New Police Technology, COVID Update, and a Resolution against Anti-Semitism
By Blair Gimma
On January 20th, the Northampton City Council held its second meeting of the year.
During public comment, a number of people, including the vice president of the Northampton High School Parent Teacher Organization, asked that the council vote in support of a proposed ban on U-turns on Elm St. in front of Northampton High School, an ordinance that arose after a cyclist was fatally hit by car at that intersection last year. Joshua Yearsley suggested the council adopt a COVID mitigation policy that would provide grants to install HEPA air filters inside local businesses explaining that cleaner air could save many lives. Downtown Northampton Association (DNA) executive director Amy Cahaline asked the council to support an ordinance to relax restrictions that would allow for outside dining as the weather warms, saying that outdoor dining is a lifeline to local restaurants.
Health Director Merideth O’Leary gave the council a COVID update noting that there may be a plateau in cases on the horizon, which would match state trends, but that it is too early to tell. Northampton has had 1078 cases since January 2022, 95%-99% of which, based on Massachusetts Department of Health data, are most likely the Omicron variant. While Cooley Dickinson Hospital is not functioning ideally, it is functioning and healthcare worker absences are down as COVID cases go down. View her in-depth presentation here.
Information Technology director Antonio Pagan detailed a request contained in an opaque financial order as an IT purchase on behalf of the Northampton Police Department to enter a five year contract with Motorola Solutions, a cloud-based surveillance system equipped with artificial intelligence capabilities, to upgrade their dashboard camera network. Neither the NPD nor any mention of surveillance were mentioned in the order which the council will vote on at their next meeting Thursday, Feb 3. Read our extensive coverage on this financial order here.
The council voted unanimously to support a number of items including appointing Alan Seewald to return to his role as City Solicitor, to accept a gift that would help purchase a Sojourner Truth trail marker (on both first and second reading to meet a grant timeline), to prohibit U-turns on Elm St in front of Northampton High School (on second reading), and to relax restrictions to allow outdoor dining again this year in an effort to assist the economic recovery of downtown businesses (on first and second reading to allow local businesses to plan).
Councilors Karen Foster (Ward 2), Rachel Maiore (Ward 7), Alex Jarret (Ward 5), and Jamila Gore (At-Large) co-sponsored a resolution against Anti-Semitism in response to anti-semitic imagery used by an attendee in a recent Board of Health meeting about vaccine mandates. Gore said, “We must have a united front against hatred and bigotry and let it be known that we don’t accept it here at all, and that we have a zero policy tolerance on that.”
Blair Gimma is a co-editor at The Shoestring. They are alive in Northampton.
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