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Legislative Viewpoint

Efforts to support our rural communities

Paul Mark webState Representative Paul MarkThe Massachusetts General Court created the Rural Policy Advisory Commission during the state budget process in 2015. I was recently appointed by Speaker Robert DeLeo to serve as his designee on the commission. The commission meets quarterly at venues rotating throughout our Commonwealth, including once annually in western Massachusetts. The mission of the commission is to “enhance the economic vitality of rural communities, defined as municipalities with population densities of less than 500 persons per square mile, and to advance the health and well-being of rural residents.”

Rural communities account for nearly 60% of the state’s total land area. However, the people living in these rural communities make up only 13% of the total population in Massachusetts. In Berkshire and Franklin Counties, every municipality except Greenfield, North Adams, and Pittsfield falls into the definition of rural. We face the same challenges that other rural communities all over the country face, forced to do more with less and working closely together to stretch our resources as far as possible. But unlike most similar communities elsewhere, we make up a very small percentage of the total population in an otherwise heavily urbanized state. Finding similar partners to work with and make our voices heard becomes that much more difficult.

The Rural Policy Advisory Commission and the Rural Legislative Caucus in the House and Senate exist to help find those partners we need to make our voices more powerful and to help come up with realistic solutions to the unique problems we face. By working with other rural legislators and other rural communities, we increase our effectiveness in the state government process. By finding new ways to partner with urban areas on topics of mutual interest, including services for seniors, food security, education funding, affordable housing, and transportation issues, we increase the likelihood of successfully achieving tangible and measurable results.

The next meeting of the Rural Policy Advisory Commission will take place on June 15th in Greenfield. The meetings are open to the public and there are many important topics that will be discussed. To learn more about the commission and its mission, to see a list of members and the organizations they represent, and to see reports filed by the commission with the legislature, please visit the following page on the Massachusetts state government website.

As always, please contact my office anytime we can help you with an issue in state government. Office hours are held Mondays in Greenfield, Thursdays in Charlemont and Northfield, as well as monthly at the Greenfield Senior Center and periodically at the Bernardston Senior Center. You can find the full office hours schedule and our office contact information at online. Thank you for the opportunity to serve.