Lucas Willard

Southern Adirondack Bureau Chief/Weekend Host

Lucas Willard graduated from the State University of New York at Fredonia in 2010 with a Bachelor of Science in Communications. He also attended the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies in 2010, where he studied audio and multimedia storytelling.  Prior to joining WAMC in 2011, Lucas worked with the Sound and Story Project of the Hudson Valley, the Big Shed Audio Documentary Podcast, the Albany Broadcasting Company, WDVL & WCVF-FM Fredonia, and WSUC-FM Cortland.  

Ways to Connect

The most fundamental change in the plan released by the Senate is how people pay for health care. The bill offers a new global payment system – one that replaces the old fee for service model with fixed allocations from insurance companies for care.

Health insurance companies in Massachusetts began introducing global payment options for some customers in 2009. The Governor also endorsed the idea in his Fiscal Year 2013 budget proposal. The bill would require all state subsidized health care insurance programs make the switch over the next several years, including Medicaid.

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Anne Skinner, President of the Williamstown League of Women Voters says that in New England, it’s a long-standing tradition for towns and town residents to make big decisions together at the yearly event.

Because of the tradition and gathering of people, Anne Skinner says that town officials are often chosen in May, rather than November, unlike cities in New England, or adjoining states.

Berkshire County is home to many communities classified as towns and many new positions were filled.

The federal “Secure Communities” program requires that fingerprints be taken from arrested individuals and compared to immigration and FBI databases. Proponents are saying the program is the most effective tool for detecting illegal immigrants. Opponents argue the system leads to racial profiling, or targets low-level offenders.

Connecticut has taken the first step requiring corporations and other groups that independently spend money or run ads for political candidates to identify top donors. WAMC’s Lucas Willard has more…

The House of Representatives approved legislation 94-to-54 on Tuesday intended to bring more transparency to political financing.

With a new online criminal background check system launching Monday,  improvements to the Criminal Offender Record Information system, or CORI, come two years after legislation was signed to protect Massachusetts residents who have paid their debt to society.

The new CORI database provides easier access to the public including landlords and employees seeking background information on potential tenants or employees. At the same time the system overhaul will restrict their searches to information on convictions dating back ten years.  

DEP Commissioner Ken Kimmell says that the plan currently under development to reduce the amount of food waste in landfills, which could eventually lead to banning commercial institutions from disposing organic waste in the conventional manner, is an attempt to get a return from a resource literally being thrown away.

A bill sponsored by Representative Tricia Farley-Bouvier and Senator Benjamin Downing, both of Pittsfield, would expand the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority by adding three additional board members. The board, also known as PEDA, was created in the late 90s to redevelopment the William Stanley Business Park, the former 52-acre home to General Electric, and largest employer of city residents for decades.

 Senator Downing says that the action was needed to allow the board to reach out and attract companies to the park.

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As a pending ballot initiative for November aims to legalize the sale medical marijuana in the state, a bill filed by State Representative Ellen Story seeks to allow Massachusetts residents over 21 to legally purchase or grow marijuana for personal use. Representative Story says the bill represents the opinion of her district…

Berkshire Farm and Table is hosting its ongoing “Where the Wild Things Are” series of foraging programs throughout Berkshire County. WAMC’s Berkshire Bureau Chief spoke with Russ Cohen, a wild foods expert and educator…

Russ Cohen is a wild foods expert and author of Wild Plants I Have Known…And Eaten. More information on the “Where the Wild Things Are” hikes can be found at BerkshireFarmandtable.com

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick is slamming Alabama and Arizona over their tough immigration policies.  WAMC’s Lucas Willard reports…

The Boston Globe reports that in a speech earlier this week at Tufts University, Patrick said the actions of states on the issue have been ham-fisted, self-defeating and even racist. He also calls much of the debate over immigration reform hysterical and poisonous.

Massachusetts’ Gateway Cities Program funded improvements to the First Street Commons in Pittsfield, a park that had previously fallen into disrepair. At a ceremony today outside the park, state and city officials gathered to officially open the new gateway entrance to the Commons.

The panel overseeing the Massachusetts’ new gambling law is weighing a plan to pre-qualify potential casino developers in the state. WAMC’s Lucas Willard reports…

Under the proposal discussed by the Gaming Commission on Tuesday, a would-be developer would have to demonstrate that it has sufficient financial backing and a track record in the gaming industry before it can begin negotiations with a host community.

A spokeswoman for the five-member commission said the panel would study the idea further before deciding whether to adopt it.

May 1st is recognized as International Workers Day. In Pittsfield, an Occupy Berkshires rally was held to commemorate the day and raise awareness of political issues. WAMC’s Berkshire Bureau Chief Lucas Willard attended the rally and spoke with activists and occupiers.

 

The new regulations now up for a public comment for the next 30 days come after two years of study commissioned by the state Department of Energy and Resources. DOER Commissioner Mark Sylvia…

Biomass energy production comes from the generation of power by burning organic materials, most notably wood. Opponents of the practice say that unregulated biomass energy production can lead to overharvesting of timber, increased air pollution, and the excess release of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.

The Merrimack River Valley Flood Control Compact is at the center of an argument between the two New England states.  The 1953 agreement was approved by Congress after Massachusetts requested help from New Hampshire in managing the Merrimack River flood plain.

18 New Hampshire Towns gave up a portion of their communities to build a flood control system, and in exchange, the State of New Hampshire agreed to reimburse the towns for the lost property tax values. According to the agreement, 70 percent of that funding going to the towns would come from payments made by Massachusetts.

At the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, members of the community gathered to have an open dialogue with area economic development strategists to talk about the future of the Berkshire economy and current obstables that stand in its way.

Executive Director of the Norman Rockwell Mseum, Laurie Norton Moffatt explains that this meeting was the last of the “Four Freedoms” community discussion forums.

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection earlier this month launched the “RecyclingWorks in Massachusetts” program. RecyclingWorks provides businesses and institutions with information and assistance with disposing waste properly and encourages recycling.

Greg Cooper from the Mass DEP says that the program is designed to help business reach sustainability goals, but also help their bottom line.

The current framework for Pittsfield’s city government dates back to the 1930’s. 1st term Mayor Dan Bianchi is asking the city council to approve measures to appoint an independent, non-partisan review commission to update and modernize the charter.

Bianchi said that he would like the commission to take a look at the structure of city government.

The mayor stressed that he wants to panel to include active members of the community and wants to take input from the public and the president of the city council before any selections are made.

The Connecticut House of Representatives voted to increase the state’s minimum wage. WAMC’s Lucas Willard reports…

The House lowered the original proposed hike to a 50-cent increase and removed a provision to eventually tie the wage to inflation.

State representatives passed the measure 88-to-62 on Thursday.

Connecticut's governor has signed a new law that abolishes the state's death penalty for future crimes. WAMC’s Lucas Willard reports…

A spokeswoman says Democratic Governor Dannel P. Malloy signed the bill Wednesday afternoon at a private ceremony with lawmakers, clergy and family members of victims.

Malloy issued a statement calling it "an historic moment" as Connecticut joins 16 other states that have abolished capital punishment. He said it was a moment "for sober reflection, not celebration."

Since 2007 when Massachusetts enacted the Data Security Breach Law, near half the population of the state could have had their personal information put at risk. The recently released numbers show that from November of 2007 to September of 2011, over 1.2 million state residents have had their data compromised by lost or misplaced mobile devices or laptops, and over 200,000 from stolen devices.

The study was called for by Mitchell Chester, Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education. The goal was to find the effects of special education programs in Massachusetts, and examine why the state has such a high rate of students being included in special ed programs – 17%. The results of the study, which were presented at a special meeting of the state board of Elementary and Secondary Education showed that average number of 17% can be highly variable among school districts. Commissioner Chester…

Amazon.com is opening a research facility in Cambridge and is acquiring a robotics facility in North Reading, and some are now wondering if the company is subject to the Massachusetts sales tax.

A 1992 Supreme Court decision said that states cannot make out-of-state businesses collect sales tax. In other words, a retailer must have a physical presence in the state to pay sales taxes. Spokesman for the Massachusetts Department of Revenue Bob Bliss…

“Step Up Prevention” was the name of the event, where children and families, state and city officials, and advocates came together to acknowledge issues of child abuse and neglect. The event, hosted by the Children’s Trust Fund, lined children’s shoes on the steps of Pittsfield City Hall. Children’s Trust Fund CEO Alicia Lenahan remarked that Pittsfield is the final stop in the yearly event…

The chief executive of Foxwoods Resort Casino says rising competition is forcing the Indian-run casino in eastern Connecticut to consider online gambling and other changes. WAMC’s Lucas Willard has more…

Scott Butera, CEO of Foxwoods, in a web-based discussion Thursday with The Day of New London, said supply in the casino business is clearly outpacing demand. Gambling has been legalized in Massachusetts and casinos in New York are taking a greater share of the market.

He said he expects additional venues and online gambling to be a part of Foxwoods' future.

Berkshire County Kid’s Place received $23,000 in federal funding to find ways to better serve children and families in their local area. Under the National Children’s Alliance in agreement with the US Department of Justice Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, almost $10 million was distributed to 91 abuse prevention organizations across the country.

Photo by Scott Bauer (USDA ARS)

Ticks hang out in grassy, or forested humid areas waiting for their next ride and blood meal. And the tiny arachnids starting hitching rides on people and pets in full force early this year.

Dr. John Reynolds is a Pittsfield veterinarian who says that recent warm weather led to an increase in the amount of animals brought in to have ticks removed from their fur.

 Hank Art is a professor of Biology at Williams College. He says that cold winters usually reduce the numbers in ticks, but for the past two years, nature has worked in the tick’s favor.

The alliance of six health care organizations has released their Roadmap to Reform, which would improve upon the state’s current protections for patients and doctors by increasing transparency and communication in managing malpractice situations.

Housatonic River Walk

Director of the Greenagers program Will Conklin puts it this way…

A program of the Berkshires-based Center for Peace Through Culture, Greenagers is a youth program based in environmental stewardship and service to community.

On Saturday, April 21st, Greenagers will begin its season by providing volunteer hours to clean up and pull weeds on the Housatonic River Walk in Great Barrington. Director Will Conklin…

"Farewell to Factory Towns?"
Written and directed by Maynard Seider

Tuesday, April 17th @ 7pm

Murdock Hall, Room 218

Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts

375 Church Street, North Adams, MA

A panel discussion will be held afterwards. The event is free and open to the public. Guests are encouraged to bring a non-perishable food item to donate to the fight against hunger.

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