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PROFILE: Adam Hinds, state Senate candidate, committed to rebuilding Berkshire economy, preserving natural resources

“This [job] will require a Senator who is capable of convening large groups around a common vision. I believe in politics that’s inspiring and is about creating that vision. There are three progressives in the race. The big question is who can be the most effective at promoting that agenda.” -- Adam Hinds, candidate for state Senate

Editor’s Note: This is the third of a series of articles profiling the candidates in the Democratic primary September 8. To read the Andrea Harrington profile, click here; for Rinaldo Del Gallo, click here.

Pittsfield — As the September 8 Democratic state senate primary closes in, candidate Adam Hinds says he will keep hammering away at important issues, and stay out of political fights.

Hinds spoke to the Edge Friday about this, and wanted to stick with the topic of how to pull the Berkshires out of a quagmire caused by stifled economic growth, which includes, Hinds says, making sure the county’s “natural resources and beauty are protected.”

He further said he’s found support from long-time Berkshire environmentalists like Chris Kilfoil, owner of Berkshire Photovoltaic Services, George and Alice Wislocki and Elinor Tillinghast. “They were paying close attention…and felt I was the person to push that [environmental] agenda effectively,” Hinds said.

Yet Hinds, Executive Director of the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition, found himself under attack last week over what opposing candidates Rinaldo Del Gallo and Andrea Harrington say is Hinds’ lack of consistency on policy issues. It began at a Monday candidate’s forum, with Del Gallo sneaking in a few strikes against Harrington and Hinds.

Adam Hinds (with megaphone) speaking at the July 3 march in Great Barrington protesting General Electric's proposed PCB dump in Housatonic. Photo: David Scribner
Adam Hinds (with megaphone) speaking at the July 3 march in Great Barrington protesting General Electric’s proposed PCB dump in Housatonic. Photo: David Scribner

But Thursday morning it was Harrington that called out Hinds in a campaign email and robocall that said he had taken campaign money “from Boston and out of state lobbyists representing big fossil fuel conglomerates, including ExxonMobil, the New England Power Generators Association, and Berkshire Gas.”

It came after all three candidates said they had or would sign a 350 Mass Action Clean Money for Climate Pledge to not take money from corporations, executive, lobbyists and others employed by 10 major fossil fuel and utility companies through the duration of the 2016 election cycle.

As of September 1, 30 candidates for the state Legislature had signed the pledge, including Senate President Pro Tempore Marc Pacheco.

At the forum, Hinds and Harrington said they had “proudly” signed the pledge; Del Gallo said he would. But this was before Harrington’s campaign took a peek at the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance’s (OCPF) most recent report that shows Hinds took $200 in March from a donor who Hinds says is a friend who works for Exxon Mobil and lives in Australia. Hinds said he returned the money, “seeing the potential conflict,” and adding that it was a personal gesture by a friend who was not donating in a “professional capacity.”

Hinds also said a Berkshire Gas official gave his campaign $50 at a “meet and greet.” That money was also returned. Hinds said his campaign would be scrutinizing donors more carefully.

And then there was an OCPF report of $500 in March from Williamstown attorney Donald Dubendorf, who publicly supported Kinder Morgan’s Northeast Direct Pipeline and new natural gas pipelines in general. Hinds says while he disagrees with Dubendorf here, there are other issues where they agree. “[Dubendorf] was a strong voice for bringing broadband to Western Massachusetts” for years, Hinds said, adding that one disagreement shouldn’t block support.

“When you’re representing 100,000 people,” Hinds said, “it’s a little concerning that someone would start making lists of people that they disagree with on one issue, and decide not to work with them again; that’s not leadership.”  Hind said that he would be “very clear” with such supporters about where he stands on controversial issues.

Harrington told the Edge Hinds had also taken money from Boston lobbyists who represent the New England Power Generators Association and Norian Energy Corporation. “He’s saying different things to different people,” Harrington said.

Hinds also said it was true that one of those lobbyists from O’Neil and Associates had come to a fundraiser and written a check. But Hinds says while it is unfortunate that he didn’t catch that conflict before it blew up, it doesn’t change his personal stance and policy position one bit.

“I’m serious about tackling climate change and transitioning to renewable energy,” Hinds said. Hinds, for instance, wants solar net metering caps lifted, to allow people to throw excess solar-generated energy onto the grid. State limits that suppress more solar installations are considered both an environmental and economic impediment.

Hinds is also adamant about the General Electric Company (GE) cleaning up its pollution in the Housatonic River, and not dumping the PCB (polychlorinated biphenyl) waste here in the Berkshires. There’s been quite a lot of hand-wringing over GE’s headquarters moving to Boston, and what that might do to its resolve in dealing with the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) mandated cleanup. But Hinds says now that GE is relocating, it may actually have skin in the game, “more buy in,” and prompted him to ask, “does that give us more leverage?”

A former United Nations negotiator in the Middle East, Hinds says he will use his skills to keep GE on track by working with the EPA, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, and the Attorney General’s Office.

At the candidates forum, Del Gallo took Hinds to task over what Del Gallo said was Hinds’ inconsistency about support for a $15 minimum wage. Hinds answered that he is against anything below $15, but added that realistically, it may take incremental moves up to reach that number.

“He’s making something out of nothing,” Hinds said. “The current minimum wage is a poverty wage.”

Hinds says some of the ways to deal with poverty in these rural hills is to get the “basics” in order, things that will “attract businesses and residents.” High speed Internet, transportation within and to and from major cities, are key, he said, and the schools need to be “top notch” to attract new people to deal with trends that show a looming population decline crisis.

“We need to also keep an eye other fundamentals like affordable housing and worker housing,” and “being very serious about incentives for smaller housing developments in rural areas.”

He also said towns and schools sharing services is a way to help communities save money.

Hinds says he can pull all this off. “I’ve spent my career bringing communities together to overcome big challenges.”

Between 2005 and 2015, Hinds worked in the Middle East, either living there or commuting to and from New York. He lived in Baghdad in “pretty bleak conditions… in a bunker, always wearing flak jackets, armored cars, and overhead protection and sandbags around you.” Depending on what was going on he said, there were “rockets and mortars” whizzing around.

“It wasn’t the easiest existence.”

He worked in Syria and also lived in Jerusalem, which he “loved.” There he worked on a “frustrating Middle East peace process, most of my time spent on cease fires out of Gaza and other points of tension.”

But Hinds says as Senator he will use these skills to power forward on his district’s big issues, and not get distracted by a local political game, that on the national level is “chaotic and negative.”

“The campaign is an opportunity to really understand the pulse and dreams of residents…I didn’t get into politics and run for this.”

He said the attacks are coming at a time when “we have a lot of momentum and broad grassroots support. More individuals have given to our campaign at this stage than to any other candidate running for a state senate seat in this district. It’s taken a lot of work to get here; we’ve made 8,000 phone calls, knocked on 4,000 doors, and the work is paying off.”

“This [job] will require a Senator who is capable of convening large groups around a common vision,” he said. “I believe in politics that’s inspiring and is about creating that vision.” He added that is the kind of forward movement that will attract new people, businesses, jobs and money into the county.

“There are three progressives in the race. The big question is who can be the most effective at promoting that agenda. I don’t want to do politics as usual. I want it to be a vehicle for an inspiring new narrative.”

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