In the Arena: Not all say ‘nay’ to pipeline
You’d be as likely to find a lynx walking down Main Street these days as a politician willing to say anything remotely positive about the gas pipeline being proposed for Franklin County.
Greenfield Mayor Bill Martin broke that streak this past week when he told me that Greenfield may actually see a benefit from the pipeline, which he says would ensure a dependable supply of natural gas for economic development purposes.
“I’ve heard people say it’s not going to be any benefit for Franklin County, it’s just going to run through the area and tear up the environment,” Martin said. “I question that because we are going to be the recipient of this.”
Greenfield Economic Development Director Bob Pyers echoed that sentiment at this week’s Town Council Community Relations and Education Committee public hearing on a council resolution opposing the project.
“No one is going to build a manufacturing plant in our community, over 20-thousand square feet, and heat it with oil,” Pyers said. “That kind of project will never happen again in Franklin County, if we don’t have adequate natural gas supplies.”
The council will vote on its non-binding resolution in 12 days and will most likely approve it, regardless of what the mayor thinks.
Women leading the way
If there is a war being waged on women in this country, Franklin County politics does not appear to be one of the battlegrounds.
Franklin Regional Council of Governments Executive Director Linda Dunalvy is still firmly at the helm of that organization, which has a big meeting with the Franklin Regional Planning Board on the gas pipeline later this month. Carolyn Shores Ness and Tracy Rogers are tearing it up on the selectboards in Deerfield and Northfield, respectively. The Greenfield School Department is now run by new Superintendent Jordana Harper-Ewert, and the School Committee is made up almost entirely of women, including new board chairwoman Maryelen Calderwood and new vice chairwoman Francia Winsewski.
In addition, the Town Council this week elected the first all-female leadership “battery” in its history.
Former Council Vice-President Hillary Hoffmann was the unanimous choice to succeed Mark Wisnewski as council president, becoming the first woman since Tamara Beauregard to hold that gavel, and the first since the advent of the mayoral charter.
“We’re are all here around this table because we are committed to public service,” Hoffmann said in her nominating speech. “Though we have diverse backgrounds and beliefs, at the heart of it is the truth that we are here because we want to make Greenfield a great town.”
Succeeding Hoffmann for vice president is Precinct 7 Councilor Karen “Rudy” Renaud, who has pledged to work with the new president to ramp up the council’s community relations efforts that, according to Hoffmann, may include establishment of a council newsletter and the development of a “road map” to town services for residents, especially as they relate to “lifestyle issues.”
The organizational meeting also marked the first appearance by new Precinct 5 Councilor Penny Ricketts, who has the distinction of being the first African American woman to join the council. It was so nice to see Penny take that oath, knowing how long she has craved a spot at that table, and how much charity work she has done for this community.
That work will only get harder, however, as the council gets ready to deal with a number of contentious issues, with the specter of a potentially game-changing town election looming in 14 short months.
Leadership pays off
Leadership has its privileges, from which a number of Franklin County regional school districts will likely benefit when the next round of “cherry sheets” are issued.
For the first time this year, regional school transportation expenses will be reimbursed by the commonwealth at a rate of 90 percent, which Senate Majority Leader Stan Rosenberg says was the result of political “divine providence.”
“We have Steve Brewer (Senate Ways and Means chairman) in his final term, and Steve Kulik (1st Franklin District state representative) as the vice-chair of House Ways and Means, and we have a leadership change in the Senate heading into the next election cycle, so all the stars were aligned,” Rosenberg said.
Let’s not forget that Rosenberg, thanks to the Senate transition, will sit in the president’s chair in January. This leadership change will hopefully lead to more “fiscal celestial navigation” that generates additional dollars for this area of the commonwealth that so desperately needs 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.