The coalition met Monday night at Free Press in Florence discuss where to go from here. So far we’ve done two outreach events downtown, resulting in 100+ signatures on a petition. As of this morning, we have 424 signatures both on paper and from our online petition. Our question at the meeting was how many more signatures were needed?
We could certainly garner more. All it takes is time for people to stand on Main Street and ask people. Those who aren’t too hassled trying to get somewhere are generally enthusiastic about signing a petition. We’ve only encountered a couple of people who didn’t like the idea, and some who thought it was unaffordable. Typically we get responses like “I really hate Comcast”, “Comcast charges way too much money” and “Comcast’s service is really bad!” So if we spent a couple of days working at it we could get to some magic number like 1000 signatures. But really we need feedback from Mayor Narkewicz, who we met with in May but has largely been uncommunicative since then. So over the next month we’ll be figuring a way to get the petitions to him with an accompanying letter asking him to move this issue to the City Council for debate. We’ll try to get another meeting with the mayor although it often takes 6-8 weeks to meet with him.
We also learned about another option in the city charter: a Citizen Initiative. You can learn about the mechanics of the process here. Basically it requires people from each ward to sign up as sponsors. We need at least 25 signatures from each ward with a minimum of 250 signature total. We already have more than 250 signatures, but our petition is general in nature and does not specifically include the text of a proposed particular measure. So it’s unclear if we could use what we have. Our petition identifies the street someone lives on in most cases. This can be used to identify ward, but perhaps not definitively. We’d probably have to get more signatures from wards where we are deficient. It’s also unclear whether the electronic petition signatures would count.
The initiative process is something to keep in our back pocket. Hopefully we can get feedback from the mayor. If he does not want the City Council to debate the issue, a valid citizen initiative would require the issue to be considered. Based on our meeting with the mayor in May, we believe he is supportive in general. He has to weigh this large expenditure with many other requests. We noted that the city is getting a large windfall of new revenue from a 3% tax on marijuana sales. Given the six block line of customers outside the outlet on Conz Street, this will likely generate millions of dollars in new revenue annually for the city. It could be used to fund a study or to help construct a community network for Northampton.
Some other decisions:
- With the help of NCTV, we’ll be filming advertisements next week. These will go on NCTV but will also be placed on social media. We may do a longer interview type video too. This will allow us to make our case in a more in depth fashion to the Northampton Community. Thanks to Jeromie Whalen and Al Williams of NCTV for helping us in this endeavor.
- We will be reaching out to the Chamber of Commerce again. We created a business survey back in June. The mayor indicated in May a willingness to put these surveys on the city website to gauge interest. Thus far he has taken no action, but we might be able to at least set up a survey for Chamber of Commerce members to collect their feedback.
- We’ll probably defer more in person petition signature gathering pending feedback from the mayor.
- We’ll reach out to Valley Free Radio to see if they would like to interview us.
We are grateful to Paradise Copies for providing 500 more copies of our brochure. Many of them were handed out last Saturday.
We hope to meet again on January 3, 2019. We are still working on a location for the meeting.