AGAWAM — Les Tingley is all for televising committee meetings, but board members have to agree, he said Oct. 3.
During the discussion of the city council’s vote to reclassify the job of Tingley, director of Agawam Media cable television stations, as part of the city’s unionized workforce, Councilman George Bitzas said that Tingley is “doing a good job”, but wanted to see more city council and committee meetings broadcast on public access television.
“It’s part of the job,” he said. “I suggest that these councils and commissions be televised, because people are complaining about it.”
Councilwoman Rosemary Sandlin objected to Bitzas linking complaints about cable access coverage to Tingley’s job reclassification, but said later in the meeting that she, too, would prefer to see more meetings at the antenna.
“The more meetings we can televise, the more transparency we have,” Sandlin said. “I would encourage that question.”
Tingley and his volunteer staff broadcast city council and school committee meetings, but Bitzas said many voters also demanded to see the planning council and other meetings.
After the meeting, Tingley told Reminder Publishing that he had already offered to televise the planning board and conservation commission, and would also be willing to televise city council subcommittees. He said he had the necessary staff and equipment, and that he was trying to increase the number of locally generated programs on cable channels 12 and 15, and that he was happy to see the public council meetings administration as part of this.
“It’s more content for me,” Tingley said, but “it’s not up to me to say you’re going to be televised — it’s up to them.”
He said he contacted the city’s planning and conservation departments and they weren’t interested in being televised.
The Oct. 3 vote to reclassify Tingley’s position was 10-0, with Councilwoman Cecilia Calabrese voting “present.” Councilors noted that Tingley and other non-union employees already receive the same benefits and pay scale as unionized city hall workers, but placing the position within the union would give him access to union representatives and the formal disciplinary process. .
The post of media director, created three years ago, was one of the few non-executive jobs in mayoralty that did not belong to a union, said city council president Christopher Johnson. Johnson said the mayor and the union had already agreed to make the job a union position and the council vote was a formality.
He said the only other workers excluded from the union are those with a conflict of interest. The personnel manager and the city auditor are required to review and sometimes oppose the union in negotiations and investigations. The mayor’s chief of staff and the city council clerk handle confidential documents in support of elected officials who must also negotiate with the union. No such conflict of interest exists for the media director, Johnson said.
Bitzas also expressed his disappointment with the parade during the Agawam Tribute Day at the Eastern States Exposition on September 28. rather than marching, and did not invite any additional marching units from the city, making Agawam’s contingent much smaller than was typical before COVID-19.
“At the start of the parade, they didn’t show a single American flag,” Bitzas said. “We used to have the parade with the American Legion. … We had no police personnel there, like before. There was no police chief, no fire [Department]no superintendent of schools, they allowed no unelected officials.
He also said it was ‘not fair on the children’ that apart from the group, no youth organizations were allowed to demonstrate. In previous years, Boy Scout troops and sports teams participated in the parade.
Other parades at the Big E — the 17-day fair also has “salvation” days honoring Chicopee, Holyoke, Springfield, West Springfield and Westfield — have seen similar restrictions over the past two years. Bitzas asked his fellow Agawam advisers to sign an official letter asking the Big E to bring back the longer parades.