Photo Gallery: 'Making the System Work for You' panel
LENOX -- State and local officials spent about 90 minutes tackling a wide spectrum of governmental subjects on Sunday, ranging from government regionalization to cable access, at a panel discussion titled "Local Government: Making the System Work for You."
State Sen. Benjamnin B. Downing, D-Pittsfield, state Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli, D-Lenox, and Lenox Select-
men Chairman David Roche discussed their duties and answered a host of questions from an audience of about 60 at the Lenox Library.
The event was part of the town's Distinguished Lecture series, and hosted by Jeremy Yudkin.
Although Downing, Pignatelli and Roche represented three different levels of government, they had relatively similar outlooks on many issues.
Roche, for example, admitted that there were few drawbacks to his job as selectmen chairman. But both Pignatelli and Downing, who represent a large number of towns in western Mass., both admitted that travel, both from their respective district to the State House in Boston, and within their districts, was the most vexing part of the job.
"The ability to not be everywhere you need to be is frustrating," said Downing. "Both Smitty and I have the largest districts in the state. No other set of legislators has to deal with that."
Regionalization of services was perhaps the most recurring theme. All three officials agreed that a county-wide plan is needed.
"A quick story," said Pignatelli. "My father [former Lenox selectmen John J. Pignatelli] was campaigning in 1971. I was 11. We were at some event, and he said, ‘Look at this. We have 32 cities and towns in the Berkshires, and we have 32 police chiefs, 32 fire chiefs and 32 DPW superintendents. It's crazy' And here we are in 2014 and we still have 32 police chiefs, 32 fire chiefs and 32 DPW superintendents.
"We are so parochial in Berk-
shire County, and that has to stop," he said.
"There is going to come a time when that will change because of economics," said Roche.
In answer to a question from Yudkin about tourism in town, Roche said that tourism was the "lifeblood" of the town and that Lenox needed to expand the tourism season to the "shoulders" of the summer, the months of May and June and November and December, to better capitalize on the town's hotel-motel tax.
"We need to stretch our tour-
ism seasons to expand our revenue," he said.
Downing said that tourism is an industry that has the greatest potential for growth in Lenox and the county. He advocated for expanding tourist offerings in recreation and sports as well as the arts. Other discussions revol-
ved around ways of expanding access to the Internet, generating more home-based businesses to expand the economy and working with local cable providers to increase access to cable television.