Saturday, May 31, 2008

SouthCoast Photo of the Month


Here it is May's SouthCoast Photo of the month!

I had a friend say to me, 'you should take some photos of Downtown'. Everything was in bloom my friend said and it just made the whole area look better. Well I had to agree! There is something great about Spring about how everything seems to come alive.


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Are you an avid picture taker? Do you have a shot you're particularly proud of? Perhaps just a shot that you'd like to share? Submit it here for the SouthCoast Photo of the Month! Send submissions to aviewfrombattleshipcove@google.com

Mike Lund - Riding the (Radio) waves

Yesterday, Councilor Mike Lund went on WSAR's afternoon show to put an end to the questions concerning his residency. It turned out to be almost the easiest hour of his life.

Of course this became the hot topic of the day after the Herald News ran an article about a YouTube video that calls Lund's residency into question. Now the Herald article didn't dig deeply enough and questions remained. By the time Councilor Lund walked into the studio at WSAR this had been a much talked about topic and lots of discussion revolved around records that show Lund's Swansea address. Despite this Lund received no scrutiny or hardball questions. Instead he received the equivalent of hugs and kisses and a host that would try to answer all the tough questions for him.

With "Mr. Hurricane" leading the proceedings, while a mostly mute Fast Eddie just stood by Lund stated more than once that this was a tactic deployed by firefighters to discredit him and that his residency was 700 Shore Drive prior to his taking out nomination papers to run for city council. But Lund never said much more than that and the hosts at WSAR never questioned. Lund never attempted to explain why from 2002-2006 corporation documents for Borden Light Marina show 96 Cedar Cove Road in Swansea as his address. Never attempted to explain why state records for campaign contributions again show his address at 96 Cedar Cove Road. The Hurricane never bothered to ask just how long that "period of time" he lived in Swansea was, never asked how he could have records for a 6 year span show his address in Swansea while the voting records show he voted in Fall River.

This needs to be explained!

Instead of asking some tough questions the Hurricane floored me by observing that it really didn't matter where Lund lived because he paid lots of taxes in Fall River and asking (in reference to the Arts Overlay District) why shouldn't he be able to advocate for something that will benefit him just because he's on the city council. Wow, "to the victor go the spoils." Sadly, in frustration I turned off the radio only to find out later that Keri Rodrigues called in to ask some direct questions. However she wasn't able to get direct answers.

It's time that Councilor Lund answer the hard questions. Why is there a paper trail showing that from 2002-2007 his residential address to be in Swansea while he claims and voted in Fall River? Mike Lund needs to realize this conflict is of his own making. However he can clear this up simply and easily by explaining the use of his Swansea address and by showing a paper trail that establishes his residency here in Fall River such as income tax records and bank statements. This isn't about whether or not he could run for city council and it's not even about where he sleeps at night. This isn't about 6 months. This is about 6 years. This is about possibly residing in one place and voting in another. This is about his integrity.

If Councilor Lund can clear this up I would urge him to do so. Otherwise I agree with Keri, it's time for an investigation.

See:
My previous post for links to corporate documents...
Keri's post for links to campaign contribution documents...


Friday, May 30, 2008

Fall River TONIGHT on 20/20

There I was, discounting the power of WSAR, I thought for sure there was no way 20/20 would visit this little town of Fall River. 20/20 has pointed it's lens towards little ole Fall River, MA, to show the story of Mixed Martial Arts and Gillett's studio.

Tonight on 20/20, 10PM Channel 5

Episode Detail: How Young Is Too Young? - 20/20 Reports on age-appropriate behavior and adult pressures placed on youngsters include profiles of two teen paparazzi and a teenage in-line skater who was given steroids by his father. Also: Salma Hayek and Sarah Jessica Parker on how they deal with paparazzi wanting pictures of their young children; John Stossel on campaigns against the teaching of mixed martial arts to minors; and (from 2007) reporter Bill Ritter on child prodigies.

Go here for more info

It will be interesting to see how they handle the story tonight. My sources tell me that it is going to have a positive spin, rather than the WSAR intended negative spin. Watch tonight to find out.


Signed,

Fear and Loathing in Fall River

Thursday, May 29, 2008

B-Lund-ered Again!

It was back when Councilor Mike Lund was simply candidate Mike Lund that I first heard whispering that he didn't really live in Fall River.

The whispering included enough circumstantial evidence where I thought this was a legitimate concern. I already had questions about what Lund's motives were in running for the council now I was concerned about his ethics.

I was sure this would become a big campaign issue. I was certain that this would be brought up by other candidates, and that the local media would have a field day with this. None of that happened and unquestioned, Mike Lund was elected to the city council.

Now, the Herald's Michael Holtzman decides to write it up ONLY after someone puts together a scathing YouTube video. If Holtzman were writing a blog post I might give him some credit. In fact when I came across the 'Lund videos' I considered blogging about them. However, Holtzman is a paid reporter, with the time and resources, (and legal protection) to do some investigative reporting. His story fails to probe the inconsistencies between what Councilor Lund states and what the paper trail would indicate.

Assessor’s records in Swansea show that Lund and Darlene Patenaude, whom Lund married more than four years ago, purchased a single-family house at 96 Cedar Cove Road, an address the YouTube video points out.
Lund said they fixed up the house, lived there for about six months and have rented it out since then.


Lund says that he has voted in Fall River since the age of 18 (16 years) and has lived here all that time, with the exception of 6 months that he lived in the house he purchased in Swansea that he currently rents. However, records filed with the state from 2002-2006 for Borden Light Marina list Councilor Lund with the Cedar Cove Road, Swansea address.

Making clear he believes firefighters that protested the chief change are behind the smear campaign, Lund said, “I took a vote in good conscience on something, and it’s their approach to go after me instead of strengthening their approach.”


Councilor Lund can blame whomever he wants for putting this issue in the limelight but until those inconsistencies are explained it's a story that deserves some investigation.

See:
Lund 2001
Lund 2002
Lund 2003
Lund 2004
Lund 2005
Lund 2006
Lund 2007





Saturday, May 24, 2008

Overturning the City Council Vote

A full week has gone by since the special meeting of the Fall River City Council. As I'm sure you all know by now, the council passed a motion to change the Fire Chief from a Civil Service position to a contract position. Whether or not this change has merit has become secondary. What is now the issue is just how the council went about passing this to send up to Beacon Hill.

When this first came up for a vote on Tuesday May 13th, it did so after hours of debate and hours of public input. The vast majority spoke out against this change. Still this would have passed if not for a procedural objection by Councilor Steve Camara. The City Council President responded to this by setting up a special meeting for that Friday the 16th. Only a 48 hour notification law prevented him from doing it any sooner. In scheduling the meeting President Joe Camara chose a time that was an inconvenience to some and a burden to others. He chose a venue, a special meeting, that would not allow for public input. In his effort to rush this through there wasn't even any effort made to accommodate Councilor Steve Camara who would be unable to attend because of a death in his family.

The City Council may have followed the letter of the law but they did not follow the spirit of democracy. When confronted with voices who objected they ignored them. When Councilor Camara's procedural objection gave them time to reconsider they plunged ahead.

If the outcome of the Fire Chief means nothing to you, the process should. Too often we complain about the actions of those who represent us in government but do nothing about it. Here is your chance to do something about it.

On Thursday a petition drive was launched to overturn the vote of the City Council. For this to succeed 12% of the voters of this city must sign. This means that over 6,000 signatures are needed. Time is ticking away. The petition must be submitted in 20 days from the council vote, which means there are just 12 days left. If you support this effort you must be involved. Copies of the petition can be found on the Fall River Community blog. I urge you to visit that blog to find out about organized efforts that are being made to collect signatures, and to distribute and collect petitions.

"All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent." - Thomas Jefferson

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Fall River Community

As some of you have already discovered the Fall River Community blog is down this morning and Blogger is telling you it has been removed.

Fear not.

FRC sent me word that the blog accidentally got deleted while he was trying to link his blog to an email account. I believe that he should be able to have Blogger restore the blog with no loss of content etc. but in the meantime he has set up a new home for the blog at http://frc-fallrivercommunity.blogspot.com. So please use this link to see the latest content from Fall River Community until further notice.

Thanks!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Winners and Losers: Special Meeting of the Fall River City Council

There was little doubt as to the outcome.

The motion to change the hiring of a Fire Chief from Civil Service to a contract position would have passed during Tuesday's council meeting if it wasn't delayed by Steve Camara's procedural objection. That objection bought time, but it was obvious that this special meeting was scheduled so that there would be no time to change the minds of the council majority.

There was little doubt as to the outcome. Still, a group of firefighters assembled in front of Government Center. They stood in protest of this proposed change. Inside the Council Chamber was mostly empty. Some citizens were told that there was no entrance until the 1PM meeting time. Others were slowed down by the fact that the main entryway was closed due to construction work.

Shortly after 1PM the Council Chamber was filled to near capacity and although there was little doubt as to the outcome, it wasn't going to happen without a fight. First, an e-mail by Councilor Camara was read, in it he explained that due to a death in his family he might not be able to attend the meeting. Pulling no punches he expressed his disgust with the scheduling of this meeting, with the lack of courtesy shown to him, his fellow councilors and the people of Fall River. The councilor's e-mail clearly implied that this was politically motivated. He requested that the council reschedule to a time where he would be able to attend and that would be more convenient to the citizens of Fall River. This was the beginning of the fireworks. Camara's request was voted down and just as quickly a motion for a 30 minute recess was made by councilor Hague. That too was voted down. A request to allow for public input was voted down. A debate between Councilor Hague and President Camara resulted in Hague citing rules of the Charter that stating that the President can't debate from the podium. President Camara, with his face flushed red, exchanged positions with Vice President Casey so he could make his remarks from the floor. Every effort to bring the motion to a vote was delayed by Councilors Hague and Pelletier as each brought up other motions and spoke to express their outrage. Finally a recess requested by Councilor Pelletier was granted but once back the motion was brought to a vote and passed 6-2.

In the press conference that followed Mayor Correia was gracious in saying he understood and respected the efforts of those who objected. It was only then that I realized who the winners and losers really were.

Losers
Council President Joe Camara - It's hard to see his scheduling of this special meeting as anything other than politically motivated. It was his name that I heard firefighters grumbling about when leaving Government Center.

Councilor Pat Casey - Pat has to get special mention here - not only did she vote in favor but she the only councilor who spoke out against rescheduling and allowing public comment. In both instances her comments did her no favors and only made her look insensitive and in the Mayor's pocket.

Councilor Mike Lund - Councilor Lund made a statement defending this as a bold move and saying that Civil Service doesn't work. It was a statement that had more polish than anything I've heard Lund say before but it had several firefighters saying that he had his facts wrong.

Councilor Tom Kozak - Kozak played it smart, he didn't say anything! Still Tom was not a top vote getter this last time around (he finished 8th) and he voted against rescheduling, against public input and for the motion. Unless the firefighters and firefighters union forget this could cost him some votes next election.

Councilor Linda Pereira - Every other loser on this list isn't facing the voters until the Fall of 2009 but Linda is running for State Rep. and has to face the music this Fall! Chances are the firefighters union and the firefighters themselves are not going to be voting for Linda!

Winners

Councilor Steve Camara - Not only has Steve spoken out against this he saved the day on Tuesday with his procedural vote. On top of that the scheduling of the meeting seems to have been planned to keep him away. Come the next election several firefighters will remember how Councilor Camara was on their side.

Councilor Ray Hague - Hague was fiery, compassionate, and crafty. Although he didn't do it alone, Hague was the big reason that Friday's meeting turned out to be a more than just a quick 5 minute vote. Come next election it will be remembered that Hague fought this tooth and nail.

Councilor Leo Pelletier - Poor Leo, if this has happened a few months ago he might be State Rep. right now and if he was running in the Fall this might have put him past Kevin Aguiar. Leo doesn't need any help on election day to maintain his council seat. Leo was, well Leo, loud and outspoken. His efforts here will just ensure him another top place finish.

Mayor Robert Correia - Yeah, I know but, Bob's proposal is one step closer to becoming reality and while sitting up on the 6th floor he was able to stay above the ugly fray in the Council Chamber.

Councilor Cathy Ann Viveiros - Yes Cathy Ann did vote for this proposal. However, hearing her talk to various people I've come to the conclusion that she's the only councilor who could convince you that it was the right decision.

The Fall River firefighters - I know they lost the battle but there is still a few opportunities to win the war and I think public opinion is going to be firmly on their side.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

What's the rush?

Late yesterday afternoon I learned that City Council President Joe Camara has called for a special meeting of the Fall River City Council for this Friday at 1PM.

The purpose of this special meeting is for the council to vote to change the Fire Chief from a civil service position to a contract position that would be appointed by the Mayor and ratified by the City Council.

The Council was certainly poised to adopt this during Tuesday's meeting but a procedural objection by Councilor Steve Camara halted that effort. Without a doubt Steve Camara's objection is a delay tactic but it's a delay tactic allowed under council rules. A councilor is allowed such an objection to allot for time to study the issue. Now, Councilor Steve was probably hoping that a delay to the next council meeting would allow him some time to convince some of his fellow councilors to his way of thinking. He probably was also hoping that 2 weeks would be enough time for the momentum of public opinion to work its magic.

Now Council President Camara is rushing this 'special meeting' because 2 weeks is just too darn long! What's the rush Joe?

This whole topic failed to really catch my attention but the more I've heard, the more I've read the more I'm convinced that this is not a decision to rush. Changing the Fire Chief to a contract position either makes this position more accountable or more political. If Steve Camara's actions was to bide for more time well then Joe Camara's actions seem to fear the result of that. A special meeting seems hasty in light of the next regular meeting being just two weeks away. More than that though a special meeting denies the public additional time for comment. President Camara's tactic here seems to be nothing more than an effort to railroad the wishes of the Mayor through. It borders on cowardice.

This decision could have far reaching effects (as hinted upon in Fall River Community's excellent post on the subject!) and deserves serious consideration, discussion and debate. Rushing this vote accomplishes none of that.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Why not close Morton?

Whew! Morton supporters can breath a sigh of relief! The School Committee has voted to keep the school open and last nights rally proved to be a success. Morton is safe, at least for one more year!

Closing Morton is an idea the prompts some serious questions. Is there enough room in the other 3 middle schools to hold an additional 600 children? What will the effect be on classroom sizes? Does the estimated 4 million dollars in savings take the additional transportation costs into effect?

And personally this is a big part of why I was not in favor of closing Morton. I'm concerned that doing so would result in overstuffed classrooms and rooms that are dedicated for other uses, such as computer labs being turned into classrooms. After finding out that closing 10 schools and opening up 3 new ones is going to cost us $250,000 more AND an additional 1-1.7 MILLION in transportation costs I'm not convinced that a 4 million dollar savings would be realized by closing Morton.

I believe that before we consider closing anymore schools we need to go through our school budget line item by line item and justify why we can't cut from other areas first.

On the other hand....

What if there was ample room in our other schools to absorb Morton's students? What if this could be done without losing labs or over stuffing classrooms? What if 4 million was the absolute savings after factoring in all other costs? What if no amount of 'fat trimming' would result in nearly so much savings?

If that were the case, why not close Morton?


The argument I keep hearing is that we can't close Morton because it is the best school, with the best test scores. It is the school that serves the North End and making those kids travel to the other schools is unfair! We can't close Morton because of nostalgia and tradition! It has great teachers and the best leadership!


That's the argument I keep hearing and to tell you the truth I've heard enough of that argument. Best leadership? While the parents seem to like Principal Murano, the Superintendent feels a change is needed. Mr. Murano has also come under fire for his handling of the After School Programs budget for his school. Best teachers? It's silly to think that one school somehow got all the 'good' teachers! I think it is fair to say that the staff at each middle school is comparable and equally qualified. It serves the North End! There is nothing special about the North End that requires it to have it's 'own' school. The children at Morton go to a Fall River school, not a 'North End' school. Our High School is not centrally located. Children from Berkley have to travel to Somerset. I hardly think this would be some undue burden. Because Morton has long been considered 'the good school' there have been parents who have requested that their child go there regardless of where they live. So just how many at Morton actually live in the North End? Nostalgia and tradition? They take a back seat to overall health of the school district. Test scores? While Morton does have better test scores this can partly be attributed to the fact that it has the lowest rate of poverty of our 4 middle schools and we know that socio-economic factors have an impact on education.

The bottom line is, Morton may be a good school but there is no reason that its students couldn't receive the same quality education from any of the other 3 schools. In our haste to 'save' Morton we failed to discuss both the merits and flaws of this plan. My guess is that this is an idea that will come up again and next time public reaction might not be enough to save it.

See also:
DOE Morton Middle School
DOE Kuss Middle School
DOE Talbot Middle School
DOE Lord Middle School

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Strength in numbers

It has been the same ol' story, a well worn complaint, the state pays too much attention to the greater Boston area and not enough attention to the rest of the state. True, Fall River does receive a tremendous amount of state aid and perhaps the theory up on the hill is we should be grateful and shut up. But, the majority of us would rather receive the tools to revitalize our area and lessen our need for that state aid.

Here in Fall River and in other Gateway cities the story is simple. Changing economies turned once robust cities into stagnant ones. When these cities failed to change with the times they were left behind. However, the state could have and should have played a key role in reinventing these cities. 40-50 years ago the state should worked with these areas to develop a long term state-wide plan that built upon the strengths of these communities.

Last night in Worcester the City Council a “Gateway Cities Compact for Community and Economic Development” was brought before the council for approval. The idea of this compact is for 11 communities, one of which is Fall River, it binds to work together to bring about work force development, refocus regulations, infrastructure development etc. that will benefit these communities, help them revitalize, and again serve as economic engines for their regions.

The idea of these communities working together for a common cause, the idea that together they may achieve what they have been unable to do individually is both simple and inspiring. I find myself wondering why we are not already doing this. Too often when communicating with the state the needs, demands, and complaints of our area fall on deaf ears, but there is a strength in numbers.