Friday, April 30, 2010

Last elections

For the record, here is how the incumbents and Brian Bond did in their past elections (going back to 2002):

2004
O'Loughlin: 2,142
DiTillio: 2,090
Morin: 1,187
Blanks: 1,061

2005
Zimini: 2,260
Cox: 1,766
Malliaros: 1,684
Corey: 1,313
Blanks: 1,171

2007
Malliaros: 1,773
O'Loughlin: 1,733
Cunha: 1,689
Morowski: 1,590
Blanks: 1,104
Swiniarski: 703
Thibault: 414

2009
DiRocco: 2,366
Bond: 1,605
Blanks: 100

You notice in the years with more than one open seat, there are a high number of blanks. That's because people bullet vote - vote for one candidate to prevent others from getting votes. Expect over 1,000 blanks in this year's election too.

On the air

I'll be joining Warren, Shawn, and Gerry Nutter tomorrow on "Saturday Morning Live" at 7am. Listen in here.

I have no idea what we'll be talking about...what's been going on??

Tear down this house

Selectman John Zimini has been discussing a dilapidated house on Lake Shore Drive but I encourage him and the board to see a house at the corner of Hampson Street and Donahue Road. It is a complete eyesore and has been condemed (there are big X's on it). The house is located at 124 Hampson Street and is owned, according to the town's website, by Shirley Neofotistos. See the Assessor's Page here and an enlarged photo here. Trust me, it looks worse in person.

Selectmen profile

Today, Erin Smith continues her great profiles of the candidates for office by focusing on the five selectmen hopefuls. There wasn't anything really new here but they're good reads. George Malliaros said that if he hadn't been chairman this past year "it would have been utter chaos." Cathy Richardson said she wants to "maintain the rural integrity of the town" and that she does not "have any stake in any political group in town." Um, isn't she the chair of the Republican Town Committee?

Pete Wilde said he lost one of his sons to a drunk driver and thus he is behind tough enforcement of liquor laws, especially on serving under age children. Jim O'Loughlin highlighted his fiscal conservatism and said he wants to keep the town's tax rate low. Finally, Brian Bond wants to bring some balance to the board and build a new town hall and high school as long as it doesn't increase taxes.

The profiles aren't on-line yet except for Bond's. Come back later for the other links.

Dennis on Dracut

Dennis Shaughnessey has an entertaining column in the Valley Dispatch about politics in Dracut. Calling it a "blood sport" he said, "No holds barred and hitting below the belt are not only encouraged and applauded, it is sometimes rewarded."

He compares us to Wilmington which recently had a 12% turnout and Tyngsboro which has no contested races this year. He also touches upon the many alliances and back stories, comparing it to "Survivor."

Great stuff. The column's not on-line yet, I will link to it when it is.

UPDATE: The link to the column is here.

More fliers

I got more fliers yesterday - this time from Phil Thibault and Russ Taylor. Thibault's piece is an 8 1/2 x 11 hard stock with the same format and font as Brian Bond's and May Paquette's. He focuses on Louisburg Square on one side calling it a "money pit." He said he would back housing that is "safe, affordable, and dignified." On the other side he discusses his past experience in government and professional experience.

Taylor's piece, which like Jim O'Loughlin's and Mike Miles', was a stapled tri-fold piece of paper addressed to the "Flaherty Household" (just like O'Loughlin and Miles and in the same font). There are a few pictures of him along with a focus on Thibault serving on too many boards already. "Dracut Housing Authority is the one and only office I want to hold."

More to come I am sure...

Thursday, April 29, 2010

If it's true...

Today's paper recaps the Ron Mercier story with calls from Chairman Matt Sheehan and Member Mike Miles to resign if the story is true. Mike McNamara said the theft has nothing to do with his job on the School Committee but said "it's a violation of the public trust." Bonnie Elis said that this will "cost him his reputation and his good name."

When I heard Mercier had a boat, it made me wonder what he earned working for the city. According to the paper, it turns out he makes $33,074. But, working in the public sector is more than just about the salary - it's about the pension, benefits, and job security...that is if you're not stealing gas from the city!

Lowell City Manager didn't give a timeline for disciplinary action but I'm sure the union has some process that needs to be followed. If everything pans out, he should be gone soon, especially since he's still getting paid. Expect his resignation shortly thereafter. That would set up a replacement process like when Mary Gail Martin resigned in 2009. Will we see the same drama play out? Is Ken Martin going to go for it again? Will the one unsuccessful candidate in Monday's election get it? Stay tuned.

Nixon-esque?

Someone was talking about the use of social networking in the races this year. Many of the candidates do have Facebook pages - McNamara, Paquette, Bond, and Wilde. I follow all of them and I was getting periodic updates about their campaigns.

I went to look at Bond's the other day and noticed it was gone. Even if I searched for it, it would not show up. My wife was on Facebook and asked her to search for it and she got it. I can only conclude that they completely blocked me from it! Wow. I just call things as I see them, I am sorry if people don't agree with my analysis. Oh well.

Crow tastes good

I will man up. I said that the Lowell Sun would most likely endorse Jim O'Loughlin for re-election. But, they surprised us all this morning but not endorsing O'Loughlin or George Malliaros but only Cathy Richardson. They said she would be a fresh face amid all of the "factions" and "political battling." They said, "If Dracut wants to make progress, the political infighting must come to an end." Can't argue with that. I still think the incumbents will prevail but Richardson has a name now and I think she should run again next year.

For the School Committee, they endorsed the two Mikes - Miles and McNamara. They also ran profiles of the three candidates for School Committee. Erin Smith did a nice job capturing each of them in mini-articles. McNamara has a great line, calling himself the "voice of reason." I also call him the Wise Old Owl on the board...he should be the next chairman. I found it very interesting that Miles decided to run in 2007 because of the way he felt the School Committee was treating Elaine Espindle. He said he knew none of the members but "I was just really disturbed with what I saw." May Paquette stressed her financial acumen and also says that she would like to "go back and move the district forward in a positive manner."

I assume the Sun will run Selectman profiles tomorrow. In terms of the Housing Race, Russ Taylor had a sticker ad on the front page of the paper today.

Best day ever

I caught Warren Shaw on Teddy Panos' show this morning and he said that everywhere he goes, all people are talking about is the election, especially after the Ron Mercier incident. I have to agree - yesterday was the biggest day on this blog in terms of hits. I couldn't believe it when I checked the stats this morning. I am sure Dracut Forum and WCAP had huge days too - I was glued to the radio and the net most of the day.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

New blog

I just came across a relatively new blog - Gerry Nutter's Lowell. I think he started it earlier this year but I just started reading it within the past few weeks. He does a lot of Dracut coverage and it's nice to have another perspective. He's pretty involved too, attending meetings, events, etc! Three blogs covering Dracut now - this one, Shawn's, and Gerry. Not bad.

Fliers - Day 2

Got another stack of fliers today - this time from O'Loughlin, Miles, Bond, and Paquette. I found it interesting that O'Loughlin's and Miles' were one-sheet stapled papers with the same font for the return address and the same address line ("Flaherty Family."). The same with Bond and Paquette - they were both 8 1/2 x 11 hard stock paper with the same printer stamp and the exact same mailing address labels (same font, code, permit number, etc). I wonder if folks coordinate/share information. I am guessing they do, nothing shocking I suppose.

Anyway, Bond's flier was pretty negative going after the "incumbent selectmen" on the stipend, insurance, the DATV door closing, and O'Loughlin calling Bond a "knucklehead." He also brings up Louisburg Square (which he spelled wrong) saying the incumbents "tried to shove down the taxpayers throats" and saying the "Good Ole Boys" are working for the "politically connected."

O'Loughlin's was pretty simple with testimonials from Chief Gaudette, Jim Carr, a retired middle school principal, and Bob Audet. Good mix of public safety, conservation, education, and elder services. Good solid piece.

Miles' was pretty boilerplate focusing on his accomplishments and experience. Paquette did the same but with lots of colorful pictures from around town. I do like her slogan, "It's all about the kids."

Lots more to come...

New Senate candidate

There is a new entrant in the race to replace State Sen. Susan Tucker:

Debra Rahmin Silberstein, Andover Attorney, School Committee Chairman and former Andover Finance Committee Member Announces Candidacy for the State Senate

Debra Rahmin Silberstein of Andover announces her candidacy for the Massachusetts State Senate to serve the 2nd Essex/Middlesex District of Andover, Lawrence , Tewksbury and Dracut . She is seeking to fill the seat being vacated by Senator Susan Tucker of Andover , who will not to seek re-election in the fall. Silberstein’s strong record of public service includes four years on the Andover Finance Committee and six years on the Andover School Committee, including three as Chairman of the Committee. Silberstein runs a law practice in Andover focused on elder law and estate planning. In addition to a law degree, she holds a Ph.D. in Social Policy.

“I have a strong track record of working to support economic growth in our communities, advocating for exceptional public education, and promoting fiscal responsibility, and I look forward to bringing this experience to the Massachusetts State Senate,” said Silberstein. “I am running because there is a deep sense of urgency for the Senate to support our cities and towns. We need new leaders and new ideas. Andover , Lawrence , Tewksbury , and Dracut can be innovative leaders in job growth and economic development. I have a record for getting things done in both the public and private sector, and look forward to using my experience on behalf of the residents of this area.”

A small business owner, Silberstein wants to focus her efforts in the legislature on growing the economy in the Merrimack Valley and state-wide. "Economic recovery and sustained growth require the legislature to support businesses that are creating jobs, and supporting improved education at all levels. I understand the issues facing families, cities and towns. I’ll bring new leadership to the State House, I’ll bring experience and won’t waste any time getting to work on turning around our economy, supporting our area businesses, and our schools."

“I look forward to carrying on the legacy of strong, independent-minded advocacy of Senator Tucker,” said Silberstein.

Debra is married to Don Silberstein and has lived in Andover for more than 25 years where she has raised her three children.

Mullin speaks

Somehow, someway, the Lowell Sun actually got former Superintendent Spencer Mullin to return a phone call. As you know, Mullin is under some fire for granting professional licensure (i.e. tenure) to three teachers on his way out the door. Two of the teachers were connected - one is Michael McLaughlin's son and the other is the sister of Mr. Leon Grande, the high school's drama coach.

Mullin asserts that all three were "impressive" and he wanted to hang on to them. In addition, he said he had the backing of DHS principal James Generoso. Perhaps...but it just doesn't pass the smell test. McLaughlin is of course connected to DJ Deeb et al, the group that brought Mullin to town after running Elaine Espindle out of town.

Warren Shaw called into Teddy Panos' show this morning and said stuff like this and Ron Mercier's alleged theft of gas from Lowell is all coming to a head right before Monday's election and it may hurt the Zimini crowd (i.e. Bond, Paquette, etc). He also figures Mercier will resign from the School Committee. I agree - there is no way this all doesn't play a role in Monday's election and there's no way Mercier survives all this.

Stay tuned.

Mercier in hot water

WCAP broke the news this morning that School Committee Member Ron Mercier is under investigation for using the Lowell city yard's gas pumps to fill up his car and boat! They report that he was caught on tape filling up his vehicles on a same day that he called in sick.

Shawn mentions that Mercier, a Lowell water department employee, is "not alone" and that once the full list of names emerges, there will be "a big upset."

If these allegations are true, I cannot see Mercier maintaining his position on the School Committee. Chairman Matthew Sheehan has taken a hard line on school employees who break the rules (i.e. Hank Golec) and I can't see him allowing Mercier to stick around. Of course the final decision lies with Mercier but how can he be a moral voice for the kids with allegations of theft on his record?

UPDATE: The Sun has the story now and mentions that Mercier admitted he stole the gas and is on paid leave. In addition, on the day he called in sick and stole gas, he texted pictures of himself on the boat to co-workers!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Church changes

There are currently three Catholic churches in Dracut - St. Francis in East Dracut, Ste. Marguerite on Lakeview Ave., and St. Mary Magdalen over on Lake Massabesic (St. Mary Magdalen is actually considered a Tynsgboro parish as the parish center and offices are in Tyngsboro). There used to be a fourth parish in town - St. Mary's on Lakeview Ave. - but that closed about 10 years ago (St. Mary's was the first Catholic Church in Dracut history, being built by Michael Collins for the mill workers). Around the same time that St. Mary's closed, St. Therese Church merged with St. Louis in Lowell to become Ste. Marguerite's.

Three years ago, the pastor of St. Francis, Fr. Bob Blaney, was transferred to a parish in Weymouth and the Archdiocese of Boston appointed Fr. Bob Connors, the pastor of Ste. Marguerite's, to oversee both parishes. They remained separate parishes but with one pastor. This is becoming the norm more and more in the United States as there are fewer and fewer priests to staff all of the parishes.

Now, about three weeks ago Fr. Connors announced that he was being transferred to a parish in Watertown. He mentioned this past weekend that St. Francis will most likely return to being a one pastor parish with Ste. Marguerite's sharing a pastor with St. Rita's in Lowell. This is not set in stone but I don't think he would have mentioned it unless it was likely. If so, I feel bad for the folks of Ste. Marguerite's - this will be the third major change to their parish in the past 10 years.

The times are a changing!

For the record, I am a parishioner of St. Francis.

Sheehan moves along

Looks like Matthew Sheehan is still in the race for state representative - he formed a campaign committee last week with OCPF. The third candidate, Bob Cox, hasn't formed a committee as of yet.

Incumbent State Rep. Colleen Garry is having her campaign kick-off party this Sunday from 1pm-4pm over at Lo Kai on Lakeview Ave. It should be especially poignant coming off the deaths of both of her parents. But she has said many times on Facebook that her parents would want her to continue!

Fliers

I received my first campaign fliers today and both, ironically, are from the incumbents George Malliaros and Jim O'Loughlin.

O'Loughlin's is quite simple with the address side only saying "Vote Monday May 3rd" followed by his name and the slogan "There is no substitute for experience." Good line - trying to counter Brian Bond's notion that O'Loughlin has been on the board too long (18 years). On the back is a list of phone numbers for town offices and restaurants with O'Loughlin's name and motto.

Malliaros' is more detailed with the back side having a color picture of his family sitting on the front steps of a house along with his name, election day, and slogan ("I need your vote") in big letters. It is very appealing. On the other side is a list of his accomplishments and his resume. It's a tad wordy but is an interesting read.

Expect a ton more this week...a ton more!

Both sides mad at me

I was able to catch part of the new DATV show "Positively Dracut" last night but unfortunately it got cut off right in the middle of Ken Cunha talking about me! My wife was in the kitchen making dinner and heard it and came running out...too funny. On a side note, I am glad to see more shows on DATV, no matter the hosts or perspectives. I too would like to do a show on DATV (not about politics) but haven't got around to it yet.

Anyway, Cunha was upset at me for my criticism of him vis a vis Louisburg Square (ironically, Jim O'Loughlin was mad at my coverage of that now infamous July meeting so both sides are critical). Again, I didn't catch the whole thing but Cunha was upset that I said he had turned "dark" and "toxic" and a "snake" politically. I said so because when I first moved to town, Cunha was elected to the Board of Selectmen to replace the late Jack DiTillo. From my observations, Cunha seemed like a decent guy and seemed to get along with everyone on the board. But, when he was elected to the Dracut Housing Authority board last year he became nasty. At that July meeting, his tone was harsh and he was going at it hard with people like Bob Cox and O'Loughlin. Cox actually looked like he was going to cry saying something to the effect that they used to play Little League together...what happened? At future meetings, Cunha had the same tone. In speaking with folks, people like Cox were completely caught off guard by Cunha's change in demeanor and had no idea what changed. They were friends and supporters and now he seemed to hate them.

That's what I meant, Mr. Cunha. I am a nobody who just observes town government and politics and have just noticed a major hange in you since your time on the Board of Selectmen. Just my two cents.

Back room deal coming back to bite?

I was going to blog about the interviews for the superintendent of Greater Lowell Tech. But Lynne over at Left in Lowell did such a masterful job that I would not be doing it any justice. Lynn and I disagree with just about everything but she nails it here. The crux is, the GLTH School Committee's search for a new superintendent has been such a bag job that hardly anyone applied (contrast that with the 15 applications Greater Lawrence received). The fix was in from the start for an insider to get the job but, as Lynne points out, the one outsider who made it to the final round had a fantastic interview whereas the insiders were less than stellar.

It will be very curious to see how Dracut's representatives on the board, Victor Olson and Paul Morin, vote. Whoever gets this job will help us see if the School Committee truly gets it. After one of Lowell's representatives, Michael Hayden, lost re-election last November you would think they would change their tune. But, between their hiring process to replace James Cassin, their reluctance to have their meetings aired live, and the fact that the going away part for Cassin is being held at the establishment of one of the school committee members suggests otherwise.

There's always the next election to send a message.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

My predictions

With election day a week or so away, I have come up with my annual predictions of who is going to win. These are not endorsements nor do they necessarily reflect who I am going to vote for. Rather, they're just my analysis of the races.

So, barring any October surprise, I predict the following:

Selectmen: O'Loughlin and Malliaros

School Committee: McNamara and Miles

Housing Authority: Taylor

I really went back and forth on the selectman race. I think O'Loughlin will easily win and will even top the ticket. I think Cathy Richardson may have had a shot if she got in sooner and had more of a presence. Her performance at last week's candidate's night, from what I hear, was very strong so she may still surprise us.

But in the end, I am convinced that Malliaros has good name recognition and has the power of incumbency. He has come into his own as chair this past year and is seemingly above all of the bickering and infighting. He did a masterful job with the joint meeting with the DHA over Louisburg Square last fall and really proved his mettle. Plus, he's an all around good guy who loves Dracut and wants to do the right thing for the town.

O'Loughlin is a strong selectman who at that same Louisburg Square meeting destroyed Ken Martin and Ken Cunha's arguments. He may have a temper and he does get fired up easily (yours truly was a beneficiary of an O'Loughlin take down last summer at a selectmen meeting) but the man knows his stuff. He's been on the board a long time so he must be doing something right.

Brian Bond is another good guy who loves Dracut and has done some good things. But I think he is a classic example of a guy getting involved in the wrong crowd. His ties to Selectman John Zimini, Martin, Cunha, et al has really hurt him and his super negative campaign may come back to bite him. I don't have a problem with him bringing up O'Loughlin's past connection to Gerry Lussier as I think that's a legitimate conflict of interest. But, he went about it in a bad way, especially since O'Loughlin had a decent come back - his health and the health of his wife. Bond could have framed it better. But, I think this is the last hurrah for Bond as he'll be 0/2. Even Aladai Stevenson knew to fold it after two losses!

Pete Wilde ran a decent campaign and I don't think this will be the last we've heard of him politically. This was a high profile race and he was never able to gain traction and name recognition. He had a weak showing at his fundraiser and he recently resigned from the Dracut Democratic Town Committee, a group that could have helped him. Instead, he's been on his own. But, he will still be involved and will make good contributions. This just wasn't his year.

On the School side, no question Dr. McNamara will top the ticket. The man is a professional through and through and one of the most respected men in town. I hope he gets to be chairman as he has a good demeanor and will represent the schools well. He's also above all the politics and doesn't seem to fall into any political group. I call him the Wise Old Owl and I hope he's around for a long time.

Mike Miles is just too popular and too well known to not get re-elected. I think he's been a little too negative in this campaign, especially against May Paquette but in the end he'll win. Paquette is perceived to be too close to the Deeb crowd and the prior school committees to win. She's a good lady and comes from a wonderful family but I think Miles will pull it off.

Finally, Russ Taylor will defeat Phil Thibault in the DHA race. I think last year the anti-Ziminities were completely caught off guard by the Cunha/Zimini connection. Yours truly went to Town Hall to see the campaign finance reports last June and Mike McLaughlin and others had given him huge donations (McLaughlin gave a whopping $500). Like clockwork, that summer Cunha became one of the biggest opponents to Louisburg Square and turned very dark and mean, especially at the infamous July meeting. Thibault is part of that crowd and the other side is ready this time.

This will be an interesting race as most people will bullet vote. Bond's people will only vote for him and Paquette, O'Loughlin's for him and Miles, etc. That may change things somewhat but I am confident in my predictions.

Good luck to all.

Hello kettle

One of the editorials in today's Sun is a thumbs down to Chelmsford Planning Board Member Bob Joyce for taking part in board discussions that involve an advertiser on his blog, Chelmsfordmassnews.com (the advertiser is opposed to the project).

Now I know very little about this issue other that what I've read in the paper. But, for the Sun to be editorializing to someone about a conflict of interest and the appearance of a conflict is laughable. The Sun employs Selectman Jim O'Loughlin without acknowledging it in articles about him. Even the Boston Globe discloses that it owns part of the Red Sox from time to time in their articles about the team. If the Sun endorses O'Louglin in the election, which I am sure they will, and don't disclose that he works for them, that would be a major conflict and an ethical lapse. Again, I have nothing against O'Loughlin here but the Sun should know better. Plus, they shouldn't cast stones against Joyce.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Say Cheese

Shawn went around town today to take some pictures of the sign holders. I was out and about doing errands and noticed too that there were a ton out there at all major intersections. It's crunchtime.

Shawn had the pictures up at Dracut Forum but they seem to be gone now. Either way, he said that everytime he took a picture of Brian Bond or his sign holders, they would turn around and face away from the camera. Interesting - John Zimini did the same thing last year to Dennis Shaughnessy!

On the move?

I haven't seen the Candidate Night yet but the consensus seems to be that Cathy Richardson has caught some traction. I saw an ad for Richardson on Dracut Forum and she's having a Pizza Night this Tuesday at Dracut House of Pizza from 6pm-8pm. Will be interesting to see if she gets a bigger crowd now.

I said before that her being the only female in the race may be a huge lift to her chances. Now that she has had a good appearance and seems above the fray, she has a stronger chance. I was going back and forth in my mind as to whether or not she will win or not. On one hand I said no because O'Loughlin and Malliaros are too well known and accomplished but then I thought her being a female among all males would propel her to a seat. I will make my predictions within the week or so.

Miles and Taylor

FINALLY I have a weekend with nothing going on. Last weekend I had to work at school (ran our annual yard sale), the weekend before was my daughter's baptism, and the weekend before that was Easter (with two weekends in March devoted to other school events). I feel so free!

So I was up early and got to listen to "Saturday Morning Live" for the first time in a month or so. I've heard two Dracut ads so far - Russ Taylor, Housing Authority, and Mike Miles, School Committee. Interesting approach by both, they had their daughters read the ads. Smart move.

GOB Take Down

Warren Shaw's column this week in the Valley Dispatch focused on Brian Bond's past statement that Jim O'Loughlin is part of Dracut's Good Old Boy network. However, Shaw points out that it's not O'Loughlin or George Malliaros that are GOB's but rather Bond himself. Bond is part of Selectman John Zimini's camp which, as Shaw points out, also includes Finance Chair Gary Marsella, DHA Commissioner Ken Cunha, DJ Deeb, Mike Blatus, etc. If Bond is elected, he will be part of his own GOB club.

As many have pointed out, including this morning on "Saturday Morning Live", this seems to be a part of an effort to have a hand in selecting a new town manager, new school superintendent, DHA Executive Director, etc. They have a majority on the DHA and only 1 member on the selectmen...what will happen come May 3?

See Shaw's column here, great stuff.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Going Wilde

Selectman candidate Pete Wilde took the gloves off on a Facebook posting today:

The final leg of this campaign has begun. My question to the voters is Do you want to continue with the current Selectman Board who are always acting like kids with temper tantrums at the tot lot or do you want someone who is responsible, a business owner and someone who knows how to Market Dracut for positive Future ...Growth for our children. If you want change I am your candidate.

I was thinking the other day how this has been a very quiet campaign with very little discussions of the issues. I think Wilde and Brian Bond are thus trying to tap into the behavior of the selectmen, be it their arguments at meetings or political connections. It may work brilliantly or may backfire. As I said the other day, the majority of people who vote in town elections are either employees, the elderly, or those who are really tuned in to town politics. Jim O'Loughlin and George Malliaros will have an advantage there so Bond, Wilde, and Richardson have to find someway to break out of the pack. Richardson has a built in advantage being the only female whereas Bond has a solid group of supporters. Bond has also been touting his phone calls to voters on Facebook - that does help.

This will be one interesting race. I cannot wait for Thursday's Candidate Night. Unfortunately I have to chaperone a dance at school (always seems to be the way lately) so I can't be there live but Shawn will be there and I will DVR it and provide some thoughts after.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

May the Angels lead her into paradise

Condolences and prayers to Rep. Colleen Garry whose mother is dying. She recently posted on Facebook that she is slipping away and "join[ing] Dad in heaven today." This comes months after her father Martin passed away.

May her soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, rest in peace.

UPDATE: Fr. Chris Casey mentioned at mass tonight at Saint Francis that Mrs. Garry passed today.

Most polarizing?

I had to work yesterday (Annual school yard sale) and on my way in, I caught some of "Saturday Morning Live." Warren and Shawn were discussing Selectman John Zimini and his new DATV show "Positively Dracut." During the discussion, Warren said that Zimini is the most "polarizing" figure in Dracut politics and I think he said in all of Dracut political history.

I think he's right - Zimini has changed politics in town lately. It's too bad as he's a good guy with a great personality. But ever since he went after Dennis Piendak last year for not planning ahead on the budget and then refusing to attend the meetings to replace the Martins, he has changed dramatically. Prior to that, the board got along great and to be honest, the meetings were pretty boring with everyone praising each other! Now politics in town has gotten very dark, it's gone to the other extreme with everything now a major issue. There are also major cring moments at some meetings with people going after each other.

Town elections typically have a 20% (and less) turnout with a good number of people who vote town employees or connected politicos. I don't see many of these folks pulling for Zimini's people but we shall see. I will make my predictions in a couple of weeks.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Still alive

Sorry for the lack of postings as of late, folks. Between a new baby, being the assistant coach for my school's softball team, and work, I haven't had any time to watch meetings, listen to WCAP, look into things, etc. I don't get home at night until 6 or 7 and then I am taking care of the kids until the baby goes down at midnight.

I feel bad, especially since town elections are a few weeks away. Shawn and I had some casual conversations about doing something for the elections but life has taken its hold and hasn't let go! Luckily, he's doing a great job covering the races and issues, especially with his video postings.

Things should settle down soon and I'll get back into the routine. Thanks for sticking with the old blog.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The other side of casinos

I heard an interview this morning with an incredibly articulate and well informed citizen about the dangers of casinos in Massachusetts. Kathleen Conley Norbuton was on "Jim and Margery" on WTKK and I was very impressed with her insight into casinos and the social destruction they leave behind. She is not a professional lobbyist, she's just a regular person who is standing up for what she believes in.

A caller who used to live in New Jersey called into the show and said they were promised the Moon when casinos were put into Atlantic City but now it's just a dumpy seaside town with casinos.

Norbuton's organization, United to Stop Slots in Massachusetts, has a website which you can see here. They also have a petition which you can sign. Remember, Speaker Robert DeLeo is trying to ram this through with no real debate and a floor vote is scheduled for Thursday, just weeks after DeLeo unveiled the bill.

State Rep. Colleen Garry, a fine woman who I admire greatly, is in favor of this bill. I am begging her to reconsider and I urge folks to call her and register their thoughts. Her number is 617-722-2380 and her e-mail address is RepColleenGarry@aol.com.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Garry for Casinos

On her Facebook Fan page, State Rep. Colleen Garry announced that she would support Speaker Robert DeLeo's Casino bill. She wrote:

Casino Gambling bill needs more support....if you are in favor tell your friends and relatives to call their reps and senators to support it! I am in favor. It would allow for two resort casinos and 750 slots in the racetracks. Should produce 15,000 jobs.

Personally, I am opposed to casinos being built in Massachusetts. I think they will bring too many social problems (i.e. gambling addiction, crime, pressure on infrastructure, traffic, etc) and not enough financial rewards. Furthermore, those "15,000 jobs" will not be good paying jobs but part-time, low paying jobs and the construction jobs will be gone as soon as the places are built.

Also, the process stinks. DeLeo is ramming this through with no public hearing. And you thought Tom Finneran was a dictator!

I am very disappointed in Garry's stance and hopes she reconsiders. If not, I hope that the other state representative candidates oppose this measure. Anyone know where Sheehan and Cox stand on this?

Town's biggest employers

I almost missed it but in the back pages of today's Sun was a list of the top ten private employers in Dracut by employees. The list is:

1. Hannaford (225)
2. Brox (181)
3. Dunkin Donuts (155)
4. Verizon (125)
5. Dakota Systems (82)
6. Old Dominion Trucking (81)
7. Toupin Rigging (64)
8. Poland Springs Water (64)
9. Lenzi's (60)
10. Con-Way (40)

Sign/visibility update

There was a big visibility yesterday morning at the corner of Lakeview Ave. and 113. The majority of sign holders were Bond and Malliaros people with Brian and George there personally. I drove by again about an hour later and Malliaros was still there along with, I assume, his wife and son.

I also saw my first Cathy Richardson sign and am noticing that O'Loughlin signs are everywhere. There is actually a house on 113 near Hannaford with Bond, O'Loughlin, and Malliaros signs!

On second thought...

So while Chelmsford went with the wind and voted out an incumbent, yesterday Billerica re-elected two selectmen to the Board of Selectmen.

How will Dracut go? I have my predictions...will share them as we get closer.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Lesson for incumbents?

Now obviously this is comparing apples to oranges but an incumbent selectman, Pat Wotjas, was defeated in Chelmsford's town election yesterday. Two new comers were elected to the board, one of whom is 21 years old.

There were local issues at play in this election but for Selectman James O'Loughlin and George Malliaros, it is a powerful reminder that incumbency does not guarantee victory. They know that of course but in this era, they can take nothing for granted.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Fair play?

Every Monday I enjoy the "From Our Back Pages" section of the Lowell Sun - it concerns me, however, that I am starting to remember some of the events!


I am also a tad concerned that the author of this piece is Selectman Jim O'Loughlin. Of course O'Loughlin has a right to earn a living and do what he wants but I question the journalistic ethics of the local paper of record allowing a local elected official to pen a weekly piece in the paper. I ran this by a prominent Journalism professor at a Boston university who also questioned the ethics of it. Although O'Loughlin's contribution is "slim", he said the Sun still should not permit it.


Granted the paper makes no mention of O'Loughlin's elected position in the piece and people who don't know him would not even know who he is when they read the byline. Furthermore, it's not like it's a news piece and I do not think there is some grand conspiracy or underhandedness going on. However, it just does not sit well with me. I do think at the very least the paper should get someone else to do the piece during election season. If he doesn't and the paper endorses him and don't mention their professional relationship, that would be a serious lapse in journalistic ethics. The onus is on the Sun, not necessarily O'Loughlin.

Dracut's highest paid

Today's Lowell Sun has an article on the highest paid employees for the Town of Dracut. Not surprising, 15 people made over $100,000 in FY 2009 and 9 of them were police officers. The others were the police and fire chiefs, the town manager, the former school superintendent Dr. Mullin and Dr. Linda Trouville, an assistant superintendent.

The police officers earned the extra money in overtime and detail pay. Police unions argue that private details are paid by the companies which is true but the retort is - who does the company pass those costs off to? I also get annoyed that cops get paid for a minimum of 4 hours of detail work no matter if they work 1 minute. That is grossly unjust.

Pete Wilde has been talking about overtime in general on his Facebook page. He wrote, "Just going over the town budget for fy 2010/2011 I cannot understand why when we are trying to save pennies many departments are allowing overtime at the taxpayers expense. I can see after I am elected there needs to be a lot of talks with department heads to help them control their budgets."

Stay tuned.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Sign times

Driving around town this weekend, I've noticed a ton of signs for Jim O'Loughlin, Brian Bond, and Mike McNamara (particularly on Rt. 113). It seems that O'Loughlin has more out there as of now but of course, it's still early.

Bounce back

Last week I mentioned that Pete Wilde, candidate for selectman, said he had a small fundraiser but raised a lot of money. This weekend, he posted on Facebook that he has been endorsed by the Merrimack Valley Central Labors Council.

As Shawn points out, considering he just resigned from the Dracut Democratic Town Committee, this is pretty huge. I would also think that Brian Bond would get this endorsement since he is close to John Zimini, a big labor guy. Perhaps they endorse more than one person but the last local candidate they donated money to (at least a large amount) was Lowell City Councilor Rodney Elliott.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Bad week

I can't remember everything but it seems like there has been a number of black eyes for Dracut residents this week. I recall the couple who committed Medicare fraud, a hit and run on Lakeview Ave, a "bomb threat" at the junior high, and I believe a drug incident.

Not good.

Zimini looks to eliminate health insurance

In today's Lowell Sun, Selectman John Zimini outlines a plan to eliminate health insurance for town elected officials via June's Town Meeting. Currently Selectmen George Malliaros, Joe DiRocco and Bob Cox receive health insurance through the town. The other two selectmen, Jim O'Loughlin and Zimini work for the state. The article states that Zimini receives his insurance through the state but it makes no mention of O'Loughlin's health insurance. Assuming he does get it from his state job, that would mean that all five selectmen receive their health insurance from government! DiRocco is a retired fire chief so he does not get his insurance by being an elected official.

School Committee member Mike McNamara receives it as well but because his wife works for the schools (which was news to me). Former Selectman Warren Shaw and the widow for the late Selectman Jack DiTillio, Kathleen, also receive the benefits.

Town Treasurer Ann Vandal told the Sun that between the stipend, gas reimbursement, and health insurance, the total cost for selectmen compensation this year is $74,300. Shaw points out in the article that the quality of candidates would decrease if there wasn't any stipend or benefits.

It should be very interesting to see how this goes at Town Meeting. Zimini already tried to get this through the Board of Selectmen but he could not receive a second to his motion. I get the impression that Town Meeting is attended by a lot of town employees and I could see them going either way on this.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Ballot order

When it comes to the order of people's names on ballots, it seems like the luck of the draw. The names on May's ballots will be in this order (races with competition):

Selectman:

Brian Bond
Cathy Richardson
James O'Loughlin
George Malliaros
Pete Wilde

School Committee

Mike Miles
Mike McNamara
May Paquette

Housing Authority:

Phil Thibault
Russ Taylor