Earlier this evening, the Holyoke City Council selected a replacement for Councilor Jennifer Chateauneuf, who resigned last month. As you know, Councilors are exclusively elected by the voters to represent them, but tonight the City Council decided to put their own individual wishes ahead of the voters' wishes. In fact, 8 of the Councilors entirely ignored the voters' wishes. That should raise an alarm for every single Holyoke resident.
Mimi Panitch, who placed 9th in a field of 16 (the first 8 being elected), was the next-highest vote-getter in the recent November election and would normally have been in line for the vacated position. 3,000 Holyoke residents chose her as the first runner-up in November but, tonight, 8 of the 13 Councilors present refused to cast even one single vote for her. Instead, they decided to play "politics" -- ultimately appointing a former colleague who wasn't even on the November ballot. Ironically, it is some of those same Councilors who will be the first to decry the playing of politics by others.
I (and others) had intended to make public comments at the start of the meeting, which is customary, but for some reason Council President, Kevin Jourdain, instead recommended that the Council alter their schedule and take up the vote first -- preventing public comment until after the voting had been completed.
Unable to speak as I intended until after the vote, I had to change my words to past tense, but they were just as sharply pointed as they would have been had I been allowed to speak ahead of the vote. This is, essentially, what I said to the City Council at the conclusion of the vote:
"The Council has conducted the process of replacing Jennifer Chateauneuf as if this is a hired position. This is NOT a hired position. Not one of you is hired. Every one of you has been chosen by the voters, and ONLY by the voters.
Only the voters get to decide who they want to represent them.
How is it, then, that some of you decided to usurp that authority, in an attempt to appoint your friends or political allies to this Council? The voters have already told you who their pick is, but some of you chose to play "politics", instead. Voters didn't elect you so you can replace their choices, with yours. The Council's job tonight wasn't to pick and choose ... it was to ensure that the will of the voters, in choosing their representatives, was followed. You failed. And you failed deliberately.
You don't get to dismiss the election results simply because they don't jibe with your own politics. You don't have that right.
Sure, you may have established a rule that says you can ignore the voters' wishes, but you take that step at the risk of diminishing the credibility of this entire body. Was it worth it?
There were two ways you could have gotten this right tonight:
1) Either go by the November election results
2) or hold a special election
Instead, you decided to play "politics".
Shame on every one of you who acted on the belief that your vote outranks the votes of thousands of Holyoke voters."
Footnote: the 8 Councilors who completely ignored the voters' wishes, refusing to cast even one single vote for Mimi Panitch were: David Bartley; Dan Bresnahan; Howard Greaney; Kevin Jourdain; Todd McGee; Joe McGiverin; Nelson Roman; and Linda Vacon.
For the record it should be mentioned that Councilor Peter Tallman voted for Mimi Panitch, the next-highest vote-getter, on every one of the 13 ballots and Michael Sullivan voted for her on the first 11 ballots. Gladys Lebron-Martinez and Rebecca Lisi voted for her on 7 ballots and Jossie Valentin on 6.