Mayor James J. Fiorentini took questions from residents about the city’s most pressing concerns during a live call-in show Thursday night, but also took time to spell out his vision for electing ward councilors.
Appearing on “Point of Reference” with host Frank Novak, aired jointly by HC Media Channel 22 and 97.9 WHAV FM, the mayor said the public will receive better services if each neighborhood has its own councilor.
“I want every neighborhood, in every part of the city, to be represented. I want the public to vote on this. This isn’t something that we just want to do. We want a public referendum,” he said.
He specified for the first time, he believes a future City Council should have 11 members—one for each of the city’s seven wards and four at-large.
Caller Jack Roy reminded listeners that Lowell recently turned to ward councilors only because it faced a federal lawsuit. Fiorentini said Haverhill’s situation is similar with the Mount Washington neighborhood’s Latino community not being represented in government.
“Ward 1 hasn’t had a councilor in 20 or 30 years. We don’t want to get sued, but this is a real possibility in Haverhill. Lowell didn’t lose. They settled and you cannot settle unless you pay the legal fees of the other side,” said Fiorentini.
Fiorentini also acknowledged two more city councilors means $30,000 more per year plus any health insurances the extra legislators may take. However, he said, “Democracy is the most important thing we do. It’s a small extra cost for ward councilors. And well worth it.”
Waterfront Development May Be Back
Sharing other new information, the mayor said long-stalled plans for housing on the site of the former Friend’s Landing nightclub on Water Street may be coming back. Fiorentini said developer Frank Franzone has received permits twice and the second one is expiring. Franzone has a new partner, but the mayor said he will ask for project changes to give the public more access to the waterfront.
Firefighters and Advocates Press Mayor on Issues
The mayor received a number of calls from firefighters or their advocates. So many that Novak said it represented proof the calls were not being filtered. Fiorentini, for example, said additional fire department manning will not increase response times. He did say he would like to move civilians into dispatch to free up more firefighters. When a union representative tried to bargain the contract sticking point on the air, the mayor deferred.
Stephen Costa, founder of the group “Citizen’s for Haverhill Fire,” countered the Matrix study of the department performed in 2011 is out of date. Costa argued a newer review would likely find the city’s needs more firefighters.