Friday, September 29, 2006

No Parking

City and Fitchburg State College officials talk often about their great relationship and how one is helping the other move forward, but it's issues like parking that show the two haven't fully ironed out all their differences.

The neighborhood around the college is ticked because students and faculty take all their parking. College students are grumpy because there is no where to park. No one seems to have a good solution to this problem. FSC wants to build a new lot with 150 spots, but that number doesn't seem on the face to solve the problem.

Now, Councilor Ted DeSalvatore (once again) rides into battle. He's getting neighbors to sign a petition that would outlaw students and faculty from the neighborhood's streets. FSC wonders if the city can blatantly exclude one segment of the population from parking. We wonder how the city would be able to tell who is and isn't related to FSC.

The only long-term solution to this problem is to create enough off-street parking to handle all or almost all of the students and faculty. They don't want to use the shuttle system, so they look for street parking. But who pays for a multi-million garage? The school? The city? They won't be fighting over who gets to pay that bill.

The city can set up a resident parking program, but the Sentinel notes residents in resident parking areas now have to pay for stickers. Would the neighbors go for that? Should they? What about excluding parking from one side of the street during school hours?

The city and the school need to sit down and figure out a long-term solution to this problem. It's not going away, and all it's doing right now is creating a civil war between the school and its neighbors. Once again, foresight and good planning are needed. Let's hope someone (this might be a good area for Antonioni and Rep. X to get their hands dirty in) can take the lead on this and figure it out.


Thursday, September 28, 2006

A New Tax?

City Planning Coordinator David Streb recommended yesterday the city should consider approving the Community Preservation Act, which would add 1 to 3 percent on residents' property tax bills.

For the Save Fitchburg plantation, as an example, that would cost between $25 and $75 a year, roughly. Hmmmm...

The goal is the program is that the state matches the money received through the tax. The money can only be used for open space protection, maintaining historic buildings, and affordable housing. At least 10 percent of the money needs to be used on each.

Our door isn't completely closed to this idea, but we'd like to know how the money would be spent, and on what. Let's say a lot of that money went to fixing City Hall (a project floated in the story). Would this be a cheaper option than bonding or doing the work through the budget? Can there be some kind of time or total limit put on this, or we stuck with it in perpetuity?

Obviously, we have a questions, and they'd have to be answered well. In communities like Fitchburg, this idea is usually a non-starter. We can't imagine a lot of city leaders would be interested in doing this.

Finally, some long-time readers might be thinking, "Didn't this blog start because of opposition to the override talk?" Yup. As we stated from the beginning, our displeasure with the override was based in financial mismanagement, not in increased taxes (although of course that's a factor). If the CPA can be effective and a good financial tool for the city, we should listen.


Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Good Developments, Bad Developments

The development progress train continues to steam forward, with news that the city will be working on a TIF agreement with Micron Products, who are expanding their downtown offices, and that the 49-condo Parks-Cramer project got the city's go-ahead last night.

The train, however, drags a little baggage, as a developer sues the city to get his bond back.

Let's start with the good news. At this point in Fitchburg's development, we favor TIFs. In fact, we favor anything that will get business into the city. In this particular case, Micron more than deserves TIF consideration. It is turning a key corner of downtown into a viable business district almost single-handedly, and really sort of deserves some acknowledgement from the city that it is a leader in downtown. Remember, TIFs don't last forever, so it's a positive move for the city (if it didn't offer the TIF, it could be seen as an anti-business move, and that's the last thing Fitchburg needs right now).

As for Parks-Cramer, it's another piece in the growing demand for new housing in the city. These one- and two-bed units are going for $185,000 and up, and are right along the river near Airport Road. Considering the Save Fitchburg plantation was bought three years ago for just lightly more, that's a positive price tag on some condos. Turning over an old mill building into anything useful is also good news.

Finally, the fine folks at Benjamin Builders wants its bond back, saying its project is done. Both the city and the state have raised issues with the construction of Benjamin's West Fitchburg project, so the bond is being held at this point. Off to litigation, we're sure, but it doesn't seem clear-cut on either party's part at this point (although we'd love to see former Planning Board guy Dean Tran enlighten us a bit on this one).


Tuesday, September 26, 2006

About Last Night

A few thoughts on last night's gubernatorial debate, the first time all four candidates got together.

This is going to be one hell of a campaign. Kerry Healey made it clear last night she's going after Deval Patrick and going after him hard. She's owned the conversation in the last week, and until Patrick figures out how to get the news cycle on his side, she will continue to do so. She has the same steely-eyed focus and backbone that let Cellucci and Romney pound away mercilessly throughout their campaigns.

That said, Healey didn't come off well last night. She was defensive at times, uncouth at others when she tried to blatantly ignore Christy Mihos. When she did engage Mihos, her attempts at brushing him aside came off nasty and rude. She didn't answer Patrick's repeated note that the Romney/Healey team raised fees by $900 million, and she was absolutely buried on the Big Dig talk.

It's 3-on-1. Grace Ross clearly likes Deval Patrick. Mihos can't stand Healey. Patrick is running against Healey. It was gang-up time on Healey last night, and she only weathered the storm OK. This is particularly good news for Patrick, who can sit above the fray and let Ross and Mihos beat the living daylight out of Healey. These four-way debates are not good for Healey at all. Ross is charmingly critical of Healey, but Mihos is the dog that has clamped on and won't let go.

Grace Ross was the winner of the night in terms of surpassing expectations. She wasn't loony, she was thoughtful, she stayed on message, and she made some good points. Her facts were a bit fuzzy in some parts (we really don't think 25 percent of high school students are dropping out, but we could be wrong), but she did a great, great job in our book. Mihos was, um, spirited, particularly in the second half. But didn't come across as completely crazy. He still has six weeks to pull that off.

The big winner was Patrick. He was most at ease, he spoke comfortably and controlled. He made his points well and parried Healey as well. He also gets the added benefit of knowing that any time he's on stage with all four at once, Healey is in trouble from here on out.


Monday, September 25, 2006

Things We Missed

We got all caught up in election season, and missed a couple of interesting stories. By way of catching up, here we go...

Mayor Dan Mylott announced the city will hold off on buying police cruisers, which saves about $175,000. We weren't the biggest fans of this budget priority, and got the sense that it was on thin ice from the beginning. Apparently, that was the case, as the cars were the first casualty of this year's budget "situation."

Mylott seems to think optimistically that this will fill in the city's budget hole. That would be good news. There was a line in the story from the chief where he notes the cars get rundown after a few years. Not sure what he means by a few years, but hopefully it's more than three or four. In any case, we submit that if the old cars start breaking down, the department puts more walking officers downtown. Just a suggestion.

While the police budget took a hit, the city approved a $600,000 loan for roofs on school buildings. This is one of those things that has to be done, no matter the circumstance. It's a long-term problem that created this short-term solution. Hopefully when better days come, the city can have a set-aside for capital improvements and maintenance, and a rainy day fund to cover costs like this. It might be a while...

Peter Bovenzi snapped up 150 acres (including a 90-some acre pond) for $200,000 along Route 31 on the Fitchburg-Westminster line. Bovenzi has no concrete plans for the land, but expect development at some point.

Obviously, this is on the western fringe of Fitchburg, and further proof that a latter-day western migration is happening from Boston. Fitchburg needs to continue to position itself as the end of the line, and not lose ground to Gardner and other communities even further west.


Friday, September 22, 2006

Property Tax vs. Income Tax

The comments section has spent some time debating Deval Patrick's view on Prop 2 1/2, and it's clear taxes -- whether Kerry Healey's demand the income tax drop or Patrick's vague property tax help idea -- will play a role in the governor's election (and should in our local House race).

Save Fitchburg, if you haven't noticed, is fairly liberal in its views, but we favor the income tax rollback. As much as we loooove to see government spend money (some sarcasm there, just so you know), we loooove the will of the voters more. We actually voted against the rollback way back, but the majority rules around here. Lower the income tax.

The property tax situation is a lot tougher to figure out here. Certainly, Proposition 2 1/2 is outdated. Yes, it's a strong control on tax growth, but expense growth is generally more than 2.5 percent a year. Health coverage, for example, seems to go up 10 percent or so a year. Inflation is generally more than 2.5 percent. In short, 2.5 percent increases (plus new growth) don't match the increased cost in "level services" each year.

So, what to do? Patrick wants to lower the property tax burden by offering more state aid to cities and towns. A noble idea that our checkbook likes. But...

The income tax cut would generate about $200 per family. That's roughly 7.5 percent of the annual property tax on the Save Fitchburg plantation. So let's say the city's entire tax levy limit of $31 million (according to DOR) is cut by 7.5 percent. That means the state would need to fill in $2.3 million. Multiply statewide... whew.

So, based on that above example (probably pretty flawed, but here comes my point), we get the same discount on taxes that we would under the income tax rollback. The state is spending millions (hundreds of millions? likely) more on local aid (where is that going to come from), and the city's financial situation isn't helped one little bit. Also, there's no guarantee communities won't tax to the full levy limit anyway. Why wouldn't they? Many rich communities pass overrides almost annually, and certainly Fitchburg could use every dollar it can get its hands on.

So, is targeting the property tax over the income tax the right move? Color us not convinced. We're neither economists nor professional budget gurus and don't have the time to investigate, create formulas and be experts. But it seems it just lightly addresses the tax problem while not cure the revenue problems for communities while also increase the state's demand for more revenue.


Tuesday, September 19, 2006

DiNatale in a Landslide

In an impressive show of strength, Steve DiNatale absolutely cruised to a dominating win in the Democratic primary for the 3rd Worcester House seat.

DiNatale won 66 percent of the vote, doubling up on the combined performance of Mary Whitney (21 percent) and David LeBlanc (14 percent, and clearly some rounding was involved). DiNatale goes on to face Republican Edward Niemczura in the general election.

For Whitney, it's the end of a long political career. For LeBlanc, it's a longshot bit that never caught steam going to the grave. For DiNatale, it's a fantastic performance and a warning shot to Niemczura.

The good news is, it gets interesting from here. DiNatale's organization and work paid off against two weaker candidates, and all three were lockstep in their views. Now, DiNatale gets Niemczura, who is willing to spend some dough, and certainly has a contrast or two to point out.
Let the games begin.


Election Update

All reports are of small turnout, but maybe things a bit closer than expected. Check this e-missive from the Gabby campaign this afternoon. Who knows what to believe at this point -- and it's tough to know because campaigns are getting spotty reports here and there and nothing is overly reliable at this point -- but it looks like everyone is making their last pitches here. Here's the GFG pitch:

This is going to be close!
All indications from polling places around
the state are that this race is going to be very, very close and that every vote
is going to count.
If you haven't voted yet today, please don't miss this
opportunity to have your say in the future of Massachusetts. The polls continue
to demonstrate that Chris Gabrieli is the best candidate to end the failed
Romney-Healey Administration - and end it we must.
Again, what we're hearing
from around the state is that very few votes will separate Chris Gabrieli and
Deval Patrick in this race - so please make your voice heard!


All Over But The Shouting

Today's Primary Election day, so don't forget to take a few minutes to stop by your local polling place. If you don't know where to go, click here.

The big race locally, of course, is the Worcester 3rd House race. Three political veterans hope to take the leap to the general election. Statewide, it's the governor's race, as Tom Reilly, Deval Patrick and Chris Gabrielli look to advance.

We can't encourage folks enough to vote today. Enjoy it.


Monday, September 18, 2006

Meanwhile, away from the Ballot Box

Shockingly, there are still a few things going on before tomorrow's election. Don't forget to vote, by the way. Polls open at 7 a.m., close at 8 p.m. Enjoy.

Here's two items from the last few days. One is good news for downtown, the other is a fairly strong suggestion for the future of the city.

Downtown gets another boost as Micron Products Inc. gets set to buy the Harper Furniture building. Micron is building quite a compound downtown, and is something of an anchor tenant in that area at this point. Not only does this sale take care of the Harper building's future, but it also brings more employees to downtown. That end of downtown could use another quality restaurant or shop or two, and hopefully this growing mass of daytime activity will help.

Then there's this story of a developer encouraging Leominster to speed up its permitting process. This is something Fitchburg officials should at least very much consider, if not take advantage of immediately. The slow permitting process across the state is an issue, and chances are most communities will not take advantage of this new state law. It would likely give Fitchburg a competitive edge moving forward, and Fitchburg needs every edge it can get.

There may be a downside to this, speed doesn't lend itself to lengthy review and thinking, but the city should consider targeting some areas as quick-permit areas. It can generate interest in areas that otherwise wouldn't be considered, and can be an attraction to business consider a number of communities in the region. It may take some time and effort to create a fast-permit plan, but it would be well worth it for the city.

OK, OK. We can't help ourselves, and need to delve into politics today. We got an e-mail from Republican Edward Niemczura titled "Edward Niemczura on switching parties." Here it is, in it's entirety. Steve DiNatale, someone is paying attention to you.

Politicos who switch parties usually bend over backwards to
ingratiatethemselves with their new comrades. This makes them convenient
lapdogs for theParty to call upon. I know this was the case with former
Texas Senator PhilGramm. He was a Democrat congressman until he read the
tea leaves and saw thatTexas loved Ronald Reagan in a big way. So he
jumped parties,won the Senateelection thanks to the publicity of his conversion,
and was the most reliablevote on the Republican party line. He also became their


DiNatale for Representative

Over the course of this year, one candidate in the Democratic primary race for the Worcester 3rd House seat has proven to be dedicated organized and committed to winning the campaign. That candidate has worked harder than the opponents and has proven it in scouring the city for votes and preparing for the task at hand. Based on that work, Save Fitchburg endorses Steve DiNatale in next Tuesday’s primary election.

The next representative from Fitchburg faces a number of challenges. The city has been under-represented for years on Beacon Hill, and what the city needs most – money – is in short supply. It will take a skilled, ambitious and dogged representative to bring the city the help it needs.

Since it became apparent early this year that incumbent Emile Goguen was not running for re-election, DiNatale has been at the forefront of the campaign. He immediately announced his candidacy and began campaigning. He has raised as much money as rivals Mary Whitney and Republican Edward Niemczura, but is the only candidate to rely solely on outside donations and not private loans. He has tirelessly knocked on doors, meeting voters through the city.

DiNatale will certainly have to prove his effectiveness on Beacon Hill if elected, but he has proven he is willing to work hard and prepare for the task. He has the best grasp of the issues of the three candidates and he is best at articulating his plans and priorities.

DiNatale has earned our support through a campaign marked by organization and hard work. If elected, those same traits will be necessary to become an effective representative for the city. We feel that he has the best chance to do that of the three Democrats, and that he’s earned the city’s support next Tuesday.


Friday, September 15, 2006

Targeting the Leader

Based on the newspaper stories today (Telegram, Sentinel), the two biggest pieces of news out of last night's debate was the gunning at presumed front-runner Steve DiNatale by his primary opponents.

David LeBlanc gets good mileage about asking DiNatale about switching from unenrolled to Democrat a year ago. It's pretty obvious DiNatale knew what was coming when he made the switch. Party loyalty probably isn't going to change too many minds in the this race, but it does paint DiNatale as a bit of a political opportunist.

LeBlanc gets top billing in both stories for the question, but Mary Whitney's question about approving city budgets that proved later to be out of whack was more damaging.

"My goal was not to be an obstructionist to the city's business and that's why I voted in favor of that budget. Those issues lie with the mayor. Those tough decisions come from his or her office," DiNatale said in the Sentinel.

We really don't like that answer. His goal should be to make sure the city's financial house is in order. The City Council is the guardian at the budgetary gate, and this is further proof that the council doesn't appear to have the gumption to take a hard line on these matters. "Those issues" lie with the mayor and the council, except the council has wimped out on those responsibilities. "Those tough decisions" need to be reviewed and approved by the Council. Simply, if you vote to approve the budget, you're giving your approval to those decision. They become yours unless you stand up, say you don't like it, and make some changes. Does this mean DiNatale won't be making the "tough decisions" as a legislator? Caveat: We're going by a newspaper story and don't have the full context of all this, but from what you read in the Sentinel, that is a pretty bad answer.

Five days to glory.


Thursday, September 14, 2006

The Shortest Debate Post Ever

The 10-month-old swiped the TiVo remote, leaving us unable to record tonight's debate. I caught about 30 seconds of Niemczura's opening and what seemed like 45 minutes of Whitney's closing (we had school open houses and bedtimes inbetween). We have no basis of analysis for tonight's funfest. We'll try to catch a replay and check for a link.

What did I miss?


Last Call

The three Democrats running for the Worcester 3rd House seat get their last chance to have a sizable impact on the race tonight, when they meet at Fitchburg State College for a debate. The forum, sponsored by the Sentinel & Enterprise, kicks off at 6 p.m. Republican Edward Niemczura gets a spot on stage as well.

We'll be "tape-delayed" blogging tonight, perhaps a first. Not only is 6 p.m. not a good time for most folks getting home from work, we've got some school open-house duties this evening. When we're done and the kiddies are in bed, we'll fire up the TiVo and give our thoughts as the debate progresses. Perfect? No, but it's the best we can do.

So, here's a breakdown on what needs to happen tonight, candidate by candidate:

Steve DiNatale: Work out the jitters early and give a performance similar to the second half of last Thursday's debate. DiNatale dominated the last part on Thursday, but was slow to warm up. If he comes out humming, he's in great shape.

David LeBlanc: A few more issues, a little more passion, a sign that offers something DiNatale doesn't DiNatale grabbed the public safety mantle early as a top issue, and LeBlanc could only look like a follower on that issue. LeBlanc also needs to tell voters what he's going to do. In his closing statement last week, he didn't name one issue or priority. Not one. Just a woeful use of two minutes (actually, he used less than a minute, another head-scratching move). LeBlanc needs a very strong performance after last week.

Mary Whitney: Hammer away at resume, and work to play to the connections she's made in 30 years in politics. Also, get rid of the disturbingly bad malaprops. Last week she said she "successfully succeeded" on GE and Putnam Place, and later, on her qualifications, said "many, many knowledge is in my head." Not so good. She also needs to find that one issue that separates her from the other two to stand out with voters.

Edward Niemczura: Introduce himself, go heavy on the bio, and being the process of creating himself as an alternative to the Democrats. Be engaging, aggressive, and direct. Be the option of the three liberal Democrats. But most importantly, it's his chance to make a first impression, and we all know the importance of that.


Reilly for Governor

With more experience than the rest of the ballot combined, and a message that is both appealing to voters and politically smart for the general election, Save Fitchburg endorses Tom Reilly in next week’s Democratic gubernatorial primary.

The last four years have proven the CEO-as-governor doesn’t necessarily work. Beyond his frequent trips and faulty politics, Mitt Romney’s administration was marked by secrecy and a distinct lack of knowledge of state government and its politics. It’s clear that the office needs someone who understands government and how to get things done.

No one running for governor has more political and policy experience than Reilly. Not only has he proven to be an effective district attorney and attorney general, he has also proven to be a capable official who makes the right choice despite his personal feelings. While opponents point to his support of gay marriage and question his decision to approve a ballot question on the matter, Reilly’s correct legal decision was not tainted by politics (not allowing the question on the ballot would protected gay marriage).

Lost in the maze of the campaign has been the Democratic Party’s chief goal: Winning in November. Republican Kerry Healy has outlined in her ads her two main attack points this fall: No liberal or tax supporter in the corner office. Reilly is the only Democrat who immediately takes away those arguments. He is the only Democratic candidate to call for the immediate rollback of the income tax to 5 percent, and he laid out a moderate, down-the-center philosophy, far away from the left politics of his rivals.

Certainly, Reilly has had his share of missteps. He has said politics are not his strong suit. At the end of the day, we’re electing a governor, not a candidate. Whether as a district attorney holding a firm line to try Eddie O’Brien as an adult or as attorney general making correct decisions, Reilly has proven to be a thoughtful leader.

Chris Gabrieli talks endlessly of some “results,” but offers nothing in terms of ideas or plans. Deval Patrick speaks well of the “politics of hope,” but those politics don’t cure the high cost of living or bring new business to the state. Reilly understands the issues and feelings of the state better any of the millionaires in this race. His moderate politics, his head-to-head matchup potential against Healy and his experience make him the best bet for Democrats this fall.


Wednesday, September 13, 2006

More Campaign Money

The Telegram writes today about money and the Worcester 3rd race. Most of it's similar from posts here the last few days, but there are a few more details about individual donations. UPDATE: Here's the Sentinel's take.

Republican Edward Niemczura continues to wonder if Kerry Healey is soaking up all available cash and resources.

By the way, all four hit the stage together tomorrow night for a debate at Fitchburg State College sponsored by the Sentinel & Enterprise. We'll be interested to see how Niemczura plays. He seems pretty plain spoken, and has nothing to play for this week, so why not go guns blazing? What happens if he's the best guy on stage tomorrow night?

The debate is at 7 p.m. We're desperate to dip our toe into live blogging, but it might be a bit tape-delayed. We'll have this planned out by tomorrow. The debate airs on FATV, which after Save Fitchburg is THE home for Fitchburg politics this fall. UPDATE: According to today's Sentinel, the debate is at 6 p.m., which guarantees will be blogging on tape delay. It also probably assures most people won't see the debate live. Sheesh.


Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Edward Niemczura: On an Island

Republican House candidate Edward Niemczura said today he plans on putting up to $30,000 or $35,000 of his own money into his campaign, but expects to get nothing from the state Republican Party.

Niemczura said he approached the party for some help, but after he got on the ballot was told there was nothing available.

"They told me, we really don't have any money for you. They are scared to death Kerry Healey isn't going to win the governor's race," Niemczura said.

Niemczura said he asked for some help with phone banking and sign holding, and was told no. He said he'll take a check from the state party if he gets it, but "you'll have to wake me up with smelling salts" if he gets one.

The state party has a balance of $379,000, according to the latest report from the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance.

Niemczura has already put in $20,000 to his campaign, including $5,000 just yesterday. He said he's divorced, no kids, his house is paid off, and he makes six figures as a technical sales rep. He said he figures he spends $20,000 to $25,000 a year on travel, but instead of going on trips to London, Paris of Chile this year, he's hitting the campaign trail.

He said he might spend as much as $30,000 to $35,000 of his own money, but also said he might clean out some stocks. "How crazy do I want to get," he said.

He said he's gotten a few donations from friends in his industry, but hasn't pushed hard for fundraising. He said one Fitchburg minister said he'd support Niemczura's campaign, but only if Niemczura was an "anti-gay" candidate. Niemczura said he took a pass.

So, Niemczura is going it alone. A state party that can't muster enough members in either branch of the Legislature is leaving a guy running for an open seat with no help. Not even a couple of people to hold a sign on a Saturday morning. Niemczura may not win this race, but he's making the commitment through his time and his pocketbook. Too bad for him the party is leaving him out to dry. His $30,000 is going to buy him some attention, but he's got a lot of work to do and little help from Boston to do it.


Monday, September 11, 2006

Where's the Vision?

Here's what learned at last week's forum in the Worcester 3rd Democratic primary:
  • All three candidates (Steve DiNatale, David LeBlanc, Mary Whitney) favor gay marriage, and wouldn't dare the Legislature's handling of the issue.
  • All three kind of understand the basics of the health care law, and think it's a good first step.
  • All three wouldn't touch the gas tax, and are leery of rolling back the income tax.
  • All three want better commuter rail service.
  • All three want more lottery aid and Chapter 70 money.
  • All three love Fitchburg State College.
Here's one thing we didn't learn on Thursday: Their vision for Fitchburg?

Beyond the above snarky assessment, we did learn a few other things, most notably just how far ahead DiNatale seems at this point, but no one painted a picture of what they see in the city's future. They ran through a series of facts and positions (sometimes enlightening, sometimes not) and provided an understanding of where they stand on issues and their grasp of the issues and Beacon Hill.

In essense, the main goal seemed to be, "I'm going to grab as much money as I can for the city." In fact, when asked to provide a non-revenue goal, DiNatale answered with an idea to get more money. A little energy, a little vision, a little enthusiasm would go a long way. How about something like this:

"Everything I do on Beacon Hill will be focused on making Fitchburg the best small city in Massachusetts and New England. I won't work just with the Legislature, but I will be the city's voice in the Governor's Office and state agencies, advocating on the city's behalf and working on every level to improve the city.

Fitchburg needs more than money. It needs a commitment to healing its psyche and making its business and community stronger. I will work with the office of economic development to find those small business who need startup space in our downtown. I will work to identify those developers who have found success with condominium units in Lowell, Lawrence and elsewhere and bring them to Fitchburg.

I will find state programs that encourage restaurants, shops and other retail establishments to move downtown. If they don't exist, I'll create them. I will help local officials identify a major attraction for downtown -- be it a ballpark, movie theater or something else -- and help make it a reality.

I'll make sure the Route 12 expansion is done quickly, adding a lifeline to downtown. I'll make sure commuter rail progress is ongoing, whether its through quicker service or just plain better service. I will scour state agencies for every program and initiative that will make downtown better.

Most importantly, I will take every day to the State House that this is a new Fitchburg. This is a city that is on the verge of not just recovering, but becoming a regional powerhouse. I will make sure everyone knows that in Fitchburg, an investment now will pay huge dividends in the long run.

Our city is moving in the right direction, and I'm excited to have the opportunity to play a role in that progress. It's a new day for Fitchburg. There's a lot to do, but I can't wait to dig in and do it."


Sunday, September 10, 2006

The State Rep Race: The Money

We said we'd just edit an old post on campaign finance, but we're liars in the end. Here's the entire lowdown:

We were surprised to see no one has raised more than Republican Edward Niemczura, who raised $15,475. Yeah, $15,000 is from the candidate himself, so it's not an indication of any kind of grassroots support, but the guy is in it for real at this point.

He's also spent just about all of it, going through over $12,900. He has about $2,532 left, but we expect he'll be shelling out more at some point. No help from the state party yet, either. Considering it's an open seat, is the state GOP so weak it can't throw a grand or two in this guy's direction? It's that just an admission of statewide legislative defeat if it doesn't?

On Niemczura's heels is Steve DiNatale, with $13,061 raised this period, $7,221 spent, and $7,429 remaining, far more than anyone else. DiNatale got contributions from FSC President Robert Antonucci, Sheriff Guy Glodis (and his committee), Rep. Emile Goguen, and Brian Knuttilla (and his committee).

David LeBlanc has raised $2,200, $1,800 from himself. He has $744 left. We discussed Mayor Mary Whitney before, who raised $7,934 and spent $6,031. That leaves her $1,903.

No surprise DiNatale is in the lead on the Democratic side. He's been better across the board so far, so why should that change? We're intrigued by Niemczura, however, and wonder if he's going to be throwing more cash into the pot come October. If so, the Democratic winner is going to have to keep up.


Friday, September 08, 2006

If the Phone Doesn't Ring...

It's probably the Fitchburg Sentinel & Enterprise.

Somehow, the daily newspaper headquartered in Fitchburg decided to take a pass on last night's debate. It's been awhile since we played the role of poor, sad blogger, but today's our day.

First, let's recap:

In June, Save Fitchburg and "Politically Speaking" announce the debate, and send a press release to the papers. The Telegram wrote a story at the time. Less than a week later, the Sentinel announced its debate (next Thursday, Sept. 14, 7 p.m.), no mention of the SF/PS debate.

Last week, our little debate consortium sent an e-mail to both papers, letting them know space would be tight and we'd like to know if they'd be around. Telegram responded immediately. We still haven't heard from the Sentinel.

Today? The Telegram has this story. The Sentinel? Nothing.

So, we have to ask, why? Every media outlet in the city covered the debate, except one. Was it arrogance? Some kind of miffed tiff after we announced first and held ours first? Did they want to try to preserve theirs and its news as fresh next week? Do they think it's not important?

Considering the city's financial status, it's strong reliance on state aid, and it's need for state help on major projects (Route 12, commuter rail, the urban renewal plan), you'd think a debate -- any debate -- featuring the one and only seat in the Legislature solely devoted to Fitchburg would be coverage worthy. The Sentinel was very well aware of the debate, and chose not to cover it. The voters and the city as a whole lose in this situation. Thankfully, everyone else covered it. FATV were all-stars from the beginning, and can't be thanked enough. WEIM is a great partner and friend, and we can't wait for the general election debate with them. The Telegram, with think rightfully so, found it newsworthy, and we thank them for the coverage.

So, there's our whiny post about the Sentinel. We're looking forward to perhaps live-blogging next Thursday's rematch. Save Fitchburg understands the importance of this race, and we'd rather do the right thing and cover the debate rather than go all petty and ignore it.


Following the Money

State representative candidates need to file a campaign finance report by the end of today. The first one came in overnight, from Mary Whitney's campaign.

According to the report, Whitney raised $7,934 and spent $6,031. That leaves her $1,903.

Sadly, that's about all we can report. None of her receipts or expenses are itemized, something that the Office of Campaign and Political Finance will likely find interesting at some point and come looking for follow up.

When the rest come in, we'll let you know by editing this post throughout the day and into tomorrow if they come in tonight. No new posts on this topic, in order to keep it all in one place.


Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Postgame

We'll write a lot more about this tomorrow, but for now, our first impressions on tonight's Worcester 3rd House Democratic debate:

Simply, a win for Stephen DiNatale. He picked it up in the second half, both in energy and substance.

In some areas, we were trying to gauge depth of knowledge. Like with the health care question. Everyone knew the basics, but substantial areas of change/preservation were missing. Duly noted by us.

We wanted someone to take a stand against how the Legislature pushed the vote on gay marriage after election day. DiNatale sort of apologized for the Legislature for it, Whitney ignored it, and LeBlanc didn't really take a stand. Sigh.

In the end, there wasn't a lot of difference, particularly in local aid (more, please) and taxes (don't cut 'em).

They go at it again next week, and the pressure will be on Whitney and LeBlanc. They didn't really chip away at DiNatale's air of inevitability. He was well-prepared and picked it up in the backstretch and won going away, in our view. Twelve days to go.

Your thoughts? You know where to put them.


It's Game Time

As you may have read this week, tonight's the night of the Worcester 3rd House debate for the three Democratic candidates, 12 days before the primary election.

The details: Save Fitchburg, "Politically Speaking," FATV and WEIM are hosting the hoe-down. Game time is 7 p.m. The 90-minute forum can be seen live on FATV Channel 8, and heard on WEIM. Wheeeeee.

Now, here's what we'd tell each candidate if we were in their corner tonight.

Steve DiNatale: Wear the mantle of frontrunner, ignore the other two as much as possible, and act firmly, firmly, in control. Many folks consider DiNatale a done deal, and he should try to reinforce that. Have a command of the facts, say "I'm going to do" a lot, and generally give the impression this is a done deal. Embrace the view from the front and try to make that general idea a reality.

David LeBlanc: Play the role of scrappy, energetic underdog. Clamp onto DiNatale early and don't let go. Show a knowledge of the facts, but also portray yourself as the guy with the energy and optimism to help the city turn around. In effect, be the Deval Patrick of the race: not the establishment, but the bold, high-octane choice.

Mary Whitney: Rely on the resume and a lifetime in public office. Buff up that love for the city and desire to make it a better place. Whitney probably has more public experience than the other two combined. Point to successes, talk about nurturing the future. Come off a bit, say, grandmotherly. Wise, knowledgable, and ready for one more last go-around for the city she loves like no one else.

Will any of the above happen? Who knows. But it should be interesting tonight to hear what they all have to say. See you at 7.


Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Duck, Duck...

Goose! So silly.

More importantly...

Don't stop us if you've heard this before, but tomorrow night is the big Worcester 3rd debate for the Democrats running for House. Stephen DiNatale, David LeBlanc and Mary Whitney take the stage for the event, hosted by Save Fitchburg, "Politically Speaking," FATV and WEIM. Game time is 7 p.m., on FATV Channel 8 and WEIM.

This is the first time all three will be on a stage together with access to all the voters in Fitchburg via TV and radio. We'll talk tomorrow about who needs to do what, but for now, we'll talk about what to expect.

The 90-minute debate will include opening and closing statements from the candidates. In between, I'll be firing off questions with Greg Vine from WEIM. Candidates receiving the question have two minutes to answer, and get 30 seconds for final words after the other two candidates get one minute to rebut. Vine and I will ask followups if needed.

Not to give too much away, but you can expect questions to stick pretty close to what is important to the state and the city. Taxes, downtown, commuter rail, maybe even something with gay marriage and health care are likely to show up.

So, tune in for some great fun. This is an important election for the city's future -- the representative is the only voice on Beacon Hill completely committed to Fitchburg, and Fitchburg only -- and the end-game discussion starts tomorrow.


Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Two Things We Missed

Away for the weekend, we missed these two things:

First, and it's probably a little too late, but Councilor Dean Tran's sex offender residency initiative hits the council floor tonight. It has a couple of votes to go, but we assume it's a go until we hear otherwise (and if it goes awry, we can't wait to hear what Tran has to say about that).

Second, check this one out from The Boston Globe Real Estate section on Sunday. We'll keep it short: It's good that the city is getting stories like this. Really, this is a great story for Fitchburg, and the photo doesn't hurt. But you can figure out from reading it where spin is separated from truth. Someday, we hope, the whole thing is pure truth.

Lastly, like a lot of other folks, we hopped back on the commuter rail today after enjoying summer's lack of traffic. Let's say it wasn't an all-star performance.

The morning ride was fine, but North Leominster needs to get that broken ticket machine fixed. We barely made it on time, but there were 8-10 people left in line needing to decide between maybe getting a ticket or missing the train. Bad times.

This afternoon was tougher. The train was late, and because there is only 10 minutes between trains just after 5, very crowded. The MBTA really needs to get its act together.

Remember, 7 a.m. tomorrow, WEIM.


Welcome to the Home Stretch

Now that the kiddies are back to school, it's time to get the focus on electoral politics. If you need a reminder, the primary election is two weeks from today.

The best kickoff of the stretch run comes this Thursday night, when Save Fitchburg, "Politically Speaking," FATV and WEIM host the first Democratic state representative candidate forum. You can watch and listen live at 7 p.m. on FATV (Channel 8) or WEIM (1280 on the AM dial) for the 90-minute discussion.

Also, Jason and Ralph Romano will be on WEIM tomorrow morning, from 7 to 7:30, talking about the debate and what's at stake for everyone.

It'll be the first three-way event between Councilor Stephen DiNatale, former councilors David LeBlanc, and former Mayor Mary Whitney. We'll cover the expected ground, and we'll be interested in not only hearing how they stand on the issues, but also gauging their depth of knowledge not only of policy, but of Beacon Hill politics.

Our advice: TiVo the dem governor's debate, fire up the popcorn popper, and settle in to get a firm handle on an important state rep election for Fitchburg.