Springfield City Council kicks off 2018 with focus on diversity, police-community relations, residen

Read the original story from MassLive here.

SPRINGFIELD -- Orlando Ramos was unanimously re-elected by his City Council colleagues as its president on Monday, saying that the council and the city itself is made stronger by its rich diversity.

"Diversity is a beautiful thing," Ramos said after being sworn in as president for a second consecutive one-year term.

"Diversity is what makes this legislative body one of the strongest and most productive in the commonwealth. And, in the words of my colleague, Councilor (Kateri) Walsh, 'what makes Springfield a great place to live and work is our diversity.'"

Ramos said he has had the privilege of serving beside Hispanic-American, African-American and Irish-American councilors.

Walsh was unanimously elected vice-president, replacing Justin Hurst at the council's annual organizational meeting. The meeting is held on the first Monday of the year even when it falls on the New Year's Day holiday.

Ramos also raised the topic of race in his prepared remarks, saying the topic can either divide or unite, and he hopes his words will unite.

He said his proudest moment on the council in 2017 was on Aug. 21, when the body voted to support a resolution "denouncing bigotry, hatred and terror; and standing up for diversity and inclusion -- because that is what the Springfield City Council stands for."

City Clerk Anthony Wilson gave the oath of office to the councilors including two newly elected members, Jesse Lederman and Timothy Ryan. Ryan previously served on the council from 1994 to 2004. Two of the 13 members were absent, Thomas Ashe and E. Henry Twiggs.

Ramos said his priorities in 2018 will be to continue working on ways to improve police-community relations in Springfield by implementing some of the recommendations of the council's Police-Community Relations Committee. The committee recently issued a report of its findings and recommendations after a 10-month study and hearings across the city.

Ramos said he also will continue to advocate for a stronger residency requirement for city employees in 2018.

The effort to improve police-community relations and residency were also priorities of Ramos in 2017, and he said there was progress made on both fronts.

In addition to the report by the Police-Community Relations Committee, the Springfield firefighters union advanced the issue of residency by accepting "the strongest residency language anywhere in the state," Ramos said.

The contract requires all newly hired firefighters to live in Springfield for at least 10 years as a condition of employment.

Another priority in 2017 was strengthening the Code Enforcement Department, which was accomplished by hiring an additional inspector and lawyer for code enforcement efforts, he said.

Ramos said a new priority this year is to establish some dog parks in Springfield, saying he believes it be a great benefit to the city, its residents and pets.

The annual organizational meeting was designed with a special focus on women, Ramos said.

Hampden Superior Court Assistant Clerk Magistrate Cheryl Coakley-Rivera, who was the first Hispanic state representative in Massachusetts, gave the oath of office to Ramos as president, and the program also featured women for the opening and closing prayers.

"God Bless America" was sung by Vanessa Ford, and Ramos' daughter, Ariana, led the Pledge of Allegiance.

The first decision of the new year was deciding how to line up to enter the council chambers: either by height or by seating order. The line-up by seating order prevailed.

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