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.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the kind words! I could possibly support tax rates being uncoupled from the budget, but only if the administration consistently failed to include the Council in the budget process. But if that were the case, the city can also replace the Mayor. The state of affairs right now isn't the Mayor's fault. Hopefully we can work together and produce a responsible budget and render the whole point moot.


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