In the Arena: After 18 years, Franklin County still gives columnist plenty to discuss

Friday, December 15, 2017

It’s the holidays and still nobody’s asked me, but Sunday marks the 18th anniversary of my first column. Which means, if “In the Arena” were a child, he’d be headed off to college this year. Sometimes, I wonder if I should just let him go.

Personal drama and histrionics aside, the ongoing political dispute between Greenfield Mayor Bill Martin and Council President Brickett Allis and Vice President Isaac Mass really boils down to one thing: spending. Martin wants to spend and “Brick-issac” thinks the town spends too much, and that’s not likely to change when the council leadership does next month.

Speaking of Mass and Allis, I certainly hope they enjoy their pending stint on the council’s Community Relations Committee, which is where, I’m pretty sure, they are going to end up.

As for their successors, word is Karen Renaud will be the next council president and Penny Ricketts the next vice president, with Ashli Stempel the likely choice to return as Ways and Means chair — which, to my knowledge, would mark the first time in history those three seats were held by women.

Did you get one of those “big, bad” fliers last week from the Mass. Fiscal Alliance? Imagine that — a direct mail piece. Truly scary stuff, which begs the question, when did we all become so sensitive to opposing ideas? Who really cares what a bunch of dark money right-wingers from Boston think? And does anyone really believe that a guy like Paul Mark is ever going to be swayed by such a missive? It’s as though the concept of “I hate what you say, but defend to the death your right to say it” has gone the way of the dinosaur in today’s political climate, which I believe makes our democracy weaker not stronger.

On a related note, enjoy all your newfound free time, Dylan Korpita, who recently stepped down from a number of roles, including a member of Baystate Franklin’s Community Advisory Council; Greenfield Community College trustee and treasurer of Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance, following the outcry after the alliance’s postcard. You deserve better treatment than you’ve been receiving lately.

State Sen. Stan Rosenberg got an early Hanukkah present from his former colleague, disgraced former Sen. Bryan Joyce, who allegedly used his office as a glorified dirty money ATM. Ironically, Joyce’s “retirement” actually opened the door for Rosenberg to assume the Senate presidency, and Joyce’s recent federal indictment provides us all with a reminder about what real political corruption looks like.

Here’s hoping that Adrienne Nunez is ready to assume the position of chairwoman of the Greenfield School Committee next month, because having the mayor in that spot doesn’t seem like the best thing for that department, which has had its requested budgets shaved by $1 million by His Honor over the last two years.

Greenfield businessman Steve Capshaw’s comments at the recent Town Council split-tax hearing didn’t sit well with some people. Capshaw pointed out that the money to pay for any tax increase related to the split-rate would come directly from his company’s charitable contribution line item, which some viewed as a threat. But it’s really a reality check, because I’m certain that’s what a lot of business owners will do if they are forced to choose between turning a profit and dealing with a tax hike many feel is both punitive and unnecessary.

I have no particular interest in who wins the Recorder’s “Citizen of the Year” accolade on Tuesday, but I do hope my former Eaglebrook band teacher Gary Maynard and his brass group are back providing the music. Gary was out with a dental problem last year, and it just wasn’t the same.

If you want an example of a proper way to deal with a neighborhood crisis, look no further than the Sunderland Selectboard’s handling of the proposed renovation of North Main Street. A number of neighbors are not happy about the plans, which would impact the look of the road, especially with regard to the large tree belt that separates the sidewalk from the road. To that board’s credit, it has had a couple of productive meetings with the neighbors, and is in the process of taking that feedback and developing it into a new plan to submit to the state. Well done.

Up the road a ways in Conway, people are still grousing about the way a recent special town meeting vote on the Safe Communities Bylaw was held. Fortunately, they will get to do it all again at the spring annual town meeting, which I’m guessing will be an especially long night.

I think Massachusetts Democrats should get used to seeing Charlie Baker’s mug in the corner office for the next few years. Baker recently announced his candidacy for re-election, and I don’t see anyone in the current crop of Democratic candidates who has a prayer of beating him. I suppose there is still plenty of time for that to change between now and next year, but my money’s still on Charlie at this point.

See you Tuesday at Deerfield Academy for the Recorder’s Citizen of the Year fete.

Chris Collins is a former staff reporter for the Recorder, and is a Greenfield native. Over the years he has continued to keep his eye on local politics from a variety of perches for different news outlets.