Thursday, December 31, 2009

Top Ten Moments of 2009 - #1: Louisburg Square

This was much more than a fight over elderly housing - this was a knock them down, drag them out, bloody knuckles political fight. The idea, fairly simple, was first proposed a number of years ago. The town would purchase the building at 1476 Mammoth Road and turn it over to the Dracut Housing Authority who would pay the town a sum of $70,000 a year for 20 years. Everyone seemed on board, including DHA Chair Ken Martin, but everything changed in May. That was when Ken Cunha defeated Bob Audet for one of the DHA Commissioner seats.

Shortly after Cunha was elected, a letter to the editor appeared in the Sun from Martin criticizing the deal which led to a debate between Martin and Selectman Bob Cox on "Saturday Morning Live." From there it was brought up at meetings and culminated in a heated DHA meeting in July at which the five selectmen had a major back and forth with Cunha and Martin. Commissioner Tom Salem left the meeting in the middle calling Cunha an a** hole and Selectman John Zimini accused people of "carrying the water" for the building's owner, Gerry Lussier. Prior to that, Cox said Zimini and others had "drank the kool aid" and Selectman James O'Loughlin (who was sitting right behind me) was arguing in a heated manner with Martin.

O'Loughlin accused me at a later Board of Selectman meeting for trumping up the heat and the tension but the headline the next day in the Sun showed pictures of Martin and O'Loughlin with the headline "Sparks fly between Dracut Housing Authority, selectmen over elderly housing" and the lead was "In a confrontational and heated exchange, members of the Dracut Housing Authority and selectmen fought..."

Anyway, there were more meetings, including a joint meeting of the selectmen and the DHA in September at which DHA consultant Marc Slotnick essentially sided with the Cox/O'Loughlin/DiRocco crowd and tore apart Martin and Cunha's argument that the building needed a lot of work and the wall behind the building posed a legal risk. O'Loughlin did a masterful job of asking Stolnick certain questions which led him to take apart Martin and Cunha.

But in the end, the DHA voted 3-2 to kill the project in October. A couple of months later, Brian Bond proposed an idea to build new housing over at the Richardson Farm property, an idea that was backed by Zimini and Cunha during the Louisburg Square discussion.

People say that the killing of Louisburg Square is tied to two events: Cunha fuming over losing re-election to the Board of Selectmen in 2007 to George Malliaros and Martin not being appointed to the School Committee to fill the Mary Gail Martin vacancy. Pundits saw killing an idea proposed by Cox and DiRocco as political revenge and an opportunity to embarrass them. Zimini joined the Cunha and Martin crowd - I saw him helping Cunha putting up signs during the campaign and he boycotted the meeting to fill the School Committee seat. Over the course of the summer, the selectmen meetings became more and more tense with Zimini all alone and on the losing end of many votes, including one for DA Gerry Leone to investigate his charges that people are carrying water for Lussier.

I picked this as the number 1 issue of the year because it led to a major coarsening of Dracut politics and it was a transformative event. Old friendships were destroyed and there are now two major camps on the political scene. The strength of both sides will be seen in the May elections as two selectman are up for re-election: O'Loughlin and Malliaros. I hear of at least 2 people running for the seats and am not sure if Bond is running again (he ran this year against DiRocco and lost). It should be interesting.

So there you go Dracut, my top ten moments of 2009 in Dracut politics. I will be joining Warren Shaw and Shawn Ashe on Saturday to discuss this list on "Saturday Morning Live" - be sure to tune in.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Top Ten Moments of 2009 - #2: The Resurrection of Elaine Espindle

My original number 2 when I made this list was the election of Ken Cunha as that seemed to change the political landscape dramatically in town this year. But, the recent appointment of Elaine Espindle as interim superintendent of schools changed everything. Espindle was a popular superintendent for 10 years and decided not to have her contract renewed in 2008 under pressure from former School Committee member DJ Deeb and others. Her replacement was Spencer Mullin, a former Dracut vice principal, and who was seen as a hand picked selection by Deeb.

You know the rest. Deeb lost re-election in 2008, Mullin turned out to be a bad superintendent and submitted his retirement in November (effective March 3). The School Committee advertised for an interim superintendent to serve from March 3-June 30 and many people were clamoring for Espindle to fill in (including the Sun). School Committee member Mike Miles was so determined to hire Espindle that he made a motion to do so without interviewing the other applicants for the job (it passed 4-1 with Ron Mercier voting no as he wanted to at least interview the others).

Espindle's return is major vindication for her and a complete exoneration from the School Committee. For Deeb and others, this is a complete slap in the face and the final nail in their political coffin. By the way, Miles has a major smackdown of Deeb over on Shawn's site. If you haven't seen it go there right away.

See my original story on this here.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Top 10 Moments of 2009 - #3: David Chartrand

This is actually a top ten moment that is still going on. You all know the story - Deputy Police Chief David Chartrand was off duty and at a party on B Street in September when he responded to a domestic dispute near by. According to reports, he was "highly intoxicated" when he went to the call and took a gun from the scene. By the time police arrived, they saw Chartrand walking down the street with the gun and Officer Derek Scribner came very close to shooting Chartrand (he didn't know who he was in the dark).

Chief Kevin Richardson has exonerated Chartrand but now with the report that Chartrand was highly intoxicated, he was decided to look into it more. Some selectmen have asked for a change in policy for off duty officers (the Sun highlighted how other communities deal with intoxicated officers yesterday) but Richardson has the final say.

This is a continued saga between Chartrand and the police union. Chartrand and Union head Jerry Flynn are enemies and are always having backs and forth. Before this, they both accused each other of being drunk at a Lowell restaurant and arguing.

Warren Shaw has said that when he was first elected to the Board of Selectmen he was told that there was constant drama from the police department. I guess the more things change...

See one of my many stories on this here.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Top Moments of 2009 #4: Mullin Announces Retirement

Days after being told by the School Committee that his request for more time off needs to be brought up at an open meeting, Superintendent of Schools Spencer Mullin announced that he would be retiring on March 3. If Mullin had received the extra days, it would have cost the town an additional $13,000. Mullin told the Sun that he had been mulling retiring for sometime so he could take care of his granddaughter. I am sure his poor budget skills (7 drafts), poor communication, and poor PR had something to do with it too!

But, either way Mullin is out and the town must now shell out over $25,000 to find his replacement ($5,000 for the interim and $20,000 for the permanent). Mullin's retirement is a huge slap to former School Committee Member DJ Deeb who pushed for Mullin and who was the arch-enemy of Mullin's predecessor, Elaine Espindle (more on her later in the week).

Mullin never really fit in the position. He worked in Dracut for many years and he is a Dracut native but he wasn't ready for primetime.

See my original story on this here.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Garry opponent?

Today's Column highlights a potential opponent for Rep. Colleen Garry in 2010: Tyngsboro resident Dan Durkin. If he runs, Durkin will be the first person from Tyngsboro to run against Garry. He told the Sun: "I have an appetite for it and I know I could be effective, but unless I get 100 percent backing from my wife, I'm not going to do it."

Stay tuned.

Top 10 Moments of 2009 - #5: Appoinments of Mike McNamara and Victor Olson

Back in January/February, Mary Gail Martin and her husband Brian Martin resigned from the Dracut School Committee and the Greater Lowell Tech. School Committee, respectively, because they were moving to Tyngsboro. State law called for the Board of Selectmen and the respective School Committees to vote for a replacement to serve until May 4 and then, if elected, the rest of the term. What seemed like a simple process turned into a huge political brouhaha.

Selectman John Zimini refused to attend any of the meetings to vote on a replacement saying that the replacements should be made by the voters in May. There were some who felt that Zimini was angry that Dracut Housing Authority Chairman Ken Martin did not have the votes to take Mrs. Martin's seat. Martin and Zimini are political allies and when Mike McNamara was seen to have the votes, Zimini, the story goes, refused to participate. DJ Deeb, another Martin ally, made the same case to replace Mr. Martin.

In the end, McNamara and Victor Olson got the jobs and were elected in May. But, the ramifications were huge and Zimini eventually became alienated from his colleagues on the Board of Selectmen and the tone and tenor of their meetings changed dramatically. It all culminated in the Louisburg Square battle which I will get to later in the week.

See my coverage of McNamara's appointment here and Olson here.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Mullin's not leaving early

On "Saturday Morning Live" today, School Committee Chair Matthew Sheehan said that Superintendent Spencer Mullin does not want to negotiate with Attorney Kevin Murphy about leaving before his March 3 retirement. The School Committee, led by Mike Miles, was looking to see if Mullin wanted to bail early. So, instead of officially leaving early, we're stuck with a lame duck superintendent who is a clock watcher and doesn't show up at School Committee meetings. Wonderful.

Top 10 Moments of 2009: #6: Teachers Refuse to Make Financial Concessions

One of the worst economies since the Great Depression.

Massive cuts to local aid.

Unemployment in double digits.

$250,000 mid-year cut to Dracut's schools at November Town Meeting.

Dracut teachers? They refuse to make ANY concessions to help the Dracut taxpayers with the town's budget. Every OTHER union in town made contractual concessions but the teachers in this town said no. They would not even take a temporary wage freeze.

They said this was because Dracut teachers are "behind our neighboring communities, and we made major efforts to bring our salaries somewhere in line with what the other towns are getting." Oh really? I discovered last month that the average Dracut teacher makes $61,290 which is on par with our surrounding communities and, in some cases, higher. They are not "behind" at all.

Complete and utter selfishness (originally mistakenly said selflessness - how ironic). Good luck getting any support on your next contract, folks.

See my original story on this from May here.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Top 10 Moments of 2009: #7: Videogate

Back in May, as part of the Walgreen's proposal, the Board of Selectmen needed to accept money for a peer review. No one on the board voted for it when it first came up (it actually never got a second) but later they called a special meeting to vote on accepting the money. The meeting was held in the lunch room over at Town Hall and Brian Bond, who serves on the Planning Board, suggested to DATV that they cover the meeting. When Dave Paquette of DATV showed up, George Malliaros jokingly closed the door on him and during the meeting James O'Loughlin looked at the camera and said something addressed to Bond. In the end, the selectmen voted to accept the money.

Later, O'Loughlin asked that DATV's board appear before the selectmen as he was concerned about DATV being used for political purposes and there was a very heated discussion and critique of O'Loughlin by DATV members, especially Jack Lyons and Mike McNamara.

You can see my story on the special meeting here and a rundown of the selectmen meeting that DATV attended here.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Top Moments of 2009 - #8: Walgreens Voted Down

For most of the year, Collinsville was full of "Stop Walgreens" signs. The store was proposed for the corner of Lakeview Ave. and Mammoth Rd. across from the CVS and the neighborhood was worried about traffic on an already busy road/intersection.

In the end, the Planning Board agreed and voted the proposal down 3-2 in October. Brian Bond was one of the leading opponents followed by George Nangle and Robert Donnelly. Ironically when Bond ran for selectman in May, one of his campaign promises was to find a way to attract more businesses to town. I am glad he didn't stick to that!

See the original story here.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Selectman's Race is on

I just stopped by Jewelry Gone Wilde - the new jewelry shop on Lakeview Ave. run by Pete Wilde and his wife Donna. He's got some great products and I was able to pick something up nice for my wife (good thing she doesn't read my blog).

Anyway, in chatting with Pete he told me that he is running for selectman next May. There are two seats up this May - the ones currently held by Jim O'Loughlin and George Malliaros. Papers cannot be taken out until February so it's still unofficial but the race is on!

Top 10 Moments of 2009 - #9: Hank Golec

One of the more quieter moments of 2009 was the case of Dracut High Vice Principal and Baseball Coach Hank Golec. Over the summer, someone sent in a DVD of DHS football players practicing to the MIAA (players cannot practice outside a certain time frame). But, the practice was open to all students so it was not a violation.

Upon review of the tape, it was discovered that it came from a camera within the school and the camera was damaged. The evidence led to Golec who hasn't been at work in months. He will retire in January (he was going to retire in June before this) and since September he has been using his sick time and vacation time.

The speculation is that Golec is angry at not getting the AD job that eventually went to Tim Woods. I have more information on this that I can talk about at another time.

See my original story on this here.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Process for New Superintendent

In other news, the School Committee voted 5-0 to hire the MASC to assist with the hiring of a permanent superintendent. The total cost will be about $20,000 with the money coming from School Choice funds.

She's back

Tonight, the School Committee voted 4-1 (Ron Mercier voted no) to hire Elaine Espindle as the interim superintendent. Mercier voted no as he felt it wasn't fair to the other applicants who applied (11 others). He also pointed out that they spent $5,000 in advertising the position and if Espindle's hiring was a forgone conclusion, why did they bother with the process? Mike McNamara felt the same way but in the end, voted yes.

Mike Miles, saying the Dracut schools are "in crisis", made the motion to hire Espindle saying she would be able to begin right away and knows the players, the process of accreditation, budgets, etc. Ironically, Miles' biggest complaint about the hiring of Spencer Mullin was that they hired him before the applicants had even left the parking lot! Now, he said he doesn't even want to interview anyone. To be fair, Miles has been consistent saying all along that he wanted to hire someone from Dracut and he's been very vocal about his support of Espindle.

This move is major vindication for Espindle who was seemingly run out of town in favor of Mullin. She won't be permanent but it's an admission by the board that they made a major mistake in hiring Mullin (which they have said) and want to make it up to her.

Mullin, by the way, was not present at the meeting...again.

Top 10 Moments in 2009 - #10 Canney Farm Groundbreaking

Back in October, the ground was broken on the Canney Farm Park. It was the culmination of a lot of work by a lot of people, especially Brian Bond. Of course, even a ceremonial shovel turning ceremony would have some politics involved - Bond was not given a shovel nor was he in any of the pictures! All of the selectmen (except Jim O'Loughlin) were as was Rep. Garry and a few others. I think Victor Olson was even in them, I could be wrong but I seem to recall he was there.

Anyway, the park should be fully operational in 2011 as the ground needs a full season to settle. Great job to all involved - we cannot wait.

See my post from that day here.

2009 Predictions

Back in January, the Sun asked some Dracut movers and shakers to make predictions for 2009. Here is what they said:

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 was wrong although much of what he said seemed in jest. Garry was correct about Deval Patrick but WAY wrong about Sal DiMasi - he is going to be a guest of the federal government soon. O'Loughlin was correct about someone from Dracut receiving national recognition - Rebecca Duda - but no one from Lowell resigned "unexpectedly."

Top 10 Moments in 2009

Me thinks this is going to be a quiet week in the old hamlet so to fill the void, I thought I'd compile a list of the top ten moments of 2009 in Dracut politics. I'll post one each day (with the exception of Christmas Day) culminating with the number 1 moment on December 31. They won't all be specific moments per se but perhaps a series of events.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Quiet week

There is only one public meeting this week - the School Committee will meet tomorrow at 6pm to discuss the interim superintendent applicants (applications were due Friday) and the process for hiring a permanent superintendent.

You may recall that at the last meeting they asked Attorney Kevin Murphy to meet with Spencer Mullin's attorney to see if Mullin wants to leave before March 1. Either way, with a good deal of time between Mullin's retirement announcement and his retirement date, I am starting to wonder why the School Committee didn't just hire a permanent superintendent to begin on March 1.

Annual Christmas Gifts

Today's Column featured its annual "Christmas presents" to local pols. Dracut was up first and I didn't find the "presents" very imaginative or funny. But, here are summaries:

1. Joe DiRocco, Bob Cox, Ken Martin, and Ken Cunha: Chinese finger traps so they can work together on a "successful affordable-housing project for the town's seniors."

2. Dracut seniors: town leaders who will "stop playing politics" and create "sorely needed housing."

3. Spencer Mullin: a Hawaiian shirt and Werther's Originals as he "embarks on his new career as full-time grandpa."

4. Dracut Students: a new superintendent who will "haul the struggling school district out of its current fiscal downward spiral and bring the school system up to par."

5. George Malliaros: a stress ball because of his recent heart attack

Eh, not bad. Here were last year's presents.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

More on cops

The big story this week in Dracut was the continued drama over l'affair Chartrand. First, on Friday the Sun editorialized that the Police Department should change protocol about off-duty officers responding to calls when they have been drinking. This comes on the heels of an allegation that Deputy Police David Chartrand was "highly intoxicated" when he responded to a domestic dispute on B Street on September 26. The Sun said in part:

The new allegations surfaced after Chief Kevin Richardson's internal investigation cleared Chartrand of any wrongdoing and criticized the officers' union, the New England Police Benevolent Association, for orchestrating a campaign against the deputy chief.

Despite the new allegations, Richardson remains steadfastly opposed to rethinking department protocol for off-duty officers (there is none) and/or reopening the case into Chartrand's conduct.

We beg to differ. Serious allegations are being raised, and Richardson has a duty as chief to find the truth and enact changes if warranted. Union-management feud or not, the chief has a duty to safely protect his entire force and the vital interests of residents.

On the face of it, a new protocol for off-duty officers appears in order. No one who has been drinking should respond to a distress call without alerting headquarters and getting instructions.

In his bi-weekly Valley Dispatch Column, Warren Shaw says that while he thinks Chartrand felt he was doing the right thing when he responded to the call, he's not sure he should have done so. Like the Sun, he is calling for some change in policy:

But it seems to me that absent some policy, we are asking for trouble.

Forget the personalities for a moment.

Any off-duty police officer responding to a crime scene after consuming alcohol is in a very difficult place, regardless of good intentions.

Let's say that a responding off-duty officer is confronted by an aggressive party and is injured, or worse. The potential for legal complications is endless. What does the municipality do and how would its insurance company view the matter?

Does the officer assume his or her own risk by responding? What about an officer being forced to make an arrest under these circumstances?

"Your honor, at the time of my client's arrest, off-duty officer so and so had been drinking and we feel that based on that information, all charges should be dismissed" would likely be what gets the guy off in court. And then, if the guy is really lawyered up and wants to try making some money on the deal, we know what happens next.

Police departments have policies that clearly state that officers cannot have alcohol on their breath when they show up for work, but apparently nothing to provide guidance for off-duty police personnel.

No policy becomes a policy in itself.

Reviewing this issue by local police officials shouldn't be seen as a statement about what happened or didn't happen in Dracut.

It's clearly a "teachable moment" -- and one that should not be allowed to pass without some review.

Finally, in this morning's Sun, Selectman James O'Loughlin is calling for a change in policy (although the headline on the jump page called him Lombardo who is the chair of the Billerica BOS). His colleagues Bob Cox (whose son is on the force), George Malliaros, and John Zimini aren't calling for a change in policy (Joe DiRocco did not return calls). Malliaros said, "This reminds me of the phrase 'No good deed goes unpunished.' David Chartrand was off duty at a party, admittedly drinking, when a dangerous situation comes to his attention. He does what he thinks is the right thing...[he] made the right call."

Zimini said, "I don't think we have the right to set policy for the Police Department. That's why we have a chief." He may be right. The Sun said that the town has a "strong chief" system which means that the police chief "has sole authority and the final say over everything in his department." I did not know that.

As always, stay tuned.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Just like the old days

Since this School Committee began its work in May, it has been seen as a good group of people who truly care about the schools and eschew politics. However, as the search for a superintendent has begun, the old ways of verbal jabs and back and forths and hot disagreements has resurfaced. You can also tell that votes and ideas are being thrown around before meetings are held. Thankfully, the folks are able to shake hands and move on after disagreements but tonight seemed different.

It began with Ron Mercier criticizing Matt Sheehan for him saying that if Elaine Espindle wants the interim superintent job, she can have it. Sheehan made these comments on Saturday Morning Live a few weeks ago and Mercier said his comments prejudiced the search. Sheehan said he was only speaking for himself and not the whole committee. Shawn posted this discussion on Dracut Forum at the time and I listened again and Sheehan did say, "I'd love for Elaine Espindle to come back" and "If Mrs. Espindle wants to be the interim superintendent I am sure she will be the interim superintendent." You make the call.

Anyway, Mercier went on for sometime about this and Mike Miles jumped in saying the process that hired Spencer Mullin was "a joke." Mercier took offense to this since he was the chair at that time. Miles also brought up the DJ Deeb article from last week and said something about how Deeb won't answer his phone!

The discussion wrapped up with the committee once again directing Attorney Kevin Murphy to meet with Mullin's attorney to see if he wants to leave early as long as there is no extra cost to the town. All voted yes but Sheehan. The committee will also receive all of the resumes for the interim superintendent this Friday and meet on Monday to discuss the applicants as well as the process for hiring a new permanent superintendent.

As this committee evolves, I am sensing that Mercier is sort of the odd man out with Miles and Sheehan (and sometimes Bonnie Elie) one in the same with Mike McNamara as the wise elder statesman who is the voice of calm and reason. I get the impression that Miles and Sheehan work things out before the meetings, something Mercier alluded to saying that all discussions and vote counting should be done at the meetings, not before.

That's not to say that everything is worked out before hand judging by the continued confusion over the process of hiring the interim and permanent superintendent. At the last meeting, they tabled their discussion about the process to this meeting and now they're tabling it again to next week's meeting. This will be, as Warren Shaw said, the most important thing Sheehan and the others do so they need to get it right and be open and transparent about it (as Sheehan has promised time and time again, including tonight). Sheehan certainly has higher political aspirations so this will be his legacy. Thus, he needs to get a stronger hold on this and show his leadership capabilities. He's doing pretty good for a first timer but the committee and the process is looking a tad chaotic and, dare I say, amateur. But, better them than me! They'll get it done right, perhaps it's just a learning curve.

As always, stay tuned.

School Committee fireworks

Pretty hot School Committee meeting going on right now...stay tuned for more

Friday, December 11, 2009

Saturday Morning Live

I'll be joining Warren Shaw and Shawn Ashe tomorrow on Saturday Morning Live at 6:30am. The boys are taking a break from politics to focus on the Radiothon for the next two weeks. Be sure to listen in as Warren visits a number of sites to promote the Radiothon, should be a hoot.

Food Pantry for December

Unfortunately, the month of November was the busiest month in the history of the Dracut Food Pantry. Now with Christmas upon us, the food pantry could use some replenishing. The list of items most needed is below. You can drop off donations at the Central Fire Station.

Paper & Toiletries Packs




Sun to Cops: Enough is enough

The Lowell Sun's editorial today is about the never ending drama at the Dracut Police Department. Between the missing drugs and the constant back and forth between the leadership and the union, the Sun said "the citizens of Dracut must be growing weary of these internal squabbles that are tarnishing the department's reputation."

I recall Warren Shaw saying that when he was first elected to the Board of Selectmen, he was told that there was constant drama and complaining at the DPD. So, this is something that is certainly new. But, with the USA Today reporting today that the average salary of federal employees reaching $71,206 (vs. $40,331 for the private sector) I think it's high time for public employees to be a little more grateful for what they have. They get paid quite handsomely, they get amazing benefits, and they will receive a pension when they retire. The only jobs that seem to have been created during this recession are government jobs - especially at the state and local level.

To be fair, the police union did make financial concessions to the town but I am sure when the economy turns around, they will be taken care of. Public employees rarely make financial concessions unless they get something in return down the line.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

More on Salvation Army Week

Yesterday Dan Phelps devoted his column to Warren Shaw's road show which is this Saturday. Shaw will broadcast "Saturday Morning Live" from a number of locations in the area as a way to promote his annual Salvation Army Radiothon.

See the whole column here but below is a taste:

Mr. Guinness won't be called in to document Shaw's accomplishment for his next edition, but it's a pretty impressive undertaking nonetheless.

At each stop, Shaw will solicit donations (he'll beg if he has to) for the Salvation Army, something he has done on his show for 14 years now.

Shaw's efforts are for a good cause. Once again, he and his team of sidekicks -- most notably fundraiser extraordinaire Fred Simon of Tewksbury -- will try to raise a bunch of dough for the Salvation Army.

Last year, they set a new record, raising $86,000 -- even though the radiothon fell on the same day as the infamous ice storm, causing the fundraiser to be extended through the following Saturday.

That was actually the impetus for the idea to hold this year's fundraiser over two Saturdays.

This Saturday will be what the team calls the "suburban road show," broadening the event to communities serviced by the Salvation Army of Lowell. Shaw will be asking for donations from patrons of the five businesses.

Then, on Saturday, Dec. 19, the annual auction will be held in the WCAP studios, with folks calling in to bid on assorted items, including tickets to New England's pro sports team, vacation getaways and other big-ticket surprises.
The week from Saturday to Saturday is being dubbed Salvation Army Week at WCAP.

This year's goal -- $98,000 -- is a nod to WCAP's call numbers.

Interim Superintendent Posting

I am sure it's been there for a bit but I saw the posting for the interim superintendent on the school website today. You can see it here.

Dracut Results

Here is how Dracut voted in yesterday's primary:


Coakley: 1,565 (54%)
Capuano: 569 (20%)
Pagliuca: 503 (17%)
Khazei: 243 (8%)


Brown: 883 (90%)
Robinson: 98 (10%)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Deeb on Elie et al

DJ Deeb has a column in this month's Valley Patriot about the recent attempt to make the Dracut Athletic Director a full-time position. He is very critical of School Committee Members Bonnie Elie and Mike Miles and Chairman Matthew Sheehan, calling them the "Gang of Three."

I've been tough on Deeb in the past and I fault him for Dr. Spencer Mullin but I have to give him some props for some of his analysis. He said

In attempting to restructure the Athletic Director position into a full-time administrative job to include Vice-Principal at the November 9th meeting, ‘Backroom Bonnie’ Elie read a prepared statement from a memo she said that she had received. The memo contained numerous talking points. No one else on the School Committee had the memo. This raises the obvious question, where did the memo come from? Ms. Elie claimed later that she e-mailed the memo to herself. Does she really expect us to believe that?

I agree. I was at that meeting and said the memo "came in her e-mail" the night before. That tells me someone sent it to her.

Are Dracut School Committee members trying to take care of former Dracut School Committee member Tim Woods by making the position of Athletic Director full-time with a substantial raise? It certainly seems so. This was revealed when Miles, a Woods confidante, sung the Athletic Director’s praises at the November 9th meeting. The ironic thing about all of this is that just 1 year ago, Committee members Mike Miles and Matthew Sheehan were promoting a warrant article (albeit an illegal one) to prohibit former members of the Dracut School Committee from applying for positions within the school department.

Again, this appears to be true. Sheehan ran on a platform of excluding former school committee members from serving in school positions after their term of office. Now, Woods has been off the School Committee for some time but either way, the spirit of Sheehan's idea is being violated here.

You can see the whole column here. I don't agree with everything he says but he does seem to have some valid points.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Brown for Senate

I usually save non-Dracut stuff for my other blog but I wanted to share my choice for this Tuesday's primary in the U.S. Senate special election.

I am unenrolled so I support members of both political parties but in this Senate race I have found all four of the Democrats to be hard core left wingers. To quote Jon Keller, they appeal to those who "think abortion is a sacrament, that 'war is not healthy for children and other living things" constitutes a workable foreign policy, and that we shouldn't even consider the death penalty for some lunatic who blows up the Pru Tower.

On the Republican Jack E. Robinson is a complete joke (and a liberal) so for me the best choice is State Sen. Scott Brown. Brown is my dream candidate - pro-life, pro-traditional marriage, believes in small government...but he also isn't a reactionary conservative.

I don't think he'll win the general election but I hope enough people come out and support him to send a message to the Democratic nominee. Even if he doesn't win, he now has some name recognition to launch a bid for a state constitutional seat in November.

Good Saturday

Yesterday was a good day to live in Dracut.

First my family went to the Gingerbread Competition at Harmony Hall. This 3rd annual event, sponsored by the Dracut Rotary, was very nice. There were about 20-30 gingerbread houses, free food and drink, and a table where kids could decorate their own gingerbread man.

From there we went to the Central Fire Station to see Santa. Unfortunately the line was pretty long and my son doesn't do lines (like most 2 year olds) so we just looked from the outside.

While my son napped and my wife worked on her scrapbooking, I took a ride to the library. In my humble opinion there is no better place to be on a snowy day then a library or bookstore. I took out a book on Dracut's history as well as a cookbook from which I made a very tasty orange and yogurt cake.

Finally, last night we went to the tree lighting ceremony over at the school complex. This event was sponsored by the Dracut Lions and they had music, free hot chocolate, and a beautiful set of lighted trees. It was a brief ceremony as it was cold and snowy but everyone there had a nice time.

It's days like yesterday that make me happy to live in a town with such active community groups and people. It was a great day.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

More on Cops

The saga over the alleged actions of Dracut Deputy Chief David Chartrand continue. This week Chief Kevin Richardson cleared Chartrand of any wrongdoing and now the Sun is reporting that the police union is defending itself against allegations that they pressured Officer Derek Scribner to file a complaint against Chartrand.

With the case closed in Dracut, the union is now calling on DA Gerry Leone to investiage. Gee, Leone's plate is pretty full with Dracut stuff - how's that investigation of John Zimini going?(sarcasm alert).

Friday, December 4, 2009

Christmas in Dracut

If you like Christmas then this will be a whirlwind weekend for you:

1. Warren Shaw kicks off the annual WCAP Salvation Army Telethon tomorrow with a multi-city/town tour during his radio show. They're going to travel between sites during the hard break at the top of each hour promoting the telethon which will continue into next Saturday. See more about this here. - CORRECTION: This is next week. My error.

2. There will be a Gingerbread House Competition on Saturday from 11am-7:30pm at Harmony Hall. There will be music, cookie making, hot cocoa, and a visit from Santa. See more here.

3. Santa Claus will be a busy man as he'll be at the Central Fire Station from 12pm-3pm

4. There will be a Christmas Tree lighting at the school complex on Saturday at 6pm (Santa there again, how does he do it?). See more here.

5. The Dracut Community Choir will have a holiday concert on Sunday at 4pm at the junior high.

Great community fun!

Good night for Garry

Last night Rep. Colleen Garry had a fundraiser last night at Eddie Coyle's (Bob Cox's restaurant) and apparently had an amazing turnout. I heard there were a couple of hundred of people there throughout the course of the night.

It was a $25 a person fundraiser so assuming everyone gave the minimum that's about $5,000! Nice haul.

Parker Ave. Meeting

I was hoping to attend the Parker Ave. School meeting on Wednesday but I was at work pretty late. Shawn's got a fantastic rundown with some analysis so there's no need for me to rehash. But, one thing did catch my eye in the Lowell Sun's article about the meeting. It said:

Mercier also dismissed rumors that town officials were hoping to close the school so that the building could become Dracut's new town hall.

Now, perhaps town officials aren't hoping to close the school but they did raise the question at a recent selectmen meeting. If the school does become a Town Hall, will Mercier's words come back to bite him? I think the parents need, as Shawn said, to see the big picture. The town and the taxpayers are very generous to the schools - both financially and morally. If the town sees this as a good solution to the Town Hall problem, I think that would be a win-win for everyone.

Again, I am a parent and a teacher but I realize that Dracut is more than just for the schools.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Record meeting

Tonight's Board of Selectmen meeting was less than 30 minutes. The bulk of the meeting was devoted to approving licenses for 2010. There was also a brief discussion about the new cable advisory committee (applications are being accepted) and then some words about the Dracut's football team and a girl on the swim team who got a full scholarship to BU.

You could tell the boys wanted to get out and get to the football game...they didn't say a thing during New Business! Selectman Bob Cox was joking around and said something like, "You kidding me?" to Selectman James O'Loughlin. O'Loughlin usually has a couple of new business items and tonight he had nothing.

Selectman John Zimini was absent from the meeting for the second time in about a month. This was a special meeting time so perhaps he had something already planned. He did say at the last meeting that he wasn't aware of the date change.

Anyway, short and sweet. Nice way to end the 2009 meetings.