Briefings: The 2015 Council Session in Committee…
SPRINGFIELD—With the new year comes new committee assignments for the City Council. Ward 2 Councilor Michael Fenton, the body’s president, announced his choices to chair and sit on the various panels that investigate and review items referred to it by the full Council or on their own initiatives.
Fenton was reelected Council President by his colleagues at the organizational meeting held last week. Among the president’s powers are appointment of the committees. After one year as president, Fenton may have had the opportunity to reflect on how well his colleagues fit in certain slots and move members around to better suit their strengths. Fenton’s statement noted the continuation of special citizen committees appointed last year, but a formal description of their future will come in the next few weeks.
Most prominently at-large Councilor Thomas Ashe retains his position as chair of the Public Safety Committee. This reflects Ashe’s sixth year heading that committee, ever since he joined the body in 2010. Ashe is close to both of the city’s main public safety organizations and his continued reappointment was largely expected. More notable was the decision to not make any changes to the rest of the membership. At-large Councilor Justin Hurst and Ward 7 Councilor Tim Allen will continue as the other two members.
Allen will become chair of General Government, joined by at-large Councilor Bud Williams and Ward 8 Councilor Orlando Ramos. Williams will be chairing both Health & Human Services and the State/Federal Relations Committees. Ward 1 Councilor Zaida Luna and Ward 4 Councilor E. Henry Twiggs will be the other HHS members, while at-large Councilor Kateri Walsh and Ward 3 Councilor Melvin Edwards join the State/Federal relations committee.
Ramos, a freshman councilor, will chair Economic Development. Twiggs and Allen will serve on the committee with him. Ramos, who is also Council vice-president, moves over from Special Permits. In prior councils, Special Permits’ powers were effectively commandeered by Econ Dev’s predecessor, but under Fenton the bifurcation has been more clear. Ramos has stood out as a new ward councilor. His 2015 chairmanship might seen as a promotion from a naturally reactive committee to a potentially proactive one with broader jurisdiction.
Arguably the Council’s most important committee (or tied with Public Safety), Finance will be chaired by Ward 6 Councilor Ken Shea. He will be joined by at-large Councilor Tim Rooke and Ward 5 Councilor Clodo Concepcion, both recent chairs themselves. Edwards will chair Maintenance & Development, joined by Walsh and Concepcion. The Race & Civil Rights Committee, which had been defunct for a few years, will be chaired by Twiggs joined by Luna and Williams.
Concepcion’s sole membership of the Elder Affairs Committee will also continue. Rooke will chair the Audit Committee joined by Hurst and Shea. Council appointments to boards across the city will remain the same. Walsh remains on the Capital Improvement Committee and Shea stays on the School Building Committee. Edwards and Allen are the Council appointees to the Responsible Employer Ordinance committee and Edwards shall be the Council member of the Animal Control committee.
While full details of the special resident committees were not released, Fenton’s did say the only change to their leadership would be Luna chairing the Green Committee, which Fenton had personally chaired in 2014.
Read the announcement of Committee Assignments for 2015: