Vol. IV No. 13 7/1/2023
"We See You"
By Christine Rasmussen
In March, Governor Maura Healy said, "We want to send a clear message to every single person who calls rural Massachusetts home — we see you; we value you, and we're going to work every day to ensure you have the representation and support you deserve,"
Healy and Lt. Governor Kim Driscoll were shining light on small towns and rural communities in the state. Fifty-nine percent of the Commonwealth's land area in nearly half of all municipalities (170 out of 351) for the first time in history will have a staff person who will serve as a dedicated advocate, ombudsman, deciding state policies for a large part of the state outside of the I–495 corridor.
In selecting well-respected state senator Anne Gobi as Director of the new office, it is envisioned our hard-working representatives Senator Paul Mark and Rep Smitty Pignatelli will have new partners in addressing the critical issues that are unique to rural areas.
This initiative ties into the work begun in 2015 when a Rural Policy Advisory Committee was created by the legislature to create a Rural Policy Plan. Tom Matusko, Executive Director of Berkshire Regional Planning Council (BRPC), served on the committee and kept delegates and alternates informed about their work, welcoming our input. The plan highlighted issues important to Stockbridge including changing the formula for state aid to education, adjusting funding for roads and bridges to recognize the importance of a rural road network for access to employment and health care, funding for water and sewer upgrades, and support for shared services.
After that work, it was heartwarming to read that the new administration already proposed major funding boosts for Food Security Infrastructure Grants, rural school aid, PILOTs, and regional transit authorities in the proposed state budget. In addition, funding for the Director of Rural Affairs will enable her to conduct a review of all state grant opportunities to ensure that barriers for rural and small towns are mitigated, host dedicated office hours for towns to receive technical assistance and maintain and update the Community Compact Connector Calendar providing one a place to find all state grants and better coordinate their application efforts.
Now as budget negotiations continue, we look forward to seeing the success of this initiative.
Editor's note: Rasmussen is the Select Board's Stockbridge Delegate to BRPC
Dogs of Stockbridge. Photo: Joan Gallos