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Ordinance on appointments to municipal boards, commissions headed to final City Council vote

Springfield City Hall
Paul Tuthill
Some boards and commissions that are part of city government in Springfield, Massachusetts are inactive because of a lack of membership

Legislation would create a process for Springfield residents to volunteer to serve

An initiative to bring more people into municipal government service is heading toward a final vote by the City Council in Springfield, Massachusetts.

A proposed ordinance that would require the city to advertise vacancies on volunteer boards and commissions and create an application process whereby people interested in serving could apply for appointment will go before the Springfield City Council for final approval Monday night.

City Council President Jesse Lederman proposed the ordinance as a way to increase civic engagement and in hopes of reviving some dormant advisory groups in Springfield city government that have not met in some time due to a lack of membership.

“This is a common sense reform,” Lederman said.

The ordinance was reported out of the Council’s General Government Committee Thursday with a favorable recommendation.

As proposed, the ordinance directs the City Clerk’s Office to post on the city’s website an up-to-date list of vacancies on boards and commissions, a description of duties and responsibilities, length of terms, identify the appointing authority, and include an application form where residents would state their qualifications and provide contact information.

The City Clerk would be responsible for forwarding the applications to the appointing authority, which is the mayor for most advisory boards and commissions in Springfield.

“Currently, there is no formal process by which to petition an appointing authority for consideration,” Lederman said.

He said the way appointments are often made now lacks transparency because it is done by recruiting people sometimes without consideration to their qualifications.

“The spirit of this is that you shouldn’t have to know somebody to get appointed to a board or commission in Springfield,” Lederman said. “As a resident, you should be able to come forward and volunteer to be considered based on your qualification for the position.”

A few questions about the ordinance were raised in committee that will need to be ironed out before it is fully implemented.

City Councilor Justin Hurst asked if someone is passed over for an appointment would their application remain on file for a future vacancy?

“If you had individuals who were on the list for a long time, it would be nice for us to know,” Hurst said. “Because if the mayor chose not to appoint them to a particular body, maybe we could offer them another slot on a board that the City Council is in charge of.”

Another question: is the online application considered a public record or a confidential job application? City Councilor Mike Fenton, the chair of the General Government Committee, said he would ask the city’s Law Department for an opinion.

The record-setting tenure of Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno. The 2011 tornado and its recovery that remade the largest city in Western Massachusetts. The fallout from the deadly COVID outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers Home. Those are just a few of the thousands and thousands of stories WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill has covered for WAMC in his nearly 17 years with the station.