PulseLine: Papermill Road and Councilor Flaherty

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Hello, I’d like to say a big thank you to Councilmen Flaherty for admitting that you live right off of papermill. It all makes sense now. As I’ve watched the fate of the truck exclusion story unfold over the past few weeks my neighbors and I kept asking ourselves how this unfair and completely one-sided traffic amendment is moving so quickly and that there was no way this will ever get approved by the city council. It eliminates nightly road noise on one street with a smaller population and slower speed limit and puts the entire problem onto another street and leaves them to fend for themselves without addressing the real issue of the low bridge on the intersection of route 20 and East Mountain Road. You single handily brought the majority of Ward 6 residents all the clarity we were seeking and now we know how it happened, insider politics. Gotta love it. If anyone out there is taking a social or political science class and needs a topic for an essay, this is what they call a Double Standard….unfairly favoring one group of people over another. This is a big no-no, especially for an elected official! Mr. Flaherty, it’s no wonder you made sure this night time truck exclusion passed, it impacts you. How can you be open-minded in your opinions, policy voting and continued role as a member of city council if you have a predisposition to biasly make decisions that favor you ? Does this mean the residents of Holyoke Road need to lobby for a councilmen to live on their street so they can be fairly represented in the council ? In your words you call the truck exclusion a “Reasonable Compromise”. How can this be ? Doesn’t a compromise require both sides to come to an agreement by means of a mutual concession. What did Papermill concede to in this debate, nothing. You catered to one side of the argument and favored it because you and your neighbors would win. Holyoke Road lost, and the reason they did is simply because you don’t live there. Every word you said about how the trucks negatively impact Papermill Road can be said for Holyoke Road as well. What’s next..turning Papermill into a Gated Community ? I’m not even sure how you, or any another council member that doesn’t represent the ward, were able to vote on this matter in the first place. It’s very obvious here that Papermill was given preferential treatment and that was due, at least in-part, by you living there. I certainly haven’t lost all faith in the council because now that all the Night Time Industrial traffic flows onto Holyoke Road surely the next amendment to pass will be shifting all the day time traffic through Papermill Road, right ? Seems like the fair thing to do, right ? Oh silly me..I forgot, we aren’t playing fair. We should really look on the bright side. At least the residents of Holyoke Road, which has more than double the households of Papermill, know exactly where they stand….last in line. And I’m certain they will make their intent known by voting you out in the next city council race. As this truck exclusion has been playing out over the past few weeks it appears that the shining stars of the City Council, members Bean, Emmershy and Onyski realize the unfairness of this 13 hour exclusion and would rather focus on a long-lasting result that fixes the underpass. Why don’t we concentrate on that instead. Remove the 13 hour exclusion and stop wasting the time of the Councilors, the Traffic Commission, the Mass DOT and countless other tax-payer funded folks. Lets put our Big Kid pants on and put a real answer, like fixing the underpass, on the table and present it to Rep. Richard Neil and the State. If they see we’ve come together to take the problem seriously and approach them with a viable solution that enhances the industrial and residential infrastructure of the city, perhaps we will get a solution that works for Papermill, Holyoke Road and Lane Quarry. In the mean-time we look like a bunch of bickering bumpkins. The Westfield News reached out to Councilor Dave Flaherty for his  response:

First, this started in 2017 – not in the last few weeks. In 2017, the Traffic Commission, after study and deliberation, voted to exclude heavy commercial vehicles from Papermill Road, and the City Council voted to accept their recommendation. In order to implement this, the state had to get involved. In June of 2018, the State DOT approved the 13 hour exclusion (both in their local office, and the Boston regulations office). Residents along Papermill wanted more – a 24 hour exclusion, and in December of 2018, the Traffic Commission voted 4 to 1 to extend the heavy truck exclusion to 24 hours. That recommendation was forwarded to the City Council for deliberation and a vote. There were further public meetings held by both the Legislative & Ordinance Committee and the City Council. After hearing from residents and business owners, the City Council voted to not recommend the 24 hour exclusion. Much of that discussion had to do with the concerns for Holyoke Road residents, and the unfairness of pushing all traffic down Holyoke Road. Councilors were also rightfully concerned for the added burden using Holyoke Road causes Lane Construction vehicles that ultimately have to travel towards Springfield on Route 20 (using Holyoke Road adds about 20 to 30 minutes to their travel times). Many councilors clearly expressed the concern that this was a no-win vote. There was no way to make everyone happy. The businesses need to be able to have truck service, and none of the neighbors want extra truck traffic. This is a common theme all over Westfield – not just the lower East Mountain section of town (if you don’t believe this, just go back and watch some of the meetings about the proposed truck terminal on Medeiros Way). Ultimately, the vote to accept the 13 hour restriction passed as a “compromise” that didn’t make anyone fully happy.

Second, I don’t vote for things based on my interests, and I have made that very clear during several contentious or close votes over the years. My comments about living off Papermill had to do with hearing from the residents there – not personal experience nor desires. Personally, I’m used to having trucks on Papermill, and I spoke publicly about the need for enforcement to address some of the concerns of residents: speeding, noise, and driving on the curbs or lawns in certain places. If you watch the meeting from a few weeks ago, you’ll see that I suggested stricter enforcement and fines would lead to changes in behavior.

Third, your negative comments about the Holyoke Road residents is just not accurate. If you attended the meetings or watched the recordings, you’ll see that every councilor who spoke was concerned about both the Holyoke Road and Papermill Road residents. There was also concern from several about the burden any restriction would place on the businesses.

Forth, though I appreciate my colleagues, the “shining stars” comment is a bit overboard, and implying that I and other councilors you didn’t mention somehow don’t share the same concerns or thoughts on the railroad bridge matter is completely inaccurate. All of the councilors, and the mayor, and the DPW, and the Fire Department, and everyone on that lives along, or travels the East Mountain corridor, would love to see the railroad bridge at Route 20 elevated or the road surface lowered. This isn’t any new revelation.  This cannot be a city funded issue. This will cost tens of millions of dollars. In my opinion it should have been addressed when doing the work on North Elm, the new twists on Route 20, or the rail work that was making changes for the double-stacked cars. As for Rep. Neal, I think he’s a little busy right now with the President and party politics. If he manages to find time, I’d prefer that his priority number one for Westfield be the water issues. There are a lot of required participants and concerns in rail projects. Mr. Neal may be able to encourage and facilitate, but it would take much more than his involvement to get this done.

Lastly, this unsigned letter is a perfect example of what’s wrong with the relationship between residents and local representatives, and in many ways to society in general, now that we have high participation in social media and very contentious party politics at all levels of government. This type of anonymous, presumptive, insulting, personal attack letter makes is less likely that people will make the effort to run and serve as representatives. The author doesn’t have all the facts, or if so, chooses not to accurately represent them. The author plays one special interest against another. The author insults certain representatives and blows smoke at others.  As I’ve said repeatedly over the years, the time for people to get involved is BEFORE THE VOTE – not after. I and other councilors have tried to raise awareness of issues, and encourage people to show up and participate. Unfortunately everyone leads busy lives, and some people don’t like speaking in public, or spending hours of free time at boring meetings. We get that. However, it does make a difference, and it does no good to wait until after a vote.

City Council agendas are posted in advance on the City website. Anyone can also sign up to receive topical email alerts prior to the meetings. Many of the meetings are also previewed in the Westfield News. I’d encourage everyone to participate in their government. If you want to serve the community, I’d encourage you to run for a local office or inquire about being appointed to a board or commission.

If you or anyone else would like to speak with me about any issue, feel free to reach out at any time. My phone is 413-206-9661, and my email is [email protected].

Regards, Dave Flaherty, City Councilor at-Large

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