In the Arena: Party poopers

As a political columnist, there are few things that excite me more than having one of my theories proven, which the Greenfield Democratic Town Committee did in spades this past week.

As I was putting the finishing touches on last week’s piece detailing the growing split between old-guard and new-blood Greenfield Democrats, the new-blood DTC voted to remove long-time Democrats Ruth and Dick Henry from the list of party-approved poll workers because of the couple’s decision to support Republican Isaac Mass in his bid to unseat Democratic incumbent Mark Wisnewski in Tuesday’s election.

The Henrys got the news not from the committee, but from Greenfield Town Clerk Deborah Tuttle, who said the DTC action will not prevent the couple from taking part in Tuesday’s election.

“They are good people who have worked hard for this town, and they will be welcome to work the polls this year as far as I am concerned,” Tuttle said.

The fallout from the committee’s decision was significant enough for Wisnewski to issue a statement distancing himself from the vote.

“I did not know the agenda items for that evening, I did not attend and I would have voted to appoint them as poll workers,” he said.

The decision to purge the Henrys is interesting, especially since they were not the only Dems to support Mass. Mary Poirier has also openly done so, and yet, her name remains on the list of party approved poll workers submitted to Tuttle’s office.

And then there is the matter of long-time Democrat T.J. Strahan, who, thanks to the DTC, will run for Elector Under Oliver Smith Will for the first time without his party’s endorsement. The committee voted unanimously not to endorse Strahan’s candidacy also because of his decision to support Mass. Unlike the Henrys, however, Strahan did receive formal notification from DTC Chairman Donovan Eastman, who made it clear in his explanation letter how dangerous this committee believes Mass to be.

“He represents a very real threat to the Democratic Party, so we simply cannot endorse anyone who is supporting him,” Eastman wrote. “I understand that you have a personal affection for Isaac and I have no problem with that — on the contrary, I respect it. However, politics is not about who we like best on a personal level, it is about who is promoting the ideals we care about and who is working in opposition to those ideals.”

Apparently, those “ideals” don’t include showing proper respect to the people who helped build that party into what it is today.

Binding question

In addition to the various council races, there is a pretty important binding question on Tuesday’s ballot — which no one seems to be talking about.

Question 1 would change the Greenfield Charter to move the election from June to November and would alter the mayor’s term of office from three to four years. It would also stagger the terms of the Town Council, School Committee and assessors to create a system that would send Greenfield voters to the polls every two years, and only on odd numbered years.

It also means that the entire council and mayor will be up for re-election in 18 months, which could be a real donnybrook if the political winds keep blowing they way they have been lately around here.

My ‘hometown’

Al Norman asked me something at the end of a recent political roundtable that I’d never really considered before.

He inquired about my decision to include a line at the end of my column bio describing myself as a “Greenfield native.” I’ll admit that he caught me a bit off-guard and I mumbled something about it being “part of my pedigree,” because, up until then, I’d never thought much about it.

So I decided to, because it’s actually a pretty good question. Here’s what I came up with.

Being a Greenfield native is part of who I am. It’s like my skin. It’s not something I choose to run away from, nor is it something for which I’ve never felt the need to apologize. Although I don’t currently live here, I love this town and no matter where life takes me, I will always be proud to say I came from here.

That “native pedigree,” however, does not grant me an automatic right to more of say regarding Greenfield’s future direction than someone who just recently moved here. I’ve never believed that, but there are those who do, and I think it’s one of the big reasons why this community remains so divided.

I don’t care whether you’ve been here five decades, five years or five minutes — everybody has a stake in a strong and vibrant Greenfield. To use a nautical analogy, a rising Greenfield tide lifts all of our boats. The only question to be answered Tuesday is who the voters want steering that boat when the waters start to get choppy, as they invariably will.

And after the votes are counted, the speeches made, stories written and sound bites processed, we have to remember that we will tie those boats up to a community dock that should be big enough to hold everyone, even those who don’t agree on every issue. Because even though it may sometimes be tough to see, I truly believe that the issues that unite this town are far greater than those that divide it.

Anchor’s aweigh. See you at the Grange.

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.

Chris, I appreciated your piece about "hometown." Nobody remembers this, but many years ago there was a contest to come up with a motto for Greenfield, and I suggested "Greenfield, everyone's hometown," which ended up the winner (of nothing but a mention in an article, I might add!). Growing up an Army brat, I moved from town to city to village all my life and Greenfield was the first place where I stayed longer than 6 years. After a few years I started becoming involved in the community and felt that it was pretty much an ideal place to raise children. Both my kids (now 27 and 24) are Greenfield natives, like you. Still, we are considered by many as outsiders. I'll never forget hearing "just because the cat had her kittens in the oven doesn't make them muffins." So reading your words today touched me in a very positive way.

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