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In The Arena

In the Arena: Pitiful Montague numbers

Monday’s Montague annual town election was a big one for the incumbents, but not necessarily the democratic process.

In a three-way race for selectman, incumbent Chris Boutwell won his second three-year term, easily outdistancing newcomers Jacobo Roque and Matthew McMullin. The three-way tussle for Gill-Montague School Committee was a little closer, with incumbents Marge Levenson and Joyce Phillips taking the two top spots and newcomer Charles Kelley finishing a close third.

The victory had to be especially sweet for Phillips, who looked like a long shot this year as the ranking member of a committee that has taken a bit of a beating recently. Levenson should also feel pretty good, getting a vote of confidence from voters after coming over to the school board from the Montague Finance Committee, which isn’t the easiest transition in the world.

The insult to the process came from the voters of Montague, specifically the 91-plus percent who chose not to go to the polls Monday.

“It’s really pathetic,” Montague Town Clerk Deb Bourbeau said of the 8.82 percent turnout. “It’s like people don’t want to get involved anymore. There’s so much apathy out there, it’s really disappointing.”

The low turnout actually may have made Bourbeau’s life a little easier since she and her staff had to burn the midnight oil to tally all of the write-in votes. But she was clearly saddened by the number of people who seem willing to abdicate this particular act of civic duty.

“Here in America, we have a right that a lot of people around the world would kill for, and people seem to forget that,” Bourbeau said. “When we have 37 people of out 909 registered voters turn out for an election, as we did in Precinct 6 this year, something is wrong.”

From your mouth to God’s ears, sister.

Washington trip

One of the county’s leading real estate voices spent part of last week bending the ears of top Washington lawmakers.

Corinne Fitzgerald of Fitzgerald Real Estate made the Beltway rounds as part of the National Association of Realtors annual Mid-Year Meeting and Lobbying session.

“We certainly talked to a lot of people, because there are a number of issues we are concerned about,” Fitzgerald said.

One of the biggies, according to Fitzgerald, is a proposal to discontinue the mortgage tax exemption for second homes, something she says could have a major impact on the entire housing market.

“I think the feeling among some of them is that it would only affect rich people, but it’s not that simple,” Fitzgerald said. “There are a lot of other people, like empty-nesters who have bought a second home, who would no longer be able to qualify for that exemption.”

Fitzgerald said another thing the NAR is keeping an eye on is a possible change in mortgage law that would require anyone purchasing real estate to come up with a down payment of no less than 20 percent, without exception.

“That’s crazy,” she said in her usually blunt way. “These people need to realize that there is absolutely no connection between an ability to pay and a down payment.”

“There are a lot of people who can afford a mortgage but would need years to come up with 20 percent down,” she said. “If they do this, I’m telling you it will sink the market.”

Forget the lobbying — someone put that woman’s name on a ballot.

Identity check

The first (and probably not the last) incident of “Maloney misidentification syndrome” took place this week in Greenfield.

Two new names were brought forward for possible appointment to the governing board for the new Greenfield Commonwealth Virtual School — former mayoral hopeful Ed Berlin, and current Greenfield At-Large Town Councilor Mark Maloni. However, when word hit the streets, the buzz was that the applicant in question was not current Councilor Maloni, but former Council President Mark Maloney, who, at last check, was more interested in watching his kids play Little League than having anything to do with Greenfield government — and who could blame him?

But, just to be sure, I rang the big guy up to see if there was any truth to the rumor that he is returning to the arena.

“Nope, it’s not me,” Maloney said. “I got a thing in the mail about it, but I never sent it in. I’m busy enough.”

Maloney says his service on the Franklin County Technical School Committee and the Greenfield Zoning Board of Appeals is plenty enough civic involvement for him, and he has no plans to go back to town politics anytime soon.

“I wish them the best, but I’m retired from government, for the most part, and I’m going to keep it that way,” Maloney added.

More’s the pity.

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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