Monday, November 2, 2015

On the Eve of the 2015 City Election ...

I've procrastinated this as much as possible, but many of you have asked who I am or would be voting for in the races on tomorrow's ballot. So here I go. As usual, this is just one person's opinion, though probably a person who has researched and followed these things more than most. I'm opinionated about most of these people, based on public, non-public, and private observations and conversations. If you're voting you should be opinionated, too. Use your own judgment, and your ballot, please.

Ward 2 City Councillor:

This one couldn't be any easier for me to pick. 100% Heather Famico deserves re-election. Councillor Famico has a unique blend of thoughtfulness and a willingness to question both the city and her constituents. The former isn't necessarily uncommon among politicians. The latter is utterly uncommon among the political class. Ward 2 is used to having a Ward Councillor who immediately takes up the cause of whichever favored constituent shrieks the loudest, whether they make sense or not. Famico's response is much more nuanced. "I'll have to research this and its impact on the entire ward before spittle flies out of my mouth like it did from Sosnowski's, but if it makes sense I'll take up the cause with vigor." (That's a massive paraphrase, and not the way she'd ever say it, but it's her process.) Nobody with sensible requests should have a problem with that.

For her opponent to claim she lacks substance (and he has) is simply laughable (except the parts that reek of sexism and ageism). He also can't seem to decide why he's running. The reason keeps changing as the last one loses traction. During his SATV video he said he was running because he went to some meetings about the proposed revamp of the Gateway Center project, and never heard "his ward councillor" speak in opposition. That's certainly odd. She spoke at the 9/17 Planning Board meeting chastising the developer for failing to provide information. She spoke at the August 26 Design Review Board meeting criticizing the design. I was at that one, Jenkins wasn't. At the July 30 Planning Board meeting where the Gateway Center proposal was introduced, Famico criticized the density and design, and referred to the developer as a used car salesman. Jenkins was at that meeting, along with his handler/ghost-writer Mr. Carr. They were both close enough to me to touch. I guess they just weren't listening. Or it's just another one of the deceits that seem to be infecting that campaign as it winds down. Of the Gateway Center, JenkCarr says that you know the project is bad because it requires 6 Zoning Board of Appeals variances. More on that later.

In one of his unattributed flyers (campaign finance law violation?) Jenkins (really Carr) discusses two developments in the Bridge Street Neck area. First he praises a project at Bridge and Planters (and yes, Jotim, it's Planters, not Planter) for adding 6 housing units on a .336 acre lot. Next, he rails on the proposed Ward 2 Social Club project (rightly). Only, the gang that can't shoot straight has more lies here. First, in multiple places they say the lots "appear to be the same size." Um, not close. The Planters St. lot is a third of an acre (rounded by 0.003 acres). The Ward 2 Social Club lot is just under (.957) a full acre. So basically three times the size. In fact, the currently proposed density is nearly identical. He also leaves out the fact that the Planters project was approved under the watch of Councilor Famico, who was involved in the hearings that led to a reduction in units. He also fails to mention her role in getting the Social Club project whittled from the original 28, to 24, to 18, her still current opposition, and it sounds like there's another reduction coming that will end with less density than the Planters project he raves about. A project, by the way, that required 5 Zoning Board of Appeals variances. So 6 is "must be awful." 5 is beautiful. Can't shoot straight.

I know, this is dry stuff, but for a city councillor, the devil is often in the details. It's important to understand them, and just as important to be truthful about them, rather than manipulating them to fit whichever smear piece you're filling with untruths.

Who wins? I don't have the foggiest idea. I'm scared for us. I hear Tim is a decent bloke. Some of the people he's surrounded himself with really aren't. The tactics they're resorting to at the last minute are really turning people off, and he's letting them run the show.

Famico has done the job, and done it well. Ward 2 residents would be nuts to try someone new (who resembles the last guy more every day). Ward Councillors are like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're going to get.

Ward 3 City Councillor:

I'd vote Lise Hansen-Damato in a heartbeat. She'd bring boundless energy, as well as the perspective of a family with young children, which is sorely missing on the council. She's smart, and tough. I can speak from personal experience that she has no problem speaking hard truths. We could really use her voice. Demographically she's way more similar to me than her opponent.

Steve Lovely knows the job, so I can't begin to guess why he wants to go back 30 years to do it again. Admittedly that makes me skeptical. It would seem like a personal step back to me. He's married to our State Senator, so there is power in the house already. I just don't get it.

Who wins? Lovely has every advantage. Basically a lifer. Former councilor, using our current senator as a campaign prop (and he really is). Ask the houses they've knocked on together how that one goes. I wonder if all of those repurposed Joan signs and stickers appear on his campaign finance report as in kind contributions as they should. I asked if anyone wanted to go pull everyone's for me, but I had no takers. They aren't online yet. But yeah, Lovely wins handily. He knows what the job entailed 30 years ago. I imagine it hasn't changed all that much. He'll probably get literally the same chair he had back then, too.

Ward 6 City Councillor:

Ward 6 is weird. I was fine with Paul Prevey in 2013, but I went with Beth Gerard because I knew her well enough to see what she could bring to the table. And if you actually look at what she did (as opposed to what the Mack Park Neighborhood Association says), she did all that and more. Sure, we had snow last winter. Broke records. All the councilors tried to help, but how many of them actually went out to shovel intersections? Yep, Gerard (actually, Legault did as well - and yes, I endorse him also). Lombardini says North Street should have been plowed curb to curb. I wish she had been councilor, so you'd see how meaningless that statement is. Gerard works really hard at the job, has gotten a lot done over in North Salem, and treated everybody well, regardless of their neighborhood. Her predecessors didn't always do that. Has she learned to brag the way all the other ones have? I guess not well enough, because there's actually people planning to vote for Pam.

And one more thing, though I hesitate to mention it, but I know (and trust) one of the sources well: I've heard that some people trying to recruit votes for Pam are actually telling people they shouldn't vote for Gerard because she's Jewish. I've heard this from more than one source. And that's despicable. This is 2015, not 1915. We've grown up since the last century, haven't we? I'm sure Lombardini wouldn't support this behavior, but company you keep, and all. If I dismiss this as utterly false, and if you do I get it, I'd still vote Gerard.

So who wins? I think this is close, but Lombardini. Really, this one feels to me like a referendum on how much power the ward wants Rosie's Mack Park Neighborhood Association to wield.

Ward 7 City Councillor:

In Ward 7, we weren't supposed to have a race this year. Instead, it was supposed to be my biennial write up about how Joe O'Keefe should start thinking about hanging it up. Well, I miss him, dammit.

So instead we have a weird write-in race between Steve Dibble and Bill Luster. From what I can tell, both of them are OK guys and they both annoy me equally, I think. Bill argues on these pages sometimes and even though I think he's full of it I enjoy that he'll come here and play. Dibble is a man who is very important, and he'll tell you so. He also counts all his signs as well as all Luster's.

Luster took the either brave or foolish step of calling out SOS for their confrontational strategies in dealing with SSU. I don't think that wins him friends on Lafayette Street or Raymond Road. But he may be right. I'm not endorsing either one of them, but I look forward to two years of making fun of the winner. They should keep me busy.

Who wins? I'd guess Dibble based on signs, but signs don't vote. Even Luster's nearest neighbors don't seem enthused by his candidacy, so I guess I'll stick with the signs.

At-Large City Councillor:

I'm voting for William Legault (last on your ballot). After that, it's a shitshow of undecided for me.

Legault is the voice we need. He gets to sensible and cuts through the bullcrap on just about everything, even if it's a verbose voyage.

Elaine Milo is just kind of there. I don't know much more about her opinions on issues now than I did before she took office. The next unpopular opinion she publicly takes will be the first. I'm not a fan of that, but there's a lot of talking in that chamber, so I except it. She'll top the ticket, and I'll probably fill in her oval.

I've covered the fraud record of Domingo Dominguez on Facebook. Please go read it there. No vote from me.

I think Furey's heart is in the right place, but his view of his job (support any mayor) and my view of his job (question any mayor) are pretty different.

Jerry Ryan would be in my top 4, but I may not cast a vote for him, as he's the most likely to unseat Legault. They were separated by maybe 20 votes in the last election. It was close, but I'm not looking it up. Sorry.

Sargent is not my cup of tea, but he has plenty of support and will be back. He doesn't need my vote.

Tyler Carlton I'd think about in a few years. He has a future in politics. That both is, and isn't, a compliment.

Who wins? I'd guess the four incumbents. If signs voted, Dominguez, especially if by size of signs. I'd say Ryan is most likely to take a seat, and Legault most likely to lose one. I'm basing that entirely on two years ago. Vote Legault. I may still bullet that. Or Legault and Milo, and Ryan.

And Sawicki, just no.

School Committee:

I'm not really dazzled by our School Committee choices this year. I know a lot of people including many of my friends are for Kris Wilson. She may be great, but she does nothing to convince me I should be using one of my votes on her, and her debate performance was lackluster. That said, I wouldn't be surprised if she tops the ticket. She seems to know everybody, and all the usual suspects are on her side (and I think convinced her to run), it seems.

I do have an enthusiastic vote, and it's for Andrea French. I've met her a few times, and she's smart, passionate, and really committed. She has run the special ed interest group SEPAC, and she is just as well-liked with every faction we have in the schools - teachers, special ed parents, pro-charter parents, anti-charter parents, and the crazy faction. She was on the superintendent search committee, and after talking to her I'm convinced that she won't be an automatic knee-jerk vote on anything. She'll be thoughtful and try to do things right. I think she’s a really good one. More than anything, she's just a regular old parent. We need more of those on the school committee.

Mary Manning was the principal at Collins as it descended into chaos. She's not solely responsible for that, of course. But she also denied it was happening. I can't get over that. Her teachers were extremely loyal to her, which says good things. She was also endorsed by the Salem Teachers Union, I believe. I have mixed feelings about that.

I've never done it before, but I'm voting for Jim Fleming this time. We're turning over two seats, and have two more still in their first term. We can use his experience. He also tends to question the thinking of the majority, and that's useful. I disagree with him plenty, but at this point his voice is needed. When it's not in Florida. That still bugs me. I am voting for him, though. Right? Yes.

My third vote goes to Joanne Kennedy. She's another parent of a young child. One who decided she couldn't get what she needed from our schools. She's putting her time where her mouth is and saying she's willing to try to fix it. She's a huge proponent of a rounded curriculum and plenty of recess time. I buy that wholeheartedly. I'd be fascinated to watch her have to transition from critic to solver. I think she'd do it. She should have run on her maiden name.

Who wins? Wilson, Manning, Fleming, in some order.

And Sawicki, just no.

Part of me wants to see every non-incumbent making stupid promises win so that we can see the fallout from that. In the end, I like this place too much for that.