Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Merry Christmas

Hi, everyone. We're definitely enjoying the holidays and bit of a holiday lull.

One piece of news: Some folks have problems registering to comment. We think we've changed it so anyone can comment without registering. If you still have trouble, e-mail us.


Friday, December 23, 2005

The rise of the blogs

The Sentinel mentions us liberally (that's in terms of a lot, not in terms of politics) up top in a story today on political blogs. Want to read it? Click here.

The story notes that Councilor Ralph Romano's blog, "itsmydime" has linked to us. We return the favor over on the right. Check out what Romano has to say. It's pretty interesting, and he's darn sure an override won't happen. Which we like to hear.

Romano kind of called us out on Mayor Dan Mylott yesterday. Romano's right, Mylott is in our chapter on the override, but we're not on the same page. Mylott designed an out-of-balance budget that started this whole ball rolling. We don't subscribe to that, and find it very peculiar in a Republican.

Additionally, our insight on the State House landscape is based on a couple years on Beacon Hill as a member of the State House press corps. It's a legitimate question -- how does a member of the minority party that has been critical of the Legislator make do up there? We're not discounting a Mylott campaign, a lot will happen between now and then, but we're just asking at this point.

Our last point today: We're psyched Romano wrote in. That's two city councilors who have written in. We'd love to hear from them all, and we'd leave to hear from some of the 230-something folks who have read this blog. Either hit the comments button below, or e-mail us.


Thursday, December 22, 2005

Mylott for Representative?

Could be, according to the Sentinel (click here).

According to the story, long-time Rep. Emile Goguen is considering not running for re-election next year. It would appear Mayor Dan Mylott, a Republican, and Councilor Stephen DiNatale, a Democrat, lead the pack a year out, although an open seat in an off-year for local elections would certainly draw a lot of attention.

We'll save the analysis of Goguen for now (you either love him or hate him, and we're not going to change your mind), but instead consider the prospect of Mylott running for state rep. He's spent a lot of time throwing bombs at the State House, demanding more money for Fitchburg.

It's probably safe to assume Mylott would be running as the ultimate outsider -- a Republican who's angry at the Legislature and wants to bring change. We'd question how much an effect a freshman in the (tiny) minority party would have. Also, we'd love to see how -- or if -- Mylott's attitudes would change if he switched from City Hall to the State House.

For now, it's mostly speculation, but Goguen seems to be heading out. It's worth watching not only for the political spectacle, but it will also firmly cement state aid as THE issue in Fitchburg in 2006.


The other side

We admit this might not be the best PR for our cause, but here's an e-mail from David DeCarolis, who favors the override.

While this blog is mainly to work against the override, we acknowledge that this is a pretty big issue, and if you take the macro view of how this effects Fitchburg's future, we'd rather have good, solid debate on the future of the city rather than just smash our opinion down your throat.

Additionally, David's e-mail is rather thoughtful and crystalizes an argument in favor of the override. Also, he taps into some of the unrest targeted toward the top officials in town. All in all, interesting stuff and well worth reading, we think.

Just one more note. If it's not clear that an e-mail is targeted toward posting, we'll ask permission first. David agreed to let us post us. Also, we're not making any changes to spelling, punctuation, all that stuff. It's not to make anyone look bad (we all mess up on e-mail), but we don't want to be liable for making changes that tick off the writer or miss a few typos along the way. That's going to be our policy throughout, so if you want clean copy, make sure you edit it yourself. Finally, if you want in on the fun, hit the comment link below, or e-mail us. So, warts and all, here's David's thoughts.

hi, i just want to express my feelings on the matter of an override. as it
stands now i feel that an override is needed and needed badly. the mayor of this
city and the state represnitives have done nothing for the chidren of this city.
Since our mayor has taken office, I have been told that over the past 4
years 9 million dollars has been cut from the school dep. budget. If you have
children in the school system and walked the halls and seen the disrepair that
OUR schools are in you can see the need for this override. I do understand
that the state is responsible for the money that the city needs for education,
but how long can we wait, how long can our children wait.
Our state rep. is
on a holy crusade against gay's and our state senator is nowhere to be
found. Mr. Mylott is more concerned with police protection not
realizing that for every child that we under educate is a drug dealers
dream and next customer. He is just feeding the system. I don't care where the
money comes from we need it badly and we need it now. The older people of
this city can't just say i'on a fixed income i'm against this, if they are using
any of the citys services then they must contribute equaly. People are paying
higher taxes because the value of there property is higher.
to follow up i am also a tax payer, home owner 16 yrs, and manage a local
bussiness. I think Fitchburg is a great city and our leadership is in
desprate need of an overhaul and i hope it comes. But our children can not


Tuesday, December 20, 2005

A new audience

In the wake of yesterday's Telegram story (see yesterday's post if you haven't read it), we've added about 100 hits to this blog, and more importantly we've gotten a few comments -- including a thoughtful piece from incoming City Councilor Dean Tran. A few e-mails have been sent our way, and we're working on getting them publicly posted.

A few thoughts on the feedback we've gotten so far:

-- Some people are paying attention to this issue, but very few are worked up about it. Obviously, we'd like to make sure a potential override is stopped in its tracks, so hopefully more people get involved in the near future.

-- City officials either don't read the Telegram, don't care enough to check this blog out, or are staying out of the discussion at this forum. We're betting on the last option. We're thrilled Tran wrote in -- we consider it both a sign of his involvement and fairly politically courageous -- and hope others do, too. We'd also like to hear from folks who are invested in city politics but don't hold office (like Jay Cruz).

-- There's a lot of unrest in town toward our legislative representatives. Tran touched on it, and an e-mail we received is pretty harsh toward Rep. Emile Goguen and Sen. Robert Antonioni. Our initial efforts to reach out them have been unsuccessful. Our note to Goguen was bounced back undeliverable. Antonioni sent an automated reply that his office received the e-mail, but we haven't gotten any follow up. We sent our e-mails on Thursday. Not sure what to make of that yet, but we're planning on following up soon with the hopes of some contact there.

At this point, Goguen and Antonioni are in a bit of a jam -- everyone wants them to pony up the cash. But that would sent quite a precedent at the State House (we'll talk about this in a later post, I think).

With the holidays looming and the basics of this issue now well covered, it's been quiet on the override front. We hope more officials publicly discuss this issue, whether it's here or in the newspapers. The city's fiscal situation certainly deserves a lengthy appraisal.


Monday, December 19, 2005

The Telegram Story

We still don't have a link to today's Telegram story, but we do have an electronic copy of it. Here it is.
Override proposal sparks debate
Fitchburg blog joins the fray
By Matthew Bruun
FITCHBURG— The midyear cuts to the city budget
that eliminated
positions in the police and school departments has sparked wide
of a Proposition 2-1/2 override.

Police Chief Edward F. Cronin and Fitchburg Police Union President Todd M.
Deacon have voiced support for the measure, arguing the department needs funds
to continue the proactive approach they say will translate into a better quality
of life in the city.

Members of the School Committee and teachers union leaders have also said
something must be
done to preserve programs and maintain facilities,
suggesting an override of the tax-limiting law may be such a solution.

Mayor Dan H. Mylott, who proposed the unbalanced budget that won City
Council approval earlier this year, has said the state must fulfill its funding
obligations to cities and towns before any talk of an override takes place.
Several councilors have echoed his stance.

Add Jason Lefferts’ voice to the list of override opponents.

Mr. Lefferts, whose family moved to Fitchburg just over two years ago,
started a Web log, or blog, last week in opposition to an override. The site is
available at savefitchburg.blogspot.com.

Mr. Lefferts said the override is not a viable solution to the city’s
budget woes, which he says began when city leaders approved an unbalanced budget
in hopes of additional state aid.

“It’s just unheard of,” Mr. Lefferts said Friday. “It’s not good policy. I
don’t want this to get even close to a ballot. I want to nip this in the

The blog recounts the discussion to date on the hypothetical override,
which would have to be
approved by voters at the ballot to take

“Mayor Dan Mylott and the City Council took the easy way out in the summer,
hoped for an easy solution, and some officials are trying to find the
second-easiest solution,” Mr. Lefferts
wrote in a recent posting.
“Throughout this budget situation, they haven’t made the tough choices, and
we’re not going to bail them out.”

Mr. Lefferts said local taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay for the city’s
gamble on state finances.

“This is a bill we don’t want,” he wrote. “Residents in Fitchburg already
take on an unfair portion of the tax burden. Yes, we want a safe city, good
schools for our kids, and pothole-free roads. But we also need a responsible and
effective government.

Mr. Mylott stood by his decision on Friday. He said the city was faced with
making $3 million in cuts in the spring. By waiting, he said, the city was able
to reassess its situation and got the reductions down to $1 million.

“I think we made the right decision,” he said Friday. “You have to look at
the whole picture.”The cuts announced in November still proved unpopular in some

Six vacant positions went unfilled in the Police Department, which Chief
Cronin has said was an unacceptable loss.

“We have to find the funding, whether it’s through an override or a tax,”
Chief Cronin said earlier this month.

Four positions in the School Department also went unfilled, leaving
administrators to reassign personnel. A music teacher will be moved out of
Crocker Elementary School in January, raising concerns among some parents.

A kindergarten physical education teacher is being moved to another
assignment, and an English language teaching position at Memorial Middle School
will go unfilled, Superintendent Andre Ravenelle said Friday.

Also in January, only three school buildings will be available for public
use after 5:30 p.m., Mr. Ravenelle said So far, he said, space has been found
for programs at Reingold Elementary
School, Memorial Middle School and
Fitchburg High School, the only buildings that will remain open for evening use
by the public.

Mr. Ravenelle said he is forbidden from taking a stance on any proposed
override, but said the School Committee has asked him to develop reports on the
district’s curriculum and materials needs, an assessment of its technology needs
and a review of its capital facilities. Those reports are to include projected
costs to meet those needs, Mr. Ravenelle said.

Mr. Ravenelle said he plans to present those reports to the School
Committee in January.


Media Alert!

Matthew Bruun and the Worcester Telegram have a story today on B1 detailing our effort. Sadly, the Telegram's website is subscription-only, and we have to admit to being subscription deficient. We'll continue to try to find an electronic version to post, but in the meantime you'll have to find a hard copy to read the story.

We admit to tipping the local media off to our effort. Not because it's an ego trip, but we figure the more voices the merrier, and this is the best way to get our little corner of the Internet into the public eye. We also sent a heads up to the Sentinel, but haven't heard from those folks yet.

Unfortunately, our voice only goes far, and we're looking for you to help. Drop us a comment via the comment link below, or send us an e-mail (click here). There's certainly power in numbers, so hopefully we can start generating some impressive sound here. If you're a public official, we'd especially like to hear your thoughts, as we try to generate a conversation here.


Sunday, December 18, 2005

Override: The New Idea

One of the reasons we're so opposed to this override is because of the timing. Before Nov. 8, we never heard a word about it.

Nov. 8, of course, was Election Day. We did a quick Nexis search, and found no discussion of an override before the election.

There was plenty of talk of budget problems during the election, but no one championed an override, at least publicly as part of their campaign. After the election business got squared away, all of the sudden the override talk began.

We find that to be bad politics. If you think an override is a good idea, talk about it during the campaign. Don't hide it until later.

This all gets back to our fundamental opposition to this override idea. We're opposed because of the way this process has unfolded so far. We don't want to reward the erroneous policy that created this mess or the sketchy politics that left an override out of the electoral debate.

_ _ _ _ _ _

If you're here for the first time, thanks for stopping by. You can have a say in this two ways: Click on the comments link under a post, or e-mail us.


Friday, December 16, 2005

Picking up Steam?

We spent some time today trying to expand our audience, and it appears to be slowly working.

We reached out to the Telegram, Sentinel, and WEIM and let them know what we were up to. We got a phone call from Matthew Bruun at the Telegram, and we're anticipating a story coming out on Monday. Look for it.

Hopefully, that puts Save Fitchburg on the radar screen and gets our message out to a wider audience. If you're here for the first time, feel free to drop us a line. We'd love to from you. E-mail by clicking here.

Things have been pretty quiet this week on the override front, and we kind of expect it will stay that way through the holidays. We'll blog as regularly as possible, but we acknowledge we may start repeating ourselves at some point if things stay slow. We don't expect it to be quiet forever, however.


Thursday, December 15, 2005

An out-of-control train?

If you look at the little scorecard we created listing those in favor or opposed to the override, it seems pretty clear the schools and police are driving the train right now.

We are not going to argue the benefits of public safety and education. They are two of the most important things city government provides us.

One concern so far, however, is that there is no centralized effort for an override. The school folks are driving their train, and the Police Department seems to be getting on board.

But who else wants a seat on the train?

Conceivably, every city department has something it wants to do but can't afford. How many of those departments will attach itself to the override? The argument for more spending on education and cops is a strong one and would likely have long coat-tails.

The city didn't really have a plan for filling in this budget gap -- beyond getting money from the state or taxpayers. It appears there's not a solid plan in place right now for the override. We fear a come-one-come-all situation where the override figure grows out of control.

Instead, let's have no override at all, and find a solution to the problem that doesn't include increasing the burden on taxpayers.


Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The Scorecard

One of the things we're going to do here is keep track of who's for and who's against an override proposal as elected officials and others involved in the city's policy making comment on the issue.

You can start to see how things are lining up even from this short list, but there are a ton of folks who still haven't publicly commented one way or another on it. At this point, the list is based on comments leaders have made in the Sentinel and the Telegram.

We've broken down our list into "favor" and "oppose." Those who "favor" have either said an override is needed, or have said it's worth considering. Those in the "oppose" column have said they're against it, or think it's a bad idea to move on.

We'll update the list when appropriate. For now, here's how it stands:

Teachers Union
Police Union
Police Chief Edward Cronin
School Committee member Lisa Moison
School Committee member James Connors
City Councilor Bruce Durkee (whose term expires this year)

Mayor Dan Mylott
City Councilor Ted DeSalvatore (incoming)
City Councilor Tom Conry (incoming)
City Councilor Tom Donnelly
City Councilor Joel Kaddy
City Councilor Norman Boisvert


Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Easy Choices

As we ramp up our little corner of the Internet, here's the crux of our argument:

Mayor Dan Mylott and the City Council took the easy way out in the summer, hoped for an easy solution, and some officials are trying to find the second-easiest solution. Throughout this budget situation, they haven't made the tough choices, and we're not going to bail them out.

The mayor and the council approved an unbalanced budget, with the hopes that the state would fill in the gap. You can debate the odds of this happening both ways, but the fact of the matter is there were no guarantees. The state didn't step in. Now, folks are looking to residents to essentially do what the Legislature didn't -- pay the bill.

This is a bill we don't want. Residents in Fitchburg already take on an unfair portion of the tax burden. Yes, we want a safe city, good schools for our kids, and pothole-free roads. But we also need a responsible and effective government.

Perhaps because they were facing an election, the mayor and council took a pass on making cuts. If that's the reason, shame on them. If not, well, that still needs to be explained.

Mylott and many councilors are opposed to the override. We hope they contact us and help our effort (e-mail us). But some city leaders, like the police chief and quite possibly teachers' union officials, are looking for an override.

This sets a dangerous precedent that we don't want. Taxpayers fulfill their responsibility when they pay their bills. City leaders haven't fulfilled their's on this issue. We can't have the city relying on the state or the taxpayers to bail them out year after year. We don't want to make this a recurring problem.

We know the option is cutting city services, and at least this year we support that option. Some times tough love is the answer, and we think this is one of those times.

Again, we value input, and especially support. Let us know if you're with us. We'd like to claim we -- and by that we mean "we" as everyone in town -- have a strong voice on this matter.


Monday, December 12, 2005

Save Fitchburg

Hello, and thanks for stopping by. We've set up this blog to argue against an override in Fitchburg and to make it clear to our public officials that they need to make better decisions in the future.

To recap: the mayor and City Council created a budget that was not balanced, with the expectation that the Legislature would fill in the gap. That hasn't happened, and now there's talk of an override, which would increase our property taxes.

We think that's a bad idea, mostly because Mayor Dan Mylott and the council created a bad budget. We are also displeased by the fact that the word "override" was missing from this year's mayor and council campaigns, only to begin popping up a week after officials were elected.

We wanted to wait a little while before we started our effort, but the police chief has already advocated for the override, and it appears the teachers' union isn't too far behind. We want the residents' voice to be heard.

A little about us. We live in Upper Cleghorn and have lived here for two years. We have two very young children. We want to make sure Fitchburg is well-run and officials are held accountable for their decisions.

What would we like to do at this blog?

Link to stories and other information regarding the override. We might be a day or two behind the papers, but we're going to put up everything we can to give people information.

We're going to comment on the news and the situation, hopefully acting as something of a voice of the people. We view this effort as a public information campaign, not a negative, bashing rampage. We'll try to make sure this effort helps the public and is full of information, but it is also definitely a campaign, and we're going to try to sway some minds when necessary.

We're going to try to reach as many public officials as possible, giving them a forum to tell citizens their viewpoint on the issue.

Most importantly, we're going to try to let officials know Fitchburg residents are opposed to this override. We want to hear from you. We won't publicly name you, but we'd like to know your thoughts, and add up some big numbers in support of our effort. Feel free to e-mail us (click here). If you have ideas on how to help us, let us know. If you're a public official on our side, definitely let us know.

Thanks for visiting, come back often, and help us Save Fitchburg.