We’re less than a month out from Election Day 2019 — Tuesday, Nov. 5 — and while there won’t be candidates for state or federal office on the ballots, there will be a number of important local elections decided. But there are few places that will see as many important decisions made as in Greenfield.
Not only is Greenfield selecting a new Mayor and several City Councilor seats, but there will be two high-profile ballot questions put before the voters: one to approve funding for a long-put-off new library, and the other approving a “Safe City Ordinance” that would prohibit city officials from asking about a person’s immigration status or to take law enforcement action against someone due to their perceived immigration status.
Both questions on the ballots have been supported by strong, vocal contingents in town, and taken up considerable political space in Greenfield. Both the $19.5 million library plan and the Safe City Ordinance were approved by a majority of the City Council earlier this year, which should have been victories and resulted in their passage. But this Council has insisted on relitigating both topics with town-wide votes, so now the voters will decide.
Both questions deserve to be overwhelmingly supported by Greenfield voters, and I expect they will be.
Greenfield’s current library is almost laughably inadequate to the needs of the Greenfield community — both in terms of accessibility and size. The proposed plan would correct both of these, nearly doubling the size of Greenfield’s tiny library and bring it up to code.
With a state grant of $9.4 million and nearly $1 million already raised by supporters of the library, the ultimate cost of the library to taxpayers will be roughly equivalent to the work required to bring the current library up to code, according to the library’s project manager. Both will cost the city somewhere between $8 and $9 million. But with a new library, the city will have about 26,800 square feet of space — far more than the 15,000 square feet the current library consists of.
Many Greenfield residents attending public meetings and writing letters to the editor have made these points.
On the Safe City Ordinance, I’ve written before about the many reasons why the proposal is so important for Greenfield, not least of which is the city overwhelmingly supports it. Following the ordinance’s defeat by the City Council in 2017, Greenfield voters responded by electing a progressive slate of new councilors, who then passed the measure overwhelmingly earlier this year … only to have the vote overturned by an effort to put the question on the ballot. Beyond that, the ordinance is a humane response to cruel and evil treatment of immigrants and refugees by our federal government, which has involved splitting up families, deporting law-abiding citizens, locking up children (some of whom have died due to poor conditions of the facilities they are kept in), and forcing some to take the extraordinary step of seeking sanctuary in churches.
While in theory I don’t object to placing both of these questions before the voters, both of these ballot questions appear to have risen out of desperate attempts of a clear minority on the City Council to redo decisive losses. These matters had many public airings and the majority of the public spoke out in favor both times — leading to Council votes in favor on both occasions.
That’s why it is important for the progressive voters of Greenfield to turn out this election and put both of these matters to rest with resounding “Yes” votes. After this, there’s nowhere left for the minority to go.
And speaking of relitigating losses, Brickett Allis showed this week in his participation in a Greenfield Recorder mayoral debate why he was eliminated from the ballot in a preliminary vote in September. Following that vote, in which Allis came in third, mayoral contenders Sheila Gilmour and Roxann Wedergartner earned places on the ballot as the top two vote getters. Allis, deciding he would not heed the will of the voters, decided to mount a write-in campaign.
Among Allis’s assertions were that he rejected the library and declared that Greenfield’s Public Schools required an audit to determine where its limited budget is being spent, rather than fighting for more state money, as was suggested by candidate Gilmour.
Some have criticized the Recorder for Allis’s inclusion in the debate, stating that voters had already eliminated him. I’m not opposed to Allis’s inclusion. He did garner a significant number of votes in September, and as the recent election of state Sen. Jo Comerford in 2018 should remind us, write-in candidacies can sometimes result in victories. But for Allis, that’s hopefully not the case.
Dave Eisenstadter can be reached at email@example.com.