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In The Arena

In the Arena: His hat stays out of ring

Now that Greenfield voters have had their say, the focus shifts to who will lead the “new” Town Council. But the one person who won’t be in the running is the senior member of that body.

“I thought about it, but I really don’t want to divide the council that way,” Precinct 3 Councilor Brickett Allis said. “I’d certainly be interested in a vice presidential nomination, but I will not be pursuing the presidency.”

Allis’ decision to withdraw from the race completes what was a bit of an up-and-down fiscal 2014 for him. Though he’s wrapping up his second successful budget season as Ways and Means chairman, and will be getting some new council allies in Isaac Mass and Penny Ricketts, Allis got his nose skinned last month when the council’s progressive wing, led by outgoing Appointments and Ordinances Committee Chairman David Singer, derailed his efforts to possibly block a series of new amendments to the town’s Wetlands Protection Ordinance.

Allis voted in favor of the original motion, but invoked his right to reconsider that vote, ostensibly so he could go on record opposing changes he felt “went too far.” Ordinarily, that re-vote would have happened at the June council meeting, where it was going to pass again, but the timing would have cleared the way for a potential mayoral veto and a July override vote that could be taken by the new council, not the current one.

But Singer and company flipped the script by suspending the rules and voting on the reconsideration at the May budget meeting. This allowed Allis to change his vote while taking veto out of play. It was a deft political move that preserved a policy change that was one of the few issues this council and the Conservation Commission seemed to agree.

As for the presidency, whomever wins the post will likely get the chance to influence quite a bit of change over the next 15 months, especially if there are any council resignations.

A POW’s return

There seem to be no shortage of opinions on the decision to release five terrorists in exchange for the return of American POW Army Sgt. Bowe Berghdal. But I have to wonder how many of those “experts” even knew Berghdal’s name before the news broke of his release?

Greenfield Mayor Bill Martin clearly does. He was one of a handful of people to take part in a monthly ceremony on the Greenfield Veterans Mall in remembrance of Berghdal’s caputre by the Taliban and he feels there is no question that bringing him home was the right move.

“You can’t put a value on one soldier. They are priceless,” Martin said. “It doesn’t matter what we pay for or swap for one American solider, it is done.”

This is clearly an issue which Martin feels very deeply. A former combat medic in Vietnam, Martin remembers all too well the circumstances surrounding the end of that war, where thousands of American POWs were left behind following the signing of the peace accord with North Vietnam.

“I know there are a lot of questions surrounding the circumstances of his walking away from his unit, but we don’t abandon a solider anytime, anywhere,” Martin said. “Whatever those circumstances are, there’s military justice and civilian justice, and you are innocent until proven guilty. But the point is to get him home first, and that’s what the president did, and it was the right thing to do.”

She has our thanks

If they handed out gold stars for honorable actions by government officials, At-Large Greenfield Town Councilor Patrick Devlin would get a big one for being the only member of that body to publicly thank outgoing Greeenfield Public Schools Superintendent Susan Hollins for her six years of service. Devlin’s recognition of Hollins during the recent budget meeting triggered a well-deserved round of applause from his colleagues, some of whom have been among her biggest supporters.

I know there are some who will be glad to see Hollins go. Such is the nature of nature of a school superintendent, where welcomes tend to get worn out usually somewhere between six and eight years, especially if that person is a “change agent,” as Hollins clearly was.

Everyone may not agree with the changes made or how Hollins’ went about making them. But she leaves a better and stronger Greenfield school system then she inherited, and for that she deserves the thanks of everyone in this community, especially those who’ve been elected to lead it.

Chris Collins is news director/managing editor of WHAI FM and Bear Country 95.3. He is a former staff reporter for the Recorder, and a Greenfield native.

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