Monday, June 24, 2024

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My name is Marybeth Mitts, and I am running as an independent candidate for the 3rd Berkshire District

I care deeply about the Berkshires. As one of just three Berkshire representatives, I know I have the experience and skills to work collaboratively with other members of the Berkshire delegation and the other 157 representatives to bring attention, benefits, and resources to the 3rd Berkshire District.

To the editor:

I, too, hope to represent the 18 towns in the 3rd Berkshire District and assist citizens with finding resources available to meet their needs. I have been volunteering through the Lenox School Committee, the Lenox Select Board, and other boards and commissions over the past 21 years. I believe I would be an effective collaborator at the Massachusetts State House, bringing state and federal resources to our district.

My platform stands solidly on my background in affordable housing for owners and renters. As chairwoman of the Affordable Housing Trust in Lenox (eight years), I have been instrumental in supporting two 40B mixed-income rental housing developments, bringing 133 new housing units to Lenox. The 65-unit Brushwood Farms development will break ground this spring. My record shows I have done the work.

Lenox’s Housing Trust assisted 17 first-time homebuyers with down-payment assistance so they could live close to work or attend Lenox’s public schools. The trust paid emergency rent assistance for those who lost jobs during COVID, remaining safely housed in their apartments. Housing is foundational to one’s security, health, and employability.

I started my career at HUD in Washington, D.C. as a presidential management intern. I was responsible for community planning and development policy questions for Region 1, which includes Massachusetts. I have done the work.

Economic development is critical to our towns. As a member of the Lenox Cultural District’s (LCD’s) steering committee, we help businesses and cultural organizations figure out how to get people to our charming New England towns to eat and sleep here and support our artisans. Tourism helps our cultural sector pay artists, actors, and utility bills while also helping our towns through local rooms and meals taxes collected that fund our public safety teams, roads, and schools.

Our natural resources—the mountains, rivers, and streams—present a spectacular opportunity for our region. However, as climate shifts and challenges are presented through excessive rain and wind washing out culverts, roads (paved and unpaved), and bridges, we can’t keep up with repair and replacement without more state funds to help with high design, engineering, and construction costs. I think standard engineering and design schemes may help contain costs as we face hundreds of impacted culverts, bridges, and roads throughout the 3rd Berkshire District.

The Berkshires’ population is aging. Lower birthrates nationwide and issues around immigration currently impact us. Advanced manufacturing, construction and trades, and hospitality are critical sectors decreasing in numbers and skill levels as people retire. Our high schools and vocational schools continue to work with MassHire Berkshire Career Center and Workforce Board, another organization with whom I have worked, to show kids that while college is one path, it is not the only path.

Education is a cornerstone of the Commonwealth’s success. With our decline in population and some aging, inefficient buildings, it may be time to reconsider regionalizing our schools to a greater degree to save local taxes and invest them in fewer schools geared to what our 21st-century graduates will be expected to be familiar with: STEM, artificial intelligence, language arts, among other subjects.

Finally, healthcare resources are sacred; they exist but require our vigilance.

We need to innovate to bring healthcare to those in need. We need to encourage and assist in enrollment in Mass Health vehicles. My young-adult children, when they aged out of our health insurance, used the Connector. The process is involved and complicated, but we need to ensure all who qualify are enrolled.

Let’s increase the ability of the elderly, disabled, and the housing and transportation challenged to have healthcare brought in home with mobile and adaptable care. Models exist; let’s bring them to the Berkshires.

We must assure the viability of organizations like Volunteers in Medicine (VIM), who provide essential care to those who fall through the cracks.

The Brien Center, a critical community mental health resource on whose board I serve, and which provides unseen, critical mental health and substance use disorder services for our community, also requires increases to state-reimbursement contracts. While those acutely impacted by substance disorders receive treatment, we also need to find better ways and resources to help families surrounding these clients to get the support and care they require.

We need to ensure that our emergency medical services (EMS) are fully funded. Shared services may be the best way to ensure that every community has access to 24/7, community-based, fully funded service. Nearly everyone in Berkshire County expects this essential service. Through collaboration, it is time we put the necessary resources into ensuring EMS viability at critical access points throughout the Berkshires.

Finally, let’s continue to support our major and critical access hospitals, important to our way of life and good at what they do for our families. Hospital closures out east remind us that what we have is fragile.

I care deeply about the Berkshires. As one of just three Berkshire representatives, I know I have the experience and skills to work collaboratively with other members of the Berkshire delegation and the other 157 representatives to bring attention, benefits, and resources to the 3rd Berkshire District. Consider my record. I hope you will vote for me on November 5, 2024.

Marybeth Mitts

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