Thursday, March 27, 2008

Hear no Evil: Councilors and the Landfill

The Northampton Department of Public Works, backed by Mayor Mary Clare Higgins, wishes to expand the Northampton regional landfill on Glendale Road to add another 21 years to its life. The landfill accepts trash from 44 towns, and is slated to close at the end of 2011. The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection has issued a waiver to the city, allowing, for the first time in state history, permission to place a landfill over an underground public water supply--the Barnes Aquifer--which serves Easthampton, Westhampton, Southampton, and Holyoke.

But--the DPW will need a special permit from the city council before the landfill can be expanded. Michael Pill, a land-use lawyer hired to advise the city, says that the council must behave as a "quasi-judicial body" in its deliberations on the landfill permit. Off-the-record communication with constituents must be avoided or made part of the public record, evidence that is not part of the public record should not be considered, and individual councilors are responsible for explaining how they reached their decision.

The Paradise City Forum wishes to hold an open public forum on the subject of the landfill, with a panel of guests that include a hydrogeologist and advocates on both sides of the issue. Traditionally, councilors have been invited and encouraged to attend Paradise City Forum events, and even to co-sponsor them. Can councilors attend a live public forum on the landfill, where useful information may come to light, or should they just stay home?

It depends upon who you ask. Last Sunday I brought veteran activist, blogger, and Paradise City Forum organizer Daryl LaFleur into the studio to shed some light upon these issues of information, democracy, and city government.

Podcast/MP3 link here.
listen on this page using the embedded flash player:

For more info, listen to Kelsey Flynn's ( interview with the mayor on this subject here.

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