In the Arena: Awaiting a chain reaction on HRC recommendations

Last modified: 1/26/2016 5:52:21 PM

If it wasn’t before, the Dan McCarthy-Confederate flag flap is certainly now a political issue for the Greenfield Town Council and Mayor Bill Martin.

That came this week courtesy of the Greenfield Human Rights Commission, which has recommended that the entire Greenfield Police Department undergo sensitivity and cultural awareness training, a proposal that grew out the recent public forum held in reaction to McCarthy’s decision to hang the flag in his garage, which offended a 10-year-old African American boy and his adoptive parents.

Even though the commission has no authority to mandate anything, the recommendation places the ball squarely in the court of the town’s policy makers, who now have to decide not only how to pay for said training, but whether the town even has the authority to mandate it. The first step in determining that might be to have a conversation with Police Chief Robbie Haigh, which, as of Wednesday, hadn’t happened.

“I’m not sure how to react because the first I heard about it was the story in the (Recorder),” Haigh, who wasn’t at Monday’s meeting, said. “Obviously, I need to learn more about it, but I’d be concerned about pigeon-holing my department on something like this.”

Haigh said each Greenfield officer this year will be taking part in a state-mandated “fair-and-impartial policing” program, a 40-hour training session intended to help officers better connect with the people in the community where they serve.

Haigh was also surprised to learn of the commission’s choice to temporarily appoint him, not McCarthy, as the department’s HRC liaison, a decision he says is not necessarily theirs to make.

“I make the appointments to these commissions, and my decision is that Danny McCarthy is this department’s liaison to the Human Rights Commission,” Haigh said. “I haven’t changed my mind at all on that.”

The commission plans to revisit the matter in 90 days, by which time I suspect there will be much more reaction from the newest players in this political drama that shows little signs of ending.

Clearing some of the air

Speaking of political dramas ending, it appears new Council President Brickett Allis is back on “terra firma” with some members of the council’s progressive wing, one in particular.

At Large Councilor Mark Maloni said he met with Allis last Friday a few hours after my column on his controversial committee assignments hit the streets, and said he was impressed by the new president’s willingness to reconsider his decision to give somewhat short shrift to certain members.

“We cleared the air on some things,” Maloni said. “I told him I would support any president who was invested in ensuring new councilors had the chance to serve, learn and grow.”

Maloni said their conversation led to some new committee responsibilities for Ashil Stempel and Rob Wainstein. Maloni also turned down an offer to chair the Ways and Means Committee, but will still chair Appointments and Ordinances, even though it was his third choice.

“I’m happy to do it as long it ensures new leadership development,” Maloni said. “I give kudos to Brickett for being willing to negotiate, and I look forward to working with him.”

Former council vice president Karen Renaud is expected to stay on A&O, where she will likely help facilitate that committee’s first big task of 2016 — to draft a new ordinance banning the use of Styrofoam, the only one of three plastic ban-related questions to pass in the November election.

“That’s why I put her on that committee in the first place,” Allis said. “I’ll be looking to her to help shepherd that process along, which is the only real holdover (issue) we’ll be working on from last year.”

Join me at open house

If you have some time this Thursday, I invite you to stop by and get a look at how I’ve recently been spending my days.

Frontier Community Access Television has its annual open house Jan. 21, my first as general manager, and I invite you to stop by and have a couple of snacks, register for some great door prizes, and learn a little more about what we do. I am so off-the-chart proud to be part of this organization, that does such great work on behalf of the residents of Conway, Deerfield, Sunderland and Whately. The open house runs from 4 to 6 p.m., with the annual board of directors (aka, my bosses) meeting to follow at 6:30.

I hope to see you there.

Chris Collins, who worked in local radio in a number of capacities, has observed political life in Franklin County for years. He also is a former staff reporter for The Recorder and a Greenfield native.


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