Monday, September 29, 2008

This Makes No Sense

I'm no economist -- my lack of paying attention in macroeconomics is still one of my great collegiate regrets -- so I'm not exactly sure what killed the "rescue" plan, but according to the early-line AP report I just read, it sounds like more politics that the economy are to blame.

This whole situation makes no sense.

For starters, why did House leaders put to the floor a bill that might not have had the votes to pass? Don't you do head count after head count to make sure you have the votes before this goes to the floor? The Dow is currently down 566 points. Would it really have been worse if they had taken one more day to smooth out the wrinkles? I really, really, don't understand this.

Much of the first part of the story deals with lawmakers being edgy about being re-elected if they vote for this. If they think it's the best thing to do, could someone please grow a pair and vote the way they think is best for the country? It's not like we're potentially facing a massive fiscal meltdown or anything. I know, I know, getting re-elected is the top priority for anyone in public office, but at some point don't some votes become bigger than that? I'm not reading "I wasn't going to be forced into a bad vote five weeks before election." I'm reading "I'm not voting this way before election." That's two very different things. It's a sad reminder of how these people work sometimes.

The bottom part of the story deals with Nancy Pelosi and apparently her nasty, partisan speech that kind of closed the debate. Some congressmen said they voted against based on that speech alone. I don't know who gets more blame here, Pelosi for not keeping her big mouth shut until it was over (jeez, have a press conference after if you have to), or lawmakers who couldn't rise above her pettiness and tuck her ridiculousness aside and do the right thing.

For what it's worth, Olver voted in favor. It looks like, with me going through the roster on memory, Lynch, Tierney and Delahunt voted against.

Like I said at the top, I'm no economist, so I don't know if this plan was really that good or not. I also don't know if the now-familiar claim of "if we don't do something -- fast -- we're screwed" is 100 percent true, or part-truth, part-guess, part-spin.

But I do know this: Based on the early returns, it sounds like politics -- and not simply doing what seemed to be right -- played a giant role in what happened today. Who knows how this shakes out in the wash, but the first blush of this one is pretty lousy.

Not to get too "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" here, but beyond some financial stability, I think what people want to see right now is a leader. Someone who can say "we're going to take care of this. It might not be pretty, it might hurt some, but we're going to figure this out." That giant sucking sound you hear right now is Washington.



Thursday, September 25, 2008

Who's 'The Guy?'

Before diving in, a brief thought on this bizarre McCain campaign suspension idea: If McCain had said "I'm going off the campaign trail, dropping my debate prep, and concentrating on this crisis for a few days. If my debate performance stinks on Friday, too bad for me, but the country takes precedence," that would be one thing. But the whole suspension -- even taking down ads -- makes it look like desperate grandstanding. Why take your ads down? What does that have to do with it? Running ads don't effect a darn thing. McCain may have had a good idea here, but he overplayed his hand.

Now, on with the show...

Yesterday afternoon I had a wonderful lunch with someone who has played a role in city government and politics for decades. But afterward, I think we both went away a little frustrated and discouraged on one particular issue.

What we decided is that there is no absolute power player in the city who can mobilize forces, get people together, set a goal, and make it happen. In short, there's no "The Guy" who can demand results on a shared priority.

The mayor can be that person, but usually it takes a mayor with a longish tenure and the mandate to look forward. The current mayor has a shortish tenure, and is still focused on the city's survival.

How about other politicians? Stephen DiNatale seems to be a capable representative, but hasn't shown the ability to be the force of nature that demands people make something happen. Jen Flanagan is completely unproven in this realm, and isn't from the city. I don't know of a councilor who has the power to pull something together. Is there a business leader in the city who can fill the power void?

What we're talking about here is someone who has power, ability, network and resources to get the power players in the same room and say "This what we're going to do, and all of here are going to make it our top priority until it gets done. And we're going to get it done." And then they make a big public display and keep talking about it until it happens.

I think back to the Crocker Field restoration event at the Fay Club a few weeks ago (read about it here). The room was full of the city's power players, but I don't think there was The Guy who could grab the city by the scruff of the neck and drag it forward. The Crocker Field folks are looking for $3.2 million overall, and $900,000 for FieldTurf. It appears to be a very significant mountain, so Crocker Field can be more than a few dozen times a year. A great idea for the city, and should be a priority.

But there's no one who can organize all the leaders and demand results. There's no force of nature that says "jump" and gets people leaping. I think back to last year's holiday lights fiasco, where the city needed $5,000. There was no one to step up and take that over and make it happen, and that was for a measley $5,000.

There are dozens of priority projects for the city, but no one who can say "OK, we're doing this one first, everyone get on board." There's no one who can sit at a table with the 10 most important people in the city, demand unity and action, and get something done. There isn't The Guy, who through sheer force of will and power, makes stuff happen.

Or maybe there is, and I don't know who it is. If there is, now would be a good time for The Guy to step forward. It's a void in leadership that needs filling.



Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Our Fickle, Fickle Queen

I was driving down River Street this afternoon, and sadly noted the (waaaaaaaaay tooooooo eeeeeaaaarlllllly) closure of Dairy Queen.

Not to say I didn't know this was coming. I went a few weeks ago, and roughly half the Blizzard ingredients were blacked out. The end was near, my friends.

While I enjoy tasty high-brow ice cream, I have a soft spot for Dairy Queen. Particularly Blizzards, generally peanut butter cup. I only hit it about a half-dozen times during the summer, but it's always with great anticipation. I like frozen chemicals.

But this mid-September closure (OK, OK, late-September) is an outrage. A true frozen treat crime. I mean, there hasn't even been a frost yet.

I don't know much about the economics of ice cream stores, but I do know that it's a sad, sad day when you realize the Dairy Queen is closed. I'm just glad I wasn't on a Blizzard run when I found out.

I know, I know, the one in the mall is still open, and that's nice and all, but I almost never go to the mall. It also doesn't have the same vibe. Jeez, they don't even ask "For now or take home in a bag."

You can go back to living a real life now.



A Good Move on Stabilization

The City Council did the right thing last night and approved a $600,000 transfer to the stabilization fund from free cash. Here's why:

First, it sends the message that the city is no longer interested in spending every single penny it gets its hands on. You want fiscal responsibility and conservatism, you're getting it (at least in a small, starter step). This $1.3 million in free cash set off something of a small feeding frenzy as a number of entities started drooling over it, but it's a good message to send that the priority is still shoring up the city's financial position and not spending.

Second, I'm pretty confident in guessing that if a few bucks are needed to settle union contracts, the council will provide the eight votes necessary to move the money. If there was a hold up on this, it was that a transfer out of stabilization needs two-thirds, while a simple transfer needs a simple majority. But considering the council's clearly expressed desire to take care of the contracts, it seems very likely that they'd maintain that priority and take it out. The one problem for the unions, however, is that who knows what might happen in the meantime, suck out some of that money, and make it unavailable. But the final piece I'd consider is the political factor. If Wong presents a police contract, for example, three years late and asks the council to pay it, who's really going to vote against it. So I'm not overly concerned.

All in all so far, the mayor and the council are doing the right thing with the free cash. There's still that question of what's going to happen with the rest of it, and it might be a messy battle of priorities, wish lists, and other territorial factors. But the first steps have been positive.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

My Obsession with New Hampshire Grows

If you go back a few weeks, you'll find my last post about New Hampshire and its potential role in this year's presidential election.

I've been picking away at this particular scab, and my obsession only gets larger. Certainly Florida was The Story in the 2000 election, and rightly should have been. And always will be. But...

Did you know that Bush won the Electoral College 271-267? Or by one more than the magic 270? And that he won New Hampshire by only like 9,000 votes (like 1.5 percent)?

The Electoral College map looks so close, still, that I continue to wonder what is going on with our neighbors to the north. N.H. will be one of the first battleground states to wrap up on Election Night -- maybe the first -- but it might provide the four votes Obama or McCain needs to win the White House. I'm picking up scattered reports that some locals are organizing to go northward between now and Nov. 4, but not too much.

I know at least one faithful reader here lives in N.H. (yes, Derek, I'm looking at you). If you live in the Granite State, or have some insight into what's happening up there, please share. My obsession needs some soothing.



Thursday, September 18, 2008

About Tuesday Night

OK, OK, it's a day later, but whatever.

Brian Knuuttila was smart enough to know early on that Fitchburg would be a key community for him. Unfortunately for him, he wasn't able to come through with the performance he needed to win.

Not that this was very clear back in February, when Knuuttila and Jen Flanagan jumped into the Senate race, but the map was stacked again Knuuttila from the beginning.

Under Knuuttila's best case, Flanagan dominated Leominster and the southern 'burbs, while he cleaned up in Gardner and the northern burbs, while stealing Lunenburg and trouncing in Fitchburg. The only thing he got was the Gardner part.

Part of it was what was going on down the ballot. Flanagan earned more support in her key communities because there were other elections grabbing attention -- and voters. Leominster had a House race, as did Clinton and Sterling. It was particularly helpful in Clinton, where Flanagan rolled up a 644-vote victory.

For Knuuttila was cursed with a smaller base in Gardner, which is half the size of Leominster. With no House race there, he was immediately playing big catchup.

From the beginning, Knuuttila thought Fitchburg would be where he won the election. He started the race with tons of support from city councilors and others, and his growing up in the city and being a rep for part of it for years were considered benefits. However, Fitchburg didn't have the votes available that Knuutila needed.

A few weeks ago, I was talking to a Knuuttila supporter who though maybe a 60-40 victory for Knuuttila would be enough to win. But that didn't consider the low turnout. And the Fitchburg turnout was dreadful by any measure -- and for Knuuttila it was beyond fatal. Consider: Flanagan earned more votes in Leominster (4,234) than the total votes cast in Fitchburg (3,567) by almost 700. Yikes.

All that said, Knuuttila failed in a number of areas. He split northern town Ashby, and lost in Townsend. He needed a win in Lunenburg, and lost by 273 votes, winning only 35 percent of the vote. In Fitchburg, he won by only 267 votes, winning only 53 percent. His supporters were hoping for 60 percent, and he fell well short of that standard.

It was, in the end, a weird campaign. Where were the standouts? I didn't see one, and I drive through the intersection of Electric Ave. and South St. -- a popular standout spot -- almost every day. Where were the sign-holders on election day? While the candidates had a fiery distaste for each other, it didn't carry over to the campaign, which was dull, listless, and boring.

One Flanagan supporter said there was so much concentration on likely voters -- which might have explained the ridiculous amount of mailers -- that there was no effort to reach unlikely voters who weren't coming out. That might have been a sound strategy for Flanagan, but Knuuttila needed to get voters out in Fitchburg and Gardner to win, and he didn't do it.



Wednesday, September 17, 2008

One Proposal for North and Main

The Fitchburg Redevelopment Authority received one proposal -- with plans -- today for the three-acre site at the corner of the North and Main streets. You can read more at the Fitchburg Pride website.

Quick summary: One plan includes a drugstore, one doesn't. Both include a building that would be retail on the bottom, student housing on the top. No details on what happens to ownership of that building, but I'd guess -- guess -- with retail involved that it would stay privately-owned and leased to the college. It had better be.



Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Flanagan Wins Senate Seat

All the results aren't in, but Flanagan has a lead of over 3,000 with Gardner done, and most of Fitchburg in. She dominated in Leominster, Clinton, Sterling et al, and played it semi-close in Fitchburg.

For more, go to the Pride website. We'll be updating throughout the evening.

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Election Day Roundup

It's primary election day, although there's not much else on the ballot but the state Senate race. That should be enough to motivate people to get out and vote, but I'd be surprised if 5,000 voted. Heck, 4,000 might be a good number. Seems like people are snoozing through this one.

Anyway, I won't be in Fitchburg all day, and will be voting tonight. When you hit your local polling place, note what number your machine is at, and give any other details from what you see at the polls.

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Monday, September 15, 2008

Fitchburg in USA Today

As part of a series of stories looking at the presidential campaign in each state, USA Today features Fitchburg today.

Nothing overly new to folks who live here. But it's always interesting to see how someone dropped into the city out of nowhere looks at Fitchburg.



Saturday, September 13, 2008

Who's Sending You Mail?

You might have gotten this in your mail today. Notice, in the small print, that it's paid for by MassAlliance. Who is MassAlliance? Good question.

According to its website, "Mass Alliance is a powerful, united voice for the broad progressive movement in Massachusetts politics. We are a coalition of twenty-two progressive organizations committed to collaboration, education, advocacy, and electoral work to advance the progressive agenda."

Who's in the coalition? The Boston Teachers Union, Clean Water Action, the Democratic Socialists of America, Mass Teachers Association, Massachusetts Peace Action, Planned Parenthood, the Sierra Club, and more.

It's worth noting in its campaign finance report, MassAlliance had raised and spent roughly $600, and the expenses went to consultants. No word of printing or mailing costs. It's also worth nothing that MassAlliance raised $2,000 in 2007, and spent it all on consulting. 2006 was more of the same.

Now, I don't know the details of the law, but I think there's a possibility that a member group can pay for the mailer, and slap the MassAlliance name on it. Put the flyer clearly says "Paid for by MassAlliance." Maybe they're going to pay it off later, and the expense and revenue don't show up in the last report. If true, this is a new practice for an organization that has not done mailers in the past.

Also in the mail today was a pro-Flanagan mailer from the Mass Teachers Association. That's twice in a week from them. Mass Nurses also had a mailer this week. Honestly, I didn't notice if past mailers from Flanagan were from her campaign or interest groups. I couldn't find a campaign finance report for Mass Teachers. Sorry about that. I'm not sure why, but it has me frustrated.

So, in adding up what was spent on this campaign, it's worth throwing thousands of dollars more on the Flanagan side. She's not spending it, but she's certainly reaping the benefits of special-interest groups spending on her behalf. It still falls waaaay short of the $200,000 Knuuttila claims he heard she'd raise, but all the same, worth noting.



Friday, September 12, 2008

About Last Night

OK, sorry this is almost 24 later, but it's been busy lately, if you haven't heard.

Anyway, thoughts about last night's hoedown between Jen Flanagan and Brian Knuuttila...

First, I wasn't there, and I get the feeling that I'd think a little differently if I did, and I think I probably wanted to be there in the end. So, remember, I watched this on TV (like most folks) and missed some stuff if I was there, I think.

For starters, neither one blew me out of the water, but I was less impressed with Knuuttila. But I'm not sure it's entirely his fault. His opening statement (how much longer was he planning on going, by the way) sounded mysteriously similar to another opening statement/message we heard on the same stage a year ago. He seemed to be picking up the "career achievement" mantle from Tom Donnelly. Wasn't inspiring then, isn't now. Yes, Knuuttila has had an impressive life as a police officer, lawyer, et al. (By the way, that special attorney general stuff is a designation given by the AG's office to allow lawyers to work on stuff. It is almost meaningless, but Knuuttila brings it up constantly). But he never tied pulling people over on Route 2 to being an effective senator. Yes, it gives him a background in public safety that Flanagan can't match, but he didn't say how he was going to use it.

That said, Knuuttila got off the line of the night with the "but you need my help" line when Flanagan asked why he was coming back. Flanagan had a point: Knuuttila did a lot of Legislature bashing (House bashing, really), even though he was a House member until just a few years ago. But Knuuttila used it to his advantage with that tasty.

I'll admit, I forget the exact thing that sent Flanagan off, but she was clearly steamed. I told Mrs. Save Fitchburg, as Knuuttila was still asking the question, that she looked steamed. She didn't hide it in her answer. Folks who were there said she never calmed down -- and she did look ticked the rest of the night -- and said she stomped out after the debate quickly. Not good times. Not really sure what it means, but I don't think it's very good.

In the end, they played pretty close to type. Knuuttila played to his career history and almost positioned Flanagan as the incumbent. For those and question whether Flanagan is Senate material, her performance didn't make them feel much better about that.



Thursday, September 11, 2008

Live from FSC: Coverage of the State Senate Debate

6:45: Fifteen minutes until start time and the auditorium is pretty empty...probably because every Knuuttila and Flanagan supporter has lined the streets of the college holding signs.

7:00: President Antonucci kicks it off, starting with a moment of silence for victims of 9/11.
About 3/4 of the seats full so far, including all of the Fitchburg city council, a few wearing Knuuttilla t-shirts. 

7:05: Opening statement from candidates

Flanagan- Talks about being from Leominster, and going to FSC. "I have been invested in my community for as long as I can remember" She feels blessed to have done so much at a young age and wants to do more. "This region is very very delicate." Gang violence, transportation needs, health care needs. "I have worked from the ground up, I have made myself available."
"I am in this for the long haul, I will continue to work for you" She said she is criticized for being a one city candidate, but said it is not her fault she only represents one community, but has always worked for the region. "I felt I represented my city well." Abilities she has shown in the house thinks will work in the senate. Already has experience collaborating with the senate.

Knuuttila- Took a few minutes to mention his cousin, Doug, on plane that hit the south tower on 9/11.
He and his cousin went to school  here in Fitchburg. Spent 5 years on active duty in Marines. 
In charge of 67 individuals at that time. Was police officer, patrolled FSC. Worked at various police departments in the area. Was also a firefighter, and got his law degree. "There is nothing like defending or making 45 bail arguments to keep someone out of jail so they can be at home with their family." He said he is the true regional candidate.  Currently Worcester County Sheriffs general counsel. "My experience in public safety continues to this day."
Encouraged people to get out in vote. 

7:15: Would you pledge to serve full term? Why consider getting out of race?

Knuuttila: left during 5th term, 5th. Glodis approached him, needed general counsel. Had inmate lawasuits hanging around the neck, needed accredidation. Like everything else, timing is everything. Told Glodis wanted to provide with staff and constituency until next state rep. was elected. 
Other issue, we were told my opponent would raise as much as $200,000, but then found out wasnt true. political science 101 move .

7:20: Voted against giving $150 million from states rainy day account to cities and towns. regret that?

Flanagan: I voted that way because time and time again in our budgets, the budgets are piecemeal. I thought the money was going to go to re-occuring expenses. My vision is to make sure our cities and towns are taken care of, but have to be responsible with that. 
No one wants to cut public safety. But difficult times you make difficult decisions. The truth of the matter is, we have peoples lives in our hands. Take the votes that are necessary.

7:25: If voters repeal state income tax what will you do?

Knuuttila: I would have voted for $150 million on stabilization account. Make no mistake, question 1 is extremely dangerous. Look back to similar ballot initiative in 2001. People upset income tax wasnt rolled back to 5 percent by legislature. 
A loss of 7 billion. It is going to be devasting. Stands a good chance of passing because of inaction of legislature.  I am firmly against it (question 1).

7:25: No reform to CORI, some say it is a barrier. Do you support reformation?

Flanagan: Been a major issue on beacon hill this past session. CORI reform needs to happen. Commonwealth puts a lot of money into rehabilitating criminals in jail. Once they come out of jail they are shut off. Shut off housing, jobs. Had a man come into her office, hand her a resume, and asked what qualified for. He had a dismissed manslaughter charge from 12 years ago, and still cant get job or housing. I absolutely support CORI reform would do again if came up in leg. next year.

7:30: Would you support repeal of gas tax or wind turbine?

Knuuttila: Would support any renewable or green energy source. But alt. to repealing gas tax. In 2005, we created a law that gave $800 in tax deducation for fuel assistance in winter months. Also took initiative for $600 tax credit if taking energy efficiency steps.
During FY08 budget process amendment to have that law extended, and my opponent voted against it. It is not just one solution, a number of things you can do, and this is one of the tools in the shed my opponent took away. This is catastrophic people cant pay $5 a gallon.

7:35: Do you think your vote to keep gay marriage off of state ballot was in line with district?

Flanagan: That vote wasnt about the Democratic stance. The people of my district at the time had said to me, its their life. I'm catholic, i believe people ought to get marry. I know churches have a right to not marry people. I was very comfortable taking that vote. It is a right people have and a right we need to honor.

7:35: What would you do to reverse fact only state spending less on education

Knuuttila: Funding for education is quite frankly the most imp thing we can do as legislators. I was involved in increasing education funding. Antonioni brought more money for education. A lot more needs to be done. Leominster high school has more buckets than books. Fault in SBA for letting buildings become what they are today.

7:40: Do you think health insurance program has been successful?

Flanagan: Mass has undertaken one of most complex issues, proud to be part of this. Proud to insure over 1/2 million people. Bugs to be worked out, but that is what happens when first in nation. Found more poeple are now obtaining health care in the right why, not in piece meal way. I think we need to continue on track of health care reform, and affordable plans are offered. All about a partnership. State, employers, employees. I think we have done a great job in Mass, and need to continue. Will see benefits later in life, healthier people. 

Now candidates ask each other a question:

Knuuttila: Voted against amendment for extra $15 million for schools. Extra $15 per pupil for materials. How do you explain this vote.

Flanagan: not an anti education vote. need to make sure there is funding for cities and towns, but where is money coming from? to allocate an additional set of money when we didnt know where the money would be coming from. there are tough votes on beacon hill. i work in the classroom as a junior acheiver volunteer. cities and towns are also responsible, contributing to what students need. if we continue to increase at every turn, not being responsible, not providing for their future, providing for their today. we do things in ways we can get it done.

Knuuttila: But this would have helped a little bit more, and you voted against it. It wont happen in a lump sum, it is a brick in the wall, and this would have been one more brick in the wall. the though vote, the tough vote, rep. would have been the money to the cities and towns.

(loud cheering for Knuuttila)

Flanagan: What is your proposal for funding dedicated revenue stream (for health care reform)?

Knuuttila: Even though it is the first in the nation, it is broken. Penalizing employers and employees for not having or offering appropriate health care. Cant piece meal stuff like this. This is an excellent example of this overextension. When I take office in Jan. revise this program, to find the funds where they can be found. 

Flanagan: Talk about Leg. taking steps without knowing where money is coming from. That is just what you said to me with education question. There is no one way to get this done alone (health care reform). Sometimes it takes a tax break, sometimes people dont pay attention until there is a consequence.

(loud cheers)

Knuuttila: Flanagan was given a 38 rating for voting on bills by AIM. Miserable voting record, has driven out good paying jobs. What will you do?

Flanagan: If big companies have problems that is fine. I have family members with small businesses. It is not always about catering to big business. We have obligations too. I am not to worried about my aim report card, worried about my people here. 

Knuuttila: What are you talking about? I worry about the people in my district all the time. AIM report card is just that. Tells who is keeping good paying jobs in Mass. Will you give those people a little extra?

(loud cheers)

Flanagan: What do you plan to cut to fund fuel assistance?

Knuuttila: We had a tool in the shed. The point I made  a few minutes ago, is that you voted against it. It was in existence, and now it is gone. We need it this winter. Much more needs to be done, but this is a good example of what the leg. can do to help people with their high home heating costs this winter. So here is an example of what you can do, or i intend to do when i am the next state senator. 

Flanagan: It doesnt answer the question of what programs will be cut. If the leg. is so bad in what we are doing, why do you want to come back.

Knuuttila: Because you need my help.

(Cheering match between the two camps)

Knuuttila: Another mailing sent out, said we need someone with exp. to help public safety. He listed all of his previous public safety posts he held. What is your experience, your public safety experience if any?

Flanagan: Well it is not having five former careers. My experience has been in this district. Writing grants with cheif Cronin. working on comm. policing. or working with north county worcester drug task force. it is not always about holding the career. i am criticized about my age and experience. quite frankly i am part of the generation coming up. we are the ones that are trying to do it now. public safety comes in all shapes and sizes. people come to me day in and day out with problems. to try to chastize that is getting a little ridiculous. 

Knuuttila: You may be able to empathize but I can relate. At the end of the day I worked also, I worked also on these grants. Those have been in place for awhile. These things dont give you pub. safety experience. 

Flanagan: We appreciate your public safety career. But you have advocated for pay raises for court appointed lawyers. You advocate for a lot of people, including human service providers. These are the people I have been advocating for since day one. Would you continue your quest to get more money for lawyers, or for human services?

Knuuttila: Do you know what my undergraduate degree was, human services. I am the one that make sure the services are adequate and provided to people in jail. We are taking about the Constitution of the US when we keep these people out of jail. They (court appt lawyers) hadnt gotten a pay raise in 23-24 years. But i know human service workers deserve a raise because i was in the field.

Flanagan: I commend the corrections officers. My concern are for the people working in residential programs or the people who cant go home because their is no home to go to. These people are making $28,000 to fight it out with these kids. And the turnover rate is so high. The only reason people leave is because they dont have enough money. I am going to continue to fight for human service workers just as we did when we passed senate 65 last year. 

Now questions from Pres. Antonucci  from the audience. 

Now representing more than one town. Any opinion on what could be done for regionalization of services?

Flanagan: Leg has given money to Econ. dev. council to market our region. Busses, unfortunate didnt do it, but another way we could regionalize. Public safety too. 
Need to look at services each town has. it is possible to become more regional. but unfortunately people look with geographical boundaries. i am looking to be the state senator to represent the region. i have already worked with mayor wong, d.a. early, and sen. antonioni.

What do you think you could do to speed up process of better transportation to this area

Knuuttila: Helped work on Fitch rail line when rep. house vice chair of joint comm. on transportation. some of the things my opponent talks about, were dev. by sen. antonioni, rep. goguen, rep. knuuttila. some of the initiatives we have started, i will make sure as the next state sen are brought to fruition. i took a train to gardner to find the house i live in today (in 80's).that rail was disconnected. make no mistake, i will pick up where i left off. 

Do you think earmarks are a good idea?

Knuuttila: earmarks are a good idea in the state budget. shows a leg. is concerned enough about an issue to have it earmarked in a budget. these earmarks that leg. fight for that now dont exist, really quite frankly undercuts leg. ability to fight for its constituency. i would go beyond that, pepole and constituency of district are undercut as a result.

Flanagan; earmarks is a necessary part of the budget. esp. for people out here, outside of 495. it is a way for leg. to tell agencies this is what we want. we are telling people where we want it to go. it is crucial that we have earmarks. it gets the funding to the programs. i continue to support earmarks. 

Closing remarks:

Knuuttila: God bless you for coming out on such a solemn day. I have a few things. I am proud of my service to my country and my Commonwealth. When you were getting the blizzard of 78 i was in a monsoon trying to get a letter written with a felt tip pen before it washed away. It is an experience like non other. I am proud to call myself a veteran. Proud of the fact that i fought a fire on the inside while a gardner firefighter. there is nothing closer to combat than fighting a fire on the inside. i am proud of these experiences because i can understand what apublic safety and officials go through. but most proud of fact have a son, and sseven grandchildren and a daughter. make no mistake i am making a $30,000 a year pay cut to do this. that is the level of commitment i have. i intend to be bold when i go to the senate. i intend to rep. my constituency to the fullest. i learned what to do during my 5 terms in senate, and more imp. i learned what not to do. i never left feeling i compromised my integrity. most of my checks were $15 from grassroots those are the people that believe in this candidate. i intend to represent the peoplel that contributed to my campaign. it is imperative you vote on sept 16. sempre fidelis. 

(about 40 people standing ovation)

Flanagan: I appreciate that we can take about 75 mill for commuter rail. appreciate the $1.8 million in more grants in leominster. i have delivered for my district. and i have experience. no one can take away the 13 years i spent on beacon hill working for the poeple of my community. no one can take away the fact tha ti care about the poeple the support me, the nurses, the teachers, the people who are protecting our citizens. i am proud of everything i have received for poeplel and eveything i have worked for. those are everyday people who just like you will elect someone to go to boston. what is such a special interest that is fighting those fires and going out on police calls. those are special interests, those are the people of our community. those are the people that i am giong to rep. on beacon hill. sometimes it seems like the mail boxes are cluttered and poeple are talking about issues, that is important, we are talking about issues. 11 cities and towns. it is imp that someone who has exp that has worked frm the ground up continues to go there and gets the work done that needs to be done. when the day is over and this district has received money, it is because the leg. did it. it is imp. we have someone who truly cares about what is going on in boston. i ask you for your vote on sept. 16 because i care about everyone in this district donation or not. 

(about 30 people standing ovation)

The debate is over, and each candidate is now being swarmed and given the thumbs up from supporters. 

Both candidates were well prepared and didn't falter on any questions. They both showed passion for their district, although at times, I couldn't tell if Flanagan was being passionate or defensive. She defintely is very defensive about people criticizing her age and experience outside of Beacon Hill. She stands behind the 13 years of experience she has on the hill though, and is proud of advocating for children and the social service fields especially. 

Knuuttilla was a lot calmer. He is def. proud of his service to the country as a Marine, and service to the Commonwealth as a police officer, fire fighter and court appointed lawyer. 
Knuuttila believes his experience in multiple careers is an asset to being able to represent people.

Winner, by a slight margin, I would have to give it to Knuuttila. 


Senate Fun and Games Tonight

The long state Senate campaign (remember, this started in February) limps home on Tuesday, but before that the two candidates, Jennifer Flanagan and Brian Knuuttila, meet for one last debate tonight.

The Pride's Karen Mann will be on the scene, and will be posting live here as the night goes on. Game time is 7 p.m., but I'd expect Karen will be setting the scene before that. So, make sure you have plenty of chips, dips and beers as Karen brings it home in style.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

SF Child: No to Uniforms

And her father agrees, I think.

If you missed it, there's the perennial push for school uniforms in the city's schools. Mayor Lisa Wong was on WEIM 1280 "The Blend" this morning. She was pretty non-committal, even on how the city should even go about getting community feedback.

SF Child 1 is 5, and is all of six days into kindergarten, but I figured I'd ask her what she thought about wearing a white shirt and blue or brown pants or skirts everyday. She crinkled her face and said "nah." Not surprising for a kid who wears a pink shirt everyday and was sporting glittery jeans this morning. So, there's your community feedback.

I think I'm also opposed to uniforms, mostly because I think it's going to cost me more, and that's probably true for tons of kids. Many kids wear the same thing out of school that they do in school (I guess for better or worse in some cases), SF Child 1 included. Buying uniforms is only going to add a whole new section to the wardrobe budget that I'd prefer not to have to deal with. Major deal? No. To the point that I'm not even close to particularly charged up on this matter, and if it happens, well, whatever. Yes, I'm a man of my convictions.

Anyway, at least one kindergartner is opposed.



Monday, September 08, 2008

Senate Cash

When you get a second, go to the Fitchburg Pride website, and check out a story on campaign fundraising, eight days before the primary election. It's a little lacking, in that Brian Knuuttila's campaign did not file an electronic report today. But others did. It includes links to local candidates' reports, so have some fun on this delightful Monday evening. I'm going to go watch the Raiders now.

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Thursday, September 04, 2008

Meanwhile, just a few miles away

I hate to get into more presidential politics after last night's and today "Lefferts is a dumb poopiehead" comments (although I wonder why people don't either, 1. read what I write or, 2. believe it. Because that's apparently a problem on this stuff), but I'm a sucker for punishment.

Anyway, I was trolling around Real Clear Politics, where they have Obama currently up in Electoral College, 273-265. That includes toss-up states breaking one way or another (obviously), so to call it a hard and fast count is probably not a good idea.

Furthermore, according to RCP, Obama has a poll average lead of .3 percent in New Hampshire. New Hampshire is four Electoral College votes. Hey... if I move four EC votes from NH to McCain... it's a tie. That would be awesome.

Considering the comments on here in the last 24 hours, I suspect there are some pretty solid McCain fans trolling. Not sure about Obama fans, but I assume they're out there. So, anyone planning on hiking to NH between now and Election Day and doing some civic good? Or will we just watch and see what happens? Crazy to think such a battleground is just 10 or 12 miles away, and all we can do is watch and maybe pitch in a little bit if super-motivated.



Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Restoring Radio Contact

Sorry for not posting much lately. Between vacation and the unbelievable chaos at work since returning, I've had little time to even think about what's going on, forget come up with decent thoughts about it. And considering the unending litany of comments, I figure I'm at least the stupidest asshole in Fitchburg, if not all of New England, and it's a fight I don't have the energy, time or patience for.

Anyway, here's a couple of random thoughts from the stupidest asshole in New England:

I was looking for a reason not to vote for Barack Obama. As much as I was sort of resigned to pulling the trigger for him, I didn't really want to, and was hoping John McCain would give me a reason to vote for him.

Instead, McCain pretty much pushed fulling to Obama with the Sarah Palin pick. It has nothing to do with the whole teen pregnancy business, and everything to do with the fact that McCain would be putting one heartbeat away someone who was essentially the mayor of Ashby two years ago. So unprepared, so not ready. Such a bad pick. It makes me seriously question McCain's judgement, and I really question how well this pick was vetted. If you can't get this right, what can you get right?

The state Senate election is 13 days from now. What a snorefest. Why? Is it just assumed Flanagan has it in the bag? What am I missing? For a race that last winter seemed rock-em-sock-em robots, it's been dullsville.

On the other hand, it seems like the Red Sox are putting together at just the right time. Five series wins in a row, and getting good ball over the place. Dustin Pedroia is ridiculous right now. Imagine if they could get fully healthy. They're not catching the Rays (although the throw-away tix for next Tuesday's game that is part of my package is looking very good right now), but they're likely making the playoffs. If they can beat the Angels in the first round, I like their chances against Tampa/Chicago/Minny/all of the NL. Hopefully they play this well the rest of the way.

Football season starts tomorrow night. I'd be psyched if the Raiders finished 8-8. Sad, I know, but that's the way it is. I am excited to see Darren McFadden, and worried to see JaMarcus Russel. They're on MNF (late game) next Monday. I guess the Pats will be good, too.

Eh, that's it. It's quiet on the city side, no?

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