Changes, challenges confront Berkshires
To the editor:
While there are many worthwhile initiatives coming out of city and town governments, Berkshire Community College, and local nonprofit agencies throughout Berkshire County, we long-time residents have to face up to some sobering realities about our economy: Loss of population, particularly that of young families; a shift away from manufacturing to service jobs; greater dependence on second home-owner tax revenue; concentrations of poverty in our cities but also in some of our rural towns; and a lack of quality affordable housing in most of our towns.
These changes/challenges are common to many areas of Massachusetts, and Berkshire County is no different. We need to ask and honestly answer these questions:
Can our towns survive without children?
Can towns continue to provide duplicative services; e.g., police, fire, education, at a time of population loss and constrained budgets?
Can towns sustain year-round residents without employment that provides for adequate salaries and benefits?
Can younger families even live in the Berkshires without affordable housing options?
Answers will require a change in attitude and behavior from area voters. Solutions are not easily found. It will take an extended period to reverse these trends. This makes for some challenging New Year's resolutions!