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We speak with Alison Case of the Store at Five Corners Stewardship Association about the search to find the right operator to reopen the historic cafe/general store. THEN we speak with State Senator Adam Hinds about legislation he is supporting to direct the remaining $2.3 billion in ARPA funds to bring equity to communities of color. Click on the headlines below to expand the tab for the transcripts of our conversations with each of our guests.
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On January 27th, 2022, the Store at Five Corners Stewardship Association (SAFCSA) finalized its purchase of the historic Store at Five Corners, at the intersection of Routes 7 and 43 in Williamstown. SAFCSA is a new non-profit organization formed in the fall of 2021 to purchase and maintain the Store, and has now closed on the sale of this iconic property.
Parties interested in applying for the chance to take over operations at the Store at Five Corners and do so right here.
The Greylock Glass: And with me on the line is Alison Case representing the Store at Five Corners Stewardship Association, Inc.. Welcome to the show.
Alison Case: Thank you.
The Greylock Glass: So, exciting news. The Store at Five Corners is one of my favorite hangouts, my very favorite place to have a business meeting in the little sunroom off to the side and was one of my favorite places to get baked treats and so forth. When it shut down during the pandemic, I was, along with a lot of people crushed, but I’m happy to see that there is this new life being breathed into it. Alison, can you give us a history of the store? Of the Five Corners — at least what you know of it.
Alison Case: Well, just a quick history before it shut down during COVID, it was one of the oldest continuously operating businesses in the country. It began as a tavern in 1767 and then gradually evolved into a kind of general store and general store and cafe in the 1830s. The current building was built kind of around the original tavern, and the upstairs was actually used for town meetings in the 1830s. It was a gas station in, I believe, the 50s. And but it’s always what it’s always been is a place for the community to gather and a place for people to get what they need, and that’s what people have really missed. So, we came upon an opportunity to buy the store separately from the Green River package, which initially Frank Lewis, the previous owner, had packaged them all together — the whole Green River property with the store. He agreed very generously to sell it to us separately. And when we came upon that opportunity, we being some members of the South Williamstown Community Association who were approached with this, we formed our own organization and gathered together the money and went ahead and bought it.
The Greylock Glass: Well, that’s I didn’t know all that history, but about five corners, it’s certainly a majestic building that sits alone on that corner. It has a certain elegance and quiet grandeur, and it makes sense that it would be a community gathering spot. The farm, all the land— has that sold yet? Do we know?
Alison Case: It has not.
The Greylock Glass: It has not.
Alison Case: I know there are various groups interested in it. Things are moving, but I can’t say any more than that.
The Greylock Glass: I’d love to see it. I’d love to see it farmed again. It would be such a wonderful thing. I don’t know if that can happen, but that’s just such a well, I mean, obviously it is the place that people photograph more just about anywhere else in town. They stand on the hill overlooking the farm. And obviously, I think that Williamstown should put like a little donation receptacle at the top of the hill across from the high school. Really, come on. I mean, if you get people from all over the world stopping to take pictures, they should drop a quarter in the slot. Yeah, and that would help maybe to keep it maintained. But what are the challenges involved in finding…well, first of all, in keeping a store like this or a location like this open, and what are the challenges that a new operator will face?
Alison Case: Obviously, we want someone who’s going to be able to make a go of it over the long term. You know, one of the things that the history of the store — it has changed owners changed operators several times. And it’s created this sense that people just can’t make a go of it there. You can’t make quite enough money to make it work. One of the reasons we’re stepping in is it’s clear to us from talking to previous owners that the real burden of making that place function as a business was the burden of buying and maintaining this 200 year old building. People told us, well, if it weren’t for the mortgage, we could have made a living, right? So that’s and that has been true actually of a number of small town general stores all over New England, particularly like small towns in Vermont. Sure. For example, where someone has been running this general store forever. But, they just can’t make quite enough to pay their staff and keep it open. And what’s been happening in a bunch of different ways all over the place is community groups coming together in these kind of public private partnerships that in some sense, partially subsidize the store so that they can keep it going because there’s a recognition that it is important to the community to have this place there, to have it open, to have it be a resource for people.
Alison Case: And it’s important in a way that is not necessarily going to be reflected entirely in the receipts of that business. That said, I think the store at Five Corners, actually because of its spectacular location, because it’s such a beautiful building. It’s actually in a better situation than a lot of these kind of out-of-the-way small town general stores. I mean, it’s right on that crossroads of 43 and seven. You know, it’s a major route and it’s very striking, very attractive. I think it’ll be a challenge just to get things up and running because you’re not picking up a business that’s already moving. Right. It’s been shut down for a couple of years. That will be a challenge for the operator. The challenge for us, I think, is the challenge where we’re meeting right now, which is just bringing the store, bringing the building into as good condition as we possibly can, including making energy improvements. There was a dirt, really a crawl space basement and we’ve just had that coated with cement and had all the masonry repainted in there.
Alison Case: We’re doing a bunch of things just to make the building as functional as possible. And then our challenge, of course, is going to be to select the right operator. Someone who can really make this what it has been at its best: a community hub that also serves people who are passing through and that serves as a kind of center for the community. We got so many responses from people when we did a survey about — before we decided to buy the store — we did a survey of just people on the South Williamstown Community Association mailing list, not all of whom are in South Williamstown about what the store meant to them. And we got an 85 percent response rate on that survey, which is insane. It’s insane. Nobody gets a response like that. The average rating of the importance of the store to the community was 8.9 out of 10. To them, personally, it was like 8.7 out of ten. I mean, comments poured in — people sharing what the store had meant to them, why they love to go there. So it’s clear that this was just a really beloved place. So, we want to find an operator who will bring it back to that. We have interest from a number of people. They are not going to be paying a rent that meets all of the expenses of the building, for one thing, we’ve bought it outright so they’re not going to be paying a mortgage or the equivalent of that. But we need to figure out what is the right lease arrangement to make this work? And that’s a challenge for all of, I mean, we’re still kind of finding our feet in terms of what does it cost to run everything in the building — what’s going to be reasonable and so on. So it’s a lot it’s been a lot to do all at once, I think. The six of us, for the six of us, it’s been like a part time job, at least. Well, for me it felt like a full time job.
The Greylock Glass: Let me ask what sorts of I mean, obviously a lot of people like it pretty much as it was most recently. Have you gotten any interest from people who have slightly different notions? What sorts of setups have been proposed?
Alison Case: Well, I think so. Certainly more interest in beefing up the catering aspects, that is…I think people are interested in having something more like a restaurant there in addition to the kind of general store cafe thing. So people who’ve suggested it would be a general store cafe during the day, but then maybe will be open for restaurant type meals at night, at least some of the time. That’s one possibility that people have come up with, other people have been interested in having a particular specialty like barbecue or something like that. But one of the things we’ve stressed is that we do want the place to still be able to operate as a kind of general store for the community because one of the things that came through is really important is people in South Williamstown, particularly not having to drive all the way into town to get a gallon of milk. Right, right. And so we want to make sure that stays one thing we would like to see. That would be something of a departure from what it had been most recently, is more emphasis on local, local, locally produced food, locally produced items and more. A lot of people felt that the store was pretty expensive, that it was really priced for tourists to a large extent, and we want to make sure that there’s there’s greater economic range in what’s offered, that it’s affordable for local people as well.
The Greylock Glass: Well, I’ve got a restaurant background myself, in addition to a million other backgrounds. There are ways of making sure that you have menu items that anybody can afford. And yes, you can have a gourmet omelet, but you can also have two eggs, home fries and toast. Right? And the two eggs, home fries and toast is going to be two point ninety nine. It’s a loss leader. You don’t make any money on it, but that’s what a lot of people want, or at least a certain segment of people want when they want something quick and easy and cheap. But there’s me, and I’m not just going to get the omelet, I’m going to go à la carte because à la carte is like my middle name. And it’s something of a time when it comes to it, I admit. But I’ll get the hash browns, I’ll get the omelet, I’ll get the fruit cup and I’ll just keep going. And before you know it, I’m up to like, you know, 60 bucks for breakfast. Like, how did this happen? And there’s a lot of me out there, there’s a lot of versions of that.
So, I think that there’s always going to be a way. You mentioned general stores and sort of similar stores in Vermont. There is one and its name escapes me, but it has the option to have local free range eggs or not in your in your thing. And it’s another two bucks. You want local free range eggs? Sure. We got them another two bucks. And I think it’s successful because the local people always get it. They never don’t choose it. It’s just one of those things. Why would you not support your local farms? And that is a way that they can distinguish. The restaurant can distinguish itself, but also if somebody does want to pay the extra two bucks boom, no problem. We’ve got commercial eggs. So sometimes it’s a matter of sort of negotiating what different constituents want and need. Has anybody brought on the idea of — and this is just kind of my own wish list here for the store — of a small area that could be set aside for maybe a guitar and a violin and an upright bass a little…
Alison Case: Oh, music,
The Greylock Glass: A little folk, you know, acoustic. Nothing big, you know, quartets? Yeah.
Alison Case: That hasn’t. I mean, we haven’t begun interviewing operators yet — the applications are due at the end of February, beginning of March, and we’re only just beginning to kind of meet with potential operators and show them the store. But we haven’t begun the interview process yet, but that would certainly be a really attractive thing to have there. Definitely something. We would be drawn to anything. One of the things we want to give potential operators some flexibility to be creative. But you know what? But part of our bottom line is things that draw the community in three things that draw the community together are inherently a good thing. And certainly, music is one of those things. So, we would be very enthusiastic about that.
The Greylock Glass: Yeah, I would say that would solve two of my issues because I know that this is New England, OK? I’ll just put that out there right now. New England typically shuts down at six o’clock and I get that, but it would be swell if some place, some place that had great coffee and snacks and just a place to meet was open past six o’clock. I’ve never, especially in a college town, not being able to go, sit and have a cup of coffee. Other than Dunkin Donuts is weird to me, it’s a very strange thing.
Alison Case: It has always puzzled me because yeah, I feel like college students need coffee at 11:30. Yeah, and when I was in college, we would go to see a movie and then we would go and get coffee and talk about it at. Right. And you can’t do that in this town.
The Greylock Glass: And we have exactly the kind of theater that college students would go to see some independent art movies and go talk about them afterwards. And I’m like, OK, we’ve got one major ingredient here. What about the other? Not to, you know, cast aspersions on the coffee shops we have in town, but come on! Six o’clock? So if we had a coffee house sort of gathering spot that was open, say it doesn’t have to be open until like 2:00 in the morning, but maybe 11:00, something like that. And if there were some music, just soft music that you can talk over if you’re not interested in really hearing it. I think that would be just such a joyous thing. And I don’t know if you know this, but there was a person working there. Melanie Glenn, who is a member of the band, Upstate, which is a fantastic Americana, mostly vocal harmony acoustic group that does sort of folky stuff. And I was waiting for her to make an announcement that she was going to be performing there. Never happened. Mm. But she and her group were just amazing. So, yeah, Google “Upstate.”
Alison Case: That’s yeah, that’s actually a terrific suggestion. I just found out last week that one of our board members, Matt Baya, has a background of arranging house concerts in a previous job. He was in rice. So that’s something worth keeping in mind. Thank you.
The Greylock Glass: I know that if you’re going to be open later, that means that there are some complexities to it, but as long as you’re keeping it small, you’re not having big band jazz shows or heavy metal shows. I think that something that is aesthetically a good match would be a big draw, I think because we are so short on performance venues in the Berkshires. It could be a real hit. So what are the next steps in the process? You’ve got an application and what sort of timeline are we? Are we looking at?
Alison Case: Well, applications are due March 1st and they’re already starting to come in. We’ll be interviewing applicants as soon as possible after that. We hope that we can get the store up and running early summer, late spring or early summer. That is why we lined up the work on the building like before the contract was even signed or before we even owned the building, we had things set up so that as soon as we own the building, like those, those concrete guys went into the basement literally like a day later. So, so we’ve really been trying to get things going fast because we would really like to get open for the summer. Now, does that mean we will succeed? I don’t know. You know, it will partly depend on the operator that we select, but that’s certainly what we’re hoping for.
The Greylock Glass: Hmm. Well, it is ambitious, but it’s doable. It is. It is doable because it sounds like you’re willing to do whatever you have to do to be a resource after the contract is signed simply because you really want to make sure that it all comes together.
Alison Case: That’s fantastic. I think one thing the operator, whoever we select, can look forward to is a kind of built up pressure in the community of enthusiasm to have this place open. So, I think people are going to be stopping in a lot more than they used to. At least at first, kind of like, Oh, you’re back, thank god, I want to support you.
The Greylock Glass: Yeah. Let me ask one question, though, it’s a technical detail parking.
Alison Case: Parking, yes,
The Greylock Glass: Parking is a little bit challenging. Is there any chance that you’ve been able to work out a deal with the owners of the farm store and then the farm that you could somehow maybe have overflow parking there or something?
Alison Case: We have been very open to various forms of cooperation with. Whoever comes to own the farm store, so that would certainly be one thing we would talk about. Another possibility is, I would like us to talk to the historical museum about overflow parking there at least some of the time, which would have the added advantage to them of bringing people into the museum potentially.
The Greylock Glass: Makes sense.
Alison Case: We have also looked at the possibility of expanding parking. There is planned work over the next couple of years, there’s going to be this rotary installed there, which fortunately is not going to be swallowing up any of our parking places. But in conjunction with that, we may want to think about, although I’m hesitant to kind of pave more land for all kinds of reasons. But we’re certainly very aware that parking could be better. One of the things that the Rotary is going to do is it’s going to make the entrance and exit scenario smoother, particularly for big trucks that are making deliveries and stuff like that. So that is something that they have actually planned in. So it won’t be quite such a kind of juggling match to get your car in and out. We are also planning to install some EV charging stations, because we think that’s an important thing to be supporting and obviously it brings in business into the future.
The Greylock Glass: Well, I think that I mean, the rotary idea I’ve been curious. I think the Rotary’s can solve a lot of problems, I think. I have never seen a rotary at the bottom of a hill like that before. Yeah, so I have some concerns because the rotary that we do have in town already at the library is already, it’s amusing enough to watch people who aren’t familiar with them try to navigate them, to ask them to do two of them in one trip within a few miles. That will be something else. That’s what we’re going to be known for. Williamstown, the rotary destination. But anyway, yes,
Alison Case: I remember Williamstown before that rotary at the library was a proper rotary when you could turn left from Route Seven south onto Route Two. And I remember how many accidents there were and how insane and I would drive out of my way to avoid having to make that turn.
The Greylock Glass: Yeah, I wasn’t here, but that’s terrifying. Yeah, that sounds just ghastly. Yeah. Well, I’m excited. You know, if I were a bit more energetic and I wanted to go back into restaurant work…Well, you know, I hear about a place opening — my brother, my late brother was a chef, a trained chef, classically trained chef, and he and I were always talking about opening a place together. Although I’ve cooked, I’ve spent as much time in the front of the house as well, and I saw that and I thought, you know, this is exactly the kind of place that he would love to open. And so I really hope that somebody gets in there and somebody who understands the real beauty of baked goods — not just fancy cookies, but maybe even something as simple as a bear claw. Maybe you should make that a condition of renting…
Alison Case: A bear claw…
The Greylock Glass: Yeah, whatever you do, you’ve got to have bear claws. We don’t really care about anything else. Just make sure you’ve got bear claws. Anyway, where could people find out more information about this project?
Alison Case: StoreAtFiveCorners.org — all one word — and the five is spelled out.
The Greylock Glass: I will put a link to this in the show notes. Alison, it’s been a real pleasure. I’ve learned so much about this. I this is one of the things I think I really the reason I do this whole grain like glass thing is so that I get the full scoop on the things that I care about the most and a wonderful destination like the story Five Corners is one of the things I care about, because if you don’t have those community spaces, you’re missing out. I mean, you’re missing out on communities. So, I thank you for the work you’re doing, and I hope you pass that along to the rest of the team.
Alison Case: Thank you. Yes, it’s certainly been an education for me, too.
The Greylock Glass: Great. All right. Well, have a great twenty twenty two. I’m sure we’ll talk again soon.
Alison Case: Yes.
The Greylock Glass: Thank you. Take care. Bye bye.
NOTE: Full text of the senator’s official release below this interview.
Greylock Glass: And with me on the lines is state senator Adam Hinds. Adam, thank you so much for being on the Top Left Corner.
Adam Hinds: Great to be here. Thanks for having me.
Greylock Glass: Well, I should say I should say this has been a really big year for you. You’ve got a campaign going on, but that hasn’t stopped your work in the Senate. Just yesterday, you announced that you’re calling for the remaining two point three billion dollars in ARPA funds to be spent in a way that promotes racial equity on a number of fronts. Tell us a little bit about, first of all, what? Just remind everybody what ARPA is and how it is that we have two point three billion dollars left over.
Adam Hinds: Right. So, this is really a rare opportunity that we have right now, and maybe I’ll start with that, that this is a moment when folks are recognizing all that’s been highlighted through COVID 19 and the economic downturn that followed, who was impacted first and longest and ongoing racial awakening. And it’s combined with billions of dollars in federal funds. And so it’s this rare moment, I would say, when you have the will to do something and the resources. And so one of those pots of money is the American Rescue Plan, where the state received a direct allocation of about five billion. There was also ARPA funds going directly to municipalities and going to other areas of spending, but this is directly to the state. We’ve already spent a little more than half of that, and that went to things like economic development and job creation. Workforce development is a lot related to education and housing and our health care system. So we’ve already spent quite a bit. And we also have about $9 billion in infrastructure money that we’re about to take up. We also have a $1.5 billion annual budget surplus. And so there’s a lot of money floating around. And I said, Look, this is a moment when we can use the second part of this. We essentially took up the ARPA funds in two pots and we’re asking the question what is the one time investment for that $2.3 billion that will be that will pay dividends over years? And so my argument is the best thing that we can do is not only the most, just thing, but it’s also something that would contribute to a strong economic recovery. It would invest in reducing our vulnerabilities when the health care crisis was really most acute in communities where there’s concentrated poverty and the like. And then it would also result in a boost in expenditures to our gateway cities like Pittsfield and others. And so I said, let’s make sure this money goes directly to closing gaps by race in housing, education and, let’s say, the capital investment to businesses.
Greylock Glass: Okay, now this sounds to me like a huge task on a number of fronts. First of all, I mean, certainly being able to identify various zip code plus fours that can use the funds is not the hard part. It’s the “how do you distribute this so that it trickles down through the programs, whether it’s education or infrastructure or whatnot” problem. How do you see to it that the money gets to these programs? And of course, how do you decide which programs?
Adam Hinds: Yeah, well, when you kind of take it piece by piece, so let’s say housing, right, and it’s a part of the objective here is saying, look, we have a history of policies and lending practices that actively blocked access to mortgages. So we’re talking about redlining. And so we’ve seen that is one of the biggest contributing factors to the wealth transfer between generations. And there was a famous study about five years ago that showed the family household wealth of African-American families was $8, where it was over $100000 for white families. And so a lot of that is because of that transfer of a home. And yet. And so you can say, OK, great. Well, then let’s invest this in programs that will support first time homeowners and the like and. And so that’s one avenue for doing it. We’ve also seen during this process that, again, black owned businesses receive less capital investment than others. And so you can very clearly identify various programs to either support community banks or community organizations to assist with BIPOC owned businesses. And so I think that’s that’s the vision that myself and the several others have been working on as well.
Greylock Glass: Now you touched on it that helping out these populations of color. It’s good for the state. But let me play the devil’s advocate here and say, why isn’t this money? It’s a lot of money, two point three billion. Why should it be directed toward any one specific group? Why is directing it toward people of color, businesses of color communities? Why is that going to help everybody? I don’t get it.
Adam Hinds: Well, you can talk about just the sheer economics — there’s a study that came out while an analysis by the Massachusetts Taxpayer Foundation, which, and they’re conservative leaning, pro-business research group. They came out and said if we were to close these gaps by race, the Massachusetts gross state product would increase by $25 billion over five years. So just good economics. They went further and they said, Look, if you level college graduation rates, then we would see that the state would see an additional $22 billion in state revenues over 10 years. And so it’s one of those things where it genuinely should be. We should be doing this anyway. But now you can talk about it in economic terms, you can talk about it in terms of how do we reduce our vulnerabilities for future pandemics and economic downturns? And so honestly, it’s to me that part of the reason I’m framing it this way is really to counter exactly what you’re saying is, Well, hey, wait a second, why is one group getting money? And maybe another group is not. And this is just a smart economic investment.
Greylock Glass: So basically think within an abundance mentality, the more the more we have, the more we have. A lot of folks would be thinking, Well, what about jobs? Obviously, if you’re helping all groups create wealth, rather, if you’re helping some groups catch up a little bit, it’s going to create jobs, it’s going to create disposable income that’s going to be spent all over the place. Oh, I totally get this, but not everybody does. Let’s talk, just briefly, though, does this one fear that I have? It’s administrative costs. Having worked in a fundraising organization once before, I watched so much of the money that was raised sort of get just sort of siphoned off by the administration of the spending of the money. Is there going to be any sort of mechanism by which we can be sure that more of this money goes directly to the communities that need it?
Adam Hinds: Yeah, that’s the age old question and the problem, so I’ve called for this, and so it’s not like the programs are receiving funds today or anything to that nature, but it’s so it’s a general issue in the administration of governance. And so I think we have an auditor whose job is to do this. We often will build this into the bills that we pass to make sure that there’s clarifications on accountability and efficiency and transparency. And so that’s another route. But yeah, I mean, I think it’s an interesting piece, especially when we talk about, I think the increased recognition that technical assistance matters and it is actually a tool in itself, either for a small business that’s receiving funds or folks or will need help with the home buying process. And so there’s some evidence that there’s value in spending money, especially on supports if you want that kind of sustained good use of the money. But I take your point that the overhead and the administrative fees. That’s not the purpose of this spending.
Greylock Glass: Yeah, it’s often difficult to, on the flip side, get people to understand that you do need people to make these things happen and they like to get a paycheck too. And you can need that. You need that. But it’s difficult because if you say we’re going to build a building, we’re going to build a new school. Well, you can see the school, it’s a physical thing. Well, this is exciting and I’m sure that we are going to be keeping up with this. And obviously here in the Berkshires looking to see, as you said, how this impacts gateway cities like Pittsfield, like North Adams and elsewhere in the county. So we’ll be excited. But it’s not it’s not a bottomless cup of money, but it’s a good chunk of change there. So this is going to be great stuff. What other initiatives and bullet points do you have going on right now that we should be paying attention to besides this?
Adam Hinds: Yeah, you got it. And so you’re right, this spring there are a lot of spending bills moving around the Commonwealth. So that’s the good news for the region. We have and then the regular budget, a couple of exciting things. I mean, one is we learned recently that CSX is going to, I guess, grant access to their rail. And so the Berkshire Fyer will kick off this summer. That’s great news. Amtrak and CSX, the freight company and the Department of Transportation, are all on board and so that’s moving ahead. So that’ll take some of my time. It’s also this interesting point in the legislative process that the two year session and we just passed last week, the point when all bills should be moved out of committee either passed favorably or unfavorably. Or maybe sometimes there’s an extension for further consideration. I had a couple of bills included in that. One was creating incentives for keeping trees on your property, so for the purpose of carbon sequestration. And so that’s a big deal out here, obviously. Would I probably have the most trees in the Commonwealth, in my district? And there’s increasing recognition that using those for carbon sequestration is a big part of how we confront climate change. And so I’ve said, look, if we have beneficial tax treatment for farmers and the like, can we apply that also to folks who are deliberately managing their forests for optimal sequestration? So that’s an exciting and fun one that’s moving forward.
Greylock Glass: In Massachusetts, conducted, I don’t even think it was 10 years ago a survey on forest surface area in the Commonwealth. So that information is actually fairly new. I remember getting a survey because I’ve got some land out in Franklin County and giving a survey asking exactly that: how much of your land is in forest, permanent forest or harvestable forest?
Adam Hinds: Another bill of mine got pulled out of committee. It says that by 2030, all vehicles purchased in Massachusetts would be electric and would be. We would include rebates to make sure it’s more affordable. The purpose here, by the way, and I feel like the industry is going there anyway. As you kind of see with every week or month, there’s another kind of announcement from a car company that’s the direction they’re headed. And this is an effort we might change to 2035, just because that’s where California is. And his executive order put them at 2035 for all purchases, electric and that’s just when you, the industry, wake up and take notice when you have these states with larger populations going in this direction than the market moves in that direction. So that’s pretty exciting. And we have a commitment to move in that direction, but this bill would put it into law. And so I’m hoping that that becomes a part of the next climate omnibus bill that we will do this year.
Greylock Glass: But Senator, Senator, remember that California, for the most part, doesn’t have the salt on the roads that we do, so their cars last longer. That’s why they want to extend it to twenty to thirty five. I say I say with the salt that we put on the roads and just the general wear and tear on vehicles that we have around here. I think that 2030 is plenty, plenty of time. Most of the cars that are on the road, are we going to be on the road by then? So I say be bold, but I understand 2035 is maybe giving people some time. But honestly, we’re talking. We’re talking a decade in some. So anyway. Right?
Adam Hinds: And you need the infrastructure, the chargers and the like. There have been studies that show that this concept of range anxiety doesn’t really apply for our daily usage. We drive further out here, obviously, but for the most part, you’re covered by current infrastructure. But we are seeing massive investments in this through current federal funding. But also we’re putting aside as a state so that we’ll have kind of more accessibility. So it’s exciting because we know that transportation is 40 percent of our carbon emissions right now, and we just haven’t made the progress we need to.
Greylock Glass: Now this obviously is going to have some carve outs for used cars, perhaps.
Adam Hinds: Yeah, so this is just new purchases, so if you have a car and it’s still lasting to 2045, 45 more power to you is the concept in this bill at least. So it’s just the new purchases.
Greylock Glass: Okay. There’s certainly classic cars that are bought and sold, and collector’s items and things like that. You got it. I cut you off. Was there more and this grab bag?
Adam Hinds: Those are some big ones, I think we’re excited to make sure that we’re using this moment for four big investments here in the region. I think there’s a lot of excitement, for example, and how do we take advantage of this movement towards remote work and ensuring that folks can live here and work anywhere? And so for me, that’s meant also investing in not only the rail and obviously broadband, but outdoor recreation is a growing industry. So we’ve made an investment over in Franklin County. As you mentioned that in Charlemont, we released about a month ago, half a million dollars for their outdoor recreation infrastructure. We’ve just seen that there’s there’s a real appetite now and the evidence in home purchases in our area is showing that people are making that move to try to spend more time out here…
Greylock Glass: Charlemont is a town to watch. It really is. I agree a lot of people don’t know, but it used to be a hot spot on the on the trail en route to and it was typically where the Charlemont Inn. Well, it’s still there. It’s just in disuse. That was where people stopped on the way to Albany because the horses were tired. I mean, you probably know that the horse is retired and no one was going to make those poor horses on this. On the coach go over the mountain. Well, two sets of mountains on the way to Albany. So Parliament was obvious. Last stop before Albany. And it was a hot little town. And of course, the automobile helped it for a while during the glorious days of road tourism and the 40s and 50s. But then, there was a little bit of a bit of fall-off in the late 20th century, but I foresee you’ve got Berkshire East there, you’ve got good fishing, you’ve got all kinds of great stuff going on there. I foresee quite a little bit of a return to some, some good times, especially if there is a train depot, a train stop there, another the original depot is now a private home. But that doesn’t mean we couldn’t find another place to put one. Which brings up my question. Governor Baker made some sort of heartwarming discussion of the East-West line. But he talked about Worcester to Springfield, and a lot of people scratched their heads and said, Well, wait a minute here. What about Pittsfield? Do you have any thoughts or knowledge about that?
Adam Hinds: Oh, yeah, that was incredibly disappointing that’s how it was framed by the administration talking about Worcester to Springfield and omitting the importance of Pittsfield to Albany. Really, I keep emphasizing, look, connecting our state capitals would be incredibly beneficial. And so here’s an opportunity. I talked about the fact that we have more than $9 billion in infrastructure money coming to us and the estimated costs of each of the three proposals put forward by the East-West Rail Advisory Committee that I serve on or served on. Each of those were about half of that. So you can see how the state could easily put together the funding package, either through federal funds or through bonding to move forward with that. So, now there’s no excuse. And yet even then, Governor Baker did not include it in his initial plans for the use of the $9 billion in spending for infrastructure, instead said he would work with the federal government to identify funds for it. So, disappointing on both fronts. And we’re, of course, not going to let that be the last word. There’s talk of, well, can you start in Springfield and simultaneously build out west and east? I think that might be more acceptable. But yeah, I think further evidence of why we need someone from Western Mass in the executive branch.
Greylock Glass: And yeah, I was going to say, this is getting this is getting really, it’s the same old. Nothing exists west of ninety one. And it’s just really frustrating. And I don’t I don’t know what it’s going to take to get folks to understand that. If Pittsfield in particular, were connected to Albany and how many people go to Albany and the area of Troy and whatnot from brochures, but they have this thing called it commerce over there. There’s jobs in those businesses and it’s booming and there’s growth. There’s construction, there’s all kinds of stuff. And we could be tapping into that if we had easier access jobs and it could flow both ways. So I think that a really great — I mean, I’m editorializing and I’m sort of preaching to the choir here, but the benefit to the Commonwealth. And again, it wouldn’t just help the Berkshires, it would help the state as a rule because more money means more money. Anyway, that all sounds like really, really good initiatives. Good, an agenda to keep an eye on, and we’ll be doing just that. Talk just briefly about. About your campaign, you decided to run for lieutenant governor. Why?
Adam Hinds: I think I’ll circle back to the way we started our conversation, and I feel like this is a rare moment when we can actually make progress on regional equity on equity by overcoming income inequality and racial equity. Because everyone is so focused on what we’ve been going through for the last two years and all of the challenges that we’re facing. Combine that with the billions of dollars that we have. And so we’re literally on a month by month basis and the Legislature giving the next administration billions of dollars and making sure that this moment isn’t lost and wasted is one of the things that drives me. It’s been going well so far. A lot of folks, as I go around the Commonwealth, resonate with the concept that we’ve been talking about today relating to. We need every corner of the Commonwealth to feel like they’re seen and heard by the government. And that’s not always the case, and that resonates when I’m down on the south coast and in central mass and out on the Cape. And so it’s a perspective that folks appreciate. People also appreciated my background in the U.N. and negotiations as kind of bringing people together to actually take on the big problems and big challenges. And so, so far, so good. We’ve rolled out more than two dozen endorsements statewide, which is important from the guy from Western Mass. And I feel like we’re at the point where the field is set. And now that we’re in the election year, things are really heating up and it’s feeling good.
Greylock Glass: Are you disappointed that Ben Downing dropped out?
Adam Hinds: Yeah, I have to say, you might imagine we spent a lot of time together on the campaign trail. We are constantly going to Democratic town committees and community events and the like. And so it’s always, always great to see a familiar face. I will say more than once, and this is a fact people called me then. So I guess this is maybe not the worst thing now. Now I will be the only bald guy from the Berkshires running statewide. But, I think having both of us in the statewide race did kind of elevate the Berkshires and people were taking notice where we are on the map. Well, it was great to have them there.
Greylock Glass: And a lot of people who I’m sure many people know, but you’re running individual campaigns, which can result in some, some unusual pairings and once you actually get into office. But with you and Ben running, it was very close to being running mates in a traditional sort of sense. What is it like? Well, first of all, lieutenant governor, I mean, I get the press releases every morning, so I know what Karyn Polito is doing, and so I know that it’s a big job. Explain to people what the lieutenant governor does.
Adam Hinds: Yeah, interestingly, it’s a notoriously undefined role in the Massachusetts Constitution, so you’re there to take over when the governor is out of state or departs office. And then second is an ex officio member of the governor’s council and you chair the governor’s council, which is a little known but important judicial function in our government in terms of judicial appointments, especially. So that’s one. The other function is they’ve really taken on this role of being a liaison with municipalities. And I’ve seen that firsthand. That’s exactly the critical function that whether it’s legislators or mayors and select board members, they all have the cell phone number of the lieutenant governor, and you can really use that to direct projects or cut through red tape when needed. So that’s a big one. I would add another function, which is, I would like to use my negotiation background to actually lead on some big projects, I think using the power of the cabinet. So you have the secretaries of all of the major agencies and departments really working for the governor. And I think being able to use that power, whether it’s promoting equity or moving the ball down the field on climate change, it’s a powerful function and I would hope to be at the center of it.
Greylock Glass: Sure. Sure. Yeah. And if, of course, the governor ends up being somebody that you can work with well, then you can end up being a really sort of a strong team. Like you said, Karyn Polito is out there every day, and she and Baker seemed to have a pretty decent synergy. I don’t know personally how they get along, but they seem at least publicly to get along pretty well. Yeah, yeah. So you mentioned climate change just a minute ago, and this is something that I have been watching and I saw quite a bit of legislative activity, in the last two years, but I haven’t heard about the ultimate results of it. This is an issue that a recent study showed that Gen Z and I guess the sort of the lower end of the millennial spectrum there they’re really concerned about, I mean, it’s keeping them up at nights. I have heard from college students who…they panic about this every time there’s a setback and it’s it’s not a it’s not an academic sort of cerebral thing. It’s it’s they are afraid on a visceral level, they are afraid of the future. Massachusetts, being a coastal state, is going to see some real, real challenges, and we don’t have a lot of time to act. I know tha, you’re only going to have so much ability to affect change in the role of lieutenant governor. But what do you foresee? What do you foresee our best chances of being prepared for? Well, the obvious coming climate. I don’t say catastrophe, but it’s going to be ugly.
Adam Hinds: It is and. And look, we see the impact already, and not only is it when we have these kind of storm events when we see inland all the culverts and bridges being blown out, and we got 7.5 million in the last in the ARPA bill for some of our small towns that had a surge storm event last summer. But seeing it on the coast, we have towns that have put up seawalls and they’re getting breached. They were designed to never be breached and they already are years after construction. And so the evidence is there as if he needed it. And so some of the problem is, OK, are we being aggressive enough in key areas of action? And I think the answer is no. I would hope to again use the lieutenant governor’s role to pick up the Transportation Climate Initiative, which is a regional interstate negotiation, a kind of a cap and invest system to kind of put a market price on carbon. There are those types of things that we just need to make sure our finalized and yet, and of course, greening our energy. And so we have some amazing investments. This ARPA bill also included $100 million for offshore wind. Essentially, the ports in New Bedford. And so making sure that we’re really going one hundred ten miles an hour. I don’t know if that’s the right metaphor, but anyway, full speed ahead towards greening our energy sources, our transportation sources. And yet, even when you do all of that, you’re I’m very conscious that we’re just one small portion of the United States. And so are we doing enough at the national level and the international level? And the answer right now is clearly no. And so it is worth panicking about it is worth being stressed about it. We’re not on the right track.
Greylock Glass: Well, first of all, as long as we’re going one hundred and ten miles an hour in an electric vehicle, that’s okay to do that.
Adam Hinds: I think you’re stepping on the electric gas pedal.
Greylock Glass: The electric Harley-Davidson that they’ve come out with. So you’re right on a national and international level, it’s really hard to get everybody on the same page. Obviously, we pulled out of the Paris accord. We were back in it now after an embarrassing couple of years. But even that didn’t go far enough. Most climate scientists agree. It may be that the climate readiness is going to have to happen alongside carbon sequestration, capture harvesting. However, it works. And of course, just lowering levels. Massachusetts is uniquely situated to be more self-sufficient than many states. We have an industrial, strong industrial history, and we still have the infrastructure in many places. We have the agricultural history, though we’re losing a lot of arable land to development. If the climate, I mean, we’ve seen this with extreme drought affecting farming agriculture in the Midwest. Along the Mississippi and the Missouri Rivers floods in some of the most productive river valleys. Arable land we’ve got in this country and in the depression. A lot of people forget that during the dust bowl, when the soil just through overuse and bad practices blew just pretty much blew away. It was the West Coast, especially Northern California, central California and Portland, Oregon and New England, that fed huge swaths of the country because the breadbasket was a dust bowl. And we were able to do that because New England was still, in the thirties, very solidly rural in so much of it. We have good weather for it. It’s not the longest growing season around here, but we get plenty of rain and we have the ability to on a dime switch over to production. At least we did. Is there anything that Massachusetts might do to help protect our agricultural potential?
Adam Hinds: Hmm. Well, I…
Greylock Glass: Know that was a really long lead-in, but…
Adam Hinds: Yeah, I loved it, though I appreciate the history. It’s a big question that a lot of us Western mass legislators grapple with pretty regularly. I met recently with a group of farmers, Senator Comerford to our east is working on a farm bill at the state level. Farmers are having a hard time keeping afloat. And I grew up on a street that is a very good indication of where things are headed. A dairy farmer closed down like most have in their region. And we still have an apple orchard or two on that same street. And so fruits and vegetables and livestock are doing OK, but it’s hard. And so the fact that we’re the breadbasket and I guess the lungs with our trees for the Commonwealth and the region is not an overstatement. But it’s it’s it’s not. It’s tough to kind of keep these generational farms going and. And so I’m deeply worried and we’ve done a lot in terms of, well, can we assist with equipment and other things? But I don’t think we’re there yet, either. So the problem is the food system is dysfunctional. I mean, we are, essentially as buyers too; we kind of demand lower and lower prices.
Adam Hinds: And as a result, we’ve seen bigger and bigger corporations and agribusiness kind of do this mass production of food that is really unsustainable for our local farmers who can’t produce at that level of income, i.e., a lower, lower revenue from each unit of output. And yet we’re dominion of them. And so there are some things you can do direct to market and the like. But I don’t know. We’re still trying to find a way to make sure we are protecting it here because we’re, to your point, we can’t grow multiple seasons the way other parts of the country can. We can’t, we don’t maybe have the open space that they are making use. And so it’s a niche that we’ve seen a lot of folks take advantage of. Well, OK, at least we can do local organic and people will pay a premium and so we’re playing with different ideas there, like direct to institutions or schools and hospitals buying. And then maybe that requires a little subsidization so that they actually are going local and in Massachusetts trying to play with that to see what works.
Greylock Glass: Yeah, no. There’s a lot of, like you said, niche sort of imperatives out there, such as the farm to school, which I think are valuable and they should be expanded. I think from where I’ve been I see a lot of young farmers or farmer wannabes, they’re graduating with skills and advanced knowledge that farmers in generations past have not had. I have a lot of friends who have soil science degrees, right? I mean, they understand more about what’s going on. And you know what? They’re going to go into UMass. They’re going to other other colleges, both state colleges around Massachusetts or New York. You’re going to Cornell, they’re going to UConn, whatever, but they’re ending up here to do internships. And the problem is that when they get to the end of that. There’s nowhere to go. Right, I mean, they can stay interns, and they’re happy as interns for what it’s worth, but there’s no way to buy land. I mean, there is a program that helps connect, tries to connect farmers whose whose children don’t really want to. They don’t want that life. And so it tries to encourage them to sell to young farmers at a fair price. But it’s really tough because you get a developer in there who says,” I’ll give you, I’ll give you $5 million right now.” It’s tougher, tough for people to say no.
Adam Hinds: So out that…
Greylock Glass: Maybe the trick is to find a way to work with the colleges so that when students become interns and interns are looking to start firms of their own, there’s money available to grab some of this land that’s available so that the so that the succession so that the state is part of the succession plan. Just a thought, right? Right. Because I know you’ve got a lot of time to just mull this stuff over. Yeah. What else? What else is going on in your campaign? What are some of the next milestones then? I know, I know you’ve probably trying to get to the next one and you just got to get off this call. But what are some of the next milestones that you’ve got coming up?
Adam Hinds: Well, we are in caucus season, so essentially almost every town and certainly wards have a Democratic Town committee or city committee, and they are meeting during this five six week period to elect delegates to go to the state convention. That’s going to be in June, and you need to get 15 percent of the vote at the convention to get on the ballot as a statewide candidate for the party. And so that means literally 350 caucuses have been added to my already busy schedule during this six week period. So you can imagine it’s amazing this Saturday. I will have, I think, 35 caucuses to attend and tonight well, tonight, not one, but typically during the weekdays, I would have five or six every night. I will say this — you wouldn’t be at a very high percentage of those. You would just pick and choose. But with 85 percent of these now remote, I can sit at my desk with three devices up and jump between caucuses. So it’s a different type of campaigning this year, for sure. And that’s where our focus is right now. And then we’ll have to get on the ballot by collecting signatures. And so we’re kind of in full swing.
Greylock Glass: Yeah, it sounds like it sounds like it sounds like the digital campaigning is good and bad. It doesn’t give quite the same sort of in the same room feeling, but it does let you really get your get your face out there, too. That’s right. So I mean, take the good with the bad, I suppose. Well, Senator, it has been great talking with you. As always, looking forward to, as I said earlier, keeping an eye on some of these issues that you’ve brought up here and just, I guess, stay healthy and we’ll talk to you again.
Adam Hinds: Great. Thanks for having me and talk soon, for sure.
Greylock Glass: Thanks. Have a good weekend. Bye..
Adam Hinds: You, too. Bye.
Senator Hinds Calls for Spending Remaining $2.3 Billion in ARPA Funds on Racial Equity
Boston – The Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Revenue, Senator Adam Hinds, today called for the remaining $2.3 billion in ARPA funds to be spent on closing gaps by race in housing, education, wealth and business capital investment.
“The smartest investment for a strong recovery is racial equity. Using this money to move towards racial equity is not only just, it contributes to our economic recovery, investments to close gaps by race reduce vulnerabilities ahead of future pandemics and economic downturns, and results in a boost to our Gateway Cities,” Hinds said.
Recent analysis, including by the Massachusetts Taxpayer Foundation, show that closing racial gaps in key areas results in increasing Massachusetts’ gross state product by $25 billion over five years. According to the same report, leveling college graduation rates of Black and Latinx students to that of white students in Massachusetts would result in an additional $22 billion in state revenues over ten years.
“Massachusetts is in search of strategic one-time investments for ARPA dollars, especially allocations that put the economy on stable footing and pay dividends for years to come. Closing the racial divide in wages, housing, investments, and wealth does just that,” Hinds continued.
The MA legislature is continuing the process of allocating ARPA funds, the Bilateral Infrastructure Law, state surpluses, and more related to recovery funds.
For updates on this and more, please follow Senator Hinds’ social media pages at:
Thanks so much for all your coverage about the effort to re-open Store at Five Corners. Perhaps you could record some live podcasts there once it’s open again 🙂
My pleasure! That would be really fun!