Group Collects 6,030 (Mayor) And 4,642 (Council) Signatures But Raise Repeal Petitions Fall Short

By SCOTT JACKSON

The group of Quincy residents seeking to repeal recently approved raises for the mayor and city councillors did get not gather enough signatures to put those pay increases on the ballot.

The group, A Just Quincy, had until 5 p.m. on July 10 to gather approximately 8,000 signatures from Quincy residents. They fell short of that goal, collecting 6,030 signatures on the petition to repeal the mayor’s salary increase and 4,642 signatures to undo the pay raise for city councillors, the group said in a statement.

“Over the past 20 days, hundreds of volunteers approached thousands of residents, asking them to sign a petition to repeal salaries deemed inappropriate, and at worst, greedy with the city councillors, complicit lining their own pockets,” they said in their statement. “It was not the idea of a raise, but the amount of the raises and the refusal of the council to hold a public hearing was or even to adequately respond to citizen phone calls, emails, and letters.”

“The people signing the petitions came from all walks of life and live in neighborhoods across the city,” and included supporters of Mayor Thomas Koch and supporters of former councillor Anne Mahoney, Koch’s opponent in the most recent election, the statement continued.

“We thank the incredible volunteers who worked tirelessly to obtain such a phenomenal number of signatures,” the group added.  “We thank the citizens of Quincy for their attention and fierce determination to let the councillors and mayor know their desire to have these raises voluntarily reduced.”

In a post on the group’s website, ajustquincy.com, Maggie McKee said it was disappointing that the group was unable get enough signatures but said the “experience collecting signatures left us all feeling overwhelmingly hopeful and invigorated.” That is because more than 100 people officially signed up to collect signatures, and many others downloaded the forms online, gathered signatures, and dropped them off. In addition, McKee said that many volunteers had never participated in civic actions like the petition drive before, but did so because they felt the raises were unfair. And, the effort brought people together and created new friendships.

“So, yes, I am disappointed that we didn’t hit our goal of getting 8,000 registered Quincy voters to sign our petitions in 20 days,” McKee said in her post. “But we knew from the start that reaching this goal would be a long shot. I consider the effort a monumental success because it has sparked so many conversations about how we want things to run here. And each of those thousands of signatures represents a conversation – a connection – with a neighbor that strengthens our community.”

She added that the group’s work “is not finished” and encouraged residents to “stay tuned for how you can help in our next as we fight to make the city more transparent and accountable to us, it’s residents” by joining the group’s mailing list.

“I have been so moved by my neighbors’ passion and commitment,” McKee said. “Together we will bring about the change that Quincy residents deserve!”

City councillors on June 17 gave final approval to Koch’s proposal to increase his salary from $150,900 to $285,000. They also voted to raises their own salaries from $29,800 each to $44,500, $3,000 less than what Koch had proposed. The raises are set to take effect on Jan. 1.

Only one of the nine city councillors did not support the pay raises for mayor: Ward 5 Councillor Dan Minton who said during an Ordinance Committee meeting that he believed the raise to $285,000 was too much. He said he did support a salary for the mayor of $230,000 and $38,000 for city councillors at that meeting.

A Just Quincy was attempting to undo the raises using the process provided by Chapter 43, Section 42 of state law, which provides residents a pathway to repealing most measures approved by city councils and school committees.

Under that section of state law, the organizers of the petitions had to gather signatures from 12 percent of the city’s voters within 20 days of the ordinances being signed. Had they done so, the ordinances would have been suspended, and the City Council would have been required to meet to reconsider the ordinances. If the City Council did not rescind them, a referendum on each ordinance would have taken place either during the next municipal election – set for 2025 – or at a special election called by the City Council.

In a previous interview with The Sun, Koch defended the raise he would be receiving as well as the raise city councillors would be getting. Koch said it had been a decade since he and the councillors had received raises, and also pointed to the responsibilities he has as mayor of Quincy.

“I’ve always found it interesting when you look at chiefs of police and fire, superintendents, city managers, town managers, nobody blinks an eye about salaries but when it comes to the elected position, everybody gets all worked up about it. I’m not so sure why and I don’t know that the public understands the enormity of this position,” Koch said.

“It’s a chief executive role. People see me in the paper at events. That’s all well and good. Those are fun things. But there’s several thousand city employees, there’s budgets, there’s developments you’re putting together, there’s long-term five-year planning and ten-year planning. I’m the appointing authority, the firing authority. There’s a lot to the position. I don’t think people understand that. It’s a half a billion dollar operation.

“So, I’m grateful the council saw the wisdom in it – and they haven’t had an increase in ten years, so I thought it was appropriate that they also should have an increase.”

 

Eastern Nazarene College To Close

The Board of Trustees of Eastern Nazarene College on Tuesday announced it unanimously voted to begin the process of closing the Wollaston school and transitioning it into a new educational enterprise that will carry on ENC’s legacy of providing a transformational education that equips diverse students to lead and serve our world as agent of Christ’s love and truth.

Like all small, private, liberal arts colleges, Eastern Nazarene has faced significant financial headwinds in recent years, the board said in its announcement. During that time, the Board and multiple presidents have pursued numerous alternatives to closure. While these efforts produced fruit that enabled ENC to continue operating until now, the underlying challenges have intensified. It has become clear that transitioning to a new educational enterprise is the only viable path for continuing ENC’s mission of providing transformational education.

“As we enter this season of transition, the Board and President Derr are focused on three priorities: caring for the present, honoring the past, and ensuring a vibrant future,” said Dr. David W. Bowser, Chair of the Board of Trustees of ENC. “Our top priority in the coming weeks is caring for those most directly affected by this decision: our students, faculty and staff.”

ENC’s goal, pending the commitment of a critical mass of students and faculty, is to continue serving undergraduate and graduate students who are on track to graduate by the end of the year. Administrators have arranged teach-out agreements with three institutions – Gordon College, Mount Vernon Nazarene University and Trevecca Nazarene University – to provide streamlined transfer options for all other students. ENC will also provide job-placement support and access to counseling resources for faculty and staff affected by the closure.

“We know many in our community will have questions about immediate next steps and long-term term plans for ENC’s programs and assets,” said ENC President Rev. Dr. Colleen R. Derr. “While the outcome of this process is known, the process to get there remains fluid. We are committed to communicating with our stakeholders in a timely and transparent way to ensure those most affected by this transition have the information and support they need. We are also committed to close collaboration with state and federal officials, our accreditor and our partners in the Church of the Nazarene to ensure we are serving our community and our neighbors well during this process.”

ENC has communicated directly with students, faculty, staff and other stakeholders to make them aware of this decision, and ENC staff will also be reaching out to these stakeholders to provide direct support based on their unique situations. More information for students, families, faculty, staff, alumni, partners and the community will be made available on ENC’s website (www.enc.edu/closure) in the coming days.

“We know this news will come as a shock and disappointment to many, especially those whose lives have been transformed by their affiliation with Eastern Nazarene College through its rich history,” Bowser said. “We look forward to creating opportunities to celebrate this rich history and preserve ENC’s legacy moving forward. Taking this step now will ensure the continuation of ENC’s mission to provide a transformational education through annual scholarships that empower students living in our region to attend other Nazarene schools.”