Bidwell Advisors
February 21, 2018
To neighbors and friends, Ward 2 and elsewhere,

Never a dull moment in Our Fair City of Northampton!
I look forward to hearing from you with feedback, questions, concerns and recommendations.


Dennis Bidwell
New Council leadership and committeesleadership
One of our first orders of business in the new two-year Council session was the election of officers. Serving for the next two years will be Ryan O'Donnell as Council President and Gina Louise Sciarra as Council Vice President.

I will be serving again as Vice Chair of the Community Resources Committee, with responsibilities in the areas of economic development, local business, tourism, the environment, the arts, planning, zoning, sustainability, land use, housing and affordability, among others. I'll also serve as a member of the City Services Committee, with responsibilities in "matters related to the activities and operation of municipal government."

The Legislative Matters Committee, through which all proposed ordinances must pass on the way to the full Council, will be chaired by Bill Dwight, with Alisa Klein as Vice Chair.

And the Finance Committee will again be chaired by David Murphy, with Maureen Carney serving as Vice Chair.
Retail marijuana hearingsretail
Approval of a statewide ballot measure in November 2016 set in motion a process that will see retail marijuana shops opening in Massachusetts July 1 of this year. The 5-member Cannabis Control Commission has issued draft regulations, and by April 1 the CCC must be ready to accept license applications from potential retailers, manufacturers and cultivators. And by June 1 they can start issuing retail licenses.
At the local level, the Mayor has presented to the City Council a package of measures addressing retail marijuana. This includes four zoning ordinances concerned with definitions of marijuana production and retailing, "buffer zones" around schools, and security measures around marijuana cultivation facilities.

Also included in the Mayor's package of recommendations is a financial order that would impose a 3% local sales tax on marijuana sales.

The City Council will be holding a series of hearings and meetings related to retail marijuana:
  • Planning Board will review the four zoning ordinances pertaining to retail marijuana on February 22 at 7:00 pm in Council Chambers.
  • Community Resources Committee will hold a general public forum on retail marijuana in Northampton on February 27 at 5:00 pm in Council Chambers. This will include brief presentations by the Northampton Prevention Coalition/SPIFFY Coalition and New England Treatment Access (NETA), followed by public comment.
  • Legislative Matters Committee will hold a public hearing on the four zoning ordinances pertaining to retail marijuana on February 27 at 7:00 pm in Council Chambers.
  • Finance Committee will take up the financial order regarding local sales tax at its March 1 meeting, to be held as part of the City Council meeting at 7:00 pm in Council Chambers.
  • Also at the March 1 City Council meeting it is likely that the full Council will take up, on first reading, the zoning ordinances and local sales tax measure.
  • City Services Committee will invite representatives from Police Department and the Health Department to discuss public health and enforcement-related issues at its March 5 meeting, at 4:00 pm, in Council Chambers.
The introduction of retail marijuana operations into our community is a big deal. Please join in the discussions at one or more of these important meetings.
Decorum at City Council meetingsdecorum
At City Council and Committee meetings over the last four months, intensive interest in the downtown camera issue produced an upsurge in attendance and comment at meetings. At times the robust discussion included noise levels in the audience that made it difficult for members of the public to hear deliberations, and also made it difficult at times for Council members to hear one another. We also heard from members of the public that signs raised high sometimes interfered with seeing what was going on. It was also clear that the atmosphere in Council Chambers was not always welcoming of alternative views.

Because at the start of every new Council session we take the opportunity to review our Council Rules, I joined with Councilors Gina Louise Sciarra and Jim Nash to propose an amendment that would expand on what existing Council rules described as "civility and respect at all times." We looked at the rules regarding conduct at City Council meetings in Boston, Cambridge, Berkeley, Portland OR, Ann Arbor MI, and proposed something much less restrictive than the rules used in other progressive communities. Specifically, in the interest of increasing public participation at Council meetings, we proposed: "Demonstrations from members of the public of approval or disapproval, or any actions that interfere with the ability of all in the Council Chambers to hear or see the Council conducting its business, will not be permitted."

After much debate, this and other proposed amendments to the Council rules were rejected by the Legislative Matters Committee of the Council and by the full Council. The view that prevailed was that we all need to be tolerant of the messiness of local democracy, even if it causes some to feel uncomfortable or unwelcome and even if it means, at times, difficulties in hearing and seeing deliberations.

I take Council President O'Donnell at his word when he offers an assurance that he will use the tools at his disposal to maintain reasonable decorum and an inclusive environment for all in Council Chambers.
Village Hill trail easementstrail
The original special permit and master plan for the redevelopment of the former Northampton State Hospital called for permanent public access on the site to provide non-vehicular access through the site and to the rest of the City. This has led to a network of pedestrian and bicycle trails, many of which have been permanently protected through easements donated to the City. Now, the City is poised to accept public access easements from Kent Pecoy & Sons Construction, for trails mostly completed. The Community Resources Committee will review these easements at its meeting February 27 at 4:30 in Council Chambers. (See trails plan here.)
End of Life Options Act in the Legislatureend
I was pleased to be lead sponsor of a City Council resolution in support of House Bill 1194, the "End of Life Options Act," pending in the legislature, which would make Massachusetts the 7th state, plus Washington DC, to authorize the option for terminally ill and mentally sound citizens to choose a peaceful, humane death, by a self-administered medication prescribed by their doctor, if their pain becomes unbearable.

This bill must be voted out of the Joint Public Health Committee by March 7 or it will die with no option of re-introducing it until 2019. Please contact the co-chairs of this committee to urge approval of this critically important bill.

Rep. Kate Hogan (, 617-722-2130)
Sen. Jason Lewis (, 617-722-1206)
NEF Spelling Bee March 21bee
I've always been a huge fan of the Northampton Education Foundation, and its annual Spelling Bee. Please consider sponsoring a team, joining a team, or just showing up!

Dennis Bidwell City Council Ward 2
  413-584-2732 |
19 Forbes Avenue
Northampton, MA 01060