Friday, March 25, 2005

Topic: Northern Berkshire County.

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13 Comments:

Anonymous North Adams Dude said...

It's about time someone did something like this!

Saturday, March 26, 2005 7:08:00 AM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Northern Berkshire County needs to have better road access to and from its beautiful location. I believe the state should build a high speed, interstate road model highway from Lee to Williamstown.

Friday, May 13, 2005 8:53:00 AM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Hunger, homelessness fueled by area's frailties

By Hinda Mandell

North Adams Transcript

Monday, February 21, 2005 - NORTH

ADAMS -- Unaffordable housing, substance abuse, mental illness, low wages, few jobs and regional isolation are all factors explaining the area's economic stagnation and its high numbers of needy people, according to officials with local hunger and homeless assistance programs.

The Transcript reported Wednesday that 85 percent of Western Massachusetts food assistance agencies surveyed in the past year saw an increase in requests. Nationally, that same statistic is 74 percent.

Also, 100 percent of Western Massachusetts shelters saw a jump in requests for services, compared with 65 percent nationwide.

The question persists: Why?

Charlene Lawson, the executive director of Family Life Support Center Inc., pointed to a lack of full-time employment with benefits as a substantial problem.

When people do secure jobs, day care and rent consumes much of their income.

Lawson said more efforts should be placed into preventing homelessness. "Once someone becomes homeless, it costs so much more to support them," she said. If people face extremely tight finances, they should immediately proceed with landlord or utility mediation "so they don't end up at the bottom," she said.

It is not only people who are hurting financially -- social organizations also face financial shortages. When money is tight, Lawson said that the community works together to help people along -- to a certain extent. "We sort of take care of our own," she said. "We work together to make sure people are stabilized."

According to Lawson, the Family Life Support Prevention Office had 1,330 clients in 2004, 215 of whom were homeless. One hundred and 80 of those individuals were accepted into the Louison House shelter. While the organization serves all of Northern Berkshires, the majority of its clients are from North Adams, according to Lawson.

Berkshire County Red Cross spokeswoman Kathleen Phillips said that the county's geographical isolation contributes to the area's increase in hungry and homeless people. Once people go through a shelter it is often difficult to find clean and safe housing, not only due to credit problems, but because, "There's not an inventory of affordable housing in Berkshire County," said Phillips.

The results of the National Student Campaign survey do not come as a surprise to Phillips. "We've been talking for years now that homelessness is increasing in Berkshire County," she said.

A complex web

Whatever the reason that sends people to seek food or shelter assistance, the web of problems are increasingly complex, with a rise in drug and alcohol abuse, as well as mental illness.

"It has to do with stress levels. It's a cycle," said Phillips, referring to the fact that unemployment can trigger a downward spiral into drug and alcohol use as an escape from a burdensome reality. Additionally, many individuals do not "understand what happens to poor people," which makes it difficult to shuffle money to this part of the state, said Phillips.

However in Hatfield, the site of the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, money is finding its way to a much-needed project: expansion of the pantry's warehouse. U.S. Rep. John W. Olver, D-Amherst, secured $485,000 in funding to help finance this project.

According to Director of Development Christopher Land-ry, the rapid increase in need prompted the project that will double the size of the 17,000-square-foot warehouse. The Food Bank has so far raised $2.2 million for the $3 million project. Food from the warehouse is delivered to pantries throughout Berkshire County.

Landry described Western Massachusetts' rise in needy individuals due to its sluggish economy.

"We just don't have a critical mass of industry. We haven't benefited enough from biotech expansion, the Internet and technology bubble," he said. Western Massachusetts' rural economy does not lend itself easily to booming industry, he said.

Even when the state's economy is strong, its full effect does not usually trickle down to Western Massachusetts. "We don't experience the good times," said Landry.

Add to the pot Massachusetts' exorbitant housing costs -- the most expensive state for housing, said Landry -- and many people cannot make ends meet.

State Sen. Andrea F. NUCIFORO Jr., D-Pittsfield, said that the rise in homeless families occurs most frequently in areas affected by a decline in manual jobs. Fitchburg and Pittsfield share a similar economic structure -- and a similar stifled economy -- with an overwhelmingly white and working class population, he said. They both represent communities "really struggling to find a promising economic picture after a dramatic decline in manufacturing," he said.

The key to alleviating the problem is not just securing money, but channeling it into effective programs. The state legislature is trying to alleviate these SOCIAL PROBLEMS by allocating $2 million in funding for residential assistance for families in transition, said Nuciforo. This program will aid families "struggling to put food on the table."

Monday, May 16, 2005 8:08:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

The North Adams Transcript

Article Published: Wednesday, August 31, 2005 - 11:01:59 AM EST

City residents should ask questions about TCE contamination

To the editor:

On Aug. 25, about 25 residents of North Adams and interested parties attended a public meeting at City Hall concerning the state of groundwater.

Groundwater contamination has occurred primarily from the operations of the former Sprague Electric Co. plants at Brown and Marshall streets. What the public heard at the meeting should not put their minds at ease.

While levels of trichloroethylene, or TCE -- a probable human carcinogen made famous in the movie "A Civil Action" -- have decreased over the past five years, they are still dangerously high. The first concern with TCE is that North Adams groundwater, as a drinking water-classified res-ource, must have no more than 5 parts per billion TCE; some wells used to sample water are still reading in the thousands of parts per billion.

A recent study showed that TCE contamination could potentially reach the Greylock Well, a secondary drinking water source for the city, in two to eight years. A second concern, best demonstrated by the purchase and leveling of houses in the 1990s on Avon and Alton streets, is TCE vapor contamination. We learned that more houses in the Harding Street area are under investigation for possible TCE vapor contamination.

The current owner of the Brown Street property, Great American Financial Resources Inc. (GAFRI) and their environmental contractor, Blasland, Bouck, and Lee (BBL) are proposing that the groundwater issues be addressed through a process of either monitored natural attenuation or a type of bioremediation using lactose to enhance biodegradation. Citizens should be aware that natural attenuation amounts to doing nothing except continued sampling and hoping the contamination naturally disappears.

The lactose method is experimental, and BBL has done a small pilot study of its effectiveness to date. There are other, proven methodologies for remediating TCE in groundwater, including air stripping, pump and treat, permeable reactive barriers and others. These proven methods cost more money than natural attenuation.

The former Sprague Electric sites are classified as highly contaminated by the state (Tier 1A classification), and as such are eligible for public involvement plans. Under the Massachusetts Contingency Plan, only 10 residents' signatures are required on a petition to create a public involvement plan which includes requests for extended public comment periods on how groundwater contamination will be addressed.

Community members could request more information about the extent of the TCE plume and which neighborhoods are affected, for example.

The state Department of Envi-ronmental Protection oversees the site out of their Regional office in Springfield, (413) 784-1100.

Dori Digenti

Center for Community, Science and the Environment

Mount Holyoke College

South Hadley

Aug. 28

Wednesday, August 31, 2005 2:08:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

09/13/2005

Clarksburg Restaurant Owner Seeks Nude Entertainment License

A restaurant owner in Clarksburg asking permission to have nude entertainment...

The owner of the Mountain View Restaurant in Clarksburg already has an entertainment license, which allows him to have live music and dancing performances and to charge admission.

But now, Mike Milazzo is asking town officials to approve entertainment that includes nudity. The application filed at Clarksburg Town Hall Monday does not specify exactly what the entertainment would consist of...except that there would be full front and back nudity.

Currently, Clarksburg has no local regulations governing entertainment on the books.

The board of selectmen serve as the town's licensing authority...Milazzo's application will be on Wednesday night's agenda.

By law, a public hearing must be held within 60 days of the application being filed, or 60 days from this past Monday.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005 8:54:00 AM  
Blogger jonathan said...

9/17/2005 North Adams Council member pulls out of race

By Nicole Sequino, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Berkshire Eagle

Saturday, September 17

NORTH ADAMS — Incumbent William E. Donovan's recent withdrawal from the City Council race has Mayor John Barrett III concerned about the newcomers who may secure some of the nine open seats this Election Day.

The mayor, who is seeking his 12th consecutive term, said he has established a solid working relationship with the present council. Barrett said the council has assisted him in moving capital projects forward, such as renovating the North Adams Public Library, with the city's best interests in mind.

"I'm concerned in the sense that the chemistry with these council members in the last few years has been extremely productive as a result of an excellent working relationship," he said. "Councilors have taken on issues of importance to them, while, at the same time, they've been absolutely supportive the way a council should be."

Donovan decision to drop his bid for re-election Tuesday left 15 candidates remaining in the council race Nov. 8. This includes incumbents Gailanne M. Cariddi, Clark H. Billings, Alan L. Marden, Ronald A. Boucher, Robert R. Moulton Jr., Marie T. Harpin, Richard J. Alcombright and President Michael C. Bloom.

Newcomers Eric Buddington, Andrew J. Etman, Richard A. Harlow, Kelly S. Lee, Peter D. May, Chris Tremblay and Nikolai Rudd are also vying for a council seat.

"The chemistry will change with at least one new person coming on the council," Barrett added. "I hope that those running are not running for council with special interests in mind. There's a bigger picture here ... and I hope they realize that councilors are not policy makers, but important contributors to the running of the city."

In his bid for re-election, Barrett, the longest-serving mayor in the state, is being challenged by Walter L. Smith Jr. of East Main Street. A Wal-Mart employee, Smith moved to the city two years ago.

Donovan announced his resignation during the council's regular meeting Tuesday. He said that he will no longer be eligible to serve on the council because he and his fiancee are moving to the town of Adams soon and plan to marry next year.

"I feel bad about it, but it's life stuff," said Donovan, 51. "As for the council race, I think this makes for a good opportunity for one of the newer candidates. I've always viewed the council race as an open opportunity with nine open seats. It may motivate some of the campaigns more to secure that unclaimed seat."

Donovan said he would consider pursuing a position in Adams town government in the future. "I'll be very honest," he said. "Down the road, I think I would enjoy running for town government. I like local politics and being involved on the local level."

Donovan was re-elected to the council in 2001 after losing his seat in 1999. He was first elected as a councilor in 1991 and remained in that position until 1997. He also ran and lost a bid for state Senate in 1996 against incumbent Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr. of Pittsfield.

Saturday, September 17, 2005 11:35:00 AM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Dear Berkshire Bloggers,

I will be visiting Berkshire County tomorrow through Monday afternoon, and I, too, will not be traveling to Northern Berkshire County. I love the Berkshires, but North Berkshire is not very welcoming to me. I get picked on there, including by North Adams Mayor John Barrett III, who told me that I am flaky and will never make it in the real world, and State Representative Daniel Bosley, who says I feign free speech when I dissent against his public policies. Let us face reality Berkshire Eagle Editors, North Berkshire is not a very friendly place for those of us who participate in politics without falling in line with the big bad wolves. North Adams politics almost has a Soviet feel to it. It is too bad for North Berkshire that a couple of bad apples who have entrenched themselves in local and state politics have driven off their Governor from visiting the region. Maybe if there was a little bit of fairness and a lot less bullying, more political people who love the Berkshires would be able to visit the northern part of the county unharassed! Moreover, Denis Guyer is doing a good job replicating the harassment and bullying in central Berkshire County. What a complete twitch Guyer turned out to be! There is someone voters can oust next year before it is too late.

-Jonathan A. Melle
~For publication~

THE BERKSHIRE EAGLE

Visit beautiful North Berkshire

Editorial

Friday, October 14, 2005

Berkshire County welcomes Governor Romney's pledge to provide financial aid for flood-damaged cities and towns. It is regrettable, however, that he could not have gone an hour or so west on Route 2 from Greenfield to take a look at the damage suffered in North Adams and surrounding communities. Remarkably, Mr. Romney, who has been traveling regularly to a number of red states as part of his apparent presidential campaign, has never visited North Berkshire County. Perhaps he doesn't want to take a chance on running into former acting governor Jane Swift, whom he brushed aside in pursuing the Republican nomination for governor. Before he heads out to North Carolina or Iowa again, Mr. Romney should drop in on the beautiful northwestern corner of his state.

Friday, October 14, 2005 2:50:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Dear Berkshire Bloggers:

North Adams has had its ups and downs over the past decade. From the opening up of Mass MoCA in 1998 to the proposed development of the old K Mart Plaza, the small city I called home from over one year of my life is certainly making great progress. However, North Adams still faces great obstacles, including TCE pollution in the drinking water, underperforming public schools, deferred maintenance on public works and similar projects, entrenched politicians who act like power brokers, and both will never leave elected office and allow unharassed, free participation in city and state government, bullying and negative attitudes, poverty, PCB pollution, including the only capped but never cleaned PCBs under Mass MoCA, among other problematic issues. North Adams is moving forward, but also needs assistance from state, federal and private community leaders.

Unfortunately, Governor Mitt Romney only cares about looking at himself in the mirror with narcissistic self-love instead of looking into the eyes of the people and communities he is serving. There is no excuse for Romney's neglect of North Adams, which is a community that nourished and helped me earlier in my life. I concur with The North Adams Transcript that Romney should make the Hadley Overpass a priority this year before problems get even worse, cost rise even higher, and, God forbid, someone gets injured. However, the blame cannot be pinned solely on Governor Romney. Where are the "Berkshire" State Senator, Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr., and North Adams State Representative, Daniel Bosley, on this important issue? Their leadership, too, can make a big difference in the expeditious repairing of the Hadley Overpass this year!

Sincerely,
Jonathan A. Melle

Romney's crumbling legacy
TheTranscript.com
The North Adams Transcript
Friday, January 20, 2006

Now that a good chunk (get it?) of the Hadley Overpass is located under the pass, so to speak, you would think that members of the Romney administration would charge in like typical politicians and at least promise the world to rectify the problem.

But no, the city of North Adams can't even get a phony promise that the deteriorating eyesore — this green embarrassment — will be repaired in a timely fashion. This is what it has come down to in the last year of the governor's term.

With Gov. Romney a lame duck, and a likely presidential candidate often on the road courting Republicans in other states, Massachusetts cities and towns are largely left to founder. It seems that every announcement or political move the governor makes these days is geared toward making a point for a national audience — most often with a cheap symbolic gesture signifying nothing for this state's residents.

But concerning North Adams, the administration, through MassHighway, has seemed especially neglectful. It keeps pushing back the starting date for reconstruction of the rusting, peeling, crumbling overpass. Worse, the bridge that in 2001 was deemed structurally deficient is now considered sound.

It doesn't matter that its sidewalks are disintegrating, or that its stairway had to be closed because of safety issues. Or that sections had to be covered up to keep concrete from dropping on our heads. The state talks about aesthetics; we worry about gravity.

This week we learned that state officials are looking at a 2009 starting date for the work. They have got to be kidding, but they aren't.

Our hope is that the next governor offers more than empty platitudes to state residents, especially those in Western Massachusetts. At this point, we would settle for a governor somewhat interested in being governor.

Internet Link: http://www.thetranscript.com/editorial/ci_3421811

Friday, January 20, 2006 4:55:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Dear Dan Bosley & N.A. Transcript & Berkshire Bloggers:

Re: "Thanks for stopping by" (An Editorial, North Adams Transcript, 9/25): North Adams (& far moreso than ever before in Pittsfield, for that matter) politics is uninviting and therefore leaves a long shadow of intimidation (and downright corruption in Pittsfield's case) to those of us who are not on the inside. We live in a free country where all citizens have the God-given and Constitutionally protected right to speak out on public matters. However, in North Adams, you have long-standing Pols by the names of John Barrett III and Dan Bosley, among others, who don't really give democracy a chance to elect new leaders because the insiders have an iron grip on political power. In Pittsfield, you have a far worse situation with state Pols such as Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr. and Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr., who don't even give the even the slightest hint or pretense of democracy by their holding of elections with not more than only one candidate other than their own respective names on the ballot.

While the North Adams Transcript Editors are absolutely correct that in theory and that despite being an outsider, the current short-lived Governor should have made at least one visit to the area, I must ask the North Adams Transcript Editors to look at the real world in which they pen their finger-pointing opinion pieces. To illustrate my point, I am asking the North Adams Transcript Editors the following questions:

(a) Would you rather have the current North Adams Mayor and State Representative with an iron grip on political power for over 2 decades with no new ideas, people or future leaders for North Adams and thereby not giving democracy a real chance for the election of new leaders -- OR -- a short-lived no-show Governor who never once visited North Adams and instead spends more time in Washington, D.C. than even in Boston, Massachusetts?

(b) Would you rather have Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr. continually run for Berkshire County Sheriff unopposed every election cycle, be appointed to a local board in the place of a local Pittsfield woman who was not only more qualified but also more experienced than Massimiano by a good old boy Mayor who initially campaigned against the Old Boy Network label that he now demonstrably wears with false pride, be hypocritically voted a pay raise of over 21%/over $21,000 after supporting the current Pittsfield Mayor's policies of diminishing both public school teacher's benefits and incentives to keep and attract quality teachers to remain and come to work for the ailing Pittsfield public schools, and who runs a political machine that makes or breaks people based on their political connections and loyalties rather than their achievements and qualifications -- OR -- a short-lived Governor who wants only to be nominated by the Republican Party as the next candidate for the American Presidency instead of paying a cameo visit to North Adams?

(c) Would you rather have the current Berkshire State Senator by the name of Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr. strong-arm two women already running for the state government political office of Pittsfield Registrar of Deeds in the Spring of 2006 and then go onto to unfairly win the September 19, 2006 Democratic Primary unopposed with no opposition in the November, 2006 general election either for this "elected" position of Pittsfield Registry of Deeds -- OR -- would you rather have a short-lived Governor overtly ignore the specific needs of North Adams for his own political ambitions?

If any of the North Adams Transcript's answers are in favor of North Adams Mayor John Barrett III, North Adams State Representative Dan Bosley, Berkshire County Sheriff Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr., and/or State Senator Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr. over Massachusetts Governor Willard Mitt Romney's avoidance of visiting and/or specifically focusing on North Adams then I think I am going to vomit. Take a look around North Adams and see how the system works for those of us not on the inside of politics -- and it is even far worse in Pittsfield!

Sincerely,

Jonathan A. Melle
----------
Thanks for stopping by

TheTranscript.com

Monday, September 25, 2006

Good for Tim Murray, Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, who took time out from his busy schedule Sunday in Westfield, Pittsfield and points east to make an afternoon stop in North Adams.

North Adams, you remember — the land that Gov. Mitt Romney, Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey and time forgot. Mr. Murray didn't forget. He spent about an hour at the Holiday Inn thanking Mayor John Barrett III and other Democratic leaders for their support in the recent primary and touting his running mate, Deval Patrick, for governor. It certainly didn't take Mr. Murray long to learn a team approach.

Despite very short notice, state Rep. Daniel Bosley and other party faithful managed to make it down to listen to his impromptu remarks, in which Mr. Murray proved himself, of all things, an articulate politician. Among those listening were Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts President Mary Grant, her husband, James Canavan, City Council President Gailanne M. Cariddi, City Councilor Marie T. Harpin, Williamstown Democrats Margie Ware and Lee Harrison and North Adams attorney and civic leader John B. DeRosa, to name a few.

Mr. Murray hit all the right notes — support for higher education, jobs, working with cities and towns and improving transportation infrastructure. He called the state's aging bridges and roads an embarrassment, while standing less than a stone's throw away from the city's own testimony to that — the crumbling, peeling eyesore known as the Hadley Overpass.

He knew he was preaching to the choir. But he stressed the importance of working hard in the upcoming campaign to defeat the Kerry Healey-Reed Hillman ticket for governor on Election Day. The Republicans will certainly outspend the Democratic team, he warned.

"I come from a blue-collar city where hard work is appreciated. I know North Adams is the same way," said Mr. Murray, mayor of Worcester, which under his leadership has become the fastest-growing city in the state.

But all his comments, as impressive as they may have sounded, paled in comparison to the one thing he did quite right — come to North Adams personally, (for the third time since he first started running — three times more than Ms. Healey and Mr. Romney have ever been here.) He said he had little doubt that Mr. Patrick would be making a stop or two in the Berkshires in the coming weeks — with North Adams high on the list.

We'll listen carefully to what Ms. Healey and Mr. Hillman have to say during the campaign, as most voters likely will. The race will be decided on the issues, of course. But the Republicans might take a hint from their Democratic counterparts and venture west of Route 495. It could help.

Monday, September 25, 2006 6:30:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

Water rates going up
By Jessica Willis, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Berkshire Eagle
Article Launched:04/26/2007

Thursday, April 26, 2007

NORTH ADAMS — The city's water rates, which have stayed the same since December 2005, will be going up — by 10 percent.

The increase will partially make up for the annual state grant of $377,000 that the city will no longer be receiving.

The seven-year grant, which ends in fiscal year 2008, was used to offset the cost of a new water filtration plant.

Mayor John Barrett III said the rate increase will earn about $232,000 for the city, which is still not enough to offset the loss of the grant. "We'll have to make it up in different ways," the mayor told City Council on Tuesday. "I should be standing here saying we should increase the tax by 20 percent, but I believe in nickel-and-diming."

He said he doesn't believe, however, in a sewer tax — unlike Pittsfield and Williamstown, North Adams doesn't have one.

"I will never advocate for a sewer tax," Barrett said.

The average annual water bill for a family of four is $260, he said, and with the new rates, the amount would increase by about $36.

"It's a minimal impact," he said. "We've been able to keep (the rates) down, and they're still cheap," Barrett told City Council.

City Council agreed, and effective as of June 1, the water rate will be amended from $2.63 per 100 cubic feet to $2.89 per 100 cubic feet. On Jan. 1, 2008, the rate will increase to $3.18 per 100 cubic feet.

Non-resident charges for Williamstown and Clarksburg water connections will be raised to $5.50 per cubic foot and $4.97 per cubic foot, respectively. One cubic foot of water equals about 7.5 gallons.

"(The water rate) is a fee based on use," Barrett said. "A lot of households are cutting back on consumption."

A proposed increase in the price of a cemetery lot, the first in about 10 years, also went before City Council.

The mayor noted that all of the funds — from the price of a lot to the fee for perpetual care — "stays in the cemetery" and isn't dispersed to other local agencies.

"We do have to buy new equipment, and salaries (for the cemetery workers) have increased by 30 percent in the last 10 years, he said.

The lot price is expected to go up by $120; under the new ordinance, North Adams residents can expect to pay $250 for a single lot, and $25 in "perpetual care" fees; an eight-grave lot for a resident would be $2,000 with $200 in fees.

Non-residents who wish to be buried in North Adams would pay $400 per lot, and $100 in perpetual care fees. It was suggested, by Councilor Richard J. Alcombright, that perpetual care — which accrues interest — should have more of a price increase, and City Council voted to refer the amendment to the Public Service committee.

The mayor also recommended a revision to the laws surrounding the city's inspection of rental property; currently, a North Adams landlord must obtain a certificate of occupancy for a property every five years, and under the new law, code enforcement would be required to inspect a property every time it become vacant between tenants.

Barrett said the new ordinance would ensure the buildings are fit for human occupancy, and a way to catch the landlords who "charge crazy prices for dumps."

According to Councilor Marie Harpin, the ordinance is a long time coming. She noted that some apartments on Walnut and East Quincy streets "are being marketed as penthouse condos" with rent as high as "$750 to $900 (a month)."

Harpin said these units — which may have evaded the Health Department's radar — are "held together with spit and glue."

The ordinance, which was referred to the Public Safety Committee for review, "gives our code enforcement officers something to work with," she added.

Friday, April 27, 2007 1:21:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan Melle said...

iBerkshires.com
Council Resurrects Veterans Legislation, Postpones Public Hearing on Tax Classification
By Jen Thomas - November 28, 2007

NORTH ADAMS - After Councilor Christopher Tremblay introduced a proposal that seeks to provide nearly $75,000 in retroactive pay to the City's retired disabled veterans, the City Council unanimously voted to send the item to the finance subcommittee for consideration.

The item, which would grant between $1,000 and $13,000 to retired, disabled veterans, is the second chapter of a resolution that was passed by the Council last year which granted an additional $15 a month to disabled veterans who had retired from public work.

In November 2005, the state legislature passed a law that increased the retirement benefit paid to state and municipal employees per year of creditable service in the armed forces and assigned individual municipalities the task of choosing whether or not to implement any changes. No state funds were provided to cities and towns if they elected to provide the service to their veterans.

Asked by a constituent to address veterans' concerns, Tremblay submitted a communication to the Council, asking them to revisit the issue that could affect 15-20 city residents. During Open Forum, veteran and former city firefighter Howard D'Amico said veterans deserve to be honored for their patriotism.

"The veteran who has served his country and his community deserves a little common courtesy," he said.

Moving the issue onto the finance subcommittee for further research and consideration was approved unanimously with an amendment that further information be provided at a Jan. 22 regular meeting of the Council.

"When we did not accept Section 2 last time, we left it open-ended. A review at this time is in order," said Councilor Clark Billings.

Mayor John Barrett III expressed disapproval with the Council's decision, citing concerns about where to find the funds for the proposal.

"When you consider it, recommend where you'd like me to take the money from," Barrett said.

Postponing a Public Hearing

A tax classification public hearing that was scheduled for Tuesday night was postponed until the Dec. 11 meeting of the City Council after Barrett addressed the Council about potential changes in state legislation.

Currently operating with a 181 percent shift, the burden of paying property taxes falls upon commercial properties. New legislation has required that municipalities reduce that number to 175 percent for the next fiscal year, placing more of the burden on residential properties.

Barrett, who hopes to see different legislation passed within the next two weeks, said that he expects to be able to keep the current 181 percent plan, reducing the shift 2 percent each year until it reaches 175 percent in fiscal 2011.

A 175 percent shift would raise property taxes in the city by approximately 35 cents per $1,000 valuation on a residential property.

"It's not all doom and gloom but I'm cognizant of the tough times people are going through in the city," said Barrett.

The mayor also said he was committed to not raising the property taxes but, as city reserves have been depleted, he will need to find ways to increase revenue.

"We better strap in our seatbelts because it's going to be a tough couple of years," he said.

With state money failing to come back to the cities and towns, the increasing cost of education and the rising gas and fuel prices, Barrett said he was committed to keeping taxes low for city residents but he called upon the legislature to find creative ways to funnel funds back to municipalities.

Councilor Richard Alcombright considered "biting the bullet" and adopting an overall 175 percent shift the coming fiscal year but Barrett said "it was not the time" for placing the burden on local taxpayers.

"That just doesn't wash with me," he said.

Thursday, November 29, 2007 4:42:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan Melle said...

iBerkshires.com
Mayor Extols Value of Creative Economy
By Jen Thomas - November 29, 2007

NORTH ADAMS - The key to supporting the creative economy is strong governmental leadership and even stronger community-building skills, according to Mayor John Barrett III.

Addressing three delegations of eastern Massachusetts politicians at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Arts on Wednesday, Barrett outlined the city's journey from a blue-collar industrial town to the paragon of the thriving cultural economy.

"When Sprague left, we were stuck with 28 empty buildings in our downtown. We had to change the direction of our economy. It wasn't manufacturing anymore," said Barrett to politicians and creative economy members from Brockton, New Bedford and the Merrimack Valley who met with the mayor as a stop on their tour of Pittsfield and North Adams.

"I had to sell this to my community," he added.

Barrett recounted the difficulties of convincing city residents in the late 1980s that an arts-driven economy was going to save the city from its fiscal woes. Citing a dedication to facilitating change and a willingness to try new and innovative techniques, Barrett offered his perspective on how the creative economy had transformed the city.

At the forefront of that movement was Mass MoCA, which was the catalyst for other arts programs and organizations' moving to the area.

"When I was approached about the idea of a contemporary arts museum, I thought it was just another crackpot idea on how we're going to save the economy. I had no idea what contemporary art was but that museum evolved into a lot of things," he said.

In the 14 years it took to revitalize the former Sprague complex and convert it into a world-class museum, Barrett committed himself to working on improving other aspects of the city, including paving streets and planting flowers in the downtown.

"We wanted to change the image of North Adams. As part of building the creative economy, we felt as though we had to change our negative image - it's all about image. We needed to build a high self-esteem of ourselves which we didn't have before," said the mayor. "The people of North Adams not only accepted change; they embraced it."

According to Barrett, what really drove the success of the cultural renaissance in the city was the strong support of the government. Working in collaboration with former Gov. Michael Dukakis, Barrett spearheaded several initiatives to attract artists to the area, which formed a foundation for other economic growth. As more people were drawn to the city, more business sprung up and more housing was developed.


"So what is the creative economy to me? It's making sure there's something there for everyone, not just the artist community," said Barrett.

Fielding questions about arts education in schools and the number of jobs created by the creative economy, Barrett said the key to success is looking within individual municipalities for answers.

"Everyone is chasing business. What is it in your communities that will make businesses come to you?" he asked.

Helena Fruscio, the program director for the Berkshire Creative Economy Project and the delegations' tour guide, said that the mayor's speech was illuminating for the participants who were looking to implement some of his tactics in their own communities.

"The Berkshires truly are at the forefront of this creative field, this emerging creative economy, and this just shows how lucky we are to be leading the way," Fruscio said. "Other communities are looking to us for ideas and studying how we make collaborations work."

Though he was unsure how the creative economy would impact his hometown, Barrett said he's grateful local citizens have demonstrated so much faith in an idea that was completely new.

"I knew the creative economy would change North Adams but I didn't know how," he said. "The people came, they saw but they didn't conquer - they liked."

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(Picture)
Mayor John Barrett III addresses delegations from the eastern part of the state at Mass MoCA on Wednesday.

Thursday, November 29, 2007 4:45:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan Melle said...

"Mayor Barrett to lay out plans for 13th term"
By Jennifer Huberdeau, North Adams Transcript
Saturday, January 05, 2008

NORTH ADAMS — Mayor John Barrett III plans to lay out a map of what lies ahead for the city over the course of the next two years during his 13th inaugural address Monday.

"It basically has a theme of where we've been, where we are and where we are going," the mayor said Thursday. "The city is going to face a lot of problems — mainly financial ones. The seriousness of the state's fiscal crisis is going to have an impact on the community, but I'm also going to hit on many positive things that are beginning. I think there are many uplifting things that are going to be happening."

Although the state has a fiscal crisis looming, Barrett said the city is "very fortunate" to be where it is financially.

Breaking the tradition

The mayor, City Council, and the North Adams and McCann school committees all will be sworn in Monday night at 7 at City Hall.

"We're breaking with the tradition of a 10 a.m. ceremony," Barrett said. "We wanted people to be able to attend, if not watch it on television."

The ceremony will be broadcast live on Northern Berkshire Community Television's Channel 17. A reception will follow the organization of the council. The public is invited to both events.

Although Barrett remained elusive about the contents of his speech, encouraging residents to either join the ceremony or to tune in to it, he did say that there would be a few initiatives announced.

"I'm going to talk about the Mohawk Theater a little, about dealing with blighted property and about education," he said. "I've been talking about blighted property for some years now, but I'm going to put forth a plan that will do something about it."

He also will speak about initiatives he hopes to see pass through the state Legislature.

Passing initiatives

"Hopefully, we'll also see some initiatives get passed at the state level that will bring some property tax relief," Barrett said. "I'm still very angry about the bills that were sent out to property owners. As far as I'm concerned, they got shafted by the state."

Barrett said that preparing for his 13th inaugural speech has not been easy.

"I'm hopeful that my speech will intertwine with the lives of everyday people," he said. "I've always believed that my speech should be at a level that everyone can understand and identify with. I don't want to talk at my residents, I want to speak to them about what I have planned for the next two years. Too many public officials — mayors and governors — talk at the public."

Longest-serving mayor

Although he is honored to begin his 13th term and to hold on to his title as the longest-serving mayor in the state, Barrett said he never planned to be in office for so long.

"If someone was to go back 24 years to that cold, blustery Jan. 1 at Drury High School and tell me that I would still be here, I'd have them committed," he said. "I didn't have plans to stay this long. I'm never finished, though. What you have to do is have the passion to keep moving ahead, not just maintain the status quo. There's still a few things I have to do."

He added, "I still have a love for the job, and I don't know anyone foolish enough to stay as long as I have."

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"Alan Marden back at helm"
By Jennifer Huberdeau, North Adams Transcript
Saturday, January 05, 2008

NORTH ADAMS — Having secured the support of his fellow council members, Alan L. Marden is preparing to take on the role of City Council president for the sixth time, beginning Monday.

"I'm back in the saddle," Marden said. "I'm both honored and pleased to have the support of my fellow councilors. I love the institution of the council."

After serving 10 consecutive terms as a councilor, Marden said he is happy to be preparing for his 11th term — one that he almost walked away from.

"I gave some thought to not running for office this summer," he said. "I didn't go that route, and I'm glad I didn't."

Current President Gailanne M. Cariddi said that Marden will have the full support of the council when it reorganizes Monday following the inaugural celebrations at 7 p.m. at City Hall. Mayor John Barrett III, the council, the North Adams School Committee and the McCann School Committee all will be sworn in at that time.

"He has the unanimous support of the councilors," Cariddi said of Marden. "I'm looking forward to a good year. It takes a lot of time to be council president, but it takes almost as much work when you're on the council floor.

I'm looking forward to working on some ordinances."

Tweaking things

Marden said he does not expect to make many changes to the subcommittees to which each councilor already is assigned — with the exception of the newly elected Lisa Blackmer and Cariddi, the outgoing president.

"I'm still working on the appointments, but I don't see many significant changes being made," he said. "Of course, I'll have to work Lisa and Gailanne into the mix. I might tweak a couple of the liaison appointments. We have a good council that has served us well for the last two years."

First elected to the council in 1987, Marden has seen many changes in the city over the past 20 years.

Best of times, worst of times

"That's what is so exciting about being on the council," he said. "It's like that old Dickens saying, 'It was the best of times and the worst of times.' It's the worst of times in regards to the impending fiscal crisis with the state. It's the best of times with some of the developments that are coming. We need to keep it together until the revenue generated by the new developments comes in."

Marden, who is director of development at Alton & Westall Real Estate in Williamstown, said he is amazed by the developments poised to come online in the next two years.

"I work in real estate, and what's cooking is unbelievable," he said. "I've never seen so much interest in commercial development."

After 20 years on the council, he said that it is "always interesting" working with the mayor, who has a reputation for wanting things done his way.

"I've been there, done that," Marden said. "We have a very good working relationship."

He said he also is looking forward to having another woman join the council. The election of Blackmer to the board returns the number of female councilors to three, including Cariddi and Marie T. Harpin.

"I just read a report that had a 2005 figure in it that said in Massachusetts only 41 percent of the municipalities have women serving," Marden said. "Having a third woman join our council is very significant, and I think it's something we should be proud of."

Saturday, January 05, 2008 4:38:00 PM  

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