Saturday, January 31, 2009

Shaw vs. Mercier

Wow, check out my live blogging post below about the conversation between Warren Shaw and Ron Mercier. What started off as a civil conversation about the budget and replacing Mary Gail Martin turned into a very heated argument.

It began when Shaw asked Mercier who he was referring to when he said at last week's meeting that Martin didn't let people get to her. Mercier said he was upset that Shaw recently sent people to the Martin's house to see if there was a For Sale on their lot. The person took a picture and it was up on Dracut Forum. Mercier and Shaw went back and forth with Shaw feeling that the picture of the For Sale sign was no big deal but Mercier felt it was an invasion of privacy, especially since they have three children.

Mrs. Martin called in after the break and thanked Mercier for "defending her." She also clarified the past controversy about her meeting with former Superintendent of Schools Elaine Espindle and a potential job applicant and said Shaw could have gotten a picture of the For Sale sign on the MLS website.

Great, great radio!

Live blogging

Going to try something here...School Committee Chairman Ron Mercier is coming up on Saturday Morning Live. I am going to blog live as he appears. It is different from what Shawn is doing over at Dracut Forum, I thought I'd try this way too.

Stay tuned...

8:37am: Working on back-up plan for potential layoffs. Hoping for no layoffs, rather attrition and retirements.

8:38am: Class sizes may go up due to cuts but not by much

8:39am: Should $2.3 million from stimulus go to projects or operating costs?

8:40am: Dr. Mullin has saved town $100,000 by keeping services in house rather than contracting them out (i.e. Special Ed)

8:42am: Need to appoint a temporary school committee member before May election...Mercier doesn't agree with the appointment

8:44am: Board of Selectmen and School Committee will select the temporary appointment. Mercier feels this will give the person a leg-up as an incumbent if he/she runs for the seat in May.

8:45am: Mercier does not like the talking heads saying Ken Martin and Mike McNamara are asking to be appointed. Shaw says McNamara has five votes, Mercier is pretty upset by that. Feels the process should be open to more people.

8:47am: Mercier is upset that Shaw sent someone to the Martin's house to take a picture of it to demonstrate that the house was for sale (see For Sale sign).

8:47am: Shaw: "You're sounding stupid Ronnie." This is getting ugly.

8:50am: Shaw: "You have a distorted sense of reality Ron."

8:51am: Mercier: "Martin is one of the nicest ladies in the world."

8:52am: The end...oh man

Sunday Night Live

Shawn Ashe called me the other night with a fantastic idea: to invite candidates for May's election to come onto our blogs and chat live with voters. Every Sunday night before the election, a different candidate for the Board of Selectmen, School Committee, etc. will be available on this blog and Dracut Forum to answer your questions.

Shawn mentioned this project this morning on Saturday Morning Live on WCAP and I called in as well to plug it. We have no idea how many candidates will appear as it's up to them of course but we want to give the people of Dracut one more way to learn about the town's government and politics. Historically, turn out for local elections is about 20% and we want to change that. Town government has a major impact on our lives and we need to be paying attention and, more importantly, let our leaders know that we're paying attention.

Shawn did a test run of the chat program during this morning's WCAP show. You can see it over at Dracut Forum. Blogs can play an important role in this community. For example, last Monday I blogged about Mary Gail Martin's resignation from the School Committee as she was reading her letter of resignation. The Lowell Sun didn't have the story on their website until well into Tuesday and it wasn't in the paper until Wednesday. So, you can say that I "broke" the story (as did Shawn).

This blog will never have the resources of the Sun or WCAP but it is another voice in the community and I hope to play a role in helping the people of Dracut stay informed.

Quick take on the budget

Warren Shaw is back this week with his column in the Valley Dispatch. Not surprisingly his topic is the major cut backs in local aid that will be forthcoming across the state. Shaw is concerned because Dracut is very reliant on local aid and with the recent raises to Dracut's teachers (8%) and administrators (2.5%), he feels the town's finances are "going in the wrong direction."

But, Shaw is hopeful because Dracut has the best Town Manager in the region!

See his thoughts here.

Live chat

I got up nice and early this morning to tune into Warren Shaw's show on WCAP. Shawn Ashe, Shaw's producer, has a live chat going as the show progresses. It's pretty cool and you can add your thoughts. Check it out here.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Garry's thoughts on DeLeo

Shawn over at Dracut Forum questions Rep. Colleen Garry's decision to back Rep. John Rodgers for Speaker of the House, picking up on a similar posting I had yesterday. Like me, he worries about the repercussions now that Robert DeLeo is speaker.

Garry did support DeLeo after Rodgers backed out of the race but Garry continued to explain herself in today's Sun. "In one way I'm disappointed..." she said. But, she is happy that DeLeo has promised "a unified House."

Garry and other Rodgers' supporters wanted a delay in the vote for Speaker because they were concerned about DeLeo's role in the ticket-resale scandal that brought down Sal DiMasi. After DeLeo's election she said, "We wanted to know what the answers were and we still don't know those answers."

Garry is a smart politician and has been in office for a long time but to say she is "disappointed" and wants "answers" may not endear her to DeLeo.

Local-aid cuts

Today's Sun broke down Gov. Deval Patrick's proposed local aid for FY 2010. In 2009 Dracut received $21,771,114 and the governor has proposed $20,526,206 for FY 2010, a decrease of 6.1% ($1,244,908). The town's budget is about $61,000,000.

The 6.1% cut is a far cry from the 10% number that was being bantered around and which caused Selectman John Zimini to tear into Town Manager Dennis Piendak at the last Board of Selectmen meeting.

These numbers are not final and the final budget won't be settled for months.

Dracut's Share of the Stimulus

I called Rep. Niki Tsongas' office today to see if Dracut would be getting anything from the House version of the stimulus package. Her aide said she wasn't certain about Dracut specifically but the bill did contain funding for schools. Sure enough today's Sun said Dracut would get $2.3 million over a two-year period.

Of course, the Senate hasn't weighed in yet and the bill still has to go to Conference Committee so who know what it will look like in the end.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Tucker office hours

State Sen. Susan Tucker will be holding "office hours" in Dracut at the Blue Angus Cafe from 6:30pm-7:00pm on Tuesday, February 24. A member of her staff will be available to answer constituents' questions and concerns.

Garry on the wrong side of history?

Rep. Robert DeLeo will become the Speaker of the House today at 12:00pm, replacing former Rep. Sal DiMasi who resigned last night. Dracut Rep. Colleen Garry supported Rep. John Rodgers of Norwood for the position but Rodgers conceded last night that DeLeo had more votes.

Garry and others were looking for a delay in the vote for a new Speaker citing unanswered questions about DeLeo's involvement in the scandal that brought down DiMasi. But, the vote will proceed today.

The Sun tried to contact Garry last night about Rodger's decision to back down but she was not available. The question of the day is whether DeLeo will punish those who supported Rodgers like Tom Finneran did in 1996 when the supporters of Richard Voke were banished to the basement and lowly committees. We shall see.

More details on Martins

Today's Sun has a full breakdown on the resignations of Mary Gail and Brian Martin. Mrs. Martin's resignation took effect Monday night while Mr. Martin will resign February 13 at 5:00pm. The article states that the School Committee and Board of Selectmen must fill the positions until the May 4 town election.

The article cites Ken Martin (Dracut Housing Commission), Michael McNamara (former principal of the Greenmont Ave. School), and Marietta Paquette (former School Committee member) as potential replacements. Paquette, you may recall, was defeated in 2007 and Martin was one of the victors (along with Mike Miles).

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

No meeting

I went to the library tonight for the Board of Selectmen meeting but there was no one there. The girl at the Circulation Desk said a meeting was on their calendar but no one had showed up. The meeting wasn't on the town website but neither was yesterday's School Committee meeting but they met.

I thought the Selectmen met on the 2nd and 4th Tuesday of the month - has something changed?

Both Martins out

Shawn over at Dracut Forum is reporting that Brian Martin has submitted his resignation from the Greater Lowell Technical School Committee. This follows the resignation of his wife Mary Gail Martin from the Dracut School Committee last night. The Martins, of course, are planning on moving to Tyngsboro and their resignations help pave the wave for their seats being on the May ballot.

Dennis at the Sun has an on-line story about Mrs. Martin resigning but not Mr. Martin. You can click here for the story or read below:

Ending months of speculation, School Committee member Mary Gail Martin announced Monday she will resign due to her family's plans to move to Tyngsboro.

Asking for the floor at the end of Monday night's School Committee meeting, Martin did not specify when her final day on the board will be. Chairman Ron Mercier Jr. said Martin informed the committee of her decision moments before the meeting began.


On Tuesday, Town Clerk Kathleen Graham said she had not received official notice from Martin, whose family home on A Street has been up for sale since October, 2008.

Martin's decision sets in motion a number of scenarios. Graham said she is currently checking on whether the vacancy is filled by appointment by the Board of Selectmen and the remaining members of the School Committee, or if it is permissible to hold off until the May 4 town election.

Martin's husband, Brian Martin, is Dracut's representative on the Greater Lowell Technical High School Committee and would most likely have to resign from that board, too. Neither Martin could be reached for comment Tuesday morning.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Adminstrator contract

Besides Martin's resignation, the other big news from tonight's School Committee meeting was the 2.5% raise given to school administrators. Nancy Gagnon voted no and Martin abstained so the vote was 3-1. Gagnon is up for re-election in May and also voted against the recent teacher's raise.

BREAKING NEWS

School Committee Member Mary Gail Martin is announcing her resignation as we speak.

UPDATE: No other news besides Martin resigning. No word on when it becomes effective but we can assume immediately. She and her husband Brian are preparing to move to Tyngsboro in the near future.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Garry: "DiMasi to resign"

The Lowell Sun is reporting tonight that Sal DiMasi will resign Tuesday at 5pm. While Rep. Colleen Garry is not quoted in the article, it states:

Rep. Colleen Garry, D-Dracut, and Rep. William Greene, D-Billerica, both confirmed DiMasi's plans Sunday, saying DiMasi had been spreading the word himself.

Garry, who supports Rep. John Rodgers for Speaker, does wonder if Rodger's competitor, Rep. Robert DeLeo, is clean enough to assume the speakership:

Garry, Greene and six other representatives questioned Sunday whether DeLeo, too, could be clouded by those probes, because the ticket legislation and Cognos budget item were altered in the Ways and Means Committee, which DeLeo chairs.

"Chairman DeLeo needs to offer a full explanation of his involvement in the Ace Ticket and Cognos scandal which is the very reason why Speaker DiMasi is resigning his post," the legislators wrote in a statement.

Greene, who, like Garry, admits that he is backing Rogers, said he merely wants to delay a vote on a new speaker until Feb. 9, when more documentation in the Vitale case could come out in court.

Meetings this week

Monday, January 26
Affordable Housing Partnership: 5:30pm, Historical Society Building
Capital Planning Committee: 6:00pm. Harmony Hall
Housing Authority: 7:00pm, 971 Mammoth Road
School Committee: 7:00pm, High School Library

Tuesday, January 27
Board of Selectmen: 7:00pm, Library

Wednesday, January 28
Planning Board: 7:00pm, Harmony Hall

Quiet week

There is very little going on lately in the world of Dracut politics. I wish had stuff to write about but, well, there is nothing to write about! When nomination papers become available on February 2, we will have a better sense of May's elections and things will start heating up. Until then, stay tuned.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

No Warren this week

My routine was shattered yesterday when I realized there would be no Warren Shaw column in the weekly Valley Dispatch - it's the first thing I read when I open up the paper on Fridays! Shaw's columns are great insights into Dracut politics so hopefully he'll be back next week.

Teacher's Raise

The Lowell Sun today applauded the Wilminton School Committee for rejecting a new contract for the town's teachers citing the state budget crisis. In their editorial, they say that the terms were similar to the recent deal given to Dracut's teachers. That contract calls for an 8% raise at a total cost of $500,000 to the town.

See the editorial here.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Meetings this week

Tuesday, January 20
Community Preservation Committee: 7:00pm, Harmony Hall

Wednesday, January 21
Historical Commission: 7:00pm, Historical Society Building
Conservation Commission: 7:15pm, Harmony Hall

Thursday, January 22
Board of Appeals: 7:00pm, Harmony Hall

Dennis on the Pay Raises

In his weekly column, Dennis Shaughnessey takes the Legislature to task for accepting a 5.5% pay raise. The whole column is here but here is what he says about Rep. Colleen Garry:

Others, like Rep. Colleen Garry of Dracut, Rep. Cory Atkins of Concord and Rep. Barry Finegold of Andover are taking the raise, but they’re going to give it to charity. How noble. The wage hike still applies to their pensions when they retire or leave office. I suspect that in Colleen’s case, the Merrimack Valley Food Bank, the Dracut Food Pantry and the Dracut and Tyngsboro scholarship foundations should see a nice windfall this year.

More on Town Finances

In this week's Valley Dispatch column, Warren Shaw highlights the state financial crunch and the impact it may have on Dracut. You can read the whole column here but here are some highlights:



Dracut officials are a little nervous these days, and with good reason.



With the Legislature about to give Gov. Deval Patrick the necessary authority to balance the state’s budget with further cuts, selectmen are understandably concerned with rumored cuts in local aid, and how they will manage local services.


Dracut relies heavily on local aid, taking in just more than 32 percent of its operating revenues from the state. Making up for any cutbacks seven months into the fiscal year would be difficult at best.




But they will have no choice, and very few options to look at.


Dealing with a local aid shortfall of 5 percent to 10 percent means a 20-percent impact on the operational budgets, and if the departments have been spending at a rate that assumes full revenues, we will be looking at layoffs in the second part of this fiscal period.



More likely, the department heads have been paying attention to the warnings coming from the Legislature and Gov. Patrick’s office and have slowed spending.


By the end of January, the Board of Selectmen and the town manager will know what resources they will have to work with, and much like our state government, will have to find a way to get through the fiscal year while protecting vital services.



It’s not pleasant work and will require a team effort.


In 1992, the town went through very challenging times. The library and one of Dracut’s fire stations were closed, the seniors were running bake sales to fund operations at their senior center and layoffs were everywhere.



Fiscal 2010 will provide the real challenge as projections for state revenues are not optimistic, and although the town’s $2 million in free cash will help, any increases in operational costs may well come at the expense of jobs.

Shaw on Lynch

At last week's Lowell City Council meeting, a few of the councilors took City Manager Bernie Lynch to task for a perceived lack of communication (You can see a full explanation from Richard Howe here). In today's Column, former Dracut Selectman Warren Shaw said that he agreed with the Lowell City Council. He feels that Lynch is doing a good job overall but communication is paramount.

WARREN SHAW, the former longtime Dracut selectman, got into the act on his Saturday-morning WCAP radio show. He replayed Kazanjian's comments from Tuesday's council meeting, where the councilor stressed that he is trying to do his job to the best of his ability, but can't do so if he isn't aware of major issues bottled up in City Hall.

The councilor referred to himself and his colleagues as "the board of directors" and Lynch as the "CEO," saying it is the manager's responsibility to keep his bosses abreast of significant matters. Shaw then played Lynch's reply, mentioned above, and observed, "Councilor Kazanjian is absolutely right."

Shaw spent more than 20 years as a selectmen. He said it is a manager's job to keep elected officials informed. Shaw also said he believes Lynch is doing a good job overall.

The Column Picks up on Zimini

Today's Column in the Sun picked up on last week's fireworks from Selectman John Zimini. Zimini, you will recall, was upset that the town has not been proactive in preparing for a major cut (10% or so) in local aid. The Column contrasts his "cliche-ridden tirade" with Town Manager Dennis Piendak's "calm response."

ALSO CONCERNED about potential budget cuts from the state is Dracut Selectman John Zimini, who last week went off on a cliché-ridden tirade demanding to know why Town Manager Dennis Piendak has not scheduled a meeting to discuss the issue.

"I requested a meeting back in June," Zimini said. "We have a very short window to determine where to make up for shortfalls. The governor will slash and burn the budget. Do you have plans on meeting and could you inform the board?"

Piendak calmly responded that it is up to the board to schedule meetings.

"I'm available anytime," Piendak said. "Let's schedule one right now."

Piendak said he has been discussing the budget with department heads, but the biggest stumbling block is the unknown figure from the state.

Zimini tried to back off.

"I'm not going to go back and forth about this with the manager," he said, "but this is really getting under my craw. We're going to get whacked. Are we going to wait until the last minute when this is laid at our doorstep? ... I want to be proactive before the storm hits."

Piendak has embargoed all vacant positions -- with the exception of a crossing guard who was recently hired. He closely monitors all expenditures and personally approves all purchase orders coming in to Town Hall.

"When the numbers come out from the state, we'll deal with it," he said.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Town Finances

There were some quasi-fireworks at tonight's Board of Selectmen meeting with Selectmen John Zimini asking for a meeting of town powers to prepare for cuts to local aid. His voice was raised and he seemed agitated that nothing had been done to prepare for the cuts the governor and speaker have mentioned.

The board agreed to schedule a meeting with the Finance Committee to discuss efficiencies and potential areas of savings should the town be faced with dire cuts. He complained that the Board of Selectmen are always the last to know about cuts and financial problems and wanted this to be addressed.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Wrong e-mail

I realized in a post from last week, I gave my incorrect e-mail address. My correct address is dracutpolitics@yahoo.com. If anyone e-mailed me at dracutpolitics@ymail.com, I did not receive it as I don't have that e-mail address. I apologize for the error.

Papers available

Lowell Sun reports today that nomination papers will be available at the Town Clerk's office on February 2 and are due back March 16. Those interested in running need to obtain 50 signatures from residents.



The following seats will be up for election:


1 for Board of Selectmen
2 for School Committee
2 for Library Board of Trustees
Town Moderator
Housing Authority Commissioner
Greater Lowell Tech. School Board
Dracut Water Supply Commissioner
Dracut Water Supply Moderator


Those who are running for office should feel free to e-mail me at dracutpolitics@yahoo.com with fundraiser information, campaign news, etc.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Tucker on pay raise

Dracut's State Senator, Susan Tucker, did not respond to the Lowell Sun last week when asked if she will take the 5.5% pay raise legislators are receiving. But, she did tell the Eagle Tribune that she's not sure what she is going to do. "I'm still looking at it," she said "I'm weighing it."

According to the Sun, Tucker currently makes $65,737 and will make $68,940 after the raise.

Meetings this week

Monday, January 12
Capital Planning: 6:00pm, Harmony Hall
School Committee: 7:00pm, Dracut High School Library

Tuesday, January 13
Board of Selectmen: 7:00pm, Dracut Library

Wednesday, January 14
Library Board of Trustees: 4:30pm, Dracut Library
Permanent Building Committee: 4:30pm, Harmony Hall
Agricultural Commission: 7:00pm, Harmony Hall
Planning Board: 7:00pm, Harmony Hall

Thursday, January 15
Veterans Park Concession Stand: 6:00pm, Central Fire Station
Sewer Commission: 6:00pm, Englesby School

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Shaw and Ashe on May Election

Last week on his weekly radio show, Warren Shaw and his producer Shawn Ashe discussed the May elections. They mentioned Paul Nutt who is certainly running for School Committee and Shaw said he knew of another person who doesn't want his or her name mentioned just yet. He also speculated if former Superintendent of Schools Elaine Espindle will run since she is heading towards retirement and lives in town.

You can read and listen to their thoughts here.

I love listening to Shawn's podcasts since I don't often get a chance to listen live (although I am listening right now on-line). Any chance every show could be posted Shawn or does that take up too much space?

Economic Development

Earlier this week, the Sun outlined the bankruptcy saga of Dracut developer Frank Gorman. Gorman lost all he had to renovate the Beaver Brook Mill area on Lakeview Ave. In the process, he owes millions to creditors and his reputation has taken a hit.

However, Warren Shaw says that this story does have a "happy ending." You can see his column here.

Dracut's Wish List

The Sun did an article this morning on the projects local cities and towns are hoping to have funded via the potential New New Deal. In Dracut, Town Manager Dennis Piendak is asking for funding for ten projects totaling $37.2 million. They include $9 million for Town Hall, $2 million for Canney Farm, $4.1 million for work on Arlington Street, and $6 million to expand the water-system in East Dracut.

Piendak told the Sun, "There seems to be an awful lot of support for brick and mortar type of projects that would be very helpful."

Garry and Tucker on pay raise

You have certainly heard that the Massachusetts Legislature will be receiving a 5.5% pay raise this year. Given the state of the economy, dire budget cuts, and local aid being slashed, many are furious at the raises.

State Rep. Colleen Garry will take the pay raise but in turn donate it to charity. When asked why she doesn't just return it to the general fund, she told the Lowell Sun "If I put it back in the general fund it could go to some program in Boston. There are organizations in my district that need help, too, and I think I we know how best to help."

State Sen. Susan Tucker did not respond to the paper so there is no word if she is taking the raise.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Meetings this week

More meetings for this week have been added to the town's website:

Tuesday, January 6
Community Preservation Committee: 7:00pm, Harmony Hall

Wednesday, January 7
Permanent Building Committee: 4:30pm, Harmony Hall
Greemont Ave. School Council: 5:00pm, Greenmont Ave. School
Conservation Commission: 7:15pm, Harmony Hall

Thursday, January 8
Board of Assessors: 9:30am, Town Hall
Dracut School Committee (Finance Sub-Committee): 5:30pm, School Administration Office
Open Space Committee: 6:30pm, Central Fire Station

Canney Park will have lights

I could not make the public meeting on Canney Farms last night to due to another meeting but today's Sun has a wrap-up.

It seems that the issue of lights was the biggest area of discussion and the people were assured by officials that the park will indeed have lights.

"I don't think at any time that there was any opposition to lighting the park," said Selectman James O'Loughlin, a member of the committee. "There were questions asked at a previous meeting as to what the cost would be and there were concerns about maintenance and what type of lighting would be in, but I don't think anyone ever intended that this park would not be used after dark. Nobody should be leaving here with the idea that we will not have lights in the park."

The park proposal is currently before the Conservation Commission and hopefully ground will be broken sometime next year.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Meetings this week

Monday, January 5
Canney Farm Public Meeting: 7:00pm, Harmony Hall

Tuesday, January 6
Community Preservation Committee: 7:00pm, Harmony Hall

Herald on Ogonowski

Today's Boston Herald picked up on the story that Jim Ogonowski owes over $27,000 to a political consulting firm. The Sun reported on this story last month so this is nothing new to us. Interesting that they're reporting on it now - did Jamestown Associates, the company owed the money, drop a dime?

Police Politics

The investigation of the 2002 theft of drugs from Dracut Police is heating up. Dracut officers are taking a lie detector test and they're not happy about it. The Column has the big story:

THE INVESTIGATION into the missing drugs from a Dracut Police Department storage shed in 2002 is heating up, and so are officers' emotions.

Deputy Chief David Chartrand last week confirmed that lie-detector tests were being administered by the Northeast Middlesex Law Enforcement Council, which is conducting the investigation. He would not elaborate or say if every member of the force is being asked to submit to the polygraph exam.

In coffee shops and on street corners, several members of the department are talking. Many of them are not happy.

"How do you do this in good conscience?" said one officer on the condition of anonymity. "There were people on the force at the time who have passed away. There are people on the force now who weren't here when it happened. How do you conduct an investigation?"

Others are welcoming the investigation.

"I'm happy about it," said a department veteran. "We want to get rid of the people in this department who have no integrity. Look around. Look who is running scared. That should tell you something."

It was in 2002 when a large quantity of marijuana -- which was stored as evidence in a criminal case -- went missing from a storage shed behind the old Dracut Police Department on Lakeview Avenue.

Chartrand was the shed-master at the time, a fact that has Jerry Flynn, executive director of the New England Police Benevolent Association, scratching his head.

"They can put any kind of spin on it that they want, but the bottom line is that this investigation is being promulgated by the person who was in charge at the time," Flynn said. "They were storing evidence in a shed behind the station next to the high school. It was protected by a bicycle lock and every kid in that school knew what was in there. And now they're going to trample on the good names of dedicated and hard-working police officers in their department, instead of going after the guy who was actually in charge. It makes no sense."

Tony Archinski, a former lieutenant who retired Dec. 31, agrees with Flynn. Archinski now works with Flynn at NEPBA.

"This has been a management screw-up from day one and not one member of the administration has ever been held accountable for their actions," Archinski said. "Instead, they're pointing fingers at everyone else in the department. Even if they discover that somebody is lying, what are they going to do, fire them? Based on a polygraph, which is inadmissible in any court of law? The Civil Service would never uphold that."

Chartrand says he voluntarily took a polygraph test administered by the state police shortly after the incident, and passed. He dismisses Flynn's comments: "It's the classic union mentality to circle the wagons when it comes to any kind of investigation regarding one of their own. They will try to turn the focus on somebody else, anybody else. They think intimidation is going to work. They're barking up the wrong tree."

Good news for Dracut drivers

It is a month late but the University Ave. Bridge will re-open this Tuesday after undergoing four months of repairs. This is the main bridge residents of the western end of Dracut use to get over the river.

See the story here.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Welcome

If you're stopping by for the first time after reading my letter to the editor in today's Valley Dispatch - welcome! I started this blog on November 9 not knowing how it would work out but I have had a lot of fun with it and it has received over 1,600 hits. Thank you to everyone for their support.

My hope is that this blog will be another way for the people of Dracut to stay informed about their town's government and politics. There are a number of other outlets for people already -The Sun, WCAP, Dracut Forum, Valley Dispatch, DATV to name a few - so I am just another voice in the discussion.

Please feel free to e-mail me at dracutpolitics@ymail.com at anytime with announcements, news, information, etc. In addition, those running for public office should feel free to e-mail me with information about fundraisers, policy positions, etc. I will be happy to oblige.

Thanks again for stopping by and contact me at anytime.

2009 School Committee Elections

Warren Shaw has a great column in this week's Valley Dispatch about the 2009 race for School Committee. As I have discussed in the past, Ron Mercier and Nancy Gagnon are up for re-election and as Shawn Ashe first mentioned, businessman Paul Nutt will be running as well. Not only that, if Mary Gail Martin moves to Tyngsboro as has been rumored, there will be another seat available. If this is the case, Shaw hopes that Martin follows the example of former Selectman Dennis Williams and resigns close to the May election so the town does not have to have a special election to fill the seat.

Shaw says that the potential for three open seats will make for an exciting spring:
Having three seats on the town School Committee on the ballot in the same year would bring the focus of the election to the schools, where there is no shortage of issues. Town Meeting recently agreed to fund a feasibility study of the high school, and the results are likely to set off a debate about building a school or significant reconstruction of the existing facility.

Additionally, the schools are about to go through the New England Association of Schools and Colleges accreditation peer review process, and based on results in other Merrimack Valley school districts, it's likely to generate drama for school political leaders.

Clearly, the next three years will be a challenging time for Dracut's School Committee, and a public discussion of these issues in the spring election will give the voters a voice in shaping the future of their schools.

Garry will back DiMasi

The 186th session of the Massachusetts General Court begins on Wednesday and Sal DiMasi is expected to be re-elected as Speaker of the House. Rep. Colleen Garry has said that she will vote for him despite the ethical problems swirling around him. The Lowell Sun wrote:

Rep. Colleen Garry, D-Dracut, said DiMasi deserves her support because she knows of nothing concrete that he did wrong.

"I think that everyone is innocent until proven guilty in this country, and nothing has been proven against him at this point," Garry said.

She also said she was not worried that the allegations against DiMasi would distract the Legislature from tackling tough issues in the year ahead to confront the economic woes plaguing the state.

"Since I've been there, we've had three speakers go through investigations and we've been able to keep our focus and get our work done," Garry said.
Garry was elected in 1995 so the three speakers she is referring to are the last three, DiMasi (2004-present), Tom Finneran (1996-2004), and Charles Flaherty (1991-1996). Not a good track record as of late for speakers!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Predictions for 2009

The Lowell Sun had local "movers and shakers" make predictions for 2009. Here are some from Dracut folks:

David Chartrand, Dracut's deputy police chief: "The state Legislature will approve casino gambling, and the Native Americans will collaborate with Lowell, Tyngsboro and Dracut to create a casino resort in the state forest. The financial windfall will save the local municipalities from certain doom and eliminate the necessity to make cuts in the police department."

Colleen Garry, state representative from Dracut: "Despite what some people think, Governor Deval Patrick stays in Massachusetts to finish out his term, House Speaker Sal DiMasi stays put, and nobody in the Legislature gets indicted."

James O'Loughlin, Dracut selectman: "I'm not saying who or for what reason, but somebody from Dracut will receive national recognition." He also predicts also that the Lowell political community will be "reeling by an unexpected resignation."

Chartrand may be right about the state approving casino gambling and I think Garry will be right as well. As for O'Loughlin, I think the person who will receive national recognition is Dracut High QB Matt Grimard. Will he go play football at a major university? O'Loughlin made the same resignation prediction last year but isolated it to Dracut, not the "Lowell political community." Not sure if he knows something but my money is on Dracut Town Manager Dennis Piendak retiring. I don't know anything nor do I know how old he is but I am just playing the guessing game.