Sunday, November 3, 2013

The 2013 City Election

I'm warning you up front. The filter is off. (Yes, there is usually a filter, believe it or not.) I've gotten to know a lot of the people I'm about to write about, and several of them aren't going to like what I have to say. #SorryImNotSorry. A handful of them snarl when I walk into a room already. Oh well. That's never going to change. So let's look at the 2013 election. We'll go race by race, from easiest for me to decide who I'd vote for, to hardest.

For mayor, the obvious choice is Kim. Sorry, Cedric Ashley, Jr. We hardly knew ye. When I say hardly, I mean not at all. There has been no campaign. Nothing. Ken Sawicki would have put up more of a fight. Salem is a 9 figure enterprise. (And yep, that budget number is growing too fast under the current administration.) I'm told that Ashley was working as a gas station attendant, but that he appears to have lost that job. No person in their right mind wants to turn over a nine figure enterprise to him. Don't want to vote for Kim? Blank your ballot. I truly get that. Voting for Ashley shows a lack of common sense. Other than relatives, friends, and a few really messed up individuals, nobody voting for Cedric actually wants him to win. I'll check off Kim's name on the ballot, and continue to give her a hard time when appropriate. (Can't we find a way to fire her from the school committee and have a chair that has the time to focus on it?) After I wrote this paragraph originally, some of the Salem News comment section nattering nabobs of negative have suggested writing in former city assessor Frank Kulik for mayor. I like it. Go for it. I'd enjoy seeing a Kulik administration. From the sound of it, magic would happen. Raises for unions would magically turn into annual decreases. The budged would be slashed by millions. Genies would be put back in bottles. Taxpayers would get rebates. In the immortal words of Bart Scott:

City Councilors from Wards 3, 5, and 7. They are all unopposed on the ballot. In Ward 7, Joe O'Keefe appears to be in that seat until he dies or decides to quit. Nobody runs against him. The only problem with that is that he seems a little more confused about what is going on every year. It's time for him to ask someone else to take the president's gavel when a stand-in is necessary. I'll lump ward 3 and 5 together. Tom Furey can't seem to keep straight which is which. He constantly confuses their names. That's pretty funny, because I'm pretty sure they share a mutual disdain for each other. They balance each other well. Turiel will generally look for reasons to support administration proposals. Siegel will go out of his way to find rationalizations not to. I like the balance.

On to Ward 2 city council. It's sad that this is a bigger no-brainer for me than school committee, but it is. The easy choice here is Heather Famico. When you've been a councilor for ten years, like Mike Sosnowski, and still can't see the difference between a legitimate concern and a black helicopter nutjob conspiracy theory, like Mike Sosnowski, it's time for all of us to move on.  Mike seems to be buying whole hog the ridiculous UN Agenda 21 ICLEI conspiracy claims of the "local" John Birch Society regional field director. What's strange about that, besides the outlandish claims (energy efficiency is bad, mm'kay? There is no climate change!) themselves, is that the "local" person he's buying the snake oil from is actually from West Roxbury. That would usually be enough to disqualify him with Mike, who as we all know, lives and bleeds Salem. (I have no idea what that even means. It's right up there with the meaningless "he votes his conscience" that everyone says about everyone they agree with. Who doesn't vote his conscience? I guess lives and bleeds Salem basically means you're meaningless if you weren't born here.) So this outsider, who works for the same people who believed that Dwight Eisenhower was a commie, and fluoridated water was a communist plot, brings crazy conspiracy theories to Mike, and he eats them up and holds public meetings about the impending dangers of "smart growth" where theoretical UN paratroopers will drop insanely dense tenaments on land they don't own. (Some of his buds, including an attorney on River St., are spreading ridiculous claims that this is his opponent's goal.) Check out Rachel Maddow responding to the JBS complaining about her pointing out some of their insanity.

Moving on from what appears to be Mike's poor judgment, he is also the vice president of a social club that has had its liquor license suspended for two days (1 in abeyance) and has been before the licensing board three times in the last few months, while claiming ignorance of the liquor laws in Salem. If the LB was the NCAA, the penalties imposed would have been for "a lack of institutional control." Councilor Sosnowski, vice president of the club, CHAIRS the city council committee on ordinances, licenses, and legal affairs. Ignorance of the law? Holy Jesus! Isn't that an indictment of his ability to lead? When approached by neighbors with complaints about the activities (noise, fights, after-hours, etc.) at the club, Captain Quality of Life's response to his constituents? "Sorry, we have to raise money for the club." To be fair, the club is in litigation with its former manager, and had problems with the IRS the last I knew. I'm sure they do need to raise funds.

So a social club violating their liquor and entertainment license in the middle of a residential neighborhood is OK. Loud music, fights, screaming, all necessary to save the club. On the other hand, an inanimate metal box that controls street lights, that's bad, mmm'kay? Sosnowski recently told the Salem News that getting a box that was part of the Bridge Street reconstruction moved (a foot or two) and reduced in size was one of his greatest accomplishments. Pay no attention to the fact that it wasn't even during the current two-year term. Let's look at the two boxes.

Big Metal Box, the first
BMB Jr. Note all the extra concrete cuts

Mike Sosnowski said he likes to concentrate on the little things. This definitely qualifies. Unfortunately, he's missing the big things. Check out the building that big, and then little MB sits in front of. Can you even see the box? It's the best looking thing about the building, which appears neglected, if not abandoned. I guess he's right when he says he's focused on the little things.

BMB dwarfs the building... or something

Unfortunately, Sosnowski didn't focus on them enough. The Bridge Street reconstruction had a massive impact on his ward. He had the plans ahead of time. Heck, I had the plans ahead of time. When he complained about BMB, it was made clear by the state that they weren't footing the bill for any changes to the approved plans. Yet the change was made. At what cost? I've never been able to get an answer to that. But hey, I've only lived in Salem for 8 years. Why should anyone care what have to say anyway. I'm sure Mike doesn't. I've only lived in three different states and experienced 5 different forms of local government. Clearly people who have lived elsewhere bring nothing to the table.

One final thought about Sosnowski, and I know this has been really, really harsh already. Mike has this tendency to say things like, "there's a lot of things going on behind the scenes, and I can't wait for the truth to come out." Dude, you have a microphone and a TV camera on you every other week. Use it. You don't, and you sound like a nutter. That said, thank you for your service to our country. 

But let's talk about Heather Famico. I met her for the first time a few months back. I have to say, I was very impressed. She carries herself with a confidence and thoughtfulness that you wouldn't expect of someone her age. She strikes me as the type of person who is a listener. She listens and really thinks before speaking. She's always struck me as extremely intelligent, as well. She has a masters degree, and is an ELL teacher in Malden (a city with similar demographics to us, and much better results. Yes, Drs. Crane and Walsh, that IS possible). Unlike her opponent, Heather doesn't have a foot constantly in danger of entering her mouth. She would like to improve pedestrian and bike access in Salem (bike access is near and dear to me). She's also open to opportunities for community gardens in the ward. When approached about community gardens, Sosnowski didn't want the element that would attract. No idea what that even means. Vegans? Vegetarians? People who want to grow their own food?

Heather has roots in that old Salem that Mike is so desperately trying to cling to. The difference is that she's much more cognizant of the fact that there's a lot more to Salem than people who wish for Almy's to come back, and she values other people's opinions as well. She's willing to work toward the future, while Mike tries to cling to the past. If I lived in Ward 2 I'd gladly vote for her.

On to the school committee. I've written a lot about our under-performing schools over the last few years. Go here to read the blog posts. The schools take up plenty of space on my Facebook feed here. Feel free to review them. I'm not rehashing all of it. The simple summary is this. Our schools are in dire need of fresh direction. They were neglected by an inattentive school committee, adminstration, superintendent and mayor for years. Read the DESE report on our schools. They go to great depths to describe the lack of oversight, administration, cohesive message, or leadership in the system. They do a thorough job of explaining that while maybe we don't have the best demographics, when they declare us a level 4 district, they do so because we're not doing as well as other with similar demographics. We have four school committee candidates (the challengers and Lavoie) who acknowledge these problems, and two incumbents (Walsh and Crane) who have spent months making excuses or stating that there isn't a problem, by saying things like "what we have is a demographics problem," (see earlier note about Malden) or "really, it's just a perception problem," or "if your child is doing OK you should vote for me," or "there's a lot of negative 'hysteria'." When they aren't telling us there is nothing wrong, they scapegoat the state. The DESE doesn't know what it's talking about. The MCAS is a terrible measurement tool. Simply put, it's everything but the school committee. It makes me wonder if the good Drs. believe themselves to be Jedis. They are hoping that we don't see the actual results of their tenure, but will buy platitudes. Walsh, who asked for school committee members to receive a 140% raise shortly before we were declared a level 4 district, asks the parents who attend meetings to ask themselves how their children are doing (though he's not always happy with the result of the question.) Meanwhile, his entire campaign is spent talking about everything he's done for the less fortunate students of Salem. (The ones who can attend campaign forums and the like in smaller numbers.) Here's the thing. Of course he wants you to look at your kid and decide everything is OK. The largest gaps between Salem students and like communities are in exactly the groups that Dr. Walsh has focused on for his entire career. If you study him based on the things he claims credit for, he has failed, as have his programs. Don't be weak minded and fall for Jedi mind tricks. On the other hand, these two definitely aren't the droids you're looking for.

Looking ahead, based on our most recent MCAS results, Bentley is closer to being declared a level 5 school than it is to being moved to level 3. Lots of time, money, and effort has been pumped into Bentley, and there has been no discernible movement in results. Maybe a blip here and there, but overall nothing. We're literally a year from potential receivership. At the time that Bentley was declared a level 4 school, "we" decided to follow the accelerated turnaround model. That model was the path of least resistance, and least pain for staff and administration. If the state does intervene further, there will be a lot more pain. When do we decide that more drastic action is needed?

Dr. Walsh said a few months back, that if something isn't worth what you're paying for it, stop paying. On this, he and I agree. We need to stop paying school committee members who haven't delivered results. We need a fresh perspective. Rachel Hunt runs (currently) a successful charter school in Salem, where low income students are vastly outperforming their local peers. Walsh and Crane view charters as the enemy. Let's see what we can learn from them.

Pat Schultz is a business owner who is a former teacher both in and out of Salem. He is also a former Assistant Principal, and the director of school services for Mass Insight. He also chaired our district turnaround committee. He has also served on the board of the Salem Education Foundation.  In short, he's qualified, and won't have any problem calling BS on the diatribes of others.

Rick Johnson is a Salem parent who has experienced the Bentley School and Saltonstall School as a parent. He also has experience with special ed in Salem, and is knowledgeable about dealing with autism spectrum disorders. He works for the federal government as a technical writer/editor, and runs a road race that benefits autism.

Lisa Lavoie was appointed to the school committee to fill Kevin Carr's seat shortly after it was announced that Bentley was moved to level 4. She is in the unenviable position of being an "incumbent" at a time and place where that's not beneficial. My guess is that she's screwed, and she doesn't deserve it.

The school committee election really is as simple as this. Let me pull a Walsh on you. Ask yourself this. In your job, if the result of your work for an 8 year period was an utter lack of acceptable results, declining results, in fact, would you continue having a job? Remember, there are viable replacements waiting in the wings. Would your employer reward you for completely failing to meet your goals with a four year contract extension? If so, by all means, vote for the two committee members who sat on the board for 8 years while our district devolved into chaos, as documented by the DESE.

If you don't believe me, go check out the final school committee forum on the SATV website. You'll see specific examples of the excuse making I mentioned above, as well as Dr. Walsh spending basically the entire evening actually yelling at the audience. It was odd, to say the least. It seemed like he was floored that we had the temerity to question his omniscience.

I'll be voting for the three first time candidates. I'm sorry Lisa, I just think that's what most people are going to do, and it's vitally important that we relieve at least one of the other Drs. of their duty. It's not fair, and you don't deserve it. You're a victim of circumstance. I'd like to remove both, but it appears that Dr. Walsh has taught almost every Salem voter, or their kids, at some point. It's possible that all of his support came out in the primary, in which case he's in trouble. (See Steve Pinto in 2011.) If not, removing Dr. Crane makes it very difficult for Walsh to be in the majority on anything controversial. That may just be good enough. It's important to note that it is very important to use all three of your votes in this race. Do not leave a blank. I think that part of Walsh's primary win was that he asked supporters to vote only for him. This time, he's asking supporters to vote for he and Dr. Crane only. See SATV video above. Overcoming bullet voting requires multiple candidates to have high vote totals.

In the Ward 4 city council race, I'll be voting for David Eppley. I know him personally, and I have a lot more in common with him than I do with Sean O'Brien. David hasn't lived here his entire life, he's a homeowner, is closer in age to me, is married, and generally seems pretty thoughtful on issues. I trust his judgement. I appreciate someone O'Brien's age expressing interest in local politics. O'Brien ran for school committee two years ago, when he was still a student at SSU. He lives with his parents and works full time. I've seen a few things from him that have reminded me of his age. Specifically, he hasn't mastered the art of controlling his emotions/expressions in a debate, as evidenced by the faces and gestures he occasionally made while Eppley was speaking during their candidate forum.  Additionally, a member of the neighborhood association that ran the debate confirmed to me that O'Brien was untruthful during the debate regarding statements he made about his communications with the group about his availability/willingness to debate. O'Brien and Famico are fairly close in age, but it doesn't feel like it.

I have mixed feelings about the Ward 1 city council election. I got off to a rocky start with Bob McCarthy. I even dubbed him councilor Willows at one point. The truth is, he's gotten much better at constituent service over the last few years, or has at least taken more credit for the work he was doing behind the scenes. While I still lived in Ward 1, there was a major construction project on my street that involved massive construction over a long period of time. It was a giant pain in the butt. Bob did a very good job of being as communicative and responsive as you could expect. He has also worked with John Keenan to try to get the state to allow for the soon to be out of commission transmission cables under Derby Street to be abandoned. That would avoid a massive disturbance for the neighborhood. On the other hand, a return to the council by Steve Pinto would be absolutely fascinating to watch. I'd be very interested to see how he'd be the same or different. I think we'd be pleasantly surprised. I encouraged Steve to run at-large. In the at-large field I would vote for him. If I were voting in Ward 1, I'd vote for Bob. Simply put, I don't see that Bob hasn't earned a return to the seat. For whatever reason, Steve is really polarizing. OK, I might have played a part in that. The truth is, I'm not sure why people see him as either Satan incarnate or a God who must be protected and worshiped at all costs. 300 votes didn't help that. I begged him to bow out that night, after about the first 40 votes. It was fast becoming a no-win for him. Steve is a fiercely loyal guy. Maybe that loyalty just gets returned to him.

I struggled with how to vote in the at-large field. Bill Legault gets my first vote. I doubt I even have to explain it. He's no bullcrap, and he'll always tell you what he thinks. What's not to like about that? My next vote goes to Elaine Milo. I met her shortly before she announced her candidacy. She's generally extremely sweet, but she'll surprise you with a zinger here and there. I think her work in the grants office at SSU may help the council on the finance side, too. My third vote goes to Norene Gachignard. At least in part, she gets my vote for her performance in the at-large candidates forum. She was probably the best public speaker, was comfortable, entertaining, and knowledgeable. I have a question or two with Norene, but we'll see. My final at-large vote will go to Jerry Ryan. I struggled with Ryan or Sargent. I feel like Jerry is a man without a country right now, and I kinda like that. I don't think team pom pom accepts him, and I don't think team Driscoll is Satan trusts him at all. I've heard a few councilors talk about how they make up their minds about something and stick with it. Nothing they can hear will change their mind. That doesn't strike me as a good thing. Jerry has shown that he's willing to change his mind. The fact that he said no to the senior center at first, but was willing to negotiate, ended up with us getting a better deal. That wasn't going to happen with Sargent. Tom Furey believes that it's the job of a councilor to do what the mayor wants. At that point, why have a council at all? That's not the critical thinking I'm looking for. Sawicki is Sawicki.

Ward 6 was my toughest call, by a lot. In his entire time on the city council, Paul Prevey has done very little that has seemed "off the reservation." One item I don't think I'll ever understand is his "interesting" holding up of the appointment of a purchasing agent a few years back. He was also one of the five, along with Pinto, Sosnowski, and Ryan, who voted against saving money by leasing the city hall annex. He voted for a revised lease of the same space this term, as did Sosnowski and Ryan. It was less favorable than the original proposal. Most who have served for any number of years will have one or two of these you can point to. The annex still makes me really mad. You have to be bad at math to pull that. Like Ryan, I think Paul strikes me as the type of person who gets an issue, studies it, and makes a decision. I know and like Beth Gerard. I consider her a friend. I think if I lived in Ward 6 I'd have to vote for her, but it's personal as much as anything. It would be great to have masters degree holding policy analyst on the council. At the same time, I wouldn't be voting against Prevey. The truth is that if not for the fact that I know Beth, I'd probably apply the same logic as I did to McCarthy. The city will be OK whichever way this race goes.

So that's who I'd vote for in each individual race. That said, I don't think I'd want the city council to come out exactly like that. The picks I have here are probably a little more easy on the administration than I'd prefer. If I knew how any specific race was actually going to end up, it may change the picks I'd make in other races. If Furey actually lost that would go a long way to helping some of that, though. If he wins I'd definitely change some of these.

Monday, September 16, 2013

On Primary Eve: A change will do you good!

First, let's get the easy stuff out of the way. When it comes to mayor, Kim Driscoll is the ONLY viable choice on the ballot. Are there things people don't like about her? Sure. She's in love with development, seemingly above all other things. I don't have as much of a problem with it as some of her ardent detractors. That changes when it becomes largely low income housing. Enough of that already.

But let's be honest. The other names on the ballot are possibly-homeless perpetual candidate Ken (stay out of the port-o-john because he'll tip it over) Sawicki, and Cedric (I just admitted to groping a girl in a bar, but it's OK because it was 3 years ago) Ashley Jr. I can't tell you anything about Ashley. If he's campaigning, I can't find any proof of it. No idea where he stands on anything. Regarding Sawicki, someone who has been a candidate for so many things in the last few years should have a better grasp of the issues than he is capable of displaying. Just no.

For the anti-Driscoll crowd, this primary may be your best chance. Turnout will likely be miserable, and the mayor has put very little effort into campaigning thus far. Organize alphabetically or something. Here's the thing. Even the most ardent Driscoll opponents shouldn't want to deal with the mess that would result from Mayor Sawicki.

Moving on to Ward 6, this is an easy one, too. You have incumbent Paul Prevey, first-time candidate Beth Gerard, and the aforementioned Sawicki. Prevey and Gerard should move on to the general. That may be one of the most interesting races going forward.

Perpetual candidate Sawicki

The Ward 4 primary is one I actually get to vote in for the first time. I'm voting for David Eppley. I know David, and trust that he'll make wise decisions. I also know how hard he's worked on this campaign. He's been to my door at least 3 times. If he weren't in the race, I'd vote for Gina Flynn, and I hope that's how the final race works out. I met Flynn on the day of the Senate election to replace John Kerry. She, like Eppley, was at the polls. She's also been to my door. She and Eppley have somewhat active Facebook pages. Sean O'Brien? First, I thought he wanted to be on the school committee? Second, I didn't see him at the polls, or at my door. Third, Facebook? His last campaign post was in early May, and was about eating a burger. I'm not sure he even wants the job. Finally, have you seen Eppley in lederhosen?

Whatever it takes for charity, right David? (stolen from John Andrews/Social Palates)

The vitally important race on the ballot this Tuesday is the school committee primary. We have a failing school system. People get pissed when you say that, but it's true. We are among the worst school systems in the state, sayeth the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). We have two school committee members who have "served" for eight years each running for re-election. On what grounds? Should we really consider rewarding such epic failures? The members (Walsh and Crane) in question seem to have excuses (usually based around poor kids and evil tests) for everything. Pay no attention to the fact that we still fail when comparing our district to many others with similar socioeconomic demographics. Many districts do much more with equally and even more challenging populations.

Dr. Crane's recent evaluation of Superintendent Russell reads like the case to not re-elect any incumbent school committee members. Insane. In it, she wrote:

"Dr. Russell, unbeknownst to him, when he took the job, inherited a system that need (sic) a substantial instructional overhaul (as indicated in the Level 3 Report and State's Level 4 ranking, which came when Dr. Russell was just 3 months into the job.) Both these reports indicated system problems that would take several years to effectively rectify. ...He has supported and actively participated in introducing more challenging curriculum for our best students, while working to provide equal educational opportunities for all our students, as required the Federal Law. (huh?) This is the kind of instructional leadership that this district has needed."
"When Dr. Russell became Superintendent in August 2011, no one (but perhaps especially him) realized the degree to which the Salem School System needed a deep and thorough overhaul. This is the kind of special circumstance that School Committees must allow for in their evaluation. The Level 4 designation by the state at the end of October that year indicated how much our system needed to change ... I give him high marks for what he (and we) have begun; but this is an ongoing process that will be both data-driven and will benefit from new leadership and new programs ..."

Janet Crane has been on the school committee for eight years. Does it sound like she's done a good job? On her (and Walsh's) watch, we had a system that needed a substantial instructional overhaul. A system full of systemic problems. A system that will benefit from new leadership... but reelect them? Seriously? Why?

There are a few major problems with Crane. The first is that she rarely makes sense when she speaks. Here's the beginning of one of her answers at the recent school committee forum. Watch it.

I at least see what she's saying for the first half. I get the argument, at least. The second half? Public education is under attack by federal and state mandates on large corporations? WHAT? I mean, it just doesn't make any sense. Way too frequently, when Crane speaks, I think:

My second big problem with Crane (excepting lack of results) is that I don't believe she knows how to make her own decisions. I've never seen her disagree with Walsh on anything, and I've even seen her wait to see how he's voting to know how to vote. Watch the clip below. At a recent meeting, Mr. Fleming made a motion to table an item on the agenda. This was an unexpected move, so Crane hadn't gotten her orders yet. Watch, as she's about to raise her hand to vote in favor of the motion, (Walsh and Crane frequently vote with Fleming) but stops when she looks down the table to see what boss Walsh is doing. She then changes her mind and votes Walsh's way. Is that really the mindlessness we want on the school committee? (You'll have to excuse me, my disdain got the better of me at the end of the video and I may have said a bad word.)

Dr. Walsh, over the last few years, has asked variations of the below question several times. Go ahead, check it out.

Walsh started slinging blame, excuses, and denial like the video above within weeks of our level 4 status being announced. I love his use of quotes around crisis in this article. If our schools aren't in crisis, what is?

Here's the thing. Walsh keeps asking this question over and over, how is your kid doing, how is the school serving you? The problem is that the answer is VERY frequently negative, and he's just not listening. If he were, he'd stop asking. After he pulled it the second time during the candidates forum, Rick Johnson, a candidate, and very involved parent, addressed it. Johnson's message was that while his child was at Bentley it was an utterly chaotic environment, and that he and his wife had reached out for help to the school, and even as high as the members of the school committee, and received no help at all. Johnson's comments got the longest, loudest, and most sustained applause at the forum.

Walsh says, "If your answer to these questions is uniformly "yes," you have absolutely nothing to fear about your child attending any Salem public school." I'm sorry, but the state, and the dozens of parents I've spoken with, disagree vehemently. Walsh is clearly out of touch. Level 4 status means the state is saying that our district is in a dire situation where intervention is needed. Why should we believe Dr. Walsh above the state, especially when so many parents concur with the state's assessment?

Worse than being out of touch, he seems resigned to failure. DESE cited a culture in our district where some educators believe that certain students or types of students can't and won't learn and achieve academic success. Walsh appears to agree with them. I'll leave you with this. Last year, he proposed a scathing condemnation of the use of standardized testing. Lisa Lavoie correctly pointed out that a board in a district that is failing the test shouldn't be the one passing the test. Walsh comparing us to greyhounds on the track is exactly the kind of culture that DESE cited.

Do you really want a school committee member that believes that we'll never reach our goals? I don't.

Tomorrow, I'm voting for Katie Casiglia, who is endlessly positive, Rick Johnson, who will call shenanigans shenanigans, and Rachel Hunt, who runs a level one school in Salem, with demographics not much different than the rest of the district. For once, I wish I had more votes to give. I could make strong cases for Pat Schultz and Lisa Lavoie as well. I'd think harder about this, but I'm confident that Schultz will make it through the primary. I've come around on Lavoie. I wish she'd be a little more outspoken about her beliefs around the excuse making we've just talked about, but having discussed them with her, she's in the right place. We have a wealth of choices available to us this time. Use them!

Are there enough uninformed people to buy the excuses as valid explanations? Let's hope not. Get out and vote on Tuesday.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics (An Open Letter to the Salem School Committee)

Dear Salem School Committee:

Fact #1: According to Dr. Brendan Walsh, the Salem School Committee is responsible for everything that happens in the Salem schools. Be forewarned. I will regularly refer back to this fact.

Whatever programming occurs within the purview of the Salem Public Schools does so only with the approval, overt or tacit, of the School Committee. The mayor is one of seven members of the committee. The superintendent is an employee of the committee. Cooperative efforts and/or innovations may stem from many sources, but the School Committee must approve of all. - Dr. Walsh

For Dr. Walsh's sake, ignore that the letter that he made that statement in was an utterly gauche chastisement of a lauded educator who is actually getting her hands dirty while improving the prospects of Salem students. Also, please ignore the fact that it's completely self-aggrandizing (not to mention rude) to publicly (apparently he'd already done so privately) seek kudos from someone who hasn't voluntarily provided them.

Unless Nate Bryant has a change of heart, when the Salem School Committee meets on July 15 you are poised to do away with the extended year model at the Saltonstall School. This lends credence to the idea that you do not need to have the best argument if you are willing to fight the longest. A few committee members have been trying to do away with the extended year model for years. It appears they've finally worn down enough of you to get their way. Meanwhile Saltonstall is one of the schools that has actually reached the level of mediocre. Systemic mediocrity and worse is something that happened on the school committee's watch. You are, according to one of your own, to blame. See fact #1. Clearly, at a time when our district is in utterly bad shape, the thing to do is to focus on making modifications at one of the schools that is in the best shape, right? Messing with the Saltonstall model, while failing to put enough focus on more troubled schools, is akin to hitting a rock with your boat, and while it is sinking under you, you're fidgeting with your FM radio because there's static on the Sox game.

The DESE criticized the district for failing to prioritize. This is yet another example.

Let me state that I currently have no children in the Salem Public Schools. Additionally, it's very unlikely that I'll ever have a child at the Saltonstall School. Based on the current assignment policy, I live too far away to get my children in there as a parent who will have to pay for lunch. I have nothing to lose personally if Saltonstall loses the extended year program. As currently constituted, nobody in the city has anything to gain from that program being eliminated, either. There is absolutely no plan for what (if anything) to do with the anticipated savings (hopefully $150k) if the extended year is eliminated. Note that no savings will be realized unless the Salem Teachers Union agrees to it at the negotiating table. The Bentley School has an extended day currently, with teachers working different shifts because the union couldn't come to an agreement on compensation for the extended day. Why will they agree to give up a contractual benefit at Saltonstall now? My guess? Dr. Crane has been vocal about wanting the school committee to get another raise, so I'd guess that some savings may be gobbled there. Level 4 status warrants greater pay, no? (See fact #1.)

At the last School Committee meeting, the fact that there is still no plan for extended learning in other schools was of great concern to Mr. Fleming. He stated that he had heard the same last year, and it wasn't good enough that he was hearing the same now. I agree. Well, Mr. Fleming, let me ask you. Where is your plan? You are on the school committee, sir. Spend less time in FL, and lead. See fact #1. The plan is your responsibility. Demand accountability, or develop it yourself. The fact that there still isn't one, a year later, is your failing. Last year, you agreed to offer extended summer learning at all schools. Where is it? Fact #1! The pilot program being contemplated for this summer will serve 160 students. By my count, there are more than 160 elementary students in Salem. Where is their summer learning? It should also be noted that the proposed program for 160 students is actually more expensive than the existing Saltonstall model that educates 360. I'm not a math whiz, but I'm good with numbers, and eliminating a program that educates 360 for 100-150k doesn't make financial sense, especially when you're adding one that will educate 160 students for 200k. This is especially true when the funding is present to do both, and have 520 students in summer learning. More equity!

Going back to Dr. Walsh, here is Brendan Walsh, a year ago, in the Salem News:
And to do for some what you cannot do for all is, simply put, wrong.
So, Dr. Walsh, I must be confused. Maybe it's above my head because I don't have an Ed. Doc. It's a core belief of yours that doing for some, what you cannot do for all, is wrong. You put it in writing, and I've heard you say it out loud more than once at committee meetings. So why, when given the choice of having 520 kids in a summer learning program, would you choose instead to cancel that summer learning for 360 kids, but approve a more expensive program that will serve only 160? How do you come to the conclusion that there is more equity in 160 students in summer learning, than 520? How does having only 160 students in a summer program reach your goal of doing for all more than having 520 kids in a summer program? As Mr. Fleming would phrase the question, "Where is the equity, sir?" (Mr. Fleming seems to believe that if you make a snide remark, all is forgiven by adding a "sir" to the end. Last year he instructed one parent to "Open your ears, sir" when said parent stated that postponing ending the Saltonstall calendar for a year wasn't really a compromise.) Was your equity argument just a straw man? Was it a lie?

Back to Dr. Walsh ... Last year, you clearly stated that for you, the issue of the extended year was one of equity. You said it multiple times. It's referenced in print, above, in case you forgot. Of course, that was unsuccessful, so this year, you claim that, no, not really. It's really about results.

Walsh states:

If one wishes to use the “summer loss” argument for employing an extended year due to evidence indicating that low-income kids lose ground in the summer, I would generally agree, as will be noted later. But, as I have pointed out during every discussion of this subject, Saltonstall, as our least-needy school, is precisely the wrong school in which to make that argument.

Walsh makes a valid and fair point. Saltonstall is our least needy school ... right? Dr. Walsh wouldn't lie about that, would he? Well, a review of MCAS data would suggest that his statement, repeated frequently, that Saltonstall is our least needy school, is in fact, a lie. Unless it's a damn lie. It's definitely not a valid statistic. Looking at both the 2012 and 2011 MCAS data, the percentage of low income students at Saltonstall is 5 points higher than the percentage of low income students at Witchcraft Heights, which Dr. Walsh is obsessed with comparing to Saltonstall. If you look at the High Needs groups (deduplicated count of students who fit into the low income, disability, or ELL or formerly ELL groups) Saltonstall's percentages are higher than Witchcraft's in that group as well. In fact, half of the Saltonstall student body (and well more the year prior) is classified as High Needs. Thank goodness they're not needy, right Dr. Walsh? In life, I've found that if someone has the strongest argument, they don't feel the need to exaggerate, or fudge the facts. So what gives?

Let's take the comparison, since certain committee members seem intent on it, even though the DESE has specifically warned the district not to compare the Saltonstall School to others in the district, a little further. If I told you that you had two schools, A+B. In school A, the principal has been in place since 2007. The school hasn't been moved, and is in a nice facility that was renovated 10 years ago. It has a nice, bright cafeteria, with adequate gym facilities, and the school configuration hasn't changed. The school is nestled in a nice suburban neighborhood of single family homes with garages and yards, on a hill. Additionally, school A has fewer poor kids (by 5 points), and fewer High Needs kids in general, than school B. On the other hand, school B has had three different principals in the time that school A has had one universally praised principal. School B has had 3 grades added to it in the last 5 years. School B was in one facility that was in disrepair (check out the pictures), and has spent the last two years in another inadequate facility. The current one is so inadequate that three "school B" classes are actually being held at School C. School assemblies can't be done with the whole school, and the ones that do happen take place in the hallway. Lunch is served in the basement. IEP meetings are held in a storage room. School B, when it's in its correct location, is located a block from a drunk and druggy park, abutting a neighborhood filled with crime and rental units. Currently, several classrooms are isolated from the school administration by over a mile. School B has has a higher percentage of low income and high needs kids than school A.

Have the picture of those two schools? Great. Now let me tell you that they have nearly identical test scores. Hearing all of those facts, is it really School B that you'd say is underperforming? Even if I tell you that they have 5.5% more school days, to go with their 5% more low income kids? Did I cherry pick making this comparison? Sure. Aren't you, as school committee members, also cherry picking when you compare these two schools and neglect to consider any of these factors, and only consider the calendar difference, while telling us that School B is the least needy (incorrectly)? The problem with statistics is that people often pick and choose which ones they want to talk about. The stability factors in the two schools you're comparing are absolutely valid, and are also very slanted in favor of School A.

Let's go back to Dr. Walsh's assertion that the Saltonstall School is our "least needy," since debunked. It's true that it is #2 on the least needy scale. So, how did it get there? Simply put, the school department thoroughly ignored the student assignment policy that was in place, which required the schools to be racially biased. Who is responsible for this failure? You guessed it. See fact #1! In fact, the school department, according to Dr. Crane, operated under that policy for years and years, while it was completely illegal to use racial balance as a factor. Who is responsible for such malfeasance? See fact #1!

Last year, after years of illegality, the school committee finally passed a new student assignment policy, that uses "socioeconomic status" to balance the schools. Supposedly, each incoming kindergarten class will have a low income ratio that is within 10% of the district as a whole. Bravo! Down the road, we won't have to slam any schools as being least needy. Right? Not so fast. The kindergarten class at Bentley last year, after the implementation of this policy, was 81% free/reduced lunch, in clear violation of the policy. Who is responsible for allowing this? See fact #1. The school committee was notified of this in a memo dated November 5. Not a word has been spoken of this. Clearly the new policy is not being applied effectively. How are you addressing it? See fact #1. (It should also be noted that according to that memo, Saltonstall is yet again not the least needy school. They got 50% FRL kids, as did the Bates School. Witchcraft Heights got the least needy population again, at 47%. Remind me, if it has  to be within 10% of the average, how did Bentley get 81% FRL kids?

If the answer to that question is siblings, fix it. Do something really unpopuplar, but probably right. If you want guaranteed sibling placement, you need to go to one of the two closest schools to your home, or something like that. If the answer is that the policy just wasn't followed, see fact #1. you've had 8 months to address it.

Now back to Mr. Fleming. This is him during the last school committee meeting.

Mr. Fleming said earlier in the last meeting that you could make stats say anything, then did exactly that with the extended learning survey. He misrepresented the results of a survey that was done around extended learning. He said, "The data was very, very, very clear. Significantly, people wanted an extended day. Not a combo or an extended year. ...The clear choice was an extended day." I filed a public records request for the data he was dramatically waiving.

Here's some data from the same set of data he cited.

At the Bentley school, which currently has an extended day model, 16 parents expressed that they were at least somewhat interested in extended learning at all. 16, in a school of 314 or so. Of the 314 or so parents, 13 expressed that they wouldn't want an extended year. 9 would like a model that includes extended year. Wow. Mr. Fleming is right. The data is clear.

Let's look at another school. At the high school, 50% of respondents were at least somewhat interested in an extended learning model. Of the respondents, 66% of the respondents favored a model that included extending the school year. 50% wanted both an extended day and year. "Very, very, very clear?" Clear as mud.

At the Saltonstall school, not surprisingly, 90% of the respondents are at least somewhat interested in extended learning. 84% of them favor a model that extends the year to one that only extends the day. Strangely, Mr. Fleming sees this as a clear.

The Horace Mann School data appears to be messed up, but according to what was provided, 21% of respondents would prefer an extended day only. What a mandate!

Here's one more school. At the Carlton School, whose unique model is probably next on the chopping (homogenization) block, more than half of the respondents prefer a model that extends the year to one that only extends the day. Mr. Fleming, are you sure that you know the meaning of the word clear?

Mr. Fleming mentions that teachers were surveyed as well. He forgets, in his very, very, very clear data, that 56% of the teachers who responded have no interest in any extended learning model at all. How do you get around that with the teachers union?

I'd also point out that in a district of over 4000 students, the response rate was under 20%. That would seem to indicate that there is, in fact, little interest across the district for additional extended learning.

But I'm cherry picking through the data, right? Sure. But the fact that I can means that you are too, when you talk about how very, very, very clear it is. It's amazing how differently you can present data. In fact, where did I learn to cherry pick like this?

I've been dying to get this into a blog post forever. I say this all the time.

Dr. Walsh, Dr. Crane, and Mr. Fleming seem to think that there's an equity issue with the Saltonstall program. Pay no attention to the fact that the per pupil spending at Saltonstall is in the middle of the pack of Salem elementary schools. Is the fact that the Carlton School is an innovation school also an equity issue? Dr. Walsh has said, as quoted above, that you should not do for some, what you cannot do for all. So does that mean that once the Saltonstall calendar has been eliminated, that Innovation Schools, and any quasi-dual language programs are next on the chopping block? After all, you should not do for some what you cannot do for all. Be careful what you wish for. Janet Crane's cookie cutter approach doesn't seem very appealing to most people.

Every decision you make about a specific school should answer the following question. How does what we are doing better this school? Do you have an answer? Of course not. Failing to answer that question, you need to be able to answer the following question. How does what we are doing better the district? To answer that question, you'd need a plan. You don't have one. The only thing we know about this decision is that it is detrimental to the Saltonstall School model. A model, by the way, that was effective in increasing MCAS scores in its early years, and was specifically lauded by the DESE as one that should be duplicated. If it's not as effective as it should be, fix it. There's no plan to better anything else as a result of removing it. In better times, you may have some leeway, you may be able to say, "trust us." But let's be honest, there is a vast crisis of confidence in your leadership. On your watch, you've praised to the moon a superintendent who has since been completely discredited by the DESE. On your watch we've become a level 4 district. On your watch, you've hired a superintendent who has published a piece that makes it crystal clear that he doesn't know the difference between a plural, a possessive, and a plural possessive. It should have enough sics to make you sick. Never mind the fact that it reads like something that should be put out by Destination Salem, rather than a detailed update on the progress in our schools from the superintendent. On your watch, a record number of Saltonstall parents, generally lauded for being an involved group, have applied to the local charter school. On your watch you've demanded in the newspaper that credit be given to you for all in the schools. Are you sure you want that? That letter was published the day before the AG announced that the school department had violated purchasing laws for years. You then demanded to know why you weren't aware. Frankly, we all demand to know that. Why weren't you aware? Forget that! Why weren't you leading the investigation? Why hadn't you cleaned this up years ago? I have Mr. Sheehan's resignation letter that you accepted. He flat out told you. In fact, here it is.

Isn't the public records law grand?

At the time of his resignation, you (especially Dr. Walsh) praised Mr. Sheehan's work. You looked on as Dr. Cameron flat out lied (or is it a damn lie?) about Mr. Sheehan's reasons for retiring. Cameron (who you point out reported to you) said, "The timing is connected to his ability to retire with a certain number of years' services in the teachers' retirement system." That lie was told, in front of you, by Cameron, prior to your glowing evaluation of him. During that evaluation, Mr. Fleming said the following, "Superintendent Cameron's ethics, honesty and integrity are of the highest quality," Are you freaking serious? You're praising his ethics, honesty and integrity six months after he lied right in front of you? Why should we trust anything you say? In fact, Mr. Sheehan made it clear in his memo that he was retiring at great financial penalty to himself. Now, years later, you blame the whistleblower. Why not thank him? See fact #1. Do you really expect us to trust that you'll make the right decisions going forward? Really? I've written two public records requests in my life, both in response to fantastical claims by school committee members. Both have resulted in me uncovering lies told at school committee meetings. You seem to have a truth problem. Why should we believe you? In you?

Does Dr. Walsh (center) really look like he thinks ill of Mr. Sheehan (left)?

Let's assume the Saltonstall calendar goes away. Even the parents seem resigned to that. I hope you feel good that none of them even bothered to stand up at the last school committee meeting. I wouldn't think that having an interested and involved parent group become less so is a good thing, but I'm not an Ed Doc like some of you. The school calendar is greatly modified if Mr. Bryant doesn't realize that all he's doing is taking an action detrimental to a school in the district, with no plan to help any other. Then what? What's the plan? Saltonstall's school year ends basically a full month earlier than it does this year. What instruction and support are you giving the school to adapt their approach? They will have to rework plenty, with very little time to do so. What is your mandate? What does Saltonstall look like next year? How has the program changed? Who will do the work to make it happen? When? It's mid-July. You meet again in late August. you need to be able to answer these questions before you make this move. After all, you are responsible. See fact #1.

P.S. - I just bought another house here. What was I thinking?!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

What Happened Last Night, and What it All Means

In a lightning fast vote, Jerry L. Ryan was elected as City Council President for 2013. As is typical, nominations were opened, Ryan was nominated, then nominations were closed with no further nominations. Ryan was escorted to the podium (all five steps) and delivered his address, in which he called for renewed cooperation in local government.

So what does that mean? Well, a week ago, Bob McCarthy was going to be the next president. The Salem Patch insinuation that Sosnowski was going to be the next president is erroneous. Not that he wasn't interested, he was, but the seat was going to McCarthy. The Pinto supporters were convinced that McCarthy was voting for Pinto on Thursday, and pulled their support from his presidency once that didn't happen. Several councilors don't want the presidency. (Picture Furey or O'Keefe!) The seat tends to rotate between those who do. Ryan, as the most recent president still on the council, would normally not be back so soon. My guess (really just a guess) is that Prevey deferred to Ryan. Ryan's election will result in Prevey replacing McCarthy as the chair of the A&F ($$$) committee. (The president makes the committee assignments.) Look for Sosnowski to remain as the chair of OLLA. Numerous councilors (including some Pinto supporters) didn't want Sosnowski as president while he's considering a run for mayor. I didn't want Sosnowski as president because I've seen how much trouble he has finding his place in the agenda as a regular councilor. Those could be some painful meetings.

The fact that team Corchado allowed the selection to be unanimous and immediate tells me that an agreement has been made about the open seat. Horse trading was in full effect. Ryan's call for renewed cooperation says the same. I asked him in my post the other day, at what cost? I should have asked at what benefit? He's really played this well. He managed to get a presidency, and the extra exposure (not to mention extra $$) that goes with it, when it wasn't nearly his turn, during the year that he's running for an at-large seat, and needs to convince a whole lot of people to vote for him for the first time. He'll get to claim credit for brokering the peace as well. I'd expect a really tame year, as everyone treads water until the election.

Tonight, I predict the following, in order of my level of confidence:

1. Steve Pinto will not be elected to the open seat.
2. It will be done very quickly. Either one or two ballots.
3. If it's two ballots, Pinto gets to announce that he's willing to step aside, to stop the madness. He may get the chance to address council either way.
4. So who wins? My first guess is that Bill Legault is elected. My second guess would be "other." I think Corchado is out of luck. The Pinto side needs it not to be her, to save some face. Robert Wright is a big unknown. If team "Driscoll is Satan" can be convinced that he'll be more sympathetic to that view, he could get the nod. Chris Sicuranza probably killed any chance of his election by yelling at the council and storming out of the room, and Sawicki is Sawicki. I doubt they'll select someone who hadn't previously expressed interest, though there is nothing stopping them from doing so.

You can all grade me on this later. Have fun tonight!

PS- A new lease proposal for the city hall annex, you know, the same annex that started the downfall of councilors Pinto and Ronan, is on the agenda for Thursday night's meeting. Will be interesting to see if we approve it this time, or if we continue paying more to occupy that space than we need to. Like last time, it needs a 2/3 majority to pass.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

An Open Letter to the Salem City Council, and some other people

Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
-maybe Albert Einstein, maybe Ben Franklin, maybe nobody

It was with increasing disgust that we, the citizens of Salem, watched you, and I do mean ALL of you, carry on your ridiculous charade for 7.5 hours and 300 ballots on Thursday night. It was definitely insanity. What a pitiful display of government at "work." Congratulations. It took you all of three days to prove that you couldn't get by without Joan Lovely. Let's be honest. There is no way on earth that she'd have let that embarrassing debacle take place for 7.5 hours. She's gone for three days, and the city council becomes a biggest balls contest (nobody won). Pathetic.

Let me get a few things out of the way right away. I've been as hard (or harder) on councilor Pinto as anyone. It's fair to say unfairly so. That said, I've had several conversations with him since the election, both about the events that led up to that election, and several issues going on in town since, including the school debacle, and the current appointment issue. I'm convinced that he'd act differently if he were appointed now. Nobody can say that he doesn't care deeply for Salem. But you can say that about all of the people who put their names forward. It's not an easy thing to do. The commitment is large, the rewards small. It's a pretty selfless (a small salary, and some large health insurance benefits aside) act. When councilor Pinto runs in November, I might well vote for him, unlike the last time. I think a meaningful opposition is important. But I do believe that it should be the voters who put councilor Pinto back in office, not 6 councilors. That said, many are portraying this as a battle of good vs. evil. That's ridiculous. We have two distinct factions here, at least nearly equally obstinate in your positions. I guess the difference I see is this. One faction is dead set on not allowing one specific person, of 25k registered voters to take the seat. The other faction is insistent that only 1 specific person, of 25k registered voters, be selected.

A contingent of you complains bitterly that the Salem News has it in for you, that they spin things, and misinform. Congratulations. You couldn't have made their jobs easier. You put it on a platter for them this time.

So grow up. All of you. Yes, all. The ABP (Anybody But Pinto) faction is in just as intractable position as the "Only Pinto" group. Find a solution to this mess, and do it quickly. Here's a little advice. Find someone new. Clearly team Pinto isn't getting a sixth vote, ever. Clearly Corchado isn't either. You have four other candidates. I'd submit that Bill Legault is at least as closely aligned politically (maybe more so) to several of you, including members of Team Pinto, as Mr. Pinto. If none of the six who expressed interest work for you, draft someone new. The Charter simply states that you must appoint a replacement. It doesn't prescribe the process you used. It doesn't prescribe that you stick with it, either. Matt Veno comes to mind. What about some of the mouthy Lofters? Marlene Faust? Shirley Walker? They're both involved in Salem doings. How about Ed Wolfe? Chester Suchecki? You can't claim that any of them are shills for her Lordship. Just find someone who can get six votes.

Let's talk about the fallacy that there is widespread support for councilor Pinto. 5,364 people voted in the last city council election. They each had the ability to select as many as four candidates for at-large councilor. Even with four selections available, Mr. Pinto was only named by 35% of the voters. 65% of voters couldn't put Mr. Pinto in their top 4.  He finished sixth, in a field of nine, as an incumbent. The call for change was clear.

Here are some individual notes:

Councilor Turiel: Demanding a compromise, while being unwilling to offer one yourself, is at least a little disingenuous. What you're really demanding is a surrender. Switching from Barcikowski to Corchado, when Barcikowski didn't enter, isn't a compromise. Neither is switching from Corchado to Legault, who you'd prefer anyway. When your position is (exaggeratedly) all but one of 25k voters would be OK, and the other side is only 1 of 25k voters would be OK, maybe calling for surrender is OK. But let's call it what it is.

Councilor Furey: If only you had a computer, and would read this. Blind support for a sitting mayor, we expect nothing else. Wasn't one of councilor Turiel's campaign promises that he'd get you on email?

Councilor O'Keefe: Every time you have to assume the president's chair, which happened a few times during the Lovely campaign, I'm reminded that it's probably time for you to hang up your gavel soon. Fortunately, Chris Sicuranza seems like a worthy Ward 7 replacement. His speech was the best one given the other night.

Councilor Ryan: With every shouted "Steven AAAAA Pinto" you lost a few at-large votes. My wife, who doesn't know you from Adam, walked through the room, and asked "Who is that petulant child?" Twitter noticed too. Also, "Joan did it after three terms" isn't a good reason to jump into the at-large race. I hope you have a better reason than that, though nobody who has discussed it with you can articulate one. Joan also topped the ticket over and over again. Why? She found common ground. Please try it. Be a leader. Councilor Pinto finished second in your ward. Residents there wanted him retained. I understand you supporting him. I can appreciate the loyalty, even when politically, it may be really dumb. That makes the loyalty you're showing more impressive, I guess. Let me ask, at what cost? For how long? Will we still be doing this in May? When does it move from being loyalty to something worse? The man we saw on Thursday will never be a ticket-topper, even if Joan did it first.

Councilor Siegel: When you start your comments by saying that you can vote for whoever you want, per the Charter, you basically admit that you don't have much of an argument FOR the person you've selected. Don't start with excuses! Additionally, saying that 3 of 11 councilors being newly elected shows that there is no benefit to incumbency demonstrates that you may be math-challenged. You do realize that means that 8 of 11, including 3 of the 4 at-large seats were retained by incumbents, yes? I know you don't think all of the incumbents deserved to be retained (your reported mouthing of "You disappoint me!" at one of them during Thursday's meeting, as reported on Twitter by a witness in the chamber)

Councilor Prevey: Councilor Pinto was far from being re-elected in your ward. Teasie almost beat him there. With 4 votes at their disposal, only 31% of ward 6 voters gave councilor Pinto one of their votes. They aren't clamoring for him. Additionally, I was present for the HDSNA meeting where you debated Mickey Northcutt on the CPA. One of the reasons you gave during the meeting for not supporting putting the CPA on the ballot was that voters rejected the CPA 5 years earlier. Your support of councilor Pinto, who voters rejected about a year ago, seems pretty hypocritical.

Councilor Sosnowski: 678 people in your ward voted in the last election. Of those 678, 27% of them gave councilor Pinto one of their four votes. 187 Ward 2 residents asked for councilor Pinto as one of their councilors. He finished seventh of nine in your ward. In comparison, Darek Barcikowski, who you told you wouldn't support, finished second of the nine candidates in the election. How can you claim to be representing your constituents? Additionally, please stop treating the voters like we're stupid. Your caterwauling about how Steve Pinto was the victim of a vast misinformation campaign is simply insulting. Does the snooze really dislike Pinto? Absolutely. Here's the thing. We know that. We judged Steve on several things he did himself. I know you are ALWAYS the smartest guy in the room, but we aren't as dumb as you give us credit for. Steve was judged harshly for his decision on the City Hall Annex lease, which has cost us much more than it would have otherwise. As predicted here, we're still waiting for you to have just one meeting on the concept of an alternative, which you (collectively) promised to do, when you didn't approve the lease. Meanwhile, I expect that we've already received a new RFP response from RCG for the annex. (I'll note, the RFP was written in such a way to be tailor made for the RCG-owned annex to be the successful spot. Go read it. There's some inside politics to complain about.) Have you given up on running for mayor? This isn't helping your cause.

SATV: C'mon man! You drop the meeting and go back to your slide show at 1:30? Do better! There seems to be a pattern here. I get it. No money, and limited staff. Demand that the city support you.

Darek Barcikowski: C'mon man! Corchado may have been a compromise candidate, if your name had been in there, but it's not. Disappointed.

Senator Lovely: Thanks a lot. There hasn't been much fun to blog about recently. While that continues, at least this is something. Please go knock some heads together, quickly.

Spring Pond Woods: I'm sorry, we're going to have to cut you down. We need some more paper after last week. Green city? Not anymore.

OK, back to the group.

You're hurting yourselves, the city, and councilor Pinto's chances in November. There has been very little controversy on the city council in a year. A few boring little things here, but nothing fracturing. It's interesting that when city council fractures again, councilor Pinto's name is involved. What is it about him that is so divisive? I think voters will notice. What inspires the blind loyalty allowing some of you (on both sides) to engage in the politics of personal destruction? I suggested to councilor Pinto fairly early (50 votes in, or so) in the process on Thursday that he could score a lot of points with voters if he announced that it was clear that he wasn't going to get a sixth vote, and as such, he'd withdraw, and take his case to the voters. He'd immediately have been responsible for consensus building, which is what many voters viewed as lacking. True or not (I believe not), the impression now is that no lesson was learned in November 2011.

For a few years now, there has been constant speculation about when mayor Driscoll will leave for bigger and better things. She's not going anywhere in the next few years. She'll be re-elected in November. She may even be here for the full four years after that. God, I hope so. I definitely saw absolutely no mayoral material in that room on Thursday. No matter who you appoint, she doesn't have the votes for several of the things many of you oppose the most. Appoint her, even, and you still won't see a transfer station or wind turbine proposal before council. The reason they haven't appeared yet is that she knows she's not even close to the votes she needs to pass either one.

In closing, I implore you to start acting like the leaders you claim to be. You can start by actually electing a president on Monday. Finish by ending this debacle immediately on Tuesday.