Editorial: Sciarra best positioned to lead Northampton

Northampton’s next mayor will inherit a city that has many strengths: its finances are sound, its schools of high quality and its downtow...

Northampton’s next mayor will inherit a city that has many strengths: its finances are sound, its schools of high quality and its downtown business community, although it has suffered a severe blow in recent years, made always the envy of others in the Region.

But there are many looming challenges – how to move forward with overhauling the way police do their jobs, including the implementation of a new community care department; what to do about homelessness, including creating a resilience center in the city center; how best to redevelop the main street; how to spend some $ 21.7 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) money; how to attract businesses to all parts of the city, not just downtown; climate change initiatives; and much more.

The question for voters in Tuesday’s municipal elections is which of the two candidates – Gina-Louise Sciarra, the current president of the city council who has served on the council for eight years, or Marc Warner, a successful businessman and transportation consultant – best positioned to take over from longtime Mayor David J. Narkewicz and move the city forward over the next four years.

Regardless of which candidate voters choose to follow Narkewicz, it is clear that on inauguration day in January a new chapter is opening in the Northampton government. In addition to a new mayor for the first time since 2012, there will be four new city councilors, and possibly five, in addition to a school committee with six new members and a new president in the next mayor.

In our opinion, Gina-Louise Sciarra, who goes through GL, is most ready to lead Northampton’s 29,500 residents and her budget of $ 121.7 million at this pivotal time. Partly because she sees the challenges ahead as an exciting opportunity for Northampton. She is not intimidated by the job and at 47 we appreciate her enthusiasm for the task at hand.

In a recent meeting with our Editorial Board, Sciarra said she has a passion for local politics that has only grown stronger since she joined the council representing Ward 4 in 2014. This passion comes through when she says “this is a huge time for Northampton”, before reviewing her experience and the connections she has forged in the community and within the services that make the city work. “I am ready to start right away,” she said.

The four-term advisor also has experience. Over the past eight years, she has learned how city government works, researched and listened to constituents’ concerns, and built relationships with department heads. She also strikes us as humble enough to seek help, research, and consider all aspects and opinions of an issue in order to make tough decisions that may not be appreciated in every corner of town.

As a councilor, Sciarra has served on numerous council committees, commissions and advisory groups which have given her first-hand insight and an important voice in city policies, from finances to parking, housing, to legislative matters. and more.

Perhaps more importantly, given the events of the past 18 months, Sciarra was the lead co-sponsor, along with Narkewicz, of a resolution that led to the creation of the Northampton Police Review Board. This critical resolution, approved in July 2020, came in the wake of George Floyd’s murder and in response to Black Lives Matter protests across town and across the country. The recommendations of this commission included the creation of a community care department. One of the first responsibilities of the next mayor will be to get this service off the ground, which in turn will lead the city towards the goal of rethinking its police service.

To be clear, we do not agree with all the positions taken by Sciarra on the board. The last-minute decision to cut the police department’s budget by 10% in June 2020 was, as Warner has repeatedly said in this campaign, reactionary and taken in response to loud voices. Sciarra disagrees, but the decision has had many negative consequences. Agents were fired or resigned and morale in the department suffered, the Gazette reported.

We understand the advisers were in a tough spot and, as Sciarra points out, they testified for hours before this vote to cut funding to the department. We also understand that other departments have had to cut budgets, but the downsizing of the police department was not accompanied by a larger plan to remedy the damage.

The vote for our next mayor, however, is not on a single issue. This is quite a job, both a finished job and a job to come. Either way, Sciarra is in the best position to move the city forward.

Warner, 63, also has a passion for the city. His nearly three decades of running his own company, Warner Transportation Consulting, Inc., involve conducting management, operations, and planning studies for large public agencies across the United States. He has also given back locally, having served on four city committees, from a charter review committee in 2012 to parking and passenger rail committees. Since 2003, he has been a board member and treasurer of Common Cause of Massachusetts, a good government group.

But we wonder if that experience is enough to lead a city beyond nuts and bolts, to build consensus to solve problems, and to create the kind of leadership that inspires people to want to follow.

In recent months, voters have had numerous opportunities to hear from candidates directly and in public forums. Tuesday, it’s time for them to respond.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Editorial: Sciarra best positioned to lead Northampton
Editorial: Sciarra best positioned to lead Northampton
Newsrust - US Top News
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