Briefings: Can’t Read Their Poker Face…
On Thursday night, the Springfield License Commission continued its deliberations and in doing so delayed a vote on Mayor Domenic Sarno’s 1 a.m. closing proposal for bars in the city. Sarno’s proposal had been submitted to counter crime, but during a February hearing, it was vigorously opposed by bar owners, patrons, and many residents.
The Commission apparently made the move after a discrepancy arose over the crime statistics the Police Department gave to commissioners. There was no allegation of wrong doing, but City Hall sources say that commissioners had been given, at different times, the crime statistics they requested and then crime statistics they had not requested.
Some commissioners wanted to get back in touch with the Police Department and get a new copy of the crime stats to clarify the matter before voting. Others were prepared to vote anyway.
The License Commission is an independent body of the city. While appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the City Council, it does not formally respond to any actions or directives from or convey their decision for approval to any of the city’s elected branches.
Therefore, when the mayor submitted his proposal to the Commission, it was under no obligation to even consider it. As a sign of respect towards the city’s chief executive, the Commission opted to consider the proposal through hearings and the receipt of testimony from the public.
Throughout the process, however, the Commission remains in the driver’s seat. It can take up the policy from the mayor and vote it up or down or modify it beyond recognition if it so chooses. What it will ultimately do remains anybody’s guess.
In reporting the Commission’s plans to vote on the item, WMassP&I noted The Republican’s spotlight on inner workings of Mayor Domenic Sarno’s City Hall written by Stephanie Barry. Given the level of control Sarno was said to cede to political consultant Charlie Kingston, it was not hard to wonder if the revelations gave commissions pause before acting on the 1 a.m. closing.
Reaction to the Kingston story was positive around the blogs, but The Reminder’s Mike Dobbs was not as generous. Dobbs noted that the story’s timing was suspicious especially in light of the paper’s habit of using its coverage to play kingmaker. Also noted by Dobbs and Maureen Turner, Barry (or her editors) neglected to say the paper stands to gain a windfall if one casino proposal, Penn National’s, gets its license and its coverage has had other reportorial oversights.
Dobbs also criticized The Republican’s paucity of details about Kingston and casinos especially since Dobbs himself has questioned Penn National about Kingston before.
The 1 a.m. proposal has been viewed by city political watchers as a way for the mayor and his allies to give the casino’s bars an unfair advantage. The casino legislation gives authority over any liquor-pouring establishments in a casino to the commonwealth’s Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission, which ostensibly would allow casino bars to evade a city-mandated 1 a.m. closing.