Berkshire Interfaith Organizing

175 Wendell Ave, Pittsfield MA 01201

(413) 464-1804

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Our Key Wins

 

IMMIGRANT JUSTICE

  • Preserved the possibility of future passage of the Safe Driving Act, which would allow undocumented immigrants to obtain drivers licenses in Massachusetts, by winning passage in 2016 of a two-tier version of the MA Real ID Act, as opposed to the one-tier system proposed by Gov. Baker.

 

  • Ran joint campaign with Multicultural BRIDGE to write and pass a Trust Policy for Great Barrington, prohibiting local police cooperation with ICE to target and deport undocumented immigrants outside of criminal cases. Won passage of ordinance at May 2017 town meeting by a vote of approximately 250 to 3.

  • Currently running a campaign to create the Berkshire Sanctuary Network, a network of congregations willing to offer sanctuary to an undocumented immigrant facing an unjust deportation to buy time to allow them to secure legal status. Won commitments from two congregations to participate in the network and consider serving as a physical sanctuary site.

TRANSPORTATION

  • Won $400,000 earmark in the state budget to provide an additional year’s worth of funding for Berkshire Rides before the program’s cancellation, allowing North county residents to keep their jobs while finding alternative transportation. Won a feasibility study on expanding the program to all of Berkshire County.

 

  • After conversation with BIO, State Senator Downing wrote and filed An Act Relative to Regional Transportation Ballot Initiatives, which would give municipalities the ability to self-levy additional taxes through ballot initiatives to raise funding for local transportation.

 

  • Held BRTA and Berkshire Transit Management accountable to riders when routes were changed with no notice. Won a public apology, updates to the website with accurate routes, and a commitment to better communication with the public for future changes.

  • Developed a collaborative relationship with Berkshire Health Systems to better utilize their resources to put a greater focus on helping the community navigate all transportation options available in the county.

RACIAL JUSTICE

  • Raised awareness of D.A. Candidates’ race through a candidates’ forum co-sponsored with Multicultural BRIDGE and Hevreh, focused on racial justice, Southern Berkshire, and the interfaith community, attended by 140 people. Held candidates accountable to providing concrete views and commitments on these topics.

  • Met with Superintendent Jake McCandless to discuss racial justice accountability in Pittsfield public schools. Built a relationship that resulted in him committing to restoring Black Studies courses to the public school curriculum.

AFFORDABLE HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS

  • During Gov. Baker’s Nov. 2017 earmark freeze, secured release of $150,000 for emergency winter beds in Berkshire shelters, part of just $500,000 in earmarks released across the state, saving dozens of lives.

FOOD INSECURITY

  • In 2015, won $17 million in Massachusetts Emergency Food Assistance Program (MEFAP) funding, which supports food banks statewide, after the governor proposed cutting it from $15 million to ZERO.

  • Coordinated a “Take Another Look” photo series on Food Insecurity in the Berkshires, and won its display at the MA Statehouse in September 2015. This was a key step in ultimately securing the authorization of $6 million of funding for the Massachusetts Food Trust Program (MFTP).

  • In 2016 and 2017, we organized to support the financing of the MFTP, which provides creative financing for entrepreneurs to open or expand businesses that offer healthy food options in low-income neighborhoods. It leverages private funding, creates new jobs, and addresses food insecurity. We won the authorization of $6 million in 2016 and the release of $2 million in 2017.

  • Organized with low-income neighborhood residents in response to the closing of the North Adams Price Chopper in 2016; won commitment from the Golub Corporation to prioritize the vacant space for food sales. Also won a deviated bus route stopping in front of Big Y, and installation of a permanent bus stop sign, so that residents could access food in the meantime.

  • Organized with seniors, immigrants, and low-income residents to address the closing of the Lee Price Chopper in July 2017. Won a new shuttle for senior residents to the Lenox Price Chopper and the Lee Big Y, and several concrete changes from Big Y to make the store more accessible. Identified best replacement grocery stores and gathered petitions and supporting materials to attract an ALDI or Price Rite to the former site. Met with ALDI Real Estate Director for Western MA and secured commitment to monitor Lee real estate market and a strong intention to locate an ALDI in Lee in the next few years. Now working with Benchmark Development, which has purchased the former Price Chopper location, to ensure inclusion of a grocer meeting community needs in the redevelopment.

  • Won commitment from Benchmark Development, which has purchased the former Lee Price Chopper location, to include a grocer meeting community needs in the redevelopment project, and to meet with our team to hear about their research in order to better understand those needs.