WESTFIELD – The Legislative & Ordinance Committee voted to recommend that the full City Council approve a change to the ordinance language creating the membership of the Conservation Commission to bring that ordinance into compliance with state and federal equal opportunity laws, as well as the city’s own equal opportunity policies.
The current ordinance language requires that at least one member of the Conservation Commission be a woman and suggests that the commission also include a banker, lawyer and real estate agent. The revised ordinance deletes that language.
Ward 2 Councilor Ralph Figy, chairman of the L&O, said the ordinance was written before the federal and state governments established the laws that provide equal opportunity regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation of religious beliefs.
“This ordinance was written in the early 1970s before there were EEO (Equal Employment Opportunity) laws,” Figy said.
Ward 4 Councilor Mary O’Connell said she plans to vote against the amendment because presently more than 100 men serve on boards and commission while women, who comprise more than half of the city’s population, have 50 members.
“I went through the boards and commission where men outnumber women two to one. That’s not right,” O’Connell said. “The solution is that we, as a (legislative) body, need to encourage the corner office (mayor) to give us greater diversity on board and commissions. It is incumbent that we be tuned into that. I’d like us to try to right that (gender inequity).”
O’Connell said that several other boards and commissions also require specific professional representation.
“f you change one, you have to change them all,” O’Connell said.
The L&O will also recommend several ordinance changes requested by the Police Department and Traffic Commission.
The committee approved a recommendation, requested by Police Chief John Camerota, to change the ordinance establishing the department’s revolving towing and storage account.
Camerota said the city is negotiating a towing contract with three different firms, but those firms are not accepting the storage requirement of the towing contract. In the past the contractors paid part of the towing fee and a daily storage fee for vehicles towed at the Police Department’s request. Funding raised through those fees has been used to purchase vehicles for the department.
The revised ordinance will double the towing fee, from $50 to $100 for commercial towing and from $25 to $50 for non-commercial towing. It also eliminates the storage fees.
“We can’t move on new contracts until we get the new language eliminating the storage fees,” Camerota said. “We are in discussion with three firms. They are all looking for property because they need to have a lot in Westfield.”