Ahead of the ascendence of Deputy Chief Lawrence Akers to Police Superintendent, the Springfield City Council considered a batch of legislation in an odd Tuesday meeting to smooth things over. Substantial changes to police leadership ordinances yielded a fractious, heated and, at times, bizarre debate.
Newly (re-)installed Springfield City Council President Michael Fenton has released committee assignments for the body’s 2024 session. Aside from accounting for new members, the allocation of seats and chairs was not a radical departure from 2023. Still, the choices reflect the balance and tone Fenton is trying to strike with his return to the dais.
SPRINGFIELD—The City Council’s first meeting of 2024 quickly morphed into an opportunity for councilors to quench their inquisitive thirst for a wide range of departmental libations. Although in attendance for fairly mundane items, department representatives faced a barrage of questions. In at least case, a police gang suppression grant, it was councilors first chance to raise the record homicide count last year.
SPRINGFIELD—Mayor Domenic Sarno began his six term of office Monday alongside the City Council with promises to deliver essentially what he campaigned on: the status quo. His less than 20 minute address thanked family, friends and supporter and list many of his accomplishments in prior terms. Nearly all of the City Council took the oath just before Sarno did.
The event was small.
The election dominated 2023 in Springfield in a way that elections rarely have. Only the rise of ward representation stands as a fair comparison. But while 2009, as an election year, changed Springfield, 2023 revealed and not necessarily in ways that should flatter the city.
On the state and national levels, there was impact on the city. Yet, it was somewhat less when compared to other years.
At 28, that means Jesse Lederman has been active in city politics since he was a teenager. That makes his exit after three terms notable less because he was leaving so soon, but that the Council was not even his first act. By his 2017 election, Lederman had already run once, worked on several campaigns and become a prominent figure in Springfield environmental activism battling the biomass plant.
SPRINGFIELD—The final City Council meeting of 2023 and of the current term ended with the usual goodbyes and acknowledgements. The year’s final meeting also includes an unofficial selection of the council president. That yielded some drama if not suspense.
About 15 years after biomass entered the public consciousness of Springfield, the matter is still milling paper. Most recently, this took the form of a fresh defeat for the proposed project once slated for East Springfield. What now seems like beating an expired horse, is actually a reminder of how far opponents have gone.
In stark contrast to its last outing, the Springfield City Council pirouetted through the police supervisors labor contract with barely a comment. Three weeks ago, the pact with upper management at Pearl Street ground to a halt amid unexpected concerns about the charging window for misconduct. Following a General Government Committee hours before, it sailed to passage.
The Springfield City Council authorized the renaming of a McKnight neighborhood street after former Ward 4 Councilor E. Henry Twiggs. It was poignant recognition of their late colleague, whose activism contributed to the revival of the ward representation. In a more ironic turn, the Council punted on a new labor contract for police supervisors.