Monday, October 20, 2014

Cadime for Mayor?

There are a few things that Fall River has plenty of; Chinese restaurants, hot dog joints, Dunkin Donuts, and apparently mayoral candidates. Former City Administrator/former School Committeeman Shawn Cadime is the latest to announce a run for the big seat at Government Center, which brings the current number of candidates to 10!

On the surface, Cadime would seem to be an ideal candidate. He has name recognition and a feel for both the city's affairs (thanks to his position as City Admin) and of our school system (thanks to his experience on the school committee), however Cadime never struck me as a leader on the school committee and I'm not really sure if being up on the city's finances makes qualified to lead the city and move it forward. Sure, Cadime could be a great mayor, but we'll need to hear and learn more. 

Cadime's announcement might have been billed as the big news story on WSAR today, but the really interesting part of the story was Cadime's insight on the goings on at Government Center. Although Shawn was very professional during the interview with Barry Richards it seems he made it rather clear that Mayor Flannagan often bypassed policies and made decisions on his own. Cadime stated he was often kept out of the loop (remember he's supposed to be City Administrator) and cited personality differences with Corporation Counsel as a big part of the reason that his contract was not renewed.  Shawn indicated that the Mayor relied more on the opinion of Corporation Counsel than of his own, which unless its in regards to a legal matter is rather startling. Shawn also said that the money that was bonded for Government Center repairs was very specific in that it was for bathrooms on the 1st floor and work in the treasurers office and that the Mayor decided to use that money for work to the legal department's offices and the Mayor's office and 6th floor. Cadime also said that mayor is the one who authorized the replacement of at least two windows in the Corporation Counsel's office and that Cadime himself wasn't aware until he saw staging set up outside the building! Certainly for those who feel that Mayor Flanagan is acting more like he was ordained king vs. elected mayor, Cadime just bolstered that argument!

Lefty's View: Just by throwing his hat in the ring, Cadime becomes one of the few contenders with a legitimate shot at winning election. Cadime not only has name recognition, as a former member of the Flanagan administration his criticisms of the Mayor will ring with a certain authority. If there are any Mayoral forums leading up to the recall election expect fireworks if Flanagan and Cadime are allowed to exchange barbs. As entertaining as all this may seem the downside is, that if Flanagan is allowed to have his name on the ballot candidacies like Cadime's, Sutter's, Miozza's, etc, will simply split the vote and give the Mayor an easy "re-election".  

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

The Sixth Floor Windows Upgrade!

WSAR broke a story this morning that in 2013 a total of 22 windows were installed on the 6th floor of Government Center. The windows were installed in the Mayor's office and the Corporation Counsel office. The windows were installed by Global Glass of New England. This is where the story gets interesting because apparently Global bounced a check to a subcontractor that resulted in an investigation by the Fall River Police Department and that's when it was discovered that there is no paperwork at all in regards to this work. Nothing was sent out to bid, no purchase orders were issued. Somehow 22 windows got installed at Government Center and nobody knows a thing about it. Now what gets even more interesting is when WSAR had Mayor Flanagan on to discuss this he states that since no money changed hands no laws have been violated and that Global did the work at their own peril.

I think the mayor misses the point. You can imagine that 22 windows probably cost quite a bit of money. On top of that there is the cost of installation. The subcontractor was supposed to be paid $50,000 so you can imagine that the total job is substantially more. Global Glass of New England owes the city back taxes so any money they would get paid would have gone towards their tax bill. Somehow we managed to have 22 windows installed. We didn't pay for them and have no record of authorizing the work and the mayor is happy enough to point out that we're not on the hook for any money and because no money changed hands no laws were violated. Maybe this is his idea of great fiscal management? Maybe we can just have contractors do all sorts of repair work at Government Center, not issue paperwork and then not pay them and say 'hey they did it at their own peril!' The fact that we didn't violate any laws because of a missing paper trail is very little comfort in the face of the fact that we had 22 windows installed, nobody questioned why they were being installed and we never paid for them. Where is the oversight?! How do you not ask questions when you see all the windows in your office being replaced?! But you know the mayor isn't the only one who should have been a little intellectually curious what about the work going on at Government Center, really anybody who would have had this paperwork cross their desk, anyone who would have had to approve a purchase order or contract should have wondered 'gee who authorized that'. It didn't happen.

And really the fact that we didn't violate any laws because no money changed hands may comfort the mayor but I really don't think we should sit back and feel we "scored" 22 free windows. Global Glass did the work they deserve to get paid for it by way of having this applied to their tax bill.

Lefty's View: If you heard the baffling exchange today between Mayor Flanagan and Barry Richards on WSAR you'll probably feel that those crystal clear windows are the only thing offering up any transparency on the 6th floor of Government Center!

Update!!! Here is the link to the Mayor discussing this with Barry Richards. Well worth a listen!


Net School Spending, A Flawed Concept?

Net school spending is the amount of money that each school district in the state must spend on education. It is arrived at through a formula and includes a combination of Chapter 70 money and a contribution from the local city or town. 

The issue with net school spending is when a district fails to fund that net school spending at 100%. Communities can actually 'under-fund' the net school spending requirement to 95% but would need to pay additional 5% the following fiscal year. I suppose there are instances where an unintentional shortfall can be made up the following year but what happens when the community is struggling to hit these requirements to begin with and fall short. How does a struggling community pay 5% OVER what it needs to fund to reach 100% because of a carry over amount? And really what good does it do to pay that 5% (or whatever that shortfall amount is) the following year?

To me, this is a little bit like being required to keep your house at a 65 degrees during the winter but because of unforeseen expenses and maybe some budgeting you end up running the thermostat a few degrees cooler. The following winter you're told you need to keep the temperature at 68 degrees to hit the 65 degree requirement plus the shortfall from the previous year. Heck, if you had trouble heating the house at 65 degrees can you afford 68? And will running the thermostat at 68 degrees this winter really do anything to make the house warmer last winter? Of course not. So my concern is twofold, if you struggled to meet your requirements the previous year is it foolish to think you're going to be able to hit them and shortfall the following year? And if you do pay the shortfall forward how does that really help the student who in 4th grade may have been short changed? I just don't believe adding money the following year is going to really make up for the shortfall the year before.

The other issue with net school spending is there are expenses that we have to pay toward a school department that don't count toward that formula. I'm not an expert but I'm pretty sure health insurance is one of those costs. This is a little bit like buying a bunch of stuff off of Amazon and you're hoping to qualify for free shipping but you have a bunch of purchases that don't count toward "Super Saver Shipping". So your total bill is over the amount but you still need to come up with more money to hit the requirement! With something like health insurance cities and towns have been struggling for years with rising health insurance costs, meaning the total spending for the school department is increasing but it doesn't effect the bottom line for net school spending. 

Lefty's View: I really do understand the need to ensure that communities are properly funding their educational system. This is especially true when so much of your local school districts money comes from state funding. However, what that net school spending amount represents as far as a direct impact to the classroom is just not clear. Net school spending does not include health insurance and I believe other real school department costs that the community has to fund. What does it include? When we fund at 95% what impact does that have on the classroom? Net school spending should either represent every school expense or the amount that directly impacts a student's education. If it goes to the amount that directly impacts a student's education we shouldn't be allowed to under-fund it. If it doesn't than a waiver may be appropriate or perhaps, paying back the shortfall over the course of a few years to help ease the financial burden. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

MISSING: The Most Famous Signature In Fall River!

The most famous signature on the Declaration of Independence is the bold script of John Hancock. The most famous signature on the petition to recall Mayor William Flanagan has got to be that of City Councilor Jasiel Correia II. Or is it? According to a story on WSAR the petition with Jasiel's signature is missing!

Before conspiracy theorists start sharpening their knives assuming that "somehow" "someone" in Government Center made this petition disappear, let's think about what would possibly be the benefit of doing so? The recall organizers turned in 181 petitions, it's very easy to verify how many they get back. Most likely, the petition with Jasiel's name on it just didn't get turned in.

Wouldn't that be ironic?!

This missing petition, the one with Jasiel's signature is the center of this entire controversy between Councilor Correia and Mayor Flanagan. If Jasiel didn't sign the petition there would have been no late night meeting (no matter who actually called for it) and there wouldn't be the resulting controversy and special investigation! Of course he did sign it but his signature turns out not be one of the 3,800+ that were counted.

Lefty's View: In the end Jasiel's signature was never that important to the recall effort. However the controversy surrounding that late night meeting with the mayor may well be a key factor moving forward.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Mr. Flanagan And The Unimpressive Press Conference....

Sometimes, something takes place that is so stupid, so absurd that it makes you blow the dust off your keyboard and sit down and decide to blog about it, even though it has been a lifetime since the last time you felt inclined to do so.

That "something" took place this past Friday at 3 o'clock on the 6th floor of Government Center. Mayor Will Flanagan held a press conference, a day after learning that enough signatures had been certified to move forward with a recall being sought against him. Yet, the Mayor's press conference wasn't to address the issue of the recall, it was instead to have his lawyer inform the public that his client had passed a lie detector test that proves that the accusations that he tried to intimidate a city councilor are false and the mayor is vindicated! The whole thing is starting to look like a circus, with the biggest clown running the show, but let's break this down as I explain just why I found this so stupid and absurd that I had to blog about it.

Timing!

Does anyone besides me find the timing to be just a little dubious? Hey let's spin the narrative here, instead of the mayor discussing the recall, let's bring attention on this really inconsequential lie detector test! It would almost seem that they're trying to link the two things (the recall and the charges of intimidation) together. 'Hey folks, remember as we move forward with the recall that Will passed that lie detector and couldn't have done what Jasiel claims he did!' The problem with that is, they're not related AT ALL, but more on that later

He passed! So, What!

Mayor Flanagan wants you to know that he didn't need to take this polygraph test but that the people in Fall River need to have faith and confidence in their elected leader. Sounds good and I agree with him on both points! The people in Fall River do need to have faith and confidence in their elected leader and he didn't need to take this test. Really, what does this test prove? polygraphs are not considered 100% accurate, they're not admissible in court and there IS STILL a special investigation going on. Really what was the purpose of this test? Also has anyone seen the test results? The questions are either vague or unrelated! "Prior to this year" and "Before 2014", how are questions like that in anyway relevant? Honestly I think it's embarrassing that they would throw a test like that out there and expect you to think that it proved something.

The pointing finger!

The press conference was something like 9 minutes long. In the span of 9 minutes the mayor's lawyer pointed the finger at city councilors Jasiel Correia, Joe Camara, and at Jordan Silvia! Jasiel apparently is "only" guilty of lying and making up these allegations apparently under intimidation. Joe Camara's part in this conspiracy was to bring Jasiel to the police station because if the Mayor were removed from office as City Council President Joe would serve as acting mayor (although really that would only be the case if Flanagan resigned, which he has emphatically stated he would not do) and Jordan Silvia's part in this is to have intimidated Jasiel to either: a. sign the petition or b. fabricate the story about the meeting with mayor. (I'm a little murky on this part because it seems to be they think Jasiel was pressured to sign but even if that was the case I'm not sure how much impact that really would have on the recall effort and I'm betting not much. If they're saying that Jordan pressured Jasiel to make up the details of the meeting with the mayor I'm not sure what the benefit is there since by the time it came out the recall effort already had the signatures they needed and then some and if people think Jasiel is lying is would pretty much ruin his political career and the momentum of the recall effort.. bizarre...).Oh well, the really odd thing here is why would the mayor's lawyer throw out accusations or theories of his own that pertain to an ongoing investigation?

Lefty's View: The whole thing really is just absurd and we the citizens of Fall River shouldn't allow ourselves to be distracted by the mixed message here. A polygraph test really proves nothing, especially one with questions as absurd as this one. And in the end it really doesn't matter what the polygraph states because there is an ongoing special investigation! It seems the only point of this press conference was to try paint the Mayor in a better light and take the attention away from the fact that more than enough signatures were certified for the recall effort to move forward




Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Election Day Thoughts

When I woke up this morning Fall River was covered in a fog, which I imagine some will find a pretty fitting  analogy. The dust has settled and for the most part there has been little change in Fall River's political makeup.

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

It's Election Day!

It's Election Day! Go out and vote and be heard!

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.

Where in the world is Leo Pelletier?

Leading up to today I've had the usual conversations. "Who will win mayor?" "Who will be the top vote getter for the council?" "How do you think so-and-so will do?" Most of these questions I have firm opinions on. Even if I see something close I can rationalize how things may go if this happens or that happens. The one question I have been asked that I really have no certainty for is how do I think Leo will do. 

How will Leo do? I thought his 9th place finish in the preliminary could spell trouble for him but I also realized it could mobilize his supporters come November. Then the indictment came along and I thought does this hurt him? It should! It would other councilors. Or does this help him? Do people who like Leo and support Leo now come out and vote for Leo because they see him as a victim? I don't know. I have talked to some who feel this isn't new Leo has gotten into this kind of trouble before and should have known enough to stay clear. However these people are not the ones who usually support Leo. I think the people who usually support Leo feel he's one of them, an average Fall River guy, who just happens to represent them in the city council. He's the guy who gets pot holes fixed, trash picked up, and answers their calls and gets them answers to their questions. How do those people feel? 

Let's see... Leo had a 9th place finish, he was just indicted, and the Herald News wrote an editorial saying it was time from him to step down. That all sounds ominously bad on election day. On the other hand Leo just had an event with from what I hear, a very large turnout. 

People keep asking me where do I think Leo will finish and I have to say I really don't know!

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Bad signs for the local paper?

We've been hearing for a while that print journalism is becoming extinct. Newspapers seems to be struggling to find new identities in a world where people are reading their news on their smart phone and not at the breakfast table. I saw a story the other day that was a subtle reminder of this, that by itself would mean little if not for another story I saw last night on the Herald News. 


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.




I was a bit surprised that the Standard-Times sold that much better than the Herald. I was also surprised that considering the surrounding area how low those totals seemed, at least to me. 

Like I said, I found it interesting but by itself I didn't mean much until I saw an article in the Herald stating that they would be moving their printing operations to a regional location along with several other papers. I'm pretty sure that only recently the Taunton Gazette moved it's printing to Fall River and now both, along with the Projo and one of the Boston papers are moving to a regional location. Well despite the best spin this has nothing to do with advantages in technology it is a cost savings measure plain and simple and it's happening all over the country. 

It's a sad thing to see local papers struggling to remain relevant because the digital world doesn't cover the types of stories that have made local papers part of our community and a fixture in our homes for decades.