Monday, January 08, 2007

The Runner Up, Catching Up...

Today at 10:08 exactly, the city of Springfield swore in a new member of the city council. James "Jimmy" J. Ferrera III became the body's newest member at a modest ceremony at City Hall. Ferrera ascended to the seat following Angelo Puppolo's resignation to take his seat in the Massachusetts House. Ferrera placed 10th in the November 2005 municipal election giving him the right to take the seat.

Kateri Walsh, 2007 City Council President, in her first official act as President, gavelled the meeting into session for the swearing in ceremony. In attendance were Representative Angelo Puppolo, Councilors Jose Tosado, Domenic Sarno, Bud Williams, Rosemarie Mazza-Moriarty, and Bruce Stebbins. Family and friends of Councilor Ferrera and Senator Stephen Buoniconti were also present. Judge William Boyle, of Springfield District Court, administered the oath of office to Councilor Ferrera following the Pledge of Allegiance.

(*Pictured Left to Right, Councilor Ferrera, Council Pres. Walsh, Judge Boyle)
After he took the oath, Councilor Ferrera made a few brief remarks:
"I am deeply humbled to be sworn in today as a member of the Springfield City Council," Ferrera began.

"...[C]ommunication and openness is key not only outside of city hall, but inside as well. That is why one of my first objectives is to schedule meetings with city department heads to listen to their concerns and to see what tools they need to carry out their duties for the people of Springfield."

Following the official close of the meetings, WMassP&I spoke to Councilor Jimmy Ferrera. Asked how it felt to be called "Councilor Ferrera," he replied with an exuberant "Feels Good!" Ferrera stated he looks forward to working with the Mayor, Control Board, and of course the rest of the city council in the coming months. Ferrera, in response to a question about whether he thought he would be here in November 2005, said that "we ran a great campaign" and Springfield spoke that day. To come in 10th on a first run was a great accomplishment.

Speaking about the future, Councilor Ferrera noted the need for understanding when it comes to the Control Board. However, Ferrera also encouraged planning for the inevitable transition of power back to the City Council. Ferrera expressed a desire to have meetings and discussions about potential pay raises for the mayor and a restoration of the City Council's full salary, suggesting that more debate is necessary before he forms an opinion of his own. I asked Ferrera what would distinguish him from previous councilors. In response, the councilor stressed how all councilors share a common theme of seeking the best outcome for the city. However, each councilor simply expresses that theme differently. Ferrera did not find any particular action by the control board in need of review, following their departure. Rather incorporating the budget process used by the FCB into the Council and Mayor's work for future generations would be essential.

WMassP&I also spoke with Council President Kateri Walsh. President Walsh was excited and honored, as her first official act as president, to welcome Jimmy Ferrera, 25, to the City Council. She was pleased that the council will have some "young blood." When asked about how she felt about the upcoming session of the council, Pres. Walsh responded "Very optimistic!" She looks forward to the work that the Council will be doing over the next few months and, by extension the work she will be doing on the FCB (As Council President, Walsh will be on the Control Board). She expects the Council will assume its full power in July at the FCB's expiration. While having no inside information, Walsh has not seen any motions by the Patrick administration to extend the FCB's term. She expects it to "die a natural death." I asked if the Council is better prepared today to prevent such a fiscal crisis from recurring, she wholehearted replied, "Absolutely." According to Walsh, financial methods put in place by the Control Board will remain. In addition, she stressed the importance for the city's finances to be restored to those elected by Springfield's citizens and their ability to speak at meetings.

WMassP&I caught up with Representative Puppolo and asked for his take on his "passing the torch" to Jimmy Ferrera. Calling it a "Great Day," he noted how Jimmy has been preparing for this day for a long time. He stated that Ferrera will hit the ground running, as he is "well versed" in city issues having attended council meetings, numerous neighborhood meetings across the city, and reaching out in general. "Jimmy worked hard to become a member of the Council," Puppolo continued. He also praised Ferrera's intent to meet with department heads as it will yield a great deal of understanding for the inner workings of city government. Puppolo reflected on his time on the council having served since 1998. Calling it a "good time," that had its "tough times," Puppolo said he enjoyed working for the people of Springfield. He will miss the camaraderie he had with his colleagues over the years, but looks forward to serving the 12th Hampden District. He mentioned some goals for the 2007-08 Legislative Session.

  • Bring back more local aid
  • Continuing education
  • Health Care
  • Relate Springfield financially to the other 159 members of the House.
  • Public Safety
  • Economic Development
  • Working on the projected $1 billion deficit, recently stated by Gov. Patrick.

It is apparent to me that Jimmy Ferrera will serve the city faithfully and well. In addition, while WMassP&I still support a year's extension of the Control Board, I am more confident in today's Council than that yesteryear. President Walsh seems to be on the ball and her new role suits her well. As long as the Council has learned its history, while lots of work remains, Springfield will not be doomed to repeat the events of recent years.

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