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Lumbra announces his campaign for Holyoke City Council

Date: 1/9/2015

HOLYOKE – In an unusual move, City Treasurer Jon Lumbra has announced his intentions not to run for that position again but instead seek the Ward 7 city council seat. Lumbra, if elected, would be replacing Gordon Alexander, who has decided not to seek reelection.

At an announcement in his City Hall office on Jan. 5, Lumbra said his motivation was to help change the tone of the council.

“Unfortunately, the current council is holding us back. It has grown increasingly obstructionist, spending time on sensational items, rather than focusing on what is truly important. As treasurer, I cannot set policy or enact laws, but have to sit by and watch how in-fighting and gamesmanship have slowed so much of the progress we've seen. I have grown increasingly frustrated with the continued pattern of common-sense orders being buried in sub-committee, never to see the light of day merely because of the person suggesting it. The practice of petty, personal politics must stop, or else the great gains we've made over the last five years will slip away,” he said.

He charged that proposed ordinances don’t receive the public hearings they deserve and die in committee. He used as an example a proposal to combine the collector and treasurer jobs into one position that was first considered by the council two years ago.

“The debate hasn’t happened yet,” he said. 

Although Lumbra has taken the necessary legal steps as outlined by ordinance to continue working as treasurer while running for office, he expressed support for leaving the post and having the city council appoint Assistant Treasurer Sandra Smith to serve as acting treasurer.

If he vacates the position without an acting treasurer approved, Lumbra said that Smith would also be forced to leave. The result is the office would then be run by one deputy treasurer.

Smith declined to say at this time whether she would run for the treasurer’s job.

Lumbra said the city needs to “streamline its finances” and suggested the post of city auditor be eliminated and replaced with a finance director that would be hired with a three-year contract.

Noting his time in office and its accomplishments, Lumbra said, “For over five years I have had the extreme pleasure of being your elected treasurer of this great city. I'm proud of the work that we have accomplished. As you may recall when I took office the Department of Revenue as well as the Internal Revenue Services was knocking at the door. The city books hadn't been audited since 2006, our bond rating was SSS and we were quickly coming to the point that the rating would slip and no new debt could be issued. The delinquent taxes as well as sewer liens where left unchecked for years, resulting in over $12 million being owed to the city because of this.”

He continued, “It was a long hard fight but with the help of some great individuals, Sandra Smith, assistant treasurer, Katie Jackowski, senior deputy treasurer, Robin Martins, deputy treasurer and, for a brief time, Mark Riffenburg as deputy treasurer we turned it all around. We closed 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 is practically done. That’s seven years’ worth of financials in five years while keeping everything on track. I’m very proud of this accomplishment, but more importantly, that I was able to aggressively attack the 634 Delinquent Tax Titles that I inherited. The city hadn’t held an auction to return these to the tax rolls since 1976, when then Treasurer Daniel Owens held the last one. Today there are less than 300 Delinquent Tax Title parcels in the city. We have collected over $4 million in revenue and returned 125 parcels to the tax rolls. The city should not be landholders, but for decades this was the practice in Holyoke and we ended it.”

Lumbra currently divides his time between City Hall and his other job as controller at Loomis Communities.

Lumbra said the city needs “more options, more choices” and would like to see 54 people running in this year’s election, challengers and incumbents.

“There is a large voice in Holyoke that is not being heard,” he said.

Lumbra said he has been thinking about running for the council since his last election.