Greg Roach's Berkshires Blog
Monday, September 17, 2007
  What Is The Role Of The City Council?
In the comments of the previous thread, the conversation turned to the affairs of the North Adams City Council. This subject deserves its own forum.

Here in North Adams we have the "strong mayor" form of government which gives the mayor the sole authority to hire, fire and submit the budget. (And in 2007, you can unofficially call it the "VERY strong mayor" form of government.) The council gets to vote on said budgets, resolutions and ordinances.

I fully expect to be told by Councilor Billings that "[I] don't know shit" for even asking such questions, but so be it.

In the past two years I can only recall one notable ordinance passed - the anti-dumping ordinance. Oh, and Chris Tremblay has tried to bring a little traffic sanity to the Dunkin Donuts corner. Aside from those two, what council generated (not mayoral) proposals have even come to the floor for discussion, let alone been voted on?

More importantly, what do *you* think the council should be discussing?

This is an somewhat critical topic at this juncture of our city's latest chapter. I know that some of the readers of this blog don't feel comfortable using their names, so for this thread only, anonymous comments are welcome and encouraged. Each comment will be given the respect it deserves. (In other words - Don't be a jerk or you might get deleted - something I would normally never do.)

Seriously, is the council a toothless tiger under our city's charter? Or are there issues that they could and should address to affect life in our fair city?

Speak up North Adams!
Two small points: 1. The City Council is not meant to be a toothless tiger. Under the charter, six councilors can override a mayor's veto, and five councilors can kill any mayoral proposal. This happened often back during the "Gang of Five" era. The council over the past decade has tended to have more of a consensus.
2. Many controversies/debates and intense discussions take place in council subcommittee meetings. It is more often here, rather than during the more formal council meetings, that things get hashed out and the public gets plenty of chances to be heard.
I understand all of that. Chapters 43 and 44 of the MGL lay that all out.

I am not proposing deadlock or even opposing the mayor.

I simply want to know -

what has the council has done of their own volition since we elected them 2 years ago?


what do other residents think they should be doing every 2nd and 4th Tuesday?
Many controversies/debates and intense discussions take place in council subcommittee meetings.

That was the gist of the discussion in the thread below and I remain unconvinced that there are any controversies. Even the more radical proposals, such as health inspections in every apartment in between every renter, get near unanimous support.

The mayor submits a budget and the only Nay is Billings who was upset that the budget was submitted as an all-or-nothing package rather than by substance.

When was the last time there was controversy? I've been here for a few years now and haven't seen more than a raised eyebrow.
I would like the Council to address issues that the executive branch neglects, such as hazardous waste disposal, long-term planning, and accessibility of public information.

I would like the Council to exercise basic oversight, such as requiring a professional valuation of property before taking it by eminent domain (not done in the Deep sewer case).
Eric does have some very good points. And although "The Gang of Five" were made to look anti productive by the mayor, they were doing what they were elected to do...QUESTION THE MAYOR! (and we know how the mayor hates to be questioned by anyone) And contraty to the spin, the concial DOES share and probibly has more power than the mayor.
What seems to have happened is that the Concial has tucked their tail between their legs and sumitted to the wishes of the mayor, not wanting to experience his indignation and temper tantrums. And yes there are still some (Bobble Heads) on the Concial that will blindly bobble to whatever the mayor wishes.
All that said...Clark does make some reasonable arguments as to why a lot of issues don't garnish a lot of discussion at the meetings.
I would like to see the concial become more active in informing the public as to what goes on behind the scean and what initivites they themselves are working on.
From what little I know about elective politics, it really rings true here as much as anywhere that folks elect the legislators they deserve.

Mayor JBIII has won like two hundred straight elections on the platform that he--not the council--runs the city, and as long as property taxes are low and the streets are plowed, he'll keep winning. The council stays mostly quiet.

If this was such an affront to the mostly apolitical citizens of our city, things would be different. But they're not. So it's safe to assume two things:

1) The electorate is so apathetic that as long as the sky isn't falling, people are fine with things the way they are, and

2) No single candidate or issue has emerged to rouse the populace out of their electoral slumber.

There's a handful of people who care, but most of the city doesn't, it seems, and the few that vote will just vote for the names they know under the idea that nobody's played themselves out of a job. This is classic political inertia, and it's hardly new nor unique to North Adams.
To pick up on that thread, those people who do care have the very simple recourse to A. Get a councilor to bring up on the agenda any proposal/issue they wish to move forward or discuss and B. Failing that, present a citizen's petition to that end.
...Is it the council's failure to act or be pro-active or the failure of the populace to bring forward burning issues? And what are those burning issues?
I believe the last burning issue was Dr. May's desire to impeach dubya.
believe the last burning issue was Dr. May's desire to impeach dubya.

The larger issue on that one was the council's complete lack of respect for a resident.

Just a few months ago another councilor promised Dr. May that she would put it on the agenda, but then she was "corrected" by the powers that be and the issue was dropped. Dr. May was subsequently told to try and get it on the ballot, a feat that requires the signatures 15% or 10% (i forget which) of the number of voters in the previous election.

The council rarely seems to put citizen driven resolutions on the agenda. Is our citizenry as apathetic as Ross suggests?

What about the lady who was collecting signatures to place benches downtown? Last I heard she was being told she was not allowed to solicit signatures on public property. Has anyone ever tracked her down?
OK- I was going to keep off this thread- but now you have done it----Peter May made a big ptoduction in the press that even if his resolution was not going to be on the Council agenda-- he would speak out during Open Forum-- as he had the right to do---and what did he do-- he had his 8 year old son (or whatever) stammer and stutter a prepared statement--- whichwas patently pathetic---not that the kid didn;t aquit himself well (although most of us coundn;t hear him) but that that coward Peter May would resort to such crap----------if you've got a point to make and you tell the press that you will make it---damn it!!! do it-- don;t hide behind a child-----and the Council treated the kid with respect---Peter May??-- he has neither earned nor deserved respect---he is a blow hard AND a coward- to hide behind the pants of his son and the skirts of an elderly woman---and that's what the Council got under Open Forum---Peter May is chicken shit and a pathetic member of this community-- at least as far as politics are concerned and where was the Council's "lack of respect" you moron-----we listened- expected to be regaled by May-- and what did we get??? a senior citizen whose claim to fame is being a "Bobble head" on Eric Buddington's TV show and a kid--- pushed up there by his father because Peter May was chicken shit--- lack of respect?? for an issue that I did'nt think should before the Council in the first place-- -we put up with that circus---under Open Forum and the entire Council was absolutely appalled that Peter May didn;t have the courage of his alledged convictions and instead pushed his teenage (or what over ) son to speak in his place----Oh yes- I understand that you are no longer employed on Spring St?? true or false----hope it was a step up----what's it like being the junior breadwinner in a family???? I have no idea-- but maybe that's where you're propensity to tear other people down comes from----chbpod
Clark, the various councilor's rants came before the citizen's concerns portion of the evening. The insults were flying long before the meeting itself even began.

But Peter May is not the topic of this discussion. His experience is just one tiny bit of this whole discussion.

Please, tell us what the council has initiated in the past two years. We are waiting with bells on.
Sounds like this blog is going to be endorsing some "new blood" candidates in the question, who deserves to be knocked off the Council in favor of this "new blood" with all their great "new ideas?"
Whether new blood is the answer,
i do not know,
but the status quo
has got to go.

(Sorry for the poem. I couldn't help it.)

I am really quite befuddled by the notion that the council's role is mostly to approve the executive's proposals rather than to also propose much on their collective own. I've read the statutes a couple of times and cannot understand where that particular interpretation comes from.
Post a Comment

<< Home
A blog of random thoughts and reactions emanating from the bank of a mountain stream in the farthest reaches of the bluest of blue states.

May 2006 / June 2006 / August 2006 / September 2006 / October 2006 / November 2006 / December 2006 / January 2007 / February 2007 / March 2007 / April 2007 / May 2007 / June 2007 / July 2007 / August 2007 / September 2007 / October 2007 / November 2007 / December 2007 / January 2008 / February 2008 / March 2008 / April 2008 / May 2008 / June 2008 / July 2008 / August 2008 / September 2008 / October 2008 / November 2008 / December 2008 / January 2009 / February 2009 / March 2009 / April 2009 / May 2009 / June 2009 / July 2009 / August 2009 / September 2009 / October 2009 / November 2009 / December 2009 / January 2010 / February 2010 / March 2010 / April 2010 / May 2010 / January 2011 / May 2011 / June 2011 / July 2011 / October 2011 /

greg at gregoryroach dot com

"Livability, not just affordability." - Dick Alcombright

My ongoing campaign for North Adams City Council

iBerkshires' Online Event Calendar

Because a Chart is Worth 1000 Words

Congressional Budget Office data

Powered by Blogger