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Springfield City Council has 'a lot of work ahead,' declares the body's president (WAMC)

Hear the original story from WAMC's Paul Tuthill here.

The 2023 legislative year has begun for the City Council in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Elected to a full one-year term as president of the Springfield City Council, At-large Councilor Jesse Lederman announced the creation of two special oversight committees – one to look at the distribution of the $123 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds and the other the spending of cannabis tax revenue deposited in a neighborhood stabilization fund.

He also said he is forming four working groups to make policy and legislative recommendations on neighborhood quality of life issues, the digital divide, how to better leverage tourism and the creative economy, and to advocate for better compensation, benefits, and employment opportunities for working families.

“We have a lot of work ahead of us this year,” Lederman said. “Some might call our agenda ambitious. I call it necessary and achievable.”

Lederman became Council President last June after the surprise resignation of Marcus Williams. At an informal caucus last month, Councilors unanimously elected Lederman to serve as president during 2023. The selection was made formal at the Council’s inaugural meeting Monday.

City Councilors will chair each of the working groups. Lederman said in “coming weeks” members of the public will be able to apply to join the panels.

“It is all about getting more people involved in the work of local government,” he said.

Last year, Lederman created a working group on civic engagement that in December issued a final report with eight recommendations that he said will be acted on this year.

“It is about transparency and accountability,” he said.

Lederman said the Springfield City Council will have a greater presence on social media in 2023, and technology will be installed shortly to allow both remote and in-person participation in City Council Committee meetings, which have been remote-only for almost three years.

While appointing Councilors to head up the working groups and chair the two newly-created oversight committees, Lederman has yet to announce assignments to the Council’s 12 standing committees.

The Council’s first regular business meeting of the year is Monday January 9th.

This is an election year in Springfield for the City Council, School Committee, and the mayor. Already one City Councilor, Justin Hurst, has announced he is running for mayor. Lederman has not rebuffed speculation that he too is considering a bid for mayor.

In a short acceptance speech as vice president of the City Council, Ward 3 Councilor Melvin Edwards wryly observed it is “election season.”

“And I would like to take this moment to officially announce my intention…not to be running for mayor,” Edwards said. The City Council chamber, which was filled with about 100 people in the spectator gallery erupted in laughter.

Edwards, who was first elected to the City Council in 2009 – the first year of ward representation that expanded the Council to 13 members from nine who had previously been elected city-wide – grew emotional as he declared he was “eager and honored to continue my service.”

Lt. Gov-elect Kim Driscoll spoke at Lederman’s inauguration saying that as a five-term mayor of Salem she knows the importance of local government.

“And even through the tough parts and the frustrating parts, you are all team Springfield,” Driscoll said. “You are all standing up to make sure this city has what it needs and both Maura Healey and myself see us as your partners in that work.”

Lederman, who is also chair of the Springfield Democratic City Committee, endorsed Driscoll in last September’s primary where the field included then-State Senator Eric Lesser of Longmeadow.

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