Advocating for Western Mass
Rebuilding and Modernizing Our Economy
Supporting Our Seniors & Veterans
Rebuilding and Modernizing Our Economy
The impact of the COVID-19 crisis has changed the way our economy functions. Access to wide-spread testing and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is crucial to the reopening of the economy. Support for our working families and front-line workers will need to be strengthened long after we begin our recovery.
We must focus on modernizing our economy with new ideas so it works for all, particularly for the residents of Western Massachusetts. Telecommuting, or working from home, has proven to be a viable alternative for certain professions. Massachusetts should embrace this concept with policies that encourage telecommuting but establish the proper protections for workers to ensure that a work/life balance is honored.
Moving to more telecommuting has the potential to attract more young people to Western Massachusetts because of our lower property costs. The end result would produce less traffic on the roads creating a more environmentally stable and cost-effective way for our economy to operate. With less time and money spent on commuting, working families could patronize local businesses within their communities. With that local demand, Western Mass has the potential to attract entrepreneurs that could provide services that young families desire.
Economic Development: Looking Beyond Greater Boston
Supporting our economy in Western Massachusetts should have a local and regional focus:
Locally – Public/private partnerships like the continued development of the Ludlow Mills and the Belchertown State School properties are both major priorities as they allow entrepreneurs and small businesses to grow in both communities, and also cut through some red tape to allow new business to establish themselves and grow in these spaces.
Regionally - Policy makers in Boston must recognize the fact that the Western Massachusetts economy is a regional economy, less reliant on Boston, with a greater connection to the economies north and south of the Pioneer Valley. There are far greater high-skilled manufacturing jobs within Western Massachusetts than in the Boston area. A regional approach to economic development with a focus on the green economy will help to reduce our carbon footprint while building upon our strong manufacturing base.
Employment Opportunities for Western Mass Residents
Workers across the state are losing jobs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Respecting and fighting for protections, hazard pay for front-line workers (including long-term care employees), access to employment, affordable educational opportunities, and training for the workforce of Western Massachusetts is a major public policy priority. With a strong skilled manufacturing base, support for worker training programs to further develop the skills of these workers to meet the needs of our modern economy is imperative. Incentivizing and allowing the green economy to flourish would compliment the skill set of Western Massachusetts.
Continued support for the revitalization of the Ludlow Mills
Belchertown State School property - assisted living facility
A well-educated workforce is critical to success of our Commonwealth and region. Our Commonwealth must invest in each level of education – early childhood, K-12, career/technical, and public higher education.
K-12 Education Needs More Equity and Funding
Massachusetts is home to the best public K-12 schools in the nation; however, there is more work that our state should be doing to support educators, eliminate funding inequities, and provide essential wrap-around services to support the social and emotional needs of students. In 2016, as President of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees, I partnered with school committee members, teachers, parents, and local leaders to help defeat Question 2 which would have expanded charter schools in Massachusetts. While I fought hard to update, modernize, and fully fund our outdated funding formula, further revisions must be made in the coming years to help needy districts that will only see small increases in funding.
Universal Pre-K Education is Needed
A successful re-opening of our economy will depend on access to affordable and high-quality early childhood education. I will support funding to allow school districts and local pre-K providers to ensure universal pre-kindergarten access. Interventions at the earliest stages of a child’s life helps to eliminate disparities as they move through elementary school.
Public Higher Education & Life-Long Learning Must be Affordable
A majority of new jobs created require some education beyond high school. Students looking to obtain a college education should not be saddled with crippling debt that delays the start of their lives. That is why debt free college, through investments in our public higher education system, should be prioritized. Investments in our community colleges, state universities, and the University of Massachusetts system have the greatest impact on Massachusetts residents as their graduates stay, work, live, and start families in Massachusetts. A college education doesn’t mean solely four-year college, but also certificate and job training programs.
Career & Technical Education Must be Expanded
As a board member of the collaborative that oversees career and technical education to Ludlow students, I have fought to expand opportunities for these types of programs with the technology and equipment that enables students to succeed. It will continue to be a focus of mine in the legislature. We must incentivize and support for skilled professionals to become career and technical educators, and expand apprentice programs with area business that will lead to future employment. Training workers for the technical fields will help to retain our talent locally.
Jake volunteering as substitute teacher at East Street Elementary School
As President of the School Committee Association, Jake rallying school committee members in front of the State House in opposition to the expansion of charter schools in 2016
CNC Machine Technology at the Lower Pioneer Valley Educational Collaborative's Career and Technical Education Program
Western Massachusetts Requires Investment
We must rebuild our aging infrastructure. Any transportation plan discussed by the legislature should prioritize Western Massachusetts’ needs. Our Commonwealth needs to invest in Chapter 90 aid to cities and towns, which provides state funding for the repairs to roads and bridges within our communities. Investments in public transportation are important, but not just for the MBTA, which is rarely utilized west of Worcester, but for regional transportation entities and high-speed rail.
The Information Highway is Critical to our Region
Infrastructure does not mean simply roads, bridges, and public transportation systems, but information highways. Access to affordable high-speed internet in every community is essential for Western Mass to reap the benefits of a revitalized economy that includes more telecommuting.
Recreational and Other Public Spaces Require Investment
Our public spaces like state parks are being utilized now more than ever before. We must invest in these spaces to ensure the public has greater access. Grants to our local cities and towns, as through the Community Preservation Act, are important vehicles to help communities invest in their own infrastructure.
The State Must Support Public/Private Partnerships
Public/private partnerships like the Ludlow Mills and the development of the Belchertown State School must receive greater state support for their infrastructure to attract business and entrepreneurs.
Supporting our Seniors and Veterans
Seniors Need Economic Security
Protecting our seniors and fighting against economic insecurity so our seniors may retire with dignity. As the Massachusetts population ages, developing supports for seniors to allow them to continue to contribute to their communities. There are a growing number of multigenerational households in Western Massachusetts, and we must provide support for these types of households. During the COVID-19 outbreak, we have seen this virus wreak havoc on our senior living facilities and Veterans centers. We must develop senior living facility strike teams that can help these facilities better contain outbreaks.
Those Who Served Cannot be Left Behind
Veterans, those who fight for our country, must not be left behind when they return home. Ensuring that veterans have access to high-quality health care through the VA, and creating a seamless system of accessing benefits for returning veterans is essential. Services for our Veterans should be kept local and include free access to free public transportation when seeking medical care, comprehensive education opportunities, and preserving state benefits for surviving spouses.
"Senior Strong" Jake and his grandmother Lena supporting the Ludlow Senior Center Project in 2018
Jake and his Uncle Charlie Santos and grandmother Lena during the 2019 Ludlow Memorial Day Parade