ICYMI: Daily Hampshire Gazette On Baker, Polito: "We Appreciate Attention To Rural Western MA"

BOSTON -- An editorial in the Daily Hampshire Gazette lauds the commitment of Governor Charlie Baker and Lt. Governor Polito to rural western Massachusetts, and to investing in communities across the Commonwealth.

Editorial: We appreciate attention to rural western Massachusetts
By The Editorial Board

National politics may be wracked with sharp partisan pain, but it’s comforting to see our state’s Republican gubernatorial administration working well with our Democratic-controlled Legislature to support the local officials who run our cities and towns.

Whether or not you voted for the Baker-Polito ticket in 2014, it’s nice to see that their administration has not forgotten rural western Massachusetts, which would be so easy to do once in office.

Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito has been seen frequently west of Worcester since she was elected. Yes, it doesn’t hurt Polito’s chances for re-election to have her waving visible around the state, but that should not detract from her expression of interest in western Massachusetts constituents.

At times, Polito’s visits are made to announce state grants, as was the case last week in Holyoke. Among the six projects across the state receiving subsidies and low-income tax credits from the Department of Housing and Community Development is the 130-apartment North Square at the Mill District development in North Amherst. That $47.5 million mixed-use project will provide significant affordable housing, as well as space for between eight and 10 businesses.

At other times, Polito visits without the state’s checkbook, mostly to take our pulse and check in on the progress of past or ongoing state initiatives.

During a recent swing through the region, she visited five Franklin County towns. Polito started her tour visiting Wendell to learn what it had done with a $138,000 Green Community grant it received five years ago. The town cut energy costs for municipal buildings and vehicles by 22 percent after applying the money to several long-term, energy-saving upgrades that it could not have afforded easily without the state’s short-term help.

The state’s Green Communities Designation and Grant Program has helped 185 cities and towns earn a Green Community designation, making them eligible for grants like that given to Wendell.

Polito said Wendell serves as an inspiration to other towns and cities, with Town Administrator Nancy Aldrich rightly noting that “Before there were Green Communities, Wendell was a green community.” To underscore that point, members of the town energy committee told Polito that Wendell isn’t resting on its laurels, but rather wants to become a net-zero community — and maybe the Legislature and governor can help with that, too.

Later in Shelburne, rural residents drove through heavy snow to Memorial Hall to find out when their homes will be ready for broadband. With them was Polito, who came for a progress report on the Comcast Cable Expansion Project.
In response, Polito noted, “When we came into office, we identified 53 communities that did not have full access to internet … With the urging of legislators, we made funds available for communities making their own decisions about how they want to connect.”

By way of progress report, Comcast representatives told those assembled that essentially the cable company was on target to hit its mid-February deadline for 50 percent of the total construction in nine towns. That work includes access for 640 homes.

When the meeting ended, Payne thanked Polito for “digging right in” on the broadband issue.

“I look forward to celebrating more milestones when I return,” she said.

We look forward to that, and more collaboration between Polito and her boss and our legislators in support of local towns on issues like sustainability and internet access that affect us all.