Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Future Is Now

UPDATE (4:55 p.m.) There's a slight change in the Garnett deal from what I have below. Rajon Rondo stays, Bassy Telfair goes. So long, Bassy, we hardly knew ye. That said, the more I think about it, the more I like that trade. A bunch of people have mentioned it to me today, and it's great that the Celts are relevant again. That alone might make it a great trade.

More importantly at this point, the Sox just finished a trade for Eric Gagne. That means in October, you'd better be beating the Sox after six innings, because Okijima, Gagne and Papelbon are waiting after that. Yikes. Sure, Gagne's back my cripple him any day now, but whatever. That bullpen is now ferocious.

I know, I know, you don't want to hear it. If you don't want to read about the Celtics, you're free to go. But....

My first reaction to the megatrade for Kevin Garnett was immediate anger. I didn't want to see Al Jefferson go away. Throw in two serviceable players (Gerald Green and Ryan Gomes), the C's best trade bait (Theo Ratliff's contract) and apparently the starting point guard (Rajon Rondo) -- and a top pick, and that's quite a bounty.

My negativity -- Rick Pitino would be so proud -- was that fact that the Celtics traded away the future we've had to sit through and nurture over the last few years. Coming on the heels of the Ray Allen trade, I was done with Danny Ainge yesterday afternoon.

In the long term, this might not be a good trade for the Celtics. In three years or so, when Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen are all in their mid-30s, this will be an old team (hello, late 80s/early 90s Celts). There is so much money wrapped up in those three players that there will be little cash to flesh out the roster. By the way, who's the point guard? The team's two "best," Delonte West and Rondo, are gone.

But for the next two or three years, the Celtics suddenly matter. A lot. And for 82 games a year, we get to watch a star (Pierce) and a superstar (Garnett) on the same court for the same team. Cool.

More importantly, for the next two or three years, the Celtics are in fact contenders to at least make the Finals, if not win them. Part of that is because the Eastern Conference stinks. Bad. A Celtics team of its latter-day Big Three, me, and Dan Mylott would make the playoffs (allegedly Mylott is a great spot-up shooter).

Cleveland won the conference this year, and that team was a one-man band. Detroit's on the downside, Chicago is a player short (Allen or Garnett would be huge there, in fact), Miami could be dangerous if Shaq muscles up, but that mystique is fading fast. In short, the Celtics are suddenly in the mix.

So, today, fresh off a mini-vacation, I'm taking the optimistic outlook. Even at best, a fully matured Jefferson with Pierce and other parts would be looking at a two- or three-year window to compete -- in two or three years. That timetable just got moved up, and this team is more solid.

Obviously, it's better to have your teams always competitive and able to just reload through its monster resources (the Red Sox) or its smarts (the Patriots, although they're not my team. I'm a Raiders fan). To think Ainge and Doc Rivers will be able to reload this team is still not a trustworthy situation. So you have a two-year window to sit back and watch three stars try to get the Celtics back to basketball's biggest stage. That would be cool.

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Sunday, July 29, 2007

What is up at the Sentinel?

A week or so ago, the S&E published what was obviously a press release from the Donnelly camp as a 'letter to the editor'. Not that big a deal, except that a press release is written in the third person and it looked pretty stupid as a letter written in the first person. We all know how inept they are at the Sentinel, so I kind of passed it off as 'par for the course'.

Last week, Dann Wuoti writes an email to the fitchburg-hometown email group and it ends up as a letter to the editor. No, Dann never sent it in, and no, he did not want it published as a letter. The evil editor Dr. Jeff MyEnemy, did apologize - sort of. In his email to FH, he explained what happened (yeah, right) and then explained his right to publish it and finally, took a member of the group to task for "negative comments about us for years now." Well done Jeff.

Saturday, the coverage of the Donnelly's sale of property to the College started on page one as a Halliburton type headline. The size and font on page three equalled VE Day.

Normally, I take these as the usual incompetence of the local paper. I haven't made up my mind on these yet - what do you think?


Thursday, July 26, 2007

Doc Rivers Finally Unfolds His Arms...

...and calls a 20-second timeout.

What does that mean? I'm pulling up stakes this afternoon and heading for the wilds of New Hampshire through Monday. What does that mean to you? No moderating of comments. You can write all the comments you want, but no one will see them until Monday night at the earliest, maybe not even until Tuesday. This will start in the next hour or so, if not sooner. It'll be good practice for the longer vacation next month.

So, while things continue to roll on in Fitchburg, I'll be enjoying the fun and games at Storyland, trying to talk Mrs. Save Fitchburg into putting the bumper sticker on the family roadster this year after driving up Mount Washington (if you think I'm hiking, you don't know me very well), and hoping I can figure out the (intentionally?) vague directions to Diana's Baths. There will also likely be a return to Pirate's Cove miniature golf, where last year I drained five holes-in-one in a row, with a SF spawn in the snuggly and putting one-handed. Truely a magical athletic performance.

So, there you go. Enjoy the weekend, speak to you next week.



A Slide Upward

Since the early days of the old Save Fitchburg, I've advocated for that one big idea. That one thing that would be unique to Fitchburg in the region, something that would bring people into the city -- preferably in some kind of participatory fashion.

It appears as of one of the "big ideas" is on the path to reality, and it's probably the best, most exciting news since the SF started.

The city is working with a developer on creating an indoor water park at the Best Western on the interchange of Routes 2 and 31. It's the kind of regional attraction that Fitchburg -- and any city -- would kill for.

The developer wants to buy the property and boost the hotel's numbers (which are at like 30 percent occupancy) with a year-round water slide park. A similar park was opened by the same company recently in Danvers.

The city is working on a tax financing package and some permitting issues, but so far most folks feel like this moving forward.

The park alone is a great step forward for the city. Consider the possibilities however -- perhaps a block of family-friendly restaurants nearby, a trickle-down into downtown and the rest of the city -- and this project is as clost to a must-do as you can find right now.

There will be criticisms. Joel Kaddy aired neighbors' concerns about traffic and noise. Considering it's all of a couple hundred yards from the exit, hopefully this isn't a major stumbling block. There will probably be some permitting and construction issues. The city should make sure those issues are cleared up and figured out quickly, but correctly. Finally, residents need to get over the knee-jerk cynicism and doubt that currently is inbred in Fitchburg. Someone wants to come here and open a sizable business. Let's not navel-gaze, let's make it happen.

This is exciting stuff, even for the most crusty Fitchburgite. It's a big step forward not just for the city, but for building the momentum of making progress in Fitchburg.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

A Good Idea

Check this one out, from today's Globe. What a great idea.

If you don't want to read the whole thing, the City of Boston is trying out a program that will give property tax breaks to older residents in exchange for some basic office work -- answering phones, filing, that kind of stuff.

Gov. Deval Patrick spent all of last year promising property tax relief, especially for seniors. Local officials of every shape and size have been wringing their hands over this issue for years. Here's a simple, basic, good (partial) solution to the problem.

Yes, yes, I can hear it now: We're giving away jobs, we're giving away money, will they squeeze someone out of a job, blah, blah, blah. Considering how personnel-strapped the city is, shouldn't this be a no-brainer for consideration? Can't good, honest, hard-working retired folks help out in just about area of city government -- including (especially?) the schools?

This seems like such an easy, simple way to help the city, the community, and older property owners getting smacked by property tax hikes. Will someone in City Hall please start talking about this?



Tuesday, July 24, 2007

'Say No to DeSalvo'

An anti-Ted DeSalvatore blog is up and operating. It appears as if the information is valid. The site uses archived information directly from DeSalvatore that you may or may not agree with. It's analysis-free, except for, you know, the title and the theme. No indication who is running the site. For those following the mayor's race (or, you know, everyone), it's certainly worth checking out. Disclaimer: While the information appears on the up-and-up, and at least one weblink is still operational, I have no idea if the information on the site is legitimate. I think it is, or I wouldn't have tipped you off to it, but I can't verify on my own. Just so you know.

While we're on the subject of DeSalvatore, when you get a chance check out Unicow's piece on DeSalvatore's website. He makes plenty of editorial comment, and picks out the interesting tidbits I noticed when scanning the site. If you're a Ted fan, you're gonna hate it. If you're not a Ted fan, let the giggling begin.

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The Curious Case of Ron Dionne

Had a sit-down yesterday with mayoral candidate Ronald Dionne. You can read more about him in this Friday's Fitchburg Pride, but a few thoughts:

Interestingly, Dionne said the city's financial problems aren't in revenues, it's in overspending. Rupert K. is nodding right now. Dionne says one area for savings is holding off on union raises for a few years. A lot of people are nodding right now. Where else to find savings? Well, Dionne's not sure. He claims he doesn't have the information. He also admits to not having looked at the new city budget. He doesn't have a computer, and hasn't gone to the clerk to buy a copy. Kind of takes the starch of the "overspending" argument when you haven't looked at the budget, no?

You can read more about what Dionne thinks -- including an interesting theory on downtown traffic -- in Friday's paper, but the above little tale should say a lot. Dionne said he watches all the government meetings on TV, which is great, but if you're going to claim the city is overspending, you should have an idea of where the money is currently being spent.

Most people don't Dionne much of a shot of gathering more than a few hundred votes (and that might be generous). He said the first he'd do as mayor would be to review spending department-by-department, going back years. That sounds great, but consider: In theory he's just barely three months away from being elected mayor, and he hasn't looked at the current city budget. Huh.

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Monday, July 23, 2007

Now, on to Serious Business

OK, the big news tonight is the new host of "The Price is Right" is Drew Carey. Cleveland rocks, indeed.

For a kid who grew up watching Bob Barker everyday, cheering on hikers of some Alpine slope to not make it to the top, hoping to see a contest beat the odds and hit the center stripe on Plinko, and just begging for someone hit the $10,000 on the wheel or both showcases just to hear that "whooop-whooop-whooop .... whooooooop," this is major, major business. In fact, after I was stuck with homefront duties on Barker's last day -- instead of playing a prearranged 36 holes of golf -- one of the silver linings was catching Barker's farewell.

So, is Drew Carey the right choice? Dunno, but he's not the wrong one. I like a lot more than Rosie O'Donnell, for whatever that's worth. I kind of thought maybe Dan Patrick was going to sneak in there, and that would have been intriguing.

The question now is, does TPIR need Bob Barker, or will it stand up on its own? Will the joys of the Race Game and Dice Game still be charming, or outdated? Will it be charming when a Samoan hugs Carey, or just weird? Will people still wear crazy t-shirts? In short, is the game bigger than Bob Barker, or was Bob Barker bigger than the game.

I'll be interested to find out, but I get the feeling it'll be OK.

Oh, by the way, I'm copyrighting "Carey's cuties" right now.

While I'm rambling about TV, a total outrage (shockingly) in "Friday Night Lights" being snubbed in the Emmy nominations last week. "Boston Legal?" Please. And even though I left the room on Thursday nights, the stench of "Grey's Anatomy" followed me throughout the house. "FNL" and "Lost" should have been nominated as well. Not that matters, because the triumphant last season of "The Sopranos" was nine of the best contiguous hours in TV history.

Even worse than the show being skipped was Kyle Chandler and Connie Brittan getting snubbed in their categories. Brittan is fantastic as the coach's wife, and together they are brilliant. I stand in front of the mirror practicing the icy stares that Chandler uses on both running backs and potential suitors to his daughter (I have about 8 left to get them down). For them to be skipped -- by Kiefer Sutherland in another by-the-book-but-second-worst-season-of-"24" effort of all things -- is shameful.

There you go. You can go about your life now, completely no better fulfilled than you were five minutes ago.



Sunday, July 22, 2007

You know who you are

Check out the below from Bruce Marion, in a comment posted somewhere else. The petty bickering chases someone else away. But you all keep slinging the mud at each other, defending personal feelings over policy and factual debate. People might be reading, but what you write might always register. You might right one great comment, but the four before that makes you unreadable. Just so you know.

I have a pretty clear conscious on this one, and on the general junk in my posts and comments. To each his own, but you know who you are.

Remember that challenge from a few weeks ago? It wasn't whining on my part. I had a point.

Wally,Thanks for confirming what I had already determined about some of the
people here. I had been told by several people in Fitchburg that as a public
official, I was absolutely crazy to attempt to share views here because many
have a very negative attitude about the people posting here, and I had been told
that you would all just "beat me up."I wanted to see for myself if what I was
told was fact and not fiction. I would never just take anyones word for anything
when it is a comment about other people.I have confirmed much of what was said
to me, and that I will (to my dismay) not accomplish anything here. I've made
several attempts in trying to get the folks here focused on things that might be
productive for Fitchburg, and have not been successful.I extended an invitation
to those of you that would be interested in productive and positive dialog about
our troubles here in Fitchburg, by joining us at www.fitchburgsvoice.comThat
invitation still stands, but the blog will be held to strict guidelines for
commentary...only positive and productive discussion allowed.I had hoped I could
convince some to engage in that type of dialog here, but that won't happen!I
wish you all much happiness and health!Bruce Marien


Thursday, July 19, 2007

Suddenly, At-Large May Need a Preliminary

In the last few weeks, as the candidates have come out of the woodwork, there's a puncher's chance that the at-large council race will need a preliminary election this fall.

It takes 11 candidates to trigger a prelim for at-large (double the five seats, plus one), and right now the list is at nine. Two more, somewhere, somehow, and we get bonus ballot action on Sept. 25.

In right now: Carbone, Conry, Cruz, Cormier, Tran, DiMartino, Hay, DiNatale, and Reynolds. Seven are or were councilors. That's a pretty deep field. We've got just over two weeks for two more to jump in before the Aug. 7 deadline to file papers. Will it happen?

One of the reasons to see it happen is to get an early gauge on on where the strengths lie. To see if there's a bunch in that 4-5-6-7 range, or if there's a clear dropoff at 5-6, or if there's a big pack at like 3-8 that could go one way or another.

Tough to say if it'll happen. People have been signing up lately, but the crop of potential candidates are thinning. That and if someone's heart isn't really in it, you'd have to think the deep roster so far might scare some folks off. But there's always that person or two who just want to get on the ballot and see what happens. Let's hope they pop up and get us to the preliminary this fall.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Rosemary Reynolds Interrupts Today's Cronin News

Former City Councilor Rosemary Reynolds said today she's running for an at-large seat this fall. She joins a growing list of candidates for the job. To read more, visit the Fitchburg Pride website. And yes, it has been a busy morning.

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Following the Cronin Story

So, as you may have heard, police Chief Edward Cronin is on his way out (forget today's Sentinel, the deal is at the Fitchburg Pride website). He may not be "resigning," technically, but he is leaving the job.

Press conference is today at 10 a.m. We'll be updating the Fitchburg Pride website as soon as possible, and throughout the morning and early afternoon with quotes and information from the press conference. Yes, the website is acting weird this morning, but we've been assured all the kinks will be worked out well before we need to really update things.

UPDATE: New story at Fitchburgpride.com (10:49 a.m.).

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Cronin to Resign

A source confirmed today that Police Chief Edward Cronin will resign. The announcement is expected at tomorrow's mayor's press conference. To read a little bit more -- but there's not much to report right now -- visit the Fitchburg Pride website.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

DeSalvatore Goes NIMBY on Hungry

In a relatively sprawling story on the future of Our Father's Table in one of the local newspapers today, Ward 4 Councilor (and, oh yeah, mayoral candidate) Ted DeSalvatore doesn't exactly open his arms wide for the program that offered free meals before being closed a few months ago.

The highlights from DeSalvatore in today's Sentinel:

"DeSalvatore said groups liek Our Father's Table are 'detrimental, counterproductive to business ... (and) to the rejuvenation of downtown Main Street.'
"DeSalvatore, who is running for mayor, said he'd prefer a group that does more than feed people, and rather provides counseling, job advice and activities, all in one spot. And he said such a program should still not sit in the center of town.
"'Any established routine on or near Main Street that will cause individuals to linger who otherwise have nothing to do is going to counterproductive,' DeSalvatore said Tuesday. 'They're not there as consumers. They're not there to shop. They're just there because they have no place to go. I know they're not criminals, they're not dangerous. Bu they create an atmosphere that makes people uncomfortable.'"

Later, he said, "Fitchburg's financial woes are 'exasperated or additionally irritated by these typesof service agencies that locate right under the noses of people who are trying to make a living.'"

The issue of social-service agencies downtown has long been one of contention for city officials. These comments from DeSalvatore bring that issue back into the spotlight pronto.

The snag at Our Father's Table has always been that clients would often linger outside before or after meals. It didn't create the prettiest scene downtown. The group knows it's an issue, and is trying to figure out a solution. Apparently, it won't be getting much help from the ward councilor on this one.

For better or worse, Fitchburg is the hub of social services for the area. Whether it's Our Father's Table, the needle exchange program, or the welfare office, downtown is where people in the region come for help. It is, in some ways, a noble enterprise. But it does offer challenges. The goal should be to offer the services and conquer the challenges, not shove the whole thing somewhere else.

That said, there is a sizable number of people in the city who would like to see the social services gone from downtown. I'm guessing few DeSalvatore fans will be turned off by his assessment. It is, if nothing else, classic DeSalvatore: Hard-charging, straightforward, black-and-white with little room for gray.



Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Council Race Gets Serious

It's time to start paying attention to the at-large race for City Council. With School Committee member Marcus DiNatale getting in the race (more on him in a minute) and ward Councilor Stephan Hay looking for the step up, things are getting veeeeerrrrrry interesting.

Here's the current lineup, as far as I can tell:

Incumbent Thomas Conry
semi-Incumbent Jay Cruz
Incumbent Annie DeMartino
Incumbent Dean Tran
Ward Councilor Hay
School Committee member DiNatale
Patricia Carbone
Shaun Cormier

Missing anyone?

Anyway, note six of the above have some kind of elected office title in front of their names. Carbone and Cormier shouldn't be neglected at this point, but someone who has had electoral victory will be tasting defeat this fall.

Let's quickly run through the list:

Conry. Been around. No real reason he shouldn't be one of the Top Five again.
Cruz. Interesting case. Lost by less 100 votes last time. He's been pretty active in a few months on the council. Good or bad? He'll find out in November.
DeMartino. Barely snuck in last time. She'll have to hang on, yet again.
Tran. Another interesting case. Has been proactive, but has ruffled feathers. If Ted DeSalvatore is on the November ballot, will a DeSalvo wave wash out Tran? Remember, they aren't buddies, and DeSalvatore has a very loyal base.
Hay. Making the leap from ward to at-large can be dangerous, but with one seat open you'd have to think he' s in good shape.
DiNatale. A veeeeeeerrrrrrrry interesting case. His public office business is a little unknown because the School Committee gets little attention. But he obviously has a well-known name in town and a legacy to run on. Also, he is a sharp and smart vote-counter and local campaign strategist. His old man will all but demand he do the work. Is there DiNatale fatigue? Doubtful. Can he crack the list of five people already on the council? Very possible. He's a must-watch.
Carbone and Cormier: Two unknowns who have their work cut out for them. Considering the unrest regarding the current state of affairs in the city, voters might be looking for fresh blood. Can one of these two stand out and take that ground?

The good news is, there are options out there for this fall. Let a whole new set of games begin.

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A Challenge

For some reason the headline thingy doesn't work right now. But anyway:

Here's a challenge that I don't think will be met, but I'm offering anyway. For the next week, pay attention to your mother. If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all.

Why? Well, two reasons. First, over the last week -- and the last few days in particular -- the tone has gotten really, really nasty. Second, no one is saying anything new, they're just saying meaner. In short: "Ted hasn't done anything." "Lisa's fans are negative." Put this way, I have absolutely no desire to read these comments, mostly because they're -- in a familar phrase around here -- "Same old, same old."

So, I'm calling for a one-week cooling off period, truce, whatever you want to call it. If you have something to say, make sure it's relatively nice. Or at least based on a current policy matter.
The same moderating rules apply, so if you go negative I'll still post it as long as it plays by the rules.

Let's see what happens, but I'm guessing this won't last until next Tuesday. Enjoy, and thanks as always for reading.



Friday, July 06, 2007

Kenneth Bell Memorial

The effort to create a memorial in honor of Kenneth Bell, a Fitchburg police officer killed while on duty, is now online. You can check it out here, or at the link on the right side of the page, where it will stay. For a little background, check out the Fitchburg Pride story on Bell's story and the effort to get a memorial finished.



I'm with Bailey

Boston Globe business writer Steve Bailey is simply one of the best in the business. He is a decent writer and just one hell of a reporter. He also is usually pretty smart and clear-thinking. I have no problem admitting I admire his greatness, and he's a lot better than me. Anyway, here's his offering today (and you really should read his "Downtown" column every Wednesday and Friday) about property taxes and the opportunity for Gov. Deval Patrick to make a "down payment" on his promise to lower property taxes. It'll never happen in a million years, maybe 2 million years, but Bailey has a point here. Enjoy.



Thursday, July 05, 2007

In This Week's Fitchburg Pride

A whole of Civic Days, of course, in this week's paper. But there's a bit more, including a head's up on the upcoming Route 12 roadwork (somewhere, business gnash their teeth while drivers celebrate), a look at Jay Cruz's effort to get charter review moving (somewhere, Rachel applauds), and Mayor Dan Mylott's column, where he is critical of the politics surrounding the budget process but then laces into the council some for their handling of their budget review (somewhere, I'm still pondering what it all means). That and much more in this week's Pride, available all over the place tomorrow.

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It Really Was Civic Days

Whoa, next thing you know, cats and dogs will be living together.

Yup, that's Mayor Dan Mylott and City Councilor Ted DeSalvatore shaking hands during Tuesday's Civic Days Block Party downtown.

An admission: That's a staged photo. I missed the actual handshake by about 2 seconds, but they decided to do it again for the camera. However, I had been yakking at DeSalvatore for awhile and had briefly said hello to Mylott, then walked away. About five minutes later I'm back, and they're still talking to each other. Who knew?

Anyway, it's a rare photo of these two smiling at each other. Enjoy.


Tuesday, July 03, 2007

The Chief's Decision

The rumblings started last week that Police Chief Edward Cronin was displeased with how the budget stuff went down, but he is unsure what he will do. I talked to him on Friday, and he didn't say much different than has been rumored and printed in the last few days.

There's two ways of looking at this:

The City Council took a look at the budget, and realized it could keep police officers but it would mean losing the dispatchers. They swallowed hard and made a tough decision, which they think is best for the city.

Or, the union went to the council, and said, "Hey, we want to protect our membership. Why not take a look at the dispatchers. Here's the numbers. See, you save nine cops, and you don't spend a ton of dough." Said or unsaid: It's an election year. Make sure you do the right thing. We have a strong and active union in the city.

So, the council, either taking the righteous road of the first scenario, or the political road of the second, cut the dispatchers.

Cronin was out of town until the end-game machinations went down. I'm torn on this issue. I think it's important for top officials to be around at important times, and that probably includes budget time, especially this budget season. However, I look at it personally, and my family life is my top priority. I'm allowed to take vacations, and so is the chief. It might have been the best time for his family for any dozens of reasons. I don't think you blame him too much. And hell, a cell phone and a computer, and you should be all set at this point.

Anyway, Cronin pretty obviously feels the union ran an end-around by going to the council. It's not so much that the council chose dispatchers over officers, but that the union went to the council and the council made a move to cater to the union.

So, what's Cronin going to do? I don't think he really knows at this point. I don't him all that well, but I think he's a smart guy who won't make a spur-of-the-moment decision. He'll think this over, let the emotions on all sides settle a bit, and then make up his mind. But one thing he's pretty much already decided -- the union has more juice than he does.

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