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Cleaning off the desk

Some 2012 notes that might be of interest

By CHRIS COLLINS

The year is a little over a week old, but before we plunge head-long into 2013, we must take a moment to clear out a few mental files.

From the “you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone” file — I guess we can scratch Danielle Letourneau-Therrien’s name off the list of potential candidates for Greenfield Town Council this year.

The former representative from Precinct 6 has ruled out a return to the arena this year, a declaration she made long before her recent appointment as the new Executive Director of Big Brothers-Big Sisters of Franklin County.

“I’ve been involved with this organization as a volunteer for a little under two years and it was something I really enjoyed,” Letourneau-Therrien said. “And so to have the opportunity to do this as my full-time job is really exciting.”

I have to admit that I never fully appreciated Letourneau-Therrien’s talents and political skills during her time on the council, which is a very different body than it was during her tenure. Back then, she was part of the more liberal wing of a council dominated by centrist-conservatives. On today’s council, Letourneau-Therrien would be considered more of a moderate, even though she is no less liberal now than she was back then.

Ideology notwithstanding, I still believe the council could benefit from Danielle’s experience and political savvy, but it’s not going to happen anytime soon, if at all, which is bad news for Greenfield but very good news for a nonprofit that continues to make a huge difference in the lives of a lot of area kids.

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From the “thanks again for nothing Beacon Hill” file — it looks like our friends in Boston are once again going to try and plug a mid-year budget gap on the backs of rural regional school districts.

Part of Governor Deval Patrick’s plan for closing a $560 million mid-year budget gap involves a series of cuts to so-called “discretionary programs,” among them the regional school transportation program.

“That does not make me happy at all,” First Franklin District State Rep. Steve Kulik said. “It’s one of those accounts that seems to rise to the top of the list whenever state budget cuts need to be made, no matter who the governor is.”

The idea of Boston robbing the West to plug budget holes is not exactly a new concept. Remember all those millions of dollars in Chapter 90 road money that got funneled to the Big Dig? We are now seeing the results of that brilliant policy decision in the form of crumbling roads and bridges, but this reduction, in the middle of an already tight budget year, is really going to put the screws to a program that has historically been chronically underfunded.

“This affects us more because we have a larger number of regional districts with longer distances to travel and busing is a significant cost,” Kulik said. “So as we put together next year’s budget, we need to try to find a way to insulate this program from these kinds of cuts in the future.”

Good luck with that.

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From the “get used to it whether you like it or not” file, it’s interesting how some politician’s perspectives change when they come out to these parts to pick up some money.

Lt. Gov. Tim Murray has been taking a beating in the Boston press over a variety of issues, most notably patronage concerns related to the recent hiring of a Murray-Jim McGovern-connected senior state transportation official who, it turns out, had a string of traffic violations that no one apparently knew about until a reporter dug them up.

Murray has done his best to avoid the issue, but during a recent stop at the Greenfield Grille, the commonwealth’s Second Banana was downright unapologetic about the administration’s penchant for hiring political allies for top positions in state government.

“We ran and were elected and re-elected on a vision and a set of ideas for where we need to take Massachusetts,” Murray said. “You need people to implement that vision that believe in them, so we are going to continue to recommend people who are qualified who we think can do the job.”

That’s fine, but how about vetting them a little bit more closely than you did in this instance?

“Look, no one bats 1,000 on these,” Murray said. “We make mistakes on occasion and try to learn from them, and I think the electorate is smart enough to understand that.”

And that means we can expect more of the same if Murray wins the governorship, which looks right now to be a good bet in 2014.

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.

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