Berkshire County News

Ben Downing:

This past year, in the midst of the pandemic, our country has been in political turmoil. Through the chaos, one can hear the voices of America's next-generation fighting for change. This year 175 of us will be moving into adulthood and one of its biggest steps is voting. For us, our first voting opportunity will be in September, the primaries, and we will be filling in the bubble on who Massachusetts' next governor will be. On February 8, Ben Downing of Pittsfield officially declared his gubernatorial candidacy (i.e. he is running for governor). How cool is it that a local Pittsfield native is running for governor? So the day following I reached out to Ben on Twitter and asked for an on-call interview for this piece and he was more than happy to be a part of our PHS Newspaper.

Ben explained that his campaign focused on economic change, racial justice, reducing the growing wage/wealth gaps, reducing levels of unemployment, and changes concerning climate control like more solar and renewable energy. He stated that these issues weren’t being addressed with the sense of urgency that they should be. “I’ve spent my life in communities that have had to fight harder than they should to get fair representation and equitable access to resources.” Ben then transitioned to talk about climate change, and how that will give lots of jobs to those entering

the workforce and that it won’t just affect us economically but environmentally as well. He wants to build the future that we want, and that he wants as well, so that we all can benefit from that future.

On issues pertaining to education, Ben acknowledges that the “Student Opportunity Act,” which addresses education for those of low income, needs to be sped up. It has not been moving into place fast enough, through if we can improve K-12 education, achieve universal pre-K, and cut down the costs of public education, especially public colleges and universities. Ben defends that when we are amidst the college process we shouldn't be worried about the cost but should be worried about what university is the best for us. If public K-12 is essentially free then public universities should be, too. As a father himself he knows that giving back to the next generations is crucial, and he wants to remove obstacles so that we, they, can thrive. He mentioned that his sense of empathy and urgency amplified with the loss of his brother and father, and those senses are critical to getting Massachusetts on track to prosperity.

Lastly, we chatted about the elephant in the room, Covid-19; though the primaries are far into the future he touched on what he would be doing if in the governor’s office right now. Ben recognizes the terrible process of vaccination and how getting it on its feet was very messy, it should’ve been way easier. He also highlighted how the predominantly colored communities need to have better access to vaccination, we are dealing with a flare of systemic racism in the health system and it needs to be rooted out so that this process can reach everybody. He talked about when he was a boy, his father used to say all the time, “you should be lucky where you are,” and how the middle class is thriving and with that, it should focus on giving back so others can receive the opportunity of thriving as well. “There is always an excuse to not change something or put it off, but not anymore.”

Now is the time for a change and with all the protesting and all the things we fight for, we know that to be true. Now is the time we step into the adult world and exercise our right to vote, and vote for change.

Piece By: Emma Kostyun (Grade 12)