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.

Prediction 2: Paul Prevey routs perpetual candidate/toilet tipper Ken Sawicki. This one won't be close, and it probably shouldn't be. If I were in ward 6 I'd be voting for Prevey. Would have been a really interesting race if Charlie Walsh had stayed in it. My vote may have gone his way. Prevey is part of the Salem News' "gang of four," but with notable exceptions (purchasing agent) he seems the most reasonable.

Prediction 3: Very tight races in wards 3 and 5. In ward 3, Jean (note to, not Gene) Pelletier hasn't made many friends in the mess of condos off 1st Street. Green Dolphin Village, Mariner Village, the Sanctuary, I can't tell the difference, but they all don't like the Salem Transfer Station proposal, to the point that one of their own, Todd Siegel, has run for the ward 3 seat. Looking at the historical data, this neighborhood doesn't vote. Looking at their tax bills, they really should. $$$ However, I have a friend who lives there and has very actively gone as far as getting unregistered people in that neighborhood registered for this election. If they make it to the polls it will be a long day for JP. Voters like this scare me. You're talking about people who (history proves) have very little interest in Salem doings, yet may go vote because of one issue. How much do they really know about the proposal? There is so much hot air on both sides of this that I'm not sure anyone REALLY knows what it means. Do they even know that if this goes through they get a stoplight at First and Swampscott Road? They can't possibly believe that doesn't benefit them, but I'm betting many of them don't know it. Beyond that, what are they saddling us with to get their way on one issue, that they are going to get their way on anyway?

That said, I'm impressed at the level of activism my friend is exhibiting on this issue, and I get why they don't want all that garbage in their neighborhood. I just want the property cleaned up, and on the tax rolls. I'm betting the request for interest that the city put out doesn't yield much.

My guess is that JP squeaks it out, but much closer than his last several elections. I have no conviction in that prediction. If I lived in Ward 3, I'd probably write-in Mike Blatty. At least he's entertaining. I have no real love for JP, and Siegel strikes me as a future Pinto/Ronan/Sosnowski/Prevey Jr.. All I ever hear from him (not that I hear much), is no. No is fine, if it comes with "I propose X instead." So far it doesn't seem to. If he wins I hope he proves me wrong. I agree with him that more city meetings should be televised. Other than that, he seems mostly concerned with traffic. I guess, if I really had to pick, I'd go with the devil I know. (He's also good for a funny video post or two.) Because of my friend's involvement, I may be overestimating Siegel's support, but JP hasn't been making friends. I'd be happy if we just canceled ward 3 and merged it with 4 and 

So that brings us to Ward 5. This may be the most interesting race on the ballot tomorrow. There is no mayor's race, but this one may be as close as it comes to a referendum on the mayor. If you're team Driscoll, you probably don't like John Ronan, who may be the most love/hate man on the ballot. I think I'm one of the only people out there who is sorta in between on Ronan. I love what he says he stands for. Fiscal accountability, not assuming a max tax increase, etc. I just wish he didn't do things that went against those principles. We've talked about the Washington St. lease enough times. Suffice it to say that the group he was going to meet with to explore other options still hasn't met. But surely that decision wasn't all politics. At budget time, Ronan stuck stubbornly to his 2.5% raises and not a penny more mantra, ignoring that if he had succeeded the city would have had to hire more full time employees, as he would have, in effect, taken away several promotions that resulted in us not having to add staff. The resulting extra hires would have cost much more than the promotions. That's to say nothing of the state funding we would have lost in the library. If he were truly interested in keeping the budget under control, why didn't he show up for the annual budget retreat? In fact, why didn't fellow Administration and Finance committee members Pinto and Sosnowski show up, either? They were all begged invited to attend, and provide feedback at any time. The time to influence the budget is in the planning stages. It shouldn't have to come to cuts after the fact. The current method seems to be more about politics than savings.

So when it comes to what he says he stands for, I stand with John Ronan. I had extremely high hopes for him. When it comes to his actions, yeah, not so much. I also find it super, super weird that he's continuing to pretend that he didn't invoke the council rule that blocks the mayor from speaking. (A rule in clear violation of the city charter.) He pretended it didn't happen at the ward 5 candidate's forum, and he also pretended it didn't happen in his answer to a Salem Patch question this week.

I have no such qualms about Josh Turiel, and would enthusiastically vote for him if I lived in ward 5. I've had several conversations with him about local politics, and it's clear that he displays the common sense, ethics, and problem-solving skills that we need. I've always praised Joan Lovely for being an extremely balanced councilor. I think Josh would fit that same mold. Willing to support the administration when it makes sense, and willing to bring his own solutions to the table, as well. You couldn't put him on a side, other than that of the residents.

So what happens? Ronan won the ward by a greater than 2-1 margin last go around as a newbie. I'm pretty certain that he doesn't do that again, now that he's on the record. Really, as much as this race should be about Ronan and Turiel, I think it's about Ronan, and Ronan and the mayor. I think we'll see similar turnout in the ward to the last election, with a big swing in votes away from Ronan. It's tough to beat an incumbent, and if I had to put $100 on it, I'd take Ronan in a close one. I'd be happy with losing the money. I think this will be the closest ward race.

Prediction 4: Bob McCarthy doesn't get a unanimous vote. In fact, I'll go ahead and guarantee that one. Write-in suggestions: Darek Barcikowski, Matthew Richard, local author/historian Susanne Saville, Lucy Corchado.

I think I'll write in Matt Richard. I like him, but don't think I can vote for him as Councilor-at-large.

Prediction 5: Sosnowski doesn't get a unanimous vote, either. I can't guarantee this one, but I have faith that Big Metal Box will get a vote or two. Other possible write-in candidates: Drew Meger or Jared Robinson, both of whom have been often more vocal than Sosnowski on Bridge Street construction woes, or Rick Bettencourt, who is behind the Bridge Street Neck Historic District Facebook page. At-large candidate Matthew Fraser could also get some write-in here.

There is a new Ward 2 Residents page on Facebook now, as well. Current topic? Opinions on Sosnowski.

On to the big, citywide races. Wards 4 and 7 are boring.

School Committee: prediction 6: Jim Fleming, Deb Amaral, and Nate Bryant are the three successful candidates. I think Amaral may even knock Fleming out of the top spot.

My ballot, Amaral, Bryant, Vigeant.

There are two reasons for this. I've covered my issue with Jim Fleming's attendance. I don't think a D attendance grade should be tolerated. It simply sets a  bad example for students. I don't think he's bad, though his proposal to rename Witchcraft Heights was. He's just not present enough. Second, I look at Francis Vigeant's background, and we would be extremely, extremely lucky to have that background on our school committee. If you aren't familiar with him, I beg you to just read this, and tell me he doesn't sound perfect.

Originally, I hoped to support Sean O'Brien. I was so impressed that a college student was putting himself out there. Once I saw the school committee debate, I couldn't support him. I said, "he's really 22?" Looking at Vigeant, I said "he's only 28?!" That sealed it for me.

Councilor-at-large: I'm totally overthinking the councilor-at-large race. My ballot will look like this, in order of preference. 1. Joan Lovely (no-brainer, we're screwed if we lose her) 2. Darek Barcikowski (creative problem solver and hard worker who has clearly earned a shot) 3. Arthur Sargent (strategy), and 4. Tom Furey (Strategy).

So that's a little bit different (50%) than my primary ballot. If you told me that Turiel and Pelletier were going to win, I'd leave Tom Furey off. If you told me that Ronan and Seigel would win, I'd keep Furey and replace Sargent with Kevin Carr. If you told me that hell just froze over, I'd replace all of them with Pinto.

In a perfect world, my ballot would probably be Lovely, Barcikowski, Matt Richard, and blank.

In an ideal world, we'd end up with a balanced council, with a good mix of balanced councilors. I can't see that happening. I've lived places where the administration and legislative body have had utterly dysfunctional relationships. Let me tell you, it's not fun, and nobody benefits. There is room for all kinds, as long as you don't end up with too many of any one kind.

Prediction 7: At least 3, and maybe 4, of the at-large councilors will return. Prediction 8: Order of finish, Lovely, Pinto, Sargent, Barcikowski, Furey, Carr, Riley-Goggin, Richard, Fraser. Prediction 9: Lovely has at least a 500 vote margin over second place.

It's that order of finish prediction that colors my ballot. Steve Pinto, who I'd obviously like to see removed, has campaigned as hard as anyone not named Barcikowski. He finished 4th last go around, and improved that dramatically in the primary, coming in second. Because I think that three incumbents win, I'm voting for the other three incumbents. Of course, I may be hurting Barcikowski's chances, who I rank as my second favorite. See what I mean when I say I'm overthinking it?

Anyway, here they are, candidate by candidate, with my assessments.

Lovely: Shoot me if she loses. She's the definition of stable and balanced. I'd gladly take 11 of her. I probably agree with her about 45% of the time, and I still want her in office. Cautious and thorough. Seems to be at a meeting or two every single day.

Barcikowski: Dynamic new voice, brings an outside perspective, and is an extremely hard worker. Willing to continuously examine his positions. Campaigned harder than anyone. Has earned a shot.

Sargent: No thrills, no chills. He'll tell you he's not the smartest guy in the room, and he's right. Old Salem, blue collar guy. There's totally room for that. Not a thought leader. Listens more than he speaks.

Furey: Kisses the butt of the sitting mayor, no matter who. Still campaigns on a 10 year old smoking ban. Ends up right a lot of the time, but I don't know how he gets there. Should probably listen more.

Carr: Has the reputation as a Kim Driscoll toady. I'm not sure he hasn't earned it. Didn't seem like he campaigned as actively as some others, at least not in my neighborhood.

Riley-Goggin: I guess I'd vote for her if I was 70. She doesn't offer anything to the younger crowd, and doesn't claim to. Obstructionist waiting to happen.

Richard: I like him. Younger, more urban perspective. He's not always really nuanced in his positions. Think he'd grow into the job.

Fraser: I've said it before, I'll say it again. I think he may be a genius. I also think he may be insane. I'd like to see some city annual reports too. I have a 1.6 gpf toilet. I'm not putting bricks in it. (If you've followed the debates, you know what I'm talking about.)

Pinto: I've done Pinto plenty, and I'm not going to repeat it all here. I will share this. At the candidates forum last week, Pinto stated that he has been a councilor for four years, and never once has he flip-flopped on an issue. I assume he meant that as a positive. I don't see it that way. It disturbs me that one of the councilors who is always first to have an opinion never seems to re-examine it. I don't think that's a noble thing, and only someone who practices my junk is bigger than your junk politics would read it that way.

Using his jobs for councilors legislation as an example, (about the only legislation he's ever proposed) you'll notice that several of the councilors who supported it, at first, re-examined and changed their positions as the result of overwhelming feedback from voters. Joan Lovely was one. Give me a councilor who is constantly examining their positions any day.

Pinto, of course, wouldn't "flip flop."

Alas, I'd bet plenty of money on his re-election. Prove me wrong, Salem!


  1. You know, I have thought about the At Large race the most and the what I like about Riley-Goggin is that she is a person who strongly believes in community. This is proven in her concerns about the way people drive in Salem. That is a huge concern to me, I am a big walker and I have a 2.5 year old. People fly down my street at 35-40 mph. I wish I had done more research on the school committee race, but I really like Vigeant. He seems innovative. I hope the 8% multiplies exponentially.

  2. I should note that to drive safely on my street 20mph should be top speed.

  3. That's probably a fair comment about Riley-Goggin. At the same time, She seems perfectly willing to divide a community to reach her goals. I think back to her Salem Willows senior center proposal, and she seemed very much of the "we" deserve it, and "you" should pay for it mindset. I feel like I hear too many things that clash from her, like, "our seniors need tax relief." Followed by, "who cares about the EXTRA 2.2 million, I want my clubhouse at the Willows, not on Bridge Street.

  4. One thing I should have mentioned. Matt Veno came out very hard for Josh Turiel, including sending a letter to many ward 5 residents fully supporting his candidacy. It definitely generated a bunch of incoming contact to the Turiel campaign. May make a difference.

  5. My wife send me a reminder this morning that I can't think about running for anything until our son is at least 2, so Big Metal Box for now! Despite Sosnowski getting him removed, I feel this only makes BMB a more attractive candidate. Not only has he endured the hassles of the Bridge Street Construction Mess, but now, like many Salemites, he's feeling the housing crunch.


Don't forget, keep it klassy!