Agriculture & Farms
In my opinion, we live in one of the most beautiful places in the world and I will work to preserve that. Again, our area’s natural beauty is one of our most important attributes and we need to be careful to preserve this. I am proud of our area and will work hard to protect our resources.
Part of our natural beauty is our farming community. Farms are an important heritage and way of life for the Berkshires. More than that, they support our farmer’s markets and bring local fresh food to our homes. Two thirds of our state’s water recharge areas are on our farms. They are critical for our ecosystem. I support programs that keep our farms viable and financially secure. Some of these programs such as the Agricultural Preservation Restriction program need to be reexamined to ensure it still works as intended. Some programs such as anaerobic digestion needs to be expanded to make it easier for farms to produce clean energy. And I support our dairy farmer’s efforts to increase the dairy farm tax credit. Dairy Farms need assistance and this credit helps to keep more of our milk supply local, fresh and affordable
I support clean energy opportunities that are equitable, affordable and accessible to all in Northern Berkshire. Home grown energy saves money for cities and towns and gives us more options for power. It is also a resource that more people are looking for and a strong clean energy market in our region enhances our attractiveness.
To attract employers to the area we need accessible broadband in each city and town in Northern Berkshire. I will work with the Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI) to ensure towns have the resources and options they need, and I will work with each town to advocate and support their individual Last Mile projects. There are competing proposals on bringing broadband to our area. We should not have to pick and choose from these plans but we must bring all the resources that we have to bear on finally bringing this area into the 21st century.
There are two steps we need to take to give people employment opportunities:
First, we need to expand our job opportunities in this area by making Northern Berkshire attractive to companies looking to expand. By doing this we will increase our job pool.
Second, we need to train the local workforce for jobs that presently exist in our economy. I will support the work of the BerkshireWorks Career Center and the Berkshire Regional Employment Board to offer affordable and accessible workforce training with current employers and with potential employers looking to relocate to the region. I will work with local employers to use funds such as the Workforce Training fund and Workforce Competitive Trust Fund to train our local workers. And I will work to expand the efforts of both MCLA and BCC to enhance our workforce development efforts. As an example, I will work with groups such as the Massachusetts Biotech Council to identify skills sets needed in the biotech industry and then work with MCLA to develop curriculum at the new Science Building that reflect the needs of that industry.
As both former State Representative Dan Bosley & former State Representative Gail Cariddi did, I will convene a taskforce of local leaders to see what else can be done by way of workforce development. I am convinced that we need to work together to break down barriers to bringing industry to Northern Berkshire and we need a fresh look at new jobs in new technologies such as Bio Tech, Information technology, advanced manufacturing and clean energy. These are the jobs of the future and we need to prepare for these.
That said, we should prepare ourselves for the next wave of technology. The way to do this is to prepare this area with the tools needed for future job expansion. We have a beautiful area with many advantages, our natural beauty, our available work force when trained and our cultural attractions. We need to work on barriers to expansion, such as transportation, broadband, and the need to train workers with the skills needed for new technologies. If we take down the barriers of expansion, people will invest in our area.
Education should be accessible to anyone when they are ready to learn. In order to be trained for new skill sets for today’s economy, we need to establish baselines programs that enhance our educational process. I will continue to support and work to increase funding for our GED, Literacy and English as a Second Language programs.
College affordability too often serves as a barrier for students seeking degrees. College affordability is key to setting the next generation up for success. I will continue to support affordable options such as MCLA and post-secondary education through McCann Technical High School. The State Representative from the 1st Berkshire District must be a champion for MCLA. It is not just an affordable option for local students, but is one of the largest employers in the region. Their success is critical to our area and future development
We have plentiful housing stock in the Northern Berkshire community. However, much of it predates WWII. This comes with opportunities and challenges that many homeowners and homebuyers face. I will support towns in application for Community Block Grant Funding. I believe that we should use funds for Housing Rehabilitation programs to make code and facade improvements. I would also like to explore options to offer home improvement grants for homeowners and homebuyers. I believe that it is critical that we support energy efficiency programs that will make housing more efficient, saving homeowners money as well as helping our environment.
I will continue to support a bill put forth by Representative Cariddi, H.653 to establish a special home loan pilot program for recent college graduates to invest in home buying in Northern Berkshire County.
In an economy that is reliant on tourism and culture, we need to find ways to improve transportation while keeping the rural nature of our area. We should continue to expand and improve upon the infrastructure in place while promoting innovative options to enhance service locally and affordably. That means better technology to sync traffic and schedule public transportation. The Government needs to lead by example on use of electric vehicles and investing in recharging stations. We need to work to complete the bike paths throughout the Northern Berkshires. For our economy to move forward, we must have affordable and reliable transportation for people to use. While Boston has invested a lot of time and money in the Boston transit system, our public system is struggling. We need innovative thinking to expand public transportation, that means looking at intermodal transportation throughout the county and beyond. I will work to find ways to connect the rail system to our planning so that we can open this area for better transit for goods as well as people.
Supporting Working Families and Addressing Income Inequality
Many of our social services have been moved to Pittsfield, I want to ensure that families have access to the services that they need to be successful without barriers such as transportation and time. We need to find a way to bring our social service “safety net” together to serve people who are in need and not serve them in a piecemeal fashion simply because that’s the way programs are funded.
One example of this is the SNAP GAP. It is time to close the “SNAP GAP” and consolidate services in Massachusetts. The “SNAP Gap” is the difference between the number of low-income Massachusetts residents receiving MassHealth who are SNAP eligible and the number of people receiving SNAP benefits. For many years, these services have been administered separately which means that families must apply for both programs, this results in time lost for them and more work for state employees. It also makes the process far more complicated than it needs to be, resulting in less families taking advantage of critical programs. That is more expensive for all of us. It is time for Massachusetts to implement a single eligibility system.
Addressing the Opioid Epidemic
I believe we must look at addiction as a full picture of treating addiction and fighting drug abuse. I am dedicated to expanding our mental health services in Northern Berkshire, detox units that help with recovery and affordable sober living homes that accept public insurance. I will continue to support law enforcement and the Berkshire County Drug task force. It is critical that we continue to fund organizations that implement preventative measures such as the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition, Berkshire Community Action Council and the Brien Center.
Last year, voters passed a law legalizing marijuana. That has led to a great deal of related issues dealing with driving under the influence, taxation, transportation, farms, etc. I will work to sort through all of these issues as we move forward on this issue.