Great Barrington MA

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.

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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.
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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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School Facts Not Fiction

By Mickey Friedman
October 27, 2014

Michael Wise of the Great Barrington Finance Committee says I’m “unhelpful.” Alan Chartock calls the 955 of his fellow town citizens who voted NO last November “selfish” and “un-American.”

They say the issue is simple: If you vote NO on their $51.2 million renovation of Monument Mountain High School you will pay more to fix the school as things break: “Fixing only essential repairs will cost taxpayers at least 20 percent more than a Renovation Project.” They say there is no practical alternative.

51.2 million dollars reimbursed by the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) with $23.2 million. A reimbursement rate of 48.52 percent. It will cost the district only $28.02 million, and Great Barrington $19.4 million.

To convince you they made a chart: We need $38.6 million worth of necessary repairs. Claiming if we applied to the Accelerated Repair program of the MSBA we’d only get $4.9 million, a reimbursement rate of 12.7 percent. That’s $33.64 million with Great Barrington paying $21.4 million.

So why spend $21.4 million to fix things when for $19.4 million you get it all? Why trade a reimbursement rate of 48.52 percent for a measly 12.7 percent?

That’s the fiction. How about helpful American facts:
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Love and Lies

By Mickey Friedman
October 20, 2014

I woke to learn from The Eagle that I’ve been instilling “anger and fear in the most financially vulnerable citizens of our community.” From the Berkshire Edge, I’m “short-sighted and selfish.” And “deceiving you.”

Mr. Bradway of Stockbridge, MA says I’ve been “conspicuously omitting data and facts that would provide for the opportunity of a circumspect and objective viewpoint.”

Quite the mouthful.

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NO, then YES

By Mickey Friedman
September 30, 2014

I left the most recent meetings about the Monument Mountain High School renovation with heightened respect for Principal Marianne Young and Superintendent Peter Dillon, yet feeling sad that the School Committee had asked these dedicated educators, their employees, to front their “informational sessions.” Their jobs are difficult enough, and it’s one thing to come to Town Meeting to explain the annual costs of learning but quite another to explain, let alone justify, the strategic choices of the School Committee. Didn’t the School Committee ask to represent us in matters of public education?

And, even after Great Barrington’s overwhelming 955 to 596 NO vote, it’s the School Committee asking us to vote for a $51.2 million renovation of Monument.
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Our New Fire-To-Farm-To-Table House

By Mickey Friedman
September 18, 2014

Remember being told the old firehouse was a serious hazard to the town employees who worked there and the citizens who came to consult them?

So why are our town employees are still working there?

Being told we should get rid of the building. So that we wouldn’t have to heat and maintain it?

Now we’re renting space there for $2,500 a month for at least five years. That’s $150,000.
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One Man’s Significant

By Mickey Friedman
June 11, 2014

Significant. There are several definitions including “large enough to be noticed” and “very important.” So for one man, what’s significant is noticeable. For another, it’s an important change.

The Berkshire Eagle reported that at its May 22, 2014 meeting the Berkshire Hills Regional School Committee decided to “ask voters to approve a high school renovation project – one with a ‘significant’ reduction in the tax burden …”
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The Bear on The Hill

By Mickey Friedman
May 13, 2014

I’ve got mice. A friend’s got rats. Congressman Bill Shein just lost a duck to a fox.

Mice, rats, tigers, lions, and bears. Everywhere it’s war.

Congressman Bill, the most nonviolent of men, had to restrain himself when I suggested sympathy for the fox. He’s still haunted by his loss.

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Thanksgiving Thursday

By Mickey Friedman
May 7, 2014

We of The Best Small Town in America are more than lucky. Because, for us, Thanksgiving comes not just once each year but once a week. That is, if you make your way to Taft Farms for Thanksgiving Thursday.

Now I’ve made fun of the everywhere farm-to-table label but Taft Farms is the real deal. A real farm. With two tables.

My friend Bob is always looking for places to eat, to sit, and read. Once a week we try to go out for an affordable lunch. We’ve had terrific lunch specials at Route 7 Grill and the Marketplace Café in Sheffield.

Bob took me to Thanksgiving Thursday. He loves Tuna Tuesday, but knows I love turkey.

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Me and My Yo-Yo Ma

By Mickey Friedman
April 8, 2014

I have a thing for purple. And pigtails. Hers were reddish-blonde. It was like I was in a movie. With a halo of light about her. And even though I was making my way through the parking lot of America’s Most Expensive Food Co-op, I heard cellos. Many cellos.

Not just purple, but red and pink and orange and blue. A Steiner School rainbow.

A big smile came from some long-lost, love is ever-present everywhere part of my now cold and bitter heart.

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Eyes on the Plastic Prize

By Mickey Friedman
March 23, 2014

You. Yes, you. Put down that coffee cup for just a minute. And you — with the white wine spritzer. Take a moment, a deep breath. Now give yourself a hand. A heartfelt round of applause.

Because if you live in Great Barrington or just shop here, you have done something special. Yes, we of the Best Small Town in America have together banned the “thin film single-use plastic checkout bag.”

And thanks to God, our courageous powers-that-be, and our so-very-sensible voters, we won’t be seeing them anywhere around here anymore.

As Gandhi and Martin Luther King taught us, it’s all about keeping your eyes on the prize.
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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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