On Springfield

Outerbelt Weighs in on Committee Fight

The pig pile on City Council President Jimmy Ferrera keeps getting higher, almost a week after the new leader made his controversial committee appointments.

“What is Council President Ferrara [sic] doing?” the board of the Outerbelt Civic Association demanded in a public letter signed by association President Walter Gould, Vice President Mary Dionne, Treasurer Arnold Corbeil and three board members. The letter went on to describe Ferrera’s appointments as a “childish, self motivated, unkind political demonstration of someone who has allowed his new status to become dictatorial.”

Ferrera, who was unanimously elected president by his Council colleagues, invoked all kinds of fury for those appointments, specifically, for relegating two councilors, Ward 2’s Mike Fenton and Ward 7’s Tim Allen, to the proverbial sidelines. Allen—who, not incidentally, had launched a challenge to Ferrera for the Council presidency—was appointed to just one committee, Human Services. Fenton, an Allen ally, fared even worse; he wasn’t appointed to any of the regular committees, but only got a spot on the animal-control advisory committee. In contrast, other councilors were placed on multiple committees, with Ward 1’s Zaida Luna—who supported Ferrera’s presidential bid—hitting the jackpot, with five appointments.

Ferrera has insisted his appointments were not politically motivated—although perhaps he defines “political” a bit differently than most. Here’s how he explained his decision-making process to the Republican’s Pete Goonan: “I had to accommodate the individuals who supported me early on first. Some councilors were last to commit to voting for me for president and they received whatever was left over.”

The Outerbelt Civic Association’s letter calls Allen’s and Fenton’s meager appointments “a slap in the face” to the voters who elected them and who want them to have a voice in Council business: “This is a very ominous situation that the Councilor [Ferrera] has put us in. ... Tim Allen and Michael Fenton need to be a part of the City Council, they are there because we put them there. We did not put them in office to become Councilor Ferrar’s [sic] punching bags.”

The association calls on Ferrera to apologize to Fenton and Allen and to “rectify” the situation—or, if not, to step down as Council president. “If necessary we are prepared to ask for his resignation or impeachment,” the members warn.

Even if he were so inclined, it’s not clear how, exactly, Ferrera could rectify things; at this point, making Fenton or Allen a committee chairman would mean demoting the councilor who already has the job, which would hardly be fair to that person.

Other neighborhood groups are also reportedly considering speaking out against the Council appointments. In the meantime, Ferrera is getting beaten up in the Springfield blogosphere. At Western Mass Politics and Insight, Matt Szafranski—hardly a Ferrera fan even before this mess—writes, “Well that was fast! Not even council president for a week and at-large Councilor Jimmy Ferrera has not only egg on his face, but a whole breakfast.”

“El Presedente didn’t waste anytime showing his leadership ability – or lack thereof – with the 2012 edition of the Springfield City Council,” the Springfield Intruder’s Bill Dusty chimed in, alongside a rather unflattering photo of the new president.

© 2014 The Valley Advocate