Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Salem Seggliders Director of Ops facing charges in Boston ... and other stuff

Allan (or Allen, depending on the day) Danley, of Boston Gliders/Salem Seggliders is currently facing charges in Boston for repeated violations of a Boston law restricting use of Segways on sidewalks. I think we've had that problem in Salem as well. I've seen it myself on Charter Street.

Danley is holding the scissors with herhonor.


Well, we did have that problem anyway. I'm not sure we do anymore. The Salem Seggliders location at the corner of Derby and Lafayette is about to be converted into a frozen yogurt shop, and everything inside the store is gone. They may or may not be back. Their old website now redirects to the Boston site, with no mention of Salem at all. I won't say I told you so, but ...

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The Salem News article that ran last week touting the "on course" nature of Blaney Street construction is at least a little bit of revisionist history. Construction on the next phase was supposed to begin at the beginning of November, as soon as the ferry season ended. The fact that it is just being put out to bid actually means that they are months behind plan.

Check out this from an earlier Salem News article. " In the late fall, after the ferry season ends, contractors will start building the first section of the T-shaped, 350-foot pier. Work on that phase is scheduled to be completed by the fall of 2012."

That was written by the same reporter who states that work starting in June, and not ending until 2013 is "on course." Um ... OK. The last time I dared to criticize something written by Tom Dalton I took a bunch of crap from some of you, so I'll just leave it at that.

I asked a city official why nothing was going on at Blaney back in early December. The response was that they had hoped to get things going, but MADOT hadn't yet signed off on the plans, which was required for some of the grants. That's the approval that finally came in, after a long wait.

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Happy new year, everyone! Tried to watch the Salem inauguration and state of the city address today on SATV, who stated they were broadcasting it live. Of course, they didn't. Fail. Would have been interesting to hear the mayor's take on the state of the city. I've sensed a lot of fail coming from SATV recently. It seems they only cover public meetings if they are specifically asked by the city. Why can't they get on the same email list I am on to get the agendas ahead of time. It's pretty easy to read that an agenda item is approving the hiring of a new school superintendent, and deciding that is worth covering. What am I getting for the franchise fee I pay to Comcast? Don't do it for me, I'm just too busy to get to a lot of these meetings. Do it for those who are physically incapable of attending.



Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Not much going on, right?

It's been pretty quiet in town since election day, right? OK, maybe not so much.

The biggest news to rock Salem is the state declaring Bentley Elementary School to be a level 4 school. Level 4 schools are those deemed by the state to have performed poorly on the MCAS in both math and English language arts for a period of 4 years, with no signs of substantial improvement. Basically the state is telling us, something's broken, and you better fix it. They also make resources available, and also loosen several rules to allow reforms in level 4 schools.

The hope is to get the school turned around (not to mention the other several in danger of reaching level 4) before the state imposes level 5 status on the Salem School District, which would effectively mean state takeover. It's currently happening for the first time up in Lawrence. Might we be second? One difference is that Slick Willie Lantigua, in the ultimate failure to lead, actually asked the state to take over his school system. I can't imagine Kim Driscoll doing such a thing. If we reach level 5, the state appoints a receiver, who usurps all of the power held by the school committee and superintendent.

Anyone still miss Dr. Cameron? Still say we should have sued him for breach of contract, to cover the difference in his salary and Dr. Russell's.

A note to those out there jumping up and down screaming that they had no idea our schools were like this. Just stop. You're making yourself look ignorant. The state publishes MCAS data every year. It's your job to go read it. To those saying it was kept secret until after the election, same message. The state published Bentley's results a full 40 days or so before the election. Several school committee candidates, notably Francis Vigeant, brought up the specter of possible level 4 status. Across the board, Bentley's performance levels are twice worse than the state averages. In grade 3 math, 66 percent of students are proficient or better. At Bentley one third of students make the grade. For reading, the state average is 62 percent proficient. At Bentley that number is 30%. This isn't a sudden new trend. It's been going on for years.

So what do we do to fix this? First, when Carr steps down, which he should do soon, we should appoint Francis Vigeant to his seat on the school committee. Why him? He was only sixth on the ballot? Well, look at what the electorate has brought us. A school committee that oversaw the mess we're in now. Vigeant has proven experience in developing curriculum that help students learn better, and test better. Clearly that's a huge part of what we need. Simply put, no other candidate can make that claim.

What else do we need? Well, we probably need to balance our schools a little better. Bentley has the poorest, least English speaking population amongst Salem's elementary schools. That provides them with more challenges, none of which are being addressed with innovation programs like at Carlton, or extended day/year programs like at Saltonstall. I can't even believe I'm suggesting this, but maybe we also need to let some of those non-English speakers start out in some Spanish language classes. I'm a firm believer that not forcing them to learn English drastically limits their economic potential later in life, but I can't imagine trying to learn math in Spanish, or science or any other subject. Why not a transition model where you're teaching English in English, and other subjects in Spanish, at least until the learning foundation is there in these kids? Teaching native language classes is one of the benefits of level 4 schools. Normally it's prohibited, but at level 4 the door is open for that.

If this news had become widespread prior to the election, it may well have had some impact. In the council race, Carr and Barcikowski were separated by less than 100 votes. Might those votes have swung if voters had known that the Bentley School was about to be downgraded to level 4 status? Maybe, especially with Carr telling everyone he needed a new challenge. Was he really successful in his last one? He's clearly the winner that the news hadn't broken. I guess that makes Barcikowski, and Pinto to a lesser extent, the big loser.

Other winners were Nate Bryant and Jim Fleming. There might have been a push for a new slate if the news had come out. Maybe Bryant knew the news was coming when he said the below comment at the end of the school committee candidates forum.





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One thing I left out of my election analysis and discussion of the changing Salem. Joan Lovely, yet again, was the only candidate named on more than half of the ballots. I guess the more things change, the more they stay the same.

There's talk she'll run for Fred Berry's seat. I'd vote for her, I guess, but I hope she doesn't run. She can have a much bigger influence on Salem leading the city council as president, and waiting for Kim to vacate the corner office, than she would as a junior state senator in a body of 40. I'm betting that deep down she knows that, too.


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New ward and precinct maps are out. Salem Patch has a copy here. There is no longer any downtown component to Ward 3, as Ward 2, and to a lesser extent, Ward 5, have taken it over. Let me be the first to encourage Mike Blatty to run for Ward 2 councilor next go around. You'd still represent Chestnut St, Mike, as that has made the move with you. Thrilled, I'm sure. The most odd changes are people who transferred from ward 2 to ward 6. Ward 2 grew quite a bit, but two little pieces of bridge street were tossed across the river to  ward 6. The first is the downtown side of March Street, but only once you cross over the railroad tracks. Basically, once you cross over that funny graffiti art on the bypass road, if you are on the inbound side, you're in ward 6. The other part is the downtown side of Northey Street, through the Jefferson Station apartments. They can probably see the Ward 2 polling station, but they'll all have to treck over to Mack Park to vote now. If they want to meet their councilor, they'll have to cross the water and head to North Salem. Geographically it just makes no sense. They could have grown 2 a little less to the southwest, and kept those two geographically sensical parts. If 6 needs to grow, have it head more towards 4, and have 4 pick up some of what 3 gave to 2. Confused yet? I know, who cares? I'm not sure more downtown residents helps Mike Sosnowski. Then again, he tends to be unopposed.

Justin Mattera, who was originally a candidate for Ward 3 councilor, wouldn't still be in ward 3 if he had won, as Ward 5 now stretches all the way down the needle park side of Lafayette St to Derby. Speaking of, when is the ward 5 councilor going to get needle park cleaned up? Congrats to Josh Turiel on his new acquisition? I know Mattera asked several times about redistricting and was told it wouldn't be a problem. I'd have liked to have seen how that would have worked.


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Jayson Fallis is alleged to be the kind of asshole who rips off some of the neediest. I'm glad he was captured today. Fallis head.

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I'm off to welcome Santa tonight. Let's hope his arrival goes better than it did at this Florida mall appearance.




Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Election done, what did we learn?

Well that was fun. Election 2011 has come to an end, with at least a few surprises. Strong victories by Josh Turiel in Ward 5, and Todd Siegel in Ward 3 signaled that residents in those two wards were ready for some change. Incumbents John Ronan and Jean Pelletier were soundly defeated in each of their precincts. Ward 5 voters were also quite intensely interested in the ward race. It featured easily the lowest number of write-ins (2) or blanks (18) of any of the ward races. I'm thrilled for Josh, and think he'll be a great councilor. He definitely ran a hyper-focused, targeted campaign. He owes his victory, at least in part, to the work that Matt Veno put in. Matt put his name on the line, penning a letter to 600 likely voters in the ward, strongly endorsing Josh. They saved it for the final week to limit the opportunity to respond. It generated more buzz than anything else the campaign produced. I don't know Siegel at all. I can tell you what was on his website, and what he told Salem Patch. I'll be interested to see what kind of councilor he'll be. I'm reserving judgment.

I'm convinced Josh Turiel will be an excellent councilor in Ward 5. He has the common sense, problem solver approach that I saw in Darek Barcikowski, as well. I think he'll play it pretty down the middle, as well. You won't be able to assume his vote is with the administration, or against it. Exactly as I'd prefer it. One note, John Ronan saw Josh outside of one of the polling stations just after the polling station results had been posted inside. He went out of his way to very graciously approach Josh, shake his hand, and congratulate him on his victory. Very classy (with a C) of him.
When it came to the at-large race, ward 3 was much less cohesive, but rather, was a tale of two precincts. The downtown precinct was very much in favor of change, with Darek Barcikowski placing second. The Swampscott road end of the ward seemed to be about two things. Status quo, and the transfer station. There, Barcikowski finished seventh, behind everyone but the Matts. (Yes, even Teasie nipped him by 3 votes.) Sargent and Pinto, who've both expressed reservations or opposition to the transfer station, finished second and third, behind Joan Lovely, who finished first everywhere except for in 6-1, where Kevin Carr carried his home precinct by 9 votes. Nice job by him. Tom Furey placed 4th, indicating that 3-2 wanted all of the at large councilors back.

Ward 4 cost Darek Barcikowski a seat. It also voted more old school than other wards. The order of finish in 4 was Lovely: 500 votes, Pinto: 390, Sargent: 388, Furey: 367, Carr: 339, Barcikowski:196, Riley-Goggin 187. The difference between Carr and Barcikowski here was more than the difference in the election. Darek needs to focus on getting the ward 4 numbers up if he hopes to be elected city-wide down the road. Teasie even beat him in ward 4-1 by 10. I'm sure the transfer station played a huge role in this ward as well. He bested her everywhere else, including her own neighborhood. 4-1, further from the transfer station, had Pinto 4th. 4-2, near the transfer station had Pinto, a solid no vote, second. Darek said after the election that he had probably spent the smallest portion of his campaigning time in ward 4. Lesson learned. I'm sure we will see plenty more from him. Best campaign I've seen in Salem.

Kevin Carr joins the city council, and I'm not sure what to make of him, either. The fellowship of the miserable (Salemweb, Patch, Salem News commenters) have labeled him as a toady for the mayor. The school committee doesn't seem like it covers an awful lot of controversial stuff for him to throw down with her about. I watched plenty of school committee. I didn't really see anything that made him stick out, positive or negative. Like Siegel, I'll wait and see. He ran very strong in 6 and 7. The 78 votes that separated 4th and 5th could have flipped any number of places. Really, every vote mattered. I don't understand why 5399 blank votes were cast. Steve Pinto goes home. I'm absolutely shocked after his strong primary showing. I guess his supporters were rabid, but not big enough in numbers.

So that's what happened, of interest. What do we learn from it? What are the implications?

I think this election eventually goes down as either a blip, or the beginning of a shift in Salem voting patterns, where ideas matter more than lineage. New school starts to compete with old school. A lot of the "old guard" was at least winged in this one. Jim Fleming expects to top the ballot (doesn't he always), but finished 3rd, behind Deb Amaral (first time candidate tops the ticket) and Nate Bryant. Primary results tell us that Fleming and Pinto have plenty of die-hard support, and that they mobilized well. Their widespread support is dwindling. I can't imagine Deb Amaral being the choice of the crusty old Salem voter, yet she topped the ticket. Bryant doesn't seem that type either, and he was right on her heels. "Newcomer" Josh Turiel (only 19 years) beats a candidate whose father's father was born in Salem. A Siegel beats a Pelletier. A two-year resident gets more votes than another "born and raised" incumbent. I hope it's not a blip. If it's not, candidates, especially after they are elected, will really have to practice more self-reflection than some of the current crop has displayed. One now deposed candidate actually threatened me outside the polls yesterday. (Guess the world's worst-kept secret finally reached him.) I wish I could take credit for his demise, but he definitely owns it himself. He must be even madder now that the results are in. They were his actions of course, and not anything I wrote, that led to him losing his seat. If not for those actions, I'd have never written about him at all. If only I had the kind of influence necessary to change elections. (Someday ... dare to dream ...) It was just another example of his lack of self-reflection. Clearly this couldn't be his fault. Must find someone to blame.

Teasie Riley-Goggin's ship has sailed. Fifth last time, seventh this time. Officially irrelevant as a candidate. Seventh in her own precinct. Not a threat to a mediocre candidate. I assume we'll see her at council tonight. Isn't there something we can find to let her contribute to the city? A board seat or something? She clearly wants to serve. Let's put her to work.

Matt Fraser and Matt Richard could have mattered in Wards 2 and 1.

The mayor's office on the ballot really must matter. Turnout, with a truly blah field, was 27% in 2009, with a much more interesting race, it was 21% this time. That said, I think I favor a 4 year term for the mayor's office. I'd rather not have a mayor who is constantly in campaign mode.

Will any of this matter much? Probably not.

We also learn that the mayor is still wildly popular, and the Salem News matters a lot more than the fellowship of the miserable would have you believe. They endorsed change in support of the mayor's agenda (really blatantly), and they definitely got some. The two whipping boys of Benton and the News are gone. (I'm not saying I was easy on them.) Ronan lost half of his support from his first election. She lost one of her own in JP, but I'd bet she's pleased today. Two other city officials I happened to see last night were clearly pleased with the results. Also, we learn that the fellowship of the miserable (including me) aren't a good indication of public sentiment. (Though it was a hoot to see Patch's/Salemweb's "Windpower" out campaigning yesterday. Ahoy!) This election didn't really go the way they seemed sure it would.

I got a few of my predictions right. Lovely topping the ticket, winning by at least 500 votes (actually almost 1000), turnout being far below the city clerk's hopes of 32%, and landing at 21, right in the range I predicted. I was right that at least 3 at-large councilors would return. I was wrong about which one wouldn't. I had Pinto second, he ended up sixth. I was right that Prevey would win in a rout, that McCarthy wouldn't be unanimous, and Big Metal Box did in fact get some votes.

I was far off base on ward 3 and 5, where I clearly gave too much respect to the incumbents, especially in 5. They also weren't close, as I had predicted. I also predicted Jim Fleming to finish first, not a distant third. He wasn't in danger of losing his seat, just his bragging rights. Times are changing in Salem?

A few consequences: Siegel's election likely dooms any chance of a transfer station deal. We're also unlikely to see any potentially controversial proposals from the administration before the new council is sworn in come January. I assume they'll hold as much as they can until the changeover, and take their chances with the new lot. Kevin Carr's election means that the council and school committee will have to meet to appoint a new member to the school committee. His vote totals don't support it, but his resume does, they should appoint Francis Vigeant to the seat. He seems like a quiet guy, and I'm sure campaigning came very hard to him, but seriously, he's completely qualified. Finally, it was expected, so I'm told, that Steve Pinto would assume the council presidency in January. Who takes it now? It has to be Joan Lovely, right? How painful would an O'Keefe or Furey presidency be? Sargent is quiet, I can't imagine him volunteering. Don't think it would be fun to watch, either. McCarthy and Prevey have done it recently. I can't picture Sosnowski wanting it, but maybe. You aren't going to make a newbie do it, right? Gotta be Lovely. She hasn't done it in quite a while, and the newbs will need the guidance.

Final note: Salem Patch has had great coverage of this election. Yesterday was the perfect example of the new kid absolutely wiping the floor with the traditional news guys. It was what Patch should always strive to be. Quick, agile, broad, and first. The Salem News was getting its at large totals off of my calculator before results were handed out. If I ever go again I'll do a spreadsheet ahead of time and save myself the math. It was chaos while they were trying to calculate who made it.

Monday, November 7, 2011

On the eve of election day

The city of Salem votes tomorrow. Well, a small percentage of it does, anyway. Hopefully more than the 8% who voted in the primary. You'd think that local elections, which count for at least as much as the big ones, and probably influence our day to day lives more, would draw more attention, but the opposite is proved over and over again. 8% in a loaded primary. Just sad. Prediction 1: No way do we reach the 32% turnout the city clerk hopes for. My guess is we end up between 20 and 25%. Last election we had 27%, and the mayor's office was on the ballot. I hope Salem proves me wrong. It's been an interesting election season, if you're paying attention.

Salemweb down, but not out.

I was shocked this morning when I went to Salemweb to find that the site was gone, replaced with one of those crappy ad sites. Apparently the domain registration expired. I'm glad to report that I emailed Barbara Wuertz, and she responded promptly that it has been taken care of, and Salemweb should be back in action soon.

I'd have been really sad to see it go.

From: Barbara Wuertz

Hi,

Seems there was a glitch in renewing the domain name yesterday.  I thought it had worked but, obviously not.  So I just renewed it this morning and it will take a few hours for the DNS to propagate the update.  Hope it happens sooner rather than later!

It would be wonderful if you could post a note about it on your blog.  Thank you so much.

Barbara

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Sosnowski catches a break ... and you pay

Mike Sosnowski must have heard the footsteps. He has succeeded in getting his number one election opponent removed from the ward. Ward 2-ers should still write in our metal friend.

Big Metal Box with brand new sidewalk

Submitted by a reader

Paul Plecinoga tweeted this morning: Looks like Councilor Sosnowski can rejoice, the big metal box on the corner of Bridge & Planter st is gone, replaced by barrels & wires.

I only have one question. When this came up, the state was very clear that it wasn't footing the bill for any changes. So I gotta ask, how much is this personal preference going to cost the city taxpayers for replacing the box and redoing the sidewalk in that spot?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Letter to the editor

Apparently I haven't been the only one thinking about municipal health insurance. I received the following letter to the editor from Darek Barcikowski last night, within an hour of my blog post. He has submitted it to the Salem News but I don't believe that it has appeared there yet. You can't tell me any candidate is working harder during this cycle than Darek.

On city council and health insurance...

The question of whether I would participate in the city’s health insurance program comes up again and again. And rightfully so. Taxpayers are concerned about how their taxes are spent given the state of the economy and how high Salem’s tax bills are.

The compensation to city councilors is $10,000 annually. But if someone opts to take advantage of the health insurance plan that compensation might be worth double that.

I would make a two part proposal to address the issue of city councilors and health insurance. (Perhaps this could apply to other elected or appointed officials as well who work in a limited capacity).

First, disclose total cost of compensation inclusive of benefits such as insurance. State that city councilor compensation with benefits is worth say 15 or 18 thousand rather than 10. Let taxpayers understand total cost not just base compensation. We need this kind of understanding and transparency.

Second, make health insurance available on a need basis only and by application. If a city councilor does not have any other insurance options such as a policy available through employee or spouse, he or she would apply for consideration for the city plan. If however, a counselor had access to health insurance through a full time job or a family plan, I don’t think the city plan financed by taxpayers should be an option.

I believe this approach is fair. Ultimately we should provide insurance to elected officials who lack other options. Given the number of pressing issues facing our city, we need our councilors to be in good health.

Darek Barcikowski

Darek makes some excellent points, and I guess I was wrong when I said nobody involved with city council would ever speak about it. Now just win baby. My only quibble is with his figures. Compensation with benefits for a Salem city councilor can actually be worth north of $25,000. That's a lot for a part time job.

I also like his proposal around eligibility requiring that there are no other options. On our current council, it may only be Pinto who fits into that, and like I said, I get why he needs it.

Friday, October 21, 2011

More election season fun

I wrote last time about health insurance and the Salem city council. It was very timely, as a day later they were discussing the new MA municipal insurance reform law, which would give the city new powers in regard to changing employee benefits if they brought about certain savings. The way the law was written, the city has to elect to participate in the new law, which means that city council has to vote to approve it. They mayor has asked them to do so, but missed the filing deadline for the last meeting. It's pretty clear from the LARGE number of public employee union members in attendance at the meeting because of this issue that it will end up being a battle.

Several councilors have voiced support for this proposal in the past, with council actually passing a resolution urging the state to pass the law. That said, how do councilors not have a vested, conflict of interest in this issue? Let's be honest. Non-union city employees are not going to get better health insurance than the bargaining units. They'll either get the same or worse. Voting to allow this potentially has a direct negative impact on them. Of course, the first, easiest, no-harm to the people who work for the city full-time and should depend on it for health insurance reform would be to stop allowing city councilors to get their health insurance from the city. The savings on that alone is well in excess of $50,000. During the at-large candidates forum at the Moose Lodge earlier this week, seven of the 9 candidates mentioned healthcare costs as a top way the city can look to save money. (BTW, I was in the hospital still and couldn't attend, but Salem Patch did a live blog that was fantastic. Check it out here. Ignore candidate Barcikowski taking a beating in the comments below for actually having a position on something. It's nice that one of the candidates is willing to actually tell you where they stand on something. Lot's of wishy washy this go round.) I've just offered up $50,000 that doesn't hurt one full time employee. Will any councilor man up and offer that legislation? (Hint: Don't hold your breath.)

The hypocrisy we discussed the other day, where it's highly likely that those complaining the most bitterly about the city not being able to afford this thing, or that thing, apparently isn't exclusive to Ronan, Pinto, and Sosnowski in Salem. Over in Beverly, Elliot Margolis, who is Mr. Enough is Enough there, told the Salem News that if elected he will take health insurance from the city. This was right after he stated that if elected he'd tell city employees that their gravy train days were over. Margolis at least had the sense to say that because it is a part time job the health benefits should be reduced, as it doesn't make sense for a part timer on a 12k salary to get a 20k health benefit. So, on that, he's less disingenuous than the Salem three. How do they justify it?

Now I'm going to completely apply a double standard. Sue me. Jason Silva, the mayor's chief aide here in Salem, is running for councilor at-large in Beverly as well. In the same article he states that if elected he will not get health insurance from Beverly. First, I hope they elect him. I think he'd be good for them. Second, Jason, come on, man! Get your health insurance from them please. We already feed and clothe you, and in return, you pay taxes in Beverly. Let them foot the bill for your healthcare! You'd be a city councilor, it's your right!

Good night all. Time for more post-surgery prescription narcotics for me!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Zombies ATTACK! and Other Stuff

I posted this on Facebook already, but it's pretty interesting. Apparently, the organizer of the annual Zombie Walk was arrested prior to the walk this year, and detained all day. The charges? Conspiracy to start a riot, and not having a permit. At least that's what the organizer says. Salem PD is saying that the organizer had warrants, and was taken for those. Apparently police told people arriving for the walk that it was canceled, though it clearly took place, anyway. So, allegedly, the city refused to give them a permit, and then arrested them for not having one. Poor form, if true. The police clearly knew they were coming. They were waiting for them. I contacted the promoter and asked for clarification about what exactly happened. I received no response. Here's my question. Who has ever been hurt by this event? Not the people clearly enjoying watching it. Not the participants. Not the local businesses who were patronized after. Who? Seems like a fun, family friendly event to me. I know I've seen pics from it in Salem promo materials, too.

This may get more fun. The event sponsor has posted on Facebook that city council is meeting to consider a zombie ban tonight, and asked all the zombies to come to city hall at 6:30, sans zombie attire to fight it. Funny thing is, I spoke with someone with knowledge of the agendas tonight, and there's nothing about this on them. So you may have a bunch of angry zombies arrive at city hall, with nothing to put their energy into. Should be interesting.

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There was an odd letter in the SNews a few weeks back. Bob Rubano is extremely upset that Joan Lovely takes dental insurance from the city. I mean, I get his sentiment. If I were in charge, part time employees, like councilors, wouldn't be eligible for city paid insurance. It's a perk that sometimes exceeds the total council salary, and just doesn't seem appropriate. But it's interesting that his ire is directed solely at Lovely. Is she the only one?

I learned she isn't. She's not even the only lawyer. Joan's dental plan costs the city about $850 a year. Councilor O'Keefe takes dental as well, and costs the city about $500 annually. They are far from the most expensive users of city insurance. Ward 3 councilor Pelletier takes medical from the city, at a taxpayer cost of  about $5,500 a year. Now we get to the heavy hitters. Three of the four big budget cutters on council take family medical plans from the city, at a taxpayer cost of over $15,000 each. Yup, councilors Pinto, Sosnowski, and attorney Ronan all take family medical plans. Wonder why the weren't discussing cutting this perk while they were busy trying to take away promotions that employees earned. Yup, add this hypocrisy onto the lease one. Give Prevey credit for not taking advantage of this overly generous benefit.

The other thing that this does is really create a pretty big compensation difference from councilor to councilor. Prevey, Sargent, McCarthy, Ryan, and Furey cost the taxpayers their $10,000 annual salary. (I think Ryan gets a small stipend for being president.) Makes me feel a little better about the underwhelming constituent services outside of the Willows in ward 1, when I compare that to the same issue in Ward 2, at a cost of $25,000 to the taxpayers. Is Sosnowski really worth 250% what Sargent is? Is Steve Pinto worth 230% of Joan Lovely? Vote totals wouldn't lead you to think so. It's interesting that 3 of the 4 people who complain the most about tax bills are our most expensive councilors, no? Look within hypocrites boys! (I have to say, I largely give Pinto a pass on this [I know, me?] due to his current employment situation. I get it. He may not have anywhere else to get healthcare.)

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Went to child safety day at the Moose Lodge a few weeks ago. Really, really nice service they provide to the public at no charge, with DNA swab, dental impressions, fingerprints, and video recording of kids, at no charge.


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Anyone see Christian Day during the Haunted Happening parade, twirling around the streets on a Segway? Give him this, the guy is a consumate entertainer. Good show Christian!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Is John Ronan developing Alzheimer's?

I know, I've been a slacker. I'm having surgery in less than a week and, god willing, will be out of commission for only several weeks. I've been busy. I also killed my laptop, which has been a pain. That said, I have several things to cover.

First, I was unable to attend, so I sent a spy to the recent SSNA candidates forum (OK, it's not that recent anymore, two weeks ago) with a camera and tape recorder. First, a few snapshots:

Candidates Barcikowski and Turiel

Councilor Pinto looks on

Councilor Ronan


The real focus of the night was the ward 5 race, where Josh Turiel is challenging incumbent John Ronan. The first thing I noticed is the difference in mannerisms between the two candidates. Ronan is clearly more polished. He should be. He's a lawyer (as he's fond of reminding everyone) and an incumbent. He came across as a politician. I don't mean that in a good way or a bad way. He was just slick. Josh Turiel came across as earnest, enthusiastic, and less polished. The same was true of their wardrobes. Ronan in a power suit and red silk tie, Turiel in khakis, a button down, and blazer, with no tie.

Josh seemed nervous. Of course, when you're standing in front of a room explaining that you'd like to be a city councilor because you think that the current council is dysfunctional, and there is a quorum of councilors (Prevey, Furey, O'Keefe, Ronan, Pinto, and Lovely)  within ten feet of you, I guess that would be a little nerve racking.

Turiel laid out his position that the council has become a dysfunctional arena where councilors are more interested in scoring points than doing what is best for the taxpayers. I can't say I disagree with him, tbough clearly councilor Ronan did, saying he took offense to the implication. I'd say that plenty of us take offense to plenty that has taken place in chambers.

Councilor Ronan stated that his current record as a city councilor is 1-0, that one big win being blocking the proposed methadone clinic that was to go into the old Jeffrey Furniture building. He probably owes Megan Romanovitz a big assist, if not primary credit for the win. I'd imagine that many ward 5-ers consider the flooding problems on Canal Street to be a big ward issue, and Ronan has to get an incomplete or a loss on that one. He specifically mentioned it as a major issue that needed to be addressed during his campaign back in 2009. When it was mentioned by Turiel as a major problem that needed immediate addressing, Ronan stated that it was on the list. That must be a great comfort to the residents and business owners who are constantly flooded out. How many years should they wait?

I titled this post "Is John Ronan developing Alzheimer's?" Why? Well, the first thing that made me wonder was while he was taking credit for defeating the methadone clinic, he was also taking shots at Turiel (including props) for not having even attended any meetings, or participating in any way. Here's the thing though, it just wasn't true. You'd say, well, silly mistake, right? Except that Ronan also went to great lengths to explain that he knows almost everything that's going on in the ward. And Turiel's participation in that public meeting wasn't exactly under the radar. In the article that detailed the first public meeting regarding the proposed clinic, the very first quote in the article, right before Ronan was quoted, belonged to Mr. Turiel. Turiel went one step further, writing a letter to the editor, condemning the Canal Street proposal again. Brian Watson of the snooze wrote a column from his Swampscott home stating that Salem should embrace the methadone clinic. Turiel responded again (I don't think Ronan ever did). Rather than chastising him for being absent on the issue, maybe Ronan should have thanked him for his support. That would have been the civil thing to do. Calling him absent on the issue, when he held no public office, and in fact, wasn't absent, just seems odd. But Ronan knows everything going on in the ward.

The whopper that really named this post without trying was in response to a question posed by Tom Furey (Can we talk about how unusual it is for a sitting councilor to endorse one resident of his ward over another resident, when the other one is the current sitting ward councilor? Furey has endorsed Turiel, as has former ward councilor Matt Veno.). Furey asked whether the (illegal) rule that allows one councilor to block the mayor from speaking should be changed. Councilor Ronan gave a long, drawn out speech, ignoring that the rule violates chapter 19 of the city charter (an attorney should know, as Joan Lovely does), and basically said that he thinks that it's really a non-issue, because in the time that he's been on council, he can only remember it coming up once, when Steve Pinto used it to block the mayor from speaking about the Washington Street lease. He even repeated it a few times. I mean, what? The only time you remember it being used was by Pinto? Really? The lack of self awareness, which Ronan exhibited several times with longwinded lectures that ignored the moderator telling him his time was up, was just stunning. It was ... disturbing, really. John Ronan would have us believe that he doesn't remotely recall that just a few months ago, during the budget meeting that the mayor was invited to, that he, himself, blocked her from speaking? Really? You can read about it here.

Better yet, watch it for yourself.





Did you catch that, about two minutes in? Yet, a few months later, in his mind, this never happened? It really makes me wonder what's going on with him. I'm honestly concerned. The whole thing was just weird. He was crystal clear on it only happening once, and not at his hand. (Seriously, when is someone going to hand Jerry Ryan a copy of the charter? The mayor can speak to council on anything the mayor wishes, Mr. President. Read up!)

I'd love to support councilor Ronan. He sometimes takes fiscally conservative positions that I totally support. He's correct when he says that he's the most fiscally conservative councilor ... sometimes. Sometimes it seems he's perfectly happy checking his fiscal watchdog shoes at the door. Blowing over 200k in savings on the annex was a debacle. I've still not heard a credible explanation for why that was a good idea. The thought that maybe there were better, cheaper, options may have carried water, if the council had done anything about the issue since. They haven't, though at the time they said they would, and clearly we will end up renewing again, with no savings, and no improvements. It's a shame. Some of the other budget shenanigans were also the opposite of fiscal conservatism. Not approving a raise for the GIS director, when failing to do so would necessitate the hiring of a full time IT manager at 50+k plus benefits is one example. That, along with his proposal to set tax rates in February (I totally supported this at the time. I've learned more about the budget process, and his unwillingness to participate, and have changed my mind) stink of trying to score points in an election year. Hmm ... that's exactly what Turiel says he opposes. We should be so lucky as to have Josh Turiel serve on the council. We need what he's selling.



Monday, September 26, 2011

OMG, Who the Hell Cares?

Tom Furey seems to be on a mission to fix a perceived wrong in the doings of the Salem High School Hall of Fame, regarding prior coach Ken Perrone.

The whole thing brings this question to mind:




Then I realized, I know exactly who cares about things like high school sports hall of fames.

This guy:




Seriously, don't we have more important things to worry about than some silly hall of fame thing? Apparently not. Furey has written more than one letter about it. It's been discussed on Salemweb. Now, the school committee policy subcommittee on policy (is that a real thing, policy subcommittee on policy, or just another Stewie error?) is meeting to discuss the HOF tonight. I'm sure Furey is right. I'm sure Perrone belongs in. I'm sure nobody besides Furey and Perrone should care.

I see things like this, and I think back to what Matt Richard said about why he is running for City Council. He made the point that there seems to be a lack of common sense regarding which issues get addressed, and which get put off. We operate like a small town, and not a city. It's hard to look at our elected officials dedicating time to what seems like an unimportant (small town) issue (unless you're Al Bundy), and not say, yup, Matt Richard is right.

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Salem started a bike sharing program today. I saw Juli Lederhaus heading out to check out the bikes at around 8:45 this morning. Any one want to bet on when the first bike sharing accident takes place? It may be too late already.

Juli Lederhaus checks out the bikes


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This is yard waste week. I know this because I looked it up on the city website a few weeks ago. As someone with Monday trash pickup, I'd like to thank the city for sending me an email at 3PM on Monday afternoon to remind me. Very helpful.

Also, nice of the city to inform us before spraying for mosquitos. Would have been nice to know when to close those windows...

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Admin note: KIKS is now on Facebook. Links to blog posts, pics, and thoughts that don't make a whole blog post will be posted there. Click here to see the Facebook page. Don't forget to "like" it!


Thursday, September 22, 2011

Recount results in tie?

Matt Richard just posted the following on Facebook:

Well True Believers... 'THE VOTE' came in and resulted in me tying for 8th place in the Primary election this past Tuesday.
I have 2 choices: Withdraw or continue on the ballot for Nov 8th
What say you?
I asked yesterday if there would be a recount. It seems there has been. The election may have just gotten tougher for challengers trying to unseat incumbents. Again, blame my wife. See the Facebook thread here.

In a perfect world, the primary would have taken the top six, giving the anti-incumbent vote a better chance to take a seat at the table. Of course, the rules were probably written by incumbents.


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Primary Election Breakdown

The primaries are now in the books, and my wife owes Matt Richard an apology. You see, she was leaving town for work yesterday afternoon. I reminded her, several times, to go vote for the KIKS endorsed candidates, Mr. Richard being one. I spoke with her at around 5 last night, and asked her if she voted. Of course she hadn't. She assured me it wouldn't make a difference, and I told her that with the expected low turnout (I was pretty spot on with my "at best, just under 10%" prediction) that it might well matter. Of course, Mr. Richard was eliminated by one vote. Recount? Congrats to all who moved on to the general election.

My other predictions were as follows:


Predictions: All four incumbents finish in the top 4, with Lovely first, Sargent second, Pinto third, and Furey fourth. Teasie five again. Seniors love to vote and turnout elsewhere will be minimal. Carr sixth, Barcikowski seventh, Richard eighth. See ya later Matt Fraser and Ken Sawicki. That doesn't mean that I see the general election going remotely like this. I wouldn't be shocked if one of the incumbents falls in the general. Most likely candidates are Furey and Pinto. Most likely to make it from outside are Barcikowski on the strength of his campaign, and Carr on the strength of his name recognition and past service.

More predictions: My previous predictions will be nowhere near correct.


So I was correct about the incumbents finishing 1-4. I was right about Lovely first, and it was by a hefty enough margin that when it repeats in the general, it will send a message to any of the other councilors considering challenging her for mayor, if Kim decides this is her last term. Lovely also recently told the Snews that if Kim were out, she'd seriously consider running. So here's a prediction. Not sure when, but Joan Lovely is the next mayor. I know, way out on a limb there. Her challenger in that election? Matt Veno. Just a hunch. Anyway, I flubbed the order of the other incumbents. I had a bad feeling about it when I was driving around the polling places and Pinto had more than one sign holder at wards 1, 5, and 7. That said, the three remaining incumbents were separated by a whopping 36 votes. I overestimated Teasie. Her seventh place finish is a poor showing for a second-time candidated. I was correct that Carr would finish just ahead of Barcikowski. I had Fraser finishing 9th, with Richard 8th. I missed that by one vote (thanks dear). Unsurprisingly, Sawicki finished last as predicted.

So what do we learn from this, besides Lovely is a powerhouse? She is the only candidate who was named on a majority of the ballots cast, appearing on 54%. Jim Fleming, who just barely topped the school committee ticket, was selected on 35% of the ballots. People are happy with the status quo? Seems weird to me, but how do you argue with it? We also learn that Teasie's ship may have sailed. She finished more that 100 votes behind Kevin Carr, who is clearly the front runner to unseat one of the incumbents. I won't count Barcikowski and his extremely active campaigning out either. Honestly, the only one we can say is really safe is Lovely. We can also say that Matthew Fraser has basically no chance to win. He would need to quadruple his level of support to be a threat. You have to feel bad for Mark Lee, who finished behind "the homeless guy."

The other thing that we learned from this election is that Salemites are apathetic. Seriously? 8% participation? Do people just not care about prelims, where only 2 out of 10 will be eliminated? The participation was worst in the point. In ward 1, precinct 2, which is most of the point, and not much else, only 20 voters showed up. Why? Apathy? Hopelessness? Laziness? Is the Bentley School too far to go to vote? Should precinct two go back to voting at the senior housing building on Charter Street? How many of the 20 voters actually live in the Charter Street building, and not in the point? Was it less than 20 in the point? Doesn't this tell us, yet again, (sorry Misty) that pointers just don't give a crap? It can't be that they're happy with the status quo, right? Why isn't anyone talking about the numbers there? They stick out like a sore thumb. Is it that the powers that be don't want them voting?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

On Primary Day

On this election day, please don't forget this.





Shameful is right.

Full article regarding the wasting of $42,000 a year, and failing to provide our city employees with needed upgrades to their offices here. Let me remind you that Pinto claims to be a fiscal watchdog. Shameful.


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I mentioned yesterday that my school committee ballot will include Nate Bryant, Francis Vigeant, and Deborah Amaral. Here's why.

Nate Bryant: Jim Fleming makes a good point when he says that we have a new to Salem leadership team in the schools, and they could use an experienced school committee to help guide them. I agree with this point. So why not Fleming? When I think about Fleming and Bryant, I see one person I want guiding the school committee and one who frequently won't be there to. Fleming spends a good chunk of the year in Florida and gets a D for attendance. Quite literally, he misses a third of the meetings. How will he guide them in Florida? Bryant is also the poster child for decorum, while Fleming sometimes acts like school committee meetings are his stand up shows. Seriously, watch a school committee meeting with Fleming present, and one where he's absent. I've seen him talk and crack jokes during presentations, ignore speakers, and generally act like he doesn't take it very seriously. It's a 50 million dollar enterprise. Nate Bryant treats it with the respect that it deserves, and I've never been embarrassed to have him as school committee member. With his behavior in meetings, and frequent absences, I can't say the same about James Fleming. (Yes, he's a veteran. Yes I'm grateful for that. Yes, I can still criticize his school committee behavior.)

Francis Vigeant: One only has to watch the school committee candidates forum that took place last week to realize that Francis Vigeant is wise beyond his years. He said during the forum that he is 28. I almost fell out of my chair. He displays a maturity far beyond his age. This former teacher owns and runs a company that develops interactive curriculum materials for elementary and middle school science and engineering education. He presented solid ideals, and a serious grasp of the issues, unfortunately unlike many of his counterparts. In fact, Bill Kirby was asked a fairly elementary question about school choice, and passed, because he didn't know anything about school choice. You're running for school committee! I crossed him off of my list immediately.

Deborah Amaral: Ms. Amaral is well known to many in Salem, as the former director of the Salem YMCA. She's also a dedicated foster parent, with plenty of experience with city schools. She was one of the only other candidates who seemed to have any real factual basis of what goes on in the school system. (Lisa Lavoie wasn't bad, but selfishly, I don't think I could handle her sing-song preschool teacher voice in meetings, and I watch a lot of them. Shallow, I know.) Amaral seemed totally competent for the job. She's definitely heavily invested.


Monday, September 19, 2011

City Council Primary Endorsements

The city, or by my guess, at most just under 10% of it, votes in a primary tomorrow. Below is how I'll fill out my ballot. A primary endorsement does not guarantee a general election endorsement.My ballot will look like this (in no particular order):


Joan Lovely: I'll vote for Joan without hesitation. She's alone in that category in this election. Councilor Lovely has shown an unparalleled level of dedication and good sense over the years. I'm sure there are other candidates who I'm in agreement with on more of the issues, but I'm also sure that there aren't any who have done a better job of thinking things through. I corresponded with Councilor Lovely once, several years ago when I was fairly new in town. The issue in question was the proposed  senior center at the St. Joe's site. I emailed several councilors, informing them of my support for the project, and questioning their opposition to the project. Councilor Lovely was the only one who responded to me. What followed was a thorough exchange of ideas, where eventually we agreed to disagree. I walked away with an enormous amount of respect for her. That hasn't changed.

Darek Barcikowski: Without a doubt, Darek has run the best, most organized campaign out there. People criticize him for being new to town. I appreciate that. We could use some fresh perspectives. People (I did it myself) also wonder how he can handle the time commitment. He made a very good point, when he said, "There is truth to the saying that if you want to get something done, ask a busy person. People often tell me that I am running the most organized campaign and am the hardest working candidate." I'd have to agree.

Kevin Carr: He's electable. In an incumbent heavy field that counts for something. I'm not sure I'd want Kevin and Tom Furey on the same council, but it's too early to worry about that. I think Kevin is a Driscoll supporter. I'm fine with that. She's facing plenty of opposition in the chamber. He's one of the candidates I seem to know the least about. How come none of these candidates ever knock on my door?

Matthew Richard: This one is me being selfish. Matt Richard is my age, and lives in my neighborhood. Our neighborhood is supposedly represented by councilor Willows, so we basically don't have a ward councilor. Finally, I have a somewhat major upcoming surgery scheduled at Salem Hospital, where Matt is a surgical technician. I'd like him to be in a good mood just in case I end up in an OR with him. I still think he should have run in ward 1. I'll probably endorse writing him in for ward 1 come November. His decision not to participate in Salem Patch's candidate questions was peculiar at best. I like his vision for the downtown. Shirley Walker probably wouldn't. Another reason to vote for him.



People who won't be on my ballot (in order from "no way in hell" to "it was a toss-up"):

Kenneth Sawicki: Seriously? Let's help Mr. Sawicki free up his time to campaign for ward councilor in ward 6. I haven't ruled out endorsing the formerly homeless port-a-potty tipping jail-bird in that race. Sad. I really wish Charlie Walsh had stayed in the ward 6 contest. Who could we write-in?

Steve Pinto: Councilor Pinto is a mystery wrapped in an enigma. He ran originally stating that his property tax bill was getting too big. In the last year he voted to waste $210,000 of taxpayer money by overpaying for office space. His stated reason for doing this was that he thought a different space was better. We found out later that the space he was talking about was not actually available anymore, and he had been informed of it before the vote. He also violated the city charter by barring the mayor from addressing council. (A mayor he recently told the news he had a good working relationship with) His major legislative proposal for the year (maybe the only one, I can't recall another) was a bill that would weaken Salem's ethics law and make it permissible for city councilors to work for the city. He neglected to tell us at the time that he needed a job. We only found that out last week in the snooze. Why does everything involving Steve Pinto seem fishy? He followed his willingness to flush nearly a quarter of a million taxpayer dollars down the toilet by pretending to be so austere during the budgeting process that he voted to slash so much from the library budget that they would lose accreditation and therefore state funding, as well as repeal several already given promotions. He further voted to cut the energy and sustainability manager, a position that pays for itself, and then some, in grants and savings. Finally, he voted to not fund a promotion given to the GIS director. Part of the promotion was taking over duties, that if he didn't have the promotion, would have caused the need for another manager, at a salary far in excess of the promotion. The math on Pinto just doesn't add up. A thousand times no. Yet somehow, he seems to have plenty of support.

Teasie Riley-Goggin: I have to give Teasie a lot of credit. She acts like she's already a councilor, attending all city council meetings as if she was a councilor, and even speaking at most of them. She clearly puts a lot of time and effort into being informed. So why wouldn't I vote for her? I'm about 30 years too young. Teasie has made it very clear that she's only interested in representing the senior set. She's pretty much said so. (Go back and read her Salem News profile.) That doesn't really seem right for councilor-AT-LARGE.

Tom Furey, Arthur Sargent: Come the general election, I may endorse one or both of these two. I expect all four incumbents to make it through the primary, unfortunately (see above). I group these two together because they're equally uninspiring to me. Furey seems interested in serving whoever is in the mayor's office, and not a ton else. He's still running on a ten-year-old smoking ban. I guess you can afford one person like that on a council, but that's about it. I can't recall Sargent proposing any legislation, or being a thought leader on anything. He's a Salem old-timer, and clearly has some pretty big pockets of support, finishing second last time. He doesn't need mine. I contacted him at the same time that I contacted Councilor Lovely as described above. No response.

Matthew Fraser: I've decided that Mr. Fraser is either a genius, or really insane. I can't decide which. Unfortunately, I'm not willing to chance it with my tax bill. People should check out his Web page. It's "interesting." Mr. Fraser responded to my offer of a meet the candidate interview on Saturday. Unfortunately, the offer was made 8 days before that, and time has run out. If he makes it through the primary I'll follow up.

Predictions: All four incumbents finish in the top 4, with Lovely first, Sargent second, Pinto third, and Furey fourth. Teasie five again. Seniors love to vote and turnout elsewhere will be minimal. Carr sixth, Barcikowski seventh, Richard eighth. See ya later Matt Fraser and Ken Sawicki. That doesn't mean that I see the general election going remotely like this. I wouldn't be shocked if one of the incumbents falls in the general. Most likely candidates are Furey and Pinto. Most likely to make it from outside are Barcikowski on the strength of his campaign, and Carr on the strength of his name recognition and past service.

More predictions: My previous predictions will be nowhere near correct.

Should you vote this way, just because I am? Heck no. (Yes, you should!)

I'm going to try to write about the school committee race this afternoon. Not sure if I'll get to it. If I don't, I'll be voting for Nate Bryant, Deborah Amaral, and Francis Vigeant.


Friday, September 16, 2011

Meet the Candidate: Matthew Richard

Here is our final pre-primary meet the candidate. Today, one of our younger candidates, Derby Street neighborhood resident Matthew Richard, answers our questions. Endorsements by Monday. As for meet the candidate, I made the offer to every primary candidate I could find an e-mail address for. If you haven't seen them, it's not because I didn't want them.
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Tell us about your background?

I was born and raised in Lynn, graduating from Lynn English 1993, achieved my Eagle Scout that summer and attended Basic Army Training at Fort Leonardwood. After that I studied at the US Army Academy of Health Sciences at Fort Sam Houston and from there went on to attend St. Michael’s College, where I received my BA in History (1998). After college I took a full-time job at Salem Hospital as a Surgical Technician, where I am currently employed.  I moved to Salem shortly thereafter and have been here ever since.


What made you decide to run for city council?

My decision to run for city council was the result of many conversations in recent years with fellow residents and local business owners regarding our mutual disagreements with actions taken by the current city council.  We felt someone had to represent our ideas and I decided to take on the challenge. We live in a city that conducts business in a manner more befitting of a small town and I feel that needs to change in order for us to advance economically.


What do you think are the biggest issues that Salem faces in the near future?

I feel that the biggest issues that Salem faces in the near future are 1)bringing a more cohesive neighborhood infrastructure to the area known as “The Point” and 2)redevelopment of contaminated land for profitable repurposing.


What do you bring to the table, that some other candidates might not?

I think I could bring a sense of decisive action. The current city council seems to drag its feet and take their time with issues. At my day job, our tasks need to be completed daily and we cannot afford to put off decisions until tomorrow. I want to take action and help bring Salem to its full potential as a City. I want to keep it beautiful for its residents, enticing to its visitors, and bridge the gap between those who are making the rules and the future residents and commerce we are trying to bring here.


Do you have any specific legislative goals?

I would like to inject some common sense into the current city council regarding which issues take priority when making decisions that affect downtown businesses and all Salem residents. It seems to me that, while some issues get focused on, other, more significant concerns get delayed. For example, the council seems more concerned about enforcing A-frame ordinances than initiating a community action program for the neighborhood known as “The Point”. I also think we need to work on being more consistent when it comes to enforcing existing legislation, particularly around issues such as licensing.



Anything else you think we should know?

My fellow Salem residents and businesses spurred me to run for office and I am pursuing this for the greater good of the City, not for personal gain. I am not looking at this position as a stepping stone to higher office nor as a supplement to my current income. I am doing this because I am proud of my city and want to see us reach our goals instead of just talking about them.


Thursday, September 15, 2011

Meet the Candidate: Joan Lovely

As Mrs. Lovely is a sitting councilor, and we should know her at least a little bit, this one is a little different. I was able to ask questions based on specific past council events and decisions, which I'm sure were harder to answer. I also indulged in asking her about several things I personally wanted to know. I'm sure you'll agree that councilor Lovely put plenty of effort and thought into providing answers. It's also obvious that this isn't her first time at the rodeo. I'm glad she chose to participate, especially with her busy schedule. I've been to two Derby St. Neighborhood Association meetings, including one this week, and she's been at both of them. Her dedication is clear.

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As a Ward 3 resident, and former Ward 3 councilor, what do you think should happen with the transfer station site? Do you support the Northside Carting proposal? How do you balance the needs of the city as a whole with the wants and fears of a neighborhood? In the Salem Patch transfer station question, you mentioned that Northside has agreed to pay $500,000 towards the capping. I asked them about this, as several neighbors have talked about this, and Eric Lipsky at Northside states that they've spent the contractually obligated money already, at the direction of the DPW director. (I'll fwd the email if you'd like to see it.) Do you disagree? Who bears the responsibility for the current condition of the property, the landlord, or the tenant?

Ultimately the city as the owner is responsible for the clean-up of the property.  However, the current condition of the station is in large part the responsibility of the current operator.  In 1994, Northside Carting and the city entered into a lease for the property to be operated as a transfer station.  At that time, the former incinerator had already been closed and the land prepared for capping.  For reasons unknown to me, the cap was never completed.  When Northside took possession, it carved large deep troughs into the land to accommodate huge dumpsters.  As a result, the land was disturbed and redistributed on the site.  Several years later, the MA DEP stepped in and stopped this practice.  (You will recognize this part of the site because large sumac trees now grow there.)  Because of this practice, the city and Northside are both now at risk for significant fines by the DEP due to the city’s failure to cap the site and the disturbance and redistribution of the contaminated soil by Northside.  The city and Northside entered into an agreement wherein in exchange for reduced lease payments, Northside would spend $500,000 towards capping of the site.  Recent estimates set the capping cost at $1.3 million dollars which would be for capping the site only.  The question remains whether Northside has spent the $500,000 it is required to pay, and if it did, what that $500,000 paid for.  The $500,000 commitment would be for capping the site only and not for engineering costs to build a new transfer station.  Therefore the city’s contribution towards capping the site stands at about $800,000.

Now, the transfer station pre-dates the condominium complexes that were built nearby, therefore it would not be out of the ordinary for it to continue to operate as a transfer station however not in the condition it is allowed to continue to operate under and not at an increase of tonnage to 400 tons/day.   Currently, it is a dirty, dusty, noisy site, with a building that has been greatly damaged and contaminated land greatly disturbed by the current operator.  An increase in tonnage from 100 tons/day of construction and demolition (C&D) debris only, to 400 tons/day of both C&D and municipal solid waste (curbside trash pick-up) will greatly impact the area.  Northside has publicly stated that trash trucks already travel throughout Salem therefore there would be little impact to the site.  However, all those trash trucks do not go to that site now.  To redirect all of Salem’s trash trucks, and surrounding communities that will contract with Northside for curbside pickup, to that site, will further overwhelm the area.  It is for these reasons that I cannot support an increase to 400/ton per day. 

P.S. I visited Northside’s facility in North Andover and I was very impressed with the facility and how well it is run.  The owner and proprietor, Bill Thompson, runs a large clean site with little odor and dust.  The site however is located in an industrial area across the street from a large incinerator and next to a municipal airport with very few residences nearby, very different compared to the current conditions in Salem.    


I've owned a home in Salem for 5 years. (Lived here for six) In that time, my property taxes have gone up by hundreds and hundreds of dollars, while the economy and value of my home has tanked. Salem currently has one of the very highest property tax rates around.
 How should the city get it under control? Why hasn't it?

Several factors may explain why Salem’s taxes have escalated in the past five years which is not unique to Salem but is happening in most cities and towns across the Commonwealth.  You mention our dismal economy and property values that have declined as a result.   That and many other factors have played a large part in the pain that most of us are feeling in our wallets. 

As we all know, the city’s foundation budget is allowed to increase by up to 2.5% each year.  These increases are paid for by the (residential and commercial/industrial) tax payer.  Over the past decade, our tax base has shifted from about 70% residential and 30% commercial/industrial to more than 85% residential and 15% commercial/industrial, which means that the residential taxpayer is now paying the bulk of the real estate taxes raised to help fund the budget.   Add in the deregulation of electricity and the fact that our city faced a sharp decline in tax revenue from the power plant in a tax agreement which decreased the plants taxes (at $1 million dollars per year) from $8.7 million dollars to the current $4.7 million dollars in combined tax revenue and host fee.  Also add in that fewer people are buying new cars which means our excise tax revenue is down (although it is projected to increase slightly this fiscal year.)  Factor in that the construction industry is down as well so we have less new growth, and for several years we received less state aid (although that number increased this year.)  And add in that health insurance and pension costs have increased.  All these factors equate to fewer dollars to help fund the budget in which to deliver education, public safety, and city services.  So, we either increase taxes to pay for these services, or cut them.  The current administration in conjunction with the city council has worked very hard to streamline city government by combining departments and regionalizing city services and we will continue to do so.  Our greatest challenge is balancing our costs and needs and how much it will cost the taxpayer (including me) to pay for all of it.


With much fanfare, the City Council hired a budget analyst last year, at a cost of $20,000. I know you personally worked for that for years. From the sound of it, the analyst didn't really manage to find much in the way of budget savings. Was it worth the money? Do you favor renewing the contract for the second year? Was the budget analyst in favor of what would have been devastating cuts as proposed by the committee on administration and finance for the library? I wrote about the position here. Is there something I'm missing?

Back in 2001, both I and then Councilor Driscoll lobbied the Charter Commission for a budget analyst to assist the city council.  The Charter Commission accepted and made that recommendation to the electorate, however, the voters turned it down (together with returning to a two year mayor, filling vacancies on the School Committee, and that a charter commission be formed every year ending with “6”.)  I continued to lobby for the position and in 2008 was successful in getting the position passed as an ordinance and in funded at $4,000.  The city put the position out for RFP and received two proposals.  Before any decision was made to hire an analyst, Governor Patrick made midyear 9C cuts and the funding was cut.  I again lobbied for the position and asked for a more meaningful stipend of $20,000.  Beverly’s City Council has a budget analyst and that position is funded at $40,000.  Mayor Driscoll agreed and funded the position this fiscal year.  An RFP went out again and several proposals were received.  This past winter/spring, the council hired Financial Advisory Associates, Inc. and we particularly work with principle Michael Daley.  The ordinance specifically outlines the analyst role to wit: “The analyst shall assist the city council in the review of the city's annual operating budget, five-year financial forecast, capital improvement plan, annual tax rate recapitulation, and periodic water or sewer rate adjustments.”  On June 14th, Mr. Daley met with the council and presented a FY2012 Preliminary Review of the city’s financial condition with comparisons from 1990 to 2011.  The report is filled with detailed charts and graphs.  Of particular note with regard to the education budget, from 1993 to 1999, the city spent the minimum legally required net school spending.  However, from 2000 to 2011, the city exceeded that legal minimum and this year spent about $6-7 million more than required.  That makes us a pro education city but it comes at a cost to the taxpayers. 

I am in favor of keeping the budget analyst as we have not had a full year of utilizing his services.   We are still in a get to know you phase and what in particular we want from the analyst.  In closing, the analyst was not hired to recommend specific cuts as he is not privy to the local political wants and needs of the community.  However, he will advise as to what cuts will impact the budget and how.  The rest is local politics and wants and needs versus cost.   


Twice in the last year the mayor has been prohibited from speaking at City Council, due to the objection of a single councilor. By my reading, this is a clear violation of the city charter. I believe that when it came up again, you read the charter during the meeting and agreed. Do you believe that council should revise its rules to be in accordance with the charter? Should that even be necessary?

The mayor and city council work in tandem, therefore information needs to be exchanged to allow both offices to function properly.  Prohibiting that exchange of information prevents proper function therefore the mayor should be allowed without objection to address the city council at all times on all matters. It should not be necessary to revise the council rules as the charter allows the mayor to address the council.  However, to make it perfectly clear, the rules should probably be revised to clearly reflect the charter’s intention. 


Any thoughts on why there aren't more women running for office in Salem? This cycle I only count four, out of a total of 29 candidates. Any idea why more women don't run?

This is a question that I think about all the time.  When I was first elected in 1998 as the Ward 3 Councillor, I joined Ward 6 Councillor Sally Hayes and Ward 2 Councillor Regina Flynn.  In 2000, we were joined by Ward 5 Councillor Kim Driscoll and Councillor At-Large Laura Detoma.  There were then five women of the eleven member council, the highest number of women to serve at any one time. In 2002, Councillor Hayes left office and we were joined by Ward 1 Councillor Claudia Chuber.  Again, five women were serving.  In 2004, Councilors’ Flynn, Chuber, Driscoll and Detoma left office and Councillor Lucy Corchado came aboard in Ward 1.  Councillor Corchado and I served together until she left office in 2007 and since then I have been the only woman to serve on the council.  In 2009, Teasie Riley Goggin made a bid for an at-large seat but was unsuccessful.  She is back on the ballot this year and from one woman to another, I wish her much success.  I believe that women assume many roles as mothers, wives, partners, daughters, sisters, friends, employees, employers, students, and caregivers in many ways.  I am just not sure how much time, resources and support there are for women to run for and attain public office.  It is not a light undertaking for women and men alike.  I would not be able to attend the many meetings I attend and put the time into the office that I believe it requires if it were not for the support and sacrifice of my husband, three children and extended family.  Without their encouragement and support, I would not be in public office today.   


If re-elected, what are your legislative priorities for the next term?

I hope to continue my work on the city council to work with the administration to streamline city government to deliver quality education, public safety, and city services.  I also hope to continue to keep local government transparent and deliver information in a more timely manner. 


Your campaign reported no spending in the last election. With the larger field, will that change this time around?

I am not sure to which campaign report you are referring as my committee did raise and spend funds for my 2009 re-election effort.  According to the committee’s 2009 Year End Report, the committee raised $5,895.00 and spent $5,735.08.  The committee will be planning another fundraiser post primary and it is estimated to raise and spend about the same amount of funds in this year’s re-election effort. 

P.S. The committee did not timely file the pre-primary report due on 9/12/11.  I take personal responsibility for not filing this report on time.  It is currently on file in the Election’s Department in City Hall.

{Ed. note: This is my bad. I got this idea from a Salem News article from 2009, and we all know what happens when you trust the Snooze. As to the filing due earlier this week, the questions were already in Councilor Lovely's possession when the deadline passed.}


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The snooze published a Q&A with all of the candidates today. You can read it here. Hopefully candidate Barcikowski will be happier with their handling of him here, than he was in their profile on him, which spurred this letter. Seems a little thin-skinned, but I wouldn't call him a long-shot candidate at this point. I haven't seen anyone else campaign harder, or in a more organized way.