|IN THE NEWS - Downing, Bosley Seeking Budget "Dough"|
April 21, 2007
By Jen Thomas
North Adams – Sometimes size doesn't matter.
It was a small audience that attended a public forum hosted by state Sen. Benjamin Downing (D - Pittsfield) and Representative Daniel Bosley (D -North Adams) on Friday night, but the citizens who gathered asked tough questions.
Held at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts’ Campus Center, the forum addressed the toughest challenges facing Berkshire County – economic development, education, technology, and health care. The about seven people in attendance kept the politicians on task.
Laundry List Of Actions
“I have a laundry list of what needs to be done,” said Downing. He mentioned one of his top priorities for the county is establishing broadband connections in the rural sections. A persistent problem in towns like Florida and New Ashford, the lack of reliable Internet service plagues residents.
Bosley concentrated on explaining the state’s budget, outlining what he believes are financial shortfalls. He specifically addressed his top priority – education.
“We have a problem in funding our schools,” he said. “We’re spending $5 billion, and that doesn’t include higher education. That’s K-12. How do we compensate for that?”
Bosley explained that, after monies allocated for basic health care, education, pensions, debt services for capital projects, and federal reimbursements, all other expenses total about 25 percent of the budget.
“Everything else – higher education, economic development, transportation, public safety, health and human services, other health care – all that fits into 25 percent of our budget that’s being squeezed and squeezed,” he said.
“You need to stand back and ask ‘How do we make this better?” Downing added.
Downing and Bosley expressed interest in uniting the eastern and western parts of the state, an effort that seeks to reconcile different sets of problems. Downing explained that those communities surrounding Boston have an advantage to the somewhat forgotten cities and towns in Berkshire County.
“We understand that we face challenges more acutely because of location,” Downing said.
“Different problems occupy us and it’s a completely different atmosphere,” Bosley said.
To strengthen the western section of the state, Bosley and Downing are working with politicians from Franklin, Hampshire, and Hampden counties.
“We’re trying to get some dough in the budget this year to do some things for the four Western counties,” said Bosley.
In the Berkshires specifically, this includes tapping into Governor Deval Patrick’s promised upcoming and expanding labor market, while also utilizing the Berkshires’ natural resources – “a real sense of history and plenty of open space,” said Bosley.
In promoting and advocating for the Berkshires, Bosley and Downing stressed the importance of working with the rest of the state as a team.
“Finally, we’re working on the same page,” Bosley said. “We need to take it one step at a time. We’re looking for a perfect picture, and that’s not happening.”
Jen Thomas is a senior student at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and an iberkshires.com correspondent.