Thursday, September 30, 2010

Fall River favored for Bio-facility

Great news, it looks like Fall River is still in the running as the location for the proposed UMD Biosciences facility! Great news! Let's hold the ticker tape parade! Flanagan is happy, Fiola is happy….I'm not impressed.

Don't get me wrong I'd rather see it here in Fall River rather than someplace else but what we're talking about now is a 4 acre complex not a 300 acre park. And really it was the park that was always that brass ring here. The idea of the facility UMass wants to build is that it would be a magnate for Bioscience companies and related industries. Having a whole park to develop was supposed to make Fall River an attractive location. Now any development would have to take place in a hodgepodge sort of way in the general area. That's not really what we were shooting for.

On top of all that, the article is basically saying that Jim Karam is saying Fall River is a preferred site IF the facility can be built at the location of the Advanced Technology Manufacturing Center. Karam is a vice chairman, and influential but this is hardly an official announcement.

And now Fiola is looking for available land in that area and the only sites of any real size are a 45 acre parcel that is off the table because Karam is developing and a 66 acre parcel that the Atlantis Charter School owns and is looking to build a campus on.

The Mayor and Fiola may want to claim this as a sort of victory, though it hasn't happened yet. The Mayor's supporters certainly feel it is a victory but really it's not it's because it's a drastic change from what was originally envisioned. On top of that it's really a rebuke of Flanagan's clumsy attempts to push the BioPark over to land in Freetown.

Did you catch the City Council meeting?

I have to admit that I tuned in a bit late and had to leave before it was over but it certainly didn't seem like the friendliest of meetings.

I was sure that Ken Fiola was the winner of meeting's "Most Arrogant Person Award" but I'm told by a friend that I missed Attorney Torres fine effort that may have bested that of Mr. Fiola! Well I'm just going to have to watch the rebroadcast. I will say that while I found Councilor Pereira a bit heated at times, that Fiola was really, really arrogant and immature. And Ken if you're reading this and you're upset by it, remember the truth hurts. The reality is not everyone in this city is in favor of a casino. Oh, I have no doubts that if it were brought to a general vote the majority would vote for it. But you know what? Those of us who are in the minority still get to have our say too and that means bringing our concerns to our elected officials. So when Linda, or any official brings up concerns it's not for Fiola to just dismiss them. If I were a citizen of the North End, I'd be insulted that Fiola couldn't take the time to intelligently and maturely answer the concerns she brought up. Now speaking of concerns here are a few that raised a red flag for me. (Keep in mind, I didn't tape the meeting and this is all from memory.)

1.       Councilor Poulin is told that although the legislature and the Governor have both included provisions to remove the land restrictions on the 300 acres that because neither has been signed into law the restriction is still in place. HOWEVER, if the land is put into trust by the Wampanoags the belief is the restriction would become moot because the land would now be part of an Indian nation.

2.       Councilor Pereira asks if the land is taken into trust if it could then be used for additional landfill space. She is told no and one of the reasons cited is because there is a restriction on the land so it can't be used that way.

So now explain to me how one restriction is moot by the land being accepted into trust but the other isn't. THIS MAKES NO SENSE TO ME. 

3.       When Fiola is asked what impact a resort casino may have on local business he responds it will probably help because people will now have jobs to go to restaurants and shops.

That doesn't seem to fit with what I've read that states the exact opposite that casinos hurt local business by siphoning away money that may have been spent there and even employees.

4.       Apparently the tribe does not want to purchase the land with a reverter clause in place but we're reassured that the land will only be sold for use as a casino.

Ok, the problem is once the land is in trust what safeguards do we have to make sure that a casino is built there? I can't help but think of Middleboro's 500 acre site, sitting there vacant with the tribe trying to put it into trust that the town obviously hoped would serve as an economic engine. I also can't help but think that Fall River's 300 acre parcel is really the only large scale developable parcel we have. If we make any mistakes on how we hand this there are no do-overs.

Friday, September 17, 2010

COOGAN DEFEATS RODRIGUES

There is an iconic picture of Harry Truman holding up a copy of the Chicago Tribune with the headline screaming DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN, of course Dewey had in fact lost the 1948 Presidential election. This immediately popped into mind when I read this article in on the SouthCoastToday.com website:

Local voters show support for their own in primary

September 16, 2010 11:47 AM

By JANE LOPES

Editor

Lakeville and Middleboro voters gave "their" candidates — one running unopposed and one in a rare Republican primary contest — a show of support Tuesday.

Lakeville Selectman Derek Maksy, the lone Republican candidate for the state Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Joan Menard (D-Somerset), received 564 votes in Tuesday's state primary with a total of 677 requesting Republican ballots.

In the November general election, Mr. Maksy will challenge Michael Coogan, a Freetown resident and Fall River firefighter who won over three other candidates on the Democratic ticket.

In a contest to choose a successor to state Rep. John Quinn (D-Dartmouth), Christopher Markey, son of former New Bedford Mayor and retired District Court Judge John A. Markey, won the Democratic nomination Tuesday for representative from the 9th Bristol District. Mr. Marky also topped the others in Lakeville with 75 votes and will face off against Republican Joseph Michaud in November.

Rep. Quinn is running for Bristol County sheriff in November. His House district includes Precinct 1 in Lakeville.

A total of 1,205 of the town's 6,938 voters went to the polls Tuesday to cast ballots in an election with few contests.

In Middleboro, voters in precincts 1 and 5 gave local resident Ben Quelle, a newcomer to politics, a boost with 455 votes to 137 for fellow Republican Joseph Truschelli of Plymouth. But Mr. Truschelli was the winner district-wide and will challenge Rep. Thomas Calter (D-Kingston) for the 12th Plymouth District seat in the fall. Mr. Truschelli is also new to state politics.

A total of 2,137 of Middleboro's 15,566 registered voters, or 13 percent, turned out for the primary.

Hmmm…

I can only hope that Lakeville and Middleboro Democrats are better informed come election day!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Primary Day Thoughts….

Primary Day is over and the biggest surprise is there weren't many big surprises. The only real surprise is Paul Schmid winning over Dave Dennis and truthfully I'm not that surprised there either.

The Senate race ended exactly how I figured it would. Mike Rodrigues easily won the race, even before the Westport vote came in he was ahead. I figured he would be the winner back when he announced. Honestly looking at the votes I don't think anyone was going to beat Rodrigues. Even if you took Coogan and Lawless out of the picture Mitchell just wouldn't have gotten enough votes to make up for the cushion Rodrigues' overwhelming victory in Westport provided him. So now Mike goes on to face his Republican challenger, which means he is as good as in.

Paul Schmid can probably thank Mike Rodrigues for helping get out that Westport vote that also proved the deciding factor in Schmid beating Dave Dennis and John Rodrigues. Now here you have to wonder if Dennis would have won the race if John Rodrigues hadn't been running too.

Dave Dennis: 1397 Rodrigues: 1034 Paul Schmid: 2121

Schmid was running a distant 3rd in Fall River but crushed Dennis in Westport getting over 1,500 votes! His Westport total alone was enough to give him the victory! Certainly without John Rodrigues the race would have closer but I think Schmid probably still wins. What is interesting about John Rodrigues is this year he runs for the 8th Bristol District seat and a few years ago he ran for 7th Bristol District seat. Does this guy live in a mobile home? Anyway Schmid is the winner and gets to go and face the Independent, George Jacome in the General Election. Who wins that one?

Speaking of the 7th Bristol seat, Kevin Aguiar won a less than commanding victory of Alan Silvia. Less than 300 votes separate these two. I think this could be the most interesting race because I've talked to a lot of people that were not enthusiastic about Kevin Aguiar. At the same time I'm not sure if the support is going to be there for CJ Ferry. I don't see unenrolled voters breaking for CJ and I don't see Democrats switching sides. What if Alan Silvia were to run a write in campaign? I bet he keeps most of his 1,600 votes and gets a good share of the unenrolled and maybe some Republicans too. It was a friend of mine who threw this idea at me and I have to tell you after thinking about it, if I were Alan, I wouldn't put the campaign signs away just yet.

The Republicans…

Oh I hear all this crap from a few diehards about how the Tea Party movement is going to be in play and all this nonsense about this is the year for Republican candidates. I'm not buying it, at least not for the local races. The big problem about the Republican candidates is nobody has heard of them or from them. Derek Maksy will be Mike Rodrigues competition come November. Heard of him? Of course not. In fact a few weeks back I had to Google just to confirm if there was a Republican candidate in the race. Have you heard a PEEP out of CJ Ferry? Me either but he's running against Kevin Aguiar. Want to put any bets on how these races will end? Hell they couldn't even find a Republican to run for the 8th Bristol seat! Here's the problem Republicans are a minority in Massachusetts. In Fall River there are roughly 3,300 Republicans to about 26,000 Democrats. If a Republican candidate wants to win he or she have to get that small base and start beating on the doors of unenrolled and those Democrats who are willing to vote outside of the party. These guys should have been putting in some serious work well before the General Election. Hey looking at CJ Ferry's campaign website he doesn't even have anything listed under issues. Are things going that well in Fall River? But that's OK because Derek Maksy doesn't even have an area on HIS website FOR issues. Personally I don't see these lackluster campaigns getting into high gear fast enough to even show up on the radar of their Democratic rivals.

On a personal note, I didn't really talk about these races leading up to the Primary, but I hope to focus a lot more on the races leading up the General Election. I hope you are too.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Campaign Finances

As the State Senate primary draws near here are some numbers to shock and awe...

Mike Coogan has roughly $6,000 left in his campaign coffers. John Mitchell has roughly $8,000 in his. Lorne is truly lawless and apparently has not filed on time. Mike Rodrigues has $71,000 left in his coffers.

That's not a typo, Mike Rodrigues has tens of thousands more in his coffers than two of his competitors.

He has already spent $182,000 on his campaign.

Neither John Mitchell or Mike Coogan have spent 1/3 of that amount.

Attorney John G. Angelo does not appear as a donor on any of the campaign finance reports.

If Mike Rodrigues is the clear front runner (and I don't know if that is true) how much of that is due to his being the best candidate and how much of it is due to his having the most money to spend on getting his name and message out there?

If Coogan or Mitchell are close in the polls despite not having the same cash resources what does that say about their campaigns?

Am I the only one that thinks there is something wrong with our system when one candidate can spend so much more than the others? Is it wrong to spend so much more to get into office then what you'll make there? (This only gets worse with national politics).

Come primary day are you placing your vote for the best candidate or the one with the best name recognition?








Friday, September 03, 2010

Mike Coogan, Humbled or Hummeled

In politics there is nothing like the home-stretch of a campaign. The last days and weeks leading up to Election Day are really do or die. These are the moments to persuade the undecided, to build on momentum and clinch the election or catch the frontrunner. The home-stretch is also when all candidates fear having a wheel blow off as they cruise to Election Day. There is the fear of something scandalous or unfavorable hitting the press and derailing all the hard fought efforts of months on the campaign trail.

 

State Senate candidate Mike Coogan recently faced just such a moment when a civil court case he was involved in started to get some attention. Did Coogan or his company do something unethical or illegal? Well Coogan dodged a bullet because as quickly as the rumors started the wind was taken out of their sails by a Herald News headline that proclaimed that Coogan was cleared in the civil lawsuit. Whew! Turns out there is more to that story, and a judge still needs to make a final ruling in the case but that campaign friendly headline crushed the negative momentum and the Coogan campaign pushed on ahead. However it looks like once more there's trouble on the tracks up ahead.

 

It turns out that Jim Hummel, an investigative reporter, a familiar fixture on ABC6 for years and now with WPRO and his own website The Hummel Report is featuring a story on his website that details another construction incident involving Mike Coogan and his company. The incident involves Fall River attorney John Angelo and work that he says he hired Coogan's company to do. Now, I'll leave it up to you to visit Hummel's site and watch the video and/or read the transcript, but it's pretty damning stuff and Mike Coogan does little to effectively explain it.

 

It was a blog reader who brought the story on Hummel's website to my attention and wondered if I still felt the same way about Coogan. Well in regards to the civil case, he was cleared from wrong doing by a judge who had a whole bunch of facts that I don't. So I wouldn't hold that against him, except the Herald seems to have jumped the gun on the story and made no mention in their initial coverage that there was yet another decision to be rendered. Now in this latest matter, after viewing the video and reading the transcript, I find it pretty damning.  

 

Now to be fair anytime I see a bombshell get dropped so close to Election Day, I get a little suspicious. In this case I wonder is it possible that Attorney Angelo may be supporting another candidate? I only ask because why would you bring an issue from a year ago to the attention of the press NOW, days before the primary? Why wouldn't you have pursued this when it happened? Why now?

 

Whatever the reasons for this "October Surprise", (Yes, I know it's only September..) this could have a devastating effect on Coogan's campaign. I have to imagine that this is going to get lots of news coverage over the next few days and if Coogan doesn't handle it better than he did with Hummel he's in trouble.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

The Devil You Know?

The Fall River Redevelopment Authority agreed by unanimous vote to retain the Fall River Office of Economic Development. Are you shocked?

To be fair there is good reasons, I suppose, to support the decision the RDA made. After all FROED is the devil you know, and CRES-RI is the devil you don’t. More than that, as a friend of mine pointed out there is “institutional memory” and with it the idea that CRES-RI may make mistakes and go down roads that FROED has already explored. The Redevelopment Authority and the city already know how the relationship with FROED works. Changing partners could result in getting your toes stepped on. Did CRES-RI ever show any clear proof that they could handle the job and had ideas to handle the job more effectively than FROED? If so I never heard or saw them.

However, there is equally good reason to have voted for partnering with CRES-RI. First and foremost is in the lackluster, or perceived lackluster performance of FROED. I personally cannot recall one single thing FROED has done that has been really beneficial or had a significant impact on the city of Fall River. Seriously, in the last 20 years what forward direction, job wise, have we achieved? The only thing I can think of is Meditech and the well known story there is they found US, while driving by. Is it just my memory, or does it seem to anyone else that every other ‘economic development’ involve small companies and low paying jobs? But then again, Ken Fiola feels that economic development in Fall River is tough, because of Fall River’s low educational attainment. Gee Ken, we’re aware of that problem, if that wasn’t the case more folks would come to us and we wouldn't need you. There is also the difference of $1,500 a month between the two proposals. CRES-RI has proposed $6,000 a month vs. the $7,500 a month that FROED has proposed. That's a savings of $18,000 a year and when in the meeting the Chair of the RDA is worried about how to pay the bills, $18,000 is a lot. Now the CRES-RI proposal did include a 2.5% fee on real estate transactions, something that the FROED deal did not. However there are a few things to consider here. The first is there was discussion about negotiating the FROED contract to a lower monthly fee AFTER excepting the proposal. Why couldn't the same have been done for CRES-RI deal? Why not try to eliminate the fee or cap it, to a maximum amount, say 15k a year. Now I'm not just pulling that number out of my hat. It turns out the previous FROED contract included a 4% real estate fee capped and $15k. The idea of negotiating this with CRES-RI doesn't seem to have crossed the minds of the board at all. Honestly, less money, fresh new approach, and lackluster performance by FROED, I can't believe that at least ONE member wouldn't have voted in favor of CRES-RI.

Disappointing to say the least.

Honestly I'm wondering why do we need either of them? Why don't we just bring this in-house and do away with FROED all together. If any members of the RDA are reading this please consider looking into this as an alternative! Why pay FROED around $100k a year and have to deal with this quasi-public agency that seems to be able to cloak anything and everything in a veil of darkness.Why not create a Economic Development office that would be answerable and transparent to the public, the city council, the mayor. FROED gets a great deal of its operating budget from other sources, the CDA being a big one. Can that money instead be shifted to an in-house? Someone asked me why did we go with FROED in the first place instead of having our own department and I couldn't figure it out either. It just didn't seem to make sense, until a saw THIS meeting and learned, or was reminded that for over a decade FROED provided its services free to the city. Well of course the city would except that! It's not that case anymore though, and now that FROED seems to be expanding it's duties outside of Fall River and into neighboring communities, we really need to bring this in-house so the focus and the accountability belong to us.

I'll leave you with this pet peeve, was this meeting filmed to be aired on the Government Channel? The only taping I saw was by a private citizen. We're talking about a decision that HAS A DEFINITE IMPACT on our community. If this wasn't taped for GTV, it should have been.