Since October 11, 2017, I have been in United State with the aim of joining a professional fellowship program with 7 fellows from Indonesia. During this program we are distributed to cities in the United States. And I was placed in Massachusetts in Northampton City. For 26 days or 3 weeks 5 days I was placed in the Department of Planning and Sustainability city of Northampton with my fellows from Vietnam, Miss Binh Minh. My host in Northampton is the Director of Planning and Sustainability Department, Mr. Wayne Feiden, and I am always accompanied and assisted by his highly intelligent, kind and beautiful staff, Miss Sarah I. LaValley.
While in this department many things I do, ranging from getting acquainted with all the employees in the Department of Planning and Sustainability, attending public forums, following other meetings to meet with the Mayor of Northampton.
I was scheduled to talk to the Mayor. Last Monday October 23, 2017 I met with the Mayor, Mr. David Narkewicz and for 1 hour we talked. Many of the things I asked him from the time he served as mayor, what was the job of a mayor in America, what was the most successful program during his tenure, to the problems that existed in Northampton City.
From this conversation I learned a lot about governance in America. There are some differences with in Indonesia. In America, local governance is not always the same in every State, usually the local government has a mayor, a city manager, city council and city clerk. For Northampton it is slightly different, since the local government has only a major, city council and city clerk.
The mayor and the city council are elected directly by their citizens. A mayor is also the chief executive officer which means that it is fully responsible for governing the city, including appointing key officials who assist in carrying out duties as mayor, appointing part or all of the boards, preparing budgets, contract, negotiate with unions and supervise the administration. The mayor has the right to veto some actions or decisions taken by city councils. The mayor is also usually a voting member of school committee. A limited number of boards and/or commissions may be elected.
The City Council consists of nine members; seven members of the ward council and two major councilors each served a two-year term. Northampton is divided into seven neighborhoods with approximately the same number of voters in their respective neighborhoods. The city council is the legislative body for the city and has the responsibility to adopt the budget, adopt city ordinances, approve non-scheduled appropriations, approve appointments to multi-member boards, and approve city tax rates. The City Council is also responsible for retaining an independent auditor to examine the city’s financial documents on an annual basis
As explained above, the mayor in carrying out his duties is assisted by some staff and has no deputy mayor. So in the election, the only candidate is the mayoral candidate.
This year is the election year for the mayor and city clerk, and luckily I can see firsthand how the democracy process will take place on November 7th. Wednesday (October 25, 2017), I was present in the debate of the mayor of Northampton. In this election there are 2 candidates, the first being Mr. David J. Narkewicz who as incumbent and Mr. John D. Riley who is a bookstore entrepreneur in Northampton. A Mayor served the city in four-year term.
In addition to telling about the governance, the mayor said that the city has a commitment in sustainability. They have a master plan for the city which is created several years ago, and it’s call Sustainable Northampton. The major focus is on how do they make their sustainable city to face in climate change. Because that’s really happen. Because at the beginning of the year he served as mayor was attacked by a severe snow storm and came too early in October.
They begin to look at things like energy resiliency and looking at our electric grid to try figure out how they could strengthen. They received some major grant from state government. They’re actually in process, designing and building micro-grids, there will be solar to collect and store electricity in batteries so they have back-up energy. They’re trying to build in resiliency there.
Then the Mayor also talked about the governance of his government. The mayor has a determination to be able to invite all citizens to participate in urban development. In terms of the key word is to maintain the level of confidence of citizens to the government, namely by way of transparency in everything.