|North Adams City Council Hopes to Find Resolution to Conflicts|
|By Tammy Daniels, iBerkshires Staff |
06:09PM / Wednesday, May 11, 2022
|Joshua Vallieres, left, is sworn in by City Clerk Marcus Lyon as his new assistant. |
Assistant City Clerk Joshua Vallieres with family and Mayor Jennifer Macksey after being sworn in on Tuesday.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A councilor's request to consider standards of conduct revealed some of the ongoing tensions in the City Council.
Councilor Jennifer Barbeau submitted a communication to her colleagues expressing concerns brought to her attention by constituents about "council conduct on the floor, on social media and in direct correspondence."
The section in the council's rules of order, No. 12, seemed outdated, she wrote, and suggested there should be guidelines for conflict resolution.
"It has become pretty prevalent. I'm hoping that we can have a resolution in finding a way to communicate with each other that is effective and positive," she said.
Councilor Ashley Shade had proposed guidelines for professional conduct earlier this year and had been charged with bringing language back to the council. She said she expected to have a draft ready for the first meeting in June. Councilor Michael Obasohan wondered if conflict resolution could be incorporated into the diversity and inclusion training the council will be doing.
Councilor Marie T. Harpin, participating by phone, said interactions between the councilors are up and down.
"Things get better, they get worse, they get better, they get worse," she said. "I hope we can find some resolution here so that we can move forward as the body and do what's best for the citizens of North Adams."
Barbeau said there had to be a way to work out conflicts like Open Meeting Law complaints (the councilor has filed a number against committees and boards).
"I feel that we need to be able to address those effectively without backlash and just uncomfortableness," she said. "What is the protocol right now for addressing these things when they happen?"
Council President Lisa Blackmer said councilors shouldn't consider differences of opinion a personal attack.
"We should be able to disagree without being disagreeable," she said. "We have to get used to disagreeing without taking it personally and without it feeling then it's a personal attack ... I think that what we need to focus on is getting the work done."
She suggested that Shade's language may cover this.
Harpin didn't totally agree, saying "I do believe that there are members of the City Council that do feel as though they are being personally attacked, for views that they take or actions that they take for the benefit of their constituents. And I think that needs to be resolved. ...
"If they feel as though they're being personally attacked, that needs to be addressed."
Harpin has alluded to feeling attacked at past meetings but Councilor Peter Oleskiewicz said on Tuesday it goes both ways, referring to a chat room on Facebook that Harpin administers that he says has blocked other councilors.
"Let's move on with a paper and come up with something ... because it does go both ways," he said.
The council is hoping the third time is the charm with hiring of Joshua Vallieres as assistant city clerk. An assistant hired in February resigned almost immediately and a second ended up declining the offer.
Vallieres, who was sworn in on Tuesday, is a North Adams resident who was elected to the School Committee in November. He is a graduating from Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts on Saturday.
He joins City Clerk Marcus Lyon, who was appointed in February after a year in the assistant position. The city clerk's office has seen an unusual amount of turnover compared to the last 60 years. There have been three city clerks since 2018 and several assistants. Mary Ann Abuisi, city clerk for 28 years, attended the meeting in support.
In other business,
• The council confirmed the appointment of James Holmes to the Windsor Lake Recreation Committee for a term to expire April 1, 2025; Mary Scanlon to the Commission on Disabilities for a term to expire Dec. 1, 2024; Ross Vivori to the Redevelopment Authority for a term to expire May 11, 2027; and Stephen Warley to the Tree Commission, to fill the unexpired term of Dianne Olsen to end June 10, 2024.
• Mayor Jennifer Macksey read a proclamation in support of May as Mental Health Awareness Month.
• Councilor Wayne Wilkinson, participating via Zoom, gave an update on the proposed short-term rental ordinance, which was then referred back to General Government and return to council on the first meeting of July.
At a meeting with the mayor, Michael Nuvallie of Community Development, Building Inspector William Meranti and consultant Zachary Feury, Wilkinson said it was decided that Feury would rewrite the ordinance with the feedback from the recent meetings and public hearings.
• A request from Councilor Ashley Shade to repeal the curfew ordinance was postponed again to the meeting of May 28. Councilor Brian Sapienza said the Public Safety Committee is waiting on an opinion from the city solicitor.
Shade said there was no reason to wait for the solicitor since they were repealing it, not changing it. Councilor Keith Bona, however, said though he agreed with her, he asked for it to be referred to the solicitor because there were councilors who had questions about it.
"I think if the opinion comes back from the solicitor that this is, I guess, an illegal ordinance to have, then that will solve that right there for everybody," he said. "That answers it for everybody, despite what their opinion is. That's just my reason why I did request it to go to the solicitor early on. Once again, I express my disappointment of how long it takes to get answers from our solicitor."