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In The Arena

In the Arena: Was it something I said?

From the “no good deed ever goes unpunished” file, the voters of Greenfield’s Precinct 5 will head into next week’s primary election without getting to see its three Town Council candidates debate the issues.

A televised debate had been scheduled at the Greenfield Community Television studio, but was scrubbed when candidate John Lyford decided not to participate. Candidate Rob Wainstein then also withdrew, saying it would not be fair to have a debate without all of the candidates present, leaving Penny Ricketts as the lone willing participant.

“It’s too bad because I was really looking forward to it,” Ricketts said. “I thought the voters deserved a chance to see what we think about the issues, because even I’m not sure where Rob or John stand on some of them.”

Ricketts was the driving force behind the debate, but I do feel at least somewhat responsible for it not happening. I agreed to moderate what was simply going to be a discussion between the three candidates, myself and a representative from The Recorder. I intended to leave the stopwatch at home and give these three as much time as they needed to answer the questions on topics that any qualified candidate for public office in Greenfield should be able to speak about.

I had just one rule — the same one I always have when doing these things — I would not reveal the topics or the questions to any of the candidates beforehand. I’ve never done that and when forced to do so, I don’t participate. I made that clear to Penny and, not long after, I was told the debate was off.

What role I may have played in the cancellation is something the voters can ask the candidates when they see them at the polls Tuesday.

Early gubernatorial polls

I’m still having a tough time wrapping my mind around the concept of Martha Coakley as Massachusetts governor, but I may be in the minority, based on the most recent polls.

A phone survey conducted earlier this month by Western New England University indicated that if the race were held today, Coakley would trounce Republican Charlie Baker 54 to 25 percent, a 29-point gap that has actually widened since an October Polling Institute survey, that saw Coakley beat Baker by 54 to 34 percent. The WNEU poll also had Democratic State Treasurer Steve Grossmann knocking off Baker by nine points, 38 to 29 percent, a gap that has narrowed somewhat from the 13-point lead Grossmann enjoyed in the October survey.

Even though the sample size of the Western New England poll was a relatively small — 424 registered voters contacted between March 31 and April 7 — it’s pretty clear that the “grand old party” has a quite bit of work to do if it hopes to reclaim the corner office this fall.

A public face

The concept of “community policing” is by no means dead in Greenfield, it’s just moved to cyber-space.

The Greenfield Police recently launched a Facebook page, which has already generated over 3,228 likes in just a couple of months of operation.

“The response has been great,” said Greenfield Police Lt. Bill Gordon, who monitors the site. “We’ve been averaging almost 50,000 views a week, but it can be even more than that, depending on the story.”

Gordon said the recent search for missing Greenfield resident Rebecca Streeter generated 200,000 views and the page has already played a role in at least one arrest of a drug suspect who took off on foot following a state police stop near Greenfield High School last month.

“We had people sending us tips who were following the story on Facebook,” Gordon said. “It’s a very convenient and quick way of sharing information with residents.”

Gordon said the department used the site to promote another new outreach initiative, “Cops and Coffee,” a series of informal gatherings where residents can meet their men and women in blue. The inaugural event was held Wednesday at Brad’s Place, and gave people a chance to get to know new Police Chief Robbie Haigh.

“These events are going to provide us a chance to get to know us a little better as people, not just police officers,” Haigh said. “And that’s never a bad thing.”

What’s not to “like” about that?

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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