Re-Elect Holyoke's Fiscal Watchdog!

Re-Elect Holyoke's Fiscal Watchdog!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Holyoke councilors seek to define legal work of solicitor as President Kevin Jourdain, Mayor Alex Morse clash

Mike Plaisance, The Republican By Mike Plaisance, The Republican
on November 17, 2012 at 12:00 PM, updated November 17, 2012 at 6:49 PM
HOLYOKE -- The City Council Tuesday will consider a proposed ordinance that would restrict private-practice legal work the city solicitor can do, but has also sparked a dispute between Mayor Alex B. Morse and council President Kevin A. Jourdain.
Jourdain said the order was intended to update the job description of city solicitor, which used to be a part-time position, not single out City Solicitor Elizabeth Rodriguez-Ross.
But Jourdain was among councilors in February critical of Rodriguez-Ross for saying, during meetings that led to her being confirmed, that she planned to spend Thursdays working on her private-practice cases.
"We want 100 percent devotion to this position exclusive of all others,” Jourdain said during a Feb. 9 meeting.
The order the council will consider was sponsored by councilors Daniel B. Bresnahan, Linda L. Vacon and Jourdain. The order states the solicitor will "devote his or her full time" to city duties and will take on no outside work during the business work day that conflicts with solicitor duties, councilors said.
"She wouldn't be able to do any court work at all" unrelated to city duties, Jourdain said.
Rodriguez-Ross wrote in an email it was wrong to interpret the proposed ordinance to say it would prohibit the solicitor from doing legal work other than that for the city.
"That's not what was approved. No outside work during normal business hours," Rodriguez-Ross wrote.
The proposed ordinance would ban the solicitor from doing non-city work in court, but still allow for after-work-hours review of a contract for someone, for example, officials said.
Rodriguez-Ross' yearly salary is $70,000. The solicitor is appointed by the mayor but subject to City Council confirmation. The council voted 10-4 to confirm Rodriguez-Ross on Feb. 21.
Councilor at Large Aaron M. Vega and others have said Rodriguez-Ross works beyond the required number of hours per week for the job, with Vega saying he gets emails from her responding to questions late at night and early in the morning.
010712 alex morse mug.JPG
Holyoke Mayor Alex B. Morse

Morse wrote in an email that the proposed order says the solicitor would be unable to work on other legal work between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., but committee Chairwoman Rebecca Lisi and Jourdain said the proposal deliberately excluded specific times.
Jourdain said the solicitor is sometimes needed during night meetings. Lisi said that Councilor Joseph M. McGiverin noted during the discussion that solicitor was a job for which it was difficult to determine what is a normal business work day.
Morse questioned why the council was considering the proposal.
"Frankly, the City Council is overstepping its bounds. Elizabeth Rodriguez-Ross is one of the most intelligent and dedicated public servants I know, and Holyoke is lucky to have her as our solicitor.
"Council President Jourdain should shift his attention to more important city matters and hold the City Council's appointments accountable before playing politics with mine. I call on all city councilors to put politics aside, and work together for the good of the city," Morse wrote in an email.
Holyoke City Council President Kevin A. Jourdain

Jourdain said producing ordinances like the one regarding the solicitor is exactly the council's role.
"We're in charge of the legislative function of the city. Apparently the mayor thinks he's in charge of that, too, along with everything else. What we do here is write laws. That's our job. What we do is we write laws to make sure everyone is accountable," Jourdain said.
"I don't take my marching orders from the mayor. Unless he didn't know, I've been here 20 years and I don't need him reminding me what's good for the city," he said.
Jourdain said he took Morse's reference to council appointments to mean Chief Assessor Anthony Dulude. A committee meeting is being scheduled to discuss the possibility of disciplining Dulude and Assessor Deborah J. Brunelle regarding the over-taxing of Macy's that forced the city to refund the department store nearly $960,000 in August. The council appoints the assessors.
The discussion will include Dulude's taking of a $1,000-a-year stipend from the city for eight years for a certification from a trade group that he actually didn’t have. Dulude is repaying the city with deductions from his paycheck, officials have said.
Chairman Peter R. Tallman said Thursday he hopes to schedule a meeting of the Public Service Committee about the assessors in December.
Jourdain said the council is handling the possible disciplining of the assessors with care, as it would with all appointees, to ensure individuals' rights are maintained.
Lisi said the dispute about the proposed order related to the solicitor was unnecessary. The sponsors filed the order in February and she should have ensured it was considered sooner, she said.
"It's my fault as committee chair that it hasn't been taken up until now," Lisi said.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Holyoke officials disagree whether city should pay full Quinn Bill costs for police after court rules it unnecessary

Published: Saturday, March 17, 2012, 10:00 AM Updated: Saturday, March 17, 2012, 5:06 PM
Mike Plaisance, The Republican
2011 Holyoke police substation.jpg
HOLYOKE – The city should treat last week’s court ruling about educational pay for police officers as a way to save $500,000 a year, Council President Kevin A. Jourdain said.

But Mayor Alex B. Morse said last week he was still studying the March 7 ruling of the state Supreme Judicial Court and will be mindful about treating police fairly.

Police union President James J. Bartolomei said he hopes the city stands by officers and fully funds the incentive.

The court ruled that municipalities aren’t responsible for 100 percent funding of police education benefits, known as the Quinn Bill. That means that with the state having ended its paying of 50 percent of such costs, cities and towns don’t have to pay the state’s share, the court said.

Holyoke pays police officers about $1 million a year for the Quinn Bill. That means the state’s unfunded share is $500,000, officials said.
102611 kevin jourdain mug.jpgHolyoke City Council President Kevin A. Jourdain
“I’m leading the charge on this one,” Jourdain said. “As much as I love our police, the city can’t afford it. We’re certainly not going to handle it with tax increases to the taxpayers.”

The 42-year-old law requires that officers with an associate’s degree get an increase of 10 percent of their base pay, those with a bachelor’s get a 20 percent pay increase and those with a master’s get a 25 percent pay increase.

An officer making $50,000 a year, depending on the college degree, would get annual bonuses of $5,000, $10,000 or $12,500.

Morse said his administration was studying the court ruling.

“I think we have to be careful about what message we send to the hard-working men and women of the Police Department before we make any decision,” Morse said.

The 91 members of Local 388, International Brotherhood of Police Officers understands the city’s financial bind. But officers hope officials and taxpayers understand that a recognition of the city’s finances was what led the union to agree to its current, two-year contract that included zero percent pay increases, Bartolomei said. The contract expires June 30.

“We’re hoping that the mayor is going to stand by his commitment to education and fully fund the complete Quinn Bill,” Bartolomei said.

Negotiations on a new contract have yet to begin, he said.

The state’s share of the incentive dropped to $5 million for each of the past two fiscal years. No funding is in the current state budget for Quinn Bill payments and Gov. Deval L. Patrick did not recommend funding of the incentive for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
© 2012 All rights reserved.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

City Council Committee Appointments for 2012-2013


Lisi, Chair
Alexander, Vice-Chair


McGee, Chair
Vacon, Vice-Chair

Public Safety

Soto, Chair
Murphy, Vice-Chair

Public Service

Tallman, Chair
Leahy, Vice-Chair


Vega, Chair
McGiverin, Vice-Chair

Joint Committee of City Council and School Committee

Lebron-Martinez, Chair


Jourdain, Chair

Cable Television

Jourdain, Chair

Holyoke City Council President Kevin Jourdain appoints new committee leaders

102611 kevin jourdain mug.jpg
Kevin Jourdain
HOLYOKE – The change sweeping through city government that has featured a new mayor has now struck the City Council committees.

Council President Kevin A. Jourdain, the first new president of the city’s legislative body since 1986, said Wednesday he has appointed new chairmen for four of the five main council committees.

Committees are where debates take place about how to spend taxpayer dollars, and it’s where public hearings are held if a restaurant wants to install a drive-up window.

Recommendations are made in the committees about whether to allow spending, establish laws, grant requests for zone changes and special permits and hire department heads and other employees.

Committee decisions are recommendations subject to vote by the full City Council.

Jourdain was elected by the 15-member council to be the new president on Jan. 3.

Jourdain scored an 8-7 win over Councilor at Large Joseph M. McGiverin, who had been president 26 straight years.

Chairmanships were based on a combination of experience, qualifications and whether councilors supported him for council president, he said.

The only returning chairman is Ward 6 Councilor Todd A. McGee, who will continue heading the Finance Committee. McGee voted for McGiverin for president and is the only councilor who did so to get a chairmanship from Jourdain.

“He did a very good job overseeing Finance,” Jourdain said. “Although he didn’t vote for me as president, he did that more out of a loyalty to Joe rather than anything against me.”

Councilors are paid $10,000 a year each and there’s no additional pay for being a chairman. Each councilor belongs to two or three committees.
Lisi1.jpgRebecca Lisi
Councilor at Large Rebecca Lisi is chairwoman of the Ordinance Committee, taking over from former Ward 2 Councilor Diosdado Lopez, who didn’t run for reelection.

“She’s a very organized person, so I think she’s going to be great there,” Jourdain said.

The Ordinance Committee is arguably the busiest, considering proposed bylaws and holding hearings that last multiple hours.

Lisi said she has contacted department heads to get information on issues to update members of her committee.

“I’m really honored to have been given the position,” Lisi said.

New Ward 2 Councilor Anthony Soto is the new Public Safety Committee chairman. Former Councilor at Large Patricia C. Devine, the previous chairwoman, was defeated in the Nov. 8 election.

Jourdain said he chose Soto because of his public safety experience as a former member of the Fire Commission and to give a voice to Ward 2 and Hispanics on such issues.

Councilor at Large Peter R. Tallman is new chairman of the Public Service Committee, taking over from Councilor at Large James M. Leahy.

“Pete’s as honorable a person as you’re going to meet,” Jourdain said.

The committee will be busy reviewing prospective appointees of new Mayor Alex B. Morse, who took office Jan. 3, Jourdain said.

Leahy said his ejection as chairman was unsurprising, given his support for McGiverin. But he said the council loses without having McGiverin’s experience as a chairman.

“I do think that overlooking Joe for a chairmanship probably wasn’t the right thing to do,” Leahy said.

Jourdain said that as with the council presidency, it was time for a change.

“I just felt it’s time to give new people an opportunity,” Jourdain said.

McGiverin is vice chairman of the Redevelopment Committee, which could be busy dealing with casino gambling issues.

“That’s the president’s prerogative,” McGiverin said. “I’m looking forward to serving on the Redevelopment Committee because I think there’s going to be a lot going on.”

Councilor at Large Aaron M. Vega is new chairman of the Redevelopment Committee, Jourdain’s former chairmanship.

Council President Kevin A. Jourdain's Speech to the City Council upon his election!

City Council President Speech

January 3, 2012

            I would like to thank my colleagues for the tremendous honor and privilege to serve as President.  On January 6, 1986, Joe McGiverin was first elected as President of the City Council and since that time he has served the city with honor and distinction.  I truly thank him for his past leadership.  He holds the record for longest service as President and it is a record that I fully expect will never be broken.  Certainly not by me, for I have pledged not to serve longer than 6 years as President, if you wish to have me even that long.

            The Legislative Branch of Holyoke City Government has taken many forms and names over the last 139 years.  During that time, what has been constant is that the people of Holyoke have turned to us to be a positive force for good, to rise above the city’s challenges and be their voice.  In us, average citizens drawn from the community, is placed enormous authority.  With the overwhelming vote to defeat the proposed Charter Change and its desired change in the balance of power, the people of Holyoke have spoken clearly that they turn to the City Council to be the vanguard against an overbearing government.  That our government will not spend more than it brings in and will act in a financially responsible manner.  That City Hall and all of the employees who are privileged to serve will act with transparency and integrity.  That government is the servant and the citizens its master and never the other way around.  It is our scared duty and oath to uphold these principles and the Ordinances of our city and the Constitution of our great nation.

            The people of Holyoke have placed great faith in a 22 year man named Alex Morse to lead our city as Mayor.  I am reminded that I as a young man of 22 was first elected a member of this body.  I am no longer 22 but I still share the same passion, energy and idealism that first drew me to be a servant of the people.  Each of us is called to aid our new Mayor to be a success, for the Mayor to succeed means that Holyoke succeeds.  The youngest Councilor ever elected serving alongside the youngest Mayor ever elected: it certainly will be interesting.

            Over the new term, we are privileged to have a body composed of so many bright and distinguished members.  Each of our talents will be put to the test.  Many new people will be called to positions of leadership.  As we craft law and policy for the city, let us do so with wisdom and reflection.  Let us do so, however, with bold leadership.  The solutions to our city’s problems require us to think outside of the box and not be afraid to take bold positions.  Where we know something is wrong, we must fix it.   Previous generations of Holyokers faced challenges similar to or greater than ours and they succeeded.  They were the makers of a proud history.  It is now our turn to be makers of law and makers of history.  Let it be said by our children and grandchildren, that we served faithfully and left the city much better than we received it.

            I wish everyone the best of success and look forward to serving with each of you.  

            May Almighty God keep Holyoke within His Divine Providence and may He Bless the work of our new Mayor and City Council.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Kevin Jourdain elected President of the Holyoke City Council!

Kevin Jourdain elected Holyoke City Council president following Mayor Alex Morse swearing-in

Published: Tuesday, January 03, 2012, 8:55 PM Updated: Tuesday, January 03, 2012, 10:14 PM
Mike Plaisance, The Republican
Mayor Alex B. Morse turns to the audience of supporters after being sworn in during the Inauguration ceremony at Holyoke High school Tuesday. Over Morse's right shoulder is Kevin A. Jourdain, who was elected new CIty Council president. Councilor James M. Leahy is over Morse's left shoulder.

HOLYOKE – Mayor Alex B. Morse was sworn into office Tuesday as the youngest mayor in city history at age 22, and the changes soon began, all around City Hall.

The 15-member City Council elected its first new president in nearly three decades, choosing Councilor at Large Kevin A. Jourdain over Councilor at Large Joseph M. McGiverin.

McGiverin had been president for 26 straight years.

Jourdain – who pledged to be a bold council president – edged McGiverin, 8-7, on the second ballot of voting in City Council Chambers.

The theme continued Tuesday night with the School Committee electing Devin M. Sheehan, one of the board’s youngest, to be committee vice chairman. The mayor is chairman of the School Committee, and practice has been that the vice chairman runs meetings.
Morse appointed Elizabeth Rodriguez-Ross as the new city solicitor, replacing Lisa A. Ball. The solicitor’s yearly salary is $75,823.

Morse also fired Jeanette Berrios as city personnel director because he said she was unqualified for the job, and made city staff attorney Adam Pudelko the new personnel director. The personnel director’s yearly salary is $60,600.

The city solicitor and personnel director appointments are subject to City Council confirmation.

Ball was city solicitor and Berrios was acting personnel director under former Mayor Elaine A. Pluta, whom Morse defeated in the Nov. 8 election.
The 2012 Holyoke Inaugural ceremony
01/03/12 - Holyoke - Flanked by members of the City Council and School Committee Mayor Alex B. Morse gives his Inaugural Address during the Inauguration ceremony at Holyoke High school.
Councilors such as Jourdain and others have argued Berrios, of Springfield, was unqualified under city law to be personnel director. She lacks a bachelor’s degree, isn’t a city resident and lacks at least five years experience as a personnel director, assistant director or administrator, such officials have said, though she worked in the office for more than 15 years.

Berrios couldn’t be reached for comment.

Morse said his office staff at City Hall will consist of Chief of Staff Dori Dean, who was his campaign manager, Executive Assistant Tessa Murphy-Romboletti and aide Nilka M. Ortiz, the lone holdover from Pluta’s staff.

Morse said Dean, Murphy-Romboletti and Ortiz each will be paid $40,764 a year.
Other changes in city jobs and on boards and commissions will be coming, Morse said.

Morse, in inaugural remarks, pledged commitment to improving education, economic development and public safety, along with a dedication to trying to unify the different factions of the city.

“Let us remember that we all want what’s best for our hometown. And that in no other city in this nation are the people more considerate, generous and compassionate,” Morse said.

The day marked a departure from “the old ways of doing politics in this city,” said Morse, who said the city’s strongest asset was its people.

“Today, we rededicate ourselves to the betterment of this community. We will not achieve every goal we desire in just one election or even one mayoral term. But I have no doubt that we will meet these challenges – boldly, fearlessly, and with the proud, fighting spirit that defines our people,” Morse said.
He wants to “rebrand” the city that, because of its former paper mills, was known as the Paper City, and have it be called the Digital City, he said, because of the $165 million high-performance computing center being built downtown. The center will be an academic research facility with partners that include Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Massachusetts.

Despite the spirit of newness and the 18-hour days of vigor that Morse brings, the problems in the path of the change he envisioned are deep. Holyoke’s poverty rate is more than 28 percent. The city population is about 40,000. More than 10 percent of the population is unemployed.

Only 26 percent of students in grades pre-kindergarten to Grade 3 are able to read at their grade levels. A major reason for that is English is the second language for the largely Hispanic enrollment.

Morse told the packed high school auditorium he was mindful of his limitations in dealing with such challenges, but also confident.

“Lest we forget, we are Holyoke. As long as we remember that, there is no way we can fail,” he said.

Morse announced his candidacy for mayor when he was 21 and midway through his senior year at Brown University, in Providence, R.I. He graduated in May with a degree in urban studies.

The ceremony at Holyoke High School included swearing in of the City Council and School Committee.

Lt. Gov. Timothy P. Murray was master of ceremonies for the inaugural event.

Among officials who attended were U.S. Rep. John W. Olver, D-Amherst, Brian P. Lees, clerk of Hampden Superior Court, state Sen. Michael R. Knapik, R-Westfield, and state Rep. Michael F. Kane, D-Holyoke.

Jourdain’s elevation to president capped weeks of lobbying of councilors by himself and McGiverin, whom Jourdain had tried previously to unseat.

Jourdain said it was beyond the acceptable time for a change. McGiverin said he understood and enjoyed the public role of City Council president and wished to continue.

“As we craft law and policy for the city, let us do so with wisdom and reflection,” Jourdain said. “Let us do so, however, with bold leadership. The solutions to our city’s problems require us to think outside of the box and not be afraid to take bold positions.”

Jourdain and McGiverin split the votes of the six new councilors. Jourdain got votes from Gladys Lebron-Martinez, who replaces Donald R. Welch as Ward 1 councilor; Anthony Soto, who takes over as Ward 2 councilor from Diosdado Lopez; and Gordon P. Alexander, who takes over as Ward 7 councilor from John P. O’Neill.

McGiverin received votes from new Ward 3 Councilor David K. Bartley, who replaces Anthony M. Keane; new Ward 4 Councilor Jason P. Ferreira, who replaces Timothy W. Purington; and new Councilor at Large Daniel B. Bresnahan.

Also backing Jourdain, besides himself, were Ward 5 Councilor Linda L. Vacon and councilors at large Rebecca Lisi, Peter R. Tallman and Aaron M. Vega.

McGiverin received votes from Ward 6 Councilor Todd A. McGee and councilors at large James M. Leahy, Brenna E. Murphy and himself.

The first vote for council president resulted in a lack of majority for any candidate. Jourdain got seven votes, McGiverin six and Vega two.
Joseph McGiverin
After the council presidency was decided with the second ballot, McGiverin walked across the floor to shake Jourdain’s hand.

At the podium, McGiverin stood with Jourdain, said he will retire the gavel he has used as president so Jourdain can wield his own gavel and pledged support to Jourdain.

Jourdain praised McGiverin’s service but made clear his tenure will be different.

“He holds the record for longest service as president and it is a record I fully expect will never be broken. Certainly not by me, for I have pledged not to serve longer than six years as president, if you wish to have me even that long,” Jourdain said.

McGiverin said later, “I’d be lying to you if I said I wasn’t disappointed. But the president has to have a majority of the City Council behind him. I don’t think in my heart it was personal. It was a decision for something different.”

Visibility is a main feature of being council president. The president runs City Council meetings that are held the first and third Tuesday of the month.

That includes determining which councilors can speak based on the order in which they raised their hands, ensuring decorum if debate gets testy and making sure council rules are followed.

One of Jourdain’s first duties will be to choose the chairmen of the council committees. Certain chairmanships are sought after because of their own visibility and at least perceived importance, such as Finance, Public Safety and Ordinance.

Jourdain said he will announce committee chairmen in a few weeks.

City councilors are paid $10,000 a year each.

The School Committee consists of 10 members, including the mayor as chairman. Joshua A. Garcia is the new Ward 1 School Committee member, filling the seat held by Lebron-Martinez.

Yvonne S. Garcia kept the Ward 2 school board seat with a write-in campaign, but didn’t attend the inauguration. She couldn’t be reached later.

Other returning School Committee members are Dennis W. Birks Jr., Ward 3, Cesar A. Lopez, Ward 4, Devin M. Sheehan, Ward 5, William R. Collamore, Ward 6 and Margaret M. Boulais, Ward 7, and at-large member Howard B. Greaney Jr.

The School Committee has two at-large members with staggered, four-year terms. At-large member Michael J. Moriarty wasn’t up for reelection in November and has two years left in his term.

School Committee members get $5,000 a year.
© 2012 All rights reserved.