Norman/My Turn: Absent voters speak volumes
As someone who has been involved in Greenfield politics for 36 years, every election offers the opportunity for post-mortem comments. Here are my “election bullets:”
∎ The hands-down winner of the June 10 election were the DNVs: the Did Not Votes.
∎ Of Greenfield’s 10,891 registered voters — only 3,163 turned out to vote. More than seven out of 10 voters did not care enough to cast a ballot.
∎ Isaac Mass was elected townwide with support from only 15.8 percent of the registered voters. Put another way, 84 percent of the registered voters in this town either did not vote for Mass or did not show up.
∎ Mark Wisnewski did best in Precinct 6, where he took 62 percent of the vote, and in my Precinct 5, where he took 57 percent of the vote.
∎ Penny Ricketts owes her narrow margin of victory in Precinct 5 to Wisnewski voters. While Wisnewski took 272 votes in Precinct 5, Rob Wainstein had 231 votes. Forty-one Wisnewski voters also marked their ballot for Ricketts. That could be called bipolar voting.
∎ When asked by WHMP radio what her victory meant for rival “sprawl-buster Al Norman,” Ricketts replied: “His 15 minutes of fame is over.” This is what passes for style and grace in Greenfield. No wonder voters stay home.
∎ As her first public act, Ricketts should dismantle Penrick.com, that open sewer of a website that encourages people to rant anonymously against their neighbors. In this country, people can express their opinions openly. Anything short of that is cowardice.
∎ The Recorder headline trumpeted “Ricketts, Mass” victories, but the headline could have read “Siano, Hoffman, Ronhave Overcome Challengers.” The Recorder, as usual, coddled its favorite candidates, coating them with a thick layer of protective ink.
∎ The three incumbents who won did so impressively: Hillary Hoffman in Precinct 6 routed her opponent two-to-one. Alfie Siano took 57 percent of the vote in Precinct 2, showing that he has a reservoir of good will from his mayoral campaign. And Steve Ronhave bested Tom DeHoyos in Precinct 4, demonstrating the electoral truism that lawn signs don’t vote.
∎ If DeHoyos had won, he would have been an executive branch appointee on the Conservation Commission, sitting on a legislative body voting on executive appointments — like his own ConCom breth ren — a conflict of interest if there ever was one.
∎ Despite two Recorder editorials chastising people who want to treat local elections as partisan affairs, the fact remains that Mass calls himself ”GOP Daddy”— a name that I do not see in print like the name “sprawl-busters” follows my name whenever it appears in this newspaper.
∎ Only 9 percent of the Greenfield electorate are declared Republicans — that is why Mass kept his party affiliation under wraps.
∎ Most stunning of all: if three votes had changed, four out of five of the candidates I preferred would have won.
After every election the winners boast that they have a “mandate from the voters.” The reality is that the giant electorate snoozed through the noise on June 10. The DNVs won again, and by their absence, left no doubt that town politics is viewed as a battle between small special interest groups. Politics appears dominated by self-promoters who would rather wreak vengeance on their enemies than solve public problems.
Mass told me recently that I was responsible for the declining voter turn out in Greenfield, “because the people believe that you will work to block what they want through litigation regardless of what they have to say.” If we continue to attack ideas based on who said them, we will eventually have no one left voting.
Before my 15 minutes of fame runs out, let me say when 71 percent of Greenfield voters stay home, it sends a clear message: The public has no interest in the politics of revenge.
Greenfield remains a town deeply divided, much like the nation as whole. The new folks we just elected seem disinclined to bring us back together.
Al Norman is not a native of Greenfield, but he is known nationally as a “sprawlbuster” consultant against Walmart and other big box developments.