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In The Arena

In the Arena: What’s on my mind

A few quick hitters as we clear the decks in preparation for yet another season of holiday shopping — and free parking — in downtown Greenfield.

THAT SOUND you heard last Wednesday night was crickets chirping during the Greenfield Town Council’s so-called “debate” over a proposal to split the town’s tax rate. What was a deeply important and burning issue to some councilors a year ago apparently no longer is at a time when they have the votes to make the change and make it stick. So my question is, what’s changed?

I’M PROBABLY not the only one who thinks now-former Precinct 2 Councilor Keith Zaltzberg would be the perfect compromise appointment for a still-vacant seat on Greenfield’s Planning Board — but the only opinion that really matters belongs to the guy in the corner office.

IT WAS INTERESTING to see the lengths to which certain councilors tried to make it clear that they weren’t going to benefit from the new ordinance establishing $2,000 stipends going into effect three years from now. I counted at least four members who all but said they didn’t expect to be around in 2016 to cash in, including the current council president.

I WAS BOTH AMUSED and amazed by the quickness with which supporters of Greenfield WMECO workers were able to turn this weekend’s impromptu ice storm into yet another rallying cry against the company’s plans to close the Greenfield facility next year. The sand trucks hadn’t even begun rolling before the Friends of WMECO took to Facebook to exploit Ma Nature’s efforts for maximum political advantage.

Well played, I must say.

THE THREE LOCAL applicants for one of the 35 medical marijuana licenses being issued by the state next year must want it pretty bad to have plunked down $30,000 in nonrefundable deposits for what looks like a one-in-five chance of success. Hopefully, Jimmy Paciesnik, Mike Ruggeri and Josh and Marina Goldman didn’t wind up throwing good money after bad, but I’m guessing at least one of them will cash in, especially as that law mandates at least one dispensary be located in Franklin County.

SPEAKING OF LEGAL pot, Greenfield Town Council Vice-President Hillary Hoffmann had the quote of the year recently when she admitted that one of her friends, after having problems with anti-nausea drugs, “puffed on half a joint and felt great.” Oh, how the times are a-changing.

WELCOME TO GREENFIELD, new Police Chief Robbie Haigh. And just to show you how happy we are to have you, here are three armed convenience store robberies for you to solve, preferably yesterday if you can manage it.

IT WAS INTERESTING to hear Gov. Deval Patrick recently trumpet, during an appearance on WHMP, the state’s investment in new training programs for the vocational workers of tomorrow — while conveniently forgetting to mention that there wouldn’t be any such program in Franklin County if Valley Steel Stamp owner Steve Capshaw and other private sector businesses hadn’t come up with the initial investment to create what is now a successful, adult worker training program at the Franklin County Technical School.

WHILE WE ARE ON the subject of our friends in Boston, I’m still baffled that no one inside Interstate 495 ever thought to pick up the phone and dial up the Greenfield mayor and let him know that they were about to ship close to a 100 homeless families from the Boston area to the hotels west of the rotary. That’s not to say that they shouldn’t be here, but would it have killed someone out there to let the community, or at least its local representative, know this was coming? Maybe that’s expecting too much.

FRANKLIN COUNTY REGISTER of Deeds Scott Cote seems to be getting a crash course in state government dysfunction as he battles for additional square footage for a new office inside the soon-to-be-constructed Franklin County Courthouse. It’s a tall task he’s facing, but my money is still on my former Little League teammate in his battles against the big boys at DCAM and the state Trial Court.

THERE HAVE BEEN many serious efforts over the years to battle hunger in our community, but they don’t often make their way into the Congressional Record.

But that’s exactly what happened earlier this month, when U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern took to the House floor and told the story of how he and WRSI’s morning man Monte Belmonte and a group of supporters walked 26 miles from Northampton to Greenfield to raise over $56,000 for the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts.

Say what you want about McGovern, but he clearly backs up his talk, as does his walking buddy Belmonte, who has done this each of the last several years, sometimes alone in the rain and snow, to the amazement and admiration of his colleagues, of which I am proud to call myself a member.

When it comes to meaningful, local activism, it doesn’t get much better than that.

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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