Battle for the Gavel

Western Mass. Politics and Insight has a juicy piece about the battle for the City Council presidency, which pits at-large Councilor (and incumbent President) Jimmy Ferrera against Ward 8 Councilor John Lysak.

If Lysak wins, notes WMPI writer Matt Szafranski, he’ll be the first ward councilor to serve as Council president. In the story, Lysak seems to take some pains to assert that a ward councilor would not bring a narrower view to the position than an at-large councilor would: “Lysak acknowledged that significance, but said he, like many ward councilors, is not provincial in this [sic] attitude toward the city,” Szafranski wrote.

I’d argue, in fact, that being a ward councilor could be a selling point in a campaign for the Council presidency. While Springfield is a city of proud, distinct neighborhoods, too often the Council hasn’t listened to neighborhood concerns; that’s one of the arguments that led voters to approve a ballot question creating the ward system in 2007. A strong ward councilor—and Lysak has been one of the strongest—could help shift more focus to neighborhood-based issues; indeed, Lysak told Szafranski that one of his priorities as president would be to improve the Council’s relationships with neighborhood councils. (He also called for two other much-needed improvements: better communication between councilors and the mayor’s office and “greater oversight of budgets and tax assessments.”)

The piece also looks at various Council presidency battles through the years. Last year’s, of course, was a doozy; Ferrera beat Ward 7 Councilor Tim Allen for the title and then, when it came time to pass out committee assignments, stuck it to his one-time rival by granting him just one committee seat. Allen’s closest ally on the Council, Ward 2’s Mike Fenton, came out even worse; Ferrera didn’t appoint him to any of the standing committees, instead sticking him on the “animal control advisory committee.” (Ferrera insisted there was no payback in his assignments. Subsequently, he and Fenton ostensibly mended their rift at a “celebrity bartending” event at the Boyle.)

This year’s contest will be decided in the next couple of weeks, in time for the Council’s first meeting of 2013.

Author: On Springfield

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