Five Northampton city councilors bid adieu

  • At-Large City Councilor William Dwight, left, holds up a photo Thursday of the Northampton City Council, copies of which were given to departing councilors, including City Council President Ryan O’Donnell, right, and Ward 5 City Councilor David Murphy. GAZETTE STAFF/Bera Dunau

Staff Writer
Published: 12/20/2019 10:48:38 PM
Modified: 12/20/2019 10:48:25 PM

NORTHAMPTON — On a night when the council voted 8-1 to put a $2.5 million general override on the ballot, five city councilors had their final meeting.

“It is the end of an era here,” said Ward 4 City Councilor Gina-Louise Sciarra, who will become an at-large city councilor in 2020. “Each of you has taught me personally so much.”

City Council President Ryan O’Donnell, Ward 1 City Councilor Maureen Carney, Ward 2 City Councilor Dennis Bidwell and Ward 7 City Councilor Alisa Klein all chose to not seek re-election this year, while Ward 5 City Councilor David Murphy lost his seat to Pedal People worker-owner Alex Jarrett.

“I feel like I have been part of a golden era,” said Ward 3 City Councilor James Nash.

All five councilors leaving the body have served multiple terms, with both Carney and Murphy having served nearly 14 years on the council, first elected in the same year that David Narkewicz, now Northampton’s mayor, was elected to the council.

Klein, whose name has been associated with many progressive pieces of legislation during her time on the council, was a sponsor of an ordinance effectively banning the use of facial recognition technology by the city, which passed unanimously on first and second reading in her final meeting.

“I’m really happy to be passing the torch to somebody that I think will do an extraordinary job,” said Klein after the meeting, referring to her successor, Rachel Maiore.

Carney said after the meeting that while she’s “sad to leave,” she’s happy that the city has a good incoming council.

Four of those five incoming councilors — Jarrett, Maiore, Karen Foster in Ward 2, Michael Quinlan Jr. in Ward 1 — attended the meeting and addressed the council in the public comment period, thanking the council’s members for their service.

Only Jarrett, however, chose to sing, serenading the legislative body he is about join with a song he wrote about how people should pick up canine waste, in a self-described moment of levity.

“Dog owners must remove and dispose of the, canine feces,” crooned Jarrett, as he accompanied himself on the ukulele.

The outgoing councilors were also given something which At-Large City Councilor William Dwight said they could “gaze on with dread”: A picture of the current council.

“It’s a class photo,” said Dwight, who quipped that it features the “class president” looking like he “just got an A.”

“Not sure I did,” quipped O’Donnell back.

Dwight later shared that he got to know all five outgoing councilors before they were “stricken with this sickness that we all suffer from — the devotion to public service.”

O’Donnell, his voice swelling with emotion, said he never felt he had any sense of community until he made Northampton his home.

“It’s not through politics, it’s just through the city,” he said. “I felt that for the very first time in my life.”

He also said that, “what you do for your community really doesn’t disappear.”

“When you pass an ordinance it exists as words and law,” he continued. “It matters to real people’s lives.”

Speaking after the meeting, O’Donnell said that he doesn’t have any intention of returning to politics, although he noted, “Life is funny. Weird stuff happens.”

Murphy, the only city councilor to chair the council’s finance committee in its history, chaired his final finance committee meeting on Thursday. Prior to the 2012 charter change, the mayor chaired the committee.

“I’ve liked keeping that in order,” said Murphy, after the meeting. “Hopefully, it will stay that way.”

During the meeting, Bidwell said he appreciated the intelligent conversation that the councilors have had among themselves, and he praised the mayor, department heads, and rank-and-file city employees, as well as the city’s nonprofits and activists.

“Northampton really gives me hope,” he said.

And as the council voted to adjourn for the final time in its current form, Murphy borrowed an iconic signoff: “Good night and good luck.”

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.


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