I’ve received several inquiries recently in regards to various proposals for centering the needs of rural districts and constituents on Beacon Hill. I’m glad these issues have been raised, as this question gets to the crux of what it means to be a good advocate for and Representative of the 1st Franklin District.
I believe that creating another government office, as some suggest, is not the best answer to the challenges rural Massachusetts faces. Such an office would run the risk of further segregating and tokenizing rural issues, and thus actually help ensure that most of our state government continues to work best for people living in urban areas, instead of counteracting the problem.
I would like to explore more creative and effective solutions, such as:
- Creating a cabinet position of Secretary-At-Large for Rural Affairs with the power to fully participate in and draw on the work of all of our state agencies to the focused benefit of rural communities, so that work is coordinated rather than duplicated.
- Changing the way we think about proportional representation, so that the formula includes factors such as geography and connectivity, rather than simply population figures. Each State Rep currently represents approx. 40,000 people, which might be a few city blocks in Boston, but means that the 1st Franklin is half the size of Rhode Island! Rural Massachusetts should have more representation on Beacon Hill.
- Fighting to mandate that a certain percentage of state government business – including Legislature committee hearings, task force activities, etc. – take place outside of Boston. The occasional “listening tour” is not enough – the Commonwealth’s business should actively be conducted throughout the Commonwealth, not just on one end of it.
- Advocating for the state to pay for or provide transportation to the State House for everyday citizens and advocates from rural MA attending events on Beacon Hill. If state government won’t come to us, then it must actively support us going to it.
- Actively supporting Rural Commonwealth (ruralcommonwealth.org); I have attended the Small Town Summit, and will continue to do so as your State Rep. I will also do everything I can to figuratively and literally bring those voices to Beacon Hill, by both amplifying their message to the Legislature and by organizing opportunities and logistical support to bring people to Boston to speak out on matters of rural importance.
I have lived in Western Massachusetts for 17 years, and advocated at the State House for the needs of our rural population as Chair of the Hampshire-Franklin Commission on the Status of Women and Girls, a School Committee member, board member of area non-profits, and as an active citizen. Being seen and heard by our state government should not be a privilege; it is a right that should be available to everyone in the Commonwealth. It is our Legislature’s responsibility to strengthen and uphold that right for all, and it will be my priority as your next State Representative.