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Leonard A. Cohen: Northampton must stop gentrification

To the editor:

Now that the dust has settled and the override has been approved, several issues remain unresolved. First, the override is actually a tax increase — that is, it is permanent. Hence each override builds upon the previous one. For relatively affluent people that’s not a major burden, but to those on fixed incomes or living close to the margins it becomes a major issue.

I formerly lived in a town in Westchester County, N.Y. One day it was announced that all the houses in our town would be reassessed using a revised formulation. When the assessment was completed, with enormous anxiety and divisiveness, taxes went up and a number of people moved out and others moved in. The equation was simple.

The old man who lived in small house nearby and read electric meters for a living, known to me as The Meter Man, sold out and ended up in a trailer park in upstate New York. In his place, and in place of other people in his position, moved more affluent people. This could happen to Northampton as well, a town unique in its well-known diversity of people and lifestyles. Unless our town leaders take this slow, but insidious, gentrification seriously, Northampton could end up looking like just all the other bland, soulless, over-achieving suburban communities that dot the American landscape.

Leonard A. Cohen

Northampton

Many of those who are hit hardest by the override are those who are voting for those who support tax cuts on a state or federal level. These cuts to the broader community do not save tax payers money, but shift the burden from the federal and state levels (where they are more spread out) to the local level, where they are much more damaging Cuts to state taxes result in reduced state support for our schools and other public services. Communities that do not wish to sacrifice the education of their young people are then forced to find the money local to make up the difference. It's a zero-sum game.

I almost used the word gentrification in my comments last week, I thought it was too much. Clearly it was not. Thank you for your observations on the gentrification of Northampton. I hope I can stay here too. We'll see. Rachel A. Rice

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