Sunday, January 31, 2010

Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines

Election Season 2010 begins tomorrow in Dracut as nomination papers will be available from the Town Clerk's office. We already know that Brian Bond and Pete Wilde are throwing their hats into the selectmen races with the two incumbents, James O'Loughlin and George Malliaros also running.

I am hearing that there may be at least one challenger in the School Committee race against Mike Miles and Mike McNamara. More to come....let the fun begin!

A reminder of what positions are available this year:

Moderator (1) - one year term

Selectmen (2) - three year term

School Committee (2) - three year term

Trustee of Public Library (1) - three year term

Housing Authority (1) - five year term

Dracut Water Supply District:

Commissioner (1) - three year term

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Can he move to Dracut?

On this morning's "Saturday Morning Live", Warren Shaw had Greater Lowell Technical School Committee members Victor Olson of Dracut and Steve O'Neil of Tyngsboro on to discuss the contract for the new superintendent. I really liked what O'Neil had to say, namely, that the school has to not only be looking out for the students but also for the taxpayers.

Alleluia!

As you know, the current superintendent has received a 69% raise over 7 years and makes over $190,000. The school has become a model of hackery and another example of schools giving away tons of benefits and huge salaries.

Those days are over it seems...as long as we have people like Steve O'Neil on the committee!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Is it just me?

Shawn had the story over at Dracut Forum about the ABCC upholding the suspension of Dracut Center Convenience's liquor license. It continues to baffle me that State Rep. Kevin Murphy is the attorney who represents many businesses who appear before the ABCC to appeal their liquor licenses suspensions. Murphy is not only a lawmaker (you know, like the law that says you can't sell liquors to minors) but he is also the attorney for the Dracut School Committee.

Now, all businesses have a right to appeal their decisions and Murphy has a right to make a living. But the fact that a person who works for the Dracut schools would fight a decision made by another board in town blows my mind. Also, what sort of message does this send? Each year the schools have a mock DUI crash scene to show the students the dangers of underage drinking and driving.

Imagine the irony. A Dracut student illegally purchases liquor from an establishment in Dracut and is arrested. He tells the cops where he got the liquor. The Board of Selectmen suspend the license of said establishment. They appeal to the ABCC and Kevin Murphy comes to the rescue.

Am I the only one seeing the issue here?

I really feel that the School Committee needs to evaluate its professional relationship with Rep. Murphy. It isn't cute anymore.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

All is well, nothing to see here

I got gas at the Hess Station at 6:45 tonight and noticed that Harmony Hall was pitch black. I thought that was strange since there was a scheduled Board of Selectmen meeting tonight. I got home and turned on the TV to a notice that the meeting was cancelled "due to a lack of an agenda."

Alleluia! Looks like any and all of Dracut's problems and concerns are solved. Phew. That was easy.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Poor planning

People were saying that the Dracut schools were foolish for spending so much of their federal stimulus money on salaries but that's exactly what they did. The worst part is that the money hasn't even arrived yet and the fiscal year is over halfway over. You should never spend one time money on operating costs because that money won't be there the following year. Instead of pursuing layoffs or the teachers accepting a pay freeze, the schools set themselves up for another rough year in 2010/2011.

The Lowell Sun has more on this here.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

More on GLTHS

I was thinking more about the Greater Lowell Technical High School last night and their search for a new superintendent. I started thinking about how there are three technical schools in our area - Greater Lowell Tech in Tyngsboro, Shawsheen Tech in Billerica, and Nashoba Valley Tech in Westford.

With all of the budget cuts forthcoming, wouldn't it make sense to have 1 superintendent run all of these schools? Why do we need a seperate superintendent for each one. Two districts out on Rt. 2 (I forget which ones) share a superintendent among them, why not these three schools?

If the GLTH School Committee continues to allow the hackery to continue, I think you're going to see some serious scrutiny of that place. Last year, Dracut refused to fund the school at Town Meeting because of their surplus. I think you'll see more of this down the line, especially if they hire insider Mary Jo Santoro as superintendent to replace James Cassin.

Victor Olson and Paul Morin - don't forget the taxpayers of Dracut. I know you have a responsibility for the students at the school but enough is enough...open the books and cut the fat. You certainly didn't get us into this mess, people like DJ Deeb, Brian Martin, and Mike Hayden did. But, you're on the frontline now and the ball is in your court. What will you do?

Slaughtered

As you know, Scott Brown won Dracut last week 70-29. 10,918 people came out and voted (55%) and Brown won every single precinct by an absolute landslide (with the exception of 6A where he won by 2 votes but only 54 people voted).

Our amazing Town Clerk Kathleen Graham has posted the breakdown of votes on the town's website, you can see the wonderful results here.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Election season has begun!

With the special election for the U.S. Senate now over (yeah Scott Brown), it's time to focus on Dracut town elections. Election day is May 3 and nomination papers can be taken out from the Town Clerk's office beginning February 1 and must be returned by March 15.

The following positions are up for election:

Town of Dracut :

Moderator (1) - one year term

Selectmen (2) - three year term

School Committee (2) - three year term

Trustee of Public Library (1) - three year term

Housing Authority (1) - five year term

Dracut Water Supply District:

Commissioner (1) - three year term

With the anti-incumbent mood out there, this would be a good year for any aspiring politico to jump in.

You can call the Town Clerk’s Office at 978-453-0951 or email: townclerk@dracut-ma.us with any questions.

Out of touch?

I am no fan of Dracut Superintendent of Schools Spencer Mullin but he is in charge of 7 schools, , has a handful of people on his leadership team (other than principals), and makes $130,000.00.

Over at Greater Lowell Technical High School, there is 1 school, a myriad of administrative staff, and a superintendent who makes a whopping $190,000.00. Superintendent James Cassin, as you know, is retiring from the top heavy school this June. The GLTH School Committee is discussing the salary of his replacement and one of Dracut's representatives on the board, Victor Olson, said that any salary less than $130,000 would be "insulting." He cites the fact that the average salary for superintendents in Massachusetts is $142,500. But the "average" superintendent oversees many more schools and staff. The superintendent at GLTHS has a pretty sweet deal once you include in the pension, benefits, etc.

With all due respect, you know what's insulting, Mr. Olson? One school having all these administrators and a weak kneed School Committee that refused to reign in Cassin's exorbitant contract. In a time in which our state has an unemployment rate of 9.4% and with cuts being made to government services left and right, your school has a hell of a nerve giving its superintendent a 69% pay raise over 7 years and paying the assistant superintendent $139,000.

You really need to re-think what you consider "insulting." This is the wrong time to be ticking off voters, just ask Mike Hayden and Martha Coakley.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

What about Tsongas?

I forget to mention below the impact of the Scott Brown victory on Rep. Niki Tsongas. Tsongas, you may recall, won a very close race in 2007 against Dracut's Jim Ogonowski so it is possible for a Republican to pull off a win here. There are two Republicans that I know of that are running: Sam Meas of Haverhill and Jon Golnik of Carlisle.

I don't know much about either of these men, although Meas has a very compelling personal story as a refuge from the Khmer Rouge. Either way, Brown did very well in the 5th District, including taking all of the towns in Greater Lowell, including Lowell! The only major city Martha Coakley was Lawrence. Where Tsongas will do well (and where Coakley did well) was in the western half of the district - Concord, Acton, etc.

Either way, I would love to see a Republican take this seat. This is a fairly moderate district and Tsongas' liberal views don't always match up.

Stay tuned.

What Brown means for Dracut

So we're back. I am sorry this blog essentially went dark for about a week but all of my blogging focus was on the U.S. Senate race over at Dracut Musings. That was a lot of fun and I am overjoyed with the election of Scott Brown.

The prospects for the GOP looks brighter now as the Brown victory was a slap in the face to President Obama, Congressional Democrats, Gov. Deval Patrick, and the state legislature. I think more people will emerge and run against incumbents.

So how does this bode for Dracut politics? I don't think it will make a huge deal in the May town elections but perhaps given the anti-incumbent mood, someone could make the case that Selectman James O'Loughlin has been around too long (20 years or so). But, he's an effective selectman and a good politician so I think he'll be OK. I also wonder if people who pay attention to the Board of Selectmen meetings will get sick and tired of the constant back biting and shots that they take at each other. I caught a minute or so of the last meeting and just could not bear watching Selectman John Zimini go on and on about some DHA party with the others making snide remarks. Enough is enough boys, it's getting very old.

State Sen. Susan Tucker will have a race in November with Republican Jamison Tomasek announcing he will run for her Senate seat. Tomasek may have a tough time since Tucker is pretty good on local issues and actually voted against the recent budget that included a sales tax increase. But she too has been around for a long time.

It looks like State Rep. Colleen Garry will cruise to victory in November. The Tyngsboro business man who considered running will not run and I heard O'Loughlin is staying out of the race.

So...I guess the answer to the Brown impact is we have no idea!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Merrimack Valley is all red

Scott Brown won every city and town in Greater Lowell - even Lowell! Martha Coakley won Lawrence and Carlisle.

Dracut Turnout

From Town Clerk Kathy Graham:

55% turnout (10,918 out of 19,790 voters)

Good work Dracut!

Brown takes Dracut

Boston.com says Scott Brown won Dracut 70-29!!!!!!!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Brown coming our way

Scott Brown is going all over the state this weekend campaigning on his bus. He will be in the Merrimack Valley on Monday:

2:00 PM North Andover Town Common, Retail Shops

3:10 PM Chelmsford Town Common, Retail Shops

4:00 PM Littleton Campaign Office, 23 Stevens Road, Littleton

Go out and witness history!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

All Brown all the time

Sorry for the lack of posts this week folks but I have been focused entirely on the special election for the U.S. Senate. I have been going crazy over at my other blog, Dracut Musings, following this race and pulling for Scott Brown.

Get out there and vote on Tuesday.....especially for Scott Brown!!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Ignoring the media...again

Shawn had the story first yesterday- the school department made a clerical error when they sent in budget information to the state potentially costing us Chapter 70 funding. Town Manager Dennis Piendak told the Sun today that "It was just a mistake, and it's being corrected, so it's really of no concern." School Committee chair Matthew Sheehan said the same thing.

So, seems like it's all settled...until I saw this line about Business Manager Tom Rose:

School Committee Chairman Matthew Sheehan blamed a "clerical error" in the school's annual financial report, which school Business Manager Tom Rose prepared.

Rose did not return a call for comment.


You know, Rose seems like a pleasant enough guy but he continues to thumb his nose at the media and others who actually want answers from him. When I requested some information last year he refused to respond to my repeated e-mails because he "didn't know who I was." Grrrr. I don't think the Sun has ever got him to comment on a story.

For an administration that has lower approval ratings than the Yankess, they're still acting pretty arrogant.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Back to normal

Looks like the town's committees are back to normal after the Christmas season. There is a full slate of meetings this week - see the right hand side of the blog for the schedule.

Campaign 2010

It dawned on me the other day that papers for this year's town elections can be taken out in less than a month (I believe February 1 or 2). Thus, the race is on!

Today's Column has an update on the selectmen's race saying that Pete Wilde is "definitely" in and Brian Bond is "leaning toward" a run. Incumbent George Malliaros says he too is "definitely" running for re-election whereas James O'Loughlin said he will "be making an announcement soon." There was rumors that he was running for state representative but I heard he's decided against that (as has the guy from Tyngsboro).

I think this race will be a toss-up. O'Loughlin has been on the board for a longtime and is a known commodity. He's also a good selectman and knows his stuff. The only thing I see hurting him is some of the public "verbal run-ins" he's had the past few years. Malliaros is a great guy and has really come into his own this year as chairman. I think he will be re-elected, perhaps even top the ticket. As for Wilde, he has a local business, local TV show, and a great personality. I think he may give the guys a run for their money. Bond lost last year but that was a 1 on 1 race and Joe DiRocco is popular and things were going well for the town. The only thing I can see hurting Bond is being associated with the "coffee crowd" who defeated Louisburg Square. But, he has had some success he can point to: Canney Farm is on track and Walgreens was defeated thanks in part to one of his votes.

On the School Committee side, Mike Miles and Mike McNamara are up for re-election and Shawn mentioned that Miles is having a fundraiser on January 29 (see details here). I haven't heard of anyone running against these guys yet but they're both pretty popular and good guys so I have no doubt they'll be fine. I wonder if Paul Elmstrom is going to run again. He ran a good race last year and came darn close to pulling off an upset.

As always, stay tuned.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

They're back!

Our long national nightmare is over...Tony and Ann's Pizza is now open!! They're now on Broadway next to the Eastern Bank and are open from 11am-10pm.

Not having grown up around here, I've never been but I am a fan of Tony and Ann's on Facebook and people are going insane over it. I was talking to a friend of mine who grew up in Lowell and he said the pizzas are the greatest thing. I may have to take a ride over late tonight after the crowds die down, I must see what the fuss is all about!

The Sun has the story here.

UPDATE: As of 6:30, it looks like they ran out of dough and are closed! If you have Facebook, check out what people are saying. See here.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Shout out and Mullin

In his bi-weekly Valley Dispatch column, Warren Shaw gives a gracious plug of the old blog by discussing my top ten moments of 2009. Warren said his top moment was the retirement of Spencer Mullin. He said:

From my perspective the management of the town's top educator by elected School Committees has been the story in Dracut for several years, and in terms of impact on the community has no equal.

With no disrespect to Mullin, who is a very talented educator, the district had the perfect superintendent in Elaine Espindle to handle the difficult budgetary issues going into a period of diminished resources.

The district must now deal with changing top administrators during the most crucial budgetary period in years.

The School Committee was wise to bring back Espindle and her budget skills before a new superintendent takes over next year. This will likely be one of those years when revenue numbers won't be known until very late in the process, and certainly long after Mullin has retired.

Not looking good

The plan for the town to purchase land over on Greenmont Ave./Bridge Street from the Richardson family and then build elderly housing has hit a snag. Because of the wetlands in the area, the number of 700 sq. ft. units that could be built is 46 - down from the proposed 64.

The idea was floated by Brian Bond with help from Ken Cunha and John Zimini. It was conceived while Cunha and Zimini (and others) were working to defeat the other major elderly housing project in town - Louisburg Square.

I am not certain this project, while a good idea, will succeed, namely because funding is contingent upon the state still giving the town the money that was allotted for Louisburg Square. Sorry but I just don't see the state giving us the money for a different project.

The Sun has the story here.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Don't blame me!!

As Shawn has already pointed out, Dennis Shaughnessey has a funny column in the Sun today about the phrase "Spencer Mullin was hired before he left the parking lot." He said:

Since his announced resignation in November and the rigmarole that has surrounded the naming of his replacement, a lot of people writing on blogs and speaking on the radio have said that on that October 2007 night when the School Committee interviewed four candidates for the job, Mullin was chosen before he even left the parking lot. Every time I hear it or read it, I cringe. I want to shout out -- and often do -- "That's my line!"

I did a search of "parking" on my blog and the expression came up twice: once when I was paraphrasing Mike Miles (he used the expression at a meeting recently) and in quoting Shaughnessey's original column after Mullin announced his retirement.

Phew....I am safe.

That having been said, I can't help but wonder if Dennis is mad or just being funny. He said:

I walked up to Deeb after the meeting (none of these bloggers or radio stations were there that night)...

You can almost sense some contempt! Well, I can't speak for WCAP or Shawn to be fair this blog wasn't even a twinkle in my eye when Mullin was hired. This humble blog began in November of 2008. But, Shawn did watch the meeting, he said, and had a story up that night at Dracut Forum.

I do like to think that there is some friendly competition for Dracut news between Dracut Forum, this blog, and the Sun. Shawn and I usually have the information on meetings and other news up on our websites hours before the Sun does. By the time the Sun comes out in the morning, the news is rather old compared to "blog time." Of course, they have a gizzilion times more readers (I get 75-100 hits a day on average whereas the Sun has tens of thousands of subscribers, including me). Overall, they get more stories than we do and have better access to people. I don't have all the time to call people, attend every meeting, etc. like the Sun can.

Anyway, Dennis is a good guy and it's nice to see him writing about Dracut stuff. Erin Smith is doing a great job as Dracut reporter but Dennis is such an old school reporter, I used to love seeing him at meetings. He is right out of central casting!

Lucy the Blog agrees, in a post from 2007:

Also today, Dennis Shaughnessey wrote a nice little piece about local students at a summer job fair. Shaughnessey is the best thing going at The Sun, aside from Gourmet Gal. He’s a hardcore newspaper man - both a columnist and a reporter - and he always paints a nice little picture of whatever he’s covering. Very detail oriented, good color. I like that. But he should change his columnist photo. I mean, come on dude. The jacket over the shoulder? Why don’t you just go all in and put a fedora on your head with a press badge sticking out of it? That headshot withstanding, Lucy the Dog salutes you.

However, Lucy doesn't like the Sun's editor!

Yikes.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Saturday Morning Live

I'll be joining Warren Shaw and Shawn Ashe tomorrow on "Saturday Morning Live" at 7am. We'll be discussing my top ten moments in Dracut politics of 2009. Of course you can also listen on-line here.

2010 Predictions

The Lowell Sun has its annual predictions for 2010 from local movers and shakers today. There was only one Dracut person this year, Selectman John Zimini. He said:

"Let's just say there will be a major political upset. I predict that the Saturday morning coffee group will grow in numbers over the next six months."

Does this mean Brian Bond is running for selectman?