By RICHIE DAVIS
For the Gazette
Wednesday, August 17, 2016
POLITICS ELECTION edpick State Senate Massachusetts
EDITOR’S NOTE: Three Democrats will compete in the primary election Thursday, Sept. 8, for the Berkshire-Hampshire-Franklin-Hampden state Senate seat being vacated after 10 years by Sen. Benjamin Downing. The chosen Democrat will run against Republican candidate Christine Canning of Lanesborough, who has no primary opponent. This is the first of three candidate profiles.
Rinaldo Del Gallo, one of three Democrats running for the Berkshire-Hampshire-Franklin-Hampden state Senate seat, boldly refers to himself as “a Bernie Sanders progressive,” even after the presidential hopeful lost his nomination bid.
Del Gallo, a 53-year-old Pittsfield lawyer, also makes sure reporters know, “I am a well-known community leader. And I have tremendous name recognition in this area,” from columns he’s written for The Berkshire Eagle and other publications, and from his advocacy on a host of issues in recent years in Berkshire County, mostly as a private citizen.
The seat he seeks includes all of Berkshire County and small towns in the west of the other three counties. In Hampshire County, those communities are Westhampton, Huntington, Williamsburg, Cummington, Plainfield, Middlefield, Worthington, Chesterfield, and Goshen.
Del Gallo, a Pittsfield native, graduated from Northeastern University with a degree in electrical engineering and from George Washington University Law School. He practices law in Pittsfield.
Del Gallo is a spokesman for the Berkshire Fatherhood Coalition, a father’s rights organization he started “to promote shared parenting and to end the discrimination faced by divorced and unwed fathers,” according to The Fatherhood Coalition website.
Del Gallo has never been elected to public office, but he was a candidate for a governor’s councilor race in 2006, but dropped out of the race and endorsed Thomas T. Merrigan of Greenfield, who was elected.
“I didn’t think I was a viable candidate at the time,” said Del Gallo. He had been charged during the campaign with an assault on his 76-year-old father in their home at the time, along with two charges of intimidation of a witness. He was later found not guilty.
(Del Gallo was found reponsible on a 2004 trespass charge while collecting nomination signatures on postal property in Pittsfield during an earlier attempt to run for governor’s council, according to Berkshire District Court documents. Del Gallo was charged with and found guilty in October 2014 of an October 2012 assault on his roommate in Pittsfield. That finding is on appeal, and Del Gallo said the charge is “too minor. I decided to run anyhow.”)
“Many people try to portray me as a controversial figure,” said Del Gallo, who’s advocated for an animal rights ordinance adopted in Pittsfield and has worked to ban plastic bags and Styrofoam, winning a ban in Pittsfield, helping with one in Adams and Lee, and inspiring a ban in Williamstown. “I’m ‘too controversial’ because I filed petitions for transgendered people in City Hall so they would have rights to public facilities.”
He continued, “People portray me as controversial and what ends up happening is I end up on the forefront of ideas. Shared parenting, Styrofoam. …When I first started, I was given a lot of flak, I was ‘a tree hugger,’ I was somebody bothering with something unimportant, when there were much bigger fish to fry. That happens over and over again.”
Del Gallo says he favors decriminalizing marijuana, and he wants Massachusetts to again lead the nation’s health care reform by establishing a single-payer system.
He said he favors the state’s “Fair Share Amendment” to impose an additional 4 percent tax on income of more than $1 million as part of his commitment to “fight the Bernie Sanders Progressive revolution at the state level.”
“I’m very concerned about wealth disparity in our country and in our Commonwealth,” Del Gallo said. “We need basic reform in our tax policy,” with Massachusetts one of eight states without a graduated income tax.
For Del Gallo, the proposed tax amendment would only be a starting point, “For multi-multi-millionaires, I don’t think four percent is enough. If we don’t find a way to make these extremely wealthy people pay their fair share, I think many of these infrastructure improvements — investing in green energy, investing in windmills and high-speed rail, investing in solar energy — are not going to happen. We need to have the wealth to do that, and we can’t keep doing it on a credit card. We can’t keep pretending we can keep reshuffling our budget priorities around and have money. There needs to be an infusion of capital.”
Del Gallo ticks off a list of ideas he would like to bring to fruition, like using Pittsfield’s derelict factories to build wind-turbine components or parts for high-speed rail, two solutions he sees as needed to solve the region’s energy and transportation needs.
“We need to get people out of cars and onto trains,” he said, adding that public transportation around the region doesn’t meet people’s needs.
Del Gallo faults the way Pittsfield has handled economic development, and points to the Albany Nanotechnology Institute in New York and Devens redevelopment as examples he would like to see replicated in Berkshire County.
The Albany example is an innovation center linked to a new State University of New York college specializing in education, research, development and nanotechnology deployment.
Del Gallo also doesn’t hesitate to criticize his two Democratic opponents as people who “have not been around” for years, as he says he has, voluntarily offering solutions to problems in Berkshire County.
“I’ve been around for a very long time,” he said. “I was saying things a decade ago, 12 years ago, and I was right. That’s different than just having ideas. I had ideas, and those proved to be correct,” about investments made in downtown and the way industrial property was developed or marketed. “What I said was people should look at the quality of the education, the quality of the workforce. … I look at models that worked elsewhere and say, ‘Why not here?’”
He adds, “I’ve done stuff. Over and over again, I have a laundry list of things: legalizing marijuana, shared parenting, animal rights stuff. Issue over issue over issue, I started out unpopular and I swayed public opinion. …The public record is just there.”