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In The Arena

In the Arena: Short-handed board

Even though there may be strong sentiment in some circles to do so, don’t expect Greenfield Mayor Bill Martin to try the “Tom Dehoyos-reappointment switcheroo” with former Planning Board member Jim Allen.

Martin pulled a rabbit out of the hat at the most recent Town Council meeting, when he reappointed Dehoyos to the Conservation Commission one month after the council had previously rejected him. The gamble paid off, as the council fell one vote shy of the nine needed to shoot down Dehoyos a second time.

Some have suggested that Martin do the same thing with Allen, a move he has so far ruled out. But whatever Martin decides to do with that appointment, it needs to happen soon.

“It’s a real problem,” Planning Board Chairwoman Roxann Wedegartner said. “We need a full board to do business, and that means five members and two alternates.”

The council’s rejection of Allen and Martin’s subsequent withdrawal of alternate nominees Wilson Roberts and George Toloumtzis has left the Planning Board with just four voting members, a situation that Wedegartner says is problematic should any projects requiring a special permit come before the board.

“We don’t get that many, but if, for some reason, we did, it requires a two-thirds majority to pass, and four voting members doesn’t get you there,” Wedegartner said. “And if you don’t have alternates participating, you run the risk of not being able to take a vote and that’s not good for anybody.”

It’s somewhat ironic, if you stop and think about it. Here is arguably the most pro-development official in the history of town government running the risk of retarding said development because of a political battle over one appointee the council doesn’t happen to like. Martin’s main defense for reappointing Allen was that he wants the same Planning Board in place that approved the special permit for the French King Highway retail project once the appeal of that permit runs its legal course, assuming it ever does.

That is reason enough for Martin to roll the dice one more time with Allen. I personally hope he does, because that debate will be one for the ages.

Job loss

I know there are a number of people around here still doing back-handsprings over the Entergy’s recent announcement that it will close the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power plant by the end of 2014.

There were quite a few who fought for a long time to get that plant shut down, and I would ordinarily share their joy — if it weren’t for the 690 jobs that are going to be lost. The economic impact, I fear, be far more widespread than anyone realizes. Jobs like these, with good wages and benefits, aren’t exactly plentiful these days — and they become even less so the farther into rural Vermont, New Hampshire and western Massachusetts you go.

That economic reality is not lost on Deb Katz, spokeswoman for the Rowe-based “Citizens Awareness Network.”

“The economic issues are real, but we didn’t do this because we wanted people to lose their jobs,” Katz said. “We believe this plant isn’t safe, and for the greater good of the community, it needed to close.”

Katz, not surprisingly, isn’t buying the narrative that these workers are all going to be left high and dry once Vernon goes off-line.

“When they decommissioned Yankee Rowe, it ended up taking 15 years and they employed 850 workers to do it,” Katz said. “Entergy could help them find jobs at other plants and if that doesn’t happen, they will have 14 months, which is not a great deal of time, but it’s a least some time to attempt to figure it out.”

I’m not sure that is going to be a huge comfort for those workers, a third of whom live here in Massachusetts.

Better the second time?

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s assertion that there “are no second acts in American lives” will be put to the test politically here in Massachusetts with the announcement that Republican policy wonk Charles Baker will make another run for governor in 2014.

Baker announced his candidacy via social media this week, just three years after losing to Deval Patrick in a race that might have ended differently had Tim Cahill not muddied the waters with his ill-fated bid.

Things could be significantly easier this time around for Baker, especially with no incumbent, no primary opponent, a Democratic bench that looks pretty weak and a rash of potential wedge issues to exploit — EBT reform and the gas tax being the most obvious targets.

And let’s not forget Patrick himself, who didn’t make a whole lot of friends in the Legislature during this last budget cycle. There are indications that bad feeling could carry over into next, something that might hand the GOP its best chance to trigger a right-wing revolution since a big red-head name William Weld came on the scene over two decades ago.

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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