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Fate of ward representation bill in the hands of voters

Registered voters will have the opportunity to officially vote yes or no on Question #1 Nov. 6.Reminder Publications photo by Natasha Clark
By Natasha Clark

Assistant Managing Editor

SPRINGFIELD Gov. Deval Patrick has given the green light for a binding referendum question to be placed on the Nov. 6 ballot allowing city voters to decide if the Springfield City Council and School Committee will have ward representation.

Last Monday, the governor signed the bill just ahead of its state mandated deadline 35 days before the election in order to be put on the ballot.

On Oct. 2, members of Arise for Social Justice and others from the community gathered on the steps of City Hall to celebrate what has been for some, a long fight.

City Council candidate Vera O'Connor said she has been in support of ward representation since the 1980s.

"[Ward representation] makes people more aware of the community and what we need to improve," O'Connor stated. "This is a tool for improvement."

The city has eight wards and currently operates under "Plan A," which entails councilors being elected at large, nine on the City Council and seven (including the mayor) on the School Committee.

The recently approved Question #1 proposes the City Council be comprised of 13 members one from each of the eight wards, elected by the voters of that ward, and five to be elected at large by all the voters of the city and that the School Committee include seven members, including the mayor. The committee would include one member from each of the districts formed by the following combined wards: one and three; four and five; six and seven; two and eight; and two members to be elected at large from all the voters of the city.

Springfield Democratic Committee Chair E. Henry Twiggs thanked everyone who had been involved with the bill, including state Sen. Stephen Buoniconti, state Rep. Angelo Puppolo and state Rep. Benjamin Swan.

Rev. Talbot Swan said when he began working on getting the bill passed his "two daughters were in second grade and now they're both sophmores in college. It's been a long time."

Candice Lopes, aide to Buoniconti, said, "He's committed to this legislation. Today is the beginning toward the push of Nov. 6. [We] thank Arise for not giving up."