Take My Council, Please: Two Weeks from E-day, Being Seen & Heard…
SPRINGFIELD—With barely two weeks left until Election Day, the City Council’s regular meeting—a hearing meeting is scheduled for next Monday—featured little controversy. It was neither in councilors’ interest or frankly the mayor’s to stir up anything that might move to electorate.
Indeed the agenda’s most notable items were also resolutions, which themselves, had no force or effect other than perhaps appealing to key constituencies. Nevertheless, the subjects of these resolves were both timely and substantive, some almost certain to come before the Council again.
The Council began the meeting by approving a Police Department’s request to enter into a five-year lease agreement for crime tracking equipment. An item further down on the agenda about the loss of parking on Main Street remains in committee and was not acted upon.
The Council approved first step on an ordinance regulating the sale of loose cigars. Promoted by area high school students, the measure sets minimum prices for packs of cigars numbering four or fewer.
The city’s revenue and expenditures report and utility reports were accepted. Ward 7 Councilor Timothy Allen asked about sizable payments, Comptroller Pat Burns assured these were previously scheduled pension and debt payments. A Health and Human Services grant for refugees was also approved.
At the behest of organized labor, councilors introduced a resolution opposing the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a multilateral trade pact between the US, Canada and several Asian countries. Labor abhors the agreement’s potential impact upon jobs a la NAFTA. The resolution focused on the possibility that TPP disputes would be settled not by local or federal courts, but by international trade courts.
Ward 6 Councilor Ken Shea, a cosponsor, said he would not normally venture into trade policy, but the question of venues to settle disagreements troubled him, “Any trade policy that the country has is one thing,” he said, “but we need to have a level playing field.” The resolve passed on a voice vote.
At-large Councilor Kateri Walsh also advanced a resolve about restructuring the Council’s agendas so as not to keep department heads waiting for their items. Usually, she observed, councilors take items out of order to let officials leave, but doing so also disrupts the agenda. She proposed moving grants to the front of the line, which is usually what requires department heads to attend meetings.
Ward 8 Councilor Orlando Ramos expressed reservations leading to some back and forth before the resolve was referred to committee for further discussion.
Walsh also spoke in favor of a resolve panning a proposed redesign of the “X” in Forest Park. One plan put forward would extend Oakland Street to Cliftwood Street through Forest Park and behind Trinity Methodist Church. However, parkland would be sacrificed in the process.
The intersection of Oakland Street and Sumner Avenue. The proposal would extend Oakland forward onto a new road through Forest Park.
The proposal, particularly the new road, has been poorly received in the neighborhood, earning the opposition of councilors such as Walsh and Mayor Domenic Sarno. The resolve passed on a voice vote.
The only other significant action was first step on an ordinance regulating vehicles for hire. At-large councilor Thomas Ashe, the Public Safety Committee chair, said the change affected a licensing definition within the city’s taxi and livery ordinance. Ashe added that this ordinance was not about ride-sharing companies like Uber or Lyft, but that one such ordinance would be forthcoming.
The final item of the night was approval to pay a bill from last fiscal year. Otherwise it was quiet night at 36 Court Street. Barring some fireworks at next week’s hearings meeting, the Council heads into Election Day with few official or ministerial events remaining that could bog down their reelections.