Strengthening Our Small Towns and Rural Communities
I grew up in a small town. I understand how living in the rural part of a largely urban state means it is difficult to get attention in the development of state policies or during budget season.
Here are a few of the steps I would take to strengthen our small towns and rural communities.
- Broadband: It is unacceptable that it has taken this long to finalize last-mile broadband in western Mass. This is now critical infrastructure and I will prioritize working with Wired West and Mass Broadband Institute to urgently finalize last-mile services.
- Regional School Transportation: Our regional schools pay the price because the state reimburses regional school transportation costs at less than 70% despite committing to 100%. The result is hundreds of thousands of dollars taken directly from our school operating budgets. To support schools and attract residents the state must make good on this promise.
- Town government support: Small town governments don’t always have the resources to apply for vital state or federal funds. My State Senate Office will support those efforts, or the effort to find ways to collaborate locally on planning and services (possibly by regionalizing equipment and services).
- Protect community and land: Protecting community means bolstering the work of groups like the Hilltown CDC in developing rural affordable housing, an Elder Network to allow people to stay in their homes longer, or transportation (especially for seniors who may need assistance with doctor appointments or shopping).
- Support local farms: One way we can do that is increasing direct farm to consumer sales by promoting Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs) that result in farmers retaining more profit, farm to institution relationships (like schools and hospitals), value added industries like cheese and yogurt, and marketing venues across the state that attract food tourism to western Mass.
We have unique needs and infrastructure challenges. But often those same characteristics (e.g. fewer homes, lower population, open spaces) are the assets that make small town living special. I will ensure the opportunity to thrive exists in every corner of the district.