You are on page 1of 13

A NEW GENERATION OF

PROGRESS:
A COMPREHENSIVE PLAN FOR
NORTH COUNTY

Printed in house, materials and labor donated

Printed in house with donated labor


Table of Contents
INTRODUCTION ........................................................................................................................ 2
ISSUES ........................................................................................................................................... 3
A NEW GENERATION OF AGRICULTURE .................................................................................... 3
A NEW GENERATION OF ARTS & THE CREATIVE ECONOMY .............................................. 4
A NEW GENERATION OF EDUCATION ........................................................................................ 4
EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION .............................................................................................................4
HIGHER EDUCATION.....................................................................................................................................5
K-12 EDUCATION ............................................................................................................................................5

A NEW GENERATION OF ENERGY................................................................................................. 6


GREEN BANK .................................................................................................................................................... 6
MANUFACTURING, PRODUCTION, & JOBS ............................................................................................. 6
RENEWABLES ...................................................................................................................................................7

A NEW GENERATION OF FAMILIES .............................................................................................. 8


A NEW GENERATION OF HEALTHCARE ..................................................................................... 9
A NEW GENERATION OF HOUSING .............................................................................................. 9
A NEW GENERATION OF INFRASTRUCTURE & TRANSPORTATION ................................ 10
BROADBAND ACCESS .................................................................................................................................. 10
ROADS & BRIDGES ........................................................................................................................................ 10
TRANSPORTATION ....................................................................................................................................... 11

CONCLUSION ........................................................................................................................... 12

Printed in house, materials and labor donated


1
INTRODUCTION
A recent check of the Berkshire County Regional Employment Board website indicates
that there are over 1,500 jobs available in the county.1 However, the Berkshire Regional
Planning Commission indicates that both Adams and North Adams have
unemployment rates at least one (1) percentage point above the national average.2 How
is this possible?

There are many challenges in the current status quo here in Berkshire County.
Employers report that Berkshire County does not have the skilled workers necessary to
fill these positions. Employees report that they do not have access to transportation to
get to-and-from work at the times they would need to work these jobs. Addressing
these issues should be the number one priority for our next State Representative.

I am the only candidate with a comprehensive plan to address these issues. Below, I
address each issue that is contributing to the problem, each having a compounding
effect that results in high unemployment rates in the County as well as the loss of
skilled workers. (For quick reference, the issues below are listed alphabetically.)

We need to encourage families to move to the Berkshires and take advantage of existing
assets while still looking forward and encouraging a better future for all. Addressing
the current challenges, encouraging new growth, and leveraging our existing is how
we, together, will make our vision for the future a reality.

Lets take on these challenges together! Im asking for your support and your vote on
October 10th.

Onward,

Kevin Towle
Candidate for State Representative

1Berkshire County Regional Employment Board (BCREB), http://bcreb.com/.


22015 Performance Report, Berkshire Regional Planning Commission, November 25, 2014,
http://berkshireplanning.org/images/uploads/documents/2015_CEDS_Performance_Report_-
_Final_%2811_09_15%29.pdf; This is the most recent report electronically available.

Printed in house, materials and labor donated


2
Facebook.com/VoteKevinTowle

ISSUES

A NEW GENERATION OF AGRICULTURE


Agriculture is part of our heritage and our farms are thriving. Recently, Massachusetts
passed legislation allowing Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
benefits to be accepted at farmers markets. Farmers Markets are another key piece of
our heritage. However, a new industry is emerging an industry known as Agri-
Tourism. Agri-Tourism features local farms as tourist attractions. Imagine an
economy where people visit the Berkshires for the purpose of visiting Ioka Valley Farm,
Lakeside Orchards, Cricket Creek Farm or any of the numerous others. Not only does
this grow the farms business (more visitors equal more business), but imagine the
possibilities for the hospitality and foodservice industries.

With ingenuity and collaboration, North County can market its countless farms as
tourist attractions. Just think of the potential for people and families who come to
North County to visit the farms, then stop for dinner on Main Street in North Adams,
Park Street in Adams, or Spring Street in Williamstown. Imagine the demand for
lodging at the Porches Inn or the Redwood Motel once its renovations are complete.

Massachusetts should be promoting its local farms. The legislature is in a unique


position to lead this effort because it has the power to authorize funding and studies.
Even something as simple as installing signage along Rtes. 7 & 8 can bolster local farms.
As your State Representative, I promise to be a champion for agriculture and farms.

During the FY2018 Budget negotiations, Rep. Cariddi and I fought for the inclusion of
an increase in the dairy tax credit. Currently capped at $4 Million annually, this tax
credit allows local dairy farms to remain profitable by providing an income tax
deduction any time federally mandated dairy prices fall below a certain level.

I will listen to our farmers and how the legislature can help them continue to be
successful. I will carry that to Boston and be an advocate for agriculture.

Printed in house, materials and labor donated


3
A NEW GENERATION OF ARTS & THE CREATIVE ECONOMY
The Clark, Mass MoCA, and the Williams College Museum of Art have become models
of success for the region. Look at the success of the Adams Arts Advisory Board and
Pro-Adams in re-invigorating Adams, causing the town to emerge as a regional leader
in the creative economy through their annual Faerie Festival and their work on the Art
on the Trail project (to name just a few). Now imagine the new potential for North
Adams and the vision of the group working on the Extreme Model Railroad and
Contemporary Architecture (EMRCA) Museum. Imagine the potential of expanding
Art on the Trail to all the communities along the Ashuwillticook Trail and the North
Adams-Williamstown Trail.

The work that Adams has done has created a model that has been so successful that
they have begun to work with other towns with the goal of achieving the same success.
Simultaneously, Mass MoCA recently opened its much-anticipated Gallery 6 and
EMRCA has a vision for the future and has begun the groundwork for revitalizing the
North Adams landscape and Western Gateway Heritage State Park. EMRCA celebrates
the heritage of North Adams with a keen eye to the future of the city and the region.

Working with Representative Cariddi, I researched and drafted legislation that would
designate a path from Williamstown to North Adams and south to Adams as a
cultural corridor. This designation would recognize sites of unique cultural and
historical significance. Such recognition will elevate the profile of these landmarks and
secure North Countys status as the hub of the creative economy in the Commonwealth.

A NEW GENERATION OF EDUCATION

EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION


Early childhood education is fundamental to ensuring future success. Providing low-
cost early education benefits children and parents. Governor Baker, Speaker DeLeo,
and Senate President Rosenberg all supported an increase in expenditures to make early
education more affordable to lower-income individuals who often have to work
multiple jobs just to pay the bills. As State Representative, I will introduce legislation to
provide a tax credit for early childhood education and to lower the income threshold to
qualify for government preschool assistance. I will also work with the Speaker to

Printed in house, materials and labor donated


4
provide additional financial assistance to school districts who create or expand early
childhood education.

HIGHER EDUCATION
We are privileged to be home to two well-renowned institutions of higher education:
the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) and Williams College. One, a
respected state college; the other; a prominent private college. Both institutions have
had a significant and substantial positive impact on their hosts. Williams has built a
community around it that has created a path of opportunity for the town. MCLA has
done the same for North Adams. It is important to protect these assets.

MCLA has significant enrollment of students from New York State. New York, in its
most recent budget, passed a provision allowing students whose family income falls
below a certain level to receive four years of free tuition at a state school. Massachusetts
must compete for talent with its neighbor to the west. MCLA stands to lose a
substantial portion of its New York students due to the New York program.

As State Representative, I will fight to provide Massachusetts students with the same
opportunities. I will propose that, similar to Colorado, Massachusetts designate a
significant portion of its tax receipts from the sale of recreational marijuana to offset the
cost of providing free tuition to students from families earning less than $250,000 per
year.

K-12 EDUCATION
The Berkshire County Educational Task Force is hard at work studying the issues facing
education and the Berkshires and preparing their recommendations. Meanwhile, local
schools are learning the challenges for themselves. The case of the Adams-Cheshire
Regional School District is a terrible one. The District was forced to make cuts due to
declining enrollment which resulted in the closing of a school (in this case, Cheshire
Elementary). This was done on very short notice and despite the vocal opposition of
many in Cheshire. (I use this case solely as an example, not to pass judgment of right
and wrong).

Countless studies have shown the importance schools play in their communities.
Schools increase property values and provide a fundamental service for children and

Printed in house, materials and labor donated


5
for taxpayers. However, due to economic challenges, sometimes schools are forced to
close. As your State Representative, I will be an advocate for the rural sparsity aid
funding formula. This new formula, championed by Senator Adam Hinds calls for a
new formula that will allow rural schools who face enrollment issues and generally
higher costs to receive more state aid. This will result in fewer local schools being
forced to close and communities will not have to suffer the negative consequences of
losing a school.

A NEW GENERATION OF ENERGY

GREEN BANK
The idea of a Green Bank is truly innovative and will help to usher in the era of
renewable energy in Massachusetts. Legislation to create a Green Bank has been
introduce by Rep. Paul Mark among others. Green Banks are created to provide low-
interest loans to green energy businesses, allowing the businesses to expand inventory,
purchase real estate or equipment, and to hire new workers. Business-owners in the
renewable energy sector can receive low-interest loans to purchase new equipment or
inventory, hire new workers, renovate existing facilities, or purchase new facilities. I
would also support making the green bank accessible to homeowners to receive low-
interest loans for energy efficiency improvements, to purchase solar panels or other
sources of renewable energy generation.

MANUFACTURING, PRODUCTION, & JOBS


Manufacturing is not new to the Berkshires. From the mills of Adams and North
Adams, to the plastics plants in Pittsfield, Berkshire County has a rich history of
production and manufacturing. We have the large-scale facilities needed to become a
hub for green economy manufacturing. The legislature should be taking action to
ensure that new green economy jobs and industries come to Massachusetts. I will be an
advocate for North County, its time for the Berkshires to be a manufacturing hub
again.

Printed in house, materials and labor donated


6
I support creating a program similar to Start-up New York. In New York, businesses
who re-locate to the state are given tax credits. I believe this should be even bigger in
Massachusetts. We should be encouraging businesses not just to move, but to expand.
I wrote legislation that Rep. Cariddi sponsored that would provide tax incentives for
businesses who relocate to Western Massachusetts. The legislation also requires that
these businesses create at least fifty (50) new jobs. It also calls for the businesses
wishing to receive these credits to provide job training to qualify local workers for the
jobs that are available. As State Representative, this legislation will be among my top
priorities.

RENEWABLES
Currently, there are several bills that, if passed, would accelerate Massachusetts toward
100% renewable energy generation. Doing so will end the use of fossil fuels for electric
and heat generation and alternative, renewable sources of energy will be less expensive
to produce. Just last year, the House of Representatives passed a comprehensive energy
bill that called for an increase in production of off-shore wind and hydropower. The
legislature needs to take the lead on this issue. As State Representative, I will be a
leader on shifting Massachusetts to renewable energy.

Solar energy is a key component of the strategy for a better energy future. Recently, the
Department of Energy Resources (DOER) released its plans for the future of solar by
laying out its updated Solar Renewable Energy Certificate (SREC) program. The SREC
program provides tax incentives to individuals and businesses who transition to solar
energy. However, as each successive SREC program has been released, the incentives
have been reduced. This is the wrong approach. As State Representative, I will
introduce legislation that holds the SREC benefits constant to ensure that our vision for
a renewable energy future is met.

Currently, our transition to renewable energy is left to the electric companies.


Massachusetts establishes generation goals that the companies are required to meet.
However, electric companies are still for-profit companies. In response to the increased
cost of infrastructure for building new solar arrays, Eversource petitioned the

Printed in house, materials and labor donated


7
Department of Public Utilities (DPU) for an 8.6% rate increase (down from its initial
proposal of over 10%) for residential companies to offset the expenses.3

Instead of relying on for-profit energy companies to do what is in the best interest of the
people, as State Representative, I will sponsor legislation that requires that the energy
companies provide free or reduced-cost solar to homeowners and businesses. By
providing solar panels to homeowners and businesses, companies like Eversource and
National Grid can increase their electrical production from solar, without having to
build large solar arrays. By installing solar panels on already existing structures,
electric companies will not need to cut down trees or build solar arrays on open-space
lands. However, this legislation would not prevent farmers or landowners from leasing
land to solar facilities.

In order to secure Massachusetts position as a leader in renewable energy and reducing


climate change, I will support current legislation that names Massachusetts as a non-
party stakeholder to the Paris Climate Agreement and that ensures Massachusetts
adheres to the goals laid out to combat climate change.

A NEW GENERATION OF FAMILIES


Massachusetts took a giant leap forward in passing the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act.
However, there is still work to be done. I believe that Massachusetts should be a leader
in pay equity and family leave. Pay equity is simple, equal pay for equal work,
regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation. Legislation has been introduced
repeatedly to address this issue, but its about time it gets passed.

Massachusetts should also be a leader on paid family leave. Currently, only three states
offer paid leave to workers in the event of a birth or to care for a family member.
Massachusetts currently provides maternity leave, but it is unpaid and often not
financially feasible for workers particularly lower-income workers.4 Citizens simply
cannot afford to take time off that is needed to care for a child or a loved one who is
affected by illness. As State Representative, I will join with the growing number of

3 Second Notice of Filing and Public Hearings, Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities, June 23,
2017, https://www.eversource.com/Content/docs/default-source/ema---pdfs/public-hearings/17-
05.pdf?sfvrsn=4.
4
State Family and Medical Leave Laws, National Conference of State Legislatures, July 19, 2016,
http://www.ncsl.org/research/labor-and-employment/state-family-and-medical-leave-laws.aspx.

Printed in house, materials and labor donated


8
legislators who support paid family leave and I promise to support be a leader on the
issue.

Additionally, there need to be protections written into the law. Currently, mothers who
take maternity leave often return to work to find that they no longer have a job. No one
should lose their job or be forced to take less money simply for caring for a family
member.

A NEW GENERATION OF HEALTHCARE


The healthcare system in Massachusetts is reaching a crisis point. Insurance premiums
and the overall cost of providing healthcare are out-of-control. There is a solution,
however: single-payer healthcare. Economists have weighed-in on the issue and
suggest that single-payer will save money by reducing inefficiencies in the healthcare
system (such as administrative costs from the substantial amount of insurance-related
paperwork).5 Economists have also shown that single-payer systems result in better
care and longer life expectancies.6

Single-payer also has other benefits. By shifting the burden of providing health
coverage from the employer, the cost of business decreases. Economists suggest that
this will lead to long-term higher wages for individual workers.7 I have and will
continue to support single-payer healthcare.

A NEW GENERATION OF HOUSING


North County has among the most affordable housing stock in the Commonwealth, but
the housing market lacks the demand. With the new jobs created from bringing new
businesses into the County and the high skilled jobs that follow, the demand for
housing will increase. To assist in this, I wrote legislation that Rep. Cariddi filed that

5 Annamaria Lopez, The Economic Case for Single Payer Healthcare, Instituted for New Economic
Thinking, July 8, 2017, https://www.ineteconomics.org/perspectives/blog/the-economic-case-for-single-
payer-health-care-in-the-us.
6 Ibid.

7 Ibid.

Printed in house, materials and labor donated


9
would provide for financial assistance for first-time home buyers who have recently
graduated from MCLA or Williams. The legislation requires this assistance to be in the
form of low-interest loans, down-payment assistance, or both. This encourages
homeownership and also encourages young people to plant roots.

Cornering this niche market allows us to keep students who come to the Berkshires for
education to remain in the Berkshires. These alumni will also provide an additional
base from which to draw to fill many of the new highly-skilled jobs.

A NEW GENERATION OF INFRASTRUCTURE & TRANSPORTATION

BROADBAND ACCESS
It seems that we finally have a solution for the broadband access problem for most of
the towns in North County. While I applaud the emphasis on public-private
partnerships that have brought this project to fruition, there is still much work to do.
Several towns do not have a clear plan in place for access. As State Representative, I
will work with the administration and with local leaders to create an access plan for
these communities.

Most communities in the district have access, but what happens next? This district was
left with outdated technology in the past and we need to make sure it does not happen
again. As State Representative, I pledge to convene the stakeholders and to encourage
communities to hold their providers accountable. Technology is advancing every day,
and the broadband providers who received tax dollars to offset the infrastructure costs
need to be accountable for keeping technology current.

ROADS & BRIDGES


North County is geographically dispersed. We have more distance to travel between
home, school, and work, than anywhere else in the state. With more roads and more
bridges comes increased costs. As State Representative, I will introduce legislation to

Printed in house, materials and labor donated


10
change the Chapter 90 reimbursement formula to account for unaccepted roads.8 Doing
this will increase our share the state aid that helps us to repair our roads and bridges.

TRANSPORTATION
Transportation is a public service, funded by your tax dollars. Clearly, that status quo
isnt working. Currently, it takes about two (2) hours to get from the Berkshire Mall to
North Adams one way. It would take two and a half (2.5) hours for someone to get
from North Adams to Berkshire Medical Center by bus (assuming an ambulance wasnt
necessary and they did not have access to a car). It would take about a half hour to
make either trip by car.

Our regional transportation should be meeting your needs. Currently, there is no bus
service after 7:20 PM, or on Sundays.9 This means that those who work third shift,
whether as a primary job or a second job, cannot get a ride to work without a car.
Restaurants, hotels, convenience stores, and some grocery stores are open well past 7:20
PM.

I believe that transportation should be available at a reasonable cost and at reasonable


times, and the schedule should reflect the needs of the community, and it should not
take two hours to get from one end of the district to the other. As State Representative,
I will introduce legislation that requires regional transit authorities to create a schedule
that meets the needs of the communities they serve in order to continue to receive
taxpayer dollars.

Currently, also, one (1) cent of every 6.25 you pay in sales tax goes to fund the MBTA. I
believe that it should be divided across the state. If were going to be taxed to pay for
public transportation, those funds should be allocated to local transportation. As State
Representative, I will introduce legislation to change the sales tax apportionment so
your dollars stay local.

8 Under the current formula, total accepted road mileage within a town accounts for nearly 60% of
the calculation. Approximately 20% comes from total population and the final approximately 20% is
based on employment.
9 Schedules, Berkshire Regional Transit Authority (BRTA),
https://www.berkshirerta.com/schedules.php?route=34&direction=I&timing=W

Printed in house, materials and labor donated


11
CONCLUSION
The above is a comprehensive legislative agenda to address some of the many
challenges faced by our local communities. While the issues contained herein are
important, they are by no means an exhaustive list. There are other important issues
facing our district and our Commonwealth. I believe that I am the best prepared
candidate to take on those issues.

This is a long-term plan for a new generation of progress for North County. I dont
expect everyone to agree with every part of this document. However, I believe it is
important for you to know where I stand on the important issues. And, I expect that
you will hold me accountable.

As your State Representative, I will fight for you every day. I encourage you to contact
me at any time and I will tell you where I stand on any issue. I will always remain
accessible, because this is about our future. The 1st District is our home; our people,
ideas, and passion make it a better place. I promise to work as hard as I can to remain
true to that goal.

Thank you for taking the time to read my plan, and I look forward to meeting you and
earning your vote. Please share your questions or ideas: write to me at
Facebook.com/VoteKevinTowle, or call me at (413) 627-1799.

Onward,

Kevin Towle
Candidate for State Representative
Facebook.com/VoteKevinTowle

Printed in house, materials and labor donated


12