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.


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


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...


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.


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.

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.


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.}


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.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Joanna Snyder and more

Joanna Snyder doesn't want the Snews to say bad things about her. She complained to Salem Superior Court judge Howard Whitehead that Salem News reporter Julie Manganis constantly repeats her criminal history in stories about her, to the upset of her teen mom daughter. Said criminal history is apparently pages long.

I have an idea, Joanna. Stop doing scumbag, deadbeat, criminal things that will embarrass your daughter! To her daughter, don't be embarrassed at the coverage, be embarrassed by your mother's actions. In fact, for your betterment, and the betterment of your daughter, cut the bitch out of your life. I'm sure that's a scary thing to do at 19, but it may be the only way for you to have a better life.


Saw this t-shirt on Facebook the other day. Apparently it's available at the Back Room on the Essex Street pedestrian (for now) mall. Totally klassy.


Received the following via email, from a new candidate for Ward 2 city councilor. Apparently Big Metal Box, which we've discussed as possibly a better candidate for those concerned with Bridge Street issues, has decided to run as a write-in. Writing in Big Metal Box certainly sounds like much more fun than blanking your ward 2 ballots.

Special thanks to the ward 2 resident who sent this to me.

Happy first birthday to Salem Patch! It's been refreshing to have a second daily news source in town. Especially one that isn't really in Beverly.

Monday, September 12, 2011

It's official: Salem Evening Douchebag Population to Rise

Red Lulu Cocina & Tequila Bar is moving into the old Strega location on Lafayette Street. Douchebags rejoice!

I know, that sounds harsh, but tell me I'm wrong. First, look at this.

Tell me it doesn't scream douchebag hang out. Also, stylish hostesses? Dress-to-impress interviews? Skill doesn't sound necessary, as long as you'll fit the vibe. If you do fit the vibe, hey, they're hiring, and with the prices, the tips should be decent, head down to the Waterfront Hotel on Wednesday, from 12-8 for a "casting call interview."

Still don't believe me? Check out the toilets at Lolita in Boston. Lolita is the restaurant opening Red Lulu.

Just wow.

Yes, even the toilets are sporting Ed Hardy tattoos. (This pic and joke totally stolen from Boston Yelper Michael C.)

Still aren't quite sure that this place is geared at the DB population? After you've dined on expensive Mexican, with some even more expensive tequila, margaritas and sangria thrown in, you too, will probably be blessed with these, no extra charge!

Yup, free temporary tattoos with every meal! Who doesn't want that?!

The menu itself sounds pretty interesting, if pricey. (I'd link to the menu of Red Lulu in CT, but the entire website is laced with really loud music that starts as soon as the page loads. Menu is almost identical.) Dining in what has been described as both a "Vampire Bordello" and the "set of Fangtasia," not so much. At least to me. I'm sure to some people this place sounds great. Twilight fans, this place may be for you.

I love the idea of a douchebag hangout in Salem. Keep them all together. And hey, they have to eat too. Nobody should deny them that. Red Lulu plans to open in October.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Meet the Candidate: Francis Vigeant

Here is our second "Meet the Candidate" entry. Today, school committee candidate Francis Vigeant shares information about his qualifications.

Francis Vigeant

You have an interesting background in education. Tell us about it? 

I’m a first generation college graduate from a working class family. In middle school I became part of a single parent family when my father passed suddenly. I struggled through my early education because of an undiagnosed learning disability. I was no stranger to struggle and hard work.

When I started my career teaching high school math in Lynn, I encountered many students who faced the same academic and social struggles I lived through. I wanted my math class to be engaging, so I used hands-on science and engineering lessons with my students. When students built windmills and launched rockets everyone showed up on task. It was the right recipe.

I went on to develop curriculum systems that empower students to develop analytical thinking skills and engage in hands-on science, technology, engineering, and math, beginning in elementary school. In my capacity as an education specialist I’ve helped schools secure over a million dollars of private grants, increase MCAS test scores 12-33 percentage points, and developed communication strategies. Now I employ nearly a dozen people and support the efforts of many other classroom teachers and thousands of their students.      

Do you think that owning a company that sells education software to schools creates a conflict of interest for you, when Salem may need your product?

Ethical practices are my first priority. I’m volunteering my time as a member of the school committee to help improve this district for everyone with no intent or desire to profit. Throughout my service, I will continue to abide by state ethics laws avoiding conflicts of interest and the appearance of conflicts of interest. In the case of an overwhelming need there are provisions under Mass General Law 268A, section 20 that would allow other members of the School Committee in concert with City Council to pursue a product.

Does the Salem Public School System currently buy your product?

Saltonstall made a small retail purchase of curriculum and materials last year. 

You're a Mensa member? Seriously? Isn't Mensa just a club for smaht kids to feel superior and be snobby?
It’s true. I’m a member. Seriously. We’re hardly a pretentious crew; in fact we get together at Gulu, play games and grab dinner. Who knew? You’re all invited to do these wicked smaht things too. People in Mensa are genuine folks who enjoy sharing ideas and the company of others. I guess that makes it a club like any other club.

Why should voters make the effort to head out to the primary polls and vote for you?

I’ve experienced what works and what doesn’t work from every angle and can use my experience to guide our superintendant, develop policy, and inform budgeting to change tomorrow for our students today. I’m the only candidate that represents active business experience, active public school teaching experience, and active administrative experience with a proven ability to influence student learning outcomes.

There you have it. Sounds pretty qualified to me. For more information, see his website, Facebook page, or this press release posted by Salem Patch today.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

H is for honor?

Did you know that Rainn Wilson used to live in Salem? He says he waited tables in Salem while his mom was a witch in a haunted house. Interesting. Anyone know where he worked? Why isn't Destination Salem promoting this?


A tweeter pointed out the below video to me. It's funny, so I had to share. With extra honor, I guess.

Yup, honor.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Updates on three

I frequently have a couple of pending items floating around in this blog, half written. Here are three I'm finishing now.

First, I wrote about the seeming difference in handling of the recent Christian Day disciplinary matter and the complaint against Spellbound Tours here.

I received an email with a proposed answer to why this happened.

From: to
You were wondering why Christian Day got a closed-door hearing while Spellbound's was public?
 Day's lawyer is Joan Lovely's husband.
 During the hearing, Day got red in the face, kicked over a chair and shouted "I don't have to listen to this! Fuck you!" as he stormed out of the room. As the hearing wasn't over, he was made to return.
You're right: Destination Salem must be so proud.

Well then. I'm not sure I buy that the reason for the difference is that Day's lawyer is connected to a city councilor. I think it's much more likely that City Council and the Licensing Board just operate differently. It's an interesting thought, though.

The account of what took place during the closed-door hearing is simply awesome. Somehow I can see it happening just like that. Captain Hothead doesn't like to be questioned. This particular source has proved reliable in the past, as well. Can anyone else confirm or deny? If he did behave this way, isn't that kind of proof that the leopard can't change his spots? If he's going to behave that way in front of the people who have power over his license, do they really think he won't act that way with his competitors?


Item number two was seen and overheard at a kickoff barbecue for Ward 3 council candidate Todd Siegel back on August 14th. That evening at-large councilor Pinto was seen vigorously pumping an attendee who happens to be a friend of mine for my identity. LOL! It went something like this.

Steve Pinto: I know you know who writes that website.
Unsub: Yes, I do.
SP: Who?
Unsub: I'm not going to tell you who he is.
SP: So you admit it's a he!
Unsub: He's said so several times. He also says he lives in Ward 1.
SP: You really aren't going to tell me?
Unsub: No. Ask the mayor, she figured it out.
SP: I know, that pisses me off. Why aren't you going to tell me? (Ed. note: Doesn't everything she does piss him off?)
Unsub: I've met you four times and I've known him for years.
SP: Well, is he at least qualified?!

OK, that's enough, you get the gist. I guess it went on for a while, and I'm sure that's not word for word correct. Now obviously, I've been pretty tough on councilor Pinto several times. The facts are these. I don't know him, and haven't even ever met him. We've been in the same room once or twice, at public meetings. All of my criticisms of him are directly related to his actions as a councilor. It's not remotely personal. In fact, if he spent the small amount of time he spent pestering that young woman about who I am actually explaining his rationale on the items I've criticized him on, to the voters, the paper, someone, I'd have much more respect for the esteemed councilor. I guess the caption on this picture should be "Todd Siegel and Steve Pinto puzzle over Keep it Klassy, Salem!"

I do have to add, seriously? Am I qualified ... to post opinions on the Internet? That might be one of the funniest things I've ever heard.

Reminds me of these:

I'm a guy, with a mortgage, and a property tax bill directly related to the spending appropriated by the body you sit on. That's the only qualification I need. Beyond that, however, I have a degree in political science, with an econ minor, from one of the elite institutions of higher learning in this country.

Do a meet the candidate Q&A with me, Steve. I'll be fair. I'll ask you about the things I've criticized you for, but I'll be fair. You can even use the IP address I send you the questions from to try to figure out who I am. It's about the worst kept secret around at this point.


The following comment was left on a previous post about the Ward 2 Social Club possibly being bought by the VFW. Sounds like bad news for the VFW, and good news for the Social Club. Also bad news for Brewer Hawthorne Cove Marina, which was rumored to be interested in buying the VFW building. I wonder if this impacts their plans to build a large building just on the other side of the fence from the Blaney Street parking lot.

"Just a fyi update! The management finally resigned along with entire family. The club will have a entire new board of people in control and they will try to work out a deal with the DOR and get the doors back open to a historic club! Best wishes to the new management and I hope to see the club open asap!!"

Anyone have any more details about the Ward 2 situation? More details on Brewer's plans for a building abutting the Ferry lot? Maybe they'll improve or remove the rusty fence topped with barbed wire that marks the current border.

{Edit: I was driving home, with this post all ready to publish, when I passed Sosnowski's metal box, and saw a sign on it saying that the Ward 2 Social Club would open Friday at 5. Sure enough I swung by the club and there were cars, as well as more signs on the building proclaiming that they were open. I almost went in to say hello. Good for them. I had big plans for that VFW property. Bad news for me.}

Whaddya want? I was driving while shooting!

While we're on the subject of this box, and I may or may not have mentioned this before, how does Ward 2 Councilor Sosnowski have the energy to get all indignant about this box, and demand that it be redone, at taxpayer expense, but he never makes a peep about the roller coaster/jump in the road at Winter and Bridge?


School committee candidate Francis Vigeant has a campaign website. You can check it out here. Interesting and topical background. Look for a "Meet the candidate" as soon as I send him questions. Any other takers? One more city councilor at large candidate coming up as soon as I receive the answers back.