Starting in January, forums will allow residents platform to pose questions to mayor

  • Mayor Roxann Wedegartner will join the panel on a monthly basis. Staff File Photo/Paul Franz

Staff Writer
Published: 11/3/2022 8:05:19 PM
Modified: 11/3/2022 8:05:00 PM

GREENFIELD — Beginning in the new year, the mayor will join the Community Relations and Education Committee on a monthly basis to provide residents a direct opportunity to ask questions of the executive branch.

Community Relations and Educations Committee Chair and At-Large City Councilor Penny Ricketts said the subcommittee will continue to hold forums each month during the committee’s regular meetings and will include time for Mayor Roxann Wedegartner to answer the public’s questions.

“I would be happy to do it,” Wedegartner said previously, noting she has given the idea “a great deal of thought.”

According to Ricketts, the public forum would inform councilors which department heads to invite to the following month’s meeting.

The same subcommittee of the City Council held a public forum in August to offer residents an opportunity outside of the council’s public comment period to ask questions and engage in a more open dialogue with councilors. During regular public comment, councilors aren’t allowed to respond to residents.

Ricketts told councilors at the Committee Chairs meeting this week that she felt good about how the first public forum went — a discussion that included conversations on recycling, improving public access to meetings and addressing the homeless population — and she was interested in hosting more, similar forums. She said she wanted to wait, however, until after the holidays to work out the details of how the meetings would work with the mayor included.

“Now, it’s time to fine-tune it,” Ricketts said.

The concept for a community meeting that included the mayor was originally pitched by At-Large Councilor Michael Terounzo and was met with support from city councilors and community members who spoke during last month’s City Council meeting. He said residents often appear before the council with concerns or questions outside their purview.

Ricketts was among those in favor of the suggestion.

“We have to get this stuff tightened up a little better because our (City Council) meetings are running really long,” she said.

Other coming council business

Councilors will also soon discuss setting the tax rate and will consider a resolution urging legislators to pass H.3053, an act abolishing home equity collection beyond debt. The resolution is set to appear on the agenda for the Nov. 16 City Council meeting.

“I don’t think it really needs to go to any other committee at this particular point,” said At-Large Councilor Christine Forgey. “We’ve talked about it. We’ve spoken to the different parties about it. … We’ve done our due diligence.”

The tax title taking process became a topic of discussion among residents back in April after 41 properties were listed in a legal notice in the Greenfield Recorder, announcing the city’s intention to take those properties “for non-payment after demand, of the taxes due thereon, with interest and all incidental expenses to the date of taking, unless the same shall have been paid before the date.” The practice, in the small number of cases that lead to foreclosure, has been dubbed “home equity theft” by opponents.

“In Massachusetts, when a property is foreclosed — no matter how small the debt and no matter how valuable the property — the foreclosing entity gets to keep the title of the home, and nothing is returned to the original property owner,” Joshua Polk, an attorney at Pacific Legal Foundation who practices in the area of economic liberty and property rights, explained previously. “That’s resulted in some truly egregious examples.”

The proposed bill would improve the notice procedures for people undergoing tax foreclosure proceedings and also guarantee that any excess proceeds generated by tax sales are returned to the original property owners.


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