John Riley for Mayor of Northampton



Why I Am Running for Mayor and Why We Need Our Right To the Ballot.


I recently spearheaded a citizens initiative to repeal the storm water fee, which we consider to be a tax, not a fee. In Northampton we vote on new taxes, while fees are imposed only for well defined services. When our group of over five hundred registered voters sought to redress this failing, we were told by the City that we weren’t even allowed to petition for that change on a city-wide ballot. This is when I decided to run for the office of Mayor of Northampton to represent all of its citizens.



I feel that democracy was lost in the rush to enact a poorly thought out, unscientific, and regressive tax. I want to restore the balance between city government and city residents. When elected I will immediately redirect all funds raised by the fee to their intended uses: repairing and maintaining the dikes, extended sweeping of the streets, and expanded water testing as mandated by the EPA. Any other expenses related to the storm water fee will be phased out within the first year of my administration. It is already the job of the DPW to maintain our streets and storm drains with the property taxes that we pay.


Beyond the issue of undemocratic fees versus taxes, running a responsible government extends to all aspects of managing our City. I want to work to reinvigorate the downtown and its empty storefronts and declining foot traffic. We need to make the downtown safer and more pedestrian friendly. We urgently need to repair our poorly maintained streets and sidewalks which have become impassable for those in wheelchairs. The City should encourage more cooperatively owned businesses to make the downtown more sustainable and less prone to boom and bust cycles.


We should encourage more young people to participate in city government through internships and even consider lowering the voting age to 17 so high school seniors can get a taste of government before they go off to college. We should open up greenways to allow more public access to the Connecticut River. We should recognize the changing role of our public libraries as they become centers of social outreach and encourage them to offer classes such as grant writing, self publishing, and starting and running a business. I will also vigorously support libraries in our schools. Studies point to the crucial importance of reading books in young children's future educational and income attainment. Finally, I want to prevent our city government from wasting huge legal fees on prohibiting its own citizens from voting and exercising their legal and constitutional rights.


I have more than 40 years years of experience building up our city, from co-founding the Iron Horse and starting the Globe Bookshop to working with my wife, and other young families to relocate the Montessori School downtown and bring it into co-operative ownership. I worked for over thirty years as a publishers' representative working with hundreds of college and university libraries all over the country to optimize their budgets and customer service, libraries such as Harvard, Yale, the Universities of California and Washington and closer to home, Smith, Hampshire, and Mount Holyoke. My wife Patty owned Corinna, Corinna, a maternity shop that both dressed a whole generation of new mothers and their children and provided learning toys to their babies and toddlers. Together we own Gabriel Books, which is celebrating its 24thanniversary in October. We also collaborate on producing documentaries in and around Northampton and we have built up a valuable archive for anyone interested in the arts and history of our town.



Northampton has great untapped capital in our very own history. We need stories told about our past that include Native Americans, women, minorities, and our working class. We could showcase what life was like here during the Industrial Era with a working museum about the mills and the people that once powered that era in our town's history. Utilizing our current resources we could highlight our town to an international audience with museum offerings of our Jonathan Edwards, Daniel Shays, Sojourner Truth, and Sylvia Plath heritages. I have been working with the Massachusetts Center for the Book to build a Center for the Book Arts that would highlight the history and current artists working in book creation in the Valley. I would like to see it become not only a museum, but a training ground for future artists in our community.


We can draw on our already international standing built up by Smith College and our music and arts scene to promote the town on the world stage, not just for tourism, but as a place to locate businesses that value our quality of life. In this way we can build up our tax base as well as provide good jobs to our upcoming generations. I will work with NCTV and Smith College to produce promotional videos about Northampton in all major languages to share with public television in those target countries. We should have sister cities in every country.


Patty and I have lived in Ward 6 for nearly forty years and we raised our three children: Gabriel, Benjamin and Corinna there. All three attended Northampton's great public schools and Gabriel and Corinna have married and we now have three grandchildren: Sawyer, Keeley, and Elliot. Our son Benjamin died at age 19, an early casualty of the heroin epidemic. He was a bright and beautiful child taken down too early, as are so many others in our very own town. Patty and I want to work to turn that tragedy around. We understand that it is much more complicated than just a drug problem and that our city must have a much more aggressive response on all fronts.


The City will be facing many challenges in the near future, including lower reimbursement from both the State and Federal Government, but we can't counter that drop with higher taxes and fees and more borrowing on the City's part.We need to work to keep Northampton affordable for all so our kids can settle here and our parents and we can age in place. We will have to become much more efficient and innovative in how we spend our money. With the opening of the MGM casino, Northampton will face increased competition for dining and entertainment dollars. We need to directly promote our city to the visitors there. I look forward to increasing our tourist dollars from and not losing them to such an oversized competitor.


What I am offering is not only a well managed budget and tax system, but a vision for building up Northampton and carrying it solidly into the future. As an Independent I look forward to energizing all quarters of our City.


Northampton has so much energy and innovative spirit that we can create a great future for all of our citizens.


As a firm believer in Democracy, I offer my service as Mayor of Northampton.




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I was born in Fort Bragg, California and was raised in Santa Rosa. I attended the University of California Santa Barbara, graduating Magna Cum Laude in English and Italian Literature. I have lived in Northampton with my wife Patty, who is a native Massachusetts resident, for  over 40 years. I co-founded the Iron Horse in 1978 and started the Globe Bookshop in 1981. Patty and I currently own Gabriel Books on Market St. While our three children: Gabriel, Benjamin, and Corinna were growing up, along with other young families we helped relocate the Montessori School and bring it under cooperative ownership.



This is a great day for Democracy in Northampton. Our committee to repeal the storm water fee has brought new levels of participation in city government by energizing all sectors of the city. In a year when all Council seats are unopposed, we have created a grassroots movement that brings new vision and new voices to the direction Northampton will be heading. From a small group we have grown into a full fledged political movement. I envision a city united to face the many challenges that lie ahead, from lower state and national reimbursement to heightened competition for dining and entertainment dollars from the casino just south of us.


I will work to re-energize the downtown just as I did when I started the Iron Horse, The Globe Bookshop and worked with other young families to relocate the Montessori School in 1986 and bring it under cooperative ownership.


My team is right here: Tony Patillo is my campaign manager. I will depend on his experience and civic values to help guide not only our campaign, but our administration. On my other side is my wife Patty who will be my administration's liaison to the healing and recovery communities. I will be depending on her empathy and understanding to keep us informed about our city's health and education needs.


Northampton deserves to hear honest and frank debates about its future. I will bring that discussion to all parts of our city.


I will be running a lean, low cost campaign that will depend on ideas and citizen participation to fuel it. And this is exactly how I will run my administration if you choose to elect me the next Mayor of Northampton!


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