In a unanimous vote, the Northampton City Council elected Vice President Ryan O’Donnell as their new City Council president for the 2018-2019 term. The vote came two weeks after former City Council President William Dwight announced his decision not to seek re-election.
Along with O’Donnell, Ward 4 City Councilor Gina-Louise Sciarra was elected vice president.
According to Laura Krutzler, administrative assistant to the City Council, the vote was placed Jan. 2. No other candidates ran in the election, as nominations were closed after O’Donnell was nominated by Councilor Marianne LaBarge of Ward 6, and Sciarra by Councilor Alisa Klein of Ward 7.
In planning for the upcoming term of his presidency, O’Donnell said he is working toward a culture of “bottom-up leadership” for the City Council.
“I want the council to be a very active legislative body, I want us to propose and debate a really progressive agenda for the next 2 years,” O’Donnell said. “I want the councilors to feel empowered to bring forward ideas for discussion; I want a leadership flow for each member of the council.”
Part of O’Donnell’s plan for his upcoming term is to tackle the increasing issue of affordable housing in Northampton. O’Donnell said he and the council will be looking at the city’s zoning codes and discussing whether the 10 percent statewide affordable housing rate will be enough to cover Northampton citizens in the future.
“Income inequality has really expanded over the last 40 years, and additionally, we have an aging population in Northampton, so we…really need to do better than the state minimum,” Sciarra said.
According to Sciarra, she and O’Donnell share a similar interest in creating more affordable housing. In 2015, the two, along with other city councilors, voted to appropriate money to two affordable housing projects from the Community Preservation Committee—the Live 155 Project and the Lumber Yard Project, which aim to provide affordable apartments to low and moderate-income families in Northampton.
O’Donnell also said he will draw more focus onto supporting the arts and the creative economy in Northampton.
“In the budget process, this will be a city council that always supports the public schools, but I would like to highlight the importance the arts play in our schools and our city,” he said. “Public schools should have strong arts so that more people choose public schools as oppose to charter schools.”
O’Donnell claims that he will have workable ideas on how to support the arts in Northampton in the next few weeks.
In the next two weeks, O’Donnell and the rest of City Council will be voting on a resolution endorsing Massachusetts Bill S.1849 which aims to transition the state to 100 percent renewable energy.
Alvin Buyinza can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @abuyinza_news.