Wednesday, November 09, 2011
Shockingly the school committee had no turnovers. It's the same makeup as before with the exception of Paul Hart filling the seat vacated by Marilyn Rodrigues. It's tough to believe with the all the issues in the school department that voters are happy with the status quo. We have had budget disasters, the threat of DESE takeover, controversy over pay raises and THIS was the quietest race of all! Does this vote represent satisfaction with the performance of the school committee and the school department? If so how do you explain Joe Martins being the top vote getter? Joe is very much not a supporter of the superintendent so it seems odd that if Joe is #1, that some other candidates clearly looking for change didn't make the cut. However, I liked Paul Hart when he was on the City Council and think he'll be a positive addition to the School Committee.
Of course the City Council is the place that had the most change and the most surprises. The biggest change is the addition of 3 new city councilors! Dan Rego, Mike Miozza, and Dave Dennis will certainly add a new dynamic to the council especially considering that Leo Pelletier will be one of those not returning. I've already discussed the Leo dynamics in another post but last night the voters decided not to return Leo to the council. It wasn't even close he was several hundred votes from even being close to the 9th place. It's interesting that Leo lost his seat despite finishing in 9th place in the preliminary ahead of Pat Casey, who this time around managed to leap frog over him and take the 9th place spot for herself. I thought Leo could be in real trouble but couldn't quite figure out how people would feel about the indictment, the Herald News editorial and the rest, but I was sure Pat Casey was done. And I know others I talked to felt the same way. But she is safe and Leo becomes the only incumbent not reelected. But that doesn't minimize the change on the council because the people who did make it were ahead of incumbents! Dan Rego took the number 2 spot, which honestly is startling. Mike Miozza finished 7th and Dave Dennis 8th, both ahead of Pat Casey. Just as shocking is Linda Pereira being the #1 vote getter. I don't want to imply she doesn't deserve it, because obviously more people voted for than any other councilor and so she deserves it, but I never got the impression that Linda was the most effective councilor over the last 2 years. In fact I was very much in agreement with the Herald endorsements of Ray Mitchell and Eric Poulin. I was reading this morning that Joe Camara and Ray Mitchell are both eyeing the City Council Presidency and I have to wonder if Linda might be eyeing that herself.
That brings us to the Mayor's race. What can I say? Well obviously there are a lot of people disgusted with outcome. There are a lot of people who felt that Will Flanagan was not the right choice, was not a good mayor and did not deserve reelection. There were more people who felt that the Mayor is hard working, passionate and intent on moving the city forward AND that a two year term is not enough time for a Mayor to do what he sets out to accomplish. I imagine a lot of people will try to figure just what happened here. Was it ever close? Was it the message? Money? What? Cathy Ann Viveiros has run several times before and just can't seem to win. Is it the candidate? Cathy has always struck me as very intelligent and very capable, but I've had more than a few people mention her "baggage" to me. Regardless Flanagan's victory was decisive. I have not been the biggest fan of the Mayor and I can only hope he is serious about trying bring the city together because that has been a big flaw in his first term. The mayor has set his own time line, by saying two years isn't enough he is implying that we should see real change and real results in these next two. I guess we'll have to wait and see.
Tuesday, November 08, 2011
I have to say, despite a lackluster election season today has turned out to be a pretty exciting Election Day! Who will be Mayor? What new faces will be on the council? Who will be elected to the school committee? What incumbents will bounce back and hold on to their seats? Or will those incumbents make way for new faces?
I knew, as I think most everyone did, that this year would Flanagan versus Viveiros again. I truly felt that if that was the match up come election day that Will would win easily. I felt that way through most of the summer.But over the last month or so there has been an energy around this race. Suddenly it seems that Cathy could really beat Flanagan, despite his "Shock and Awe" campaign strategy! Now I'm not saying she's going to win. I'm saying I wouldn't put money on HIM winning. I'm saying if you are a Cathy supporter GO OUT AND VOTE because your candidate IS FIRMLY in the RACE. The opposite is true, if you're a Flanagan supporter GET OUT THERE because YOUR CANDIDATE needs your vote. DON'T TAKE IT FOR GRANTED!! It's exciting when the race is close and hopefully it means a better than expected turnout.
The council race also has some interest there are open seats could candidates to fill them that NEED your support. There are long time incumbents on the verge of being voted out. It's up to YOU to decide if they stay or if they go! There is an open seat on the school committee and really maybe a few other seats that need to be switched out. Do you believe in our school committee? If so stay home or vote the status quo. If you don't go out there and vote to change it.
For the past 5 years all I have heard is "we need change".."we need change".."we need change". Fall River voters are starting to sound like a beggar on a street corner. THIS election season I see more opportunity for change than ever before. It will be interesting to see who is in, and who is out, when the votes are counted.
Thursday, November 03, 2011
The first story was on WPRI's website. (That alone is an indicator of how tricky the media world now is, when a TV station is also providing print news content online!). An post there stated that the Projo's circulation is down. What struck me is that the article also stated the circulation figures from the Herald News and the Standard-Times.
Wednesday, November 02, 2011
Apparently there has been an email circulating around with the subject line stating to be 'A message from Mayor Flanagan' but wasn't sent out by him or his campaign and features some videos that don't really show the Mayor in the best of lights.
Sadly, nobody thought to send this email to me….
Mayor Flanagan is upset, understandably that someone is sending out an email that at best is misleading and at worst is intentionally meant to look like it came from the Mayor or his campaign. Alright so the Mayor issued a press release and got himself in the Herald News to set the record straight. Sounds good right? Except that Mayor isn't just setting the record straight and he isn't just denouncing the email he is flat out accusing his opponent of sending it!
He is quoted as saying "it's the modus operandi" established by the Viveiros campaign, and that Cathy "represents all the dirty tricks of the past" He says she should acknowledge her role in it or condemn it.
Unless his press release to the paper offered more detail than what the paper quotes (and it doesn't appear to be posted on his campaign website) how in the world can he come out and accuse Viveiros or her campaign of sending out this email? Without proof isn't what he is doing just as damning, maybe even more so than what he is accusing her of doing? After all IF she was responsible then the worst you can say is that she sent out emails with a misleading subject line. On the other hand if he is wrong he is basically engaging in character assassination!
I also have to ask why would Cathy Ann Viveiros need to send out emails under some misleading context. One of the videos highlights the Mayor's possible interest in running for U.S. Senate and another a report on Flanagan's use of state funds to support private development. Both topics are legitimate campaign points so if her campaign wanted to get this out there why not just send it from the campaign where it would likely get the same amount of notice? Of course I can't say she didn't send it but I can't really see any logical reason why she would.
And other than trying to make Viveiros look bad I can't figure out why the Mayor would want to bring attention to this. He says he has no concern about the videos themselves just the misleading manner it was put out there. He HAS to be telling the truth because he has pretty much guaranteed everyone under the sun is going to want to watch those videos now! Even if you're not worried I can't see why you would help promote anything that negatively reflects on you.
As we entered our latest election season there were two things of which I was certain, that Cathy Ann Viveiros would once again make a run for mayor, and that Will Flanagan would win reelection. Well obviously the first has held absolutely true but the second? I'm not so sure.
Despite my efforts to be unbiased, open-minded and fair, I do not like Will Flanagan. I think he mishandled the entire casino proposal and more than just mishandling it, it was a flat out mistake. I think his wanting to micromanage his own board appointees shows a lack of leadership. His idea of 'transparent government' is a joke. I think his 81 million dollar school budget proposal absurd. I can't decide if threatening layoffs to Government Center workers if they didn't take a pay cut only to suddenly find the money is a sign of incompetence or a deceit. And still I have thought he would be reelected. First, not everyone agrees with MY opinion on the above, and secondly there are things that he has accomplished, getting up to date with the DOR, keeping the Durfee Textile building from becoming 'misdeveloped', supporting and building strong ties with neighborhood associations, to name a few.
My opinion all along has been the Mayor has made several mistakes but no challenger had come forth who was strong enough to take advantage of them. Even recently I have thought that Cathy Ann just wasn't getting enough traction to beat the Mayor and I STILL think she needs to cut back on the intellectual reasoned approach and let fly with a little passion! However I'm hearing from people who are not happy with the Mayor. Some didn't support him before but some did and they are not going to support him this time around. I'm watching the debates where I think Cathy has always done a better job than Will Flanagan. And now I'm looking at the Herald News endorsing Cathy Ann Viveiros for mayor!
I'm honestly surprised, happily so, at the momentum building behind her. Is it enough to win? We'll find out Election Day!
It's not that I don't have anything to say or have run out of opinion to share. A big part is life just catching up with me. The year has been eventful, some good, some bad. The good has taken my attention away from blogging. The bad has sapped my interest and motivation to blog. There are other factors. It seems that blogging in general has just STOPPED. It's not that I'm not blogging, it seems NOBODY is. That's depressing because I miss the opinion and creative thought that was shared. Part of this is because of the local paper's comment section makes it easy for everyone to put in their 2 cents. I would say that is a good thing, but honestly I don't think the comment section nurtures thought out opinions as much as it does attacking commentary. It's more arguing than debate and the paper does a poor job of moderating it. Then too there is facebook, which honestly I have thought about trying to build a presence on but a lack of motivation to blog has also meant a lack of motivation to really give that much attention. Then there is also the FOCUS of this blog, which has always been Fall River. Lately, Fall River seems to be in a malaise. I don't see exciting things happening. I don't see the city moving forward. A few years ago it seemed to me the city was rising from the ashes, but now it seems like it's too tired to make the effort.
I know the feeling…
Well, I'm going to try to blow off the dust and brush off the cobwebs and get some new content on here. After all I did pay for the domain name I may as well use it. At this point I'm not sure how many people are stopping by and how many people are reading but if you still are, I thank you, and if you haven't been hopefully some new content will bring you back.
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Monday, September 05, 2011
Wednesday, August 31, 2011
This past Sunday the Herald News ran an article asking city council candidates to share their thoughts about what to do with the surplus of former school buildings. The candidates had a choice of 3 options:
1. The highest bid
2. Benefit to the Community
3. Potential for future tax revenues.
I know what my answer would have been. I've stated many times that the most important consideration when looking at options for these buildings is finding the best fit for the neighborhood and the city. It's a somewhat pleasant surprise to find that 9 respondents, including four current city councilors share that basic viewpoint.
Two councilors, Mitchell and Poulin use the example of the former police station to highlight the pitfalls of going after the highest bid and it's an example I myself have cited constantly. The city bypassed the option of taking a smaller bid from an experienced developer with a great track record and instead ended up accepting a higher bid amount that has resulted in an eyesore that is now a safety hazard! The idea of getting your money upfront is appealing but it won't take long before the money is all spent and we'll be left with the consequences of our shortsightedness. The one candidate who answered that the highest bid is the way to go is Bob Boutin, an experienced realtor. He brings up good points in his answer. He says we should get valid appraisals and that the city needs to be professional in the business of selling these schools. I would dare say the way the potential sale of the Belisle was handled looks like a comic fiasco that does nothing to make others want to even consider trying to submit a bid. He also points out that the present zoning could possibly hinder sales. Now I still say highest profit is wrong thinking, but these points are not contrary to the idea of benefiting the community. If we have a fair, accurate appraisal we know what the building is worth and parties submitting offers for less than the appraised value should have to justify their reasoning. If the Osborn Street School is worth $750,000 (let's say), and a party bids $100,000 but offers a plan to restore the structure and cites those costs as the reason for the low bid, well perhaps that is enough reason to accept a low bid. If medical offices wanted to locate there and in doing so would create 35 new jobs THAT might be a reason why you would accept a lower bid. As long the intended use was complimentary to the neighborhood and the city and as long as we had assurances (contractually) that a low bidder could not flip the property for a higher profit and that they would do the required work within a set timeframe the bid amount should be secondary.
Only one candidate answered "potential for future tax revenues". It's an interesting answer and one I'm not sure how to calculate. Of course it would exclude selling these buildings to any non-profit organization and it exchanges what is best for the neighborhood for maximizing profits, which I flat out disagree with. I think I read that Meditech pays somewhere between $400,000 to $500,000 in taxes to the city, but their building sits on 17 acres and has 120,000 square-feet of space. None of the former schools is comparable to that. Taking a look at the property record for the Belisle School shows an assessed value of $3,288,500 and if you applied the commercial property tax rate to that you would get just over $70,000. Well that sounds decent enough if you can find someone to buy the school and use the property as is and they don't get it re-assessed (because I think that assessment is probably too high) and they don't somehow get a TIF agreement for coming to Fall River. Chances are the Belisle is going to fall victim to the wrecking ball and become Belisle Commons or some other name for some cul-de-sac. (By the way keep your eyes open on this one to see what well connected developer manages to get a deal on the former school property.) The property is roughly 6 acres, so how many houses can we fit on it? I wouldn't doubt if you could squeeze 24 houses there which not including streets would mean about ¼ acre a house. That's actually pretty generous for Fall River! Well let's assume 24 houses all worth about $250,000 each that would give you a tax bill on each house of just over $2,500! Multiply $2,500 by 24 houses and you get a nice 60k in new taxes! Sounds good right? Well 24 homes probably mean 24 families. If each family had 2 kids that's 48 more kids in the school system. 48 more kids are enough for 2 classrooms! So it's reasonable to assume that so many new kids could mean the addition of at least one teacher in the school department. That's at least 45k a year (salary plus benefits). These kids would require materials, books, paper, etc. and there is a cost to that. These homes will require trash pickup, snow plowing, road salting, electricity for street lights what's the cost of all that? Suddenly you're not looking at 60k in new revenue and you're starting to wonder if you'll break even! So needless to say I have my doubts that we should be pinning our hopes on the greatest potential for future tax revenue.
What bothers me the most is the candidates that didn't answer. This is crunch time and hopefully voters are trying to make informed decisions. Most appalling is the 2 candidates for office that currently SIT ON the real estate committee, including the chair Pat Casey! (Committee members Poulin and Kilby did submit answers.) Certainly voters might be interested to know the opinions of the members who currently sit on the committee, especially considering its dismal track record.