Saturday, April 30, 2011

Zimini responds

Gerry Nutter asked John Zimini what he thought of the cartoon in yesterday's Lowell Sun. The basis of the ad, from Tony Archniski, was that Zimini, who calls himself the independent, took thousands of dollars from unions in campaign contributions. The ad, he said, makes it seem that Zimini took all those contributions in 2008 but they were actually made over a 7 year period.

Fair enough.

I think Zimini's donations are based on his ties to the Democratic Party and Lt. Gov. Tim Murray. I can't imagine they have much influence on local issues. Zimini himself gives a lot of money to statewide candidates. In the past 10 years or so, he has donated closed to $5,000 to state office candidates, mostly to Murray. The donations back to him, it would seem, are just your typical political quid pro quo.

I am surprised that Archniski would bring up Zimini's union ties given the fact that Archniski himself works for a union! His union, the New England Police Benevolent Association, has given thousands and thousands of dollars in donations to political candidates in recent years. Granted, it's not Archniski himself giving/receiving donations from them but his union is very powerful and vocal, especially over the recent debate over municipal health care costs. Where will Archniski be on that issue? Will he be with the taxpayers or the unions?

I have no problem with the police union - I like Jerry Flynn actually. But, it just surprises me that Archniski would go on the union issue when going against Zimini. It was a good ad (I am friends with the cartoonist actually) but does it hold up?

My predictions

As always, I thought I'd make predictions for Monday's election. This is not necessarily how I am going to vote, just who I think is going to win.

Board of Selectmen

This was a tough one as it's been a quiet race (until this week really) with little separating the four candidates running. But in the end, I think Bob Cox and John Zimini will re-elected. Tony Archniski will make it close but I don't think his "change" slogan will resonate since he was part of town government for so long (and had some contentious relations with some folks in town). I don't think Ted Kosiavelon made a case for his election - although he made some decent points in his Sun profile today.

I think Cox and Zimini have a better organization and base. Plus, things are going well in town and their opponents haven't made a case for their ouster

School Committee

I was always sure that Matt Sheehan would be re-elected to the School Committee but Wednesday's Town Meeting solidified that. Sheehan is certainly tied in with the Friends of a New Dracut High School and they will be out voting en masse on Monday for the high school project - and Sheehan benefits from that. Besides that, Sheehan deserves re-election given the hiring of Dr. Scott and the decrease in "drama" on the committee.

May Paquette, a formidable candidate in her own right, just didn't make the case that Sheehan should not be re-elected. She is a better speaker and comes across very well but Sheehan's accomplishments speak for themselves.

High School Project

I think this will pass. The Friends have established a good grassroots network and have people excited and motivated. Yes, the last Prop 2 1/2 override vote in town failed but that was for Town Hall. I think people are more interested in seeing money spent on projects like schools. This will be a no-brainer.

Sun endorsements

Today's Lowell Sun laid out their endorsements for Monday's election. They endorsed:

Bob Cox - Selectman

John Zimini - Selectman

Matthew Sheehan - School Committee

High School Renovation - Yes

Read the endorsements here.

Selectmen Profiles

Today's Sun ran profiles of the four men running for the Board of Selectmen. Strangely only Bob Cox's and John Zimini's are on-line as of now. See them below:

Tony Archinski

Bob Cox

Ted Kosiavelon

John Zimini

Daigle on high school

Roger Daigle penned a letter to the editor in today's paper in which he argues against the renovation of Dracut High School. Focusing on the tax burden and the debt this will incur, Daigle's letter is well written and, for some, may be pretty convincing.

Friends of a New Dracut High School posted on Facebook that Daigle "represents a portion of voters that don't want this project to pass." They said this letter has given them "motivation" to work hard over the weekend.

Here is Daigle's letter:

First of all, I wish to congratulate the "Friends of a new Dracut High School" and the members of the School Committee for opening up the process to the people of Dracut. It's the right thing to do.

I'm not against anything that will provide a "better" educational opportunity for Dracut's children. I, as a taxpayer, disagree with how that goal is achieved. I also disagree with how my tax dollars are being used or misused.

No building is ever old if properly maintained. As one who has been footing my share of the bill for years, who has had four children go through the system, to be told that a structure like the auditorium must be torn down because it is "largely inaccessible to people with disabilities" is totally unacceptable! This, when the two side entrances nearest the stage could easily be ramped at very little cost to accommodate the disabled.

Both the auditorium and the gymnasium have been in use to everyone's satisfaction for 54 years, even with present constraints, which makes me wonder, why now?

Dracut, like the federal government, cannot keep borrowing itself into prosperity, especially now, during our worst recession in 40 years. Ten years ago, Dracut had as its long-term debt the sum of $38,931,226. As of June 30, 2010, Dracut taxpayers now owe $78,415,974. My real-estate taxes during these same 10 years went up 38.3 percent (when my retirement income stayed nearly stagnant). Over the last 20 years, it's up 91.5 percent.

We have 3,747 senior citizens who have had their Social Security COLAs cut off through 2012. Many of them, along with many unemployed, are struggling to make ends meet. You'll have to admit that it's very disconcerting to these same people to see a proposal where 60 percent of the total cost of the project could have been deferred until times got better with little educational benefits lost.


Your selling points have had no impact at all. In fact, I find them reinforcing my contentions. We'll care when you all do.

ROGER L. DAIGLE

Dracut

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Moderator race

Don't forget the race for Town Moderator between Leo Gaudette and Chris Jenkins. Jenkins penned a letter to the editor today asking for folks' votes:

This year, in addition to races for School Committee and Board of Selectmen, there is one more contested race on this year's ballot -- that of town moderator. The moderator presides at Town Meeting and makes several appointments to town boards and committees.

I have been a resident of Dracut for most of my life and have been heavily involved in the community. I am running for moderator because I have the skills and experience necessary to preside at a large Town Meeting. I will preside over Town Meeting in a way that is fair and inviting for everyone concerned while also being mindful of efficiency in the way we govern ourselves. I am also committed to making appointments to the various town committees for which I would be responsible in a timely and transparent manner. I believe I bring the right balance of new blood and familiarity with our polity to be a successful moderator. I respectfully ask for your vote on Monday, May 2.

CHRISTOPHER JENKINS

Dracut

Mega fine

Today's Sun is reporting that former Selectman Jim O'Loughlin has to pay the state $7,275 in fines for failing to submit his final 2010 campaign finance reports on time. He eventually turned them in on April 15, almost a year late. The $7,275 was based on $25 per every day the report was late.

More high school coverage

Today's Lowell Sun has a rundown of last night's special Town Meeting. Joe Wilkie of the Friends of a New Dracut High School warned against complacency in the lead-up to Monday's vote:

Joe Wilkie, chairman of Friends of a New Dracut High School, knows only his supporters showed up to the Special Town Meeting and the opposition stayed home. He's worried about that silent opposition, the residents who question the need to temporarily raise taxes during tough economic times to cover the renovation project.

His group's answer is 75 volunteers already committed to running a grass-roots Election Day get-out-the-vote effort with phone calls, text messages and signs, and Wilkie is already busy recruiting more.

"We hope to energize parents. We hope to energize people who haven't been involved in the process before," said Wilkie outside the high school after the vote. He passed out reusable blue bags from Friends of a New Dracut High School urging residents to "Vote Yes" in Monday's election.

There was certainly a lot of excitement last night. The Sun's description of the meeting as more of a pep rally is true. I was in the overflow room and almost every single person in there was in their 30's or 40's (i.e. parents). I just hope going forward, these folks stay engaged in town politics. We always need new blood and a better, more engaged civil society in town.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

1000-0

It wasn't really a question as to whether or not the high school project would pass Town Meeting...it was a matter of by how much. Close to 1,000 people showed up tonight to vote on the lone warrant article and within 15 minutes, it was over. There were so many people that many of us had to be moved to the music classroom where they piped in the audio.

School Committee Chair Matthew Sheehan, Superintendent Stacy Scott, Friends of a New Dracut High School member Joe Wilkie, and State Rep. Colleen Garry (trough a prepared statement) spoke in favor of the project. Scott was especially good and was very funny as well. Garry's statement was excellent as well (she was at the State House and couldn't be there).

In the end, Moderator Gary McCarthy called for the vote and then, after the yeas, jokingly asked if anyone wanted to vote no. No one did and that was that. The place erupted.

Now we're off to Monday's election...it ain't over yet.

Well done Dracut.

DiRocco and Zimini clash

Shawn has a good rundown of Selectman Joe DiRocco taking Selectman John Zimini to task for his stance on Louisburg Square (remember that) at last night's Board of Selectmen meeting. Zimini was unable to respond as an item that is not on the agenda can be brought up but not deliberated. That doesn't seem particularly fair to Zimini at all but it shows that blood is still in the water between him and, well, almost everyone else on the board.

You can read all about it here.

Dracut 9/11 Memorial Video

Tony at richardhowe.com posted a video of the steel beam that was delievered to Dracut earlier this month. The beam was part of the World Trade Center and will now be a part of Dracut's 9/11 Memorial.





Garry votes with unions

Late last night, the House of Representatives voted 111-42 to give cities and towns the power to make changes to health care plans without having to get union approval...the exact same power private businesses have over private employees. As a compromise, unions will have 30 days to work with cities and towns on any changes.

State Rep. Colleen Garry, who is usually a fiscal conservative, voted against this measure saying unions should not have their collective bargaining rights taken away. I am surprised and very disappointed by her vote, especially since just the other day she voted to reduce the income tax to 5%.

Oh well, it's a good bill. Public employees have been making out like kings and queens for decades, it's time they shared some of the burden we've all bore for them.

Dracut students asks to vote yes

Nice letter to the editor in today's paper from Zachary Durkin, the class president of Dracut High School's Class of 2013. In his letter, he advocates for the renovation of Dracut High School:

As a student body leader at Dracut High School, I know I can speak for most of my peers and say that a new high school is not a luxury, but a necessity. Day in and day out I have walked the halls of Dracut High, and have sat in the classes where windows don't open, there aren't enough desks, the heat doesn't turn on, and there is a lack of basic technology. Overall, it is an environment not fit for learning. Not only are the students at Dracut High competing with other students throughout the commonwealth and the nation, but also globally. Students in Europe and China have the upper hand when it comes to the use of technology in the classroom, and the skills needed for careers in the growing 21st century.

Also, with new facilities, Dracut students will have new, valuable resources that will help them continue to flourish in athletics, academics and the fine arts.

A "yes" vote on May 2 will ensure that the students of Dracut High School will be provided with a much-needed and deserved modern school that will allow them to become a force to be reckoned with in the global job market.

The talented faculty can only do so much for their students with the limited resources and space they are provided. Just think of the boundless opportunities this renovation will bring to the students and our community. Dracut students are counting on you, please don't let us down!

ZACHARY DURKIN, President

DHS Class of 2013


Nice to see students getting involved in their town.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Lowell Sun Debate

The Lowell Sun will be hosting a debate today at 4pm between the four candidates for the Board of Selectmen. You can watch the one-hour debate here. I am sure it will be available on-line after as well.

Well done

It's ain't over yet but last night, the School Committee congratulated the Friends of the New Dracut High School for their grassroots efforts to raise support and awareness for the renovation of Dracut High School. Even opponents of the project (of which there are few) have applauded them for their work.

I am especially impressed with the way in which they used technology. They have an amazing website, constant presence on Facebook, informative e-mails, etc. I just got another e-mail today and it gave you the ability to post the message to your Facebook and Twitter accounts with the click of a button. Nothing innovative or new (I see this all the time) but the fact that even a local group is doing this speaks volumes.

Some may poo-poo the use of technology in local elections/issues but these folks are proving it's here to stay and it works (I hope).

School changes

At last night's School Committee meeting, Superintendent of Schools Stacy Scott announced that he eliminated the position of "head-custodian." The post seemed to be a scheduling one and was a "stipend" job held by a current custodian. Andy Graham, the buildings and grounds supervisor, will assume the role for an additional stipend of $4,000.

I wonder what the stipend was before?? It seems that the job description fits Graham's existing role so should he really be getting an additional stipend? Not good to be asking taxpayers to fork over money for a high school renovation (which I support) and then paying one of your top earners more money to essentially do his job. Graham does amazing work, no one takes that away from him but this just doesn't sit well with me.

See the article here.

School tours

I was not able to make the tour of the high school last night (although my friend Dave and his daughter Julia were and their picture made the front page!) but today's paper has a good run down of the night. Most people interviewed seemed to support the renovation and the override that will be necessary to pay for it. One resident rightly called it "an investment in our future."

You can read the whole article here.

Kudos to Rep. Garry

Double kudos I should say. Today's Lowell Sun mentions that Rep. Colleen Garry voted yesterday to roll back the state income tax to 5%. Of course, the measure failed with only Republicans and three Democrats voting for it. Garry said that the voters voted for the roll back to 5% in 2000 only to have it stopped by the Legislature a couple of years later. Garry told the Sun:

I think that there's a skepticism out there. There's a taint that is going to be shown, especially in these next coming weeks with what is going on with Sal DiMasi, that I think we do need to show we're listening to them.

Amen.

Garry is also in the paper for coming out against a state funded website that, among other things, informs minors how to get abortions without their parents knowing about it. She said:

This thing is just so blatant and so unbelievable. It spells everything out. It's too much for a young child reading it.

Amen again.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Election Ballot

Here is the order of names on next week's ballot:

TOWN ELECTION

Moderator: Vote for One Leo T. Gaudette

(One year term) Christopher A. Jenkins

Selectmen: Vote for two Ted Kosiavelon

(Three year term) Tony Archinski

Robert Cox

John J. Zimini

School Committee: Vote for One Matthew J. Sheehan

(Three year term) Marietta M. Paquette

Greater Lowell Tech: Vote for One Victor A. Olson

(Three year term)

Trustee of Public Library: Vote for One Linda Trouville

(Three year term) Cheryl A. Storm

DWSD Election:

Commissioner: Vote for One Bill Morin

(Three year term)

District Clerk: Vote for One Kathleen M. Graham

(Three year term)

Serving his country

Fantastic article in today's paper about a Dracut Marine who was awarded a medal for fighting back against a Taliban attack in Afghanistan. You can read the whole article here but below is a taste. God Bless Cpl. Cozy and all the men and women fighting for our freedom.

Cpl. Brian Cozy's squad was positioned atop a hillside in Afghanistan when gunfire erupted around them.

Taliban militants ran between the mud huts below and fired machine guns. The dozen or so Marines fired back, but they were easy targets on the downward slope. Cozy, a 24-year-old Dracut native and machine gunner, lay on his stomach in the open, firing. It was Oct. 21 and Cozy had only arrived in the dangerous Helmand province about a month earlier.

When the gunfire ended, his commander called for the squad to return to base, but as they started to retreat, they came under attack again. Cozy again put himself in danger, manning his machine gun without cover. His commander called for him to move back, but he refused to leave his post until the others were safe.

Cozy was recently awarded a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal For Valor for his heroism that day.

Zimini video

Selectman John Zimini has gone viral in his re-election bid- producing an on-line video. It's about 13 minutes and you can see it here.

Sheehan letter

With the elections a little more than a week away, I can imagine that campaign fliers/mailings will be coming in fast. Today we got a letter from Matthew Sheehan's parents advocating for their son's re-election. They outline his work on hiring Dr. Scott and the transparency of the process.

Stay tuned.

Meeting Agendas

The agenda for tonight's School Committee meeting is here. I'd post the one for tomorrow's Board of Selectmen's meeting but it's not on the town's website (or I am not seeing it).

Open House Tonight

Don't forget the open house at the high school tonight from 5pm-7pm. Speaking of which, former teacher Bob Rudolph weighed in on the matter in a fantastic letter to the editor in today's Sun:

It has been almost 40 years since I began teaching in Dracut and I learned early in my career that the high school is not only the educational center of the town, but it is also the civic and social center as well.

The building is used by people of all ages for a multitude of town functions. It hosts recitals, town meetings, musicals, scholarship telethons in the auditorium, senior-citizen supers in the cafeteria, town athletic events in the gymnasium, craft fairs throughout the halls, Old Home Day and July 4th fireworks on the surrounding grounds.

It is arguably the most utilized facility in Dracut.

We now have the chance for much-needed renovations and expansion of this aging building. It is a great opportunity to utilize our tax dollars for the betterment of our town. The money we send to the state each year will be coming back to us to fund a large majority of this worthwhile project. This opportunity will not come around again. If we do not take advantage, another town will and our money will fund its project.

I urge everyone to support the Dracut Senior High School renovation project with a yes vote on May 2.

BOB RUDOLPH

Dracut

O'Loughlin back

Looks like Jim O'Loughlin and Jim Campanini have made up. After eviscerating Erin Smith over her coverage of Dracut, O'Loughlin was summarily removed from his weekly "This week in history" column in Monday's paper. He was replaced by Tyler Dumont. Campanini even told Gerry Nutter:

Tyler Dumont is a high school intern who is now doing the Day in History column. Mr. O’Loughlin is no longer a freelance contributor for The Sun.

So there you go.

One year out...

It was one year ago this week that it was revealed that School Committee member Ron Mercier allegedly stole gas from his employer, the city of Lowell. It was a year ago next month that Officers Dubois and Wagner were placed on paid leave for being "intentionally deceptive" during the drug theft investigation.

And what is the status of these three men? Nothing. They're still awaiting their fates. They are of course innocent until proven guilty but this is such a sham, especially the police officers. The fact that the only real mention of this in the campaign is that it's an "embarrassment" is an embarrassment.

Any wonder why the people have zero faith in their government? And unions wonder why people want to take away some of their power?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

University Ave. Traffic

Count me among those who feel the expansion of UMass Lowell and the leadership of Marty Meehan is fantastic and a positive for the city and surrounding area. However, the traffic jams the university's buses and students are causing on University Ave. is maddening. To get over that bridge during rush hour, one has to sit in mega traffic and get past a line of buses which are taking up a lane of traffic while parked on University Ave. picking up students. The students themselves cross the street without looking or without concern if there is a green or red light.

One Wendy Cabral of Dracut has the same concerns and had a letter to the editor in yesterday's Sun. Read it here.

High school open house

There will be an open house at Dracut High School on Monday from 5pm-7pm. Voters can tour the school, hear about the potential renovations, and learn about the project. See more here.

Sheehan and Paquette profiles

This morning's Sun has profiles of the two candidates for School Committee - incumbent Matthew Sheehan and May Paquette. Sheehan maked a compelling case that he deserves re-election focusing on the hiring of Dr. Scott (and the process) and transparency.

Paquette focuses on her prior 9-year experience on the committee and the experience she would bring back to the School Committee.

This should be an interesting (and close) race. You can't discount Sheehan's accomplishments but Paquette has experience and lots of friends in town. Stay tuned.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Bond vs. Archinski

In his column in today's Valley Dispatch, Warren Shaw calls out Brian Bond for bringing up the employment record of former Dracut police officer, and candidate for the Board of Selectmen, Tony Archniski.

I don't know, I assume that Bond obtained these records legally from the town and are a matter of public record. If so then I see no problem with them being released. There seems to be a lot of controversy about Archniski's time as a Dracut police officer so perhaps it should be fair game - especially since he now wants to a selectman.

He is Risen

Yes, Him and me.

Been away from the old blog for a long time, sorry about that. Work has been very, very busy...add on two young kids and, well, that leaves little time for blogging.

Well, we are a few days away from the special Town Meeting to vote on the high school renovation project. There is really no doubt that this will pass town meeting - expect this to be the most attended meeting in years. The big question is whether or not it will pass the election on May 2. I think it will but you never know.

The races for selectmen and school committee have been pretty quiet with very little separating the various candidates. It's mostly faction vs. faction at this point. I will make my predictions next week.

Yesterday's Sun carried a letter to the editor from the School Committee endorsing the high school project. No shock there. One thing I worry about is the Friends of Dracut High School and their relationship with elected officials. I don't know a whole lot about campaign finance laws as it applies to interest groups but the Friends are soliciting funds and seemingly endorsing Matthew Sheehan (they promoted his recent event with the Easter Bunny on their Facebook page). I support this project and the friends group wholeheartedly but they should be careful they are not running afoul of any laws.

The Sun also had an article indicating that some town employees can hold other positions in town (i.e. Leo Gaudette as fire chief and, if elected, moderator). I know nothing about Gaudette but heard he's a good guy and a good fire chief but I have a general rule that I don't think people should hold more than one position in town. Town Moderator is not a super powerful position but it's a principle for me.

Rep. Colleen Garry has come out in opposition to Speaker Robert DeLeo's plan to allow municipalities to make changes to health insurance for workers without union consent. That is very disappointing. She told the Sun that municipalities should negotiate with the unions, which, she said, has been successful in Dracut.

Except of course for the Dracut "Just Say No" Teacher's Union...which so happens to be the largest public sector union in every single city and town. This doesn't seem to jive with her usual fiscal conservatism, it's too bad.

In last Sunday's Column, State Sen. Barry Finegold seemed to come out in support of Lowell's move to raise the voting age to 17 in city elections. He said something along the lines, "It makes you wonder why we let them fight in wars but not vote."

Huh? 17 year olds can serve in the military?