Editorial: A pivotal moment in Northampton politics

  • Dorothy Molnar votes at the polls at Ward 2 precincts in Northampton in 2016. Gazette file photo

Published: 9/11/2019 8:00:19 PM
Modified: 9/11/2019 8:00:06 PM

While so much attention is heaped on our commander in chief and national politics, here’s something that deserves more of our attention: municipal elections.

If it’s true that all politics are local — as Massachusetts’ Tip O’Neill, the former speaker of the House, said — then this fall is shaping up to be a crucial time for the city of Northampton, which will see significant turnover in its top two governing bodies, City Council and School Committee, as many familiar faces step aside to make way for a new batch of leaders.

These elections are as important to you and your quality of life as anything that happens in Washington, D.C.

All 18 positions on these boards — nine for each board — are on the ballot, and four longtime councilors and three School Committee members are not seeking reelection. Additionally, several incumbents who want to keep their jobs are facing challenges.

This is more turnover than a typical municipal election. In fact, it’s been six years since the council has seen more than one or two contested races, and when there were four contested races in 2013, incumbents won three of them. 

Choice is good for the city. With new blood comes new ideas and a fresh way to examine time-tested issues that all neighborhood councilors and School Committee members face. These new leaders will be charged with making important decisions over the next two years that will affect your life, from considering potential changes to the city’s charter to fielding questions about budgets, capital projects, property taxes and those ugly potholes in front of your house. 

The action starts next week, when voters in Ward 7 will head to the polls in Tuesday’s preliminary election to winnow a field of three candidates to two. Voters in the northwest section of the city will choose between Penny Geis, a retired county government administrator; Rachel Maiore, director of the Pioneer Valley Women’s March; and Hanuman Goleman, a publishing company owner. The two candidates to emerge from this election will square off in the Nov. 5 general election.

The winner will have significant shoes to fill, as current three-term Ward 7 councilor Alisa Klein is one of four councilors not seeking reelection. The others are President and At-Large City Councilor Ryan O’Donnell (three terms), Ward 1 City Councilor Maureen Carney (seven terms) and Ward 2 City Councilor Dennis Bidwell (two terms). Meanwhile, Ward 4 City Councilor Gina-Louise Sciarra is running for an at-large council seat this year.

Voters in two wards — Ward 1 and Ward 5 — will get a choice. The race in Ward 1 is between Andrew Smith, director of conservation and sustainability for the city of Holyoke, and Michael Quinlan, a city volunteer and the manager of fine wine at Table & Vine. In Ward 5, incumbent David Murphy, who is seeking an eighth term, is being challenged by Alex Jarrett, Pedal People worker-owner.

New faces running unopposed include Karen Foster, All Out Adventures executive director, in Ward 2, and John Thorpe, a probation officer, in Ward 4. Incumbents returning unopposed are At-Large City Councilor William Dwight, Ward 3 City Councilor James Nash and Ward 6 City Councilor Marianne LaBarge.

Turnover is also coming to the School Committee, with Ward 5’s Ann Hennessey, Ward 4’s Edward Zuchowski and Ward 7’s Downey Meyer not seeking reelection.

The contested races include:

■ The two at-large seats have three candidates — incumbent Susan Voss, Roni Gold and Katherine Cardoso.

■ In Ward 3, incumbent Howard Moore is being challenged by Emily Serafy-Cox.

■In Ward 5, at-large member Molly Burnham and Dina Levi are running against each other.

New faces running unopposed include Kaia Goleman in Ward 7 and Sean Condon in Ward 4, while returning incumbents include Ward 1’s Rebecca Busansky, Ward 2’s Laura Fallon and Ward 6’s Lonnie Kaufman.

“All politics is local” still applies today, and that’s worth remembering this fall. Decisions made at the local level have a direct impact on our daily lives, and they are made by our neighbors who have day jobs and families to raise, not career politicians in far-off Washington, D.C.

Your vote matters, especially in municipal elections where turnout is typically lower than a year in which a president is elected.  If you care who makes critical decisions for your city — and you should — make your voice heard.

Daily Hampshire Gazette Office

115 Conz Street
Northampton, MA 01061


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