Springfield Inaugural 2016: Pomp & Circumstance…& Pom-Poms…
SPRINGFIELD—In a low-key ceremony at the Old First Church, city councilors and Mayor Domenic Sarno, who began his second four-year term, were sworn in for their new terms of office. The event did not fill the 500 seat chapel, perhaps mirroring the little interest the November election itself drew.
The inauguration featured speeches by Congressman Richard Neal and State Senator Eric Lesser, who were among the local elected officials, city department heads, religious figures, politicos and family that attended the roughly hour-long inauguration.
Municipalities across the commonwealth, including Agawam, Chicopee, Holyoke, Westfield and West Springfield swore in officials today.
Hampden Sheriff Michael Ashe called the Springfield ceremony to order following the national serviceand pledge of allegiance. Springfield Roman Catholic Bishop Mitchell Rozanski delivered the invocation and Christian, Islamic and Jewish faith leaders offered prayers and reflections.
Sarno cruised to victory over former bakery owner Salvatore Cirosta last November. Monday the mayor began his second four-year term and fourth overall.
Down ballot, incumbents in two ward seats were displaced. Their successors, Adam Gomez and Marcus Williams, took the oath of office for the first time alongside the 11 reelected council incumbents. Retiring City Clerk Wayman Lee the Council’s oath.
Congressman Neal harkened back to the notion of community that were founded with Springfield by its first settlers in the 17th century. In relatively measured remarks, Neal acknowledged that the residents had reaffirmed their confidence in Sarno and that the time came for the community to come together following the election season.
In his remarks, Neal added some levity as he recognized Lee’s retirement, remembering a “young mayor Neal” appointing a “young Wayman Lee” to the Law Department only “a few months ago.”
Lesser expressed appreciation for Sarno’s “support and mentorship” and offered citations from the legislature to both Sarno and his wife Carla. On behalf of the House of Representatives, freshman Rep Carlos Gonzalez conveyed the good wishes his colleagues and Speaker Robert DeLeo.
Lee and former mayor and judge Mary Hurley, for whom Sarno once worked, gave the mayor the oath of office.
In a loose, conversational speech, Sarno acknowledged those leaving public life like Ashe and Lee and, after thanking his family for their support, riffed about progress made in the last few years.
“I am more optimistic about our future than ever before,” he said.
Though Sarno again invoked the inflated figure of $2.7 billion in economic investments in Springfield—the lower, true amount is still impressive—he also highlighted concrete development projects including MGM, CRRC’s Page Boulevard railcar plant and Union Station.
“I believe that working together, as a city, we can recreate a thriving community,” Sarno added. “I know only too well that achieving these ambitious visions will require hard work, creativity and lots of money.”
Though not ignoring the challenges facing the city from crime, decaying infrastructure and struggling neighborhoods, Sarno’s tone seemed to play down such problems which have lingered on his watch. Moreover, while completion of Union Station and the railcar plant are essentially certainties, MGM may yet initiate further changes, again roiling the city as the company’s downscaling last fall did.
Overall, Sarno’s speech contrasted with those he gave in 2008 and 2010, which featured a more specific policy agenda. Combined with an airing of the city’s three minute marketing video—something that seemed out of place during the formal culmination of the democratic process—Sarno’s comments contributed to the event’s pep rally feel, as if the bid to assure residents of the city’s progress had failed to convince the cheerleaders themselves.
A reception in Symphony Hall’s Mahogany Room followed the inauguration. The City Council met shortly thereafter at noon to organize itself for 2016.
Ward 4 Councilor E. Henry Twiggs nominated Michael Fenton for the presidency and Ward 8 Councilor Orlando Ramos for the vice-presidency. During the more sedate meeting, councilors also picked their seats for the 2016 session of the Council.
Beginning his third year leading the body, Fenton reflected on the activities and history of the Council. He also observed Lee on the eve of his retirement.
“You know for the last few years I had somebody stand in [to swear in the president] for you because you are here so much,” Fenton said, noting that Lee is at every meeting. He also acknowledged Anthony Wilson, the only candidate the Council is actively considering to succeed Lee in the Clerk’s office.
Fenton recommitted himself to empower the Council as and urged the same from his colleagues. He concluded with a review of Council accomplishments from last year and setting the dates for reviewing MGM’s site plan and host community agreement amendments.
Fenton also welcomed his new colleagues, Adam Gomez and Marcus Williams, to the body.
But much of the day’s attention centered on Sarno who, as Congressman Neal noted in his remarks, is poised to break Daniel Brunton’s record for Springfield’s longest-serving mayor (12 years). Speaking to reporters in the Mahogany Room, the usually exuberant Sarno appeared particularly jazzed, energetically highlighting strides the city has made just as he had only moments before during his speech.
The mayor said that his administration would be making an announcement soon on Wi-Fi, likely making it publicly available in areas like downtown as Boston has done. He also highlighted crime statistics, such as recent arrests of drug dealers. Reminded that this only dealt with the supply side of the problem, Sarno shifted gears.
“The preventive stuff is really important,” he said noting that getting people work and stable situations contributes far more to the effort of deterring crime, both drug-related and not.
“I need everybody’s help,” to meet the city’s challenges he said.
To succeed in this next term, Sarno may be wise to accept that help, too.