Chicopee City Council Election 2021

Hi, my name is Sean Goonan and I am running for city council-at-large in Chicopee. I need your vote on November 2, 2021, the municipal general election day. I grew up in Chicopee and graduated from Chicopee High School in 2011. I attended George Washington University for three years, majoring in economics, but I left there in 2014 to pursue agriculture. Since then I have worked as an apprentice, farmhand, and field manager on a variety of farms. This year I am starting my own farm in Worthington, MA, and I’ll be selling fresh produce at a farm stand outside my house in Chicopee. I’ve also worked as a substitute teacher for Chicopee Public Schools and as a soccer coach for the Chicopee High JV soccer team. I wrote a book titled The Foundation for Exploration, in which I attempt to explain human nature and existence, and the best course for our species. More information about my book can be found on this website.

I want to become a city councilor because I care about other people and I care about my own life, and I want to live in a place that enhances people’s lives. I am constantly thinking of ways to improve the city. I will bring fresh ideas and energy to the city council. I ran for city council last election in 2019 and lost, and this has not deterred me whatsoever in my pursuit to create a better city for all. The failure of our current politicians to create a prosperous and satisfying city to live in has motivated me tremendously to run for city council again. Our misguided politicians do not listen to the needs of the citizens of our city, they spend our money the wrong way, and they develop our city the wrong way. Before I go into my ideas that I have for the city, I’d like to say that I will be a leader who will truly listen to people’s concerns, and I will actively reach out to people on important issues. This is something that our current city councilors fail to do. They assume that if only a handful of people call or email them on an issue, they can disregard it, or be swayed by a couple people to act one way on it, when in reality there is probably hundreds if not thousands of other people who disagree yet are not made aware of what is going on.

Councilors like Jim Tillotson, who has been on the city council for 40 years, claim that they are fiscally responsible, yet want to spend more and more on frivolous waste, and are unaware of the long-term financial responsibilities they are pushing off on future generations. The city is spending $2,670,892 this year on INTEREST on bank loans for all of the purchases the city council has made in the past few years. $15,981,600 of taxpayer dollars are spent in one year on city government worker pensions, and the amount is growing year by year. The city council approved giving the mayor a $37,000 raise to a salary of $122,000. 17 police sergeants are paid an average base yearly salary of $83,586, 7 police lieutenants are paid $98,031 each, 4 police captains are paid $110,903 each, a deputy chief of police is paid $117,835, a chief of police is paid $133,431 a year, the head librarian is paid $90,820 a year, the superintendent of Parks is paid $90,387 a year, a superintendent of schools is paid $172,000, five “district wide content specialists” are paid $88,757 a year each, the athletic director is paid $97,631/year, assistant superintendents of schools are paid $136,425 a year, $131,700 a year, and $100,000 a year, and principals and vice principals are all paid well over $100,000 a year each. These are top-heavy departments with too many upper managers who are overpaid, with workers under them who are underpaid. All of these employees also receive extensive benefits that Chicopee taxpayers mostly pay for. In other departments, vital public works, water/sewer, janitorial, and labor worker employees are not given the respect of being paid enough. Not to mention there are thousands of citizens in our community scrambling to make a living wage in the uncertain private sector.

More and more money is being spent on our water, sewer, and road infrastructure systems. Millions and millions of increasing dollars. And instead of recognizing the out of control spending and the necessary decision to scale down our roads and infrastructure and make the city sustainable, our politicians continually choose, over and over again, to expand our road and water and sewer infrastructure to the detriment of future generations who will have to pay for their maintenance, but not have the wealth to do so. It is irresponsible and backwards thinking. I am not saying that potholes should not be filled. I am saying that roads need to be redesigned to be smaller and sustainable to maintain, and pedestrian and bike friendly, and no new infrastructure needs to be added on top of the crumbling infrastructure we already possess and do not have the funds to maintain already.

There is no reason why Chicopee should not be a beautiful and enjoyable city to live in, as well as economically strong and financially stable. The trajectory of the city under the current leadership is the opposite of this. A drastic change in thinking needs to take place in order to reverse the damage that has been done and to prevent further damage from occurring.

I will restructure the city’s zoning categories so that they make sense, and to allow for the creation of a city comprised of strong close-knit neighborhood centers that are walkable, visually appealing, and contain locally owned small businesses. The current model of city building under recent city councilors and mayors is to build large, ugly, monotonously, and spread out. This forces people to live in stale, disconnected neighborhoods that do not act as a place to live, but rather as a place to stay, and people are then forced to drive elsewhere to work or drive elsewhere to big box stores to shop. Chicopee right now is a city designed to be driven through. On top of the visual and physical unpleasantness of that model of city building, it is also not financially stable nor economically smart. Far too much money is spent on maintaining and expanding road infrastructure, and the taxable value per acre of sprawling big box-store developments like Memorial Drive is far less than denser neighborhood centers like Chicopee Center. I conducted a study of these two models of economic development, Chicopee Center compared to Memorial Drive, and the taxable value per acre of land on Memorial Drive is $914,743 compared to $1,918,454 in Chicopee Center. And more spending on infrastructure is needed to maintain Memorial Drive. This means that Memorial Drive developments are worth less to the city in tax revenue and cost more to the city to support. They do not generate enough tax dollars to be sustainable and the building structures on the Memorial Drive lots do not allow for businesses to be interchangeable with a wide variety of uses. The bottom floor (or any floor) of a 4-story building in Chicopee Center could be used for a wide variety of businesses, or if there isn’t the demand for a shop it could be converted into an apartment or office space. The same cannot be said for big box store buildings. Many times they are left vacant. After the shiny newness of a big box store plaza fades, the area usually becomes run-down. The town center model of city building has been around for thousands of years and has proved to be the best, most economically stable model of development. The neighborhood center is an area where people can come together and be social and for cultural activities to occur.

I will create a car-restricted pedestrian plaza in Chicopee Center. To view my full proposal for this, please click that link. This pedestrian plaza will economically advance the city, and especially the Center, create a social environment for people to come together, advance the city culturally, enhance the farmers market being created there, create an attractive visual aesthetic in the Center, improve the flow of traffic by changing the vehicular road infrastructure, and improve people’s health.

I will create neighborhood barbecue events in the summer. Instead of a singular large event in Chicopee Center, I support also multiple smaller events in various neighborhoods, which can be run by the people of the neighborhoods themselves. A block or blocks in these neighborhoods can be closed down for a day, and people can bring out their grills and activities and have fun.

I will lower the tax rate for small businesses to encourage their growth. Right now there is a tax rate of $17.61 per $1000 of assessed value for homes, and a flat $34.87 per $1000 assessed value for all businesses. I will create 3 categories for the business tax rate: small, medium and large-scale businesses based on the number of employees in the organization. I will fight for all the tax rates to go down and save all taxpayers money, but under the current rates, and depending on what is needed to fund the city budget, I would change the business rate of $35/$1000 to $45/$1000 for large-scale businesses, $30/$1000 for medium-scale businesses, and $20/$1000 for small-scale businesses. I also support tax breaks for entrepreneurs looking to start small businesses. This will discourage large corporations from setting up in the city and draining the city of money and ruining the aesthetic, livability, and structure of the city, and encourage the flourishing of small business entrepreneurs. More jobs will be added this way, and they will be more diverse and self-actualizing jobs.

I will fight for our city to become safe and enjoyable for pedestrians and people on bikes. Our current mayor, city councilors, city engineers as well as state engineers and previous elected officials and engineers have neglected to address how unsafe and unpleasant our roads are. The layout of our streets deters people from walking and encourages people to drive and to speed while driving. It is well documented and understood that the more walkable a city is, the happier and healthier the people of a city will be (as well as the city being economically stronger and more sustainable). In order to do this, the width of vehicular driving lanes must be reduced to 10.5 ft or 10 ft, and where applicable, bike lanes added. Roundabouts (not to be confused with sprawling rotaries) should be created at many intersections to improve traffic flow, decrease the number of fatal crashes, and slow cars down. Curbs should be jutted out at crosswalks to slow cars down when turning or continuing forward, and to decrease the width of the road and make it safer for pedestrians to cross. Our crosswalks need to be greatly improved and made safer for people walking. They should feature a crosswalk sign on either side, well painted lines, and a movable in-street crosswalk sign calling for motorists to yield to pedestrians, which can be moved in the winter for plowing snow. Our current city councilors won’t even put in a crosswalk in a super obvious spot that needs one at the intersection of Walnut Street and Broadway for example. Even the bare minimum service that taxpayers are looking for has being neglected for years.

Right now we have driving lanes that are 12’6″ wide or much wider, and this encourages people driving in vehicles to speed, making it unsafe and unpleasant for people outside their homes or when walking or biking. Repainting the road lines to make the driving lanes narrower is cheap, and in the cases where the tree belt is made wider and road itself narrowed, it is not that expensive either, and this will save the taxpayers money in the long term as less money will be spent on maintaining the road infrastructure. Super wide lanes creates highway like speeds. Narrower lanes along with trees lining the streets will slow cars down (shops lining the sidewalks also slows drivers downs and increases business, and Chicopee officials actively discourage development of this sort through faulty zoning). I will approve spending for more trees to be planted along streets and in parks. Our parks need to be more naturally beautiful. I will push for better maintenance in our parks and for better natural features in our parks. I will approve the hiring or designation of a sanitation worker to go around and clean city streets of scattered litter. I will create a zoning category of “conservation land”, and I will fight for land in the city to be set for conservation. Our current mayor is pushing for 57 acres of land next to the Chicopee State Park to be destroyed and developed into an industrial complex. This is the kind of clueless, backwards thinking that needs to stop.

Current city council members have no attention to detail when it comes to spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on citywide expenses. An example would be the new trash bins that are designed improperly and reduce the number of trash bags that can fit in them, or the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on new LED streetlights that are too bright, cause too much glare when driving, and cause people to have sleeping problems and possibly cancers, and create other human and environmental concerns with their blue light temperature color. Not to mention the city has an excessive amount of light pollution, and no light pollution ordinance has ever been put in place to help curb it. The city councilors’ lack of attention to detail, and lack of foresight, has cost the city a ton of money over the years and has created problems for city residents in many ways. The city needs sharp, attentive individuals in leadership roles who are ahead of the curve and do not react to or create problems, but recognize what must be done to prevent issues from occurring in the first place and lead the city in the right direction proactively. I will call for redesigned trash bins to be available, will create a light pollution ordinance, will roll out better bulbs for our street lights, and will create a compost collection program in the city.

City councilors continue to spend thousands of taxpayer dollars on equipment that further militarizes the police department. It is almost as if their goal is to create a police state, all under the guise of “public safety”. This “public safety” they seek is at the expense of a strong healthy community, and it increases the division between police officers and citizens. In 2019, part of my campaign platform was for police reform, and I think the Chicopee police department still needs reforming. We need a civilian police commission to oversee police misconduct and police procedures and practices. We also need to stop spending money on military equipment, like the $175,000 armored vehicle (basically a tank) purchased in 2019, $86,000 worth of riot gear purchased in April of this year, and numerous other unnecessary and excessive purchases of military equipment. The Chicopee Police Department should instead pivot into practicing true community policing and become a part of the community instead of separate and above it.

Even if you disagree with some of the ideas I have, I can assure you that I am a far better choice for city council than any other candidate running. I need your vote on November 2, 2021. It only takes a few minutes of your day to vote, and I will spend countless hours devoted to making this city better for and with you.

If you’d like to donate to my campaign so that I can purchase more flyers to hand out to people, please go to this link: https://donorbox.org/committee-to-elect-sean-goonan

Thank you,

Sean Goonan