In The Arena

In the Arena: Time finally seems right

For the first time since the Nixon administration, western Massachusetts will have one of its own running the show in the state Senate.

“This is definitely a culminating experience in terms of my time in elected office and I’m grateful to my constituents for sending me here, because that made it all possible,” Senate Majority Leader Stan Rosenberg said, just hours after securing the votes necessary to succeed Therese Murray as the next Senate president.

To get there, Rosenberg had to out-duel another senator with western ties, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Steve Brewer, who backed off when it became apparent that Rosenberg had it sewn up.

“It was a spirited but amicable and friendly process,” Rosenberg said. “Steve is a friend of mine, and I look forward to working with him in the future.”

Ironically, Rosenberg’s last flirtation with the top job came 12 years ago, also when he was Ways and Means chairman. He also came up short, but remained in the leadership as assistant majority leader, then as the Senate’s first president pro tempore, and eventually moving to majority leader this past term, putting him in a prime position to take over the top job once term limits turn Murray into a political pumpkin.

Rosenberg could have easily detonated any chance for future advancement had he taken a harder line back then, but the fact that he didn’t is a testament to his ability to recognize the difference between district politics, of which he is a master, and the game that gets played under the golden dome — where, as Tip O’Neill once so aptly put it, “to get along, you need to go along.”

Rosenberg also caught a bit of a break with the abrupt resignation this past year of South Boston Sen. John Hart Jr., who had appeared to be Murray’s natural successor. Hart decided to take a job at a Boston law firm, but some Beacon Hill insiders say the real cause was a rift with Murray.

Whatever the reason, Rosenberg is now poised to become the first Senate president from the west since Maurice Donahue, who held the gavel from 1964 to 1971. The only question now is when it will happen. Murray’s term presidential expires in 2015, but there is talk she may not run for re-election in 2014 or may even resign early. This could put Rosenberg in the president’s chair as early as January.

But don’t expect Rosenberg to follow the same career trajectory as another former Senate President Calvin Coolidge, who ran that chamber close to 100 years ago.

“There’s really only one presidency I’m interested in,” Rosenberg said.

Let’s hope he means it.

Burning issues

If you were to look at it in boxing terms, the effort to build a Greenfield biomass plant has both eyes swollen shut and has just taken its second standing eight-count.

Now, the project’s opponents are getting ready to set up the knockout punch.

The Greenfield Town Council is about to establish a task force charged with looking into drafting an ordinance that would regulate wood-burning plants after the current council-approved biomass moratorium ends in 2015.

“The moratorium was for biomass and waste-to-energy,” Greenfield Town Council Economic Development Committee Chairman Patrick Devlin said. “And now that biomass appears to be dead, there is going to be more of a focus on the waste-to-energy piece.”

Devlin said the commission’s job will be to gather data and assist councilors in developing a regulation that is strict, but fair.

“I’m not sure you can get much stricter than the current state regulations, but there should be something in place locally, because right now, there is nothing,” Devlin said.

The big question is, what will those regulations look like, and how far will they go?

“That’s going to depend a lot on what we learn,” Devlin said. “But I think part of it would be about setting limits on how much you can burn and a minimum standard for emission controls.”

But before anyone freaks out too much, don’t look for any regulations banning the use of individual wood stoves in Greenfield.

“We’re not looking to do that,” Devlin said. “I know that came up at a Planning Board hearing once, but nobody in their right minds is going to pass a regulation like. People have been using woodstoves for years, and we’re not just going to up and ban them.”

Devlin says he’s looking forward to seeing what research comes out of the task force.

“I think we are going to see some interesting numbers and we will learn some things from this process,” Devlin added.

Anyone interested in joining the effort can contact the Greenfield Town Council office for more information.

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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