Memorial Day parade
The traditional Memorial Day parade in Florence will begin at 10:10 a.m. Monday, May 30, from Trinity Row. Organized by the Veterans Council of Northampton and Central Hampshire Veterans Services, the parade will proceed to the Park Street Cemetery for an 11 a.m. ceremony honoring fallen service members.
Special guests will be family members of Michael J. Netto, Edward S. Mazuch and Andrew C. Trushaw. Those relatives will receive the Massachusetts Medal of Liberty, an honor for service members who were killed in action or veterans who died as a result of their wounds.
The parade will include marching units from VFW Post 8006, DAV Chapter 92 and American Legion Post 28, as well as veterans from VA Central Western Massachusetts Medical Center and residents of Soldier On. Northampton police and fire departments, civic and youth organizations and elected officials will be represented. I look forward to being among them.
The City Council will hold virtual hearings at 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 31, and Wednesday, June 1, on the $126,026,677 budget proposed by Mayor Gina-Louise Sciarra for the fiscal year beginning July 1. That is 4.07 percent higher than the city’s current budget for the year ending June 30.
These budgets will be presented Tuesday: Central Services, Northampton Fire/Rescue, Department of Public Works, and Health and Human Services/Community Care Department.
These budgets will be presented Wednesday: Northampton Public Schools and Northampton Police Department.
Here is a link to the fiscal year 2023 budget document:
A final vote is possible when the City Council meets virtually at 7 p.m. Thursday, June 2.
Former Moose Lodge property
The City Council during its virtual meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday, June 2, (same Zoom link as above) will consider final approval of an order to transfer a portion of the former Moose Lodge property at 196 Cooke Ave. to the Conservation Commission for parking and related conservation to add to the Fitzgerald Lake-Broad Brook Greenway. The remainder of the property would be declared surplus for between two and four affordable or mixed-income housing units.
The demolition of the former Moose Lodge is expected during the summer. The City Council voted in March to appropriate $100,000 to buy the property, originally to be used for a municipal animal control facility. The mayor and trustees of Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School have since agreed to locate the animal control facility on its campus.
Wayne Feiden, director of Planning & Sustainability, and I will be present at 196 Cooke Ave. from 5 to 6:15 p.m. Tuesday, June 7, for an outdoor chat with residents to hear their comments and concerns about parking needs at the site. We will meet if it is hot or a light rain, but not if there are thunderstorms. People can come to offer their suggestions anytime during that period. If you cannot attend, you may email your comments about parking to me and/or Wayne ([email protected]).
Special legislation protecting tenants from brokers’ commissions
The City Council voted unanimously May 19 to approve an order for special legislation prohibiting charging rental commissions to prospective tenants. I voted in favor because it is a remedy to make it easier for many tenants to access housing they can afford.
The measure 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 City Council voted unanimously May 19 to approve an order for special legislation to adopt ranked-choice voting for municipal elections. I believe it will increase participation and encourage more diversity in municipal government.
Ranked-choice voting 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.
Special legislation now will 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.
The City Council voted unanimously May 19 to approve an order opting out of the state’s aerial mosquito spraying program during 2022, following the Board of Health’s unanimous recommendation. The city took the same action last year.
In recent years, Northampton has developed its own mosquito surveillance and treatment plan to provide direction for the prevention of mosquito-borne disease and mitigation of mosquito breeding sites through surveillance and limited larvicide treatments.
Proposed closing of VA Medical Center
The City Council voted unanimously May 19 to support a resolution opposing the closing of the Edward P. Boland Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Leeds that was recommended in March by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs That recommendation is subject to a lengthy review.
The City Council resolution reads in part that “any reduction in services on the VA Leeds campus will have a profoundly negative impact on the more than 80,000 Veterans who live in our rural region of central and western Massachusetts, forcing Veterans to travel further and jeopardizing the care they have come to expect and deserve from the VA medical center closest to where they live.”