The Berkshire Edge On-Air – November 29

The Berkshire Edge LLC is a locally owned, regional publication. Our goal is to provide – regularly and in depth – content that truly reflects the life, interests and aspirations of this unusually rich and vibrant community.

Guided by respected journalistic standards, the principle of fairness, the quest for truth, a commitment to social, economic and environmental justice, and an abiding admiration for the independent spirit of the Berkshires, The Berkshire Edge offers in-depth local news reports and features, perspectives on the arts, wide-ranging commentary, and a comprehensive calendar of events – all written, illustrated, and, in some cases performed, with wit, intelligence, insight and humor.

This week we talk about:

1.   We had a couple of stories about  a class action suite filed against two electrical utility companies, Eversource and Avangrid, for bilking customers out of $3.6 billion through supply manipulations in order to build a justification for construction of a new pipeline when there wasn’t really any need for one.

2.  Berkshire towns are struggling with whether and how to regulate Air BnB rentals.  Lenox is most actively dealing with this.  Towns depend on room taxes for revenue, and Air BnBs are not paying any taxes.

3.  In Great Barrington, we have a Community Preservation Fund.  It comes from a little surtax  on properties over a certain value, and the state matches it with money from small fees for registering a deed.  The fund can be used only for historical preservation, recreation and affordable housing.  The state match goes to all the towns that participate in the CP program, so we don’t know yet how much Great Barrington will receive. A committee selects contenders for funding and GB residents ultimately select projects at the annual town meeting.  The committee has 10 applicants so far, totaling $1 million, but they estimate that they’ll only have about $500,000 to spend.   Applications must be consistent with the town’s master plan.  Among the GB projects submitted are: fixing the town hall steps; restoration of the Clinton Church AME Zion Church that is being turned into a community center to honor the local African-American community; creation of a canoe access point on the Housatonic River; creation of three recreational hiking trails, one of which would extend the river walk that starts down town and could go as far as the GB Fairgrounds and the senior center.  This is a charming little institution, kind of a “rainy day fund” for projects that might not otherwise get funded.

4.   The Berkshire Museum saga continues.  Our lead story on Tuesday was a recommendation from Carole Owens, our history writer, who says that the museum should just settle down and be an old fashioned museum and not try to turn itself into anything else.  She reminds us that in 2008, the museum received $2.5 million from the Feigenbaum Foundation for new construction and interactive exhibitions designed to “create wonder among children and adults.”  That money has been spent, and she says there’s not much to show for it.  Her recommendation: Don’t pursue a failed path.  Get your assets back.  Protect and preserve them.  Hire trained and motivated staff.  Do the basic work of a museum; that is, display assets for the enrichment of the visitors.  Best of luck for the next 100 years!

5.  We have a hilarious poem by Jonathan Hankin about “Giving Thanks,” which sarcastically thanks all the people who litter and pollute.

6.  Finally,we just put up a little story about the environmental activist Sandra Stein Graber .  She wrote a book 20 years ago called “Living Downstream.” She grew up in Illinois and was the only person in her family to develop cancer.  She traced her illness back to a factory that dumped carcinogens in the river that went through her farm community.  She wrote this book connecting cancer to polluters.  It was a landmark book.  She’s speaking at Lenox Memorial High School this Saturday at 5pm. The title of her presentation is “Fracked gas, PCBs and our Health.”  Sponsored by the Housatonic River Initiative and the Berkshire Environmental Action Team.  Full details also in the Berkshire Edge Calendar.


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