Wednesday, May 30, 2007

More Fireworks Information

The TSO announced late this afternoon that the annual Independence Day concert and fireworks will be held on July 3 at Crocker Field. This announcement follows the Fitchburg Pride web report earlier today that the fireworks were moving.

For more, including the entirety of the TSO press release announcing the change, please see the Fitchburg Pride website.



City Fireworks on the Move

Also from today's press conference: The city's July 4 fireworks are moving to July 3, place to be determined. Find out some more at, yup, the Fitchburg Pride website.



No Stabilization Funding?

That appears to be the case, based on Mayor Dan Mylott's press conference this afternoon (and Donna beat us to the punch earlier in a comment in this morning's post). You can get the details at the Fitchburg Pride website (and as of this writing, nowhere else).

It answers one of the questions I asked this morning, and probably sets up one of the battlegrounds between the mayor and the council come budget time.

It will be interesting to see how the council pursues this. If it's serious about creating a stabilization fund, it's going to have to decide what amount they want that to be, and the find cuts in the budget to equal that amount. Do they have the, well, stones to cut deeper into a budget already whacked by $3 million? Interesting. Very interesting.

Also, councilors chronically complain they can only cut the budget and can't add, and that Mylott doesn't listen to them. Here's what they have to do: Make it very clear what they're cutting, why, and how much. Then tell Mylott to put it in a stabilization fund. If he doesn't, they need to stay united and shoot down every transfer and spending request Mylott makes until he agrees to the move. Can a majority of the council stand strong on that item? History (say hello, sewer rates), points to "maybe" at best. It will be up to the council to frame every money issue on their stabilization stand until it gets its way. Easy? Hell, no. Doable? Hell, yes. We'll see what happens.

Labels: , , ,


The Calm before the Storm

It's been a relatively quiet week or so around the city, but don't worry, there's a political storm off shore that's ready to blow in.

With the holiday and the lack of a budget (more on that in just a quick second) to hash around, it's been pretty quiet. Lisa Wong's kickoff generated some disgruntlement from folks who expected a policy speech, but it was about time the white-hot Wong Nation settled in for the long haul.

So, next week things should pick up, to say the least.

Not surprisingly, the discussion will revolve around the budget. Mayor Dan Mylott is expected to drop his budget on the City Council on Tuesday, and the fun should start pretty much right away.

Here's what I'm particularly interested in:

-- Of course, where are the lost positions coming from? Will we be able to discern any kind of prioritizing, or will it be a vague across-the-board kind of thing?

-- At his State of the City address, Mylott said the city would have some kind of stabilization funding in the budget. He hinted last week that might be the case now. Considering the amount of cuts in the budget, I'm betting it won't be there. So, how does the council handle that? Is that The Issue to come out of the budget discussion?

-- How much rhetoric flies between Mylott and the council? This relationship is in tatters, but considering the cuts, how upset will the council be? Probably pretty upset. Expect a lot of "we're under a real time crunch" talk. There will most certainly be some "we're spending every penny talk," probably even if there is some stabilization funding. At SOTC, councilors were talking $250,000 as a good stabilization number. Anyone want to take the over on that number? Anyone?

Speaking of the council-mayor relationship: Is there a chance this is going to get better? Hard to think that'll happen in the next six months. Subconsciously or otherwise, you have to figure most councilors aren't really thinking they need to make long-term goody-goody with Mylott. That's not to say he's definitely gone, but why relationship-build if you don't think you'll need to in six months? What happens if Mylott wins? Do the two sides try to work things out, or they all beyond that? That wouldn't be very good for the city.

So, enjoy the relative quiet for the next few days. The storm hits shore in six days.

Labels: , ,


Sunday, May 27, 2007

Right choice; Wong on "PS"

Lisa Wong has agreed to be my guest on "Politically Speaking" this Thursday. Want specifics?
Email your questions to English only - and please, no dissertations.


Thursday, May 24, 2007

Wong announcement focuses on finances

Lisa Wong made her mayoral run even more official tonight at Monument Park. Not surprisingly, she focused on the city's finances. She offered little in terms of dramatic plans or details, but said she'll be delivering them soon. Read more, you guessed it, at the Fitchburg Pride website, which again is first with the news.

Labels: , ,


New Poll Question

In a bit of synergy with our, um, good friends at the Fitchburg Pride, let's use the Pride Poll Question as a SaveFitchburg poll question this week.

Head over to the poll section on the right side of this page. The poll is along the left rail at the website.

The poll asks how you feel about an override in the city. Feel free to leave comments on the issue here, and if you behave and write a good one, you might get your (fake) name in the newspaper. All this means it might be a good time to dust off...

In This Week's Fitchburg Pride

-- City officials talk about whether or not they's support an override (basically, uh, no).

-- Supt. Andre Ravenelle talks about the actual good things going on in the city's schools, even as they are desperately short of money.

-- Police Chief Edward Cronin writes an op-ed outlining his department's successes in fighting the root of crime problems in the city.

-- What's faster, the commuter rail or Route 2 on the morning commute? You'll just have to read the story to find out.

That, and more, in this week's action-packed edition of the Fitchburg Pride.


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Mylott critical of council pay cut

Mayor Dan Mylott questioned the City Council's pay cut plan today, saying it was "ludicrous" for the council to want an accounting of the $11,000 that would be saved. Read more at the Fitchburg Pride website.

Labels: , ,


What Now?

For years, it has been woefully mismanaged, to the point that someone else should probably take over. Once a proud, vibrant, entity, that former glory is gone, seemingly gone forever. Banking on a stroke of good luck didn't work out, leaving it with nothing but hard times ahead.

You think I'm talking about Fitchburg, don't know?

Nope. I've slept on it, and I still can't get over what happened to the Boston Celtics -- wait, Boston Celtic fans -- last night.

You probably weren't paying much attention last night, hell the Sox were choking the life out of Yanks at the same time, but the NBA held its draft lottery last night. The next five years of the Celtics was held hostage by a drum full of ping-pong balls.

As post-1980 Celtic draft history has proven, there is no luck there for the Celtics. Following in the footsteps of Len Bias (literally dead on arrival), Reggie Lewis (dead just as he was hitting his prime), the 1997 draft (Rick Pitino, dead on arrival) and now, why would the Celtics ever think the draft would go their way in any significant way?

But they did. They dragged fans through three months of bad, losing basketball, with the hopes of grabbing one of the top two picks. They finished fifth. See you in Secaucus next year.

Instead of instant hope (and probably 45-50 wins next year), the Celtics will spin their wheels in the mid-30s. Do you trust Danny Ainge to make a significant move (and would the Globe stop with the Garnett-for-draft-pick rumor. It's just cruel right now)? Do you trust Doc Rivers to make the team significantly better?

The team's best player, Paul Pierce, has gone back-and-forth between loyal soldier and frustrated superstar over the last few years. Last night's results might have been the breaking point. If he goes, what's left? Al Jefferson is a very good player, but he can't carry a team. Certainly not this one.

Don't believe the Celtics' lies. They weren't a playoff team last year, if healthy. They won't be one next year, unless Ainge makes that huge move. Instead they'll get a nice player at five, but not an instant upgrade, which they sorely need. You'll read story after story about the Celts' most legitimate need -- a solid veteran -- and wonder why Ainge won't pull the trigger. The Celts don't want to give away the next Joe Johnson or Chauncey Billups, so they'll just say their players -- who can't win more than 35 games -- are too valuable.

Simply, the Celtics have sold hope for the last six months to their fans, and last night that hope was taken away. Not just for next year, but probably the year after that, and the year that. And likely the year after that and the year after that. The return to competitive basketball -- defined by deep playoff runs and semi-serious Finals contender -- was just set back five years. Considering one way or another Pierce will gone somewhere in that timespan, it might now be even longer.

What now, indeed?


Monday, May 21, 2007

Nearly 30 teachers may be lost

Supt. Andre Ravenelle said tonight that 28.2 teaching positions will have to be cut -- along with a series of other cuts -- to make the $44.1 million school budget work for next year. Read more from Ravenelle right now at the Fitchburg Pride website.

Labels: , ,


Thursday, May 17, 2007

DeMartino To Launch Unitil Campaign

Save Fitchburg Exclusive

In an impromptu meeting today with city officials at the City Hall Cafe, Governor Deval Patrick asked Councillor DeMartino what he might do to help Fitchburg. DeMartino told him of the residents' and businesses' economic difficulties due to exorbitant gas and electricity bills. Patrick introduced DeMartino to Robert G. Nunes, Deputy Commissioner and Director of Municipal Affairs, Department of Revenue Division of Local Services to follow up.

DeMartino says that numerous citizens (including this one) have spoken to her about an apparent huge increases in their utility bills since installation of the new electronic meters. Now in theory, computers don't make mistakes. But in reality it appears that coincidental to the installation of these new magic meters, distribution charges and other fees have skyrocketed. There are even reports of people who have been away for an extended period of time who have returned to higher bills during their absence than when they were using the utilities.

I'm joining in Councillor DeMartino's campaign to collect facts and evidence. We can complain until the cows come home about our escalating Unitil bills. But if we each do our research and obtain printouts of our last 12 months usage either by request of Unitil or by using their website (WWW.UNITIL.COM), we can analyze for ourselves and reach our own conclusions.

I have done so. That is why I am participating in this activity. There is no rhyme nor reason to my personal electric and gas charge escalations despite having gone cold and living in the dark throughout the whole winter. There also is no rhyme nor reason to a total usage of less than $100 in one month amount to an almost $500 gas and light bill.

If I'm in that boat, I can only imagine that many of the rest of us are as well.

So, here's what Councillor DeMartino requests of anyone who would like to see Unitil come before the council to explain itself:

Come to Ms. DeMartino's place of business Tuesday through Friday 7 AM to 2 PM and sign the petition requesting Unitil officials to answer questions of the council and the public.
Location to sign the petition: Brownie's Tea and Talk 134 Harvard St.
It would be helpful if you're willing to provide a copy of your Unitil bill, preferably a printout for the past year of usage and charges.



Oh Boy, Part II

It's been quite a week for budget news.

If you've missed it, let's recap:

  • Mayor Dan Mylott doesn't turn in a line-item budget by his self-imposed May 15 deadline. Council erupts.
  • Mylott says city is facing "unprecedented financial crisis."
  • Letter from DOR says city probably looking at $1 million deficit in '07.
  • Mylott assistant Robert Pontbriand says the city will need to slash $3.7 million for '08. Forget 20 layoffs, probably 30 or 40, and that doesn't include the schools.

So, the news isn't good.

For Mylott, this is very, very bad news. He has at least three qualified candidates looking for his job this fall. Mylott might be a good community politician, he might be a decent steady-as-she-goes manager, but at this point it's OK to wonder if he can manage this situation. He's going to have to account for this situation -- early and often -- when he's on the campaign trail. And his challengers are going to bring it up to the point of annoyance, and they should.

If nothing else, it's mystifying Mylott missed the May 15 budget. He said in his letter to councilors that things are worse than he thought, and that he's following recommendations from a DOR letter from May 11.

But it was clear before May 11 where the city's revenues stood. You can get a pretty good ballpark number on property taxes and other information. State aid was settled over a month ago. Maybe he was waiting on a miracle or slightly smaller piece of good news that didn't come in. Whatever the case, the delay not only pushes an important budget back, but it gives the council the softest of softballs to crush politically.

The council must be kicking itself, or at least it should be. The last two years it spent weeks hollering about how it didn't like the mayor's budget, and how it put the city at financial risk, and both times it stood down partially or fully. Too late now, but it should be a lesson learned.

Here's the larger issue now: The budget process with be a 3.5 week sprint, but the Council should start having its input now. The council, as it famously remarks constantly, can only cut the budget. Considering the situation, there won't be much to cut, and seemingly won't give the council much input. However, it should talk to Mylott now about its priorities, what it wants to see preserved and left exposed. It can't wait until June 5 to start the process.

It's going to be a long and busy 6 weeks, but it's an important busy 6 weeks. Together, we can, as Deval Patrick said one or two time. The mayor and council are going to have to do it together.

Labels: , ,


Wednesday, May 16, 2007

City has $3.7M hole to fill

According to Mayor Dan Mylott's assistant Robert Pontbriand, the city needs to cut about $3.7 million out of next year's budget to meet revenue projections. Read more about it at the Fitchburg Pride website.

Labels: ,


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Oh Boy

Mayor Dan Mylott told the Council tonight that the city budget will be $95 million next year... and not much else.

Saying the city budget is in a "precarious state" and that it is in an "unprecedented fiscal crisis," Mylott said he'll have a completed budget on June 5.

You can read much, much more at the Fitchburg Pride website (naturally), but remember the post earlier today wondering what the council would grab onto? Well, I think we have our pretty easy answer. Our prediction: It won't be an easy six weeks in the Mayor's Office.

Labels: , , ,


City gets $400K in Brownfield cash

The city and the EPA announced today a $400,000 grant to the city to study potential Brownfield sites. Read more at the Fitchburg Pride website.

While we're here...

It doesn't look good for the old sewer rate increase, based on councilor comments in the paper today. Both sides at this point are playing politics: Mylott wants his increase and his leaving few options. Councilors don't want to roll over (at least two have basically said in recent days overall fiscal displeasure is a role in this) on another one.

Interestingly, the budget comes out tonight. If the council does the expected and doesn't approve the tax rate, it will be interesting to see what it says about a budget that will see further increases than if the rate was passed.

It will be interesting to see if Mylott goes through with his stated plan to throw money into a stabilization fund. It will be interesting to see if councilors think it's enough -- if there's any (and there's no indication there won't be, but with the additional cuts...).

Finally, it will be interesting to see what the council does with this budget. You'd have to think wriggle room will be small. But it's clear anything related to Mylott and money is going to cause a stink. Question is, where from?

I'd guess there will be complaints about spending everything and not having enough in reserves. But at a time when jobs are being lost, how far can that line go? And if the "Mylott gives the council no options" crowd wants to rev up on the job losses, I'd love to hear the options available right now.

The battle lines should be drawn pretty quickly, and it should be interesting to watch. Let the budget fun begin in earnest starting tonight.

Labels: , , ,


Monday, May 14, 2007

Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can't Lose

Occassionally I'll dip into sports here to just vent on stuff going on, but I don't think I've gotten into the arts and entertainment world. Until today. Because I am on a mission.

The good news is, NBC made the wise, wise choice to bring "Friday Night Lights" back next fall. The kind of bad news is that it'll be back on Fridays at 10. Warm up the TiVo.

If you missed it -- and based on its craptacular ratings, you did -- "Friday Nights Lights" is fantastic television. Yup, there's a bunch of teenagers and some football, but each and every character is compelling, and the direction is absolutely artful. It is fantastically well done. While there's stuff just as entertaining out there, few shows are as technically and artistically wonderful.

So, here's encouragement to check it out in summer reruns so you're ready to go for the new season (as I'll do with "Heroes," which deserves a summer pickup in Casa Lefferts from all reports). I'm just giddy I'll be able to giggle my way through another of season of Coach Erik Taylor glaring at everything at sight.


Thursday, May 10, 2007

In this Week's Fitchburg Pride

The Pride hits the streets tomorrow morning, just like it does every Friday. Here's a look at what's in 28 action-packed pages:

-- A trip up Rollstone Hill, which overlooks downtown.

--Councilor Jay Cruz and a handful folks hear about charter review, and Cruz wants to move forward.

--Friends remember Leo Thibault, the owner of the The Warning Track baseball/softball facility and all-around great guy.

--An editorial on why the city should increase sewer rates. Donna can now punch the computer.

That and more in this week's Fitchburg Pride.



Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Mylott Expects More Layoffs; City Notified of Water Problems

It's been a busy day at the old Fitchburg Pride website. Currently available for your reading pleasure:

-- Mayor Dan Mylott said today eliminated positions in next year's budget, expected to be about 20 positions, will likely be higher.

-- A letter was mailed to city residents today, alerting them to problems in the city's water system in May and June 2006.

Both stories available right now at... yup, indeedy... the Fitchburg Pride website. And nowhere else.

Labels: , ,


Chamber Looks at Promoting Region

The North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce, with special guest Rep. Dan Bosely (D-North Adams) talked about ways to promote the region and its business-friendly outlook this morning. You can read all about it in one place right now, everyone together now, at the Fitchburg Pride website.

Labels: ,


Sunday, May 06, 2007

(Blank) Roger Clemens

I've been a Clemens detractor for, oh, about 10 years, and Mrs. Save Fitchburg can attest to my constant desire to see him not in a Red Sox uniform ever again (recently discussed in the last week). Today's news (and if you haven't heard, you'll figure it out soon enough) is comforting in that some things never change. Roger Clemens is still a two-bit streetwalker in sanitary socks. A couple of bucks and the illusion is desire is all Clemens really wants. He can rot in the Bronx, and hopefully he does. That said, that early-June series with the Yanks is suddenly veeeeeeeeerrrrrrrry interesting.



DeSalvatore and Landlords

In today's Sentinel is a story today about Rev. Mayo's Wednesday afternoon/evening program in the Elm Street neighborhood. You may have read about the program a few weeks ago in the Fitchburg Pride. It was part of a front-page story on the Elm Street neighborhood by stud reporter Karen Mann.

One thing we didn't have in our story was the following:

Ward 4 Councilor Ted DeSalvatore, whose ward includes the Elm Street area,
said the city also needs to be stricter with careless landlords who let their
buildings deteriorate and deter responsible tenants from moving in.
only a policing problem when it gets out of control. Until then, it's a
managerial problem," DeSalvatore said this week. "The owners of the buildings
must be made responsible for what they do."

So, wouldn't some of that have come from Dean Tran's landlord petition, which DeSalvatore sponsored, but then didn't? It's interesting that after the hub-bub of a few weeks ago, DeSalvatore would be calling for the responsibility Tran petition provided. Does this mean DeSalvatore is back on board? He was until a few weeks ago? Can he be brought back? Or is he just calling for something that he has no real desire to pursue at this point? So many questions on a Sunday morning.


Saturday, May 05, 2007

Wong to Speak at Asian Event Monday

Mayoral candidate Lisa Wong will speak at an Asian Pacific Islander event at the State House on Monday. She's obviously a minority, and she's first-generation. Her parents are from China and Hong Kong. Question is at this point, is her background good political ground to run off of, does it help her (and how much), and do people care? I'd say yes, some, and probably not too much.



Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The View from Ward 4

So this is the infamous Ward 4. Worst crack house in the city at one time. What a fine old Victorian girl she is now with her grand stairway and polished wood floors. A few scattered burn marks from crack pipes remind one of the darkest days in her provenance, now an interesting detail to relate to visitors. This old gal stands as a flagship of the vision and hard work of the folks who rehabbed and restored her four years ago - long before the current Ward 4 councilor came upon the scene and into this neighborhood. If he had only seen it before the turnaround efforts began his mindset might have been far more positive.

From a cozy spot I look out on a panorama many don't realize exists here - the view begins at the South, and from here one can see the city on the South and countryside to the West . The former high school, now Academy, was built during the WPA days, what a blessing those work projects were to unemployed skilled craftsmen, and what a legacy they gave us in return. I am reminded by this tremendous stonework and masonry that Fitchburg has seen tough times before, and like then, she will rise again to shine as only this unique, diverse city can.

The historic churches with green tarnished steeples that have married and buried friends, loved ones and ancestors ... the hustle and bustle of downtown... It must have been something to see the first motorcars sharing the streets with the trolleys ... To the Southwest and due West are Laurel Hill, Rollstone Hill, Mount Wachusett in the distance, and finally the long straight ridge of Alpine Hill that seems to go on forever until it's out of my view.

The twinkling lights of the radio towers on Alpine Hill bring a rush of memories of my first days in New England, pulling transmitter duty babysitting and maintaining the huge AM and FM transmitters that were not just a primary source of entertainment, but of vital news, fire alerts so dreaded in those days when the mills and factories were in full operation, neighbors swapping personal goods long before Craig's List was a concept or possibility. Those towers and keeping those transmitters on the air - that was our lifeline in those days. Watergate and Hank Aaron, Gene LaVerne. Funny the memories that can be triggered by blinking red lights.

It's after 11 PM and other than an occasional car driving by and the ticking of the mantle clock, there isn't a sound.

Some days I hear kids laughing and talking when they sit on the stone wall out front, and in the melodic tinkle of their laughter I return briefly to those twelve year old days with Rosemary, giggling while discussing schoolgirl (and boy) "crushes", and I smile, comforted that life is indeed a circle, L'dor V'dor - generation to generation.

Some Saturdays or Sundays there is loud music for a couple of hours, and it's rhythmic, melodious, and musical ... not the foul obscene offensive racket that came from the cars in the FSC neighborhood. Accompanying the music are laughter and happy shouts of loud, demonstrative families celebrating another birthday or just celebrating the day. It smells and sounds delicious, this blending of cultures.

There are brown people in this neighborhood, and tan ones, and pale ones like me. There are languages I do not understand, and languages I speak. Color and flavor, scent and music, and the joy of living each day to its fullest ... that's all present up here in Ward 4.

What I haven't heard is a gunshot or a fight or obscene boom boom "music." What I haven't seen are drug deals or hookers or anything or anyone that has made me feel threatened or uncomfortable.

This neighborhood stands as a testament - an example of what happens when one person at a time takes on the challenge of revitalization and rehabilitation. And it stands as a testament to the turnaround that's possible with the cooperation of residents and a caring police department.

Chief Cronin should come visit sometime just to share the view from the top of Ward 4. It's a good place with lots of promise and potential. The turnaround has already begun. The time to tear down has ended. The time to build is at hand.


Labels: , , ,


Donnelly Announcement Recap

Better late than never -- and still faster than the Sentinel -- the Fitchburg Pride website is sporting a recap of tonight's official announcement from City Councilor Tom Donnelly that he's running for mayor. Please, check it out.

Labels: , ,


Mayor Shells Councilors over Sewer Rates

Mayor Dan Mylott knocked councilors for voting against a sewer-rate increase during his press conference today. Find out what he said, and get reaction from councilors who voted against the increase last night, at the Fitchburg Pride website, which again has local breaking news first.

Labels: , ,


Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Mylott Sets Number for School Budget

Mayor Dan Mylott, in a Fitchburg Pride online exclusive, says he recommends the school budget should be $44.6 million for next year. That's a $500,000 increase from this year, but is less than the $1.2 million increase in state education aid for next year. Mylott says there are a number of factors that eliminates that increase in Chapter 70 funding. Read more at the Fitchburg Pride website.

Labels: , ,


A Plea for Decency

It's been awhile since I discussed comments here, but I think now is a good time for it.

It's clear over the last week that there is a lot of energy and emotion being poured into the mayor's race. People like some candidates, and people don't like others. And that's putting it mildly.

When the conversation has been on point, it's been very good. There are some stark differences between the candidates, and those should be poked, prodded and talked about.

Just because someone doesn't support your candidate, that doesn't make them open season for personal, penny-ante bashing. Just because someone's opinion doesn't match yours, they're not an idiot.

Nothing was more annoying last fall than going on bluemassgroup and other pro-Patrick blogs. To even hint at criticism of the Great Deval was grounds for a cyberstoning. Here at SF, it's been even nastier, and it should probably stop. Good lord, it's only May 1. What are you all going to be saying about each other on Sept. 1?

This is a big mayoral race for the city and its future, and it deserves the attention and the passion SF has already brought to the race. However, it would be nice if everyone stuck to the issues and the candidates, and didn't turn and fire on each other.

Politics is a rough game, but when it's at its best, there's also a hint of statesmanship and commone decency involved. Try to keep that mind when your commenting and posting. Thanks for reading, and thanks for playing.