Northampton voters will weigh in on whether the city should be permitted to create a municipal network in November’s election. This is because a vote to create a municipal light plant (MLP) will be on the ballot.
A hundred years ago, municipalities used the law to create power plants. Today, although the term municipal light plant is still its legal designation, a MLP can be used to establish municipal networks.
The election also gives voters an opportunity to pick the next mayor and various city council members. How do these candidates weigh in on this subject? We scoured their websites, if they have one, and reached out if we could not find a position. Not all candidates have responded yet, but here’s what we know so far:
- Shanna Talli Fishel. Ms. Fishel’s website does not discuss a municipal network explicitly, but she does want to “provide free municipal Wi-Fi, accessible to large parts of the city, and plan for fiber-optics and/or broadband for all city residents”.
- Roy C. Martin. We could not find a website for the candidate or any way to contact him. An article in the Daily Hampshire Gazette though notes that this perennial candidate was against the recent Proposition 2 1/2 override.
- Gina Louise Sciarra. Ms. Sciarra is all in. During a recent WHMP interview, she said it would be her second priority, behind expanding a new Department of Community Care.
- Marc Warner. There was nothing on the topics on his website, so we reached out to him by email. Mr. Warner is amenable to the idea, providing the second part of the study currently underway suggests it would be financially viable.
City Council at large candidates
- Marissa Elkins. Marissa responded: “Thanks for reaching out. I am very much in favor of this initiative. I believe we will need to be thoughtful in how it would be implemented – the economic feasibility of developing a new program is different than keeping a longstanding municipal utility going. But I believe there is great value to retaining local control – responsive to local concerns and operated according to our community’s values. My parents recently moved here from Texas so they could be closer to me as they aged. The failure of the power grid during last winter’s extreme weather event down there was a major factor in our decision to get them up here right away. As it happens, they moved to Holyoke and their experience with our neighbor’s municipal services has really brought home to me the benefits of a municipal utility structure. If elected to City Council, I would work to make this a reality here in Northampton. Also, I want to be clear that I understand this initiative is for a municipal broadband network. I believe the benefits we see for communities with other municipal utilities are analogous.”
- Jamila Gore. The issue is not mentioned on her website. She has not yet responded to our contact request.
- David Alan Murphy. Responding to our email, Mr. Murphy said he was for a municipal network if it is financially feasible.
- Michael Quinlan. The issue is not mentioned on his website. However, as a current city councilor, he has voted twice in favor of creating a municipal light plant, and was supportive of the effort when we met with him prior to his election.
- Michelle A. Serra. She replied saying that she supports creating a municipal network.