To Northampton City Council 2021 Candidates

Kathryne Young’s description of the felling of the cherry trees at Warfield Place in the August 10 Gazette (“What Happened in War...



Kathryne Young’s description of the felling of the cherry trees at Warfield Place in the August 10 Gazette (“What Happened in Warfield”) raised some questions for me. Why send something like a SWAT team to cut down trees that were so obviously loved by the community? Sounds like something out of a cruel, dystopian totalitarian world, not a quaint, progressive New England college town.

Alternatives were possible – until the trees were killed. Why would the city want to inflict such a loss on its inhabitants? These flowers made people happy to be alive every spring. The robes of Buddhist monks are no joke.

The Warfield Place tragedy is just one of a few recent examples of our municipal government failing to respect, or even solicit, the contribution of community members most affected by municipal decisions.

Bay State villagers have spent seven months trying to convince the city to use its powerful Special Permit tool to guide lot zero line developments in line with the city’s own resilience and regeneration plan. The special permit provision of the zoning code is the only part of this plan that has teeth under state law. Ignoring the city’s own climate change mitigation measures, our zoning planners have instead chosen to encourage the status quo. The city’s final response and insult to affected citizens was to revise the zoning to give developers even more “flexibility.”

Comments from Bay State residents to the Planning Council have been repeatedly answered with an obscurity that is well documented in the city’s video archives. Meanwhile, an out-of-town developer is building new homes as fast as possible, homes that will likely be modifications in the face of climate change. Like the cherry trees of Warfield Place, the extensive damage to the Bay Sate neighborhood is well underway.

Residents across town who appreciate Northampton’s history are fighting to preserve St. John Cantius Church. Long loved and widely known as the ‘Polish Church’, it is a piece of uniquely beautiful architecture and an important part of the city’s immigrant history. If we can make condos from an old prison, why can’t we make condos from a place with good vibes? Demolition has a negative impact on the environment and the building, like the cherry trees, is both valued by the community and irreplaceable. The “most economical” choice is not always the wisest choice.

The Main Street for Everyone grassroots group is already enjoying the support of a growing number of the business community and some city officials. With a deep appreciation for the climate catastrophe we face, M4E’s ideas are more visionary than other proposals to redesign Main Street. Still, it was suggested during the last public hearing that the die can be cast, and M4E may be too late for their bold and comprehensive ideas to be considered. In the face of the IPCC’s “red alert” for our climate, how can we afford to do less than use this opportunity to prepare for what is to come?

After COVID brought city meetings to our homes on Zoom, I was able to observe our city government in action, up close and personally, in several weekly meetings, for several months in a row. I noticed that many groups had no idea what other departments were doing. My impression was that the Town Hall is largely fragmented and disconnected, even with itself.

So many recent citizen reactions, as described here, suggest that there are important city officials who might not understand the interests of ordinary people, and neither do they consider the needs of future generations (the climate!) Among them. their main priorities.

Now that IPCC scientists say we need to move quickly into climate survival mode, I challenge candidates for election this year to answer a few serious questions in a public forum soon, including these:

Please explain how you would make the city more responsive to the community it is meant to serve. Use the examples of Warfield Place, Bay State Village, St. John Cantius Church, and Main Street for Everyone.

■ How will you prioritize climate issues and accelerate the solutions already present in the resilience and regeneration plan?

I particularly challenge current public servants who are running for office to defend their cases. Our city council has passed a ban on styrene plastics that won’t go into effect for five years. Five more years, really? Is it an emergency response?

The same city councilors who voted unanimously to declare a powerless climate emergency also voted unanimously to approve a new gas station on King Street. That’s 40,000 gallons of high octane karma to answer for.

Jackie Ballance lives in Florence.



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