Monday, November 29, 2010

Garry on DiPaola

Yesterday's Lowell Sun reported on the suicide of former Middlesex County Sheriff James DiPaola. Prior to being elected sheriff, DiPaola spent time in the House of Representatives. State Rep. Colleen Garry credits DiPaola for helping her launch her run for state representative in 1994:

"I'll always remember when he was in the Legislature and I was an aide and a new seat opened up," Garry said. "Everyone said I had no chance of winning, but (former state Rep.) Ed Connolly said, 'If you want to beat a machine, then go see Jimmy.' He sat down with me in his office for over an hour and told me what I needed to do to win it. He took time to boost my morale and I'll never forget that."

Friday, November 26, 2010

Taking a bow

Today's Lowell Sun has a nice article on Dracut High's finest, Leon Grande. The director of the school's band, drama club, etc, etc is retiring after this year so yesterday's Thanksgiving game was his last Halftime Performance.

You can read it all here, it's great.

But, I do have one concern. The article said Grande is 56 years old. And he's retiring?? I think we now know why the public sector is broke...we allow people to retire at 56?!?!?!?

Library hours

The Dracut library is cutting hours again - this weekend. They will be closed all of today and tomorrow. I looked at other libraries in the area and most are open both days with only two closed today (Westford and Billerica).

Not good. Not good.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Town Meetings works

In last Friday's Valley Dispatch, Warren Shaw discusses the recent Town Meeting and how the effort to reduce the quorum at future meetings to 50 failed thanks to a resident. The quorum was reduced to 200 (from 250) but that amendment came from a regular Joe, the way these things are supposed to happen. Too often these meetings are stacked and run by elected officials and town employees, it's nice to see "one of us" make a difference.

Shaw also points out that Town Manager Dennis Piendak's retirement is not too far off. With two seats up for re-election on the Board of Selectmen in May, Shaw asks whether or not the town wants the process to select a new Town Manager to get bogged down in politics.

Who do you want choosing the next town manager?

The School Committee just went through a smooth, very transparent process in selecting Stacy Scott as our superintendent of schools.

It wasn't long ago that a previous school board badly handled a search and our schools are still in recovery.

A mishandled town manager replacement process could undo all of the good brought about by Piendak's professionalism.

Sesame Street on WCAP

I caught some of Warren Shaw's interview with the folks over on Sesame Street yesterday. Thankfully Shawn had all of the audio up over at Dracut Forum, you can listen here. Good stuff.

Irony?

Now I will be the first to say that Jim O'Loughlin was a good, smart selectman. He knew his stuff and he was brilliant at it. He also does a damn good job at the Dracut Food Pantry.

But...

In today's Lowell Sun O'Loughlin pens a column in which he bemoans the loss of civility, statesmanship, and inspirational public speaking. The impetus of his column is the 50th anniversary of the "election" of John F. Kennedy. Quoting him, as well as Bobby and Ted, O'Loughlin compares them to Republicans Joe Miller, Christine O'Donnell, Sharon Angle, and Democrat Frank Caprio, all of whom had less than stellar campaigns this year as well as many verbal gaffes.

Fair enough. But aside from O'Loughlin's praising of the Kennedys (gag me), I find it ironic that he is critical of others for the words and language they use. Despite being a good selectman, O'Loughlin was at times like a bully when he spoke at meetings. I was one target of his criticism when he didn't like the way I wrote about a meeting at which he got into a screaming match with Housing Authority Chairman Ken Martin. He said something about how people like me need to do things like this to "feel better about themselves." I also recall his lambasting of people who were pushing for the purchase of a police dog. I also recall him publicly calling out the head of Dracut Pop Warner during a meeting. I also recall him going after fellow Selectman John Zimini time and time again. How about his fights with Brian Bond?

I don't know, reading this column struck me as too ironic. I mean, I would never write a piece criticizing Americans for their eating habits!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

House politics

On his blog today, Dick Howe points out a Lowell City Ordinance with regard to abandoned property. The ordinance "requires the lender, at the commencement of any foreclosure action, to register with the city, to identify a resident (i.e., within 20 miles) agent responsible for the property, and to maintain the property. Noncompliance results in a substantial fine that continues to grow over time."

I wonder if Dracut has a similar ordinance. With all the talk of the town ordering the House of Horrors to be torn down on Sesame Street, I remind folks of the house at 124 Hampson Street owned, according to the town's website, by Shirley Neofotistos. The house is at the corner of Hampson and Phineas Streets and is abandoned and is in complete disarray. There has been a for sale sign out front for years and the house itself is appraised at $14,900. It is a complete blight on the area and something needs to be done.

See a picture of it here. It looks worse in person.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Lo Kai gone?

Look, I would crawl over broken glass to eat the buffalo tenders at the 99...but I wouldn't want one in Dracut. I am very concerned about chains stores/restaurants coming into town and I really hope Teddy Panos of WCAP is wrong that the Lo Kai is going to be sold to the 99. Both the Lo Kai and the 99 deny the story so it's their word against Panos. See today's Sun for the story.

We need more locally owned places in town, not more chains. Two CVS stores, 4 Dunkin Donuts, and one Hannaford is enough thank you.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Selectmen fireworks

I caught a bit of last night's Board of Selectmen meeting and boy was it worth it. Every meeting begins with "Community Input" but no one ever speaks. However last night, residents from Sesame Street spoke and came out blasting the town and the selectmen for, according to them, not doing enough about the House of Horrors (i.e. the house with the cat urine).

The residents spoke one after another criticizing the board and town employees (Health Director Tom Bomil was a favorite target) for giving promises to do something about the house to no avail. At 15 minutes Chairman George Malliaros stopped the speaker as that is the allotted time for community input. Selectman John Zimini motioned for the time to be extended which passed.

I caught the last part of the meeting where Malliaros was explaining how the town can't really order the house to be torn down and thus their hands are kind of tied. While he and others have suggested the owner tear it down, the town would have a great deal of liability if it ordered her to do so. Malliaros said there are a number of houses in town that are in horrible condition - should the town go around tearing those down too?

I can't imagine this pleased the residents but I am sure he's right. Perhaps the residents can do a class action lawsuit against the owner? But again, on what basis?

I don't envy the selectmen and town on this one.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Agendas et al

When the state recently changed the Open Meeting law, it required boards and commissions to post agendas, minutes, dates of meetings, etc. well in advance. I must say of all the boards in town, the one that is the most transparent and open is the School Committee. They always have their meeting times, agendas and recent minutes posted on their website as well as other pertinent information. Their website is clean and easy to find information.

The town's website, however, could use some work. You really have to dig around and go to different places to find information on boards, agendas, minutes, etc. It's an old and tired website and could use a face lift, I don't think it's been changed a bit since I moved to town in 2005. The Board of Selectmen do a decent job posting their agenda, meeting time, and very detailed minutes. But other boards are sporadic. For example, I cannot find any agendas or minutes of the Library Board of Trustees anywhere. Agendas for other boards like the Planning Board or Conversation Commission are hard to find but they do a nice job posting minutes.

I don't think anyone is hiding anything but the town, as I've said in the past, could be a little more transparent and its website more user friendly.

Piendak staying, McCarthy leaving

Today's Column reported that Town Moderator Gary McCarthy announced at Town Meeting last week that he will not be seeking re-election in May. This is no surprise really as he recently retired as the head of the Dracut Water Supply District.

The Column also mentions that Town Manager Dennis Piendak asked for a moment to make an announcement at Town Meeting but, he joked, "it's not what you think." That is, his retirement. It's no secret that Piendak is on the cusp of retirement and many folks are nervous about Dracut losing the finest municipal manager in the state.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Post-election thoughts

So despite the Red Wave, Tsunami, Title wave (pick your cliche), Massachusetts maintained its True Blue status on Tuesday. I can't say I am all that surprised. In fact, I predicted on my other blog that all of the Democrats would be elected except for the Auditor's race (which I got wrong).

Here in Dracut, Rep. Colleen Garry was easily re-elected to a 9th term and Sen.-elect Barry Finegold will soon be representing us in the state Senate. Interesting factoid - most of the Democrats who lost to Niki Tsongas in the 2007 special election primary are or will be in the Senate (Rep. Jim Miceli is still in the House).

But despite Garry's re-election, Dracut was very red. The only other Democrats to "win" Dracut were Bill Galvin, Martha Coakley, and Jim DiPaola, all of whom had token opposition. In addition, the three ballot questions all won Dracut. I did think that Garry's main opponent, George Boag, did pretty well for a first-timer. He got 3,628 votes to Garry's 5,942. Independent Matthew Sheehan didn't do all that well only getting 1,232 of the vote. Percentage wise, the numbers worked out as follows:

Garry: 53%
Boag: 32%
Sheehan: 11%

I wonder if Sheehan regrets running. He has to run for re-election to the School Committee in May and these poor numbers may cause some opponents to smell blood in the water. But, you could also look at it that Sheehan is doing a good job with the School Committee and the voters are fine with him doing that job, just not state representative. Sheehan has had a good term, serving two years as chair, running a smooth search process for Dr. Scott, and keeping a lot of the drama out of the schools. He can make a compelling case for re-election.

Boag told Gerry Nutter and the Sun that he has no intention of running for selectman, just state representative (if he decides to run again). I think that's a mistake. Serving on the Board of Selectmen or School Committee will give him a bigger profile and visibility. Voters do like their politicians to have some experience and if Boag wants to run again, he needs to show some experience and accomplishments. Obviously the people of Massachusetts are not drawn to the "change" idea, they have stated that they're happy with the Democrat monopoly. He needs something else to help convince the voters he deserves to be their state representative.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Democrats sweep

Looks like it will be Tsongas, Finegold, and Garry just as I predicted.

Golnik takes Dracut

Golnik: 5,441
Tsongas: 5,107
Brown: 300
Clark: 71

Baker takes Dracut

It wasn't Scott Brown numbers but Charlie Baker has won Dracut:

Baker: 57%
Patrick: 31%
Cahill: 11%
Stein 1%

Looks like Garry

With all 10 precincts reporting, Colleen Garry has won Dracut:

Garry: 5,942
Boag: 3,628
Sheehan: 1,232

Tyngsboro still needs 3 precincts to report but Garry has the lead. It looks like she'll be re-elected.

State senate update

Eagle Tribune reporting Jamison Tomasek won Dracut and Tewksbury. He won't win Lawrence so it's up to Andover?

Finegold's seat

Very interesting: Rep. Barry Finegold's seat going to the Republican?

davidguarino Dem Rep. Barry Finegold's seat going to Repub, apparently. So that's four GOP pickups in MA House?

Sllllllloooooowwww

Almost 9pm and no word/results on state representative and state senate races. Arrrrr. Tension.

Garry ahead early

7% reporting:

Garry: 539
Boag: 420
Sheehan: 79

Remember...

Back in January, Scott Brown took Dracut 70%-29%.

Good turn out

I voted today around 4:45pm at the junior high school. I was the 772nd person in my precinct to vote today and it was the first time I can remember that I had to wait for a booth to open up. The parking lot was busy with tons of people coming in and out...a good sign perhaps for Republicans. I asked one of the pollworkers if turnout was good and she said it was.

School Committee members Matthew Sheehan (running for state representative) and Mike Miles were holding signs for Sheehan. There was a good contingent of Republican sign holders too.

Less than 3 hours to go. I love Election Day.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Jumping the gun

Getting ready for tomorrow already? The Lowell Sun published an article tonight on the victory of Pat Commane and Paul Adams, both candidates for state representative in Andover. Um, which one is it??

I am sure the article will be down soon so here is what is up now:

Democrat Pat Commane/Republican Paul Adams secured a bitterly-fought victory over his/her opponent Republican Paul Adams/Democrat Pat Commane in the race to replace State Rep. Barry Finegold's 17th Essex district seat.

The Lowell Sun
Updated: 11/01/2010 09:19:25 PM EDT

"Victory quote," said Commane, who was celebrating with a circle of loved ones and supporters at Casa Blanca Mexican Restaurant in Andover.

With X out of X precincts in their district reporting results, Commane/Adams X to Y against her Republican/his Democratic challenger.

The process works

Shawn has a good rundown of tonight's Town Meeting. The most interesting item, to reduce the necessary quorum for fall Town Meeting from 250 to 50, passed but not until it was amended to 200. The motion to make it 200 came from a regular citizen...the way it is supposed to work.

Well done.

Now it's on to Election Day!

Missed it again

Sorry to say that I could not attend Town Meeting tonight. My wife worked late so I was home with the kids. I hate missing it but hopefully we got a quorum.

I agree with Warren Shaw who warned last week in the Valley Dispatch that if we refuse to exercise our rights and power, they will take those rights and powers away from us. I tell my US Government class that all the time.

Shaw writes:

Maybe you are mad as hell with what's going on in Washington or on Beacon Hill in Boston, and it frustrates you because you can't go there and speak your piece and cast a vote. You have to depend on your elected officials to do that for you, and sometimes you think they are out of touch.

For the Town Meeting form of government to be successful, you have to participate, and if you don't, we may lose it forever. The other forms of government that would replace it where it to fail would take away your vote and give it to an elected official.

And believe me, there are more than a handful of folks out there waiting to change this form of government to something that would give them more control, and if 250 people aren't interested enough to come out and participate, they will get their way, and maybe they should.

Vote Golnik

Check out this video of Jon Golnik and Rudy Giuliani from last Friday night, got me very pumped:

Offensive ad

Rep. Niki Tsongas pulled a full page ad in today's Sun in which she touts the fact that she has "spent her entire adult life in Lowell." Fair enough but didn't she move to Charlestown after Paul passed away? Her "roots" in Lowell after that was mainly her job at Middlesex Community College. Let me guess, it was a nationwide search?

She goes on to criticize Jon Golnik for only having lived in the district for nine years. So Niki, the only people who can run for office here are the people who have lived here for a certain number of years? Last time I checked, the Constitution had three requirements to serve in the House:

1. Be 25 years old
2. A citizen of the United States for 7 years
3. Be a resident of the state that you represent

Thank God you don't have to live in the district and that Charlestown is part of Massachusetts, otherwise Tsongas may be out of a job.

Election musings

One of the best days of the year is almost upon us. In a little more than 24 hours, we will know if President Obama has been repudiated or if Democrats will be given more time to fix the economy. We will also know if Beacon Hill will finally have some balance or if the voters will continue to send the same old hacks to the State House.

It's been a fun election year although I didn't get into it as much as I had hoped. Between having two children and a very busy teaching job, I haven't been able to devote as much time and effort to covering the races. I feel bad because the state representative and state senate races have been very quiet and I wish I did more with those.

Anyway, despite my best wishes I don't think the Democrat bloodbath will reach Massachusetts this year. In regard to the statewide and congressional races, I think the only Republican that will win is Mary Connaughton for Auditor. The other folks were just two green or wacky to get elected. It highlights the fact that the state Republican party needs to build a farm team of selectmen/city councilors and school committee members and have them work their way up. Voters may say they want fresh blood but in reality, they will usually vote for the person with experience. Starting on Wednesday, the GOP should mobilize city and town committees to encourage Republicans to run for local office. The positions aren't sexy and requires a lot of thankless work but it will help in the longrun.

Here in Dracut we have Selectman Cathy Richardson and I feel that School Committee chairman Matthew Sheehan could make a good Republican. With some polishing, they both can be decent candidates down the line. The Town Committee needs to reach out to local folks to join their committee and get them to run in May. Since we have annual elections, there are a number of chances to build up a farm team. It can be done.

I think state representative candidate George Boag has come on strong the past few weeks and will be a formidable foe in 2012. He needs to stay in the public eye, maybe getting on some boards, starting a blog, anything to stay involved. He told Gerry Nutter that he has no intention to run for selectman. I think that's a mistake and I hope he reconsiders. He's a decent, good guy and I think he can do a lot of good for the town. If his name is out there, he will be well primed for 2012 or for a special election if Garry gets named a judge.

For the state senate seat, Jamison Tomasek has worked his tail off but Barry Finegold has the hacks, unions, and the Mayor of Lawrence in his back pocket so he will pull it off. But, like Boag, I hope he stays involved and tries again in 2012.

Tip O'Neill used this strategy in the 1940's when the Republicans dominated Massachusetts politics. He'd always have a Democrat running in every district and when the Republican was ripe for the picking, the Democrat would be well established and be able to take the Republican out. The rest, as they say, is history. The Republicans can call it the 351 Strategy, like the 50-state strategy the national Democratic party used in 2006 and 2008 to great success.

Boag's Closing Argument