GT Newsletter, 5 June 2021

Dear Greylock Together,

It’s been a crazy time, but we’re going to get started gearing up again.  We’re beginning to meet in person again soon, and we’re going to throw a community picnic, and we’re going to begin to organize again.  And it’s important that we get going.  It’s not just because the country is back on the upswing, with ANWAR leases getting canceled and actual competence in the White House.  It’s also because we want to keep the momentum going.  We’ve had a good, long rest.  But America is opening back up, and so we need to open back up, too.

In 2008, Barack Obama was elected as President of the United States, and a lot of people were very relieved.  Finally, they thought, things will be okay again.  And they just sort of… stopped paying attention.  After all, Obama was president and Democrats held Congress and Jersey Shore was on.

But in 2010, Republicans won the midterm election, and that was the end of a Democratic Congress.  Democrats wouldn’t win control of both chambers for another decade.

It’s going to be an strange election in 2022, one unlike any we’ve ever seen.  Ending of a pandemic, reorienting of work, boom in teenage employment, a favorable Senate map — it’s going to be weird.  That’s good, since it means that we have a shot at escaping another 2010.  Let’s make that happen.

Time for activism, folks.


We Need Help with Postcarding!  Swing Blue Alliance is launching a major new postcarding campaign on June 7 in support of the critical voting rights bill S1, the For The People Act. In partnership with Common Cause they aim to send 150K postcards over June and July to targeted voters in ME, NH, and NV to lobby their Senators in support of passing S1. Greylock Together made a huge impact with postcards and letters this fall. To do it again, we need an intrepid volunteer (or two) to step up as S1 Postcarding Captain! This person would keep track of interested volunteers, order postcards from Swing Blue Alliance, and arrange the logistics of postcard pick-up. (Sarah C can share tips and tricks!) 

**We need YOU! Interested? This can be a terrific summer project from home…please help the team! Respond to this email to let us know. You can also contact Sarah (GT’s fall postcarding captain) at sarah.clader@gmail.comwith questions.
 

Bee Friendly Native Plant Sale.  ONE DAY ONLY — June 5, 9 – 1 pm at the Williamstown Farmers Market.  Pesticide-free, pollinator-friendly native plants, grown at Wing and a Prayer Nursery by Amy Pulley of Cummington. Landscape plugs, an economical option for both small gardens and for planting large areas, and small potted perennials will be available. beefriendlywilliamstown.org for more info.


Newsletter Contact News.  This summer, Jess is grateful to be passing her role to Sarah C. for a necessary summer deep breath! PLEASE SEND ALL ITEMS for newsletter consideration directly to greylocktogether@gmail.com(instead of to Jess and Alexander’s personal email addresses). THANK YOU!!


Williamstown Elections/Committees.  As you saw last time, congratulations are due to new Select Board members Jeff Johnson and Wade Hasty.  Keep the civic energy of the election moving forward by coming to Annual Town Meeting in Williamstown on Tuesday, June 8 at 6:00 PM at the Weston Athletic Complex!

Thanks are also due to Bilal Ansari, Gina Coleman, Aruna D’Souza, Drea Finley, and Mohammed Memfis, five members of Williamstown’s DIRE (Diversity, Inclusion, and Racial Equity) Committee who are departing from the committee. Williamstown owes a debt of gratitude to these community members for their selfless service. The town’s first majority-BIPOC committee is losing five of its six inaugural members of color; many members mentioned how the last ten months have been extremely difficult, in part because of the lack of recognition and respect afforded to the committee and its labor.   If you are interested in supporting this sort of work, you might consider subscribing to the WRJPR newsletter.  That organization focuses specifically on issues of racial justice and equity in Williamstown.


HR1 Phonebanking.  Join our friends at Indivisible Northampton and Common Cause for weekly phonebanks, Thursdays from 6-8 pm, to get this critical legislation over the finish line and passed into law. As a phonebank volunteer, you’ll call voters in specific districts, ask them to call their Senator, and patch them through on-the-spot. Right now we’re focused on Joe Manchin (D-WV). It’s simple, fun, and super effective. No experience needed, all training provided, ALL are welcome and needed! Sign up for one or more Thursdays here.


Williamstown Cares.  The town is embarking on a research project to better understand safety and wellbeing in our town.  They want to hear from as many community members as possible, and especially from those who feel unsafe, unwelcome, or excluded in our town.  If we want to live in a community where everyone feels safe, welcome, and included, we need to know what is preventing that from being true right now. They also need to hear from people who do feel safe, welcome, and included, so they can understand both what is working and what is not. Residents will be getting a mailer with more info, or you can sign up here to be interviewed:  https://williamstownma.gov/community-research/   All interviews will be confidential.

Filibuster Fight.  The fight over the filibuster is getting more and more real now, as it goes from theoretical to real votes.  Schumer is looking to push the issue to try to make the point.  Here‘s a good rundown from the NYT.
 

2021 Grassroot Reboot.  Swing Left Greater Boston and a bunch of cosponsors have put together a grassroots conference: 2021 Grassroots Reboot.  It’s June 5, 10am-12pm. The event is free to everyone. Register now or learn more about the event and its agenda on our website.

 

Williamstown Farms.   Local farmland is facing unprecedented development pressure right now. The Agricultural Commission produced this 10-minute Info film to gain support for farmland preservation: “Farms for the Future: A Conversation about Farmland in Williamstown”: https://vimeo.com/552596026 

The film explains the hardship of farming in a place with high property values and development pressure, such as Williamstown. Please contact the Ag Commission for more information or with any questions, concerns, ideas, or if you would like us to speak to your group or organization. agcom@williamstownma.gov 

 

 Redistricting Fund.  Join Force Multiplier MA next Thursday, June 10, 7:00 – 8:00 pm ET to hear as AG Eric H. Holder, Kelly Ward Burton, Saumya Narechania will speak about the National Redistricting Action Fund’s work to ensure that we have fair maps and that every person’s vote counts equally.  Register Here: https://www.forcemultiplierma.org/events


Check out more news from this week at Muckraker Farm.


CONTACT INFO FOR GT TEAM ACTION:

Resist and persist!
    Alexander

 
 

GT Newsletter, 24 May 2021

 

Please join the community tomorrow (Tuesday) for a vigil marking the one-year anniversary of George Floyd’s murder by Minneapolis police. All are welcome. The students of Buxton School will be participants.

The names of people who have been killed by police in the US this year will be read. *We will hold silence together for 9 minutes and 29 seconds. Signs are encouraged!

 “We honor George’s life by coming together and recommitting to the fight for Black liberation, for a world where Black Lives Matter.” #BLMGlobalNetwork

Join us in solidarity.
5:00 pm – Field Park (rotary), Williamstown

*Please consider whether this will be triggering for you and take good care of yourself.

REMINDER: BLM vigils are hosted every week, Fridays from 5:00 – 5:30 pm at Field Park by Williamstown Racial Justice & Police Reform, First Congregational Church of Williamstown and Greylock Together. 
 

Williamstown 2021 Survey Responses

All candidates were mailed a brief set of questions about important issues to the town a month ago.  Responses are listed below, organized by race.
Three Year Select Board Seat 
One Year Select Board Seat
Planning Board

Three Year Select Board Seat

Candidate Anthony Boskovich declined to answer any questions.

Candidate Jeffrey Johnson’s answers:

1. The most important task facing the 2021–22 Select Board is the hiring of the next permanent Town Manager. What kind of experiences, strengths and vision will you be looking for in candidates? What will help you decide that a candidate is the right fit for this job?

Bridging relationships where political disputes arise, and ensuring that articles voted in by Town Meeting are implemented is vital. Developing disciplinary protocols which involve negotiations with union representation would be an asset. I am looking for a person with a proven track record of exercising real oversight over all of department heads, including the police chief. Our next town manager needs to be an excellent communicator, trustworthy, respectful, ethical, approachable, and have the INTEGRITY TO ALWAYS BE HONEST. If elected as a member of your select board, I would continue to listen to the feedback from citizens during public forums, and would bring relevant, citizen-driven questions to the town manager finalists. Most important, I will look for assistance and guidance from the community regarding who WE collectively would want to be our next town manager.

2. While it has proven possible to create some accessible affordable housing in town by financing discrete developments at great expense, it’s uncertain if this approach will continue to be viable. Do you have any specific ideas that might help create more opportunities for accessible housing?

People working in lower or minimum wage jobs need to have the ability to live in our town. Aging in place is not an option for many in our community due to limited resources. How do we plan to stay here while taxes increase with an aging, declining population? How do we attract or keep essential businesses in town if we do not have the population to support them? We need to focus on all of these areas to ensure the longevity of our town. Key to all of this is affordable, accessible housing which in turn can be connected to our Net Zero warrant initiative.

As a select board member, I will advocate for public discussions on the appropriate level of taxation and service support (land) owed by Williams College. In 2016 the people of Tompkins County, NY did just that when they questioned the state’s nonprofit colleges and universities, and their economic impact on their surrounding communities. In one highly publicized case, Cornell University and its surrounding municipalities disputed the proper level of tax and service support owed by the university. In this situation they were able to reach an agreement which worked for both the university and county. Beyond that, there are other situations around the country where there are “payment-in-lieu-of-taxes” agreements in place between colleges and towns, as well as voluntary contribution pacts. Cornell and the city of Ithaca had one of the “payment-in-lieu-of-taxes” agreements in place which has grown from $250,000 annually in 1995 to roughly $1.25 million in 2016. Those funds are utilized to provide additional steady budget support to municipal services.

Williams College currently owns land and buildings with an assessed valuatoin of $350 million dollars in our town. I very much appreciate what the Williams College community brings in terms of employment opportunities, increasing diversity, and expanding our access to the arts. I am not saying Williams should begin to pay full taxes to the town on the entire amount of the property owned, but it is time for negotiations to explore the possibilities. Middlebury College did something similar to this and has a 20-year agreement that the town forged with the college in 2004. In their situation the amount of the payments is tied to both the town tax rate and the investment return rate on the college’s endowment. I will work with our town committees to develop a potential agreement with the college and utilize a portion of new funds to directly support a common goal of increasing accessible housing. Exploring ideas such as purchasing/developing the Sweet Brook property, and more centrally building on the former town garage location, could provide multiple new residential options in our town. I will sit down with local banks and the Affordable Housing Trust to identify ways that we can offer mortgage support for families interested in purchasing a home here like the program the Town of Wellfleet offers. Let’s research what other towns are doing and borrow ideas that way as well.

3. Would you support increasing the density of the zoning in some parts of town, most particularly in general residential, in order to permit the development of more accessible affordable housing?

Yes, we need to look at everything possible to expand the residential options in our town! The total population in Williamstown is shrinking, while our retired and elderly population continues to grow. Williams College has issues related to housing for professors and we have other young professionals looking to start families who can’t afford to live here. Any new development should be connected to helping us decrease the number of internal combustion vehicles in line with the state/town goal to attain net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Allowing people to reside in accessible housing closer to downtown, and near existing bus routes would help to decrease carbon emissions. To do this we need to make changes to the zoning in our town. Having said this, I believe there needs to be a balance that also ensures water and sewer impacts along with equal opportunity, diversity, and affordability which is the major issue in the area of housing.

4. Given the challenge of systemic racism in our nation and the current need for addressing its harmful impacts here in Williamstown, how do you see it manifesting in Williamstown at this time? How do you plan to address it from a seat of leadership?

Since March 2020, we all have been treated equally by one common foe – Covid-19. Our lives as we knew them have been forever changed; it was none of our faults and the Coronavirus did not care what color, religion, sexual identity, or economic status we held. While sheltering in place we watched the dead count soar, our economy fall apart, unemployment hit record levels, people in food lines, parents scrambling to navigate remote schooling, and many other life altering events. We then felt the heartache of the killings of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and many others, watched national protest intensify, watched incidents of gun violence rise across our nation, bore witness to a national election the likes of which our nation has never seen, and watched an insurrection against our democracy on January 6th, 2021. We have been through hell, and these experiences have had a major effect on all of us.

During this time, many of us began to take a critical look at ourselves and our town, and seek a path for moving forward. I began hearing stories which challenged the love I have felt in this town, versus the opposite lived experiences of some others in our town. We have heard stories that highlighted the systemic and personal discrimination in all forms – even within our own police department. I have watched at a distance the online banter which only has inflamed the divide in the experience of harm and the willingness (or not) to engage in conversation about the kind of town we all want. The divide absolutely has had a negative impact on our youth. Beginning to acknowledge our past and present issues has opened up wounds which need to be healed. Williamstown is no different than anywhere else. We have the same issues, problems, and the village has been humbled.

On August 18, 2020 the citizens of Williamstown Town Meeting made their choice clear when we voted in Articles 36, “NOT IN OUR COUNTY PLEDGE” and 37, “EQUITY”. As part of Article 37, “Quarterly reports should be shared with the Race and Equity Advisory Committee and community members to address progress towards the above goals. These reports should include types and vendors of equity training and policies and procedures created to advance access for traditionally under-represented groups.” If elected to our select board, I am determined to work tirelessly to ensure that both of these articles are woven into the fabric of our town government and entire community. These articles speak to how we want people in our town to be treated, and they will help to guide us towards increasing equity in our town. We need to rebuild our trust in one another in order for us to all to feel safe so we can start to move forward.

5. Cannabis cultivation and sales represent a rare opportunity for the development of a new local industry. Do you believe that the town should try to incentivize this new industry and support it?

Every town in the county is on track to have their own dispensary or cultivation business. When done the right way with thoughtfulness, this could be an opportunity for our town – especially considering the tax revenue which can be generated. There is a good reason so many related businesses from the western part of the country want to come here ($$$), so we need to take the time to ensure we have the right rules and regulations in place for OUR town. If we were to vote to move in this direction, I would work to ensure incentives are in place that gave our citizens a fair shot at developing a local business and disincentivize bigger companies from devouring our market. I would also want us to educate the public on the facts related to any potential environmental impacts of large commercial growers. 

6. Recently, one of the candidates for a Select Board seat, Niko White, chose to leave the race. When he did, he said that he was worried he would be a spoiler and split the vote, mentioning that this wouldn’t be a problem with Ranked Choice Voting. Do you think RCV is a good idea for our town?

RCV is an interesting concept and I understand Niko’s thoughts around his decision to leave the race. When multiple candidates share a similar platform, it can split the vote and enable someone with a much smaller level of support to win. We all benefit when there are more choices, as it makes the candidates work harder for the votes of our citizens. This year in our town we now only have 1:1 races for the select board seats so it actually worked itself out, but I absolutely have been on the other end in my voting history where I would have ranked the winner the lowest and chosen anyone but the person who won. Bottom line: RCV appears to be the fairest way to determine local elections.

7. What is your vision for a 21st-century public safety model? How do you think Williamstown can begin to adopt new measures that allow all of us to live a life of greater safety and wellbeing?

I hope that we are in the midst of the renaissance in which policing will be reformed at the national level, and within our town. We as a town are in the beginning stages of a social work project which will help us to identify what we need to feel safe. Our greatest strength is our collective experience and creativity, as Williamstown is a special place which attracts people from many different aspects of life. Bringing everyone together – residents, police officers, members of town government – will help us to find the best path forward. To do this we need full participation and honesty, as the data obtained will be used to determine what “safe” means. For example, do we follow the Ithaca proposal and create a community safety center with some armed police and others trained in de-escalating other types of situations such as domestic violence and opioid-related calls? Do we use civilian traffic-flaggers? Regardless of the path Williamstown takes, I am hoping that at a minimum, we use data to drive decisions and we encourage the federal lawmakers to address qualified immunity and require officers who witness another officer doing harm to intervene. If elected to serve on your select board, I will work to ensure more immediately that we provide our police department with the training and other appropriate resources to do their jobs in the safest, least intrusive manner possible in collaboration with the local community. This includes providing more training in mental health desolation, and ensuring our officers are provided with the proper mental health supports with the task of keeping our town safe.

The right type of person in the role of permanent police chief who can build a strong community partnership will be key. We need someone who has a commitment to fair, respectful, transparent, safe and effective policing and who can effect a culture change seamlessly. Strong community policing through community engagement is a must. Of course, they need to be willing to work collaboratively with town manager. I would also consider a charter change to have the police chief report directly to the Select Board, the citizens’ elected representatives, which would ensure that oversight is transparent in open meetings.

One Year Select Board Seat

Candidate Albert Cummings IV declined to answer any questions.

Candidate Wade Hasty’s answers:

1. The most important task facing the 2021–22 Select Board is the hiring of the next permanent Town Manager. What kind of experiences, strengths and vision will you be looking for in candidates? What will help you decide that a candidate is the right fit for this job?

Someone that is pro-transparency, pro-accountability, pro-charter. Much of what has become rising tensions within the town can be traced back to Hoch initially having never disclosed the MCAD complaint. That the Town Manager wasn’t willing to offer the former Police Chief tough love, instead choosing to hold his hand when it came to discipline, set the department back with internal discipline that needed to happen, and it set our town’s trust back by the information that has come about. The Town Manager needs to be proactive in their role, it is not simply an administrative role, that might be one category, but a leader wears many hats, and informing the Select Board is paramount among their duties. Having the will and integrity to exercise initiative without the Electorate and/or Select Board needing to consistently push the Town Manager in the correct direction. Stated differently, “leaders lead from the front, and by example.” I wouldn’t want to hire someone that simply acknowledges our two pledges, I would want to hire someone that emulates them, and makes them an expectation for their subordinates.

2. While it has proven possible to create some accessible affordable housing in town by financing discrete developments at great expense, it’s uncertain if this approach will continue to be viable. Do you have any specific ideas that might help create more opportunities for accessible housing?

No, I do not currently have specific ideas. I have general approaches to how I would push to work with others.

First, look at current zoning, specifically what is currently above the flood zones. Then have the people weigh-in on priority of land-usage. Let’s also agree that housing can quickly become a moving target, so the fastest, and most efficient response the better.

I won’t be agreeable to packing lower economic people together so that they can be zoned into otherized areas of town. This town is already ripe with that terrible practice in its history, I’ll not participate in it.

Second, getting in touch with those already working the solutions after I have done some external information gathering. The hope is that I might have a fresh perspective, present ideas that those more experienced with the issues can poke holes at, the best plans are those that have been run through a gauntlet of criticisms and still can be patched better than their initial state.

I would caution us to understand any potential power dynamics as we decide which areas to zone for additional housing. Not meant as a scare tactic, meant to offer pause before reinforcing disparity.

3. Would you support increasing the density of the zoning in some parts of town, most particularly in general residential, in order to permit the development of more accessible affordable housing?

Off-the-cuff, I can’t answer this question. It’s a complex issue, I don’t feel comfortable giving an affirmative nor negative response. I understand this position is unsatisfying, I am open to having dialog(s) with others that have looked more closely at this problem, currently I am not up to speed. That being said, I am open to discussing zoning densities.

4. Given the challenge of systemic racism in our nation and the current need for addressing its harmful impacts here in Williamstown, how do you see it manifesting in Williamstown at this time? How do you plan to address it from a seat of leadership?

Lead, follow, or get out of the way. This includes me, this includes members of the Electorate. The Electorate is a cog in the proverbial machine, it either corrects those contributing to errors of judgment, or it becomes complacent and problems fester. I am that correction, Jeff Johnson, is that correction. Much of the racist incidents that are happening, even within our systems are from those that are not rooted in a position of power. Zoom bombs with racial slurs, references to imports in online forums, etc. These are our battlegrounds, and holding our neighbors accountable as members of the Electorate matters.

5. Cannabis cultivation and sales represent a rare opportunity for the development of a new local industry. Do you believe that the town should try to incentivize this new industry and support it?

Define incentivize, and be specific. Those with land to grow are going to be in the best position, what are the multi-faceted impacts for those that are intersecting at points of low economic standing, without higher education? If there is a benefit for them without land, then that should be the audience we support through equity incentives.

6. Recently, one of the candidates for a Select Board seat, Niko White, chose to leave the race. When he did, he said that he was worried he would be a spoiler and split the vote, mentioning that this wouldn’t be a problem with Ranked Choice Voting. Do you think RCV is a good idea for our town?

RCV is utilized in my home State of Maine. The first past the poll model doesn’t promote representative democracy, RCV is a tool that enables more residual voices to be accounted for, I support RCV. As a 3P advocate, and Anti-Partisan proponent, I really support RCV!

Also worth mentioning, Niko had talked about how those in lower economic standard couldn’t devote more time to public service because things like Select Board members aren’t paid. I know North Adams City Council pays a stipend, how does Greylock Together feel about making it possible to have more candidates run by it being less financially a burden? Don’t worry, I am only seeking the year seat, so if anything like this were in the works, I wouldn’t benefit (it’d feel like a conflict of interest were I to bring it up otherwise). If we’re going to look at our electoral process, I think having this discussion too would be worthwhile.

7. What is your vision for a 21st-century public safety model? How do you think Williamstown can begin to adopt new measures that allow all of us to live a life of greater safety and wellbeing?

I want to see Officer Friendly return to the streets, pound the pavement with your feet, get out, meet and greet people. Those that are stuck inside their vehicles adding a layer of separation between themselves and the community are not seeking to resolve tensions, they’re simply hoping the tensions go away, this isn’t how to embed yourself in a community. Those that are hiding behind their police department doors conducting illegal business against the citizenry compounds those layers to an unstable degree.

I want to work with DIRE and discover any and all State laws that would permit a LEO to pull over a person of color. I don’t believe in “routine traffic stops,” someone either has or has not committed an infraction, and if they have not, it’s called harassment. Every law that exists in such capacity, should be weighed with the scrutiny that the Police Officer can murder your neighbor with it. If we’re not going to get serious about a stupid air freshener hanging from a mirror, oh and btw, ever look inside a police vehicle, they’ve got plenty to distract them while driving, then we’re not being serious enough to change these terrible stories!

The best part is, both of these resolutions are a value-add, win/win for both sides. Less friction involved, less harassment, more positive interactions. This is the essence of Community Building, and when you weigh it like that, you can see what has been missing from our community leaders and their lacking in forward thinking.

Planning Board Seat

Candidate Susan Puddester’s answers.

1. While it has proven possible to create some accessible housing in town by financing discrete developments at great expense, it’s uncertain if this approach will continue to be viable. Do you have any specific ideas that might help create more opportunities for accessible housing?

The good news is that in Williamstown we are very close to meeting the 10% of affordable housing goal set by the state. We are currently over 9% and when the results of the 2020 Census are in, it could actually be over 10%. Although the homes in the Spruces Mobile Home Park were affordable, they were not officially considered “affordable housing” statistics.
As a founding member of Higher Ground, I was involved in researching possible options for relocation of the residents. We worked for over a year looking at possible sites for that to happen. Unfortunately options were limited. The suggestion of using 10 of the 40 acres at the Lowry property (which had originally designated as a site for a local high school) was rejected. With the perseverance of Higher Ground, we were able to work with Williams College who provided the land to build affordable housing units(Highland Woods). Out of this effort came a proposal from the Williamstown Affordable Housing Committee to build affordable housing units at the end of Cole Ave. With the construction of Highland Woods and the Cole Ave. Project the town is well situated to meet the needs of those who qualify Affordable Housing
Another option available to us in Williamstown is 40R Housing. Chapter 40R seeks to substantially increase the supply of housing and decrease its cost, by increasing the amount of land zoned for dense housing. It targets the shortfall in housing for low- and moderate-income households, by requiring the inclusion of affordable units in most private projects. 40R would help increase the range of housing choices, encourage greater diversity, encourage a more economic and energy efficient us of the Towns housing supply while maintaining the appearance and character of the Towns single family housing neighborhoods. A possible location for something like this would be in the Water St., Latham St area of town. It would require us to re-zone the area, but that’s something that we could think about as we work in the Towns new Master Plan.
We should continue to pursue the state and federal programs that have helped us get to where we are now and continue to support the successful effort of the Williamstown Housing Trust to increase housing stock and promote home ownership. We should also consider zoning changes that will facilitate the the construction and renovation of affordable housing and work with our financial institutions to make financing for affordable for out neighbors

2. Would you support increasing the density of the zoning in some parts of town, most particularly the general residential, in order to permit the development of more accessible housing?

Yes I do, in fact I was on the Planning Board in 2018 when we worked with Mass. Housing Partnership to do just that. Over the year the Board held meetings and workshops to gather community input and advertised our efforts around town to get addition feedback. The response was generally positive and the board proposed warrant articles that would allow for more density. Unfortunately at the Public Hearing in May 2018, it was clear there wasn’t support in town for these initiatives to increase zoning densities. Given the strong opposition, we withdrew the warrant articles from the Town Warrant. It is my hope that attitudes have changed in town with respect to increasing the amount of accessible housing and increase zoning density. With the recent change in state law allow zoning changes related to housing to pass by a majority vote, instead of a 2/3 vote. I am hopeful we will be successful making changes in the near future.
While we are closing in our goal for Affordable Housing and we have larger single family homes, what we lack here is the “missing middle” housing. My goal and, that of my other colleagues on the Planning Board is for the town to have more housing for the Missing Middle. Housing for those who do not meet the financial requirements to qualify for “Affordable Housing” but are unable to afford the cost of a large single family home like those found in many neighborhoods in town.
I also want to welcome people to our community that are not interested in owning and maintaining a home. Changing zoning to allow additional multifamily homes would be a grad addition to our town and help us increase diversity in our community.

3.Given the challenge of systemic racism in our nation and the current need for addressing its harmful impacts here in Williamstown, how do you see it manifesting in Williamstown at this time? How do you plan to address it from a seat of leadership?

We have a serious problem nationwide, and in our community. There are people in under-represented minorities as well as those, who because of their economic situation, do not feel welcome in Williamstown. I saw first hand after the flooding at the Spruces how unwelcome the residents were made to feel. In public meetings I attended they were actually referred to as “those people”.
There is a divide in our town and we need to work together to try to bridge this divide. A group, consisting of Peter Beck and myself from the Planning Board, Drew Art and Mohammed Memphis, and Tom Sheldon from the Williamstown Affordable Trust have begun conversations about how we can increase the diversity of housing options for current town residents, and those who might like to call Williamstown home. By increasing types of housing in town we are saying to people “you are welcome here”

4. Cannabis cultivation and sales represent a rare opportunity for the development of a new local industry. Do you believe that the town should try to incentivize this new industry and support it?

The Town voted in 2016 to legalize Marijuana. At the 2017 Town Meeting voters approved the proposed bylaws by an 85% to 15% vote to allow cultivation. That tells me that there is an interest in cannabis cultivation and sales. As we have seen over the past 2 years, there has been a lot of controversy around how the town should regulate cultivation.
Last year the Planning Board heard support from the community for Indoor Growing, but not for Outdoor growing, so that’s what the Board proposed at Town Meeting. A citizens petition, propose but the Agricultural Commission proposed the option of outdoor growing. Neither bylaw passed.
This year the board worked with the Agriculture Commission, held numerous meetings and workshops, and engaged in discussion with other town committees including the Board of Health and School officials. We have drafted a detailed bylaw that is actually more restrictive than the one that was overwhelmingly approved at the Town Meeting in 2017 and has the support of the Agricultural Commission and several local farmers.
This year we are proposing (for a vote at Town Meeting) that 5,000 sq. ft be allowed by right. This will make it easier and less costly for a farmer to start small. We hope that this will encourage smaller grows. Until we find out the outcome of the proposed bylaws at this years Town meeting, it doesn’t make sense to discuss incentives when there is still so much controversy about production.

5. The Planning Board has spent a majority of its time recently working on a new proposal for how the facilities for cannabis cultivation and sales will be zoned. Do you support the proposed bylaw amendment? Why or why not?

Yes I support it. It was disappointing last year to spend so much of the year gathering community input and creating g a bylaw in response to feedback, only have the warrant article fail at Town Meeting.
What the board is doing now is tightening up our existing bylaws. As I stated previously the proposed bylaw is more restrictive but, based on input from the Agricultural Commission and testimony from farmers, will provide the possibility for a financially viable business. It will also provide potential growers with more specific and detailed rules they can depend on if they want to start a business. Other Massachusetts communities have figured out ways to balance the needs of different groups in their community and still allow cultivation to help farmers. We believe that the proposed bylaw achieves that goal. These proposed changes to our bylaws are more restrictive than those we have now. While some in our community believe this is not restrictive enough, we believe it reflects the feedback we have received from the community.

Susan also sends along this addendum:

I participated in the Greylock together forum on Sunday April 19 for candidates for the Williamstown Select Board and Planning Board and I’d like to clarify my response to a question about Conservation Land in Williamstown. I was asked if I thought there was too much land under conservation in Williamstown? My answer was “No”. Our conserved land is part of what makes this town so special. I am grateful for those with the foresight, long before I arrived in Town, to see that land conserved.

This is the lesson I learned about restricting land use by placing it under the jurisdiction of the Conservation. Before I came to Williamstown, land on Stratton Rd. was purchased to build a local high school. When a decision was later made by the community to be part of a regional high school, the town needed to do something with the land. That’s how the Lowry Property ended up under permanent conservation.

In 2012 when the Town and Higher Ground were looking for a place for the Spruces community to relocate, Town Manager Peter Fohlin suggested using 10 of the 40 acres for “replacement housing”. Since the land’s status was under the care of the Conservation Committee, that was out of the question.

I am not against putting more land into conservation, but that we should think long and hard before we permanently restrict any more our precious land. We never know what the future may hold and we cannot continue to rely on the College to offer up land for community use.

Candidate Roger Lawrence declined to answer any questions, referring us instead to his campaign site’s issues page.

Candidate Ken Kuttner’s answers:

1. While it has proven possible to create some accessible housing in town by financing discrete developments at great expense, it’s uncertain if this approach will continue to be viable. Do you have any specific ideas that might help create more opportunities for accessible housing?

It’s true, creating subsidized affordable housing is not cheap — and to its credit, the Town has made some progress on this over the years. Where we have been less successful is in providing unsubsidized moderately priced housing options.

This has been a concern for years — it’s one of the main issues taken up in the 2002 master plan — and here we are, nearly 20 years later, still struggling with it. I’m not aware of any magic wands that can be waved to make moderately priced housing appear. I know it sounds like a bit of a cop-out, but I think some serious research is needed to gain a better understanding of why the market is so skewed. On the demand side: what are the types of housing that would best fulfil the unmet need? My hunch is that it would be medium-density, maybe 2-3 family condo or townhouse style developments — but honestly, I don’t know. What are the impediments on the supply side? If all that’s required is a little rezoning, that’s something that would be relatively easy to solve; I suspect it’s going to take more than that, however. We should solicit developers’ views on this, and work with them to identify any obstacles. Does it have to do with some peculiarities of the Williamstown housing market, such as the College’s huge footprint — the largest property owner and landlord by far? I suspect that’s also part of the story, and there we would have to work with the College to make sure their plans didn’t crowd out the provision of housing that was more accessible to the non-College community.

2. Would you support increasing the density of the zoning in some parts of town, most particularly the general residential, in order to permit the development of more accessible housing?

Yes, definitely. And if this happened near the town center, it would have the added benefit of contributing to the economic vibrancy of the Spring/Water Street area.

3.Given the challenge of systemic racism in our nation and the current need for addressing its harmful impacts here in Williamstown, how do you see it manifesting in Williamstown at this time? How do you plan to address it from a seat of leadership?

There’s no doubt about it: Williamstown is not what you’d call diverse, by any stretch of the imagination. Honestly, as a white guy, I can’t pretend to know how that feels from the standpoint of a person of color; I can only listen to others’ experiences, and imagine what it must be like. And we have all heard and read about the numerous ugly incidents that have occurred on the campus and in town over the years.

There are countless things, big and small, we need to be doing as individuals and as a community, to make things change. I see the Planning Board’s role in this centering on addressing the housing issue, discussed in questions #2 and #3. The racial income and wealth gaps in this country are appalling, and as a result living in Williamstown is out of reach financially for all but a very few Black and other minority households. So making progress on housing issues is going to be necessary if there is going to be any hope of making the town more diverse.

4. Cannabis cultivation and sales represent a rare opportunity for the development of a new local industry. Do you believe that the town should try to incentivize this new industry and support it?

I definitely support cannabis cultivation, and the Town should enable it with sensible bylaws that make it economically viable. I would not subsidize it, however.

5. The Planning Board has spent a majority of its time recently working on a new proposal for how the facilities for cannabis cultivation and sales will be zoned. Do you support the proposed bylaw amendment? Why or why not?

No answer provided yet.

GT Newsletter, 2 May 2021

 

Dear Greylock Together,

WILLIAMSTOWN TOWN ELECTION is TuesdayMay 11
Please VOTE and spread the word! (7 am to 8 pm at Williamstown Elementary School) or Download your ballot application right now and drop it off at Town Hall by May 5th.

Know your candidates! Candidate forum links are below. We will send out a special edition newsletter with candidate responses to our survey in the coming week. 

(Other non-Williamstown election items included below as well…scroll down!)

Greylock Together Williamstown Candidate Forum—watch here
Videos of League of Women Voters forum:
1 years select board seat
3 year select board seat
Planning board seat
WilliNet Meet the Candidates:
Housing Authority

Thank you WilliNet!

Update from Wade Hasty, Candidate for Select Board one-year seat:
We all benefit the most when voters have a chance to engage with candidates. If you’re on the fence about me, disinterested in politics/voting, or plan to vote for someone else; I challenge you to reach out and contact me, or hopefully spare some time to meet at one of the planned locations. Regardless of the election results, I would welcome a chance to meet my neighbors.

1-year is left, 1-year to last, 0-people left out 

Bringing value to the community by working with our Public Safety on planned initiatives that supports their voiced needs. Emplace a lasting structure for accountability and transparency that serves to augment our town strengths while simultaneously preventing future rifts. Reinvigorate the Select Board by being an example of effective presence, setting a tone of caring and professional leadership that outpaces community concerns. 

TEAMWORK NEEDED:
Every donation helps! For signs and mailers!

Visibility matters: For Wade Hasty yard signscontact: wadehasty4selectboard@gmail.com; 413-672-1525

Update from Jeff Johnson for Select Board three-year seat: 
We are in the home stretch!!! Below is a list of a few things I have been up to the past week:
4/26:  DIRE & Select Board meetings
4/27:  I met with a few privately and discussed items related to affordable housing needs and opportunities in our town.
4/28:  I spent the afternoon with Lizzy Beck meeting with students at Buxton School to discuss the structure of our town government.
4/29:  I attended a fabulous RJPR sponsored Community Circle meeting!!!
5/1:  I spent the day at the transfer station meeting people and discussing my campaign platform!
Just 9 more days until the election, please VOTE on MAY 11!
I am sincerely asking you for your vote so WE can work TOGETHER to heal our town!

Still Two Sundays Left to Meet Jeff Johnson!
For Jeff Johnson yard signs contact: jeffjohnson4selectboard@gmail.com



VOLUNTEERS NEEDED: ELECTION STANDOUTS ARE CRITICAL – BRING A SIGN AND JOIN IN!
JEFF JOHNSON standouts
– location is at Corner of Cole Ave. & Main St.
WADE HASTY standouts  – location is at the rotary at Field Park
**BOTH SIGNS WELCOME AT BOTH LOCATIONS!!
ALL DATES AND TIMES BELOW ARE THE SAME

FRIDAY MAY 7 – 12 pm    
SATURDAY MAY 8 –  BOTH AT TRANSFER STATION – 10 am – 12 pm 
SATURDAY MAY 8 – 12 pm 
(Sunday, none)
MONDAY, MAY 10 – 12 pm
MONDAY MAY 10 – 4:30 pm 
ELECTION DAY, MAY 11BOTH AT THE YOUTH CENTER, SCHOOL ST.Please sign up for one or two hour shifts between 7 am and 8 pm.
Please sign up for a shift (it takes a village…seeing many faces really helps!). CONTACT:
jeffjohnson4selectboard@gmail.com  
wadehasty4selectboard@gmail.comTHE FIRST 100 DAYS! 
Much work ahead, but much to highlight and celebrate.
Thanks to Jim Mahon for sharing this terrific resource:
Joe Biden at 100 days: A Resource GuideFROM TEAM INDIVISIBLE:

Check out our For the People Project page to learn more about our plans and find ways to take action.  If we are going to remake our democracy into one that works for the people and achieve all of our progressive priorities—like affordable healthcare, a green new deal, a pathway to citizenship for all immigrants, and economic and racial justice—we need our members of Congress to use the majority that we built to defend our democracy. Watch the video

This is urgent given the 81 anti-protest bills being proposed by Republicans

Opinion | States should be listening to protesters. Instead they’re shutting them up.

Oklahoma Governor Signs Law Granting Immunity for Drivers Who Kill Protesters
 

Immigrants’ Day at the State House!

Every year the MIRA Coalition convenes hundreds of immigrant and refugee constituents from across the Commonwealth to meet with their legislators to advocate for legislative and budget priorities including the Safe Communities Act and the Work and Family Mobility Act.

This year’s speaking program runs from 11 to 11:40am, and will feature comments from Boston Mayor Kim Janey, Senator William N. Brownsberger, Senate President Pro Tempore, and SCA lead sponsor Representative Ruth B. Balser, House Second Division Chair, as well as Dalida Rocha, Political Director of SEIU 32BJ and Gabriel Camacho, Political Director of UFCW Local 1445.

This program will be followed at 11:45am by Regional Roundtables hosted jointly by legislators and member organizations for an informal exchange—an opportunity to advocate for the bills.

IMC and several local Indivisible groups are members of the Safe Communities Act Coalition. We hope you’ll join us on Tuesday, May 4 to advocate for this and other legislation to support immigrants. Register HERE

DRAWING DEMOCRACY:
If you want to ensure that underrepresented communities have the opportunity to elect candidates of their choice who best reflect their needs and interests, check out Drawing Democracy, a coalition of community organizations, civil rights lawyers, public policy advocates, data and mapping experts, and political scientists working on this issue. You can find resources about redistricting, sign up for their newsletter, or volunteer to help. 

STOP GUN VIOLENCE: An Act To Prevent Mass Shootings

Bill H.D. 4192 & Bill S.D. 2588: On Tuesday April 20, State Representatives Marjorie Decker (D-Cambridge) and Frank Moran (D-Lawrence) filed legislation, co-sponsored by Senator Cynthia Creem (D-Newton) and Rep. Bud Williams (D-Springfield), that would prohibit the in-state manufacture of assault weapons that are banned in Massachusetts. The text of the bill can be found here

Massachusetts law prohibits the sale, transfer or possession of assault style weapons and large capacity feeding devices with 10 or more rounds. Yet, companies located in our state continue to manufacture, possess, transport and export assault weapons that are prohibited in the Commonwealth – contributing to gun violence, injuries and deaths in other states. The legislation would prohibit these weapons from being manufactured in the Commonwealth.

John Rosenthal, founder of Stop Handgun Violence: “Our duty extends beyond our State borders. Thousands of military style assault weapons are manufactured in Massachusetts that can’t even be sold in the Commonwealth because of our permanent assault weapons ban. There is a mass shooting of four or more people every single day in America and many of the assault weapons used by mass shooters are made right here in the Commonwealth. If these weapons of war can’t be owned here, why should they be able to be made here and then used to massacre people in other states? We must do everything we can to prevent their manufacture in Massachusetts for distribution across the United States.”

LOCAL ACTION: Call and write to our State Reps and Senators.
They need to cosponsor this critical legislation and they need to hear from us! 
Senator Adam Hinds
Representative John Barrett

GOOD NEWS:  – Both Senators Markey and Warren are cosponsors of federal legislation S.736 – Assault Weapons Ban of 2021. Be sure to thank them! (And yes, this actually matters.)

VOLUNTEER DRIVER NEEDED…it takes a village!

Helper needed! One of the Berkshire Immigrant Center‘s clients in Williamstown is scheduled for her naturalization ceremony on Friday May 7th in Springfield at the District Court, 300 State St. She has no transportation. Congratulations to this neighbor!

BIC is looking for a volunteer driver. Please contact Charles Bonenti ASAP for details if you can assist. This client is vaccinated and needs to be there at 12:15 pm.  volunteer@berkshireic.org or 413-458-4886. THANK YOU!!!

FOOD SECURITY: From Morgan Ovitsky

At the last North Berkshire Food Access Collaborative meeting, many were eager to continue the planning and implementation of a “Food Hub”. During the Community Food Assessment process this group prioritized and set the goal of: 

  • Goal 1: A Food Hub provides farmers and community food security organizations with increased food preparation and distribution infrastructure and services.

If you are interested in continuing this conversation, please let me know your availability by responding to this doodle poll

Check out more news from this week at Muckraker Farm.

Events (GCal,iCal)

United Against Racism – BLM Weekly Vigils Fridays @ 5 PM, Field Park, Williamstown 



Gender Identity Series: Mondays May 3, 10 & 17 @ 7 pm, hosted by FCC (First Congregational Church), Williamstown

  • May 3 – documentary film screening and discussion of The Trans List
  • May 10 – book discussion of Becoming Nicole: The Transformation of an American Family by Amy Ellis Nutt (please order a copy from the library today!)
  • May 17 – Conversation with Mx Chris Paige (pronouns they/them) author of OtherWise Christian: A Guidebook for Transgender Liberation

CONTACT INFO FOR GT TEAM ACTION:

Resist and persist!
Wendy, Jess, Alexander

GT Newsletter, 14 April 2021

 

 

Dear Greylock Together,

It’s kind of crazy how much is going on.  Maybe it’s not, though?  There’s a lot of things to do and people to help, after all.  Check out some of the links below and remember that it’s important to be an active activist!  Try to do something each week, if you can!

This Sunday there’s a panel event for Williamstown candidates for the Select Board and Planning Board.  If you’re on of our Williamstown members, we hope to see you there; you will have a chance to submit questions through the moderator for them!  It will also be recorded, for those who can’t watch live.
 

Daunte Wright BLM Vigil.   Williamstown Racial Justice & Police Reform, Greylock Together, and First Church are sponsoring a vigil for the recently slain Daunte Wright.  Join us at Field Park on Friday, April 16, 5:00 PM to mourn and honor him.

All are welcome. Please wear a mask, practice social distancing, and bring your friends and family. Daunte Wright should be alive today. But police terror and white supremacy took his life. Enough is enough. We must all do more to end white supremacy and police brutality and support Black freedom and survival.  Please spread the word!  Questions? Contact Rachel Payne at 617-309-0186 or rachel.r.payne@gmail.com
 

Williamstown votes.  Williamstownees (-towners?), you’ll be casting your vote on May 11th.  Our candidate forum is Sunday, April 18th, 3:00 – 4:30 pm, for Select Board and Planning Board Candidates.  It will be recorded and shared on WilliNet post-event.  Here is the Zoom link (ID:891 2624 9165 Passcode: 905196).  Thanks to WilliNet Community TV for “Meet The Candidate” links below.

Thus far, only Select Board candidate Albert Cummings has declined to attend the panel.

  Select Board (One-Year):

Select Board (Three-Year):

Planning Board:

There are other races as well!  Housing Authority:  Steve Dew Joan Diver; Library Trustee: Charles Bonenti ; and Northern Berkshire Vocational Regional School District: Laila Boucher.

Jeff Johnson has also sent along links to more chances to meet him and discuss the race; see the times and details here.

Spring Cleanup North Adams.  Join GreeNA for this year’s Earth Day cleanupin the fight against #plasticpollution by participating in community trash cleanup in YOUR North Adams neighborhood in honor of #EarthDay2021. Whether it’s a lot or a little, every piece of litter picked up makes a cleaner, greener city for ALL of us to enjoy. So get outside on your lunch break or before or after work or school, bring a trash bag and gloves, and don’t forget to SNAP A PICTURE and use #northadamscleanup2021 to inspire others and show us the good work YOU are doing for YOUR community. Remember: Always use safety measures and caution on busy roadways and avoid sharp objects or needles.
 

Spring Cleanup Williamstown.  Please join us for a spring Litter Cleanup Action Day at Field Park on Saturday, April 17th, from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm! Volunteers are needed to pick up trash along roadways, parks, and riverbanks all across Williamstown. Check-in at Field Park anytime between 9 am and noon for instructions and a yellow trash bag. Please wear bright clothes and appropriate shoes and work gloves. Come for an hour or more. Kids are welcome! Covid protocols apply. Contact: Anne O’Connor aoconnor@williamstownma.gov


Ossoff Matters.  It’s worth stopping to appreciate how much this work matters.  We haven’t just helped change control of our government — we’ve also helped put some good new leaders in place.  Matt Stoller recently shared one anecdote of how Georgia Senator Jon Ossoff quietly and competently helped solve a significant issue for Georgia industry and green technology.  Check it out.


Hinds Hate Crime Bill.  Our state senator, Adam Hinds, has joined with state rep Tram Nguyen and MA Attorney-General Maura Healey to introduce a new bill focused on combatting on hate crimes, SD.972.  We should always be skeptical of new bills which strengthen penalties for crime, since it’s too-often a one-way ratchet.  “Tough on crime” gets applause, “weak on crime” gets a primary challenger.  But the bill seems reasonable and also cleans up some existing text in a way that clarifies some confusion.  Take a look at it.  Healey had this comment on the bill:“Hate crimes have increased in this country. From anti-Asian violence, attacks against immigrants, Black, indigenous and people of color, racist graffiti and slurs, anti-Semitism, and Islamophobia – what we’ve seen happening in our communities is unacceptable and cannot be tolerated. We CANNOT make excuses for this violence – for white supremacy, terrorism, and hate. That’s why I partnered with Senator Adam Hinds and Representative Tram Nguyen to reform our hate crimes laws. And it’s why we will continue to fight for a holistic approach to stop hate, including listening to and supporting affected communities, addressing systemic racism and inequity, and driving change in our culture that will prevent hate before it happens.”And thanks to Rep. Barrett and Senator Hinds for signing onto the  VOTES Actin Massachusetts, which will make it easier to register and vote here in MA, now has a majority of co-sponsors in both the House and the Senate!
 

Williamstown COOL Committee Zoom.  Join a Zoom Conversation with the COOL Committee on a Net-Zero Williamstown on Tuesday, April 20, 7:00 – 8:00 pm.

 

Scars of Colonialism Talk.  Join Heather Bruegl, Cultural Affairs Director of the Stockbridge Munsee Community of the Mohican people, the first nation of what we know as the Berkshires, Thursday, April 22 at 6 pm via Zoom to hear her discuss “The Scars and Costs of Colonialism.”  Find out more info from sponsor First Church.
 

Racial Justice Seminar. There will be a seminar discussing racial justice hosted by Community Legal Aid next month.  Thanks to Carrie Love for sharing: she was a GT featured guest in 2018 as an advocate for her legal work with immigrant families as we championed ending family separation!  The seminar will be May 13, from 5:00 – 7:00pm.  Direct link for pre-registration here:  https://zoom.us/meeting/register/tJcpc-igqDkuHNzKlWhPXOIGBcGbMSv82QhI


Wheels for Wellness.  One of the great injustices in our community is widely unequal access to transportation, especially for health-related activities. This new program connects volunteer drivers with neighbors who need a ride to health-related activities, including vaccination. Volunteering is open to anyone between 55 and 80 years of age once they’re fully vaccinated for COVID. Riders can be of any age. Masks will be required until the pandemic is officially deemed to be over. Mileage reimbursement is available for those who want it. The more drivers the better. Connect with new people in our community! To learn more or to sign up, prospective drivers can call (413) 395-0109.

 
There’s an opportunity to phonebank for a candidate in New Orleans, passed along to us by Markey organizer Kristen Elechko (Ed Markey organizer).  If elected, Karen Carter Peterson, LA-02 will be the first Black woman to represent Louisiana. She is the fighter in this race, backing the Green New Deal, along with many other progressive priorities.  Help Karen by joining a phonebank with Nina Turner on Friday, April 16, 6:30-8:30 PM. Here is the Mobilize link
 

Greylock Together Book Group: Thursday, April 15 at 7 PM. Reminder: we’re participating in Berkshire County’s second “One Book, One Community” county-wide read during . This year’s book is Stop Telling Women to Smile: Stories of Street Harassment and How We’re Taking Back Our Power by author, street artist and activist Tatyana Fazlalizadeh. All welcome…join in via zoom! Counselors from the Elizabeth Freeman Center will lead our conversation. https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85314237325?pwd=akpmS0VWVzVxTWYvaitzUUJIYitGZz09, Meeting ID: 853 1423 7325, Passcode: 794497
 

GT Spotlight! GT was featured in this week’s Indivisible MA newsletter as a SPOTLIGHT! We’re proud of our team and all of you for having an impact in so many ways.


Check out more news from this week at Muckraker Farm.


CONTACT INFO FOR GT TEAM ACTION:

Resist and persist!
    Alexander

 
 

GT Newsletter, For the People, 30 March 2021

Dear Greylock Together,

Thanks to ALL who were able to attend our membership meeting on Sunday—we had over 40 participants!  With the calculated and unveiled attacks on voting rights across the country, NOW is our civil rights era. Stay alert, stay engaged, keep showing up and remember…your community, both locally and nationally, needs your participation. Enjoy the sunshine, stay safe, get vaccinated!

SAVE THE DATE for our next meeting, 3 PM April 18 via zoom, when we hope to hear from more local candidates. 

Highlights from Sunday: 

GUN CONTROL:

Our new friend and Williamstown neighbor and advocate/activist for Mom Demands Action and Gun Sense Action Network, Patrie Sardo, joined us and shared helpful resources as we continue to highlight the critical work around gun reform.

Learn more, sign up, volunteer:
Sign up here: https://forms.everytown.org/a/gsan-signup
Or Text VOLUNTEER to 644-33
Want to connect with Patrie? patriesardo@gmail.com or call (310) 880-6052
Massachusetts Moms Demand Action Advocacy Day – April 25!!


RELATED READS:

Mass shootings soared with COVID, Black Lives Matter fears in 2020 

Gun-control activists gird for tough national fight in wake of deadly rampages: ‘We’re playing the long game’

Abby recommends: Why Some Politicians Are More Dangerous Than Others“This research tracks violent death—homicide and suicide—over the past 100 years. It shows that the most effective way to decrease violent death (read gun violence) is by having Democratic administrations and policies.”
 

WILLIAMSTOWN SELECTBOARD CANDIDATE GUESTS—VOTE MAY 11!

Thanks to Jeff Johnson, candidate for the three-year Select Board seat in Williamstown, for joining us on Sunday. 

Catch Jeff on “Top Left Corner,” on Radio Free Berkshires, on Wed., March 31, at 10 AMListen:  Radio Free Berkshires: Home 13

Jeff Johnson’s Zoom “Meet the Candidate” events:  APRIL 4 THRU MAY 9 – every Sunday from 7-8:30 pm

Feel free to reach out to me at:jeffjohnson4selectboard@gmail.com if you have any questions, or thoughts on ideas on how to help our town. I am here for ALL the people of Williamstown!!!”

Picking Up ButchJeff’s friend from his days at Middlebury College

Get your Jeff Johnson yard sign! Email: ackirsch@c4.net

Also, you can learn more about Select Board Candidates for the one-year seat:  Wade Hasty, Barbara Rosenthal, and Niko White. Each of them has reached out to Greylock Together to share their platform. 
 

MASS MOCA UNIONIZATION

Thanks to Amanda Tobin for joining us. There are many ways to support the MASS MoCA Union as part of our larger community of artists, Berkshire residents, museum members, cultural workers, former MASS MoCA interns or employees, and friends. Read more and connect through these links and support the Mass MoCA Union:

Union vote nears at Mass MoCA; museum pledges not to oppose campaign

Show Your Support for the MASS MoCA Union

Instagram page: @massmocaunion
 

COOL COMMITTEE – WILLIAMSTOWN FOR NET ZERO!
Thanks to Wendy, Nancy and Stephanie for joining us to present this exciting initiative toward a Net Zero community…find out more here!

Williamstown COOL Committee

After a veto, Baker signs landmark climate bill

Link to Slide Presentation

“Williamstown will be asked at the June Town Meeting to adopt a net zero emissions resolution proposing the Town of Williamstown pursue a Net Zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions goal consistent with the GHG limits established by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.”
 

HR-1: FOR THE PEOPLE ACT!
PHONEBANK: Join the GT team—Wednesdays through mid-May, starting this week, March 31, 4:00 – 6:00 pm

Sign up with captain and GT leader Sarah C and directly here. Hosted by friends at Indivisible-RISE Newburyport.
Training provided, no experience required! You know what to do… join in and bring a friend (virtually!).

**Please use your energy, advocacy and activism to promote, support, demand and educate around this critical voting rights bill. 

ACCESSIBLE HOUSING:

GT member, Jonathan Swartz, reminds us of Clark Biscuit, a mixed-use housing residence in North Adams. Individuals usually have to meet a maximum income requirement to live there.  

OF NOTE:
Thanks to GT member Jude for joining us; he co-leads The Institute for the Quantitative Study of Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity, Inc. = QSIDE

Find out more and register for their Data4Justice Conference on APRIL 16, 10:00 A.M. – 5:00 P.M. featuring Heather McGhee, author of THE SUM OF US 

“Heather Charisse McGhee designs and promotes solutions to inequality in America. She has testified in Congress, drafted legislation, become a regular contributor on shows like Meet the Press, and developed strategies for organizations and campaigns that have won changes to improve the lives of millions…Her new book, The Sum of Us, debuted at number 3 on the New York Times bestseller list, and her 2020 TED talk, ‘Racism Has a Cost for Everyone’has reached over 2 million views. Heather is currently chair of the board of Color of Change, the country’s largest online racial justice organization.”

RESOURCES AND ACTION ITEMS:

END THE FILIBUSTER TOOL KIT

This is an Indivisible Mass Coalition (IMC) resource to help you understand why the filibuster still exists—an outdated, racist, abused and misused Senate tool. Please do read and TAKE ACTION to ELIMINATE THE FILIBUSTER!

It’s important to call Senators Markey & Warren and thank them for their support to end the filibuster and ask them to please continue to speak publicly at every opportunity. This is CRITICAL for our democracy!

Contact Markey: (413) 785-4610

Contact Warren: (202) 224-4543

Opinion: This is no time to compromise on democracy reform, Lawrence Lessig, WaPO

WHAT BIDEN’S TALKING FILIBUSTER COULD LOOK LIKEIntercept


INDIVISIBLE WEEKLY TO-DOs:

  1. Ask your representative to co-sponsor the THRIVE Agenda. With the climate crisis continuing to intensify, the economy entering a deep recession, and the need for racial justice and healing being felt as acutely as ever, the case for Green New Deal-style policymaking is stronger than ever before. 
  2. Take action for democracy reform with the For the People Project. Check out our For the People Project page as your one-stop shop to learn more about our plans and find ways to take action. 
  3. Join us alongside partners on Wednesday, March 31 at 7 pm ET for the John Lewis Mobilization Town Hall. This town hall is for activists and local organizations to learn more about the May 8 John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Day of Action mobilization.

**More ACTIONS from Indivisible in support of our AAPI neighbors:

Events (GCal,iCal)

North Berkshire Food Access Collaborative Conversation:
Apr 5, 2:30 PM ET via ZOOM: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/87575614734?pwd=a1lRU1BzR3E2Wmp4RWJFUWtPaEY3UT09

Greylock Together Book Group: April’s meeting will be on Thursday, 4/15 at 7 PM. We’re participating in Berkshire County’s second “One Book, One Community” county-wide read. This year’s book is Stop Telling Women to Smile: Stories of Street Harassment and How We’re Taking Back Our Power by Tatyana Fazlalizadeh. More details here in the Berkshire Eagle

Greylock Together Sunday Meeting – April 18th, 3:00 – 4:00 pm via zoom; shorter meeting to feature more Williamstown Select Board Candidates
Williamstown Town Election – May 11
Williamstown Town Meeting – June 8

 

Check out more news from Mary this week at Muckraker Farm.

CONTACT INFO FOR GT TEAM ACTION:

Resist and persist!
 

 
 

GT Alert: Meeting tomorrow afternoon on Zoom–be there!

Dear Greylock Together,

Tomorrow afternoon we have our monthly meeting on Zoom.  The meeting will last from 3:00 to 4:30.  Here is the Zoom link (meeting ID 895 9332 3594; mobile link +13017158592,,89593323594#).

We’ll be discussing the MASS MoCA Union efforts with Amanda T., who’s leading the efforts to unionize MASS MoCA.  We’ll also hear from Jeff Johnson and maybe Niko White, candidates for Williamstown Select Board, will be at the meeting to discuss their goals and answer questions.  Plus, updates on North Adams government opening, a COOL Committee update, a discussion about D.C. statehood and the filibuster, gun control legislation update, and probably a lot more!
   
Resist and persist!
    Alexander
 
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GT Newsletter, 18 March 2021

Dear Greylock Together,

The horrifying murders of eight people in Atlanta massage parlors, six of them Asian women, are an example of so many toxic things in our society: anti-Asian racism, misogynist violence, violence against sex workers, toxic masculinity, income inequality, and a hyperabundance of guns.  They’re about all of thoseand more, and we are so deeply saddened by these crimes.  Many people in the AAPI community feel particularly targeted these days.  For us, locally, we think Pittsfield City Councilor Helen Moon spoke powerfully in this Facebook video about these horrific events and her own experiences as an Asian woman.  She says:My heart is heavy this morning following last night’s racially motivated mass shooting.  Over the past year, we have seen a rise in hate crimes targeting AAPI. Over the course of a year, there have been 3800 racially motivated incidences reported. These acts are the result of unsubstantiated blaming of AAPI for Coronavirus pandemic.  I am calling on my fellow local electeds and state leaders to join me in condemning anti-Asian racism and supporting our local AAPI during these times.We all need to work on this together.  We all need to begin changing this.

It might be helpful to attend this town hall on anti-Asian racism in Massachusetts next week on Thursday, the 25th, at 6:00 pm.  Register for the Zoom here.


SAVE THE DATE: NEXT GREYLOCK TOGETHER MEETING: Sunday, March 28, 3-4:30 on ZOOM!

We will have updates on local work and actions and and national legislative priorities, and hear from Williamstown Select Board Candidate Jeff Johnson with time for questions and answers.  Any other candidates or officials who would like to join us will be welcome, as always!

Work and Family Mobility.  Undocumented immigrants in Massachusetts should get driver’s licenses.  People who drive should be required to be licensed to operate their car.  It makes us safer.  Ready identification makes their lives easier, as well, as well as the lives of law enforcement.  Please take a moment to ask Rep. Barrett to co-sponsor Rep. Farley-Bouvier’s Work and Family Mobility Act; email him here.  More info on the bill is here.

Williamstown Letter.  Thank you to everyone who asked to sign on to the GT letter to the Williamstown Select Board (plus another to the DIRE committee).  We had more than 80 signatories, and a dozen more who asked to sign after we’d already sent it!  We also had a great deal of helpful writing advice, for which we are grateful and which we will try to incorporate in the future.  If you didn’t get a chance to sign, write them directly and stay involved!  Elections are in a month.

Filibuster.  We should eliminate the filibuster.  This is probably preaching to the choir, but it’s an unintentional artifact of a weird rule change that’s mostly been used for white supremacy.  It’s also strange on its face: the Senate already has staggered election cycles and six-year terms so that it won’t be responsive to short-sightedness or momentary political waves, so why add a supermajority requirement to pass legislation on top of that?

AstraZeneca.  I had a whole impassioned cri de coeur written out about how the United States government had purchased millions of doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine but the FDA hadn’t yet approved them, so they were going to expire and be wasted in the next few weeks, per Zeynep Tufecki.  But then the Biden administration just up and changed policy to start shipping them out!  Kudos to them… thousands of lives will be saved!
 

Paid Family & Medical Leave.  From Kristen Elechko to CD-1:  The Coalition for Social Justice is collecting short stories and pictures or videos to make the case for significant investment in a national paid family and medical leave policy, in anticipation of a hearing coming up in DC this session. We aim to make the case for comprehensive coverage through lifting the voices of those who have been impacted by a lack of paid leave. Comprehensive care means advocating for specific improvements to the “Family Act” and passing it into law.  

 The Coalition plans to use the stories on social media and for meetings with Congressional Representatives, including US Representative Neal; the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

Do you or a family member have a personal experience with family and medical leave that shows the need for a comprehensive national leave policy? Let us know by emailing siddiquijamil79@gmail.com
 

Farmers of Color Land Trust Fundraiser.  Contact Shira at shiralynnx@gmail.com if you are interested in working on a fundraiser for the Farmers of Color Land Trust– they are doing amazing work/
 

GT Book Group.  We’ll be participating in Berkshire County’s second, annual “One Book, One Community” county-wide read. This year’s book selection is Stop Telling Women to Smile: Stories of Street Harassment and How We’re Taking Back Our Power by Tatyana Fazlalizadeh. More details to follow. This discussion will take place in early April, and The Williams Bookstore has copies.)

Also, don’t forget the book for our March 25th meeting is Evil Geniuses: The Unmaking of America: A Recent History by Kurt Andersen.


CONTACT INFO FOR GT TEAM ACTION:

Resist and persist!
    Alexander

GT Alert, 14 March 2021

Dear Greylock Together,

We are outraged at the news that the Williamstown Police Department broke the law and our community’s trust by engaging in retaliatory investigation of those citizens who have raised concerns about racism, sexual assault, and anti-Semitism.  Americans are guaranteed equal protection under the law, and that means that the police can’t selectively target their critics.  It is a positive step that Interim Williamstown Chief of Police Mike Ziemba has worked with many of the victims to begin to make this right, and we hope that the investigation will be concluded quickly and more information released immediately.  But this was a gross abuse of power and cannot be tolerated.

We would like to send a letter to the Williamstown Select Board.  The text is below.  Please put your name in this form if you would like to be included as a signatory with us.  You can also just reply to this email with your name and the town where you live, if the link doesn’t work.

Thank you!
 

Dear Williamstown Selectboard,
We write to you as members of the leadership team of Greylock Together. Greylock Together is one of thousands of Indivisible groups fighting for progressive values and a stronger democracy. We are grassroots, loosely structured, and action-oriented. Our advocacy efforts have included local, state and national concerns. Our core membership base resides in north Berkshire but we have members from across Berkshire County and beyond on our email list which includes over 900 individuals. 
We are writing to express our outrage at the news that the members of the Williamstown Police Department broke the law and our community’s trust by engaging in retaliatory investigation of those citizens who have raised concerns about racism, sexual assault, and anti-Semitism in the police department and town government.  These searches were a violation of Massachusetts General Law, Ch. 6, Section 167A.  Americans are guaranteed equal protection under the law, and that means that the police can’t selectively target their critics.
It is a positive step that Interim Williamstown Chief of Police Mike Ziemba has worked with many of the victims to begin to make this right, and we hope that the investigation will be concluded quickly and more information released immediately.  But this was a gross abuse of power and cannot be tolerated.  Our friends and neighbors have been targeted.  
Greylock Together is committed to using our collective voices and advocacy to support you, members of the DIRE committee, and the Williamstown Racial Justice and Police Reform group and other parties. We must have a full independent investigation of misconduct; the current independent investigator should be tasked officially with doing what they can to examine this issue, as well as existing concerns. Further, we are committed to community dialogue and advocacy and to a new chapter in public safety in Williamstown that ensures every resident of the community is equally and equitably protected.

 

Resist and persist!
    Alexander, Wendy, and Jess

GT Newsletter, 11 March 2021

Dear Greylock Together,

Today marked the final step for the American Rescue Plan Act, which is a terrible name for a great new law.  It was begun in the House, which we helped flip in 2018.  It was amended in the Senate, which we helped flip in 2021.  And it was signed by President Biden, who we helped elect in 2020.  Years of work have clawed our nation back from the brink of insanity, and we are seizing the moment to make a difference.  With the stroke of a pen, a long slate of amazing progressive priorities will be created — expanded SNAP, expanded Obamacare, a child subsidy for parents, and a huge amount more.  Read about it here.  And while most of them are temporary, it’s a lot easier to defend them and make them permanent!

We worked for this.  Enjoy it.  There will be more things to do.  But it’s okay to just feel joy, too.

SAVE THE DATE: NEXT GREYLOCK TOGETHER MEETING: Sunday, March 28, 3-4:30 on ZOOM!

We will have updates on local work and actions and and national legislative priorities, and hear from Williamstown Select Board Candidate Jeff Johnson with time for questions and answers! 

 

Electoral reform (HR1) and filibuster reform must be our priority. Without protecting the VOTE and reforming the broken systems that exclude so many, we will never enfranchise every American.

Please write to GT and let us know how YOU would like to be involved as a GT member. Constant phone calls, tweets, videos—these are Indivisible’s calls to action. Might you lead or join a GT team to do daily/weekly work on behalf of our democracy? This should be our collective and guiding force going forward. Let’s do this work, Together. 

 Are you not convinced the Filibuster needs to go? READ MORE: 


Sign onto Indivisible priorities: 

  1. Take action for democracy reform with the For the People Project. H.R. 1, the For the People Act, passed the House last week! Now it’s on to the Senate, where we’ll need to get rid of the filibuster to get it across the finish line. This is the first of the democracy reform bills we’re watching in Congress, including the D.C. statehood bill (H.R. 51), that will start the process of unrigging our democracy and making it work for everyone. Check out our For the People Project page as your one-stop shop to learn more about our plans and find ways to take action.
  2. Check out our Save Democracy Sinema hub. If we hope to eliminate the filibuster, we need every Senate Democrat on board. Senator Sinema (AZ) is one of the senators we need on our side and we’re doing everything we can to support Arizonans in their effort to hold her accountable. Keep reading for more details below.
  3. Ask your representative to co-sponsor the THRIVE Resolution. With the climate crisis continuing to intensify, the economy entering a deep recession, and the need for racial justice and healing being felt as acutely as ever, the case for Green New Deal-style policymaking is stronger than ever before. The THRIVE Resolution imagines a COVID-19 recovery package that tackles the overlapping crises of mass unemployment, racial injustice, public health, and climate change.
     

WRJPR.  Interested in local racial justice?  Follow Williamstown Racial Justice and Police Reform (WRJPR) and receive their newsletter

GT Book Group.  We’ll be participating in Berkshire County’s second, annual “One Book, One Community” county-wide read. This year’s book selection is Stop Telling Women to Smile: Stories of Street Harassment and How We’re Taking Back Our Power by Tatyana Fazlalizadeh. More details to follow. This discussion will take place in early April, and The Williams Bookstore has copies.)

Also, don’t forget the book for our March 25th meeting is Evil Geniuses: The Unmaking of America: A Recent History by Kurt Andersen.

The Smash Up.  KUDOS to Greylock Together’s very own Ali Benjamin who is shaking us all up with her incredible book The Smash-Up, a modern retelling of Edith Wharton’s Ethan Frome that will keep you on the EDGE OF YOUR SEAT. Publishers Weekly observed, “With satire and suspense, Benjamin handily encapsulates the incomprehension, sadness, and rage of the Trump era.” Set in Starkfield, Massachusetts—a fictional town in the Berkshires where nothing much ever happens— during the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings.

Transparency in MA.  Massachusetts has one of the least transparent State Houses in the country.  This article provides a good update on the Act On Mass transparency reform efforts. Please sign up on their website to stay up to date on needed advocacy as this work evolves.  Our state representatives need to be reminded that we expend and need greater transparency. 

Vaccine Equity.  Massachusetts vaccine rollout has been challenging– the need to advocate for vaccine equity is critical. Let Governor Baker know this is your priority, and sign onto the Vaccine Equity Now campaign. 

Braver Angels.  From Stephanie: “Braver Angels is a citizens’ movement uniting Red and Blue Americans in a working alliance to depolarize America. Braver Angels brings the two sides together to better understand and engage with each other, form community alliances, and advocate for a less polarizing style of politics. They do this through a variety of workshops and debates. You do not have to lean Red or Blue to join us in our work.”


Paid Family & Medical Leave.  From Kristen Elechko to CD-1:  The Coalition for Social Justice is collecting short stories and pictures or videos to make the case for significant investment in a national paid family and medical leave policy, in anticipation of a hearing coming up in DC this session. We aim to make the case for comprehensive coverage through lifting the voices of those who have been impacted by a lack of paid leave. Comprehensive care means advocating for specific improvements to the “Family Act” and passing it into law.  

 The Coalition plans to use the stories on social media and for meetings with Congressional Representatives, including US Representative Neal; the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

Do you or a family member have a personal experience with family and medical leave that shows the need for a comprehensive national leave policy? Let us know by emailing siddiquijamil79@gmail.com
 

Farmers of Color Land Trust Fundraiser.  Contact Shira at shiralynnx@gmail.com if you are interested in working on a fundraiser for the Farmers of Color Land Trust– they are doing amazing work.
 

First Harvest.  Regenerative Farming, Forests & Food Systems, a working group of Climate Action Now, presents:  A Conversation about Racial Equity & Food Access  with Anna Gilbert-Muhammad & Ibrahim Ali, Tuesday March 16, 7:00-8:30 p.m. via Zoom
 
Anna Muhammad is the Equity Director, Food Access & Webinar Coordinator at NOFA/MASS. Her work focuses on food access & urban agriculture in Springfield.   Ibrahim Ali has over 20 years of youth & farm related work in Springfield & in New York City. For the past 11 years he served as Co-Executive Director of Gardening the Community.  Please register in advance here




Events (GCal,iCal)
 

From Bridget Spann:

Please join us on Thursday, March 18 from 7pm-8:30pm for “Christian Nationalism: How It Harms Us All – an Interfaith Discussion” moderated by Rev. Mark Seifried, interim pastor at First Congregational Church Williamstown.  Panelists include Imam Bilal Ansari, Faculty Associate of Pastoral Theology, Director of the Islamic Chaplaincy Program at Hartford Seminary; Most Rev. Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church, USA; Rev. Dr. John C. Dorhauer, General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ; Rev. Sheila D. Sholes-Ross, Pastor of First Baptist Church of Pittsfield; and Rabbi Pamela Wax, Spiritual Care Coordinator at Westchester Jewish Community Services, White Plains, NY.  

Webinar registration link:  https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_IufKzntmQ7KvN940Wjh23w  




 

SAVE THE DATE for the spring Berkshire Food Access Collaborative on April 13th 10am-12pm. Zoom login information is below. 
From Morgan Ovitsky

If you or your organization has food system or community updates to share please let me know by April 5th. 

Topic: Berkshire Food Access Collaborative

Time: Apr 13, 2021 10:00 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting

https://zoom.us/j/91834703595?pwd=WldkVzl5RDJER3kzVTVGRjFyN1d6UT09

Meeting ID: 918 3470 3595

Passcode: 963013

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Find your local number: https://zoom.us/u/adKhaf5jvT

 

 

Check out more news from this week at Muckraker Farm.


CONTACT INFO FOR GT TEAM ACTION:

Resist and persist!
Alexander, Jess, Wendy