Conference to reimagine government’s role

  • Greenfield Community College. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Report
Published: 3/26/2019 6:15:42 PM

A local group will hold a conference Saturday that will give participants an opportunity to reimagine public services, democracy and economic development throughout the county.

The Conference on Municipal Socialism will be held by Franklin County Continuing the Political Revoltion, 8:30 a.m. to 1:45 p.m. at Greenfield Community College, 1 College Drive in Greenfield, Organizers said 85 people have registered so far.

Workshops will examine hydropower, broadband, solar power, affordable housing, public banking, expanded school services and how municipalities can incentivize the formation of worker-owned cooperatives.

Organizer Susan Worgaftik said, for instance, that one of the workshops will explore whether it is possible for some of the county’s towns to run small hydropower turbines.

“How much would be needed for something like that?” she said. “How big would something like that have to be? What would it take?”

Worgaftik said some towns are still dealing with issues concerning municipal broadband.

“Some towns have been able to pull it off, others have had trouble,” she said. “What’s possible? Can we bring everyone up to speed? That’s what we’ll look at.”

When it comes to solar power, Worgaftik said a workshop will explore the idea of community-owned solar projects, but, she said, there are pitfalls, like negotiating successfully with power companies.

Worgaftik said there is a lot of interest in affordable housing.

“People want to know how properties can be developed and remain affordable housing for low- to moderate-income residents,” she said. “For instance, could a municipality use a building in tax title and maintain affordable stock.”

She said public banking will be another topic discussed. She said North Dakota has had a lot of success with a bank that lends to municipalities and the state, allowing them to pay lower interest rates. She said some of the projects municipalities have been able to pay for include natural disasters, public housing and solar farms.

Worgaftik said a community also has to think about how to take care of all of its children, not only with what they receive from schools, but beyond.

“We’ll discuss how to bring them the resources they need,” she said.

Gianpaolo Baiocchi, a New York City scholar and activist who directs the Urban Democracy Lab at New York University, will be keynote speaker. His books include “Militants and Citizens” and “We the Sovereign.”

“Rather than privatize services, we believe we can save money and increase accountability by having more services provided by municipalities and worker coops,” Worgaftik said. “I hope town and city leaders will show up for this. There’s still time to register.”

Those interested in attending should register at: bit.ly/2JMLLyy. The cost of the conference is $15, but no one will be turned away for inability to pay. The cost includes a morning snack and light lunch.

For more information, call Dave Cohen at 413-535-7191 or email him at: davidjc@comcast.net.

The schedule

8:30 a.m. — Registration and morning snacks

9 to 9:15 — Opening remarks

9:30 to 11 — Workshops: housing, hydropower, solar power, broadband

11:10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. — Workshops: public banking, workers coops, public education versus corporate education

12:30 to 12:45 — Return to main meeting and snacks

12:45 to 1:30 — Keynote speaker Gianpaolo Baiocchi

1:30 to 2:45 — What’s next?




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