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In The Arena

In the Arena: Holding a winning hand in pipeline poker?

It appears that state lawmakers have a “constitutional ace” they may be able to play in the ongoing political poker game surrounding a proposed natural gas pipeline across the state, including Franklin County.

“Article 97” of the Massachusetts Constitution mandates that any land with a conservation restriction — including a number that are set to be impacted by the Tennessee Gas pipeline project — cannot be encroached without a two-thirds vote of the Massachusetts Legislature, which 1st Franklin District state Rep. Stephen Kulik says is going to be tough to get.

“It’s an incredibly unique and important tool that we have,” Kulik told pipeline protesters at the Clarkdale Fruit Farm last week. “Kinder Morgan (Tennessee Gas’ parent company) says they know the about it, and we’ve told them as legislators that if they try to go for Article 97 relief for this pipeline, we are going to say ‘no.’”

Maybe, but like anything else, it comes down to numbers, and only 19 legislators out of 200 have districts with properties impacted by this pipeline. That’s one of the reasons Kulik says locals need to keep fanning the flames of discontent until they reach wildfire status.

“What’s happening here has to happen across the state,” Kulik told the crowd. “We have major energy policy issues being addressed in the proposal, but people in other areas aren’t as engaged as you are.”

Kinder Morgan will present its plans Thursday night to the Franklin Regional Council of Governments and the Franklin County Planning Board in a meeting at the Greenfield Community College Dining Commons.

Liking the assignments

One thing I neglected to mention last week was the solid job new Greenfield Town Council President Hillary Hoffman did in putting together this year’s subcommittee assignments. She placed people on boards in order to play to their strengths, regardless of whether she agrees with them politically and that’s what a leader is supposed to do.

It remains to be seen what kind of president she will ultimately make, but if Hoffman handles everything as well as she did these committees, the council is going to be in good shape moving forward.

Tango over lapsed lease

I know the Shea Theater board of directors is taking some heat for allowing the Shea’s building lease to expire, but it seems there may be plenty of blame to go around on this one.

It was revealed this week that the board never renewed the Shea lease, which expired at the end of 2013. That means the town has to issue a “request for proposals” to any organization that may want to run the Shea. Montague selectmen voted to extend the board’s lease until the end of 2015 to allow time to conduct that RFP process and negotiate a new 10-year agreement.

While I agree the board bears responsibility for letting the lease expire, are you telling me that there was no one in town hall who was aware of this and could have dropped a dime to let the board know what was happening?

That doesn’t seem to me to be too much to ask from a government that has spent thousands over the years to preserve and maintain this particular “community treasure.”

Maybe I’m all wet

Anyone who may have been angered by what they have read in this space has a chance to exact a measure of revenge Saturday morning.

Against my better judgment, I have agreed to spend a half-hour in the Greenfield Business Association’s Greenfield Summerfest Celebrity Dunking Booth between 11:30 and noon, with all of proceeds raised going to benefit the Northwestern District Attorney’s Franklin County “Children’s Advocacy Center.”

The organizers are expecting a big turnout for my stint, so, by all means, take your best shot — because it’s all for a very worthy cause.

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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