Friday, April 27, 2007

A New Poll

Out with the old mayoral race poll, which was months old and listed a bunch of folks who probably aren't running for mayor.

Instead is a new poll with the current list of candidates. Vote early, vote once, and let's see what happens. The poll is over on the right bar. Scroll down, it isn't far.


A New Poll

Out with the old mayoral race poll, which was months old and listed a bunch of folks who probably aren't running for mayor.

Instead is a new poll with the current list of candidates. Vote early, vote once, and let's see what happens.

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Wong: 'I am running for mayor'

Lisa Wong, the former director of the Fitchburg Redevelopment Authority, said this morning she is running for mayor this fall.

You can read speculation on Wong's run in today's Sentinel, but if you want confirmation and real news right from the candidate's mouth, read more more at the Fitchburg Pride website.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Food Fight

When you get a chance, check out today's Sentinel (UPDATE: Here's the link). If there was any question as to Dean Tran and Ted DeSalvatore's relationship, forget it about it now.

Tran sent an e-mail to councilors ripping DeSalvatore for DeSalvatore's letter in Sunday's Sentinel about Tran's landlord petition. DeSalvatore claims he signed on to the petition only with some caveats, and those caveats never happened, so he wants out. Tran claims, logically, that signing on to a petition means you support the petition.

According the City Clerk's office, there is no formal process for signing on to a petition. Typically, a councilor files a petition with the clerk, and includes the name of sponsors.

Here's a "no-duh" question: Who gave the e-mail to the Sentinel? This isn't the first time an e-mail amongst the councilors has been leaked to the public (at one point, even Save Fitchburg gone one).

It's one thing for councilors to be in a food fight. It happens. Sometimes they last a few days, sometimes a few weeks, sometimes they never go away. The interesting and disturbing trend in Fitchburg is that councilors don't seem to mind airing their dirty laundry in full public view. It's silly to think all 11 will get along all the time on everything, but you'd think they'd keep the bickering a bit more internal.

Consider, also, this: Jody Joseph saying the warring on the council is the worst he's seen, and he said it was cranked up when the current batch of rookie councilors came into office. This could mean a couple of different things. Certainly, there was some "new blood" feeling on the part of voters in 2005. Is this an old generation-new generation headbutt? Or was Joseph pointing fingers at specific councilors?

Certainly, Tran has developed himself as a proactive councilor and one who doesn't particularly care to take a lot of, um, gruff from colleagues. This latest episode -- proactive petition, fighting back -- is a perfect example.

DeSalvatore, however, is a whole different bag of cats. He, obviously, is running for mayor. Is Joseph pointing the blame DeSalvatore's way. If so, do other councilors feel the same way? It's an important question because councilors have, in varying degrees of size and power, machines that they manipulate on election day. If eight, nine or even 10 councilors are spreading the word to followers not to vote for DeSalvatore, it could be a electoral problem for DeSalvatore. Not saying that's the case, but if it is, its a political problem DeSalvatore needs to solve in the next five months.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Police Hunt Robbery Suspect

At least two people were allegedly involved in the robbery of the Fitchburg Savings Bank on Electric Avenue last Friday, and police have a bead on one suspect. See her picture and read more at the Fitchburg Pride website.



Monday, April 23, 2007

Brush Fire Breaks Out in City

A brush fire along the railroad tracks in West Fitchburg has crews from around the region dealing with flames and smoke. See story and photos at the Fitchburg Pride website.



Sunday, April 22, 2007

Meanwhile, in Sports

So, way back when Sox tickets went on sale, I tried to tickets for the SF Giants series. I wanted to boo the living hell out of Barry Bonds.

I passed. The tickets were either standing room or obstructed view or single-seat only, and I didn't want to go through the effort and cost for crappy seats -- just to boo the most hate-worthy athlete ever.

But now, with Bonds apparently fully juiced and back to crushing the ball, it appears I should have gotten those tickets. It would have been awesome to see him break baseball's most hallowed record, and have nothing but 36,000 people booing him as he rounded the bases. A great way to ruin the moment.

Bonds is in town June 15-17. He needs 15 homers to tie Hank Aaron, 16 to top him. It's very conceivable he could come into Boston with the record on the line.

I think there are few cities that would give Bonds the appropriate treatment he deserves. Probably Boston, New York and Philly in some order or another.

The more I think about it, the more I wish I had gotten those tickets. Barry Bonds deserves nothing but the worst.

By the way, if you're on the fence about Bonds for some reason, read "Game of Shadows." Simply awesome.



Thursday, April 19, 2007

I Took a Drive Today

Things seem much clearer in Mayor Dan Mylott's rear view mirror based on his comments last night when he announced he is officially running for mayor for a fourth term.

More on all this at now and in tomorrow's paper, but for now, check out this quote. It isn't too tough to figure out where Mylott is putting his re-election attention.

“Fitchburg cannot afford the risks of inexperienced, reckless change over the next two years."


Wednesday, April 18, 2007

FSC to remember Virginia Tech

Fitchburg State College has announced tomorrow is a day of mourning, following the shootings at Virginia Tech this week. For more details on events, which are open to the public, visit the Fitchburg Pride website.


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

School report

The School Building Needs Assessment Committee has completed its report and will be presenting it to the City Council and School Committee at tonight's joint meeting (FATV-10, 7:30 PM). I've made the full report available for download here (Adobe Acrobat Reader 6.0 required).

We won't be giving much of a presentation tonight, basically we'll be there to answer questions. But I will say this - there's no finger pointing here - it's a systemic failure of every Mayor, City Councilor and School Committee member over the past twenty years. The question is, what are we going to do about it?

The other committee members - Bill Walsh, Councilor Boisvert, Mark Force and Patrick Magnan put a great deal of time and effort into this report. For those of you who have taken a few whacks at some of these people, take the time to give them some kudos on this one - they did a great job.


Monday, April 16, 2007

Weather Update: It's Wet Out

The John Fitch was closed for awhile today, but Mayor Dan Mylott said it was reopening this afternoon. In the meantime, the Nashua River is raging through downtown, and basements are flooded around the city. There's an update, with photos, at the Fitchburg Pride website.



Thursday, April 12, 2007

Out of Touch on Preschool

The Fitchburg Pride has a story in tomorrow's paper on the proposal to add a daily fee for attending preschool. It's ground that has been covered here, but Mayor Dan Mylott's input yesterday (after being asked about it by ace Pride reporter Karen Mann) is infurating, and probably insulting to a lot of people.

From the Pride:

“Preschool is not mandated by the state. It is a service the city tries to provide, but it costs money to put this service forward,” said Mylott.
He thinks $8 a day is an appropriate fee.
“What is being proposed is a small portion of the cost. It is not just a preschool, it is a day-care service as well,” said Mylott.

Where to start?

First, a disclaimer: I have a kid in the program. Part of the attraction of the program is that it's free. No doubt. However, there are a lot of other benefits: At top of the list is the fact that the teachers are certified education professionals, which isn't the case at all daycare/preschools. Abby's teacher, Katy Finn, is absolutely fantastic. Second, it's in a "real" school setting, in a big building with other grades, a cafeteria, a gym, which helps get her used to being in a school. Third, it's a SPED program, which helps subtly teach Abby that while kids are different, they're all the same (or some life lesson like that). All in all, it's been a great program for her.

The key to all this is the "day care" part. The morning session for 3-year-olds runs from 9 to 11:30. The afternoon for 4-year-olds is 12:30 to 3. I don't think many parents would consider 2.5 hours (less when you consider leaving after drop-off and coming back for pick-up) "day care." It's an out-of-touch statement that is insulting to parents, who break down mostly into two groups: Parents of SPED children who are looking to help their kids, and parents like us who want to get their kids in a good, safe, healthy preschool program. There might be a few who look at it as free babysitting for a couple of hours a day, but I think they're few and far between, and probably a little off the mark, considering the hassle of drop-off/pick-up and the short school day.

So, consider a whole group of parents ticked at the mayor for questioning the education hopes and goals for their children.

Now, the teachers.

They are "real" teachers. They are trained, certified, educators. They're teachers, just like everyone else in the school system. And in our experience, they're damn good. It belittles them to insinuate they're glorified babysitters. Considering the current union situation, you can only guess that this won't go over well.

Finally, and maybe more importantly, this shines a light on Mylott's overall ignorance of the education system in the city. When, in his mind, does "day care" end and school begins? Kindergarten? First grade? High school? College? Post-grad? He's right, the state doesn't mandate preschool, but it's encouraging school systems to add preschool programs. Fitchburg should be lauded for having a quality preschool program, the mayor shouldn't be dumping on it.

Remember, this is the mayor who sat quietly throughout last year's budget discussion, and then unilaterally whacked $1 million out of the school budget. At the same time, he lowered education funding from the city's budget by $100,000 last year before it was sniffed out and finally rectified somewhat. In short, you can question the guy's understanding of eduction at this point, and have a nice laundry list to back you up.

Adding a fee to preschool opens up a precedent for a slippery slope to adding fees for other basic education services, and that alone makes it a difficult proposition to endorse. As the education community begins to realize the importance of early education and encourages its growth, Mylott still doesn't understand what it's all about. As the guy who is the chair of the School Committee by being mayor, that's not particularly good news.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Two More Years ("!" or "?")

Not that it was even remotely close to a secret, but Mayor Dan Mylott said today that he'll be announcing his re-election campaign next Wednesday night at the Fitchburg Art Museum.

It would be Mylott's fourth term in office if re-elected. Mylott had said for weeks he was planning on running again, and next week's event will merely formalize his campaing.

Mylott, of course, ran essentially unopposed in 2005, with only light write-in opposition. This year, three other candidates -- City Councilors Thomas Donnelly and Ted DeSalvatore, and Ronald Dionne -- have announced their plans to run (by the way, DeSalvatore scoffed at rumors he's dropping out of the race last week).

For more on the mayor's pre-announcement announcement (something that is more and more common in politics and get silly boys like me to write more about it), visit the Fitchburg Pride website.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Patrick at MWCC graduation

Mount Wachusett Community College announced today that Gov. Deval Patrick will be the commencement speaker at the school's May 17 graduation. For more, check out the Fitchburg Pride website.

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Saturday, April 07, 2007

Chief Cronin is on the right track

What do we want for the long term - to live in a city with police on every corner, or to live in a city where kids are educated, stimulated, encouraged and too busy to engage in the activities that lead to habitual crime?

This writer's personal experience of living briefly in a Central American country under a feared military dictator, with "La Guardia" on every street corner, recalls the confidence of one's personal physical safety from street crime being more than offset by the anxiety of being watched and potentially targeted. There are many people in our community who can share similar experiences.

Contrast that to an upbringing where school was an integral part of social and community life along with the Three Rs. Kids were so busy with after school activities as an extension of classes - drama, sports, music, art, civic organizations for teens - that other than the occasional Friday or Saturday night "cruising" the local dairy bar, they had little time to get into trouble.

Almost every cultural or ethical philosophy or religious group has as part of their foundation a version of the tenet "Train up a child in the way he should go, and even when he is old he will not depart from it."

If all of our kids are not our top priority now, many of them will become our worst problem later.

We need

  • Clean, well maintained school buildings
  • Proper meals for every student regardless of family income - sell bananas, apples, milk and bottled water throughout the school day and get all vending machines out of the schools
  • Better equipped schools - buy books, not guns; buy computers, not police cars
  • Qualified teachers certified in their subjects, paid at a competitive level, commensurate with equally trained and experienced police officers and firefighters
  • Fully funded athletic, art, and music programs as part of the curriculum. We must educate the whole student, body and mind, including the "right brain." Encourage creativity.

Communities with great schools and interested parents have little need for a huge police force.

We must set long term priorities now for short term budgets.

We have a choice:

  • Underpaid, underqualified, transient teachers putting in their time with unstimulated, unmotivated, underchallenged students in unpleasant, unclean, unsafe classrooms - resulting in an ever increasing need for developing a paramilitary police force and more and more jails and prisons, or
  • Professional teachers competitively compensated, who are teaching nourished, involved students in clean, safe classrooms; students who graduate prepared to continue their educations in an academic or vocational environment; tomorrow's leaders who are too busy with their lives and futures to become involved with anti-social behavior.

We can spend it on our schools and kids now, or on police and prisons later.

Perhaps Chief Cronin hasn't expressed his prevention efforts exactly this way, but I dare say his intention of early intervention of at-risk groups is a step in the right direction.

We need to apply the concept of prevention and early intervention to the whole of the city, not just a few high profile neighborhoods, and we need to extend diversion and prevention programs to every student, every family, of every ethnic, social and economic level.

As we citizens encourage our elected officials to develop a long term plan for Fitchburg, we must insist that that long term financial plan include investing in our most valuable resource - our children.

We hold tomorrow in our hands.


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Thursday, April 05, 2007

In this Week's Fitchburg Pride

Here's what's coming up in this week's Fitchburg Pride, which will be available in one of about 170 locations tomorrow:

-- A look at the Academy Middle School and its decision to become a pilot program. Parents have a number of questions, but some are looking forward to the changes at the school.

-- A federal police grant helps the Police Department share information with surrounding towns, allowing departments to improve communication and policing.

-- A Fitchburg State College class has come up with a design recommendation for an updated Fitchburg Public Library.

-- Former City Couniclor Rosemary Reynolds is taking on a new political challenge as president of Mass Democrats for Life.

Those stories and more in tomorrow's Fitchburg Pride.



Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Some More School Aid

In a unique move, the House and Senate have agreed to local aid funding levels for next year. Fitchburg would receive more education aid under the plan. To read more, check out the Fitchburg Pride website.

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End of the Line

Gov. Deval Patrick said today that he wants to get working on a New Bedford-Fall River commuter rail line that not only would bring commuter rail to the SouthCoast, but also move the ginourmous South Boston mail facility (Globe note here).

The deal includes $17.4 million for planning and design. This may not be good news for the commuter rail forces in the area, who are hoping to see the Fitchburg line sped up. If this is Patrick setting a priority, it's not good. It's probably unlikely the state would take on two big commuter rail projects at the same time, if history is any indicator.

Perhaps some pressure from el Federalies and some big Congressional bucks for the Fitchburg line would force the action on Beacon Hill. But if you had dreams of a faster ride coming home on the commuter rail due to state money, you might be dreaming those dreams for a little while longer.

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Bailey on Municipalities

Here's today's must-read: Boston Globe business jefe Steve Bailey looks at municipal finance, the brutal increases in health care, and offers some solutions.

A lot of what Bailey says in his piece isn't exactly new, and most of it is ground covered here, but Bailey, as he does so well, gets to the heart of the matter and clearly shows the foolishness of some of these situations (while also, once again, hammering the local and regional pension boards he loves to go after).

I'm an unabashed Bailey fan, and after working in that confluence of Boston business and media for a few years, understand the scope of his power and well-read he is. If Bailey can't get through to municipal leaders (particularly on the issue of communities joining the state health insurance plan -- why isn't that talked more about in F'burg? I think it's been on SF more than in City Hall, at least publicly), I'm not sure anyone can.



Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Two for Tuesday

Two things:

Just days after saying he was close to having a recommendation for city treasure, Mayor Dan Mylott said he needed a few more weeks. In the grand scheme of things it's not a huge deal -- there hasn't been an outcry for a new treasurer -- but why would Mylott say he's days away from an annoucement and then quickly reverse himself? Either something unforeseen happened, or he just said something he shouldn't have. Not the end of the world, but worth noting.

More importantly, this situation with the teachers' union is getting interesting -- and a bit testy. The union has been doing standouts for a month now at School Committee and City Council meetings, and it didn't go over well last night when committee member James Connors called the appearance a "show."

The union has been without a contract for a year, and is all but working to contract and saying it's being disrespected.

As a long-time sports fan, I kind of have an automatic shutoff when someone looking for a raise brings up respect. Remember Mo Vaughn? Even more so for me, remember Jody Reed? A middling second baseman who said the Red Sox were disrespecting him with a $2 million offer (and that was 15 years ago). Ugh.

Anyway, the union now feels disrespected. It may have a point, it has been a year and all, but the disrespected tag is a tough one to swallow in most circumstances. The School Committee says it doesn't have any money. They say they've hammered out a lot of details, but don't have the money to work everything out. Truth, or negotiating stance?

A mediator has been involved in the talks, but based on the union's stance, you have to figure not a lot of progress has been made in the negotiations.

I'm guessing, based on this past weekend's SF conversation (see the 100-plus comments in the post below to get the whole, lengthy, but interesting discussion), there's not a lot of support for the union in these parts. To summarize: The idea of cutting 10 percent out of the city's budget is a good idea. Or, no it isn't. It seemed most people were in the "good idea" camp, so I'm guessing there's minimal support around here for a raise as the School Committee it has no money for teachers. Thoughts?

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