Inside Stories

Council Meeting Recap: December 19, 2023

I’ve been begging that right-wing nut Scrooge, Ebenezer Panos to throw another lump of coal on the fire while I type, but it’s of no use.

However, just because I’m made to suffer, it doesn’t mean you should too. Please enjoy the mellow, seasonal jazz of the Vince Guaraldi Trio while you read the last recap of the year:


Everyone loves Linus and Lucy, and for good cause, but for my money, Skating is right up there. Also, have you actually sat down and watched A Charlie Brown Christmas as an adult? For a beloved children’s classic, there’s an awful lot of people bitching and yelling at each other crammed into it.

In that sense, it’s a perfect lead-in to a council meeting recap.

1. More Coal for Councilor Robinson

I never thought I’d long for the days of writing about zoning changes, but here we are. Once again, the ongoing saga of Councilor Corey Robinson’s criminal issues took center stage. The meeting began with Councilor Gitschier requesting a “point of personal privilege” to quote from Robert’s Rules of Order on the practice of “tabling” motions. If you’re not up to speed, for the past two meetings, a majority of councilors have been moving to “table” any and all motions files by Councilor Corey Robinson.

Councilor Gitschier took exception to this practice, as under Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised, a motion to “lay on the table” is properly used “only when it is necessary to suspend consideration of a main motion in order to deal with another matter that has come up unexpectedly and which must be dealt with before the pending motion can be properly addressed.” In the case of the tabling of Councilor Robinson’s motions, not once did any councilor cite any other matters that came up unexpectedly that would necessitate a tabling. Our council currently has no official means of censuring a member. As such, the tabling of Councilor Robinson’s motions sure looks like an unofficial censure.


Things got feisty when Councilor Gitschier pressed the Mayor and City Solicitor as to whether a majority of the council was on precarious legal ground with this tactic. Mayor Chau opined that a motion to table does not, in “any way shape or form” equate to a censure. City Solicitor Williams confirmed that the purpose of a motion to table is typically to deal with urgent matters and is not designed to censure a member. The discussion started to go in circles but concluded with Councilor Gitschier stating that we would be seeking information on what urgent matters were pending in the event of future motions to table.

Councilor Mercier echoed the sentiments of Councilor Gitschier and noted that the alleged victim released a statement through legal council, stating:

“Mr. Corey Robinson is innocent of the allegations being yielded against him, including, sexual misconduct and Domestic assault and battery against my person.”

Whether this statement changes anyone’s opinion on this matter or not, it’s inarguable that it adds yet another layer of complexity to an already complex situation. Indeed, later in the meeting, Councilor Robinson had three new motions on the agenda:

  • C. Robinson – Req. City Mgr. Provide An Update On What Measures Have Been Implemented To Curb Parking At Intersections.
  • C. Robinson – Req. City Mgr. Have The Proper Department Explore Cost Of Bringing In Supplemental, Contracted Street Sweeping Services Twice Annually.
  • C. Robinson – Req. City Mgr. Work With Proper Department To Explore If Utilizing Snow Blower Attachments And Loading Trucks To Remove Snow In Dense Neighborhoods Would Be Beneficial For Winter Operations.

This week, rather than moving to “table,” Councilor Jenness moved to “bundle” these motions. The motion to “bundle” received a second, and was followed by a brief discussion as well as a registered speaker on the parking matter. Councilor Robinson sought clarification as to why his motions were bundled. As the motion to bundle was already passed, he was not permitted an answer. The package of motions was defeated by a roll-call vote of 7-4 with Councilors Mercier, Rourke, Gitschier and Robinson voting in favor.

I found the entire episode bizarre. Once again, it appeared as though there was some level of pre-meeting coordination among a majority to abandon the “tabling” tactic and replace it with “no” votes. Perhaps there is some concern over the legal issues cited by Councilor Gitschier at the top of the meeting? Indeed, my sparrows tell me that there’s been a complaint filed with the city for alleged violation of the state’s Open Meeting Law arising out of the tabling practice at recent meetings.

2. Playing the Shell Game with ARPA Funds

You may recall that the City agreed to allocate $9,000,00 towards neighborhood improvement projects. The administration and council was applauded for equally distributing these funds among all areas of the city. It sure looked like a resounding win for community input and sound planning.

But, hey – LOOK OVER THERE! We need some school HVAC systems. If you missed it, there was a joint meeting of the School Committee and Council back on December 11, 2023 on the topic of school building issues. At which time Councilor Gitschier gave a sneak peek at his intent to file the following motion:

C. Gitschier – Req. City Mgr. Look At Re-Evaluating The 9 Million Dollars In ARPA Neighborhood Improvement Funds And Invest Those Funds In School HVAC Systems.

Councilor Gitschier clarified that he was merely looking for a re-evaluation. He was not looking to target any specific project. I don’t love the idea of blowing up plans, but it’s worth exploring creative ideas to target acute issues.

3. In This House, We Do Our Own Crash Data Research

Councilor Jenness noted that he recently came across a report revealing that pedestrian deaths in the U.S. are on the rise following a long period of decline. Thus leading to the following motion:

C. Jenness – Req. City Mgr. Provide Detailed Report To The Council Showing Vehicle / Pedestrian, Vehicle / Bicyclist And Other Similar Accidents Over The Last Five Years.

Good motion. I’ve been seeing similar reports over the past couple of years. [Hint- our vehicles are too damn big]. So it’s a good idea to see how this trend is hitting pedestrians here in the Mill City. But why wait for those fat cats in government to spoon feed you information when you can do it yourself? The MassDOT has a surprisingly awesome Crash Data Dashboard that allows you to zero in on all kinds of depressing and macabre information.


4. Farewell to Councilor Drinkwater & End of Term for Mayor Chau

“Civil,” “respectful,” “reasonable,” “articulate,” “thoughtful.” These were the adjectives chosen by the council over and over in describing their colleague, John Drinkwater at his last meeting. Councilor Drinkwater chose not to seek re-election to spend more time with his family. As such, last night he was given a fond send-off by most of his colleagues (Councilor Robinson had no comment). I agree with the sentiments expressed last night. Though he didn’t speak as often as others, when he chose to speak, it usually meant something. No matter what was being said, Councilor Drinkwater often said it best. I’m happy that he will be spending more time with family, though I too will miss his presence on the council.

After Councilor Drinkwater said his goodbyes, Mayor Chau had an opportunity to give heartfelt thanks to the council and the city at-large for his time spent in the Mayor’s Office. Though I didn’t always love the way he led council meetings, it was clear that Mayor Chau took the role very seriously and represented the City well over the last two years.

5. The Rest

So ends another year and another council term. Next term we will (likely) have Dan Rourke as Mayor and John Descoteaux in the desk vacated by Councilor Drinkwater.

How are we going to spend the rest of our ARPA funds? Are taxes going to keep going up? Can we create new revenue without selling our soul? What’s up with the HCID anyway? What are we going to do about the unhoused? What are we willing to sacrifice to create housing? Can we fix our school buildings? Who can I call about double-telephone poles?

As always, stay tuned and Happy Holidays!

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