polo beanie hat Ryan O’Donnell discusses weed retail
NORTHAMPTON Northampton City Council President Ryan O’Donnell met with city residents Wednesday night, fielding questions, concerns, and ideas for how to move the legislature in the right direction over the next two years.
O’Donnell was elected to the head of the Council earlier this month after longtime President Bill Dwight announced he would be stepping down from the position.
Allegations of problems at the school emerged earlier this year after the school rolled out a new “full inclusion” model in which students with disabilities were fully integrated into classrooms with the rest of the students.
Parents and teachers from the school have claimed that the rocky rollout of the program allegedly involving slim staffing and inadequate resources led to violent episodes with students who are struggling with behavioral or developmental issues, sometimes resulting in serious injury to teachers.
“This will trickle out and affect the whole community,” said one parent.
Several mothers of children at the school were at the meeting and told O’Donnell that the problems were so bad that that they were considering pulling their children out of the public school system and were looking into other options, including private schools.
One parent said that the problems at the school clearly demanded budget allocations, perhaps for additional staffing.
O’Donnell said he was sympathetic to the problems that parents were having, but also acknowledged potential fiscal obstacles to achieving what they were asking for. “Despite the fact that we are starting with an almost $1 million budget deficit I have an ironclad commitment to the Northampton public schools,” he said.
O’Donnell said that he would work to continue facilitating conversations between city officials, administrators, and parents, about the best way to approach the problem.
Other concerns: marijuana retail and local sustainability
Two other big topics at Wednesday’s meeting were the imminent local marijuana retail market and how Northampton plans to stay ahead of the curve on sustainability and renewable energy.
Seeing as recreational marijuana stores will be able to apply for licenses starting April 1, some community members were curious as to how the city planned to handle the new industry.
The state Cannabis Control Commission issued a draft resolution in December detailing guidelines for future marijuana businesses throughout the state. Local communities have the option of creating additional regulations, but don’t necessarily have to.
The city has so far not decided whether it will implement any further regulations on the product, but some community members suggested that a cap be placed on the amount of pot stores much like how a cap is placed on liquor licenses for local venues.
O’Donnell said that right now officials were primarily interested in taxing the industry and in putting forth zoning considerations for where the businesses can operate relative to schools. A number of changes to the city’s code will be discussed at Thursday’s City Council meeting regarding both of these considerations.
Residents expressed curiosity as to how Northampton planned to continue to implement progressive policy when it came to renewable energy and sustainability.
Here, O’Donnell suggested that community members focus on the city’s Sustainable Northampton Plan, which is currently being reviewed. He called the plan a good opportunity to implement green goals by turning them into capital projects.
He also pointed out that city officials had recently made changes to zoning law that makes sure buildings of a certain size are built “solar ready.”
Generally, O’Donnell said that many current renewable energy initiatives that the city has in place could be expanded and built upon. “There’s a whole bunch of issues and ideas that can be explored,” O’Donnell said.