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Norman/My Turn: Hiding behind ‘disappointment’

Isaac Mass, one of the founders of the pro-retail development group Citizens for Growth, tells this newspaper at his self-promotion kickoff, that he is “disappointed” that the Town Council’s Appointments and Ordinances Committee “saw nothing wrong” when they invited me to speak about my comments on a proposed wetlands ordinance under consideration by the committee.

If Mr. Mass, who has studied the law, knows of any wrong-doing by ordinances, or of any law, regulation, rule or provision that was violated, he should plainly reveal it. To date, he has not. Mr. Mass should know the difference between a violation of law or rule and an unsubstantiated allegation of such.

The ordinances committee is part of the legislative body of Greenfield. The Conservation Commission is not. It is the Town Council’s responsibility to craft legislation, like an ordinance, and in the process of doing so, to gather a wide net of information during the deliberation process. It is the committee’s prerogative to call upon whomever they wish in that process — and it is in the interests of citizens to keep it that way. When that gathering stage is over, they present their product to a public hearing, and then to the full Town Council for a final vote.

Until I made my public comments, no town resident outside of the Conservation Commission and the ordinances subcommittee, had seen that public document because no one had asked for it, or known of it. Had I been denied that document, it would have been a violation of the Public Records Act.

The ordinance had been written by five people. I had every right to ask for the document, and to comment upon it. Mr. Mass has every right to dissent from my comments — but he has no right to suggest a public document is beyond the reach of any citizen in Greenfield, and he has no right to deny our First Amendment right of Free Speech to openly express our views.

If Mr. Mass intends to imply there was wrong-doing, let him present his case, instead of hiding behind his “disappointment.”

In 2011, when a Connecticut big box developer and his Boston law firm were allowed to write the first drafts of a 25-page special permit findings of fact and conditions, I did not hear a word from Mr. Mass objecting to an outside special interest writing its own permit. But that’s exactly what happened — with far greater consequence to the town of Greenfield than any wetlands ordinance.

I believe that if Mr. Mass had agreed with my comments, we would have heard nothing further about what ordinances did “wrong.”

If the candidate Mr. Mass intends to ride this empty issue all the way to the town election, I think he will find himself beating his own dead horse.

Al Norman, known nationally as a “sprawlbuster” consultant against Walmart and other big box developments, is a Greenfield resident.

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