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Cultural representatives pose with the state representative.
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State Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier agreed arts can change people's lives.

Pittsfield Arts Groups Stress Need for Funding

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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Pittsfield Director of Cultural Development Megan Whilden, left, looks over state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier's shoulder at Monday's arts discussion.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Artistic and cultural organization leaders made a pitch for more state funding on Monday by demonstrating how their programs benefit local youth.

State Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, D-Pittsfield, listened to multiple representatives from local art groups at the Lichtenstein Center for Arts explain their programs and need for money.

"I am certainly thrilled to have learned more about a lot of your programs and learn for the first time about some of them," Farley-Bouvier said.

After cuts to the Massachusetts Cultural Council in past years, many of these organization are in need of financial support.

Arts leaders say the state's investment in the creative community has dropped 60 percent in the past 25 years, even as it has touted arts and culture, and the inevitable tourism, as critical to both education and job production.

MassCreative, a nonprofit advocacy group for arts agencies, is lobbying legislators to increase funding for the Massachusetts Cultural Council by $5 million to bring its budget up to $16.1 million. In 1989, its budget was $26 million.

The MCC provides grants for artist residencies, after-school programs, transportation, supplies and projects, among other things.

On Monday, representatives from music, dance, spoken word, visual arts, history, interpretive science and theater organizations spoke of their programs and their impact on local youth.

Shirley Edgerton, director of Youth Alive Step Team & Band, explained the importance of investing resources in children while they are younger.

"We can invest in the beginning with the hope that our kids will stay on a positive road or we can invest our taxes in supporting them on the system and in the corrections system, and my choice is to invest in them now because I know they have a lot to offer us," Edgerton said.

Edward Bride, president of Berkshires Jazz, said the implementation of music and the arts in education better prepares students for school. With funding limits, Berkshires Jazz has not been able to conduct as many school jazz outreaches.

"The study of music improves students learning abilities in all subjects, especially science technology engineering and math," Bride said. "There is research that proves this, and all these education programs that we do are done at no cost to the students, the school system, or the school and without funding they don't happen."

Michael Vincent Bushy, arts educator at Hillcrest Educational Centers, said art programs offered at the school help at-risk children who have difficulties adapting to society.

"They learn how to sit still in class, they learn to focus, they learn to think a little more laterally and a little more fluidly, and they learn frustration tolerance because when you are invested in something you are willing to put up with the frustration of not getting it the first time," he said.

Kim Stauffer, director of the Playwright Mentoring Project at the Barrington Stage Company, said acting can have a beneficial impact on children, especially those at risk, by connecting them to the larger world. The playwright program allows children to write and act in plays based on their own lives.

"Art is one of the greatest empathy and compassion builders in our world," she said. "Theater, especially, because there is no way you can't learn empathy or comparison for yourself when you are watching someone tell your story and seeing things about yourself through them or when you are asked to step in for someone else and asked to represent them as best as you can emotionally."

Farley-Bouvier said she believes art is critical in assisting at-risk children.

"This really is a way to change people's lives, and I am very inspired and grateful for what you all have done," she said.

Tags: arts initiatives,   creative economy,   Mass Cultural Council,   MassCreative,   state grant,   youth programs,   

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Letter: Problematic Proposed Lenox Short-Term Rental Bylaw

Letter to the Editor

To the Editor:

Under the proposed short-term rental Lenox bylaw, "up to two bedrooms in a dwelling unit may be rented year-round by right provided that the owner or tenant is occupying the dwelling unit at the time of the rental."

Presumably, bedrooms may not be rented at all if the owner or tenant is not occupying the dwelling unit.

In other words, literally, the very same use is allowed by one type of owner (an owner occupying the dwelling unit), but not another type of owner (one who does not occupy the dwelling unit where bedrooms are being rented). Because there is identical use and intensity and the only thing that differs is the type of owner or renter; it is hard to view this as mere regulation of use and not ownership.

The other provision suffers from the same problem. Suppose there is a duplex or land with two houses on it (perhaps an old robber-baron estate) but with separate owners for each dwelling unit. Under the rule regarding "dwelling units being rented in their entirety," "an entire dwelling unit maybe rented up to 75 days per calendar year by right," and "an entire dwelling unit may be rented for an additional 35 days (up to 110 days) per calendar year by Special Permit."

But then suppose there is unity of ownership and one person owns the entire duplex or both houses. In that case, "the above totals apply to the entire parcel" and "the day limits defined above shall be apportioned among those dwelling units."

A town can regulate the number of days a short-term rental may be utilized under the newly passed statute: but this additional restriction based on who owns the premises is a regulation of ownership and not use.

The same is instinct through other parts as well. Of course, Lenox residents or their guest can park in the street. But if you are renting a short-term rental, "All overnight parking must be within the property's driveway or garage." If you own or rent property, so long as you get the right permits, you may entertain on your property. But if you are a short-term renter, "events that include tents or amplified music or which would customarily require a license or permit are not allowed."

Since 1905, when Home Rules was put into the [Massachusetts] Constitution, towns could pass their own bylaws, so long as there was no regulation of a civil relationship unless it was an incident to a legitimate municipal power. This meant, among other things, zoning laws had to regulate use and not ownership. It is now a fundamental principle of Massachusetts zoning that it deals basically with the use, without regard to the ownership of the property involved, or who may be the operator of the use. This bylaw appears to violate this fundamental tenet.

By way of example of the you-may-regulate-use-but-not-ownership rule, it has been held that a city did not have authority under the Massachusetts Constitution to pass an ordinance that affected the civil relationship between tenants and their landlord, who wished to convert their rental units to condominiums. In another case, a municipal ordinance which restricted a landlord's ability to terminate a lease and remove his property from the rental market in order to sell it was invalid.

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