Megan Whilden will develop new, exciting ideas for OLLI

Cultural head Whilden leaving

Megan Whilden has no bigger fan than me. From the beginning, she has worked tirelessly to make sure that all the arts were well represented in Pittsfield, a town that dearly needed her talents and abilities.

Her accomplishments are many and to say she was underpaid is an understatement. The city certainly benefited from Megan’s efforts.

Former Mayor Jim Ruberto was a champion of Megan’s. When he left office, I feared that his successor, Daniel Bianchi, would hire someone without Whilden’s drive and dedication, especially to the downtown arts scene. In truth, Bianchi deserves credit for understanding the relationship between the arts and a positive business climate in Pittsfield.

Now, Megan is moving to the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, an organization doing magnificent work offering our senior citizens course work and lectures of the first order.

This mini-university is one of the greatest things about the Berkshires. Megan will be the CEO, and I am betting she not only will maintain their usual standards, but she’ll come up with new and exciting ideas for the group.

While we are on the subject, a congratulatory note is in order to the outgoing OLLI CEO, Barbara Hochberg and to Ellen Kennedy, the first class leader of Berkshire Community College, one of the most important institutions of higher education in our region. BCC will continue to host OLLI.

Positive developments in North Adams

There has been a lot of work going on to ensure continued health care in North Adams. David Phelps, the hard working and bright president of Berkshire Health Systems, played his cards carefully. He surely could not assume the million of dollars of North Adams Regional Hospital debt. The problem is that, theoretically, creditors have first dibs on the hospital’s assets. That’s why it was so important all the top players got together to make a plan work. The most important part of the plan, of course, is the emergency room. There are just a few minutes between the onset of a heart attack and death. It would take too long to get to Pittsfield for help, so there has to be an emergency center. Ditto the time it can take to have a baby. I have been impressed by the herd of political cats that seem to have risen above their own short-range interests to keep North Adams healthy. Surely, some people will want to hold someone responsible for the hospital closing but the main thing is to move forward and make a new plan work.

Let’s face facts. This hospital has struggled for the last decade. In the end, health care needs to be dependable, accessible and sustainable in this new governmental reimbursement environment. Medicine today is not for the faint of heart. We are lucky to have a governor, a state senator and an attorney general, among many others, who give a damn.

NYPD ends Muslim surveillance

Let’s face it, we all want maximum freedom and, perhaps even more, we want to be safe and secure.

A while back, right down the block from WAMC in Albany, a Muslim Imam was arrested for alleged involvement in the sale of a Stinger missile to an undercover agent. If everyone was to be believed, it would appear the undercover work paid dividends. On the other hand, I’m Jewish, so how would I feel if our government infiltrated Jewish groups because one guy had done something that was counter to the safety of our country? But, of course, with the recent NSA disclosures, this may be academic since it is possible we are all under some kind of surveillance. Does anyone really want to bet that even though the New York City Police Department may have disbanded the unit that was doing the Muslim surveillance, they are doing the same stuff some other way?

Originally published in the Berkshire Eagle, 4/19/14


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