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Anthony Boskovich is seen with his wife, Daphne Bolden. Boskovich is a candidate for Williamstown Select Board in May's town election.

Boskovich Seeks to Give Voice to Voiceless in Williamstown

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
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WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Anthony Boskovich did not set out with a desire to run for Select Board.
He is answering the call of other residents who feel they have been left out of town politics, he said this week.
"I started getting calls from people," Boskovich said. "They were expressing real concerns that they were being shouted down if they dared express a viewpoint that was different from what they would call activists. I don't want to label anyone, but they felt they were being shouted down. They were worried about expressing their opinions. There were business owners who came to me and said, 'I don't dare say anything because I will get boycotted, and in these times, that could put me out of business.
"There's a group of people here who, when they attend a Select Board meeting and they look at the people on the Select Board, they don't see anyone who represents them. They're normal, ordinary folks. Where I live on the north side of town, people here don't feel like they're represented.
"As I heard all of those things, I said, ‘I've got to run. I just have to.' "
Boskovich is one of two candidates who have filed nomination papers for an open three-year seat on the five-member Select Board. As it stands, he will be running against Jeffrey Johnson in the May 11 town election. The deadline to file completed nomination papers is Monday, March 22.
Boskovich is a California native who first came to Williamstown as an undergraduate at Williams College and fell in love with the region. Although he returned to the West Coast after graduation, he always dreamed about coming back.
"When I got here, I said, 'Man, there are people like me,' " he said. "I liked the cold weather. I liked the winters. I like the people. I like the town. It was my dream for 50 years that I could live here. But I always had this concept that Williamstown was just Gale Road and Ide Road. I didn't realize there were other parts."
After a 27-year career as a civil rights trial lawyer, Boskovich took a look at the Williamstown real estate market and realized he could afford a home on Bridges Road.
He bought a house in 2017 and moved to Williamstown full time in early 2018.
"I don't think I've left the commonwealth since mid 2018," Boskovich said.
Although he is a Williams graduate, Boskovich is quick to point out that he is not a well-heeled, big donor alum. He talks about his blue-collar roots as the son of a clerk and a mechanic and his experience working his way through four years of night school at the Santa Clara University School of Law.
He says blue-collar residents are being left out of the political dialogue in town.
"People forget North Berkshire has a lot of blue-collar people who feel intimidated if someone with a PhD is staring you down," Boskovich said. "Berkshire County has some inherent classism, which is a huge problem we don't talk about."
That "intimidation" factors into the current political conversation around issues of diversity, equity and inclusion, he said.
The "activists" who some say are dominating the conversation in Williamstown have been pushing for the town to recognize and address 400 years of systemic racism that continues to manifest itself throughout American society.
Boskovich said they have a point. He does believe their methods could be more effective.
"I think the discussions we are having today regarding diversity, inclusivity and racial equity are very important discussions," he said. "But it's not just the question. It's how you ask it. It's how you react … if somebody has a viewpoint that's different from your own. What I see is today there's a lot of shouting down people.
"I believe that there's a feeling that people should be made to feel uncomfortable, that they should lean into the discomfort. But I think that forgets that most people don't want to walk into situations where they know they will be made to feel uncomfortable. I think if the goal is to try to help people, you have to have a kinder tone. You have to be more welcoming."
A big part of the town's racial reckoning has centered on the Williamstown Police Department, where accusations of bias and misconduct have been front and center since the August 2012 unveiling of a federal lawsuit against the town. The lawsuit has been dropped, but the allegations of objectionable behavior against members of the WPD continue to be a cause for concern and fear for many residents.
Boskovich acknowledges that there are issues in the local police department but is concerned about the approach town officials are taking to addressing those issues.
He does not believe that the department, by and large, does a bad job.
"I was a civil rights trial lawyer for more than 20 years," Boskovich said. "My job was essentially suing cops. Lawyers have to see the whole picture. I know good policing when I see it, and I know bad policing when I see it. I know good police administration, and I know bad police administration.
"The thing that struck me when I was in the field was that the contacts between [Williamstown] officers and citizens was exemplary. I didn't see any evidence of racial profiling. Profiling shows up in car stops and what happens after car stops. It doesn't happen here."
Boskovich said there is a lot of distrust in the community toward its police. He has seen that distrust before, professionally, and he knows how to deal with it.
"What people forget is: If you really want this good relationship between police and citizens, the police officers have to trust the town residents," he said. "No one is focusing on that. If you were a rank and file police officer in Williamstown, how would you feel if all you heard is, 'Our police officers are racist, they're rogues and on and on and on?'
"You never heard a good word about police from our Select Board or town manager. It never happened. The police officers felt under siege."

Tags: election 2021,   town elections,   

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Lack of Assisted Living Demand Has Sweetwood Eyeing Apartments

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The owner of Sweetwood assisted living facility on Cold Spring Road is looking to change its zoning to allow its vacant units to be leased as apartments. 
Sweetwood hopes to ask town meeting to rezone its property from Rural Residence to the Southern Gateway District, which currently runs along Route 7 with a southern terminus at the intersection with the Taconic Trail (Route 2). And it wants the town to change the use table to allow by right the conversion of existing buildings to multi-family housing; currently, that is allowable by special permit in the Southern Gateway District, but it is a by-right use in other business zones. 
The owner is hosting a community meeting in the Sweetwood auditorium on Monday, April 3, at 6:30 p.m.
Attorney Karla Chaffee of Boston's Nixon Peabody LLP told the Select Board last week that the owners want to repurpose some of its existing assisted living units to use as all-purpose rental units and are asking for a pair of zoning bylaw changes to allow modifications in the operation of their business. 
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