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Roberts/My Turn: Mayor made appointee mess

The Recorder in its Oct. 23 editorial refused to acknowledge the truth that Mayor William Martin was the first to apply a litmus test when it comes to appointments to the Planning Board.

When the mayor appointed George Touloumtzis and me as alternates to the Planning Board — appointments unanimously approved by the Town Council’s committee on Appointments and Ordinances and subsequently approved by the full Town Council —- there was no discussion by the mayor, or by members of the council, of our positions regarding the board’s work. When it was clear to the mayor that Jim Allen’s reappointment to his full position on the Planning Board would likely be rejected, the mayor, fearful that we might not vote as he chooses, retracted his appointment of Mr. Touloumtzis and me.

Mayor Martin is fully responsible for the ensuing mess, which is offensive to all parties involved. The hypocrisy evident in his duplicitous withdrawal of the two alternate appointments resulted in embarrassment to Mr. Touloumtzis, Mr. Mass and me. His actions should caution people interested in serving the Town of Greenfield that as long as he is mayor their political and personal opinions may be subjected to unwarranted scrutiny, to a litmus test. This will have a chilling effect, discouraging many qualified people from volunteering to participate in town government during his time in office.

All three of us, Mr. Touloumtzis, Mr. Mass and I, are qualified for the Planning Board positions to which the mayor appointed us. Had the mayor not withdrawn Mr. Touloumtzis’ and my appointments as alternates to the Planning Board and appointed Mr. Mass to the full position previously occupied by Mr. Allen, he might have avoided shaming himself and embarrassing three qualified candidates for the board. Instead, he chose to send a message to the council and to anyone else interested in serving the town, “Do things my way or get the hell out.”

As the author of the Oct. 23 editorial said, “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.”

How true. “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.”

Since the mayor has stated publicly that he wanted the Planning Board to maintain the same ideological stance it has held for the past several years, the council vote did move the town in the right direction, that of open and serious debate.

Wilson Roberts retired from GCC in 2001. He is a novelist and mediator. He is a former president of the Greenfield Town Council and lives in Greenfield.

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