Longmeadow Select Board appoints Coalition for Racial Justice task force

Oct. 14, 2020 | Dennis Hackett

LONGMEADOW – During its Oct. 5 meeting, the Longmeadow Select Board appointed 10 members to its new Coalition for Racial Justice and approved the Fall Town Meeting warrant ahead for Oct. 27.

After interviewing ten candidates for the town’s new Coalition for Racial Justice at its last meeting, the board had to vote to approve the size of the committee, and board vice chair Marc Strange, who initially put together the coalition, said they should include all of the applicants.

“I value very highly anyone who steps forward to contribute their time and talents to the town, anytime we exclude volunteers, it has a chilling effect in anybody who may want to volunteer. I think we need to encourage people to participate, but especially with respect to this task force,” he said.

Board Chair Tom Lachiusa was also in favor of including each applicant on the task force.

“I believe this committee has an opportunity to help set a path to make change in our communities. So, I cannot understand why anyone wouldn’t vote for all of these candidates,” he said.

The vote to appoint all 10 members passed at a 3 to 2 margin.

During the meeting, the board also discussed what the plan would be for Halloween and board member Mark Gold suggested banning trick or treating.

“The town next to us banned trick or treating, that town is also red on the governor’s map, which means it’s a high-risk community for transmission. We’ve done a lot work over the last eight months to get down COVID rates,” he said. “It’d be really nice to have trick or treating, but I think we need to protect the town from people who are going to be irresponsible.”

Board member Richard Foster said from his own experience it would be nearly impossible to maintain social distancing during Halloween.

“I have had the opportunity to be one of the homes on the corner of Farmington and Laurel. We had at least 1,000 children last year. You’re dreaming if you think you can control it. It’s going to be worse this year with Springfield shutting down. We don’t know what shape we’re going to be in in three weeks, we’re starting to tick back up,” he said.

Town Manager Lyn Simmons said that she was not sure how the police would be able to enforce a Halloween ban from the Select Board.

“In this situation you don’t have the authority of a Board of Health and I don’t know what the Police Department could enforce if you chose to ban door to door trick or treating. The only one that comes to mind is group gatherings outside. It would need to be a significant group of people in a compact area,” she said.

The board then approved a motion to table the discussion for its next meeting to give Simmons time to talk to the Board of Health and get a legal opinion about the Select Board’s authority over the holiday.

Residents can find a list of the town’s current Halloween guidance on its website.

After the board’s Halloween discussion, they unanimously approved to remove articles 10, 13, 15, 16, and 19 from the Fall Town Meeting warrant.

One of the motions during the warrant discussion was to create a consent agenda for articles 9, 11, 12, and 14, but board member Steve Marantz was against including article 12 because it was a $300,000 transfer from the treasury to the fiscal year 2021 budget in order to prevent a Proposition 2 ½ increase.

“I think it would be worth it for the Town Meeting to hear that explanation. I think it’s all legitimate and everyone should know why this amount of money is being moved from one place to another because it’s a real concern,” he said.

The board agreed to leave article 12 out of the consent agenda.

Ultimately the board approved the warrant and agreed to make articles 3 through 7, 9 through 14, and 25 and 26 consent agenda items, while also removing article 27.

The Longmeadow Select Board next meets on Oct. 19.

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