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.