PITTSFIELD -- For roughly a year now, 1st Congressional District candidate Bill Shein has been busy in the commonwealth in calling for a broad restructuring of governmental priorities and policymaking.
Tuesday, at an editorial board meeting with the Transcript and The Berkshire Eagle, the Alford-based writer-activist argued that the changes he advocates -- removing big-money interests from politics, cutting defense spending while raising taxes on the country's wealthiest citizens, "New Deal-style" jobs programs, election reform and meaningful legislative action to combat climate change -- are not only possible, but practical.
Bidding to voters before the Sept. 6 primary, Shein cast himself as a tireless fighter for the public, promising to be a "bold and outspoken voice to advance [the progressive] agenda."
"Leadership today in the Congress, and anywhere else, has to be not just what bills you vote for when they happen to show up for a vote but what are you introducing?" Shein said in the meeting at The Eagle's office. "What are you co-sponsoring? ... What are you introducing session af ter session? How are you educating your colleagues? How are you popularizing ideas and educating the public -- something I've, in my small way, tried to do."
Shein is up against incumbent U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield, and Berkshire Middle District Register of Deeds Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr.
Shein, reflecting on campaigning across the district, said the past year has "reinforced my decision to run" with stories both "inspiring" and "heartbreaking" from citizens.
He said that while his opponents campaign on their ability to score much-needed funds, his plans, if put into place, would inject unprecedented capital into the system.
"I think the context here is that we are fighting over scraps ... because we're not adequately funding the things that we need to be funding," Shein said. " ... [We can't] continue to send to the Congress those that are not going to champion fixing what's broken in the system."
De fense cuts and tax in creases on the rich, Shein said, could free up money to invest in "a whole host of things," including education, infrastructure, development and broadband in rural Massachusetts.
Additional issues spotlighted by Shein include broad election reform, including the repeal of the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision of 2010, and addressing climate change.
Here, Shein recommends a carbon tax on emissions, and in creased investment in alternative energies and localized farming.
Speaking to North County voters, Shein drew upon his experiences in North Adams to diagnose what he sees as the city's primary challenge: Creating jobs.
"Economic opportunity -- that's the issue," Shein said. " ... The kind of economic model we need has to be rooted locally, as opposed to the model where we try to get big companies to come in and set up operations."
For this, Shein advocated "economic democracy," or new businesses owned by the workers and a "cooperative business mo del" that's en joyed recent success in cities such as Cleveland.