Wednesday, January 08, 2014
NORTHAMPTON — Pleased with the way the City Council operated in the last term, councilors Tuesday re-elected its leadership for the next two years.
William H. Dwight and Jesse M. Adams, who both won re-election to the council’s at-large seats in November, faced no challengers for the council presidency and vice presidency, respectively, and were elected unanimously at the council’s first meeting of the year.
Dwight served as council president during the last two-year term, shortly after returning to the council after an eight-year absence. He previously served four terms as a Ward 1 city councilor from 1996 to 2004.
“I am grateful for the prospect and opportunity to become council president again,” Dwight said before the council vote. “I was a reluctant council president last time and have come to appreciate the position, particularly under the guidelines of the new charter.”
He said he hopes to “demystify” governance so that people are comfortable approaching councilors, whom he described as neighbors and friends.
Ward 6 City Councilor Marianne L. LaBarge, who along with Adams nominated Dwight, commended him for his leadership in the last term, especially navigating changes brought about by a new charter. Those changes called for Dwight to preside over the council instead of the mayor.
“I think you had a big task and I think you’ve done well with it,” LaBarge said.
Ward 1 City Councilor Maureen T. Carney noted Dwight’s ability to manage the council’s deliberative process and the overall leadership he’s shown.
Upon being elected president two years ago, Dwight sought to improve the council’s efficiency and transparency. He started by assigning councilors to committees in public session and with input from residents, a practice he will do again this term. Councilors are first being asked to rank their committee preferences, which Dwight said he will try to accommodate if it makes the most sense for the city. Seniority or pet projects will not drive committee assignments, he said.
“This is honestly the hardest part of being council president,” Dwight said.
Adams, entering his third term, became the first vice president in the council’s history about a year ago under the city’s revamped charter. He was instrumental in the development of the new charter and in the subsequent rewriting of the council rules and committees to reflect changes brought about by the charter.
“I think he’s a very able vice president ... and I hope to give him a chance to smack the gavel,” Dwight said.
The council Tuesday also officially adopted its rules for the next term. Some of the changes include a revamping of the council’s subcommittees for the first time in a decade. The changes, sponsored by Adams, include the creation of a new subcommitee — the Committee on Hearings, Investigations and Practices. It would serve on an as-needed basis to organize hearings, forums and community dialogues on any matter. It can also conduct investigations into city agencies or committees when asked by the council.
The council briefly entertained an idea from Ward 5 City Councilor David A. Murphy to start council meetings earlier than 7 p.m. given the number of meetings that ran past 11 p.m. last term.
A majority of the council, however, believe that starting the meetings earlier would not necessarily accomplish the goal of ending earlier. Others said that starting at 7 p.m. makes it easier for the public to attend.
Murphy, who did not make a formal motion to change the meeting time, also suggested that the council eliminate some of the “dog and pony shows” that come before it as a way to cut down on the length of meetings.
Dwight also made a point during the meeting of recognizing the three new members of the council — Ryan O’Donnell from Ward 3, Gina-Louise Sciarra from Ward 4 and Alisa F. Klein from Ward 7.