Northampton restaurateur running for Ward 4 City Council seat

  • JESSE HASSINGER

Staff Writer
Published: 4/13/2021 7:59:04 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Downtown restaurant owner Jesse Hassinger has joined four other newcomers running for City Council. While the others are running for two at-large seats, Hassinger, who is co-owner of Belly of the Beast, is the only person who has publicly announced his candidacy for the Ward 4 seat.

Current Ward 4 City Councilor John Thorpe has said he will not be seeking reelection.

Hassinger, 40, moved from Boston to Northampton in 2015 and he and his wife, Aimee Francaes, opened Belly of the Beast downtown.

Last summer, Hassinger became more active in city government amid calls to cut the city’s Police Department budget and when digital meetings made it easier for him to participate, he said.

Over the past year, what he saw needed to be strengthened “was really paying attention and trying to give voice to people who aren’t able because of their circumstances to have a voice in local government,” he said. “A lot of those voices are the people that the government affects on a daily basis.”

He added, “I actually want to physically go out and speak with communities that I feel should really have their say in government and don’t right now. That’s the main driving force behind why I want to run, is to be able to make room for those people.”

One of his top priorities would be to implement the Policing Review Commission’s recommendation to create a Department of Community Care, an independent department that would respond to some public safety needs. “I think that is first and foremost the biggest step we can do for our community to ensure we’re moving in the right direction towards a less violent and more compassionate city,” Hassinger said.

Another priority, he said, is acting quickly on the proposed resiliency hub — a project Mayor David Narkewicz is working on that aims to support residents who face chronic and acute stress, such as those who are homeless, and serve as an emergency center if there is a disaster.

“I’ve seen the past 14 months have not addressed the issue of people who are houseless in this community and has not given them much support,” Hassinger said. At times in the last year, “there was no place for any of the houseless community to spend their days.”

And there are the everyday issues, Hassinger said, “dealing with potholes, of dealing with things that are mundane that city government has to take care of beyond the hot button issues. I want to be listening to everybody in the ward who is wanting to talk about the little things that actually, probably, affect their lives on a daily basis more than police reform would.” 

City elections are Nov. 2.

Greta Jochem can be reached at gjochem@gazettenet.com.




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