Thursday night, the Northampton City Council approved 9-0 a first reading of a proposed ballot question on municipal broadband. It needs to be approved at one more reading, which is likely to be at their next meeting on September 2. The first reading of the proposed ballot question was an important step forward. The second reading on September 2, is the next step forward for municipal broadband.
If approved in both readings, the question on whether the city should be allowed to create a Municipal Light Plant (MLP) will appear on the November city ballot.
A MLP is a vehicle required by Massachusetts law to permit municipalities to create an organization to provide electricity, telephone or internet services. In the November election, a majority “No” vote would not allow an MLP to be created. A majority “Yes” vote would allow one to be created, but would not require that one to be created.
This first reading is the next step forward for municipal broadband in Northampton. Previously, the City Council approved the creation of an MLP in two votes over two fiscal years, as required by law. Mayor David Narkewicz had the city’s solicitor draft the wording of the question on creating an MLP for voters. The City Council made minor edits to the draft during its meeting yesterday.
Previously, the City Council approved the creation of a MLP in two votes over two fiscal years, as required by law. Voters can approve the creation of a MLP only after these votes. Mayor David Narkewicz had the city’s solicitor draft the wording of the question on creating an MLP for voters. The City Council made minor edits to the draft during its meeting on August 19.
The mayor suggests that both the city and our coalition engage in outreach to inform voters on this expected vote. The mayor and a number of councilors expressed concern that many voters will think the city wants to create a power plant for the city, which it doesn’t. Both made it clear that the city would only use an MLP as a vehicle for providing high-speed internet services to those in Northampton. Our coalition’s job in the coming months is to educate voters about what an MLP is, why Northampton needs one, and the importance of the upcoming MLP vote in November.
You can watch the City Council’s discussion below.