Pride Day in Northampton, May 6, 2023

I was thrilled to join Congressman James McGovern, state Sen. Jo Comerford of Northampton, Mayor Gina-Louise Sciarra and seven of my colleagues on the City Council as Pride Day activities returned Saturday after a hiatus during the pandemic.

We paraded from Sheldon Field on Bridge Street through downtown Northampton as a crowd of thousands cheered. An afternoon festival at the Armory Street parking lot, including a proclamation read by the mayor and backed by city councilors, celebrated our LGBTQIA+ community.

The first Pride march was held in downtown Northampton on May 15,1982, and Saturday’s proclamation reads in part: “Pride celebrations are an important time for celebration, as well as continued vigilance and activism – especially since our LGBTQIA+ community members face increased discrimination, violence, and political efforts to roll back those hard-fought rights.”


School aid

I join Mayor Gina-Louise Sciarra in encouraging residents to sign a letter to state legislators urging more state aid for education in the budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

Advocacy for more equitable state funding is part of a two-year effort to balance the Northampton Public Schools budget. It started with the decision by Sciarra announced in April to use $1.2 million from the city’s stabilization fund to cover much of the $2.3 million projected shortfall in the school budget for the next fiscal year.

Sciarra delivered this message to the City Council on Thursday: “Please join me, the Northampton Association of School Employees, state Sen. Jo Comerford and state Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa, and others in our school, city, and broader Northampton community in asking to increase state funding for our public schools.”

Specifically, city officials are asking the Legislature to provide at least $100 per pupil for minimum aid communities like Northampton; fully fund the charter school tuition reimbursement formula; fully fund the special education circuit breaker that provides reimbursement for the cost of individual special education students; reimburse the 14 percent increase in the cost assessed to districts for out-of-district placements; and allocate for kindergarten to Grade 12 education at least $166 million from revenue produced by the Fair Share Amendment approved by voters last November.

The letter is available for electronic signatures here:

Barriers to service on city boards and commissions

The City Council on Thursday received the final report from the Select Committee to Study Barriers to Service on City Boards and Commissions that was appointed in February 2022.

Among the recommendations are to streamline and make more transparent the process of applying for vacancies; improve communication with the community about opportunities for service, including multilingual materials; provide clearer information about the job description and expectations for new members and better orientation as they join boards and commissions; continue hybrid meetings that allow for remote participation; and study whether stipends can be made available to community members with a financial need who want to serve.

To achieve greater inclusion, the Select Committee writes: “We invite City Hall and the City Council to reimagine what diversity of voices is, and realize that including voices of those who may see things differently than us has a great value to our democracy and community.”

Select Committee members who issued the report are Chair Javier Luengo-Garrido, Vice Chair and at-large City Councilor Jamila Gore, Ward 4 City Councilor Garrick Perry, Gwen Nabad, and Cynthia Suopis.

The City Council and mayor will consider what action to take on the recommendations in the coming weeks.

The full report is available here:

Mosquito management to protect public health

A public hearing is scheduled for 1 p.m. Wednesday, May 10, at the State House in Boston on a bill (H.845/S.445) filed by state Sen. Jo Comerford of Northampton to establish an ecologically based mosquito management program to protect public health.

The bill would create a state mosquito management plan that prioritizes education, monitoring and habitat modification and allows pesticide use only for disease control. It would prohibit the aerial spraying of pesticides and completely ban substances containing PFAs (known as forever chemicals). The bill also would allow residents to opt out of spraying, with beekeepers and organic farmers automatically excluded from spraying.

A fact sheet about the bill is available here:

Wednesday’s hearing will be held by the Joint Committee on Environment and Natural Resources in Room A-2 and virtually. People who want to testify orally must register by 5 p.m., Monday, May 8, by using this form:

People who want to testify virtually will receive an invitation to join the meeting after they register.

Written testimony may be submitted to [email protected], and Comerford asks that she be copied on that email at [email protected]

Hestia Mural restoration

Community donations are sought to help pay for restoration of “The History of Women in Northampton 1600-1980” mural painted in 1980 by the Hestia Art Collective (Linda Bond, Mariah Fee, Susan Pontious, Rochelle Shicoff and Wednesday Nelena Sorokin) on a 35-foot by 100-foot wall on Masonic Street. The mural was last restored and updated in 2003 to include local contemporary women.

The Hestia Mural Restoration Collective has raised more than $15,000 of its $28,000 goal to repair damage caused by graffiti and subsequent efforts to clean it in 2022. The restoration is scheduled to begin in July.

Donations may be made through a GoFundMe page at

Tax-deductible contributions of $500 or more made out to A.P. E. Ltd. may be mailed to the restoration collective’s fiscal sponsor A.P.E. LLC, 126 Main St., Northampton, MA 01060 (attention: Hestia Mural Restoration Collective).

Checks made out to the Hestia Mural Restoration Collective may be mailed directly to it, c/o Rebecca Muller, 193 Nonotuck St., Florence, MA 01062.