Video: City Council Meeting of 9/17/09; Special Clips: Susco/Higgins/Bardsley, LaBarge/Spector

Here is a video of the 9/17/09 meeting of Northampton’s City Council. We join the meeting near the beginning of the public comment period. This video is 3 hours 21 minutes long and was recorded by Mimi Odgers of Water Not Waste.


Below are two short clips from the meeting. The first shows a strong complaint from citizen Steve Susco about a chronic sewage backup problem. He wants the city to take more effective action. Mr. Susco exceeds the customary 3-minute limit on speech. Mayor Clare Higgins relinquishes her gavel to City Council President James Dostal and steps to the back of the room. Susco concludes and the Mayor retakes her seat. She says, “If there’s a desire to use this as a political speak-out, I’ll come to the meeting after the public comment is over, if that’s the desire to some supporters of various campaigns. The rules here are three minutes. That was agreed to by the whole council. If you believe the rules should be longer you should ask a councilor to extend them. I don’t make the rules. The council does. They have told me to enforce them. If you want to use it as a time to attack me and campaign, fine, I will be here. And the next meeting, I will only call on people that have signed up [on the public comment sign-up sheet]…”

At-Large City Councilor and mayoral candidate Michael Bardsley raises his hand: “Point of information. Mr. Susco spoke as an individual. He was not connected to a campaign…”

Higgins: “If you feel the need to point that out, then…it’s interesting that you feel that need.”

The second clip shows Ward 6 City Councilor Marianne LaBarge and Ward 2 City Councilor Paul Spector exchanging views on the landfill expansion decision-making process.

LaBarge: “This gag order – I think that could be challenged in court. I have not heard of one city…ever placing a gag order on a city council… I feel it’s our job to take and do the tough decisions here, on voting on this special permit… Election time or not…”

Spector: “…it’s not about a ‘gag order’, it’s how you act as a special permitting body. You can not make a decision and then sit on a permitting body… I’m getting a little tired of these political accusations…so I’m going to make it on the other side… I think there’s some fear about having an open discussion about a very complex issue. So it’s not just one side that can get angry about this. I’m tired of being accused of this as being a political thing on one side… This is a complex situation. I hope that we could discuss this in a way that is not political. Because you know what, this isn’t about this mayor’s race… This is a 20-year, 30-year decision that we are talking about. And we should be able to have a complex discussion about this with our citizens. And I don’t know why, before an election, people are now saying, ‘Oh, well, we’ve suffered under this…constraint, and so, because I’ve suffered under the constraint, I’m not going to do it any longer.’ That sounds political to me, and it also sounds frightened. It sounds frightened about having open dialogue, not just having people screaming one side or the other… This is about having the courage to stand up and have an open discussion about a very difficult issue. So I’m tired of being yelled at about one side of this being political.”

Here is the original official agenda for the meeting:

See also:

Springfield Republican: “Landfill and politics dominate in ‘Hamp” (9/19/09)
On its Thursday agenda, the council had scheduled two important items regarding the proposed expansion of the Glendale Road facility. One concerned the wording of a nonbinding question that would appear on the November ballot along with a citizens’ initiative about the fate of the expansion. The other focused on how the council should handle its responsibility to decide whether to grant a special permit for the project…

Spector accused Bardsley of playing the matter politically by basking in the glow of the dissent without showing his cards on where he stands regarding the expansion.

“I don’t think he wants an open discussion and debate on the landfill because it is really complex,” he said.

Bardsley agreed that politics was in the air, but attributed it to other parties.

“I think it’s sad that Paul Spector has to go after people’s characters and people’s motives,” he said.

Valley Advocate: “Northampton: Spector vs. Bardsley” (5/21/09)

Gazette: “Harangue raises issue of council comment period” (9/19/09)
In a loud voice, Susco challenged the mayor’s management style and administration as one that ignores its residents, among other charges. In past speeches, including one at the Sept. 3 meeting that lasted five minutes, he has lauded At-Large City Councilor Michael R. Bardsley for listening to his concerns and attempting to solve his sewer problem. Bardsley is running for mayor against Higgins…

A day after the flare-up, Higgins stressed that Susco and other speakers are free to say what they want during their allotted time. That includes making campaign speeches or berating her. But, she said, the council sets the time limit for a reason and it’s her job to enforce it.

Video: City Council Meeting of 9/3/09; Landfill Issues
0:25:36-0:31:00… Steve Susco speaks on his efforts to resolve longstanding problems with sewage backing up into his home on Bridge Road. See additional details at Northampton Redoubt.

Gazette: “Landfill question on ballot – take 2” (9/18/09)
The City Council Thursday approved placing a second nonbinding question about the city’s landfill expansion before voters in November – but many councilors did so with the knowledge that they could modify or kill the idea at a special meeting next week.

The question, approved by a 5-3 vote on first reading, states: “The Board of Public Works received a waiver from the Department of Environmental Protection to expand the landfill on Glendale Road, which will reach capacity around 2011 and close. Should the Northampton landfill be expanded?”

Water Not Waste Achieves Ballot Question Signature Goal

Ordinance Committee Recommendations on Competing Heavy Public Use Ordinances

Video: Ordinance Committee Meeting of 9/14/09; Heavy Public Uses, Landfill Ballot Questions

Video: Planning Board Meeting of 9/10/09; Heavy Public Use Ordinance Options

Gazette: “Planners ask council to keep permit authority” (9/11/09)

Video: Special Meeting of the Board of Public Works and the City Council, 8/21/09; Landfill Ballot Question No. 2
The claim that there will be “no new environmental risk for the city” seems scientifically impossible. As noted at Zero Waste America, “even the best liner and leachate collection system will ultimately fail due to natural deterioration.” It might be plausible to claim the environmental risk from landfill expansion is small, but it’s not zero.

Videos: Planning Board Meeting of 8/13/09; Special Permits for Heavy Public Uses

Northampton Redoubt: “Landfill question letter submitted to Gazette by Andrew Woodland”

Video: Solid Waste Management Alternatives Study – Informational Meeting of 9/14/09
1:17:48-1:19:20 and 1:53:07-1:54:55: Ward 7 City Council candidate Gene Tacy expresses skepticism about expanding the landfill over the Barnes Aquifer recharge area. He feels this will incur greater environmental risks than we tolerate in other areas. Tacy is also concerned that financial assumptions made by expansion proponents might not pan out.

Video: Landfill Options – Public Information Meeting of 8/17/09

“An uphill slog: Fighting the landfill expansion is not going to be easy” – Mike Kirby

Department of Public Works: Landfill Documents

Northampton Solid Waste Alternatives Google Group

Solid Waste Management Alternatives Study (PDF, 2.7MB)

Paradise City Forum: Landfill and Aquifer