Norwich City Council starts new session with partisan votes
Norwich — Escorted into the Council Chambers by the Norwich Fire Department color guard and bagpiper Patrick Wayland, the newly elected mayor, City Council, Board of Education, treasurer, city clerk and corporation counsel were sworn in Tuesday during the traditional ceremony.
But minutes after the bagpipes died down and resident Sally Masse was applauded for her rendition of the national anthem, the new City Council engaged in its first partisan disputes and split votes.
Republican Mayor Peter Nystrom, reelected to his third term, had submitted a resolution naming fellow Republican Alderwoman Stacy Gould — elected to her fourth term — as council president pro tempore. But Democrats hold a 4-3 majority on the council and control the appointment of the second-ranking council position.
Democratic Alderman Derell Wilson nominated Joseph DeLucia, the ranking council Democrat, to the position and his appointment carried 4-3 with the four council Democrats in favor and three Republicans voting against.
“It has to be said,” Wilson said, “I don’t think the minority caucus of the council normally selects the pro tem.”
Newcomer Republican Grant Neundorf read a statement that Gould was the highest council vote-getter and, with her flexible work schedule, is available to represent the mayor at functions and has a strong grasp of financial matters. Wilson countered that DeLucia was the top vote-getter on the council in 2017 but was not named council president pro tempore.
Partisan disputes carried over into council rules and committee appointments. The council voted 4-3 along party lines to change the council rule that the mayor names members to standing council committees, instead giving the authority to the full council.
Nystrom had nominated himself to a position on the Public Works and Capital Improvements Committee, but DeLucia cited a charter provision that limits the mayor’s role to ex officio membership on committees. The council approved the appointments of Gould, DeLucia and newcomer Democrat Swaranjit Singh Khalsa to the public works committee.
Tempers flared briefly when DeLucia initially proposed replacing Nystrom’s nominee, Gould, to the Public Safety Committee. DeLucia called it a “bad idea” that an active volunteer firefighter for the East Great Plain department sit on the committee that oversees city emergency services.
Nystrom said DeLucia’s comments “crossed the line” and said he should apologize to all police and fire services, “but I know you won’t.”
DeLucia relented when his proposed replacement, Neundorf, declined the position after at first signaling he would accept it, leading to a unanimous vote for the committee makeup of Gould and Democrats DeLucia and Tracey Burto.
During his brief remarks, Nystrom told the nearly full council chambers: “as you can see, we do not always agree.” But he said important work lies ahead for the new council, including welcoming major new development to the city and making crucial decisions on spending nearly $30 million American Rescue Plan dollars.