Lawyer announces bid for at-large council seat in Northampton

  • Marissa Elkins, a Northampton lawyer, is running for one of two at-large seats on the City Council. Submitted photo

Staff Writer
Published: 3/26/2021 2:10:20 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Marissa Elkins, a Northampton lawyer, has announced that she is running for one of two at-large seats on the City Council, becoming the fourth candidate to join the race.

“Overall, when I think about the opportunity that we have here to come out of this pandemic and this really difficult period, I think we have an opportunity to think through and not just do the things we’ve always done,” Elkins said, giving the examples of making changes to zoning and policing. “It’s going to be a new normal and we have the ability to define that.”

Elkins, 45 and a Ward 2 resident, moved to the city with her wife in 2004 and has a daughter at Jackson Street School.

She is an attorney at the Northampton law firm she started, Elkins, Auer, Rudof & Schiff, where her work includes criminal law and civil rights litigation. She started her career as a public defender in western Massachusetts, and representing those who can’t afford a lawyer is a significant part of her work, according to her campaign.

In 2019, she joined the city’s Planning Board and is now vice-chair. She also co-chaired a group that campaigned in 2020 for the successful Proposition 2½ override that allowed the city to increase property taxes by more than 2.5%.

In her announcement, she emphasized focusing on zoning reform. The city lacks housing of all different levels, she said.

“It’s a century in the making. It’s a product of long-held, not frequently revisited zoning laws and mortgage practices and lending practices and providing of single-family homes and financing of those over other forms of development that have a real eye toward creating equity,” she said.

Zoning changes working their way through the City Council that aim to create more housing options are “creative steps in the right direction,” Elkins said.

Elkins has read the newly released Policing Review Commission report and said she agrees with most of its suggestions.

“Coming from my perspective of a criminal defense attorney, we are remiss if we think that Northampton doesn’t have any issues,” she said. “My promise,” she said, “I will come to this discussion with an open mind, and I want to hear what everyone has to say, but I think that report and the suggestions it makes are an excellent start to radically rethinking how police and other agencies work to meet the needs of the community.”

Elkins joins three others — writer Jamila Gore, Ward 1 City Councilor Michael Quinlan and former Ward 5 councilor David Murphy — who announced they are seeking one of the council’s two at-large seats. The council’s current at-large members, Gina-Louise Sciarra, who is running for mayor, and Bill Dwight, are not running for these positions again. The city’s municipal election is scheduled for Nov. 2.

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