Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Mayor's Press Conference

Mayor Dan Mylott discussed the fixing of two water main issues in the city, and encouraged residents to attend a theater event in the city this weekend. You can read about the Mayor's Wednesday press conference here first, before anywhere else.


Local Trains; Big Dreams Scuttled

There's a story today (no link available at this writing) about a proposed new commuter rail station at the junction of Routes 2 and 31.

There's a lot of reasons why this is a good idea. It creates a station that would nicely service not only surrounding areas better than the current stations in downtown Fitchburg and North Leominster, but would cater to folks living in the Oak Hill/Upper Cleghorn/Bridle Cross areas. It would be, really, a good extension of the current rail line.

However, there are two reasons to consider holding off on this project, and the $750,000 study that comes along with it. First, for Fitchburg, this station would suck away some of the traffic that comes downtown to get on the train. That wouldn't be good for a downtown trying to get its legs back underneath it.

Second, the priority for years has been to speed up the rail line, not extend it. This project diverts money, attention and time from the real top priority of the line, which is making it faster.

Also, if this increases ridership, where do they sit? My understanding is that the line can't really handle more than the six single-deck cars now on the rails. If you ride the big rush-hour trains, you know seats are a premium. Why add capacity if you can't handle it?

Improve the current service first, then expand it.


The Kerry Effect may be claiming its first victim.

For years, U.S. Rep. Martin Meehan of Lowell wanted something better for himself than a seat in Congress. He's been considered a long-time Senate candidate, and he backed away from a gubernatorial run in 2002 after a couple of crafty moves from the Legislature were more than enough to push the play-it-safe Meehan to the sidelines.

Now, according to the Globe, Meehan might be up for the UMass-Lowell presidency.

Make no mistake, Meehan has long yearned for higher office. When the state changed its campaign finance rules to help out Tom Finneran before the '02 election, Meehan's big federal money campaign account were of no use to him. That left the Senate. So Meehan waited, hoping Sen. John Kerry would become president. Then when that didn't work out, he waited some more, hoping either Kerry would run again, or Ted Kennedy would shock the world and announce his retirement.

Neither happened, Meehan is looking for something new. The UMass-Lowell job is a plum, and Meehan is treated very, very well in Lowell.

So, Kerry's loss in '04 and his recent decision not to run in '08 may have claimed its next victim. As long as Meehan gets the job.

Oh yeah, don't think for a minute the Globe got this story from anyone other than Meehan or a Marty-approved source that might as well have been Meehan. Meehan and Globe reporter (and former Lowell Sun writer) Frank Phillips are old buddies and stay in touch. Meehan wants this out there.


Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Presidential ambitions

After daydreaming presidential politics in the car this morning, I figured it was as good a time as any for a post. The field is just about set, and it's never too soon to discuss a presidential election.

At this point, we're going to gauge candidates in three areas: message/buzz (to get the media attention), fundraising (to add to the aura of serious candidate), and organization (it's how Kerry won Iowa over Dean). We're going to focus on the top tier of candidates in both parties, so we'll ignore (for now) Chris Dodd and Sam Brownback. Maybe we'll see them later. Anyway, here we go:

John McCain
The rundown: A POW with an amazing story, the centrist voice of the Senate. Ran in 2000. The center -- in both parties -- loves the guy.
Message/buzz: He'll have to something more than war theory at some point, but it's a good message starting point. He gets good buzz because even the people who won't vote for him respect and like him.
Fundraising: You have to figure he'll be able to do what he needs to. Ran nationally once, has big upside in the general.
Organization: He's been working on this for awhile, and certainly has some pieces of this 2000 organization still in place. He was rolled by Bush's conservative movement in 2000, however, and he likely won't be the conservative's darling this time, either. That might make it tough in the primary.

Rudy Giuliani The rundown: Former mayor of New York City, best known for handling 9/11. Second is cleaining up Times Square.
Message/buzz: Message is unformed, but you gotta figure "leader" will be in there somewhere. His handling of 9/11 gives him good buzz. But being out of office tempers that somewhat. Has some work to do.
Fundraising: Who knows? Considering his last campaign was for mayor, he doesn't even have a state-wide organization. He'll need to pluck some big money names at some point soon.
Organization: Again, who knows. He has a lot of work to do here, and in short order. He has a lot of grassroots work to do.

Mitt RomneyThe rundown: We know his story too well. Running for the last two years, he has the leg up on the conservative wing of the ballot. As Massachusetts learned, he lies to benefit himself. We'll see how he plays around the country.
Message/buzz: Tough to define from here, where we already have such a clear picture of the guy. He's the conservative, however, and that will go a long way. He'll play the "red governor in blue state" card, if you haven't heard.
Fundraising: Apparently, based on his $6 million day this month, pretty strong. He has big-money players on board. When you start running in early 2005, all that planning helps.
Organization: He gets the benefit of being the head of RGA last year. He spent all of 2006 building a network. He's going about this the right way, and he might be the most conservative option out there. He has some name-recognition work to do, but he shouldn't be discarded at this point.

Barack Obama
The rundown: One-term (and not all of that term) Senator from Illinois. The progressive left can't help but drool over him. Is America ready to elect a black person?
Message/buzz: Has no discernable message at this point, but he makes up for it with super buzz. He'll need to show some substance someday, but for now he can skate on his message of "hope" (remind you of someone?).
Fundraising: He's been given instant top-tier status, so he'll grab some big money guys. He'll do what he has to.
Organization: He'll be building it from the ground up. He'll need to find room with other top tier candidates, who have some built-in advantages.

Hillary Clinton
The Rundown: What don't you know? New York Senator, former First Lady. About 40 percent of the country absolutely loves her, about 40 percent of the country absolutely hates her. Is America ready to elect a woman president?
Message/buzz: Message is still forming, but like Obama has ridiculous buzz. The party loves her. She'll never win over those who despise her, so she needs to lock down her base and grab a lot of the few undecideds.
Fundraising: You gotta figure Bubba's team is on board. There's a lot of money out there, and she'll grab her share of it. Not a problem for her.
Organization: Again, does she tap into Bill's network? Her name alone will gather her a lot of support -- particularly from the real dedicated folks who will remember being at the forefront of Bill's effort in '92. She should be fine here, but needs to pay some attention to it.

John Edwards
The Rundown: First, an admission. I absolutely love the guy, and will very likely vote for him on any ballot he's on. That said, former N.C. Senator, Veep candidate in 2004.
Message/buzz: He'll stick pretty close to the "One America" message from his own prezzie run in 2004. It's a good one, so why change it. He's considered a top-tier candidate, but is lacking in buzz as Clinton and Obama are the early headliners.
Fundraising: He has a national organization in place, but fundraising was one area he fell behind on in 2004. He needs to do better, and it will be tougher battling the Clinton-Obama lovefest.
Organization: Again, he has a foundation through his 2004 effort. It was OK in Iowa and probably second-best (behind Kerry) in New Hampshire. Again, he'll have to better -- particularly in Iowa. Again, it will be tough with Clinton-Obama scooping up names by the handful early on.


Monday, January 29, 2007

Crocker School update

The school stays closed the rest of the week, but kindergarten classes start again tomorrow at Fitchburg State college. This is all happening because of a water main break. For more information, click here.


Legislator proposes plan to keep graduates from leaving Massachusetts

This isn't an article that is directly related to Fitchburg, however this will very much indirectly effect available state money.

A Massachusetts legislator is proposing a giveaway for graduates of bay state colleges.

The cost of living in Massachusetts is so high that most
students can't afford to continue living here after graduation.

That's why a legislator from Milton is proposing a plan that would give grads $10,000 for a down payment on a house or condo.

The money would go to anyone who has graduated from a state-accredited college, vocational-technical program or apprentice program in the last ten years.

The catch: recipients have to stay in Massachusetts for at least five years or pay back the money with interest.

Three things:

1. Isn't Patrick Deval supposed to lower the housing cost in Massachusetts?

2. Since it's impossible for Deval to do so, how is the state going to fork out $10K per student?

3. Am I the only one who thinks this idea is a feeble (at best) attempt to curb the population decline of this state?


Friday, January 26, 2007

The Future of Downtown

I use a lot of trees in this week's Fitchburg Pride to discuss the future of downtown. It's a pretty interesting time for this key section of the city.

In short, after the city spent up to $50 million in infrastructure investment, over $100 million is either being spent or planned on being spent in private investment downtown.

It creates, in essence, a key point in the future of downtown. If these projects work, and downtown moves forward, this point in time will be looked at as when downtown -- and the city -- began its rebirth. If it fails, the city certainly won't be better, and may in fact be worse in the long-term.

There is certainly optimism on the part of both city officials and those in the private sector who are investing downtown. It's not baseless optimism. However, there's a long road ahead, and it will take more money, more work, and more enthusiasm.

The biggest trick ahead is getting people downtown. The city needs to start giving people a reason to come downtown through events, festivals, whatever. As restaurants and retail develop, those events and festivals will become important feeders to a revitalized downtown.

But, there's a psychological aspect to this and a bad reputation that needs to be overcome. Like the physical transformation of downtown, it won't happen overnight. But the changes are starting, and they're starting now.


Thursday, January 25, 2007

Here It Comes

We're giddy as a schoolboy this morning, with a new newspaper to go out the door by day's end. Good times, good times indeed.

Here's what to expect in tomorrow's Fitchburg Pride, Vol 1, Number 1:

A look at downtown Fitchburg and the surprising amount of private investment that is going on in the city's center.

Features on four of the city's Unsung Heroes, people who have quietly had an impact on the city -- and in at least one case, the world.

A look at the Fitchburg Spanish Council, which has been MIA for months, leaving a void in the city's Latino community.

A feature on Clean Streets, a private initiative that is cleaning up the city's neighborhoods.

Tons of stuff on the city's schools, seniors, FSC, business, and more.

The paper hits the streets tomorrow (if you haven't heard that before). You can figure out where your closest location is by going to the Fitchburg Pride Web site. A list of distribution points is on the front page right now.


Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Mayor’s press conference

Starting today, we'll be providing same-day coverage of the mayor's weekly press conference. Today we are running our entire report at SaveFitchburg. Starting next week, we'll provide excerpts here and the entire story at Enjoy.

Mayor Dan Mylott said at his press conference this afternoon that he is happy with the list of potential candidates for the City Council at-large seated opened by the resignation of Steve DiNatale, who left the council to become state representative.
"The council will have the opportunity to choose a good councilor," said Mylott.
He said the new councilor should be someone who is concerned about the city and cares how it is moving forward.
The Committee of Legislative Affairs will be discussing the issue of inspecting rental properties at their meeting on Thursday, January 25, at 7:30 p.m.
"It is a controversial idea," said Mylott. "There are two sides to the story."
Mylott believes reasons for being against inspecting rental properties would be the great cost, and the fact that all landlords shouldn’t be punished because of a few bad landlords. He said on the whole, there are more good landlords in the city than bad ones.
However, he also thinks that city officials have an obligation to people living in the city.
"We are trying to find safe and healthy housing for everyone," said Mylott.
He is looking forward to the debate and getting all of the ideas on the table.
Mylott encouraged people to attend the grand opening of the Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning at Fitchburg State College.
According to Mylott, the faculty center will provide a central meeting place on campus, and provide many opportunities with technology.
"The new facility will greatly improve the quality of instruction at Fitchburg State College," said Mylott.
A ribbon cutting ceremony will take place Thursday, Jan. 25, at 3:30 p.m. The center is located on the first floor of the Amelia V. Gallucci-Cirio Library.


Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Together We Can... Wait

While nothing is certain until he rolls out some legislation that reflects a major policy decision or his budget, the early line on Gov. Deval Patrick's campaign pledge to help out cities and towns is somewhat empty.

Patrick sold the state a campaign of hope, and hope is about all municipalities have as they watch the news roll out of the State House.

Speaker Sal DiMasi said this week state revenues will be up only marginally. Other corners of the State House are delivering the same message of tight fiscal times. Patrick is ordering department heads to cut 5 to 10 percent out of their budgets. As Patrick tries to move some of his campaign priorities into action, can he lop off two or three or four smaller items, or concentrate on the large-ticket item of municipal relief?

Patrick's biggest move on municipal funding so far has been to throw out the idea of local-option taxes, which would allow communities to create a meal tax and other taxes. If your Fitchburg, struggling to keep up in general in the region, how is a meal tax a viable option? If Fitchburg instituted a meal tax, and Leominster didn't, doesn't that put Fitchburg at a great disadvantage? If Leominster did it, wouldn't Fitchburg gain the upper hand by not? What's the right answer here?

Throughout the campaign, the most strident Patrick opponents said he was saying "yes" to everyone, and he would never be able to pay the bill. Patrick often talked about property tax relief and help for cities and towns -- two items that come with enormous price tags.

Maybe Patrick has a plan. Maybe those department cuts are going to be targeted to property tax relief and local government. Maybe Patrick underestimated just what he was promising, and he is realizing he oversold his reforms. Maybe we just don't know yet. But we're going to find out a lot about Deval Patrick and his adminstration in the next four or five months, and how he handles ignoring some of his campaign pledges -- and there's no way he won't -- will be an indication of the next four years and how much help Fitchburg can rely on from the state. Mayor Dan Mylott, a Republican, was critical of the Romney administration for the last four years. Lord knows what will happen with a Democrat in office.

UPDATE: The Globe's Scot Lehigh says some similar stuff today. Probably should have read that first.


Sunday, January 21, 2007

It's Pride Week

I went out of town for a few days, and from a quick glance, looks like we didn't miss much.

Good, because it's time to get ready for the Fitchburg Pride.

I'm sure you all have it circled on your calendars, but in case you didn't, this Friday, Jan. 26, the first edition of the Fitchburg Pride hits the streets. The paper will be available at over 130 locations around the city, and you can take a look at a partial list of distribution points. Throughout the first few weeks, we'll have a team of folks out around the city handing out papers on Friday afternoon. If you see me in a red sweatshirt, say hi. Say hi even if I'm not wearing the sweatshirt.

So, now that we're back and ready for action, expect a week full of Pride stuff out of me, plus whatever looking interesting the political arena. The paper will be full of what will make the Pride the Pride, a lot of stories about the people and things in Fitchburg that makes the city special. Friday can't get here fast enough.


Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Twilight Zone: Fitchburg Websites

There is little more embarassingly tell-tale about a city's pride than a cursory look at official or quasi-official websites. More embarassing than wearing last year's couture to the Golden Glove awards. As our websites are our most public face, and often the first interaction a prospective visitor (or homebuyer)has with the city, wouldn't it be nice if our municipal information was kept as up to date as possible?

Here are examples of what I turned up on a quick search engine excursion this evening.

Fitchburg Public Schools have a beautiful and informative website.
However, we note that the school committee information is woefully out of date. The membership roster is incorrect, and the latest meeting minutes posted are April 3, 2006 - now almost ten months.

What's up?

Fitchburg Airport site contains dated material as well on its Events page, dating back to August, 2006 and promoting a History Flight in August, 2006, as well as the Vans Warped Tour event, August 2006, and a FlyIn in September, 2006. One does note the weather page, courtesy of NOAA, which is timely.

Even the Fitchburg Art Museum Events page returns as the latest news "Opening Reception, Sunday October 1.", the flagship site of the Fitchburg Economic Development Office and Fitchburg Redevelopment Authority seems to have called it quits in July, 2006, and has posted a notice that they "are rebuilding our website in order to offer up-to-date information about the projects of the Fitchburg Economic Development Office and Redevelopment Authority, as well as information pertinent to local business and community interests." We look forward to that pertinent information. The sooner the better, as what benefits Fitchburg as a whole benefits us each individually.

The big - and very pleasant - surprise is the recently updated information at the OFFICIAL website of the City of Fitchburg, MA:

I found the 2007 Appointments page up to date, along with the current City Council meeting agenda, Legislative Affairs Committee Agenda, even the front page touts the current search for a treasurer, announcement of the Special City Council Meeting February 6th to fill the At-Large council position vacated by now State Rep. DiNatale.

Digging will turn up a few out of date items, but while the site could be more attractive and modern-looking, as well as more useful, the basic information contained there is less dated than at any time in recent memory.

Kudos to the whomevers - David Streb, I believe? - responsible for the recent maintenance.

One might hope that the Fitchburg Redevelopment Authority / Economic Development folks, Fitchburg Schools, Fitchburg Airport and Fitchburg Art Museum will follow the example.

After all, you never know who's looking.



Ted for Mayor?

We think we wrote that headline before, but it's sort of news today. There's some buzz in the post below, but here's a centralized spot for the conversation.

The Telegram has a story today with City Councilor Ted DeSalvatore saying he's running for something this fall, but he isn't sure what. Could be mayor. Could be council. Could be, apparently, some early trips to New Hampshire to run for president.

The rumors of DeSalavatore running for mayor have been non-stop since last summer, and they're dying any time soon. Based on the Telegram story, he's not exactly trying to stop the rumors, either. Throw in the "Team to Elect DeSalvatore" and this party scheduled for later in the month, and how can you ignore the rumor.

Based on the story, it looks like DeSalvatore is concentrating on crime, taxes and Unitil for whatever office he's running for. All three play well, but all three come with unique challenges.

DeSalvatore isn't a fan of Police Chief Edward Cronin, and getting rid of him could be a messy process. We'll simply good luck on lowering property taxes (or even "stabilizing" them). As for Unitil, are there options? Here's a make-or-break question: If another company took over for Unitil, would they be allowed to use current infrastructure, or would they have to drop their own lines? I don't know the answer, but if it's the second option, fuggetabbodit.

All that said, DeSalvatore has a nice, long story written about him maybe running for mayor, with no other candidate -- even the incumbent -- mentioned. That's a pretty tasty hit for him.


Monday, January 15, 2007

The Problem of Health Care

The costs for Fitchburg to pay health insurance for city employees has risen over 60 percent in six years, and of course shows no signs of slowing down.

The city spent $22 million on health care last year, almost a quarter of its budget. For years officials in Fitchburg and every other community in the state has squawked about rising insurance costs, and it's a reminder when it's all laid out in one package.

This shouldn't be a surprise to anyone. It's no secret health care costs are booming. Hell, every year we all get the memo from HR saying our insurance premiums are going up X percent (or XX percent sometimes). It's no different on the municipal level.

The difference, however, is that cities and towns have a potential out. Last year, the state passed a law that would allow municipalities to join the state's insurance plan. With the larger buying power of state government, chances are cities could lower its insurance costs. And it's a good plan, so employees wouldn't receive sub-par care.

Both Fitchburg Mayor Dan Mylott and Leominster Mayor Dean Mazzarella say they'll investigate joining the state plan. It would be assinine not too to at least look at it and figure out if it would be beneficial to the city. Hopefully Mylott is proactive and speedy about it, and can get the city in the best position for the next fiscal year. It's only five months away, but if it's an easy decision, it can be done quickly.


Thursday, January 11, 2007

We're losing our language

Consider the following two quotes from today's S&E regarding the City's ADL proclamation:

"When you talk to the people that are marginalized in this community, who are minorities, they feel very strongly that their needs are not being met by this institution, which I am a part of" - Police Chief Edward Cronin

...hate manifests itself on many levels, from violent crimes to name-calling, biases and stereotypes. "We need to root out" all these levels of hate - Jennifer Smith, associate director of the ADL New England

I was confused. I always thought that 'Hate' meant extreme dislike, or the opposite of love. I checked, and sure enough, Webster's definition confirmed my suspicions: 'to dislike intensely or passionately'

But I guess touchy feely politics has now made it in Fitchburg; name-calling is hate. Having a bias is hate. Not giving a rat's ass about marginalized groups is hate.

Chief Cronin seemed to go out of his way to admit that he is "a part of" an institution that is not meeting the needs of some marginalized groups. Is he guilty of a hate crime?

I guess the next step would be to outlaw hate. We could create statutes that specifically refer to the feelings of the perpetrator when committing the crime. (oh, we've already done that)

Just like we've done with 'date' rape, we can legislate hate robbery and hate assault. Maybe we're now guilty of "hate marginalization of selected groups because their needs are not being met". Or more simply, we don't give a rat's ass.


Tuesday, January 09, 2007


Sometime soon, if not today, then tomorrow, Save Fitchburg will notch its 100,000th page view. Holy cow. That's good stuff.

If it just so happens to be you (you can tell by scrolling to the bottom of the page and looking at the hit counter), please let me know via e-mail ( I have nothing for you, except for some hearty congratulations and my curiousity appeased.

It's kind of an important milestone for the old Save Fitchburg. I don't think when this started 13 months ago I thought 100,000 views would be recorded. But, here we are.

P.S. - Blogger is warning of an outage today at about 10:45 a.m. This might not happen until tomorrow with that in play.


Monday, January 08, 2007

Hit 'Em with Fees

The city may consider big increases in dumping fees in an effort to get alleviate the long-running problem of people dumping stuff in the quiet corners of the city.

Not a bad idea, $25 does seem kind of piddling, but the real problem here is enforcement. A $250 fine sounds great, but if you can't catch the dumper, the fine is useless. It might make some people think twice, but I'm willing to bet most folks who throw trash in the woods don't pay attention to these things.

It does bring up another issue, however, which seems to be the slow movement to update a lot of things in the city. Like increasing dumping fines over $25, and going after tax deliquents after three months instead of one year. We're not going to slog through the research, but these are just two of a number of examples over the last year.

Perhaps the City Council should consider creating a subcommittee to review all fees and fines and other revenue items like past-tax payments, and revise them all for the 21st Century. Just seems like it's kind of a fly-by-night effort so far, and a little organization can go a long way.


Saturday, January 06, 2007

Route 13 Exit may be redirected or eliminated

A story in the Sentinel and Enterprise recently that I paid little attention to, assuming that what concerns Leominster is of little interest to Fitchburg.

Well, I'm thinking again. You see, Leominster's forward thinking mayor is pushing Flanagan and Antonioni to fund an engineering study for a new Route 2 Exit - to Leominster. An exit that could quite possibly close the existing Route 13 exit, further isolating East Fitchburg.

Now, since there would be Federal and State funds involved, wouldn't this be a golden opportunity for a forward thinking Fitchburg mayor and city council to invite the Leominster mayor and city council to create a Twin Cities Task Force to explore an option that's beneficial to both cities? And while they're at it, why not involve the Lunenburg Board of Selectmen, since closing the Route 13 exit and bypassing the Whalom District (and planned new construction in the Lunenburg Whalom District) will effectively cut off the most direct route to Route 2A. Ideally such a task force would include our state legislative delegation as well, and perhaps our U.S. Representatives.

Isn't it time that the cities and towns that abut one another in this metropolitan area began talking to one another and working together instead of competing?

If Leominster gets in line for a study funded by scarce Federal and State dollars without Fitchburg having an equal voice, this could become one more instance of what's good for Leominster is bad for Fitchburg.

This just might be a golden opportunity for Freshman DiNatale to find a cause that would benefit the two cities and towns that utilize this vital exit off I-190 and Route 2.



Friday, January 05, 2007

New Hope for Commuters?

I'm no longer commuting from the Burg to Boston everyday, and while I giggle pretty much daily at the thought, I still have empathy for the folks who grind it out on Route 2 and the commuter rail every day.

So, for those who still make the trip, potentially some good news: The MBTA is buying new coaches and some engines in an effort to improve the commuter rail, um, experience.

As commuters well know, the Fitchburg line isn't exactly the Orient Express. The cars aren't dirty (usually), but they aren't shiny, either. They're kind of tired. You can't look out the windows half the time. They can be crowded as hell. In the summer, the AC seems to broken in at least one car almost every day, and in the winter it can be pretty cold on the too-regular occassions the heat isn't on.

In short: The line desperately needs an upgrade.

According to a group in the story, commuter rail service overall is up 3.4 percent the first nine months of 2006 from the same time in 2005.

As long as we can remember, the constant challenge of the T -- not just commuter rail, but subway, bus and all the rest -- has been to get people on board, and make sure the experience is good enough that riders come back. The goal is to make the occassional rider a full-time rider. But the problem has always been the spotty service turns off the part-timers. Let's say, for example, someone knows it's going to snow like holy hell, so he hops on the train instead of skating on the roads. But the heat doesn't work. Does that person come back on the next sunny day? Unlikely.

The MBTA has a long way to go on commuter rail and the rest of its system, and it's seriously cash-strapped. But hopefully new or "lightly" used equipment gets put on the Fitchburg line, which could desperately use an upgrade.


Thursday, January 04, 2007

It's about the money

On the City Council agenda for tonight is the following item:

Allowing the City of Fitchburg to incur a deficit not
to exceed $300,000 in the DPW-Snow and Ice Accounts
for FY2007

Now if the warmest winter on record continues, thanks to El Nino, perhaps we won't have to dip too far. However, if New England hands us payback for our mild weather and we eat up $300k of next year's money, what next?

Exactly where does the buck stop? The line keeps moving.

Receivership is looming, and with our recent spending patterns it could be the only way to save Fitchburg.


Does It Make Any Difference?

Not that it really matters-but…

Whatever happened to Councilor Boisvert’s request for new, padded chairs for the Council? That was one hell of a “maiden speech” topic-“Hey, me arse is achin’!”.

As you drive around Fitchburg you can’t help noticing most companies employing 10 or more provide ample parking for employees, guests and visitors…how come FSC is viewed differently?

Supt. Of Schools Ravanelle must have post-graduate training in the frequent use and application of jingoistic platitudes. This fellow uses more trite, tired, overused expressions (“We have to think outside the box;” “We really have to jump start;” “Let’s get ahead of the curve;” “this is an evolving, new paradigm”) more often than Mitt Romney.

I don’t know about you but my summer vacation planning is put on hold until events at Fitchburg International Airport are announced. I’d hate to be out of town and miss Locopaloozabazooka IV.

When I say, “God, help us” while viewing a meeting of the City Council is that a violation of the principle of separation of Church and State?

Am I alone in thinking that when I hear Police Chief Cronin speak of “working closely with the community” that “community” does not include me?

Anyone able to determine exactly what role Clark plays on the Council? Somebody should stick a mirror under his nostrils.

Doesn’t Ted DeSalvatore conjure the image of a nefarious used-car salesman, replete with hairhat?

Quick! Think of a good idea proposed by Donnelly, Joseph, Clark or Kaddy over the last 12 months. Half-credit: Strike the word “good.”

Does anyone other than Mylott subscribe to the notion of “Beautiful Downtown Fitchburg?” Every time Mylott uses that expression I look for his Seeing Eye Dog.

Does the fact we no longer hear talk of “growth” provide cause for concern?

Just reviewed my monthly statement from Unitil for electricity. Remind me to express my gratitude to DeSalvatore for his efforts this past Summer. Anyone take notes at that meeting?

Be honest. How many hours per day do you feel Mylott actually works?

Ever wonder what the fastest record time is between Downtown and RT 2 via RT 12 between 7AM and 6PM?

Think any execs looking for an Assistant describe their ideal candidate as “Find me someone like Pontbriand.”

Downtown Leominster must have a dozen decent places to grab a bite. Downtown Fitchburg is a dieter’s paradise.

Am I incorrect in thinking the search for a replacement for Lisa Wong as Director of the Fitchburg Redevelopment Authority hasn’t been placed on the “back burner,” it’s not even near the stove? Maybe it’s part of the “20 Year Plan.”

One of the great things Fitchburg has going for it is Romano’s Market. As the old-time retail butchers and meat cutters claimed, “You can’t beat my meat.”

Is Councilor Conry actually that unaware when he asked Mylott “Are these reports available on-line?”

Don’t know about you but I could care less as to the CBA settlement amount for DPW and Fire Department when compared with the settlement of the Teacher’s CBA. Wonder if they’ll accept IOU’s containing a photo of Mylott?

I’ll sleep better this year secure in the knowledge Barney Fife is VP of the City Council. The guy is probably following Joseph around with a thermometer.

Ever wonder what would have happened had Mylott’s recent bout with dizziness and fainting occurred during a Council meeting? Who would win the race to fetch the defibrillator?

There has not been a good, let alone great, female voice since the death of Janis Joplin and Mary Wells decision to stop recording over 35 years ago.

Really looking forward to receiving my first issue of “Steve DiNatale’s Report to Constituents”

What will happen to the School Committee’s policy on cupcakes for kids should Lisa Moison follow through with her threat not to run for the seat?


Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Gay Marriage

Figuring for months the Legislature would take the chicken way out on the gay marriage issue, I was surprised to it voted on the issue yesterday. Not surprising, it lives for another day. It will be interesting to see if it survives the next session, however.

Proponents of the vote argued one reason for voting was to uphold the laws of the State Constitution, which is the oldest constitution in the world. The Constitution sort of orders the Legislature to vote on these matters (although it didn't on another issue yesterday, with no repercussions).

It's great that the State Constitution is the oldest in the world, but it's moments like this where it shows its age (along with such out-dated things like the Governor's Council).

Under what other circumstances does something pass a legislature with 25 percent of the vote? Two out of three lawmakers voted against this ballot question, but it lives. This isn't a clarion call for a constituional amendment, but it's worth noting that some corners of the document are sorely out of place in modern-day politics.

It's also worth noting that yesterday's activity and votes were probably the last for Fitchburg Rep. Emile Goguen. It's certainly the last substantive thing Goguen will play a role in. He hands the city's State House torch to Steve DiNatale tomorrow.

It's perhaps fitting that this was the last roundup for Goguen. The gay marriage issue was the one that caught Goguen's attention the strongest in recent years, and it's an appropriate ending to his State House career.


Tuesday, January 02, 2007

2007 Wish List for Fitchburg

Things I would like to see for Fitchburg

2007 could be a year of new beginnings. It starts here.

A newspaper devoted exclusively to the city of Fitchburg.

Fitchburg Pride begins weekly publication January 26, 2007. Be sure to patronize its advertisers!

A full service community hospital, complete with a 24/7 Emergent Care center.

Fitchburg residents can begin by supporting the facility already in place.

When your physician prescribes X-rays, mammograms, labwork or outpatient tests, remember to request that it be scheduled at the Burbank campus. Better yet, make the call yourself to the Burbank Outpatient line and request an appointment. It's usually quicker to get the appointment than at the Leominster campus, lines are shorter, and you'll receive a friendly greeting from the Burbank campus staff.

If you build it they will come ... if you keep coming, they will build it. Make it profitable for HealthAlliance to utilize and develop the Burbank Campus. It's close, it's convenient, using the Burbank Campus provides jobs in Fitchburg. And using the Urgent Care Center at Burbank frees a bed for a true emergency at the Leominster campus.

A city-wide network of active Neighborhood Watch Groups to observe and report suspicious activity to Fitchburg law enforcement authorities

Leominster residents united to form Neighborhood Watch groups and crime was drastically reduced in several formerly troublesome neighborhoods. Leominster police didn't do it alone. They did it in co-operation with fed-up citizens.

Neighborhood Watch participants are NOT vigilantes, nor are they quasi-police officers. What they are are residents who meet occasionally, develop a consistent plan for contacting police when they observe suspicious activity, and who work together as a group to call police attention to problems in their neighborhood.

By working together as a concerned group of residents within their own neighborhoods under the auspices of a nationwide network experienced in citizen-police interaction, Neighborhood Watch CAN make a difference. Drug dealers, gangs, thieves and other criminals do not stay where they are not wanted.

Anyone interested in participating in the FSC neighborhood contact me at

Ok, your turn. What would you like to see that will contribute to overall quality of life in Fitchburg? Why? How?



Are We receiving "All the News That's Fit to Print"

Jason's announcement of the arrival of the Fitchburg Pride provided consideration to the following:

Near every daily newspaper and news outlet (TV, Radio) across the nation has experienced significant drop in circulation, viewers/listeners over the past few years. Locally, the Globe and Herald have experienced a significant decline in circulation estimated at 7% (Globe weekday edition) and 13% (Herald weekday edition) and, implausibly, a near 20% decline for the Sunday Globe. Several industry analysts, however, indicate a bright future and excellent financial propects for local publications geared to covering local events.

Similarly, TV and radio news has undergone substantial change in an attempt to retain viewers.

To a certain extent Fitchburg continues to rely on The Sentinel and The Telegram, along with WEIM for regular coverage of local news and FATV broadcast of meetings of the City Council and School Committee. Yet, unless the current news situation is seriously misunderstood, newspaper and radio news coverage of local issues leaves much to be desired-and that does not bode well as we enter a municipal election year.

Now, I am not addressing editorial content or opinion. Simply news coverage. Evaluating objectively, does either the news coverage and reportorial style provided by The Sentinel-or WEIM-meet your expectations? What's missing? If you were the Editor-or Assignment Editor-at The Sentinel what would you do differently to improve, or enhance, news coverage? If you were the Manager of WEIM what programming niche would you develop to improve, or enhance, news coverage? Is there a need or interest in occasional Investigative Reporting? Is there a need to rely less on press releases and expect more in depth reporting? Is the "revolving door" among reporters a matter of concern?

Finally, is there any expectation FATV would become a "player" in the local news area? Offense intended, but it's highly presumptuous that "Barbara and You" assumes "me" within the "You." And, those never ending NASA broadcasts of some satellite orbiting the globe are hardly mezmerizing unless some illegal hallucinogen has been ingested. The point, obviously, is that air-time is available

Admittedly, I neither subscribe to, or regularly read, The Sentinel other than the truncated on-line edition. Similarly, WEIM's signal begins to fade at K-Mart, then magically return near the intersection of 2 & 495, only to quickly fade. The Globe, other than Sports and Business, offers little. Consequently, I rely on USA Today, WSJ and the NY Daily News-as time permits-for print news coverage-and various radio stations with up-to-the-minute traffic reports for news. What say you? Is The Sentinel of any value other than kindling, mopping up the occasional spilled liquid or allowing your cat to make an "on-line" deposit? Does WEIM news content meet your needs and expectations? Or, are they an integral part of the problem?


The Pride is Coming Jan. 26

A new weekly newspaper, the Fitchburg Pride, will hit the streets Friday, Jan. 26. The paper will cover the entire city, focusing on what makes the city a community.

The paper will be published by the Holden Landmark Company, which currently produces The Landmark, the Community Journal, the Leominster Champion, and Bay State Parent magazine. I will be the editor of the Fitchburg Pride, and the entire company is looking forward to publishing a paper that the city can be proud of. The Pride will write about the people and things make Fitchburg unique.

The Pride will be a free paper, and available in over 100 locations throughout the city starting Jan. 26. All of the content, advertising, additional, web-only content and a growing, searchable archive will be available at, and of course linked here.

The Fitchburg Pride will bring some much-needed (and long thought-about) changes to SaveFitchburg. The goal is to create more of a community on the website and add some more voices to the initial conversation. Considering we’re going into an election year, this is the perfect time to do it.

So, starting this week, you’ll see posts generated by someone other than myself. You can see the author’s name down at the bottom of the post. If you’ve been reading for a while, chances are you’ll recognize the names. Donna, Really Rachel, Derek, R3, and – yup – RupertKnickerbocker will all be posting at their leisure. I’ll be checking in regularly also. Also, you’ll get news updates from the Fitchburg Pride staff as warranted.

Anytime a new paper starts, it’s exciting stuff. For the city, it’s another source of news and community pride. For us, it’s a new endeavor we can’t wait to launch. For SaveFitchburg, it’s the impetus to a better site that creates better and more substantial conversation during a busy election season.

If you have questions regarding the future of SaveFitchburg, or about the Fitchburg Pride, you can e-mail me any time.

As always, thanks for reading, and get ready. The Pride is coming.