© 2024
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Eastern promises: Looking back at Healey, Diehl comments on regional equity for underrepresented Western Mass.

Maura Healey and Geoff Diehl.
Josh Landes
Maura Healey and Geoff Diehl.

With little Western Massachusetts representation in this year’s election, voters in the vast but less populous region of the commonwealth have to rely on the promises made by leaders from the Boston area, especially in the race for governor.

Polls show Democratic Attorney General Maura Healey with a healthy lead over Republican former State Representative Geoff Diehl.

After a visit to the Berkshires in July, Healey spoke with WAMC about regional equity.

“I'm familiar with the region, I know the region, and I want to be a governor who makes sure that Berkshire County gets the investment that it deserves," she said. "For far too long Berkshire County has not received the investment that it deserves. It is a place that is wonderful, is a place with incredible collaboration and partnership, and it's a place that, where there's a lot of opportunity for prosperity, but to get there, we need to have a governor who sees that, who understands that. And I'm here today to both learn and to promise to be back many times and to make sure that as governor, I'm doing everything I can through my agencies and through my action to support Berkshire County.”

Healey came to Pittsfield to meet with local leaders about the county’s ongoing housing crisis.

“One of the reasons I'm out here is because I want people to understand that I believe deeply in Berkshire County," said the attorney general. "It is an incredible place, and one of the things that makes it incredible is the collaboration, the collaboration that I heard today. And it's also the case that this is a region with its own challenges. And I think as governor, what I would bring as an understanding that the way things are here in Berkshire County are not the same as the way they are in the eastern part of the state. And just on the issue of housing, some of the challenges that are here are not as present in the eastern part of the state. And so today, I was here, looking forward to having this discussion about housing, because it is so foundational. It is a crisis across the state, and I know it's a crisis here in Berkshire County with escalating home prices, escalating rents. There are a lot of reasons for that. But we need to make the investments in housing so that people have the security that they need, so that their families are able to thrive, and right now, here as in elsewhere throughout the state, that really is a challenge.”

Healey offered possible actionable responses to the ongoing housing struggles of Berkshire County.

“We need to continue to support rent stabilization programs, we need to support programs like RAFT that actually help tenants, we also need to provide support to our landlords," she said. "Some landlords are needing money to rehab properties to upgrade properties. We as a state have got to find a way to support both tenants and our landlords. We also need to increase housing stock generally. This is a region where there may be opportunities for new development. Importantly, there are opportunities to rehab blighted or dilapidated properties, there are opportunities to preserve housing stock. I know that this is housing stock that is old, in many respects, and requires extra support from a state.”

For his part, the Trump-backed Diehl told WAMC during a Pittsfield visit in March that his fiscal conservatism should appeal to voters in Western Massachusetts frustrated with how the commonwealth spends their tax dollars.

“One of the big problems, I think, when the gas tax, for example, in Western Massachusetts was, they're asked to burden more of the funding that goes into being dumped into the MBTA, for example," said the former state representative. "The T has been a major money loser for a long time, and the mismanagement there is pretty infamous at this point. So, you know, what does a person in Western Massachusetts do about, you know, having to pay more at the pump with a gas tax increase, the state gas tax increase, when the money that's going to Boston then is being wasted? I want to make sure that the money that we're collecting is going to the place that is supposed to go. So, it's not about cutting spending. It's about making sure that that funding is being spent correctly.”

During an October debate, Diehl credited Berkshire County’s largest community as inspiring one of his plans for funding municipalities around the state.

“The mayor of Pittsfield [Linda Tyer] mentioned to me something about also needing to have investments in some of the municipal buildings like police stations and fire departments, and said that there's really no funding formula other than the towns having to raise an appropriate that money," he said. "And one of the things that I thought might be an interesting option is the cannabis commission does generate a pretty decent amount of revenue right now. Maybe creating a dedicated stream from that commission to at least assist with, much like how the Mass school buildings building authority gets their money from the lottery, is one way to creatively help those cities and towns fund those municipal buildings, that help alleviate the cost of the property taxes in each of those towns.”

Polls are open until 8 p.m. tonight.

Josh Landes has been WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief since February 2018, following stints at WBGO Newark and WFMU East Orange. A passionate advocate for Western Massachusetts, Landes was raised in Pittsfield and attended Hampshire College in Amherst, receiving his bachelor's in Ethnomusicology and Radio Production. His free time is spent with his cat Harry, experimental electronic music, and exploring the woods.
Related Content