In the Arena: Time for post-election ‘awards’

Friday, December 01, 2017

The year is close to ending, but I can’t let Greenfield’s new government take the reins without handing out a few “In the Arena” Awards for the 2017 Greenfield election season.

The Donald Trump Award for questionable timing goes to Greenfield Mayor Bill Martin, for the political smart bomb he dropped on Council President Brickett Allis the Friday before the election.

Martin says he issued the letter chastising Allis’ treatment of Police Chief Robbie Haigh at the first opportunity awarded him, but the reality is it could have waited until after the election. The fact that he chose to do it the Friday before, and release it to the press before giving it to Allis, does seem somewhat suspicious — especially given the current leadership’s penchant for cutting his budget.

The Lee Atwater Award for the dirtiest political move goes to the still anonymous author of the website: ToxicWoodcock.com.

The one-page site — which is still on the web as I’m writing this — popped up shortly before the election in a clear attempt to derail the School Committee candidacy of former Greenfield High School Principal Donna Woodcock by questioning the circumstances behind Woodcock’s sudden retirement from the job a year earlier.

There’s no way to gauge what impact that site may have had the race, which Woodcock lost, but I’m guessing it didn’t help Woodcock, who also faced resistance from the Massachusetts Teachers Association, which openly opposed her candidacy.

The Jesse Ventura Award for the most raw post-election reaction goes to Town Council Vice President Isaac Mass, who proclaimed on Facebook mere moments after the polls closed that the election of a progressive majority signaled the return of a “rubber stamp” council.

One can understand Isaac’s angst at seeing his candidates pummeled as they were, but he may not be as far off as one might think. While it is impossible to know how any newly elected body will govern, it’s a pretty safe bet that this new council isn’t going to take the Ginsu to Mayor Martin’s next capital and operating budgets the way the Allis and Mass-led council did this past year. But will they really give Martin everything he wants? We’ll find out in a few months.

The John F. Kennedy awards for the best debate performances go to Precinct 7 Councilor-elect Otis Wheeler and newly re-elected At-Large Councilor Penny Ricketts.

Wheeler seemed very thoughtful and informed in his answers. He also reminds me of a younger version of outgoing At-Large Councilor Mark Maloni, a guy who is clearly liberal in his personal beliefs, but seems willing to look at all sides of every issue. And Ricketts clearly has found her political voice, and was as poised and confident as I’ve ever seen her in that setting. She clearly realizes that it’s her time.

The Barack Obama Award for the most promising political newcomer goes to new School Committee member-elect Katie Caron, who broke Ricketts’ two-election streak as the top vote-getter by pulling in 1909 votes.

Caron’s solid debate performance no doubt helped, but I think her enthusiasm and desire to create the best possible school system really resonated with the voters. Though she will have a learning curve, I think Caron may be the best “new blood” candidate to come along in a while.

The Bernie Sanders Award for the most unexpected moment goes to Precinct 5 council candidate Marc Odato, for his decision to quote pro wrestler “Nature Boy” Ric Flair in one of his answers during the televised precinct forum.

I’m not sure if he did it for my benefit, but it was a much welcome moment of humor during a pretty good performance by Odato, who clearly is not the same cat he was the last time he sat on that council. Hopefully, he finds another way to stay in the game, because the town could sure use him.

The Sam Walton Award goes to Precinct 8 council candidate Russell Johnson, for being the only one in the race to actually mention big-box retail, which clearly is no longer the front burner issue it has been in years past.

The Ted Kennedy Award for the most positive campaign message goes to Precinct 7 council candidate Dan Viorel-Oros, who spoke at length about his desire to be a force of compromise in an ideologically split council. It wasn’t enough to win him a seat, but the theme was appreciated, especially given what we’ve seen recently from the outgoing council.

And the Hillary Clinton awards for the hardest working campaigns go to the Greenfield Democratic Town Committee and Precinct 8 councilor-elect Doug Mayo.

I’ve already pointed out in this space how active the DTC was in getting its slate of candidates elected, Mayo among them. But, I’m told he really beat the streets in his effort to win a seat at the table, and most of the dems I’ve talked to seem happiest about Mayo’s win, given how much he seemed to want it.

Hopefully, Mayo and all of his fellow office holders will retain that excitement after the holiday buzz wears off, and the real work of governing begins.

Either way, it’s going to be a fun ride.

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.