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Call for resignation

Date: 6/15/2009

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

SPRINGFIELD City Councilor James Ferrera III has called for the resignation of the entire Board of License Commisisoners. Ferrera told Reminder Publications his stand was "not personal," but he is "looking for a new vision and new leadership."

Mayor Domenic Sarno doesn't agree and defended the board.

The Board of License Commissioners is the regulatory entity for liquor licenses and common victualer's licenses, among other business licenses. Mayor Charles Ryan appointed most of the current board and all of them serve as volunteers.

The board is chaired by Peter Sygnator and includes Juan A. Rivera, Robert G. Casey, Melvin McLaurin and Mary Jenewin-Caplin.

In a letter to Mayor Domenic Sarno dated June 9, Ferrera noted the terms of the present commissioners have all expired and asked Sarno to submit new candidates to the City Council for approval.

Ferrera also told Sarno that a caucus of the city's neighborhood councils and civic association should be organized since under a 2002 state law that caucus is to pick a member of the board.

"My reasoning is that the downtown business district has significant challenges. We need to look at the big picture," Ferrera said.

Ferrera believes the board should work with the Planning Board and the Office of Economic development in business development and retention.

He also maintained the present board has been "inconsistent" with it decisions disciplining license holders.

"I get that sense from the business community," Ferrera said. He declined to name any specific case in which business owners thought they were treated unfairly.

Sarno's office issued the following statement: "Councilor Ferrara's statements regarding the City's License Commission are disrespectful to the Board's members. As with all City Boards and Commissions, these individuals donate their time to their City and their Community. Mayor Sarno is cognizant of the personal sacrifices an individual makes when he or she serves as an appointed public official and is thankful to each of them for their dedicated service.

"The City's License Commission attempts to reach decisions that are fair and just after a review of all the evidence presented. If a licensee is dissatisfied with a decision reached by the Commission they can appeal to the State's Alcohol Beverage Control Commission who has authority to review the City's License Commission decisions.

"Ferrara's assertion that the decision making process by the Commission has led to a decline in economic activity in downtown Springfield seems inconsistent with his own recognition of the need for new economic growth in downtown Springfield. Is Ferrara advocating that there be no rules, regulations or accountability for downtown liquor establishments? It is rules, regulations and accountability that will help downtown businesses.

"Mayor Sarno has remained committed to the vitality of our City's downtown. Recently, he enacted regulations requiring establishments to apply for a special license if the establishment chooses to host any events promoted to individuals aged 18-21.

"Springfield recently announced that Hot Table will be opening in Tower Square and there is also a new restaurant opening on Worthington Street. There is economic growth in our City."

Ferrera said although his statements might sound "harsh," they were not personal.