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At-large councilor James McDermott proposes reducing size of City Council

By Paula Canning

Staff Writer

HOLYOKE Insisting that it would be in the best interest of the city, At-large councilor James McDermott has proposed that the city trim down its City Council by eliminating four of the eight at-large positions, reducing the City Council from 15 to 11 members.

McDermott's proposal, which is on the Sept. 6 agenda of the City Council, is to place the non-binding measure on the ballot for this year's November election.

"It's in the best interest of the city because it would help streamline City Council meetings and would be a $40,000 a year savings," he said.

He said that, in comparison to surrounding communities, Holyoke's City Council is much larger in relation to its population.

For instance, he said that the city of Springfield has nine city council members, all at-large, for a population of about 152,000, while Holyoke has 15 councilors for a city of approximately 40,000.

He also noted other surrounding cities with City Councils comprised of between nine and 13 members, such as West Springfield, that have between two or four at-large seats.

In order for the proposal to appear on the ballot, the measure must receive a 2/3 approval by the City Council, and must also be signed by Mayor Michael Sullivan.

Sullivan could not be reached for comment by press time.

McDermott said that although he cannot speak for the mayor, "I don't see any reason why he wouldn't sign it."

Because reducing the number of at-large seats would completely restructure the Council, McDermott explained that even if the measure received the necessary votes in the Nov. 8 election, it would still be subject to state approval.

"It would be a very long, time -consuming process," McDermott said. "The reality is that, if everything goes smoothly, it probably wouldn't [go into effect] for at least another two years."

He explained that his genuine interest in what is best for the city is evidenced by the sacrifice he made in filing the order.

"It's not in my best interest, it's my doom," said McDermott, who placed eight out of 10 at-large candidates in 2003.

"It was extremely hard to file this order due to the fact that for most years I've always finished seventh or eighth in the election," he said. "If it passes, I won't be elected again."

McDermott said he attributes his seventh and eight place finishes in the at-large elections to the fact that he doesn't belong to certain clubs and organizations that other at-large councilors do.

"It's a popularity contest and I'm just your everyday guy," McDermott said. "I don't belong to the right kind of organizations to finish that high."

He added, "I'd be cutting my nose off to spite my face, but what else can I do? It's in the best interest of the city of Holyoke."