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Re-elected Springfield City Council President Sees Casinos, School Safety As Top Issues

City Councilor James Ferrera, who assured the council a place at the center of the casino debate last year by creating a casino site committee, was re-elected by his colleagues to a rare second consecutive one year term as council president.  Ferrera predicted the casino issue would top the council’s agenda in 2013.

The council must consider ratifying one or two host community agreements, depending on what Mayor Domenic Sarno eventually negotiates with the two casino companies competing to build in Springfield.  The council must also schedule either a city-wide or a ward only voter referendum on the casino deal, or deals.

In a short speech following his re-election as council president, Ferrera identified  three other priorities for the council’s election year agenda, one being school safety

The council president said the city’s infrastructure needs to be upgraded  and improved, and with property tax revenue tight, he suggested the city may look at borrowing money to pay for capital projects

And in the part of his address that drew the loudest applause, Ferrera called for an end to what he said was a double standard in the enforcement of the city’s residency requirement for municipal workers.

Historically, city council presidencies in Springfield have been limited to one year.  But Councilor Bud Williams, who was elected vice president, said the casino issue kept the gavel in Ferrera’s hand for another year.

Retired Springfield Police Chief Paula Meara, whom Ferrera praised for her hard work as chair of the casino site committee, will continue in the assignment. 

Meara said she is anxious to see the detailed development proposals filed with the city last week by MGM Resorts International and Penn National Gaming. For now, the voluminous plans are being kept under seal until confidential business information is removed.  Both companies have proposed resort casino developments worth roughly $800 million in different parts of downtown Springfield.

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.
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