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In The Arena

In the Arena: Every vote counts

Still think your vote doesn’t count, newshounds?

Try telling that to parents of students in the Pioneer Regional School District, where the budget has been thrown into limbo by Tuesday’s 262-262 tie vote that effectively kills the budget-balancing Proposition 21/2 override needed to ratify the Pioneer spending plan for the current fiscal year.

“It’s unusual but it’s not unheard of,” Interim Northfield Town Clerk Joe Powers said of the result. “It’s unusual for a tie vote to occur, but it is extremely unusual for a ballot question, because you don’t have, like you would with candidates, the option of a write-in interpretation.”

“This was a very simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ vote,” Powers added. “There was no other option.”

Nor is there any provision for an automatic recount. Powers says can only happen if someone files a petition requesting it.

“An automatic recount only pertains to state primaries or elections,” Powers said. “And because this a local election, that provision does not exist in the law, so we are in a holding pattern, as far as a recount goes, until someone files a recount petition.”

The Northfield Selectboard now has to decide whether to schedule another override vote, but until that decision is made, Powers said the results present a “teachable” moment on the importance of doing one’s civic duty.

“Every town clerk will tell you, and we say it every chance we get — every vote counts, and you should always exercise your right to do so,” Powers said.

Maybe, one day, that will finally start to sink in.

Committee seats

From the “political irony” file, new Greenfield Town Council President Hillary Hoffman issued the council’s subcommittee assignments this week, and chose newly elected Councilor-at-Large Isaac Mass to serve on Appointments and Ordinances Committee, which he says is just fine with him.

“I’m very happy because I got my first two choices,” Mass said. “I asked for A&O and Ways and Means and got them both.”

Mass will now serve on the same committee that summarily rejected his appointment to Jim Allen’s former Planning Board seat. The full council followed suit, which provided the impetus for Mass to run against, and defeat, former Council President Mark Wisnewski last month.

New Precinct 5 Councilor Penny Ricketts also did pretty well, picking up seats on the Economic Development and Community Relations and Education committees, both of which are likely to benefit from her commitment and passion in both those areas. Brickett Allis and Patrick Devlin will both return to chairman of Ways and Means and EDC respectively, and Alfie Siano and Marian Kelner will take the gavels for A&O and CRE respectively, replacing former chairs David Singer and Rudy Renaud, who will remain on A&O while also serving as council vice president.

Good luck to all, because I have a feeling they are going to need it.

Putting students first

Sometimes on Beacon Hill, the best play is to speak softly and carry a big stick — usually in the form of potentially game-changing legislation.

Second Hampshire state Rep. John Scibak, D-South Hadley, demonstrated that this week when he parlayed the threat of a new bill to regulate Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) playoff schedules into a compromise with that organization on a series of new policies which guarantee that high school student athletes will no longer have to choose between taking SATs and participating in post-season tournament games.

“I think what we came up with was a good faith attempt to address the concerns and we’ll see what happens,” Scibak said of the scheduling snafu that forced Turners and Hopkins baseball players to make that Hobson’s Choice this past spring. “If this occurs in the future, I would not hesitate to file legislation again.”

Scibak just the possibility of the bill proved to be the ultimate game-changer.

“There is currently not a single state law which mentions the MIAA, and I’m not sure they wanted to set that precedent,” Scibak said. “The MIAA board still needs to sign off on this compromise, so this isn’t completely over yet, but we’ve got an agreement in principle that deals with the problem, and that was all I was really looking for.”

Bravo representative, on behalf of future generations of student athletes who will no longer have to make such an unnecessary and ridiculous choice.

Chris Collins is news director/managing editor of WHAI FM and Bear Country 95.3. He is a former staff reporter for The Recorder and a Greenfield native.

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