Friday, September 28, 2007

Sometimes, I Am Smart

I wrote this on July 31. It alludes to an earlier post that says the same thing, but for some reason I can't find it:

We talked a few months ago about the Sox's hot start, and holding off the
Yankees. Without going into the archives, I remember Rupert K saying the Sox
would be caught. We went to the numbers to figure out how tough it would be for
the Yanks to make up the ground. After this brutal week for the Yankees, I
figured it was time for an update:The Red Sox are 48-26. We figured all along
their good for about 95 wins. They need to go 47-41 the rest of the way to get
to that mark. And yes, we're ruling out the rest of the division, which doesn't
have the horses for a run. The Sox have a few problems -- they can't hit
sometimes, the middle relief is due for a rough stretch one of these days, and
they're starting pitching has gotten nicked up. But, if you believe Beckett has
had his DL stretch, and that Schilling is halfway through his, how can you not
think the Sox are going to win at least 95 games this year? Even if Schilling is
out for a while, 95 seems a minimal goal.So...The Yankees are 36-37. Yup, back
under .500. Unbelieveable. The Yankees would have to go 59-30 the rest of the
way to get to 95 wins. 59-30. Basically, they'd have to win every series the
rest of the way. Can they do it? Well, yeah, I guess. They certainly had a nice
two-week stretch there a few weeks ago. But that's an awfully, awfully, tough
task. And that's assuming the Sox only go 47-41 the rest of the way.To sum this
all up: I made plans to be away the weekend of Sept. 15-17, forgetting I have
tickets for the Sox-Yanks game on the 15th. At this point, I'm confident I can
be away and not miss anything. I don't think things will change over the next
two-and-a-half months.

Why do I bring this up? The Sox won the AL East tonight. The same night they won their 95th game.

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Thursday, September 27, 2007

This One's for Dave M.

Most of you all might not know Dave M., and I probably wouldn't know him, either, if he walked up to me on the street and punched me in the mouth (which would be his likely course of introduction, I'd guess).

Dave is the genius behind this, and most likely this. Click at your peril.

Anyway, Dave would e-mail me from time to time, every few months or so, just to tell me how much I suck. Like I need the reminder.

But today, this one's for Dave. Sometime this morning, Save Fitchburg will register its 200,000th visit, in just under 22 months. Holy cow. Since Tuesday, over 2,500 visits have been counted. Tuesday earned 1,442 visitors, yesterday 970. The two biggest days in the site history.

I know not everyone loves Save Fitchburg, hell, I know a good chunk of people read it just for laughs. But people -- including, occassionally, Dave -- are reading.

Thanks for reading and participating. Without a doubt, Save Fitchburg played zero role in Tuesday's election, but for a while it's been a political outpost in the city. It's great to see through Tuesday's turnout that people are paying attention to what is going on and taking back the city. And, obviously, it's gratifying to see SF get so much traffic on such an important day.

So, again, thanks for reading, and thanks for participating.



Wednesday, September 26, 2007

About Last Night

A few more thoughts on yesterday:

I'm pretty sure no one saw this coming. Anyone out there honestly believe Lisa Wong was going to roll up 3,000 votes? Hell, most people thought that would be the total turnout. I'll admit my prediction (see Monday's post) was total garbage. In my weak defense, I didn't talk to one person who said, "Hey, Wong is going to kill these guys." Some folks thought she might have been first, and probably just as many thought she'd be third. No one saw this coming.

If I'm an at-large councilor, I'm a little more nervous this morning. Traditionally, when the electorate chooses to make a big change in one office (like, oh, the Mayor's Office), it tends to leave the rest alone. But considering the giant mandate for change tomorrow, at-large councilors might want to be looking over their shoulders a little bit.

And if I'm an at-large councilor, I'm trying to figure out how to answer questions about the city's finances. Tom Donnelly's "It's not our fault" answer isn't flying.

Give Wong all the credit in the world, she has run a smart and effective campaign. She has the makings of a very good mayor. But she's not a great candidate. She's not an electric speaker, she can get caught up in the minutae of an issue, and she isn't overly engaging. She's not Deval Patrick, who used his sheer force of charisma to get into the Governor's Office. My point? She didn't win all those votes last night because people are in starry-eyed wonder. She won all those votes because the electorate is fed up with the city's financial situation. They were looking for someone they think can bring not just change, but effective change. She gave the best answer to the biggest question in the campaign.

And that was one of Ted DeSalvatore's biggest campaign problems. He was stumping on the wrong issue. Crime is one of the city's top issues, no question. But it's not Number One. Not this year. In some neighborhoods, in some corners, it is. But universally, finances are the key this year. Throw in some questions about his background and previous statements, and his turned out to be an uphill climb. He turned into cannon fodder for the city's bloggers (you know what I mean), that hammered away at his weak spots and dug up information that when read was very damaging. For some reason, Ted and the campaign didn't fight the bloggers' charges. Maybe they were true. Maybe they didn't want to bring additional attention and perhaps some credibility to blogs that are read by dozens, maybe just a few hundred, people. But that stuff sat out there, unchallenged. In the closing days of the campaign, a mass e-mail made the rounds (including to a large number of teachers) that detailed all of that stuff. The attacks were there, but how many votes did that change? 500? That's how many more he needed. What he needed even more was a better focus on finances.

Now Donnelly stands alone against Wong. I figured that sentence would be the other way around before yesterday. He said last night he really is for change, big change. It sounded very close to the Italian Stallion's speech at the end of "Rocky IV." It's going to be a tall, tall order for Donnelly to make himself the change candidate. He spent the last month hammering away at his long-time creditials in the city. At times he came across as borderline insulted that DeSalvatore and Wong -- two people who didn't live in the city less than a decade ago -- had the sheer gall to run against him. He hasn't sounded like a change candidate.

More importantly in yesterday's aftermath, he didn't answer the financial question very well. He's not alone. Other councilors bristle when they hear they hold responsibility for the city's financial situation. But they do. It is a 50-50 split with the mayor? Probably not. But what is it? 60-40? 66-33? 75-25? I'd say that 2-1 area is about right. But Donnelly wanted none of it. In fact, he said outright he accepts none of it. Other councilors feel the same way, and if you watch their comments at meetings, they are pushing as much as possible on the mayor. But voters don't want to hear that. Dan Mylott might not be forthcoming with timely information, but voters don't want to hear that. They want to hear from Donnelly why, after eight years on the council, he hasn't done more. It didn't help when he would take no blame, and then DeSalvatore would follow right behind at debates and acknowledge that more should have been done. The financial issue is fully Wong's property right now. How Donnelly gets some of that real estate back might be an unanswerable question.

So, what next? Honestly, who knows. Conventional wisdom says Wong has a huge advantage. Or more accurately, Donnelly is at a huge disadvantage. He was 2,200 votes back last night. Where does he pick those up? Turnout was way high yesterday at about 25 percent. That would be good for a November municipal election. So, will turnout be higher in November, or did everyone who's coming out come out yesterday? If there's more, how many? Certainly, Wong's performance yesterday only won her more votes. People love a winner, and she's a clear winner. Even if she doesn't pick up one more vote, Donnelly needs to find 2,200 more people to vote for him. Yikes. Wong will get a second inspection now, Donnelly needs to put the heat on early and often, and try to raise questions. And then hope for a mini-miracle.

But the thing is, after yesterday, it might be time to rip up the traditional assumptions. A neophyte not only won, but she destroyed a guy who has run five citywide elections in the last 10 years. In the type of election where long-time base and organization is usually the path to victory, a newcomer managed to pull together a campaign in five months and obliterate the competition. One thing is for sure: The next 41 days won't be a cakewalk for Wong. She'll be under the campaign microscope, and she'll be getting it from all sides -- including, likely, DeSalvatore backers, who are convinced Wong was targeting their guy throughout. She certainly has a big advantage going into Nov. 6, but as the voters showed yesterday, nothing should be taken for granted now.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

About Tonight

The drumbeat started when snow was still on the ground. Throughout the city, you heard it over and over again.

"It's time for change."

Sometimes it was coming from then-fledgling candidate Ted DeSalvatore, sometimes it was coming from a frustrated resident, sometimes it was coming from city councilors, frustrated with incumbent Mayor Dan Mylott.

Today, it came from the voters, who overwhelmingly voted for changed when they gave Lisa Wong over 60 percent of the vote in the preliminary election.

The result -- and the turnout -- are nothing short of a surprise. A political neophyte, Wong was putting her name on the ballot for the first time. She was going up against an old-school, long-time resident and insider in Councilor Thomas Donnelly, and an energetic, oxygen-sucking force of nature in DeSalvatore, who always managed to stay in the spotlight.

But for many voters, worn out by the constant financial problems and hoping for a glimmer of change, went with the 27-year-old self-described economist. She struggled to find a mix of wonkish capability and enthusiastic visionary, but found the perfect combination last Thursday. Her debate performance was energizing and embracing, but it also gave a glimpse into Wong and her campaign.

She was the only candidate to pack the room, a sign of organization and understanding how having a crowd cheering you on can help momentum. She asked Donnelly a question that she so knew the answer, she read a prepared rebuttal -- pitch-perfect because Donnelly had given the answer she knew was coming. It showed preparation and smarts. When asked about job loss detailed in a Mass Inc. report, she not only said she's work to bring jobs back, but quoted numbers out of the report. Any other candidates able to do that?

In the glow of victory, Wong is now a great candidate. After that debate performance she was a good one. Before that she was an OK one.

Now, the surprise of the primary must show she can run from the lead. She was able to sneak up on people, who assumed the Donnelly machine and his base would get him pretty far. It got him to the general election, but he has a large challenge ahead.

Now, it will be time for the thorough inspection of Wong. Donnelly, already hard-charging against her, will likely increase the noise. Let's compare her to Matt Leinart: A stud college football player who drops in the draft after the little potential issues get nit-picked at. She will be nit-picked considerably over the next 42 days.

But today wasn't so much about Wong as it was the voters. As the spring went on and summer dragged on, the financial problems mounted. Throughout, the buzz for change turned into a shout, finally heard today. Wong ran a good campaign, but this was a result fueled by a desire for a new face in City Hall.

For DeSalvatore, today was the end to a run that was one of the more dramatic you're going to see. His heated rhetoric grabbed a solid base, but he also turned off a number of voters. He may have tried to be an everyman candidate, but his aggressive stand wasn't for every voter. He brought passion to the campaign, but his focus on crime wasn't an issue for many voters, who were focused on finances. If he ran that campaign in Ward 4, he wins going away. Citywide, however, voters needed something different. DeSalvatore experienced a number of beautiful ups, but was vexed by his self-made downs. In the last few months, he was an electronic media punching bag, as blogs popped up around the city working against him. In the end, he offered change, but not the right kind of change.

So, can Donnelly make up the gap in the next six months? He needs to pick up over 2,000 votes -- certainly the largest political challenge he has ever faced. While he advocated change tonight, he ran his preliminary campaign as the steady old guard. It will be difficult for him to change course now. After months of neglecting responsibility for the city's financial issues, he must find a way to embrace some of it while trying to offer changes for the future.

Wong must now maintain the discussion she started with voters this summer. They most certainly are listening. She'll have to adjust to a hotter spotlight, and find a way to stay a step ahead of the sligns and arrows coming her way.

She has the ultimate advantage. The drumbeat of change claimed Mylott over the summer, when he bowed out of the election. The orchestra of change today seriously wounded Donnelly. Lisa Wong holds that orchestra's baton, and her challenge now is to keep the music playing until Nov. 6.

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The Results

Wong is out to a huge early lead, according to results announced at her campaign headquarters. Check 'em out at Fitchburg Pride, right now.

Update, 8:30 -- Wong kills. 2-1 over the field. See results at above-mentioned website. Classic reminder: These are unofficial results from the campaign. But considering the margin, well, it would take huge mistakes to fill in the gaps.

Update 8:49 -- OK, more later, but holy crap. Did anyone really see this coming? Anyone? Not only did Wong win, but she lapped the rest of the field. Almost twice. Just a dominating performance today. Message delivered by the voters today.


The Voters Take Over

We're about 15 minutes from the polls opening. Finally, we have a say in the matter.

There will be some morning coverage at the Fitchburg Pride website this morning, then there will be continuously updated coverage there -- with analysis here -- in the evening. Boy, Election Day is great.

Obviously, don't forget to vote. Put your early observations from the polls here. More later.

Go vote.

UPDATE, 10:15 a.m. -- I'm going to update this post throughout the day, as events and random thoughts warrant.

First, there's a story and a few photos at the Fitchburg Pride website (link above). Enjoy.

Second, turnout, not surprisingly, is soft. After a small burst of activity at 8:01, things appeared to be a trickle by 8:15, and that's still when people are popping by on their way to work. Svens says in a comment that he was #85 or so at 9:40. That's about, roughly 50 people an hour. Over 12 hours, that's 600 people. Multiply by six wards, that's 3,600 people. But 50 people an hour won't be coming in at 10 or 11, or 2 or 3. Long-time observers, like Ward 1 Councilor Dave Clark, said it was quiet this morning.

Third, if you read the local blogs (honestly, my favorite is here), there's a lot of "anyone but DeSalvatore" talk in the last few days. There's also some good talk about creating change and moving the city forward through this election. We'll see what happens. As the Unicow said yesterday, he might be losing a lot of material if DeSalvatore loses today.

Anyway, if haven't already, go vote.

Update, 2:19 p.m. -- Two things:

First, Mrs. Save Fitchburg did her civic duty just after 12:30 today. Memorial School was a ghost town. Does anyone have any evidence of decent turnout? Anyone? Anyone at all?

Second, and I hate to bring this up now, but I was just talking about it in the office, and figure better late than never. During last Thursday's debate, DeSalvatore said "slumlords" house 75 percent of the city's criminals. Where, oh where, did that number come from? What is the definition of a "slumlord," and how does he know 75 percent of the city's law-breakers live in their housing? How? Again, all apologies for bringing this up at the last minute, and hopefully it's trivial enough to not change anyone's mind. I wrote it down Thursday night, forgot about it, and then was reminded when I watched the debate again late Sunday night with Mrs. SF, and then forgot about it again.

Update, 3:55 p.m. -- From all reports -- pretty much all anecdotal, but all pretty consistent -- turnout is going to be higher than a lot of folks previously thought. I'm hearing that before 3 p.m, almost 800 people had voted at Ward 3. Ward 3 is traditionally the biggest in the city, but I figured that number or so for the entire day down there. You gotta think a big turnout, if that's the case, will help Wong and DeSalvatore, with a motivated change vote coming out, you gotta figure. Lots of assumptions here based on anecdotal evidence -- but it seems like that mid-teens percentage might be going by the wayside.

Update, 5:50 p.m. -- If "polls" is correct (see comments), we're looking at over 5,000 voters today. Considering the expectations -- I don't know if anyone really thought more than 4,000 -- that's a pretty good number. But is it? Is 20-25 percent really good? In this case, I think so. It also speaks to how people are paying attention this time around. Interesting, I say.

Just so you know, after 8 p.m. we'll be putting this post to bed. I'll put up a new post, which will include numbers, running totals, and whatever other little tidbits come up. When a winner is announced, it will be at Fitchburg Pride. We'll have a story up there this evening with quotes and stuff from the candidates. Some analysis will be here, after the story. Enjoy.

Update, 7:30 p.m. -- If you haven't voted, now might be the time to get going. Good lord, from all accounts just about everyone else has. We'll see if those numbers hold up, but it appears as if turnout is way high. Obviously the winners are the story of the day, but this is a very good and very close second.

Before all hell breaks loose: Thanks for playing today. This space has been informative, fun and interesting, all day long. Also, we're going to smash whatever record this page has had for views in a day. The old record was around 930. At least check, about half-hour ago, we were at about 820. I woke up this morning and vaguely wondered if it was possible to hit four-figures today. I think that's likely. Amazing. So, thanks for checking in throughout the day, and over the last four months. It's been fun, and the good news is the fun is just starting. We get six more weeks starting in just a few hours, when we know the matchup. Throw at-large in the mix, and it's going to be a wild 42 day. Yippee.

So, thanks again. I'm off to tuck Spawn 2 into bed soon and get ready for the onslaught.

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Monday, September 24, 2007

It's Prediction Time

OK, the preliminary election is tomorrow. Some candidates have been running for a few months (Lisa Wong), some for about a year and a half (Ted DeSalvatore), and some, apparently, for the last 35 years (Tom Donnelly).

Anyway, for one of the above -- and Ron Dionne (sorry, Ron) -- it all ends tomorrow at about 9 p.m. when the votes are tallied.

But why wait until tomorrow when we can begin to guess the outcome now. Here's my prediction, and we welcome yours. Remember, this is merely a prediction, and I wouldn't bet one dime on any of it. I think for two candidates, it's going to be an uneasy night.

I'm guessing turnout is going to be in the 13-14 percent range, or about 3,300 voters. All numbers below subject to change based on how that goes.

Tom Donnelly should win tomorrow. I'm guessing with about 1,350 votes, or roughly 40 percent of the vote. In a preliminary election, the base rules, and he has the best base. Also, let's face it, he is tailoring his campaign message so far to long-time voters. He's hammering away at his "35 years," appealing to elderly voters. It might turn off voters looking for change, but he has enough relationships and time in that he should finish first tomorrow. Despite is off-key work over the last month, he should get 1,000 votes falling out of bed tomorrow. Throw him a few more, and he wins this thing, easy. The question: Is 40 percent the knockout punch he wants to deliver, and make this thing seem like a done deal going into the general? Not sure it does.

I'm slotting Wong in the second spot, with 1,000 votes, or right about 30 percent. Her debate performance last Thursday night might have been the difference. She should do well with younger voters -- and by that I mean parents with young children, in their early- to mid-30s to early-40s. That's not a huge number, however, so she'll need some help from elsewhere. She has some good connections in community which will help, and as voters consider the financial situation, her MBA should come into play.

I think DeSalvatore is going to finish third, with about 800 votes, or roughly 25 percent. You can scan local blogs to gauge the general discomfort and distrust a large segment of the population feels about DeSalvatore. He has a motivated fan base, but an equally inspired opposition base. He will win a nice chunk of votes through his get-tough talk, but for every voter who likes it, at least one has written him off. I wonder if at the last minute, some of his soft support erodes as voters face that final moment of truth. If Wong is charging down the homestretch after last week, DeSalvatore seems to be straining at the finish line.

That leaves about 150 votes for Dionne, who has proven he can play well with others and really cares about the city.

So, there you go. You can ignore the numbers if you want, and stick with my Donnelly-Wong-DeSalvatore finish. Any thoughts?

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Friday, September 21, 2007

About Last Night

OK, I've been thinking about it for pretty much 12 hours now. I prattled on endlessly last night at Mrs. Save Fitchburg even though she was wrapped up in "The Young and the Restless" and the fortunes of Jabot (oh yeah, I pay attention). I haven't stopped thinking about it today, and I think it might have even crept into my dreams last night.

Yeah, I've had last night's debate on my mind non-stop, and in all that time, I haven't wavered from my conviction. In fact, it's probably only gotten firmer: Lisa Wong dominated last night.

Gone was the nervous, wonky, hanging-in candidate from a week ago. She was forceful and articulate from the beginning. She had all the answers, and she had the answers to the answers (more on that in a minute).

Whether it was a once-in-a-lifetime fluke or the pieces finally clicking, this was the candidate Wong fans had been hoping for when she announced she was running for mayor. If you're a fan, you have to be on cloud nine today. If you're in one of the other camps, you have to admit, she won last night. It was that clear-cut.

She was in such a groove last night, that even the peripheral stuff worked. She packed the room with supporters, who cheered her ever answer. Not that she needed it, but it helped build her momentum. Where was everyone else's cheering section, by the way? It was noticeable.

She found the right note for everything, best illustrated by her asking a puff-ball question of Dionne: Why do you want to be mayor? At that point, the candidates had asked somewhere between eight and 10 questions of each other, all of them pointing to a weakness or challenging a position of strength. No one had bothered with Dionne, who was comfortable, funny and honest last night, in a performance at least won him some respect, if not votes.

So, Wong makes the effort to ask the guy a question, and then follows it up in her "rebuttal" by saying she hopes to have breakfast with him when this thing is all over. Perfect timing, perfect message, part of a great night.

She took some punches from Donnelly, and threw it back. Donnelly, again, came across as condecending and seemingly upset that two people who have lived in the city a total of 10 years combined are running for mayor against him. He also continued to rail that the City Council is not responsible for the city's financial woes. Even Ted DeSalvatore has admitted the council should have done better (at least in 2006).

Donnelly's snarky "if you understood the charter" act was demeaning, and didn't put him in the nicest light. However, it might be an effective play. You have to think that the Donnelly camp knows that preliminary voters are likely old-school residents. His "I'm the long-time guy" message is likely playing well with that core crowd. It might piss off two-thirds of the voters, but if one-third jump on it and vote for him, he'll be seeing you on Nov. 6.

Beyond Wong's transformation last night was the relative disappearance of DeSalvatore. He had a solid, if not spectacular performance last Thursday (he might have been the winner by a nose last week). Last night, he kind of disappeared. While the candidates were far less nervous last night, Ted seemed to hang on to some of his nerves, especially when reading his opening and closing statements (while we're here, pet peeve: Ted's insistance on using "and/or" on a regular basis. It's just a speaking tic of his that for some reason jumps out at me. Meaningless, but there you go).

Part of it might have been that he was kind of ignored during the candidate-on-candidate question period. That took a bulk of the debate, and it was where performance fates were made and lost.

In fact, in reviewing the 11 questions (Dionne took a pass on his last shot), five of the questions were directed to Wong. Interesting. Why was she the focus so often? Impressively, she handled that relative onslaught pretty well. Donnelly took three questions, DeSalvatore only two. One was on his work background (which was still rather devoid of absolute specifics), and another on "zero tolerance" crimefighting.

So, maybe it wasn't his fault. He just didn't get a lot of questions. But the end result is that he was kind of on the sidelines last night.

Wong, however, was firing on all cylanders. She took Donnelly's snippy shots, and turned them back around, particularly when calling for accountability, which she said has been missing in the city. After panelist Jeff McMenemy rattled off a list of her proposed programs and asked how she'd pay for them, she delivered this nugget: "From how you stated it, it sounds like I might be the only with a plan." Great, great answer.

So now, the candidates are done with the wholesale public campaigning. They'll spend the last few days at standouts, events and doorsteps, looking for a few last votes. Considering the unsettled nature of this race -- anyone ready yet to pick definitive winners? -- the question now is, was Wong too late? A performance like this could make up a good chunk of minds. We'll find out if it worked Tuesday night.

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Thursday, September 20, 2007

Apologies, and some semi-InstaAnalysis

OK, I'm no IT guy, and I couldn't get the computer to work on-site. Sorry y'all.

That's too bad, because tonight was super-revealing. And for one candidate, it was a knockout.

Ron Dionne was funny, honest, and still slightly fuzzy on things, but he charmed the crowd throughout. A better night for him.

Ted DeSalvatore seemed to kind of disappear. Part of it was that during the question-each-other period, DeSalvatore didn't get a lot of questions asked of him. But he seemed to kind of be a third whell.

I'm not going to dig up my notes right now, that's for tomorrow, but Tom Donnelly came across as bitter and entitled. He made a number of mentions of his long-term status in the city, and was super-condesending to candidates on some issues. His maintaining of not-my-fault on the city budget still irks.

Finally, Lisa Wong, who turned in a remarkable performance. Simply, she blew the rest of the field away, going away. She was energized, visionary, and didn't say "goal oriented" once. Not once. Amazing turnaround. If you have been a Wong fan from day one, this was the candidate you were hoping and waiting for.

More in the morning. I'm angry, hungry, and haven't seen my wife in what seems like months. My loss, certainly not her's. Sorry, again. More here and at on the morrow.

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Here We Go Again

The mayoral candidates get together tonight for another debate, the last throwdown before next Tuesday's election.

This one isn't on live TV, which might mean a few things:

First, we'll be covering it live again tonight at the Fitchburg Pride website. We'll let you know when we're up and humming. We'll try to stay away from a dry re-telling of comments -- we expect they'll be similar to last week -- and try to do a better job capturing mood and atmospher. Should be fun. Another 3,100 words anyone?

Second, with the TV cameras gone, will these guys loosen up a little bit? There were a lot of nerves last Thursday. With the second go-around and no cameras, perhaps there will be some more energy. We'll see.

Finally, word is the candidates will get the chance to ask each other a question. I like that. Gee, who will Donnelly ask a question of?

We expect minimal changes in answers and messages tonight, so we'll be looking for tone and, well, performance. So, join us live on the internets a little before 7, and for Pete's sake, enjoy it.

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Signs, Signs, Sigh

The silly sign story from last week gained extra legs yesterday, when about 20 DeSalvatore supporters took to the Upper Common to protest the city's removal of signs.

This whole episode is pretty silly (I might that use word again. Just guessing.) DeSalvatore vaguely claims the city is targeting him and his signs, and says forces are at work against him. Overheated supporters get fed up, and hold a protest, bringing more attention to their candidate. Too bad Team DeSalvo couldn't get this worked up over, you know, a real issue.

On top of it all, organizer Chris Reed tries to play it cute, saying this isn't about a candidate and it's really about individual rights. Cote has been a DeSalvo supporter for a long time.

"It's not about the candidate anymore," Reed said. "Like our sign says, it's political bigotry."

So, you believe one of two things here: A city official (probably the mayor) has ordered a crackdown on DeSalvatore signs in a bit of political backstabbing. Or, Team DeSalvo is a little paranoid over their signs. There's really no inbetween here, so pick your side.

But here's the thing, DeSalvo has now gotten two stories in print on this silly blather, and I'm writing about it just days before the election. Sigh.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

An Important Matter

Bill Simmons is sometimes hack-ish, sometimes lazy, and sometimes relies too much on old jokes, but on this matter, he is 100 percent correct. Just do as the man says. Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose.



Why They'll Win, Why They Won't

As you may have heard, there's an election in six days. A week from right now, we'll be analyzing why two people won and two people lost.

Hell with it. Let's check it out now.

Ted DeSalvatore
Why he'll win: It's an angry time, and he's the angry mayor. Or something like that. Tapping into the unrest in the city, DeSalvatore is able to best articulate the mood of Fitchburg. For law-and-order types, his crime-first mantra is the winner. His 6,215 lawn signs gain him some votes.

Why he won't: That unshakable feeling that he's a little wild -- to the point where he closed his debate performance last week with a promise to behave -- turns folks off. While he can attract a fervent following, it's not a very broad following. Notable: He received donations of $200 or more from just 13 people. Thirteen. The question of breadth vs. depth hasn't been answered yet, but that should set off some alarms.

Tom Donnelly
Why he'll win: The best long-term organization in the race comes through. Whether it has been as a councilor for the last eight years or as a community activist for the last 35, Donnelly has more personal relationships in the city than the rest of the ballot combined. In a local race like this, that's all that matters.

Why he won't: In a city thirsting for change, Donnelly is the establishment candidate in the race. Even though he's been a city councilor for eight years, he refuses to take any responsibility for the city's financial situation, which is disturbing. In a wide range of platforms (on my doorstep, in a newspaper interview, and at last Thursday's forum) he has been extremely underwhelming, and that's being charitable.

Lisa Wong
Why she'll win: Voters decide they want the brainiac. For folks who put the city's financial situation at the top of their list, she wins their vote for her business-school approach. She also has created a nice knack of matching fiscal problems to home-front issues, whether it's schools or the dog catcher, making her academic approach somewhat relatable.

Why she won't: People are tired of hearing "goals-oriented," and aren't really sure what that means. Her relative lack of experience and youthfulness raise concerns. Her crown achievements, Putnam Place and Riverfront Park, don't turn voters on, who have heard as often as not that those aren't boffo successes.

Ronald Dionne
Why he'll win: Extreme ballot box malfunction.

Why he won't: He's done minimal campaigning, zero research, and is foggy on most issues. Breaking triple-figures is a victory.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Hit Me

So, Gov. Deval Patrick outlined his gambling plans yesterday, and surprisingly made a big bet. Three casinos statewide? It doesn't look like Patrick is hedging on this one.

It's a fun issue to talk about. Millions and millions in possible revenues is exciting. Gambling is exciting. But it might not get very far. House Speaker Sal DiMasi hasn't been much of fan -- to put it mildly -- and the House will be the stumbling block that DiMasi is going to have to get past to make this a reality. So, really, this might be a lot of noise about nothing, but noise that's worth paying attention to and considering all the same.

As I've said before, I favor casinos in Massachusetts. Considering the big money the Lottery brings in, gambling is here to stay in some form of another. Considering all the revenue that leaks across the border to Connecticut, why not keep some of that here? The days of Bugsy and Michael Corleone running casinos are over. There are some social issues to consider, but if those are your major problem, you'd better be ready to eliminate scratch tickets, too.

According to Patrick's proposal, three licenses will be auctioned off. Can Fitchburg find a way to get into the action? The short answer is probably not, for a bunch of reasons. First and foremost, the city hasn't been on anyone's radar screen, and plenty of other cities have been working on this for a while. Second, where? Probably your only option is the airport, which is pretty close to the highway. Third, does the city even want it? Worse things could happen, but it's highly unlikely you'd see it here.

So that leaves the ancilliary benefits for the city. Will this create money for the city's roads, schools and other things? Probably. Patrick is touting $400 million a year in new revenues. Certainly Fitchburg would see some of that. Wouldn't every dollar be a benefit to the city?

The city officials with the strongest voices on this one is Rep. Stephen DiNatale and Sen. Robert Antonioni. Hopefully they realize gambling is a reality the state must embrace through casinos, and help make this a reality for Massachusetts.

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Monday, September 17, 2007

Donnelly Loan Propels Him to Top

Head over to the Fitchburg Pride website and catch a rundown of the campaign finance reports for the mayoral candidates, which were due today in the City Clerk's office. As of this writing, the Pride is the only place that has it. Considering how things went down at City Hall this afternoon, chances are it won't be anywhere else tomorrow. We're guessing.

A couple of things, which you can read now or when you're done with the Pride story. Whatever works for you.

-- Tom Donnelly is at the top with almost $18,000 raised, but it took a $5,000 self-loan to get there. Interestingly, he had loaned his campaigns about $15,000 in previous races, and had never paid himself back. Huh. He has compiled the longest list of bold-facers in his donations list. a partial rundown is in the story.

-- Lisa Wong has raised over $14,000, almost half of it from out of town. Interesting, but that's about it for things worth noting.

-- Ted DeSalvatore has raised just short of $11,000, and has spent every penny. He's also carrying $6,600 in "liabilities," or, you know, unpaid bills. Things of interest? There's no listing of spending on campaign signs or printing. Chances are that's part of the $5,100 owed CAP Services under liabilities for "Marketing program -- Balance of Phase 1 and decorations," whatever that means. But I really wanted to know what he spent on all those signs. Also, there are only 13 individual donors listed. You can read more on that at the Pride.

Decency dictates we mention Ron Dionne raised no money, spent no money, but took about $120 in in-kind contributions in the form of printer ink cartridges. The steamroller rolls on, right there.

A few more nuggets in the Pride story. Let 'er fly here.

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Friday, September 14, 2007

New Poll

When you're done reading the exhaustive post below this one, vote in the poll down and on the right. Who won last night?



About Last Night

Warning, golf analogy ahead. And extremely long post.

You're playing a short par-5, and you've crushed a drive 285. You're about 200 yards away, and thinking maybe eagle. But there are woods on the right, and you push that three-wood right alot. So you have a choice: Sting a solid three-wood and start thinking red numbers, or hit nine-iron and wedge, and take your par.

Last night, the candidates for mayor kept the three-wood in the bag, and all laid up. Well, maybe not Ron Dionne, but more on that later. The three "major" candidates all took the safe route last night. Not one really showing a deep and fervent need or burning desire to be mayor. There was no grand talk about the future of the city. Hey, I would have taken "city on a hill" last night, and got none of it.

Instead, the candidates stuck to their basic messages -- none more so than Lisa Wong -- and gave relatively bland performances. I was in the room during the debate itself and thought it was OK. I watched about a half-hour on TV last night as Mrs. Save Fitchburg was catching up on TiVo, and thought the preformances were flatter on TV than in person. Certain no missteps -- which is obviously good -- but where was the person who made it perfectly clear that they wanted this job more than anything else in life right now? Was it nerves? Was it an overwhelming desire to not screw up? A little passion would have been nice last night.

Surprisingly, there was little passion from Ted DeSalvatore. He's spent the last 18 months firing up his troops with his unique blend of energy and rather plain speaking. He was muted and controlled last night. Some of that fire leaked out a few times, but not enough. He wasn't the "real" DeSalvatore. I got more energy out of him in the parking lot in 15 minutes afterward than he gave off in the 90-minute debate.

If this was your first exposure to DeSalvatore, you're thinking, "Hey, everyone said he's nuts. He's not nuts tonight." And, obviously, that's good for DeSalvatore. But it's not him. Certainly, every candidate is coached and planned before a debate, but it really showed last night with DeSalvatore. Where was the Ted who almost always at some point in a phone interview says something like, "I know I shouldn't say this, but..." Non-existent. In the long run, of course, this is good for DeSalvatore. A lot of people aren't sure if they can trust him to run the city. Every performance like this chips away at those concerns.

In some ways, this preliminary might come down to how primary voters view DeSalvatore. In theory, preliminary voters aren't casual voters. The 15-20 percent who are going to show up on Sept. 25 are pretty committed to voting. In theory, they have been following the race and candidates for some time. You can pick a handful of other blogs -- and look around here -- for the Ted of the last 18 months. It's a different -- for better or worse -- than the guy on stage last night. Which Ted is the real Ted? Which one do voters want?

Finally, on this issue at least, he probably shouldn't have ended with the "I promise I'll behave" line. It's just a reminder to people that there are some concerns about trusting him in office. Not a good way to leave things. Yup, supposed to be funny, and it was, but it just reinforces that doubt is out there.

The most heat during the debate was between Thomas Donnelly and Lisa Wong. Donnelly knocked Wong's acheivements at every turn. She scored nice points with the "plans are plans, but it takes action" line (not a direct quote, by the way) on Riverfront Park. Wong defended herself well, but no doubt Donnelly was driving that aggression train.

Why? Here's my theory, and it's theory: Donnelly would rather face DeSalvatore in the general than Wong. Team Donnelly has to feel like it's finishing the Top Two on Sept. 25. They probably feel like their finishing first, but does anyone really think that organization won't at least place? Seems highly unlikely. So, considering future matchups, Team Donnelly would prefer DeSalvatore in the general.

Donnelly didn't waste too many opportunities to go after Wong -- there weren't a ton, but he didn't miss the ones that were there -- but said nary a discouraging word toward DeSalvatore. You'd have to think if he were worried about the preliminary, he'd be an equal-opportunity aggressor. But he wasn't. So, I'm thinking he doesn't want to tangle with Wong in the general.

Otherwise, Donnelly's performance was probably the flattest of the three. DeSalvatore leaked some fire here and there, and Wong was the well-spoken voice of business management. Donnelly never really got fully comfortable, it seemed. More importantly, I can't get over his refusal to take some responsibility for the city's financial situation.

He attached to moderator Ralph Romano's contention that rejecting the budget would lead to chaos, and massive layoffs. I need an explanation on that one. Why would things grind to a halt under a 1/12th budget? The state used to it all the time. If you're spending and bringing money in at the same levels as the year before, what, exactly, is the problem that leads to massive chaos? Are there annual payments due July 1 or something? Donnelly didn't bring this up earlier, only after Romano did, so I feel he was using it as a lifeline. It went unchallenged by Wong and the others, but now I want to know. What would happen, and why? If someone can answer (Romano, this means you), share with the class.

Regardless, Donnelly's walking away from the financial problems as something the council could have helped. So what the hell has he and the other 10 people been doing the last eight years. He wants it both ways. He wants to point to his experience on the City Council, but wants to throw the council's biggest responsibility to the curb. He said at one point he has more "new plans" than the rest of the candidates. Outside of his financial team plan -- which is nice but not revolutionary -- what are those plans? Didn't really hear them last night, I'd say.

Donnelly said last night it's hard for all 11 councilors to get in line and battle on the budget. He's right. Although you really only need six to stick together and make things happen. That said, the council has squandered opportunity after opportunity to be financial sticklers, and that is his responsibility. I can't get over this issue with Donnelly -- and other councilors. It' s been bugging me for a week.

Between the toned-down DeSalvatore (whose eyes didn't stop moving back and forth when he talked) and the uncomfortable Donnelly, Wong did pretty well. She seemed the most well-spoken and on-the-issues. She lit on some specifics -- like the building of this year's school budget -- that probably only she knew. That said, she was dangerously close to being a one-line candidate last night. Anyone want to hear "goals oriented" one more time? It's her philosophy, and it goes to a lot of things -- her background, education, overall plans for the city -- but she seemed to message-programmed.

She stood her ground with Donnelly, which was good. She seems focused on finances, which obviously is key. But the question about her campaign from the beginning was whether she'd be overly wonkish and academic. She stayed away from the overly academic and detail-laden answers she can sometimes give when she has unlimited time to talk, but her overall plan seems like a applying a business-school model on a city. That's great, but some of that neighborhood talk that you got from Donnelly would have helped.

From talking to people over the last few months, it's pretty clear that the city's budget situation is their number one priority. If that's true, then it was a good night for Wong. Donnelly brushed off his responsibility for it, DeSalvatore doesn't think it's the city's biggest problem, and she presented herself -- if nothing else -- as a smart, educated business person with a plan. Does it excite? No. And that might be a problem later.

As for Dionne, he's a nice guy, but he was out of his depth last night. Without looking at my prodigious Fitchburg Pride rambling, he outright said he didn't know details on the city's budget, the charter, and what teachers are dealing with. He showed a lack of understanding on the police chief contract. He was woefully underprepared. Some of these same things are bound to come up next Thursday when the four meet again. Maybe he'll be better up to speed then. Somehow, I have my doubts.

It will be interesting what adjustments all three top candidates make next Thursday at Fitchburg State. Hopefully, next week, someone decides it's time to take a stand and pull out their three-wood.

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Thursday, September 13, 2007

Debate outpost

In an effort to keep things in one spot, drop your debate comments on this post, instead of spreading it around, if you think of it. Just to keep the conversation in one spot.

Remember, live analysis at

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Hey, There's a Debate Tonight

In case you didn't hear, there's a debate tonight. Coincidentally, there's a list of other debates on the front page of another paper today (or is it just coincidence...), but the first one -- the best one, dare I say -- is tonight.

There is exhaustive coverage tonight. FATV and AM 1280 "The Blend," co-sponsors of tonight's action, will have live coverage. Over at the Fitchburg Pride website, there will be live, blog-style, as-it-happens analysis, at the top of the front page. I'd expect some pregame reports starting around 6:30, with intermittent updates on the scene before the game starts.

We've got some good questions -- including some reader submissions, which is nice -- which helps. At least we have that going for us.

So, 7 p.m., channel 8 on the old FATV, 1280 on your AM dial, the Fitchburg Pride website to bring it all together for 90 minutes. Enjoy.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Old-fashioned fun and games

After taking a beating from the council last night, Mayor Dan Mylott returns the favor today with a screed against the council. You can read the highlights at the Fitchburg Pride website.

I had been wondering for a while while the council continues to hammer at Mylott, with him leaving and all. I'm not sure, it would be seem more and more likely this is a cover move by the council with voters. "Not our fault, ask him," they can say while on the trail. It is most certainly Tom Donnelly's view on the budget situation, based on last week's conversation with him.

Without a doubt, both sides don't really like each other, and both sides aren't working together at this point. But the council's refusal to take responsibility for the budget situation just doesn't sit well. At all. Their dealings with Mylott just seem all the more like pushing away what should be their share of responsibility. So there.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

What to Watch for

As you may have heard, the four candidates for mayor hit the stage, the TV lights and the radio airwaves this Thursday night for a mayoral forum. You can watch on FATV, listen on AM 1280 "The Blend," and get as-it-happens analysis on

Now, what's going to happen Thursday night? Can someone get an upper hand 12 days from the preliminary election? Who knows, but here's what should happen. The following is based on what I've seen and heard both from the voters and from the candidates in recent weeks.

For Ted DeSalvatore, he needs to prove to be a steady hand at the wheel. He'll bring the passion and the fire to Thursday night. He might put on the best performance of the night, if he's firing on all cylanders. He's just well-managed enough to have decent answers on some things, but maintaining his trademark energy. He also needs to make sure what he's saying is verifiable. In a meeting last week, he said Unitil is lobbying state officials. State records show no signs of Unitil having a lobbyist or making campaign contributions in the last few years. He needs to show he has a good sense of the city's finances, and how to improve them. He'll win the crowd with his talk of sweeping out problems, but he needs to keep them in the long term by showing some savvy and knowledge.

For Tom Donnelly, it's time to show a little thought and vision for the city's future. He threw a clunker at Mrs. Save Fitchburg a few weeks ago regarding schools (see past post), and didn't smoothly handle a few questions with Pride editors and reporters last week. He's relying on, well, being the guy who's been here longest. He needs to be able to talk about the future, though. He has a great organization and name recognition that might make this debate merely a walk-through, but he needs to get a little forward-looking and bit more specific based on what's been heard so far.

For Ron Dionne, he needs to prove he can hang with the big boys. Remember Grace Ross? Everyone thought she was a loon last year, but she proved to be probably as top of the issues -- and maybe more right -- than the rest of the gubernatorial candidates. Can Dionne do the same? He has an uphill challenge here, considering three months ago he admitted he hadn't read the city budget. But maybe he's done his homework.

For Lisa Wong, she has to prove that she can offer more than classroom application of business theories. She needs to prove she can lead, and she needs to prove she can get people in City Hall to buy into what she's selling. She has the best pure business background, and some wins downtown to hang her hat on, but she can't be the professor lecturing Thursday night.

So, there you go. A little insight into Thursday's fun and games. Don't forget, first pitch at 7 p.m.

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Thursday, September 06, 2007

In This Week's Fitchburg Pride

It's been a while since we teased El Prido. With the fall in full gallop and the paper keeping pace, I thought it would be a good time to get back on the self-promotional train.

First, in the spirit of super-self promotion, I'll be on "Politically Speaking" tonight, 7 p.m. on the FATV. I have no idea what the conversation will be exactly, but here's what I'd expect at the very least: Mayor's race, finances, the great Fitchburg Pride, and a thorough mocking of Romano's craplicious fantasy football team. Should be great fun.

Now, on the Pride:

--Hey, did you hear the Crocker Field concert is this weekend? More importantly, the concerts are here to stay, with organizers already planning next year's shows. Good stuff.

--U.S. Rep. John Olver celebrates citizenship with some of our newest Americans.

--For the college set, FSC has purchased some fancy new virtual reality bicycles.

--The third part in our mayoral candidate oped series. It's a must-read, as the others have been.

Also, we expect to unveil online with this week's paper a new "Election 2007" section on the website. It will include an archive of stories about the mayor's race that has appeared in the Pride, along with links to candidate websites, FATV's treasure chest of fun election material, and other stuff. Enjoy.

One last thing: Without getting too specific on this, and if you don't get the context, that's OK, and if you do, way to go: Public documents like -- oh, let's say -- letters from the mayor to the city council -- fall under the freedom of information act, not the public meeting law. We're making this short and quick, but in any instance, a government agency can ask someone requesting a document to file a written request, and then that agency has 10 days to fulfill the request. More than often than not, a written request isn't necessary for simple information. Sometimes, to be a pain in the ass, or to make life difficult if it doesn't want to cough up the info, the agency will ask for a written request just to be jerks. It's all part of the game. But a verbal request does not demand any response from the agency. So, if you might have, you know, read something that makes it sound like a city agency was violating the open meeting law, it's the wrong law for starters, and nothing was done illegally. Just so you know.

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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Questions ... and Answers?

Here's your chance, beyond the random stop on your doorstep, to ask a mayoral candidate a question. If your question is a good one, it just might get asked at next Thursday's mayoral forum, aired live on FATV, AM 1280 "The Blend," and covered as it happens at

If you have a question, you need to put your name on it, and you to send it to me via the old e-mail.

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A Laundry List of Items

It's been awhile, and not much has really gotten me in a lather lately. But a bunch of things are worth noting, so here we go...

--The news that the city ran a $60,000 isn't particularly disturbing to me. Here's why: It was no secret the city was pretty much spending every single dime in had last year. There was pretty much no wiggle room. $60G is less than one-tenth of a percent in a $95 million budget. It's like one of us needing to come up with $50.

This isn't something worth cheering, of course. It's a product of the shaky foundation on which the budget sits. But when you've given yourself no margin to work with, these kinds of things are going to happen. It just as easily could have been $60,000 in the black. Still nothing to cheer about, but just that slight change would keep all this off our radar screens. Forget the $60K, and look at how we got there. That's still the story.

--Far more disturbing is the situation with enterprise fund running a deficit. This is a situation that need prompt and appropriate attention. Someone needs to figure out what the problem is and solve it. Pronto.

That said, Ted DeSalvatore said this week the "whole enterprise business" needs to be investigated. Maybe, but it's not a problem with the "business." Enterprise funds are a regular way of operating, and work. You need to think long and hard about killing the enterprise and moving the program into the general budget. The city needs to figure out how to fill this current gap, but if you move the fund into the budget, suddenly the best and obvious way is to transfer money from other departments. It's the last thing the city needs right now.

--Mayor Dan Mylott is moving forward with the idea of placing the city's pension fund in the state's program, and doing the same with city employee insurance. Two most excellent ideas, as I've been screaming for months now. Particularly on the insurance side. This will save the money, if the unions don't try to screw it up.

--I watched the Ted DeSalvatore interview on FATV's "Inside Fitchburg" last night. I haven't watched any of the others, but I will. Host Bill Gates is mostly ignoring the policy and politics, and getting the candidates to talk about their backgrounds, how they grew up, and what kind of people they are. He does a good job, and it's the rare opportunity to get beyond handshakes, standouts, and policy bloviating.

--Football season starts tomorrow. I can't wait.

--Finally, some Sox talk. For some reason, I can't find the initial post from the spring, and it kills me, because I really want to get Rupert K out in the open on this one. Way back, when the Sox were killing teams, I said 95 wins would win the division. As of this morning, they'd need to go 11-13 the rest of the way to get there. For the Yankees to catch the Sox, they'd need to go 18-4 the rest of the way. That's right, 18-4, and with Clemens suddenly achey, they might need to go back to Mussina, which most Yanks would rather not see happen.

Yes, the Sox made it interesting -- and sweep by the Yanks next weekend would probably again throw New England into a tizzy -- but it certainly appears the Sox are in good shape. Rupert argued the Sox were doomed. I thought he was wrong then, and he certainly appears wrong now.

That said, I'm not totally comfortable with this team in the playoffs. A little more clutch hitting would be nice. Some semblance of a reliable Schilling would help. A health Manny is important. That and the fact that the Yankees lineup makes them dangerous in the postseason and the Angels are just flat-out good, makes me wonder about the playoffs. But, most importantly, they're in, and that all that matters for now. We can worry about matchups later.

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