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In The Arena

In the Arena: All about the politics

It makes no difference now, but I defy anyone to watch the videotape from Wednesday night’s Greenfield Town Council meeting and make the argument that Isaac Mass is not qualified to occupy a seat on the Planning Board.

For close to 45 minutes, Mass took questions from councilors on a variety of topics and, in the process, demonstrated a level of knowledge and understanding of town government that I dare say far outpaced the majority of officials on the other side of the table. And yet, those same councilors chose to shoot down this blue-chip nominee for purely political reasons, despite increasingly pathetic attempts to make it seem otherwise.

There have been a lot of amusing moments during this debate, not the least of which is the spin that Mass and Albert Norman are somehow on the same level when it comes to their level of “advocacy” regarding big-box issue. It’s true that Mass was a founding member of “Citizens for Growth” in 2002, while Norman has spent the last 20 years doing everything possible to keep a large discount retailer from coming to town.

But there is one big difference between the two that no one has bothered to bring up. Mass has been elected and appointed to, and has served on, many different policy boards over the years, devoting hours of personal time in an effort to make Greenfield a better place, while Norman has not. The next time Norman’s name appears on a ballot will be the first.

Regardless of how you feel about Norman’s cause and how aggressively he has pursued it, he hasn’t provided anywhere near the level of service to this town than Isaac has — but it’s pretty obvious, based on this council’s recent actions, who of the two is going to play a larger role in shaping Greenfield’s public policy moving forward.

And if that doesn’t scare the hell out of the taxpayers in this town, I’m not sure what will.

Seeking a stake in the game

It’s entirely possible that if MGM Resorts opens a casino in the Springfield area, its patrons could be eating food grown in Franklin County — served by Franklin County people.

That is the hope of Greenfield Mayor William Martin, who met recently with MGM officials to discuss the chances of Greenfield, and other towns in Franklin County, being identified as potential “resource communities” for a Springfield-based gaming facility.

“Certainly, there are a lot of things we could provide them,” Martin said. “Everything from food items produced here to an educated workforce, who will be able to get there even more easily once rail service between Greenfield and Springfield is restored in the fall of 2014.”

Martin says he plans to work with Franklin Regional Council of Governments Executive Director Linda Dunlavy to develop a proposal, that MGM officials will include in their next round of state casino license applications.

Caught on tape

I’ve heard many times over the years how much better Greenfield would be if it were more like Northampton. Well, there may be one place to start.

The Northampton City Council is preparing to enact a policy change that would require that every city policy board have a live video camera present and running during each publicly posted meeting. Council President Bill Dwight says the policy is consistent with recent changes to the commonwealth’s Open Meeting Law, that allows said tapes to serve as a form of “video meeting minutes” — that will be able to tell more of the story of each debate than any written record could.

“Minutes can reflect what happens, but video recordings are better able to capture the tone and tenor of the discussions,” Dwight said.

Dwight said the plan is to also make those meeting tapes available to the public, via a new partnership the city is developing with its public access television station, Northampton Community Television.

“This is where the public policy in the city is decided and vetted, and I think it’s appropriate that the public have access to that record,” Dwight added.

Since some members of the Greenfield Town Council have gone on record numerous times as wanting that body to be the “voice of the people,” enacting a similar policy change would seem to make a lot of sense — and would certainly make it a lot easier for voters to see all of the moves and votes supposedly being made on their behalf.

I have no plans to hold my breath waiting for that day to come.

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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