Healey visits Pittsfield on the heels of election triumph to reaffirm commitment to Berkshire County
Massachusetts Governor-elect Maura Healey visited Pittsfield Thursday just days after a dominant victory in the general election.
The Democratic Attorney General met with local leaders at the Colonial Theatre to affirm her commitment to a region that often feels overlooked by Boston.
“People are looking, in this time, for those of us privileged to serve in government to be out there delivering real results, particularly around affordability," said the governor-elect. "People we know are really challenged by housing costs right now, challenged by heating costs, groceries, healthcare, you name it.”
As Healey and her Lieutenant Governor-Elect Kim Driscoll assemble their administration before January’s inauguration, she committed to bringing aboard Western Massachusetts representatives.
“The only way you're able, in my experience, to make sure you are meeting the needs of people where they're at is if you have people who actually understand what is happening in community, understand what it means, understand that you can't just send people to Springfield from Pittsfield or from North Adams if they need help or assistance,” said Healey.
After Healey easily defeated former state Rep. Geoff Diehl Tuesday, she met with outgoing Governor Charlie Baker on Beacon Hill Wednesday. The trip to Berkshire County came a day later. Healey’s Berkshire roundtable included Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer, State Representative Tricia Farley-Bouvier, the region’s next state senator – current State Representative Paul Mark – and more.
“We talked about housing and the incentives for the creation of housing that will be affordable for families here in the state where, you know, in this region, because right now, there are too many families and too many middle-class families who cannot afford rent, cannot afford down payments, can't afford housing," said Healey. "So, we've got to address that. We also talked about investments in public safety facilities. It's so important that we have facilities that are up to the task of meeting the needs, the health and safety needs, of residents. We talked about economic development and ways in which we can incentivize and bring about and spur more economic development and opportunity. Obviously, you know, here we are in Pittsfield, a place of such rich history when it comes to innovation and manufacturing and technology through centuries, really. But the question is, how can we as a state work with partners, including the federal delegation and private industry, in incentivizing and bringing about the right kind of economic development to this region?”
Tyer told WAMC that Pittsfield’s long overdue need to replace the antiquated police station came up in her conversation with the governor-elect.
“Well, one of the things that I have been emphasizing all year long as the president of the Massachusetts Mayors Association and in conversations with state leadership is how necessary it is that the state establish a funding mechanism so that communities like Pittsfield who have these public safety facilities – police stations, fire stations, or maybe it's a town hall if it's a small community – that are badly in badly need of repair, and communities on their own cannot afford to do renovations or new construction," said the mayor. "So of course, the conversation was, you know, I have a 1930s police station, I can't afford to do a renovation or new construction without help from the state, I really hope that your administration will take a look at something similar to the Massachusetts School Building Association that provides a funding mechanism for new schools, we need something similar for public safety buildings.”
As when Healey visited Pittsfield in July, Farley-Bouvier says the housing crisis was one of the major topics of discussion.
“We have the same housing needs as the rest of the state, but they're different on how we solve them," the state representative told WAMC. "Like, we can't solve the housing, the scale that Boston is going to do. And so, the incentive programs have to be different. We need to have incentives for manufacturing businesses to come here, to expand here. We need to take advantage of the recreation economy and make those investments because it makes a big difference in Berkshire County. And we need investments in public buildings. We know that there's been a disinvestment over many, many years in public buildings in Western Mass, specifically in Pittsfield, in Berkshire County, and so we need to be able to really- It's going to be a brand-new program to start, and I think that she's taking that very seriously.”
WAMC asked Tyer what she hopes Healey will address in the first week of her governorship.
“I really do think it would be a formalized funding mechanism for public safety buildings," she said. "We've got a lot of momentum around housing and a lot of programs and we have to keep nurturing that and keep making those investments. I guess the other thing I would say is, fund the housing incentive development program so that we can get our shovel-ready housing projects that are in the queue off the ground.”