Alan Chartock | Neal deserves our support because he works hard for us

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GREAT BARRINGTON — I regularly interview all the members of Congress who represent the substantial WAMC listening area (portions of seven states) who want to be on the radio.

My favorite is U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield, who happens to be my congressman. He is brilliant, articulate, concerned and one of the most powerful persons in the House of Representatives. He also happens to be dean (longest serving) of the Massachusetts delegation.

I have never had a single tough moment getting him on the air, either in the studio or by phone because he makes himself readily available. Neal is a born teacher. He can take a really complicated concept and make it accessible to the lay person.

He understands the convoluted rules of the House of Representatives and knows how to use them to help all of us. He sits next to the fabled civil rights icon John Lewis who, incidentally, told me how much he admires Richie Neal.

Richie Neal knows more about Irish affairs than anyone I know. He played an instrumental role in the Irish peace accords. As the top Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, he is in a really good position to bring home the bacon for his district and has done exactly that. It would be hard to list it all, so I won't. I only get 650 words in this column.

Former Mayor John Barrett III of North Adams says he may be the only public official who worked closely with the last three congressmen from the 1st District — Silvio Conte, John Olver and now Richie Neal. Barrett says that they all worked very hard and paid attention to detail.

"I have seen firsthand Richie Neal in the district without fanfare, just simply doing his job and that is talking to the people of the district," Barrett said. "He just showed up in the winter class I taught at Williams last year and that was the week of the inauguration. He took the time to show up and then to fly back. Then he scheduled a visit to the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts right after that."

My friend state Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli, D-Lenox, noted that Neal has been in the district on multiple occasions and most times without a lot off fanfare. Smitty said Neal recognizes that it's the creative economy that is driving the Berkshires, and that's unlike the economy of Springfield, his hometown. "That's why I feel we are blessed to having such a hard working congressman in our district who recognizes the diversity of his own district and embraces it all for the greater good," he said.

Smitty made the point that Neal's staff has been wonderful and incredibly accessible. Let's remember that staff does much of the work. Benjamin B. Downing, one of his former staff members, went on to be state Sen. Benjamin Downing.

According to Downing, "Anytime I've picked up the phone in my capacity as state senator, Richie Neal asked, `What can I do to help the Berkshires?' As a former staffer in Neal's office, I saw him pick up the phone time and again and treat people with respect no matter what their station in life."

When I called Neal's office to find out how often he has visited the Berkshires part of the district, they told me he's been here an amazing 95 times since January 2013. Think about that!

One of the things that makes me nuts is the unwarranted transfer of the anti-Trump passion that makes some otherwise stable people start to attack their true allies. At a time when we all ought to be standing tall against Trump, a real ogre, there are still some who waste their fire on true liberal allies.

Richie Neal is so impressive because he has really walked the walk himself, first as a city councilor, next as a successful mayor of Springfield and now as an incredibly accomplished Congressman.

When you've done those jobs, you know how to help.

Alan Chartock, a Great Barrington resident, is president and CEO of WAMC Northeast Public Radio and a professor emeritus of communications at SUNY-Albany. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of The Berkshire Eagle.


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