GOP’s Doughty: Rail for North Quabbin would be good, local jobs would be better

  • Kate Campanale, Republican candidate for lieutenant governor of Massachusetts, right, and Chris Doughty, Republican candidate for governor, left, during a campaign stop in Springfield's Riverfront Park. They spoke about their plans for western Massachusetts if they defeat Geoff Diehl in the Sept. 6 primary and win the Nov. 8 general election. Monday, Aug. 1, 2022.

  • Chris Doughty, Republican candidate for governor of Massachusetts in the Sept. 6 primary, speaks about his plans for western Massachusetts. File photo

  • Kate Campanale, Republican candidate for lieutenant governor of Massachusetts, right, and Chris Doughty, Republican candidate for governor, left, during a campaign stop in Springfield's Riverfront Park. They spoke about their plans for western Massachusetts if they defeat Geoff Diehl in the Sept. 6 primary and win the Nov. 8 general election. Monday, Aug. 1, 2022.

For The Athol Daily News
Published: 8/7/2022 5:11:03 PM
Modified: 8/7/2022 5:17:44 PM

ATHOL — In a recent interview with the Athol Daily News, Republican gubernatorial hopeful Chris Doughty addressed several issues of regional concern, including rail service, payments to municipalities for state-owned lands, and affordable housing.

When it comes to the expansion of commuter rail service to Athol and beyond, Doughty said a pair of major issues facing the MBTA must first be addressed, among them infrastructure and safety issues, and authority finances and unfunded pensions. Only when those matters are successfully addressed can the expansion of the system begin.

“As people talk about expansion, like east-west rail,” Doughty said, “a lot of the time they’re couching it in the context that you work in Boston and commute from the outer cities. We have a different view. We would like to bring the jobs out to the people. I come from the manufacturing sector myself, and I see lots of opportunity to actually expand jobs out to where people live.

“I think that’s better for quality of life. Taking a commuter rail from west of Worcester into (Boston), that’s not a great life. You’re an hour and a half, two hours each way on a commuter rail. We should focus as much energy on how we create jobs locally for people, so they don’t have to take the train into the city.”

Doughty proffered his approach to transportation for North Quabbin and the rest of the northern tier.

“It’s rural,” he continued. “People are spread out. What is the best approach? So, we’re open to those conversations, and we’d be interested in what the local communities feel would be most useful for them. But again, my emphasis would be to make sure we have good jobs, meaningful jobs near where people live.”

Doughty also discussed the PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) program by which the state pays municipalities what it feels is a fair amount for property it owns within a given city or town, rather than paying property taxes like every other property owner. Many municipalities feel their revenues are being shortchanged by this arrangement. The candidate said he’s very interested in tax policy, which can promote prosperity if the right tax policy is in place.

“Regarding state aid to communities,” he said, “and right now Gov. Baker has it based on a formula, and as a candidate I have come out publicly and said we continue that formula of state aid to communities. Now, my two opponents have both rejected that idea, and I think that’s a bad idea from both my opponents because municipalities need to know not just the money they’re going to get this year but they need to know two, three, four years from now to make investments in infrastructure and so forth.

“We’ve come out publicly and said we want to start rolling out more money to the local cities and towns than what is currently going out there. Right now, the State House is using too much of our taxpayer money in the State House, and not enough is going back to the communities. This is in essence de-funding a lot of our schools, de-funding our public safety, de-funding our roads and our sidewalks, and other things. And it’s putting a property tax burden on the citizens and makes it more difficult for municipalities to govern.”

Affordable housing

As the development of North Quabbin Commons has created many more jobs in Athol and surrounding towns, it has also increased the pressure for affordable housing in the area. While they may be employed, some people still find themselves among the homeless due to the lack of affordable housing. Doughty said one basic question that must be addressed is who is in charge of handling the problem?

“Who is in charge of helping towns like Athol and others develop workforce housing, which I think is a better name?” he began. “Right now, we would just like to organize so that we have resident experts who are regional, who can help the towns like Athol increase workforce housing.

“Right now, it’s a labyrinth of regulations, of tax incentives, of mill building conversions; it’s so complicated that a small town like Athol has a hard time just getting its arms around the different incentives, both federal and state.”

Doughty then proposed that the regional experts meet periodically to hash out ideas for simplifying the process and making it easier for towns to increase their workforce housing.

“Right now, there are grants, there are tax incentives, there’s asbestos removal, there’s all these different programs available, but it’s just too challenging for most developers to figure it all out — and it’s just as challenging for the communities,” he said.

Doughty also said the state should work with municipalities to adjust local zoning to make it easier to expand workforce housing opportunities.

In closing, Doughty said, “The hallmark of my campaign is to make Massachusetts more affordable. It’s just become too expensive for our citizens, and it’s become too expensive for our businesses. I’m worried, for example, that Starrett’s could pack up and move to a lower-cost area. Think how devastating that would be if they announced, ‘We can’t afford to operate here anymore.’ We’ve already lost Raytheon, we’ve lost Smith & Wesson.”

He also said it was important to have a Republican governor to balance the influence of the overwhelmingly Democratic Legislature.

The Athol Daily News is scheduled to speak with Geoff Diehl, Doughty's opponent in the Republican primary, on Aug. 17. The campaign of Democrat Maura Healey has not yet responded to a request for an interview.

Greg Vine can be reached at gvineadn@gmail.com


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