The Outer Belt Comes Off, Lashes Council President…
The pressure on Springfield City Council President Jimmy Ferrera continues to mount, but Ferrera shows no sign of buckling after igniting one of the city’s highest profile personal political spats in several years. Earlier this week, the Outer Belt Civic Association sent a letter to city officials and the news media condemning Ferrera’s decision to dole out to two of the city’s ward councilors meager committee assignments. The OBCA is a neighborhood council for the city’s southeastern corner. Ward 2 Councilor Mike Fenton received no standing committee assignments, a situation without precedent in the council’s recent history and Ward 7 Councilor Tim Allen, who represents the Outer Belt, received one committee. Other councilors received as many as five assignments.
The letter from the OBCA, signed by its president, vice-president, treasurer and three board members calls the appointments or lack thereof “childish” and a “slap in the face” to the people who voted Fenton and Allen into office. The OBCA writes that it needs councilors that will listen to them, not ones that “slight us because we may not always agree.” The letter goes on to criticize the rather blatant political process by which Ferrera appointed councils, which, despite dictionary definitions, he claims was not “political.”
Dionne emphasized, as the OBCA Board members did in the letter, that the most appalling aspect is the lack of communication. “Our relationship with City Councilors has always been very good,” she said. There are always disagreements, but she continued, we move on from them with respect among all parties. In this case, however, she and the others felt, Ferrera had gone too far and given no notice of what he planned to do.
The Republican, who reported on the letter today, noted that Council President Ferrera appears to have no intention to change course. However, it does bring to mind some parties to this hullabaloo. Namely, at-large Councilor Tim Rooke, Ward 1 Councilor Zaida Luna and Ward 6 Councilor Ken Shea.
Meanwhile a conundrum faces Luna and Shea, who hit the committee jackpot the most arguably in light of either the number of assignments outright (Luna) or number of assignments given a lack of seniority (Shea). Neither has spoken publicly since the appointments were made, but since Ferrera showered them with gratitude it presents a problem for them as well. If we assume neither asked to have their decks stacked as they were (our previous report indicates Luna did not request quantity over quality of appointments), the question becomes how they could respond to the increasing pressure over the appointments.
Either one could offer to give up a seat, but doing so would likely incense Ferrera. Even if that were not a consideration, it presents a strange dynamic because at issue is the diminution of influence of two high-voting wards (2 & 7). In the case of Ken Shea, this is not really a problem because Ward 6 is among the city’s most electorally active wards. However, Ward 1 is perhaps among the city’s wards most in need of adequate representation before the council. Even if she believes Ferrera’s actions were wrong, how could Luna beg off an assignment or two without appearing to be placating the city’s more influential wards? Incidentally, this dynamic also works in Luna’s favor in other matters since she has no obligation to please those wards. Luna can serve her ward’s interests over those of the city’s power brokers whose influence only laps at Ward 1’s shores.
At this point, the likeliest outcome is that nothing will change. Allen and Fenton are not about to let this stop them and Ferrera, if the Springfield Intruder’s thesis about the latter’s attempts to appear more “manly” has any merit, is not about to cave now. However, it seems unlikely that pressure is going to let up either. Beyond the Valley blogosphere’s general distaste, Ferrera’s support in the city has been at best tenuous and this story will hang around Ferrera’s neck until the next council president is appointed. However, better that this story remain and get old rather than some new gaffe appear and call further attention to Ferrera as an impolitic oaf.