|Brown Focused On Creating Jobs|
|By Andy McKeever, iBerkshires Staff|
05:50PM / Thursday, January 13, 2011
|U.S. Sen. Scott Brown toured Pittsfield to get a better understanding of the issues the city faces.|
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Jobs. Jobs. Jobs. That's what U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., says is needed all over the world.
U.S. Sen. Scott Brown sat in Mayor James Ruberto's office to discuss economic development with local officials.
To create jobs, the government needs to know when to get out of the way and let the business leaders do theirs, Brown told an audience at the Crowne Plaza on Thursday as keynote speaker for the Rotary Club.
"We started this revolution around the country of people saying 'you know what, I'm tired of the way they do things in Washington, I'm tired of business as usual, I'm going to send a direct and powerful message' and it started, as you all know, with our election here," Brown said. "People are tired of spending. They're tired of the taxation, they're tired of the overregulation. They are tired of government interference in their lives."
Jobs, he said, are the biggest concern all over the globe. Businesses want certainty and that starts by stabilizing the tax and insurance rates.
"I'm talking with the president and he's talking about cap and trade, illegal immigration. I'm talking about jobs. When I speak to the majority leader, one of my friends on the other side, they're talking about fixing some regulation and I'm saying we have to work on jobs," Brown said.
The comments were similar to what he'd expressed in North Adams the day before as the senator made his first official visit to Western Mass. since his election last year.
Brown defended criticism he's received about voting with Democrats, which he said was about 30 percent of the time. A lot of those votes were just to move the bills forward, he said.
Brown said his votes are based on five questions: Does the bill increase taxes? Does it increase the deficit? Is it good for Massachusetts? Does it create jobs? Is it good for the country?
"The Democrats are in charge. Does that mean I'm supposed to do nothing? Am I supposed to vote for my party every single second of every single day?" the Wrentham Republican said. "I haven't done it for 15 years as a state legislator and all of a sudden I'm supposed to be a certain ideologue and vote a certain way."
He defined a "Scott Brown Republican" as somebody who looks at each and every bill in an independent manner and asks those questions.
"I was sent down there to be the 41st senator to make sure a lot of the things they were trying to push through didn't get done," said Brown, who upset the Democratic apple cart last January when he won the special electon to replace the late liberal lion Ted Kennedy. His victory dashed the Democrats' hopes for a 60-vote majority, and pushed the moderate conservative newcomer into the spotlight.
"When it comes to taxing and spending and the deficit and some of the silly things that they were trying to push, yeah, I'm going to be the 41st senator absolutely and darn proud of it. When it comes to getting our country moving again and creating jobs and finding realistic solution to our very, very serious problems, I'm going to be the 60th senator and move them forward because I don't work for Harry Reid or Mitch McConnell. I work for you. I work for the people of Massachusetts."
Brown said he's been unjustly criticized for holding up unemployment extentions.
"It came down to whether we use the checking account or the credit card," Brown said. "I suggested 'let's pay for it with unallocated stimulus dollars and other monies that were in the system and ready to go out the door that haven't been used for years and just get it done'. And, I'm the bad guy."
Brown took time to introduce himself to every person who came to see him speak at the Crowne Plaze on Thursday.
He said he hates the financial reform bill but does agree that work needs to be done in the industry and vowed to rehash it next session.
All the focus and criticism has not changed him, he said.
"I'm still Scott Brown. I still drive the truck. It's got 216,000 miles on it. I left it for the kids because of the snow. I still have the barn jacket. I'm still the same person except I am a United States senator," Brown said.
Brown has learned at least one important thing in such a high-powered role.
"Let me give you all, especially the guys, young people who are thinking of getting into politics and trying to make a difference, when you are up speaking, especially when you are on national television, do not ever, ever say that your daughters are available on national TV," Brown joked. The senator raised eyebrows when he announced his two college-age daughters were available during his victory speech last year.
Local politicians got their shot Thursday morning to make a pitch to Brown for federal help in economic development.
"I've always been type of person where I need to have a visual. I need to understand where the challenges are in order to advocate effectively for them," Brown said.
The senator toured North Street, stopping at the police and fire stations as well as the Ralph J. Froio Senior Center, before addressing the Rotary Club.
"I'm so pleased the senator chose to come to the Berkshires. I think his outreach is most welcomed," Mayor James Ruberto said after the tour. "We provided a background for some of the requests we've made in the past and that we will make in the future."
Brown started his city tour with a private meeting in the mayors' office with Ruberto, state Sen. Benjamin Downing, D-Pittsfield, and former North Adams Mayor John Barrett III, who's been hired as public services consultant for the city. According to Ruberto, the group discussed economic development, including affordable housing and revitalization of downtown.
From there, Brown toured the police station with Police Chief Michael Winn. Thoughout the station tour, Brown was mostly a silent observer, only asking a few questions, as Winn explained the status of crime and the police department to him. Outside of the station, Brown was full of jokes and stories for the local officials.
Winn told Brown that the biggest issues are gangs and drugs. Located in the middle of major highways brings overflows from the bigger cities and to combat that, the department is working with the FBI, district attorney and
others. Winn proudly told Brown about the the Berkshire County Drug Task Force.
"We're a small city with the problems of a big city," Winn told Brown. "We get a little bit of everything."
Local officials showed Brown the condition of the current police station because the city wants to find funding to build a new one.
Brown received a similar tour of the fire station, where he saw the city's equipment and inquired about its need. Brown gave business cards to city officials and said he'd sponsor grant applications.
The senator sits on the Senator Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee; the county's been the recipient of a number of grants from Homeland Security. Brown also toured the North Adams public safety facility on Wednesday.
At the senior center, Brown was warmly greeted by dozens of citizens who were playing bingo, reading or just talking.
"I think it went very well. Scott has been open to our concerns," said Downing, who served with the former state senator. "He was very helpful with the General Dynamics thing."
Having lived Dalton in his youth, Brown later said he was familiar with some of what city officials were concerned about but the biggest thing that struck him was the downtown revitalization.
"It brought back a lot of memories. I literally remembered driving pretty fast up and down these streets when I was younger and going to Teo's and going to Tanglewood," Brown said. "There are a lot of great opportunities here, a lot of opportunity to have some businesses come in and get pretty reasonable prices and grow."
"I didn't realize there was so much effort being made to revitalize the downtown area. I think the mayor's plan to try and bring young people back in the city, whether it's through coffee shops or retail stores and restaurants and the like."
"I was one of the terrors of Tanglewood. I was one of the guys that used to sneak in and do whatever I could to get a free concert. I spent a lot of time cruising the main drag when Newberry's was here and it's changed quite a bit. But, there is still the same challenges for the city," Brown said.
Photos of his visit can be seen here.