Thursday, July 28, 2011

City Elections: Shame on us

The current slate of candidates for the upcoming city election really makes me sad. Two races have full fields. At-large councilor has ten candidates for 4 seats, and now there are a bevy of school committee candidates for three seats. That said, most ward races are woeful.

These full races assume, of course, that those who pulled nomination papers actually return them. At last report, only one school committee candidate had done so. I thought my ward was going to have a race, but the challenger has dropped out, and councilor "I must not actually check my emails or messages, because I never respond unless you live in the Willows" McCarthy appears to be running unopposed, again, just like 2009. In fact, this will be the second consecutive election where councilors McCarthy, Sosnowski, Ryan, and O'Keefe will be unopposed. Councilor Prevey, who was unopposed last time, faces only "the homeless guy" possibly now of 31 Barr Street, in this election.

Only two wards have anything resembling a real race. First is ward 3, with Justin Mattera and Todd Siegel challenging incumbent Jean Pelletier. Enjoy the free drinks for now, councilor. I guess this means that Mike Blatty is off the hook and doesn't have to run. The second is ward 5, where local business owner Josh Turiel is challenging John Ronan. Josh just announced that former ward councilor Matt Veno has joined his team as campaign co-chair. I believe Veno is still very popular in that neighborhood. If he's smart, Josh will kill Ronan for his hypocrisy regarding budget cut after cut, when he refused to save money on the annex lease.

Councilor at-large has 10 candidates for only 4 seats. All four incumbents are running for re-election. This is bad math for the challengers. The anti-incumbent vote, and there should be plenty, probably gets split way too far to kick out any of the incumbents. If Matthew Fraser was smart, he'd file to run in Ward 2 instead. He'd hammer Sosnowski for complaining about a static metal box on Bridge Street while ignoring the car damaging jumps at Bridge and Winter. He'd also jump on the annex lease. Simply, he's not winning an at-large seat.

I admit that I'm a hypocrite. I'm complaining about nobody running, but I'm not running myself. My wife and employer would both kill me if I did. Here's what I will do. If anyone in Ward 1 will pull papers by tomorrow, I pledge to spend the weekend getting you at least half, if not more, of the required signatures to run. Hit me up if you decide to do this. Matt Richard? I get that your DARQ following is citywide, but why not run for both? Sawicki's doing it ...

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Three things: steaks, warlocks, and mayors (oh my!)

The Lyceum has announced that it will close on July 31, as George Harrington, Sr. has decided to retire. In truth, there has been friction between Harrington Sr. and his partner, Nicola Savignano, almost since the get go, (at least from Savignano's side) and I'm not entirely sure that this retirement is completely voluntary. Savignano is currently at his vacation home in Italy (complete with its own olive vineyard), but his very close friend tells me that this change has been considered for a while. He mentioned to me months ago that Savignano wasn't entirely pleased with the Lyceum. I'm informed that Savignano financed most of the 2009 renovations, and owns the majority of the business at this point. The location will eventually re-open as a "Fine Dining steakhouse and winebar," so at least it won't sit empty for months.

It looks, from their craigslist ad (thanks, BaldBil!), like most of the current restaurant staff will be replaced. They appear to be seeking just about everything other than senior management and head chef. If this were as orderly and friendly a transition as they are saying, wouldn't you at least keep your bussers, some servers, and some bartenders?

To date, nobody has appeared before the licensing board seeking a C/V license or liquor license transfer. I believe because of a change in business model they would have to before re-opening.

Mr. Harrington has been involved in the Salem restaurant scene for decades. I wish him the best.


The World's Most Famous Warlock (TM) is back in the news!

This time it's not TMZ, or Fox News, though. Apparently Mr. Day is living up to his reputation as a bully and more again. The city licensing board has suspended Day's fortunetelling license for six months, but suspended the punishment, with the promise to waive it if he's a good little boy for a year. I knew, back when I read this article, that something good would follow. Can he keep his mouth shut for that long? I tend to doubt it. Check out the comments on this article. He went so insane with venom that he then begged the author to delete all 39 of his comments, because they varied between threatening and just plain embarrassing. Temper, temper! I wonder, why does he get a closed door hearing, when Spellbound was scheduled to appear before city council in public?

The city has enforced a double standard in Mr. Day's favor for a few years now. I'm sure the fact that he has contributed to the mayor's election fund has nothing to do with it. Destination Salem must be so proud to have him sitting on their board right now. Hey, I get it, he's a marketing genius, and helps bring in the bucks. I'm betting he wishes he wasn't such a spotlight seeker right now. Smile for the cameras!

I wonder if Lt. Oullette was the person who visited this site from the Salem Police station at 2:49 yesterday afternoon, after searching for "Christian Day, Salem, MA."


Kim Driscoll is well into her second term now. It's kind of hilarious, as such, that on her website, the accomplishments section says "Coming soon." Check it out for yourself. C'mon madame mayor, you have plenty to brag about!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

UPDATED: Atlantic Paving (insert doesn't) allow unlicensed people to drive their dump trucks

Another Update: Patch has now updated their piece. Shit happens. Aubry is usually very spot on. One of her freelance reporters, not so much.Luckily he hasn't written much recently.

UPDATE: I feel the need to update this. The Salem News is reporting this exactly opposite the way that Patch is reporting it, and they include quotes from the person that they say was driving the Paving truck, William McMahon. They state that Mr. Mota was driving the minivan. Based on their level of detail I think that Patch got this wrong, though as of now they haven't updated or retracted. My apologies to Atlantic Paving. Their driver wasn't charged with anything.


A potentially tragic accident took place on Boston Street today, where a sixteen-year-old bike rider was struck first by a minivan, and then landed underneath a dump truck. A Salem Patch article included this picture of the scene:

Salem Patch further reported that the driver of the dump truck was arrested at the scene for driving without a license. Mr. Mota, who lives on Boston Street himself, should know better. More importantly, what is Atlantic Paving (addresses listed on Canal Street, and Tulip Street in Salem, as well as Foster Street in Peabody, all with the same phone number as on the side of the truck, depending on which is current) doing allowing someone without a license to drive their truck? When a 46 year old man is arrested for driving your truck without a license (rather than a suspended, revoked, or expired one), I have to wonder how good a job of checking out his other right to work legally credentials. Does Atlantic Paving have insurance? Does their insurance company know they hire unlicensed truck drivers?

If this is their level of attention to detail, I don't think I'll be using them for any work on my driveway. I hope the city isn't using them either. Thank God this boy wasn't killed.

PS: Good coverage by Patch on this story. Nothing on Salem News currently.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Klassiness at Salem Depot

A reader forwarded this picture to me, taken this morning at the Salem commuter rail station.

I wonder if this is part of the city's graffiti "artist" rehabilitation program.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Strega being sold, and more restaurant fun.

I was perusing licensing board meeting minutes (yeah, I know) when I came across a discussion held with Linda Cappuccio of Strega, regarding the fact that she closed the restaurant without notifying the licensing board, in violation of her license. She told the board she was trying to sell the restaurant, as well as doing some needed renovations. She'd reopen if the sale fell through, the buyer was working on financing. At the July 13 meeting, one of the agenda items was:

13. Application for Transfer of Liquor License. Applicant: Red LuLu, transfer from Strega, 94 Lafayette Street. (Continued from June 13, 2011 meeting)

So when Strega says on Facebook that they are reopening late summer, what they mean is, we're stringing you along, just in case our sale falls through, but don't expect to see us again. It would appear that it has been Ms. Cappuccio's intention to sell the restaurant since she closed, as a P&S agreement has been in place since at least April. Why string along your customers at that point?

Let's hope that Red LuLu, doesn't mean this Red Lulu, which seems to be the ultimate hipster douchebag hangout.


I was out for a stroll downtown yesterday and picked up some interesting tidbits when I ran into a someone heavily involved in the downtown. Is it true that the new paint job on Murphy's, which you can see here, is because the owner is trying to sell? That's what this Salem person told me yesterday. I also mentioned that I'd had a less than stellar meal at Adriatic a few days earlier, and was surprised that Florian Cela, the extremely hard working young man who started the place with his sister, was "no longer there," and is working in Boston now.

The story I heard from this person then shocked me. Is it really possible that Florian, and his business partner/brother-in-law Vini Kurti came to blows on New Years Eve, and now have matching restraining orders against each other, prohibiting either from actually entering the restaurant? It sounds like this establishment may be for sale as well, though they don't want to say so too loud. It's really too bad, if true. I think Florian was the heart and soul of the place, while by my observation, Vini seemed to spend more time sitting at the bar and holding court than anything else. I imagine that Florian and his sister's relationship must be extremely strained by this as well. Why do I think that the fight probably had something to do with the work ethic of one of the parties on one of the busiest nights of the year?

I noticed that the restaurant still doesn't do lunch. They were going to try at one point, if they didn't,  and that the original Facebook page for them is gone, replaced with a new one that only goes back to June 6th. So someone deleted the one that had hundreds of followers. Let's hope that since Florian is no longer there at least 40 hours a week, as required of a manager, that Adriatic notified the Licensing Board of a change in management, as required by law.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Restaurant updates

I wrote here about Strega temporarily closing in February, to reopen late this Spring.

They updated their Facebook status last week, saying that they are temporarily closed, and will reopen late this summer now. They deleted their earlier status update.

So now Strega will be closed for at least seven or eight months, while holding a liquor license. Isn't it time to for the licensing board to take some action? Isn't this the definition of a pocket license, in a city where all available licenses are taken?

In better news, I've been to Scratch Kitchen a few times now. Love it. Good, honest food, made from the best ingredients available. Try the brisket sandwich, the fries and rings (homemade and messy), the soon to be famous burger with the red onion jam, and the bacon mac and cheese. Have an Allagash White with it. Don't go here if you're vegan. There's nothing for you, or next to nothing. This place is for carnivores. Next up for me are the pulled pork and the Cuban sandwich. Can't wait. The first time I was there, I saw Tony Bettencourt from 62 Restaurant and Wine Bar having lunch there. I knew I was in for a treat.

Reader emails: Those Wacky Psychics!

I love getting emails from readers. I especially love this one. Some of this I've heard at least whispers of before, some of it I haven't. How much of it is true? I don't know. Maybe none. Judge for yourself. This is an interesting tale regarding a Salem Warlock, his friends, and their adventures. Is it true? I don't know, but some of it would have to be pretty coincidental to be false. The author is a long time acquaintance of Warlock X.

Thursday, July 14, 2011


The recent mess in the point continues to be a hot topic. One resident took great offense to my assertion that the entire neighborhood is to blame for allowing it to continue. She chastised me for writing about something I know nothing about. Of course, she then admitted to being the exception that proves the rule when she said, "So how do we do that? Get more people to care? Cause frankly, nobody except the people who live in 1 or 2 buildings in the point even give a remote shit."

One or two buildings of people caring is the biggest problem the point faces. One or two buildings of people can't be expected to face a crowd of hundreds rioting in the street. At the same time, the police can't be effective without some support from the neighborhood. I feel really bad for those who do care. I considered buying into the same building that most of them live in, and I thank God that I didn't. They are in a no-win situation at this point.

At least a few of them have been trying for years to get some help from the city, and one of them shared their correspondence with me.

This first string is from a Point resident to the mayor, police, head of the Point Neighborhood Association, and Ward 1 Councilor Bob McCarthy, who has a proven track record of not responding to concerns from Point residents. The author asked that I not include his or her name, as one of their neighbors just had their tires slashed for speaking out. (Klassy!)

Monday, July 11, 2011

UPDATED: What's the story with the VFW?

The VFW hall on Derby Street now has a for sale sign on it. One would think that with the location next to the new Salem Wharf that this could be a prime retail or dining spot. But what about the VFW post?

A friend, who is also a neighbor of the Post, as well as an associate member, told me a month or two ago that the VFW was buying the Ward 2 Social Club and moving over there. As of now, it doesn't appear that any sale of that property, 1 East Collins Street, has been recorded. I tried to call the Ward 2 club, but only got a robot-voiced answering machine. I tried to find info on this back when he mentioned it, but could find none. I recall the Ward 2 club having a Facebook page at the time, with no mention of any upcoming changes, and now I can't find that. So is the Ward 2 club going? Gone? It's interesting that a few years ago there were several news stories celebrating their 60th anniversary, and touting what a financial and membership turnaround they'd experienced. It would be a shame if they're gone. The appearance of the for sale sign on the VFW reminded me to look back into this.

I get why the VFW would be interested in the Ward 2 property. It has much more parking, was renovated more recently, appears to be bigger, and has a waterfront deck. Does anyone know what the story with the Ward 2 club is? Any thoughts on potential uses of the VFW hall?

UPDATE 7/12: Ask and you shall receive, indirectly. From the Salem News police log this morning: "A discussion on Collins Street regarding the sale of the Ward 2 Social Club got so heated that one member told police at 9:07 a.m. that he was a victim of assault at the hands of another. Police advised him to pursue any actions at District Court." And from the Patch Police Log: "At 9:07 a.m. Monday, police said a man reported he was at a meeting on East Collins Street for the members of the Ward II Social Club about the club's possible sale. The man reported the meeting "got heated and he was assaulted by a man."

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Point, and Better News

I generally don't talk about the Point neighborhood much. There are a few reasons for this. First, it's not really part of my regular path of travel. I just don't get there much for anything. Second, it's an easy target. Finally, I think that a lot of the criticism leveled at the Point is racially motivated, and I don't like that.

All of that said, after this past weekend, it's time for me to take the Point residents to task. They behaved terribly this weekend. Yes, all of them. I'll explain why I include all of them in a little bit. First, some background.

This fourth of July weekend Point residents treated their own neighborhood the way the US treated Fallujah back in 2004. On both Sunday and Monday nights, residents (and probably their visitors, too) were rioting in the streets. From the sound of it, they assaulted officers, and vandalized city property as well, breaking the windshield of a police cruiser. With hundreds of rioters, an undermanned Salem Police Department was able to manage four arrests. There probably should have been one hundred.

A Salemweb poster (icybeem) took the following pictures on the 5th. The trashing of the neighborhood speaks for itself.

I said I blame all point residents for this mess. Simply, if you aren't standing there, pointing, helping the police root out the bad seeds, you're enabling the trashing of your home. If people had any pride in their neighborhood they wouldn't allow this stuff to happen, yet every time something bad happens in the point, nobody sees anything. A stabbing? Nobody saw anything. Drugs? Nobody saw anything. A riot in the street where police were assaulted and taxpayer property destroyed? Nobody saw anything.

More importantly, nobody did anything. After the rioting and trashing of Vancouver following the Bruins Stanley Cup victory last month, do you know what happened? Good Vancouverites were out on the streets at 7AM cleaning up the city. See them in action here. Where were the real Pointers? I guess they were on the streets at 3AM, throwing bottles at the police.

No amount of LOLA marketing dollars can overcome residents who just don't give a shit.

Sad, really.


I promised some better news, so here it is. Councilor John Ronan has seemingly been campaigning for re-election for months, often during City Council meetings. Thankfully, he now has a reason to campaign, as ward five resident Josh Turiel has pulled nomination papers to run against Mr. Ronan. He intends to turn in well above the required number of signatures tomorrow.

It should be a good race. I hope Josh does well, as councilor Ronan's obstructionist schtick (I'm sorry, you can't yell and scream about saving money and protecting the taxpayers while willfully blowing more savings than you found in the entire budget process by not signing a lease because you know it will piss the mayor off. Same goes for Pinto, Prevey, and Sosnowski.) is starting to wear thin. We don't need our own "party of no."

I only know Josh through Twitter. I wrote about him once here. He has a campaign website here. You can follow him on Twitter here. He said to me, "I don't want to be Mayor Driscoll's yes-man, but I'm also not going to be the "no-to-everything" man. The Council needs reason." Sounds about right to me, and the mayor already has her yes-man. His name is Furey.

With Charlie Walsh dropping out of the Ward 6 race we really need some more candidates. I believe that only wards 1, 3, and 5 currently have contested races. Is nobody going to challenge Sosnowski? He thinks that a silent silver box is more important than the Bridge and Winter rollercoaster in his ward. Has councilor O'Keefe been promised his seat until death? What about Ryan and Prevey? Come on people! Make them earn it!

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Power Plant Reuse Study Public Meeting

I attended the public meeting about the power plant reuse study last night. I have to say, I probably have to either stop writing this blog or stop going to these types of meetings. I was swimming in my own personal shark tank.

Lisa Abbate was there. She's still trying to push the myth that Dominion is required by law to clean the site, even if they padlock it. Teasie Riley-Goggin was there. She was the first citizen to speak, but I think those in attendance are still trying to figure out what she was saying. I'm not sure it made any sense. The mayor was there. Jim Fleming was there. Councilor McCarthy was there. He mostly just listened. (A first!) Councilor Joan Lovely was present as well. I think she praised the mayor for having the foresight to get this off the ground before anyone knew for sure that the plant was closing. Lori Ehrlich was there. She made sure to be the final speaker, so she'd have the last word. Finally, about 20 minutes into the meeting councilor Pinto strolled in.

City Council candidate Darek Barcikowski was also present. He just joined twitter so give him a follow. I don't think I've done anything to piss him off yet. I even intend to try his place some time soon. It's good to see at least one of the candidates who wants to join the ranks of the elected showing up at things like this. If there were others (not counting 12th councilor Teasie, of course) I didn't see them.

The presentation last was slightly tweaked from the HDSNA meeting, mostly to make it a little more concise. The general purpose of the meeting was a little more interactive. At the Derby meeting, it was, we're going to make a presentation. If we have time for questions we'll let you ask some. This was much more, "we want to hear your thoughts."