Blais Outlines Plans to Advance Office of Rural Policy

Sunderland, Mass. – Today, Natalie Blais, candidate for State Representative for the First Franklin District, outlined plans to establish an Office of Rural Policy. 

“The First Franklin District is primarily rural. Policies written for urban areas don’t fit our local towns and communities,” said Blais. “If elected to represent the 19 towns of this district, I would work collaboratively with the western Massachusetts delegation to establish an Office of Rural Policy.”

According to Blais, the Office of Rural Policy would “ensure that policies and programs created in Boston are viewed from a rural perspective before they are enacted; advocate for funding programs that are fair and available to rural areas; and recognize and address the unique economic and financial challenges faced by rural Massachusetts.”

A 15-member Rural Policy Advisory Commission (RPAC) was established in 2015. “I want to commend RPAC for the work that they have accomplished to date without staffing or a budget. We need to put the challenges facing our rural communities at the top of our priority list and establish a full time Director of Rural Policy.”

Local representatives on the RPAC include Representative Paul Mark; Linda Dunlavy, Executive Director of the Franklin Regional Council of Governments and Dave Christopolis, Executive Director of the Hilltown CDC. The Commission meets quarterly.

“The Office of Rural Policy would work collaboratively with existing rural leaders including the Pioneer Valley and Berkshire Regional Planning Commissions, the Franklin Regional Council of Governments and others focused on rural issues,” said Blais.

“I want to serve the First Franklin district effectively and efficiently,” Blais said. “The western Massachusetts delegation could work collaboratively with the Office of Rural Policy to be a strong voice in Boston, spelling out our concerns for economic development, transportation, affordable housing, schools, social services, and infrastructure like broadband.”

“Steve Kulik established the framework for rural policy making,” continued Blais. “I want to build on that foundation, and make the Office of Rural Policy an integral and influential mechanism by which to advocate for the towns of the First Franklin District.”