In The Arena

In the Arena: Connecting some faint dots

Ginning up concerns about potential tax increases can be an effective tactic when challenging an incumbent, something Greenfield Town Council candidate Isaac Mass clearly understands.

Mass issued a press release earlier this week focusing on areas of tax policy where he and his opponent, Council President Mark Wisnewski, differ. One such area is the “Community Preservation Act,” a section of state law that allows towns, if they adopt the law, to assess a property tax surcharge of up to 3 percent, money that then can be used for open space protection, historic preservation, affordable housing and outdoor recreation.

Wisnewski, to my knowlege, has never openly advocated for the CPA, but the 2013 Sustainable Master Plan does and Wisnewski has made it clear that one of his motivations for running is because he wants to play a role in implementing that plan — something Mass says voters need to take into consideration when they head to the polls this June.

“Many of the goals and objectives of the Sustainable Master Plan are admirable,” Mass sais. “But homeowners simply cannot afford another increase in what is an already regressive (property) tax.”

I’ll be curious to see whether this becomes more of an issue moving forward.

A busy 2nd district

It’s looking like 2014 is going to be an especially busy primary season in race to represent the 2nd Franklin District.

We already know about the Republican primary between 2012 Republican nominee Susannah Whipps Lee of Athol and Orange resident Karen Anderson, both of whom will be part of a “meet and greet” March 30 at the Orange American Legion hall on Route 202. The event is being sponsored by the Orange Republican Town Committee, and will feature a number of GOP candidates, among them gubernatorial hopeful Charlie Baker.

What you may not know is that there is also a primary on the Democratic side, involving incumbent Denise Andrews and a young man named Johnny Arena, who apparently lives in Gill and is in his late teens. I’d love to be able to tell you more about him, but I can’t, because all I know for sure is that he announced his candidacy in late December and has a campaign Facebook page and email address. Beyond that, Arena has done a political Claude Rains, despite my best attempts to set up an interview.

It reminded me a little bit of frustration I experienced in 2010 election, when, ironically, I made a similar overture to then-candidate Andrews, who blew off the free media offer, preferring instead to talk to me “after I win the primary.”

Four years later, that conversation still hasn’t happened.

Arena did leave me a message shortly before deadline this week apologizing for delaying the interview, which he says will happen once he’s filed the final necessary campaign paperwork with the state. I look forward to that conversation, assuming it does occur.

Tired of the increases

As for Lee, she wasn’t exactly jazzed to hear this week’s announcement that the state Transportation Department was planning to increase registry fees on inspections, license renewals and road tests.

“In 1999, they raised the inspection fees from $15 to $29 supposedly to pay for the new emissions testing equipment,” Lee said. “Then we found out later that the equipment was paid for by the vendors who actually do the inspections.”

Lee said that increase did create a large surplus, that the commonwealth later used to bail out a huge deficit for the MBTA — the same kind of budget gap is supposedly plaguing the registry and thus creating the need for new fee increases.

“That’s the most frustrating part about this, because when you live out here, you have to pay for all of these inspections and fees, while at the same time you have to pay to maintain your car and for increases gas taxes,” Lee said. “And they end up using that money to maintain an agency like the T, which none of us out here use.”

“It’s just one more example of the state balancing their budgets on the backs of the people out here, and I’m tired of it,” Lee added. “And judging by what I’ve been hearing from people (while campaigning), I’m not alone.”

How many of them will be willing to go the polls to change it is another matter altogether.

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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