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In The Arena

In the Arena: Heavy hand in rewrite

Those who believe that the current Greenfield Town Council is in Albert Norman’s back pocket got a big piece of ammunition this week.

The Greenfield Conservation Commission recently submitted to the council a draft version of a wetlands protection ordinance, which, as is the custom, was forwarded to the council’s Appointments and Ordinances Committee.

But before it got there, it made another stop — Norman’s computer — where the sprawlbuster made a series of revisions, a couple of which were taken up at an A&O committee meeting Monday.

This came as a surprise to Commission Chairman Alex Haro, who wrote in a letter to his fellow commissioners that Committee Chairman David Singer told him the draft had been forwarded to Norman for his “suggestions” and that the committee alone would decide which revisions end up in the final document.

Singer confirmed the conversation and said he didn’t give the report to Norman, but received Norman’s revisions from Council President Mark Wisnewski, who was out of town this week and unavailable for comment.

Singer also said that he welcomed the input, because it presented an opportunity to get Norman and Haro together in a room to talk about what everyone agrees is a pretty important document.

“I saw this as a chance for a good debate and if the Conservation Commission wants to continue it, we are willing to do that,” Singer said. “This is just the beginning of this discussion.”

One of Norman’s changes, one that Singer very much agrees with, called for removal of language allowing the commission to waive certain wetlands requirements it deemed to be in the community’s “public interest.”

“The committee felt that waiver needed to go, and I agree,” Singer said. “That was a red herring put in there by a pro-development council and I didn’t need Al to tell me about it.”

The removal of the waiver will likely be news to Haro and the commission, since it made a specific point to include it in the final draft. Haro told the members he voiced opposition to those changes he disagreed with, but, the truth is, he should never have been put in that position in the first place. There is absolutely no reason why any private citizen should have editorial privilege, however slight, over any ordinance proposal sent by a Greenfield regulatory board to the Town Council.

Can you imagine the reaction if Ceruzzi Inc., or some other developer, had been forwarded that draft for their “suggestions?” The council would probably go ballistic, and rightly so — but the only people who seem willing to raise a fuss about it right now are potential council candidates.

“I’m really offended by this,” Conservation Commission member and Precinct 4 Council candidate Tom DeHoyos said. “This just simply shouldn’t be happening, and it makes me wonder how many other times Mr. Norman has been allowed to work on town policies and ordinances.”

“If I’m elected, no one will get special privileges when it comes to the ability to view and potentially alter town policies,” At-Large candidate Isaac Mass said. “All citizens will have equal access to public comment and participation.”

Something tells me we haven’t heard the last word on this one.

Rosenberg’s on a roll

I’m guessing it probably doesn’t stink to be Stan Rosenberg right now.

The Amherst Democrat’s ascension to the Senate presidency became semi-official this weekend with the announcement that current Senate President Therese Murray would not seek re-election in November. Rosenberg had already locked up the necessary support among Senate Democrats, and term limits prevented Murray from seeking the presidency again, but her departure from the chamber will give her successor a bit more breathing room as he puts together his own leadership team.

That announcement came right on the heels of what had to be one of Rosenberg’s greatest victories — brokering an 11th-hour bargaining session that ended a 21/2-year contract dispute between union nurses and Baystate Franklin Medical Center management

“We didn’t want the strike to happen, and we saw an opportunity, so I called both sides to see if they were willing to come to the table,” Rosenberg said.

That sit-down, led by Rosenberg and 1st Franklin District state Rep. Steve Kulik, became a five-hour marathon negotiation last Thursday that ended just after midnight with both sides agreeing in principle to a new five-year deal, one that also addressed the negotiation’s main stumbling block, overtime.

“We ended up working out a compromise on a variation of a proposal which was set aside a year ago,” Rosenberg said. “It doesn’t always work, but it did this time.”

It’s a big win for the community, and a reminder that the art of political compromise still exists — even in the face of mounting evidence to the contrary.

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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