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In the Arena: Stempel has left the building

  • COLLINS


Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Ashli Stempel era on the Greenfield Town Council is over, at least for now.

Geographic issues have forced Stempel to resign her Precinct 8 seat, which she planned to vacate at the end of the year anyway.

“Over the past year and a half, we’ve been working to renovate and restore a home about a stone’s throw from Precinct 8,” Stempel said. “And the time has come to move in.”

Stempel regrets having to leave early, but says there really wasn’t much choice in the matter.

“Stepping down is the right thing to do,” Stempel said. “But that doesn’t mean I’m stepping away. You will still see me at the meetings and hear me during the public comments section.”

And, depending on how things break in November, there’s a good chance Stempel will be right back up at the big table come January, this time representing the entire town as an at-large councilor.

SAFE CITY RETURN?

Is Greenfield’s Safe Cities Ordinance about to make a comeback?

Columnist Chris Goudreau’s piece this past week in the Valley Advocate indicated that this year’s progressive block of town council candidates are running in tandem with the hopes of advancing a whole bunch of initiatives — chief among them resurrection of the recently-defeated ordinance which would prohibit any Greenfield official to participate in federal deportation efforts of undocumented immigrants.

Other than being endorsed by like-minded organizations, there’s been no overt evidence of collusion between the various campaigns. Goudreau indicated that he was able to interview all of the candidates but Precinct 8’s Kelly Dixon, who was unable to be reached despite multiple attempts.

Dixon said she was in the middle of a 12-hour nursing shift when Goudreau called, and said she wasn’t ducking the conversation. She issued a statement of her own this week making it clear that she’s not on board with giving this particular measure a second bite at the legislative apple.

“I believe efforts to revisit this issue before the town council are misguided,” Dixon said.

“The council has already spent most of a year investigating and debating an ordinance which was wholly symbolic and would change nothing with regard to the policy,” she added.

Dixon also believes the energy spent on Safe Cities allowed the council to take it’s eyes off other pressing matters like GCET, which recently saw the manager fired and 42 percent of the staff terminated after the mayor’s office assumed more of the hands-on management.

“GCET is one of the only truly creative economic development tools the town has taken on and it should have better oversight,” Dixon said.

I doubt that’s going to be an issue, given what’s happened recently.

A LESSON LEARNED

Relocation of a Greenfield meet the candidates event provided town officials with a bit of a teachable moment this past week.

The Greenfield Public Library was prepared to team up with the League of Women voters to sponsor a meet and greet with candidates this past Tuesday at the library. Invitations were issued to both ballot candidates and write-ins.

The day before, however, Council Vice President Isaac Mass raised some questions about the propriety of a political event being held at a public building, and being de facto sponsored by a town employee, in this case the town’s librarian.

Mass’ actions drew a barrage of social media criticism from a number of people, myself included. To me, it seemed to smack of more petty political gamesmanship, but the more I learned, the more Isaac’s argument began to make sense.

Mass says his intention never was to get the event cancelled, but he had big concerns about a couple of aspects of it, including how the event was promoted.

Mass said the candidates were listed in the promotional advertisement neither in alphabetical order nor the order they appear on the ballot, which he said may have been construed as a tacit endorsement of those candidates whose names were placed up front.

He also expressed concern about a town department working directly with the League of Women Voters, which Mass believes could be interpreted as an endorsement of the league’s political activities.

Mass emailed Town Clerk Deb Tuttle suggesting that she check with the Office of Campaign and Political Finance to ensure that no laws had been violated, to which Tuttle replied that the event had been cancelled. It was eventually moved to the Hawks and Reed Performing Arts Center.

Another point brought up during the post-event coverage was the propriety of holding an event for council candidates at a location that the renovation of which the council will likely be voting on early next year.

It’s not clear what sanctions the town might have faced had the library event gone forward, but it seems that a bullet may have been dodged by Isaac’s “interference.” I apologize for judging him so harshly.

I wonder how many of his other critics will have the temerity to do the same.

Chris Collins is the Franklin County News Bureau Chief for WHAI, WPVQ and WHMP Radio. He is a former staff reporter for The Recorder, and is a Greenfield native.