Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A new direction?

Today's Salem News article on whether or not the mayor can or should have the right to address council, talks about whether or not the charter guarantees the mayor the right to speak. Of this, they say, " In recent weeks, the debate has taken a new direction."

KIKS readers will know that this is not a new issue, as I raised it over fourteen months ago, here. Additionally, the mayor asserted as much in council chambers during the budget meeting last year, when Councilor Ronan attempted to block the mayor from speaking, though she was invited to attend and participate in that meeting.

See for yourself. About two minutes into this video.

Copying from myself:

Section 19 of the General Provisions, is as follows:
19. Mayor to provide information to council; attendance at meetings of council; addressing the council.
The city council at any time may request from the mayor, or, under Plan D or E, from the city manager, specific information on any municipal matter within its jurisdiction, and may request him to be present to answer written questions relating thereto at a meeting to be held not earlier than one week from the date of the receipt by the mayor, or, under Plan D or E, by the city manager, of said questions. The mayor, or, under Plan D or E, the city manager, shall personally, or through the head of a department or a member of a board, attend such meeting and publicly answer all such questions. The person so attending shall not be obliged to answer questions relating to any other matter. The mayor, or, under Plan D or E, the city manager, may attend and address the city council in person or through the head of a department, or a member of a board, upon any subject. (emphasis added)
This provision of the charter doesn't permit council to prevent the mayor from addressing them. It expressly authorizes the mayor to address council regarding any subject. Therefore, Pinto (and council's rule) may have violated the city charter with his actions. So which takes precedence? The City Charter is basically the City of Salem's version of the constitution. A rule of council in their handbook that violates the Charter wouldn't be permissible, and would therefore be invalid. Don't believe me? Consider this example. The Charter lays out that there will be 11 City Councilors. If City Council decided to vote to increase that number to 13, without amending the Charter, do you think that would fly? Surely it wouldn't. So without amending section 19 of the charter wouldn't Pinto's action also be illegal?

Do I think that the mayor should be allowed to attend city council meetings and filibuster for hours? Of course not. I don't think I buy that the charter allows that, either. The way I read it, the council president does have the responsibility to recognize the mayor, or a department head, or board member sent by the mayor. That doesn't mean that the council president has to allow them to go on indefinitely. The president still holds the gavel. This is going to be made into a much bigger deal than it has to be.

The last thing anyone wants, is a new charter commission. Though, if there is one, sign me up!

The idea that this is a "new direction" for this debate, however, is another example of the snooze being in the dark. It has been discussed in council chambers several times. It was even mentioned on their own pages months ago.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Election tidbits

Salem resident Edward Carroll announced that he's running in the democratic primary for state senate, against Mary-Ellen Manning, John Slattery, and Joan Lovely. It's a pretty massively huge coincidence that his landlord is also his opponent, Mary-Ellen Manning. Maybe it's just a coincidence, but I have a hard time buying that. My guess is that one of two things must be true. Either Mr. Carroll really hates his landlord, or really likes her. I'm sure both would claim it's a coincidence, but I can't really believe that.

Insiders tell me that they believe that Manning asked Carroll to run, so that there would be two Salem residents on the ballot, hoping to pull Salem votes away from Joan Lovely in her own backyard. The joke, of course, is on Manning (and maybe Lovely), if this is true. Because, we all know, Salemites don't vote, especially in primaries. All those signatures gathered for nothing. If you saw the blog post "Patch Asleep at the Switch," which was posted on Salem Patch for a few days, but has since been removed, you'd have a hard time taking Mr. Carroll's campaign seriously. Let's just say that the spelling, grammar, and punctuation in this post touting Mr. Carroll made the piece almost unreadable. It also read like something from the free republic, right wing nutjob play-book. It would seem odd that if Mr. Carroll shared the beliefs of that particular supporter, that he would be a much better fit on the (also less crowded) Republican ballot. Something fishy there.

The Carroll campaign doesn't appear to have any sort of web site, phone number, Facebook page, etc.

While researching the claim that Manning owns Carroll's builiding, I stumbled across this little tidbit. His landlord recently had another of her rental properties in foreclosure. And she's even paid all of her printer's bills ...

Oops, someone didn't open the mail!

Still haven't decided who I'm voting for on Thursday, Sept. 6. Thoughts?


Salem mayor Kim Driscoll will face her toughest opponent since her first election in the next mayoral go-round. Of course, when the toilet tipper was your last opponent, that's not saying much. Current ward 2 councilor Mike Sosnowski hasn't been quiet enough about his intention to jump full force into the next mayoral election. Though he hasn't made any official announcements, he's told many supporters that he fully intends to run. Can he cobble together enough special interests to defeat a mostly popular incumbent? We'll see. I tend to doubt it, but the longer someone sits in office, the more people they piss off. Sosnowski is sure to lend a sympathetic ear to people who oppose lots of different things. A short list would start with wind turbine, transfer station, parking meter, 40b housing, Saltonstall special treatment, Bridge St senior center, increased liquor licenses, and/or condos without parking spaces opponents. His game will need to be cobbling together enough people who will be single-issue voters on those specific issues, plus whatever else comes up in the next year. (See why it gets harder and harder to keep office the longer you're in it?) The longer that list gets the easier for a challenger. Maybe he does have a shot. He'll do well with the old Salem, lifer, don't want to vote for a woman crowd, too. Then again, maybe I pay too much attention to the Patch/Snews/Salemweb fellowship of the miserable. I was convinced that councilors Pinto and Ronan would win in a landslide as well. In hindsight I'd probably take Pinto back. Carr is bo-ring. Council on a whole has been pretty boring.

Nobody ran against Sosnowski last go around in Ward 2, but I hear it's not his intention to file papers for both the mayor's seat and the ward 2 spot. It's wise, don't be a Sawicki. Any chance that Ward 2 has nobody file to run? Big Metal Box is gone. (What did that cost us?) I guess we could see a retread. Claudia Chuber is in Ward 2 now (not sure what the museum would think of her running for office with her new role with them), as is frequent candidate Mike Blatty, who hates seeing people run unopposed. It would be ironic if he got elected that way.

Should be an interesting mayoral race in 2013, probably offering residents a stark choice of two pretty different visions for the future of the city.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

And So It Begins ...

I'm still trying to digest what went on at tonight's school committee meeting. Earlier today, I was reading this blog from Education Week. The big takeaway to me was that successful schools need courageous leadership in tackling fundamental issues. Tonight's school committee meeting makes me really question whether or not we have that leadership in place. I've said to more than one person that I wondered how long it would be before our shortsighted leadership would attempt to tear down the schools that show any level of success. That attack began a while ago with the school assignment policy, where our better schools (I wouldn't call any of them "good") were attacked for their student bodies. The goal was to bring down Witchcraft Heights and Saltonstall, rather than to try to duplicate their success. That attack continued in earnest tonight.

I'll admit that I was only half paying attention when the subject of approving the Salem Schools and separately the Saltonstall School calendar came up on the agenda. Below is how the two action items were worded.

c.      Deliberation on the approval of the Salem Public Schools calendar for the 2012-13 School Year

d.      Deliberation on the approval of the Saltonstall School calendar for the 2012-13 School Year

They sound routine, and have appeared annually for several years. However, the full frontal attack on Saltonstall has begun. Somehow that proposal was amended to make the Saltonstall school follow the calendar of the rest of the schools. Janet Crane stated unequivocally that she would not vote to approve a different calendar for Saltonstall, because it's not fair. I'm not particularly interested in whether or not it's fair. My question is, does it work? It at least appears to. Wouldn't it make more sense to emulate the things that work? That takes more creative thinking and strong leadership. (See first paragraph.)

Crane cited ongoing negotiations with the teachers' union as a good reason to scrap Saltonstall's schedule at this point. Go back to the blog post referenced above. Ongoing negotiations would be a great time for our leadership to be bold, and demand that the teacher layoff system be based on evaluations rather than seniority, and that increased pay for increased days and hours be based on increased performance. But that would take bold leadership. We seem to want to go for the timid approach. It's worked so well up to now.

The school committee claims to want parental involvement, the action that almost took place tonight, because, according to Crane, it was privately discussed during a budget retreat at some point in the past, would make that claim of wanting parental involvement seem at least bipolar. I'm not sure how Dr. Crane can think it's appropriate to move on such a huge change like this without allowing parents any chance to provide feedback, but it appeared that she believed that was entirely appropriate. She took great offense to the mayor's assertion that this was coming from left field. Read the agenda items again. Does that sound like the possibility of scrapping the Saltonstall model was on the agenda? One could almost argue that the open meeting law had been violated if such action had taken place. What are we, Wenham? Do you think the crowd would have been bigger if the agenda item was "Move Saltonstall schedule to match the rest of the system?" I'm thinking yes.

I wasn't the only one who thought so. The following were all posted on Twitter during the meeting.

Listen. I don't have a Saltonstall kid. I have no dog in the fight, and I don't claim to know what's best. But there's a right way to have the conversation, and it involves actually having the conversation, instead of trying to sneak it in, and that is what almost happened, whether it offends Dr. Crane or not. The issue was finally tabled, but it's sure to be back.

Killing the Saltonstall model is the type of move that may or may not push the Salem Education Foundation too far. Janine Matho, the president of SEF, certainly seems to have the qualifications necessary to lead a Salem Education Foundation charter school, no? Maybe it's time for SEF to really step up big time and show the rest of us how it's done. I'd enroll my future kindergartener with them. I can't imagine that doing away with the extended day/extended year model will sit well with SEF.

We thought that the drama was over at that point, but then Dr. Walsh proposed a resolution filled with vitriol towards the MCAS system. I wish I had the exact words, and may update later this week for it. It rang of excuse making, and blame gaming. Dr. Lavoie called him out for the tone of it, at which point he admitted that it was filled with anger. He may have had a point, but when your district is the one who is failing the standardized testing, you can't be the one arguing that it's a bad assessment tool. It seems like Dr. Walsh is a broken record at this point. It's always, "we can't, we can't, we can't." Tonight he compared the Salem schools to a greyhound on the dog track. He said something to the effect of "we're always chasing the rabbit but we're never going to catch it." Is that really the attitude you want in your school leadership?

This was a rough night for the mayor. I'm used to this mayor. Tonight, the mayor seemed to waver between flustered and shell-shocked. Seriously, check out the look after she adjourned the meeting. The issue of Saltonstall is a tough one for her, as head of the school committee, mayor, and Saltonstall parent, she's pretty much damned any way she goes here. I think she knows it, too. She clearly wasn't expecting it to come up as an issue the way that it did.

On the frivolous side, the subject of school uniforms was brought up during the Assistant Superintendent's report. He reported glowingly that the majority of Salem parents supported uniforms in every school. In reality, I think it sounded like the majority didn't do any such thing in any of the schools. Setting aside the utterly biased survey, that has already been thoroughly dissected by Rick Johnson here,  let's look at Bates. It was reported that 55% of Bates parents supported uniforms. I believe the number listed was about 115. Of course, that assumes that those who didn't respond would break the same way. I think Bates has over 300 students. That means that a third of parents responded to the school's biased push for uniforms with a yes. Two thirds said no, or didn't care enough to say anything. Of course the plan is to move ahead forming a uniform committee in each school. By my math, with incomplete info (hasn't been published), one school got up to about 48% of parents to respond with a yes, to a very biased survey. Good thing we're focusing on such important, enforceable (LOL!) stuff. The rest of the school committee should actually listen to Dr. Walsh on this one, as he made clear that a uniform policy was no panacea.

In other news that we can hopefully put into the proper perspective now (you're excused, councilor Furey), new rules and voting members were adopted for the Salem High School Sports Hall of Fame near the beginning of the meeting. And that's enough about that.

Jim Fleming was absent from the meeting. Again.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Bad Lawyering?

From today's Salem News.

Lawyers Rebecca Whitehill and Joseph Collins argued that Nolan had no justification for a search.
Collins said Gray-Santana does maintenance for the building where both men live and that they were simply heading to Home Depot to buy paint for Cruz's apartment.

Here's the article.

So let me get this straight. Two criminals, who live on Palmer Street, were driving to Home Depot for paint (without a valid license), and they were on Cabot Street in Beverly? That's about as plausible as the story that he was delivering pizza in his pizza-less, dog-filled car.

When I inevitably get arrested, and let's face it, it's only a matter of time, I won't be calling those two.

Here it is in pictures.

The lightbulb represents where the alleged perps live. The red circles are the two closest Home Depots. The ? is Cabot Street, where the arrest occurred. I go to Home Depot a lot. Never by Cabot Street.

See what I mean? Maybe they should have stuck with the pizza delivery story. At least then they'd only be caught in one lie.