Sunday, November 5, 2017

Your Super Legit Guide to the Salem Elections

Fourscore and seven years ago, our forefathers embarked upon this interminable election season that we, gentle readers, have the duty, nay privilege, to finally take behind the barn and shoot Old-Yeller style. It was a different time; Coke cost a nickel, you couldn’t fill the Hawthorne Ballroom with Salem-specific Facebook page administrators, and we all did a lot less pondering about Nazis.

But we don’t live in those days anymore. We live in these days; the ones mere days away from what has to be one of the screwiest local elections I’ve ever seen. And while I have a moment of your attention I want to slap a lot of wrists, because much of what has made 2017 such a shitshow has been entirely avoidable shenanigans, exaggeration, demonization, and outright embarrassing and childish behavior (not to mention certain candidates' staffers impersonating some bloggers in super insane and creepy ways [hi Turdd!]).

I’m talking to the people who steal, deface, and occasionally weaponize yard signs (whichever color you’re sporting). I’m talking to the conspiracy theorists who disparage dedicated public servants with innuendo and thinly-veiled character assassination. I’m talking to the chest-thumping warriors for the American way who have decided to throw down over a largely symbolic sanctuary ordinance that puts neither them nor their precious money in any danger - and the other chest-thumping warriors for the American way who are more interested in yelling at their neighbors than educating them. I'm also talking to the kind of really special broflakes who will make veiled threats to people, while including their addresses, because they disagree with them about their mayor choice in a local freaking election, like this: 

Jesus Christ, be better than this, people. Credit where credit is due: the candidate who that now defunct Facebook profile has loudly supported quickly jumped into that conversation to condemn that. Props to Paul.

We don't pick our followers

We're talking about a local election here. Other than the winning and losing candidates, none of our lives really change much at all as a result of what happens Tuesday, at least not in the short term. Be better. I'm confident none of our candidates would condone this crap, either. At least they all understand we still share these 8 square miles on Wednesday. Why don't the rest of us?

I’m not against honest debate and differences of opinion. I support them vigorously. I have called out each of the pols I’m about to endorse (in the cases of those running for re-election) over the years when I thought they deserved it. But I did so in clear language, stating exactly what they did that pissed me off - and I was willing to own it if I made a mistake. A lot of them did so too, and they earned my support because they were willing to listen and change. They should earn your votes too.

At the end of the day, Salem is a really, really great city. It’s a great place to raise kids, the richness of experiences available to our kids is astounding. Salem is full of fun people who fight like hell to keep it weird, and while it has a lot of room to grow it’s pretty lucky in having a mayor and councillors who actually care about people and want to do the right thing. That’s a pretty damn rare treat. And if there’s a simple roadmap I can give to decoding this year’s Byzantine nonsense, it’s that you should be very wary of any politician whose pitch is based in convincing you Salem sucks. It just really doesn’t. There's a reason we love it.

With that out of the way, endorsements.

MAYOR: Kim Driscoll. No question. I don’t think Paul Prevey has run a particularly good campaign, nor do I think he’s made a good enough case for himself in terms of leadership or vision for Salem. I've heard plenty of "it sucks" with not a ton of data behind it. The data I have seen has been largely skewed. He was a Ward Councillor whose main claim to fame was kowtowing to the MPNA and holding up the very senior center he’s trying to bludgeon Kim with not having built. (But seriously, there's an actual elevator shaft rising from the completed foundation, go check it out!) He was defeated in Ward 6 by a then-unknown Beth Gerard, and wasted taxpayer funds on demanding a recount (within his rights) that was well outside of the percentages that any recount could possibly hope to overcome. Now he's saying that he'll be a budget hawk. He had his chance for 8 years, and found very little to trim. He chaired Administration & Finance, and touts that budget experience, but 3 years into it literally said that "I still don't understand a fraction of what the budget is about." That budget analyst, by the way, found nothing to cut in the Driscoll budgets that they reviewed. They were eventually let go as unnecessary as the budgets were determined to be solid.

But the fact that I think this race is going to be close should be a wakeup call to Kim that there are a lot of people who don’t find development transparent and have real concerns about the delivery of core city services. They aren't necessarily wrong. That’s a legitimate criticism, and she should really listen, but it’s not enough of a reason to vote her out when it’s her leadership that has in large part turned Salem around. She inherited finances that had us nearing receivership (thanks Usovicz). She's helped turn that around. We have savings now. Our credit rating has rebounded to the highest we've had in the city's history. We aren't paying last year's school bills out of this years budget anymore. The ops have been professionalized. The first job interview question isn't "who do you know?" That's an (big) improvement over the prior administration.

I truly believe that Paul Prevey is a good man. He cares, and wants what he thinks is best for Salem. I tend to disagree with him on most of it. I think this is a tough race for him to run, and he's taking what he can get. We may all do the same trying to take on a really well-known, mostly-popular, monied incumbent. My big issue is that this is really an executive/CEO sort of job. Kim Driscoll has shown she can do that job. She has those management bona fides. I've posed the question a few times about how many people and departments Paul has managed, and what sorts of budgets he's built. The answers aren't those of somebody ready to take the CEO position of an org Salem's size.

I feel the need to throw this in again. Whoever wins, we're all neighbors on Wednesday. Paul winning isn't evil prevailing. Kim winning isn't evil prevailing. Let's all get over ourselves.

WARD 1: Bob McCarthy. I don’t have much of a sense of Annalyssa Gypsy Murphy, but Bob has been a solid voice of reason for a while. He could and should do a lot better job representing the Point, though, and taking credit for what he does. Bob, if a constituent asks for something, and it happens, but you don't tell them that you made it happen, it looks like you didn't get it done for them. That said, I think councillor Murphy would be completely fascinating.

WARD 2: Christine Madore is probably the most qualified candidate running in any Ward this year. Vote for Christine. She understands how government works, has a planning background sorely missing on the council, and gets one of my very few completely unreserved votes. 

Queen Mary’s name recognition was just enough to split votes for Murphy and Whittier in the primary, and her frankly absurd sense of entitlement (to the point where her only campaign promises have been to check her email and override the traffic and parking commission (actual professionals) on resident parking), and she couldn't be bothered to spell her own name correctly) has done nothing but embarrass her since. Her doggie-style dog-free party was literally nuts to the point it went viral. I'd also encourage anyone who knows any long-term city employees to ask them what the "first lady" was like during Stan's administration. I'm sure Parks and Rec set up birthday parties on Winter Island for everyone, right? 

WARD 3: I think Lisa Peterson is probably pretty smart, but could be running a more solid campaign. Showing up at the public hearing around the Sanctuary for Peace Ordinance with a videographer and then distancing herself from what she said when she figured out it might not go over well in Ward 3 is a bad look. That said, she’s also running against of my least favorite pols in the city. The dirty tricks the Lovely machine is willing to engage in to keep their fingers on the ledge are breathtaking. You’d think they were the Underwoods instead of some two-bit politicos from the North Shore. At any rate, he should be turned out on his ear from the city council. Hell, I think Joan would secretly thank you. Lisa Peterson should, but won’t, win. It should be closer than it will be, and I should be happier making this endorsement than I am.

WARD 4: The city’s weirdest race! Since Robert A McCarthy (aka Roberto Negron, and isn't that name change weird and unanswered) has basically been hidden in an underground bunker since March and only occasionally remembers he’s running, this race is largely between Flynn and Ana Campos. I endorse Ana Campos; I can’t in good conscience recommend voting for a Trump supporter (though he’s toned down or locked down the stuff on his Facebook page), and she has relevant experience as an architect and a nice bit of grit to her to have even attempted a write-in campaign her first time out of the gate. I freely admit she’s a long shot, though. I think 15% would be an amazing showing.

WARD 5: Josh Turiel. He’s not perfect, but he’s a good politician, a good friend, and a good man. He could talk less, sometimes, and poke the bear less, often, except he just can’t. Polly… well… she and I just disagree on almost everything.

WARD 6: Beth Gerard. She’s been a consistent level head on the council and has done a good job balancing one of the most gerrymandered Wards in the city (along with 1) so that it’s not all Mack Park, all the time. That may not have won her too many fans in the neighborhood association, but it’s enough to make it so that everyone she represents gets a fair shake. Also, she’s the councillor who knows the budget more than any other right now. I’ve asked her many budget questions. Frequently she’s already asked the question I’m posing. As for Nadine, she's out there railing on developments she frequently approved as a member of the planning board. Short memory.

WARD 7: A slightly worn gym sock. An empty packet of Raisinets stuck the the floor of a movie theater. Lincoln Chafee. Failing that, Steve Dibble, because you have no other choice. Ward 7 councillors basically have the job as long as they want it because nobody ever runs against them. I don’t think he’s a bad person, but I’m concerned at about how much he feels the need to (poorly) prove that with really long-winded speeches on the floor. He's done a lot with Salem youths; chess, Boy Scouts, playground builds, etc.

AT LARGE: Since the beginning of this race, David Eppley’s criticism of the obstructionist antics of ¾ of the incumbent At-Large councillors has been spot on. They've kept 50 items locked up in committee so they can't be voted on this year. Tom Furey probably did himself no favors with the anti-future contingent in Salem by claiming repeatedly to be the “wind beneath Kim’s wings,” but the rest of them are so determined to be albatrosses around her neck it’s hard to blame him. Honestly, I understand where people are coming from wanting to wipe the slate clean and vote out ALL of the incumbents, though Tom is a good guy and has done well by the city. Nobody challenges his motivations.

It seems a foregone conclusion after the primary that Domingo is going to get in, and he’s 100% right that it’s past time for people of color on the city council. I wish the best chance of achieving that wasn’t an alleged slumlord (Butler St. ask the building department) who’s committed tax fraud (Here's the short version.) that largely harmed his own community, and I don’t understand why so many are willing to give him a pass. I know I’m not. “It was 9 years ago” is literally only because he got caught. For like the fourth time. Every time the feds shut him down he found a loophole, like faking e-filer ID numbers. Do I really need to link this shit still? Jesus people! He literally signed an agreement admitting to all of this. Here's the long version of the IRS complaint.

This was not a "screw the man" victimless crime

By the way, go check his campaign finance forms. He’s promising everything to everyone, which is super smart on your first election (check Milo's first election totals), but his donations (especially pre-primary) scream one-sided #cahoots. You'd think with his previous financial crimes that he'd make sure his campaign finances were pure, and yet we see several illegal contributions on his forms, as well as a bunch of incomplete info, as well. Examples below.

LLC contributions are specifically prohibited by law. I'm sure Attorney Richard, address unknown isn't a person.

This is all a week ago, not nine years ago.

So who am I endorsing? David Eppley for sure; he’s the councillor who has most consistently shown an at-large style vision and he’s the right kind of independent for a city like Salem; neither wind beneath the mayor’s wings nor axiomatically against everything she’s for. Jeff Cohen and Liz Bradt are also slam dunks. And for your last vote, it’s up to you. Tom has mine, but realistically I think Domingo is unbeatable. This is definitely a slate election. So there's mine.

SCHOOL COMMITTEE: It does a nice job putting the lie to the sincerity of Paul Prevey and his fan’s critique of the Salem public schools that their only solution is ‘replace Kim’ and they have not whispered a word about this race. But then again who has? School committee has flown almost entirely under the radar, and voters will have one candidate on the ballot (Jean Martin) who has withdrawn from the race. Who knows what happens if she's a top three vote getter? Not me.

I couldn't endorse Amanda Campbell more. She's a 10-year teacher. The first eight were in Salem Public Schools. We haven't had anyone this close to the modern classroom on the school committee in years. She's currently the ELL coordinator in the city of Lynn, which is also really valuable experience for our student population. If you don't know what ELL stands for you should just vote for who I recommend. I'm also voting for Andi French and Manny Cruz. French is a Salem parent and co-president of Salem SEPAC. If you don't know what a SEPAC is, you should just take my recommendations. Cruz was a late decision for me. I think this is a "first step" for him, and I just don't love that. However, he really sold me during the school committee candidate forum. He clearly did his homework and knew what he was talking about. I'm confident he'll do the work. If he does want to move on, he'll have to.

I'm not voting for Ana Nuncio. Many of you won't like that. It boils completely down to this. I filed a public records request when the voting issues were hitting the fan, asking for correspondence received by city officials regarding complaints of vote suppression, intimidation, etc. I received a large packet in the mail, with the promise that more was coming. The more never did, which is a possible public records complaint for another day. In the packet was a tall pile of emails written by Nuncio, sent from her Seven Gables (her employer) email address, during hours that one must assume by the average work week are work hours. (See one example below.) This is the same Seven Gables that can't afford a new roof and asked for CPA funds for it. I can't imagine they're knowingly paying her to do LLC work on their time. It makes me question her on the job commitment, and this is a job. I just can't. 

QUESTION 1: Yes on 1. Go read the actual question and tell me what's objectionable. Voting no on this question would be an embarrassment for decades, and set back statewide progress on immigrant protections. We should be ashamed to even be voting on this question, but since we are, anything other than yes is unconscionable. Yes on 1. Be on the right side of history, people! My God!

Thanks for wading through all of that. Above all else, please go vote. And after that remember that we're all neighbors, no matter the result on Tuesday.

- The Cooperative

Friday, February 3, 2017

The tale of the very special broflake

OK... Let's talk about a very special broflake, and his broflake-enabling Salembrity lawyer.

Do any of you guys remember Dillon Destefano? He was the Endicott sophomore student from New Jersey who was arrested, expelled, and convicted of multiple assault and batteries after going on a knockout game binge across campus one night almost exactly three years ago. He later pleaded guilty and admitted to randomly sucker punching a trio of students he didn't even know. He also admitted to threatening a witness with his Jersey mob ties. He stated that he was SO drunk that he had no control over himself. The freshman hockey player also said he was totally roided up at the time. He was caught in part because he bragged about his crimes afterwards.

Special Broflake Dillon Destefano

Well, special broflake is back! Now he's suing Endicott, and their president, Dr. Richard Wylie. "Why on earth!?" you may ask. Well, his suit alleges that Endicott, and Dr. Wylie, had a responsibility to babysit him, and they should have supervised his night time activities better, and protected him from himself and his own bad decisions. (Because he's a child?) There are an awful lot of night time activities on campuses across the land that nobody wants colleges sticking their nose in. Just ask Gordon College how well that can go. How Endicott and Wylie in particular were supposed to know that broflake was a steroid rage-head (he said he was under the influence of PEDs) is beyond me, or any other thinking person.

So, this isn't a criminal proceeding. Destefano has no right to counsel here. A lawyer has to agree to accept the case to file the suit. There's no duty there. If you'd presented this premise to me, I'd have said that no lawyer would take this dog of a case. Who took this case? Your Salem Ward 3 City Councilor Steve Lovely, of the Lovely Law Group filed the suit on Destefano's behalf, on the last day before the statute of limitations would have kicked it out. I have to ask, what case wouldn't Lovely take, at that point?

Am I being dramatic? I don't think so. (I mean, probably a little, but) Lovely took the case of the dude who walked up to three different students he didn't know, and in one night sucker punched all three, leaving one with a completely shattered jaw, and another with a broken eye socket and collapsed sinuses. Surgeries all around! The state alleged that after the eye socket, "he was seen on surveillance video from the campus 'almost mocking' the victim, appearing to laugh as he re-enacted the way the victim reeled back." Guy then said, "the college made me do it! I want to sue them!" and Lovely signed on.

He's ... in college. I know it's been a long time since I was in college, but I very much remember at the very beginning, literally on the first day, getting the speech. "You're adults now. We don't call you boys and girls. You're men and women. You, and only you, are responsible for yourselves. We aren't your babysitters. We aren't going to tell you to go to bed, or get up, or go here, or go there. You're responsible for yourselves and your own actions, and you'll feel the consequences of those actions, good or bad." Apparently a lot has changed, at least in the eyes of the special broflake community. Now it's the college's duty to babysit students, and provide a warm womb for them to emerge from fetus-hood.

I've read the 12-page lawsuit. Let me start by saying that it simply strains credulity. There are facts that Destefano admitted to during his criminal proceeding, like randomly sucker punching people, that are somehow changed in the suit to a victim, "who charged at Destefano." My favorite "fact" is the allegation that President Wylie "hosted parties on-campus and encouraged the students to consume alcoholic beverages without regard to the ages of the students." I mean, come on. So the suit alleges that the kid drank insane amounts at one private party, went to another private party and drank insane amounts, and then on a stroll across campus, while intoxicated beyond belief, mustered the coordination and power to brutally, brutally assault 3 people, causing severe injuries. And... this is everyone's fault, except for broflake.

I'm scared of a world where this lawsuit is a thing. I'm scared of a world where we enable our younger people to think they're this lacking in responsibility for their own decisions and actions. I'm scared of the world where an elected official looks at this case and agrees to take it. I mean, really? I want elected officials with better judgment and ethics than that.

What's next? "Did you get a sunburn at Dead Horse Beach? Did the city not provide you with sunscreen? Call Steve!"

What's next? "Are you a rapist? Was your victim asking for it with a super short skirt? You can't be held responsible for that! Let's sue her! Call Steve!"

Just yikes.