Friday, August 31, 2007

Hair-pulling Gets You...

A timeout. At least it does when your 21 months old.

But, and this might shock some people who view SF as a sandbox full of preschoolers, no one here is 21 months old. In fact, people haven't really been pulling each others' hair lately.

That said, we're going on yet another sabbatical in the old comments section. This time, through the long weekend. Grumble amongst yourselves.

This time, we're off to here. Hopefully a good meal will be eaten here. If nothing else, the weather should be most excellent.

Anyway, enjoy the long weekend. When everyone gets back, it's sprint time for the preliminary election. Wheeeeeeee.



Some Good (Or Is It?) Fantasy Talk`

Yeah, yeah, there's an election in 25 days, but I just got through with two fantasy football drafts this week, and if you think I'm not writing about that, well....

If you don't care, good for you. If you're as big a dork as I am, feel free to read on.

First, the Mostly Married Guys League

This is a group of college buddies. Great guys. Good fantasy players.

Shaun Alexander is back for a fourth season (keeper league) with Thomas Jones probably the number two RB, but Marshawn Lynch will be warming up in the bullpen quickly. The highlight is grabbing Drew Brees in the third round. I think he's going to have another monster year. I'm thrilled about that. May be a little thin at wide out, with Donald Driver (already nicked up) at the top. But, I've got guys like Braylon Edwards and Vincent Jackson that might be ready for huge years. This might be an upside team with Edwards, Jackson and Lynch potentially getting a lot of time. I've also got the Losman on hand if Brees is a problem -- another upside guy.

I've been competitive in this league, winning the title two years ago and making the semis last year even with Alexander out for the middle third of the season. I should be right in the mix.

My other league, the boringly named Legal Engineers, is run by Ralph Romano, and is full of local guys who apparently don't play fantasy much, don't do research, or don't listen.

As in my other league, I targeted Brees for the third round, after two RBs. Didn't happen. One joker took Brady in the first round. In all, six -- six -- QBs went in the first 25 spots. Unheard of. Not really sure what these guys were thinking.

I took Willie Parker in the first round, but probably should have taken Reggie Bush. I think I'll regret that pick later. I got Maurice Jones-Drew in the second round. This league is weird, with a kicker going in the fifth round and Todd Heap going in the fourth. So I loaded up on quality running backs. Someone is going to come looking for a trade eventually, and I have five quality RBs, with DeAngelo Williams, Len Dale White and Ahman Green also on the roster. All are starters, and all will make tasty trade bait later. Wait and see.

With all the top-shelf (and second-shelf, really) QBs gone, I decided to wait until much later to grab a thrower. I took Roy Williams as a WR -- nice -- and Lee Evans, who was a beast last year. I stole Jackson, again, in the 8th round, which makes me happy. I also grabbed Mike Furrey in both leagues, who was sensational in the second half of last year.

In the 9th round, I took the The Kitna, who people forget was a pretty good QB before Carson Palmer around, and is in a great system in Detroit. I like that pick at that point. Good value, as the fantasy weirdos say. Losman, again, as a backup. While I don't have a top-flight guy at QB, I think I'll get one, eventually. Too many guys in this league are way thin at RB. If not, I'll take my chances with what I have. I also tucked Kurt Warner on the end of my bench. While I think Leinart will be a stud, I also think he's a strong hurt possibility, and he might flat-out suck (but I seriously doubt it).

Finally, in my last pick, I took Jacoby Jones, Houston WR. The buzz is building on this guy, and I wanted to stash him away on my roster. If nothing else, when he explodes in one of the first four games and someone goes looking for him waivers, my greatness will be fully explained.

There you go. More as the season goes on. For now, go Revenge of Lane Kiffin.

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Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Problem with Fitchburg Schools

So, a mayoral candidate climbed up onto the stoop of the Save Fitchburg Mansion and knocked on the door last night. I let Mrs. Save Fitchburg take the lead, because I'm going to hear plenty from everyone in the next 26 days.

First, a little background on Mrs. Save Fitchburg: She's been covering local and state government as a reporter since the early 1990s. She knows how things work and what is and isn't a good answer. I know this is shocking to every try to understand, but she's even better than I am.

So, Mrs. Save Fitchburg threw out a rather vague question of "what are going to do for the School Department?" Considering the SF Spawn were desperately trying to get their grubby hands on some campaign handouts, it was obvious this is an important issue at SF Mansion.

Let's just say the answer ... Well, forget pleasantries. The answer stunk. I didn't say anything, but knew the rambling, off-balance, grasping-at-straws answer immediately wasn't resonating with Mrs. Save Fitchburg. The candidate took a big step back in Mrs. SF's eyes, and rightfully so. Not only did his answer leave a lot to be desired, but the campaign aide slowly creeping the truck forward as a way to move the candidate along was noticed and also not appreciated by Mrs. SF (I noticed, too, by the way. Not too slick, right there).

Anyway, all this got me to thinking: Why isn't the school system in play this election?

I think part of it is that most voters are concentrated on the financial situation. Fair enough. But I can't believe the only two-kid family in the city lives at SF Mansion. There's one across the SF street, in fact, but their kids to private school. I don't know their motivation, but that might be a damning indictment on the city's schools.

Add to the importance young families put on education the $44 million price tag that the School Department wears. If you're so worried about finances, shouldn't there be some acknowledgement of the department that makes up half the city budget?

In his Pride oped last week, Ted DeSalvatore didn't mention the city schools (outside of cleaning up behind B.F. Brown). In his Pride oped this week (sneak peek everyone!) Tom Donnelly doesn't mention the city's schools. On her website, under the issues front page, there is no mention of schools by Lisa Wong. In short, the candidates are giving the issue the cold shoulder, and no one is taking any leadership on the issue.

Part of it is that it's not on most voters' radar screen, but the candidate who knocked on the door last night should have had a better answer prepared. Isn't there a "what questions might we get asked and what should the answer be" session or two involved in a campaign? And to not even mention the school system in 800-word opeds and issue web pages is just neglectful.

Honestly, I'm not sure the candidates know much at all about the city schools. Based on a quote from DeSalvatore earlier this year, he admitted as much. Based on last night's conversation, I think one more candidate fits that category. Considering the money involved and the importance of schools in the city, it's just sad the lack of knowledge about the school system.

If a candidate or a campaign is reading this, here's a helpful hint: This issue will come up next Friday. It will also be a question or two in some form during at least one of the debates. If you come knocking on the door at SF Mansion, it will likely come up there, too. You've been notified. Please have a good answer. Despite what you might think, the schools are important and in play this fall.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Tons of New Candidate Information

Thanks to prompting for commenter Ted (no, not that Ted), there's a bunch of new web links on the right for City Council candidates. Sometime, when time allows, I'm going to look at those. Today is not that day, however.


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Monday, August 27, 2007

Another Temperature Check

We did this a few weeks ago, but figured with Labor Day loooming, and the election just 29 days away, it was time for another look at where everyone stands in the mayoral contest.

First, a few thoughts based on recent, uh, comments:

Signs don't vote, so don't hand someone the election because he or she has the most signs on the street. Signs can measure depth in that only those really committed to a candidate will let their lawn hold a sign for weeks on end, but are not a great measure of bredth (unless those signs are absolutely everywhere). Let's stop gauging strength by signs, it's a silly process.

Ted supporters are putting waaaaaaaaay too much importance into the musings of some online folks like Rachel, the unicow and the saynotodesalvo guy. The claims that their relently anti-Ted bent is hurting other candidates is just ridiculous. If there was a super-strong media outlet in the city that was read by everybody -- like 25,000 people -- that was whacking away at a candidate or overly supporting one, that would be on thing. But arguably, that media outlet doesn't exist (the Sentinel moves less than 4,000 copies a day. The Pride moves about 8,000 a week. Hey, we're a must-read, but I know our situation), and even if it did, while some bias is possible in some corners, it hasn't been ridiculous or overbearing. So, if you really think Unicow is going to shape this election, you're really reaching (no offense, 'cow).

Hopefully that clarifies my stance on annoying and borderline dumb comments. On with the show:

For starters, no one knows how this is all going to end up, and that includes folks who have run for office many times in Fitchburg. To say you do at this point is kind of silly. To wit: Donnelly v. Wong, or Donnelly v. DeSalvatore in the general. Two very different general elections. Forget Wong v. DeSalvatore, which is a whole other kind of election. You can guess, you can hope, but final matchups are going to mean a lot to how candidates run and how solid their chances are.

That said, Donnelly remains in good shape to make it to the finals. His campaign has been ramping up in recent weeks, with standouts and the rest. He's spent 10 years building a base and an organization, and now is the time to rely on it. He needs to get over the "slumlord" claims (true or not, at least one candidate mentions "slumlords" often), he needs to try to win over a few folks who consider him part of the old-boy network, and he needs to figure out a way to say he's not part of the city's financial problems, even after being on the council for eight years. But if he keeps moving in the same direction, he'll be tough to beat Sept. 25.

It might not be ridiculous to think Wong and DeSalvatore are fighting for the other spot. DeSalvatore had a rough late-July/early-August. Not a bad time to have a rough stretch. While there's a lot of Internet heat, the heat hasn't been seen by most folks. His one big example of being "decisive" in the Pride op-ed last week -- cleaning up B.F. Brown -- is nice, but not exactly the legislative victory you'd expect, even from a one-term candidate (by contrast, look at Dean Tran's proactive first term on the council). DeSalvatore's fate might be the biggest question of the preliminary election. He has a great core, but no one knows how far his voting base fans out. Will 800-1,000 people vote for him on election day? Honestly, no one knows. He is so polarizing it's tough to figure out. At this point, I'd believe both sides.

That leaves Wong, who, quite honestly, has been a little quiet lately. It may be by design, but on Sept. 4 she needs to kick it up a notch or two. There's also the lingering questions about Putnam Place and her gig at FRA. They linger because people wonder, but there doesn't appear to be much there... yet. Maybe a campaign tries to drop a September surprise, but it just seems to be mostly a non-starter, unless there's something we don't know about. Her buzz is down right now, but they may be saving their powder for September, which might not be a totally ridiculous idea. DeSalvatore by his very nature will maintain attention, and Donnelly's recent spurt of activity has been noticeable, but Wong needs to work a little more to get some momentum going. Not really a problem right now, but if you're wondering where she is come Sept. 10 or so, then all bets are off.

Ron Dionne says he's been knocking on doors and has gotten good feedback -- he's even thrown out the "I'm going to shock the city" line here and there. He's spending no dollars and is hoping his door-knocking gets him through. We'll see what happens there, I guess.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Unitil Looks for Increase

Head on over to the Fitchburg Pride website when you get a chance, and check out Unitil's proposed increase for distribution rates. Considering the general feeling toward Unitil and rates, it's tough to imagine this will go over well. Unitil, its rates, and how it effects homeowners (and potential buyers) and especially potential and current businesses, has been kind of a fringe issue on the campaign trail. This might push it more front-and-center, you'd have to think.

Let the teeth gnashing begin... now.

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Monday, August 20, 2007

Annnnnnd... We're Back

Still catching up anything that might have happened in the last week, so if you're looking for some news, well...

Vacation was great. Especially with a first-time breaking of 100 in golf. I shot a fabulous (for me) 95, with all those trips to the driving range and broken-over-the-knee clubs finally paying off at the groovy Springbrook Golf Club. No, I couldn't be any prouder. Somebody once told me only 10 percent of people who have played golf have broken 100. That, of course, is a statistic that probably takes into account anyone who ever played one round, so I don't put much faith in it. But for a guy who put a lot of time into the game this summer, I'm glad to see it starting to pay off. Oh, I could go on and on, but no one wants to hear it.

One thing to look forward to: Starting this Friday, and for the next four weeks, the Pride op-ed page will feature a piece from a mayoral candidate. The order was randomly selected, and Ted DeSalvatore kicks things off this week. So, take a gander.

Should be an interesting month or so ahead. 36 days to the election.

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Friday, August 10, 2007

Do You Hear Me Knocking, Knocking at Your Door

Before sailing off into the Maine vacation sunset, a quickie on this situation with the DOR.

If you've missed, the state Department of Revenue is thinking the city's budget is going to be out of whack this year. And by "out of whack," that means unbalanced, short on revenue, making plans the ole checkbook can't cover.

The depth of the problem remains to be seen as the city is still working on closing the books from the last fiscal year (not an unreasonable time frame, by the way). But it seems pretty evident there is going to be a gap to fill.

This was a problem around the time last year, the city was looking at a gap of about $600,000, if memory serves me correctly. This gap could be around $1 million, and more cuts are a possibility.

Considering the city's narrow margin of error -- or breaking even -- this isn't much of a surprise. Off by 1 percent, and you're looking at a problem. Of course, the way the city is going, it's a 1 percent problem, not a 1 percent benefit. Not an excuse, just reality.

Anyway, this means more like a continuation of the old problems, not a new one, if that makes sense. It will be interesting to see how much heat the mayor takes on this. Now that the electoral dynamic is out of his relationship with the councilors, will councilors beat the tar out of him like they have in the past? Will the criticism be toned down? I guess we'll found out next month when the council gets back to business.

While we're on the topic, it's been only a month-plus, but has there been any noticeable reduction in city services since the cuts were made last month? This is anecdotal, of course, but appears as if residents aren't seeing any real problems (Rachel, commence screed on the ambulance service... now). Let's see what happens next. More cuts seem possible, but from where?

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Here We Go Again...

Sometime early this afternoon -- perhaps as early as noontime its very self -- SF is back on vacation. And this time, we're gone through next week. That means, like last time, there will be zero moderation of comments. Write all you want, but they won't be touched any earlier than Aug. 19.

This time, we're heading to Maine, leaving just Vermont as the untouched of the northern three New England states this summer. We'll be here and here. After the mini-golf disaster of North Conway (none played) a Gifford's trip is most certainly in the future. Even though a SF sister-in-law's family sold Smiley's (linkless, sorry) over the winter, there will be some peppermint ice cream eaten, and no trip to the motherlands is complete without at least one trip to Big G's. Just as long as I get a peanut butter whoopie pie.

So, if you check in this morning, I'll see your stuff. This afternoon, you're on your own. Unicow, SNTD, you've been warned. Best of luck.



Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Call the Young'uns, Here Comes Ayla Brown

Few SF readers might care too much, but "American Idol" contestant Ayla Brown is coming to town Sept. 9 for the first Crocker Field Summer Sunset Concert Series event. It just so happens to be sponsored by .... the Fitchburg Pride. Yahoo. Yipee. Bellevue Cadillac, who rip it up, is also on the card, along with a few special secret guests. For a bit more, hit the Fitchburg Pride website, and of course, read Friday's paper.

This is a cool thing for Crocker Field and the city -- proceeds go to the field restoration fund. We're also pretty pumped at the Pride to be a significant sponsor of the event. So, tell your 12-year-old nieces and granddaughters to catch this Friday's Pride, chock full of Ayla Brown.

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Where are we at? Nowwhere!

Are you folks actually serious?

Much of Jason’s previous post and the comments present an interesting take...but the majority of the comments are astride the actual point and fail to consider political reality.

For all practical purposes, the office of Mayor of Fitchburg is bordering on the point of irrelevancy. No one who has experienced and observed the changes in politics and government over the past 30 years in Massachusetts can mount an argument to the contrary. Local political power is dead-and has been for at least 20 years.

Political and governmental power and influence flows from the purse-and Fitchburg has no real purse to speak of since Fitchburg, as every municipality in the Commonwealth, relies on the generosity of aid and assistance from Beacon Hill-and in the event you have failed to notice-Fitchburg has zero clout or influence on Beacon Hill. Thus, the Mayor of Fitchburg is reduced to a caretaker or administrator, subject to the whims and preferences of St. Patrick, Speaker DiMasi and Sen. Pres. Murray. To indicate their interests dovetail with the immediate or future needs of Fitchburg is ludicrous.

Fitchburg voters display a tendency to shoot themselves in the foot. No better example than yesterday's announcement by St. Patrick of the contemplated $12+ billion dollar borrowing for infrastructure upgrade and repair or today's announcement concerning public education. Read and understand the reports, the plan(s) envisioned. Then ask yourself "Where does Fitchburg fit in all of this?" Answer-it doesn't-other than a few scattered crumbs. Why? Because the hacks we elect bring nothing to the table and, in most instances, are not allowed at the table.

But, to the point of Jason's post-does anyone believe those scattered crumbs are available to, and accessible by, the likes of DeSalvo or Donnelly should their election bid prove successful? Pigs will fly first.

A Mayor DeSalvo (perish the thought) has nothing in common with the Patrick administration. He'd be lucky to get an appointment with Patrick's janitor. After all, there's nothing in it for Patrick politically. I’ve a vivid imagination-and accept that on occasion politics makes strange bedfellows-but a working connection of those two is impossible to fathom. Put another round in the chamber and zero in on the right foot.

Mayor Donnelly? Please. Again, no identification with Patrick or the Patrick administration. Yet another round in the chamber.

Mayor Wong? Sure...everyone on Beacon Hill enjoys seeing someone come with hat in hand. Toss me that .45 cal, would you?

Dionne? Ah, it’s time to haul out the big stuff and shoot off the entire leg.

Face the fact the office of Mayor of Fitchburg is an anachronism given the current political reality. The occupant makes no difference because he/she cannot make a difference.

And, should you have any lingering doubt that a certain candidate can actually make a genuine difference-realize the obvious. The announcements of yesterday and today by the Patrick Administration require borrowing on a grand, immense scale. That means a tax increase, toll increases and additional tolls, fee increases, which, in turn, indicate meaningful Property Tax reform is dead. Simply perform the addition and subtraction. Ever increasing taxes are akin to a fatal disease…they destroy and eventually kill efforts to bring back a municipality such as Fitchburg. So, Fitchburg is faced with the immediate prospect of obtaining additional revenue when revenue sources (investment) flow in directions other than Fitchburg. Compounding this fact is that every regional economic indicator is flat-as can be expected during the run up to a presidential election. Remember, bloggers, a tax buck can only be spent in one place. We still have $4 billion to pay on the Big Dig construction bonds.

Keep dreaming, fellow bloggers on SF. This election makes no difference because it fails to make a difference who wins the office. Events, not the man or woman, are in control and will remain so for the next 2-3 years. Fitchburg’s goose is not just cooked-it’s already overdone.


Where are we at?

Perhaps it's time to take a minute to assess where the mayoral candidates stand. A lot can change in the next six weeks, but today, the day nomination papers are due, is a good time to think about where everyone is and what they need to do to win.

Warning: Analysis and predictions ahead. Some people aren't going to like what they see and hear. The following is my own analysis based on what I see, hear and what my gut tells me. It might not be right, but it's not crazy or slanted to favor anyone. I'm not shilling for one candidate or knocking another. Don't like it? Fine, but respond with smart analysis, not the tripe that has been passing for comments here lately. And for the love of God, be honest with yourself and the situation. This message brought to you by an administrator partly bored and partly ashamed by the endless stream of garbage comments. End of warning, on with the show.

Suddenly, Tom Donnelly's looking pretty good in the primary. In fact, if that election were held today, he'd have one of the top two slots sewn up. Dan Mylott's decision to exit the race is of big help to Donnelly. All of the sudden, Donnelly has a 10-year-old citywide organization going up against candidates who have never run citywide before. For folks who like a little experience, he laps the field many times over. After wondering since April where his campaign has been, it's starting to wake up a little bit. In fact, Save Fitchburg Mansion was hit with a postcard a few weeks saying he'd stop for a visit soon. Haven't seen him, but we're expecting him soon. Mylott's departure doesn't necessarily mean Mylott voters are streaming to Donnelly, but for undecideds (and I think those are many) and others, Donnelly's strengths are suddenly unique to the field. Let's go back to the numbers: Expect 3,000, maybe 3,500 people to vote in the preliminary. Getting out your vote will be extremely important. No one will do that better than Donnelly. He works hard the next six weeks, doesn't make any big mistakes, and he's in good shape come Sept. 25.

If Mylott's decision helped Donnelly, it probably doesn't do much for Lisa Wong one way or the other. She wasn't running against Mylott too much like other candidates (hang on, we'll get there), but I wouldn't expect a flood of former Mylott support going her way. Call it a wash. Wong has been running a campaign by the numbers so far. She's knocking on doors, laying the groundwork, and boning up on her policy. Her's will be a policy-driven campaign, no doubt. The establishment has been impressed so far, and she has some friends and allies amongst some elected officials. She'll have to turn up the heat a little bit after Labor Day, but her steady work so far puts her in good shape for Sept. 25.

Part of Wong's current situation is based on the shaky last few weeks for Ted DeSalvatore. By any measure, he has been struggling the last few weeks. The electronic folks are pounding away at him, his stance on the homeless downtown is matter-of-fact to the point of being possibly unfeeling, he's been portrayed as heartless to a man begging on his knees in the Telegram, and the "focus on what's bad" line didn't help much either. Throw in the LTE this week on his campaign manager harassing a senior at the July 4 parade, and yikes, tough times. For folks who didn't have an opinion of the guy -- and are paying attention to this stuff -- it hasn't been a good month or so. That's gotta turn around if he's going to stick. He needs to generate some good press. Find a friendly reporter to talk some big ideas and the future of the city. Here's what it boils down to: He has an energized and enthusiastic base -- perhaps the most loyal and rabid core in the race. The question is, does his breadth match his depth? Beyond that base, will he lure the voters needed to win this thing? No one knows for sure, but for folks who were thinking "I might vote for Ted, but..." the buts have been raining down lately. If nothing else, he could use some good karma right now. If the election were held today, the last month wouldn't do him any favors -- and quite possibly keep him out of the money. He's got six weeks to turn that around. Can he do it? Absolutely. Memories are short and it is the middle of the summer, when attention spans are minimal. But he's now in recovery mode.

Finally, there's Ronald Dionne. Doesn't see the need for a computer, says there's overspending in government but hasn't read this year's budget, and isn't raising money for his campaign. Instead of gauging his chances of winning, it might be best to set an over/under on his votes. He was just under 300, I believe, in his write-in campaign in 2005. Let's go with 199. Place your bets.

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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

What Does It Mean?

So, now that the initial surprise is starting to wear off, it's time to start thinking: What does today's news from Dan Mylott mean for the mayor's race?

It's an interesting question that might not really have an answer.

For a while, this race has been a pretty simple equation: Status quo, or change in the form of old-school change (Thomas Donnelly), new-school change (Lisa Wong) or angry change (Ted DeSalvatore). Now, it's just change.

It seems unlikely that Mylott supporters will automatically flock in one specific direction. Donnelly might get a boost in that he now had the deepest resume of the pack. DeSalvatore might lose a bit of steam, because the main focus of his fire is gone. I'm not sure if it helps, hurts, or doesn't effect Wong.

It certainly makes the preliminary and absolute free-for-all. While Mylott's support seemed to be waning, he was still a viable contender to get through the crowded preliminary. Now, it's wide-open. I'm not really sure there's a void for someone to step into and automatically take over. If the two winners of the preliminary were going to come in probably in the high 20s or 30s in terms of percentage, now it's like mid- to high 30s. I'm not sure someone is suddenly guaranteed 40 percent, and forget a 50 percent mandate.

Supporters and detractors from all sides can make arguments for or against the candidates helped or hurt by this. I'd love to hear them and see if any of them make sense.

Finally, I'm not really feeling the last-minute candidate out of this. I think Mylott was considered vulnerable before, so it's unlikely someone's courage is suddenly fortified by his departure. Now, if someone thinks they can step in and completely take over the Mylott machine, grab a few more votes, and immediately be in the mix, then it's a new ballgame. But I'm not sure who that person is. And that person has six days to shake off the surprise, test the waters, and get signatures. A longshot right now.

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Mayor Dan Mylott announced today he is not running for re-election this fall. For more throughout the afternoon, check out the Fitchburg Pride website, which broke the story first this afternoon.

Obviously, this is huge news and shakes up the mayor's race. Discuss.

UPDATED 2:36 P.M.: Quickly, a few things: The Pride website was just updated with more material, including quotes from Mylott and a link to the press conference via FATV. Go check it out. Also, in the spirit of media whoring, I'll be on AM 1280 The Blend this afternoon during drive time and tomorrow morning around 7 a.m., so share a cup of coffee, won't you, with me and Ben Parker.

Finally, that's twice in a month City Monitor has posted a comment breaking news. I usually don't give a damn about these things, but I really want to know who CM is. The curiosity is killing me. CM, zip me an e-mail if you wanna let me know.

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