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Rural Commonwealth Posts

The future of broadband for towns large and small in Western Mass

The Berkshire Eagle hosted a forum Thursday evening on the future of broadband. Panelists were Christopher Mitchell of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance in Minnesota; Andrew Hogeland of Williamstown, who with others is pursuing high-speed options in his town; and Richard Carnall, senior IT architect with Westfield Gas & Electric. That public utility is teaming up with rural towns in the region to design and build fiber networks. The discussion clearly divided between the larger Berkshire Towns and the city of Pittsfield and continuing concerns about the buildout of rural towns under the evolving Massachusetts Broadband Institute plan to serve…

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What we’re reading this week

Here is round-up of articles, reports, and books about small towns in Massachusetts and beyond that caught our attention this week.   From today’s Boston Globe:”In the Berkshires, locals struggle as tourism booms” (subscription).   The Cape Cod Commission released a report on Monday, “Regional Housing Market Analysis and 10-Year Forecast of Housing Supply and Demand for Barnstable County, Massachusetts.”   A bill with bipartisan sponsorship was introduced into the US House this week that focuses on ways to strengthen the connections between farms and schools. Could Grow Connection Between Farms, Schools.”   Former western Massachusetts resident Dar Williams has a…

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Politics of Resentment – learning about rural concerns from local residents

I came across a very interesting new book entitled, The Politics of Resentment: Rural Consciousness in Wisconsin and the Rise of Scott Walker by Katherine J. Cramer, Professor of Political Science, University of Wisconsin-Madison. The title is the most long-winded part of the book, because, for an academic, Cramer writes in plain speak and uses a highly unusual technique for finding what people think about politics, their lives and the state of the nation. She asks them their opinion. Instead of sending out a questionnaire, Cramer gets in her car and goes to the places in small town Wisconsin where people…

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Traveling around Massachusetts, talking about rural issues

Friday’s trip to Truro was was part of a week spent traveling around the state working on small town issues. In our travels, we had fascinating conversations with legislators, business owners, municipal employees, and community organizers. We had the particular pleasure of speaking with US Representative Richard Neal, Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin, Senator Adam Hinds, and Representative Paul Mark. These discussions focused on issues like broadband access and economic development strategies for rural Massachusetts communities.

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Outer Cape trip

Toby Gould and I, directors of Rural Commonwealth, went to Outer Cape Cod on Friday. The trip was an opportunity to continue building a statewide network in small towns and to stay up-to-date about the activities of other groups working on rural issues in Massachusetts. We spent part of the day attending a quarterly meeting of the Rural Policy Advisory Commission (RPAC), a State commission that was launched in 2015 to advise State legislators and the Governor’s office on rural issues. A longer description of RPAC’s mission, along with meeting announcements, minutes, and background reports can be found on the…

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What we’re reading and watching this week

Here are videos, events, and articles about rural communities in Massachusetts and beyond that caught our eye this week.   Manufacturing in rural America The Aspen Institute continued its panel discussion series, America’s Rural Opportunity, this week with a session called, “Rural-Grown, Local-Owned Manufacturing.” Previous session videos are on the America’s Rural Opportunity webpage.   Future of internet in the Berkshires The Berkshire Eagle will host a public forum, “The Next Big Internet Challenge for the Berkshires,” on Thursday, September 14. This event will be held from 7:00pm to 8:30pm at the Berkshire Athenaeum, 1 Wendell Avenue, Pittsfield.   Young…

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Volunteer research assistants needed!

  Rural Commonwealth is looking for volunteer research assistants to help with two current projects. One project concerns economic development, and the other deals with the impact on small town finances of payments for State-owned land. For both projects, volunteer research assistants will travel to town halls located in specific western Massachusetts communities to collect data from Town Clerks and Assessors. Each volunteer will be given a brief project orientation, access to a Google Sheets template for recording data, and support by email and phone as needed. For more information about the requirements and time commitment involved with these projects,…

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Rural Commonwealth now running Small Town Summit

Rural Commonwealth is taking over coordination of the Small Town Summit, which was launched by the Charlemont Select Board in the Spring of 2016. Toby Gould and I, co-founders of Rural Commonwealth, were both on the Charlemont Select Board at that time and have been involved with running Summit meetings ever since. Rural Commonwealth will serve in a facilitation and coordination role for the Summit. We will reserve room spaces, prepare agendas and minutes, maintain a state-wide email list of interested municipal leaders, and facilitate meetings of the summit and its workgroups. Our intention is to continue holding meetings and…

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