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In the Arena: Politics with your pancakes

Tis a rare moment when a political candidate can do something nice for the voters, and put a little stink on their opponent in the process.

Such a happening takes place in Athol Saturday morning, where Karen Anderson, Republican 2 Franklin District state representative candidate, will host a free pancake breakfast for taxpayers, which she says is a “good will” gesture toward homeowners who recently had to pay what may seem like an especially large first-quarter property tax bill.

“It’s a sympathy gift, more than anything,” Anderson said, who added that she will also be signing the Citizens for Limited Taxation “Taxpayers Protection Pledge,” guaranteeing that she will not vote for any tax increases if she is elected to represent the district later this year.

Anderson’s event may seem like a cute way to ingratiate herself to Athol voters, but one person who finds it anything but is her Republican primary opponent, Susannah Whipps Lee — who also happens to be an Athol selectman.

“Most people who have a basic knowledge of town government understand that the selectboard does not decide the amount of the tax bill,” Whipps Lee said. “The voters at town meeting, and the ones who vote for overrides, are the ones that have that power.”

Whipps Lee says the reason Athol taxpayers are paying a larger bill than usual this quarter is because “the state Department of Revenue had not set our tax rate before the third quarter, which means the increase from both quarter three and four were both included on the fourth-quarter bill.”

“It should also be pointed out that Athol has a new transfer station, an upgraded sewage treatment plant and a brand new Market Basket opening in the coming months, which will bring hundreds of jobs to the area,” Whipps Lee added. “Right now, I wouldn’t want to trade places with any other town in this district, and if elected, I will work hard to help get every town the state resources they need to build their communities in the same way.”

Whipps Lee did not indicate whether she plans to attend the free breakfast, which runs from 8 to 10 a.m. at the Franco-American Club on South Street.

Upcoming Montague election

Montague Selectman Michael Nelson is about to enjoy the rarefied air usually reserved for Franklin County’s political untouchables.

Nelson will run unopposed for his first, full three-year term in the May 19 Montague election, less than a year after he cruised to victory with 85 percent of the vote in last spring’s special election to fill former board member Patricia Allen’s unexpired term.

“I’m not complaining,” Nelson said of the free ride. “I’m really enjoying the work.”

Nelson had been looking at a possible rematch with former special election opponent Jeanne Golrick or a potential three-way race with Golrick and former selectmen’s candidate Jacobo Roque, both of whom pulled nomination papers but never returned them. Montague Town Clerk Deborah Bourbeau said there are also a number of town meeting vacancies on this year’s ballot in Precincts 1, 2, 3, 5 and 6, where there are three three-year and four two-year seats to be filled.

“Those can be filled by write-in votes on Election Day, which is usually how a lot of those positions get filled,” Bourbeau said.

Anyone interested in stepping up can contact Bourbeau at 863-3200 to get specifics on which seats are open and length of terms associated with same.

Greenfield Pride Run

The town of Greenfield has never really done any kind of public event to commemorate “Gay Pride Weekend,” which is typically observed in the first week of May.

That somewhat dubious streak ends tonight at 6:15, when the first-annual “Greenfield Pride Run,” also known as the “Gay 5K,” steps off from Court Square.

“I wanted to do this to kickoff Pride Weekend in a healthy way, with an event where families could participate,” event organizer Sara Seinberg of Leyden said. “I just moved here from San Francisco not too long ago, and this was something I did each year, and I thought it would be a good tradition to continue.”

Seinberg said the run starts at Court Square, heads up Main Street to High, down Sanderson to Parkway, up Mountain Road to Highland Park, then to Prospect, Russell and Hope streets, then back up Main back to Court Square, where there will be a small picnic celebration on the town common.

“People can choose to walk or run, it is totally up to them,” Seinberg said. “We just want as many people to show up and take part as possible.”

There’s another word for it — inclusion — which, when you stop and think about it, is exactly what this particular weekend is intended to celebrate.

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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