Thursday, November 29, 2007

Let's Light up Downtown

Tomorrow's Fitchburg Pride includes an editorial encouraging folks to donate to the city's holiday decoration fund, and an incentive to get things moving.

So far, the city has raised about half of the $5,000 it needs to get things set up and sparkling for the season. We want to make sure this gets done, and are offering the following:

For businesses that donate to the fund, we'll match each dollar in ad space for that business in the Dec. 21 edition of the Pride. For individuals who donated $50 or more, the opportunity to place a brief (50-word) holiday message in the Dec. 21 Pride.

Hopefully this can get things cranked up a little bit and get the fund moving, and make sure there aren't any problems in the end. All donations should be sent to the Mayor's Office.

While we're at it, tomorrow's Pride includes a story on Arthur's author, the passing of William Aubuchon Jr., and an interesting op-ed from the Cleghorn Neighborhood Center. We hope you pick it up.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A Little Football

Just a head's up: The FHS football team tries to rebound from a tough T-day loss with a trip to the Super Bowl. The Division 1A playoff game against Shrewbury (11-0) is tonight at 7. We'll have coverage, including a picture or two, up at the Fitchburg Pride website sometime after the game this evening. In case you get curious later this evening.

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Ready for Change

Jan. 7 can't really get here fast enough.

The time between Thanksgiving and New Year's is traditionally a slow one, but throw in the upcoming change in administrations, and it is really pretty quiet right now.

Sure, the mayor and the City Council continue to squabble and point fingers over financial issues, but quite honestly, I'm pretty bored of all that at this point, and it's as much grandstanding as substance right now. It's also kind of reactive and loose-end tying at this point -- not much in terms of proactive or building momentum at this point.

In the meantime, Lisa Wong sits on the sidelines, waiting to get into the game. She faces sky-high expectations, but also has with her the promise of a New Fitchburg. Change won't happen overnight, but consider what's ahead: A new police chief (which might happen before Jan. 7), getting a handle on city finances, butting heads with the union, maybe cutting some jobs, getting the '09 budget ready, drum up some business downtown, figure out how to get windmills into the city (and, hand-in-hand, take on Unitil), keep CoCo Key moving, figure out whether or not fast-track permitting is a good idea (and get some industrial development into the city), jam a trash fee into the city (her plan on this is a good one), try to find a way to upgrade the schools quickly, and continue the drumbeat that Fitchburg is a city on the rise. There's probably somewhere between 2 and 2,002 other important things that I'm leaving off this list.

The problem is, it's tough for Wong to start really working on any of these things, or at least publicly start laying out her plans. She doesn't have the bully pulpit of the Mayor's Office yet. She doesn't have the job and the resources that come with it. She's meeting with tons of people, and starting to figure it all out. But the fact of the matter is she isn't mayor yet, and can't really start doing the job. In the meantime, Mylott might try to go out with a few nice victories, but he can't make too many major decisions without at least consulting Wong. Big decisions he makes now will be owned by her, really.

So, we're in a little bit of a no-man's land right now. The current mayor is certainly a lame duck, and the incoming mayor can't really spread her wings just yet. This coming on the heels of a year's worth of fantastic electoral politics is kind of a downer. But at least the council presidency is still out there to discuss. Sort of. Kind of. Jan. 7 can't get here fast enough.

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Monday, November 19, 2007

Meet Me at that Giant Exxon Sign

OK, we're dog-ass tired after last night, have short deadlines due to Thanksgiving, and there's nothing going on, anyway. So, don't expect a lot here this week. You've been warned.



Thursday, November 15, 2007

Where the Bandwagon Happens

This one isn't for Dave Svens.

Before I get going here, a note: I've been on the bandwagon for a long time. My only evidence: Flip through some posts from last winter, when I was writing about the Celtics even when they were totally irrelevant. I do care. I do.

Now, here we go.

Hop on board, fan. There's plenty of room on the Celtics bandwagon. They're 7-0. In a week, they could have a record as good as the Patriots.

I came into the season pegging the Celts over/under win total at 50.5. I'm confident right now it will be higher than that. And I'm also excited about this team's playoff possibilities.

Here's why. Simply, seven games in, they are already playing like a cohesive team. They play good defense (last night a great example). They move the ball very well on offense, and they share the ball. So far, all the happy talk from the Pierce-Allen-Garnett trio (I won't use that term that you might see in other places. There was only one of those. Viva El Birdie) has been proven on the court. Will it last? Really, why not.

One last thing: Kevin Garnett is absolute beast. A force of nature. If nothing else, watch the Celts to watch him. He's not Pedro in 1999 or Ortiz in 2004, but if he gets this team to the Finals, that might have to be reconsidered. He's that good, that motivated, that amazing to watch.

Beyond the bench (which has played quite well so far, thank you) and the point guard (who's hanging in), the biggest question going into this year was whether or not the Pierce-Allen-Garnett trio would be able to put aside their all-star resumes and play together. So far, so very good. There's a little bit of desperation in these three -- all in their 30s, with their last chance to make It happen. They won't go 82-0, but if Doc Rivers doesn't wear them out in the regular season, these three have the potential to make a run into June.

Last night's game was an excellent sign of this team's future. It was the second night of back-to-backs, and it was against a New Jersey team that was probably itching for a win after losing to the C's at home on Saturday. The first half was ugly, but in the second half, the Celts won mainly with defense. How many games in the last five years have the Celts won mainly with defense. And not just lock-down defense, but a steals-and-turnover defense that led to some easy hoops and a couple of nice trailer threes. Good stuff.

That first Jersey win was also impressive. Any time you beat a playoff contender on the road on the back end of a back-to-back, that's impressive.

The Celts still need to some proving. I'd like to see how they handle the Texas trip (Houston, San Antonio, Dallas might be the toughest three-game stretch in the league), a tough week or two, and certainly watch to make sure Rivers doesn't wear the three big guys out.

But right now is the time to get board the Celtics bandwagon. Not only good, but entertaining. Now, if only Comcast would start televising road games in HD, we'd be all set (another rant at another time).

Speaking of bandwagons and HD, you really should be watching "Dirty Sexy Money" (ABC, Wednesdays at 10). I started this one from the beginning, and was worried after a couple of episodes that it would be this year's "Studio 60." Great potential, but completely not living up to the potential.

Potential acheived.

Great characters, good story lines, and charming humor that is, well, darling (ha, ha. If you watch it, you get it).

This show is in some trouble, because it's got only four or five episodes left due to the writers' strike. It's not exactly a ratings blockbuster (why do I pick these great shows no one watches), and whatever steam it's building is likely to get doused by this strike.

So, figure out a way to watch it. I'm guessing has some episodes available on line. The last two episodes are currently available. That should be plenty to get you going. I'll answer whatever other questions you might have. Well worth the watch.

And while we're that it, watch "Friday Night Lights." It's all part of being a good citizen.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

El Presidente

Looks like Tom Conry and Dean Tran are the leaders for the City Council presidency, a job that is traffic cop, mediator, and consensus builder, amongst other things.

It'll be interesting to see which way this goes. Conry was solid as a first-termer, was the top vote-getter. He was on top of the financial issues, but rarely made big waves.

Tran, on the other hand, did make some waves. He was the proactive member of the council, and when things went south on occassion, he wasn't afraid to punch back. All of which are admireable traits in a councilor. But do they translate to the presidency? Tran gets along with all his colleagues, but remember those dust-ups with DeSalvatore? How does that play in the selection -- if at all.

Also, Tran had ideas, and moved on them. For example, the sex criminal petition and the landlord petition. Does he get distracted from proactive moves if he's running the council? In short, is council president the best spot for Tran to do his work?

All the above are questions that need a few answers before the council gets around to choosing a new leader. The selection process has certainly already started with phone calls, e-mails, and discussions. It will be interesting to see if this is a quick process, or if Conry and Tran -- and perhaps a mystery Councilor X (no ideas here, just saying) need time to find their six votes.

One more thing: Another indication of Wong's ridiculous victory. She got 5,863 votes. The next highest vote total on the ballot ws Conry's 4,303. She topped Conry by 1,500, and Conry was eligible to scoop up one of five votes, Wong one of one (obviously). Wow.

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Thursday, November 08, 2007

Meanwhile, Somewhere Else

Let's cleanse the palate a little bit and talk some presidential politics. Specifically, this out-of-nowhere idea of moving the state primary up to Feb. 5, from some God forsaken March date.

This idea was started by Tom Donnelly's pal, Secretary of State Bill Galvin, and today Gov. Deval Patrick and House Speaker Sal DiMasi said today they aren't opposed to the idea.

Galvin has two reasons: There are five state special elections scheduled for the Feb. 5 date, and it would save some cash to run the primary on the same day. But it also suddenly gets Massachusetts back into the primary game.

At the current March 4 date, the Mass primary would be a sad, sorry, forgotten affair, with the nominees for both parties likely locked up. According to the Globe story linked above, 36 states would have held its primaries by then. That would be like turning on last night's Celtics' game in the fourth quarter.

Now, if Massachusetts moves to Feb. 5, it joins 21 other states on what would certainly be dubbed "Super Tuesday," and would likely be the super-est Tuesday ever. Sadly, big states like New York, New Jersey, California and Illinois are planning on going that day, lowering Massachusetts' influence on the day.

It would take all day to figure out how many delegates the state has in comparison to other states (trust me, I started the process), but Massachusetts is 13th on the list of Electoral College states with 12 votes. So, that's consider that a general spot for the state on the delegate importance list.

That's nice, but California has 55 EC votes, NY 31, and Illinois 21. Those three states are also home to the first (NYC), second (LA), and third (Chicago) largest media markets in the country. Nine of the 12 states with more EC voters than Mass are slated for Feb. 5. Florida is the week before. Only Ohio (20 votes) and Virginia (15) are later.

In all, right now (according to Open Secrets), there would be 213 Electoral College votes up for grabs on Feb. 5, plus Mass' 12. So Mass would be roughly 5 percent of the votes available that day (using the flawed EC math, but it's probably pretty close. If you can figure out the true numbers, for both parties, have at it).

In short, a move to Feb. 5 certainly increases the state's influence in the election, but probably doesn't mean that Hillary Clinton will be holding events at Wallace Civic Center any time soon. You want to see the candidates? Make the trip to Nashua in the next few months.

Despite that rather depressing view, it's probably worth Massachusetts to make the move. If nothing else, that air of "it's over" would hopefully be missing -- or seriously taken out of the equation. It also -- and perhaps more importantly -- continues the de facto move to a national primary, which where this all probably heading anyway.



Wednesday, November 07, 2007

About Last Night

Now that we've all had a chance to sleep on it (sort of), a few things from yesterday's fun and games:

First, let's not let the inevitability of it all take away from what Lisa Wong has done. She entered the race for mayor going up against an incumbent city councilor in Ted DeSalvatore who riled up an energized base, a long-time city councilor in Thomas Donnelly who had one of the best citywide organizations in Fitchburg politics, and three-term incumbent Dan Mylott, whose machine was probably even stronger than Donnelly's at the start. Mylott, of course, read the tea leaves and bowed out gracefully in August.

But Wong, who had never run for office in Fitchburg and has lived here for a relatively short time (especially compared to Donnelly), not only won, but won by a historic margin. On paper, this should have been much closer. Donnelly had run citywide five times in the past. He's been running citywide for 10 years. Wong did it for the first time. She won by a 3-1 margin. She found the formula in time for a preliminary election win that was surprising in her big numbers, and then she blew away all expectations in the general election yesterday.

For Wong, it was a perfect situation. The city was looking for aggressive change. She was THE change candidate in the crowd. She also proved herself to be a shrewd, smart and hard-working campaigner. She didn't make many mistakes -- and no big mistakes. She figured out a winning message and rode it home. Part of being successful in an election is knowing when it is your time. This was a great time for Wong to run, and she took full advantage of the opportunity.

This election was also the dawning of the New Fitchburg, make no mistake. For an establishment candidate to lose by 40-something points, it's clear a new era is at hand. The changes in Fitchburg -- both demographically and physically -- have been subtle in recent years, but subtlety went out the window yesterday, as New Fitchburg grabbed the city for itself.

Last night wasn't the culmination to just the Wong campaign's work, it was either the end game to the city's change and progress over the last few years, or the start of even more rapid change. The regional housing market has forced changes in Fitchburg in the last years, as new homeowners have staked the city as their home -- whether it was Ted DeSalvatore, a couple moving into Bridle Cross Estate or planning on moving into the Falls at Arden Mills or the Johnsonia, or me. At the same time, infrastructure changes have primed downtown for development, and some successes -- most notably recently Destare -- have started to find their way on Main Street.

This was a sea change that didn't register down the ballot, however, but part of that may have been in the fact that there were few Wong-like candidates on the rest of the ballot. Where else were there young, hard-working, dynamic candidates? Dean Tran may qualify, but he was running for re-election. Marcus DiNatale may qualify, but he's already a School Committee member, and a legacy of what is right now the city's most powerful political family. Shaun Cormier was young and energized, but maybe too young. He got his seasoning this year, and hopefully returns despite his low numbers. The only other "new Fitchburg" possibility came in the form of Kevin Starr, at 35 and with a young family, he qualifies.

Wong was given a powerful mandate by the voters last night, one that the rest of city government will have to acknowledge and respect as it moves forward. Whether she can use that mandate as a club on the City Council remains to be seen -- an unlikely way to do business, to be honest. But it gives her an initial clearance to do things her way.

With a big win comes big expectations. One of Wong's top political jobs in the early going may be to limit expectations. You can make the comparison to Deval Patrick, himself a mandated change candidate, who set high expectations, and has failed completely to meet them. Unfair? Perhaps, but it was a situation he created for himself.

Wong will have an easier time dealing with the City Council and government than Patrick does with the Legislature and state government, but voters didn't just vote for Lisa Wong yesterday. They voted for their dreams, visions and hopes for Fitchburg. If there are larger expectations for a new mayor to handle, I don't know what they are.

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Now, the Real Work Starts

Since April, Lisa Wong has done little else than run for mayor. Outside of the occassional kayaking trip, she has knocked on doors, done standouts, and talked non-stop about her first campaign for public office.

Now, after she has put together a win for the ages, she can really get to work.

Never again will Lisa Wong be known as the "former executive director of the Fitchburg Redevelopment Authority." Starting now, she's "mayor-elect." In two months, it's just "mayor" -- with all the headaches, political roadblocks and troubles that go along with it.

Over the last six months, voters have looked at the mayor's election as the opportunity to create change in the city. Incumbent Mayor Dan Mylott, one of the city's canniest of politicians, read the winds early and bowed out of the race in early August. Wong read the winds earlier, and let them carry her to an impressive victory in the preliminary election, and a stunning 72 percent of the vote tonight.

Wong goes into the Mayor's Office with an impressive mandate, and she'll need every last bit of it.

Wong faces the twin challenges of nurturing the city's budding momentum while wrestling with the overwhelming problem of the city's financial problems. They are problems that are not going to get better overnight. Wong knows that, but will the voters? Will a slow rebuilding, that will take more than one two-year term, but allowed? Wong needs to make a good first impression, one good enough to get her elected.

So far, Wong has proven to be a fabulous organizer. She ran against someone who had run citywide five teams previously, and beat him by an unfathomable margin. She ran a smart, well-organized campaign that stayed on message and mission throughout. She'll need to bring that organization and focus to the Mayor's Office.

What happens first? Wong has been vague -- intentionally so -- about her first few months in office. Tom Donnelly has consistently warned since the preliminary election that layoffs or union contract renegotiations are vital in January. Wong has neither agreed nor disagreed with that, but she will have to come up with an answer in the next few months.

Wong has staked her claim as a smart financial agent of change -- and recently as the impetus for new business in the city. It is a bold statement -- attracting large, tax-paying businesses to a city that is generally regarded as struggling, with high taxes, utility bills and relative lack of transportation access. It is a goal that will take time and hard work.

The hard work won't be a problem for Wong. She proved over the last six months she's willing to do whatever it takes to achieve success. As a 28-year-old mayor, it's probably OK to label her an overachiever. But this next challenge is unlike anything she has ever seen.

She will now start trying to get the financial situation under control, a process that will take time, a long-term plan, and compliance from the City Council. She'll need to prove she can play well with the council, and get it to buy in on her plans. What if she needs to make deep cuts? As the candidate who positioned herself as the agent of hope and vision, cuts may be a difficult chore. She has discussed, broadly, improving education -- and likely increasing money for the city's schools. Where will that money come from? She promises to rip the budget apart and start over -- which fiefdoms will she implode, and what will the political fallout be?

Tonight, without a doubt, is a great night for Lisa Wong, and is a testiment to her hard work, organization and success. Not only did she win, but she won big. Not only did she win, but she proved that her message is one with the electorate.

Tonight, Lisa Wong proved once and for all that Fitchburg is ready for change, and ready for change for the better. A city of 40,000 people now turns its eyes to her first steps forward, wondering what those initial moves will be and whether or not they will be successful.

In the movie "All the President's Men," Ben Bradlee tells Woodward and Bernstein after a key break in the Watergate story to take a bath, take a 10-minute break, and then get back to work. Only the fate of the country and the world hang on the story. Tonight, Lisa Wong can take her 10-minute break, maybe a 10-hour break, but should know it all starts tomorrow.

The clock for Lisa Wong starts right now. She has two years to prove that her message of hope and vision can lead to success and momentum for Fitchburg. She has two years to prove that a 28-year-old daughter of immigrants is the perfect fit for what was an old mill city now looking for a new identity. She has two years to prove that all of the promise and potential of her campaign can be the future of the city. The clock -- and the real work -- starts right now.



Wong Wins

You've probably heard the news by now, and it was by a margin that even a certain hooded football coach would admire. Read more at the Fitchburg Pride website, and we'll have analysis shortly.


Tonight, Tonight

UPDATE, 8:18 p.m.: Lisa Wong is off to a big lead. With Ward 2 and 5 in, Wong leads 1,692-544.

We're live at the FATV studios, where I'll be blogging, writing and talking -- sometimes all at once. Should be quite an experiment.

One last turnout note: I'm a silly boy. I voted at about 6:30, and was number 1,089 in 3A. Sure, it's the biggest ward in the city, but all the same, that's big numbers. Is 8,000 possible? We'll see soon enough.

Time to multi-task. Visit here throughout the night, watch FATV, and check out the Pride website for stories throughout the evening.


Twelve Hours to Glory

Fitchburg is at an interesting crossroads. While there is a lot of good things going on -- downtown development is moving forward (Kang Yu excluded), new housing is going up all around Route 2, a major tourist attraction is on the way (CoCo Key), and events like this past summer's Civic Days that packed the streets -- there's that silly little budget problem that just keeps getting bigger.

Today, voters get the chance to decide which path Fitchburg will follow. In just a few minutes, the polls will open (and stay open until 8 p.m.) as the city chooses its leadership for the next two years. But the decisions those people make might last a generation, even more, as a city beginning to rebound tries to consolidate its momentum.

So, obviously, go vote today.

And, follow the proceedings here and at the Fitchburg Pride website. We're going to brave the elements shortly and have a story and photos online this morning from the polls. Probably weather-related, as it's likely the story of the morning. (If you're the type who likes it dry, the rain should be over mid-afternoon, according to We'll obviously have game-night coverage this evening. The Pride website was first with the winners in the preliminary, and we have every intention of trying to be first again tonight.

Here at Save Fitchburg, we'll be following the day the best we can, based on phone calls, e-mails and comments. Stop by and tell us what you see at the polls. Big crowd? Little crowd? Buzz around any candidates? Sneak a peek at the counter on your ballot box. Remember, the news of the big turnout during the preliminary was established pretty early on here last time. Let's do it again today. This post will be updated throughout the day, and this is the perfect spot to put in your comments. If you're on the ballot and want to schmooze for a few more votes, here's the time. And when it's all said and done, there will some anaylsis here late in the evening -- call it an election night nightcap, if you will.

And, finally, check out FATV from 7 to 9 p.m. I'll be on with a cast of thousands -- including some candidates -- as the results come in.

That's it for the promotion and the scene-setting. The game starts in about 10 minutes. Go get 'em.

Update, 9:05 a.m. -- You can read about today's election, with color and information from the early-morning activity, at the Fitchburg Pride website. Go right to the story through this link.

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Monday, November 05, 2007

Predictions, Get Your Off-Base Predictions

Just in time for tomorrow's election, a set of predictions that will be totally meaningless at about 8:01 tomorrow night, if not sooner. Enjoy.

First, a few notes:

I'm not even gonna try to guess the School Committee races (like I should be tackling any of these, but whatever). It's not that I don't know the candidates, but I have no idea who's winning these things. Hard to get a sense of what the public is thinking on those.

Second, these aren't my favorites or even people who I'm voting for in a bunch of cases. They're just my predictions on who's going to win.

Here goes.


Number: 6,000

Why: Actually, I think there's a chance it could be even lower.

I hear you saying, "Moron, 5,500 came out for the preliminary. You're an idiot." Yes, I am, but I'm an idiot who thinks the mayoral candidates in the preliminary pretty much maximized turnout. I don't think there too many more voters who are going to come out for down-ballot races, and I don't think the mayor's race is capturing a lot of new attention. So, there you go. I hope I'm surprised. And really, I probably should have learned my turnout lesson from the preliminary, but sometimes I need to be taught things twice.


Winner: Lisa Wong

Why: Simply, the math tells us so. After blowing out opponent Tom Donnelly by 2,200 votes, Wong started the general election in the driver's seat, and she's done nothing to let go of the wheel.

Here's Donnelly's perfect storm: Wong voters are complacent after the big win, and don't show up. Homeowners revolt on the tax issue. The weather is absolutely terrible, and only real die-hard voters show up tomorrow (assuming, still, that he still owns the old-school crowd). You'd think Wong would be aware of the first, the tax issue doesn't seem to be polarizing (more on that in a minute), and the first part of the day should be rainy and cold, although getting better after noon, according to

Donnelly has tried to bring it on home with the tax issue, but it's tough for him to get clear ground on this issue. Mostly, it's the fact that he voted consistently for the full 2.5 percent increases, and says now 2.5 percent is vital for the city. He's right, but it's tough to be the tax hard-liner when you support the full increase. Also, Wong says she'll make up any losses in rolling increases to 2.25 percent by bringing in new business. She says it so matter-of-factly, you just assume this is going to happen. Bringing in business to cover a $70,000 in property taxes (or $83,000 or $100,000), however, is no small thing. This is a fundamental part of the Wong candidacy: Bringing in new business. She's going to find some early success on that if she's mayor. Everything hinges on that, and it's easier said than done.

Second, I started coming around this morning on Wong's defensive/angry counter last Thursday. And here's why: She's 28 years old. Did any part of that performance come off as young, not ready for the situation, or intimidated? No. Never once in this campaign has Wong acted her age. It's really kind of amazing. And Thursday was part of that. She could have dismissed it or shrunk from the charges, but she responded forcefully. It took me four days to get here, but here I am.

Give Donnelly credit, despite the big task in front of him, he didn't quit, either through effort or dollars (that Weekend Mailer isn't cheap, y'all). He has driven hard to the end, but he came around the last turn with just too much ground to make up. His campaign has been talking up a late charge for the last few weeks now, but it needs the late charge to end all late charges. So, Wong's the prediction.

At-Large Council

Winners (in order, yes, I'm that bold): Dean Tran, Thomas Conry, Stephan Hay, Marcus DiNatale, Jay Cruz.

Why: Well, everyone likes Tran. He might not be everyone's top choice, but he seems like he's on everyone's top two or three or four. That's how you finish first in these things. Conry should be very strong. He might get caught by Hay and finish third to Hay's second, but for now, this seems about right.

I think DiNatale finds a way in. First, his name recognition will help. To say it doesn't is just silly. He's run a pretty good campaign, most notably an impressive performance in last week's debate. He might finish fifth instead of fourth -- maybe even third -- I think he's in the mix somewhere.

Cruz is a bit of a gamble in that fifth spot. He made a lot of waves with the dispatcher-police officer business, and turned off a lot of insiders. It wasn't his best moment. But it was a proactive moment, for better or worse. Also, based on the preliminary results, the electorate is looking for some change, and Cruz offers more change than some others on the ballot.

If Cruz is out, Annie DeMartino takes that spot. It's going to be close for DeMartino either way, like it was in 2005. But at the end of the day, I think voters are itching for change, and DeMartino gets lost in that wash a little bit. It's tough keeping her out of the top five, but there you go (Rachel, you may proceed with your launch sequence).

Rosemary Reynolds is in a similar position as DeMartino, but she's a non-incumbent former councilor looking for a way on. Considering, really, only spots four and five are probably in play, it's a tough nut to crack.

I really like Shaun Cormier a lot. He's a good guy who has worked hard and paid attention and probably deserves a better fate. But it's a tough, deep field, and he's going to probably have to take the loss. Hopefully he returns in two years. He and Patricia Carbone are two newcomers up against seven people who either are in office or have been in the past. Tough, tough nut to crack. If one of them end up top 5, it's the upset of the night.

Ward 1

Winner: Dave Clark

Why: Simply, Clark has put on a clinic in the last two years on how to be a ward councilor. Kevin Maynard wants his seat back, but Clark has given Ward 1 voters little reason -- perhaps no reason -- to vote against him.

Ward 4

Winner: Kevin Starr

Why: Starr and Steve Seney are locked in a pretty good battle in Ward 4 to take over for Ted DeSalvatore. This is a pretty tight race, but Starr gets the nod, if only because of the late news of Seney's business dealings and court dates, which have probably given voters pause right at the end.

Ward 5

Winner: Heads (or, Peter Allaire)

Why: Another tough one to figure, but I'm going with Allaire, and it might as well have been a coin toss. Honestly, no rhyme or reason for that one.

School Committee

Aw, hell with it. Here's two uninformed guesses. Why not at this point? Glenn Capone, Sally Cragin and John Chittick for the four-year seats. Although Bruce Marien might finish in front of Chittick. Why? Capone is a solid incumbent, Cragin is closely tied to Wong and her tidal wave, and Chittick has been running hard. I'll say James Reynolds for the two-year seat, but if you said Peter Stephens, I wouldn't argue.

There you go. Let's see how bad these are come tomorrow night. I'm guessing pretty bad.

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Friday, November 02, 2007

Some Late-Game Pressure

The Donnelly campaign sent out a press release late this afternoon, once again talking taxes and Lisa Wong. You can check out a story at the Fitchburg Pride website.

Seeing how you mentioned the Pride, this is a good time for a little promo of this week's paper.

There's a "20 questions" feature highlighting both candidates, and it's pretty interesting. One favors Charles Barkley, the other Pearl S. Buck. Both are fans of FOX television series. One likes steaks on the grill, the other salmon. Check it out.

While you're there, both Donnelly and Wong give thoughts through op-ed pieces. There's a story on the first petitions at-large councilors would file if they win this fall. And a harbinger of the election results might be found at the Crocker School.

Finally, there's a sparkling "Hidden Gems" special section in the paper. It's time to leave self-promotion behind and move to self-congratualtions. The gems section is pretty stinking solid. Pick it up when you get a chance.

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About Last Night

Let's get right down to it: Last night's mayoral debate was the chippiest of the bunch, as Lisa Wong spent much of the night either angrily claiming Tom Donnelly didn't have his fact straight, or defending her positions.

The story of last night was Wong's aggressive defense/angry response to Donnelly -- particularly on taxes and her work at the Fitchburg Redevelopment Authority. Until last night, Wong seemed to float above the fray and the occassional jab thrown her way. She never, for example, go too fired up in the past when Donnelly all but scoffed at her and Ted DeSalvatore as being unworthy to run for mayor.

But last night, Wong fired back, and she did it with fire and anger. She said he was flat wrong on most points regarding the FRA and her tax stance. Oddly, somehow, Donnelly managed to stay out of the muck last night. Sure, the Weekend Mailer (now officially capitalized in all references) and his tax charges started all this, but last night he wasn't the aggressor, really. Which was kind of odd.

An interesting moment last night came when Wong asked Donnelly if the tax issue -- and the Weekend Mailer -- were his ideas or his campaigns (although she called them something not-so-nice that had "hired" in it). Donnelly candidly admitted that his campaign advisors pushed him to open up on the tax issue.

(A brief break to note: Donnelly has been very honest -- even perhaps to his detriment -- during this campaign. It wasn't the best answer in his interest to say his advisors pushed him on taxes. He said last week, and again last night, that Wong did a very good giving info to the council when she was at the FRA. Give the guy credit for doing the right thing.)

Wong noted last night that a slip of the tax levy to a 2.25 increase and a change in the tax shift would have saved homeowners money (remember, Donnelly advocates no change in the shift and the full 2.5 percent increase to keep money coming in). After the debate, one of Donnelly's paid staffers cruised over to note Wong had never proposed such a thing before and said she was backpedalling.

Maybe. Consider this from Thursday's Sentinel. "Wong said she believes more discussion is needed on changing the shift from 137 percent to 136 percent and lowering the yearly 2.5 percent increase." Maybe that was the first time she threw it out there, but she did kind of, sort of, mention it before Thursday's debate.

Outside of Wong's demeanor last night (and I'm not sure it hurt her. It was just very noticeable), the other big thing last night was the clear differences between these two. The taxes are one. Wong's desire for fast-track permitting and Donnelly's anti stance are stark. Donnelly's assurance that job cuts or union renegotiations must ASAP, and Wong's long-term financial view are very different. And then their fundamental campaign message.

Think back to the summer, when the campaigning was easy and people weren't paying much attention. Donnelly talked about his knowledge of city government and the city in general. Now, he's the guardian at the fiscal gate, the one person who can truly do what it's going to take to get the city back on the fiscal rails.

More striking is Wong. Back in the summer, she was about as wonky as you could get. In an interview with the Pride before the preliminary, she was discussing her desire to figure out how much it costs to fill a pothole and then create a system that maximizes efficiencies to fill potholes, instead of using the current less organized system. Makes sense, no doubt, but you didn't hear any of that last night.

Assuming a Wong victory, this race was locked down for her somewhere between Sept. 13 and Sept. 20.

At the Sept. 13 debate, Wong was in her full "goals-oriented" glory. She muddled through that debate -- as did the other three candidates. A week later, at the Sept. 20 debate, she had shifted into the vision and hope candidate, and blew the doors off the joint. That shift didn't earn her the blowout preliminary win by itself, but it went a long way toward cementing the deal for her -- particularly with the core activists and observers who attended and watched carefully.

Last night, when she wasn't fending off questions about her work and her plans, she stuck to the vision and hope message. While Team Donnelly continues to murmur about a late charge, the sheer size of the deficit makes it a tough road back. Lisa Wong is likely four days away from being mayor-elect, and that vision and hope will have start becoming plans and changes to move the city forward.

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Thursday, November 01, 2007

Up and Running

This Death Star is fully operational. Follow tonight's debate at the Fitchburg Pride website as it happens. No Celts until tomorrow, the Sox hangover is just about gone, I mean, really, what else is there to do?

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Once More, with Feeling

Lisa Wong and Thomas Donnelly will meet in their fifth formal debate tonight -- on top of a handful of neighborhood forums, a number of speaking of engagement, and thousands of home visits -- in their last head-to-head showdown before Tuesday's election.

Say what you want about about the candidates, but there's no doubt these two have been very well vetted over the last six months. The issues have been poked and picked over endlessly, and the messages and bullet points of Donnelly and Wong are just about memorized.

That's a good thing. Make no doubt, the next mayor is going to have not only tough decisions to make, but tough decisions that are going to extremely important to the future of the city. Neither candidate will be able to say they eased into office.

So tonight it will be the last roundup. Wong fans will want her to look in control, confident, and visionary. Donnelly fans will want him to look experienced, prepared, and ready to get to work. Wong critics will want to pick at her inexperience and the general feeling that her talk doesn't match her intentions. Donnelly critics will want to define him as part of the problem and over his head. Really, at this point, doesn't that about cover it?

The debate kicks off at 6:30 at Fitchburg State College, and will be live on FATV. We're going to try to cover it live at the Fitchburg Pride website. We had problems at FSC last time, but have been told we should be clear for takeoff tonight. We'll update here when we're up and ready this evening.

So, join us, won't you, for the last big stage for the candidates before this thing goes to the voters. You've come this far, why stop now?

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