Monday, December 19, 2011

Take My Council, Please: Good Night & Good Luck...

The Springfield City Council closed out the year on a high and uncharacteristically brief note.  Most of the measures were largely uncontroversial approvals of grant money and donations.  An informal caucus was held at the end to select the Council’s officers for next year.

Budget officials announced that the city finances were officially in balance after the council approved reserve funds to fill the budget hole.  Funds were accepted to repave a portion of Sumner Avenue after gas main work, renovate Hubbard Park as part of the UniFirst land swap, and fund health and library programs.

Ward 1 Councilor Zaida Luna unexpectedly withdrew her motion for reconsideration of tax incremental financing for the F.W. Webb project slated for a parcel of the city’s Memorial Industrial Park off of Roosevelt Avenue.  The project has been criticized for creating painfully few jobs while costing the city hundreds of thousands in potential tax revenue over ten years.  With Luna’s withdrawal, the prior acceptance of the financing stands.

The council also gave final approval to an ordinance establishing site assignment fees.  The fees would be used for projects such as the biomass plant, but would have applications beyond the legally uncertain power plant.  Councilors also offered a resolve to encourage the state to push up MCAS testing by several weeks to compensate for lost class time due to the October snowstorm and subsequent eight days without school in Springfield.

Council President Jose Tosado (WMassP&I)
Finally at the end of the meeting, councilors recognized Council President Jose Tosado who, having declined to seek reelection to pursue a mayoral bid, will be leaving the council in January.  Councilors offered a proclamation and a plaque recognizing him for his ten years of service to the council, numerous assignments to council committees and service on the School Committee. 

At an informal caucus after the meeting, councilors made official what had been declared weeks ago.  At-large Councilor James Ferrera was voted Council President.  Ferrera’s acceptance of the presidency and recognition of Tosado and at-large Councilor Kateri Walsh's vice-presidency were executed without any blatant gaffes on his part.  Ward 8 Councilor John Lysak was elected vice-president.  Ferrera’s election was unanimous and included Ward 6 Councilor-elect Ken Shea and once and future at-large councilor Bud Williams.  The unanimity had been a surprise as several councilors were thought to object to Ferrera’s nomination.  Ferrera has been known for his often gratuitous motions, insipid questions and pained understanding of basic council procedure and city business.

Speaking to WMassP&I after the meeting, Tosado said it “feels pretty good,” becoming a civilian again.  For now he intends to focus on his family and full time job at the Department of Mental Health, but will remain involved in the community.  As for any future political activity, Tosado only offered a “Stay tuned.”

For our part, we have in the past been suspicious of Tosado, but in the nearly year and a half since we started “Take My Council, Please,” we have found him to be an imperfect, but diligent member of the council.  It will be strange to cover the council without his fairly effective administration of meetings.  However, as he heads back into civilian the life, we at WMassP&I wish him the best.

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