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.

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