Great Barrington MA

It’s the Economy

By Mickey Friedman
September 30, 2015

I’m not an economist. And never played one on TV. And most of the time I have no idea what they’re saying.

But there’s been a lot of talk recently in Great Barrington about tax rates so I’ve begun to pay attention. Michael Wise, the chairman of the Great Barrington Finance Committee, came up with a proposal to tackle the growing problem of affordability and high taxes. His ultimately unsuccessful answer was to create greater tax equity with a residential tax exemption and a split rate. To shift some of the tax burden to part-time residents and those with higher property assessments.


By Mickey Friedman
August 27, 2015

The tweedysphere has been blowing up with hashtag wetoocanbeGB. Or as the kids tweed, #WE2BGB. You can’t go anywhere in Berkshire County without hearing about it. People gathering in clumps in Lenox and Lee, in Stockbridge and Sheffield, in the hinterlands of Monterey and New Marlborough, even in plush and lush Alford, all wishing a version of the GB Makeover. Dreaming their own stop-traffic, wear-all-white, celebratory Dig and Dine affair, tables and chairs and hors d’oeuvres spilling onto the street. Tweeding because our new Great Barrington can be theirs.


June 22, 2015
By Mickey Friedman

2003. It seems like a lifetime ago when Republican Bob Ney renamed French fries because the French didn’t want to invade Iraq. We showed those Frenchies. Freedom fries not only tasted better but were better for you. And we all know who won the war in Iraq. It certainly wasn’t the French.

But I’m not one to hold a grudge. Give credit where credit is due. Pâté – especially if you don’t know how it’s made – is pretty damn good. And it’s hard to knock that brie cheese.

Anyway, my point is they’ve just done something almost as impressive as inventing French dressing and the French Open.

They’ve just passed a law that forces French supermarkets to give away their unsold food to charities. Incroyable. Or even better, incredible.

According to the UK Guardian “the Socialist deputy Guillaume Garot, a former food minister said ‘It’s scandalous to see bleach being poured into supermarket dustbins along with edible foods.’”

Holy moley, they’ve got Socialist deputies. Who obviously aren’t messing around. Because “The law explicitly bans the practice of supermarkets deliberately spoiling unsold food so it cannot be eaten. Bigger supermarkets … will be obliged to sign formal contracts with charities by July next year, or face penalties including fines … or two years in jail.” Fines of about $83,000. And two years is two years whether the guards speak English or French.

Pourqoui, you ask? Why?

Well, the French are wasting too much pâté and brie and the pommes de terre they need for freedom fries. And fruits and vegetables and meat and dairy products. “According to official estimates, the average French person throws out 20-30kg of food a year, at a combined national cost of up to €20bn.” Which in the States would be 44 – 66 pounds of food a year. At a cost of about $22 billion.

And as an article in ThinkProgress adds: “Mired in an economic slump, France has seen a growing number of people living off food scavenged from waste bins outside grocery stores, which has prompted an outcry from aid workers and activists … ‘There’s an absolute urgency – charities are desperate for food,’ Assemblymember Yves Jégo told Parliament.”

Food waste, it turns out, is a very big deal. A 2013 Report by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers found that “The world wastes from one-third to one-half of the four billion metric tons of food it produces each year.”

This is an even bigger problem than it seems. When you consider the effects of the climate crisis and the added stress of the world’s growing population, it is becoming increasingly difficult and more expensive to produce food.

According to the study, the problem of food waste changes with economic development. In poorer less developed countries waste occurs mainly at the farmer/producer level with inefficient harvesting and storage and transportation.

“In mature, fully developed countries … more-efficient farming practices and better transport, storage and processing facilities ensure that a larger proportion of the food produced reaches markets and consumers. However, characteristics associated with modern consumer culture mean produce is often wasted through retail and customer behavior.”


According to Grant Bowman’s fascinating documentary “Just Eat It,” about 97% of all our food waste ends up in a landfill or incinerator.

Unfortunately the consequences of food waste are multiplied. First, we waste extraordinary amounts of water and energy to create the food we waste. Then we squander extraordinary amounts of energy and land to bury or destroy what we’re wasting.

When I think about food waste, I think of Mel Greenberg driving around from markets super to small gathering what’s about to be wasted. I see volunteers turning this into dinner for the hungry. I think about the food pantries throughout the county straining to meet the ever-increasing need for food.

So how about we allez. And vamos. Do it. What the French did.

The Best Small Town in America, which successfully banned plastic bags – about which my friends advise me not to joke anymore – well how about we ban supermarket waste. How about we tell our supermarkets they have to give food pantries and Mel Greenberg the food they’re about to throw away?

We remind our friends at Big Y and the Price Chopper of the federal Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act which protects them when they donate food to non-profits; and protects them from civil and criminal liability across the country if the food they donate in good faith cause harm to a recipient.

And mandate a team from the Police Department, Fire Department, the DPW, the Health Department and volunteers from Railroad Street Youth and Greenagers to create a pickup team. What if The Best Small Town in America funded a seven day a week food pantry in downtown GB which distributed this free food to worthy recipients.

Allez. Vamos. Let’s Go.


For more information:

I Know Defensive

By Mickey Friedman
May 22, 2015

I’ve been lucky enough to have loved and been loved, in the short term at least, by a small gaggle of therapists. Of the Freudian, Jungian, Family, and Psychosynthesist persuasions, plus a Hungarian Jewish Gypsy Fortune-Teller. That counts, right?

So I know from defensiveness. I’ve been called “defensive” by them all. Remote and reluctant to share. Unable to trust. So defensive I didn’t realize I was defensive.

It took years of real therapy — sitting across from a therapist, not a lover — to see the truth: guilty as charged. I was defensive. Majorly defensive. So I now know defensive when I see it.

Maxy For Mayor

May 13, 2015
By Mickey Friedman

They all have Japanese names, these incredible yellow machines that now make Main Street their home. My favorite, Komatsu. But they all do amazing work. Thanks to their humans.

I’ve got a front row seat here at Fuel Great Barrington, and I admit to reverting back to childhood. When I was a kid there were wooden barriers built at construction sites but the workers drilled holes so you could always peer in from the street at what was happening behind closed walls.

Whether you wanted the trees gone or not; whether you wanted the old to give way to the new or liked things the way they were, funky and quirky and sometimes chaotic, you have to be impressed by the way Maxymillian Construction is dismantling Downtown GB.


April 21, 2015
By Mickey Friedman

We’re supposed to just get on with it. Embrace the future. Forsake sadness. As the past vanishes before our eyes. Exalt the instrument of transformation, the chainsaw.

But during a moment of daydream one almost killed me. And chainsaws attacking trees have claimed others I know.

Some trees resist the metal that tears through them. The wood not content with the often arbitrary and man-made determination to end its day.

Those of us who came to care for the Bradford Pear trees have lost. And of course those who were convinced they had to go will always celebrate their decision. Because they had to go. That’s the way it goes. Like our old Firehouse had to go for a pittance.

A Fence with a View

By Bill Shein
April 3, 2015

“The Town of Great Barrington is accepting letters of interest from legal residents/registered voters to fill the following vacancies: Fence Viewer (1) – Until 2015.”From “Jobs and Opportunities” on

To the Great Barrington Select Board:

Greetings and salutations! I write in response to news of a vacancy in the Great Barrington Department of Rules, Weights, Measures and Lines, and humbly submit my name for consideration for the storied position of Fence Viewer.

Let me assume that the parenthetical “1” in “Fence Viewer (1)” means you are seeking a duly certified, experienced, and passionate Viewer of Fences, First Class, rather than a novice, apprentice, second class, or otherwise entry-level fence viewer.

If so, I congratulate you on your commitment to professional-quality fence viewing, and your desire to see this vital town responsibility met expertly, with the highest standards of world-class viewing. Of fences, in particular, but perhaps also of flower beds, historic barns, duck ponds, waterfalls, and maybe even supermodels, should there be a need. READ MORE >>

Starting Fresh

By Mickey Friedman
April 3, 2015

Some in the Berkshire Hills Regional School District (BHRSD) look down their educational noses at our neighbors of the Southern Berkshire Regional School District (SBRSD). But the administrators, School Committee, teachers, students, support staff, parents and taxpayers of the SBRSD are accomplishing in a short time what we failed to do. Prioritize. Compromise. And with the hoped-for YES vote in New Marlborough providing a new roof and energy efficient boiler for Mount Everett Regional High School.

I want to congratulate them all.


Before Yoga

By Mickey Friedman
February 12, 2015

You know you’re headed for your last rodeo when you can remember a time before yoga. I see the barber shops on Railroad Street, two saloons and the car parts store. The donut shop that turned into the falafel place that is now Martin’s. And the jewelry stores here in The Best Small Town in America.

There’s A&P and Aldo’s. But not a single yoga studio.

Yet nowadays people are either headed to yoga or on their way back.

Public Education

By Mickey Friedman
December 13, 2014

My friend Matthew, a recent graduate of Monument Mountain, reminded me of Give-to-Give, a program that enabled students here to help students in impoverished Haiti. So when he felt a slight chill at school, he added a sweater, compared his lot with others and soon felt grateful for what he had. Matthew imagined Haiti. I imagine Iraq.


A Singular Ray of Light

December 3, 2014
By Mickey Friedman

I drove with Jurek Zamoyski and Mel Greenberg to pick up and deliver food for Great Barrington’s four food pantries. There’s a pantry at the Calvary Christian Chapel on Route 41, one at the Women’s Infant and Children’s (WIC) office on Stockbridge Road, one at Railroad Street Youth Project, and one at the Senior Center.

Mel is always picking up spare food and making sure it gets to hungry people. A singular ray of light in this ever-darkening universe of ours, he is a small antidote to melting ice and mindless materialism.

Selfish, Greedy People

By Mickey Friedman
November 9, 2014

The debate about the Monument Mountain HS renovation has sent me back in time. Dreaming my five block walk from Webb Avenue to P.S. 86. A small army of kids streaming from our apartment buildings in rain, snow or shine to our home for the day. Built in 1926, it still stands, serving 1,700. I can’t help but imagine my mother’s reaction if I told her I didn’t like the lighting there. Frivolous complaints weren’t welcome when there was laundry, shopping, dishes, homework to be done. Both parents working, and money always tight.

My imaginary Congressman, Bill Shein, likes to remind me of the great failing of our civilization: conspicuous consumption. The constant waste of precious resources to make and sell things of dubious purpose. How many varieties of breakfast flakes? Cars? Phones? A demand fueled by a constant drone, and the occasionally artful commercial: LeBron James, the Jesus of Cleveland, returns to lead his basketball-loving black/white army of sad city-dwellers to a new glory. So buy Nike sneakers.

Those with money know their children deserve an indoor greenhouse. Those without tremble to see the fuel-oil truck arrive; rejoice when the gas pump reads less than $3.50 a gallon; scour the shelves for Buy One, Get One Free.

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An online newsmagazine based in the Berkshire Hills of Western Massachusetts, Red Crow News covers what's happening and what we hope will happen.

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