Alan Chartock | I, Publius: Better way to deal with drugs proves elusive


Every town and city has its problems. Some are big and some just bothersome.

Both Pittsfield and North Adams have problems with drugs and crime. We are told that the DA and the police are on the case, but the fix is not an easy one and the results have been less than stellar. The wonderful Dr. Jennifer Michaels and the others at the Brien Center can't possibly take care of it all. Dave Phelps and his people at Berkshire Health Systems have put money into Brien and patient care, but they can't do it all either.

We know that putting people into the criminal justice system doesn't really work and we are coming to an awareness that there has to be a better way but that better way eludes us. If a person in need of drugs breaks the law and hurts another person or damages property, that person must be separated from society for the protection of other citizens.

If you legalize drugs or make drugs or drug substitutes available, you might make a good part of the problem go away. On the other hand, you might encourage others to take part in the drug culture knowing that there would be no sanctions.

I'd love to hear our district attorney's take on this — he sees it all up close and he must have thoughts about a path to drug sanity. His people have done good work cleaning up Great Barrington in the past, despite some resistance from other local law enforcement people. We have a better police department in Great Barrington than we have had in the past, but we are told that the supply of drugs is once again on the rise.

Obviously, there is big money in drugs and it is very important that every link in the chain of law enforcement is constantly monitored. People must have faith in their police and their judicial system and not just about the drug situation.

A tiring issue

Citizens also have to have faith in their own government and administration. Several columns back, I wrote that people were getting flat tires as a result of the new sharp curbs that have been installed in Great Barrington. This has turned out to be a real problem for everyone except perhaps the towing companies and the tire people. The new bike lanes force people to park too close to the curb and tires are still popping like balloons at a kid's birthday party. All of this is complicated by the fact that many of our new cars, like my Toyota Prius, come with no spare tire. As a result, many cars have had to be towed.

In a recent conversation with a concerned town official, I was told that it would cost about $90,000 to fix the curbs. Well, then fix them already. Let the town administration under Town Manager Jennifer Tabakin get moving.

If it is true that it is a $90,000 fix, it is the town's responsibility to take care of the problem and fast. Otherwise, I suspect that we may be looking at a class-action suit that could end up costing the town a lot of money, especially since the town knows what the problem is and what they have to do to fix it.

Frankly, this is infuriating. No one ever said that the town manager's job was an easy one but she has to lead and the Select Board must insist that the problem be resolved.

Slow down

Finally, there are still some very foolish people who drive too fast. There are two perpetrators on our block of Hollenbeck Avenue in Great Barrington who drive their cars above the posted 20 mph speed limit. Either we have enforced speed limits or we don't. The whole situation takes on even more meaning when you have a 2-year-old grandchild.

Alan Chartock, a Great Barrington resident, is president and CEO of WAMC Northeast Public Radio and a professor emeritus of communications at SUNY-Albany. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of The Berkshire Eagle.


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