Northampton’s Mayor Thomas Reenock vetoed the borough’s rental inspection ordinance shortly after it was approved by council during its May 17 meeting, which made for a very heated debate during council’s June 7 meeting.
With Mayor Reenock’s veto, council now must approve the ordinance with all members present and a majority plus one vote. With an eight-member council, this means the ordinance can only be approved by a 6-2 vote. In May, three members of council voted against the ordinance.
Many residents who spoke up during the meeting spoke in favor of the ordinance. They spoke of the safety of residents and tenants and compared the ordinance to car inspections: something that has to be done every year in order to ensure drivers are safe.
“By passing this ordinance, you are going to be affecting the lives of people for generations,” said one resident.
Residents also spoke out against an alleged conflict of interest. One unnamed councilman is a landlord in the borough. Residents said he should have recused himself from the vote.
One resident, who began reciting a code of ethics, was asked to stop speaking by borough solicitor Steven Goudsouzian. Goudsouzian previously ruled in favor of allowing the unnamed councilman to vote.
This angered residents, many of whom shouted out during public comment and demanded the resident be allowed to speak.
“If one of the [council] members are a landlord,” continued one resident, “you should recuse yourself and step aside.”
Councilwoman Judy Kutzler, who has adamantly supported the ordinance, left the meeting following council’s actions toward the resident.
“As mayor, my position is to inspire public health,” said Mayor Reenock. However, he listed an abundance of objections to the way the ordinance intends to do this. “We are headed in the right direction. Unfortunately, we are headed in the wrong way.”
His primary objections are that the borough has safety codes it is currently not enforcing. He also said the borough’s code enforcer has no certification and was not advertised to the public. He also mentioned the public did not have proper say in the ordinance.
Councilman Robert McHale questioned the mayor’s objections. He said the code enforcer, Fire Chief Keith Knoblach, is “nothing more than qualified” and that the position does not have to be advertised. He also said the ordinance went under multiple changes based on public feedback.
“I need one thing to veto,” said Mayor Reenock. “I gave you a multitude of sins here…My vote is already in. You need to change it.”
Councilman Anthony Lopsonzski, Sr. motioned to table the vote until the borough’s next meeting since, with Councilwoman Kutzler gone, there was no full council to take a vote.
Members of the public who were in favor of the ordinance were visibly frustrated upon leaving the meeting, with many echoing the same words: “This town will never change.”
- Victor Rodite, community planner, gave a presentation to council on behalf of the borough’s planning commission. He gave an overview of an “action plan” the borough should follow through with in order to meet the goals of its comprehensive plan. The action plan included establishing an economic development plan for the borough, identifying off-street parking problems, and creating a traffic-calming plan to help alleviate issues on Route 329.
- Council voted to decrease the number of meetings it holds in July and August from two to one. These meetings will be held on the first Thursday of each month at 7:30 p.m.