Ranked-choice voting
The proposal to have the city move ahead with adopting ranked-choice voting will be discussed during a joint virtual meeting of the City Council committees on City Services and Legislative Matters at 5 p.m. Monday, May 2.

The Ranked-Choice Voting Committee appointed in May 2021 presented its report to the City Council on April 14. The committee, composed of Chair Robert Boulrice, Vice Chair Catherine Kay and members Bill Dwight, John Crowley and Mark Ventola, recommended the procedure the city would use for tabulating votes in the system known as ranked-choice voting. That allows voters to rank all candidates in order of their preference rather than selecting just one candidate per office. It would eliminate the need for preliminary elections.

This is the final piece of legislation resulting from recommendations made by the Charter Review Committee that I chaired in 2019. During our deliberations, we heard strong support from the community to adopt ranked-choice voting in municipal elections to encourage a broader field of candidates and promote more diversity in office-holders.

The Ranked-Choice Voting Committee report will also be reviewed by the Northampton Board of Registrars during its virtual meeting at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 10.

A vote by the full City Council is expected on May 19. If approved, special legislation would be filed for consideration by the state Legislature. The final step would be asking Northampton voters to approve a local referendum to adopt ranked-choice voting.

Central Services director
Mayor Gina-Louise Sciarra announced Tuesday the appointment of Patrick McCarthy as the new director for the Central Services Department, succeeding David Pomerantz, who retired in January. The appointment goes to the City Council for consideration during its virtual meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 5.

McCarthy has been the facilities project coordinator for the Central Services Department since 2015. Earlier, he worked for the Home City Housing Corp., Valley Community Development Corp., Holyoke Community Land Trust, Nueva Esperanza, and as a heating, ventilation and cooling technician.

Central Services manages grounds, maintenance, heating and cooling, plumbing, electrical, security, fire detection and protection, custodial, renovations and construction for city and school buildings. It also maintains municipal parking lots, the parking meter system and two parking garages. And Central Services manages all energy contracts for the city with the city’s energy and sustainability officer.

Special legislation protecting tenants from brokers’ commissions
The City Council Committee on Community Resources voted unanimously Monday to recommend approval of proposed special legislation prohibiting the charging of rental commissions to prospective tenants. That vote came after a two-hour virtual public forum during which some 30 renters, landlords, brokers and others offered varying opinions about the proposed legislation.

The proposal arises from a report titled “Unlocking Opportunity: An Assessment of Barriers to Fair Housing in Northampton” issued in 2019 by the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, working with the Northampton Housing Partnership. The report found that two-thirds of the landlords in the PVPC study used rental brokers whose commissions – most at least 60 percent of monthly rent – are paid by tenants. The report determined that they “constitute significant barriers to fair housing in the city.”

Approval by the Legislature is needed before the city can ban landlords and brokers from charging tenants those commissions, and establish fines of up to $1,000 per violation. Tenants could still choose to engage a broker and pay a fee for that service.

The order seeking special legislation will also be considered during a virtual meeting at 5:30 p.m. Monday, May 9, by the City Council Committee on Legislative Matters, and then go to the full City Council on May 19.

State Sen. Jo Comerford Town Hall
State Sen. Jo Comeford of Northampton will hold a virtual town hall for constituents of her Hampshire, Franklin, Worcester District at 5 p.m. Wednesday, May 11. Registration is required by using this link:

Comerford will describe her initiatives and invites questions and ideas.

The town hall will be broadcast live by Northampton Open Media.