Editorial: No place for a litmus test
Greenfield residents got a bit of lesson in politics a la 2013 last week from the Town Council.
On the surface it was about Isaac Mass’ Planning Board nomination and a change as how this particular council sees its role in town government. As Precinct 5 Councilor David Singer said, councilors were in a position to say to Mayor William Martin that they weren’t going to take a back seat when it came to nominees and, by extension then, Greenfield’s future direction.
The council — Greenfield’s municipal government as designed and defined under the town charter — has always had a hand in town affairs and the shaping of the community. It is a matter of interpretation, however, to what extent the council can try to grab more control, just as it is with whether past councils have rubber-stamped the actions of the mayor, including approving nominations to the various boards or committees.
But what was witnessed just last week was more than just a little flexing of independent muscle or even a little political payback to the mayor over a dustup on a seat on the Planning Board. Rather, it was the implementation of a litmus test when it came to candidates.
How could this vote be seen as anything else? As former At-large Councilor Daniel Guin said after the meeting, “Every councilor said he was qualified and then voted him down. The charter says the mayor should appoint someone who is qualified.”
But where Mass came up short, according to 11 councilors, was not being on the right side when it came to having a national retail giant come to town. And with the possibility that an appeal of the French King Highway development project might throw the plans back to the Planning Board ... well, we get the picture.
These councilors were apparently not willing to take the risk when it came to how Mass might vote on future issues coming before the board, particularly those projects or plans that don’t fit the blueprint they’re using when it comes to Greenfield’s future.
We feel that using such an ideological test is detrimental to not only populating the board but also in defining the kind of place Greenfield is in which to live.
It’s not such a leap from saying that only people who dislike large retail development should sit on a board to saying a person can’t sit on a board because they don’t buy from the right stores, or vote for the right candidates, or express views that are contrary to the majority. The use of a litmus test to tailor boards to create a singular view is the very opposite of what Greenfield should have — qualified candidates who bring an open mind to the table and who can debate public policy issues in a lively manner.
Last week’s vote did not move the town in the right direction.