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Letter: MCLA Homeless Shelter Should Have Had Public Input
Letter to the Editor,
03:30PM / Wednesday, May 24, 2023
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To the Editor:

I question MCLA's President Birge's commitment to education and to our North Berkshire community.

"… the historic public purpose of American higher education is to respond to the needs and demands of society." President Jamie Birge, WAMC 5/10/2023

The problem of the poor and unhoused is a symptom of a decline in democratic values and income inequality. A simple change in the earned income tax credit was able to cut child poverty by about 46 percent in just a few months.

Massachusetts needs more than 200,000 new homes in order to start addressing the housing crisis. What is stopping Massachusetts from building these homes? Powerful interests who do not have a modicum of decency prevent democratic actions to address our problems. Democracy means participation and engagement. It requires leaders to inspire open and respectful dialogue to address the needs of the people.

In 2014, North Adams Regional Hospital was closed with three days notice with no public hearing. Shortly after the hospital closing, the state closed our North Adams welfare office and our North Adams employment office with no public hearing.

In order to respond to our community's needs and demands, President Birge should have held public meetings and panel discussions on the proposed emergency shelter and its effects on the future of the college and our community. The college could have educated the community about the crisis and provided a forum for an informed and respectful discussion.

Instead President Birge chose to keep his own counsel and avoided an encounter with the public. He acted as if it was his decision alone and failed to include the community input.

Our society is suffering from people who act like autocrats and reject the democratic process of inclusion. There is still time for the college to provide the leadership in an open and inclusive educational forum that addresses the needs of the poor and unsheltered.

Richard Dassatti
North Adams, Mass. 

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