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One-sided argument?

Councilors complain about coverage

Some members of Greenfield town government clearly haven’t figured out that it’s not a good idea to step directly on the toes of someone who buys their ink by the gallon.

During the recent Greenfield split-tax rate debate, a couple of members of the Town Council were not shy about expressing their displeasure over The Recorder’s coverage of the issue.

“Our newspaper has framed many stories that they’ve run, which, by the way, were overwhelmingly editorial and anecdotal in nature, around the concerns of commercial and industrial property owners,” Precinct 6 Councilor Hillary Hoffmann said. “And residents don’t have the power of an association or a chamber of commerce to organize them around these concerns, and their voices haven’t been featured in our newspaper, and they don’t buy advertising space either.”

Precinct 9 Councilor Norman Hirschfeld echoed Hoffmann’s sentiments.

“I would like to see some more education on this and it certainly didn’t happen in the newspaper,” Hirschfeld said. “It was strictly one sided, and that’s a shame. It should have been more balanced.”

I’m sure it would have been, had there been even one iota of support for this issue beyond Hoffmann, Hirschfeld, Council Vice-President Mark Wisnewski and former councilor Alfie Siano, who was the lone resident to speak in favor of the change at the public hearing.

I also don’t buy this idea that there was no “organization” to help provide a voice for the residents. Greenfield has had a rich history of citizens standing up when something big was on the line. The best recent example was the effort to stop a biomass plant from coming to the Greenfield Industrial Park, something that also played a big role in helping recruit and elect a number of members to this council.

If this were really a burning issue to anyone other than Wisnewski and Co., you would have read about it long before that meeting. The fact that we didn’t says a lot more than any popcorn headline ever could.

Economic partners

Speaking of the council, its concern about the split-rate issue has prompted Greenfield Mayor Bill Martin to take an extra step to make it as easy as possible for its members to become as full partners in the crafting the town’s fiscal policies.

Martin announced this week that, as part of the fiscal 2014 budget process, he is creating detailed, quarter-by-quarter breakdowns of the fiscal 2013 and 2012 budgets, which he hopes will allow councilors to come to the table with some new ideas on ways to prevent the town from falling off a fiscal cliff of its own by this time next year.

“Certainly during this recent debate on the split-tax rate, I’ve identified, I feel, an inclination to protect the taxpayers and not to increase taxes, so this is an opportunity for the council to study the numbers and come forward with some innovations and new techniques to stabilize the tax base,” Martin said.

“I think it will give them a good feel on how the budget is put together and how you sometimes need to make judgment calls to accommodate the needs of the city and its citizens.”

If there are members concerned about the council being not much more than a “rubber stamp” committee, it would appear they will have all tools they need to help alter that perception.

Ashfield showdown

The upcoming Ashfield selectboard special election is shaping up to be a showdown between two former board members who don’t necessarily like each other.

Former Selectman Dave DeHerdt has announced plans to run for the seat vacated by the recent resignation of Doug Field. DeHerdt served on Ashfield’s top policy board from 2008-2011, and served with Bill Perlman up until Perlman’s 2009 resignation at the height of the John Svoboda scandal.

“It’s a tough job. It was when I was there,” DeHerdt said. “But I think I can help provide a third voice at a time when that board needs one.”

DeHerdt says he has the highest regard for current board members Ron Coler and Paulette Leukhardt, whose constant fighting led Field to walk away. That discord appears to have lessened dramatically as Coler and Leukhardt have been running that board in tandem with such harmony that they are starting to look like the Butch and Sundance of Ashfield politics.

DeHerdt and Perlman are both positioning themselves as experienced hands who just want to help the town through a tough time. Both men will be part of the Dec. 18 Ashfield town caucus, and, hopefully, at least one face-to-face debate before voters make their final decision early next year.

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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