Our neighborhood is only as strong as what we accomplish together.
Mike's honesty, qualifications, and effectiveness are what distinguish him as an elected official. As the City Councilor for Ward 2, Mike has delivered incredible results for his district. In his time on the Council, Mike has helped bring new public parks, a senior center, a police department sub-station, thousands of jobs and over $375 million dollars of public and private investments into East Springfield, Hungry Hill, and Atwater Park. Beyond delivering results for his district, Mike's main priorities have always been jobs, public safety, fiscal responsibility, and good government.
Below is a summary of what Mike's been up to on our behalf during his time on the City Council. If the summary seems overwhelming, that's because it is! Mike has done a lot for our community and what follows is just a sampling of his efforts:
Advocacy for Ward 2
- During his first few months in office, Mike met with leaders at an employer off of Page Blvd., Titeflex Corp. and learned of the company’s active discussions to move the facility to South Carolina. A few months later, Mike co-sponsored a City Council order to provide Titeflex with a Tax Increment Financing agreement that saved over 100 Springfield jobs and spurred new investment of over $6 million dollars.
- Mike collaborated with City stakeholders to create Springfield’s first single-parcel historic district, around Our Lady of Hope Church, preserving the structure for future generations to enjoy. When a lawsuit was filed by the Diocese of Springfield against the City Council for creating the historic district, Mike stood his ground and refused to settle the case. In 2011 the City Council won the backing of a federal judge and ultimately the United States Court of Appeals upheld the creation of the historic district allowing the church to remain preserved.
- Mike supported and participated in an RFP selection committee which resulted in the long vacant East Springfield Fire Station being transferred by the City Council to a local construction firm for reuse. Construction for this project is currently underway, breathing life into a long vacate city-owned building and bringing in new tax revenue.
- In July of 2013, Mike’s long sought after vision of having the former A&P Grocery site transformed into a public park connecting Liberty Street to Kendall Street was finally realized. Mike pushed the City to take title to the vacant parcel andmet with planners on the site to sketch out the first designs for what would later become Mary Troy Park. Mike advocated for the project to grow in scope, which led to the establishment of a new Hungry Hill Senior Center on Liberty Street. After years of planning and the closing of the former Hope Center at Our Lady of Hope Church, Hungry Hill Seniors again had a convenient place to call their own. Mary Troy Park was opened to the public next door to the new senior center on a site that was vacant, filled with debris, and used primarily for illegal parking when Mike first took office. When the new Hungry Hill Senior Center and Mary Troy Park created a need for additional off-street parking, Mike helped secure funding for the City to buy a neighboring home that was destroyed in a fire (the former home of Hungry Hill native, Mayor Daniel Brunton). The building was razed to make room for appropriate off-street parking. A short time after, Mike helped garner support for the use of city funds to demolish 803-807 Liberty Street, continuing the revitalization of the Liberty Street corridor in Hungry Hill.
- Mike held community meetings with the former owners of the Westinghouse site on Page Blvd. immediately upon taking office in 2009. In his first race, Mike was endorsed by then City Councilor Rosemarie Mazza-Moriarty, formerly of Osborne Terrace, for his commitment to the Westinghouse site and his vision for its future reuse. After a series of retail mall projects failed to materialize, and dozens of phone calls to agents for companies like WholeFoods and Trader Joes, Mike was informed that the site was being sold to Ameristar Casinos. Knowing the importance of getting the site demolished and environmentally cleaned in order to make it marketable, Mike successfully advocated to have the casino company clear the Westinghouse property. It was that decision that later made the Westinghouse property ripe for development when Ameristar’s casino plans never materialized. Through a Tax Increment Financing agreement co-sponsored by Mike, the City was able to attract a rail car manufacturer to the site which is now completing a $95 million dollar project which will also bring almost 300 high paying manufacturing jobs to East Springfield. The average starting salary for these jobs is over $60,000. During the negotiation for the tax deal, Mike introduced amendments stipulating that at least 50% of the jobs go to Springfield residents. The project is a game changer for the region and has attracted national attention. Recently, the company announced they will expand its job base and square footage for the headquarter,s exceeding local expectations.
- In May of 2013, Mike joined forces with the East Springfield Neighborhood Council to secure funding to tear down the long vacant Cornerstone Lounge and build a parking lot to help serve the East Springfield Library.
- Mike supported a TIF for Falvey Linen which resulted in 100 new jobs coming to East Springfield. At the time of the vote on the tax deal, Mike successfully introduced an amendment to the deal to have at least 50% of the employees live in Springfield. The project will bring millions of dollars in private investment into East Springfield and will increase property tax revenues for the City. Ultimately, the company plans to bring hundreds of jobs to East Springfield from Rhode Island.
- As Finance Committee Chairman, Mike supported a Tax Increment Financing agreement for Smith & Wesson which led to the investment of $63 million in property improvements and was expected to create 225 new jobs for the facility which had about 882 employees on staff. At the time, Mike said, “this isn’t the first agreement and it won't be the last. I welcome any company that plans to bring this type of job creation to work with the city so that we can provide similar incentives.” Powered by the tax incentive, the company’s growth exploded and by 2012 the company has over 1,200 employees. The following year the Boston Globe would name the Springfield employer to the #1 spot on its list of 100 top employers in Massachusetts.
- Mike fought to have the former Army National Guard barracks on East Street in East Springfield reused as a Police Debarment facility. When the East Springfield Neighborhood Council noticed that the project was up for consideration to be reused to assist the homeless population, the neighborhood sprang into action. After years of work and Mike's due diligence, the City entered into an agreement with the federal government to accept a deed to the Army National Guard barracks for $1.00 and plans were announced to build a new public safety annex named for Mike’s cousin and lifelong Hungry Hill resident, the late Chief Paul J. Fenton. The new $12 million dollar public safety annex will house community policing activities including the training academy for new officers. The project will result in more police presence in Ward 2 and will serve as a sub-station.
- Mike lobbied the state and City to get the long-awaited Van Horn Dam project off the ground. The project will result in significant investments into the treasured park and is essential to protecting the Baystate Medical Center complex on Chestnut Street in the event of a natural disaster. In 2016, Mike helped get the $2.4 million dollar project funded by the City Council and construction is currently underway.
- Councilor Fenton helped pave the way for the re-use of the former Entertainment Cinemas at the Springfield Plaza by supporting a special permit for the new Bounce! trampoline park. Shortly after the Bounce! announcement, the Springfield Plaza welcomed a highly sought after Registry of Motor Vehicles location to the complex.
- Mike worked with a developer to invest $4 million in renovations at the Springfield Plaza.
- Mike supported the $296 million dollar Baystate "Hospital of the Future" expansion and worked with neighbors in the surrounding Atwater Park neighborhood to facilitate a beautifully designed building and minimize construction impact on the neighborhood.
- Mike supported a special permit for a state-of-the-art $27 million dollar cogeneration power plant at Baystate Medical Center off of Chestnut Street which will reduce emissions in the community and make the hospital more energy efficient. Mike helped organize community meetings with the hospital to ensure that construction of the facility would take place without disturbing neighbors. In the end, Mike successfully advocated for the hospital to relocate an existing historic home on the parcel of the intended power plant. The historic home was lifted and safely transplanted to a vacant parcel down the street which was purchased by Baystate. The home will serve as housing for Baystate resident doctors. The preservation of the home was enabled in part by the demo delay ordinance that Mike helped draft years earlier.
- Mike helped neighbors of East Springfield re-zone certain Residential B properties to Residential A so that no multi-family dwellings could be constructed on an already congested street. In continuing to support the neighborhood Mike advocated for the erection of the East Springfield neighborhood council building, and drafted a new Engine Brake law prohibiting the use of Engine Brakes (aka Jake Brakes) on Page Blvd.
- Mike supported a zone change for Louis & Clark drug store on the corner of Page Blvd. and East Street in East Springfield so that the business could expand its parking onto an adjoining vacant lot. This change allowed the business to grow and reduced the on-street parking burden faced by area residents.
- When teachers from Glenwood Elementary School told Mike about their student walking club and the need for winter gear for the students, Mike sought out a corporate sponsor and found a willing party in Blue Cross Blue Shield. Just in time for winter, Blue Cross Blue Shield visited the school with Mike to deliver custom made “Glenwood Walking Club” hats, scarves, and mittens to the students.
- Mike helped to coordinate between Hungry Hill and East Springfield for the application of CDBG dollars to be spent on new neighborhood signs on Carew Street, Page Blvd., and Liberty Street. These new signs now serve as beautiful welcome to our community.
- When Mike's started as a City Councilor Walsh Park (formerly Freeman Park) was closed and occupied by enormous dirt piles. Mike fought to have Walsh park restored as a resource for people in the Freeman Terrace section of Hungry Hill. Today the park is well maintained and used by area residents.
- Mike worked with state and local leaders to assist in the construction of a new $55.7 million dollar operations facility on Cottage Street. Construction began in April of 2017 and the new PVTA 227,500 square foot building will include maintenance bays and support 132 fixed route buses. The added investment will bring jobs and revenue to the community.
- Upon the swearing in of new District Attorney Mark Mastroianni, Mike met with the DA to advocate for a gun court. In February 2013, the DA announced the creation of a Firearms Session in Springfield District Court.
- Just a month into his first term as Council President, Mike joined a coalition of new Councilors to overcome special interests to pass stronger restrictions on pawn shops. The new regulations increased the time that a pawned item must be held before it can sold and requires that all pawned merchandise be photographed and that information is now shared in real-time with the Springfield Police Department along with information regarding the person who pawned the item. This new data sharing system and hold on merchandise has increased the Police Department’s ability to return stolen merchandise and apprehend criminals. As a result of these efforts, three pawn shops lost their licenses and five were fined for failing to comply with the new law. Now, greater compliance has been achieved and housebreaks are down city-wide. Mike later proposed a moratorium on new pawnshops all together which was passed in 2014 and is still in effect. Almost a year later, Mike would co-sponsor legislation extending the reach of municipal ordinances to restrict door-to-door sales targeting elderly.
- Recently, Mike advocated for new academy classes in the Fire Department and Police Department. In 2014, the city hired 58 new police and firefighters.
- On the day of Michael’s swearing in as a City Councilor he met a Springfield Public School teacher and community organizer named Burt Freedman. Burt is a tireless advocate for the Springfield Public Schools and a program known as ECOS, which provides students with an opportunity for environmental exploration and learning. Burt spoke to Mike about his vision for rebuilding the ECOS complex in Forest Park and growing the program. After years of work, Mike was there to see Burt realize his dream of having a new ECOS building built in Forest Park with $4 million in funding from the City Council.
- Mike supported TIFs for Dave Truck Repair, Advance Welding, Falvey Linen, Custom Carbide, Latino Foods Distributors, F.W. Webb, Nash Manufacturing, Titan Roofing, Freedom Credit Union, Titeflex, Smith & Wesson, and CRRC. These projects brought hundreds of millions of dollars in investment into the city and helped to create thousands of new jobs.
- In only his second year on the City Council and at the age of 23, Mike was tapped to Chair the powerful Finance Committee. Here, Mike would push for financial reforms and a more aggressive approach to tax incentives. When City employees were forced to take unpaid furlough days, Mike successfully advocated to create a "tiered furlough system" which required that high paid City employees take more furlough days than their lower paid subordinates, thereby softening the impact on lowering paid employees.
- Mike was appointed chair of the special committee on residency where he advocated for stronger enforcement of the City’s residency ordinance for City employees. Under Mike’s leadership the City Council has ratified almost a dozen municipal union contracts that now require residency for city employees. Mike also drafted an amendment to the residency ordinance which now prohibits municipal department heads from receiving a wavier to the residency ordinance.
- Mike drafted a new leash law which now requires that individuals have their dogs on a leash at all times when outside their own property. Previously, the law allowed for dog owners to have a dog off its leash if the dog was under “voice control.”
- In 2014 Mike drafted at state’s first casino ethics ordinance which restricts City of Springfield elected officials and policy-makers from later taking jobs with MGM Springfield. The move was widely supported and attracted state-wide attention before making its way into the national media.
- Mike has always been cautiously optimistic about the new MGM casino and has played the role of watchdog once again. When MGM announced the elimination of their 25-story glass hotel tower, Mike spoke out and opposed the plans to shrink the project. Months later, due diligence proved that Mike’s concerns about a shrinking project were accurate. Mike fought for tax payers in negotiations with MGM and led the Council as President through a complicated permitting process for the new casino. In the end, Mike was the lone “no” vote against the revised MGM plans for a smaller hotel facility.
- On marijuana, Mike has been a thoughtful advocate for fair and thoughtful permitting. When developers proposed to have a monopoly over medical marijuana in Springfield, Mike fought back and won. And when another business owner began selling marijuana illegally without a license and before the state promulgated regulations, Mike acted and they were shut down swiftly.
- Mike supported Springfield's zoning modernization project which gave the City Site Plan Review controls for the first time ever. This was a major change for many City developers who opposed the project and preferred Springfield's older system that did not allow for as many neighborhood controls and permitted many uses "as of right."
- Mike was one of the principal authors of Springfield's Demolition Delay ordinance which empowers the Springfield Historic Commission to halt the demolition of a historic structure for up to 9-months. Mike later bolstered the law by drafting an ordinance that prohibits the City of Springfield from tearing down historic structures unless it first issues an RFP to the public offering financial assistance in an amount equal to the cost of the demolition. The ordinance is designed to maximize the opportunity for the public to save historic structures before the City spends resources on demolition.
- In 2014 Mike became City Council President at 27 years old, making him the youngest City Council President in the history of the City of Springfield. In one of his first acts as President, Mike appointed four new special committees designed to bring government to the people and to get citizens more involved in their government. The committee members were chosen through a public application process and ultimately, Mike selected 29 residents to serve. The 29 appointees, all Springfield residents, came from 11 neighborhoods and were extremely diverse. Each committee had least one bilingual member and some committees had three bilingual members. Their professions were also diverse including lawyers, bankers, engineers, doctors, veterans and teachers. Of 29 appointments, 19 held masters degrees.
- One of the special committees Mike appointed was the Springfield Young Professional Committee which worked on full range of issues facing young people all over Springfield and achieved many advancements in housing, jobs, and transportation. One of the committee’s most notable achievements was the establishment of Springfield Restaurant Week which is now in its third year.
- As Council President Mike introduced many transparency driven initiatives including broadcasting City Council meetings live online for the first time ever. Mike also started having the public speak out portions of City Council meetings broadcast to the public for the first time. Additionally, Mike began the practice of having Springfield Public Access film all sub-committee meetings.
- Due in no small part to Mike's fairness and transparent approach to leadership, his colleagues entrusted Mike with three consecutive terms at Council President, a feat that has not happened in over fifty years in Springfield.
- Mike has always fought for transparency and accountability in government. Mike fought for the appointment of a new Director of Internal Audit in order to facilitate more accountability in City Hall. Mike would later go on to serve as chair of the Audit Committee.
Taxes / Budget
- In 2009 Springfield had the highest business and resident tax rates in the state. Upon taking office in 2010, Mike led the charge to reduce municipal spending and increase the efficient use of tax dollars. Mike led efforts to strategically consolidate departments and cut millions of dollars from the municipal budget allowing Springfield to achieve an overall reduction in taxes for homeowners and business for the first time in 27 years. Since Mike took office, Springfield has never again held the distinct label of having the highest tax rates in the state. Mike has always been a diligent steward of the municipal funds with the long term goal of continuing to lower tax rates.
- As Finance Committee chair, Mike led efforts to strategically consolidate departments and cut millions of dollars from the municipal budget. Mike has also been a long standing opponent to the use of reserve dollars to fund onetime expenses. Additionally, Mike has spoken out about the need for the city to better fund its pension system liabilities. To address the pension system issue, Mike advocated for the creation of a trust fund to address the City’s long term pension liabilities, which was funded in 2016.
- Along with his tough stance on the municipal budget, Mike has been extremely effective at advocating for projects in Ward 2. Additionally, Mike has supported quality of life spending on things like maintenance of terraces and islands, road paving, new sidewalks, the demolition of blighted buildings, and plowing of city streets.
- In 2011 Mike led the City Council in an effort to repeal a Special Permit which was issued for a biomass plant planned for Page Blvd. Mike later took the fight to the Zoning Board of Appeals and assisted in procuring pro bono legal counsel to represent the City Council in court. Mike has continued this fight during his entire tenure.
- Mike supports utilizing tax payer dollars through targeted and specific programming. Mike created a committee of five individuals to advise him regarding the prospect of putting the Community Preservation Act on the ballot. After thoughtful consideration of the committee’s recommendations, Mike put an order on the City Council agenda for the Community Preservation Act to be brought to the voters. It was approved by voters with over 60% of the vote and now a committee of Springfield citizens will determine who to spend this over $1 million in annual funds on community benefit projects.
- In June of 2011, a tornado ripped through Springfield and left many people without homes or shelter. Thankfully, Ward 2 was largely unaffected by this natural disaster. An important resource to the community, and Mike’s alma mater, Cathedral High School, was destroyed in the tornado. At the time, Mike was serving on the Board of Trustees for the high school and helping with a master plan to re-position the school for the future. After years of inaction or commitment to rebuild the school, Mike began meeting with a small group of activists who was later become known as the Committee for Cathedral Action. Mike donated his legal services probono to create a non-profit corporation for the effort to ensure that the Catholic high school was rebuilt in Springfield. Mike helped organize fundraisers, put together rallies, and advocated for Springfield to be the future home of the school. After an extensive effort, Mike and the Committee for Cathedral Action were successful in advocating for the new high school to be built in Springfield.
- Mike serves as a member of the advisory board for Springfield-based ROCA, Inc. which is a non-profit that strives to disrupt the cycle of incarceration and poverty by helping young people transform their lives through training and employment.
- Mike was a part of the founders for Suit Up Springfield and served as a member of the Board of Directors for this group which collects donations of lightly used business attire and provides the clothing to Springfield's young people who need access to professional attire for job interviews. The organization also provides training and mentorship to young people to help them find a career.
- Mike donates his time as a pro bono attorney for the Hungry Hill Community Development Corporation, which is an organization that buys dilapidated properties in Ward 2 and renovates them for homeowner occupancy.