I Go To Northampton City Council Meetings #16

The Council passes a Resolution protecting gender identity and expression and financial director reports city revenues are on track


JULES MARSH

On Thursday, October 18th, the Northampton City Council held its seventeenth meeting of the year. Approximately 30 people were present.

Public Comments

Sarah McKewen who is a the director of nursing department at Cooley Dickinson hospital, and who has been a nurse for 33 years asked that people vote No on 1. She argued that the problem of patient care, “cannot be reduced to a numbers game.” She predicted that if it were to pass, hospitals would go bankrupt and close, mental health resources would diminish, and there would be less available hospital beds.

Martha Mable asked people to vote Yes on 1. Following McKewen’s comments, she said, “the amount of confusion sewn by corporate medicine about #1 is pretty appalling.” She also thanked the council for its resolution to stop gas infrastructure.

Joe Torra clarified that the claim that hospitals would be fined $25,000 for every staffing infraction was false. Instead, hospitals will be fined from $0 up to $25,000 depending on the situation. He shared a personal experience of his mother receiving inadequate care in the ER, asking, “How can more staff be bad for patient care?”

Alex Jarrett, a worker-owner at Pedal People, expressed his support of the council’s on gas infrastructure and the council’s ordinance to add more tenant seats to the Northampton Housing Authority Board. He referenced what he had learned as both a worker-owner at a Co-op and his experience living in cooperative housing and shared some practices that can support a culture of cooperation. He shared, “Bring in a few people at a time to an already functioning organization,” and added that it is vital to have a strong program of education.

Pam Hannah, shared that they use they/them pronouns and spoke in support of a resolution to support Yes on 3.

Patty Healy, a registered nurse 41 years who trained at Cooley Dickinson and attended UMass argued against previous speaker, Sarah McKewen’s claim that there were no studies that supported better patient care due to patient limits in California, saying that there are 8 studies. A member of the MNA, she noted that every single recent nurses strike in MA has been about staffing. She noted that she believed this is an attack on care workers who, in this case, are a majority women.

Erin, who teaches sex and gender discrimination law at Western New England Law School said, “The very fact that we have the No 3 on the ballot is proof that we need protections for trans people.” And added that, “discrimination is not just the physical act of exclusion, it also inflicts a dignitary injury.”

Dave Roytman supported the comments in favor of Yes on 1 and 3.

Manny Eduardo, asked the council if they would want a nurse who had worked a 16 hour shift to be in charge of taking care of them. He encouraged everyone to vote Yes on 1 and Yes on 3.

Sharon Moulton, thanked the council for the resolution noting that though climate change can cause her to get extremely depressed, she is grateful that Northampton is advocating for different energy infrastructure.

Eric again noted that Arizona Iced Tea could not be recycled in MA. He suggested that, “Arizona could be recycled by Nike so ‘Just Do it’.”

Anthony, a member of the Siksika Nation of southern Alberta Canada reminded the council that indigenous people in Western Mass put their bodies on the line to defend sacred stones from developers Tennessee Gas, a subsidiary of Kinder Morgan. He thanked the council for acting saying, “People notice what northampton does. A positive move toward addressing this on the city level is very powerful.”

During one minute announcements, which occur before the meeting commences, Councilor Labarge informed the council that there will be an Oct 31 halloween parade in the center of Florence. When asked, she revealed that she would be dressed as Betty Boop.

Councilor President Ryan O’Donnell announced there will be a public forum to discuss his proposal to place more public housing tenants on the housing authority board on Tuesday, Nov 13, 7-8:30 pm, in Council Chambers. If you cannot make it to the forum, you can email comments to lkrutzler@northampton.gov.

A Resolution to stop the expansion of natural gas

After approving minor modifications to the resolution to stop the expansion of natural gas, the council unanimously approved the resolution on its second reading.

A Resolution protecting against discrimination based on gender identity and expression

When introducing the resolution that reaffirms the city’s commitment to equal protection under the law for all people and encourages voters

to vote YES on Question 3, co-sponsor Councilor Gina-Louise Sciarra, shared, “This is disgraceful that this is on ballot. It aims to repeal a basic fundamental human right.” She added, “Everyone is entitled to sue public space, that is what public means.”

Councilor Labarge and Councilor Carney voiced their support for the resolution Carney shared, “In my day job I work for AFL-CIO. On Sept 20,the AFL-CIO officially joined 15 other unions representing hundreds of thousands endorsing the ‘Yes on 3’ campaign. We are proud stand shoulder to shoulder with our trans friends and neighbors.”

Councilor Alisa Klein, the other co-sponsor of the resolution, listed the diverse array of organizations that are supporting ‘Yes on 3.’ “Labor unions, MA Chiefs of Police Association, every New England sports team, faith leaders, and even our republican governor supports it.”

Councilor Dwight spoke saying that putting the ballot measure up to a vote is due to an effort to reverse certain people’s rights in this country. He shared that in response to this, Northampton must “Take this opportunity to scream as loudly as we can to say absolutely not.”

Councilor Ryan O’Donnell also supported the resolution saying, “This is an extremely important statement for the city to make. Dignity and equality is fundamental for all people.”

Financial Update

Despite a refrain of business owners saying that business is down and the chorus of online commenters who “refuse to visit Northampton” due to the presence of people that, like Northampton shop owners, ask for their money downtown, Susan Ryan the city’s financial director shared that like the most recent quarter reports, 1st Quarter revenues are on track.

PILOT Agreement with Syncarpha Solar

The Mayor asked the Council for permission to negotiate a PILOT agreement with Syncarpha Solar. The request was identical to the request to negotiate a PILOT agreement with Northampton Solar, a subsidiary of Con Ed, that the Mayor requested last council meeting.

Commenting on the need to negotiate special taxation agreements with solar companies, Councilor Dwight said, “Not everyone gets to negotiate their taxes. This is because of the state’s inability to accommodate this. I am all for the solar industry. But if I was a solar company, I would take full advantage to pay as little as possible. The state has handcuffed us, this is a big mess.”


Jules Marsh is a co-editor of The Shoestring. They are alive in Northampton, MA. 

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