lot of people have started to use it already. So cool that’s going to be here here in Beckett.

Top Left Corner: [00:59:21] So it’s an opportunity for people to shake your hand for sure. All right. Well, Michael, I want to again, thank you so much for coming on the show and giving us sort of an inside look into your your thinking. It is definitely an ambitious campaign. And as I do with every candidate, I wish you all the best of luck.

Michael Lavery: [00:59:44] Thank you, sir. It was a pleasure and look forward to great things for your organization. The Greylock Glass.

Top Left Corner: [00:59:52] Thank you.

Michael Lavery: [00:59:52] Sir. Big supporter.

Top Left Corner: [00:59:54] Thank you, sir. Have a great weekend.

Michael Lavery: [00:59:57] You too. Good bye.

[End of NTRVW]

Well, that’s our show. Thanks for listening, and until next time, stay safe, be good to each other, and go easy on yourself.

A fascinating individual who hopes to be a breath of political fresh air come November. We’ll be following this race closely, and I suspect you will too.

Bye now!

Jason Velázquez

Jason Velázquez has worked in print and digital journalism and publishing for two decades.
Phone: (413) 776-5125

Interior photo of elementary school gymnasium in Williamstown, Mass.
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