|North Adams Council Will Wait to Fill Two Seats at Election|
|By Tammy Daniels, iBerkshires Staff |
02:41AM / Wednesday, September 15, 2021
|The council is short two members until the Nov. 2 election. The two highest non-incumbent vote-getters will be seated at the first meeting following the election. |
Councilor Benjamin Lamb is sworn in as vice president on Tuesday by City Clerk Cathleen King.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The City Council voted on Tuesday to continue with seven councilors until the November election.
Councilor Jason LaForest
and Marie T. Harpin
both resigned within the past month, leaving the council short two members. The council had already decided to wait until the Nov. 2 election to fill LaForest's seat with the non-incumbent candidate who receives the highest vote.
The councilors determined to do the same in replacing Harpin, whose resignation was accepted on Tuesday.
"After this meeting, we only have three meetings until the election," said Councilor Keith Bona. "So, after [the election] we could fill the other two seats and it would be up to the people to decide who would go into those seats."
Councilor Wayne Wilkinson said replacing councilors with the next highest vote-getter from the last election had made sense when there was more time left in the term, but not with an election coming up.
There are six incumbents running for re-election guaranteeing that at least three newcomers will be elected to the council. One of those incumbents is Harpin, who has not indicated if she wishes to be returned to the council.
City Clerk Cathleen King said she is awaiting an opinion from the city solicitor on if Harpin can still withdraw and if she will be listed as an incumbent since she resigned. Those holding seats on the council are listed first on the ballot in alphabetical order followed by challengers.
President Lisa Blackmer asked if the council wanted to motion that only non-incumbents who had not resigned should be considered but Councilors Benjamin Lamb and Wilkinson did not think that would be possible.
"I think it should be straight out," said Lamb. "Essentially the law would be the top two non-incumbents."
"If there was an incumbent that had resigned recently, I think it is immaterial," said Wilkinson. "That person would then have the option to serve or don't they serve. It's a moot point."
Blackmer said the council should be able to function for three meetings since there were seven members and a majority.
The vote to wait until the next election was unanimous.
In other business:
• The council gave final approval to the adoption of the state Smart Growth zoning bylaw. Jennifer Barbeau, who is running for City Council said the public wasn't given enough information about the bylaw; councilors again noted there were public meetings and that no developer is required to follow Smart Growth zoning and that it is an option for encouraging affordable housing.
• Lamb was voted and sworn in as vice president. New assignments were made to the committees because of the two resignations: Bona was appointed chairman of Finance, Councilor Peter Oleskiewicz chair of Public Services, and Councilor Bryan Sapienza as chair Public Safety and he will be joined by Lamb. Blackmer chose to be liaison to the Retirement Board and thought the liaisons to the North Adams and McCann school committee were not immediately pressing "given the reporting that's done locally, I think we're all pretty well informed on what's going on in the school system."
• The review of fees was postponed to the second meeting in October. The council first broached the need for updating the fees a few years ago but it has been slow going. The mayor's office and the Public Services and Public Safety committees have been involved in this. Bona, chair of Public Services, said his committee is waiting on a few answers but didn't know why Public Safety had not done much yet.
• Lamb read a statement on behalf of the Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access Working Group because of possible internal and public misunderstandings of the group's charges that are to build an understanding and awareness of the importance of diversity, inclusion and equity within the context of the council's responsibilities and secondly to develop a statement of equitable practices aligned with the work of the National League of Cities.
"This past spring, the working group successfully facilitated the first-ever series of three IDEA workshops with the council, we have not yet pursued the statement of equitable practice, which would incorporate what we have gathered from the discussions amongst the council, including but not limited to conversations around the not in my county," he read. The group is not a decision-making or responsive body but has recommended an ordinance to the General Government Committee and believes that any work in these areas should be done by trained professionals.
Lamb said the group has spent more than 50 hours in public meetings to date and added his "two cents" to the formal letter.
"It's incredibly disappointing to hear some of the discounting of their work both in these chambers and emails and on social media," he said. "I believe that this is damaging to the goals of this group."