In The Arena

Gathering financial storm

Mayor worried about town budgets

Gearing up for a big Columbus Day weekend and hoping that it doesn’t begin with nurses walking picket lines outside Baystate Franklin Medical Center.

After a few years of relative financial calm, Greenfield Mayor Bill Martin is sounding the alarm bells regarding future town budgets.

“We’ve kept our head above water, but 2014 is going to be a year when we are going to have to take a hard look at where our revenues are and what it will take to sustain them,” Martin told the Greenfield Town Council recently.

Martin said the first place the impact will start to be felt is in the upcoming property revaluations, that are poised to take a bit of a dip.

“You are going to see a reduction in the 2- to 4-percent range for residential and 6 to 8 percent for commercial,” Martin said. “And what that’s going to do is reduce the revenue. And that means when you go to raise money for your budget, you have to raise the rate.” And that means tax bills will likely go up while property values go down, which is just the conversation Greenfield officials want to have going into yet another debate on a split tax rate.

Another planet

On a completely different and much lighter note, the John Olver farewell tour continued this past weekend in Gill at Franklin County Sheriff Chris Donelan’s annual picnic, where the retiring congressman was once again in rare form, as evidenced by a somewhat bizarre exchange with Gill Police Chief David Hastings.

While I was talking Pioneer basketball with Hastings, who coaches that program, it became apparent that the campaign-button clad Nutty Professor had become fixated on Hastings’ very shiny bald head. Olver slowly approached, continuing to stare at Hastings, before muttering “you must have to shave that head to get it to look like that.” And just like that, he was gone, leading a somewhat flummoxed Hastings to sing Olver’s praises, reminding me how what a “great job he has done in bringing resources back to the district.”

By way of Pluto, no doubt.

Campaign watching

Speaking of Hastings, he had an interesting perspective on the race everyone’s talking about, in the 2nd Franklin District, where his experience seemed to underscore my point last week regarding Republican candidate Susannah Whipps Lee.

“I have no idea who she is,” Hastings said. “I’m the police chief in Gill, in the leadership of the Franklin County Police Chief’s Association and I wouldn’t know (Lee) if I fell over her.”

Hastings stopped short of endorsing Democratic incumbent Denise Andrews or any other candidate and didn’t have a whole lot to say about Andrews’ decision to report an alleged cocaine purchase at Lee’s home to the Athol Police. But a lot of other people had plenty to say, including at least one wiseacre politico who rolled up on poor 2nd Berkshire Rep. Paul Mark, offering, jokingly of course, to give him drug tips on people in his new town, Greenfield, that most recently belonged to Andrews.

First Franklin state Rep. Steve Kulik managed to stay out of the corner on the Andrews issue before dropping a political anvil on Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney for his recent “60 Minutes” comments about how uninsured residents always have the option of going to the emergency room when they have a health problem.

“It tells me that he has a fundamental misunderstanding about the kind of insecurity that people get about health care and the impact that not having health care can have on a family’s economic security,” Kulik said. “He’s trying to play to whatever group of voters he thinks might tip the balance in this election, and on health care, he wets his finger and sticks it in the air to see which way the wind is blowing, and he doesn’t get it.”

And that is just one of the reasons Romney is probably going to lose, and lose huge.

Franco’s fight

He may have an uphill fight to win election to the Governor’s Council, but Republican candidate Mike Franco isn’t leaving anything on the field.

Franco released a blistering press release this week touting what he says is Democratic nominee and former Springfield Mayor Mike Albano’s checkered political past in the City of Homes.

“After leaving a financial and political destruction trail to rival Gen. Sherman’s march through Georgia from Atlanta to the sea, Albano is already showing signs that he plans to do the same thing — but on a much larger scale, bringing his legacy of corruption and cronyism to the Governor’s Council,” Franco said.

Franco also went on to resurrect the 2003 FBI probe of alleged corruption in the Albano administration, and how, as Franco put it, Albano’s legacy of “corruption and cronysim” left Springfield in financial ruin with a bond rating “only slightly above junk-bond status.” He went on to call Albano an “embarrassment” to the city of Springfield, punctuating his attack with a shot at Albano’s glorification of his recent primary win, saying “he’s not the Comeback Kid, he’s the Kickback Kid.”

Not a whole lot of meat left on that bone, I’d say, but is anyone really going to care when Nov. 6 rolls around?

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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